Sunday, April 29, 2012

Climate Canard No. 2: ‘Warming Has Stopped’ — A Very Temporary Duck - ABC News

If you get the chance, please encourage climate deniers to go bet on it at Intrade, so I can take their money.--SS     

Climate Canard No. 2: ‘Warming Has Stopped’ — A Very Temporary Duck - ABC News:

"Four simple graphs give the lie to the denialist canard that rapid global warming has stopped… or even reversed. — “A half a truth is a whole lie.”"

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Republicans are the Problem

Republicans are the Problem:

Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein: "We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party."

"The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

"When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country's challenges."

Friday, April 27, 2012

Torture doesn't work

Since Willard has hired most of Dick "Deficits Don't Matter" Cheney's torture regime, I wonder which side of the torture debate Willard will be on.--SS     

Torture doesn't work:

Associated Press

Torture advocates like Dick Cheney were wrong about its efficacy.

During the Bush/Cheney era and the debate over U.S. torture policy -- that there was even a "debate" still strikes me as ridiculous -- one of the key arguments from torture proponents like Dick Cheney was that these tactics worked. When American officials tortured terrorist suspects, we'd learn valuable information.

In some ways, the argument missed the point. Torture is illegal and morally reprehensible, so discussing its efficacy is irrelevant. But even if we move past those realizations, all available evidence suggests torture doesn't work, and those being interrogated will simply say anything to make the torture stop.
For those needing still more proof, Reuters' Mark Hosenball reports today on an upcoming Senate report that will further debunk Bush administration claims about the value of torture.
A nearly three-year-long investigation by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats is expected to find there is little evidence the harsh "enhanced interrogation techniques" the CIA used on high-value prisoners produced counter-terrorism breakthroughs.
People familiar with the inquiry said committee investigators, who have been poring over records from the administration of President George W. Bush, believe they do not substantiate claims by some Bush supporters that the harsh interrogations led to counter-terrorism coups. [...] 
For nearly three years, the Senate intelligence committee's majority Democrats have been conducting what is described as the first systematic investigation of the effectiveness of such extreme interrogation techniques.
As a political matter, this may soon be relevant again. For one thing, we're approaching the one-year anniversary of the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, and many Republicans argued that intelligence acquired through torture led to information on his whereabouts. This new Senate report found "no evidence" to support this claim.

For another, as the elections draw closer, Republican support for torture may yet plan a role in the 2012 debate.

Regardless, the evidence is entirely one-sided. The "debate," such as it is, should be considered over.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Romney Campaign Again Warns Of 'Soviet' Threat

The fact that people want to vote these blood thirsty friends of Dick "Deficits Don't Matter" Cheney back into power astounds me.--SS     

Romney Campaign Again Warns Of 'Soviet' Threat:


The Romney campaign has been accused of being
stuck in the 1950s. But it also seems mired in the 1980s -- it again invoked Cold War threats on Thursday, as it tried to attack the Obama administration on foreign policy.

Romney and his surrogates have revealed an ongoing Cold War fixation. Former Reagan Defense Secretary John Lehman and former Bush administration Ambassador Pierre Prosper, on Thursday derailed Romney messaging in a conference call with reporters by raising the specter of the "Soviet Union" and slamming Obama for not protecting Czechoslovakia -- a country that was peacefully dissolved in 1993 and now exists as the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Obama is "withdrawing from leading the free world in maintaining stability around the world," Lehman said. "What Obama calls 'leading from behind.'"

One of the worst examples, according to Lehman, is happening at the top of the world.

"We're seeing the Soviets pushing into the Arctic with no response from us. In fact, the only response is to announce the early retirement of the last remaining icebreaker."

Prosper warned Obama was abandoning America's eastern European allies -- some of which haven't existed for decades.

"You know, Russia is another example where we give and Russia gets and we get nothing in return," Prosper said. "The United States abandoned its missile defense sites in Poland and Czechoslovakia, yet Russia does nothing but obstruct us, or efforts in Iran and Syria."

The call was meant as a prebuttal to Vice President Biden's foreign policy speech in New York Thursday, where he warned that Romney wants to return to a Bush-era foreign policy.

"He acts like he thinks the Cold War's still on," Biden said this month. "I don't know where he's been."

Romney has not done much to burst that rhetorical balloon. After Biden's remarks, Romney condemned Obama, but not without confusing modern-day Russia with the nation that came before it.

"Obama 'entered into an agreement with the Soviets, excuse me, with Russia' in the nuclear arms START treaty that effectively required the United States to reduce its weapons stockpile while allowing Russia to increase its stockpile," Romney said on April 20.

In his speech Thursday, Biden said the Soviet-Russia gaffe matters.

"Everybody slips," Biden said, but added that Romney's mistake "goes to a mindset."

For their part, the Russians seem to find the whole thing rather amusing. After Romney called Russia America's "No. 1 geopolitical foe," Russian President Dimitri Medvedev joked, "Also, [Romney needs to] look at his watch: We are in 2012 and not the mid-1970s."

Here's audio of the gaffes from Thursday's Romney call:

Romney Campaign Again Warns Of 'Soviet' Threat:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Page by Mark Halperin | Clinton and Colbert at the TIME 100

Stephen Colbert does it again. Go read this whole thing. It is amazingly hilarious.--SS    

The Page by Mark Halperin | Clinton and Colbert at the TIME 100:

"Now, TIME 100 honoree, his eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan disagrees -- sir, lovely to see you again.

"Of course, now some, some critics have said in response to this that if the Catholic church's insurance does not cover Sandra Fluke's birth control, it shouldn't cover Cardinal Dolan's Viagra.

"Oh, no, no, no.  Oh, no, no, no, that's called celibacy plus.  That's how the pros do it.  Because chastity is one thing, but it shows true commitment to uphold your vows when you are sporting a crook you could hang a lighter on.  Oh, wow, see you at mass on Sunday, sir?

"I hope he doesn't become Pope."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Why should we care about inequality?

To wit.--SS  

Why should we care about inequality?:

Tim Noah’s answer:
Because it creates alienation...For a long time economists said: Wait until productivity rebounds. Then working families will get their share. But when productivity rebounded like crazy in the aughts, working families saw no reward. What this means is that if you’re at the median you have no positive reason to care how the economy does. Your only motivation is fear—if the economy does really badly you may lose your job. But there’s no upside.
That’s from Noah’s ongoing Slate chat with Matt Yglesias. Noah’s new book on inequality is here.

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NYT Pub Ed: Is Obama Manchurian Candidate?

You've got to be kidding me.--SS     

NYT Pub Ed: Is Obama Manchurian Candidate?:

Today the New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane threw in his lot with those who say President Obama was never truly 'vetted' during the 2008 campaign and that Times itself was a major part of that failure.

Vetting is very much in the eye of the beholder. Losing campaigns almost by definition claim their opponents weren't submitted to it -- see Clinton '92, Bush '00, not to mention Obama '08. And even beyond what happened in a campaign, after a guy has been president for a few years 'vetting' him becomes less significant since the whole point of 'vetting' is to give us some indication of what he'll be like as president.

But beyond these sorts of logical arguments, it's difficult to see Brisbane's prod as anything but a dog whistle to the far right crowd who holds up for the idea that there are as yet uncovered sinister facts about Obama's identity which might show him to be quite something else from what he appears to be. Brisbane asks "Who is the real Barack Obama?" To which the only real answer can be, just what does that kind of rhetorical question mean?

Can anybody point to significant questions about President Obama's history or identity that remain to be probed? That is, beside the questions about birth certificates, 'radical associations', religion and so forth that animate the American hard right? Everything else in Brisbane's column might be generously interpreted as a call for tough campaign coverage of the president. But in this question makes that impossible.

David Corn noted last week that the Romney campaign has been working to mainstream that idea that President Obama is somehow not a 'real' American. But Brisbane doesn't seem to need persuading.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Thomas Friedman Wants the People Who Gave Us the Housing Bubble to Have More Power

We just need another 6 months.--SS     

Thomas Friedman Wants the People Who Gave Us the Housing Bubble to Have More Power:

Thomas Friedman once again derides partisanship and division in his column today. (Can you really get paid at the NYT for writing the same column over and over again? I used to make my students write new papers if they expected credit.) Anyhow, he mourns the divisiveness of U.S. politics and tells us that we need (relying on Frank Fukuyama):

"'If we are to get out of our present paralysis, we need not only strong leadership, but changes in institutional rules,' argues Fukuyama. These would include eliminating senatorial holds and the filibuster for routine legislation and having budgets drawn up by a much smaller supercommittee of legislators — like those that handle military base closings — with 'heavy technocratic input from a nonpartisan agency like the Congressional Budget Office,' insulated from interest-group pressures and put before Congress in a single, unamendable, up-or-down vote."

Those of us familiar with economics shiver when we hear a call for more "technocratic input," that is not accountable to democratic control. After all, it was the economic technocrats who insisted that everything was just fine as the housing bubble expanded to ever more dangerous levels.

Is there any reason to believe that the technocrats involved in economic policy making today are any more competent than the crew in charge from 2002-2008? There is no obvious evidence that this is the case, after all, it is largely the same crew.

Why would anyone in their right mind want to give the people who drove the economy off a cliff more power? Maybe when the get the economy back to full employment we can have this discussion, but as long as so many people are out of work, our economic experts should feel lucky to be employed. The last thing we should be considering is giving them more power. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Charles Colson Dies

"You know Colson had that sign on the wall in his office saying ONCE YOU HAVE THEM BY THE BALLS, THEIR HEARTS AND MINDS WILL FOLLOW." -- Hunter S. Thompson, The Great Shark Hunt, Fear and Loathing at the Watergate: Mr Nixon Has Cashed His Check, p. 260. Also, too: Chuck Colson “…should be tied by his testicles behind an Olds 88 and dragged down Pennsylvania Avenue.”--Hunter S Thompson

Charles Colson Dies:

Charles Colson, "who served time in prison for his role in the Watergate scandal and later became an influential evangelical Christian," has died at age 80, NPR reports.

"Colson went from being one of the nation's most despised men to a hero of conservative Christians."

I'm just sorry HST couldn't hold on to see this happy day.--SS  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XIV

This will be the narrative. Romney is a liar.--SS       

Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XIV:

Getty Images

Campaigning in Ohio yesterday, Mitt Romney told supporters, without smirking or sounding sarcastic, "If I'm president of the United States, with your help, I will tell the truth."

Ordinarily, those seeking national leadership positions don't vow to tell the truth if others help them, but since I am nothing if not helpful, I thought I might give the presumptive Republican presidential nominee a few examples of instances in which he fell short of honesty this week.

Indeed, if Romney intends to "tell the truth," he can start by reading the 14th installment of my weekly series, chronicling Mitt's mendacity.

1. Speaking to the NRA, Romney said, "The Obama administration has decided that it has the power to mandate what Catholic charities, schools, and hospitals must cover in their insurance plans.... Here we are, just getting started with Obamacare, and the federal government is already dictating to religious groups on matters of doctrine and conscience."

In Massachusetts' governor for one term, Romney took the same position Obama has adopted. He somehow forgot to mention this.

2. Romney also told the NRA audience, "We need a president who will enforce current laws, not create new ones that only serve to burden lawful gun owners. President Obama has not, I will."

The grammar in this sentence makes it hard to understand, but the implication seems to be that Obama has created new restrictions on gun laws. That's a lie.

3. Romney also claims to be a "lifetime" member of the NRA.

In reality, Romney used to oppose the NRA, but became a "lifetime" member fairly recently by buying the honor from the group.

4. Romney also shared this interesting anecdote: "Mike and Chantell Sackett have seen firsthand how the Obama government interferes with personal freedom. They run a small business in Idaho. They saved enough money to buy a piece of property and build a home. But days after they broke ground, an EPA regulator told them to stop digging. The EPA said they were building on a wetland. But the Sackett's property isn't on the wetlands register. It sits in a residential area. Nevertheless, the EPA wouldn't even let them appeal the decision. Fortunately, the Constitution confronted the Obama administration: the Supreme Court ruled unanimously for the Sacketts and against the Obama EPA."

That's a fascinating story, but it was the Bush/Cheney EPA that the Sackett family was fighting.

5. In the same speech, Romney said, "[Obama] told the Russian president last month when he thought no one else was listening, after his re-election he'll have a lot more, quote, 'flexibility' to do what he wants."

That's not what Obama said.

6. Romney concluded, "We'll stop the days of apologizing for success at home and never again apologize for America abroad."

This is a lie Romney repeats so often, it raises real concerns about his character.

7. Romney told ABC's Diane Sawyer, "92% -- 93% of the jobs lost have been lost by women during this president's term."

This is a ridiculous lie.

8. Trying to justify his secrecy on tax returns, Mitt Romney told CNBC, "John Kerry released two years of taxes."

That's not true.

9. Romney also told CNBC about the Buffett Rule, "[T]hey couldn't get it through their own Democratic Senate."

The Buffett Rule enjoyed the support of a majority of the Senate, but it died because of a Republican filibuster. "They" could have gotten it through the Senate if the bill was given an up-or-down vote.

10. The Romney campaign told NBC News this week that the former governor "never solicited" Ted Nugent's endorsement.

There's clear evidence pointing in the exact opposite direction.

11. On tax policy, Romney argued this week, "I'm going to keep the burden on the upper-income people the same as it is today."

That's extremely misleading -- Romney intends to give the rich a massive tax cut. The "burden" may not shift because he intends to cut taxes across the board, but the claim makes it seem as if "upper-income people" won't see a change in their taxes, when in fact Romney intends to give them another huge break. (Thanks to reader V.S. for the tip on this one.)

12. In Charlotte, Romney said of the president and the upcoming Democratic convention, "He's not going to want to remind anyone of Greece because he's put us on a road to become more like Greece."

Obama hasn't put us on a road to become more like Greece. (Nor has Bush, who's still largely responsible for today's deficits.)

13. In the same speech, Romney said Obama "is on track to add almost as much public debt to this country as all the prior presidents combined."

That's a lie.

14. Romney also said in the same speech that Bush added "far less" to the national debt than Obama.

That's not even close to being true.

15. In the same speech, Romney said Obama is "first president in modern history, in any history, to cut Medicare by $500 billion."

Romney has said this countless times, but it doesn't change the fact that it's not true.

16. Romney claimed on Thursday that Obama has placed "three times" as many regulatory burdens on the private second as Bush did.

That's the opposite of the truth.

17. In Ohio yesterday, Romney argued, "[Obama] said that if we let him borrow $787 billion, he would unemployment below 8%."

There is no universe in which this claim is true.

18. In the same speech, Romney said Obama "has not created more jobs for the American people."

I know Romney's busy running for president, but he should at least try to keep up with current events.

19. Romney, in the same speech, shared one of his new favorite talking points: "The number of new businesses started per year is down 100,000 a year under the Obama term."

Actually, for those who take facts seriously, just last year, more than 540,000 new businesses were started each month -- which is well above the levels seen before the Great Recession began.

20. The Romney campaign argued this week that Kris Kobach, Romney's controversial adviser on immigration policy, is a "supporter," not an "adviser."

In reality, Kobach is still very much an adviser to Romney and his team.

21. The Romney campaign also said yesterday that the former governor never said Arizona's anti-immigrant law is a "model" for the nation.

Romney absolutely said Arizona's anti-immigrant law is a "model" for the nation.

The Obama campaign, by the way, seems well aware of the fact that Romney lies with unnerving frequency, but seems reluctant to say so in harsh terms, fearing media and voter pushback. Instead, as of yesterday, Team Obama is resorting to an interesting euphemism: "Why does [Romney] have such an aversion to the truth?"

Whether the political mainstream is comfortable using the word "lie" or not, that question seems increasingly unavoidable.

Previous editions of Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity: Vol. IIIIIIIVVVIVIIVIIIIXXXIXIIXIII.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Joel Salatin responds to New York Times’ ‘Myth of Sustainable Meat’ | Grist

Joel Salatin rocks it.--SS    

Joel Salatin responds to New York Times’ ‘Myth of Sustainable Meat’ | Grist:

"The recent editorial by James McWilliams, titled “The Myth of Sustainable Meat,” contains enough factual errors and skewed assumptions to fill a book, and normally I would dismiss this out of hand as too much nonsense to merit a response. But since it specifically mentioned Polyface, a rebuttal is appropriate. For a more comprehensive rebuttal, read the book Folks, This Ain’t Normal."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bonus Quote of the Day

Shooter still has massive balls.--SS     

Bonus Quote of the Day: "He has been an unmitigated disaster to the country."

-- Former Vice President Dick Cheney, quoted by the Washington Post, about President Obama.

Greg Mankiw Hides the Role of Government in Redistributing Income Upward | Beat the Press

Government has spent at least the last 30 years finding new and better ways to redistribute wealth and income upward.--SS        

Greg Mankiw Hides the Role of Government in Redistributing Income Upward | Beat the Press:

"This is no doubt how Mitt Romney and other wealthy people would like the public to see the debate. However the reality is that the government has implemented a wide range of policies that have led to a massive upward redistribution of before tax income over the last three decades. These policies have affected every corner of the market economy."

Go read the whole thing: Greg Mankiw Hides the Role of Government in Redistributing Income Upward

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XIII

Steve Benen keeps track of Willard's lies, because the rest of us aren't super-human.--SS     

Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XIII:

Mitt Romney recently felt comfortable lecturing journalists about, of all things, "quality control" when sharing the news with the American public.

As Ed Kilgore joked, "Now I suppose when you have already developed a reputation for towering mendacity on subjects large and small, a medium-sized lie about your views on media accuracy is as easy as changing those jeans and a lot easier than changing your entire political persona on a regular basis. But you might think at some point the man would fear being struck down by a thunderbolt right on the spot if he lectures the media -- old or new -- about 'sourcing' and 'quality control.'"

If the presumptive Republican nominee has any such fears, he's not showing it. Those looking for proof need only consider the 13th installment of my weekly series, chronicling Mitt's mendacity.

1. Romney told voters about the cost of the Affordable Care Act, "[W]e've just learned from the CBO, it's not a trillion dollars. It's more like double that.... Obamacare is massively more expensive than had been originally estimated."

That's not even close to being true.

2. On the same subject, Romney argued, "Thirty percent of employers said they are going to drop the coverage for their employees when Obamacare is installed."

Actually, no, they didn't say that at all.

3. He said he would save "about $100 billion a year" eliminating Obamacare.

That's not only absurdly untrue, it's actually backwards -- scrapping the entirety of the Affordable Care Act would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the debt.

4. Romney claimed Obama had created an "unaccountable panel, with the power to prevent Medicare from providing certain treatments."

That's simply not true.

5. Romney argues in a new fundraising letter that the numbers for unemployment, bankruptcies, and foreclosures are "soaring."

Actually, that's the exact opposite of the truth -- unemployment, bankruptcies, and foreclosures are all falling.

6. Romney claims in the same mailing that Obama stood over "the greatest job loss in modern American history."

Not really.

7. Romney went on to argue, "President Obama has mortgaged our future, increased the budget by more than 20% and allowed our debt to skyrocket."

The debt has increased (thanks to Bush-era policies), but the budget hasn't increased by more than 20%.

8. Romney told voters in Philadelphia this week, "This president did not cause the recession; he just made it worse and made it longer."

There's no way around the fact that Romney's simply lying. He knows he's lying because he's also said the American economy has improved under Obama.

9 Romney argued repeatedly this week, "Women account for 92.3 percent of the jobs lost under Obama."

You've got to be kidding me.

10 The Romney campaign and its surrogates spent all day Thursday describing Hillary Rosen as an "advisor to the Obama campaign."

Hillary Rosen is not an advisor to the Obama campaign.

11. Romney argued yesterday, "President Obama is the first president in history to openly campaign for reelection on a platform of higher taxes. He has already raised taxes on millions of Americans, but he won't stop there. He wants to raise taxes on millions more by taxing small businesses and job creators."

That's actually three lies in one paragraph.

12. On a Romney campaign conference call yesterday, a campaign spokesperson said the Obama administration needs to "stop disrespecting stay-at-home moms."

The Obama administration has never disrespected stay-at-home moms, and when pressed for evidence to back up the charge, the Romney campaign couldn't think of anything.

Paul Krugman noted this week, "Mitt Romney's campaign is setting new standards in serial dishonesty. Really. He makes Bush look like a font of truth and accuracy."

That's more than fair, though the question is no longer whether Romney has a problem telling the truth -- he clearly does -- but rather whether he'll face any electoral consequences for recklessness.

Previous editions of Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity: Vol. IIIIIIIVVVIVIIVIIIIXXXI, XII.

Postscript: A special thanks to reader R.F. in Tampa for sending in the above image. Maddow Blog readers who also want to send us stuff can do so right here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ann Romney's Hard Work

Here's my bit for the day.--SS    

Ann Romney's Hard Work:

In 2010, Willard paid 4 people just over $20,000 to help around the house. I wonder how much he paid when there were five boys running around? How many cooks? How many nannies? How many maids? How many drivers? Tutors? Gardeners? Ski coaches? Horse trainers? If Willard would just release all his taxes, we could all find out just exactly how much work raising five boys was for Ann Romney.

And I would really like to hear how the Willard team makes up for the fact that their candidate has let himself be defined as an out-of-touch rich guy war monger who lies a lot and wants to cut his own taxes even further?

And I would REALLY like to know how the Willard team makes up for the fact that he is the least liked Republican nominee WITHIN HIS OWN PARTY ever.
Romney's 42% support in the final 2012 nomination preference poll ranks among the lowest Gallup has measured for a nominee in its final poll since 1972, when the McGovern-Fraser reforms shifted power for choosing the nominee to voters in primaries and caucuses rather than party leaders at the national conventions.
Obama shares are still $6 at Intrade. It's a steal.

Apparently, Real Catholics Hate Adoption Now

I wonder how much "raising" Ann Romney did, what with nannies, drivers, maids, tutors, et al.--SS     

Apparently, Real Catholics Hate Adoption Now:

Everything that comes out of this man’s mouth is pure bile:

This morning, the Catholic League, headed by the virulently homophobic Bill Donohue (right), said via Twitter, “Lesbian Dem Hilary Rosen tells Ann Romney she never worked a day in her life. Unlike Rosen, who had to adopt kids, Ann raised 5 of her own.”

Get that one-two-three punch? Gotta give Donohue credit: He belittled lesbians, Democrats, and adoption all in less than 140 characters.

He’s like Rush Limbaugh without the wit and charm and good looks. Why is he still accepted in polite company? Just a few weeks ago, he was coordinating attacks on the victims of molestation. Now this?



The Romney/Ryan Budgets Cuts In Anti-Poverty Spending Would Disproportionately Impact Women


The Romney/Ryan Budgets Cuts In Anti-Poverty Spending Would Disproportionately Impact Women:

Given Mitt Romney's somewhat eccentric interest in deliberately focusing attention on the question of which presidential candidate's economic policies are better for women, it's worth noting that the House GOP budget Romney has endorsed enacts steep cuts in programs aimed at helping poor people. They want to reduce the budget for Medicaid which gives health care to poor people. But they also want to reduce spending on nutrition assistance to poor people and housing assistance to poor people. Indeed, every single program that helps poor people in the United States would face severe budget cuts under the Romney/Ryan budget. And judging by the Census Bureau's statistics on the demographic composition of poor families (PDF) converted into convenient chart form above, it turns out that the overwhelming majority of poor adults in the United States are women.

This is particularly interesting in light of last night's twitter kerfluffle between Hilary Rosen and Ann Romney. As you may have heard, Mitt Romney suggested that he listened to his wife Ann for insights into women's economic struggles. Rosen responded by saying that Ann Romney's never worked. The Romney camp took offense, arguing persuasively that raising all the Romney kids as a stay-at-home mom is in fact hard work. I don't think this seriously undermines Rosen's point about Ann Romney's lack of practical labor market assistance, but it does put these poverty figures in an interesting light. After all, the vast majority of these female-headed poor households also include children. So we're talking about women who, by Romney's lights, are working a full-time job taking care of their kids. Unfortunately, many mothers aren't fortunate enough to have a multi-millionaire husband who can keep them in dressage horses so in some cases they end up relying on federal anti-poverty programs. If we understand these poor moms as moochers and looters exploiting the hard-working taxpayers, then the Romney policy agenda of reducing their incomes makes a lot of sense. But in the context of his own wife at least, Romney seems to want to say that childrearing as such is a difficult and socially valuable undertaking. So why don't the same considerations apply to poor people?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Women's Job Losses Under Obama Have Been Driven by GOP Obstruction

GOP playbook: Cause the problem, blame Democrats.--SS    

Women's Job Losses Under Obama Have Been Driven by GOP Obstruction:

Apparently the ridiculous political attack line we're supposed to talk about today is Mitt Romney's claim that 92.3 percent of jobs lost since Barack Obama took office belonged to women. This turns out to be true if you decide to assume that Obama is fully responsible for labor market events in January, even though two-thirds of January occurred before his inauguration.

The story within the story is that recessions hit male-dominated highly cyclical sectors like construction and manufacturing first. Women tend to disproportionately work in sectors like health care and education that show slow and steady job growth. But those male-dominated cyclical sectors also bounce back relatively quickly. So since the recession started more than a year before Obama's inauguration, male job losses were close to bottoming out by the time Obama took office and he's presided over a lot of rebound growth in male employment. Women, by contrast, have been devastated by cascading waves of teacher layoffs:

Not only have these layoffs primarily been implemented at the behest of Republican Party governors and state legislators, but the Obama administration twice—once in the Spring of 2010 and a second time in the fall of 2012—pushed hard for legislation to prevent layoffs of teachers. These efforts were roundly denounced by conservatives as wasteful and costly "bailouts" and so they didn't happen.

The moral of the story here is that the political coalitions in the United States are actually bound together by some fairly deep logic. From a purely demographic perspective, the Democrats are more the party of women and from an economic policy perspective Democrats are more the party of high levels of social service employment. Not coincidentally, women are much more likely to employed in the sectors that Democrats favor.

If we'd implemented more conservative policies even more government workers (mostly women) would have lost jobs, but we'd almost certainly have seen an even bigger boom in male dominated undertakings like mining and pipeline construction. More generally, the high income earners whose taxes Democrats want to hike are disproportionately men and the social welfare programs whose benefits Republicans want to slash are disproportionately women. Economic policy is deeply gendered in the United States, and the choice between Democrats and Republicans is in part a choice about the allocation of material resources between women and men.

Karl Rove Group That Absurdly Blames Obama For Rising Gas Prices Was Bankrolled By Top Oil Speculator

Karl Rove Group That Absurdly Blames Obama For Rising Gas Prices Was Bankrolled By Top Oil Speculator:

Paul Singer

A conservative political advocacy group attacking Obama for supposedly raising gas prices received a “seven-figure check” from a leading Wall Street oil speculator.

While conservative organizations — and even Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal – agree that presidents have no control over gas prices, excessive oil speculation has been blamed by economists for 15% of the increase in the price of crude oil over the last decade.

American Crossroads GPS, a political organization run by strategist Karl Rove, has spent $1.7 million on a new national ad campaign blaming President Obama for making gasoline cost “too much.” But the organization has in the past received substantial funding from Paul Singer, manager of a hedge fund responsible for some of the highest volume of oil trading in the country.

Former ThinkProgress blogger Lee Fang at the Republic Report reported on the link:
I received a leaked document from the CFTC — the regulatory body that is set up to monitor commodity speculation — revealing the one day oil trading information from 2008. This list of speculators … shows that Elliott Management is among the top financial firms with the highest volume of trades in the country, up there with Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse. Currently, most oil speculation is conducted on private exchanges and through investment banks, so the public left in the dark about who is trading the world’s oil supply. The document shows Singer’s firm with bets on over 50 million barrels of oil that particular day. 
A blockbuster Wall Street Journal story in 2006 revealed that Singer’s firm was among several hedge funds that paid lobbyists to gain political intelligence on an asbestos bill working its way through Congress — with the hope of using inside information to profit off of asbestos-related companies. But what makes Singer interesting in the context of this latest attack ad is how his business interests conflict with the message about Obama causing high gas prices.
As a Super PAC, details of Crossroads’ donors is confidential. But Peter Stone of the Center for Public Integrity was able to get an inside look at leading GOP political operations in 2010, reporting that Singer had written a check to Crossroads for more than a million dollars to fund attack ads.

The New York Times recently profiled top GOP funders, calling Singer “among the most-sought-after Republican donors in the country.” He has also funded campaigns to tear down the 99% movement.
With the support of wealthy donors like Singer, conservative groups have undertaken an aggressive campaign to undermine Obama’s energy policies, claiming that he has limited oil production and driven up the price of gasoline.

However, oil production is at its highest level since 2003.

And multiple analyses, including the most recent from the Associated Press, show zero correlation between increased domestic drilling and the price of gasoline over the last 30 years:
That’s because oil is a global commodity and U.S. production has only a tiny influence on supply. Factors far beyond the control of a nation or a president dictate the price of gasoline.
“Is President Obama responsible for spiraling price of gasoline? Republicans say yes, but the facts say no,” wrote Cato scholars in a recent analysis.

So what’s driving up prices? Global supply and demand is one.

Another factor experts are warning about is excessive speculation. Today, brokers betting on the price of oil — firms like Singer’s Elliot Management —  represent about 70% of all crude purchases.

Michael Greenberger, a former regulator at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), recently called excessive speculation “a fancy word for saying that gamblers wearing Wall Street suits have taken these markets over.”

Bart Chilton, a current commissioner with the CFTC, said he believes Wall Street speculators are adding several hundred dollars to the gasoline budget of Americans each year.

Not only are the ads claiming Obama is driving up the price of gasoline completely false, they’re potentially being funded by people who actually do have a role to play in increasing prices at the pump.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The RNC's war on metaphors

War mongers.--SS     

The RNC's war on metaphors:

When Republican officials aren't relying on denial when explaining away the "war on women," they rely on an old standby: questioning their opponents' patriotism.
"I find it offensive that the Democratic National Committee is using a term like that to describe policy differences," said Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee. "It's not only bad, but it's downright pathetic they would use a term like 'war' when there are millions of Americans who actually have engaged in a real war. To use a term like that borders on unpatriotic."
Now, if Spicer wants to argue that "war" is an overused metaphor, reasonable people can at least have a conversation about it. Some on the left may even agree with him.

But the RNC spokesperson is just pushing his luck when he says the "war" metaphor itself is offensive, bordering on "unpatriotic." As Rachel noted on the show the other day, this is the same Republican National Committee that's complained about Democrats waging a "war on Appalachia," a "war on coal," and launching a "trade war with Mexico."

But we can go a little further with this. Poking around Mitt Romney's campaign website, for example, we see the likely Republican nominee expressing concern about Obama waging a "war on the entire coal industry," a "war on carbon dioxide," and a "war on the Catholic Church." Romney has also said the Obama administration has launched a "war on free enterprise" and a "war on religion."

I'm curious, does the Republican National Committee believe this is "downright pathetic," too? Or has Sean Spicer concluded that only one party's patriotism deserves to be questioned, even when Republicans are using the identical metaphor?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

James B. Stewart Declares Himself Clueless About the Ryan Budget

Dean Baker is too kind. Paul Ryan is a fraud.--SS     

James B. Stewart Declares Himself Clueless About the Ryan Budget:

I met Paul Ryan when I debated him over President Bush's Social Security privatization plan back in 2005. He seemed like a nice, reasonably intelligent guy.

However this has nothing to do with the time of day when we are talking about his budget; the budget that NYT columnist James B. Stewart assured us is a good starting point in his column on Saturday. What Stewart tells us is reasonable is that the budget calls for cuts in entitlements and tax reform. He then asks who could disagree with this.

One has to wonder whether Stewart has looked at the Ryan budget. First, on taxes the only specifics are cuts in the tax rates paid by rich people and corporations. None of the offsetting tax increases are specified.
If this sounds like a sensible opening gambit, let's imagine the equivalent on the opposite side. Suppose that we proposed to increase Social Security benefits for the bottom two income quintiles of retirees. Suppose that we also proposed increased spending on infrastructure, research and development, and education.
Suppose the left-wing Ryan budget wrote down that these spending increases would be offset by unspecified reductions in government waste. We then told CBO to score it accordingly. Is this a good starting point for further discussion?

In terms of the other parts, if Stewart read the CBO analysis of Ryan's proposal from last year he would find that his "reform" hugely increases the cost of providing health care to seniors. The point of Medicare was to make health care affordable to workers in their old age. Of course we can save money by reducing what the government pays, but the point is to do so in a way that still leaves retirees able to pay for care. Ryan's plan is a huge step in the opposite direction according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The Ryan plan also hugely cuts non-entitlement spending. By 2050 it essentially eliminates all spending on items other than Social Security, health care and defense. By the end of the 10-year budget horizon most of the areas that we think of as the domain of the federal government (e.g. federal highways and airports, federal courts and law enforcement, drug research and safety, the State Department and Justice Department) will be cut by around 50 percent under the Ryan plan. How could Stewart have missed this?

Stewart has one other egregious error in this column. He refers to the Bowles-Simpson Commission report. Sorry folks, there was no commission report. According to the commission's by-laws a report required the support of 14 of the 18 commission members. The report being touted as a report of the commission only had the support of 11 commissioners. Arithmetic lesson for policy pundits number 28,742, 11 is less than 14.
The Ryan budget is proving to be a wonderful Rorschach test. We have people who want to be part of the inside Washington conversation who praise the budget's courage and integrity. Then we have people who believe in arithmetic who call it what it is: a piece of trash.

By the way, Paul Ryan is a very nice guy.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XII

The never ending lies of Willard R Money.--SS      

Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XII:

Associated Press

Mitt Romney often keeps the truth at arm's length.

David Corn covered Mitt Romney's speech to the Newspaper Association of America on Wednesday, and came away gobsmacked -- shocked not only by the Republican candidate's dishonesty, but by the larger context.
Romney stood before a gathering of journalists. He made a series of incorrect and dishonest accusations. And he was not hooted out of the room. He faced no penalty for this -- just a few slaps from those pesky, fact-checking schoolmarms. He will not be banned from similar forums. The politerati is not up in arms. His campaign rolled on. And this may well sum up one of the fundamental problems with American politics.
That's more than fair. Romney's habitual dishonesty certainly deserves to be taken more seriously, and the fact that a likely major-party presidential nominee had no qualms about lying to a room full of reporters -- most of whom, presumably, knew when Romney wasn't telling the truth -- underscores an unsettling degree of brazenness. He seems to tell falsehoods with confidence that there will be no consequences.

This week was an ambitious test of this proposition, with Romney straying from the truth with breathtaking frequency. Those looking for proof need only consider the 12th installment of my weekly series, chronicling Mitt's mendacity.

1. Campaigning in Wisconsin, Romney complained, "The president put an ad out yesterday, talking about gasoline prices and how high they are. And guess who he blamed? Me!"

That's not true; Obama's ad does not blame Romney for gas prices. It simply tells voters that the oil companies are supporting Romney's campaign.

2. In an ad, the Romney campaign argued that Obama "has managed to pile on nearly as much debt as all the previous presidents combined."

That's not even close to the truth.

3. In the same ad, Team Romney claimed, "President Barack Obama named himself one of the country's four best presidents."

That's blatantly untrue, and the campaign knows it's blatantly untrue because it's been told the truth several times.

4. On the campaign trail, Romney told voters, "The president said something interesting over the weekend. He said that 'in an ideal world,' government could spend as much as it wanted.'"

To say this was wrenched wildly out of context would be a dramatic understatement.

5. At a forum hosted by disgraced Republican lobbyist Ralph Reed, Romney argued that under the Affordable Care Act, "The employees of the Catholic Church have to be provided by the Catholic Church with health care that gives them free contraceptive and free sterilization treatments and morning-after pills despite the fact that this violates the conscience of the Catholic Church."

He's lying.

6. At the same forum, Romney argued that Obama doesn't believe in "American exceptionalism."

Actually, he does. Obama is the only president in American history to explicitly endorse the phrase "American exceptionalism."

7. At a town-hall meeting in Wisconsin, Romney said "Obamcare," if it's allowed to be implemented, would mean government would control "almost half of the total economy."

Romney appears to have made this up out of whole cloth. It's based on the notion that the government would control all of the nation's health care system under the reform law, which just isn't true -- "Obamacare" relies heavily on private health insurers, not socialized medicine.

8. On Monday night, Romney talked to Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, and argued, "The economy is nothing but the addition of all the businesses in the country together."

That's not true. The American economy includes the public sector.

9. In an interview with James Pethokoukis, Romney insisted that Obama has "launched an all-out attack on small business."

In reality, Obama has cut taxes on small businesses, eased the process that allows small businesses to be created, and streamlined the patent process.

10. In the same interview, Romney argued, "[C]ontrary to Vice President Biden and President Obama, I am not cutting taxes for the rich."

Contrary to Mitt Romney, he is cutting taxes for the rich.

11. Rolling out his new stump speech this week, Romney claimed, "Barack Obama presided over the first trillion-dollar deficit in American history."

That's incredibly dishonest. The deficit Bush left for Obama to clean up was $1.3 trillion on the day Obama was inaugurated.

12. In the same speech, Romney said the Recovery Act "promised to hold unemployment below eight percent."

Romney repeats this lie often, but it's still a lie.

13. Romney also claimed "this president attacks businesses for making money."

That's simply never happened in this universe.

14. In the same speech, Romney suggested once more that Obama has been "apologizing for success at home" as well having apologized "for America abroad."

It's the most tiresome lie of them all.

15. Romney claimed this week, "We know that under this president, chronic unemployment is the worst it's been in American history."

Asked to substantiate the claim, the Romney campaign couldn't.

16. The Romney campaign argued this week that Romney, during his only term as governor, had "four years of budget surpluses."

Actually, Romney left his successor a $1.3 billion deficit to clean up.

17. Romney argued in his speech to the Newspaper Association of America, "I'd be willing to consider the president's plan [on Medicare financing], but he doesn't have one."

Actually, he does. In fact, Romney knows the president has a plan because in the same speech, he criticized it.

18. Romney added that Obama "has taken a series of steps that end Medicare as we know it. He is the only president to ever cut $500 billion from Medicare."

That's a blatant, and rather ironic, lie. The only plan to end Medicare as we know it is the House Republican budget plan written by Paul Ryan -- which Romney has enthusiastically endorsed.

19. In the same speech, Romney said, "Through it all, President Obama has failed to even pass a budget."

That doesn't even make sense -- presidents don't pass budgets; Congress passes budgets.

20. Romney also argued, "With all the challenges the nation faces, this is not the time for President Obama's hide and seek campaign.... Unlike President Obama, you don't have to wait until after the election to find out what I believe in -- or what my plans are."

Actually, Romney is the only candidate in either party to say he won't share the details of his agenda until after Americans vote for him.

21. In the same speech, Romney said, "As I have said many times before, the President did not cause the economic crisis, but he made it worse."

And as I have said many times before, Romney's lying. He knows he's lying because he's also said the American economy has improved under Obama.

22. Romney also argued Obama approved "a government takeover of healthcare."

That's just ridiculous.

For those keeping score, yes, this 12th edition is the longest of the year thus far. It's discouraging because it suggests Romney is getting less honest, not more, as the campaign progresses.

Previous editions of Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity: Vol. IIIIIIIVVVIVIIVIIIIXXXI.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Witness for the Prosecution—By Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine)

Anyone who voted for Bush/Cheney should be ashamed of themselves.--SS       

Witness for the Prosecution—By Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine):

"Yesterday the Obama Administration, after a delay of several years, released an important document relating to the Bush Administration’s torture policies: a memorandum by Philip Zelikow, a high-ranking State Department lawyer and confidant of Condoleezza Rice, which aggressively refuted Justice Department memoranda that sought to authorize the use of thirteen “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA. Zelikow’s memo concluded that the use of these techniques would constitute prosecutable felonies—war crimes. As Zelikow explained in an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2009, his memo, when it was circulated in February 2006, caused senior figures in the Bush White House to go ballistic—they actually sought to collect and destroy all the copies."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

CIA Committed ‘War Crimes,’ Bush Official Says

Want to get away with a crime? Go big.--SS    

CIA Committed ‘War Crimes,’ Bush Official Says:

Image: Dept. of Defense

A top adviser to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned the Bush administration that its use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” interrogation techniques like waterboarding were “a felony war crime.”

What’s more, newly obtained documents reveal that State Department counselor Philip Zelikow told the Bush team in 2006 that using the controversial interrogation techniques were “prohibited” under U.S. law — “even if there is a compelling state interest asserted to justify them.”

Zelikow argued that the Geneva conventions applied to al-Qaida — a position neither the Justice Department nor the White House shared at the time. That made waterboarding and the like a violation of the War Crimes statute and a “felony,” Zelikow tells Danger Room. Asked explicitly if he believed the use of those interrogation techniques were a war crime, Zelikow replied, “Yes.”

Zelikow first revealed the existence of his secret memo, dated Feb. 15, 2006, in an April 2009 blog post, shortly after the Obama administration disclosed many of its predecessor’s legal opinions blessing torture. He briefly described it (.pdf) in a contentious Senate hearing shortly thereafter, revealing then that “I later heard the memo was not considered appropriate for further discussion and that copies of my memo should be collected and destroyed.”

At least one copy survived in the files of the department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. The State Department has now disclosed it to Danger Room, mostly without redactions — three years after this reporter filed an official request for it. You can read the memo for yourself, below.


Zelikow’s memo was an internal bureaucratic push against an attempt by the Justice Department to flout long-standing legal restrictions against torture. In 2005, he wrote, both the Justice and State Departments had decided that international prohibitions against “acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture” do not “apply to CIA interrogations in foreign countries.” Those techniques included contorting a detainee’s body in painful positions, slamming a detainee’s head against a wall, restricting a detainee’s caloric intake, and waterboarding.

Zelikow wrote that a law passed that year by Congress, restricting interrogation techniques, meant the “situation has now changed.” Both legally and as a matter of policy, he advised, administration officials were endangering both CIA interrogators and the reputation of the United States by engaging in extreme interrogations — even those that stop short of torture.

“We are unaware of any precedent in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or any subsequent conflict for authorized, systematic interrogation practices similar to those in question here,” Zelikow wrote, “even where the prisoners were presumed to be unlawful combatants.”
Other “advanced governments that face potentially catastrophic terrorist dangers” have “abandoned several of the techniques in question here,” Zelikow’s memo writes. The State Department blacked out a section of text that apparently listed those governments.

“Coercive” interrogation methods “least likely to be sustained” by judges were “the waterboard, walling, dousing, stress positions, and cramped confinement,” Zelikow advised, “especially [when] viewed cumulatively.” (Most CIA torture regimens made use of multiple torture techniques.) “Those most likely to be sustained are the basic detention conditions and, in context, the corrective techniques, such as slaps.”
Zelikow’s warnings about the legal dangers of torture went unheeded — not just by the Bush administration, which ignored them, but, ironically, by the Obama administration, which effectively refuted them. In June, the Justice Department concluded an extensive inquiry into CIA torture by dropping potential charges against agency interrogators in 99 out of 101 cases of detainee abuse. That inquiry did not examine criminal complicity for senior Bush administration officials who designed the torture regimen and ordered agency interrogators to implement it.

“I don’t know why Mr. Durham came to the conclusions he did,” Zelikow says, referring to the Justice Department special prosecutor for the CIA torture inquiry, John Durham. “I’m not impugning them, I just literally don’t know why, because he never published any details about either the factual analysis or legal analysis that led to those conclusions.”

Also beyond the scope of Durham’s inquiry: The international damage to the U.S. reputation caused by the post-9/11 embrace of “cruel, inhuman and degrading” interrogation methods; and the damage done to international protocols against torture.

Update, 12:15 p.m.: This post has been updated to reflect Danger Room’s interview with Zelikow.