an inauspicious start

by lestro

The three-day Labor Day weekend is here again (thank you, Liberals), with its annual reminder of the last gasp at summer with its barbecues and parades and even a free day off for those of us who have spent the best months of the year trapped in windowless rooms.

But along with signifying the end of summer, Labor Day weekend traditionally signifies the beginning of the Political Season. It is the final, downhill push for candidates running in November’s general election and now that (the theory goes) people are back from the annual physical and mental break summer provides us, they are ready to pay attention again.

This year, as in 2007 and 2003, the Political Season also includes the final primary pushes as we head into January’s Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.

Also this year, the Political Season means a return to the ridiculous arguments and stalling tactics that have dominated the politics in this country since President Obama was elected and the opposition literally made their top priority not fixing the problems they caused, but instead doing everything they can to make Obama a one-term president, even if it means further tanking the economy and/or keeping the country in the ditch they so recklessly drove us into (to borrow one of the president’s metaphors that really is very apt).

The top issue? Once again, it’s the economy, stupid.

More specifically, it’s jobs. There don’t seem to be any. In fact, today’s jobs report shows the US job market absolutely stagnating. They say it is the worst showing in nearly a year.

And “seem” is, in fact, the right word.

When you look past the headline, once again the private sector added jobs, just not enough to counteract the public sector jobs that had to be cut, due to the cuts-only method of budgeting demanded by one party (which happens to be a party that ran up this ridiculous debt situation with two unfunded wars, giant tax cuts for the wealthy that did exactly the opposite of what they promised they would do, and the largest unfunded government program expansion in history). The results were also a bit skewed by 45,000 workers on strike when the count was done; workers that are technically employed, but not on that day, which took an additional 45,000 jobs off the books, inflating the jobless numbers for August…

But let’s be very clear about this: The Republican party is directly responsible for those 20,000 or so government employees being out work. They are literally increasing the unemployment rate and slashing services even as they do everything they can to force more people onto the state’s dole. This is their plan: keep slashing government at a faster rate than the economy can add jobs, which makes it look as though the President is failing.

It’s genius because, of course, the President gets the blame because no one pays attention to anything except the headline.

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Why The President Is Probably Going To Lose

by lestro

Once again, President Obama is pulling a 180 on Candidate Obama’s promises. In this case, he promised that he would punish  those responsible for intentionally tanking the economy in 2008. Now, it seems, the president is doing everything he can to make sure everything works out in Wall Street’s favor while the good folks on Main Street who got totally and completely fucked will be left to pick up scraps and continue to slave away for our corporate overlords.

On the one side is Eric Schneiderman, the New York Attorney General, who is conducting his own investigation into the era of securitizations – the practice of chopping up assets like mortgages and converting them into saleable securities – that led up to the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

On the other side is the Obama administration, all the banks, and, now, apparently, all the other state attorneys general.  […]

This deal will also submarine efforts by both defrauded investors in MBS and unfairly foreclosed-upon homeowners and borrowers to obtain any kind of relief in the civil court system. The AGs initially talked about $20 billion as a settlement number, money that would “toward loan modifications and possibly counseling for homeowners,” as Gretchen Morgenson reported the other day.

The banks, however, apparently “balked” at paying that sum, and no doubt it will end up being a lesser amount when the deal is finally done.

To give you an indication of how absurdly small a number even $20 billion is relative to the sums of money the banks made unloading worthless crap subprime assets on foreigners, pension funds and other unsuspecting suckers around the world, consider this: in 2008 alone, the state pension fund of Florida, all by itself, lost more than three times that amount ($62 billion) thanks in significant part to investments in these deadly MBS.

So this deal being cooked up is the ultimate Papal indulgence. By the time that $20 billion (if it even ends up being that high) gets divvied up between all the major players, the broadest and most destructive fraud scheme in American history, one that makes the S&L crisis look like a cheap liquor store holdup , will be safely reduced to a single painful but eminently survivable one-time line item for all the major perpetrators.

I love the line “the ultimate papal indulgence.”  That’s genius.

This is the essential problem facing Obama next year: the failure to even TRY to deliver on the promises he made as a candidate.

I’ve been wracking my brain; what part of his platform has he succeeded in passing?

Healthcare? nope.  He buckled and we got Hillary’s plan instead of the public option we voted for.

Closing Gitmo? nope.

Out of Iraq? not quite.

Afghanistan? still there, though we did get Bin Laden and Obama should be commended for that.

Certainly we haven’t seen the ‘change’ we were promised and frankly, I am yet to see him even try.  I expect the youth vote to stay home, once again convinced that their vote don’t mean shit, and when you remove those votes, shift the independents around and factor in a fired-up right wing, you get a mix that spells doom for the president in a race where turnout is going to be the key component…

Mark my words, this is turning into the theme song of the 2012 election:

How to beat a recession

by lestro

As the rest of the country struggles with high unemployment and stagnant job creation, Texas has surged ahead.  Rick Perry has found a way to beat the system.  He has figured it out.  How’d he do it?

Simple: Rick Perry created more government jobs.

With a young and fast-growing population, a large and expanding military presence and an influx of federal stimulus money, the number of government jobs in Texas has grown at more than double the rate of private-sector employment during Perry’s tenure.

The disparity has grown sharper since the national recession hit. Between December 2007 and last June, private-sector employment in Texas declined by 0.6 percent while public-sector jobs increased by 6.4 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, government employees account for about one-sixth of the workforce in Texas.

Which of course, stands in direct contrast to exactly what he says on the stump, in speeches that tout his ability to create jobs.

“The fact is, government doesn’t create jobs, otherwise the last 21 / years of stimulus would have worked,” Perry said this month in a speech to the National Conference of State Legislatures. “Government can only create the environment that allows the private sector to create jobs. The single most important contributor to our jobs-friendly climate here in Texas is our low tax burden, because we know dollars do far more to create jobs and prosperity in the people’s hands than they do in the government’s.”

Given that we know that the Republicans need to perpetuate a recession in order to have something to hang on Obama and have therefore been literally doing everything they can think of to keep us in this rut (including laying off large enough numbers of government workers to counteract any positive response the president’s attempts at stimulus might have made), this is something the right better hope the general electorate never, ever learns.

Thankfully, no one in the Obama administration will even attempt to point this out. Because they don’t want to be associated with government jobs either.

Go team.

Stay tuned…

by The Kiwi

Pardon our mess.

We at the Church of the Apocalyptic Kiwi have had what you might call a “Come to Kiwi moment.”

We have been away too long. Let’s just say we were delayed en route when a stingray in front of us killed a pedestrian.

That said, the Church of the Apocalyptic Kiwi is about to undergo some minor renovation in anticipation of our return to regular blogging.  Please stay tuned as we work on the redesign…

How to perpetuate a recession

by lestro

Let’s say you are a political party interested not in, you know, fixing the problems in the country, but instead states its goal as “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Now, let’s say the recession in which you’ve mired the country might be starting to recede before the next election, so the main negative you were going to try and saddle the president with was diminishing, meaning you’d actually have to come up with an idea or two on which to run instead of the trotting out the same bankrupt ideology that got us into this mess.

Let’s say things are starting to turn around on the employment front and considering your campaign is going to be about how the president hasn’t yet fixed the economy you destroyed.

What do you do in order to make the president look ineffective?

Well, first, you do everything you can to block any and all economic recovery efforts that are not the same policies that killed it in the first place, demanding instead that in order to get out of this, we have to KEEP DIGGING.

Then, to ensure that the numbers stay bad, you purposefully and willfully lay off thousands and thousands of workers across the country by slashing government spending and forcing them to shed jobs, meaning all of those people who were productive contributors to the economy are now all on the public dole and therefore only making the deficits bigger by demanding the service you just cut.

Voila! instant continuing recession! even if private sector hiring is up 1.7 percent in the past year..

I have been thinking about this for a month or so now, but today, there were numbers that absolutely prove I was right.

Dig this graph:

That’s a tough hole to dig out of.

And if I were president, especially one running for re-election at a time when the top concern is jobs, I would be goddamn sure to point these things out.

Unless, of course, I didn’t want to win anyway.

What Tyranny Actually Means

by lestro

Dear Tea Party,

I couldn’t help but notice that you spend a  lot of time and energy making lots and lots of misspelled signs talking about tyranny, with little to no regard for what the word actually means or whether it could even be remotely applicable to a government made up of elected representatives making votes on potential laws and then having to face voters again, including this year.

Here is a tip: It’s not tyranny. It’s not taxation without representation. It’s absolutely nothing like the circumstances that prompted the original Boston Tea Party, whose name and legacy you are constantly maligning with your idiocy.

I realize that you have no use for history and a total contempt for any facts that might possibly cause you to question or challenge the bullshit, half-truths and lies that Fox News feeds you, content in the knowledge that you will just accept what they say without checking it or even doing a simple Google search to see if it makes any damn sense at all.

Luckily (for our purposes), there is still actual tyranny in the world we can compare our situation to. This is what it looks like.

First, power is consolidated, usually in a non-elected executive position.

Taking the unusual step of limiting its own authority, Iran’s parliament on Wednesday adopted a law that would curb its ability to review regulations issued by the most powerful, un-elected institutions of the state.

It was not immediately clear what forces propelled the parliament to adopt a measure that would formally undermine powers granted to it under the constitution. But the decision seemed to acknowledge the reality that the elected parliament was often blocked from fulfilling its role as a watchdog over the elected and appointed institutions of state.

The legislation did, however, appear another to represent another step in the political evolution of Iran to a state where appointed officials and allies of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wield far more authority than do the elected institutions. That tension between appointed and elected branches has existed since the founding of the Islamic Republic, but the balance lately has tipped steeply in the favor of the Supreme Leader and the appointed institutions.

Next, political opponents are maligned as being unpatriotic and traitorous:

Their regulations now will not be subject to parliamentary oversight but will have to go through another committee — the Supreme Council for Revising Laws — made up of several allies of the leader, as well as the speaker of the parliament.

Since Iran’s disputed presidential election in June, Ayatollah Khamenei and his allies have labeled those who challenge their decisions as enemies of the state. By voting to limit their own powers, members of parliament might have been signaling a desire to avoid confrontation with Ayatollah Khamenei.

Finally, political dissent is outlawed.

Which, as you can tell by the large group of fellow poor spelling demonstrators around you, is not happening at all here.

Now that you know what tyranny is, you can watch for it.   To find further examples, you could begin digging through the past decade worth of bullshit.  Perhaps you’ll be surprised as to what sort of undemocratic and potentially tyrannical bits you might find in the guy the vast majority of you blindly supported for eight years…

Any questions?

Good.

Love and kisses,

Lestro

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold

by lestro

I was just reading the NYT article about how Hoosiers (one of the oddest demonyms ever) are responding to the announcement that Evan Bayh is not seeking re-election, and the collective “what the fuck?” reaction mirrors my own. The guy pulled a half-Palin.  He copped out.  He bailed.  The Republicans weren’t playing nice so he took his senate seat and went home.

Now, he’ll serve his full term, which is why it’s a half-Palin as opposed to full, but still, when the going got tough, Evan Bayh turned tail and ran. And his constituents are confused.

“This is a Republican state and he’s a Democrat, so that tells you what people think of him,” said Mr. Kruse, 69. “He’s been a very good man for this state, and I do wish he had stuck it out.” …

“This shocked me. Honest to God, it did,” Mr. Kruse said. “I did not see it coming. And every time we lose a good Democrat, it hurts the system as far as getting anything done.” …

“It’s very disappointing that someone so dedicated has reached the point that he’s disenchanted with politics,” said Vivian Sallie, 59, a television executive in South Bend, who described herself as a longtime supporter of Mr. Bayh. “I feel let down by the situation our country is in. I feel that it’s our state’s loss and a loss for the country.”

JoAnna Clay, a homemaker in South Bend, added: “It’s a really sad situation. He was the voice for a lot of us, and you got the feeling that he really cared. I think there are not many people in Washington who really care, and that’s the problem. They’d rather fight. But he got tired of fighting.”

“There’s definitely some discouragement here,” she said. […]

For her part, Ms. Clay, 22, said she used to see Mr. Bayh as part of the solution, but not anymore.

“True enough, if he felt like nothing was getting done,” she said, “then he should have stayed to get things done.”

I don’t have a problem with someone saying they are not running again because they want to be with family, or even because they can’t win, but Bayh’s “it’s too hard” response is just icky.  It makes me feel dirty.

Not to mention it gives his kids the perfect reason to drop piano lessons or calculus if they decide it’s too hard for them.

but through it all, my favorite Yeats refrain keeps echoing in my head:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

it’s from “The Second Coming,” one of Yeats’ most powerful and popular poems, which he wrote in the shadow of WWI.

Bayh is generally respected as one of the “best” and yet, he lacks all conviction.  Meanwhile, the tea party is full of passionate intensity, despite being morons who don’t even have their facts straight, let alone their ideas.

Bayh’s replacement? we’ll have to wait and see. but me and Yeats are not particularly optimistic.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?