Barry Ritholtz used some newfangled economic jargon to describe January's nonfarm payroll number (-17,000). "It's fugly", he said.
Yep. And I think it will get fuglier before it gets better. We're not out of the fug yet.
=== So Bush reportedly called up Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and used salty language to get him to cut interest rates further and deeper than Ben wanted. That's always a good sign, when the President is pressuring the Fed to act rashly during an election year. Bush wants to preserve some semblance of an economic legacy. Yet, this crass, belated attempt to prop up equities and avoid recession during Bush's final year will not allow the "free" markets to quickly purge themselves of malinvestment. If anything, these moves will prolong the recession while fanning the flames of future inflation.
The Cunning Realist reminds everyone why we want to avoid a return to the 1970's. Besides disco.
There was a time not too long ago when folks thought Bernanke might be able to resist the pressure to cut rates, and be a toolish backstop for the stock market:
Ben S. Bernanke, Mr. Greenspan’s successor at the Fed (and his loyal supporter during the antideflation hysteria), is said to be resisting the demand for broadly lower interest rates. Maybe he is seeing the light that capitalism without financial failure is not capitalism at all, but a kind of socialism for the rich."
During all this ridiculous Reagan worship by the GOP presidential candidates, none of them (except Ron Paul) seem to recall Ronnie's belief that inflation is "the cruelest" tax, especially on the poor.
=== Recalling a time of far more severe economic and inflationary challenges, where Volcker had to raise rates to kill inflation, here's a segment from President Reagan's news conference on 3/31/82. I don't subscribe to all the points that Reagan makes in this excerpt, but I thought it provided an interesting contrast to the immature monetary madness going on right now:
Q: During the Presidential campaign, your Presidential campaign, you asked an extremely effective question of the American people. And it went like this: "Are you better off today than you were 4 years ago?" So, it seems only fair to ask this question at this time. With high unemployment, high interest rates, an increasing number of business failures, and a generally bleak economy, are Americans really better off today than they were when you became President?
The President: Of course, you realize it would be fairer if they asked me that at the end of 4 years instead of 1. But let me just point out
Q. [Inaudible]—to turn things around quickly?
The President: I don't think there's a single thing there—I mean, a single thing in which you could say one way or the other. For example, yes, unemployment has increased, because of the recession. But I would remind you, that we had almost as much—we had in the neighborhood of 8 million unemployed back then, before we came here. We had interest rates of 21 1/2 percent. Well, they're 16. That's still too high, and it is those high interest rates that are delaying our coming out of this recession. We had 12.4 percent inflation. Inflation is now down and has for the last 5 months been running at only 4 1/2 percent.
Now, let me just give you an example of what that rate of inflation means and what the entire 1981 decline that we brought about—because inflation started down before there was any recession, and I think we had something to do with that.
Take the average family of four that is living on the threshold of poverty, which we say, now, is $8,500-a-year income. That family now has $375 more in purchasing power with their $8,500 than they did at the rate of inflation in 1980 and leading up to the Inaugural in '81. So, when you say better or worse off, I think there are elements of better off. And probably the worst one is the penalty imposed with these high interest rates which, as I say, we have brought down some, but which have contributed to not only unemployment but the other tragedy of the small and the independent business people and the farmers, many of them, who have not been able to make it through this period.
But I think that we are bottoming out, and I believe that we're safe in saying that we think there's going to be an upturn in the second half of the year.
Q. Mr. President, you've talked often about the long-term goals of your economic recovery plan, but a lot of people are in trouble right now. They don't have jobs, and—millions of them—how long are you willing to let unemployment continue at current high levels before you take some sort of short-term emergency action to bring it down?
The President: Short-term, emergency actions that have been taken in the past—and there've been seven previous recessions since World War II—and that short-term has been a flooding of the money market, an artificial stimulant to bring down unemployment, and at the same time it usually skyrockets inflation. Now inflation is the cruelest thing and the cruelest tax on the poor, if we're taking sides as to who's for the rich or who's for the poor. And I just gave a figure on that a moment ago.
We have, in some of the hardest hit States, extended the unemployment insurance. There's nothing that strikes to my heart more than the unemployed, although at this time I think the farmers, the small business people, people in real estate and the construction industry, who are losing their businesses—family-owned businesses—and they can't get unemployment insurance, they're just out and broke—is also heartbreaking problem. But the answer to this has to be in a recovery of the economy.
The interest rates, remaining as high as they are, which are holding this up—there is nothing that government can do about this except hope that we can prove to them that we are serious about continuing this program. Those interest rates aren't staying up because of anything that the Fed is doing or anything that government is doing. They're staying up, because after being burned a half a dozen times in these previous efforts by government, we find that the money markets just don't believe that we'll stay the course, bring down government spending, and hold inflation down. They're looking for that temporary stimulant that will then send up the interest rates.
"I used to think if there was reincarnation, I wanted to come back as the President or the Pope or a .400 baseball hitter, but now I want to come back as the bond market. You can intimidate everybody." --James Carville
Yes, I have heard Bobby Jindal's rhetoric before, and not just in some dusty history book, but in the first administration of Mayor Ray Nagin.
Killing corruption is a worthy goal. But it's also a paper tiger, an amorphous, feel-good enemy that we can all rail against without fear of offending anyone who matters.
Yes, you just heard Jeffrey cheer after reading that.
3. Last night Sen. David Vitter had a celebratory fundraiser at the Aquarium of the Americas for newly elected Gooper "leaders". Guests included Gov. Jindal, Treasurer Secretary and others. (Only $2500 per couple for VIP's).
The title of Vitter's event was the "Leavin' Em Behind Second Line".
[A] short and sweet message to all of my friends who live in New Orleans- GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE. Don't tell me [violent crime] is not happening in your area or in any place that you frequent.
In all sincerity,
Chad E. Rogers
Thanks for the "sweet" message, Toonces, but I'm not going to cut and run outta New Orleans. I'm staying. I'm working to rebuild and improve this stricken city.
And, in all sincerity, if I would leave, my decision wouldn't be based on what some alarmist news aggregator advises me to do after he learned that a bullet went through a downtown hotel window during Carnival.
To be sure, violent crime is a problem here. That is one of the reasons I tried to elect competent leaders who were aware of the growing problem, who were willing to respond to it, and who promised to revamp the NOPD, for example. Rogers had a different view. He said he would've voted for Nagin in 2006, had he been able. That was the year that Rogers assisted Nagin's re-election by publishing false, unretracted "stories" about his opponent.
YRHT declines to advise Rogers on where he can go.
"What do you mean, I couldn't be President, of the United States of America? Tell me something, it's still 'we the people', right? If there's a new way I'll be the first in line, but, it better work this time. Can you put a price on peace?" -- Megadeth, Peace Sells... but who's buying? ---
So, it seems Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader will be the front-runners for the Green Party Presidential ticket in 2008.
Last month, Cynthia amassed 5 dozen people to hear her announce her candidacy for the Presidency. After her speech, she was asked about Barack Obama and she brought up the FBI's COINTELPRO program, seemingly implying that Obama is a government plant in the conspiracy against black America. "We have to be careful with the black people who are put before us by the media," she said.
For his part, Ralph Nader recently spoke at Boston University, and chided B.U. students for their apathy. Nader considers apathy to be the biggest political crisis facing Americans today. He also gave a lecture to the students on how to be a "skilled voter".
Here's a question: How 'bout being a skilled candidate, Nader? Have you ever given that a thought? Have you ever done anything as a presidential candidate to break through "the apathy" (in a positive way)? Precisely what have you done for the Green movement?
Nader says "he will run in 2008 if he is convinced... that he would be able to raise $10 million over the course of the campaign" in order to get his name on the vast majority of state ballots. Why? So he can run another vanity campaign and get one or two percent of the General Election vote in a lot of states? Is that the best use of $10 million bucks?
You know, if Nader ever furnished a campaign plan to clear the 5% mark in national polls-- much less the 10% barrier-- I would take his complaints about the structure of televised Presidential debates more seriously. Currently, candidates need to poll 15 percent nationally to get into the debates like Perot and Stockman did in 1992.
Similarly, while Nader is complaining about the political apathy of young people, a Democratic candidate named Obama is inspiring young people, and finding ways to bring them into the process in record numbers. But I guess he's a government plant, so his "cult" of young supporters don't count. I guess we'll just have to wait until Nader formally tosses his hat into the race, so we can see what true Ralphmentum is all about. (Here's a tip, Ralph: learn to use a computer. Today's apathetic kids are fond of them, and-- like your ego-- computers are here to stay. Al "not green enough" Gore's internets are not a passing fad.)
Jeez. And people think the major parties have problems attracting good candidates.
How many bloggers on my blogroll voted for Nader at one time or another? A shocking proportion. Nader is very comfortable on the periphery. He has no desire to engage in a way that will succeed politically. If he did run in a risky, creative fashion that made waves-- like, say, Ron Paul-- Nader might actually get his message out to people who haven't already heard it. But Nader doesn't want to do that. He doesn't want to face the massive, unrelenting scrutiny that would accompany a candidate leading a true movement with political potential. Nader takes potshots at the Pragmatic Left from a safe distance, being assisted by the GOP, without taking the necessary political risks that would imperil his personal reputation. He's not in the game to win. He's not in it to TRY to win. He's in it for himself, period. If he really wanted to see his (laudable) "message" succeed politically, he would put it into the hands of a talented successor. He'd stop being a perennial candidate, and recruit some new faces. Nader's history of activism, and his policy agenda are now being overshadowed by his chronic, pointless Presidential campaigns. (And for the record, Nader's longtime activism is probably overrated by both his supporters and detractors.)
Some time ago, Jeffrey alerted us to an unwelcome article about Ralph Nader's perpetual presidential vanity campaign. It begins:
George DeCarlo of Berkeley Heights, chair of the [NJ] State Green Party, says it’s likely Princeton graduate and public advocate Ralph Nader will again be the Green Party’s nominee for president in 2008, with former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia as the party’s nominee for vice president.
Looks like that prediction will hold up.
One obvious question for DeCarlo is why should progressives support Nader and not U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Democratic candidate for president whose views on the War in Iraq, labor and trade, the environment and healthcare are similar to Nader’s?
And why should they back the Green Party when Nader’s vote share in 2000 drained votes away from Democratic Presidential candidate and environmental champion Al Gore, who was eventually bumped in a Florida cliffhanger by a U.S. Supreme court decision?
DeCarlo remains convinced the Dems are no better than the GOP, and says Bill Clinton was worse than Bush in some ways as a president and essentially a failure, at least in terms of what DeCarlo sees as Clinton’s finger in the wind approach to leadership.
"Clinton killed more people in Iraq by the sanctions he opposed [sic] on that country," says DeCarlo. "All this business about Bush being an incompetent failure, an idiot and a dope - it’s nonsense. Bush has done everything he said he was going to do."
What bunk. In 1999 Bush said he wouldn't use American troops for nation-building. After 9/11 he said he would get Bin Laden, and then in 2005 he promised to "do what it takes" to rebuild New Orleans. None of those important commitments have been fulfilled. Yet DeCarlo claims Bush has consistently kept all his promises. Then DeCarlo claims that Clinton "killed more people in Iraq" than Bush did, and was "essentially a failure" despite the fact that during Clinton's term 23 million jobs were created, the working class enjoyed real wage gains for the first time in decades, the budget was balanced, and some bona fide liberals were appointed to the Supreme Court.
But the Greens continue to argue that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans, or between Clinton and Bush, or between Gore and Bush, or between Kerry and Bush. They are heavily invested in clouding those distinctions. If you honestly believe there is no difference between, say, Justice Scalia and Justice Breyer, fine. Then use this argument to vote Green. And if you believe that no matter how radicalized the Bush administration becomes, that the Dems are equally as bad, if not worse... then please use this argument to vote Green. But let me just submit that this is shoddy, uncritical thinking. Certainly, there are not enough significant differences between the parties, but that doesn't mean they are equally as bad from a progressive's standpoint.
It's easy to be ideologically pure when you have no intention of getting more than 2% of the vote. It's easy to criticize Douchey Dems for their lack of courage, when they are making compromises to assemble a majority coalition of different factions. If Greens honestly believe Dems are just as oppositional to their agenda as Goopers, then they should vote Green. However, if they think Dems might pass more of their agenda than the Goopers, it might be wise to strategically assist the Dems at certain times.
For example, look at the razor tight Virginia Senate Race of 2006. Sen Jim Webb won by 9,000 votes, despite the presence of a Green Party candidate. Luckily for Webb, the Green candidate gave him a quasi-endorsement just before election day, and he barely beat presidential wannabe George "makaka" Allen. Not only did that strategic endorsement help tip the race, but it helped tip the entire Senate to the Democrats. Similarly, Nader could've thrown some support to Gore in crucial battleground states like Florida in 2000. It would've been easy for him to do. Knowing that the election would be close, he could've made a deal. But that would've forced Nader to sacrifice a smidgeon of ideological purity, and a helping of ego, so it was a complete non-starter. Al "Earth in the Balance" Gore just wasn't "Green" enough for Nader. He was just as bad as Bush. Recent history proves otherwise.
Nader and McKinney make a big deal about how the 2000 elections were stolen. But why should they care? Gore and Bush were equally as bad, right? So what's the difference? [Btw, isolating one "reason" as to why Gore "lost" the absurdly close 2000 elections is simplistic thinking. There were many "reasons", any one of which could be viewed as decisive given the microscopic difference in Florida (among other states). When one points to one "reason" for the results, it reveals more about the person doing the arguing than the historical reality. "Al Gore lost because [insert pet reason]" is never an illuminating formulation. But that's a discussion for another day.]
So, once again, Ralph "more choices, more voices" Nader is running for President. And so is Cynthia McKinney. The Greens have found two people who know the answer to every problem*, except for how to grow their voter base. The death of apathy is at hand.
Hardy, ambitious souls are drawn to the ultimate prize of the American Presidency, and enter the absurd campaign "game". Some play to win, others don't. There's an art and a science to finding a "winning" campaign posture, and to succeeding in primaries and elections. But there are no guarantees. Brilliancies and blunders can change the game in an instant. So can external factors beyond any one individual's control. Nowadays, trivialities reign supreme.
If you are a talented candidate who is a big underdog, you have to take bigger risks to succeed, both strategically and tactically. It's the only way. Beyond inhuman discipline and confidence, an underdog candidate must also understand when winning political "windows" open, and be ready to take maximum advantage of them. Ignoring the "odds" and creating one's own opportunities at the right time-- often at the last minute-- can change elections.
In the final, frigid days leading up to the 2004 Iowa caucuses, the presidential campaign of Senator John Edwards was struggling. While Howard Dean was packing in hundreds and even thousands at his [campaign rallies], Edwards wasn't a big enough draw to fill even the double-wide mobile home where one of his supporters was hosting a house party...
It takes superhuman fortitude to persist through such campaign spells. The pressure is on to make a move, but it's never exactly clear how to do that. Yet, during a few crucial weeks in 2004, John Edwards found a new theme and began delivering his "Two Americas" speech.
Within days, overflow crowds were lining up in the snow to hear Edwards and pulling down his posters to be autographed after he had finished speaking. "They were handing up anything that could be signed--napkins, envelopes. Here's the back of my deposit slip, sign that," his wife Elizabeth wrote in her memoir. Bill Clinton's old strategist James Carville marveled at the time that it was the best stump speech he had ever heard. On Salon, Peter Dizikes predicted, "Before too long, the Edwards speech could be like a museum exhibit that political tourists flock to see before it closes."
After his near win in Iowa, John Edwards repeated his "Two Americas" speech on prime-time TV, and it was one of the best campaign speeches in a long time. A GOP strategist called me up immediately afterwards and declared it to be "scary". That comment made me giggle in delight. In dramatic fashion, a Democratic candidate had struck political gold. But, unfortunately Edwards was unable to parlay his theme into a winning electoral formula outside Iowa. During the 2004 primaries, he refused to "fight" with Kerry, and was rewarded with the Veep slot. His responsibilities then included being Kerry's disciplined "right hand man", carrying North Carolina, and kicking Darth Cheney in the testes during the Veep debate.
So, Edwards spent the next four years building a campaign strategy around winning Iowa in 2008, and again came up short. I like Edwards. I think his policy platform is commendable. I've donated to his campaign. Before Iowa, I'd been pretty nice to him here at YRHT, even though he wasn't my top choice. But after losing Iowa in 2008 I knew his campaign was effectively over. He'd bet it all, and came up short. Edwards is simply not a political warrior (which is more of a compliment than a criticism of him as a person). He refused to truly engage* in the absurd Presidential campaign game (again-- no criticism there), even though he chose that battlefield to wage the "fight of his life" against poverty.
Now John Edwards concludes his campaign in New Orleans, where he began it. I'm confident he will continue his "fight", and hope he is able to push the remaining candidates toward his agenda, and assist a new Democratic administration next year.
--- * keeping in mind that there are many, many ways to play the game ---
Gumbofile has photos of Edwards announcement here. --- Update:Meteor Blades at Kos wrote an excellent post about Edwards and New Orleans.
The Hornets have the best record in the toughest division in the toughest conference in the NBA.
They are the league's hottest team, having won nine straight. They have an MVP candidate in Chris Paul, and have crushed the defending champion San Antonio Spurs and division leading Denver Nuggets in consecutive games by 24 points each. The highlights in the Hornets' recent so-called "contests" have been incredibly entertaining and dunkalicious. They are number one in the NBA's power rankings, and yesterday the Hornets became only the second team in NBA history to win seven straight games by a margin of 14 points or more in each triumph.
"Anybody who committed a crime in this country or in the country they came from has to be deported immediately, with no legal process. They are immediately gone"-- Mrs. Clinton told a town hall meeting on Thursday.
"I come from a border state. I know how to fix those borders with walls, with UAVs, with sensors, with cameras, with vehicle barriers.... And I will do that... And then we will have a temporary worker program with tamper-proof biometric documents, and any employer who employs someone in any other circumstances will be prosecuted... Then, of course, we have to get rid of two million people who have committed crimes here. We have to round them up and deport them." --Senator John McCain, Sunday on Meet The Press.
"Of course" we have to round up and deport millions of people? Really? Is that the sudden consensus position amongst the GOP and Democratic front-runners? Precisely how would such a "program" be accomplished? Seriously, what would mass deportation look like? What would be required? Would such a massive "round up" be the best use of our law enforcement resources?
--- Update: More at The Huck Upchuck. --- Late Update: As BayouStJohnDavid points out in the comments, Hillary's comments should be narrowly construed as applying to a few specific cases. She doesn't seem to be advocating for the widespread "round 'em up" policy that McCain is advocating. YRHT apologizes for the exaggeration.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency manipulated scientific research to play down the danger posed by formaldehyde in trailers issued to hurricane victims, according to an investigation by congressional Democrats.
FEMA "ignored, hid and manipulated government research on the potential impact of long-term exposure to formaldehyde" on Katrina and Rita victims now living in FEMA trailers, said a letter written by Democrats on Monday.
I actually enjoyed Bush's State of the Union announcement that the North American Summit will be held in New Orleans, and the bipartisan standing ovation that followed it. Sen. Landrieu jumped out of her seat to lead the ovation, and Bush looked over and genuinely smiled. While standing and clapping, Speaker of the House Pelosi said "That's nice".
Here's Bush's full statement on the Gulf Coast recovery:
Tonight the armies of compassion continue the march to a new day in the Gulf Coast. America honors the strength and resilience of the people of this region. We reaffirm our pledge to help them build stronger and better than before. And tonight I am pleased to announce that in April we will host this year’s North American Summit of Canada, Mexico, and the United States in the great city of New Orleans.
After the speech, Landrieu personally expressed her gratitude to Bush, telling him "Thank you for that". Bush threw the city a bone, one that will have a multi-million dollar impact. We'll take it.
Obviously, this administration has made flood protection commitments to New Orleans that it won't keep, and has continually raised "concerns" over nearly every piece of crucially important legislation involving Louisiana's recovery. These disappointments will continue, and I will continue to track them, but this evening I'm not outraged by what Bush said (mainly because I was expecting almost nothing).
When Mary Landrieu thanked Bush tonight, I was reminded of a similar scene after his 2006 SOTU speech. That year, the White House had just torpedoed the all-important Baker Bill. When the President gave his SOTU, he made a misleading statement about the federal government's response to America's biggest disaster:
So far, the federal government has committed $85 billion to the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. We are removing debris and repairing highways and rebuilding stronger levees. We're providing business loans and housing assistance.
Then, in watered down form, Bush vaguely referenced the "deeper challenges" (of poverty and racism) that he mentioned in his famous Jackson Square speech. And that was it. Boy I was pissed after that 2006 SOTU!!-- much more so than when New Orleans was totally ignored in the 2007 speech. After the 2006 SOTU I was convinced that Bush and Rove were out to sabotage New Orleans, and that they would succeed. I didn't think they'd give us an adequate housing grant, and I was sure we wouldn't get Cat 4 or 5 flood protection.
So, after the 2006 SOTU, Mary Landrieu spoke with Bush and complimented him on the "good man" he nominated to be Gulf Coast Recovery Czar-- Don Powell. Bush seemed pleased by Landrieu's praise, and thanked her in a manner that appeared quite genuine.
At the time, I thought: Are you kidding me!? You're going to congratulate him after this snub?
Little did I know that serious backroom haggling was occuring behind the scenes. That haggling yielded more housing grant money for New Orleans. And to my surprise, Bush earnestly pushed for it. However, the distribution of these federal monies seemed endlessly delayed by Congress, and then by Gov Blanco's hideously slow "Road Home" program. As it turned out, the grant was about $3 billion short, but through skillful maneuvering (and seniority in the Senate Majority), Mary Landrieu was able to plug the gap.
So, this year, after seeing Bush's steadfast commitment to staying in Iraq, and the quickness with which he proposed his recent economic stimulus plan... it's amazing to reflect on how difficult and convoluted the struggle for New Orleans recovery funding has been. Landrieu and Vitter's initial Gulf Coast recovery plan was a nonstarter. The Baker Bill had the rug pulled out from it. The federal funding for the Road Home required secret negotiations between Reilly and Powell. The White House opposed Jindal's oil royalty bill, and has consistently asked for excessive local "match" contributions towards funding for infrastructure projects. The water bill was vetoed. Landrieu had to sneak in supplemental funding for the Road Home in a defense bill... Also, the Administration won't go beyond a commitment to 100 year storm protection for the city, and doesn't view the restoration of our energy coast's protective wetlands to be a priority.
Still, notwithstanding all that, the summit was a nice little surprise.