Monday, July 30, 2012

The Logic Of Limbaugh

Limbaugh Logic.   Rush on Monday alleged Elizabeth Warren is

running for the Senate in Massachusetts, and she's telling people she wants to vote for her they have to be more like the ChiComs. They gotta be more like communist China.

Part of that statement is true- Elizabeth Warren is running for the Senate in Massachusetts. Limbaugh's claim that she is "telling people she wants to vote for her they have to be more like the ChiComs... more like communist China" is based on the ad (which audio he played; video below) in which the Democrat asserts

We've got bridges and roads in need of repair, and thousands of people in need of work. Why aren't we rebuilding America? Our competitors are putting people to work building a future. China invests 9% of its GDP in infrastructure. America? We're just 2.4%. We can do better. We can build a foundation for a strong, new economy and get people in Massachusetts to work right now. I'm Elizabeth Warren and I approved this message. Let's go to work.

Attempting to rebut Warren's argument that we need to spend more more money in the United States of America on infrastructure, Rush maintains "They are building roads and bridges like crazy in North Dakota. They're building housing like crazy in North Dakota. They're going absolutely nuts in North Dakota because there is an oil boom in North Dakota. But, no, no. Can't mention that. No."

North Dakota or, as Rachel Maddow would put it in her charmingly condescending fashion, "the great state of North Dakota," is probably a fine state.   It also had a population in 2011 of 683,732, or .21% of the nation's population of 311,591,917.     So if North Dakota in fact is building roads, bridges, and housing "like crazy," it hardly represents a national commitment on the scale of construction of the interstate highway system in the 1950s.

Of course, Ms. Warren was not saying Americans "gotta be more like communist China," especially given that she noted "our competitors are putting people to work building a future."  By Limbaugh's impeccable logic, though, he himself maintained that North Dakota is just like mainland China.

But perhaps Rush finds it difficult to think of mainland China as a competitor.     In another segment on the same day, he took a call from Craig Zucker, whom he identified as "CEO of Buckyballs."    As the Legal Examiner explains it, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

has filed an administrative complaint against Maxfield & Oberton Holdings LLC, importer and distributor of Buckyballs and Buckycubes high-powered magnet sets, claiming the products create a substantial risk of injury to the public. More than two dozen children and teenagers have suffered internal injuries that required surgical intervention after swallowing more than one of the tiny magnets, which snapped together inside their gastrointestinal track.

Zucker, founder and CEO of New York-based Maxfield and Oberton Holdings, noted that his product(s) is marketed solely to adults and is "getting slowly disassembled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission piece by piece."   He stated that he and his partner started the company "with $2,000 in an apartment in New York, built it..."   Rush commented

It's the United States government trying to drive them out of business.  Not find a way to work with them on the safety side, but put them out of business.  It's uncalled for.  There's no excuse.  There's no rational reason for it, and Mr. Zucker could not explain why he was being targeted.  So I mean you've got an attempted ban of a product and the shutting down of a business.

To Limbaugh, it's the big bad U.S. government "targeting" a small, home-grown business.    Except Buckyballs are not manufactured in New York City.   Or in North Dakota.   Or in any of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, or even the Mariana Islands.   They're manufactured in China by those dreaded "ChiComs," which Rush might have discovered had he asked Zucker.  

The CPSC may or may not have a strong case against Maxfield and Oberton Holdings.   But here is Rush Limbaugh, creating a martyr out of the firm, even comparing its owner's plight to that of Jesus Christ by contending the feds are "crucifying" Zucker (which, to his credit, the latter denied).    All the while, its products are being manufactured in mainland China.   Elizabeth Warren, however, pushing the federal government to be more competitive with "our competitors" such as China, is a communist sympathizer.     You'd almost think Limbaugh is a narrow-minded, manipulative partisan dedicated to enhancing control of the nation by the his fellow plutocrats.

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Derangement Obsession

In his New York Times column a week ago in which David Brooks tries to cast doubt on the effectiveness of gun control in preventing murder, David Brooks notes "the truly disturbed have always been with us but their outbursts are now taking more malevolent forms."

Good thing, too, because it may be the only thing he wrote that made sense, while contradicting one of his central arguments.

"The best way to prevent killing sprees," Brooks claimed before his brief burst of logic, "is with relationships- when one person notices that a relative or neighbor is going off the rails and gets that person treatment before the barbarism takes control." (Brooks recognizes the need for more widely available treatment.)   Yes, that'll get it done- because the one thing an emotionally unstable guy is going to appreciate is a neighbor, probably untrained and inexperienced in the field, telling him he's crazy.

That is, in the unlikely event the neighbor or friend would even recognize the derangement.   It's not for nothing that a local news report following a deadly spree always includes one neighbor or acquaintance of the accused saying, roughly, "he always seemed such a nice guy who never bothered anyone."    One of Brooks' readers, who identifies himself as Capt Tom Bunn, LCSW points out

As a PhD student in neurology, Holmes had daily contact with professors and students who had greater knowledge about mental disorders than the average person - or even the average mental health professional. 

If, in that environment, no one recognized where he was headed, the idea that mental health screening can prevent mass murder suggests we should have our own heads examined.

As a PhD student in neurology, Holmes had daily contact with professors and students who had greater knowledge about mental disorders than the average person - or even the average mental health professional. 

If, in that environment, no one recognized where he was headed, the idea that mental health screening can prevent mass murder suggests we should have our own heads examined.

Brooks believes "when you investigate the minds of these killers, you find yourself deep in a world of delusion, untreated schizophrenia and ferociously injured pride."   I (sarcasm alert) don't know as much about schizophrenics as does David Brooks, Psy.D. but we all know people "in a world of delusion" and "fiercely injured pride."   They're known as conservatives.   The veteran NYT columnist believes "many" of the mass killers " had suffered from severe depression or had attempted suicide."    But as another Times' reader, Aidan Mouellic of Vancouver, B.C., explains

As someone who has personally experienced mental disease, I can say that not once did I ever have the urge to go on a rampage. The author of this article must have never experienced severe depression, because it he did, he would know that while inside the void, the last thing one would want or could do is go on a killing spree. Depression makes getting out of bed as difficult as climbing a mountain. Walking to the mail box becomes a challenge. Depression is internalized rage, not externalized.

Skeptical of the need for, or appropriateness of, gun or ammunition control, Brooks argues "the crucial point is that the dynamics are internal, not external.  ThesekKillers are primarily the product of psychological derangements, not sociological ones."

Addressing Brooks' contention that the problem is one of psychology, CNN"s Fareed Zakaria recognizes roughly equal distribution of the mentally disturbed, but not of firearms, throughout the world.    He reasons

At one level, this makes sense, of course, as the proximate cause. But really, it’s questionable analysis. Think about this: are there more lonely people in America compared with other countries? Are there, say, fewer depressed people in Asia and Europe? So why do they all have so much less gun violence than we do?

The United States stands out from the rest of the world not because it has more nutcases – I think we can assume that those people are sprinkled throughout every society equally –but because it has more guns.

There are more firearms per capita in the U.S.A. than in any nation, as indicated in the map (immediately below) Zakaria displays.   The U.S.A. stands alone- is exceptional- as having more than 70 guns per capita.     With only 5% of the world's population, Zakaria finds, this nation has 50% of its firearms, 88 per 100 individuals.

It's not surprising, then, that death (homicide, suicide, and accidental) is higher here than elsewhere, and rising as gun laws have been loosened.    This is happening, significantly, as other violent crime in the U.S.A. has been dropping since 2000.     Crime down, shooting up- a coincidence, surely.
You might expect those who claim (explicitly as does Brooks and or otherwise) that the answer lies in psychology rather than in sociology would ponder why the U.S.A. apparently has disproportionately more "deranged" or "crazy" individuals.   Alas, there is no such curiosity.    That would lead one to suspect their motives, if not to assume that it is to prevent consideration of curbs on the acquisition of arms.

But it is not only the motive, but the premise, that is at odds with objective reality.   Atlantic magazine's Senior Editor Richard Florida presents a chart (below) which correlates 21 factors with gun deaths per 100,000 people.    McCain vote share, unemployment, illegal drug use are among those one would expect to be positively correlated with gun death.  Trigger locks, assault weapon ban, college graduates are among those of the usual suspects negatively correlated with gun deaths.

But three factors stand out as negatively correlated.   They stand out because they would be assumed to track closely with incidents of all violent deaths and are blithely trotted out whenever mass killings, such as in Aurora, occur.    Stress, neuroticism, and mental illness are negatively correlated with gun deaths.   Where there are more of the former, there has been less of the latter.   Take that, Brooks.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

He Of Little Faith In America

It may be the smugness, the "rest of the world is just so inadequate" sense of superiority coming from Mitt Romney. Or it may be his obvious discomfort when, answering a question asked of him by Brian Williams about the 6,000 rounds of ammunition accused killer James Eagan Holmes evidently purchased over the Internet, he changed the topic to the economy.   Or perhaps it is the sheer dishonesty displayed by the former governor when he responded

Well, this person shouldn't have had any kind of weapons and bombs and-- and-- and other devices. And-- and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already. But he had them. And-- and so we can-- we can sometimes hope that just changing a law will make all bad things go away. It won't. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what's essential to improve the lots of the American people.

It's not clear what "many of those things" which were "illegal for him to have" were.   CBS News reports

Chad Weinman runs, which caters to police officers looking to augment their equipment, members of the military who don't want to wait on permission from the bureaucracy for new combat gear, and hobbyists like survivalists and paintballers. The site receives "thousands" of orders daily, sometimes from entire platoons that are about to deploy to war zones.

On July 2, Holmes placed a $306 order with the site for a combat vest, magazine holders and a knife, paying extra for expedited two-day shipping to his Aurora apartment. The order, Weinman said, didn't stand out.

"There's a whole range of consumers who have an appetite for these products, and 99.9 percent of them are law-abiding citizens," Weinman said. But he said that "it makes me sick" that Holmes bought material from him. He added that he doesn't sell guns or ammunition and that he was "shocked" at the amount of bullets that Holmes allegedly bought online.

The federal law enforcement source also told CBS News that authorities obtained a video of Holmes picking up approximately 160 pounds of ammunition from a FedEx store.

Authorities say all of Holmes' purchases were legal — and there is no official system to track whether people are stockpiling vast amounts of firepower...

The four guns used in the shooting were purchased legally at three Colorado gun stores between May 22 and July 6, CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports. Those weapons included a Glock pistol from a Gander Mountain store in Aurora, another Glock and a shotgun from a Bass Pro Shops in Denver and an assault rifle from a Gander Mountain in Thornton, Colo. 

Versions of the AR-15 rifle that law enforcement officials said Holmes bought had been outlawed under the assault weapon ban in 1994. But that prohibition expired in 2004 and Congress, in a nod to the political clout of gun enthusiasts, did not renew it.

Holmes also acquired explosive materials and equipment to rig his entire apartment with a complex series of booby traps that took authorities days to dismantle. Officials have not said how he obtained the material for the devices...

The high-capacity magazine had also been prohibited under the assault weapon ban, and even though the federal law expired a few states outlaw the devices. Colorado, which has relatively permissive gun laws, does not.

Internet sites, obviously, don't restrict their sales to Americans.    After a Norwegian man killed dozens of children at a summer camp in July of 2011, Politico reported

Anders Behring Breivik wrote in a 1,500-page manifesto that he bought 10 30-round ammunition clips for his .223 caliber rifle from an undisclosed, small U.S. supplier, which had acquired the clips from other suppliers. Norway forbids the sale of clips for hunting rifles that hold more than three bullets, according to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

Perhaps this is an example of what Romney means when he refers to "American exceptionalism."   Or perhaps he is  referring to the homicide rate in the U.S.A., which, Politifact notes (according to most recent statistics) "was 3.0 per 100,000 compared to an 0.3 for the rest of the NATO nations. The U.S. rate was 10 times higher."   After all, the presumptive G.O.P. presidential nominee, expressing genuine political correctness, is sure Europe is so inferior to the U.S.   In his response to Williams query about ammunition, Romney advocated "more good jobs for middle-income Americans" and remarked

When that happens, they'll have more money to buy the things they want to buy. That helps the economy. They can pay more taxes with higher incomes. That gets us to a balanced budget. We're-- we're at-- a point here where we have two different roads we can go down. One leads to Europe. The other leads to the kind of dynamism and prosperity, which has always characterized America.

We don't know if the "dynamism and prosperity" Europe lacks and America possesses includes the urge to buy a firearm and ammunition and proceed to kill other Americans en masse, which the Brady Campaign documents has occurred 62 times since 2005.    (If you missed that, perhaps you haven't been paying attention to our "liberal media," which has ignored the story.)  Mitt Romney, who modestly claims to be "an unapologetic believer in the greatness of this country," assails President Obama for allegedly lacking such faith.  But while rhetorically enthralled with the concept, the presumptive GOP nominee demonstrates an odd view of American exceptionalism.

Romney, clearly, was sending a message to the NRA and gun enthusiasts when he claimed "we can sometimes hope that just changing a law will make all bad things go away. It won't. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what's essential to improve the lots of the American people."   But he is setting a narrow limit to what Americans can accomplish by suggesting we passively wait for a change of heart.

Alternatively, we can act to prevent some of our annual (approximately) 13,000 murders and 20,00 suicides and incidental shootings.      The candidate's answer is clear:  we can do nothing because we must be satisfied with what we have.    In some precincts, the American spirit is alive and well.   But it is alien to Mitt Romney .

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Friday, July 27, 2012

On Health Care, Ignorant

Misinformation, disinformation, and manipulation are the order of the day in Republican media.    Fox News, for instance, has been implying for years that Barack Obama is a Muslim, with its employees claiming he attended a madrassa as a child or "had a Muslim upbringing" or "went to a Muslim school."    That campaign has been a success as indicated by the recent Pew Research Center poll, which found 48% of Americans believing Obama is a Muslim or not being certain of his religion.

There are other reasons so many people are unconvinced that Obama, whom we were reminded in 2008 incessantly had attended the United Church of Christ congregation in Chicago of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, is a member of a Christian denomination.    But the failure, intentional or otherwise, to supply conservative audiences accurate information is a major factor.

A similar example, one in which listeners were probably misinformed unintentionally, turned up on Rush Limbaugh's program Thursday.     Complaining about a new CBO report maintaining that there will be a greater reduction in the deficit from the Affordable Care Act than previously projected, Rush stated

And, lo and behold, now it's gonna cost $84 billion less than what we thought.  Now, they do note that this is largely due to the Supreme Court allowing states to opt out of expanding Medicare, as was required under Obamacare.  The states can opt out.  But what does that mean?  The states opt out of Medicare, it means that this savings is only due to fewer people getting free health insurance from the government, quote, unquote.  But you would never know that from The Hill's headline or any of the other headlines in the mainstream media about this. 

The only reason there are cost savings is because fewer people are gonna get access, fewer people are gonna get covered.  You know, we spent a lot of time shortly after the Supreme Court ruling -- I hope you were here.  I hope you remember it.  We spent a lot of time explaining all of the intricacies of the exchanges.  The states are required by Obamacare to set up their exchanges, but they don't have to.  The states get subsidized by the federal government, they set up the exchange.  The federal government cannot fund its own exchange.  It was a mistake that the writers of the law made.  They goofed up.  And the states -- people are reading this literally -- the states, with the freedom they have to opt out of Medicare and to not set up exchanges, have the ability to deal Obamacare a serious blow.  Because the law does not permit the federal government to come in and take over and do what the states might refuse to do. 

So one of the original purposes of Obamacare was to off-load additional costs to the states by having them pick up Medicare increases.  But the Supreme Court ruling said that states can opt out of that if they want to, and I think 26 or 27 states will, or have said they're going to.

In March, 2010 twenty-six states filed suit against the federal government, alleging that the Affordable Care Act included two unconstitutional provisions:   the mandate that everyone obtain health insurance and the requirement that states expand their Medicaid program or lose all federal funding for Medicaid.   The Court, as we all know, ruled against the plaintiffs in the former matter and in their favor in the latter.

Cost reductions to Medicare are, and have been expected, to allow the legislation to cut, rather than increase, the federal budget deficit.    The likelihood that there will be even greater savings, which the CBO estimated in its latest report, is due to the revolting possibility that many of the original 26 states will opt out of expanding their Medicaid program.    A New York Times article, "Court's Ruling May Blunt Reach of the Health Law"- to which Limbaugh specifically refers in his commentary- explains

While it is not yet clear how many states will ultimately opt out of the expansion, the budget office said it now predicted that six million fewer people would be insured by Medicaid, the federal-state program for low-income people. Half of them, it said, will probably gain private insurance coverage through health insurance  exchanges to be established in all states.

On balance, the budget office said, in 2022, “about three million more people will be uninsured” than under its previous estimates. It now says that 30 million people will be uninsured in 2022, against its estimate of 27 million before the Supreme Court decision.

The report estimates that 53 million people are now uninsured and that 60 million would be uninsured in 2022 if the law was repealed, as Republicans in Congress have proposed.

With the expected changes as a result of the court decision, the budget office said the law would cost $84 billion less than it had previously predicted.

“The insurance coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act will have a net cost of $1,168 billion over the 2012-2022 period — compared with $1,252 billion projected in March 2012 for that 11-year period — for a net reduction of $84 billion,” or about 7 percent, the budget office said.

"The budget office," the reporter noted, "said it now predicted that six million fewer people would be insured by Medicaid," lowering the cost of health care because fewer poor people would be covered.   Yet Rush inexplicably remarked that the CBO argues

that this is largely due to the Supreme Court allowing states to opt out of expanding Medicare, as was required under Obamacare.  The states can opt out.  But what does that mean?  The states opt out of Medicare, it means that this savings is only due to fewer people getting free health insurance from the government, quote, unquote.

He doesn't stop there, moments later contending

So one of the original purposes of Obamacare was to off-load additional costs to the states by having them pick up Medicare increases.  But the Supreme Court ruling said that states can opt out of that if they want to, and I think 26 or 27 states will, or have said they're going to.

A few Republican governors have vowed they will not expand their Medicaid program, and Rush clearly hopes all of the 26 states which had filed suit (in part because of the Medicaid requirement) will refuse to increase coverage.       Limbaugh interprets that as "opt out (of) Medicare increases."

Presumably, Rush is intentionally misleading his audience by casually stating "Obamacare was to off-load additional costs to the states by having them pick up Medicare increases."   In reality- a world the blowhard refuses to visit- the states would have to "pick up" roughly 10% of the increase.  

But- apparently uninformed or confused- Limbaugh uses "Medicare" instead of "Medicaid" at least four times.   (It's hard to determine whether his final reference to Medicare, in the last line of the transcript, refers to the Medicaid program or the Medicare program.)    Consider:  the man gets fifty million dollars per year ($50,000,000) and mistakes a federal-state, needs based program of health care for a federal health insurance program primarily for the elderly.       
What a country!

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Still Romney, Here Or Abroad

Mitt Romney has apologized, or at least acknowledged having "made a few" in London, acknowledging

When the games themselves begin and the athletes take over, all of the mistakes that the organizing committee -- and I made a few -- all of those are overwhelmed by the many things that the athletes carry out that capture the spirit of the games.   What I've seen shows imagination and forethought and a lot of organization and expect the games to be highly successful...

This was a fine gesture, though a bit surprising for the man whose book is entitled "No Apology."    But then, summoning a vivid imagination, he has accused President Obama of wandering the world apologizing for America.     So maybe we shouldn't be surprised.  Nevertheless, No Apology is indicative of the perspective of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee (and certain nominee, unless he makes the tactical mistake of releasing several years of his tax returns).     Romney wrote

England [sic] is just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn't make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn't been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler's ambitions. Yet only two lifetimes ago, Britain ruled the largest and wealthiest empire in the history of humankind. Britain controlled a quarter of the earth's land and a quarter of the earth's population.

It's a little odd for a guy who has said he wants to put a bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval Office to claim if Britain "hadn't been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler's ambitions.    He might instead have given a little credit to that hero of his, W. Churchill, who played more than a bit role in saving the world from Hitler.
But Mitt Romney is either confused or deceptive having declared last September in New Hampshire "In the private sector, if you don't change your view when the facts change, well you'll get fired for being stubborn and stupid. Winston Chuchill said, 'When the facts change, I change too, Madam.'"     That would be an impressive statement from a conservative like Churchill, less surprising given that it came from John Maynard Keynes- the original Keynesian (safe bet), thus someone Romney would be loathe to credit (publicly) with wisdom.

More disturbing, though, inasmuch as this guy could become the 45th President, is that he would whack England for "its roads and houses (being) small."     Small roads aside, there are tens of millions of Americans who own- let alone inhabit- small houses.   No doubt if pressed (hardly likely), Romney would acknowledge that these voters are people, too.    Just not his kind of people, nor Ann Dressage Romney's kind of people.
Joan Walsh, assuming minimal burden, has noted a few incidents reflecting Mitt's sense of privilege, though the media (including those on the left) generously refer to them as mere "gaffes."    No one is perfect, but only some people have earned the right to consider themselves superior to his fellow Americans.    More significant, however, is what Romney has done, the behavior he has exhibited which offer insight into a facet of his character which might affect his presidency. 

Walsh concludes

What accounts for Romney’s capacity to consistently insult even those he’s trying to court? I’d argue it’s his fantastic sense of entitlement, with its accompanying inability to feel empathy for the less fortunate. It may or may not be connected to his pranking/bullying impulse which showed itself in his school days when he forcefully cut the hair of a gay classmate, led a sight-impaired teacher into a closed door, or intimidated friends by impersonating a state trooper. Romney clearly lacks the ability to put himself in the shoes of others (except other wealthy business owners). That’s a bad trait on the campaign trail, but when it extends to the leaders of other sovereign nations, it’s a terrible trait in a president.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chicken Politics

Comedian/actor Ed Helms, whose net worth reportedly is $20 million, is being paid $5 million plus 4% of the gross for his role in The Hangover Part 2, as well as $100,000 for each episode of The Office.        Now he has discovered his inner social activist.    Helms tweeted "Chick-fil-A doesn't like gay people?  So lame.   Hate to think what they do to the gay chickens!  Lost a loyal fan."    Perhaps we should not heed the advice of a multimillionaire whose idea of gourmet cuisine is fast food.

Ed Cathy, president and chief operating officer of the fast-food chain, recently told a talk-radio audience

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.   I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that … We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that.

Asked by the Baptist Press about his remark, the COO stated "We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit."    Previously, in a visit to North Carolina, he had explained "We don't claim to be a Christian business," approvingly quoting what the Baptist Press termed a "Christian businessman" saying "There is no such thing as a Christian business."

That, apparently, does not satisfy Helms.   Nor does it satisfy CEO Lisa Henson of Henson Co., which reportedly no longer will be distributing its Creature Shop Toys in Chick-fil-A meals.    Also unimpressed is Boston Mayor Tom Menino, who boasts "You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population.   If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult — unless they open up their policies.”

One searches in vain to determine what "policies" Chick-fil-A, which is not accused of discriminating against gay employees, practices which offend Mayor Menino or the other high-profile individuals who are likely to join in condemnation of the chain.    Chick-fil-A does contribute to such right-wing organizations as Eagle Forum, Focus on the Family, and the Family Research Council.   But that does not seem to exorcise its opponents, perhaps because they then would have to consider whether other fast-food operations have a similar practice.   Nor are the critics especially concerned about such (sarcasm alert) minor matters as the company's employment policies (including pay, benefits, and working conditions) nor its approach toward customers, including quality of service and product..  

Those policies may be bad. But we do not know, and the critics obsessed with the sexual perspective of others do not wish to enlighten us.   In fact, policies and behavior appear to be of low priority to those who would boycott the company not on the basis of what its executives do, but on the basis of what they say.     We have a company which jeopardizes its bottom line by determining to remain closed on Sundays- and simultaneously refuses to claim righteousness or wrap itself in the flag or Christianity.     Finding a corporation with such values, many progressives are outraged.

Five years after the greed of numerous individuals and corporations in the FIRE (finance, insurance, and real estate) industry nearly took down the most dominant and important economy on earth, the right speaks and acts as if suffering from a loss of short-term memory.   One corporation, though, stands apart in recognizing the importance of its values as well as the pursuit of profits and an outcry ensues from individuals of a far different perspective but possessing a warped sense of priorities.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Surfeit Of Psychiatrists

Joe Klein, carrying the torch for sensible gun control, and Ed Rendell, the trying so hard to be respected by George Will, had a rude awakening, must have been frustrated surrounded by so much nonsense on Sunday's This Week (transcript, here, relevant segment, page 5) with George Stephanopoulos.       (Cokie Roberts, as usual, supplied official Washington Wisdom.)   First, it was George Will claiming

Well, there isn't a human itch in the modern age to commit sociology as soon as this happens and to piggyback various political agendas on a tragedy. I just think we ought to resist that.
Before locating this in some defect, for example, of America society, deal with Norway. That was where a young man on an island, killed 67 teenagers, that was not counting the eight he killed with a bomb in downtown Oslo. There are deranged people in the world.

It's remarkable that someone would ridicule "a human itch in the modern age to commit sociology" in the same breath as he attributes mass murder in two societies as diverse as Norway and the U.S.A. to the existence of "deranged people in the world."   True, Will wasn't "committing sociology"; but he was committing psychology, and without having examined James Holmes.

The other Washington Post contributor, Jennifer Rubin, on the panel also is an expert in diagnosis of mental health in individuals.   She contended

There are very disturbed people out there. And I think the leap to make this into a gun issue rather than a mental health issue, has a limited payoff. I think we saw with the assault gun ban that these instances didn't increase or decrease. Over the last few decades we have had a decrease in crime. But I think we have a mental health epidemic. And we have...

You're right, George. These tend to happen with single men of a certain age, that is also the age at which certain mental illness begins to manifest itself, whether it's schizophrenia, whether it may be depression, it's aggravated in many instances by drugs or alcohol.

Certainly there are very disturbed people "out there," wherever "out there" might be, and Holmes may be one.   (Presumably, "out there" would be the U.S.A. but as a card-carrying conservative, Rubin is reluctant to admit any problem in America.   Except for Americans, whom she believes are disturbed.)   Rubin went on to credit "better policing" and "incarceration" for the gradual decline in crime in the country, no doubt because of an improvement in police techniques and increase in the rate of incarceration.     There have been, however, other factors (such as a drop in cocaine use probably occasioned by a decline of lead in the environment) at play- and the ratio of police officers to population has dropped in recent decades.

But the sleight of hand is most impressive.   Rubin notes that crime is disproportionately committed by men of a certain age, that "at which certain mental illness begins to manifest itself."  Even if accurate, it would be largely irrelevant, given that she is maintaining that is the age at which the disorder manifests itself- which is to say, is reflected in behavior.  It is an impressive circular argument.   She does not- although seems to- argue that schizophrenia causes crime, only that it is reflected in crime.

And that's wise.   The argument that the assault weapons ban, or an allergy to gun control generally, plays a role in crime is simply to suggest that the overall rate of violence would be lower if individuals diagnosed with mental health disorders didn't have access to firearms or individuals weren't permitted to buy an unlimited number of weapons at one time, or in a month.    But when individuals of the left or center are quick to diagnose a particular individual- one whom they didn't know a week ago even existed- they imply that mental illness is the reason for commission of that crime.

It gives pundits wanting to pass off shooting incidents as the work of someone "deranged" or "mentally ill" no pause to consider that crime has been declining while most psychological disorders go untreated, nor that more women are affected while men are more often the offenders.    Nor does Rubin, who cites improved police work and more incarceration, note (charts below from Ezra Klein's Wonkblog) that gun ownership has declined in the U.S.A. over the past half century and gun violence (and killings overall) is greater in states with lax gun laws than in other states.   Inconvenient facts, those.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Mitt Romney, Insulting Entrepreneurs Since 2002

Why has Mitt Romney insulted every entrepreneur and innovator in the United States?

The President of the United States, expressing the outrageous idea that the U.S. is not just a bunch of self-interested individuals but a community of people of shared values, on Friday the 13th stated

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.  (Applause.)

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.  That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires. 

(Sarcasm Alert) It's appalling that a President would contend we are a "hardworking people" who succeed from both individual initiative and "because we do things together."      The next day, Mitt Romney pounced on these outrageous sentiments, declaring at a campaign rally outside of Pittsburgh "To say that Steve Jobs didn't build Apple, that Henry Ford didn't build Ford Motors, that Papa John didn't build Papa John Pizza ... To say something like that, it's not just foolishness.    It's insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America." 

Flip-flop Mitt really outdid himself on this one.   In 2002, in a speech at the opening ceremony at the Olympic Games Romney successfully managed, America's most famous executive of Bain & Company remarked

You Olympians, however, know you didn’t get here solely on your own power. For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers, encouraged your hopes, coaches guided, communities built venues in order to organize competitions. All Olympians stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them. We’ve already cheered the Olympians, let’s also cheer the parents, coaches, and communities.

DNA tests have been completed and in a startling development, it has been confirmed that the Olympic/private equity executive who told Olympic athletes "you didn't get here solely on your own power" but instead "stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them" is the same guy who last Thursday commented

Now I know there are some people who think what the president said was just a gaffe. It wasn't a gaffe. It was instead his ideology. The president does in fact believe that people who build enterprises like this really aren't responsible for it, but in fact a collective success of the whole society that somehow builds enterprises like this.

Oh, O.K.- you conservatives are saying Obama referred to government getting it done, in contrast to Romney crediting "the parents, coaches, and communities."   But the President was referring to two forces:  actions of a democratic republic operating in a free society, deriving its authority from the consent of the governed; and to the American people as a community.     "We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people," Obama 44 continued, "and that’s the reason I’m running for President -- because I still believe in that idea.  You’re not on your own, we’re in this together."

Stirring Mittrhetoric aside, the "shoulders of those who lifted them," in many cases, belonged to taxpayers.   In comments entered into the Congressional Record in September, 2000, Senator John McCain noted

The GAO now determines that $1.3 billion--and some of those I will read: $974,000 for the Utah State Olympic Public Safety Command; $5 million for the Utah Communications Agency Network; $3 million to Olympic Regional Development Authority, upgrades at Mt. Van Hoevenberg Sports Complex; $2.5 million, Salt Lake City Olympics bus facilities; $2.5 million, Salt Lake City Olympics regional park-and-ride lots; $500,000, Salt Lake City Olympics transit bus loan, and on and on; $925,000 to allow the Utah State Olympic Public Safety Command to continue to develop and support a public safety program for the 2002 Winter Olympics; $1 million for the 2002 Winter Olympics security training; $2.2 million for the Charleston Water Conservancy District, UT, to meet sewer infrastructure needs associated with the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. What the Olympic games supposedly hosted and funded by Salt Lake City, which began in corruption and bribery, has now turned into is an incredible pork-barrel project for Salt Lake City and its environs.

The 2002 Olympic games could not have survived without a government infusion of over one billion dollars which, even to Mitt Romney, is not chump change.     Yet, President Obama was the one who was "insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America" when he ascribed a critical role to government in the success of the nation.   When will Mitt Romney, who "saved" the Olympics with government help, stop "insulting" American entrepreneurs and innovators?

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Republican Media- No. 34

From Fox News, you would assume it.   From CNN, you would expect it.  But from the generally thorough and accurate Chuck Todd of NBC/MSNBC, you have a right to be astonished.   As guest host of NBC's The Chris Matthews Show, Todd raised the issue of Mitt Romney's business background by saying to Dan Rather (as picked up by Crooks and Liars)

Dan, we know that this is, it feels right out of the 2004 Karl Rove playbook. In fact I think Charlie Cook wrote earlier this week that Karl Rove ought to get royalties from the Obama campaign on what they're doing. Essentially, they're Swiftboating Romney.

Heather of C&L, who points out that Joe Klein also is playing the game of false equivalence with Swift Boat and the Romney tax returns, expected guests Kathleen Parker and Gloria Borger to play along with Todd.   Instead, Rather did not call him out, instead commenting "it seems out of Karl Rove's campaign playbook because it is out of Karl Rove's campaign playbook."    

Rather, as a guest pundit, is entitled to his opinion, however (uncharacteristically) wrong he was.   But Todd was cavalierly mistaking "balance" for fairness or objectivity.    The Karl Rove playbook is not to have the candidate's campaign spokesperson, as in the case of Stephanie Cutter, make serious charges about the opposing candidate.    It is to make things up and then have lower-ranking individuals spread rumor and gossip, or to do worse.    With Mark White, it was an electronic listening device which Rove, managing the campaign of White's opponent, reported finding in his office.    No one ever was found culpable but White's campaign was fatally damaged. Then it was Ann Richards, whom a whispering campaign accused of being a lesbian (at a time in which homosexuality was disqualifying for public office).     For John McCain, it was suggesting to GOP primary voters that the candidate may have fathered a black child. Then it was John Kerry, about whom Rove's biographer notes

You could never see his fingerprints associated directly [with] the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who virulently attacked John Kerry's record, while at the same time George Bush was doing what he had always done in a Rove campaign: saluting the service of John Kerry. It's a pattern we've seen again and again and again, and it was very effective in 2004.

John Kerry earned three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, notwithstanding the accusations of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.    The most serious charge against Romney came from Obama campaign spokesperson Cutter, who argued "Either Mitt Romney through his own words and his own signature was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony, or he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people."    Romney was doing one or the other- and affixing his signature falsely probably would have been either perjury or securities fraud.

A severe reluctance to level with the American people is a central component of the campaign being waged against President Obama.  Paul Krugman observes

...for several days running the central theme of the Romney campaign has rested on a complete lie. I understand; going on about the dishonesty can get boring. But we should step back often to look at this remarkable spectacle. I really don’t think there’s been anything like this in American political history: a presidential campaign, with a pretty good chance of winning, that is based entirely on cynical lies about what the sitting president has said. No, Obama hasn’t apologized for America; no, he hasn’t denigrated achievement. Yet take away those claims, and there’s nothing left in Romney’s rhetoric.

There are similarities between the charges against Kerry and those against Romney.   But there are differences, too.   The strong likelihood that the Swift Boat charges were trumped up and the Obama charge is accurate is not an inconsequential one.    To suggest that they are parallel accusations is not only to mistake balance for objectivity but to diminish the importance of truth- which itself has become an integral part of Republican campaign strategy.

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Expect Little

It is customary, following a "tragedy" such as the rampage inside a movie theater very early Friday morning in Aurora, Colorado, to acclaim and laud the inevitable statement of the President of the United States.   He (eventually, no doubt, a "she") is, after all, the only elected official serving the entire nation.  (The Vice-President doesn't count.)

Bu, as President Obama would put it, there are going to be other days for praise.    The President offered the nation a statement early Friday morning at what would have been a campaign event in Fort Myers, Florida, spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.    In his brief remarks (transcript here), he comented "So, again, I am grateful that all of you are here.   I'm so moved by your support.   But there are going to be other days for politics.    This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection."

There is no problem with the President of the United States, speaking mere hours after the atrocious criminal attack in Florida, asserting "there are going to be other days for politics."   Binding up the nation's wounds is a time-honored tradition.

There will be time, in the next few days, for Mr. Obama to tell us that the AR-15 apparently used by James Eagan Holmes was purchased legally.   He can tell us that the AR-15 had (as Think Progress reports) a high-capacity clip, banned as "large capacity ammunition feeding devices" in the 1994 assault weapons ban, which has not been renewed since it expired in 2004.  He might remind us that reinstatement of an assault weapons ban probably would dramatically reduce the horrific violence of the drug war in northern Mexico, bordering the U.S.A., and that he himself had campaigned on permanently renewing the ban.

He can, but he won't.   With the opportunity, before the nation's attention turns away, to draw these (and perhaps other) lessons from this latest episode of mass killing in America, the President will take a pass.  

At the memorial service for the victims of the Tucson shooting which left six individuals dead in the wake of the semi-automatic pistol wielded by Gerald Lee Loughner, President Obama stated

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, "When I looked for light, then came darkness." Bad things happen, and we have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind. Yes, we have to examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future. (Applause.) But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. (Applause.) That we cannot do. (Applause.) That we cannot do.

As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let's use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together. 

Applause followed, and all across the land, media figures and other individuals could be seen swooning.     But it should have been clear that the President (warning:  sports metaphor ahead) had not even swung and missed; he was called out on strikes.   He had failed in a major role of the President of the United States, to mobilize is citizenry to support a lasting solution to a crisis.

He won't do it here, either, especially in a presidential election year.    The National Rifle Association, for the last couple of years, has ginned up fear of Barack Obama by frightening (some) gun owners into thinking Obama is coming after their weapons, and he has been intimidated into silence.    Nothing could be more sure than the NRA would take offense at any hint from the Chief Executive that lax gun laws may have contributed even an iota to the shooting in Aurora- nothing, that is, except that Mitt Romney, who will continue throughout the campaign to accuse the President of a lack of leadership, will not criticize him for giving gun mania a free pass.

We deserve more, much more, from a President of the United States.     It is a reflection of the state of the nation that, come November, this President will be the only individual standing between us and an outcome far worse.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Criminal, Sort Of

The pro-abortion crowd is at it again.   But it's not the pro-choice activists but legislators who no doubt would consider themselves "pro-life."    Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check reports

H.R. 3803, a bill to ban abortions in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks gestation, is heading to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives after members of the GOP-dominated House Judiciary Committee yesterday voted in favor of it by 18 to 14. The bill would ban abortions in D.C. after 20 weeks, allowing an exception only to save a pregnant woman’s life.

The bill, sponsored by Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ), denies a woman access to a medically necessary abortion. It includes no exceptions for situations where continuing a pregnancy will place at risk a woman’s health or ability to have children in the future, for women who may have serious but non-life threatening medical conditions, are suffering from a severe mental illness, or who learn of a fatal or severe fetal anomaly. It would also subject a doctor to criminal penalties for performing a safe and legal medical procedure.

HR 303 (text of bill, here) not only would subject a doctor to imprisonment for up to two years for performing an abortion.    It expressly authorizes to pursue a civil action the woman who procured an abortion, "the father of an unborn child," and in some instances, "a maternal grandparent of the unborn child."

According to Wikipedia, abortion law, framed by Roe v. Wade and subsequent decisions, stipulates that

The State has the right to intervene prior to fetal viability only to protect the health of the mother, and may regulate the procedure after viability so long as there is always an exception for preserving maternal health. The Court additionally added that the primary right being preserved in the Roe decision was that of the physician's right to practice medicine freely absent a compelling state interest – not women's rights in general. The Court explicitly rejected a fetal "right to life" argument.  

The Supreme Court in Roe pegged viability "at about seven months (28 weeks)" but at times "earlier, even at 24 weeks."   (If you notice that seven months is generally approximately 30 weeks, you're paying attention.)    It is difficult to determine when viability occurs now, given technological advances, but it probably occurs (on average) at approximately 24 weeks, significantly later than 20 weeks, the point at which the proposed bill would ban abortions.   So much for constitutionality.

Women do not seek an abortion lightly.   Still, encouraging civil suits against doctors who perform a medically necessary procedure hardly discourages the individual who has sought the procedure, one which supporters of the legislation presumably believe is the violent destruction of a human life.   And holding the woman completely blameless suggests that pro-life legislators either believe that murder isn't such a big deal or don't believe abortion is termination of a human life.

There seems to be a new ethos circulating among alleged opponents of abortion.  It is such an affront to human dignity and so offensive to the values of society that a doctor asked to perform one must be charged in the criminal courts.    Nevertheless, the woman who decides to end her pregnancy, travels to a licensed practitioner to offer him or her money to perform the procedure, and ultimately pays off the physician is held to be a victim.   Women, apparently, have to be protected against themselves.   So much for human dignity.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sidetracked By The Bigotry

The Romney crowd was in high gear Tuesday.    In a morning appearance on GOP TV, John Sununu commented

This guy doesn’t understand how to create jobs. So there is no surprise — there should be because of that statement no surprise on why he failed so miserably over the last four years, in terms of job creation. He has no idea how the American system functions, and we shouldn’t be surprised about that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia, another set of years in Indonesia, and, frankly, when he came to the U.S. he worked as a community organizer, which is a socialized structure, and then got into politics in Chicago.

On a conference call later, the former New Hampshire governor added

These are the people who are the backbone of our economy and the president clearly demonstrated that he has absolutely no idea how the American economy functions,  The men and women all over America who have worked hard to build these businesses ... from the ground up -- is how our economy became the envy of the world.  It is the American way, and I wish this president would learn how to be an American.

Later, Sununu clarified, by largely reiterating, his remarks.   Later, he maintained "I had no intention of going back to the American versus non-American issue."  Later, he acknowledged he had "made a mistake... for using those words."

But there would be no apology from Rush Limbaugh, of course.    The previous day (or virtually any day), Rush had remarked

I think it can now be said, without equivocation -- without equivocation -- that this man hates this country. He is trying -- Barack Obama is trying -- to dismantle, brick by brick, the American dream.

There's no other way to put this. There's no other way to explain this. He was indoctrinated as a child. His father was a communist. His mother was a leftist. He was sent to prep and Ivy League schools where his contempt for the country was reinforced. He moved to Chicago. It was the home of the radical left movement. He hooks up to Ayers and Dohrn and Rashid Khalidi. He learns the ruthlessness of Cook County politics. This is what we have as a president: a radical ideologue, a ruthless politician who despises the country and the way it was founded and the way in which it became great. He hates it.

O.k., o.k., I get it- Republicans want the electorate to believe Barack H. Obama is not one of us.     Done more subtly than by Limbaugh and less awkwardly than by Sununu, it's actually a major cog in a wise strategy by the G.O.P.      But in six months or, hopefully, in four-and-a-half years, the U.S.A. will no longer have a black president and the Gas and Oil Party can go back to its time-tested strategy of implying that a male Democratic presidential candidate is less manly than everyone else, and they can drop the otherness angle.

But it will not drop its signature theme, which is even more dangerous- and as farfetched- as the attack on Obama for allegedly not being of America, or of Christianity.     On Tuesday, Limbaugh complained

It is a myth that the top 1% have all of the wealth in this country.  It's the exact opposite... The wealth in this country is not concentrated among the 1%.  Now, the 1% may be expert at building on their wealth, but the vast majority of the wealth in this country is spread around over 230 million people.  Gosh, you know, it's amazing the common-sense economics that is not understood, not taught, and how easy it is to demagogue.  It's always been that way.  There's nothing new about that.  At the same time it's frustrating.

And he asked rhetorically

But how many people care about that?  I'm asking you a question.  How many people want to do what it takes to become prosperous?  They don't have to anymore.  How many people want to understand the role wealthy people play in a prosperous society?  How many people want to do what it takes to become one of those people, versus how many of them are content just to sit there and resent them and have the government take care of them to one agree or another?

A lot of it is about resentment- conservatives like Limbaugh blasting average Americans because they (we) "are content just to sit there and resent them and have the government take care of them."       Rush continued

The new world is that there is value in being average.   There's valor in not having achieved anything because that makes you a victim... So there's now gonna be a stigma to achievement.  There's gonna be an air of suspicion about it, officially, from the White House down.  And there will be almost an honor or a sense of valor in being average because you fought the good fight, but you lost to a bunch of reprobate cheaters.

The elitism on display is stunning.  The President is promoting "a stigma to achievement," which is contrasted by Limbaugh with being "average."    The "average" individual never achieves anything and is content with complaining.

Limbaugh implies that few Americans realize "the wealth in this country is not concentrated among the 1%" and "the vast majority of the wealth in this country is spread around over 230 million people. In his view, there are very few people who understand "common-sense economics." They are so susceptible to demagoguery; after all, they're merely "average."

The elitism and the celebration of the 1%, not surprisingly, go hand-in-hand.      Limbaugh doesn't explain how he came up with the figure of 230 million; perhaps it represents the approximate number of adults in the country.   But according to NYU economist Edward Wolff, as of the end of 2009, 35.5% of the wealth in the nation was held by the top 1%, up from  34.6% before Wall Street titans crashed the economy in 2007.    American University economics professor Robert Lehrman has the figure a little lower, at 33.4%, as the graph(s) below indicate(s):

The "vast majority of the wealth in this country" may not be held by the 1%, which controls a little over 1%.   But the vast majority, between 80% and 85%, is held by the top 20%, over 70% by the top 10%.

It's critical that this myth is perpetuated by the G.O.P.    On Monday and Tuesday, every Repub Senator voted against cloture on a Democratic bill  which, as the The Huffington Post described it, "would have required any independent group that spends more than $10,000 on campaign ads during an election cycle to file a report identifying any donors who gave $10,000 or more."   The G.O.P. not only wants to hide the identity of its biggest donors but their obscene wealth.   Control of the political process by extraordinarily wealthy individuals (and some interest groups) must not be disclosed.

Well over forty Republican Senators, and none would even approve a vote on whether to require disclosure of big donors.     Denying the public an opportunity to learn who is controlling the American democracy and economy is practically their raison d'etre.  They are not the ever-outrageous Rush Limbaugh, nor the over-the-hill John Sununu, but they, too, are doing their part in the cheerleading squad for the pampered, powerful and privileged.  

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mitt Hangs Tough

The list, as compiled by the Center for American Progress, is impressive- sixteen Republicans who have suggested Mitt Romney should release more than the one year of tax returns he has thus far.   They include strategists Ana Navarro, Matthew Dowd, Rick Tyler, John Weaver, and John Feehery; United States Representatives Ron Paul, Pete Sessions, and Walter Jones; former RNC chairman Michael Steele; Governor Robert Bentley; Weekly Standard editor William Kristol; broadcast journalist Britt Hume; real journalists George Will and David Frum; and the editors of The National Review.

There is, however, one individual significantly absent:   Senator John McCain.    That would be former GOP presidential nominee John McCain, whose campaign in 2008 obtained from Mitt Romney the latter's tax returns from the previous 23 years as part of the vetting process of vice-presidential hopefuls.   Campaign manager Steve Schmidt- who did not personally run the process- told the Huffington Post that critics who claim Romney was rejected because of his taxes "have no way of knowing any of the basis of that statement.  It's a rhetorical flourish." McCain himself said "of course not" when, according to Politico, the Arizonan was asked "if the contents of Romney's tax returns disqualified him from the selection process" (pity Politico didn't note exactly what McCain was asked; that would be good journalism).

As Bob Dole would have said:   whatever.      It would not be a radical move for John McCain to be the 17th Repub to urge Romney to make public several more years of tax returns.   But he has not done so, and that's probably no accident (though discerning the mind of John McCain is perilous).

On a web only segment (video, below) of MSNBC's The Last Word, MSNBC personality Krystal Ball (if the family's name is "Ball," shouldn't your name be "Crystal" rather than "Krystal"?) characterizes herself as "a contrarian" and suggests the candidate is "better off taking the hit for lack of transparency."     She maintains "I don't think they're that stupid, though.  I think they've actually thought this through and there is something bad enough in the returns that it legitimately justifies keeping them a secret."  That might be "an effective tax rate of 0% or close to it."    Alternatively, she believes, Romney may have taken advantage of "a 2009 amnesty" in which individuals with money illegally in overseas accounts had an opportunity to report it to the I.R.S. without facing criminal sanctions.    Merely having a bunch of overseas accounts, she argues, would be insufficient motivation for the candidate to withhold his returns.

Although the Obama team probably will be wise enough to come back throughout the campaign to the matter of Romney's tax returns, in the short run some real or imagined crisis, foreign or domestic,  is likely to pop up and take the media's attention away from this issue.   The betting (and with Sheldon Adelson contributing multi-millions to his campaign, Romney would approve wholeheartedly of betting) here is that the candidate is smarter than his fellow Repubs who are telling him to disclose.  

It is unlikely Mitt Romney would be so intransigent if there were not something very damaging in one or more of those tax returns.    Very, very damaging.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Texas Way

Karl Rove claims "If the President continues to make this outrageous charge- that his campaign had that Romney is guilty of felonious activity (and) committed a felony, that's a big mistake."    Dana Milbank writes 

We know the attack is working because Karl Rove says it isn’t. He called it a “big mistake” to suggest, as Obama aide Stephanie Cutter did, that Romney may have committed a felony in misleading the Securities and Exchange Commission. This, Turd Blossom told Fox News, is “gutter politics of the worst Chicago sort.”

Rove is well-qualified to weigh in on such matters, having presided over Bush’s 2004 campaign, during which opponent John Kerry was accused of lying about his war record — a rather more outrageous allegation than Cutter’s. Some of those who funded the attacks on Kerry are now bankrolling Rove’s assaults on Obama.

Whatever "Chicago politics" are (is?), Karl Rove knows how to do politics.    In an interview with PBS' Frontline shortly after the selection of George W. Bush as president, "The Architect" author Wayne Slater summarized the way of Rove:

What they really show is the beginning of a long pattern of behavior by Karl Rove. In every campaign after that, what you see with Rove is the same kind of thing: You see some series of events that attack an opponent, really not simply on the merits of issues, but in some dirty trick way. This was an opening. This was the first salvo. This was the beginning of the Rove approach. "The mark of Rove" is what some people call it. When Rove gets involved in a campaign, the opponent is going to get smeared in a bad way, and most likely, Rove's candidate will win.

Painting a war hero as a near-traitor in 2004 was only one instance.     In George W. Bush's successful effort to replace Ann Richards as governor of Texas

Karl Rove understood that and strategically, as part of his memos and his arrangements and his campaign strategy, tried to win support [for Bush] from East Texans on conservative values that they felt were important. At the same time that the campaign was very publicly involved in trying to woo these historically Democrat voters from traditionally conservative East Texas, there emerged a whisper campaign, a virulent and obviously orchestrated whisper campaign in East Texas. I would go from place to place in East Texas, I would go from business to business, and I can remember talking to people about the race, Ann Richards, George Bush, and invariably someone would say: "But what about the lesbians? What about the lesbians?"

It was a message that swept East Texas, a message that many people in that community, a largely Baptist community, felt that Ann Richards had embraced lesbians and homosexuals in a way that they did not accept; that she had appointed them to boards and commissions, as she had, in the governor's office; that she had, in fact, had them around on her campaign staff, and the intimation was that she herself, even though she was a divorced woman with four children, might be a lesbian. Very effective campaign.

Rove himself was extraordinarily careful, in all my conversations with him and in conversations with others in the media, to make sure that he was not directly tied to that orchestrated campaign. What we know is that the campaign was orchestrated and very, very effective. Everywhere you went people were talking about it. Phone calls were made. Bush supporters and Bush surrogates were talking about it in a very effective way. In no case could I ever find anyone who said, "Karl Rove told me to do this." But in every case, what I found was a duplication of the exact pattern of every Rove race: that Rove's opponent is attacked, often by a surrogate or anonymous group, whisper campaigns, direct mail pieces or other kinds of personal attacks, in a way that Rove can't be directly seen with his fingerprints, but that Rove's candidate benefits from. It's a pattern not just once or twice, but I've seen it throughout the last two decades. …

And few can- or at least should- forget the compassionate conservatism of the Bush-Rove campaign for the GOP presidential nomination four years earlier, in which

What happened was, you begin first to see the emergence of a so-called military group on the stairs of an event where Bush attended that [would] attack John McCain on the issue of Vietnam. In fact, what they did was suggest that John McCain was not good on the issues of prisoners of war, that he was not really the war hero that he seemed to be. It was sort of the beginning chink in the armor of John McCain among these very conservative, patriotic, Republican South Carolinians. The other message of this early surrogate group was that John McCain might be crazy, that the experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam might actually work against McCain because it had left him 
psychologically with a short fuse and maybe not the kind of person that we want to have in office.

It was followed up by … some surrogates sending virulent telephone calls against John McCain and his wife, leaving messages that suggested that John McCain's wife had a drug problem -- she had battled it [Editor's Note: a dependency on prescriptive drugs] and was fighting that -- and also that he and his wife had a black child, which was a dynamite message, especially among some racist voters in this conservative state. In fact, what McCain and his wife had was an adopted child from a Mother Theresa orphanage. But it didn't make any difference, because the surrogates were out there turning the screws on John McCain as a person whose personal life made him unacceptable as a candidate, at the same time that the candidate George Bush was attacking McCain on the perfectly appropriate policy issues that you would see in the campaign.

McCain believed that Bush was behind it. The model was exactly the same that you saw again and again and again in a campaign run by Karl Rove. And although Rove denied any involvement, the outcome was the same: surrogates and groups who supported Bush attacking the opponent in his personal life. Bush was successful and ultimately won that campaign. [But] the relationship between John McCain and George Bush was not very good for months, even years afterwards.

There are other examples of sleazy campaign tactics utilized by Karl Rove, once of Utah but a resident and operative in Texas for many years since he relocated.    My personal favorite is one involving more speculation, wherein the tie to Rove is, admittedly, more questionable.   In 1986, incumbent governor Mark White was leading Republican challenger Bill Clements in a rematch of the gubernatorial race won by the Democrat four years earlier.     The Clements campaign then hired a security firm, Knight Diversified Services Inc., to perform an electronic sweep of the Austin offices of one Karl Rove, an aide to the challenger.    On October 5, two of the company's private detectives found a bug hidden behind a needlepoint of a framed elephant, the symbol of the Gas and Oil Party.

In the resulting outcry, the campaign turned around and Rove's client, Bill Clements, turned White out of office.The FBI initially cleared the campaign operatives of both candidates and eventually focused attention on the two individuals who found the device.     No charges ever ensued and speculation in the following years properly has focused on the individual in whose office the device was found, and whose employer's fortunes dramatically improved after the incident.

Rove knows that Cutter never contended "that Romney is guilty of felonious activity" or "committed a felony," rather that if he was "misrepresenting his position" in filings with the SEC he would have been committing a felony.    But the history of the GOP's most accomplished operative history suggests he knows also that as a major campaign official, Cutter should not have raised the issue, at least as directly.   It is simply not Rovian:  gossip and innuendo are more effective because no one can charge definitively that a candidate, or his spokesman, was responsible.    There are no fingerprints.    It may not be how they do it in Chicago, but it's the way Karl Rove did it in Texas and the way he knows it should be done.

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