Author Archive | susie

ADD Hell

Traveling always sends my stress levels sky high, and this time was even worse than usual. There were the usual things, like spilling iced chai down the front of my cloths before I got on the train, and several dozen episodes of dropping stuff, banging into things, etc.

Last night the friend I’m staying with lost my laptop, the broken one. Even though it’s broken, I’m afraid someone could still take my personal information. He felt really guilty, so he lent me his today.

As I was leaving his building to catch a cab, I hear his voice. He’s yelling down, “Hey, you forgot your badge!” He’s waving it at me.

I yelled back, “Just throw it down!”

Which he did. It’s now on the balcony of someone on the fifth floor. Oh well!

Tea Party Etc.

John Atlas from the Housing Institute pointed out that the reason the trumped up charges against ACORN worked is that Democratic supporters were so quick to abandon them. He’s right.

Because the right wing supports the team NO MATTER WHAT. ACORN is an organization that’s done an incredible amount of good on housing for the poor and were the most effective voter registration machine around.

We let them die. They didn’t do anything wrong, but because the right wing attacks kicked in and were overwhelming, the Democratic party abandoned one of our most important allies.

Nice work, guys!

‘The Rig’s On Fire! I Told You This Was Gonna Happen’

I simply do not see how this story ends without criminal charges — and for more than the guys at the bottom, who were reacting to the pressure from above. I’d like to point out the superb work done by Mother Jones on this story, and urge you to go throw them a few bucks for their investigative fund if you can spare it:

A prominent Houston attorney with a long record of winning settlements from oil companies says he has new evidence suggesting that the Deepwater Horizon’s top managers knew of problems with the rig before it exploded last month, causing the worst oil spill in US history. Tony Buzbee, a lawyer representing 15 rig workers and dozens of shrimpers, seafood restaurants, and dock workers, says he has obtained a three-page signed statement from a crew member on the boat that rescued the burning rig’s workers. The sailor, who Buzbee refuses to name for fear of costing him his job, was on the ship’s bridge when Deepwater Horizon installation manager Jimmy Harrell, a top employee of rig owner Transocean, was speaking with someone in Houston via satellite phone. Buzbee told Mother Jones that, according to this witness account, Harrell was screaming, “Are you f*cking happy? Are you f*cking happy? The rig’s on fire! I told you this was gonna happen.”

Whoever was on the other end of the line was apparently trying to calm Harrell down. “I am f*cking calm,” he went on, according to Buzbee. “You realize the rig is burning?”

At that point, the boat’s captain asked Harrell to leave the bridge. It wasn’t clear whether Harrell had been talking to Transocean, BP, or someone else.

On Friday a spokesman for Transocean said he couldn’t confirm or deny whether the conversation took place. He was unable to make Harrell available for an interview.

During hearings held late last month by the Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service, Harrell denied any conflicts with his BP or Transocean bosses. He said that he did not feel pressured to rush the completion of the well, even though the rig had fallen behind schedule.

Yet Buzbee’s claims add weight to other statements that contradict Harrell’s version of events. Testifying before the Coast Guard and MMS panel last month, Douglas Brown, the chief mechanic on the Deepwater Horizon, said that on the morning of the day that the rig exploded Harrell had a “skirmish” over drilling procedures during a meeting with BP’s “company man,” well site leader Robert Kaluza. “I remember the company man saying this is how it’s going to be,” Brown told the panel. As Harrell was leaving the meeting, according to Brown, “He pretty much grumbled, ‘I guess that’s what we have those pincers for,'” referring to the blowout preventer on the sea floor that is supposed to be the last resort to prevent a leak in the event of an emergency. The blowout preventer failed following the explosion on the rig, causing the massive spill. (Transocean’s chief electronics technician, Mike Williams, also recalled the argument but named a different BP “company man,” BP’s top official on the rig, Donald Vidrine).

In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, Transocean appeared to back the claims that Harrell had feuded with BP: “The testimony certainly seems to suggest that [Harrell] disagreed with the operator’s instructions, but what those were and why he disagreed are matters that will ultimately be determined during the course of investigations.”

Coming Attractions

My laptop chose today to become toast, so I won’t be posting my interview with Jim Dean, head of Democracy for America, until after I’m home. But it was interesting.

I’ll post as much as I can manage on borrowed gear until I’m home.

Work, Not Jobs

Is it just me, or does Congress seem completely oblivious to what the rest of us are going through? No security of any kind, and instead of expanding the safety net, they’re shredding what’s left. In the meantime, we’re not even going to have full-time jobs again:

NEW YORK ( — Jobs may be coming back, but they aren’t the same ones workers were used to.

Many of the jobs employers are adding are temporary or contract positions, rather than traditional full-time jobs with benefits. With unemployment remaining near 10%, employers have their pick of workers willing to accept less secure positions.

In 2005, the government estimated that 31% of U.S. workers were already so-called contingent workers. Experts say that number could increase to 40% or more in the next 10 years.

James Stoeckmann, senior practice leader at WorldatWork, a professional association of human resource executives, believes that full-time employees could become the minority of the nation’s workforce within 20 to 30 years, leaving employees without traditional benefits such as health coverage, paid vacations and retirement plans, that most workers take for granted today.

“The traditional job is not doomed. But it will increasingly have competition from other models, the most prominent is the independent contractor model,” he said.

Doug Arms, senior vice president of Ajilon, a staffing firm, says about 90% of the positions his company is helping clients fill right now are on a contract basis.

What That Guy Said

I think NYCWeboy is one of the best writers out there, and it doesn’t hurt that I usually agree with him. Even when I don’t, he makes a thoughtful argument:

The “Progressive Blogosphere” is, still, a catch-all term for an insular group that doesn’t like to acknowledge that blogging on the left, never mind overall, is far more diverse than they suggest. The largely white, overwhelmingly male composition of the “usual suspects” (you can make a case for exceptions like Adam Serwer, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jane Hamsher, and some of the mob of bloggers that make up Kos – but they tend to be exceptions that underline the mindset), and particularly, the class similar composition of educated, elite professionals, leads to a narrowness in their pieces and biases that they rarely face up to or acknowledge. And it’s just the sort of myopia that’s made it hard to develop, on the blogs, a clearer picture of what is, and isn’t, working out with the Obama Administration.

And though it’s easy to make this case by highlighting the obvious topics where unanimity has prevailed – the discussions of healthcare reform that centered on a “public option” plan that sidetracked a great deal of other reform ideas, the “Obama vs. Hillary” fights of the primaries, trendy issues like food policy and environmental concerns where liberal dreams never die – I think the failings of the “Progressive Blogosphere” are thrown into sharper relief where there’s less clear cut certainty of thought: the struggle to define a progressive approach to immigration that makes sense and could actually be accomplished; the failure to make women’s issues and feminist concerns more central to a progressive agenda; facing up to the realities of our economic and banking crises and admitting that government spending and tax policy needs basic reform – on a wide range of topics, there’s a definite lack of “progressive” sensibility in what is, ostensibly, a liberal, left-side group of writers and thinkers.

Indeed, the real problem here is that “progressive” is so poorly defined, so hazily conceived, and membership in “the club” of the “progressive blogosphere” is less about what you think than who you know and how you sell it (or more to the point, sell yourself). It’s a term that’s either too narrow to be of much use (when applied to “A-list” usual suspects like Kos, Ezra Klein, Glenn Greenwald, Matt Yglesias, Silver and on and on) or too broad (when applied so as to eoncompass everything from LGBT blogs to feminist blogs to environmental blogs and every catchy, interested subgroup in between). It would be better, healthier, and more honest to admit – as Chris Bowers and many other “serious” bloggers seemingly can’t – that blogging is what it was, only on a far larger field with far more options: an opportunity for many interested, aspiring, and serious writers and thinkers and visual artists to put their ideas out there, try to attract an audience, develop their own unique talents and point of view. Some will be successful, some won’t. Some will stick it out, some will fade out, some will, at some point, make it big.

To suggest, as Chris Bowers does, that what we have is all we have, or will ever have, is absurd. As absurd, really, as laying markers around a “progressive blogosphere” that simply doesn’t exist. Nor, arguably, should it: we’d be better served if, finally, some of the labeled “progressive” bloggers came out and burned the term, as well as the labeling theory that drives it. The myth of a “progressive” blogosphere, and the misty, wishful storyline of “brave internet pioneers” who hacked the pathway ahead of, well, us, is pretty much full fledged fiction.

The faith in this mythology serves no one well: it’s an obvious disservice to the writers and thinkers and analysts who sit, somehow, outside the circle; but it’s also a dangerous box to dump a number of reasonably interesting, occasionally brilliant bloggers. And it’s yet more dangerous because clearly, with a lot of cash and some old school clout – Tina Brown’s Daily Beast and Arianna’s Huffington Post, anyone? – some even bigger operations will sweep in and pull the “progressive blogosphere” out from under the romantic ideals of its defenders, turning some vague liberal bromides into a cash cow where “progressive bloggers” can also be defined as Demi Moore and Brad Pitt. Hire a few “names people know” – indeed, like the Times picking up Nate Silver or WaPo window-dressing their failing print operations with an online star like Ezra Klein – and you, too can drape an otherwise soggy old media business in “new media”, “progressive blogosphere” cred. Failure to define terms, draping under developed and unformed writers in star quality, sets the stage for opportunism and selling out. And pretty soon, It’s Progressive Blogosphere, TM.

Why not get off this merry-go-round? Let’s give some of these people time to grow (and grow up), time to see the world, to drink in complexities and thnk, harder, about how the world works. And more to the point let’s – all of us – stop dancing around hazy terms like “progressive” and do the hard work of developing some principles, explaining them, and seeing what ideas, policies and practical proposals we come up with out of them. Or let’s not… because I think letting go of “progressive”, as an alternative, is also quite attractive. Let the “progressives” go off and play with the unicorns and pegasi (and Ashton and Demi and Brad) and let’s get back to the things that should drive our politics: what’s real, what’s possible, and what needs to get done. Enough with the myths, and wishing on the stars.

Welcome To The Lost Decade

Krugman on how the G20 economic conference has been taken over by the deficit hawks, and predicts we’re headed for a “lost decade,” like the one that paralyzed Japan:

It’s basically incredible that this is happening with unemployment in the euro area still rising, and only slight labor market progress in the US.

But don’t we need to worry about government debt? Yes — but slashing spending while the economy is still deeply depressed is both an extremely costly and quite ineffective way to reduce future debt. Costly, because it depresses the economy further; ineffective, because by depressing the economy, fiscal contraction now reduces tax receipts. A rough estimate right now is that cutting spending by 1 percent of GDP raises the unemployment rate by .75 percent compared with what it would otherwise be, yet reduces future debt by less than 0.5 percent of GDP.

The right thing, overwhelmingly, is to do things that will reduce spending and/or raise revenue after the economy has recovered — specifically, wait until after the economy is strong enough that monetary policy can offset the contractionary effects of fiscal austerity. But no: the deficit hawks want their cuts while unemployment rates are still at near-record highs and monetary policy is still hard up against the zero bound.

But what about Greece and all that? Look, right now sovereign debt problems are taking place in countries with a very specific problem: they’re part of the euro zone, AND they’re badly overvalued thanks to huge capital inflows in the good years; as a result they’re facing years of grinding deflation. Counties not in that situation are not facing any pressure from the markets for immediate cuts; as of this morning, 10-year bonds were yielding 3.51 in Britain, 3.21 in the US, 1.27 in Japan.

Yet the conventional wisdom now is that these countries must nonetheless cut — not because the markets are currently demanding it, not because it will make any noticeable difference to their long-run fiscal prospects, but because we think that the markets might demand it (even though they shouldn’t) sometime in the future.
Utter folly posing as wisd

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