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Et Tu, Barack?

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Soon after last fall’s election, I was at a Drinking Liberally session and said to someone there that if the left feels betrayed, Obama will be a one term President. I had no idea the betrayal could come so quickly.

If there is no strong public option in whatever health care plan is passed, the Obama administration and the Democratic Party will be dead to me. I feel so strongly about this not just because there are Americans suffering needlessly from the effed up health care we have now, but because economic recovery would be weaker without a system that works for all.

The U.S. spends twice as much as any other industrialized country on health care, and has worse and declining outcomes. How stupid does the Democratic Party have to be not to beat that drum on an hourly basis?

I could excuse and forgive failure, but it looks right now as though Obama is giving up and allowing the right wing (phony) Dems to destroy meaningful reform. Let the Democrats offer a bill that is worthwhile. If it is defeated by a coalition of GOP and Blue Dogs (and Senate equivalents) so be it. Keep fighting until you win, but always know what you are fighting for. It is better to do the right thing and lose than to win by doing the wrong thing.

And no, neither Clinton would be doing any better with Health Care than Obama is right now. If it was a cause either of them believed in they would have fought for it when they had the power. In fact, I am pretty sure that if HRC were president, the Begalas and Carvilles of the mealy mouthed Democratic center would have even more influence and the result re health care would be just as bad.

If the Democrats cannot get this one right, it will have declared itself terminally dysfunctional and deserving of euthanasia. At that point I would be interested in a strongly progressive party. Yes, I know that would help the fascist Republicans, but they get what they want now.

If the Democrats cannot get this one right, it will have declared itself terminally dysfunctional and deserving of euthanasia. At that point I would be interested in a strongly progressive party. Yes, I know that would help the fascist Republicans in the short term, but they get what they want now, when everyone hates them.

Written by slothropia

July 28th, 2009 at 10:07 am

Losing My Hope for Hope and Change

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Almost six months on the job finds the President still getting mostly good grades from the U.S. electorate and in many ways Obama is doing well. In partisan political terms, he is driving the right wing nuts, and they have become completely and suicidally clueless. Hardly a day goes by without a high profile Republican embarrassing him or her self and the GOP. Mark Sanford, Sarah Palin (and Todd too), John Ensign and the list grows daily.

But the Democrats and Obama have run into their own rough patches and despite GOP weakness, victory is not assured in either the mid term elections or the 2012 presidential race. If the US left (such as it is) feels betrayed, the Democrats could have unexpected difficulties in the Congressional election next year and Obama could end up with one failed term. In fact, at this point, I would be willing to vote against Obama in the 2012 primary. And my vote in the midterms is conditional upon passage of a health care reform package with a “strong public option”. I really want single payer, but will accept the public option. Anything less and I will not vote Democratic again for the foreseeable future. And no, I will never vote for any Republican, nor for any anti choice candidate of any party.

I understand why Republicans want to block any meaningful health care reform. The Republican party exists to serve the wealthy and corporations. But Democrats like Baucus, Ben Nelson or Landrieu who accept insurance company bribes to work against the interests of their constituents are shameless toads. I do not how they sleep at night or what they see in the mirror.

More about health care below, but to return to the administrations overall efforts, let us stipulate that the Obama agenda includes the following priorities:
1. The economy
2. Health care reform
3. Energy and climate change
4. National security and diplomacy (Iraq and Afghanistan included)

Here is how I would grade the Obama Administration on each of these portfolios after six months in office:

The Economy: C-
The Vice president said recently that the Administration underestimated the severity of the recession (or Depression) and so did not make the stimulus package strong enough. Now Obama says a second stimulus is not needed IOW Krugman was right. And there’s the problem. It is not as if good advice was not available. It was but Obama chose to ignore it. Robert Reich, Nouriel Roubini and Paul Krugman are still around to remind the president that this is not an ordinary recession. We are living through some kind of economic crisis that should be addressed as such. Instead, Obama now says a second stimulus is not needed. Is he trying to lose my vote? Is he trying to be Hoover or FDR?

RE the banking and finance system, too much Geitner and Summers. The foreclosure crisis is probably going to get worse. Congress missed a chance to mitigate by refusing to pass the cram down legislation. Thanks Blue Dogs and Senate “moderates”. And now Obama wants the left to be nice to the Blue Dogs, Republicrats or ConservaDems (as Maddow calls them) even though they are either opposed to a public option in health care. Fat chance.

Come to think, a C in this subject is pretty damn generous.

Health Care – Incomplete
Again, my support for the President and congressional Democrats are contingent on the passage of health care reform with a strong public option. Obama has been vague about what he wants an expects from Congress on this. I don’t know if anyone in the White House knows how destructive was Rahm’s trial balloon about co-ops v public option. I hope he knows what he is doing.

Energy and climate change – Incomplete
Incomplete because the cap and trade bill is not out of the Senate yet so we don’t know what kind of sausage the final product will be.

National security and diplomacy (Iraq and Afghanistan included) – C+
This, IMO, is the area in which Obama and his team have performed most effectively. Some of the left argne critical of the Administration because the exit from Iraq will take a little longer than Obama promised during the campaign. I am not concerned about that. I will be concerned though if the withdrawal from Iraq turnes out to be incomplete.

In my view, Obama has done well on most areas of foreign relations. His reserve during the Iran post election crisis has served the U.S. well. His fence building eith the Muslim world will eventually pay handsome dividends.

The big problem that drags this grade down is Afghanistan. It looks to me that Obama is repeating one of Bushes early problems in Iraq; there is no clear strategy. When is the Afghanistan mission to be considered accomplished? What is the exit strategy? How much blood and treasure is to be expended on such a nebulous project?

No doubt there are other less visible projects and priorities, like reforming the federal bureaucracy, cleaning up the Justice Department and Pentagon procurement. Presumably human rights are somewhere in the mix but the foot dragging on don’t ask don’t tell and DOMA, and the continuation of Bush II policies re FISA and detention of suspected Islamic militants have created doubts on that score. Transparency was also promised but not yet fully delivered. I would like to see AG Holder seriously investigate Bush/Cheney crimes, but I can’t hold my breath that long.

Again, my support for any Democrat, from Obama on down, is predicated on the successful passage of an adequate health care reform package. The House bill is encouraging as is the Senate bill passed by the HELP committee. I am not completely happy with either, but they are a step in the right direction.

Now to await the final sausage.

Written by slothropia

July 15th, 2009 at 10:03 am

Motor City Sadness

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Holy majoley!! I look up from my needlepoint and discover that I haven’t posted anything in almost three weeks. Bad blogger!

It was not intentional. I wanted to blog, but I have been kept busy with other projects, job hunting, trying to put the garden in and other miscellaneous blah blah. I’m not getting paid for this you know.

Now that I am here, I have a brief observation to make about Obama’s auto industry moves yesterday.

I don’t know whether or not GM or Chrysler will survive this mess, though it appears that Chrysler will soon join American Motors and Studebaker in car company heaven. I don’t know whether what Obama is doing is good for the auto industry or the larger economy. But if anybody has a better idea (besides letting the companies fail) I sure would like to hear about it.

Public opinion across the country seems to be n Obama’s favor on matters economic, so he has room to maneuver. However, I fear that he will pay a political price, at least in the short term in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. That may not be fair, but who said either life or politics were fair.

Written by slothropia

March 31st, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Good News that’s Fit to Print: Obama Nixes SS Task Force

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Cross posted at Daily Kos.

The New York Times (paper of record that never gets a story wrong) reports that Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate are resisting any possible ripoff of Social Security.

Mr. Obama considered announcing the formation of a Social Security task force at a White House “fiscal responsibility summit” that he will convene on Monday. But several Democrats said that idea had been shelved, partly because of objections from House and Senate leaders.

Not to mention the explosion of anger and opposition that would come from Democratic Party grassroots and the net roots if the administration ever makes any moves toward weakening Social Security.

Sadly, within this story the Grey Lady (specifically reporter Jackie Calmes) contradicts herself and confuses the reader with vague and contradictory journalism. On the one hand, Calmes reports that

Liberal Democrats are already serving notice that they will be equally vehement in opposing any reductions in scheduled benefits for future retirees. But any solution, budget analysts said, must include a mix of both approaches, though current beneficiaries would see no change.

First note the absence of a definition of the “looming crisis”. Also note that the budget analysts referred to are anonymous and no consideration is given to the possibility that there are other budget analysts and Social Security experts with any alternative analysis of the issue.

Yet later in the same story, the reporter gets it right

Social Security still runs a surplus, and its reserves will not be exhausted until 2041, after which enough payroll taxes will come in to cover 78 percent of benefits, according to the 2008 annual report of the program trustees.

So in 32 years, we might have a problem if we don’t raise payroll taxes, or raise the income level of those who are subject to them.

Medicare and Medicaid are of more immediate concern, and as Calmes reports

Those who oppose action said Mr. Obama must focus on his bigger priority — health care legislation to expand access to insurance and reduce the costs of care. They argue that success there would help control the unsustainable growth of Medicare and Medicaid, the government’s other major benefit programs, which together pose a far greater fiscal problem.

The good news in all of this is that the White House has received a very clear message that it attacks Social Security at its political peril. Obama is more than smart enough to know that one clear path to a one term presidency is to alienate his base.

Written by slothropia

February 23rd, 2009 at 9:27 am

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It’s Not Paranoia If they’re Really Out to Getcha

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Don’t read this Robert Parry piece at bedtime or you’ll have nightmares all night long.

Written by slothropia

February 20th, 2009 at 5:26 pm

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Apres Stimpy

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Cross posted at Daily Kos.

This is about right.

Ackroyd does look a lot like Boehner doesn’t he? Maybe a little heavier but close enough for satire.

Further to this point, today’s Frank Rich column in the NY Times is worth reading. Check out the whole column and the polling data Rich provides:

But, as he (Obama) said in Fort Myers last week, he will ultimately be judged by his results. If the economy isn’t turned around, he told the crowd, then “you’ll have a new president.” The stimulus bill is only a first step on that arduous path. The biggest mistake he can make now is to be too timid. This country wants a New Deal, including on energy and health care, not a New Deal lite. Far from depleting Obama’s clout, the stimulus battle instead reaffirmed that he has the political capital to pursue the agenda of change he campaigned on.

Republicans will also be judged by the voters. If they want to obstruct and filibuster while the economy is in free fall, the president should call their bluff and let them go at it. In the first four years after F.D.R. took over from Hoover, the already decimated ranks of Republicans in Congress fell from 36 to 16 in the Senate and from 117 to 88 in the House. The G.O.P. is so insistent that the New Deal was a mirage it may well have convinced itself that its own sorry record back then didn’t happen either.

Don’t just take Frank’s word for it. Check out this polling data from Research 2K, posted at Daily Kos.

So this week, the Republicans are receiving a failing grade from the American electorate. But a week is a long time in politics. Six months is even longer. In six months time we may have a clearer view of the efficacy of STIMPY (the stimulus bill). Right now though, the polling tells us that most Americans are glad it was passed and glad that Obama is President and in a position to sign the bill into law tomorrow.

If I were an ambitious freshman Congressman from a traditionally red district in a heavily blue state I would be worried about the politics of STIMPY. If it works (and it will boost the GDP) the congressional Democrats and the President get the glory. Republicans will become more marginalized than they already are.

Consider these Research 2000 numbers

In the Midwest, which includes Illinois, Republicans have a favorable/unfavorable deficit of 33 percentage points. The Obama party is up by 23. I guess the GOP has the Dems where they want them now, eh?

Unless Obama destroys the U.S. economy, our hypothetical young congress critter will have much difficulty running for statewide office anytime soon.

To refocus on the bigger picture, Obama and the Democrats have momentum, a strong wind behind them. To paraphrase Frank Rich, Obama has a huge pile of political capital and a pretty good idea of what he needs to do with it.

And if he fails? If the economy collapses? The Republican id, neo confederate, laissez faire, theocratic, violent, racist, sadistic, elitist, will be at last freed to slouch toward Bethlehem for its long awaited birth.

Written by slothropia

February 16th, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Schock in the Hotseat?

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Cross posted at Daily Kos.

Greetings from Central Illinois. Specifically from the 18th congressional district of the Prairie State. The (Fightin’?) 18th is composed of the Peoria metropolitan area and a whole lot of rural.

Here in the 18th District, Caterpillar is the largest employer – or was until they laid off over 20,000 workers. The President seems to understand the importance of Caterpillar to the economy of Peoria and will be visiting one of that company’s facilities tomorrow, Thursday, February 12.

In fact, President Obama will be joined on Air Force one by Caterpillar CEO Jim Owen. Owen, by the way, is a member of Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

The President’s visit to Peoria is part of his push for passage of the economic stimulus bill that came out of a House/Senate conference today and will almost certainly receive final passage in a matter of days.

The 18th has long been a GOP district, and Peoria was once represented in Congress by a founder of that party, Abraham Lincoln. Illinois 18 is currently represented in by Aaron Schock, a Republican. Schock’s predecessor was Ray Lahood, now President Obama’s Secretary of Transportation.

Before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Schock was a State Representative fro an inner city district in Peoria, A Republican neglected in a Democratic district, so at the time, Schock clearly had some cross over appeal.

Then he ran for Congress and took the standard GOP neocon positions in the 2008 primary. One of his first votes in the House was on the Ledbetter Act for pay equity. Schock voted against the bill along with all but three House Republicans.

Schock also voted against the House version of the current stimulus bill. Again, that bill has been reported out of conference. It is going to pass unless a giant meteor strikes the earth and we all join the dinosaurs. Will Representative Schock continue to vote the way John Boehner and Rush Limbaugh tell him to, or will vote aye and join Jim Owen, Ray Lahood and the thousands of his constituents who are desperate to get back to work? Would it help if he got a call from from fellow Illinoisan, President Barack Obama?

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February 11th, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Inauguration Blues

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Got a txt from a close relative a few nights ago, very excited and enthusiastic about the the inauguration and prelims. This is a hopeful time, and every American to the left of Dick Cheney has a right to feel pride, mixed with hope, optimism and of course relief that the witch is positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably, most sincerely dead. Obama wears the ruby slippers now and soon we will know if he is a good witch or a bad witch.

I wish I could feel the unalloyed joy that so many are experiencing right now. But I am anxious.

It isn’t just because I am one of the bazillions who lost a good paying job last year (though that reality does put a crimp in my party mood). That just makes me one of many who have a reason to worry about survival, dreams of prosperity to follow.

In fact, it is not any one of the many troubles in a sea of them that face the United States and its citizens and other passengers that strains my peace of mind and robs me of sleep.

The Zen master yogi Berra has famously said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” And that is where we are and what we are going to do. That’s the scary part.

The first priority of the new administration is clearly to revive the economy, and hooray says I. I personally really need that to happen, and there is a plan being prepared for Obama’s signature. Questions nag. is the stimulus proposal big enough? Will it work? Are there too many tax cuts and not enough stimuli?

From the Right come calls for more tax cuts for the rich and less spending to create jobs or modernize the nation. From everyone else come expressions of concern that the package is not big enough or that the spending is not well targeted. I am willing to give the new administration the benefit of the doubt, but my heart meanwhile resides in my mouth.

I may have concerns about what we know of the stimulus package, but I regard the legislation working its way through Congress as a first cut. There will be more to come, I expect.

Progressives will try to improve the package of course, but the Republicans are showing signs that they will obstruct much that is good in the President’s proposals. The corporate media is behaving for now, but their American Idiot shtick is prepared and they are ready to pander, frighten and distort when the time is right.

Why here’s the Idiot now.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Green Day.

Written by slothropia

January 21st, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Obama Appointments that Make Me Go “Wha…?”

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It looks like the President Elect will name Ray Lahood (my former congressman) as Transportation Secretary. Huffpo has this latest morsel of gossip and a thumb nail of Lahood.

I do not see a compelling reason to give this particular cabinet post to Lahood. True, Lahood is not a wing nut and yes, he has voted to fund Amtrak, and against cutting Amtrak funding. OTOH it is hard to find other examples of progressive transportation votes he has cast in the House.

IMHO there are some deficiencies in Lahood’s transportation record. For example, if a Peorian wants to take an Amtrak train to anywhere, they need to drive to Bloomington or Galesburg. Indeed, If a Peorian wants to take a Greyhound bus anywhere they need to drive or hitch hike to another city. This in the district of one of the most adept ear markers in the Congress of his day.

Obviously, energy is one of the critical issues President Obama will face, and progress on energy depends largely on progress in transportation. Were there no visionary progressives available for this post?

And while I’m bitching about Obama appointments, what’s up with Rick Warren giving the invocation at the inauguration.

I’m with not Jack Black on this one.

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December 17th, 2008 at 10:48 pm