Archive for September, 2012

Sunday Back by Hugh Mitchell

September 30, 2012

Sometimes I wish Sundays were back
and I on my knees
my back bent again below a golden altar
where a white robed God sat
in all His high glory and sureness.

The Reverend’s stone church spire
which once inspired so much awe
now brings only swift regret
for all the time spent on knees
when outside those dark church aisles
the yard was fringed with maple leaves
in brightest dress: browns, greens, yellows,
red leaves blowing in the unbound breeze
and the muffled cries of normal children
floating, disembodied
through stained glass and chanceled dust.

But what is left?
Clouds of uncertainty drift through day.
No surety at all.

Sometimes I wish Sundays were back
and I, a child again
whispering muffled prayers
in cupped hands raised to a dusty god.

Hugh Mitchell’s chapbooks of original poems include Animal Guides, Light in the Grove, and, just released, Seeds in Winter, from which “Sunday Back” is taken.  His work has been published in Comstock Review, LLI Review, and RIT Signatures.  He won a contest called “Disarming Images,” which resulted in him reading his poem “Alamagordo” on a program with Gary Snyder.

Mitchell has been a leader in the Sierra Club in the Rochester, N.Y., area and in New York State, beginning in 1970 in an effort to save Genesee Valley Park.   Many of his poems reflect on nature and speak of his effort to find metaphysical answers.

Write to him at 147 Hillside Ave., Rochester, N.Y., 14610, for permission to copy, republish or anthologize his poems.


Must progressives vote for Obama?

September 28, 2012

Conor Friedersdorf, a libertarian-leaning, conservative leaning writer who supported Barack Obama in 2008, is getting a lot of attention for an article he wrote a few days ago on why he wouldn’t vote for Obama again.

He said he wouldn’t vote for Obama because he wouldn’t vote for any President who:

  • Claims the right to sign death warrants on his own personal judgment based on criteria he refuses to disclose.
  • Terrorizes people in remote parts of the world with flying killer drones based on his own personal judgment, without accountability to anyone.
  • Sends American troops to war based on his own personal judgment, without accountability to anyone, in situations where the safety of the American people is not at stake.

There was immediate push-back from pro-Obama liberals.  Scott Limieux wrote on the Lawyers, Guns and Money web log that the likely repeal of the Affordable Care Act and non-enforcement of the environmental laws would result in many more deaths than the relatively few who have died in the kill zones in Pakistan.

The number of victims of Obama’s flying killer drones is very small compared to the number of Iraqis who died during the Clinton blockade or the Bush invasion, or the number of Vietnamese who were killed during the Johnson and Nixon administrations.

Eric Loomis wrote on the same web log that only a privileged white man could write what Friedersdorf wrote, because he is indifferent to the plight of the poor and only cares about civil liberties.  Loomis and Limieux point out that even on the particular issues Friedersdorf is concerned about, Romney would be worse.

I, too, am a privileged white man.  A Romney victory would not keep me from having enough to eat, a roof over my head and good medical care.  If I were poor, black and female, this might not be the case.

But that argument cuts both ways.  If Erik Loomis were a poor brown woman living in the Pakistan kill zone, he might feel differently, too.  As a thought experiment, suppose an American President initiated a foreign medical aid program that saved the lives of tens of thousands of poor people in Pakistan, and at the same time fired killer drone missiles into high-crime areas of American cities aimed as suspected organized crime figures.  Would this be an acceptable trade-off?

Apologists for Castro and Mao used to tell me that poor people only care about getting enough to eat, not political freedom.  But without political freedom, how do poor people demand the right to bread?

If you are a progressive, and you think your duty as a voter is to choose between the two major-party candidates on the basis of which one will on balance do the most good or the least harm, then you should vote for President Obama over Governor Romney.  But if, as Friedersdorf argued, there are things that would keep you from voting for a candidate under any circumstances—a candidate who was a Holocaust denier, say, or a racist or a Creationist—would you vote for a President who asserts a right to sign death warrants at his sole discretion?

The worst thing about President Obama is that he is setting precedents.  He is not just perpetuating old evils.  He is creating new evils.

No President has claimed the right to order assassinations based on his own personal judgment, but every President from now on will claim that right.  Suppose for the sake of argument that all the people Obama has marked for death are really, really bad people who richly deserve to die.  Will every President in the future also exercise this new power wisely, justly and impartially?  If a President can order assassinations in secret, and not have to answer to anyone, what power does he lack to become a dictator?

I don’t see obedience to the Constitution and the rule of law as one issue among many.  I see them as the foundation on which everything else rests.

Why vote anyway?  My vote is not going to determine anything.  New York is as certain to go for Obama as anything can be, but even if I were voting in Florida in 2000, my vote would not have determined the outcome.  I vote because it is my civic duty.  If nobody voted, we wouldn’t have a democracy.  And since I am voting, I vote my convictions.

I don’t think I am necessarily throwing my vote away by voting for a third party.   The Republican Party originated as a third-party alternative to the Democrats and the Whigs.  In the 20th century, third parties have at times been strong enough to hold the balance of power and influence Democrats or Republicans or both to change their positions.

But if someone has decided to work for change within one of the two political parties, and commits to support whoever that party nominates, to show party loyalty, that is an honorable choice.  One of the arguments such a person could use is that it is necessary to nominate a candidate who respects the Constitution and the laws in order to get the vote of people like me.

Click on the following links for posts by Conor Friedersdorf for the Atlantic Monthly.

Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama

Until the Republicans Fix This Problem, They Can’t Fix Any Problems

The Hard Right Is Paranoid About the Wrong Things

Obama v. Romney: Choose Your Own Disaster.

Click on the following links for Erik Loomis’s and Scott Limieux’s posts on the Lawyers, Guns and Money web log.

All American Presidential Elections Are Choices Among Evils by Scott Limieux.

There Are Many Life and Death Issues by Scott Limieux.

An Essay Only a White Person Could Write by Erik Loomis.

Psychopaths as role models

September 28, 2012

Some time back I put up a post about how a lot of financiers fit the psychological profile of psychopaths.  Now a British psychology professor named Kevin Dutton has published a book, The Wisdom of Psychopaths (which I haven’t read), and written an article in Scientific American (which I have) about how this can be a good thing, not a bad thing.

The traits of a psychopath, Dutton said, are egotism, persuasiveness, ruthlessness, fearlessness, lack of empathy, lack of remorse and the ability to stay focused on a goal.   These are characteristic of both what he called dysfunctional psychopaths (serial killers, professional assassins, swindlers) and functional psychopaths (CEOs, spies, surgeons, politicians, military commanders).  The difference is that dysfunctional psychopaths lack the ability to control their impulses, especially impulses toward aggression and violence.

How can psychopathic traits be a good thing?  Well, wrote Dutton, take a surgeon as an example.  Do you want to be operated on by someone who feels squeamish about cutting people up?  He quoted a famous brain surgeon.

I have no compassion for those whom I operate on.  This is a luxury I simply cannot afford.  In the theater I am reborn: as a cold, heartless machine, totally at one with scalpel, drill and saw.  When you’re cutting loose and cheating death, feelings aren’t fit for purpose.  Emotion is entropy—and seriously bad for business.  I’ve hunted it down to extinction over the years.

A military commander, or even a soldier in the field, has to put aside normal human feelings, and to kill and send people to their deaths for the sake of victory.  Great statesmen such as Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill were able to act with coldblooded ruthlessness when necessary.  And studies have shown a correlation of traits of criminal psychopaths and of successful business executives.  Dutton quoted a successful CEO:

Intellectual ability on its own is just an elegant way of finishing second.  Remember, they don’t call it a greasy pole for nothing.  The road to the top is hard.  But it’s easier to climb if you lever yourself up on others.  Easier still if they think something’s in it for them.

I can how the psychopathic traits can be harnessed in a socially beneficial way within a framework of law and ethics.  A surgeon may or may not enjoy cutting people up, but has a mission to be a healer and is subject to medical ethics.  A military commander may or may not be indifferent to human life, but operates within a military code of honor.  Statesmen and business executives are—or at least should be—subject to the law and accountable to the public.

Fascism, Marxism-Leninism and other totalitarian ideologies give free rein to psychopaths.  Lack of empathy, lack of remorse and relentless focus on a goal are the admired qualities of a Mussolini or a Lenin.   These values are rejected, or should be rejected, by a democratic society.

The current discipline of economics in a certain sense assumes psychopathic behavior.  Economics is the study of how human beings respond to material incentives.  While this has great explanatory power, economists sometimes assume that material incentives plus a free market make ordinary morality and ethics unnecessary.  The argument of the Freakonomics books is an argument for people disregarding their moral intuitions and acting on material incentives.

Psychopathic traits may have value under certain circumstances, as Dutton claims.  The problem is keeping the psychopaths under control of people with normal moral intuition.

Click on What Psychopaths Teach Us About How to Succeed for Kevin Dutton’s full article in the October issue of Scientific American.

Click on The Great British Psychopath Survey for Dutton’s self-test to determine whether you have psychopathic traits.

Click on The psychopathic 1 percent for my earlier post on psychopaths in business and finance.

I don’t see how this can possibly end well

September 28, 2012

The Federal Reserve System has the power to create money, which it puts into the U.S. economy by buying Treasury bonds or other financial assets.   The chart above, which comes from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, shows how the money supply has more than tripled since Barack Obama was sworn in as President.

Recently Ben Bernanke, the chair of the Federal Reserve Board, announced that the Fed will spend $40 billion a month to buy mortgage-backed securities (aka toxic assets) until employment is back to normal.

The theory behind this is that putting more money into circulation will stimulate economic activity, because banks will increase their lending to American small businesses and consumers.  As economist Michael Hudson (shown in the video in my previous post) pointed out, this hasn’t happened.  The big Wall Street banks have more profitable things to do with their money.  What the Fed’s action does is to relieve the big Wall Street banks of the consequences of the 2001-2007 house price bubble and set the stage for a new bubble.

Another of the Fed’s policies has been to hold down interest rates to virtually zero.  The theory behind this is that Americans will borrow more and this will stimulate economic activity.  The actual result has been to artificially stimulate the stock market by driving money out of bank savings accounts.

Taking myself as an example, I get virtually no interest on my bank account.  This means that as a result of inflation, which is low but not zero, my savings are worth less in real terms than they were at the beginning.  This creates an incentive to venture out into the financial markets.  But since stock prices are being lifted by something other than the perceived value of the companies issuing the stock, there is bound to be a fall.

One cause (or definition) of inflation is too much money chasing too few goods.  During the past three years, the Federal Reserve System has more than tripled the amount of U.S. dollars, but this has not gone into increased production of U.S. goods.  Inflation is low in historic terms, but there is no guarantee this will continue.  I don’t see how this can possibly end well.

Click on QE Forever for analysis by Robert P. Murphy in The American Conservative.

Click on QE3: Another Fed Giveaway to the Banks for analysis on the naked capitalism web log.

The “monetary base” is spendable money, including cash and coins, bank accounts and money market funds.  There are other measures of the money supply, which include bank savings certificates, Treasury bonds and certain other kinds of financial assets.

Qualitative Easting III: bank bailout continues

September 27, 2012

Michael Hudson, a research professor of economics at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, said the Federal Reserve Board’s Qualitative Easing is a continuation of the bank bailout under another name.

Ben Bernanke, chair of the Federal Reserve, announced a commitment to buy mortgage-backed securities (toxic assets?) while keeping interest rates low.  Pumping more money into the economy will supposedly make more money available for business loans and consumer purchases in the United States.  But Hudson noted that so far the banks have found more profitable things to do with the Fed’s money than to invest it in the real U.S. economy.

At present the rate of inflation is low.  But one cause (or definition) of inflation is too much money chasing too few goods.  If money is created, but the money is not used to produce more goods, then (as I see it) inflation could return.  Moderate inflation is supposed to be a cure for economic stagnation, but I can recall the “stagflation” of the 1970s when there was very serious inflation and economic stagnation at the same time.

Click on Fed to Buy More Bonds in Bid to Spur Economy for the Wall Street Journal’s explanation of the Federal Reserve’s rationale for QE.

Click on QE3 – Another Fed Giveaway to the Banks on the naked capitalism web log and scroll down to the discussion thread for the pros and cons of Hudson’s analysis.

Click on Michael Hudson | On finance, real estate and the powers of neoliberalism for Michael Hudson’s home page.

Benchmarking the U.S. employment recovery

September 26, 2012

Double click to enlarge.

Double click to enlarge.

I’ve posted a number of charts like the one at top showing how much worse the current employment recovery is than the recoveries following previous recessions since World War Two.   But the second chart provides another and maybe more meaningful comparison—the U.S. recovery versus employment recoveries in foreign nations following financial crises.  The current U.S. recovery is not out of line with the experience of foreign nations.

The most significant comparison, though, is with the current U.S. recovery, shown by the thick red line, with the aftermath of the 1929 stock market crash, shown by the dotted black line.  What it indicates to me was that the United States was on a slide toward another Great Depression, like that of the 1930s, but that the slide was prevented by the bank bailouts and the Obama stimulus plan.

I’ve criticized the Obama administration for failing—really, not seriously attempting—to put anything in place that would prevent a repetition of the recent financial crash.  The Obama administration has blocked prosecution of financial fraud and meaningful legislation to regulate or break up the “too big to fail” banks, while the Federal Reserve Board, through its Qualitative Easing programs, has given money to the big Wall Street banks at near-zero interest rates without any requirement that the money be lent in the real American economy.  I think the United States is on track for a bigger crash and a bigger bailout, if indeed a bailout is possible the next time around.

But give credit where credit is due.  The swift action of the Bush administration, the teamwork of the Bush and Obama administrations during the transition, and Obama administration’s follow-through prevented a collapse of the financial system, and the Obama stimulus plan also helped shore up the economy.   I can’t prove this.  There is no way to turn back the calendar and see what would have happened with no bailout and no stimulus, but I think the Hoover administration’s experience after 1929 provides a good indication of what would have happened.   But now that the collapse has been averted, the U.S. government and banking system is busy recreating the circumstances that led to the collapse in the first place.

Click on Does this graph prove the recovery has been impressive, after all? for the thoughts of Ezra Klein on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

Click on Checking In on Financial Crisis Recoveries for the source of the chart in a report by Josh Lehner of the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis.

“Honey Boo Boo” and the underclass

September 26, 2012

I never heard of the reality TV show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” until I came happened to come across a mention by Rod Dreher, a blogger who lives in small-town Louisiana and writes for The American Conservative magazine.

The show is about a dysfunctional white family who in Georgia.  The matriarch, Mama June, is 33 years old and has four daughters out of wedlock by four different men, three of them convicted felons and one unknown.  She has been in the welfare system all her life.

Mama June is not an evil person.  She evidently loves her children and cares for them as best she can, but she doesn’t know how.  She doesn’t give her children a healthy diet.  She doesn’t teach them anything about how to function in the larger society because she doesn’t know herself.  Her youngest daughter, seven-year-old Honey Boo Boo, is a child beauty contest competitor.  Her oldest, 17-year-old Chickadee, herself has a baby daughter out of wedlock.  I hate to think where Mama June’s daughters will be 15 or 20 years from now.

The so-called Learning Channel holds up this happy-go-lucky, hopeless family as a source of amusement, and maybe as an alternative lifestyle.  Dreher is appalled, and so am I.  But I found through a Google search that the show has a wide following, and there are critics who defend Mama June’s lifestyle against the middle-class values of people like Dreher and me.

I would never say that such people are typical of Southern white people in general, any more than their black counterparts are typical of African-Americans in general.   And I would never call Mama June’s family “rednecks.”  The word “redneck” originally was a word for Southern white farmers who worked all day in the hot sun in long-sleeved shirts—hardworking, churchgoing people at an opposite pole from the Honey Boo Boo family.

But I don’t have any good ideas as to what can be done on a societal level to change the way people choose to live.   The only force that is capable of really changing people is religion.

Click on Honey Boo Boo Nation for Rod Dreher’s complete post, which is well worth reading, and a good discussion thread.

Click on Things I Learned from My Foster Children for thoughts on the perspective on work of children from chronically poor families.


Winds of change in Quebec

September 26, 2012

The Parti Quebecois has come to power in Quebec, after months of protests against the incumbent Liberal government involving hundreds of thousands of people, led by students but not limited to them.  The new government has agreed to cancel university tuition increases, the original cause of the protests.

The new government also announced an indefinite moratorium not only on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, but on exploration for shale gas as such.

It goes to show what a determined and well-led mass protest movement can accomplish.

Click on Quebec’s Not-So-Quiet Revolution for cartoonist Ted Rall’s graphic report on the Quebec protests.

Click on ‘A beautiful day’ for environmentalists for background on the shale gas issue from the Montreal Gazette.

Life under the flying killer drones

September 26, 2012

Faculty of the New York and Stanford university law schools have come out with a report, Living Under Drones, about the use of flying killer drones in the border area of Pakistan, where members of the Taliban are believed to hide out.  Based on interviews with eyewitnesses and people familiar with the region, they concluded that the drones have (1) killed a lot of civilians, including children, (2) killed very few identifiable leaders of the Taliban or Al Qaeda and (3) made a lot of new enemies for the United States.

President George W. Bush initiated the use of flying killer drones to kill people identified as leaders of Al Qaeda or the Taliban.  President Barack Obama has stepped up the use of such “targeted killings” and initiated the use of “signature strikes,” which kills people whose patterns of behavior are suspicious.  Another Obama practice is the “double tap,” where a second strike is used to kill rescuers or mourners.

Drones as such are not worse than other weapons of war.  They are a more precise means of killing than carpet bombing or napalm bombing or dropping of land mines or a full-scale invasion.  The problem with drones is that they make killing all too easy.  They make it easy to commit acts of war by creating an illusion that this can be done with impunity.

I don’t know anything about the people who live in the drone kill zones of Pakistan, Yemen and other countries.  I’d guess that the majority of people in those areas are more concerned about living their lives and going about their business than they are about the conflict between the United States and its far-flung enemies.  I suspect that there are a lot of people in these areas who don’t necessarily support Al Qaeda, the Taliban or “militant Islam” (whatever that is), but are still friendly with relatives and neighbors who do.

What is the intended end result of the drone strikes?  Does somebody in Washington think that that some point flying killer drones will have killed all the enemies and potential enemies of the United States, and we Americans will then be safe?  When U.S. forces leave Afghanistan, they will leave behind more sworn enemies of the United States than there were at the time of the invasion.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats object to President Obama’s use of flying killer drones.  We Americans complain about the deadlock in our government caused by extreme partisan conflict, but our worst policies have bipartisan support and are never discussed.

Click on Drone attacks on Pakistan are counterproductive, report says for an article in The Guardian about the report.

Click on ‘Every Person Is Afraid of the Drones’ for Conor Friedersdorf’s discussion of how people in the kill zones live in constant fear.

Click on Living Under Drones for the web site for the report.

Click on Living Under Drones: Stanford / NYU Report for the text of the report.

Hat tip to Oidin.

Will we have an honest election in 2012?

September 26, 2012

Dark red states have passed voter suppression legislation. Pink states have voter suppression legislation pending as of August.   Click on the Spreading Suppression link below for an interactive map giving the particulars for each state.

While I think Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are more alike than they are different on the issues that matter most to me, there is one subject on which the Republican Party is clearly in the wrong—the attempt to subvert the democratic process by creating arbitrary obstacles to voting, aimed at black and Hispanic people, college students and others likely to vote Democratic.

This is more serious than the Bush v. Gore decision, because it is not just a one-time thing.  It threatens to become a permanent change in the way we Americans choose our elected representatives.  It is a limited and partial (so far) return to the practices of the Old South of a century ago, when poll taxes and so-called literacy tests were used to to suppress voting by black people and poor white people.

Elizabeth Drew, writing for the New York Review blog, reported on what’s going on.

The Republicans have been making particularly strenuous efforts to tilt the outcomes—in most of the “swing states”: Florida, Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin.  The Republican leader of the House in Pennsylvania, previously considered a swing state, was careless enough to admit publicly that the state’s strict new Voter ID law would assure a Romney victory in November.  In fact a state document submitted in court offered no evidence of voter fraud.  On September 18, Pennsylvania’s supreme court sharply rebuked a lower court’s approval of the law, questioning whether the law could be fairly applied by the time of the election.  This battle continues despite the fact that the Romney campaign in mid-September suspended its efforts in Pennsylvania because polls show that Obama was substantially ahead.  Even if the state’s electoral votes are not in question the outcome could still decide whether a great many people will be allowed to vote in November, and could also affect the popular vote.

Eight states have already passed Voter ID laws—requiring a state-approved document with a photograph in order to register or vote, a form of identification that an estimated 11 percent or over 21 million of American citizens do not possess.  But these laws are just part of an array of restrictions adopted to keep Democrats from voting.  Some use other means to make registration difficult, or put strict limits on the number of days before the election that votes can be cast , or cut back the hours that polling places can stay open.

In the aftermath of the 2004 election, which was characterized in Ohio by lines at voting places in black districts so long as to discourage voters, Ohio Democratic officials made voting times more flexible; after the Republicans took over the state they set out to reverse that.

Iowa, Florida, and Colorado tried to purge the voting rolls of suspected unqualified voters, but their lists turned out to be wildly inaccurate.  Florida officials compiled a list of 180,000 people whose qualifications were questioned, but after voting registrars checked (some protesting the unfairness of the purge) only 207, or 0.0002 percent of the state’s registered voters, were found to be unqualified to vote.  Nearly sixty percent of the 180,000 names had Hispanic surnames, another 14 percent were blacks.  Officials said that whites or Republicans were unlikely to be on the list.

While a combination of outraged citizens and legal challenges led all three states to ostensibly give up on the idea of purging voters, Florida and Iowa officials have said that they intend to pursue those who haven’t been proven innocent.  As a result, hundreds of thousands of citizens don’t know if they’ll be allowed to vote—which, like a number of the restrictions, could be a disincentive to even subjecting oneself to what could be a hassle or humiliation at the polling place.  Florida also enacted a voter ID law, which was struck down by a federal court. 

Ever on the lookout for ways to keep Democratic supporters from the polling places, the state cut short the number of days for early voting, and established rules that in effect barred outside groups such as the League of Women Voters from conducting registration drives. Though this restriction was later overturned by a federal court, voter registration groups said that important time had been lost while they contested the new restrictions on their activities.

In Ohio—the swingyest of the swing states, now in Republican control—secretary of state Jon Husted is trying to block voting on any weekend before the election; and he has appealed the ruling of a federal district judge ordering him to allow voting even during the last weekend before the election.  Husted also made the extraordinary proposal that voting hours in Ohio be extended solely in white districts, but this preposterous idea couldn’t withstand a citizen outcry.  Two Democratic county election officials from the Dayton area (one the few predominantly Democratic counties in the state) who objected to Husted’s proposal to permit no weekend voting were fired.

Elizabeth Drew noted that many American citizens will go to the polls in November not knowing whether they will be allowed to vote or not.

Having covered Watergate and the impeachment of Richard Nixon, and more recently written a biography of Nixon, I believe that the wrongdoing we are seeing in this election is more menacing even than what went on then.  Watergate was a struggle over the Constitutional powers and accountability of a president, and, alarmingly, the president and his aides attempted to interfere with the nominating process of the opposition party.  But the current voting rights issue is even more serious: it’s a coordinated attempt by a political party to fix the result of a presidential election by restricting the opportunities of members of the opposition party’s constituency—most notably blacks—to exercise a Constitutional right.

This is the worst thing that has happened to our democratic election system since the late nineteenth century, when legislatures in southern states systematically negated the voting rights blacks had won in the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

While she and other writers focus on the Presidential election, voter suppression tactics are likely to be more effective, and more dangerous, in state and local election contests that don’t attract much attention and election tampering is less likely to provoke a big outcry.

Click on Voting Wrongs for Elizabeth Drew’s full report on voter suppression for NYRblog.

Click on Spreading Suppression for an interactive version of the above map showing the status of voter ID laws and other voter suppression legislation in the various states.

Click on The Ballot Cops for Mariah Blake’s report on voter intimidation in The Atlantic.

Click on Machine politics: the real threat of voter fraud for my earlier post on voting machines susceptible to hacking.

Four reasons Romney might still win

September 25, 2012

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Governor Romney’s presidential election campaign is in disarray, and polls show President Obama with a small lead in the popular vote nationwide and the key swing states.  But economist Robert Reich, an Obama supporter, says it’s too soon to count Romney out.  Here’s why.

1. Between now and Election Day come two jobs reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – October 5 and November 2.  If they’re as bad as the last report, showing only 96,000 jobs added in August (125,000 are needed just to keep up with population growth) and the lowest percentage of employed adults since 1981, Romney’s claim the economy is off track becomes more credible, and Obama’s that it’s on the mend harder to defend.

With gas prices rising, corporate profits shrinking, most of Europe in recession, Japan still a basket case, and the Chinese economy slowing, the upcoming job reports are unlikely to be stellar.

2. Also between now and Election Day are three presidential debates, starting October 3. It’s commonly thought Obama will win them handily but that expectation may be very wrong – and could work against him. Yes, Romney is an automaton – but when the dials are set properly he can give a good imitation of a human engaged in sharp debate. He did well in the Republican primary debates.

Obama, by contrast, can come off slow and ponderous. Recall how he stuttered and stumbled during the 2008 Democratic primary debates. And he hasn’t been in a real-live debate for four years; Romney recently emerged from almost a year of them.

3. During the next seven final weeks of the campaign, the anti-Obama forces will be spending a gigantic amount of money.  Not just the Romney campaign and Romney’s super PACs, but other super PACS aligned with Romney, billionaires spending their own fortunes, and non-profit “social welfare” organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove’s “Crossroads,” and various Koch-brothers political fronts—all will dump hundreds of millions on TV and radio spots, much of it spreading lies and distortions. Some of this money will be devoted to get-out-the-vote drives—to phone banks and door-to-door canvassing to identify favorable voters, and vans to bring them to the polling stations.

It’s an easy bet they’ll far outspend Obama and his allies.  I’ve heard two-to-one.  The race is still close enough that a comparative handful of voters in swing states can make the difference – which means gobs of money used to motivate voters to polling stations can be critical.

4.  As they’ve displayed before, the Republican Party will do whatever it can to win – even if it means disenfranchising certain voters.  To date, 11 states have enacted voter identification laws, all designed by Republican legislatures and governors to dampen Democratic turnout.

The GOP is also encouraging what can only be termed “voter vigilante” groups to “monitor polling stations to prevent fraud” – which means intimidating minorities who have every right to vote.  We can’t know at this point how successful these efforts may be but it’s a dangerous wildcard.  And what about those Diebold voting machines?


And even if Obama is reelected, more hard work begins after Inauguration Day—when we must push him to be tougher on the Republicans than he was in his first term, and do what the nation needs.

via FOCUS.

Robert Reich appears to be operating on the theory that President Obama’s shortcomings as President are a result of him giving in to his Republican opponents.  But what if Barack Obama’s pro-Wall Street and pro-militarist politics are what he in fact believes in?   Pushing Obama to do what the nation needs will be a lot  harder than re-electing him.

I can’t see Barack Obama as anything more than a lesser evil than Mitt Romney, and perhaps not even that.   If Mitt Romney wins based on the poor economy, or on performing better than Obama in the debates, or even on spending more money, so be it. But the Republican voter suppression campaign is in a different category.  A Romney victory based on voter suppression would be an attack on the American democratic process itself.

Click on Four Reasons Why Romney Might Still Win for the full comment by Robert Reich on his web log.

Click on FiveThirtyEight for the expert and impartial analysis of polls and statistics by Nate Silver for the New York Times.

Click on Obama vs. Romney Electoral Map for the Huffington Post’s updates and summaries of poll results.

Click on TPM Electoral College Scorecard for Talking Points Memo’s map updating and summarizing poll results.

Hat tip to Hal Bauer for the Robert Reich link.


Looking back on the real New Deal

September 25, 2012

I picked up a 1984 book, The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941 by Robert S. McIlvaine, at the Bookends used book store in hope that the history of the Great Depression might throw light on the current Great Recession.

The most significant result of the Great Depression, according to Robert S. McIlvaine, was a change from the historic American individualism to communitarianism.  The New Deal was a response to this change and not a cause of it, he wrote.

Americans historically have regarded themselves as individually responsible for their own destinies, and economic misfortune as their own fault.  But during the Great Depression, the vast majority of the people were in trouble, including individuals highly respected by their neighbors.  If everybody suffers the same fate, people cease to regard themselves as personally at fault, and they look for collective action rather than individual enterprise.

Herbert Hoover represented the old American individualism at its best, McIlvaine wrote.  A person of intelligence and integrity, Hoover could not bring himself to respond to what the American public demanded, because he thought such a response would threaten basic American values.  He came to be hated as few if any American Presidents have been, before or since.  Franklin D. Roosevelt, a less admirable individual but a brilliant politician, understood public opinion and responded to it.

McIlvaine wrote that the initial Roosevelt policy was not a populist program, but rather an attempt to forge a business-government partnership, much as President Obama has tried to do. But when corporate business leaders turned against Roosevelt, and the American people turned against big business, Roosevelt lost nothing by saying, “I welcome their hatred”.  It was to Roosevelt’s benefit, McIlvaine wrote, that conservatives depicted his program as more radical than it was.  Most Americans today disapprove of the Wall Street bailouts, but we have nothing like the anti-business sentiment that existed back then.

Roosevelt had sympathy for the underdog, shaped by his personal struggle with polio and the important influence of his wife Eleanor.  But the main reason for the New Deal was the need to respond to popular discontent.

McIlvaine said historians have classified pro-FDR radicals, such as the Progressive Party in Wisconsin, the Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota, Upton Sinclair’s End Poverty in California movement and the CIO (Committee for Industrial Organization, later Congress of Industrial Organizations) as left-wing and liberal, and anti-FDR radicals, such as Huey Long of Louisiana, the political radio priest Father Coughlin, and Dr. Francis Townsend, author of the Townsend pension plan, as right-wing and fascistic.  Historians ignore the Communists, who were more influential in the labor movement than liberals like to remember. But all these movements were in fact more alike than they were different.  They all reflected popular discontent with the status quo, the rich and the corporate elite.  This discontent, however, fell short of support of socialism.  The majority of Americans wanted to correct abuses of the capitalist system, not overturn it.

The New Deal era accomplished far-reaching reforms—Social Security, unemployment insurance, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Tennessee Valley Authority and other big hydroelectric projects, legislation recognizing labor’s right to organize and bargain collectively—until the Republican-Southern Democratic alliance crystallized after 1938, after which further change was blocked.  Over the next 30 or 40 years, the Republican Party absorbed its conservative Southern Democratic allies, and became more internally consistent and more disciplined.  President Obama faced the equivalent of FDR’s post-1938 opposition from the day he took office.

The most interesting chapters were about popular culture and public attitudes.  In the movies, rich people were often criticized not for being rich, but for being out of touch with American life.  An heiress would become involved with a penniless newspaper reporter, or a playboy with a chorus girl, and learn the true meaning of life.  Gangster movies were often implied criticisms of society.  Movie gangsters were depicted as victims of society or as examples of ruthless amoral greed.  But there was rarely if ever any questioning of the capitalist system itself.

McIlvaine thought the changes in attitudes brought about by the Great Depression were more significant than the actual reforms of the New Deal.  He saw the Ronald Reagan administration as an attempt to restore pre-1929 individualism and mistakenly thought this attempt had run its course in 1984.  Instead the Reagan administration was the beginning of a reversal of attitudes which has continued to this day, and which the Obama administration accepts as political reality.

The lesson of McIlvaine’s book for the present day is that if you want progressive change, it is not enough to pin your hopes on a charismatic leader.   During the 1930s, the labor union movement was a strong force that did not did depend for its strength on either of the two political parties.  There were third-party movements with the potential to draw votes away from the two major parties, and progressive reformers within both political parties.  Progressive change is not handed down from above.  It has to be demanded from below.

If you commit a gaffe … …

September 24, 2012

Obama’s stimulus: a new New Deal?

September 24, 2012

While I’m critical of President Obama’s overall record, and do not intend to vote for him, I do think he deserves credit for the economic stimulus program he pushed through Congress in the early days of his administration.

While the economic recovery is strong in the stock market and weak in the jobs market, the United States averted the complete economic collapse which seemed to be imminent in early 2009.  I think the Obama stimulus program helped stop the downward spiral, and also put in place some things that will be important for the economic future.

I don’t think a President Hillary Clinton would have done better, and I think a President George W. Bush, John McCain or Mitt Romney would have done a whole lot worse.

I just got finished reading The New New Deal: The Hidden History of Change in the Obama Era. by Time reporter Michael Grunwald.  He told me things about Barack Obama’s stimulus program that I hadn’t known and that hadn’t fully registered.  He left me with a better opinion of the President and the stimulus program than I’d had.

Grunwald argued that the stimulus prevented the Great Recession from becoming much worse that it was, and that it put in place efforts, especially the DARPA-E program for green energy, that are important to the long-term economic growth of the United States.  He also argued that, given the political realities, what President Obama did was probably as much as could reasonably be expected.

He said the the Obama stimulus program in itself pumped more money into the U.S. economy, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than President Franklin Roosevelt’s entire New Deal.  It is true that the United States is a much richer country, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than in the 1930s, but Grunwald also said that Obama’s stimulus program absorbed a greater fraction of the U.S. gross domestic product than the New Deal in any one year.  This is astonishing.  I hadn’t known this.

Given that fact, I agree that it is not reasonable to complain that the stimulus was not even bigger than it was.  My criticisms of President Obama’s economic policies are on other grounds—his administration’s failure to address the causes of the financial crash, his shielding of Wall Street speculators from prosecution for financial fraud, his willingness to use Social Security and Medicare as bargaining chips.

Obama has in some ways a tougher challenge than FDR.  The New Deal of the 1930s was intended to restart a stalled economy.  With the hollowing out of U.S. manufacturing during the past few decades, it is necessary not only to restart but to repair.

The American renewable energy industry was on the verge of collapse when Obama took office, Grunwald wrote.  The Obama administration has revived it by investing in innovative companies, by creating a market for renewable energy by starting to convert the government to green energy and by grants for energy research through the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for energy.

Not all the investments turned out well.  The Solyndra solar panel company is an example of a failed investment (not of corruption), but other initiatives are turning out well, according to Grunwald.  The use of renewable energy in government buildings and vehicles creates a market for green energy, in which the same way that military purchases of semiconductors or granting of air mail contracts in past eras helped the U.S. develop a semiconductor and aviation industry.

ARPA-E is modeled on the successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency which promoted innovation with military applications.  It actually was formed during the George W. Bush administration, but greatly expanded after Obama took office.   Gov. Mitt Romney supports ARPA-E, so this is one innovation not likely to be rescinded.

Grunwald wrote a good bit about the struggle to create high-speed passenger trains in the United States.  As a matter of national pride, this would be nice to have, but as a matter of economic benefit, I think we should recognize that, in the United States, the rail system is mainly for moving freight and people travel mainly by highway and by air.  As part of the stimulus program, the Obama administration started a program for replacing track, straightening out curves and eliminating bottlenecks on the rail system.  I think that was the right priority.  For highway transportation, the administration gave priority to maintenance and repair over new construction, and I think that was the right priority, too.

Grunwald pointed out other nuggets in the program—use of information technology for medical records, for example, and extension of broad-band Internet to under-served rural areas, in the spirit of the New Deal’s rural electrification program.

I don’t agree with the Obama administration’s Race to the Top education program, which was part of the stimulus bill.  Grunwald thinks Race to the Top is a program to encourage educational innovation.  Until somebody can show me an example of successful innovation that has come out of the program, I will continue to think that it is a plan to scapegoat school teachers and impose on them a dysfunctional corporate management philosophy.

While I largely agree with Grunwald’s favorable view of the stimulus program, I don’t think the Obama administration overall record reflects the spirit of the New Deal.  President Obama, like President Franklin Roosevelt, is an inspirational leader who can touch the idealism of the American people.  But his record does not match FDR’s.

A real new New Deal would (1) defend Social Security and Medicare instead of making them bargaining chips in a tax deal, (2) break up the too-big-to-fail banks and restore the Glass-Steagal act, (3) prosecute financial fraud and (4) enact the Employee Free Choice Act (aka “card check”) to protect the right of workers to join unions.

Grunwald wrote that Obama achieved as much as can be expected, given the requirement of 60 votes to get a bill through the Senate.  Someone like me who wants more is a “whiner.”  But the 60-vote requirement is simply a procedural rule which can be changed.

The important difference between Obama’s situation and FDR’s is that there is no aroused public opinion forcing the President to do more, as there was in the 1930s.  Until that changes, President Obama’s policies will be the limits of the possible.

Click on The New New Deal for an interview with Grunwald about his book by David Plotz of Slate.

Click on “Everything People Think They Know About the Stimulus Is Wrong” for an interview of Grunwald by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post.

Click on The ‘Silent Green Revolution’ Underway at the Department of Energy for an interview of Grunwald by Ross Anderson of The Atlantic.

Click on Don’t Tell Anyone, But the Stimulus worked for a New York Times report.

Click on Obama’s Green Revolution for an article by Grunwald on President Obama’s energy program.

Click on Michael Grunwald | for an archive of his recent articles.

Hat tip to Bill Elwell for suggesting Grunwald’s book.

I depend on an addictive drug

September 24, 2012

Since my late teenage years, I’ve been addicted to a drug.  I had to take it several times a day during my working years in order to function normally, and even in retirement, I need to take it at least once a day.  I see that a blogger named Jennifer Abel has the same dependency.

I’m trying to kick a drug addiction.  The monkey on my back has sunk its sharp claws deep into me in a strangled mixed metaphor no self-respecting English-major professional like me would commit to print, were her judgment not clouded by the aforementioned addiction.  Really strong, choice Colombian product — it’s become a crutch rather than a pick-me-up but I’m determined to break that crutch and my dependence on caffeine and walk on my own two legs again, by Zod. I’m feeling okay.  Yeah, I think I can do this OH MY GOD THE HALLUCINATIONS ARE STARTING THERE’S BUGS CRAWLING EVERYWHERE … no, wait, that’s not a hallucination.  That’s just me living in The South nowadays.  Damned bugs.  Screw this; I’m making some coffee.

So here I am, hooked on a strong Columbian intoxicant and suffering actual medical withdrawal symptoms when I try not-using it.  Doesn’t matter how many hours of quality sleep I get of a night; I still won’t feel well-rested until I drink that first cup of coffee.  So much for use in moderation.  The government ought to ban this poison.  You know what would really help me improve my life via ending my coffee dependence?  An armed SWAT team working in conjunction with the DEA, breaking into my house, demolishing everything within it and hauling me off to spend several years in prison. … …

It’s a good thing I picked the right thing to be addicted to.   If I were addicted to something less socially acceptable, I might have done serious prison time in my life, especially if I had not been born white and middle-class.

Click on Save Me, Uncle Sam! I’ve Lost Control for Jennifer Abel’s post on her Ravings of a Feral Genius web log.

What keeps people honest (or not)

September 23, 2012

In this RSA Animate presentation, Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, tells what experimental psychology shows about what keeps people honest.  Few people are completely honest, few people are completely dishonest, most people rationalize being slightly dishonest.  But when people remind themselves of their moral code, such as by reading the Ten Commandments, they become more honest.  This works for atheists as well as believers.

One interesting finding was the effect of confession, as in the Catholic church.  Ariely found that once people deviate from their moral code, the easier it becomes to deviate from it more and more.  Confession brings you back to the initial state of moral purity.

Click on RSA Animate for more like this.

Click on Dan Ariely Home Page for more from the author of Predictably Irrational.

Hat tip to The Dish.

Pride of workmanship goes to Mars

September 22, 2012

This brief video is about workers for Forest City Gear, a family-owned company in Rockford, Illinois, who cut all the gears and other moving parts for the Mars Curiosity Rover.  If any of those gears had been cut imperfectly, the Curiosity Rover wouldn’t have worked.  This video is a tribute to blue collar skills, and to pride of workmanship.

Zadie Smith’s 10 rules for writing fiction

September 22, 2012
  1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books.  Spend more time doing this than anything else.
  2. Zadie Smith

    When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.

  3. Don’t romanticize your “vocation” . You can either write good sentences or you can’t.  There is no “writer’s lifestyle”.  All that matters is what you leave on the page.
  4. Avoid your weaknesses.  But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing.  Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.
  5. Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.
  6. Avoid cliques, gangs, groups.  The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.
  7. Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.
  8. Protect the time and space in which you write.  Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.
  9. Don’t confuse honors with achievement.
  10. Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it.  Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

The Guardian of London, inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules for writing fiction, asked 28 other fiction writers, including Zadie Smith, for their own rules.

Click on Ten rules for writing fiction and Ten rules for writing fiction (part two) for all their replies, plus Elmore Leonard’s rules.

Click on Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules for writing fiction and Henry Miller’s 11 commandments for writers for more rules.

I spent 40 years in which I wrote nearly every working day, and got paid for it, and, in retirement, I still feel the urge to write.  Hence this blog.  But I doubt if I ever had the ability, and I am sure I never had the commitment, to be a Zadie Smith, Elmore Leonard, Kurt Vonnegut or Henry Miller.

Homer Simpson casts his vote

September 21, 2012

Hat tip to The Dish.

September 21, 2012

Living With Passion



Standardized Test

First, I should specify that I have no children yet. Still, I have been thinking about having one or more, so as a teacher, it’s inevitable that I would think about the education of my future children.

I’m sad to report, I think I want to homeschool them.


Now this is not a criticism of homeschooling, but more the crystallization of my disenchantment with the direction of American Education. What I see ahead is a model of education that is increasingly narrow, developmentally detrimental, disparate, and corporate in both process and product (the children). I know eventually, that is what will drive me out of education, and what will keep my child/children out of it.

Perhaps, I am biased because I actually teach children instead of pontificating about education. Or maybe I am spoiled, as my own education, which before high school was completed in Europe, included in-depth projects…

View original post 613 more words

The problem with value-added testing

September 21, 2012

President Barack Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and billionaire Bill Gates are think teachers should be judged on the basis of how much their students’ test scores improve year by year.

This sounds good.  But there are problems.  One is that when you have students from poor neighborhoods, with high crime and lots of broken homes, you can’t know how much of an individual student’s performance is due to the teacher, and how much due to family, peers, circumstances and the student’s individual ability and motivation.  I know teachers who’ll tell me that this year, they have a really good class, or a not-so-good class.

The other is that neither Obama, Duncan, Emanuel or Gates has ever taught in public schools.  None of them knows what it is that good teachers do that sets them apart from bad teachers.  What they advocate is what the late W. Edwards Deming, father of Total Quality Management, called “tampering”—altering a process without knowing how it works.

The way to improve public education is the same as the way the Obama administration is trying to improve medical care—determining the best practices, what works and doesn’t work, and disseminating that knowledge.   It is easier to scapegoat teachers of high-risk students.

The President’s Race to the Top education program and the recent Chicago teachers’ strike shows that Obama and Emanuel are willing to fight for their ideas.  I wish the two of them had been half so willing, when Emanuel was the President’s chief of staff, to take on the Wall Street bankers.  If I had the power, I’d set performance standards for the too-big-to-fail banks and bail out the public schools.

Click on Why Rahm Emanuel and the New York Times are wrong about teacher evaluation for a great article with links on educational research on value-added teacher evaluation.  Hat tip for the link to Diane Ravich’s Blog.


Motes, beams and Muslim anger

September 20, 2012

“Thoreau” posted something on the Unqualified Offerings web log that I wish I’d written (not for the first time).

When the subject of “Why they hate us” comes up, it is sometimes observed that the US has meddled in a great many parts of the world, supported a great many dictators, and bombed a great many places, yet the most violent response has largely been from Muslims.  Clearly, there must be something wrong with Muslims.

Well, yes, I am going to disappoint many people by saying that I do wonder if there is something wrong with a group that turns the other cheek less frequently than others.  Turning the other cheek is the only way to have a stable civilization, in the long run.  Perhaps the Muslim world should work on that.

But you know who has an even bigger problem than the people refusing to turn the other cheek?  The people going around striking cheeks in the first place.  If most people turn the other cheek, that doesn’t mean that what we’re doing is OK.  It just means that they are better than us.  Yes, any Muslims who are supporting violence should probably pay more attention to the moral teachings of the prophet Issa.  But you know who else should pay more attention to the moral teachings of the prophet Issa?  Any Americans who think that drone strikes and support for dictators are really just “no big deal.”

Are there problems in the Muslim world?  Of course.  There are splinters in their eyes. But there are beams in ours.  Perhaps we should work on that.

Unqualified Offerings

One of my mother’s favorite sayings, when she was alive, was, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”  I think many Muslims in the present era have a problem not so much with turning the other cheek, which very few people of any religion follow in practice, as with freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  But I think that there is anything wrong with any majority-Muslim society that can be improved by means of invasions or flying killer drone missiles.

Hundreds times more civilians have been killed in majority-Muslim countries by U.S. government action than Americans have been killed by action of Muslim terrorists.  This goes back a long way—the bombardment of Lebanese coastal cities when President Ronald Reagan pulled Marines out of Beirut, the death by malnutrition of Iraqi children under President Bill Clinton’s economic blockade.  We Americans remember and mourn the innocent victims of the 9/11 attacks, but we are not the only ones who remember, mourn and want to get even.

Click on The sermon on the high horse to read Thoreau’s original post in context and with comments.


Quebec’s not-so-quiet revolution

September 19, 2012

Double click to enlarge.

The cartoonist Ted Rall, working as the equivalent of a photojournalist, recently went to Montreal to observe the protest movement there.

I had been vaguely aware of an ongoing student protest there, but, until I read Rall’s report, I hadn’t been aware that the protests drew hundreds of thousands of people, including students, the unemployed, blue-collar workers, advocates of Quebec independence, anti-capitalist radicals and others discontented with the system.

It began with college students protesting increases in tuition rates.  The Quebec government responded with a law that outlawed large protests.  The students did not back down, and their movement grew larger and more militant.

The Classé Quebec protest movement is harder-edged than the Occupy Wall Street movement, Rall reports.   Instead of consensus, they decide by majority vote.  Instead of acting spontaneously, they plan strategy, sometimes years ahead.  Instead of a do-your-own-thing ethos, they have a hierarchical structure and follow leaders.  Instead of nonviolent resistance, they actively confront police, and sometimes intimidate police into backing down.

I’m not sure what to make of the Quebec protest movement, and don’t know where it will lead, but I do see that it is important.

Click on Quebec’s Not-so-Quiet Revolution for Ted Rall’s full 10-page report on Cartoon Movement.


The 47 percent who don’t pay income taxes

September 18, 2012

Mitt Romney thinks the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes are “takers” who leech off the remaining 53 percent.  But the majority of the 47 percent pay payroll taxes, and most of the rest are elderly people who (presumably) paid income and payroll taxes during their working lives.

There are three main reasons why so many Americans do not pay federal income taxes.

  1. During the Clinton administration, the Earned Income Tax Credit was enacted as part of a program which reduced eligibility for welfare payments, under the theory that poor people should be given an economic incentive to work, even at poverty-level wages.  In my opinion, this is a good thing, not a bad thing.
  2. During the Bush administration, income tax rates were cut for Americans in all tax brackets, which made the cuts for taxpayers in the upper brackets more palatable.  In my opinion, it would be wrong to allow those tax reductions to expire for low-income Americans while retaining them for high-income Americans.
  3. As a result of the Great Recession, there has been a huge increase in the number of  Americans who are unemployed or working for poverty-level wages.  The best way to get them to pay income taxes would be to create a high-wage, full-employment economy.

Here is a breakdown of the different reasons the 47 percent do not pay income taxes.

Mitt Romney goes to extraordinary lengths to keep his U.S. income tax payments as low as possible.  He said he pays just under 15 percent of his income in federal taxes.  If your worthiness as an American citizen is based on what percentage of your income you pay in taxes, I am far more worthy than Mitt Romney.

Click on Why Do People Pay No Federal Income Tax? for information from the Tax Policy Center.

Click on Memo to Mitt Romney: the 47% Pay Taxes Too for a report by Janet Novack in Forbes.

Click on Romney’s theory of the “taker class” and why it matters for comment by Ezra Klein on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

Click on Mitt Romney’s Offshore Accounts, Tax Loopholes and Mysterious IRA for a report in Vanity Fair about what’s known and not known about Romney’s finances.

Click on Controversial fund-raiser video shows candid Romney for CNN Political Ticker’s report on the video.

In the United States, there are income taxes, which fall most heavily on the rich; residential property taxes, which fall most heavily on the property-owning middle class; payroll taxes, which fall most heavily on wage earners; and sales and excise taxes, which fall most heavily on poor people.  Why is it that income taxes are the only tax that right-wing politicians ever talk about reducing?


Some things we learned from Wikileaks

September 18, 2012

Double click to enlarge.

Click on Wikileaks novo for the original Portuguese version of the infographic.  Hat tip to This Day in Wikileaks.