Friday, February 27, 2009

Dumb or Scary?

While the Republicans are running their annual Conservative CPAC event this week, there are those admonishing their own party that believe they lost the last two elections due to getting away from their core values, i.e. small government, low taxes (especially, in practice, on the rich) and whatever else reminds them of Ronald Reagan. Pajama Media's Rick Moran ends his piece today:
There must be a reckoning with those who violate the very nature of conservatism by obstinately adhering to exclusionary, anti-intellectual precepts that have thrown classical conservatism over in favor of ranting, ideological tantrums.

He's got that partly right. By embracing Joe the Not-Really-a-Plumber, the intellectually skimpy Sarah Palin and the now proven liar Bobby Jindal, the GOP has embraced the simplistic in a time of complexity. The result is that nobody attends their anti-tax "tea parties" and their supposedly smart lawyers are making fundamental errors in handling Norm Coleman pathetic court bid to steal the Senate election in Minnesota from Al Franken. And the biggest star of their CPAC conference is a 13-year-old:

But it this simplicity of thought, so completely useless in this time of (I would argue) GOP-led economic meltdown, has a brutish side as well. Imagine the outcry were a leftist public official or blogger or cable news personality advocate violence in the face of our new Presidency. But they're doing it right in public.

Joe the Plumber is advocating shooting members of Congress he disagrees with. Sean Hannity is calling for armed revolution on his Website. Fox News is running stories on the coming civil war. John Bolton picks Obama's Chicago for a terrorist attack.

This while white supremacists are plotting the assassination of our new Chief Executive.

I was a child in the 1960's when political assassinations stole a generation -- maybe two -- of progressive leadership from this country. This stuff isn't fantasy or in any way excusable. Remember, the first terrorist attack on U.S. soil wasn't from foreign nationals in 2001, it was from a rightwing anti-government decorated military veteran named Timothy McVeigh six years earlier in 1995.

The Republicans behind all the violent hate talk are, in essence, giving license to every reactionary lunatic out there with a fucked-up power fantasy and a copy of Revelations.

And should anything happen to Obama or his family, they must be held accountable.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


So the new President isn't doing a ton of backpedaling on campaign promises as might be expected -- he's enacting them via his new Federal budget proposal:

It'll be a battle royale in Congress, with Republicans seeking to make their Party relevant by crying, "No, no no!" just months after the last President left, the one who let them spend us into massive debt. There will be Democrats to battle as well, those trying to carve out more for their own constituents or make political points. But the most striking aspect of this budget is the sheer honesty of Obama reversing the Cheney/Bush policy of baldfaced budget lying, where the costs of their wars were kept off the books -- treasonous.

Speaking of their wars, their pet project, attacking the country that didn't attack us on 9/11, President Obama is about to announce a 19-month plan (3 more than he promised, not too shabby) for withdrawing combat troops from Iraq, while leaving in place an advisory force that Democrats are already yelping about. In an odd-bedfellows moment, he's garnering the support of Conservatives like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for this policy choice.

As the saying goes, if he's being attacked by both sides, he must be doing something right.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gun Show

The first time I ever heard gym-toned arms called "guns" was in Anchorman: The Ron Burgundy Story, when Will Ferrell had his shirt off to impress Christina Applegate. Earlier this week I saw Madonna's arms (sleeveless an Oscar party) referred to as a "gun show" as well.

Then along comes President Obama's first State of the Union address...and look who brought her rifles to the Joint Session (apologies for poor video quality):

There are better views in a slideshow on HuffPo here. And what this says about the new First Family is very clear: they're in the best shape of their lives and ready to lead a new, leaner, more muscular America. Times may be tough, but these arms were made for work.

Especially in contrast to the rather skinny, young Gov. Bobby Jindal (maybe growing up to Robert by the time he tries to run for President?). Physically, it looks like our First Lady can kick his butt. So intellectually, the sauce is just as weak -- per Paul Krugman:

And leaving aside the chutzpah of casting the failure of his own party’s governance as proof that government can’t work, does he really think that the response to natural disasters like Katrina is best undertaken by uncoordinated private action? Hey, why bother having an army? Let’s just rely on self-defense by armed citizens.

The intellectual incoherence is stunning. Basically, the political philosophy of the GOP right now seems to consist of snickering at stuff that they think sounds funny. The party of ideas has become the party of Beavis and Butthead.
Is it any wonder that Gov. Schwarzenegger recently considered switching political parties?

Who's the girly man now...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


There is only one President at a time. Thank God this one is Barack Hussein Obama.


Versus this:

No contest.

Eight years, baby!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Groundhog Day

What must it be like for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), sitting in the lower audience seat looking up at the man who defeated him so roundly in November...and again...and again?

As our President enjoys broad support from around our nation for his thoughtful yet energetic efforts to save our economy, earning high marks for trying to work with Republicans while their rating sink like a rock tossed off a cliff and tied to a cartoon character, is John McCain a modern-day Wile E. Coyote? Does he feel himself suffering from terminal deja vu?

Is his whole Party suffering from the same ailment?

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Tonight's Academy Awards ceremony marks the third-count 'em-third anniversary of Nettertainment's nightly (with few exceptions) postings. Much thanks to a long-time loyal reader for reminding me. So it is in that spirit that I can offer a few random thoughts on the night's results.

First off, I should always stick to the predictions I make back in December, before I get swayed by the late-breaking memes. Just Friday I made two big switcheroos in the office pool, picking Mickey Rourke over Sean Penn and Viola Davis over Penelope Cruz. Both of which I had right (along with the other top seven awards), but feet of clay, baby. Same thing happened the year that Alan Arkin won Best Supporting Actor for Little Miss Sunshine -- I had switched close to Oscar time thinking Eddie Murphy might pull it off.

The mistake is to think emotionally in making predictions, because the Academy is so much more geriatric than, say, even the General Electorate, that emotion is slowed down anyway. Or maybe there's a long view. But the Oscars are all about how Hollywood wants to be perceived by the world, and Mickey Rourke just ain't that, not yet. Not with a skanky blonde hairweave and half a dozen staples in his back.

Sean Penn won because Milk was nominated for both Best Picture and Best Director, and because Penn brilliantly brought to life a respected, if controversial in his time, historical figure. And, on the emotional side, Hollywood was shocked by the passage of Prop. 8 last year, and the film contains an admonishment to the equality side that they should have shown their face, not hid in the closet. So bravo to Penn and Gus Van Sant for creating the breakthrough gay biopic, and the Academy is approving the mainstreaming of gay cinema (the unabashed sensibility that's so refreshing about a movie coming from a studio), which is kind of the Academy's job.

Rourke has had plenty of opportunities to make speechs -- the Golden Globes and, more entertainingly, the BAFTA's last week and the Spirit Awards yesterday. I mean, these are classic:

And on Charlie Rose, all in all probably enough.

I have yet to see The Reader (is it like reading, maybe a "chore"?) as parodied in the opening number, but I do think Kate Winslet is winning for her other values, not just the role or the movie. It's not just her body of work but it's her work ethic, how she makes the journals and inhabits the characters, hitting different notes with every role and all of them good. When I think about her in Eternal Sunshine of the la-di-da I just smile. Yes I do.

It was the innovative presentation of the acting awards tonight that reinforced the notion of Oscar as club, elite. One imagines it won't be repeated every year -- would they end up running out of 5-a-pop presenters and have to start in with repeat appearances? But it worked as a soulful way to congratulate each nominee no matter their chances. And it made it seem like a very warm and accepting club -- once you're membership worthy.

The only real upset was that Waltz with Bashir lost not to The Class but to Departures, a Japanese pic that nobody has seen, except for 80-odd Academy members who see all five Best Foreign Picture nominees, meaning that a winner might have only 20 votes. I have no idea if the deserving film won, and maybe the two favorites split the vote, but I doubt it has successfully invented a new genre in such a timely fashion as Ari Folman.

As for Slumdoggie Zillionaire, I'm all for it. The best story of all the nominated pix, well executed and full of life. The Academy, like our new President and Secretary of State, got a great opportunity to go global this year, An Inconvenient Truth-type Best Picture for our new era, migrated into the light.

Like the song says:

Jai ho.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Our new President isn't just planning to spend, he's aiming to cut the deficit as well, all while doing real accounting, not the fake Bush/Cheney era budgets which left the wars off the list.

Here he is on the deficit as well as the stimulus (passed) and new anti-foreclosure plan, in his own words:

Can he do it?

At this point, betting against Barack seems to be a very bad move.

Friday, February 20, 2009

But of course

Chris Bowers overstates the obvious and provides the data to back it up:
Here is a political realignment for you: legalizing marijuana is now more popular than Republicans.

41-31%. Duh.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


It's easy to mistake the shocking new Italian movie about organized crime in Naples for simply a crime film or a gangster picture. While it fits under those genres it surpasses them, because despite the scams and hold-ups and buy-offs and killings, Gomorrah is essentially a film about the corrosive effect of unchecked poverty, fully drinking of the Luis Buniel Los Olvidados tradition as much as the post-WWII Italian Neorealist lineage. It's just supercharged without losing any grit, a world where dread is a birthright and life struggles to grow corrupted through the cracks.

When the picture started I thought maybe I'd have seen it all before, but it's an original, large-scale organized crime completely stripped of glamor, making The Sopranos seem as opulent as The Godfather. The tapestry is different than we've come to expect -- five stories that virtually never connect save being in the same geographic criminal economy. There's no causality between plotlines, which works here to make the movie seem larger, more universal, even as it bores down into the deadly and deadened world of the projects, the sweatshops, the illegal dumping grounds. It's a vicious world of pollution, and you can't take your eyes off the screen.

Director Matteo Garrone went deep into the locale and culture illuminated by author/reporter Roberto Saviano in his non-fiction international bestseller, so close that some actors playing themselves have even ended up arrested. But trouble is no stranger to the creative endeavor, as Saviano has had to flee the country under syndicate death threats.

There are characters -- the 13 year-old boy who gets his initiation, the teenage would-be Scarface duo, the young fixer aiding the suave middle-aged businessman, the tailor who seeks respect, the old bagman who's in too deep. But it moves faster than you can blink filled with thumbnail portraits right and left, and the violence is abrupt, short and brutish, like real life. And I think some of them get off lighter than I expected -- crushed is sometimes the best fate you can pray for.

I'm embedding the Italian trailer below because I think the American trailer has too big a spoiler, so avoid that one if you can, until after you see the movie. I went in knowing very little, having seen even less, and while I wasn't sure I loved the movie when it ended, I couldn't deny it was about something, that it was disturbing but for good and pressing reason:

And now I think it's the new benchmark that will take many years to beat, because it easily transcends the gangster genre into the anthropological realm with more immediacy than even Scorsese (and Marty is presenting the movie in the U.S.). On one hand, like the unjust violence of poverty in Slumdog Millionaire, it asks how can we allow such a state to persist in our modern world. On the other, it makes us complicit, as if our own moral paucity is on the line.

After all, isn't someone always paying up to somebody else?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Wasn't the Obama Presidency a failure a week ago?

Then he got the stimulus package passed.

And now, check out these numbers...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


You want to just say fuck 'em all, but there is the credit issue, the oil that lubricates the whole system all the way down to the guy with the local bank loan. And maybe that's what it has to get back to. Because the hell with every one of those obscenely wealthy corporate bankers and everyone else feeding off their feudal system if they're doing shit like this:
The 20 largest banks that received government rescue funds slightly reduced their lending to consumers and businesses in the last three months of 2008, the government said Tuesday.

The Treasury Department said the banks reduced their mortgage and business loans by a median of 1 percent each, while credit card lending rose by a median of 2 percent. The median is the point halfway between the banks that lent the most and those that lent the least.

And the White House, the Obama Administration, wants to water down the bank executive bonus restrictions in the the stimulus package?

Read my lips, you guys who got us into this: Step Off.

Maybe it's all grand kabuki, make the bankers think this before you nationalize the whole thing, with the guy who presided blithely over this meltdown, Alan Greenspan as your cover. Maybe Geitner's only just figured out his strategy (not necessarily a bad thing to deliberate for your first week in the job) and all will go well. But the massive greed of the money class is lying low there, like flames ready to slip around wall or through a crevice, just give it even a whiff of oxygen.

That said, the stimulus transparency website,, features the boss putting his face on it, YouTube style, the first cyberbuck stops here Presidential moment ever in history, a model for all time. What's so striking is the overview graph where I first saw that the #1 largest element of the stimulus package is tax relief -- $228 billion, as seen in proportion to the other categories.

(Second is State and Local Fiscal Relief -- similar to tax relief, not a pure spending measure -- at a distant $144 billion, Third is $111 billion for Infrastructure and Science, again more of our money coming back to us.)

The auto makers are next, America's post-industrial horror show, and that's going to hurt no matter what happens, but look at where we're at compared to just a month ago. Our President is strong, he is implementing the agenda the American people voted for, on the side of transparency for the people, the year is still young.

And here, after three weeks on the job, is our new, young President signing the largest non-military spending bill in our nation's history:

"It is great to be back in Denver. I was here last summer to -- we had a good time -- to accept the nomination of my party and to make a promise to people of all parties that I would do all that I could to give every American the chance to make of their lives what they will. To see their children climb higher than they do. And I'm back today to say that we've have begun the difficult work of keeping that promise. We have begun the essential work of keeping the American Dream alive in our time and that's what we're doing here today."

Obama's gaining strength, every day. It's like his Barack powers are zapped up by Presidential booster beams. He's not losing strength at all -- that the Republicans.

He's still growing.

Monday, February 16, 2009


California, the state that I immigrated to a long time ago, which at one time boasted (and may still) an economy larger than that of France, is in a deep financial hole. We recalled one Governor (Gray Davis) for not balancing the budget, and the current one is about to lay off 20,000 state employees due to a legislative impasse:
The roots of California’s inability to address its budget woes are statutory and political. The state, unlike most others, requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature to pass budgets and tax increases. And its process for creating voter initiatives hamstrings the budget process by directing money for some programs while depriving others of cash...

...Furthermore, Republican leaders in the Senate and the Assembly who have agreed to get on board with a plan have been unable to persuade a few key lawmakers to join them. The package needs at least three Republican votes in each house, to join with the 51 Democrats in the Assembly and the 24 Democrats in the Senate.

For months Republicans have vowed not to raise taxes, which in California means no increase in either the sales, gas or personal income tax.

Is it any wonder that the only Republicans wholeheartedly supporting President Obama's new stimulus plans are, in fact, the Republican Governors?

Because they're living in the real world, and right now the real world is potentially very, very grim.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Three weeks into the Obama Presidency, it seems like both the Right and the Left are having difficulty accepting just how successful the new President has been. He's implemented a number of smaller but significant campaign promise initiatives, especially with child health insurance, but mainly:

"In terms of what I've learned on the politics of it," he said, "I think what I've learned is that I've got a great team because we moved a very big piece of legislation through Congress in record time."

His bragging rights were easily justified. You'd have to go back to Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s or Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s to find a more sweeping, more expensive and more quickly enacted package of what Republicans call "new spending" and Democrats call "new investments."

"And that was not easy to do."

The Republicans are absolutely clueless on how to combat Obama, because they have no ideas of their own. Compare yet another evolution in John McCain's simmering attempt to suppress his rage of entitlement:

With how our President has moved on and is addressing the entire NBA All-Star audience to promote helping each other through these tough times:

McCain comes off as America's Biggest Crank, and the GOP think the answer is to position Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), who has so often come off as dimwitted in cable news appearances, as the new Newt Gingrich -- you know, the House Speaker who kept universal healthcare from happening, now all these years.

Andrew Sullivan has a more-accurate-than-not take on those Dems who groused these past few weeks:
The Democrats and the liberal base have responded to all this with a mixture of cynicism and their own partisanship. They rolled their eyes at Obama’s outreach to Republicans; they hated the inclusion of the other party in the cabinet and had to swallow hard not to complain about the postpartisan rhetoric. Their cynicism is well earned. But my bet is that Obama also understands that this is, in the end, the sweet spot for him. He has successfully branded himself by a series of conciliatory gestures as the man eager to reach out. If this is spurned, he can repeat the gesture until the public finds his opponents seriously off-key.
I don't care or not if Obama elicits bipartisan support, as long as he doesn't compromise on core principles of whatever he's trying to pass. But what I did vote for was a strategist. That, and his ideas -- which he is, like any successful community organizer, putting into action.

And which is ultimately where the GOP finds itself bankrupt like a bank in 2009.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


The election is over but the pundit class is acting like Obama didn't really win, or maybe lost since the Inauguration. But maybe they'll rejigger their bullshit conventional wisdom over the weekend now that he's held his Party together (never an easy task with Democrats) and passed the historically huge stimulus package, a combo of job creation and tax cuts all centered around improving infrastructure and helping the middle class. And for his, Obama remains incredibly popular -- outside of the moribund D.C. beltway.

Per Frank Rich in a great article about this disconnect between the true elites and the rest of us:
Am I crazy, or wasn’t the Obama presidency pronounced dead just days ago? Obama had “all but lost control of the agenda in Washington,” declared Newsweek on Feb. 4 as it wondered whether he might even get a stimulus package through Congress...

...Just as in the presidential campaign, Obama has once again outwitted the punditocracy and the opposition. The same crowd that said he was a wimpy hope-monger who could never beat Hillary or get white votes was played for fools again...

...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.

Great point, Frank. Maybe, after showing that he tried more than gamely to work in bipartisan fashion only to be rebuffed, Obama is already taking your advice:

U.S. President Barack Obama plans to travel and campaign more to pressure Republicans in Congress rather than trying to win their loyalty, sources say...

...Obama plans to use the tactic in upcoming pushes to pass New Deal-style plans to rescue struggling homeowners and rewrite regulations on the financial markets, plus a budget proposal that lays the groundwork for sweeping healthcare reform, Politico said.

As for the guy who left office not three weeks ago, how is he faring with his post-Presidential plans:
Friends tell us that it has slowed the drive to raise some $500 million to build and endow the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Dallas's Southern Methodist University. "It's a bad environment," says one. Bush is taking no chances: He's making donor calls himself, and even his dad, the 41st president, is helping out, as are former aides like Karl Rove. In the future, say associates, look for Bush to host fundraising events in order to meet a goal of completing construction in 2013. But for now, "he's laying low," says one.

Can't raise the money for the George W. Bush Presidential Library? Wow, $500,000,000 for just three volumes...

...And they aren't even colored in yet.


Did the GOP just violate their own "principles," and hand the Dems the biggest hammer for 2010?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Useless Things

I was going to go on a bender about Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) withdrawing his name from consideration for Secretary of Commerce, which President Obama had graciously offered to him after he lobbied for the job, even through Gregg is a Republican. He seems to have surprised the Obama team, which shot back from Gregg's statement with a somewhat snarkier one of their own. Bottom line seems to be that Republicans who stray from their "No! No! No!" orthodoxy right now are getting savaged by their own Party. I look forward to the next Democratic Senator from New Hampshire.

But instead of spending any more time on Sen. Useless, I am compelled to bring you a PROFANE AND NOT FOR FAMILY VIEWING video someone just shared with me. It is also about useless nonsense. I hope you find it as funny as I did...and maybe all too true:

Sony Releases Stupid Piece Of Shit That Doesn't Fucking Work

Now to go out and upgrade my home TVs to HD...


God bless Maxine Waters:

Hang'em high.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


From The New York Times, Netanyahu isn't getting the big win he expected:
Israel’s centrist Kadima Party led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the more conservative Likud Party led by Benjamin Netanyahu were locked in a tight battle for leadership early Wednesday that left unclear the shape of the next Israeli government.

The close race all but guaranteed that the political jockeying to assemble a governing coalition would be intense and lengthy. And it left open the question of whether Ms. Livni, a supporter of a peace accord with the Palestinians, or the more hawkish Mr. Netanyahu would form the next government. Commentators predicted political chaos in the coming weeks. With 99 percent of the votes counted, Kadima was marginally ahead in the parliamentary elections, The Associated Press reported. But it was unclear if Kadima’s lead would survive the final count, especially with the votes of soldiers still to be counted, or if the party could muster enough political partners for a stable coalition.

I'm not a Netanyahu fan, although some believe a hard-line party is more likely to bring about peace than even a centrist party like Kadima. To the Palestinians I'm not sure it matters -- all major Israeli parties were behind the pounding of Gaza.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Reason Why

This is why we elected this guy:

Just imagine what this press conference would have been like with that last guy.

This is what made Clinton a genius, his ability to explain a complex initiative in a way everyone can understand and actually appreciate. It is making a collective thought whole.

So I hear Brian Williams say to Chuck Todd something about "them" wishing that this Obama had come out a week ago, totally ignoring that Obama is blasting away the Congressional GOP in public opinion and even the Dem Congress is more trusted than distrusted, albeit @ 48/42%. And I thought, who appointed these two jokers to spout loser pundit memes like we're supposed to assume it's the truth?

Obama lays the blame firmly where it belongs, at every institution that wagered 30 cents again 1 actual penny. He lays out the case for creating immediate demand in order to inhibit or reverse a Second Great Depression, and tomorrow his Treasury Secretary is laying out the banking plan in order to get credit flowing through our economy again.

He went to unemployment-ridden Indiana today and spoke for twenty minutes, then he answered questions from real people, not the super-screen Bush drones, for an hour. And he made sense. They threw economic questions, health care, the tax problems in his cabinet, renewable energy, and he was answered all of them clearly, intelligently, convincingly, a guy who's really thought about all of this, already, a lot.

That's why we gave him the bully pulpit.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Kick It

Great post by P.M. Carpenter on BuzzFlash, "The Joy of Republican Hysteria":

In short, Republican arguments are swiftly becoming a laughingstock. Why it took so long for the White House to engage those arguments and enforce some semblance of message discipline -- uh, folks, a spent dollar is a stimulating dollar -- can, in part perhaps, be written off to election battle fatigue, but Obama & Co. now seems to be shaking off any besieged stupor.

The president is finally toughening up, and I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that his toughening process is taking the same calculated trajectory as it did in previous battles against Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

First came Obama's exhortations for reasoned debate and civilized behavior, then came the inevitable unreasonable and uncivilized assaults in retort, and finally came a reinvigorated candidate, giving as much -- and then more -- as he got.

Obama is something of a robust self-contradiction, if not a living oxymoron: He is, it seems, a kind of delicate but thunderingly hardass Illinois pol.

Hey, it worked for Lincoln, and there were many who misunderestimated that man throughout his inexorable marches to triumph, too.

Per Cardshark on Daily Kos, this is Obama's moment to seize the nation for good:

The stimulus package has been so watered down with tax cuts and reductions in real focused spending programs that it may not be effective in its present form. But all is not lost--at least not yet. Obama is going out on the campaign trail this week to try to sell it to an American people, who Frank Rich observes, are seething with populist anger. That anger is rightly directed against the obstructionist Republicans, but that is not a given. The power to direct it goes to the one who can seize the moment and turn it in a direction.

This anger is real and Obama really only has two choices: he can allow himself to be overtaken by it or he can get in front of it and lead it against the Republicans full scale, weilding it like a batl'eth. There can be no hesitation. He must go for the jugular, pointing the public anger with a will and a fury. He must call these people what they are--obstructionists interested only in their own political advantage to the detriment of the country and to the jobs, lives and homes of decent hard-working Americans. Point out all the lies, link it to the debacle in Iraq. Give it a full-court press because there will be no second chance.

So, as previewed at the end of last week, how is Obama kicking it into gear:
In an effort to build support for his signature economic stimulus plan, Mr. Obama is setting off for Indiana on Monday, holding his first prime-time news conference on Monday night and heading to Florida on Tuesday. In both states, he will be working to counter Republican criticism of his $800 billion recovery package and take greater control of the debate.

He also is hoping to refill his reservoir of political capital and escape Washington after a bruising week in the White House.

“Washington can be a little suffocating that way,” David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the president, said in an interview on Sunday. “It’s good to go out where the American people are, where they have a very strong view about what we should be doing.”
And to cap off the roadtrip:

On Monday night, Mr. Obama will address the nation for the first time in a prime-time appearance from the East Room of the White House and make his argument for why the economic bill is necessary. When he does, aides said, he will recount his visit earlier in the day to Elkhart, Ind., a city he visited twice during the presidential race that has seen its unemployment rate rise to 15.3 percent, largely because of layoffs in the recreational vehicle industry.

“They’ve watched their unemployment triple,” said Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary. “This isn’t just something that people debate. It’s something that they live every day.”

We asked for a leader, after eight years without a clear one. We voted for Obama to bring it, come what may.

Flame on.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


I'm not an expert on economics, so I can't say what might be good or bad about the stimulus package for sure. But I do believe in Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, in large part because he was right these past eight years while every single Republican was wrong:

I’m still working on the numbers, but I’ve gotten a fair number of requests for comment on the Senate version of the stimulus.

The short answer: to appease the centrists, a plan that was already too small and too focused on ineffective tax cuts has been made significantly smaller, and even more focused on tax cuts...

...My first cut says that the changes to the Senate bill will ensure that we have at least 600,000 fewer Americans employed over the next two years.

The real question now is whether Obama will be able to come back for more once it’s clear that the plan is way inadequate. My guess is no. This is really, really bad.

Now, the next step is for the bill to actually pass the Senate, then it goes into conference with the House where Speaker Pelosi is talking a hard line about getting it back where it was. There is some thinking that enough Republicans in Congress may end up voting for the bill -- i.e., not filibuster -- because they can claim they tried to have it their way already and failed, but I wouldn't put it past them to stonewall, particularly Old Man McCain, the final loser from last year's election marathon. And while he may think he's repositioning himself as the true-blue Republican, I believe it will only cement his reputation as a man who stayed at the party way too long.

The President is going into a renewed form of campaign mode this upcoming week, and I wonder if that news has some GOPers rethinking their position, a little quake in their loafers. Those of us who supported Obama over the long haul have gotten used to his kindly mode followed by slaps from the opposition, followed by Obama going tough and, having followed this strategic procedure, winning.

Here's this week's address, setting the stage:

After the GOP noise storm of a week ago, you'd have thought they'd won. But with Obama moving forcefully now against a rapidly growing backdrop of 7.6% unemployment, which in reality is closer to 14%, crazy, crazy numbers, one has to ask, even should the Republicans win, wouldn't that be tantamount to Party suicide?

Bring. It. On.

Friday, February 06, 2009


Joe Strummer of The Clash. Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee of The Ramones. And now, Lux Interior of The Cramps. The punk rock era is taking heavy losses.

The Cramps were unique, even within the unique world of punk. They were the opposite of wholesome. With their thrift shop horrorshow appearance, Lux usually shirtless in black leather pants and pumps, and their original "psychobilly" sound, they combined early 1960's garage rock with B-movie atmosphere and a slightly campy sense of dread. With song titles like, "Surfin' Dead," "Drug Train," "What's Inside a Girl?," "Garbageman," "Bend Over I'll Drive," "Bikini Girls with Machine Guns," "Human Fly," "Two-Headed Sex Change from Space," "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," "Goo Goo Muck," "The Crusher," "Let's Get Fucked Up" and the memorable coinage question, "Can Your Pussy Do the Dog?" what is not to like?

Lux's heavily echoed voice combined with Ivy's throwback 1950's guitar sound were the infectious aural signature of a band that will undoubtedly have more songs licensed after death than in life. It kinda suits them, as they basically brought Halloween every night they played. Per the otherwise unheard of "J. H. Sasfy, Professor of Rockology" on the liner notes to their Gravest Hits debut e.p.:
In the spring of 1976, The CRAMPS began to fester in a NYC apartment. Without fresh air or natural light, the group developed its uniquely mutant strain of rock’n’roll aided only by the sickly blue rays of late night TV. While the jackhammer rhythms of punk were proliferating in NYC, The CRAMPS dove into the deepest recesses of the rock’n’roll psyche for the most primal of all rhythmic impulses — rockabilly — the sound of southern culture falling apart in a blaze of shudders and hiccups. As late night sci-fi reruns colored the room, The CRAMPS also picked and chose amongst the psychotic debris of previous rock eras - instrumental rock, surf, psychedelia, and sixties punk. And then they added the junkiest element of all — themselves.

Perhaps the most memorable show the The Cramps ever played, make that any band ever, was Live at the Napa State Mental Hospital, immortalized in grainy black & white video (available on Amazon). It went something like this:

Tributes like this one are coming in. While there was always (to me, at least) a distance to The Cramps that kept them from being quite as, uh, lovable as maybe The Ramones, their individuality, sharp edges and bracing individuality inspired a higher form of respect, like the kind one might have for a particularly terrifying roller coaster.

Yep, they were strange. They were skanky. And they were way, way cool.

He's with Elvis now.


Oh, did you think Obama would stop being the world's most compelling public speaker just because he got sworn in? At the House Democratic Retreat in Williamsburg, VA Thursday night he reminded us why we elected him:

Look, I value the constructive criticism and healthy debate that is a foundation of American democracy. I don't think any of us have cornered the market on wisdom, or that good ideas are the province of any party. The American people know that our challenges are great. They're not expecting Democratic solutions or Republican solutions - they want American solutions. And I have said that to those who have criticized the plan.

But what I have also said is - don't come to table with the same tired arguments and worn ideas that helped create this crisis.

Or imagine that last President leveling with us like this:
This isn't some abstract debate. Last week, we learned that many of America's largest corporations are planning to layoff tens off tens of thousands of workers. Today, we learned that last week, the number of new unemployment claims jumped to 626,000. And tomorrow, we're expecting another dismal jobs report on top of the 2.6 million jobs we lost last year.

For you, those aren't statistics. They are constituents you know and families that you care about. Now, I believe that legislation of such magnitude deserves the scrutiny that it's received, and you will get another chance to vote for this bill in the days to come. But I urge all of us to not make the perfect the enemy of the absolutely necessary. The scale and scope of this plan is right.

Is he succeeding in turning the tide of cable anti-Recovery Act noise? Showdown on Friday.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

In It

Gobama, back in the fray:

This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending -- it's a strategy for America's long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education. And it's a strategy that will be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability, so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent.

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis -- the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change.

Back in it to win it.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


I pretty much feel about Tom Daschle exactly as DeRosaWorld put it here. So another distraction gone. On the Republican side, it's distraction grande: meet Joe the Not-Really-Plumber, paid political strategist.

Obama does something extraordinary: he admits a mistake. He hires a Republican as Commerce Secretary. His bill gets another two hundred billion in the Senate.

Obama's built a long reputation as a great finisher. Does he have his endgame in place for the first major legislative initiative of his Presidency?

Monday, February 02, 2009


A Hoover is a British vacuum cleaner. And the last name of the last President, before Bush, who's economic philosophy and policies, and those of his Party, collapsed under him, sending the nation into spiraling unemployment, last called The Great Depression. Last time, Hoover stayed President for three worsening years. This time Bush left after three cheap-ass months. It's Harken II as much as Hoover.

Thankfully, we have a productive, strategic, fresh new President coming in with a stimulus plan that will cost less than the Iraq War and be about creating new jobs, particularly in the renewable energy sector, rather than killing a lot of people who never attacked us.

And the Party of Hoover = No Change:
The latest from RNC Chair Michael Steele: "Not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job."

And there's the confusion: of course a stimulus bill is a spending bill. It is when it's money spent on the military, and it is when it is spent creating public works programs. More Josh Marshall:

"Not a Stimulus bill. It's just a spending bill." That was Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) just a few moments ago on Fox...

...Can someone point out to me any case where an interviewer presses DeMint on the point that stimulus bills are by definition spending bills. Please someone send me this link or a time when it happens on TV. You're trying to counter the drop off in the demand that is causing the recession.

And, as if the last eight years never happened, they're lying again.

You may recall how, the week before last, Republicans were up in arms over a CBO report showing that under 40 percent of the estimated $350 billion in stimulus spending projects would hit the economy in the first two years...Which just goes to show: Don't mess with a White House budget director who's a former head of the CBO. This afternoon, the CBO released its official scoring of the overall stimulus package. And, wouldn't you know, the agency says slightly north of 78 percent of it will pay out over the first two fiscal years.

Where does this leave us? Obama's taking heat for not getting out ahead of this bill fast enough -- he's been working on substance, not media. But now that the other team has shown their cards, he's making his play:

Barack Obama is slated to sit down with the five major television news networks tomorrow, a media play that is almost certain to be part of a broader effort to sell his stimulus package to the American public.

The president will conduct interviews in the Oval Office with ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and FOX News on Tuesday afternoon, according to the official White House schedule. The sitdowns come at a delicate time for the president, with concern mounting in Democratic circles that much of the debate over the stimulus has been dominated by the GOP.

But I still wonder, if Obama resists caving, if he can return to the fray and once again seize the momentum, his impeccable sense of timing, and keep his Party in line, then will the Republicans really make good on threats of a Senate filibuster? Against news like this:

Macy's Inc. announced Monday that it will eliminate 7,000 jobs nationwide, including 1,400 at its West Coast headquarters in San Francisco — which amounts to almost 4 percent of its total work force.

In addition, Macy's plans to cut capital spending, reduce its contributions to its employees' retirement funds and slash its dividend to preserve cash amid a severe pullback in consumer spending.

It's all about the framing from here on out. Is this a spending bill or a jobs bill? I mean...everyone knows we need jobs.

Like, yesterday.

Big Week

This is the week where we find out if Obama has enough juice to pass his stimulus package, or if the 34 Republican Senators who are currently against it stay that way, shrink or grow. Having been through the surprising successes of his campaign, I'm not sure that trouble will turn into defeat. If the Dems can still together enough -- I mean just one or two defections, tops -- and the GOP decides to make good on a filibuster threat, I'm thinking that filibustering against stimulating the economy will be a rather poorly regarded cause.

While watching a triumphant Bruce Springsteen rocking the Super Bowl audience both at the field and in living rooms everywhere, I found myself wondering how different things are, if there really will be change. I can't imagine the same excitement from The Boss or the nation if Obama had lost, but if he hits too many legislative roadblocks, it'll seem a lot less like a new day. And I think this week's contest is particularly important -- the need for any new President to get a fast start, to prove his clout, to get the first win out of the way ASAP.

Is that permanent citizen's network for change shifting into gear?