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The two presidential campaigns and all the SuperPACs are going to shuffle $two billion in round numbers, as I understand it, and you would think with less than one week to go the begging would lighten up, but no sign of it where I sit. The pitches seem to go every which way: deadlines to show big numbers, we're doing great so join the band, the other side is a "juggernaut" and so we need more to "level the playing field" (seriously, that's the Romney-Ryan pitch today).
And "what you're doing is working," I'm assured. Comforting thought. Yesterday I got an invite from Paul Ryan to "volunteer to make phone calls to crucial voters in battleground states" which I have to say was a tempting offer. I wonder how many calls I could make before I was found out?
But I don't imagine a little retail monkeywrenching would amount to much, given what we can expect from what dark, dirty money has done in the past, ably described by last night's Frontline episode. The ugliest stuff is due out this week.
Speaking of which... after I'd written the preceding, but before I'd posted it, the first robocall of the day. Some are obvious enough by caller ID I just don't answer, but most find their way around that screen. Maybe there is someone in area code 703 I want to talk to, even though I have no idea where that is off the top of my head. (Virginia) Then if I hear the inimitable robocall spinup, I often just hang up. But I listened to this one, impressed by the fast-talking verbal fine print ("not paid for by any candidate or candidate's committee") and then then over-amped radio-hyped voice that this is the final "Elect Romney money bomb!"
"We must raise fifty million dollars!"
Good luck with that. My god, does this kind of pitch really get people to press  and cough up credit card information over the phone?
Trevor Potter, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission: "What the majority of the Justices [of the Supreme Court of the United States] said is we don't have any evidence that there's anything corrupting about independent spending; we have no reason to change our mind [about Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission] based on the Montana case."
So much for the hundred year-old Montana law that attempted to brake corporate corruption, something that had found a rich vein in the Rocky Mountain state.
But it turns out ProPublica and Frontline found a whole bunch of evidence afterwards, apparently showing how Western Tradition Partnership (now American Tradition Partnership) coordinated quite closely with campaigns, something the dark money in 501(c)(4) "social welfare" organizations is not supposed to do.
Our local case in this realm is unfolding just before the election (actually during the election, given the increasing number of early voters): Education Voters of Idaho has been ordered to disclose their donors as per Idaho's sunshine law, and apparently are not prepared to appeal it on up to the Supreme Court of Idaho, let alone of the U.S.
The once and disgraced head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency has to be the last person I expected to see in the news today, but there he is, saying some really stupid things, including "why did [Obama] jump on this so quickly"? As one Facebook friend noted, "NOT the Onion."
The good news is that we've created the collective capacity to act before trouble starts, as well as after disaster strikes. The advance warning and detailed (and accurate) forecast from the National Hurricane Center no doubt saved a lot of lives, for example.
Even Michael Brown could be useful in providing an object lesson of how not to respond to a crisis. We can all learn from others' mistakes, just as we can take it to heart when a politician is able to cut through the b.s. and put his job first, as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie illustrated on Fox News. What a piece of work Steve Doocy is: "we hear that Mr. Romney may do some storm related events; is there any possibility that Governor Romney may go to New Jersey to tour some of the damage with you?" After a moment's incredulity, Christie responded:
"I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I've got a job to do here in New Jersey that's much bigger than presidential politics and I could care less about any of that stuff. I have a job to do. I've got 2.4 million people out of power, I've got devastation on the shore, I've got floods in the northern part of my state. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics then you don't know me."
And while we're reviewing timely statements, what the NYT editorial board said: A Big Storm Requires Big Government.
The longer-than-expected and (much) more-expensive-than-sold contract between the state of Idaho and Hewlett-Packard is getting closer to full disclosure (warning: that PDF is over 22MB), thanks to Betsy Russell's reporting for the Spokesman-Review. Contrary to the carefully misleading statement of "$249.77 per student/teacher," we see the contract is for that amount per year, as anticipated. I'd made an educated guess about the bottom line last week, and was on the low side.
With the "wireless infrastructure and professional development," the annual bill is $292.77 per capita, and with a four-year replacement schedule it totals $1,171 per unit. It's not clear which of the many models of HP ProBook 4440s these amount to, but those start at just under $600 (or "as low as $17/mo **") and on up to four figures. Infrastructure, training, software and support are not free, and only twice the hardware cost may be less than the true cost of fulfilling this contract.
The simplest way out of this complicated deal would be for voters to VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 3. Failing that, it may be an expensive, 8-year experiment, sold to us by a man with zero teaching experience. Meredith Wilson would be pleased.
Working on commission seems to work for salespeople, and piecework pricing is an incentive for mind-numbing, repetitive tasks, and everybody likes to be paid more for what they do, so shouldn't merit pay for teachers work wonders for education? How about... a crazy quilt grab-bag combining
"a school's median student growth percentiles on state achievement tests and a school's median standardized score on state achievement tests and local share-based pay for performance based on student test scores, graduation rates, dropout rates, percent of graduates attending postsecondary education or entering military service, meeting federal "adequate yearly progress", number of students successfully completing dual credit or advanced placement classes; percent of students in extracurricular activities, class projects, portfolios, successful completion of special student assignments, parental involvement, teacher-assigned grades, and/or student attendance rates"?
The first round of such "share-based pay for performance bonuses" are on the hook this fall, thanks to the "emergency" cherry put atop the cream-filled education reform pounded through the Legislature last year, and an estimated 85% of Idaho teachers are in line for bonuses averaging $2,000, whether or not Prop. 2 passes and the law as it is stays in place for future years. If it does pass, there's more!
"[I]n fiscal year 2014 and thereafter, in addition to the aforementioned bonuses, provide incentives for certificated instructional staff in hard-to-fill positions and leadership awards for certificated instructional staff who assume one or more of the following additional duties: instructional staff mentoring, content leadership, lead teacher, peer coaching, content specialist, remedial instructor, curriculum development, assessment development, data analysis, grant writing, special program coordinator, research project, professional development instructor, service on education committees, educational leadership and earning national board certification."
Along with the usual work, of teaching classes of 30+ kids all day long with just about no time allotted for preparation, grading tests, and providing attention to kids who need more than their share.
Just as conservatives love to tout state "laboratories" as superior to federal programs, Tom Luna is touting the tiny (they have 0.3% of the state's population) New Plymouth School District's apparent success from a "Pay for Performance" plan that's been in place for a decade. Local booster media KTVB pretended to "fact-check" the claims, and sure enough, there was a program, and results did improve. Ipso facto, hocus pocus, right?
Did, um, anything else happen in the last 10 years?
William Eicher has a letter to the editor (last one in this list, dated today) with some more facts from a teacher who "worked under the grant and participated in some of the incentives" (with my emphasis added):
During the time that reading scores improved, the school received “Reading First” grant money, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars over six years.
Following grant guidelines, the elementary school purchased prescribed reading curriculum, established a full-time “reading coach” position, received training, established times for teacher collaboration, instituted 90-minute reading blocks, and mandated an extra small-group “intervention” time for all students.
At that time the district did offer some teacher incentives, which amounted to things like watching a hockey game, seeing a play, and exercise machines in the school building. However, the changes enabled by additional money through the “Reading First” grant had much more to do with the improvement in reading test scores than any “merit pay.”
Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg are making art out of data. The latest, is a national wind map, a subject of particular interest today.
"As artists we seek the joy of revelation. Can visualization tell never-before-told stories? Can it uncover truths about color, memory, and sensuality?"
Pretty much knocked that hanging curve out of the park.
Meanwhile, the facts on the ground for the east coast are scary:
Widespread flooding, a good part of New York City in the dark, ConEd cutting power ahead of the storm "surge threatened to flood the underground electrical delivery system," the MTA reporting "up to four feet of seawater is entering subway tunnels under the East River."
Newspaper endorsements might not be what they used to be, but still. Quite a few editorial boards have made up their minds, wading through plenty of details, fewer positives than they'd like, and ample negatives. These are all for Obama, one way or another.
Jeff Masters' detailed analysis of what's coming with Hurricane Sandy and its storm surge is sobering. As of this morning, "tropical storm-force winds extended northeastwards 520 miles from the center, and twelve-foot high seas covered a diameter of ocean 1,030 miles across." That's the second largest extent since records of that began in 1988. It's a "minimal Category 1 storm" but with a lot of asterisks.
"[T]he trough of low pressure that will be pulling Sandy to the northwest towards landfall on Monday will strengthen the storm by injecting 'baroclinic' energy—the energy one can derive from the atmosphere when warm and cold air masses lie in close proximity to each other. Sandy should have sustained winds at hurricane force, 75-80 mph, at landfall. Sandy's central pressure is expected to drop from its current 951 mb to 945-950 mb at landfall Monday night. A pressure this low is extremely rare ... the lowest pressure ever measured anywhere in the U.S. north of Cape Hatteras, NC, is 946 mb (27.94") measured at the Bellport Coast Guard Station on Long Island, NY on September 21, 1938 during the great "Long Island Express" hurricane."
Estimated landfall is Monday night to early Tuesday morning, just about high tide on a full moon. "Sandy is now forecast to bring a near-record storm surge of 6-11 feet to northern New Jersey and Long Island Sound, including the New York City Harbor." From the New York Times:
"And then there is the snow.
"As Hurricane Sandy approaches land, it will be drawn into a system known as a midlatitude trough, a severe winter storm that is moving across the country from the west. A burst of arctic air is expected to sweep down through the Canadian Plains just as they are converging. That could lead to several feet of snow in West Virginia and Kentucky and lighter amounts in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Temperatures could drop into the mid-20s."
On August 16, 1938, the US. Patent and Trademark Office awarded patent number 2,127,008 to Thorvald Peterson, 2½ years after he'd filed the application. It was assigned to Reed Manufacturing Co., of Erie, Pennsylvania, and they used Thorvald's invention in at least two models, including the No. 206R. It was built to last.
Just over 30 years ago, when I was in the bicycle business and needed a good, big, vise, and found that "new" tools were generally weak, an estate sale in my neighborhood turned up a gem. I think they were asking $50, and it looked like a great price to me. Being young and foolish, I first imagined I'd carry it home, but after sliding it to the edge of the pickup it was in and trying to pick it up (much to the amusement of the folks running the sale), I realized I'd met my match, let it go and got the hell out of the way as it hit the grass at my feet. I think I borrowed a little red wagon and got help to load it in for the short pull to Arny's Trailer Court.
Eventually, it became clear I needed a bench for this beast, and while I could have mounted it on my big woodworking bench, (a) I didn't use it that often, (b) it would have taken up too much room, and (c) that would have set it too high for the typical brute force task I did use it for. Looking at the material I had on hand, I found some low-grade and rather twisted up 2x4s, and sketched out a plan which followed one of my botany mentor's favorite instructive aphorisms: as the twig is bent, so grows the tree.
As a bit of an experiment, and figuring that 2x4 faces gave ample bonding surface for Elmer's yellow wood glue, I put together a flat surface, and made the 8-to-6 legs reach the floor at about the same time two feet below it, with minimal joinery, just a bit of half-lappery there in the middle. I wasn't sure it would hold up, but the 2x4s weren't much good for "regular" use and I figured I didn't have much to lose in an experiment. After the glue cured, I found it delightfully solid, and a perfect companion for my herky vise. 30 years on, it's still going strong.
Communist China isn't looking all that communist when the Wen family empire is examined, from Prime Minister Wen "Grandpa" Jiabao and his mom on down, "amass[ing] a fortune by forming a complex business network that bought stakes in sectors as varied as real estate and telecommunications" with "a tight-knit group of about 20 relatives and friends made investments that were sometimes aided by Asia's wealthiest tycoons."
"In many cases, the names of the relatives have been hidden behind layers of partnerships and investment vehicles involving friends, work colleagues and business partners. Untangling their financial holdings provides an unusually detailed look at how politically connected people have profited from being at the intersection of government and business as state influence and private wealth converge in China’s fast-growing economy."
Sounds like they're catching on to this capitalism thing, eh? And... they're blocking web access to the New York Times, along with mention of it—and their headman's riches—on Sina Weibo, the popular Chinese mini-blogging service. What's the point of having the world's most extensive and sophisticated system for Internet censorship" if you're not going to use it, after all?
Former Secretary of State and retired General Colin Powell endorsed Obama for President, again, and Senator John McCain, apparently still smarting from the last round, spoke for the royal we on Fox News Radio: "you disappoint us."
Given Romney's showing in the foreign policy debate this week, remarkable mostly for his lack of separation from Obama (which is pretty remarkable for its lack of separation from the 2nd Bush term), I have to wonder where in the hell this "most feckless foreign policy in my lifetime" nonsense comes from.
As far as Powell's legacy, yes Senator, that performance at the U.N. Security Council will certainly be his nadir, not that that is relevant at the moment, but it is relevant that he was set up by the same team you are suggesting we put back in power should you endorse Mitt Romney's candidacy. You disappoint us.
Jane Mayer profiles Hans von Spakovsky and the voter-fraud myth he's been promoting to further the Republican cause, in The New Yorker. He's had "an improbably large impact" for a deceitful, little man, working his way from Georgia poll-watcher to election board, to chairman of the Fulton County Republican Party, to observer for the Bush campaign in Florida in 2000, to the Bush administration Justice Department, and now the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, Fox News talking head. Quite the package. Mayer writes:
Joe Rich, the former chief of the voting section, repeatedly clashed with von Spakovsky and his allies. "I worked at the Justice Department for thirty-six years, twenty-four of them under Republican Administrations," Rich told me. "The disdain and antagonism that they had for the experience, expertise, and dedication of career civil-rights attorneys was something I had never experienced before. It was just awful."
The man who's helping drive state legislatures to pass laws against imagined conspiracies, and using software tools to disqualify voters wholesale waves off the idea that his effort is designed to suppress the vote: "The idea that there's some deep conspiracy is just laughable." Mayer's chilling conclusion:
"With legions of citizen watchdogs on the lookout for fraud, voters confused about the documents necessary to vote, and the country almost evenly divided politically, von Spakovsky is predicting that November 6th could be even more chaotic than the 2000 elections. He will play a direct role in Virginia, a swing state, where he is the vice-chairman of the electoral board of Fairfax County. Joining us at the conference table at the Heritage Foundation, John Fund, von Spakovsky's co-author, told me, 'If it's close this time, I think we're going to have three or four Floridas.' Von Spakovsky shook his head and said, 'If we're lucky only three or four.' If there are states where the number of provisional ballots cast exceeds the margin of victory, he predicts, 'there will probably be horrendous fights, and litigation between the lawyers that will make the fights over hanging chads look minor by comparison.' Pursing his lips, he added, 'I hope it doesn't happen.' But, if it does, no one will be more ready for the fight."
One surprising bit of good news: Clear Channel says it will take down the "voter fraud is a felony" billboards in battleground states purchased by an anonymous group contrary to its policy. Just as with the local dust-up with Education Voters of Idaho, the buyers would rather lose their "free speech" than disclose their identities.
Not sure why this Astronomy Picture of the Day popped up in Facebook today, but I missed it the first time around, on March 5th, and was awed by the imagery of flying over the earth at night. "Must see TV."
Betsy Russell heard our questions and tried her hand at arithmetic with some help from the state's RFP. After a "three-year phase-in," the head count is 6,551 teachers and administrators, and 83,825 students, 90,376 total.
"If you divide $180 million by 90,376, it comes out to $1,992 per laptop..."
But laptops don't typically last 8 years, and they sure as heck won't last that long with teenaged drivers. What do you think, three years and done for the machine? That would be eight-thirds laptops. $1,992 divided by eight-thirds is $747 a pop, which are yeah, some pretty spendy laptops.
Shopping at hp.com this afternoon, I see their laptops start at $370, and there are more than two dozen models under $700. (And the "filter by" choice for "Students" is inoperative, what's up with that?)
Sharon Fisher wrote a long response to yesterday's announcement of a giant contract between the state of Idaho and HP to provide hardware and services for Tom Luna's so-called education reform as a Facebook status update. She said she had "some 70 questions" when the "Students Come First" plan was initially announced, and now "a new set of questions."
How did the four-year contract become an eight-year deal?
How did a $40 million (or was it $100 million?) deal morph into $180 million? And Mr. Luna, please show your work on these numbers which don't seem to balance out:
"$180 million divided by $300 per student comes out to 600,000 students, or 75,000 per year. How does this fit with the plan to support 27,000 students per year?"
I did see that per capita cost is being reported as per student, per year, not just $X for each h.s. student. So... 27,000 students and 6,600 teachers for each of 8 years, that's $670 per person-year, not $300.
"Given that HP has suffered some turmoil, and considered divesting itself of its personal computer division last fall, what assurance do we have that HP will still be here and selling laptops in eight years?"
A ton more questions about the nuts, bolts, and cables, and then there are the legal shenanigans:
"During the Technology Task Force meetings, Tom Luna indicated that vendors under consideration had approached him to suggest that they were prepared to file lawsuits if they weren't awarded the contract. Given that the state didn't follow the [Request for Proposals] process it set out, how likely is this to happen? How much money has been set aside for this? Will the state use the Attorney General's office or private firms? Were any of the vendors in this consortium one of the vendors making these threats?"
The Luna-led legislation came as a post-election surprise in the 2011 session of the Legislature. Now we have a pre-election surprise, just before voters decide on whether the underlying law should be tossed out. Not that Mr. Luna and his fellow travelers will take No for an answer; with his usual ill-timed flair for inappropriate metaphor, he declared that "this train has left the station", so shut up.
There's also the question of whether some or all of the participants were parties who chipped in to the Education Voters of Idaho PAC, now the subject of a lawsuit from the Secretary of State in a match between Debbie and Goliath.
The Salt Lake City Tribune, smack in the middle of the "largely Mormon, Republican, business-friendly state" as they identified themselves, and where "Mitt Romney's pursuit of the presidency been warmly welcomed and closely followed," complains that there are too many Mitts:
"Sadly, it is not the only Romney, as his campaign for the White House has made abundantly clear, first in his servile courtship of the tea party in order to win the nomination, and now as the party's shape-shifting nominee. From his embrace of the party's radical right wing, to subsequent portrayals of himself as a moderate champion of the middle class, Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: 'Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?'"
And yes, Snopes assures us, the SLC Tribune really did endorse Obama. The New Yorker's endorsement of Obama doesn't need affirmation from Snopes, but it is a good, long read. They spend more text on the positives of Obama than the negatives of Romney, but they cover both on the way to calling Obama's reëlection "a matter of great urgency":
"The choice is clear. The Romney-Ryan ticket represents a constricted and backward-looking vision of America: the privatization of the public good. In contrast, the sort of public investment championed by Obama—and exemplified by both the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Affordable Care Act—takes to heart the old civil-rights motto 'Lifting as we climb.' That effort cannot, by itself, reverse the rise of inequality that has been under way for at least three decades. But we've already seen the future that Romney represents, and it doesn't work."
Without reviewing the MSM and LSM and blogosphere, I think it's safe to say that Romney supporters think their man won last night's debate, and Obama supporters likewise, and anyone still undecided and still paying attention... well, I can't imagine what's going on in their pretty little heads. I'll give Romney credit for holding his own under some withering fire, and sticking to his (latest) strategy of mostly non-specific pronouncements, declarations of his suitability ("I know what it takes!"), and attempts to deprecate most of what Obama has done, and to insist that all would be better under his leadership.
Romney did lead with more nuance than I expected, "We can't kill our way out of this mess," even if he did acknowledge that of course we need to "go after the bad guys" and "kill them." "But my strategy is broader than that ... We don't want another Iraq. We don't want another Afghanistan."
Preach it, brother Mitt!
This from a party that has moved beyond T.R.'s pithy wisdom to an operational adage of "bluster loudly and wave big sticks." Romney does long for a larger navy, providing his setup for one of Obama's best responses:
"You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military's changed."
Romney endorsed (at least by implication) the conclusion of "a group of Arab scholars organized by the U.N." that the best tools to reject terrorists are:
"One, more economic development. We should key our foreign aid, our direct foreign investment and that of our friends...
"Number two, better education.
"Number three, gender equality.
"Number four, the rule of law. We have to help these nations create civil societies."
The "severe conservative" has been almost fully etch-a-sketched away. Include strong support for family planning with "gender equality" and you've got a beautiful Democratic platform, which we'd be more than happy to call "bipartisan" if others want to support it.
For all the gloom and doom that Romney sees, the "tumult" and "rising tide of chaos" in the Middle East, there is almost no daylight between his positions and the President's. Romney wouldn't apologize so much, we get that, even if the fact-challenged "apology tour" accusation is bogus. The previous administration did leave a sorry mess in many foreign relations, and a plan to return to the wit and wisdom of Dick Cheney is not a way to beat the tide of chaos.
There was a moment of Romney looking on the bright side, seeing Syria as
"an opportunity for us" even if his dimly lit geography ("Iran's route
to the sea") distracted from the ray of hope. All we need do is organize
a form of government for them, "a council that can take the lead" and
then arm them, of course making sure that arms don't get into the wrong
hands. But no military intervention, just the nation building thing.
It's the same pie-in-the-sky "plan" for foreign policy as he has for the
economy. And they fit together: a few tens of $billions to
Blackwater Xe Services
Halliburton Kellogg Brown & Root
could take care of the whole mess.
The glass half-full perspective, from Obama:
"Our alliances have never been stronger--in Asia, in Europe, in Africa, with Israel where we have unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation, including dealing with the Iranian threat. ...
"Now Governor Romney has taken a different approach throughout this campaign. You know, both at home and abroad, he has proposed wrong and reckless policies. He's praised George Bush as good economic steward and Dick Cheney as somebody who shows great wisdom and judgment. And taking us back to those kinds of strategies that got us into this mess are not the way that we are going to maintain leadership in the 21st century."
The Governor does have at least one novel idea: "mak[ing] sure that [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention. His words amount to genocide incitation. I would indict him for it."
Indict for incite. In the International Criminal Court? That would be interesting, given the U.S.'s refusal to be a party to it. Maybe a military tribunal down at Gitmo. I'm sure we could get a conviction in one of those.
In the pandering to Israel department, no one in this campaign will be outdone. Obama's sharpest response of the night came after Romney tried to justify his complaint about the supposed "apology tour" Obama took.
"When I went to Israel as a candidate, I didn't take donors, I didn't attend fundraisers, I went to Yad Vashem, the—the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself the—the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable."
"And then I went down to the border towns of Sderot, which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas. And I saw families there who showed me where missiles had come down near their children's bedrooms, and I was reminded of—of what that would mean if those were my kids, which is why, as president, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles."
Romney's task was to paint as negative a picture as possible, and the complexity of foreign policy will always provide plenty of material. Still, it's a mighty strain to come up with as comprehensively a negative assessment as he tried to.
Romney waved away hypothetical question about our withdrawal from Afghanistan, "what do you do if the deadline arrives and it is obvious the Afghans are unable to handle their security?" Everything will be successful if he becomes President. To Romney, leadership is about bluster and bluff, expressing confidence and casually waving away objections. "We're also going to have to have a far more effective and comprehensive strategy to help move the world away from terror and Islamic extremism."
That'll be nice! Obama has some actual experience that prevents him from the same kind of glib dismissal. The countries of northern Africa have written some powerful history of their own during Obama's term: Tunisia. Egypt. Libya. Romney's attention is very selective.
Romney says "I want a great relationship with China," starting with the tough love of branding them a currency manipulator on the first day of his reign. More tariffs will mean more exports? Because that's always worked so well in the past. He needs to get back to the economy, to repeat Obama's failed campaign proise to get unemployment down to 5.4%, and how many unemployed people that amounts to.
He tried to trot out personal anecodotes but had too many in his head barking to get out, ended up with something his wife experienced. "Ann was with someone just the other day that was just weeping about not being able to get work."
And from there, and in closing, we find that Romney is "optimistic about the future," you'd never know. And for all his supposed "business" experience, he does not know what it takes to support and develop the middle class. He knows what it takes to do well for himself.
Obama's closing: "We've made real progress digging our way out of policies that gave us two prolonged wars, record deficits and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression." Let's move forward. Let's not return to the failed policies of the past.
The Boise School District Board of Trustees set to "take up a scathing indictment" of the executive director of the Idaho School Boards Association, for having
"intentionally eliminated every opportunity possible for ISBA members to hear or share a view of the laws other than her own and used deceptive tactics throughout the process to ensure her policy view was adopted by the Executive Board."
And, the Boise School District to quit the ISBA?! George Prentice reports in The Boise Weekly.
which would be difficult to have made up. A "blimp-like aircraft" which is apparently an oddball hot air balloon, or—ahem—a "thermal airship," emblazoned with a Romney bumper sticker (a blimper sticker, I guess) crash landed "in a heavily Democratic part of Florida."
No one was hurt, so have your fun. The cause is still under investigation, but hot air with excessive velocity seems a likely culprit.
The Boise Guardian deconvolves this week's meetings on the shady trash-to-energy deal unraveling in our neighborhood. I noticed in today's paper that the Commission meets daily which gives them a lot more opportunity for mischief than I would have imagined. Tomorrow's meeting agenda includes a resolution to declare a plot at the landfill an "industrial park," perhaps to short-circuit the public hearing before the subsidiary Planning and Zoning Commission to discuss the Dynamis project and whether it should be granted a lease. To the question of whether a resolution is insufficient, it seems that a rather sly ordinance back in July might have enabled it to be:
"UPDATE 11a.m. MONDAY—It looks like the Commishes may have outsmarted the opposition back in July with ordinance 772 which they will claim gives authority for the industrial park designation. The GUARDIAN has to admit the moves are coming so discreetly and at such short notice with text of proposals and ordinances so difficult to find, we are hard pressed to keep up. We cannot find ordinance 772 on line at this time."
In Friday's related post, The Guardian noted that Green Bay, Wisconsin, had recently dealt with a similar proposal "using the same technology as the Dynamis proposal," albeit without any direct links between the projects that they'd been able to find.
"The [Green Bay] City Council revoked the permit Tuesday amid claims—very similar to those voiced in Boise—the project was deceptive and will pollute the air.
"The GUARDIAN talked to the City Council president who told us there were claims of existing plants in Germany and other locations abroad which were simply not true—just like the Dynamis scandal in Boise."
I wasn't old enough to vote in 1972, but if I had been, I imagine I would have voted for George McGovern. He and his second pick for vice-president, Sargent Shriver were soundly trounced, winning just 17 electoral votes. Neither of the pair the country elected by that landslide finished their terms, resigning in disgrace. "If we had run in '74 instead of '72, it would have been a piece of cake," he joked, much later. From The New York Times' obituary for him:
"The Republicans portrayed Mr. McGovern as a cowardly left-winger, a threat to the military and the free-market economy and someone outside the mainstream of American thought. Whether those charges were fair or not, Mr. McGovern never lived down the image of a liberal loser, and many Democrats long accused him of leading the party astray.
"Mr. McGovern resented that characterization mightily. 'I always thought of myself as a good old South Dakota boy who grew up here on the prairie,' he said in an interview for this obituary in 2005 in his home in Mitchell[, South Dakota]. 'My dad was a Methodist minister. I went off to war. I have been married to the same woman forever. I'm what a normal, healthy, ideal American should be like.
"'But we probably didn't work enough on cultivating that image,' he added, referring to his  presidential campaign organization. 'We were more interested in ending the war in Vietnam and getting people out of poverty and being fair to women and minorities and saving the environment.
"'It was an issue-oriented campaign, and we should have paid more attention to image.'"
Bruce Tinsley has his reliably sarcastic Mallard Fillmore strip at the bottom of my paper's opinion page every day, where it's slightly harder to avoid than the bulk of the comments I don't read on the funny pages. In today's strip, he's apparently doing the groundwork for a big Romney lose in tonight's debate, blaming the moderator for Schieffer's imagined intentions to make Romney "look uninformed and indecisive."
Apparently a line is forming. Michelle Malkin, who must know something about "journo-tools," said she pre-emptively blasted the Commission on Presidential Debate's choices months ago. PBS! CNN! CBS! ABC! It's almost like a liberal conspiracy, don't you know. Where's the Fox News moderator, I'd like to know?
Tonight's the big night,
game 7 for the Giants POTUS debate #3.
It's about foreign policy! We'll hear from the guy who's been handling
the job for almost 4 years now, and the guy who imagines he can handle the
job for half a dozen years now. Not that it makes a lick of sense, but
the most recent attack, on the consulate in Benghazi, will be one focus
of attention, because Romney's campaign have done everything they can to
make it so.
It started with the remarkably untimely statement they issued on September 11, after they'd decided that they couldn't wait for the full day long "time out" in respect for the victims of 2001. Mitt Romney declared the administration's action "disgraceful" and "sympathizing with those who waged the attacks" (which they had somehow managed to do even before the attacks occurred). It went downhill from there. Reince Preibus on Twitter, Fox News salivating over the possibility of a "cover-up," Rep. Peter King (R-NY) demanding the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice be fired for sharing "the best information we have at present" because that turned out not to be the best ever, Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA) using the House Government Oversight Committee as a blunt tool for Romney's campaign, and on and on. Yesterday, the circus finale came in as no less than Newt Gingrich assembled "an analogy" illustrating that he's not just the former Speaker of the House, failed presidential candidate and history professor, but also an "alternate history" fiction writer.
Jon Perr's exhausting rundown of Mitt Romney's foreign policy follies shows those to be beyond multiple choice and Etch-a-Sketch, but better described by Pee Wee Herman's lawn sprinkler with a shotgun attached. And he wants to use future generations' money to build this thing, ramping up defense spending to twice what it was in the middle of George W. Bush's terms, perhaps to re-win the Cold War and defeat our number one geopolitical foe, Russia.
Update: One more (excellent) link, just in case you haven't had enough of explanations about Benghazi: Kevin Drum, on Mother Jones, The Benghazi Controversy, Explained.
One of the earliest opinion pieces I put on the web, Growthmania, was eons ago in internet years, 1998, and behind a corporate firewall. (I claim my own copyright in the work, all the same; I don't imagine HP's corporate lawyers are going to challenge me.) It's so ancient, it mentions "search" but not "Google," which was only founded that same year.
The world as a whole did not heed my call to stop obsessing about growth for its own sake, but to consider optimization, instead: increasing "efficiency, appropriateness, satisfaction, acceptance." I was reminded of all that by Thomas Edsall's lament, No More Industrial Revolutions? oddly placed on the NYT Campaign Stops blogs. (An "epochal decline in growth from the U.S. record of the last 150 years" seems bigger than a "campaign stop," doesn't it?)
But if growth were merely to "decline," we'd still be growing... and thus we encounter the persistent confusion between a measure of something (Gross Domestic Product, say) and its rate of change (GDP growth), or even its second derivative (rate of change of GDP growth). Edsall's talking about Northwestern University economist Robert J. Gordon's paper "Is U.S. Economic Growth Over?" and shows Gordon's Figure 1, purporting to show "growth in real GDP per capita, 1300-2100."
It's a bit of a cartoon, imagining 0.2% growth year over year for four centuries, based on what, I can't imagine. Village harvest records? But rather than the "sustained lack of productivity growth from 1300 to 1700" that Edsall says the chart shows, this would be a remarkably steady growth. Maybe slow in today's terms, but over the course of 4 centuries it would compound to more than doubling productivity.
Such slow but steady growth is not known in the experience of anyone living; what we know—and expect— is many times that change year over year, "the industrial revolution(s)," and all that's followed. Some things are doubling every couple of years, or even faster, hence Moore's "law" about how many transistors will dance on the head of a pin, and of course smartphones will get faster, smarter and cheaper every time we go to buy one (even if the service plans don't).
There is progress in other realms, too: Steven Pinker shows us that violence is on the decline (and you can speculate about why that's so). Hans Rosling shows that income and life expectancy are on a long-term upward trend.
The "Campaign Stops" connection is to the two presidential campaigns saying they'll bring good times as best they can (or even better), and making promises that will seem rather absurd with four more years of experience (I'm guessing). The "underlying and inadequately explored theme" of this election is the question of whether the tide will keep rising, or it's time to batten the hatches:
"Affluent Republicans—the donor and policy base of the conservative movement—are on red alert. They want to protect and enhance their position in a future of diminished resources. What really provokes the ferocity with which the right currently fights for regressive tax and spending policies is a deeply pessimistic vision premised on a future of hard times. This vision has prompted the Republican Party to adopt a preemptive strategy that anticipates the end of growth and the onset of sustained austerity—a strategy to make sure that the size of their slice of the pie doesn't get smaller as the pie shrinks."
It's good for gun and ammo sales, a strategy for growth in the "security" industry and prisons, but maybe not so much else. Give the Republicans credit for putting a sunny face on the marketing, still the possibility of pie-in-the-sky if you buy what they're selling.
Superman was protecting Lois and Jimmy. The Education Voters of Idaho... we don't know, because they're secret! And they'd rather keep it that way than spend $200,000 that's been donated on the Luna Laws campaign. Interesting. Not to cast aspersions, but having Christ Troupis for an attorney raises some flags for me. Still, he raises an interesting point. The Supreme Court has indeed said that First Amendment protections extend to corporations as if they are people, whatever the wisdom of that may be.
What's interesting is that the threat of being identified as a proponent of some particular laws (which said proponents must believe are virtuous, yes?) has amounted to the Freedom of Association and Freedom of Speech being "chilled and severely infringed." For persons? Corporations acting as persons? How can this be so?
We're left to use our imagination. But Troupis' letter states that EVI has removed itself from the fray because of the Secretary of State's ruling they must disclose donors, and that the demand was discriminatory; other organizations (such as the IEA and NEA) have contributed to campaigns, and no questions about the donors who provided funds to them were raised.
"The actions of your Department have already deprived my client of its right to participate in the political process," Troupis writes, leaping from their inability to participate on their terms to outright "deprivation," and even further, that the actions "have subjected EVI, and its principals to public derision and defamed them."
I'm not deriding or defaming, but I am wondering: why would you want to keep your identity secret when donating your support for public legislation?
Probably not with torches and pitchforks, but do expect a contentious hearing this coming Thursday when the Ada County Planning and Zoning Commission holds a special meeting the proposed waste-to-energy project at the county landfill, having been duly petitioned by 9 times the required "20 affected persons." It was of course the County Commission's decision-making that brought us to where we are, so it's interesting they fobbed the hearing off to the P&Z instead of taking it themselves.
The rather larger event in the dust-up, it seems to me, is that the county's Engineer, Jim Farrens quit his job after having his professional recommendation pointedly refused. He said the Dynamis project needed competent, outside review. His supervisor tried to cover it up as a "personnel matter" but the Idaho Public Records Act revealed that no, it was not and oh by the way, Dynamis seems to be taking taxpayers to the cleaners, too.
Farrens said there was a "mutual lack of trust and mutual lack of respect" with his supervisors when he resigned. Which leaves... them, and the county commissioners, who so far have said there's nothing to see here, just move along and we'll put the fix in. There is the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality review still pending, but that's not an engineering review of the plant itself, which is what Farrens said was needed.
Today's R-R fundraising missive is under the subject: "Truly presidential." Deputy campaign manager Katie Packer Gage writes "Mitt Romney will not shrink from the tough questions or run away from America's problems. That's why he was the only candidate who looked truly presidential on the debate stage Tuesday night—and that's why he will deliver the real recovery America deserves."
Watch for this new meme, I guess "shrink and run," just in time for the third and final presidential debate. Darrell Issa of the House Oversight Committee did his part, seeking to show how maybe the Obama administration was politicizing the situation in Libya, by taking his own whack at politicizing, releasing a pile of documents that included various sensitive information, including the names of Libyans working in the U.S. But his Senate colleague Lindsay Graham is praising the lord for Issa.
"Thank god for some Republican control of one branch of the government," Graham said. "If you left it up to this administration to inform the American people [they] would still be believing this was a spontaneous riot spurred by a video. There was no mob, there was no riot, so no. I am totally convinced this is going to go down in history as one of the most major breakdowns of national security in a very long time, it's Exhibit A of a failed national security strategy."
Such is the reach of Congress these days, not much for legislation, but they are all over going down in history.
Jerry Evans: Idaho's kids deserve better than Propositions 1, 2 and 3. Kind of a big deal to have Idaho's four-term Superintendent of Public Instruction come out against the Luna laws on our ballot this fall. Did I mention that he's a Republican? But of course, as he says, "education should not be political or partisan."
"Republican and Democratic parents alike want the same for their children: to be well-educated and well-prepared for whatever lies in the future, and to be at no disadvantage because they went to school here in Idaho."
Evans' teaching career started before I was born, 1953, and his career in public service ended more than 40 years later, at the dawn of the world wide web. After briefly summarizing the laws the three propositions wil laffirm or reject, he concludes:
"[T]hese "reforms" hold little promise of helping students attain higher academic performance, which ought to be the goal of any school improvement program. They are nothing more than efforts to reduce local control and divert the public's attention away from a severely underfunded public school system with the notion that with less money and more technology we can have better outcomes."
The state Office of Higher Education insists that any post-secondary education enterprises obtain their permission before "teaching" in Minnesota. That puts online free provider Coursera in an odd position. They have almost 1.7 million happy customers enjoying almost 200 different courses with the help of 33 bricks-and-mortar universities. But not for Minnesotans! Unless step across the border to do the "majority" of their class work.
Now that the faux photo-op flopped, and ok, if Paul Ryan and his family want to help at the soup kitchen, they can start by telling their supporters to grow up and stop the anonymous calls, and then finish by making up any of the shortfall in donations.
To make a donation to the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, money can be sent to P.O. Box 224, Youngstown, Ohio 44501. Donations also may be made online. Online donors should specify that their donations are for the Youngstown, Ohio, soup kitchen.
Greg Palast in The Nation: Mitt Romney's Bailout Bonanza. It's a complicated (and sordid) tale, as so many are in the world of high finance. Highlights include elimination of 25,200 union jobs, twenty-five shuttered plants, a good-old American company now incorporated overseas, 100,000 jobs in other countries, 3000 percent return for investors in on the retread IPO, with at least $15 million for Mitt and Ann Romney.
That windfall is chump change compared to what it cost US taxpayers: $2.8 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, $2.5 billion it owed to GM forgiven, and $5.6 billion from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to cover Delphi's retiree pensions; a total of $12.9 billion.
That makes the subhead of Romney's infamous Let Detroit Go Bankrupt op-ed "I know what it takes to make a ton of money off it!"
And just for icing on the cake, Romney's fellow-traveling SuperPACs are blaming Obama for trimming workers pensions, when it was the hedge funds controlling Delphi who refused to pay the Delphi pensions, letting the government pick up the remainder of what did get paid to the workers.
"Making good on the full pensions for salaried workers would cost Delphi a one-time charge of less than $1 billion. This year, Delphi was flush with $1.4 billion in cash—meaning its owners could have made the pensioners whole and still cleared a profit. Instead, in May, Delphi chose to use most of those funds to take over auto parts plants in Asia at a cost of $972 million—purchased from Bain Capital."
Now we know why the Romney's 2009 tax return is Top Secret.
Thanks to Time for the Memorandum of Understanding between the Obama and Romney campaigns, defining the terms of engagement for the three presidential and one vice-presidential debates. Right there in section 5(c) "Rules":
"No props, notes, charts, diagrams, or other writings or other tangible things may be brought into the debate by any candidate, including portable electronic devices, and prior to the beginning of the debate, the Commission will verify as appropriate that the candidates have complied."
Wow, empty your pockets?! They do get to take notes though, "on the size, color, and type of blank paper each prefers and using the type of pen or pencil that each prefers."
They also say the candidates may not ask each other direct questions, a rule that's been honored in the breach, and to ill effect, I think, for the questioner. Ceding time—and control—to your opponent is not a good idea. And as Romney showed when he'd overlooked Obama's warning to "please proceed, Governor" and tried to get the president "on the record" in what he thought was a misstatement, that 37 year-old law degree of his has gone a little stale for lack of use.
I see the moderator is empowered to "use any reasonable method to ensure the agreed-upon format is followed by the candidates and the audience," so giving him or her the ability to cut a mic when the candidate won't shut up would be possible. (For the one debate with audience participation, the moderator had the power for them, should someone go off the moderator-reviewed and approved script.) RJ Eskow (same link as below, and h/t for the MOU link) had some fun with rule 6(c), proscribing the range of motion of the debaters:
"Each candidate may move about in a pre-designated area, as proposed by the Commission and approved by each campaign, and may not leave that area while the debate is underway."
Weird, isn't it? A nation which places a premium on "free range chickens" is standing by while its Presidential candidates—and its debate—are caged. "A pre-designated area, approved by each campaign," which a candidate "may not leave": If that isn't a perfect metaphor for our broken political process, what is?
No argument from the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth-party candidates who weren't invited to the main show. They're getting together for their own debate, hosted by Larry King next Tuesday. I've heard of King and Chicago, but not the "on-demand internet channel" of "Ora.TV" or much of what Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode, and Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson have had to say.
Truth be told, Mitt Romney doesn't have a record to run on or a plan for the future, and his promises are nothing short of incredible. He's got a plan, he keeps saying, to create 12 million jobs. He also liked to say hard-working Americans are what [sic] create jobs, not government when his campaign was abusing quotes from Obama about the importance of infrastructure. No question he's done very well for his own job. RJ Eskow:
"Bain Capital was set up by Bill Bain, Romney's boss. Romney insisted on a written contract from Bain guaranteeing he could have his old job back if he failed—without even losing his scheduled bonuses. Romney never put up his own money for the business, never went without a fat paycheck, never took a chance—in other words, he was never an entrepreneur."
And he never worried too much about how many jobs he was creating, destroying, or moving offshore. What mattered was the bottom line. Now his bottom line is "I must become president" and he's willing to say pretty much anything he thinks someone wants to hear to get it.
Update: Paul Krugman came to the same conclusion as I did on the nonexistence of Romney's plan, and record. Not that that makes either of us right, but I'm just saying. We didn't consult each other ahead of time.
Suzy Khimm, Sarah Kliff, Dylan Matthews and Brad Plumer provided some good ones for the second presidential debate, on Ezra Klein's Wonkblog. Boils down a lot of the ridiculous "did not" and "did too" into "true" and "false."
We still have plenty of religions that say women should be subservient to men, but it's not generally public policy anymore. Mitt Romney remains somewhat severely conservative in this matter, although he tries to make friendly noises once in a while, since a lot of women do vote. Tara Culp-Ressler tallied five ways Romney alienated women last night, which, maybe he didn't realize?
As noted below, when given a chance to talk about the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Mitt chose to say something about contraceptives instead. In the spin room, Ed Gillespie was trying to cover for the boss, but today ended up walking back what he said about opposition, and settled for "would not repeal it," and let's please return to a policy of general avoidance of this uncomfortable issue.
And as for item 5 on the list, "repeatedly steamrolling the female moderator," and trying to show her bias for the other side, if you're criticizing the moderator you are almost certainly losing.
There's the predictable and usual cascade of "our guy won" messages flying about, before, during and after last night's debate. And the incessent fundraising wrappers. Paul Ryan's 9:17pm MDT effort was about as vacuous as his hat-on-backwards-in-the-gym pose, under the subject "Mitt crushed it." "It's time for commonsense solutions and clear-eyed leadership. Please contribute now..." Obama's campaign manager (and I), on the other hand, thought the president "clearly won." About the "sketchy deal" the opposing campaign is offering, Messina writes:
"Romney misfired on his attacks and fired blanks on his own proposals. When he was exposed on the emptiness of his own plans, he was rattled, lashed out against the moderator and refused to explain his indefensible ideas."
The Mitt message was free of specifics (where have I see that before?), with the subject "Dig deep - and push back." Dig deep to send more money? Ok, I'll push back on that.
Krauthammer says "Obama wins on points," as opposed to... "When Romney went large, he did well. When he went small, which he did here and there, I think Obama got the better of him." Romney "large" must be the hand-waving magical stuff. I saw plenty of the "going small" Romney, and yes, he does that poorly.
Britt Hume found a positive: he was "basically the same Mitt Romney as we saw in Denver two weeks ago." Romney staying on a steady message for two weeks is news. But "on most cards," "Obama will probably be declared the winner." It is a seriously uphill slog for the Fox News team to concede the obvious.
While it's interesting to review the minutiae of public pronouncements regarding Benghazi, and yes, the story changed as new information came in and various sorts of spin were applied, the Romney campaign's attempt (with Republicans in Congress doing what they could to help) to make this an issue of leadership weakness has been a slow-motion failure, capped off in last night's debate. Move on Governor, you were losing, and now you've lost.
Apparently the strategy was to rope-a-dope for the first debate and then assume Joltin' Joe's persona for the second go. It's hard to imagine the President really thought he should be "polite" the first time, but last night he did what needed to be done: confront the lies and deception immediately, and forcefully.
Romney kept repeating "I know what it takes," which beggars refutation because it's perfectly meaningless. Obama wasted no time in bringing up Romney's call to "let Detroit go bankrupt." He could have pressed by pointing out that Romney had often found other people's companies going bankrupt to be profitable. Romney tried to counter with "you took GM bankrupt" which doesn't make sense to anyone. The story is the Obama administration saved GM.
Is it the Department of Energy's job to lower prices? Kind of a clown question, but of course the candidates have to entertain it. Obama says we drilled and dug like crazy, expanded alternative energy, raised fuel efficiency standards. Romney doesn't have the clean energy part. Romney tried to find a cigar in the punchbowl, production's down on federal land? Does he have any (meaningful) facts straight? Obama: "Very little of what Governor just said is true."
Romney added yet another blue sky promise for the two terms in office he's not so likely to get: energy independence in 8 years! And more Canadian pipelines! Candy Crowley re-raised the original question: is it the government's job to bring prices down?
"I will fight for oil, coal and natural gas," Romney says. Here we are in 2012, on the cusp of Peak Oil and the candidates are trying to see who will position themselves as a bigger friend of Big Energy. Obama points out that the ultra-low energy prices when he took office was BECAUSE THE ECONOMY WAS ON THE BRINK OF COLLAPSE. Oh, right right right. Let's not go back there, shall we?
The magical Romney tax plan:
Some progress, in that he's insisting the top income folks will not pay less. And middle income (never defined) taxpayers need breaks. The Governor didn't mention "revenue neutral" this time, but that's been the claim, which leaves a question unasked: WHO'S GOING TO PAY MORE? Who's going to lose their deductions? And you do realize this doesn't come anywhere close to adding up, don't you, Governor?
Obama: "If we're serious about reducing the deficit..." Big if. Nobody wants tough love, Barack. We like this arrangement where we get stuff and fob the bill off on the next generation. (We do hope they can find jobs and move out of the house sometime.)
In follow-up, what Romney implies but doesn't say is that it's between the top 5% and middle income earners who are going to have to make up the difference for whatever middle income tax breaks he comes up with. Oh, it's all about "small business," a term of art that also never gets defined. Bringing rates down will "make it easier for small business" to enhance our lives in every imaginable way. Lower rates and lower taxes or just lower rates and smoke and mirrors?
Obama: the lower rates are $5 trillion. $2 trillion more for additional military programs no one's asking for. And another $trillion to keep the Bush tax cuts going. That's $8 trillion of debt that he's going to squeeze out of deductions?
"We haven't heard from the governor any specifics beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood in terms of how he pays for that.
"Now, Governor Romney was a very successful investor. If somebody came to you, Governor, with a plan that said, here, I want to spend $7 or $8 trillion, and then we're going to pay for it, but we can't tell you until maybe after the election how we're going to do it, you wouldn't take such a sketchy deal and neither should you, the American people, because the math doesn't add up."
Candy Crowley gave Romney a chance to 'fess up and save face: just in case, "if somehow the numbers don't add up," would you redo the 20%? Romney: "Well of course they add up." Because... he "ran businesses for 25 years" and saved the Olympics with a government bailout? Trots out the misclaim that Obama "doubled the deficit" which was false last time and remains false. The combination of numbers that don't add up, the lies, and the hand-waving about "I ran businesses" are more than "sketchy," they're less persuasive than email from the elder son of the late King Otumfuo Opoku ware II. (Which, ok, maybe that's on purpose?)
Pay equality for women:
Softball for Obama, "one of the hallmarks of my administration." Romney's (all-male?) staff gave him a list of all-male candidates for the Massachusetts cabinet, and he said gosh, can't we do some affirmative action? They brought him "whole binders full of women," which spawned a new Twitter account in short order, @Romneys_Binder. Well played.
Obama: when Governor Romney's campaign was asked about the Lilly Ledbetter bill, whether he supported it? He said, "I'll get back to you."
Romney didn't take last night's opportunity to get back to us. He could have interrupted (as he did for other things), or insisted on starting his next speaking time with clarification... but no. Crickets. He did eventually come back to affirm that "every woman in America should have access to contraceptives," which is good, but not as good as Obama's demonstrated support for women's healthcare, which are "not just women's issues--these are family issues, these are economic issues."
Speaking of economic issues, I wish someone in the audience, or even the president had asked Romney: are you better off today than you were four years ago? Mr. Gloom and Doom might be able to express sympathy now and again, but he is not feeling anyone's pain. However close we were to financial meltdown and the brink of collapse four years ago, we did not go over the brink. The economy has been growing (albeit not as fast as some want, and many need), and plutocrats and the well-to-do have been doing very nicely, thank you.
I thought of that when Mitt said "We can't afford four more years like this..." Has he been too busy to keep up with his CEO friends lately? Quite a few of them are swimming in vaults of cash, don't you know.
On bashing China:
Lots of wailing on one of our largest trading partners, one of our largest sources of credit (and of course, the next in line junior hegemon). Currency manipulators! Romney will call them so "on day one" of his administration. He'll make tariffs! We really hate the idea of interdependence, apparently.
Audience member asked how can we change the fact that Apple's fabulous products, the iPhone and iPad are made in China? Romney went off on "currency manipulation" and "stealing intellectual property," but they didn't steal Apple's business, Apple gave them the business because it was to their advantage.
ROMNEY: Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?
OBAMA: You know, I--I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours so it doesn't take as long.
Richy Rich has "some advice" for the POTUS about how his pension has "investments in Chinese companies. You also have investments outside the United States. You also have investments through a Cayman's trust."
Not because Romney has actually looked at the President's pension, whatever that may be, but because everybody does what his blind trusts do? Seriously? "Let me give you some advice."
Who denied extra security to the folks at the Libyan embassy? Kind of a setup for Romney, and kind of a clown question, but the topic is deadly serious. Obama answered with what he did, and said, in response to what happened in Benghazi, and pointed out that Romney
"put out a press release, trying to make political points, and that's not how a commander in chief operates. You don't turn national security into a political issue."
But here we are.
Romney went off on his "apology tour" meme, that "It was a terrorist attack and it took a long time for that to be told to the American people." Except that...
OBAMA: The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime.
Romney found himself an opening, wants "to make sure we get that for the record."
OBAMA: Get the transcript.
And the moderator, Candy Crowley did on-the-spot fact check for the Governor. Romney is still trying to turn political tricks on national security. He looks very unpresidential in this.
OBAMA: ...the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That's not what we do. That's not what I do as president, that's not what I do as Commander in Chief."
There is a way for Romney to go after this, I suppose, but he has yet to find a good one. He's niggling, carping, whining, and showing that for all his 25 years in business and saving the Olympics and being Governor of Massachusetts, he doesn't really know what being President of the United States is about. There's more to it than saying "I know what it takes."
After Tom Luna was re-elected two years ago, campaigning on how great things were in Idaho schools, he rolled out a package of "reforms" that had Jeb Bush and ALEC and market-based solutions written all over them, with kill-the-union frosting. He and his Republican pals rammed it through the legislature in spite of huge public outcry, complete with "emergency" provisions to get it going ASAP, and try to short-circuit the effort to let voters (a) recall Luna, and (b) reject the legislation through Idaho's referendum process.
The high hurdles for a recall, given Luna's personal cushion as a Republican in our reddest of states, kept his job secure, but the voters are going to have a Yes/No vote on the three bills that the legislature passed. Proposition 3 was about distributing technology to all high school students in the state, a work very much still in progress, as the meanderings of Mountain Home News managing editor Kelly Everitt describe: So where are the laptops?
"[N]obody seems interested in selling laptops at the roughly $250 per machine the legislature budgeted for them. Maybe they thought they'd get a discount for bulk buying, but historically computer companies have never done that. Why should they? Especially when they have a market required by law to buy from them."
Proposition 2 is about "pay for performance," a simple-minded idea that sounds good, but never seems to work as intended. (Maybe you're just not doing it right.) Everitt has a word or two about that, too:
"I taught high school at one time, a long time ago, and one of my classes was the "bonehead" history class (a word never technically used, but it was what it was). Although it actually was one of my favorite classes, it was composed of kids for whom a C was a really good grade and special ed kids being 'mainstreamed' into a regular classroom setting. I liked those kids. They were fun and teaching them was a great challenge that I enjoyed. But if my pay was going to be based on how well they did on a standardized state test, I wouldn't touch that class with a ten-foot pole. Why would any teacher?"
For a detailed explanation of how the Romney-Ryan tax plan is able to cut taxes by $5 trillion without raising taxes on the middle class or exploding the deficit, simply... follow the link, and directions.
Just a regular guy, barging into a soup kitche for a photo-op. Now that's a class act! Bring the wife and kids, too.
The Ryan family stopped in for about 15 minutes, after the patrons had come and gone and the place was already clean.
"The photo-op they did wasn't even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall."
I don't know the deputy campaign manager for Romney for President, Inc. from Eve, but Katie Packer Gage has her name on the latest fundraising missive from RFP, and that headline is what she used for a subject line. Mitt Romney is surging, she says, "taking the lead in key battleground states."
"According to today's polls, women voters in particular, are stepping up their support. They get it: There's nothing 'pro-woman' about the Obama economy's record poverty rates and stagnant employment."
Wow, the whole economy is Obama's now? And the poverty rate and employment are all his doing? Who knew.
The funny thing is, I'd just watched Stephen Colbert's "Formidable Opponent" schtick (courtesy of a loyal reader, and the Daily Kos), which had as its punch line the same observation:
RED-TIE STEPHEN: Oh my God. I don't know who I am anymore.
BLUE-TIE STEPHEN: And we only switched positions once.
RED-TIE STEPHEN: Imagine how Mitt Romney must feel!
BLUE-TIE STEPHEN: I bet he feels pretty good, 'cause it's working.
That all came after the question that left one of the two slack-jawed, about the 20% tax cut that's supposedly not a tax cut. It doesn't make a lick of sense, but it's working!
You might have seen a fundraising pitch or two this election season. If nothing else, all the money changing hands will give a boost to the economy? One of Idaho's captains of industry (such as it is: multilevel marketing of "health supplements" and cleaning products) says he's spent more than $200,000 to boost Propositions 1, 2 and 3, the so-called "Luna Laws" to remake Idaho's public education system in a Republican image. That's in spite of his being lukewarm on #3, the one that would dispense laptops (most likely) to every high school student. He's all in favor of the union-busting and merit pay though, and has been telling all the world that will read full-page ads in the Idaho Statesman paid for by VanderSloot's business, Melaleuca.
Trouble is, he's being outspent rather considerably. If only I could scream here the way he does with his 5" high headline about WASHINGTON, D.C UNION TRIES TO BUY CONTROL OF IDAHO SCHOOLS! I might scream about IDAHO REPUBLICANS TRY TO SELL OUR KIDS TO HIGHEST BIDDER in the online education market. But what is the sound of one headline clapping when a tree falls in the forest and no one hears?
The funny thing about political fundraising is that everyone doing it seems to try every angle simultaneously. It's for a good cause. It's against a bad cause. We've got a deadline coming up. The other side has raised more money! Show how much you love us. See, we're winning, we raised more money! Outside money is terrible! This is not a fair fight! We need outside money!
And so on. The facts on the ground are that the NO side has raised nigh on $1.4 million, and the YES side just over $0.5 million, and the latest Mason-Dixon poll shows that "even Republican support is soft."
As many as one-fifth of voters are undecided, and undecideds tend to break to no, do nothing, refuse. #1 ("unions," as the newspaper helpfully summarized in a single word) is behind by 4%, #2 ("bonuses") is ahead by 3%, and #3 ("laptops") lags by 7%, with 20%, 19% and 13% undecided. The poll of 625 likely voters in the state claims a margin of error of ±4%.
But Frank VanderSloot, he trusts Tom Luna, and he's happy to write out a $100,000 check "to whoever he told me to write it to" and to vote for a proposition that he's never been very enamored with, and that he thinks has unnecessary mandates, because "technology is going to come, one way or another," and to pay for ink by the barrel and put his opinions right there under his business name because he has "not given anything undisclosed to anybody."
TONIGHT: Public forum with a panel discussion on the school referenda, moderated by Dr. Jim Weatherby. Monday, October 15, 6:30 pm at Centennial High School, Cloverdale and McMillan in Boise. Sponsored by the League of Women Voters Idaho, AAUW, and TransForm Idaho.
Update: Where some of the "Yes for Idaho Education" money went: a sleazeball ad taking an unrelated, 3 year-old speech out of context.
It may be only one reason, but it's The One: @TheTweetOfGod.
The Romney/Ryan tax plan, for which we don't have time to explain the math, starts with "lower all rates 20%," but through some unspecified magical closing of loopholes and removal of deductions is "revenue neutral." They're not saying what details could make this work because they plan to work with Congress to make it happen, in a big, bipartisan way.
So how about a dose of nonpartisan reality from the Joint Committee on Taxation, as reported in the Washington Post? The shorter version is: "um, that actually doesn't work."
"Wiping out itemized deductions and raising taxes on investment income" would allow for a 4% reduction in tax rates, by their estimate. And of course, taxes overall would be the same if it's "revenue neutral." Some people would doubtless pay less, and some more, but we don't know who because we don't have any details specified. Four "icons of deficit reduction" dismissed the dismissal:
"Nothing in the JCT analysis changes our belief that it is possible for tax reform to reduce rates and produce additional revenues if policymakers are willing to make the tough choices to eliminate or scale back tax expenditures," they said in a joint statement. "There is a growing bipartisan consensus for an approach that broadens the base, lowers rates and raises revenue as part of a comprehensive" debt-reduction plan.
Except, um, revenue neutral. And besides, this is not the plan we're looking for.
"This self-described 'experiment' says nothing about the pro-growth tax reform proposed by Mitt Romney," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement. "It's simply irrelevant to any analysis of his plan."
All analysis is simply irrelevant to the blather about "his plan" because it's blather.
This election is about a lot of things, but mostly, as ever, the economy. How much blame (or credit) does the Obama administration deserve for our current economy? Could they have done more, in spite of the obstinate and determined resistance from Republicans in Congress? Do they have a plan for a second term? Compared to what? Nothing I've heard from the Republicans amounts to "a plan" with any sort of identifiable particulars that add up, make sense, and seem like a good idea. And what they do say they want to do sounds wrong. Paul Krugman:
"[T]he question we should ask given this unpleasant reality is what policies would offer the best prospects for healing the damage. Mr. Obama's camp argues for an active government role; his last major economic proposal, the American Jobs Act, would have tried to accelerate recovery by sustaining public spending and putting money in the hands of people likely to use it. Republicans, on the other hand, insist that the path to prosperity involves sharp cuts in government spending. ...
"What the [International Monetary Fund, and its just-released update on the World Economic Outlook] shows is that the countries pursing the biggest spending cuts are also the countries that have experienced the deepest economic slumps. Indeed, the evidence suggests that in brushing aside the standard view that spending cuts hurt the economy in the short run, the GOP got it exactly wrong. Recent spending cuts appear to have done even more harm than most analysts—including those at the IMF itself—expected."
The Romney/Ryan mantra is that "we have a plan" but to the extent they do, it isn't the one we need.
Spent quite a bit more time at the local bank branch than I expected to yesterday, just to deposit a check. Some gal had a complex transaction involving a large sack of cash (but everybody was cheerful, pretty sure it wasn't a robbery in progress). When the line for the lone active teller reached four, a gal came out of her cube and said "Does anyone have just a transfer? I can do a transfer, but not a deposit." Nope, nobody.
There's a big TV up on the wall, which I've been trying to figure out why it's in the bank, and an answer occurs to me: to get people to look up, so the security cameras get a good shot of their faces. Or to distract people if they have to wait too long.
I was distracted, mostly by wondering why the hell my bank thought I wanted to see Fox News while I waited much too long, and whether it was worth telling them I was going to take my business elsewhere. But enough about me, let's talk about newsfotainment.
"Not everyone's happy," a Fox News pundit named Brian said over and over after last night's debate, repeating what he thought Martha Raddatz said, "basically told him the answer..." (The transcript doesn't show Raddatz having said "everybody" or "happy," although she did say "not" a few times.) Told Ryan the answer how to respond to Biden on military policy? The other guy says:
"But you know what, Brian, that's the all the substance, if you were watchin' on TV, you'd be watchin' uh Paul Ryan try to give a measured, responsible, sober answer, and in the split screen, you'd see Joe Biden, and at certain times, Joe Biden actually kinda looked crazy!"
Said by someone who, I'm sorry, I think looks kind of crazy too, as he says a lot of crazy things. Then the gal, about Charles Krauthammer's "so on analysis" (speaking of looking a little crazy),
"if you were listening to this on the radio, or reading the transcript, you would think that Joe Biden probably won this thing, based on maybe content, but when you saw the optics, and that's what it's all about folks ..."
That's certainly what it's all about on Fox News.
"In the split screen view, Biden was often rolling his eyes and smiling or laughing, as if Ryan's responses were beyond belief."
Nice to have VP Joe Biden come out swinging in last night's lively debate. Nice to have the candidates seated at a table, close to moderator Martha Raddatz, who did a great job in keeping the discussions focused, and controlling at least some of the slipperiness of not answering questions.
On the subject of what's now known to have been an outright terrorist attack on the embassy in Benghazi, which the Ryan/Romney campaign like to find "becoming more troubling by the day" by shooting off their talking points out of turn, Raddatz asked "Was that really appropriate right in the middle of the crisis?"
Great question. "It's never to early to speak out for our values," Ryan said, before heading off into a "projecting weakness" theme. He's no Teddy Roosevelt, we've got that. But aside from the slightly crazy hand waving about any and every foreign policy move as wrong, the Congressman knows too few facts for an informed opinion.
"Number one, the—this lecture on embassy security—the congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for, number one. So much for the embassy security piece."
Hey, you have to prioritize things. Number two...
"You know, usually when there's a crisis, we pull together. We pull together as a nation. But as I said, even before we knew what happened to the ambassador, the governor was holding a press conference—was holding a press conference. That's not presidential leadership."
For his part, asked to respond to the Secretary of Defense's assessment that "a strike on Iran's facilities would not work and, quote, could prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations," Ryan wandered off into pronouncement territory, wants to emphasize "the military option," because that makes it "credible," because if we don't say "military option" enough it would incredible, I guess.
There's a lot that can't be talked about, most of which Paul Ryan knows nothing about. There isn't disagreement about the desired ends, just the posturing, and Ryan wants to emphasize that he and Romney are better at posturing.
On to the economy, Biden hammered the "47 percent" candidate in one of his strongest runs of the night.
"Let's look at where we were when we came to office. The economy was in free fall. We had—the Great Recession hit. ...
"We knew we had to act for the middle class. We immediately went out and rescued General Motors. We went ahead and made sure that we cut taxes for the middle class. And in addition to that, when that—and when that occurred, what did Romney do? Romney said, no, let Detroit go bankrupt. We moved in and helped people refinance their homes. Governor Romney said, no, let foreclosures hit the bottom."
Ryan responded that "Mitt Romney's a car guy," and about how he once helped a Mormon family with some kids who were hurt in a car crash.
Ryan went off on "$90 billion in green pork." 100 criminal investigations? "No evidence of cronyism." And oh by the way, "My friend here sent me two letters asking for stimulus money. I love that."
Ryan and Romney defenders of Medicare?
"Folks, follow your instincts on this one. ... Their ideas are old, and their ideas are bad, and they eliminate the guarantee of Medicare."
Then the Big Idea of reforming the tax code by drastically lowering rates and making it all up, "revenue neutral" and "I don't have time to explain all the math" in loopholes and deductions. Which ones? Can't say. Some sort of tax code shell game will "grow the economy and create jobs," 7 million of them.
RADDATZ: You have refused yet again to offer specifics on how you pay for that 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. Do you actually have the specifics, or are you still working on it, and that's why you won't tell voters?
RYAN: Different than this administration, we actually want to have big bipartisan agreements. You see, I understand the—
RADDATZ: Do you have the specifics? Do you have the math? Do you know exactly what you're doing?
That would be a "no."
He did talk about some folks he read about in history books, Tip O'Neill, Ronald Reagan, Jack Kennedy... Joe Biden "was there when we were negotiating that, in 1983," the year Paul Ryan became a teenager. Not that he's not a capable person, but Vice-President? Doesn't seem anywhere near ready to me.
A week from today, there's a power-packed lineup of successful people coming to the Idaho Center to inspire you with something or other. Big ads, breathless hype, the GOP using it for fundraising, even though "others have said" that "No politics! No fluff!" From Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Palin, Steve Forbes and so on? I see from the the PowerUp360 website that there's a "surprise special guest," and I can't help but wonder if it's going to be Clint Eastwood.
More heartwarming what others have said:
"An event with a heart!"
"I left with both hope & direction!"
"The singers were incredible!"
"I love that they give back."
Join the corporations, bureaucracies and militaries sending people for an all-day emotional boost! $59 to be close! $29 to get in! Or $99 for a 10-pack! Bring your camera! Don't bring a recording device! For many of our attendees, the event is tax deductible. Bring business cards, because you'll be rubbing elbows with business leaders in your community. Bring your children, maybe.
"Bring your teenager and unlock their imagination to what is possible if they have a goal, work hard, and have an unwavering determination to serve and seek excellence in all they do!"
A central Nebraska Salvation Army congregation showing Dinesh D'Souza's anti-Obama movie for "Teen Night," you say? A rich stew of church and state with questionable legality (assuming the S.A. wants to keep its tax-exempt status). One of the teens' mothers, Vyckie Garrison, provides a religion dispatch on the intersection between "faith," indoctrination, propaganda and political campaigns.
Not his fortune, but contributing to Fortune, opining that his "traction" looks better elsewhere. There'd be a nice pun about a storied line of General Electric products if Jack Welch had ever had much to do with those, but I don't suppose.
Being a Captain of Industry has its ups and downs, but you're a little freer to ignore criticism when you're orders of magnitude richer than Croesus and have your parachute packed with almost $half a billion. But senior editor Stephen Gandel's slapdown, Obama trounces Welch's job record apparently had a bit too much sting.
"GE lost nearly 100,000 jobs while Welch was at the helm of the company—a tenure that spanned two of the most robust periods of economic growth in American business history."
Welch is happy to point out how well the company did, soaring market cap, and investors super happy even he doesn't mention his own account. He never said he was a job creator, after all. For as much as he might like a wheeler and dealer like himself running for president, what good is his opinion? Gandel didn't think much:
"[W]hat's clear from looking at the tenure of Welch and business leaders like him is that the notion that being successful in business translates into knowing how to, or have even have much experience, creating jobs is misleading at best."
You may have already seen the new Obama ad featuring Big Bird ("taking on our enemies, no matter where they nest"); the WaPo story has this:
The Romney campaign responded by pointing to Obama's 2008 comment in which he said that a politician who is on the defensive makes "a big election about small things."
which is confusing. Mitt Romney's the one who brought up this relatively "small thing" in the federal budget, which has an outsized influence on our culture, as if cutting federal support for PBS would be beneficial in some way? Or that he thinks his casual snark in last week's debate is a mere tossed off bauble of no importance? Tough love from a turnaround artist? His campaign seems relatively clueless about the resources that PBS has for teachers, and parents, and people interested in this important election.
NYT feed in the morning email, there's a story about drugs normally used to increase focus, being used "in some cases simply to improve performance at school." Because, who wouldn't want to improve performance? Attention Disorder or Not, Pills to Help in School. Then just below that, their pull quote of the day, out of the story about Joe Kittinger guiding Felix Baumgartner in his attempt to jump out of something 22 miles over the planet and break the sound barrier on his way down.
"From the beginning of mankind, the boys want to go higher, faster, lower. It's a fascinating part of human nature."
Update: No 20-some mile freefall today. He was looking for takeoff winds of 2 mph or less, had 25.
Making the rounds of Facebook, a convenient campaign image with the cutline
YOU MIGHT BE A REPUBLICAN IF...
YOU ARE UPSET BY A GOOD EMPLOYMENT REPORT
but if you're unemployed you might not be amused to consider Paul Krugman's estimate that "if the American Jobs Act, proposed by the Obama administration last year, had been passed, the unemployment rate would probably be below 7 percent."
That would be about a million and a quarter more people working.
"The furor over Friday's report revealed a political movement that is rooting for American failure, so obsessed with taking down Mr. Obama that good news for the nation's long-suffering workers drives its members into a blind rage. It also revealed a movement that lives in an intellectual bubble, dealing with uncomfortable reality—whether that reality involves polls or economic data—not just by denying the facts, but by spinning wild conspiracy theories."
Jon Stewart and his Daily Show team had more fun with this than black-and-white op-ed indignation can provide. The "this was now, that was then" comparisons are priceless. Once upon a time, Lou Dobbs derided the idea—the very idea!—that a paltry $4 billion in tax subsidies for Big Oil was worth a president's attention. A scant 0.0008 percent of the $5 trillion Obama's added [sic] to the deficit.
Ok, first of all? $4 billion is 0.08% of $5 trillion. So two orders of magnitude wrong, you don't get partial credit. And second of all, if $4 billion is your threshold for what's worth your and our attention, there's an awful lot you should shut up about, starting with $8 million for Sesame Street and $400-some million for PBS.
It's not clear how they obtained my address, but I'm on their list, for the "first edition of the Idaho Petroleum Council newsletter," since their founding last year. They're "work[ing] closely with industry partners, with state regulators, with legislators and with members of the general public to engage, inform and educate about Idaho's newest industry," with a somewhat predictable message. Maybe they follow my blog, and saw that I was interested in Idaho's legislature bending over backward for oil and gas last February? The IPC's Executive Director thinks her newsletter
"comes at a perfect time, thanks to all the recent news about an an extensive project in Western Idaho. The project is being developed by [one] of our board members and his business partners. Richard Brown, of Snake River Oil + Gas, and his partners with Alta Mesa will are in the middle of a massive seismic exploration operation, which will help us all have a better sense of the resources we have available."
Not to put too fine a point on the Council's role in lobbying for its members' interests. They also offer a selected quote from a July piece in The Hill that followed news that President "Obama has promised safeguards in natural-gas wells that would prevent chemicals from seeping into groundwater and also contain greenhouse gas emissions from drilling sites," that supporters say Obama is "moving too fast with regulations." Because drill, baby, drill.
As the IPC reminds us under their headline Spinning science to score political points, "there is always another side to the story." Rest assured that the profitable side has the means and the motivation to get theirs out.
Charles Blow has Big Bird's back, after Mitt Romney's inelegant attack Wednesday night, sticking his big nose where it doesn't belong, and counting paper clips when he should be checking his math. What Blow said:
"I don't really expect Mitt Romney to understand the value of something like PBS to people, like me, who grew up in poor, rural areas and went to small schools. These are places with no museums or preschools or after-school educational programs. There wasn't money for travel or to pay tutors.
"I honestly don’t know where I would be in the world without PBS."
What PBS said:
"Over the course of a year, 91 percent of all U.S. television households tune in to their local PBS station. In fact, our service is watched by 81 percent of all children between the ages of 2-8. Each day, the American public receives an enduring and daily return on investment that is heard, seen, read and experienced in public media broadcasts, apps, podcasts and online—all for the cost of about $1.35 per person per year."
History is messy; when distilled to campaign slogans and talking points, the apparent tidiness is always a work of fiction. Now that Mitt Romney has returned to talking about his time as governor of Massachusetts, a closer examination of the actual record is in order. (A closer examination of his record at Bain Capital, and his record with the IRS has been in order for quite some time, but he's been doing a pretty good job of keeping his distance from those.)
Bipartisanship in short supply; scores of vetoes overridden; his notions of wholesale restructuring of state government DOA; a shrinking work force providing tepid reduction in the state's unemployment rate. Some success, to be sure, especially that model healthcare insurance reform, that was "pushing on an open door": "Democrats had long dreamed of providing health coverage to almost every resident."
"But in contrast to his statements in the debate, many say, Mr. Romney neither mastered the art of reaching across the aisle nor achieved unusual success as governor. To the contrary, they say, his relations with Democrats could be acrimonious, and his ability to get big things done could be just as shackled as is President Obama’s ability to push his agenda through a hostile House of Representatives."
Not being a student of Massachusetts government, I don't know the truth behind the differing accounts, but I'm pretty certain the divisions between the state's governor and its legislature were not as epic as what Republicans were able to create in the 111th and 112th Congresses (nor for that matter, what they're prepared to mount in the 113th).
One of the leading anti-administration talking points is that Obama "created a divisive culture" that stymied progress. Romney's counter-proposal is that he'll "work with Congress" to get new stuff done, after he repeals major legislation left and right. It's a fairy tale. Which is apparently adequate for stumping on the campaign trail. In the middle of Romney's one term, he
"was provoked enough to mount an unprecedented campaign to unseat Democratic legislators, spending $3 million in Republican Party money and hiring a nationally known political strategist, Michael Murphy, to plan the battle. The effort failed spectacularly. Republicans lost seats, leaving them with their smallest legislative delegation since 1867. ..."
If you're at all interested in the give and take of the presidential race, you've no doubt seen one of the many catalogs of Mitt Romney's lies from Wednesday night, and probably some of the individual prevarications analyzed in details. Such as... Romney's sick joke about pre-existing conditions being covered "covered" under "his" "plan."
"No, they aren't—as Mr. Romney’s own advisers have conceded in the past, and did again after the debate."
We don't have the health care system we ought to have, as the economic hegemon and sole survivor superpower. We have a crazy quilt of partly-regulated, partly-market-based and demonstrably suboptimized fiefdoms that are extremely profitable for many companies in one of our few growth industries. There's a lot of talk about "merit pay" for teachers; would that we could create merit pay for our healthcare system. Having the most expensive system is a superlative, but that is not a synonym for "best."
It would be an interesting debate to rationally consider, in appropriate detail and without any smoke and mirrors, whether the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") is moving far enough or fast enough in the right direction. That isn't scheduled. In the meantime, Obamacare is what we have, the House of Representatives' 33 votes for repeal notwithstanding.
What is utterly unuseful is to have a smarmy plutocrat waving his hands at "repeal and replace" with a sketchy proposal (or worse, the sketchier promise to "work with Congress") and lying about it to boot.
"[M]any Americans have health insurance but live under the continual threat of losing it. Obamacare would eliminate this threat, but Mr. Romney would bring it back and make it worse."
After Wednesday's debate performance featuring an energized Mitt Romney casting off his "severe conservative" persona and staking a claim to man-in-the-middle with a muddle of made-up "plans" lacking specificity in all but his desire to release the hounds to go after Big Bird, and the curiously lackluster response from the President, Friday's jobs report could have been a double whammy. But no! There is a glimmer of good news: the unemployment rate has edged below 8%, finally, and the revised numbers for August and September are better than first reported.
There is no reason to expect Republicans to celebrate this with anything beyond the backhanded compliment that it should be even better (as if on cue: "This is not what a real recovery looks like," Romney said in a statement), but Jack Welch's response takes the cake that Marie Antoinette used to talk about. Good numbers? That's "unbelievable." "Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers."
This Twitter thingie is a dangerous tool, tapping a vein straight to the id. Jack Welch must know something about cooking the books? That's what he would've done? We'll have to wait a bit for more from him, it seems. His secretary "said Welch is the only one with access to the account and is now unavailable for the rest of the day in meetings."
Now following Jack, can't wait for his next tweet.
Update: Hey you kids, get off my lawn. Jack didn't have a follow-up tweet, but this:
gwen ifill @pbsgwen
"I have no evidence..I'm just asking a question. " Jack Welch to Chris Matthews. Oh-Kay.
Update #2: I didn't try calling Jack, but Joe Nocera did, and whaddayaknow, "he quickly backpedaled." "I'm not accusing anybody of anything," Welch said. Good story about Nixon in 1971, too.
Where in the hell did the cheap shot against PBS come from, and why should a presidential candidate care about a public investment of less than one ten-thousandth of the federal budget? The only sensible answer is that it was a cheap toot on the dog whistle for the conservatives he's leaving behind as he lurches to the center to scoop up some uncommitted voters.
He must be betting that the two-thirds of the electorate that opposes elimination of government funding for public broadcasting have already decided who they're voting for. From the PBS statement regarding last night's debate:
"Earlier in 2012, a Harris Interactive poll confirmed that Americans consider PBS the most trusted public institution and the second most valuable use of public funds, behind only national defense, for the 9th consecutive year."
Ahead of the institution of the Congress, the Supreme Court, and yes, the Presidency, and certainly ahead of candidates for the presidency.
"Numerous studies—including one requested by Congress earlier this year—have stated categorically that while the federal investment in public broadcasting is relatively modest, the absence of this critical seed money would cripple the system and bring its services to an end."
Idaho is not a "swing" state by any stretch of the imagination. Romney has our four electoral votes in his lockbox for what good they'll do him. Among the other partisans celebrating the Republican candidate's supposed success in last night's debate, our state's party put out a press release that borders on bizarre.
"The most striking point of the debate, according to [Idaho GOP] Chairman Barry Peterson, was how Governor Romney came across as patriotic to the divinely expressed character of our nation's founding fathers. He was respectful of the deity articulated in the concepts put together in this great republic."
They say that God is in the details, but somehow I'd overlooked that particular detail of the debate.
The first debate is in the can, and partisans of every stripe are declaring victory for their guy. Hooray! One fellow on a list I'm on forwarded Paul Ryan's and Marco Rubio's "please send $5" emails celebrating Mitt's victory, introducing Ryan's with "Boy this fellow is right on the money."
He's certainly been right on the money for his family's account, as we all know.
I did find out that watching a Twitter feed and tweeting while the debate is going on does not actually enhance one's attention to what's being said. Not that I needed to hear it, what with being able to get analysis and fact-checking five ways to Friday.
Romney swerved hard to the center, no hint of the "severe conservative" nonsense he blurted out while working to dispatch Gingrich, Perry, Santorum, Bachmann and the rest of the Right in the primaries. He was Governor of Massachusetts! He will take credit for RomneyCare! (And use it to argue for... throwing out federal healthcare insurance reform and letting the 50 states have a go at it however they see fit.)
The focus on economics seemed to devolve to a contest of who could pander more to voters' narrow self-interest. Please lower my taxes. Please create jobs. Please blah blah blah the deficit blah blah blah think of the children.
Romney's tax "plan" is quite bizarre, to the extent that it's more than a burrow of Talking Points Whack-a-mole® ("That's not my plan!"). Simplifying the tax code has been a good idea for my whole life, but the forms I fill out every April have not been getting simpler. "Lower all rates 20%" is direct and understandable and the kind of thing Congress might do "first" while they wrestle over the other details that don't actually get done. We've seen this act before. Removing loopholes and deductions that will help the vaunted "small business"? Please.
If nothing else, if that really is the plan, tell us whose taxes you'll raise so that small businesses' can be reduced? Or do you mean Laffer curve nonsense that by lower tax rates you'll increase revenue? That can't work when taxes are at historically low levels.
Robert Krulwich wonders... Are those spidery black things on Mars dangerous? and answers "Maybe." With some great, long pictures, an interesting way to get several big images into view in a modest-sized browser window. This sounds life-like:
"Every Martian spring, they appear out of nowhere, showing up—70 percent of the time—where they were the year before. They pop up suddenly, sometimes overnight. When winter comes, they vanish."
One possible explanation—the "leading" one, according to Krulwich—is described and seems plausible. Weirder to him than to me. I kind of expect some weirdness from other planets. I mean... Saturn has rings around it; and all those moons!
Tom Luna, Idaho's Superintendent of Public Instruction is a bully. He's shown in it in his approach to legislation, to dealing with teachers, and dealing with the teacher's union. And like any bully, he's thin-skinned, and ready to complain about bad acts and "bad faith" of others. All that was on display at yesterday's City Club of Boise forum, but with an unexpected, and semi-public twist.
I wrote yesterday's "shootout" blog headline thinking about Luna's closing remark in which he shot himself in the foot. That was before I heard the rest of the story, which included a literal twist, applied to State Representative Brian Cronin's arm, in front of the packed house, during the applause following Cronin's opening remarks. Reported yesterday, by Betsy Russell:
"He grabbed my arm rather forcefully and got in my face and said, 'That's the biggest bullshit I've ever heard,'" Cronin said. "I looked at the people at the lead table and I think they saw that I was visibly alarmed, shaken, but that's what he said. He grabbed my arm hard enough such that I spilled my water.—When he tried to touch me again, I told him not to touch me."
I was hoping to see what happened on the video, which local channel KTVB is broadcasting several times (starting tonight at 7pm, same time as the presidential debate, but on the 24/7 channel we don't get), but I see Dan Popkey picked up the story for today's Idaho Statesman (top of page A14 in print, way down the right sidebar on the web, "Big fight at the City Club?").
Cronin reported what happened as soon as possible, at the scene. This is not something he'd make up. For Luna's part, the first thing I saw was in Russell's story, from his spokeswoman: "He never used that language. That's completely inaccurate." But how would she know what Luna said? In Popkey's piece, Luna denied using the vulgarity:
"No. No. I'm not going to go there because you will not report this fairly. We had a private conversation. I'll leave it at that."
It would be comic were it not so pathetic. This is a man who embellished his public remarks with emphasis on "those interested in the truth." Yes, we're interested in the truth. And as Dr. Weatherby told us before the beginning of the forum, we expect civility, too.
Mr. Luna has earned another failing grade.
Update: Finally saw the video record of the confrontation. Left my comment on the 43rd State Blues site.
Before the start of what will be a radio and TV broadcast of today's City Club of Boise forum on the "Students Come First" referenda on November's statewide ballot, Professor Jim Weatherby instructed the buzzing, capacity crowd—which included 85 high school students—as to appropriate behavior. The City Club values and promotes civility; behave yourselves and stay quiet. We have 59 minutes, don't waste it with outbursts. "Now, turn on your fancy machines," he concluded, and introduced the forum and today's speakers.
Weatherby noted that the only successful referendum state voters have ever enacted was repealing a 2 cent sales tax once upon a time. He didn't say whether a "Yes" vote to uphold the legislation, or a "No" vote to repeat it would constitute "success" this time. Must be the "no" side, since without the referenda , the laws would stand as they are.
There was no mending of the divide between the two sides in what followed. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna recited how wonderful his "comprehensive education reform" legislation has been for all concerned, and how it's a golden bridge into the 21st century (which you may have noticed is already underway), and how horrible going back to the way things used to be would be, if the No-sayers win.
State Representative (and Senior VP of Strategies 360) Brian Cronin repeated all the things the "No" side doesn't like about the bills. Process matters. Morale matters. Teacher morale has hit rock-bottom. This isn't "a reform plan, it's a 'fiscal crisis' plan," he said, designed to give the legislature and the governor a green light to run Idaho schools on bare-bones budgets. Cronin pointed out that when Luna ran for re-election in 2010, he was "extolling" the results he'd achieved, and arguing against cuts to school budgets. Post-election, and with his legislative package in play, he argued against increased funding, because "nobody is satisfied with the results we're getting."
Now, Luna touts the "historical amounts of professional development" for teachers, and the fact that 85% of schools have volunteered to be part of the initial third to get laptops (or whatever the "devices" turn out to be). And 8 in 10 teachers will receive a bonus this year (assuming that Mr. Luna does not obstruct them). So "bonus" is now part of the salary structure; Is this a net gain, or a shell game?
"Every classroom is a computer lab." Some high school students will graduate with an Associate's Degree kicker. And the legislation that Proposition 1 seeks to repeal is all about "returning control to local school boards." It's not that the legislature or the state will be giving up control, it's about the teacher's union, don't you know. As if they control things? He acknowledges, perhaps gracefully that "teachers are the solution, not a problem." Our old laws made it "very difficult" to deal with ineffective teachers. And so he phased out the "tenure" (that we never actually had).
I was wondering what, if any independent, objective measure of success there might be for what this legislation has accomplished, since his tireless insistence that it's all been glorious never actually points to any such thing. "Plenty of studies on our website," he said.
"It's a choice about moving forward or going backward." He's a simple man, putting this in simple terms. Vote yes. 'Nuff said.
Cronin cited one measure of results: nearly 1900 teachers left at the end of the last school year, and 1300 the year before, just after the reforms were enacted as "emergency" measures. The year before the reform bills, just 750 Idaho teachers left.
The legislation is not about students; it's "a plan to do education on the cheap," in a state that was already near the bottom of per-student spending. "It's a shell game, it's a bait and switch con," Cronin said, not pulling any punches. Fewer teachers, more laptops. Some districts will say no to cutting teachers, and turn to local voters to ask for help. We have a record high number of supplemental levies: 140 this year, going to 170. "That's a 26% tax increase just since the Luna laws were rolled out."
And it does nothing to provide the "uniform system of public instruction" our Constitution calls for, and that the Superintendent is supposed to superintend.
Asked about the undeniable relationship problem Luna has with Idaho's teachers, he denied there is one.
He loves going into classrooms. The divide isn't between teachers and him, it's those blasted unions. The crowd murmured its disbelief. "They have never dealt with me in good faith." And vice versa, eh? The union takes advantage of the trust parents have in teachers, Luna said. Never mind that the members of the teachers' union (yes, even those "union bosses") are TEACHERS.
Were there any undecided voters in the room? It's hard for me to imagine there were. Someone who hasn't yet been motivated to consider the issues and make up his or her mind seems unlikely to turn out for this sort of event. Nonetheless, up until the very end, in spite of Cronin's expression of indignation, and Luna's emphasis on "those who are interested in the truth," and insistence that his opposition has never dealt with him in good faith, it might have been a toss-up to the wider audience who will see or hear this through Idaho's public or other media.
In answer to the very last question, Tom Luna's pent up animosity finally popped. He thought he'd be safe with a quote he attributed to Ronald Reagan as he took careful aim and shot himself in the foot:
"Any carpenter can build a barn, any jackass can kick it down."
There were a lot of jaws dropping and eyes popping back where I was sitting at that, not many people heard Cronin's last comments as we looked at each other in disbelief over what we'd just heard. Did he just call anyone voting no on his legislation jackasses?
Whether or not Ronald Reagan ever took that cheap shot, web wisdom says it was the longest serving Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrat Sam Rayburn who expressed the difference between construction and obstruction, thusly:
"Any jackass can kick a barn down, but it took a carpenter to build it."
I don't know who on Tom Luna's team and in Idaho's public school system might doing the hard work of building collaboration these days, but the jackass with the big desk is doing his share of kicking.
Also of interest: the Spokesman-Review's Election Center coverage of the Idaho school reform referenda, and Betsy Russell's coverage of today's forum on her blog, Eye on Boise, including posts with summaries of Luna's and Cronin's opening remarks, and the Q&A following.
Hedrick Smith was featured on last night's Newshour, with the headline "The Seismic Economic and Political Changes that Transformed the American Dream." Ray Suarez's setup said that Hedrick "takes us on a tour of the last four decades, of economic globalization, winners, and losers." Then this morning I saw a strong recommendation for Hedrick's new book, Who Stole the American Dream? It prompted me to go visit Amazon and "look inside" to scan through the Prologue. Here's his expression of what I imagine you already know, since my blog's readership is discerning, and paying attention:
"The New Economy laissez-faire philosophy of the past three decades promised that deregulation, lower taxes and free trade would lift all boats. It argued that sharply reduced taxes for the rich would generate the capital for America's economic growth. Its disciples asserted that the free market would spread the wealth.
"But that is not what has happened. The middle class was left behind—the 150 million people whose family incomes range from nearly $30,000 to $100,000 a year—as well as 90 million more low-income Americans living in poverty or just above. Even the 60 million upper-middle-class Americans and the nation's wealthiest 5 percent have been falling steadily further behind America's financial elite, the super-rich 1 percent. ...
"Since the 1970s ... CEOs have practiced 'wedge economics'—splitting apart the pay of rank-and-file employees from company revenues and profits. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, the pay of a typical male worker was lower in 2010 than in 1978, adjusted for inflation. Three decades of getting nowhere or slipping backward. ...
"[Last April, ] The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page story trumpeting that major U.S. companies 'have emerged from the deepest recession since World War II more productive, more profitable, flush with cash and less burdened by debt' than in 2007... At home, the Journal noted, 'the performance hasn't translated into significant gains in U.S. employment.'"
The financial results of the last decade—of the last four decades—speak for themselves, and no one disputes the shift that has taken place. (There are many who downplay the shift and anyone with the temerity to declare its importance. It's just "class warfare.") The winners—the 1%—have their supporters, their staff, their lobbyists, their media, their pollsters, their candidate, their bottomless well of money and a Supreme Court license to use it pretty much however they see fit. Sheldon Adelson doesn't have to be "all in" for a Republican candidate, his 8-figure pocket change is plenty. He wanted Gingrich, god knows why, said he might give ten or a hundred $million to him, or, uh, some other Republican. Whatever. His fortune is such that Forbes' Steve Bertoni could note "Adelson could personally fund an entire presidential campaign—say, $1 billion or so—and not even notice."
"I'm against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections," Adelson shrugs. "But as long as it's doable I'm going to do it."
He says he's worried about the trend toward redistribution of wealth, but not in the way wealth is actually being redistributed. "The man whose net worth, by Forbes' calculations, has jumped more ($21.6 billion) during the Obama administration than any other American—Mark Zuckerberg included—wants to take the president out for economic reasons."
So, Adelson is our man for the defense of the middle class? His current surrogate, Mitt Romney? Boy wonder Paul "it would take too long to explain" Ryan?
Along with the clear statistics of how that redistribution thing has been going (trickle-up economics, shall we call it?), we clearly have been applying the lower taxes, free trade, and deregulation program (even as yes, we there have also been new regulations, and court decisions upholding regulations that some wanted to gut, or ignore), and the results are measureable.
Tomorrow night, in the first presidential debate, ask yourself who is proposing something that might change the course we're on, in a way that benefits the breadth of our populace, the middle class, as opposed to the current elite, the 1%, the people who don't need our help in any way whatsoever. If someone proposes "lower taxes, free trade, and less regulation" in some shape or form as a path to a different result than we've already seen, ask yourself "is this person insane?"
And if the proposal is to "lower everyone's tax rates, but take away all those loopholes we're not going to specify so that it's revenue neutral," ask yourself "is this person serious?"
One of its stalwarts, Lenore Hardy Barrett sent a "Reader's Opinion" into the Idaho Statesman, and they ran it online: Idaho must kick the federal carpetbaggers out of the forests
Strong the crazy in this one is.
"A man came across a parrot of extraordinary talent. It spoke seven languages! He decided to gift his mother with this magnificent bird. Later, he called to see if she had received the gift. She had, and said it was delicious!"
With a setup like that, who needs a punchline?
All one candidate has to do is look at the other's campaign materials to see what angles of attack to expect, right? So here is the Obama campaign's ten things you need to know about Mitt Romney's record that Mitt should be prepared to answer for (or refute).
The third item is a good one, call it "heads we win, tails you lose": "Romney and his investors made $400 million from four companies that went bankrupt."
But, um, they tried?
It's not a good sign when even the infotainment channel that is doing everything it can to promote your candidacy starts to think you're blowing smoke. Chris Wallace never did get an answer to his direct question, "How much does it cost?"
"It's revenue neutral," Paul Ryan insists, before blaming Democrats in particular for our "junked up tax code" that his and Mitt Romney's leadership would empower Congress to clean up. Come to think of it, Ryan does look a little bit like the sorcerer's apprentice, maybe he's got a magic wand up his sleeve?
"It would take me too long to go through all the math."
But it's revenue neutral, and when it's all done... economic growth! Oh praise be.
Light, but amusing work: Gwen Ifil debunks five myths about presidential debates, starting with "voters use debates to decide," and ending with the true source of candidate definition, Saturday Night Live.
I gather, by MediaMatters' detailed, updated report that "In several instances, the [Wall Street] Journal failed to disclose an op-ed writer's connection despite its own news section reporting that the writer is advising Romney." But hey, it's not like all the op-ed writers weren't disclosed as "advisers" for Romney, only ten of them.
Last I checked, about a hundred years ago, the WSJ opinion section did not actually have any credibility, but I guess it's nice to have a catalog of that.
Tom von Alten tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org