Thursday, December 25, 2008

Have A Hopeful Christmas
Christmas Eve news was mostly not good. Unemployment way up, manufacturing and sales down. But there are always good stories, too. And this Christmas, there is hope. Americans are feeling it, and hope's name is Obama.
CNN says: Eighty-two percent of those questioned in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Wednesday morning approve of the way the Obama is handling his presidential transition. That's up 3 points from when we asked this question at the beginning of December...The 82 percent approval is higher than then President-elect George W. Bush 8 years ago, who had a 65 percent transition approval rating, and Bill Clinton, at 67 percent in 1992."
In fact it's higher than anybody since they started measuring. It means a lot of people have their hopes riding on Obama, but it also means that he's got a lot of room to maneuver, and a lot of support to do big things, and that's very hopeful.
He's making people giddy. Even his physique on vacation is getting rave reviews, and inspired one of those classic New York Post headlines: Buff Bam is Hawaii Hunk.
CNN continued: Barack Obama is having a better honeymoon with the American public than any incoming president in the past three decades. He's putting up better numbers, usually by double digits, than Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, or either George Bush on every item traditionally measured in transition polls," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
But is this the honeymoon? We haven't had the marriage ceremony yet. That's next month's Inauguration, and even with the Reverend Rick missstep, excitement for the Inaugural is building. Obama will take the oath with his hand on the Bible that Abraham Lincoln used in 1861, and no one's used since.
So this Christmas: Hope. Courage. Compassion. Love. And next month: Change we need.
Merry, happy everyone.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Class War Revisited

There's no doubt the execs of the Big Three U.S. automakers have screwed things up. They fought the future by spending money to suppress innovation, and to lobby and sue against mileage regulations they could easily have met with known technology.

But their workers didn't do that. And even if those U.S. companies did, the trouble they're currently in does not make them unique in the world. Canada, England, Italy and other nations have had to bail out their own carmakers, or are trying to figure out how right now.

And another big shoe dropped (or was thrown) on Monday when Toyota announced that for the first time in its history it is losing money. This is one of the companies with plants in the U.S. South paying their workers slightly less than union workers get in Detroit. And that sure isn't saving them. Nor is anybody complaining that they make lousy cars.

Once again, the news is rubbing our noses in the difference between the vilified car companies and the sainted banks, which got tens and hundreds of billions with no strings attached. Sunday we learned that more than one and a half of those billions went directly into the pockets of bank execs. And Monday we learned that the rest of it--well, we have no idea where the rest of it went, and the banks are refusing to say. (If you're having trouble expressing your outrage at this, you can always let Cramer do it for you.)

Paul Krugman's column forecasts "months, perhaps even a year, of economic hell" no matter what Obama does, and his previous column lays the responsibility at the feet of these same rich assholes and their tools who were temporarily in the government, helping them loot the treasury to boot, before they return to getting their considerable payoffs in the "private sector."

What Obama can do, as Krugman says, and what he must do is create the track for the transformation of the American economy, and give it a jump start. Part of that will be the programs and the partnerships, to re-industrialize and make conservation and social service revolutions into professions and employment. But part of it will be intellectual and moral leadership, because as Krugman shows, the spending money to fuel a basically insane consumer economy just won't be there. Nor will the world's environmental and economic health permit it.

The change is gonna come. And bringing to a close the super rich and ruling class warfare on everybody else will be part of it, beginning immediately.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Urgent: Change

The Obama government in waiting is upping the ante on economic recovery, aiming to create (or save) 3 million jobs instead of 2.5 million. NY Times: The new job target was set after a meeting last Tuesday in which Christina D. Romer, who is Mr. Obama’s choice to lead his Council of Economic Advisers, presented information about previous recessions to establish that the current downturn was likely to be “more severe than anything we’ve experienced in the past half-century,” according to an Obama official familiar with the meeting.

The Times reported the package being considered included a lot of immediate infrastructure projects, money for schools and education. Federal money to local governments would come with a “use it or lose it” clause under Mr. Obama’s plans, advisers say. The president-elect will also propose to direct some money to public and private partnerships for major projects like a national energy grid intended to harness alternative energy sources such as wind power.

VP Joe Biden defined one of his roles on Sunday: chairing a "middle class task force" to make sure federal efforts were making a positive difference for workers and their families.

That becomes all the more important on a day that the AP reported Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals."

Meanwhile, the Washington Post found widespread public support for the Obama agenda:Majorities think Obama should help make major changes to the health-care system, enact new energy policies and institute a moratorium on home foreclosures. Majorities expect him to end U.S. involvement in Iraq, improve health care and turn around America's image abroad.

The Post noted optimism that Obama will help the economy recover, but a desire that he move beyond the economy to other agenda items quickly.

84 percent who want him to drive an effort to require electricity companies to increase the use of renewable sources of energy. A majority, 55 percent, want him to tackle the issue right after taking office in January.

A majority want Obama to make big changes to the country's health-care system, with 63 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents saying they want the changes right away.
Sunday Sorting

On how we got into this economic apocalypse: two articles in the New York Times, a report and a Krugman column, come to the same conclusion: de facto Ponzi schemes and other chimera that made a few people preposterously wealthy (and the most delusional among them felt and still feel entitled to it) at the expense of everyone else, and their future. Not exactly breaking news, but worth repeating when billions are still going to these same people, while help for everybody else is stingy, grudging or nonexistent.

On the Warren thing (for I hope the last time.) Obamafolks point out that "The Inauguration will also involve Reverend Joseph Lowery, who will be delivering the official benediction at the Inauguration. Reverend Lowery is a giant of the civil rights movement who boasts a proudly progressive record on LGBT issues. He has been a leader in the struggle for civil rights for all Americans, gay or straight."

And that "At his 2005 inaugural, George W. Bush tapped Rev. Dr. Louis Leon to deliver the invocation. Like Obama and Warren, the two shared a commitment to combating AIDS in Africa, as well as a friendship from time spent in each other's company. But Leon was and is a progressive voice. And his selection in '04 sparked a lot of interest, though little of the outrage that we see with Warren."

About the best defense of the Obama position (though admittedly I haven't read a lot of them) is Cynthia Tucker's, which includes this: Obama seems to be sincere about looking for ways to revive not only bipartisan cooperation but also ecumenical cooperation. He’s right to try. There are millions of people of good will who believe climate change demands a wide-ranging government response; that all Americans should have access to health care; that government ought to do more to help the poor. Those people can be found in mosques, synagogues and churches, listening to clerics whose views run the spiritual and ideological spectrum.

Tucker, that Atlanta newspaper columnist with the luscious lips on TV, writes as an avowed Christian, which leads to a number of other thoughts. A Christian POV might well make a difference on how you evaluate this, as the lack of one also may mean that the politics of it stands out. On the other hand, why is the Inauguration a Christian-only ceremony? As I am not a Christian by belief, I don't feel included, and I don't much care.

For Obama's Saturday message on science, and science appointments, see Dreaming Up Daily.