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Memo to Obama: "yes we can" be positive about the economy October 29, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Today the BBC is reporting that the US recession is over as the economy grew 0.9% from July-September (CNN is reporting this as well, but not as the headline story that the BBC is making it). That’s awesome news (not lost on investors, who’re making today one of the larger gain days in the last few months) and much reason to celebrate. After all, this has been the worst recession in decades (technically the National Bureau of Economic Research hasn’t declared it over yet, so maybe I should say “is the worst”).

But what’s getting my goat on this fine October day is the reaction from our president:

President Obama said while “welcome news”, the US was still a “long way” from recovering from the “deepest downturn since the Great Depression”.

A “long way” huh?

Now before anyone flames me and points out that both articles cite numerous economists direly telling us not to get excited, I’d like to point a few things out:
1. I’m not an idiot.
2. are these the same economists who predicted a stock retreat in September, or who all summer kept telling us that the recent stock gains were not gonna continue? ‘Cause the Dow has jumped 25% since early July and gained about 200 points in September, so I’m not so inclined to believe these folks.

Now I know that the economy is still in the crapper, 1 in 10 people are without jobs and all that stuff. But isn’t the president supposed to lead and also inspire? Especially this president? Remember all the “hope” and “yes we can” when he was running? Or was that just “yes we can” get him elected? Telling us that we’re still a “long way” from seeing anything good in the economy while a whole pound of good news is staring us in the face seems somewhat less than hopeful or inspiring or “yes we can”ish. I wanna hear him calling out the companies that we’ve begun buying stuff from again to start hiring us again. Investors have been showing since July that if it were up to them we’d be out of this recession and they’ve been pumping money into the markets. And sometime in the last quarter consumers caught the same bug and increased spending:

Consumer spending rose at a 3.4% rate, the biggest increase in nearly three years. Spending by consumers accounts for more than two-thirds of the nation’s economic activity.

Wow, 2/3 of the economy is increasing at a rate above what was expected. Sounds good to me.

Let me repeat those two things:
1. investors are pumping money into companies.
2. consumers are pumping money into companies.

Just because the government is gonna stop pumping money into companies, it doesn’t mean those other two things are gonna stop.

Oh, and you know that housing market that crashed?

Other reports in recent weeks have shown that housing sales, home prices and new home construction rose during the quarter.

Hampel said that the gains in housing go far beyond the impact of the tax credit, however.

It’s time to stop being depressed about the economy. Things are turning around. Sure there’s still stuff that’s not good, 9.8% unemployment is totally not awesome, but stocks are rising, consumer spending is rising, the housing market is recovering, and the numbers look good enough that we can probably say it’s not all entirely the government stimulus money talking. Wouldn’t it be more “hopeful” if our president said some of those things, instead of telling us how awful things still are? Wouldn’t it be more “yes we can”ish if he got out there and reminded companies that people are buying things again and it’s their responsibility to start hiring again?

I think it would.

Obama's HSR plan is not good enough April 17, 2009 at 12:41 am

I was really excited to see the CNN headline “Obama unveils high-speed rail plan” this evening. Anybody who knows me or has read this blog can probably attest to my great interest in this topic, so I was very pleased to see that Obama would be coming through on his campaign promise to bring HSR to America.

Except that’s not at all what he’s suggesting. It is High Speed Rail in name only, and from what I can tell most of what he’s proposing would be slower than the “High Speed” Acela service that Amtrak currently runs between Washington D.C. and Boston.

Now I understand that definitions of what constitutes “high speed” rail differ from person to person and I know that my definition is up there, but CNN informs us that Obama “cited the success of high-speed rail in European countries such as France and Spain” while at the same time presenting a plan that would have “some trains traveling at top speeds of over 150 mph.”

Let me enlighten you, Mr. President: the trains you speak of in France and Spain cruise at speeds up to 186mph or even 199mph. And I believe even faster trains are in the works (can’t find the link right now, but I think France is planning a 220mph train to be launched sometime in the next few years).

And so, having gotten fairly familiar with the trains in Europe (the 186mph Eurostar is an amazing, fun and smooth ride from London to Paris) and the struggles to bring that type of train technology to American shores and seeing what went wrong I have this to say about your HSR plan, Mr. President: scrape it until you can go all out. The last thing we need is a “sort of” version HSR that nobody rides because it’s just not quite fast enough, but that cost enough to get every single taxpayer in America mad at the government, you AND (worst of all from my viewpoint) the idea of HSR. If we don’t do this correctly right out the gate, America might not give us another chance. Americans are going to be tough to sell on HSR already: we’re wary of it because it’s European, we’re wary of it because it’s really, really expensive.

But I’ve noticed something: America is not totally averse to the idea. California just passed the proposal to build a $40 billion+ 220mph High Speed Rail system from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and with gas prices creeping ever higher and Al Gore still on his global warming campaign Americans are seeming to slowly change our minds about HSR.

On the third hand I think that just means we have ONE chance now. Before we had no chance and quite a few HSR proposals have been killed in the past in various states and regions (Florida, Texas, etc.).

Mr. President, don’t be an idiot and dishonest. You promised us High Speed Rail last year, but your proposal of sub-150mph trains on outdated routes for $13 billion over 5 years is a joke and should be treated as such. Do you think we’re that stupid and gullible? If you and the Vice President are really so concerned about HSR for America you need to remember just two things:
1. lots and lots and lots of money. California is building a system that is currently budgeting in at $40-50 billion for 700 or so miles. That means that for national HSR we’re looking at an amount of money that can be measured in meaningful fractions of a trillion dollars. Sounds bad, but you’re giving Wall Street that much money unsupervised, can’t our nations failing transit infrastructure have some, too? (I mean, more than the laughable-in-comparison $13 billion you’ve proposed for HSR thus far?)
2. 200+ mph. Don’t try to pass off Acela-type trains on the whole country and call it HSR. It will fail. If done right, super-HSR (what France and Japan have crisscrossing their countries) won’t fail, but your brand of HSR-lite will fail. And it will bring billions of our dollars down with it. Don’t patronize us by pretending it will work.

Now I should really be working on my research paper, which is interestingly enough on this exact same topic.

Cheers.

-j

On Gaza January 11, 2009 at 7:13 am

OK wait, is this supposed to make us forget about or forgive this? Because the former is common sense (don’t we give Israel enough aid as it is?) and the latter is a truly reprehensible act that boggles the mind.

BBC tells us that Israel has already massacred 820 Gazans over the past two weeks, including 235 children (hardly Hamas terrorists, no?), and Hamas has killed…13 Israelis.

Every country has “a right to defend itself” like the US House declared on Friday when they voted 390 to 5 in support of Israel’s current genocide in Gaza, but this has gone way beyond “defending themselves.” If Israel wanted to stop the Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel (a perfectly understandable desire) they could have spent a few minutes to consult with their intelligence services (or even those of their powerful ally and fellow aggressor: the United States) to find out where the Hamas rockets and/or leaders where located (or, failing at that relatively simple task, they could just go house-to-house in Gaza, they certainly have the power to control the territory and not let anybody out) and then send in some strike teams that will take the Hamas fighters out back and shoot them in the back of the head. It’s simpler, easier, less costly, takes less military personnel and most of all: saves the lives of at least 235 innocent children who have lost their lives in response to the deaths of 13 people.

But Israel knew that was a possibility and they didn’t do it. Why not? Could be they think this will send a better message to other terrorist groups contemplating attacks on them, but I think it has more to do with the act that they know they can get away with it without any major push-back from they allies…mainly the United States, and they were damn right. Rather than get any push-back, they got a blanket approval from the United States government both in actions (Iraq) and words (Friday’s congressional vote).

Well I have one thing to say to those 390 congresspeople who voted yes on Israel’s war of unthinkable aggression: at this point, each and every one of you is responsible for the deaths of 2.1 Gazans. That number will surely rise in the coming hours, days and possibly weeks. If the United States government stood up and spoke out against this type of violence in one of our own allies, and especially if we cut off funding for Israel, I would be very surprised if it wouldn’t give Israel at least a moment of pause, if not pushing them to completely quit the offensive actions against a trapped helpless people.

Democrats: remember how we were angry and steamed and began working to end the Iraq War posthaste when we found out it was a war based on lies and that we had no reason to be there because the rational for the war was flawed? Well, guess what: Israel had no rational to offer for their war on Gaza. They wanted the rocket fire to stop, fine, but there are better ways that they could do that as I outlined above (bloody fuck, you idiots: why do you need a 19-year-old college student to tell you these things for crying out loud?). But you know what? It’s another country’s business, and if we learned anything from our little Iraq adventure it’s not to meddle in other country’s business. So stop it: stop fucking enabling people who are doing exactly what we were so aghast at in Iraq once we found out it was an unjust war (some of us knew that from the state, but that’s water under the bridge…). So you know what? We’re anti-Iraq War right? Because it’s a mindless, needless bloodbath? Israel’s Gaza Incursion is a mindless, needless bloodbath. You’re hypocrites for voting in support of Israel on this matter. You need to reverse that vote and cut off all funding to Israel. Now.

Otherwise you’ve proved that you’re no better than the republicans we voted out in 2006 and 2008.

And Obama? Stop being mum on the first major international issue you’re going to face as president and STAND UP AGAINST IT. Otherwise the fact that Hillary voted for the Iraq War will look like a saintly gesture. I’m serious. Show some guts you’ve never shone before, show you can stand up to bullying countries. SHOW US THAT YOU’RE REALLY A WASHINGTON OUTSIDER by going against the unthinkable stance your party has taken on this issue of the murder of hundreds of children.

With little hope of a sudden change of heart in Washington,

-jimmy

Huh November 18, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Policy Over Process” is Jonathan Singer’s nice way of saying that Obama screwed us when it comes to Joe Lieberman keeping his gavel over the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. The guy’s not even in the White House and he’s already making amateur mistakes.

Sigh.

-j

Accept it, Hillary! November 14, 2008 at 9:16 pm

Huffington Post is reporting that in their meeting yesterday president-elect Obama offered Sen. Clinton the job of Secretary of State in his administration and that she’s “considering” it.

I just have one thing to say: take it, Hillary! Take it, for f’s sake!

That is all.

Cheers.

-j

Hillary for Secretary of State? at 2:07 pm

If you’re any kind of political junkie you have may have already heard the rumors flying over the last 18 hours or so about the latest news/leak from the Obama Transition Team: that Hillary Clinton could be the next Secretary of State. It’s the top story on CNN.com right now, the most commented-on post on MyDD.com over the last couple of days, getting coverage overseas and is being e-mailed around.

So, when I first read about this on MyDD.com last night (the aforementioned post) I thought “hey, that’d be awesome, but it’s not exactly a done deal, is it?”

Well, it’s still not a done deal of course, but it’s seeming more likely to me. Here’s why:

  • It’s not one, but two sources within Obama’s team that are reporting this possibility. Now it’s possible that both of them are getting their information from the same incorrect source, but two sources always lend more weight to a story than one does.
  • The CNN.com story has a quote from Hillary today at a transit policy press conference that I read some things into: “I’m very happy there is so much press attention and interest in transit, in the off chance that you’re not here for this important issue and are here for some other reason, let me just say that I’m not going to speculate or address anything about the president-elect’s incoming administration. I’m going to respect his process and any inquiries should be directed to his transition team.” First, notice what’s missing: whereas some of her team last night were saying she was happy as a senator, now she’s not saying she’s going to stay in the senate. She mentions that she’s not going to “speculate“, implying that she doesn’t know anything, which could very well be the case but it could also be the case that she’s not going to “speculate” because she knows exactly what’s going on and doesn’t need to guess about it! Also, the last line caught me: “I’m going to respect his process”. Again, that could be code for “I don’t know what’s going on and I wish you’d all stop bugging me about it…or it could be code for “he’s the president-elect and when he wants to announce me as his new secretary of state he’ll do that and I’m not going to say a word about it.”

Putting aside for a moment the issue of if it would happen and thinking about if it would be a good idea, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, as a strong supporter of her I would love to see her get a spot in the new administration, but somehow the secretary of state role doesn’t totally seem like a good fit for her. I don’t know, maybe I’m not giving her enough credit for being more than a “one-issue” politician, but I would still rather see her working with domestic health care rather than foreign policy since I think her skills would be better suited for that.
On the other hand, I think it would be amazing to replace the second female secretary of state (Condi Rice) with another female secretary and I do think Hillary has what it takes to do the job amazingly well.

Anyway. I should really go do some homework now.

Cheers.

-j

In re: the election November 2, 2008 at 11:11 pm

I’ve come to the conclusion that since McCain is a scary war-monger and Obama has no executive experience that the presidential election doesn’t matter that much. I mean, it does. Hugely. But we’re screwed whatever happens so we should just stop paying so much f’ing attention to it. I’m voting for Obama because I see incompetency as a better alternative than whatever damage McCain would inflict on us (I believe he would be a better president than Bush has been, but I think he’d block more progress than Obama would).

Here’s why the national race shouldn’t be our main focus (I know, I’m saying this kinda late in the game, but ah well): despite what all the Hope Mongers want you to believe, I don’t think Obama will really know how to do all the things he’s promising. (Assuming he’s not lying in his campaign promises, I mean.) So, at best, he’s going to be a neutral presence in the White House (so totally not what we need after 8 years of living hell coming out of Washington, but still better, in my mind, than a continuation of a lot of the policies of the last 8 years). That means that it’s more important than ever that democrats and progressives win their local and regional races across the country, because our country needs to heal, and I’m sorry, but the only healing Obama can give us he’s already given us: words. He’s given a lot of people across the country hope through his admirably speech-giving abilities, but I simply don’t think he has the ability to deliver what he’s been promising with his words. We have absolutely no evidence that he will. Since he started running for president (or even before) he hasn’t taken any leadership of the kind we would expect from a president on a daily basis on any issue in the senate. Being in the senate he has a perfect set of tools at his disposal to prove to us that he has what it takes for the job he’s running for, and I don’t see that he even knows how those tools work, let alone tried to show us he has what it takes.

I don’t know. I guess my main point is that this election, the first presidential election that I’ve been able to vote in, just depresses me. We need solutions to a 10 mile long list of problems facing this country, and we’ve got two candidates who can’t or won’t deal with those problems when they enter the White House on January 20th. This is not what our country needs. But it’s what we’ve got.

So I’m going to vote for Obama on Tuesday for one reason and one reason only: because of the possibilty of turning Indiana blue for the first time in a presidential election since 1964. If it weren’t for the possibility of seeing my state go for a democrat, I probably wouldn’t even vote in the presidential election.

And that depresses me.

-j

Whose fault is it anyway? October 10, 2008 at 11:28 am

Well, the Economic Stimulus package from this summer that was supposed to save our economy didn’t work (I suppose that’s an understatement on an epic scale?), so our wonderful not so stingy elected officials tried a new tack. “Hey,” they said “giving money to the middle class didn’t help, let’s try giving it to the rich people” (because apparently the news that Reaganomics doesn’t work hasn’t reached our Congressional leaders yet?). Well folks, judging by the markets (in case that chart is unclear or not there anymore: the Dow, NASDAQ and S&P have all fallen roughly 15-20% since the $700 billion bailout bill was passed and signed) and the CNN commentaries I’d say that didn’t work either. So now what? The Fed has cut that “key interest rate” (I have no idea what that means or is, all I know is it’s supposed to calm investors when they do it) from 5% (last year) to 1.5% (this month). They can’t cut it much further down. That hasn’t calmed investors, either. We’ve given the middle class billions of dollars (remember how the fiscal conservatives moaned about that one?) and we’ve given the rich folks billions of dollars (remember how an overwhelming majority of Americans moaned about that one?). And yet, the investors are still cutting and running on an epic scale. Now that we’ve run up the national debt another trillion dollars or so and the economy is still tanking, is anyone interested in still trying to figure out what’s wrong? It seems obvious to me that this problem is not going to be solved by throwing money at it (or are we only at two strikes so far, do we need to waste another few trillion before that message gets pounded into the heads or our elected leaders?). So it must be caused by something else. Investors are basically driven by emotion, right? Hmm, I wonder what it is that’s making the investors uneasy for, say, the past year? Could it be the lame duck in the White House? Or, for that matter, the lame ducks in congress? Could it be the brushing and bloody presidential primaries? Could it be the lies and deceit that’s invaded politics to an epic scale in the last year? Could it be the Democrat party showing itself to be just as bad as the GOP in terms of governing ideas and election primary rigging? (I know a sizable majority of the country Dem party feels “hopeful” about Sen. Obama, but I submit to you that deep down we all know he’s simply Howard Dean’s puppet and feel pretty uneasy about such.) (I know I’m putting out a lot of assertions that I haven’t fully backed up, but that’s not what this post is about and I hope you can sort through and find something you agree with in the previous list.)

Could it be?

I submit to you that it could and it is. And until our leaders WAKE UP, and START LEADING instead of being reactionary hacks, investors are going to stay jittery, the middle class is not going to go shopping and banks are going to continue to fail. This is not going to be solved by putting Obama or McCain (whoever you thinks has a better shot of cleaning up the mess) in the White House in January. This is going to be solved when we have people who actually know what’s going on in all the top leadership positions. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have both shown themselves to be worthless hacks in this and every other crisis since they came to power. Obama is too depressed (and INEXPERIENCED) to lead us out of a paper bag and McCain will just invade Iran on the theory that it will create a “war economy.”

We need leadership yesterday that I don’t see coming for several years.

Welcome to the Great Depression of the 2010s. Created by Bush and the Neo-cons, paralyzing the Democrats and hurting hard-working Americans. Life’s not fair.

Cheers.

-j

Today's Doonesbury… August 25, 2008 at 2:38 am

Monday’s Doonesbury comic is pretty funny. I’m 90% sure that Garry Trudeau supports Hillary and I always find it amusing when he goes after Obama and the DNC. I was kinda worried in June, actually, since I’ve come to really love Doonesbury’s commentary but if he was going to just fall in line behind The Chosen One I was gonna be sad. Luckily for my emotions, Trudeau started going after Obama in small ways.

The plan is right on schedule August 24, 2008 at 4:37 pm

The coming convention upset that riverdaughter laid out in simple detail several days ago is right on track as the DNC Credentials Committee voted this morning to give the Florida and Michigan delegations full voting rights on the floor of the convention, a move that narrows Sen. Obama’s pledged delegate lead by 19 votes. My estimation using data from Wikipedia is that now Sen. Obama only has a 107 vote lead in pledged delegates (3% of the total pledged delegates), a lead that could easily be erased by enough votes from the roughly 870 superdelegates (rough calculations say that only about 56% of superdelegates need to vote for Sen. Clinton in order for her to win the nomination).

The AP news story linked to above helpfully (not) tells us this:

Obama ended the primaries with a 365-delegate lead over Clinton. Reinstating the Florida and Michigan delegates will not affect that lead because Obama has more endorsements from the states’ superdelegates.

No mention of the fact that superdelegates can change their votes at will, whereas pledged delegates are, well, pledged. Thank you AP news for continually distorting the facts, what would we do without you?