Monday, April 30, 2012

The Tech Shortage Myth, Again

Growth is slow, unemployment is still high, and there are recurrent fears of a double-dip recession.     There are many reasons for that, perhaps chief among them the deficit mania which is deterring government spending, but one of them popped up on yesterday's This Week with George Stephanopoulos (transcript, here).     Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has been a huge Obama donor and informal Obama economic adviser, and now sits on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology      And he actually said this yesterday

Our industry is growing ra-rapidly.   We are unable to hire the technically trained people we need.   There are shortages not just in my industry, but in many technical industries.    There are shortages of sophisticated manufacturing engineers in America because the sum of our educational system is not producing enough.

If I go back to the question of why is this recession different, there's at least two good reasons.   One is the -ever-present nature of globalization is now much stronger, so it makes everybody more competitive.      And also because of advances in automation are making it less needy to hire more people.

In our political system of today, this stuff is actually taken seriously- so seriously, in fact, that no one bothers to ask such Wise men what they mean when referring to "making everybody more competitive" or what the implications of that are.    Nor is there much enthusiasm for questioning the claims that American workers are just not smart enough, though Dean Baker points to the headline "skilled workmen in Demand Despite Vast Unemployment."

That headline appeared in The Washington Post.    In 1935.    The sub-headline read "technological progress has been so rapid during the depression that welders and other experts, idle since 1929, are outmoded."     Even back then, American workers were being blamed for awful economic times.    And today, we still have the Establishment moaning about jobless and then blithely maintaining that their fellow Americans are responsible.     There are shortages "in many technical industries," Schmidt says, just as others are claiming.     But it's just not so, as this graph from (from BLS statistics) indicates as of 2010: helpfully broke those numbers down (emphasis theirs) by profession for the fourth quarter of 2010, the latest period for which such statistics were available:

Surely, few if any Republicans are any more concerned than the President about outsourcing, offshoring, and bringing to the U.S.A. foreigners to perform jobs Americans are qualified to perform.    That is not only a problem short-term, but a larger one long-term.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Targeting Unions And The Middle Class

Back in March, Mitt Romney revealed at a fund-raiser

But the role I see that ought to remain in the president’s agenda with regards to education is to push back against the federal teachers unions.      Those federal teachers unions have too much power, in some cases, they overwhelm the states, they overwhelm the local school districts. We have got to put the kids first and put these teachers unions behind.

Romney wasn't asked what "federal teachers' unions" but he was probably trying to conflate two Repub stereotypes-  teachers unions (proxies for unions generally) and the federal government.

Only about 12% of American workers were urionized as of about a year ago, and the numbers aren't getting any better.    The drop in union membership has had a predictable result.       Last September, Michael Morrison reported

Bruce Western, a professor of sociology at Harvard University and Jake Rosenfeld, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington, decompose wage inequality, focusing on partitioning wage inequality due to the decline in private union membership.

Accounting for the decomposition of wage inequality Western and Rosenfeld find deunionization explains a third to a fifth of the growth in inequality, which approximates the comparable effect of growing stratification in wages by educational achievement. The effect of declining union membership is striking, having a greater effect on wage inequality among men compared to women. The gender effect is consistent with the large decline in private sector union membership among men.  The joint effect of deunionization and increasing returns to education explains most of the rise in men’s wage inequality.

Western and Rosenfeld’s findings are consistent with a number of other studies which attribute a sizable share of the growth in wage inequality since 1979 to the erosion of union coverage (Freeman 1993; Card 1991; Dinardo et al. 1996; Blackburn et al. 1991; Card et al. 2003; Blanchflower and Bryson 2002). Several studies have shown that deunionization is responsible for at least 20% of the large increase in wage inequality (Mishel et al. 2003).

The correlation between the decline in union membership and that of middle class incomes is startling, as graphically displayed (from CAP using union membership rates from Hirsch, Macpherson, and Vroman and middle class share of national income from the US Census Bureau) below:

This is one of Mitt Romney's major prescriptions to address the decline of the middle class:   eviscerate teachers' unions, after which other public sector unions (and, eventually, the few remaining private sector unions) will begin to topple.       As the unions disintegrate, their ability to negotiate for wages and benefits of middle- and working class- workers will degenerate, as Romney, who passes himself off as an economics guru, surely understands.    The gap between the middle class and Mitt Romney's Class of 1% will expand further.    But, then, that is the point, isn't it?

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Food Politics

Sean Hannity went on a compassionate conservative tear recently.      On April 23 he maintained

I never went to bed hungry in my life.... Most Americans haven't ... I have friends of mine that eat rice and beans all the time.   Beans-protein-rice.   Inexpensive.  You can make a big pot of this for a week for relatively negligible amounts of money for your whole family and feed your family.

Look, you should have vegetables and fruit in there as well but, you know, if you need to survive, you can survive off it.   It's not ideal- you know,you can get some cheap meat and throw inthere as well for protein.   There are ways to live really, really cheaply.

On April 25, Hannity urged poor people to "quit drinking soda and drink water" and reportedly suggested they eat eggs.

Good advice, actually, for most people- not only the indigent- to opt for water and eggs rather than soda.   Patronizing for a guy making $10 million a year, and quite simplistic, but sound.

Perhaps this Sean Hannity, fan of fresh vegetables and fruit, can stage a debate with the other Sean Hannity.    A year and a half ago, Hannity joined other right-wing talk show hosts in condemning First Lady Michelle Obama's emphasis on eating fresh, locally, and raw.        According to Media Matters, he had claimed "that Michelle Obama was 'taking the nanny state to a new level' by 'tell[ing] us what to eat' and claimed that we will soon have the government 'fining us if we use salt.'"

But it's not only Hannity, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, John Stossel, Fox News, and self-described "Ameica's Anchorman," Rush Limbaugh.    In July, 2011 a Heritage Foundation report included  

The actual living conditions of America’s poor are far different from these images. In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning.

David Atkins called out the conservative think tank for targeting Americans they portray as

spoiled whiners because they can afford a microwave, three square meals a day and a used car while the poor in Brazil have none of those, is a particularly insidious and revolting bit of sophistry.

There are three key reasons that the lack of significant increase in middle-class wages vis-a-vis productivity and inflation since the 1970s has not led to the sort of riots and revolution we are seeing in the Middle East. The first is massive subsidies of agribusiness and processed foods in the U.S., which keep prices for unhealthy foods low, leading to America's poor rarely experiencing starvation, but often experiencing massive diet-related health problems. The second is cheap prices due to globalization and lack of tariffs: even as jobs manufacturing microwave ovens in America have disappeared, leading to lower wages and higher unemployment, the price of a Chinese-manufactured microwave oven has become more affordable. Wage deflation due to labor arbitrage has also led to price deflation--particularly in the prices of the sorts of electronic goods like refrigerators and video game consoles on which the Heritage Foundation places such a keen focus. The third reason is the widespread availability of credit, which has served to mask the inability of middle-class and poorer American households to balance incomes and expenses. Shred the credit cards of every single American, and you would have riots the very next day. And in fact, that very explosion of credit in the United States that both keeps the pitchforks away from investment bankers' mansions in the Hamptons and makes those mansions possible, is part of what has driven the world economy into recession. 

It's a nifty trick Heritage has pulled: promote agribusiness subsidy, free trade and credit expansion policies that kill domestic jobs while putting households in debt, but make DVD players and cheeseburgers cheap to obtain. Then criticize America's poor for being overweight, in debt, and owning a DVD player, in order to con the beleaguered American middle class into cutting taxes on billionaires.

Though Atkins' worthy target is the Heritage Foundation, his criticism applies, to a varying degree, to most of the right-wing talkies and intelligentsia.      And if any Democratic politician- or spouse of same- dares even to imply criticism of agribusiness, the corporate shills in the Republican punditocracy will have none of it.

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Not Always An Apology

Apologizing has become routine in American politics.       What are commonly, if incorrectly, termed "apologies" are sincere to varying degrees.   They range from an admission of wrongdoing to a proclamation that he/she is sorry if "anyone" was "offended."

Most of these fall somewhere between a full statement of regret and a complete avoidance of any responsibility.     Still, there are discernible differences, as demonstrated by two "apologies" heard this week.    

In February, then-active candidate Rick Santorum, reacting to the President's recommendation that everyone pursue post-high school education or training of some kind, told a tea party audience in Troy, Michigan

Not all folks are gifted in the same way.       Some people have incredible gifts with their hands. Some people have incredible gifts and ... want to work out there making things. President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.

Having advocated roughly what the President had, Santorum was roundly criticized for calling the President of the United States a snob, grossly misinterpreting the President's words, or allegedly demonstrating an insufficient regard for higher education.     However, recently this exchange occurred on Piers Morgan's CNN talk show:

MORGAN: Of all those, which is the one you most regret looking back?
SANTORUM: The snob one, because I misread his comment. I thought he said everybody should go to college. And it was…what I had read was someone’s interpretation of what—and I just used that as a fact. That it was factually incorrect.   That's the one I feel bad about.  

Santorum said "I misread his comment" and he repeated as fact something which was "factually incorrect."      One tipoff to Santorum's sincerity was his decision not to  emphasize (or even mention) the impact upon others.     A speaker can be wrong even if no one took personal offense and emphasizing the feelings of others is a slick way of avoiding admitting that one simply made a mistake.    It rests the virtue of a statement not on one's actions but on the response of others to it.  

Santorum displayed another near-sure sign of a genuine apology.       Paradoxically, it lay in his avoidance of the word "apology."    Using the term is a sure way of getting the media to refer to a statement as an apology without the speaker ever admitting to having done anything wrong.

And so it is with Monica Crowley.        Hearing that Sandra Fluke is engaged, President Nixon's speechwriter on Thursday tweeted "To a man? 'Sandra Fluke Announces Engagement.'"      Later that day, responding to criticism, the ever-classy Crowley tweeted "I love exposing the Left's total lack of a sense of humor."
Later yet on Thursday, Crowley tweeted  "Regret my tweeted question caused a stir.    I certainly & unequivocally apologize to Sandra & anyone else I offended. Not my intention.”

Worse yet, Mediaite- seriously- contended in so doing Crowley had "apologized."        Worse yet still, the Center for American Progress, via ThinkProgress, reported she "has issued an apology to Sandra Fluke."

Hardly.      The twit regrets only the reaction to her initial tweet- that it "caused a stir."    She doesn't even acknowledge anyone specifically who could have been offended, choosing instead to offer the generic, meaningless "anyone else I offended."     Crowley thus refused to acknowledge anyone who might have been offended, nor that there was any reason someone could have been offended.    While her intention to was to ridicule, offending someone in the process was an additional benefit.     It would be similar to  "Sorry I ran you over with my car.   Not my intention."   Or better yet, "I apologize to anyone I might have run over.    Not my intention."

While the media rushes to label virtually any follow-up to an offensive remark an "apology," actual retractions are relatively rare.     Consequently, these few statements of sincere regret ought to be applauded and recognized as unusual demonstrations of integrity by public figures.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Early, At Best

Don't jump to conclusions.    Kick back and relax.   Take a cold shower.

A couple of weeks ago, in wake of the withdrawal from the GOP presidential race of Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney was crowned by the media his party's presidential nominee.     With the inevitable bounce or bump- which are not the same, but probably both played a role- Romney was found to be running neck and neck with President Obama.

Now that a little of the media's Republican euphoria and Democratic fear has subsided, a different narrative is being developed, for this week.      Jed Lewison of Daily Kos, for instance, cites two recent polls of sentiment in Arizona, one by the Merrill/Morrison Institute and the other by Behavior Research Centers/Rocky Mountain Poll, both showing Obama at 42% and Romney at 40%.

Presidential polls are like women (or men); there always is another one coming along.     Or like the weather in Chicago- wait a minute, it'll change.   Or like.... well, enough with the cliches.   We hear, accurately, that polls are mere snapshots, after which other "experts" cite the latest one to back up their perspective.

It is early- very early.    At this stage four years ago, few people had heard of Sarah Palin, and even fewer cared about her.     Then four and a half months later, after everyone had seen and heard Palin and presumably formed an opinion about her, she was identified as the dramatic pick that would send Barack Obama back to Chicago.   Or Hawaii.    Or Kenya.

Alas, things changed dramatically even after early and mid September of 2008, a mere two months before the election and five months later in the process than we now stand.      A poll- even an accurate one taken by a reputable organization- is at best now virtually meaningless (more on at best in a later post).      And the final tally in Arizona, unless extraordinary circumstances ensue, will not change the outcome of the election.

Aside from (obviously) the usual suspects- the economy, world affairs, cultural issues, personalities, the debates (barely), and others- this incumbent's re-election prospects are imperiled by GOP voter suppression efforts in various states and the shift in electoral votes granted states as a result of population changes reflected in the 2010 census.    (If Obama were to carry exactly the same states he did in 2008, his total would be 12 short of that in 2008.) Still, Barack Obama in 2008 garnered 365 electoral votes, 192 more than his opponent and 95 more than needed for election.       He did so by carrying the popular vote in every state won by Al Gore- who fell a mere four(4) electors shy of victory- plus Colorado, Florida, Indiana (!), Ohio, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia.        Meanwhile, Senator Obama- who won the popular vote by 7.2%- was crushed in Arizona by 8.8%.

Admittedly, Arizona was the home state of the 2008 GOP presidential nominee.    But arguably the main reason Arizona rejected Barack Obama was because it is a conservative Republican state.   Notwithstanding whatever impact the immigration/illegal immigration issue (thus far seriously fumbled by the Gas and Oil Party) may have on November's outcome in Arizona, Barack Obama will not carry the state.

Or, less likely, he will.     But if he does, one thing surely will have transpired- a blowout election, a laugher which did not turn on the vote in Arizona.         It is inconceivable that Obama would lose a majority of the electoral votes in the states which flipped from (R) to (D) from 2000 to 2008 and still carry Arizona.    (If the incumbent lost all those seven states and won Arizona, he would lose due to the aforementioned transfer of delegates among the state).

So grab an "adult" or sensible beverage of your choice, set a spell and take your shoes off.      Then amuse yourself at the attention given to spring polls of presidential preference.     Just don't take them seriously.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Double Standard

ABC News reports that both Michelle Obama and Ann Romney are decidedly more popular than their husbands.    First Lady Michelle

Obama is seen favorably by 69 percent of the public, unfavorably by 24 percent – not her best rating (76-16 percent in March 2009) but a broadly positive one. Her favorability rating is 13 points higher than her husband’s; her unfavorable score, 16 points lower.

Romney’s rating is 40-30 percent favorable-unfavorable in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. While much less positive than Obama’s, some of that has to do with Romney’s shorter time in the spotlight: Thirty percent are undecided about her, compared with 7 percent undecided about Obama.

Romney, in any case, does better than her husband’s 35-47 percent rating last week. She’s a scant 5 points higher than Mitt Romney in favorability, but a broader 17 points lower in unfavorable ratings. As noted last week, Mitt Romney’s basic popularity ratings are the weakest for any presumptive presidential nominee in ABC/Post polls during primary seasons since 1984.

Ann Romney apparently has been a big hit on the campaign trail and in the media.      On Monday she appeared at the Connecticut Republican Party’s Prescott Bush Awards Dinner in Stamford and gave a speech which reporter Andrew Kaczynski described as "intense and personal (which) received a rapturous reception.    It was, several members of the crowd told Buzzfeed, 'incredible.;"       Kaczynski also credited the candidate's wife with having "alluded to the fact that not all women can stay at home saying

I love the fact that there are women out there who don’t have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids. Thank goodness that we value those people too. And sometimes life isn’t easy for any of us.

Whoa.   Let's back that up a bit.    "I love the fact that there are women out there who don't have a choice?"     Not all candidates or their wives come out in favor of denying choice to women.    Oh, sure, they do oppose choice in reproductive decisions- but that's framed as opposition to abortion, considered by half or more of the population as killing.     They don't actually say they're opposed to giving women a choice
But that's not all.   Mrs. Romney is glad those women "must go to work and they still have to raise the kids."      Certainly, millions of such women do extremely well at their job and at raising their children.     But it's probably not a happy situation that so many of Ann's gender have to do both.    Something has gone awry in society and being cheered that some women have no choice but to raise children and go out to a job seems a little, well, perverse.

And, ahem, wasn't it a mere few weeks ago, when, defending Ann Romney's life choice, Republicans (and President Obama) were solemnly intoning (accurately) that raising children is real work?    Here is Ann Romney, again:  ".... and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids."     Go to work and still raise the kids?   Isn't that work?

It's not surprising that the wives of male presidential candidates are more popular than the candidates themselves.    There is the favorable media the spouses generally receive, as in this instance, and probably a lower expectation of the wives, who are not expected to be political professionals.    That in turn leads to application of a lower standard in evaluating their statements.     Consider for a moment if Mitt Romney had explicitly welcomed a denial of choice to women as well as additional, mandatory duties for mothers, and implied a stark distinction between "work" and "raising the kids."
If the candidate himself had made such a ridiculous statement, the remainder of the race would be played out just to satisfy the tradition of presidential campaigns.    It would be, in effect, over.    The lack of attention paid to what would by any candidate on any level be considered an unforgivable slap in the face to women (of any station) and a monumental gaffe is remarkable and a reflection of the condescension applied to the wives of male presidential candidates.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

NBC, Now Fox

Boosting the Buffet Rule headed for a vote (and defeat) in the U.S. House, President Obama a little over a week ago told students (official transcript, here) at Lorain County (Ohio) Community College

Somebody gave me an education.  I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.  Michelle wasn’t.  But somebody gave us a chance -- just like these folks up here are looking for a chance. ..

And now it's our turn to be responsible.   Now it's our turn to make sure the next generation has the same opportunities we do.

Barack Obama, Slate's John Dickerson argues, used the "silver spoon" metaphor at least five times before it was clear Mitt Romney would be the 2012 GOP presidential nominee.      Still, at least one notable at  Fox News must have felt threatened by a president suggesting that successful persons should give a little back to their fellow Americans.        The following day, anchor/anchorman/anchorperson Steve Doocy quoted Obama to Mitt Romney as asserting "unlike some people, I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth."
Obama never had said "unlike some people," which would have significantly altered his meaning.     It was, Doocy remarked, "fiery rhetoric aimed at people like you."    Romney, like any decent running back, saw an opening he couldn't pass up and used the opportunity to embrace his father's memory and accuse the President of criticizing success.     Widely criticized for manipulating President Obama's quote (which led to a slick Romney response) Doocy today, though stopping short of apologizing, acknowledged that he did not quote Obama accurately.    He told his Fox and Friends audience  

Last week President Obama talked about not being born with a silver spoon in his mouth. That was interpreted as a big dig at Mitt Romney.     When I was interviewing Governor Romney on this show I asked him about it. However, I did some paraphrasing that seemed to misquote the president. So to be clear, the president’s exact quote was, ‘I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.’ And I hope that clears up any confusion.”

One might ask, however, whether Doocy will be fired.      When an NBC video of George Zimmerman's comments the night he shot and killed Trayvon Martin was determined to have been edited, outrage understandably abounded on the right.       Even after an (unnamed) NBC News producer was fired and other individuals disciplined, Republican Party vice-chairman Rush Limbaugh remarked

But even the charitable view of this is not flattering to NBC and who they hire and what the mind-set is inside the network, and that is: We're still in slavery. We still have a racist to-the-core country. There have been no changes in it, and since that's true any time we find evidence of it, we are duty-bound to report it, and that's why the tape got edited. That's the charitable view of this.  The uncharitable view is that you have a bigot and a racist that works as a producer at NBC who saw an opportunity to further his own political point of view with a timely edit of the tape for the Today Show and put it out there thinking nobody would do anything to him because it happens all the time at our network and nobody ever says a thing about it. 

After a prominent anchor/anchorman/anchorperson performs admirably as a PR flack for the certain Repub presidential nominee, Fox News says "sorry for the confusion."      Now that an NBC News producer has been sacrificed for an egregious act, attention should be turned to the media outlet of the Republican Party and await any action which might demonstrate that Fox News is a legitimate, albeit highly biased, news operation.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Mitt Tries To Appeal To Women

Campaigning in March in Cincinnati before Super Tuesday, Mitt Romney declared "We’re watching a president divide America right now.      I will make sure … we always remain the hope of the earth.

On April 16 he told ABC News' Diane Sawyer

We don’t divide America based upon success and wealth and other dimensions of that nature.  We’re one nation under God ….  This is a time when people of different backgrounds and different experiences need to come together.  I happen to believe that I’m by far the best qualified in this race between myself and President Obama."

Yesterday in Miami, Romney described Barack Obama as a "president who is dividing America."

Prior to the latter two remarks, Romney had claimed, as reported by MSNBC's First Read

There's been some talk about a war on women. The real war on women has been waged by the Obama administration's failure on the economy. Do you know what percentage of job losses during the Obama years of have been casualties of women losing jobs as opposed to men? Do you know how many women, what percent of the job losses were women? 92.3 percent of the job losses during the Obama years have been women who've lost those jobs.

Sharpening differences is a major function-and benefit- of a political campaign.    We might be able to forgive Mitt for dividing women from men, trying to stoke gender envy and anger, if he were accurate.     Of course, as usual, he was not, as was found by First Read, which

contacted the Bureau of Labor Statistics to get to the bottom of this 92 percent charge. The conclusion: The Romney campaign’s figures don’t tell the whole story.

The campaign, in a research document circulated yesterday and on its website, said the numbers come from the “Current Employment Statistics” database at BLS. The document notes that there was a net change of -740,000 nonfarm payroll jobs from January 2009 to March 2012 -- and that women accounted for 683,000 of those jobs.

That is accurate, according to BLS. But Brian Davidson, an economist at BLS, told First Read: “The math they use is correct; the terminology is completely wrong.”

Davidson noted that women actually make up a larger share of the workforce now than they did in Jan. 2008 before the financial meltdown, and since January 2009, it is a statistically insignificant change.

In January 2008, women made up 48.8 percent of the workforce; in January 2009, 49.5 percent; now 49.3 percent.

“Do we still have the same amount of women workers relative to men in the ‘net-change’? Yes we do,” Davidson said.

He added, “It’s like trying to pull a bunny out of a hat, but there’s no bunny inside.”

Independent fact-checkers like Politifact and the Washington Post’s Fact Checker also took on the claim.

Giving the claim a “Mostly False,” Politifact called it “misleading”: “We found that though the numbers are accurate, their reading of them isn’t.”

“One could reasonably argue that January 2009 employment figures are more a result of President George W. Bush’s policies, at least as far as any president can be blamed or credited for private-sector hiring,” Politifact wrote. “We reached out to Gary Steinberg, spokesman for the BLS, for his take on the claim. He pointed out that women’s job losses are high for that period of time because millions of men had already lost their jobs. Women were next. … [I]f you count all those jobs lost beginning in 2007, women account for just 39.7 percent of the total. … There is a small amount of truth to the claim, but it ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.”

The Washington Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler, begins this way: “[W]e frown on the somewhat arbitrary dividing line of measuring jobs statistics by presidential terms. It is a common journalistic — and political — metric. But restarting the employment clock from the moment the president takes the oath of office doesn’t tell you much about a his performance, especially since it takes time for the new president’s policies to take effect.”

In fact, he writes, “[T]here is less to this stat than meets the eye. … If you start the data in February, then the overall job loss is just 16,000 jobs—while women lost 484,000 jobs. … How could women lose more jobs than the overall total? It’s a function of the dates one picks.”

And notably: “[T]he picture becomes clearer if you start running the data from the date the recession began — December 2007. With that starting point, the total decline in jobs was just over 5 million, with women accounting for nearly 1.8 million of those jobs. Now look what happens when we just look at the past year, March 2011 to March 2012. Men gained nearly 1.9 million jobs while women gained 635,000 jobs.”

You might think that Romney came up with this angle to counter criticism of his party for its relentless attack on the reproductive rights of women.     You might think also that, if Romney were so concerned about women, he would want to preserve as many jobs as possible in the teaching profession, which is still dominated in most locations by women.
But this is the same Mitt Romney who decried the preservation of public sector jobs- such as firefighters, police, and teachers- accomplished by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.      In February, the former Massachusetts governor charged "That stimulus did not create private sector jobs like it should have, like it could have, it instead protected government jobs."      "Protecting government jobs" sounds a lot like keeping people working, an awful lot of them in education and most of them women.

That was not an aberration.     On April 14, Romney, taking aim at teachers, vowed  "The Department of Education: I will either consolidate with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller. I'm not going to get rid of it entirely."

"Part of his reason behind preserving the agency," reported the NBC reporter who was present at the fund raiser, "was to maintain a federal role in pushing back against teachers' unions. Romney added that he learned in his 1994 campaign for Senate that proposing to eliminate the agency was politically volatile."

Mitt Romney has found that he needs principles as much as fish need feet.    He's going to bend to the will of whatever ideological force is putting the most pressure on him.     Since he left Massachusetts, that has been the right wing, and it's likely to continue.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Guns, Not Race

Taylor Marsh is a leading liberal/progressive blogger and fervent supporter of Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.        Blogging on Friday about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman episode, Marsh's post received 114 comments.       She contended, in relevant part

If Zimmerman doesn’t pursue, regardless that he was carrying a legally concealed carry weapon in a state where Stand Your Ground is the law, there is no altercation and Trayvon Martin isn’t killed.

Bill Cosby made a statement this week that this isn't about race it's about guns.      It sounds to me like a statement from someone who doesn’t own a firearm. I say this because we do and I’ve had this debate with people who don’t.

Cosby’s statement begs the question, if Trayvon Martin was white, would George Zimmerman have followed him, suspecting something suspicious? Or are people going to once again contend it’s all about the hoodie?

We are oh, so impressed that Marsh (with her husband) owns a firearm.      She gives no particular reason this would give her unique insight into an incident about which there is still less known than unknown.       She does, though, helpfully link to the article to which she refers and in which the legendary comedian

said the national uproar over the killing of teen Trayvon Martin should be over guns, not race.

In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union"  that aired Sunday, Cosby said calling George Zimmerman a racist was pointless.

"What is solved by saying, 'He's a racist, that's why he shot the boy'?" Cosby said.

Since first speaking out about the case earlier this month, Cosby has repeatedly said that the Feb. 26 slaying of the unarmed teen shows there is a need to get guns off the streets.

"When a person has a gun, sometimes their mind clicks, that this thing will win arguments and straighten people out," Cosby told CNN.

"I'm not saying you can't have it in your home to protect yourself... you've got to protect yourself in your own home," he added.

"But I also believe that when you tell me that you are going to protect the neighborhood that I live in, I don't want you to have a gun," he said. "I want you to be able to see something, report it and get out of the way."

Cosby also said during the interview, which was taped on Thursday, that he once owned a gun but no longer does.

In the past two decades, the 74-year-old comedian has become outspoken on issues of violence, parenting, education and drug use in black and minority communities.

His own son, Ennis, was shot dead by a Ukrainian restaurant worker while changing a flat tire on the side of a Los Angeles highway in 1997.

Last week, Cosby told NBC's David Gregory, "When you have a gun, you may not realize it, but you put it on your person and you mean to pull (the trigger) and kill somebody."

Probably, as Marsh maintains, if Trayvon Martin were white, he would not have been followed.      However, even as a young black man who seemed threatening to Zimmerman, Martin would still be alive if Zimmerman had not possessed a firearm.     If the the neighborhood watch monitor had been armed with a knife or some other deadly weapon, Martin very likely would still be alive.

As Zimmerman's actions probably demonstrated, civilians are not police officers, highly trained, accountable, and cognizant of the need to act with discretion.     Cosby understands "when you tell me that you are going to protect the neighborhood that I live in, I don't want you to have a gun.     I want you to be able to see something, report it and get out of the way."

Race, as Cosby realizes, very likely played a role in the killing.      It is difficult to determine from the New York Daily News piece whether he believes Martin was shot primarily because the latter was black or the former is a racist.     But as as Cosby argues, there is little to be gained and nothing to be solved by pinning analysis of the event on the idea that Zimmerman is a racist.

There is, though, much good that can be accomplished by emphasizing the possible role of Florida's Stand Your Ground law and the undeniable role of the possession of a firearm by someone who probably should not have owned a weapon and clearly should not have brought it to the task he undertook that night.

Make no mistake about it:    if George Zimmerman is found guilty of second degree murder (and perhaps if convicted of only manslaughter), the right will have a field day.       Stand Your Ground, they'll boast, did not stand in the way of convicting a killer.     Guns don't kill people, people kill people, they'll say.     Nonetheless, Trayvon Martin would not have been killed if the wrong person hadn't owned the weapon he did.      This trumps any racial motivation, as Bill Cosby understands.      Were it that more on the left saw it as clearly as does he.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012


O.K., O.K., everyone has moved on from Hilary Rosen and Ann Romney.      But, tiresome as it may seem to some, not this blog.    Writing on Politico on April 14, Patrick Gavin (prior to last night's episode) wrote

On Friday's "Real Time," Maher double (sic) down on Hilary Rosen's controversial statement that Ann Romney had "never worked a day in her life" by saying that, "what she meant to say, I think, was that Ann Romney has never gotten her ass out of the house to work."

"No one is denying that being a mother is a tough job," said Maher. "I remember that I was a handful. Okay, but there is a big difference in being a mother, and that tough job, and getting your ass out of the door at 7am when it’s cold, having to deal with the boss, being in a workplace, and even if you're unhappy you can’t show it for 8 hours, that is a different kind of tough thing"...

And when Maher announced in March that he would contribute the substantial sum to President Obama's reelection efforts (calling it "the wisest investment I think I could make"), some called on the president to reject the contribution in light of some of Maher's more controversial comments (Maher has, for instance, called Sarah Palin a c-nt and has made sexual references to Rick Santorum's wife). The campaign against Maher heated up in light of the controversy encircling radio host Rush Limbaugh when he called Georgetown Law Student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and "prostitute." Sarah Palin took to her Facebook page to declare, "Pres. Obama says he called Sandra Fluke because of his daughters. For the sake of everyone's daughter, why doesn't his super PAC return the $1 million he got from a rabid misogynist?"...

The decision not to denounce Maher publicly struck some as inconsistent, as Obama was quick to weigh in on the Fluke incident, calling her during the heat of the controversy. And, during a press conference, Obama said of the incident that, "And I wanted Sandra to know that I thought her parents should be proud of her, and that we want to send a message to all our young people that being part of a democracy involves argument and disagreements and debate, and we want you to be engaged, and there's a way to do it that doesn't involve you being demeaned and insulted, particularly when you’re a private citizen."

Maher's comment on Friday's program was not taken lightly by many, especially several in the Romney campaign who have used Rosen's -- and now Maher's -- comments to political advantage.

How many times do mainstream journalists, convinced they're fair because they are "balanced," have to be told there is no moral equivalence between a) a fine comedian with no influence on the Obama campaign and the de facto vice-chairman (with respect paid to Chairman Norquist) of the Republican Party; and b) using intemperate, nasty language periodically and continually railing against "feminazis" and yes, occasionally an entire sex?  Apparently, many times.

But the lapse into moral equivalence is not the only obstacle to understanding Maher's comment.      As Gavin noted, Maher remarked

Okay, but there is a big difference in being a mother, and that tough job, and getting your ass out of the door at 7am when it's cold, having to deal with the boss, being in a workplace, and even if you're unhappy you can't show it for 8 hours, that is a different kind of tough thing.

Bill Maher refers to being a mother as "a tough job" and a job outside the home as "a different kind of tough thing."     Outrageous!  Insulting!   Sexist!

Well, it is a different kind of tough thing, even though mothers who are not with their children 24 hours a day do have to get out in cold weather at 7:00 a.m. to get children to school or day care.         But few people seemed fully to comprehend Maher's reference to "getting your ass out of the door at 7am when it’s cold, having to deal with the boss, being in a workplace, and even if you're unhappy you can’t show it for 8 hours,"  

It would have been surprising had there been any thought given by the Fourth Estate to that portion of the comedian's statement.      The members of the national media, or local media stars, who would have offered their opinion have little familiarity with a job entailing "getting your ass out of the door at 7 am when it's cold, having to deal with the boss, being in a workplace," and not being able to complain for 8 hours about the job.

They may have to work evenings and/or weekends, have someone to answer to somewhere, and even have an office.    But many telecommute and even those who work a full day (or more) are unlikely to be tied to a 9:00 am.- 5:00 p.m. job.    Or 8:00 am- 5:30 p.m. job     Or 6:00 p.m.- 11:00 p.m. job.    Their work requires flexibility, whether by choice of the employer or the employee (or both),      And they probably enjoy, or suffer, a job in which complaining is almost expected.     Try that if you're a secretary working at a professional office, waitress at the diner on the highway, or working the cash register at the local (probably non-union) grocery store.    If the journalist is unhappy, he or she may even have the opportunity to exercise at least some horizontal mobility.

When a libertine and occasional libertarian has a better grasp of what an individual goes through in the modern American economy than do most members of the media, the latter should exercise a little discretion in their criticism.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

The Republican Media- No. 33

GOP TV's Brett Baier, on April 3 grilling White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, claimed “Senate Democrats have not passed a budget resolution in 1,070 days” and pointed to a 414-0 House vote against President Obama's budget.

The next day, Mitt Romney charged of the current presidential term, "President Obama has failed to even pass a budget."   The same day, Rush Limbaugh, intentionally or otherwise, misled his audience for the 72,313th time, claiming

What you need to know is Obama submitted a budget back in February. It went down to defeat 414 to nothing. The Democrats control the Senate. They could pass a budget today. Republicans couldn't stop them because you only need 51 votes to pass a budget.

You don't need 60, and the Democrats have 53 or 54 seats. They could pass it whenever they want. They haven't advanced a budget in three years, the Democrats haven't, because they don't want anything on paper for which they will be held accountable.

Finally (probably not, unfortunately) it was Corporate News Network's Maria Bartiromo, one of its reputed financial experts, on April 10 rhetorically asking chief White House economist Gene Sperling

“How tough has it been operating without a budget?     This administration has not had a budget in 3,000 days. Why is it that the president puts forth the budget and not even one Democrat bought into it? Was it so reckless in terms of spending that your party actually couldn’t even buy into it?”

Bartiromo has faithfully repeated GOP talking points before.     Still, as the late Carlton Fredericks often noted, ignorance is understandable; opinionated ignorance is not.      And each of these three ideologues (Romney, an opportunist) should have more of a clue than they have.

The Washington Post's Fact Checker explains that every year, the President proposes a budget, which is not a legislative package Congress is expected to vote on.        Instead, the proposals therein take effect only if (and when) both chambers

pass a budget resolution, which also does not have the force of law but guides the amount of money avaliable to the Appropriations Committees, in addition to setting parameters for tax and entitlement legislation.    The Appropriations Committees actually determine how much money each discretionary federal program will receive; that's the source of real budget power.

Failure to pass a budget resolution, reconciling differences between the House and the Senate, is not unprecedented.      A Democratic Senate failed to pass one for the 2011 fiscal year, just as a GOP Congress declined to pass one in 1999, 2005, and 2007.    

In each case, the Appropriations Committee still approved the revenues needed for government programs.

This year, Republicans put to a vote the President's most recent budget, which they knew they themselves would vote against unanimously.     Even so, they included little but final figures for revenue and spending.    As Sperling put it, "Republicans tried to put up a mock budget of ours, which was not our budget, it was not our specifics, it was not our details."  No doubt the GOP realized that most (all, as it turned out) Democrats also would vote against it, inasmuch as, in its abbreviated form, it did not include references to specific, popular programs, such as spending for highways, law enforcement, and education.

Instead, Sperling explains, "we told House Democrats to vote for... the budget that most closely resembled our budget," a plan authored by Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, and "it got overwhelming support."     Of course, Republicans rose en masse to oppose that proposal, soon thereafter opting for the proposal of House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan.

Mitt Romney, throwing whatever he has against the wall in hope that something sticks, seems not to understand Congress does not pass an actual budget and that the President does not "pass" anything.           A prime-time Fox News broadcaster did not find it unusual that all Democrats in the House would vote against a budget he attributes to President Obama, one which was introduced by Republicans solely to embarrass Democrats.  

Rush Limbaugh spreads the most fertilizer.     He says  Democrats "don't want anything on paper for which they will be held accountable" while Republicans put up for a vote a (Democratic) budget, choosing to do so with few details.     It is the GOP's own wunderkind, Paul Ryan, who does not want to be "held accountable."     He boasts of a budget which (as a budget resolution) claims to close loopholes- but they are unspecified because they probably include, as Chuck Schumer argues, "eliminating or greatly reducing the mortgage deduction, the charitable deduction, the child tax care credit, the health care deductions that employers pay."    Only those things benefiting the middle class and the poor get sacrificed.

Limbaugh and Fox News are party propagandists and Romney will be its presidential nominee.    As a business reporter for CNN, however, Maria Bartiromo is expected not simply to recite GOP talking points.       And with her expertise in economics, hence a facility with arithmetic, she might be expected to realize that the "3,000 days" in which "this administration has not had a budget" would take us back roughly to January of 2004.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Running Interference For The Big Boys

They're at it again.

Yes, those fun-loving," reform" minded, tax base-expanding Republicans.

Representative Pat Tiberi of Ohio, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, has told Think Progress "the tax code shouldn’t be used as a tool to just bring revenue in and beat up people who are trying to be successful…So I think we’ve got to lower the tax rates, both for corporations and for American individuals."       But Tiberi, who apparently never has heard of the payroll tax, state income tax, local and state property taxes, and excise taxes, is not referring to the need to reduce the burden on the poor or the middle class.    He argues "If you don’t have skin in the game, even if it’s ten bucks a quarter, I think it changes the debate on what the role of the federal government is and what the role of state government is."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is little better, saying on C-Span 2 "We also know that over 45 percent of the people in this country don’t pay income taxes at all, and we have to question whether that’s fair. And should we broaden the base in a way that we can lower the rates for everybody that pays taxes."

I think we know who Cantor wants to see pay lower taxes.      According to the the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (its graph, below), the budget passed by House Republicans, authorized by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin ,would cut the after-tax incomes of people with incomes below $10,000 by 2 percent.     But on average millionaires would enjoy $265,000 in new tax cuts in addition to the $129,000 additional they would get from extension of the Bush tax cuts suppported by Ryan, and their income would increase by 12.5%.

While congressional Republicans target the poor and the middle class, the wealthy remain protected.      Yesterday, the Senate blocked consideration of the Buffett rule, which would have required individuals with incomes above $1 million (minus charitable contributions), to pay at least 30% of their income in taxes.       With one Democrat (Pryor of Arkansas) joining 45 Republicans, the 50 Democrats and one Republican voting for cloture fell nine votes short .        The GOP, a month earlier, had garnered 45 votes to block consideration of a Democratic bid to end taxpayer-funded oil subsidies.

The GOP agenda to expand the share of national wealth coveted by the rich and and cut the middle class out extends beyond individuals to corporations.    In the period 2008-2011, 26 corporations- with a total of $205 billion in U.S. profits- were fed subsidies by the U.S. Treasury, courtesy of the American taxpayer.    In all, they enjoyed an income tax rate of -3.1% and handouts of $78.3 billion.       And the Ryan budget passed by the House would cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%.

But the GOP is taking no chances, especially because it's unlikely the Senate will pass the House budget.   Today, the House, with only ten Republicans in opposition and ten Democrats in support, passed 235-173 a one-year, 20% tax deduction for all businesses with fewer than 500 employees, which would include professionals such as lawyers, consultants, hedge fund managers (you knew they would be included, didn't you?), and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

When Republicans talk about "broadening the tax base," they're talking about making sure elderly people, students, recipients of a child care tax credit or earned income tax credit, and all others poor enough not to pay federal income tax make up for the taxes they're cutting for the wealthy and corporations.       And when Mitt Romney, a supporter of the Ryan budget, accuses President Obama of waging class warfare, he's only disappointed that he and his crowd don't have the playing field all to themselves.

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The Republican Media- No. 32

It really isn't what Ted Nugent said at the NRA convention  on Saturday.     Right Wing Watch reports

Nugent called President Obama a criminal and denounced his “vile, evil America-hating administration” which is “wiping its ass with the Constitution.” Taking it a step further, he said that “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” “If you can’t galvanize and promote and recruit people to vote for Mitt Romney, we’re done,” he continued. To the consternation of the Secret Service, Nugent added "We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. Any questions?” 

At a concert in 2007, Nugent had declared

I was in Chicago last week I said, “Hey Obama, you might want to suck on one of these, you punk?” Obama, he’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on one of my machine guns. Let’s hear it for them. I was in New York and I said, “Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset you worthless bitch.” Since I’m in California, I’m gonna find Barbara Boxer she might wanna suck on my machine guns. Hey, Dianne Feinstein, ride one of these you worthless whore.

Last month, Mitt Romney solicited- and received- Nugent's endorsement, sufficiently prompting one of his sons to tweet excitedly "Ted Nugent endorsed my Dad today.    Ted Nugent?   How cool is that?   He joins Kid Rock as great Detroit musicians on team Mitt!"

Of course Ted Nugent endorsed team Mitt!    Why not?    He got Mitt to agree not to put any restrictions on gun rights!

Mitt Romney may appear to have sold his soul to a washed-up entertainer who would call a  female U.S. Senator "worthless bitch" or "worthless whore" (oh, not a worthwhile whore?) and denounces the President of the United States as a criminal.     But Romney already had sold his soul (clearly many times) so that is of little matter.

Nonetheless, Maggie Haberman of Politico has no such excuse when she writes

After a day of the Democratic National Committee slamming Mitt Romney over his backer, trash-talker Ted Nugent, the Republican hopeful's campaign goes the disavowal route.

“Divisive language is offensive no matter what side of the political aisle it comes from.  Mitt Romney believes everyone needs to be civil," said campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul.

What's perhaps most notable about Nugentgate is that, as Democrats tried to make an equal opportunity-offensive case against Team Romney after the Hilary Rosen-Bill Maher contretemps....

Ted Nugent refers to politicians as "worthless bitch," "worthless whore," and as "a piece of shit (who should) suck on one of my machine guns," Romney's spokesman refers to generic "divisive language" and, without naming anyone, says "everyone needs to be civil."       Politico, displaying shameful bias, responds by calling that a "disavowal."      A disavowal of whom?  When you are confronted with an indefensible remark from a supporter and you hide behind the facade of moral equivalence, you've disavowed no one and chosen to point the finger at others.

Not content with imagining a "disavowal," Haberman trivializes Romney's alliance with Nugent by spinning  "Democrats tried to make an equal opportunity-offensive case against Team Romney after the Hilary Rosen-Bill Maher contretemps."

Democrats aren't trying; it's evident to anyone not in the tank for Mitt Romney.     This is what the mighty Politico calls  "an equal opportunity case":      Ted Nugent says the President of the United States is leading a "vile, evil America-hating Administration" while Hilary Rosen criticizes for not working outside the home another woman, Ann Romney, whose husband has said "even" mothers of two-year-olds "need to go to work" (so they) have the dignity of work."    Calling Senator Clinton "a worthless bitch" and Senator Feinstein "a worthless whore" is equal to Bill Maher contending that the "tough job" of being a mother is unlike "getting your ass out of the door at 7 a.m. when it’s cold, having to deal with the boss, being in a workplace, where even if you're unhappy you can’t show it for 8 hours."      False equivalence is taken to new heights- or depth.  

Steve M. at No More Mr. Nice blog recognizes the double standard:

You know this is going to be a one-news-cycle story at worst. I think that's because the media believes that gun owners are just too darn salt-of-the-earth to be held to decent standards of behavior. Same for hardcore Republicans in general: if you don't put on a sheet or use the N-word in e-mails, you're golden. Say what you want. Threaten whatever Democrat you choose. Say, for instance, that Bill Clinton "Better have a bodyguard" if he dares to venture below the Mason-Dixon Line. Go ahead. You're the football captains in this high school cafeteria. You've got carte blanche. 

Show some effort, Politico; do your job.    Being even-handed is not the same as being fair or accurate. Unfortunately, it is good practice for being stenographer of the Republican Party.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Balancing Work And Home

Difficult (or at least obscure) question:    what do Elton John and Hilary Rosen have in common?

Easy question:    what do Elton John and the late Dusty Springfield have in common?

Rush Limbaugh, happily ensconsed in his fourth marriage, was complaining yesterday about Hilary Rosen and Democrats and liberals and their hatred for stay-at-home mothers, and touting his own support for the traditional relationship between the sexes.      He chose to bolster his argument by approvingly playing "Wishin' and Hopin,'" a hit record (that's what they were called back then) by Dusty Springfield in 1964.     Representative of the lyrics is this portion:

So if you're thinkin' heartbreak 
True love is
All you gotta do is 
Hold him and kiss him and squeeze him and love him 
Yeah, just do it and after you do, you will be his

And because Rush assumes his listeners are dim-witted and didn't get the message, he followed with "This is it.  This is the root, folks.  Cook his meals.  Iron shirts.  Put out his slippers."     He wasn't kidding, and no tongue was witnessed in cheek.

Throughout the early period of rock/pop music, there was no shortage of songs extolling the virtue of the relationship between men and women common (or at least we suppose) prior to the women's movement.       Rush, however, specifically selected a song from Dusty Springfield.

I liked Springfield, which is why a video of one of her famous songs is shown below.     But Limbaugh was otherwise motivated.      The performer while alive was rumored to be a lesbian; in death, and with greater acceptance of homosexuality, it is now largely acknowledged.    

Wonderment followed the announcement that the flamboyant Elton John would be the featured entertainer at the June, 2010 wedding of Mr. Limbaugh and Ms. Rogers.       People were amazed that John would be chosen to sing at the wedding of the famous right-wing talk show host, thought to be anti-gay.    However, one man involved in preparation of the wedding explained      

Rush and his now-wife had been vacationing in Hawaii when Limbaugh developed what some believed to be heart trouble. Sir Elton happened to be staying in the same hotel and inquired of the manager as to Limbaugh’s condition. Rush joked in his speech at the reception that he asked the hotel manager whether Elton was happy or upset over the news was that he was okay. The bride-to-be wrote a letter thanking Elton for his concern, and an email friendship of sorts ensued.

As the day drew closer, she sent an email telling Sir Elton that there is no one they would rather have play at their wedding (I would have loved to have heard the discussions in that committee when the decision to ask Elton John was made). With the flash of a few emails (and a reported $1 million dollar fee), suddenly Elton John’s European tour schedule was changed, Rush’s future wife got what she wanted, and we were going to be the beneficiaries of her good taste.

The very openly gay Elton John was invited to headline the festivities because there was "no one" she preferred to provide entertainment, and Rush's fiancee  "got what she wanted."     Further, at the wedding the Limbaughs suggested that they get together at a later date with Elton John and his partner.

Rush recently was roundly criticized for outrageous statements during the recent contraceptive controversy, including repeated references to Sandra Fluke as a "slut" and "prostitute."     Evidently, Mrs. Limbaugh was not amused but instead, according to the National Enquirer (which was, at least, right about Rielle Hunter), was

furious at the 61-year-old con­servative firebrand and threatened to walk out of their marriage if he keeps up his trash talk, say insiders.... Rush’s big mouth has caused a rift in his fourth mar­riage, and sources say he’s now running for cover from 35-year-old Kathryn, a Florida event plan­ner.

Kathryn was still angry after her husband's "limp apology," less because of his duplicitous, belligerent attack upon Democrats and the need for family planning than because it

didn’t stem the tide of criticism, and his beautiful wife of less than two years was swept up in the controversy, having to endure rebukes from some of her closest friends.

“Kathryn is fit to be tied,” said a pal. “She feels as if she’s be­ing tarred and feathered with the same brush that people are using on her hus­band. She really let him have it.

According to the report, Mrs. Limbaugh "said she’s become a social pariah because of his hot-headed, heedless comments."

Limbaugh's topic in this segment was not the capital gains tax or U.S. policy in Afghanistan, but the proper relationshp (as if there is one such thing) of woman to man.         The sexual preference of the singer cited by Limbaugh as getting it right is intimately related to this issue, to the perspective she brought to the lyrics.      Eager to attack a Democratic strategist who criticized a stay-at-home mother for not working outside the home for pay, Limbaugh played the audio of a long-ago performer who was gay, probably pleasing his wife. Kathryn, a personal friend of Elton John, apparently has to answer to her other friends, many of them gay or sympathetic to those who are.     Meanwhile, Rush strategically chose not to remind (or inform) his ultra-conservative audience that Dusty Springfield was a lesbian.

Praise is due Rush Limbaugh, a radical conservative and partisan (not in that order) who continually criticizes Democrats, repeatedly on the same issues, week after week, day after day.    But on gay marriage- for approximately the past eighteen months- Limbaugh has been virtually silent.    He is a master juggler, able to keep his wife at least somewhat satisfied while maintaining his appeal to an audience he masterfully manipulates.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Just Plain Folks

It was Friday the 13th when Rush Limbaugh argued

In fact, let me expand.  I have a theory.  I could be a little off on this.  But I think Mitt Romney and Ann Romney may be the stereotypes of everything Obama and people like him resent in this country, just the way they live, just who they are, I think they are highly resented....

Can you imagine somebody more likely to arouse resentment in Obama than somebody like Mitt Romney, who is as white bread as anybody you could find in this culture?  And I don't mean racially.  I'm talking about plain, ordinary, just dull, boring, all those things that white bread is.  He's the quintessentially successfully guy, Romney, straight-laced...

Limbaugh went on to say Romney is "a guy who makes money while he sleeps, with his investments."      And what does the Romneys do with the money Mitt makes while while asleep?    The Palm Beach Daily News reports  

Yes, that was First Lady hopeful Ann Romney on Worth Avenue Saturday, looking very Palm Beach-y in her hot pink tunic and jeans with her shoulder-length blond hair. The only thing missing was the Helga Wagner necklace.

Mitt’s missus spent four hours with Alfred Fiandaca, her old pal from Boston who closed the store for her so she could shop in peace without any worries about paparazzi grabbing a shot of her in the fitting room. Trying on a little something to wear to tonight’s big dinner at Darlene and Jerry Jordan’s house, perhaps? When they’re paying 50k a couple, a lady wants to look good.

The private shopping went well for the wife of the presumptive candidate — c’mon, like that’s not a given by now — but for the customers who had “Stop by Alfred’s” at the top of their Saturday to-do list, well, not so much. They had to wait. Some did, patiently and quietly. Others did, not so patiently and not so quietly.

Finally, Ann strolled out, shopping bags in hand, smiled at the small crowd gathered on the sidewalk, climbed into the big black car waiting at the curb, and drove off.

Oops (as Rick Perry would say)!    There I go failing to heed Barack Obama's admonition to lay off the spouses of political candidates.     But the rich are, as F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously wrote, different from the rest of us, though in this case, not the rich- the super-duper rich.      

Chris Cillizza notes that Mitt Romney closed his Swiss bank account in 2010.     His Swiss bank account- a typical possession of a "plain, ordinary" guy.       So,too, do ordinary guys derive their entire income, as Mitt did in 2010 and 2011, from capital gains, interest payments and stock dividends including foreign investments, Cillizza notes, "in places such as Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands, both of which are well known tax havens."

A few Democrats, including James Clyburn, have implied that Romney may have had a Swiss bank account because he had something to hide.   That may be the best possible scenario, however.    One financial writer explains" Swiss bank accounts aren't just for criminals trying to hide their monetary tracks. They're also popular among people in countries with unstable banks, monetary policies or governments, because they provide added privacy and security for assets."

It's comforting to know that the 2012 GOP presidential nominee may not be a criminal "trying to hide" his "monetary track(s)."      Instead, Romney may have parked money overseas because he had more faith in the Swiss monetary system than that of the U.S.A.    That would be fairly stunning for a presidential candidate- perhaps even more so because the future Repub standard-bearer opened the account during the presidency of George W. Bush and closed it during the presidency of Barack Obama.

Rush, then, may have a point when he says Romney "doesn't appear to be outwardly angry at anybody, and he's certainly not angry at his country."     Mitt isn't angry at the country but he appears not to have had much faith in it- while Bush was president, anyway.     It is speculative, but reasonable to suggest, that Romney gained some faith in our nation sometime after Barack Obama became president, perhaps shortly after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act started paying dividends for the economy.

Let it be said of Mitt Romney:    no one truly knows what he believes about anything, but he isn't stupid.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hilary Gets This One Right

It was inadvertent, unintentional, and even now Hilary Rosen probably doesn't understand what she did.     Following the infamous remarks the Democratic strategist and CNN pundit made about Ann Romney, President Obama maintained

There’s no tougher job than being a mom. When I think about what Michelle had to do, when I think about my own mom, a single mom who raised me and my sister — that’s work.      Anyone who would argue otherwise probably needs to rethink their statement. More broadly, I don’t have a lot of patience for commentary about spouses of political candidates.

On Thursday, however, Rosen was asked by Wolf Blitzer "But why bring Ann Romney into this conversation? Why did you have to bring – you hated it when conservatives, right-wingers, used to go after Michelle Obama, or a spouse or a wife of any of these Democratic candidates. Why bring her into this conversation?"     She responded

Wolf, I should not have chosen words that seemed to attack Ann Romney's choice in life. And I apologize for that. But Ann Romney and Mitt Romney brought themselves into this conversation. When he goes on the campaign trail and says she is his economic surrogate, when she goes out there and makes these points – I'm not bringing them into this. Come on, that's a little – that's a little too much.

Clearly so.     Unlike David Axelrod, who by twitter merely cited Rosen's contention that Ann Romney has "never worked a day in her life" as "inappropriate and offensive," Obama admitted to little "patience for commentary about spouses of political candidates."    Rosen, though, noted when the candidate "goes on the campaign trail and says she is his economic surrogate.... I'm not bringing them into this."  

And she did not, any more than Barack Obama introduced race into the killing in Sanford, Florida.   Newt Gingrich asserted that President Obama's statement "if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon" (Martin) amounted to "trying to turn it into a racial issue."     But Obama did not turn the incident into a racial issue; it already had an obvious racial component.     Though the President was implying (in failing to indicate why a son of his would look like Martin) that "they all look alike," he was not injecting race where it was absent.    Similarly, Rosen did not "bring (Ann Romney) into this conversation."      She was already there, placed there by the candidate, her husband, who now has exposed her and her views to the same analysis that any surrogate of either candidate should face.

Hilary Rosen's ideas about women's work (warning: cliche ahead) ignited a firestorm.     But Rosen, who noted Mrs. Romney "doesn't have to answer to me.   Her husband is the one running for President" nailed it.     Ann Romney's views as a candidate's wife may be irrelevant, but those she expresses as a surrogate are not.      She has entered the political arena by accepting a role as a surrogate, whose advocacy and arguments should be examined in roughly the same manner as any other surrogate.    

When Hillary Clinton ran for president, her spouse aggressively advocated her cause and his remarks were, appropriately, closely scrutinized.     Obviously, there is a difference between Mr. Clinton and Mrs. Romney- their titles.    Taking a hands off attitude by treating Mrs. Romney different than Mr. Clinton is condescending and smacks of a double standard, one prompted in part by gender.    Notwithstanding President Obama's claim, the statements of Ann Romney should not be ignored, nor patronized by holding the speaker to a lower standard than that of male spouses of candidates.     Barack Obama should know better- which, of course, he does.

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Over Their Heads

It seems everything that could be said about the Hilary Rosen/Ann Romney kerfuffle has been said.    But the dustup regarding Rosen's remark that Ann Romney "has never had to work a day in her life" suggests also: Barack Obama will be re-elected.

He will be re-elected because, notwithstanding the furious denials of conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh, Barack Obama is the smartest guy in the room.    And the smartest person of either sex in national politics.

David Axelrod, President Obama's chief political strategist had it exactly right when by twitter he called the remark "offensive and inappropriate," thus demonstrating that it is possible to use twitter to say something which isn't inane.     Campaign manager Jim Messina and First Lady Michelle Obama joined the chorus of protest.

But there is no one as slick as Barack Obama.   No one.      The Christian Science Monitor explains

In an interview with Cedar Rapids, Iowa TV station KCRG, the president said "there's no tougher job than being a mom" and cited the efforts of his wife, Michelle, and his own mother, a single woman with two children.

"That's work," he said. "So, anybody who would argue otherwise probably needs to rethink their statement."

A candidate for re-election, recognizing the controversial nature of comments made by Democratic strategist Rosen, put himself squarely on the side of "being a mom."     No one ever lost a vote defending motherhood, cherry pie, or the flag (a pin of which Obama always wore as a candidate).       And he did so in a characteristically patronizing manner.

It was hard work for Mrs. Romney to raise a family, particularly with five children and a husband who was probably working long hours making millions by laying people off.       But probably there is even more difficult work, such as being a teacher in an inner-city school; being the lone pastor of a large Protestant congregation, composing a sermon weekly amidst numerous other duties; perhaps being an engineer, anywhere.     Or it could be some work in the service sector, depending on the circumstances of the particular job.     You no doubt can offer your own nominations; your mileage will vary.

In some instances, being a stay-at-home mother can be unusually trying, stressful, and tiring work.    One thing it is not, however, is a job which, according to, is

1.  a
piece of work, especially a specific task done as part of the routine of one's occupation or for an agreed price:
She gave him the job of  mowing the lawn.

2.  a post of employment; full-time or part-time position: She was seeking a job as an editor.

The President, however, knew nobody would call him on the reference to a "job" or even to there being "no tougher" endeavor.          Though Obama has been slammed for at least four years by Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives for allegedly being "elitist," here the President's remarks were little understood.   

Political Editor Guy Benson at the right-wing slammed generous Obama supporter Bill Maher for his critical remark about Ann Romney and the President for an "unrelenting campaign of demagoguery and false statements."      Nonetheless, Benson didn't notice the latter's condescension in the trite reference to motherhood being the 'toughest' job of them all.      Quoting Obama arguing "the spouses of elected officials" are "off-limits," Benson apparently failed to comprehend also that, given criticism of the controversial Michelle Obama, the President's thought was less precept than wish.     

So Barack Obama has laid down the marker:   criticism of a candidate's wife is out-of-bounds.    If he could score a few political points with the oldest and safest claim of them all, that "there is no tougher job than being a mom," all the better.   And if he can do both without criticism from Republicans- who criticize him for practically anything- he has, once again, demonstrated that he is the smartest individual in the room.

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Racehorse Genes

Credit the discovery to Michael D'Antonio.  He conducted a series of interviews with Donald J. Trump in 2014, of whom Donald Trump Jr....