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‘Tis the Season of Political Pinkslips – Fire Axelrod

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Fire Geithner, Fire Bernanke, Fire that Assistant Under Secretary in the Wot-not department!

Yes, it’s the season of the Political Pinkslip.

And I’ve got a new Pink Slip all printed up.

Someone call Axelrod and get him over to Human Resources, pronto.

Cut to his exit interview. We join it mid-way in.

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HUMAN RESOURCES

David, what were you thinking? I mean you totally dropped the ball.

DAVID (sniffing, he was crying earlier)

Barack shares a ton of the blame for this, but we thought, you know that bi-partisanship would be popular with the people. You know they’re always saying how they want us to ‘work together to solve America’s problems’.

HUMAN RESOURCES

And you believed them.

DAVID

We’re not supposed to listen? You can’t blame me for listening. Jeez.

HUMAN RESOURCES

Dave, there was a massive populist tsunami on the horizon and you missed it. The people are confused. They just want an enemy. You know, someone to blame. And you guys didn’t point the finger. That’s the reason we’re letting you go.

DAVID

Oh, and who’s the enemy we missed?

HUMAN RESOURCES

Wall Street. The people got stiffed. In 2009 Unemployment skyrocketed, and so did the Dow. Bonuses, bailouts, sweetheart deals with AIG. You name it. That GOP pretty boy tapped into the independents in Massachusetts and exploited their anger, and you lost your super majority.

DAVID

One word. Coakley.

HUMAN RESOURCES

Granted she was a poor candidate, and you should have done something about that. You got complacent. You thought she was a shoo-in.

DAVID

Great, I’m being fired for thinking we’d win Massachusetts.

HUMAN RESOURCES

No you’re being fired for taking chances at a critical time. If the President you put to work in the last week, at the State of the Union, and in that GOP meeting had been working the line for the last nine months pounding Wall Street, Coakley could have ridden his coattails. It might have been close, but you didn’t nationalize that campaign. You let local personalities define the difference between getting the Senate healthcare bill through and losing it.

DAVID

Can we talk about my severance package?

HUMAN RESOURCES

And one more thing. Your boss made a big deal about not getting it right on healthcare, not listening, not getting in front of it. But that’s your fault. The guy listens to you. Why weren’t you getting him on the road earlier, fronting for this thing?

DAVID

Like that would’ve worked.

HUMAN RESOURCES

It might have if you’d sent your guy to healthcare town halls in Connecticut and Nebraska. He made the GOP house caucus look like third graders yesterday. You’re saying that charming the people, firing back at the hecklers, and being a real stand-up guy wouldn’t have influenced Lieberman and Nelson. This President is tailor-made for the bully pulpit, and you didn’t sic him onto the bad guys until it was too late.

DAVID

If he’s such a smart guy why didn’t he figure it out.

HUMAN RESOURCES

Ever heard the term “surplus to requirements”?  Enjoy your flight back to Chicago.

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Written by coolrebel

January 30, 2010 at 2:23 am

Welcome to the Bullshit Era

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In the old days, policy used to have at least some potential to become reality, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that in America at least, those days are over. Nothing anybody seems to suggest from the President on downwards seems to mean a hill of beans anymore. It’s as if the country is set on a course for planet “slow decline into mediocrity” (or worse) and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it. All this despite some soaring rhetoric from the President, and plenty of hot air from just about everyone else.

Here’s a rundown of the current bullshitian landscape.

Jobs.

Anyone who thinks a $30-40bn Jobs bill is going to pass without being watered down to meaninglessness is dreaming. And it’s not certain why it will fare any better than the $800bn dollar stimulus package which was supposed to rebuild the economy and create, yes, that’s right. Jobs. The problems that the US economy is facing are profound and structural. Just throwing money at the problem without deep and lasting changes to – industrial, fiscal, and budgetary policy – sorry about the ‘P word’ again – needs to rethink very, very quickly. We don’t make stuff here. Some people suggest that manufacturing in the US isn’t “cost effective”, but my question is this. Why is it cost-effective in Germany?

Any-way, moving on to…

Wall Street

The President talks a great game about beating up onWall Street, especially now he’s been sobered up to the problem by the Massachusetts debacle. But it’s a tad too late. In January of 2009 the banks were still sinking in the quicksand. That’s the time to make them an offer they can’t refuse. After we’ve pulled them out, and they’ve put on fresh $500 shirts is not the time to be making a deal with them. And yet this is what we did. We had our boot on their necks and we blew our chance to make the single most destructive force in this country pay. And now, in the cold light of day, is anyone in the 41 strong Republican Senate caucus going to vote for meaningful financial reform? Uhh, Nope. Will Wall Street be constrained from ruining the nation again? Nope.

Healthcare

What was once a burning need is now a footnote that’s about to be buried ahead of the mid term elections. The Democrats thought that Healthcare reform was a winner, but after being thoroughly outmaneuvered by GOP demagoguery that idea is now going the way of another smart idea…

Stopping Global Warming.

Let’s get this straight. The world is waiting for America to get its act together on controlling greenhouse gases. But is 41 strong Republican Senate caucus going to vote fr meaningful climate legislation? Uhh, Nope. It will die.

Education

Ah, what’s the point. Nobody cares.

Finally, on domestic policy, my personal favorite…

High Speed Trains

California just got $2bn dollars of Federal Stimulus funding to build a high speed train network. Sounds great, right? Except for the fact that the total bill (and that’s before the usual corruption, incompetence, delays and overruns) is $42 billion. Chances of this happening in a state with a perennial budget crisis? Nil.

Moving abroad now…

Iraq

At a certain point in time, the United States is going to have to face the rather unpleasant moment when our last grunt gets on the last transport plane out of Baghdad Airport. Cue the bombs. Cue the resurgence of the insurgents and the reemergence of the Mahdi Army. Hello, reality.

Afghanistan

One day conference in London. Karzai tells us he’s going to end corruption and undo a millennia’s worth of being a basketcase that’s swallowed up empires, as well as buying off the Taliban recruits without guaranteeing their protection. He’s got 18 months before the troops we’re about to land there ship out. You do the math.

Iran

Sanctions work. And if you believe that, you think Sarah Palin is a closet liberal. Will the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 be able to justify NOT attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities? Unlikely.

Haiti

Will the outpouring of aid from Americans be matched by a long-term commitment to fix Haiti? Watch the BS flow. Ain’t nothing gonna change in Haiti.

So you see, on just about every front, there’s an awful lot of talk about how we’re going to fix things.

And then there’s reality.

Welcome to the Bullshit Era.

Written by coolrebel

January 28, 2010 at 11:57 am

Obama goes from Spock to Kirk in one speech.

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But is it too late?

Last night, Barack Obama finally put the hurt on the Republicans. Listening to Senator John Kyl’s floundering and blustering at the State of the Union address shows that it clearly hit home. Obama did what he had to do. He diverted blame for the economic shit sandwich firmly to the Bush Administration and told America that he hated the bank bailout in no uncertain terms. His frank, confident tone was a breath of fresh air, a pleasant surprise that left us wondering, where his this guy been for the last year?

It took the shock of the Massachusetts upset to get the President thinking he needed to be speaking the people’s language. And he did just that. It’s a long shot to suggest that a single speech will change the course of events in a significant way, but it could – if it’s the beginning of a full-on, sustained populist campaign. The speech was peppered with great sound bites, but one of the themes I was impressed by (partly because I’ve been touting the idea for 18months) was the idea that the government should be run like the American family. Bringing the business of government down to a human level is always a great idea with voters.

In my last post, I suggested that the President get on the road, work out of Air Force One, and talk to the people in this country that are really hurting. Getting into campaign mode, at the same time as attacking Wall Street,  pushing the “good for business” aspects of Healthcare reform and other stimulus efforts, as well as enacting serious efforts to stem the foreclosure crisis will really help. As for the deficit, the message is a smart one. Let’s cut it! Except that we can’t in any meaningful way – and because economic recovery will do the job far better. People (who’ve wholeheartedly drunk Reaganomic kool-aid) like the idea.  But deep down they know that actually cutting the deficit during the dark times would hurt them so they aren’t really interested in actually doing it.

Keep it up, Mr. President. Don’t make this a one shot lighter.

Written by coolrebel

January 28, 2010 at 2:30 am

Time to Mothball the White House and Go On The Road, Mr. President

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People are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore.

Which is about as close to coherence as the populist groundswell is likely to get. The President’s failure to get ahead of the tidal wave has really hurt him. His Spock-like reasonableness has not served him well. His soaring rhetoric is falling on deaf ears. Worse still, after the debacle in Massachusetts, tomorrow’s State of the Union address and the administration’s worrying signs of rightward retrenchment are unlikely to improve the President’s standing.

There are a ton of bold solutions out there in opinion-land. Many of them make great sense, but as our politics rushes headlong into an ephemeral haze, symbolism might be as – if not more – important than substance.

My interest is in stopping the rot that seems to be invading the psyche of this young adminsistration, which seems like a hot-shot rookie that’s just hit his first batting slump and just can’t seem to find a way out.

To continue the baseball metaphor, it’s often ideas out of left field that end the slump. A bunt single that you leg out, a goattee grown or shaved, the blessing of your favorite bat by your favorite zen master.

So in the spirit of strange, I suggest the President give the following a shot.

Mothball the White House. What? I hear you say. Yup. Leave it behind, and go on a “Main Street” road trip. Run your office out of Air Force One as you tour the country for six months. Go to the diners, gas stations and big box stores. Talk to the people, and hear what life’s really like in this recession. Find out what they want, ask their advice, and conduct the people’s business on the road.

What would this “Main Street Tour” achieve? A huge amount. It would put the President back in campaign mode where he’s at his best. It would represent the ‘change’ in the way politics is done. It would enable a dispassionate president to find his passion and connect with the people. And it would enable him to recapture some of the populist wind that’s been owned – absurdly – by Scott Brown and his truck, “Independent Conservatives”, the rest of GOP and of course Tea Party Loons.

And what’s the message that he’s got to take along with him? Tax incentives to create jobs. Oh, and sticking it Wall Street with regulation that will protect America from any future rapaciousness by the “fat cats”.

Written by coolrebel

January 26, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Haiti Commentary: Want to Get your Nation Rebuilt? Export a LittleTerror.

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Haiti. A tragic, profoundly unlucky nation, poster child of colonial brutality and exploitation – right on America’s doorstep.

Every few years or so, Haiti pings the heartstrings of the world’s wealthy nations and donations flood in – along with every journalist worth his or her salt.

The scale and magnitude of this latest catastrophe is truly appalling, but its hard to imagine that its going to be any different this time. The Presidential Palace will be rebuilt and its new found glory will no doubt be photographed as a symbol of Haiti’s resurgence. But the photographers will be less present when the shanties are rebuilt too on the same hillsides they once stood on.

It’s possible that this time it will be different, that Haiti will be rebuilt by the world community, but it’s far more likely that Haiti’s misery will likely continue when we go back to business as usual, with our own jobs and futures on the line too.

It’s all just a tad ironic. I mean, nation building is something that we’ve been getting pretty good at recently. Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of miles away are works in progress, to put it kindly, with literally tens of billions of dollars frittered away on projects that are blown up, mismanaged, or simply abandoned as soon as the US contractors have cut their corners and pocketed their profits and then left.

What made Iraq a go-to destination for that special brand of US imperialism? Yellow cake, even if there wasn’t any. It helped that Baghdad was home to the world’s most quintessential dictator, and this his country is second to Saudi Arabia in oil reserves.

What makes the Afghans so much more deserving than the Haitians? One thing and one thing only. Terror. Afghanistan has been home to a massive attack on the US homeland, and Haiti has not. Afghanistan is a political game, played at the very highest levels, with a very special brand of lies and misinformation, Haiti is just a disaster area, no questions asked.

To put it mildly, Haiti is not strategically important. It has nothing to offer us except cheap labor, which on a global basis, let’s face it, is not in short supply. State Department policy wonks who want to move up in the world do not specialize in Haitian political machinations. It’s in the news, occasionally, not daily.

It’s easy to lob over the occasional peace-keeping mission, and get UN support for this or that move, because when a country is not strategically important to any of the permanent members of the Security Council, unanimity is suprisingly easy to come by. Politically, there are no domestic points to score by helping Haiti – except in New York. There are only downsides. In short it doesn’t rate high on the must-do list.

That could change. America could decide to get its nation-building groove on and fix Haiti once and for all. Clean water, better housing, hospitals and all that jazz, as long as the American people are happy to provide a nationalized charitable donation – at our own expense of course.  So it’s not likely.

The truth is that Haiti is not a threat. Not in the least.

If it was, Congress and the President would have an easier time fixing the place.

If only it had Jihadists, like Afghanistan, bent on laying ruin to Miami or Orlando. Why, then Republicans and Democrats would demand a force be sent to knock off the terrorists and clean out the shanties because they’re “breeding ground for Haitian terrorists”.  No such luck.

If only the Chinese were busy colonizing the place as a staging point for new waves of cheap crap to be sold throughout America, then we could at least justify going down there to ‘compete’ with the Chinese. Not gonna happen.

If only the latest Pandemic was known to be sourced in the fetid water of those self-same shanties, so in the name of humanity we could send down some guys in white suits and clean the place up. Highly unlikely.

No, for all our talk of solidarity, as sad as it is to say, Haiti, desparate, poor, tragic Haiti – is on its own.

Written by coolrebel

January 14, 2010 at 6:52 am