31 August 2011

Please Mr. President, get aggressive! Run AGAINST the Do-Nothing 112th Republican Congress!

Just wrote this to www.whitehouse.gov: 

For the first time in a while, I am gratified to be able to write to my President and say, "Brilliant! I love it!" Congratulations on scheduling jobs speech as a joint session and sticking it to the inconsequential fools on the Republican side by scheduling it the same night as their gabfest.

Now, take E. J. Dionne's advice and GO BIG, GO LONG, and GO GLOBAL. We need some major leadership and a big vision.

The White House should (finally) start sending bill after bill, fully written out, to the Democratic leadership to introduce and let the Republicans try to block. Then the President can run, not just for himself but on behalf of every genuinely contested Congressional and Senate Candidate, and say, "Look (unfurling a list that drops all the way to the floor)... here's OUR list of serious proposed legislation to address our nation's problems... and the Republicans have blocked almost every one. America can and will do better than this, but I need your help! I need you to vote for Democrats in Congress and the Senate to pass these proposals and move our country forward!"

This is a winning recipe, whereas hanging back and trying to pick up scraps from the obstructionists' table is a sure recipe for defeat.

The president needs to think long, towards 2013, and get REALLY AGGRESSIVE, in a complete change of approach, before it's TOO LATE.

Thank you.  

To which I added: 

I commended the president for scheduling a joint session of congress, and recommended that he get aggressive in sending Congress a legislative agenda, irrespective of whether the Republicans are likely to pass it.

I want to make the point that the key to the President's and other Democrats' victory in 2012 will be taking a lesson from Harry Truman in 1948: RUN AGAINST THE DO-NOTHING 112TH REPUBLICAN CONGRESS. Show a long list of bills proposed to address America's problems at EVERY speech, every campaign stop. Go out and campaign for every Democrat who has a chance to unseat a Republican. We need the majority back in the House. We need to keep the majority in the Senate, in order to start passing this agenda starting in 2013. In the meantime, an aggressive approach, that starts winning over public opinion, is MORE LIKELY to achieve short term results than trying to figure out in advance what the nasty Republicans are likely to "give us." That hasn't worked and never will.

GO BIG, GO LONG, GO GLOBAL, and FIGHT LIKE HELL! This is what your base wants and what will win both in terms of policy victories and electoral ones.

Thank you. 

30 August 2011

Perry's monstrous lies

I mince not my words. If that prick Perry succeeds in his attempt to mislead the public that he would somehow save Social Security by calling it a "Ponzi Scheme" and a "monstrous lie," when in fact what he would like to do, and will do if he ever gets a chance, is to kill it... well, I fear for the future of a country that would elect someone like that, and I wonder if we shouldn't negotiate the secession of Texas after all.

29 August 2011

E-mail to White House: SUPPORT Social Security Already!

My e-mail contact to the White House Today:

The president simply must differentiate himself from the Republicans and start DEFENDING Core Democratic Values. Perry is now doubling down on his crazy "Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme" meme. The President should forget about compromising with these mean spirited Rightists, and say clearly and unequivocally that Democrats created Social Security, Social Security is in good financial shape and has never contributed one dime to the deficit, and the President WILL VETO any attempt to cut Social Security or raise the retirement age further. Period.

Then, Mr. Obama should ENDORSE Bernie Sanders's plan to ensure the solvency of Social Security indefinitely by lifting the cap on income subject to payroll taxes (an idea which CANDIDATE Obama endorsed).

Aggressive campaign rhetoric 101:
Why do Republicans Hate America?

·    Republicans oppose rebuilding America
·    Republicans oppose putting Americans back to work
·    Republicans deny scientific truths
·    Republicans oppose investment in education, the key to our future
·    Republicans want to dismantle Social Security and Medicare
·    Republicans favor tax giveaways for big corps and the very rich
·    Republicans even want to obstruct your right to vote


26 August 2011

Trumka, Sanders right on.

AFL CIO leader Richard Trumka's criticisms of the president and Democrats in Congress strike me as exactly right.

I also think Bernie Sanders's proposal to ensure funding for 3/4 of a century for Social Security by lifting caps on income subject to the Payroll Tax, is an excellent plan, which all Democrats, including the President, should endorse forthwith.

Neanderthal and Denisovan Ancestors

Good article in today's L. A. Times about the extinct human subspecies (Neanderthal and Denisovan) with which modern humans, after coming "out of Africa", are now believed to have interbred. Among the upshots was improved immunity. Here.

25 August 2011

How can they SAY that??

So Dingdong Rubio says Social Security "weakened America?" (Here).

What I want to know is, how is it that, with huge majorities consistently saying they support Social Security and Medicare and don't want them cut, Republicans can say stuff like this and not be hounded out of office on the first train?

Cantor's meanness manifests again

Now we hear that that total creep Cantor is saying "no disaster relief without spending cuts." Is it even possible that the majority of the electorate isn't fed up to here with these mean spirited jerks by now?

24 August 2011

Will it really be Perry? and Should we be happy about it?

Is is just me, or should Democrats not be welcoming news that the Republicans seem determined, in recent polling, to dump Mitt and go with the Certifiable Nutcase and Megalomaniac, Rick Perry?

Surely, if they go off the cliff and nominate this guy, regardless of the economy, regardless of disenchantment with his style and even substance, the people will vote to re-elect the sane candidate over this unbelievable lunatic? Surely?


I often cross-post to FireDogLake (http://my.firedoglake.com/oldionus). Here are a couple of the comments that were posted to the above: 

Vote Socialist August 24th, 2011 at 3:13 pm «
Why would we want Osterity re-elected? I’m pulling for Mittens; by having a Republican instead of a “Democrat” in the White House, there’d be some opposition to the Austerity Agenda from the Congressional Dems, yet there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between White Romney and Black Romney. Best of both worlds.

Alternatively, there’s the theory that we want the Oristocrats to be humiliated by losing to the most extreme candidate the Rs can nominate. Make the repudiation of the Obama Adminis-Traitor-ion as complete as can be. The bonus here is that Perry/Bachmann/Herman Cain/whoever would tank the economy hard and fast, priming the country for a hard swing to the left in ’16, if not revolution before then. A more extreme idea to be sure, but an argument worth considering.

But if we’re going to elect a Romney next year, I say go for the fresh one, not the one who’s already proven to be a horrible President. No more Black Romney!

○ (Reply )vizmike August 24th, 2011 at 7:26 pm  
«I’m with VoteSocialist above. I’m afraid we have to give up on the Democrats. In fact, the way they have been playing us, I would be so bold as to say our first consideration in 2012 is to UTTERLY DEFEAT Obama. We need to smash these triangulating betrayers who will clearly achieve nothing but worse going forward. We must make clear that they can not succeed electorally without moving dramatically our way. And if their failure to do so means the end of the Democratic Party, well, good riddance. I’m not happy about it, but that’s how I see our situation.  ///

○○○ To which I can only say that the Democrats are in BIG trouble in 2012 if any significant fraction of their committed, progressive base thinks the way these folks do. I admit I "go there" sometimes, myself, out of sheer frustration with what I see as the cluelessness of Washington Democrats, ESPECIALLY the President, who seems completely oblivious to the FACT that Democrats who FIGHT BACK, and who endorse Labor Issues and Core Democratic Values, consistently do better, and in fact are far more likely to DEFEAT Republicans, when compared to Beltway Obama-style Democrats. The President and the Party leadership better wake up pretty damn soon, or 2012 is going to be a disaster.

23 August 2011

Payroll Tax Cut? or "Go Big, Go Long, Go Global"? Both, I guess

The Republicans have now coalesced around not extending the Payroll Tax "holiday" included in the budget deal last December, which is downright weird, unless you accept the fact (as I do) that they basically hate and couldn't care less about the interests of working and Middle Class people, and care only about the interests of the very rich. So a tax cut that only benefits working people? They don't like it, and won't support it. Makes perfect sense.

So now we read about a "full throated" Democratic push to extend this tax cut.

I was dubious about this idea in the first place. Tax cuts... of any kind... are weak stimulus. And I worry that this undercuts the financial strength of Social Security, which only adds fuel to the Republicans' efforts to portray the program as "in trouble" and "in need of reform." This is actually a ridiculous position on its face in light of the actual facts, which are that Social Security is solvent for decades without any changes. But reducing revenue to the Social Security Trust Fund is not the best way to ensure that Social Security remains protected going forward. Obviously.

Given polling that shows that even a significant majority of Republicans favor increasing taxes on the very richest and closing corporate loopholes (like oil, agribusiness, Pharma; tax breaks for offshoring jobs and assets, etc.), I think the Democrats should focus instead on these areas.

But hey, I get it, that the optics of Republicans fighting for what (in their own formulation, as used in the debate about extending the Bush cuts for the richest) is a tax increase, just works for Democrats.

But let's not lose sight of the fact that most people now get it that the Republicans are fighting for the rich to keep their tax breaks, a very unpopular position. Democrats, and the President, have a historic opportunity to portray the Republicans as out of touch with ordinary people, and working for the interests only of the very rich.

E. J. Dionne, writing in the Post yesterday, urged Obama to "Go Big, Go Long, and Go Global," meaning he needs to make his economic proposals into a major program to revamp the entire economy, as soon as possible. Of course the Republicans will fight tooth and nail; they will anyway. But the President needs a real program that would actually work to run on.

The unbelievable extremity of Rick Perry

I find it hard to keep emotion out of politics these days. To me, the mere appearance of Rick Perry makes it glaringly obvious that he is a Grade-A asshole who cares for nothing but his own plutocratic interests. Now (here), he's made it clear he really does, with no hyperbole, endorse reversing over 100 years of progress by turning the clock back in terms of the role of the Federal government to before Teddy Roosevelt.

Somehow, as dumbed down as the electorate is, and notwithstanding Bush's Brain co-author Jim Moore's prediction that he will "waltz to the nomination," I just can't believe that the American people are going to go along with this crap. 

Or, for that matter, that it will be possible for Perry or the Republican party to walk back from this kind of rhetoric in the run-up to the General Election. 

19 August 2011

White Paper on Extraterrestrial Contact

Penn State & NASA have published what I guess you'd call a "White Paper" titled Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity • A Scenario Analysis.

UPDATE (8/24):
Having now perused this paper, which I linked to out of a strong interest in the subject, I can report that it is highly conventional and not really particularly interesting (in addition to being written in the usual stiff and tedious Academese). It claims to help us "train our minds" to think about what extraterrestrial contact would actually mean, but it doesn't really add anything to the thought process that many have already accomplished in that area.

18 August 2011

Will the president pivot and start blaming the Rightists for the state of the economy and our nation in general?

I have (less and less frequently since 2009) been accused by some fellow Democrats of my acquaintance of giving up on President Obama. People who think like me retort: oh, no, he's given up on us. But I do see a few signs that in small ways, at least, the White House is beginning to realize that they simply HAVE to stop coddling the Rightists, and start blaming them. Politics is not a graduate seminar. What gets said has to be blunt, pointed, and clearly aligned to a particular interest. And for the President, if he wants to be re-elected, which I assume he does, those interests had better start being the interests of Middle Class and working people. And he'd better start making clear what he wants to do, if the people will just give him the means to do it.

I think the president's greatest weaknesses are these:

1.  He has no natural or learned gift for negotiation. He accommodates others' interests in advance, and just thinks "of course they'll agree, because I've already taken their interests into account!" But that's not how it works. The Rightists see this as weakness, and take advantage of it to get MORE of what they want. So far, for the Rightists, this has worked every time. (Shall I name some? How about massive tax cuts in the original stimulus, (even though real economists all agree they're less than half as effective as direct stimulus), taking single payer and then public option off the table without a fight, giving up on Employee Free Choice Act without a fight, caving on the Bush Tax Cuts for the Rich without a fight, and the long, sad, disgraceful unfolding of the Debt Hostage Crisis. Note most of these occurred when the Democrats still had a majority in both Houses).

2.  Once he became president, he turned off his campaign mode. He fails to understand, or if he understands he fails to act on, the principle that public opinion can be changed by direct appeal, and that a sufficient mass of public opinion still matters in this country. What FDR did with the Fireside chats, and what JFK and Reagan were very good at, i.e., directly appealing to the people for support, this president has done sparsely, without real flare or charisma, and without much effect. He simply has to do better, and make this his main job from now until the election.

Can he turn this around? Of course he can. He's shown himself at times in the past to be a very gifted politician and capable of changing his approach. But whether he will do what needs to be done to consolidate the American people behind him for major Democratic victories in '12, or not, remains to be seen.  

17 August 2011

Michael Keegan on Rick Perry

Michael Keegan, of People for the American Way, has an excellent post up summing up the revolting development that is Rick Perry. Here.

Spitzer's advice to Obama

Never mind any quibbles over the fine details, Elliot Spitzer's advice to the president here  (to require taxpayer subsidized banks to cut upside down mortgages and to free up money from foreign wars to create jobs)...is spot-on, and the White House should call him in right now to discuss it, then act on it as quickly as humanly possible, all the while touting that the president is doing something to help the economy, while the "DO-NOTHING 112th CONGRESS" is dithering (echoing Truman in 1948).


Repubs might nominate Perry? Ryan? Hmmm.

I have to admit that I am not entirely upset at the prospect that Perry may overwhelm the current field among the Republicans (not really convinced that's so, but anyway); or that Ryan supposedly might enter the race. I really believe both of these guys, in their very different ways, are inherently unelectable to the presidency.

It's a sad fact that Obama may only be re-electable if the Republicans nominate someone totally unacceptable to the American people, but it looks like they just might.

16 August 2011

Resisting the Rightist Takeover

My new office sign:

of AMERICA will mean 
we have to be prepared to
Believe it.
This isn't hyperbole. These people (Ryan, Bachmann, Perry, McConnell, Boehner, Cantor, you name 'em) will stop at nothing, they care not a whit that they are in the minority on almost all major policy matters, and they have consolidated power due in part to congenital weakness in the President and the Democratic party. I'm convinced we will not be able to defeat them without our own Tahrir Square... and it will be coming. 


15 August 2011

Buffett: 'Stop coddling the Super-Rich.'

I find it MOST TELLING that Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the World, said quite definitively recently that the US should raise taxes on the super-rich, and that such a move would not harm investments.

See this.

Gradually, gradually, the people are waking up to the fact that when the agenda driven Republicans make the opposite claim, they are not expressing honest opinions. They are lying.

13 August 2011

Could living things on Earth be descended, in part, from alien life? And some inferences

Could living things on Earth be descended, in part, from alien life? 
I've been pondering the whole concept of panspermia and whether it is possible to conclude with reasonable certainty that all life on Earth is of a single origin. 
Perhaps my kind reader will remember ~15 years ago, when scientists rather prematurely announced the discovery of Martian fossil microorganisms in a tektite from Mars. (Which led to the speculation that if life could transfer from the Martian orbit to Earth, the more likely direction 4 billion years ago was from Mars to Earth, so maybe Earth life descended from Martian life?) You'll notice, though, that there was hardly any mention of the possibility that Earth life today is a mix of life having separate planetary origins. And this is because there is a scientific paradigm, so far pretty much unshaken, that the genetic code of Earth, and some of its expressions (such as the specific forms of pigment molecules, like chlorophyll and cytochrome), are in some sense arbitrary; i.e., equally likely biochemical processes could have achieved the same or roughly equivalent functionalities, for example, using different base combinations for DNA, or even if DNA exactly in the form it is found on Earth is universally optimal, surely some of the early-evolved and nearly universal proteins found in every living cell on Earth are not; they are simply contingently evolved. In other words, they could just as well have been different—not radically different, but perceptibly different. But they're not. And the simplest, most likely explanation for everything sharing something that's just the way it is by happenstance is that they all share a common origin. All the biochemical markers, then, point to a single common ancestor. 
When it was discovered some years back that what had always been referred to as bacteria were actually two entirely separately evolved lines of similar-morphology organisms, with some differences in biochemistry and genetic markers indicating extremely ancient divergence (the Archaea and the Eubacteria), there was a flurry of discussion in the pop sci rags about the possibility that one or the other of them originated elsewhere, and that we do in fact live in a multiple-origin biosphere. 
But from what I understand, those who really understand the molecular chemistry involved (which of course I don't at all), quickly squelched that controversy by demonstrating to any reasonable person's satisfaction that the Archaea and the Eubacteria clearly had many contingent elements in common and were all but unquestionably the descendants of a common ancestor. All the serious discussions of the origin of life question seem to agree that all the evidence so far points to the conclusion that all terrestrial life shares a common ancestor; best guess for time frame is more than 3 but less than 4 billion years b.p. There are some outliers (only among the microbes), which are probably remote isolates of rather early populations that struck out in a different direction from most other life, but in a large set of parameters, every cell shares a significant set of common markers. 
So, what does this say about panspermia, or the possibility, often touted in science fiction, that in the long history of life on Earth (at least 12 Galactic revolutions of the Sun (=~250 m.y.)), perhaps there had been visitors... whether sentient or incidental (riding on interstellar flotsam), that penetrated the biosphere of Earth. 
What can a rational person actually infer about that? 
It seems obvious to me, first, that it cannot be categorically ruled out. A meteorite that entered the Solar system from another star system (unlikely, but not spectacularly so), could have intersected Earth's orbit and survived reentry to crash onto the surface, somewhere in all that time. If it had spores or dormant organisms, they could have survived. This, indeed, could conceivably have been the source of the first life on Earth, although that would require a remarkable coincidence and so falls in the category of special pleading insofar as it should be thought of as a theory. 
It's also possible that this could have happened and whatever was on the rock just didn't survive. That eventuality is not particularly interesting: it can't be ruled out, but has no real consequences and so leads nowhere. 
It's conceivable, although less and less likely as research into the biochemistry of life gets more and more complete, that this happened, and alternate origin life is here, just not yet discovered. 
And then there's the possibility that alien intelligent beings traveled here at some time in that vast expanse of time (after all, from the point of view of the likelihood of time enough for intelligent life to evolve, the universe has been more or less as it is now for much if not all of that time). Perhaps these visitors, finding a world already teeming with life, prudently decided to quarantine themselves so as not to contaminate our world. This too, is intriguing, but unprovable, at least for now, and not supported by any evidence, Nazca megaglyphs and whatnot notwithstanding. (The whole popular meme of "ancient astronauts" is a house of cards of pure silliness; if you don't agree, I'll leave it to you to investigate). Anyway, if alien visitation ever did happen, just by the laws of chance, it was probably many millions of years ago. 
But what did not happen, I think can reasonably be inferred from the terrestrial biological evidence, is that alien visitors arrived here, walked around in the open air, allowed our planet to interact with the organisms of their native biosphere, and then left. If that had happened, to a pretty high probability I'm pretty sure, there would have been contamination, and some of that alien life would have likely survived here. It might have overwhelmed our biosphere, or, possibly, simply co-existed, evolving perhaps into forms that filled niches to which its particular predispositions fitted it. But there is simply no evidence of this; and from what I understand, if it had happened, there would be. We could tell if a type of fungus or a type of bacteria were descended from a different origin of life than ours. 
I suppose you could say, well, maybe life here originated there, but that just takes us back to panspermia, and it seems to me that just defers the origin question anyway. Somewhere, somehow, life had to have originated, and clearly there just hasn't been enough time for life to have originated somewhere else and filled the universe, or even the Galaxy, through panspermia... unless directed by super beings with nearly divine powers... in which case, why in Their name, would they be so secretive? It just doesn't add up, in my mind. 
So this brings me to several inferential conclusions:
  1. Life on Earth originated here, and has never mixed with alien life. To a fair certainty.
  2. Intelligent aliens have never visited Earth, or, if they have, they quarantined themselves and left no biological traces.
  3. Since, if spacefaring intelligent civilizations were extremely common, No. 2 above would seem rather unlikely, they are, and have throughout the history of life on Earth, been rare. (This inference requires some background on the evolution of intelligence and the likelihood of space travel, etc., which I've discussed before on the Gyromantic Informicon; what I am referring to as unlikely is that if there had been a lot of visits, they wouldn't all have been successfully quarantined).
I think these are the only reasonable conclusions from the facts. 

Any contrarian comments would be most welcome.  


In defense of my dismissal above of the idea of "ancient astronauts," I add the following: 

First, although it is conceivable that alien spacecraft could actually enter the atmosphere without contaminating the Earth with alien life (had such contamination occurred,  it would almost certainly have left detectable traces)... it does not appear to me to be likely that any significant intervention in human affairs could have occurred without actual contact with extraterrestrial living things. Which, I reiterate, would almost certainly have left detectable biochemical traces. As Sagan says, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence, but the burden of proof is on those making the claim. I submit that since, despite substantial ongoing biochemical research for over a century, no hint of extraterrestrial biochemistry in Earth's biosphere has ever been demonstrated, it is reasonable, using Occam's Razor, to state that to a reasonable certainty there has been no mixing of extraterrestrial life with Earth life at any time.

The next point is that the first point implies, at the very least, that extraterrestrial visits to Earth, which would have at least some probability of introducing such contamination, throughout the history of life on this planet, must have been quite rare, if they occurred at all. Something which has some non-zero probability becomes a near-certainty, given enough time; and if the contamination had ever occurred, it would still be detectable, in all likelihood; there's little reason to just assume that the extraterrestrial life would have died out, every time. So there are three things: (1) a posited nonzero chance of visits, (2) a deduced nonzero chance of contamination, and (3) a deduced relatively high chance that if contamination had occurred, the extraterrestrial life would have survived in some form and would remain detectable and would have been detected by now. Even if you estimate high for (1), low for (2), and minimize (3), either by saying contamination would likely not have occurred or that it wouldn't necessarily have been detected, if you give any reasonable values to these three factors, a large number of visits necessarily implies contamination, and that just does not appear to be the case from all available evidence.

The final point is just how statistically unlikely it is that, in the vast span of Earth's history, one or more of the necessarily small number of visits
(given the first two points) that may have occurred would have occurred recently. Let's stipulate that the likelihood of visitation in any given ten million year period throughout the history of life on Earth has to be treated as approximately equal, let's say x% chance in any given ten million year slot; you can say whether x is vanishingly small or substantial, it doesn't matter for this point. Now, why do I say this? Because the universe as a whole is approximately 13 billion years old, and all galaxies are roughly the same age. There was an early period, during which most stars were mostly hydrogen and helium, but the roughly "current epoch," in which stellar evolution has led to abundant metals and the possibility of planetary environments conducive to life, is at minimum several billion years in duration, so the chance of a civilization achieving technology comparable or superior to ours at any time during the history of life on Earth has to be considered to be relatively constant over time. I don't see how this can really be argued against.

The chance of visitation in 3 billion years is then 300x, which if x is high enough, could approach certainty if you assign any substantial value to x, but that chance is spread equally over the entire time. Since there is no actual evidence that this has ever happened, the chance that it likely happened anytime in human history has to be deemed to be exceedingly small. In other words, let's say there were 10 visits to Earth by aliens in 3 billion years, at random. Just statistically, the chance that even one of them occurred in the last 20,000 years is ~0.007%. Not very realistic odds.

I rest my case.

   • Just in case anyone has read this and wondered why anyone would care about any of this, since it's all so removed from our everyday concerns, apart from the pure intellectual curiosity of it, which I believe is essential to the survival of the human race, my answer is this:  we have to conclude, as the least unlikely eventuality, that we are effectively on our own as a species. There will likely be no deus ex machina from older and wiser predecessor extraterrestrials, and, as I went into in great detail earlier on the Gyromantic, we are not at any time in the foreseeable future going to have an economically viable alternative habitat to our own Earth. So we better the hell preserve and protect her and make sure she remains habitable. That is probably the essential lesson of our time. 

11 August 2011

Drew Westen in NYT: What happened to Obama?

Drew Westen's piece in the NYT is an absolute must-read. It is a chronicle of failure, of good intentions and missed opportunities. But, primarily, it is a tale of bitter tragedy, because we had a brief moment of real opportunity, but it turned out the man we elected just didn't have the ability to bend the arc of history, to use one of his favorite phrases. Now we are left to try desperately to pick up the pieces.

Some will try to defend the president and say this is too harsh a judgment, but I think not.

10 August 2011

Is Obama even a Democrat?

I thought about writing a post with that title... listing all the policy positions Obama has staked out since the 2010 mid-terms, and how almost all of them are the positions of a conservative Republican, not a Democrat.

But I am thinking better of it. After last night's disappointing showing in Wisconsin (yes, the politically savvy will understand that two out of six recall wins in heavily Republican districts is actually remarkable progress, but the media takeaway is "Democrats fail to take Wisconsin Senate back from GOP)... it's increasingly clear to me that while those of us who adhere to core Democratic values MUST put all the pressure we can on the president to change course and recognize that it is precisely by defending those principles that Obama will gain over the support of independents he needs to be re-elected, we also need to recognize that one of the lessons to be learned from the more politically competent Republicans is that we must direct our energies to defeating them and their ideas, not to tearing down our own leaders.

So, my criticisms of Obama and other Democrats who seem to think that drifting ever rightward towards the ephemeral, or rather, non-existent, "magic Center" is a recipe for victory, will be directed to convincing them that, in fact, it is the opposite: a virtual guarantee of defeat.

09 August 2011

Financial Gyrations

Dean Baker, a progressive economist, referred to S&P, saying "Everybody knows they're a clown outfit," and pointed out that the downgrading of US debt has not been a significant factor in the sell-off prior to today's partial rebound. He noted that most of the money taken out of the stock market went straight into US Treasury bonds, so the downgrade was obviously not having much of an effect.

So what was?

The run on sovereign bonds of Italy and Spain, Europe's fourth and fifth largest economies, that's what. And if the ECB doesn't pour a tonne of money into the Euro system, it could collapse. Then we'd see a financial crisis at least equal to 2008-2009.

The good news is that the ECB probably has no choice but to do just that.

04 August 2011

Michael Lind on the Tea Party phenomenon

Michael Lind, writing in Salon, (here) makes out an excellent case that while the Tea Party trots out its few northern and Midwestern members and portrays itself as ordinary folks angry over Wall Street and ineffective government, its actual political caucus is basically the same old obstructionist White Southern anti-Federalists, who really don't give a damn about the United States (my slant). Which is why they are perfectly willing to play brinksmanship and use terrorist tactics to extort their own way on policy.

03 August 2011

Cantor: forget about Medicare

Satan's amanuensis (aka Eric Cantor) is now promising young Americans that the Evil Ones who Rule will slash Medicare. See this. The colorful rhetoric is intentional. These people have declared that they have no intention to compromise, and that they will use any means, including outright extortion based on their willingness to endanger the economic security of our nation, to get the Minoritarian policy demands enacted. But there will be a backlash, I am sure of it. And here's my response: 
No, you wretched excuse for a human being. You are wrong. This will not stand. We will eliminate you from power and will raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, eliminate tax loopholes and havens for big business, restore jobs to raise more revenue, and keep our promises to the American people. It is you who are headed for the dustbin of history.
To this goal I pledge my life, my fortune and my sacred honor.
At least they're being honest about what they intend to do. Gives us a good target to aim at.

02 August 2011

My office sign

I put this up in my office: 

The Rightists used

Kidnapper Tactics

to hold America’s economic security hostage  
despite large majorities against their policies.

There’s a word for that:


Demand that the President and Congress

fight back…


Olbermann in fine fettle

Keith Olbermann's commentary on the Extortion Catastrophe is dead-on, including the outrage.

Video here or here.

Here's the close:

Where is the outrage to come from?

From you!

It will do no good to wait for the politicians to suddenly atone for their sins. They are too busy trying to keep their jobs, to do their jobs.

It will do no good to wait for the media to suddenly remember its origins as the 'free press,' the watchdog of democracy envisioned by Jefferson. They are too busy trying to get exclusive DETAILS about exactly how the bankrobbers emptied the public's pockets, to give a damn about telling anybody what they looked like, or which way they went.

It will do no good to wait for the apolitical public to get a clue. They can't hear the clue through all the chatter and scandal and diversion and delusion and illusion.

The betrayal of what this nation is supposed to be about did not begin with this deal and it surely will not end with this deal. There is a tide pushing back the rights of each of us, and it has been artificially induced by union-bashing and the sowing of hatreds and fears, and now this ever-more-institutionalized economic battering of the average American. It will continue, and it will crush us, because those who created it are organized and unified and hell-bent.

And the only response is to be organized and unified and hell-bent in return. We must find again the energy and the purpose of the 1960's and early 1970's and we must protest this deal and all the God damn deals to come, in the streets. We must arise, non-violently but insistently. General strikes, boycotts, protests, sit-ins, non-cooperation take-overs - but modern versions of that resistance, facilitated and amplified, by a weapon our predecessors did not have: the glory that is instantaneous communication.

It is from an old and almost clichéd motion picture that the wisdom comes: First, you've got to get mad.

I cannot say to you, meet here or there at this hour or that one, and we will peacefully break the back of government that now exists merely to get its functionaries re-elected. But I can say that the time is coming when the window for us to restore the control of our government to our selves will close, and we had damn well better act before then.

Because this deal is more than a tipping point in which the government goes from defending the safety net to gutting it. This is wrong, and while our government has now declared that it has given up the concept of right-and-wrong, you and I… have not, and will not do so.

Good night, and good luck.

I say, bravo, Keith, and let us all commit: we will stake our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to restoring our government to responsiveness to the people, and wresting it from the special interests who believe they own it, and who care nothing whatsoever either for the will or for the interests of the American people who are its true owners.

01 August 2011

TPM points out how it coulda been worse

This piece in TPM attempts to parse the Extortion Agreement with a thesis that it has some "silver lining." I'm not buying it. We could've done a whole hell of a lot better with some real leadership and willingness to take risks (especially had Obama played the 14th Amendment card). It's bad, really bad, and pointing out that it could have been even worse doesn't really help anything.

I say, VOTE NO, and make the Republicans pass this stinking mess without Democratic votes in the House, and with damn few in the Senate. I'm not naive enough to think a filibuster by Democrats is even conceivable, but I hope the Republicans are forced to sweat out passage in both houses, because they got just about everything they could have hoped for, so they should take the blame. Because blame there will be. And the president will be unable to escape his share.

And now what?

OK, this extortion catastrophe is probably going to pass and we have to go on from here.

What Progressives now need to do is regroup and declare a manifesto.

We must DEMAND from Democrats and President Obama that they commit NOW to fighting what the Minoritarian Rightists have extorted from our broken system, and reversing these policies immediately after the 2012 election, if we can succeed in regaining the House, keeping the Senate, and re-electing the Appeaser in Chief. Who must un-earn that moniker and start leading rather than capitulating time and time again.

I am a lone voice, hardly a whisper in a torrent of voices, all clamoring for attention. But in coming days or weeks I will lay out what I see as the essential argument for Progressives, which we have to direct at the Democrats, because our system, after Citizens United especially, simply will not tolerate a Third Party.

In a nutshell, the people are by and large with us, but they need the issues to be framed and presented with conviction, and their passions must be inflamed to get out the vote. We must clearly articulate how it is that the Republicans are extortionists, who have stolen these policy changes from a constituency that, by large majorities, opposes them. We must clearly, simply, and succinctly demonstrate to the vast majority of Americans that the Rightist Elite is not on their side, and that their interests, and those of their elderly relatives, and their kids' futures, are being stolen from them by the ultra-rich and corporate interests and their obedient servants in Washington, who have demonstrated a stark lack of basic patriotism and the willingness to jeopardize the economic security of our nation to get their Minoritarian way. This cannot stand... we must fight with all resources we have to overcome this usurpation of democracy.

We can win in 2012, and we can reverse this horrible policy shift. But we must have commitment, including from Obama. Without it, we fail, and he will almost certainly lose. And if that happens, the catastrophe we face now will seem mild. 

Please read Krugman on the Default Extortion Catastrophe

PLEASE read Paul Krugman today.

The standard dismissal of Krugman is that he's "shrill," which is nothing but a schoolyard taunt. The fact is that everything he says here is sound, and the news is pretty much all bad.

E-mail to my Congressman: VOTE NO

My e-mail to my Congressman:

Dear Congressman Berman:

I strongly urge a NO vote. This is not a deal, it is a surrender. It does not avert disaster, it IS disaster. The House must defeat this horrible scheme. The president must show real leadership and invoke the 14th Amendment. Government by hostage crisis and extortion must not be capitulated to. Thank you.

David S

UPDATE:  Congressman Berman, unlike Henry Waxman, voted Yes. Needless to say, I'm disappointed in him, but he's been pretty much a party hack for some years now. 

Final Verdict on Debt Deal

Krugman in today's Times is correct: this "deal" is not a deal, but a surrender; it does not avert disaster, it is disaster. Obama's presidency is a failure. I feel quite sure this will be the verdict of history.

I think the declaration of Victory by Boehner and the (Egad!) endorsement by Grover Norquist just about says it all: this president is now to be known as the Capitulator-in-Chief. Or maybe Neville Obama.