June 30, 2012
Fact Check.org Fact Checks the President and the Washington Post
Obama accuses Romney in a series of TV ads of being a “corporate raider” who “shipped jobs to China and Mexico,” asking if voters want to elect an “outsourcer in chief.” But some of the claims in the ads are untrue, and others are thinly supported.
Bain Capital, the venture capital firm founded by Romney in 1984, is the focus of the Obama campaign’s attacks. There is no question that Bain invested in some companies that helped other companies outsource work and that some of that work went overseas. That was the core business for Modus Media and SMTC Corp. — two outsource companies featured in a June 21 article in the Washington Post that has been the basis of recent Obama TV ads. Bain also invested in U.S.-based companies that sold goods manufactured here and abroad, and some of those companies closed U.S. facilities and eliminated U.S. jobs.
But after reviewing numerous corporate filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, contemporary news accounts, company histories and press releases, and the evidence offered by both the Obama and Romney campaigns, we found no evidence to support the claim that Romney — while he was still running Bain Capital — shipped American jobs overseas.
Which leads me back to two questions I asked the other day:
If outsourcing is a bad thing, why is the President's re-election campaign doing it? And if it's not a bad thing, why is the President trying to mislead voters and gin up outrage against American businesses?
... we can hardly wait to learn why the Washington Post, which followed up a fact check that awarded the Obama Campaign 4 Pinocchios for accusing Bain Capital of shipping US jobs overseas with a front page story repeating many of the same claims, didn't think we should know that the Obama Administration is funding the creation of foreign jobs with taxpayer money designated for stimulating the US economy?
If outsourcing and offshoring are wrong, then it has to be more wrong for the federal government to use taxpayer money to do it than for private businesses to use their own money to do it. Judged by his own standards, Barack Obama is a worse villain than Mitt Romney or Bain Capital could ever be.
Not that we'll see the press looking into taxpayer funded outsourcing or offshoring with the same zeal they devote to front page hit pieces on Mitt Romney, mind you.
June 29, 2012
Isn't It Ironic?
Ruth Marcus, a columnist I usually enjoy reading, on yesterday's decision:
There are two magnificent ironies embedded in this outcome. The first is that the president, having strenuously denied that he was raising taxes with the “shared responsibility payment,” was saved by the court’s having found it to be, yes, a tax.
The second, even richer, is that President Obama’s signature domestic achievement was saved by none other than the chief justice whose confirmation he opposed. Then-Sen. Obama said he worried about how Roberts would vote in the sliver of “truly difficult” cases that “can only be determined on the basis of one’s deepest values, one’s core concerns, one’s broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one’s empathy.”
Roberts’s alliance with liberals in the health-care ruling, I suspect, illuminated something of his “deepest values” and “core concerns.” Too bad protocol would prevent the president from picking up the phone to say “thanks.” Maybe even “I was wrong.”
I was with her until the last two sentences.
It's hard to imagine what protocol prevents the President of the United States from apologizing for suggesting that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court would set aside his understanding of how the world works, the effect of his rulings on his fellow Americans, and most importantly, his own core values in favor of crass partisanship. There is no construction of then-Senator Obama's remark that is not deeply, grossly insulting and offensive on both a personal and professional level.
If some obscure rule prevents Presidents from admitting they were wrong, progressives certainly didn't place much stock in it when George Bush was in the Oval Office. Bush's two terms played out to a steady drumbeat of progressives demanding that the President of the United States humble himself and admit his mistakes.
Magnificent irony, indeed.
What Makes a Good Father?
According to these experts, lots of body hair. And tallness. It also helps immensely if you don't kill your children:
A while back, Grim linked to a post listing reasons for not having children. Among them was an assertion that children are boring conversationalists. Only someone who doesn't spend much time talking to real children would say that.
Of all the things I miss about raising my boys, I think I miss talking with them the most. There's something special about seeing the world through a child's eyes. Talking with a child has always reminded me of looking through a kaleidoscope. All of a sudden the pieces of your familiar, boring world are shaken up and something unexpected, beautiful, or just plain funny is revealed in things you long ago started taking for granted.
I Would Kill to Have Written This
This is, hands down, the most thorough, insightful, and informative analysis of yesterday's SCOTUS decision on the individual mandate I've seen.
I agree with every single word of it. Particularly this part:
In the end, insane, brilliant, diseased, medicated, blackmailed, weak-spined, far-sighted, Machivellian Chief Justice John Roberts simultaneously built up and tore down American liberties. Moreover, he also ensured that both Obama and the Democrats, on the one hand, and Romney and the Republicans, on the other hand, can claim a clear victory, both today and in the November 2012 elections.
June 28, 2012
Small Comfort On Today's Individual Mandate Decision
If it's any comfort to those of you who are depressed by today's SCOTUS ruling on the constitutionality of the individual mandate, please be assured that President Obama vehemently rejects the Court's reasoning:
STEPHANOPOULOS: ...your critics say it is a tax increase.
OBAMA: My critics say everything is a tax increase. My critics say that I'm taking over every sector of the economy. You know that. Look, we can have a legitimate debate about whether or not we're going to have an individual mandate or not, but...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you reject that it's a tax increase?
OBAMA: I absolutely reject that notion.
At the time Obama made that statement, the Senate Finance Committee had just released its own health care bill, which clearly referred to the mandate penalty as an "excise tax." But in later versions, the word "tax" was stripped, because it had become too much of a political liability for Democrats. The final version that Obama signed did not describe the mandate as a tax, and used the Commerce Clause -- not federal taxing power -- as the Constitutional justification for the mandate.
Damn that Justice Roberts and his partisan judicial activism!
Yes, we realize that we have a twisted sense of humor, but some days you have to take your schadenfreude where you can find it.
Outsourcing/Offshoring Is Fine When It's Funded by US Taxpayers
Yesterday the Editorial Staff were extremely diverted when President Obama's re-election campaign got caught doing exactly the same thing it [inaccurately] criticized Bain Capital for doing:
Perhaps if President Do As I Say, Not As I Do actually understood the meaning of the word "outsourcing", he would stop attacking American businesses for using the same cost-cutting methods as... the Obama Campaign!:I’m not sure that either Obama or Biden has any clear idea what outsourcing means, and their application of the charge to Romney’s business career is dubious at best. But what makes this hilarious, rather than just futile, is that there is one organization we know for sure is a serial outsourcer: the Obama campaign! The Washington Free Beacon has the story:The Obama campaign spent nearly $4,700 on telemarketing services from a Canadian telemarketing company called Pacific East between March and June, a Washington Free Beacon study of federal election filings shows.
Pacific East is not the only overseas telemarketing firm raking in cash from the president’s reelection campaign. Obama paid a call center in Manila, Philippines $78,314.10 for telemarketing services between the start of the campaign and March.
If outsourcing is a bad thing, why is the President's re-election campaign doing it? And if it's not a bad thing, why is the President trying to mislead voters and gin up outrage against American businesses?
Today, courtesy of Investor's Business Daily, it appears that The Outsourcer in Chief has actually managed to create some jobs using stimulus funds supplied by US taxpayers! This would be good news, except for one small problem: the jobs in question weren't created in America:
The Obama administration had no problem with approving a plan by electric car company Fisker to use part of its $529 million federal stimulus loan guarantee to build its manufacturing facility, and the 500 jobs it supports, in Finland. Fisker employees were laid off at an old General Motors facility in Joe Biden's Delaware that Fisker was supposed to refurbish.
Speaking of GM, Government Motors, whose international headquarters is in Shanghai, recently announced it would be developing an electric car platform with its longtime Chinese partner, the Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corporation (SAIC). The president has no problem with that, either.
As part of doing business in China, GM, which has become virtually a wholly owned subsidiary of the U.S. taxpayer, must share its taxpayer-subsidized technology with Beijing as a cost of doing business there, including that used in the heavily subsidized Chevy Volt.
According to a recent report by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University's School of Communication in Washington, D.C., nearly $2 billion in money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been spent on wind power. Nearly 80% of that money has gone to foreign manufacturers of wind turbines, the study found.
No doubt White House spokesperson Jay Carney will be able to explain why it's perfectly fine for Uncle Sam to
use American stimulus funds to stimulate foreign economies ship "our" jobs overseas - and pay for them with our money! But when American companies do the same thing with their own money, it's wrong and shameful.
And we can hardly wait to learn why the Washington Post, which followed up a fact check that awarded the Obama Campaign 4 Pinocchios for accusing Bain Capital of shipping US jobs overseas with a front page story repeating many of the same claims, didn't think we should know that the Obama Administration is funding the creation of foreign jobs with taxpayer money designated for stimulating the US economy?
We can hardly wait to hear all these explanations - in fact, we're feeling positively tingly with anticipation.
June 27, 2012
Words. They Have Meanings.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
- Inigo Montoya
Perhaps if President Do As I Say, Not As I Do actually understood the meaning of the word "outsourcing", he would stop attacking American businesses for using the same cost-cutting methods as... the Obama Campaign!:
I’m not sure that either Obama or Biden has any clear idea what outsourcing means, and their application of the charge to Romney’s business career is dubious at best. But what makes this hilarious, rather than just futile, is that there is one organization we know for sure is a serial outsourcer: the Obama campaign! The Washington Free Beacon has the story:The Obama campaign spent nearly $4,700 on telemarketing services from a Canadian telemarketing company called Pacific East between March and June, a Washington Free Beacon study of federal election filings shows.
Pacific East is not the only overseas telemarketing firm raking in cash from the president’s reelection campaign. Obama paid a call center in Manila, Philippines $78,314.10 for telemarketing services between the start of the campaign and March.
If outsourcing is a bad thing, why is the President's re-election campaign doing it? And if it's not a bad thing, why is the President trying to mislead voters and gin up outrage against American businesses?
Obama keeps telling us that Mitt Romney's business experience isn't relevant in Washington but unlike the Obama campaign, the Romney campaign actually appears to understand the meaning of big words like outsourcing and offshoring. And what's more, they can use them in a sentence!)
"Outsourcing is what the Obama campaign does when they hire an outside [foreign] telemarketing vendor to provide telemarketing services," Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said on CBS' Face The Nation. "This is done by companies every day. They take functions and they allow vendors to do it instead of handling it in house."
He added: "Offshoring is the shipment of American jobs overseas. And in that Washington Post story, which the president is using now to attack American companies by name, there are no examples of jobs being taken from the United States and shipped overseas."
Here's another word the Obama campaign doesn't seem to understand. It's an ordinary, everyday word; a possessive pronoun commonly used to convey the idea that something belongs to someone. The word is "our" as in "our jobs", and the reference in question comes from a highly entertaining post by NRO's Kevin Williamson in which he also observes that the President doesn't seem to understand the difference between offshoring and outsourcing:
Could somebody please get Barack Obama to shut up about “outsourcing” until some undergraduate aide has explained to him what the word means?
...The Obama campaign, as you probably know, has been running ads denouncing Mitt Romney’s role at Bain Capital, in which Romney made various business deals that had the effect of making a whole lot of money for Bain’s customers while also allowing a lot of dirty foreigners to eat, and God knows the world would be better off if a billion-some Chinese were hungry and desperate, that being an obvious recipe for global stability.
Because the Obama campaign knows that one of its most important constituencies is economically illiterate yokels — a demographic to which the president himself apparently belongs — it is on the airwaves claiming “Romney’s never stood up to China — all he’s ever done is send them our jobs.’’ (emphasis added)
In what sense (moral, equitable, legal) can a job be said to "belong to" a worker? FDR definitely sought to create a legally defensible right to a job with a living wage, but even The Great Court Packer drew the line at implying ownership of specific jobs.
Surely Obama didn't mean to imply that companies that outsource are stealing "our" jobs when they exercise their legal right to hire who they please? If this is true, then isn't his own campaign stealing jobs from the very people he's asking to vote for him?
Perhaps more importantly, how dumb does he think we are? Voters may not all know the difference between terms like offshoring and outsourcing (and who can blame us when the Job Saver/Creator in Chief doesn't understand them either?). But I'm pretty sure that most of us understand the meaning of the word "our".
Car Owners of VC, Take Notice
As the proud (former) owner of at least two red cars, the Editorial Staff found this of interest:
When shopping for a car, most buyers ask about fuel efficiency and interest rates. But they likely aren't asking the far more important question of which color will attract the most bird poop.
Luckily, a new study from Great Britain has determined the most bird-poop-prone car color. It's red.
More than 1,100 cars were analyzed over a two-day period in five British cities, and the majority of cars getting bird-bombed were red.
There's a reason Alfred Hitchcock made a film about these creatures.
So what does your car color say about you? There seems to be a lot of confusion on this important issue. This article says that drivers of red cars lack confidence and have an aggressive, high speed personality.
The Editorial Staff are not aggressive and dislike being rushed, though. And our self-confidence (though arguably misplaced) has always been fairly high.
This article says red car drivers are "sexy, speedy, high-energy and dynamic". We like it far better than the first article. Takeaway: if you have a grey car, get one with sparkles.
"On The Other Hand...."
We often make gestures with one or both hands while we are talking with someone. Hand gestures during speech help listeners understand, but they also help the speakers think clearly, for example by helping organize thoughts in their heads and expressing them clearly with words. Hand gestures during speech also say something about the emotions experienced by the speakers and how much they care about what they are saying..
Most people preferentially use their right hands for writing, eating and other skilled manual activities. About 10% of people are left-handed, and very few are ambidextrous, which means they use either hand equally well. Preference for hand use is generally biologically determined, appears shortly after birth and is quite stable across ages and situations, although people can be trained to use their less favorite hand. Hand preference is linked to asymmetrical brain activity. Right-handed people mainly use the left side of their brain for speech and other cognitive and emotional functions, while left-handed people do more with the right side of their brains.
A recent study conducted by two psychologists in the Netherlands demonstrated that President Barack Obama, who is left-handed, mainly gestures with his left hand while giving a speech about something that is important to him and that he feels good about, while he tends to use his right hand while he is talking about less important or more negative topics. Former President George W. Bush and former presidential candidate John McCain, who are both Republican and right-handed, showed the opposite pattern: They gestured more with their right hands while they were talking about important or positive things. The likely next Republican candidate to the White House, Mitt Romney, is right-handed, too.
So during the forthcoming presidential debates, biology can actually tell us what’s on the candidates’ minds while they are discussing the future of our country. If you want to know what’s really important to each candidate and what they really care about versus just pretend to, pay attention to which hand they wave while speaking
June 26, 2012
Bull's Eye for the "Pay Later" Guy
The NH Union Leader nails Obama's modus operandi:
Since when has this President taken personal responsibility for his actions, their effects or their costs? Every American ought to be able to see by now the pattern that he has repeated since he took office:
1. Give sweeping speech proclaiming grand but vague vision.
2. Lowball the real cost of executing that vision and pay for much of it with debt.
3. If policies are enacted and then generate unintended consequences, blame the results on the previous administration.
4. If policy costs are shown to be more than the administration predicted, blame private sector “greed” and political obstruction.
Sometimes, the truth hurts:
The most recent estimate for the difference between the net present value of federal government liabilities and the net present value of future federal revenues is $200 trillion, nearly 13 times the debt as stated by the US Treasury. Notice that these figures, too, are incomplete, since they omit the unfunded liabilities of state and local governments, which are estimated to be around $38 trillion.
These mind-boggling numbers represent nothing less than a vast claim by the generation currently retired or about to retire on their children and grandchildren, who are obligated by current law to find the money in the future, by submitting either to substantial increases in taxation or to drastic cuts in other forms of public expenditure.
To illustrate the magnitude of the problem, the economist Laurence Kotlikoff calculates that to eliminate the federal government’s fiscal gap would require either an immediate 64 per cent increase in all federal taxes or an immediate 40 per cent cut in all federal expenditures.
We've often heard various progressive pundits lament the fact that we are well on our way to being the first generation who will be poorer off than their parents and grandparents. Less often heard is any honest admission that this is the logical and inevitable consequence of progressive policies.
The system works as designed.
June 25, 2012
We Can't "Have It All". Neither Can Men. Get Over It.
With respect to this age old cri de coeur, I find myself in violent agreement with Little Miss Attila:
The notion of “having it all” is a crock of sh**. Women can’t have it all any more than can men. Life is hard; why does anyone over the age of 16 need to have this explained?
What's all the fuss about? This month's Atlantic Magazine cover story: Why Women Still Can't Have It All and the reactions thereuntoappurtaining:
The Atlantic's recent cover story, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," has torn up the Internet since going live Wednesday night. With 777,751 unique visits as of this morning and counting, and with over 1,500 comments, 126,000 Facebook "likes," and countless Twitter debates, readers are taking the debate to a new level. Formal media has weighed in as well.
What astonishes me most about this debate is that anyone still views the expectation that we can "have it all" as anything but a profoundly silly idea.
Men who work long hours, whether by choice or custom, don't "have it all". They have sacrificed one thing (time with their wives and children) for another thing (career success, status, or pay). This is categorically true whether or not they choose to acknowledge the practical consequences of prioritizing work over time with their families and whether or not time with their families is something they value personally. Incidentally, this study suggests that it is:
In 2008, 49% of employed men with families reported experiencing some or a lot of workfamily conflict, up significantly from 34% in 1977 (p<.001). It is important to note that the measure we use to define work-family conflict is bi-directional; it asks employees with family responsibilities (defined as those who live with spouses or partners, children, parents or other family members—representing 85% of all employed men) how much their work and family responsibilities interfere with each other. The rise in work-family conflict has been especially striking among fathers in dual-earner couples. As shown in Figure 1, work-family conflict among these men has increased substantially and significantly—from 35% in 1977 to 60% in 2008 — while that of mothers in dualearner couples has remained relatively stable (41% in 1977 and 47% in 2008, not a statistically significant change).
When's the last time you saw an article asking why men can't have it all (aside from pickup artist sites, that is)? Granted, asking the same question from the male point of view would be equally moronic, but at least we could all wallow in the gloriously gratifying knowledge that we have finally moved beyond outdated and sexist assumptions about the transcendent value of work/life balance.
I'm trying to think of a single important, long term task (and if you think having a stable marriage or raising strong, happy children is simple or easy, your attention bill is a good 60-90 days overdue) rational adults believe can be performed equally well whether they work at it in their spare time or make it their top priority?
Will you accomplish as much in 2 hours a day as you will if you work it full time? Not likely. This has nothing to do with "the system" and everything to do with the fact that time and attention are finite resources.
If you intentionally choose a highly competitive career with a crushing workload, you have effectively decided to spend less time and attention on your family. And that's fine, so long as your career choices are aligned with your priorities and you are honest enough to own the decision you've made.
If, on the other hand, you decide (as Ms. Slaughter did) that your family deserves more of your time and attention, you have effectively decided to devote less time/attention to your job. If your position doesn't require your full time and attention, your employer may well accept this as the price of retaining your services. Alternatively, your employer may decide to find someone who is willing to focus on the job. Or your employer may decide that 40 hours of work is worth less to her than 60 hours of work and adjust your salary accordingly. And your employer should have that freedom.
Whether your employer would be wise to do any of these things depends on the nature of your job, the availability of willing replacements, and your employer's value system. Either way, the idea that other people have some nebulous duty to bear the costs of your freely made decisions is preposterous. Other people have their own priorities and values, and there's no guarantee that they will match yours. You are not entitled to demand that their choices reflect your values. You can offer them something they value in exchange for something you value. I did that when I informed my employer that I would be leaving due to an upcoming move and my employer offered to make it possible for me to work remotely rather than lose my services.
Decide what your priorities are and then be honest about the fact that tradeoffs are built into in every single choice you will ever make in life. We are willing to pay the costs of some decisions and unwilling to pay the costs associated with other ones.
But the idea that every decision has costs (even if they're only opportunity costs) is not a matter about which adults should be arguing.
Today in "sex sells" news, the Hooters business model manifests itself in an amusing way. How long will you shameless studmuffins taunt us with your firm quadriceps and enticingly round glutes?
Bonus: one more reason America really doesn't need to emulate our enlightened superiors across the pond:
What really scares us is that someone seriously thought this was a good idea:
Lots of people can get behind the idea of encouraging more girls to take an interest in science. But to achieve that goal, the European Commission wound up financing a video in which the female “scientists” look like seductresses, and, at one point, the letter “i” in the word science is replaced with a tube of lipstick.
Below, check out the video that is causing real female scientists worldwide to smack their foreheads. “It’ll be edgy,” someone no doubt uttered at some point during the planning...
Let's all hope they never decide to use this kind of campaign to entice more women into running for political office. We are not sure our heart can take Bella Abzug in a minidress and gladiator pumps.
The Capitalism Bubble
Robert J. Samuelson has a must read piece in the Washington Post today on the global financial crisis:
To understand why world leaders can’t easily fix the sputtering global economy, you have to realize that the economic models on which the United States, Europe and China relied are collapsing. The models differ, but the breakdowns are occurring simultaneously and feed on each other. The result is that the global recovery flags, while pessimism and uncertainty mount.
Take the United States. The U.S. economic model was consumer-led growth. From the early 1980s until the mid-2000s, what propelled the economy was rising wealth — stocks, bonds, real estate — that encouraged households to spend and borrow more. Feeling richer, people traded up for better cars, homes and vacations. Everyone could afford or aspire to “luxury.” Businesses responded by investing in more malls, restaurants, hotels, factories and start-ups.
Of course, this is now ancient history. The popping of the credit bubble depressed home values, stocks and jobs. Recently, the Federal Reserve reported that the net worth of the median U.S. household — the one exactly in the middle — fell 39 percent from 2007 to 2010 to $77,300, a level that, when adjusted for inflation, equaled the early 1990s. (Net worth is the difference between what someone owns and owes.)
Feeling and being poorer, Americans have cut back. Their buying is muted. They’re trying to repay debt and rebuild wealth. A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that declines in household balance sheets — that is, wealth — caused almost two-thirds of the 6.2 million jobs lost from March 2007 to March 2009. To grow faster, the U.S. economy can’t rely on large gains in consumer purchases.
What’s to replace it? There are three possibilities: higher exports, more business investment and higher government spending. Weak economies elsewhere hinder exports. Businesses won’t invest unless there’s stronger demand. And more reliance on government means bigger budget deficits, a policy that inspires powerful political resistance.
It turns out that, once your economic model goes bust, it’s not easy to build a new one. The obstacles are at once economic, social and political.
Back in 2009 I remember writing a post about the air of unreality surrounding the debate over how to get back to where we were before the financial crisis.
The unreality part of nearly every proposal I heard back then was based on two astounding premises:
1. That the level of credit-fueled consumer purchasing we got used to over the last 30 or so years was normal, sustainable, or desireable.
It wasn't, and "trying to get back there" is political speak for "repeating the mistakes that got us into this mess and expecting a different result":
In the preponderance of years from 1929 through 2007, households ran surpluses. Prior to 1999, there were only six years in which households ran deficits - 1932, 1933, 1947, 1949, 1950 and 1955. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, households were borrowing or selling assets just to survive. So, the household deficits of 1932 and 1933 are understandable. During WWII, most of GDP was devoted to the war effort. Therefore, households could not legally purchase much. Moreover, there was a spirit of patriotism, so households purchased government war bonds instead of automobiles, radios and houses. Thus, during the WWII years, households ran record surpluses. Soon after the end of WWII, households went on a spending spree in order to replace depreciated consumer durable goods and to replace depreciated houses. Although data are not available to confirm this, because of the record household surpluses run during WWII, the ratio of household debt to household assets must have been unusually low. Thus, households could legitimately "afford" to run deficits for a few years. This explains the household deficits of 1947, 1949 and 1950. The household deficit in 1955 is explained by my dad's purchase of a new white-on-turquoise Ford with a V-8 and whitewalls. What a sweet ride that was!
From 1956 through 1998, households consistently ran surpluses. They ran a small deficit in 1999, a small surplus in 2000 and then consistently ran deficits thereafter. Prior to recent years, the largest household deficit as a percent of disposable personal income occurred in 1947 at 1.69%. Starting in 2004, household deficits relative to disposable personal income have exceeded the previous record of 1947.
2. Ignoring the fact that, in addition to spending money they didn't have, US consumers were also saving far less than at any time during the 20th Century:
It's been nearly four years since the financial crisis of 2008 and I'm still not seeing any honest analysis of how we got there from either party. When you look at how our economy changed over the long term, one thing is brutally clear: the level of "prosperity" most of us have enjoyed all our adult lives was - like the inflated housing prices we also enjoyed and came to expect - unnatural and unsustainable. It was fueled by record increases in household debt and record decreases to household savings.
The idea that we can - or should - strive to get back to the good old days when the average American household spent far more than it earned and stopped saving for financial reverses we all know are cyclical and inevitable is just plain delusional.
If we want to know why our government spends far more than it earns and - far from keeping something in reserve as a hedge against economic downturns - is running record deficits, we need only look in the mirror.
The problem isn't "them". It's us.
June 23, 2012
Secret Lives of Past US Presidents
Grover Cleveland: Time Warrior
What most people know about Grover Cleveland is that, alone among U.S. Presidents, he served two non-consecutive terms of office. Less widely known is the reason those terms were non-consecutive. After commandeering an experimental time travel device from a young Nikola Tesla in early 1889, Cleveland spent the better part of the next four years traveling through the past, righting historical injustices. Below he is pictured during his extended stay in the late Cretaceous period.
Feel free to submit your own revisionist history in the comments section.
June 22, 2012
Been There, Didn't Get the T-Shirt
A “bunch of leprechauns” beat up a man in Belltown on Saturday, the bruised and bloodied victim told police.
Police say they received reports about the fight around 1:55 a.m. on Bell Street near the Alaskan Way Viaduct, but when they arrived they saw numerous people running from the scene.
Police then saw a man on the ground, who was covered in blood and holding his head and screaming in pain.
When police asked the man who was involved in the fight he said, “It was a bunch of leprechauns,” that were mad because he was dancing with a girl, according to police.
He told police one of the assailants was wearing a white tank top, but could not provide any more details about the leprechauns.
June 21, 2012
Just Follow His Nose... Wherever It Grows
The Pinocchio Test
The Obama campaign fails to make its case. On just about every level, this ad is misleading, unfair and untrue, from the use of “corporate raider” to its examples of alleged outsourcing. Simply repeating the same debunked claims won’t make them any more correct.
Ouch. It would appear that someone can no longer rely on the press to function as his personal echo chamber. My favorite part:
Regarding the other claims, concerning Canadian electronics maker SMTC Manufacturing and customer service firm Modus Media, the Obama campaign tries to take advantage of a gray area in which Romney had stepped down from Bain — to manage the Salt Lake City Olympics — but had not sold his shares in the firm. We had previously given the Obama campaign Three Pinocchios for such tactics.
The Modus Media case is also not an example of shipping jobs overseas. The company closed one plant in California and transferred the jobs to North Carolina, Washington and Utah. At the same time, it opened an unrelated plant in Mexico. The Obama campaign once trumpeted the fact that we had dinged a conservative Super PAC for making the same leap in logic.
The claim that Romney outsourced jobs as governor is equally overblown.
This concerns Romney’s veto of a bill that would have prohibited Massachusetts from contracting with companies that outsourced the state’s work to other countries. Lawmakers were especially concerned about a $160,000-a-month contract with Citigroup to operate a system of electronic food-stamp cards that included a customer phone service center in India.
Both the liberal editorial page of the Boston Globe and conservative editorial page of the Boston Herald urged Romney to veto the amendment, saying it would cost the state money. Romney agreed, saying the measure did not protect state jobs — the call center might have moved from India to another state — but “had the potential of costing our citizens a lot more money.” The Democratic-dominated Massachusetts legislature did not override his veto, even though it overturned 117 others, suggesting that there was little real support for the measure.
When the food-stamp contract expired, the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance insisted that those jobs be returned to the United States. But they ended up in a call center based in Utah — just as Romney had predicted.
As we mentioned, we recounted this ancient Massachusetts history before, giving the campaign Two Pinocchios. So we were very surprised that the Obama campaign cited that critical Fact Checker column as a source for the ad in its back-up materials.
The ad also cites as a source a Boston Globe article from last month that merely reports on an earlier ad making similar charges. That’s highly circular reasoning — and is not fair play.
It must be really annoying to have the President of the United States cite a fact check debunking a previous claim as "evidence" that the claim was factual. Kind of makes you wonder who's in charge of the Obama campaign's research division?
Update: Yikes: two 4 Pinocchios in a row! The White House is on a roll!
Government jobs in Massachusetts grew at six times the rate of private-sector jobs during Romney’s term as governor, but that’s not at all the same as adding six public-sector jobs for every one in the private-sector. The state actually gained at least four private-sector jobs for every government job.
Plouffe referred to an “amazing article” that supposedly proved that Republicans have talked openly about improving Romney’s chances in the election by doing nothing on the economy. But the article actually explained that GOP lawmakers prefer to postpone any deal making until after the election because they’re feeling bullish about their chances. That is no different than what Democrats have done in the past.
Neither of Plouffe’s claims were factually correct, so Team Obama earns four Pinocchios.
BFF Alert and Other Random Stupidity
Shocker of the century: Wikipedia is biased!
Wikipedia was founded on the notion the Internet is a self-correcting machine: by harnessing collective intelligence through an open-source platform, the facts will ultimately come to light. But a new study shows that collective intelligence generally produces biased information, except in a narrow range of circumstances. Northwestern’s Shane Greenstein and the University of Southern California’s Feng Zhu analyzed a decade’s worth of Wikipedia articles on U.S. politics and found that only a handful of them were politically neutral.
Large numbers of contributors did, in fact, help make articles more unbiased, they note, confirming what’s known in the tech community as Linus’ Law: “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” However, Greenstein and Zhu found that “the majority of articles receive little attention, and most articles change only mildly from their initial slant.” Overall, Wikipedia is less biased and partisan than in its early years--when the site’s political entries leaned Democrat--but most of its content hasn’t benefitted from the true wisdom of crowds, they conclude.
Kids these days...
June 20, 2012
School, Before Self Esteem Became Job One
In the mid-20th century, when I was in grade school, a child’s self-esteem was not a matter for concern. Shame was considered a spur to better behavior and accomplishment. If you flunked a test, you were singled out, and the offending sheet of paper, bloodied with red marks, was waved before the entire class as a warning, much the way our catechisms depicted a boy with black splotches on his soul.
Fear was also considered useful. In the fourth grade, right around the time of the Cuban missile crisis, one of the nuns at St. Petronille’s, in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, told us that the Vatican had received a secret warning that the world would soon be consumed by a fatal nuclear exchange. The fact that the warning had purportedly been delivered by Our Lady of Fátima lent the prediction divine authority. (Any last sliver of doubt was removed by our viewing of the 1952 movie The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, wherein the Virgin Mary herself appeared on a luminous cloud.) We were surely cooked. I remember pondering the futility of existence, to say nothing of the futility of safety drills that involved huddling under desks. When the fateful sirens sounded, I resolved, I would be out of there. Down the front steps, across Hillside Avenue, over fences, and through backyards, I would take the shortest possible route home, where I planned to crawl under my father’s workbench in the basement. It was the sturdiest thing I had ever seen. I didn’t believe it would save me, but after weighing the alternatives carefully, I decided it was my preferred spot to face oblivion.
Now when children don't do well in school, we blame teachers who won't orient the entire class to a particular child's "natural learning style", or an uncaring system that hasn't massaged their egos hard enough or protected them from adversity or disapproval. Children are fragile hothouse flowers - so much so that they can't succeed without constant affirmation.
This is how I remember school too: shame and embarrassment were frequently used as goads. Adults reacted swiftly and (IMO) more naturally when children misbehaved - their anger and disapproval were not considered shameful abuses, but necessary feedback that sent a firm message that bad behavior would not be tolerated.
I've been struck by this recently while watching parents react to children who are pitching a fit. I have yet to see a single parent show visible annoyance or anger. My parents were loving (and I felt secure in their affection) but had I ever acted that way - especially in public - they would not have hesitated to let me know my behavior was unacceptable and disrespectful.
Far from making me feel unloved or insecure, this affirmed my proper place in the world. It was not as the center of the universe, but as one person among many. All of whom mattered.
Feel free to tell me where I'm wrong.
RINOs, DINOs, FINOs...
...what do these three groups have in common? Detractors who view lockstep conformity as a sort of virtual membership fee:
When my mind gets stuck on everything that is wrong with feminism, it brings out the 19th century poet in me: Let me count the ways. Most of all, feminism is pretty much a nice girl who really, really wants so badly to be liked by everybody -- ladies who lunch, men who hate women, all the morons who demand choice and don't understand responsibility -- that it has become the easy lay of social movements. I am going to smack the next idiot who tells me that raising her children full time -- by which she really means going to Jivamukti classes and pedicure appointments while the nanny babysits -- is her feminist choice. Who can possibly take feminism seriously when it allows everything, as long as women choose it? The whole point to begin with was that women were losing their minds pushing mops and strollers all day without a room or a salary of their own.
Let's please be serious grown-ups: real feminists don't depend on men. Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own.
There's something dryly amusing, in a warped sort of way, about a paean to self sufficiency in which autonomy is achieved by exchanging one set of externally imposed gender roles for another.
Wurtzel solves the "problem" of women being pressured to serve their families by pressuring us to serve people we've never even met (aka, single, Harvard trained career women who will liberate womankind by unilaterally redefining the entire feminist movement).
Women, according to Ms. Wurtzel, will never equal men until we subordinate our wayward thoughts and desires to the sober judgment of people like her.
Truly, it is all very confusicating. Who can we trust to tell us what to do? Ms. Wurtzel wants to free women from controlling men by chaining us to controlling women. James Taranto wants us to embrace our Inner Hypergamist and marry an alpha male who can indulge our God-given desire for Jivamukti (whatever that is) classes and weekly pedicures.
Meanwhile, we hear rumors of adult men and women examining their own priorities and values and structuring their lives accordingly. Gosh, we sure hope that's not the case because if it is, a lot of smart people are going to be left with nothing to write about.
June 19, 2012
Dads In The News
In today's edition of "Fathers are awesome":
Beaver dads are often among the best in the animal kingdom, but one beaver widower who lost his long-time mate merits special attention.
"Dad," who lives in a Martinez, Calif. beaver colony, was suddenly left with three young kits to care for when his devoted partner died of an infection. They had previously raised 12 other kits together.
Heidi Perryman, president and founder of Worth a Dam, told Discovery News, "We were worried about their (the three kits') safety. Would Dad be able to provide for them and could he care for them as well as she did? Would they learn everything they needed to know without a mother?"
Their fears were understandable. Dad could only do so much in a day. He not only built the family home (his clan's lodge), but he also regularly repairs it. This is in addition to building dams, gathering food and other time-consuming duties.
He more than stepped up to the plate, though. In addition to tackling care-giving basics, he gave the kits beaver-back rides and taught them how to dive. He brought them gourmet tender new shoots for dinner.
"Dad's transition to single parent was a seamless one," Perryman said. "All three youngsters have survived to adulthood, and Dad is still at hand, showing them the finer points of dam management.
This, in particular, cracked me up:
When Mom was alive, Dad never received much onlooker attention because Mom was such a crowd favorite. She had a distinctively patterned tail that made her easily identifiable.
Dad may not have such natural tail bling, but he's now drawing fans in California. His family seems to think he's pretty amazing too.
As well they should! Tail bling is highly overrated.
When The Conventional Wisdom, Isn't
As the Fed study showed, 43% of student borrowers have less than $10,000 in debt, and 72% have less than $25,000. And the College Board shows that, in 2009-10, 56% of those graduating with a B.A. from a public college took out a loan. The average debt of these borrowers, after adjusting for inflation, was $22,000.
Is $22,000 too much debt? Paid off over ten years, monthly payments would be $217 at an interest rate of 3.4% (the current subsidized rate) or $253 (if the rate goes up to 6.8% in July, as scheduled).
Under the graduated payment plan, the initial payment would be $140. Another policy option would be to allow students to pay this debt over 20 years instead of 10, thereby cutting the monthly bill to just $126 ($168 if rates go up).
By way of comparison, Fed data show that the average new car loan is $27,000. This corresponds to a minimum monthly payment of $500 (assuming an excellent credit score, which few students have).
The car loan would have to be paid off over five years: No bank will let you spread a car loan over decades, because a car has little market value after just a few years.
But a college education pays off over a lifetime, which is why paying for it over a long horizon makes sense. Spread the payments over the lifetime of the asset: a basic economic principle that we should keep in mind when designing student loan policy.
Many see alpha females who will cling to power at any cost. The ones who will stomp all over other women, not think twice about putting them down. The kind of women who make anyone wish for a male boss.
Ilene H. Lang, president and CEO of Catalyst, says the research and advisory organization's latest report published Tuesday helps dispel that myth about women. The data, she says, takes the sting out of the notion of queen bees running the show.
The report finds that women - 65% - are more likely than men - 56% - to develop potential talent, to help cultivate emerging stars and help them move up the corporate ladder.
And 73% of women developing others are developing women, compared to 30% of men helping women.
"I'm not saying there are no queen bees out there," Lang says. "What I am saying is that the majority of women in leadership are very supportive of women."
For those of you who enjoy this sort of thing, a review of conventional wisdom in the form of old sayings may be found here.
The Power of False Myths
Back in January when the Costa Concordia ran aground, the rightosphere was awash in comparisons to the sinking of the Titanic with its now famous chivalric standard: "Women and children first". It wasn't far from there to the inevitable lesson we were supposed to draw from the cowardly behavior of the captain and some passengers and crew: the real culprits were those evil feminists and their chivalry-harshing ways:
Shortly after the sinking of the Costa Concordia we started having a low level grumble in the media about the failure to implement a “women and children first” evacuation policy. Others including Elusive Wapiti and Vox Day have rightly pointed out that it is wholly irrational for our society to expect men to follow cultural norms which have long been invalidated by feminism. As Brendan put it in a different context:If liberation for women meant liberation from accountability to men, liberation for men meant liberation from responsibility to women.
At the time, the Blog Princess pointed out one problem with this impressive display of post hoc rationalization. It turns out that the story that has come to define how civilized men respond to a disaster was not the norm, but in fact an exception to the general rule of "every man for himself":
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic in the North Atlantic, from which many of us get the notion that when a ship goes down, it's "women and children first" into the lifeboats. After all, the survival rate for first-class women passengers, according to Wikipedia's handy chart, was 97 percent, while for first-class men it was 33 percent. (Of third-class women, only 46 percent lived, but that's still far above the 16 percent of third-class male passengers who made it.) However, hard-nosed research on actual human behavior has found that male self-sacrifice in shipwrecks in general is a myth: According to this review (pdf) of data from 18 non-wartime shipwrecks from 1852 to 2011, men have generally been twice as likely to survive a shipwreck than women. Hence the title of the paper, by Mikael Elinder and Oscar Erixson, economists at Sweden's Uppsala University: "Every Man for Himself."
According to the data gathered by the pair, the Titanic disaster also spawned another myth: Captains went down with their ships in less than half the cases, and crews had better survival rates than passengers. The data also suggest that a gender norm of male chivalry doesn't do nearly as much for women as egalitarianism: Survival rates for female passengers have improved in the past few decades, probably because more women now than then are taught to swim, encouraged to be physically fit, and not stuck in bustles and corsets.
The really impressive lesson from the sinking of the Titantic is not that chivalry was once the norm, but that one good man standing up for a principle has the power to change our perception of the way the world works:
...why was the Titanic an outlier in the shipwreck data? Elinder and Erixson note that Captain Edward Smith insisted on women going first into the lifeboats. Men who disobeyed found themselves staring at officers' drawn guns (and some shots were fired). Only when captains insist on the standard with this kind of determination, write the authors, does the male advantage disappear.
The power of the "women and children first" myth illustrates the degree to which compelling stories trump more thorough analysis:
... narratives are simple. What is ambiguous, inexplicable and accidental tends to get filtered out of them, leaving an impression that the world is more orderly and predictable than it really is. So stories incline us to blame (this didn't just happen, it's their fault) and to hubris (I know the real story, I don't care what other evidence you want to present). Then, too, we don't have a lot of different forms for our stories. Under all their variety are a few structures that occur again and again. So thinking in narrative encourages us to see disparate experiences as if they were the same (as in, "I'm turning into my mother!" or "Afghanistan is Vietnam all over again!"). And, of course, stories compel our attention and emotions, so people who tell us a powerful story can manipulate us.
Politics is organized around emotionally compelling stories: individual anecdotes eclipse the more important question of how public policy affects us in the aggregate. Which leaves the Editorial Staff with a question: is it better to see a false myth with an inspiring moral message take root, or are we better off knowing the truth?
Just as a side note, during our discussion on supposedly outdated gender roles, Grim brought up an interesting possible consequence of the recent spate of female action hero characters:
If T99 is right that these movies are about a kind of 'sweet mental revenge,' then they fall about the middle of the scale: about where that book on BDSM did. If it's about dealing with a psychological upset that comes from day to day life, then it's about getting by while doing your duty; a minor good, but not a great good.
If on the other hand it's actively causing harm by encouraging children to view 'girly' things as inferior, or encouraging the breakdown of the norm against boys using violence on girls, then it's more to the negative end of the scale. Strong criticism is warranted.
Here's a related question: do we need a strong societal prescription against boys using violence on girls? When I was growing up, it was generally considered shameful for a larger, stronger boy or man to fight a much weaker opponent. This was the concept of a "fair fight": analogous concepts would be a knight dismounting to fight an opponent who had been knocked from his horse or a man with a gun tossing it aside to fight with his fists or with a sword (if that was the weapon his opponent had).
Do we need a sex-specific ban here, or would the more general one against punching below one's weight (so to speak) suffice?
June 18, 2012
A Funny Thing Happened....
...on the way out of the parking lot this weekend. Apropos of our ongoing discussion on "outdated" gender roles, the Princess thought it might make a useful framework for the lobbing of random gender/sex related snark.
Saturday night after stopping by a local watering hole for a few draft beers and a bite to eat, the Spousal Unit and I drove over to see our local baseball team play ball and watch some fireworks.
After the game we walked back to the car and began the usual mad rush to get out of the parking lot. As usual, the moron brigade were out in force: we were parked in a small adjoining lot with only one exit and no clear path to it (unless one inexplicably considers the paved parts of the lot as having some possible significance to drivers). Consequently, at least three pipelines of cars were feeding into the same bottleneck, after which two more pipelines of cars fed in from the lot above us.
We got to our car early and were perhaps 4 cars back from the stop sign where our lot fed into the main pipeline. So one might think we would get out quickly, being at the head of the line as we were.
Wrong. Cars parked ahead of us (but not yet in line) drove up onto the grass to cut in closer to the stop sign. As we inched forward at speeds approaching 1 MPH, two cars on our right waited to feed into the line. The Spousal Unit made eye contact with the driver of the first car, a young man with a wife and kids shaking his head in mixed amusement and frustration at the many and splendiferous displays of egregious idiocy on offer. The Unit let him in without comment, and we continued talking.
As the young man pulled in ahead of us, another van parked to his right could now be seen. Driving this van was a woman. A large, beefy gentleman (one uses the term loosely) sat half in/half out of the passenger window staring balefully at our car. As we approached, he began waving his arms and demanding that we let their car in too.
The Unit and I looked at each other in disbelief. Up until that point, I had not really been paying close attention as the parking lot was already crammed to bursting with proud, card carrying graduates of the highly esteemed Maryland School of Random Driving. The guy sitting in the window of his van registered, but only in a sort of "Hey - look at the funny monkey!" way. The Unit waves at him cheerily and turns back to what he was looking at earlier.
All of a sudden, Bozo jumps out the window and wades over to our car, yelling and waving his arms in a manner calculated to elicit either fear and trepidation or a fatal attack of eye rolling. Our hero plants himself next to the driver's side window and (perhaps unaware that we could hear him just fine, the pianissimo strains of Def Leppard notwithstanding) demands (!!!) that we open the window, the better to converse with him. The Spousal Unit turns, stares deeply into his Extremely Enraged eyeballs and says, "No", then turns his head back to me. The eyeball owner proceeds with his temper tantrum, much to the amusement of the other drivers, punctuating his diatribe with a few ineffectual thumps to the body of our car.
The car, equally unimpressed by this display of thoroughly masculine (if unmanly) aggression, continues inching forward and we go back to our discussion. Now here's the interesting part (to me, at least). I didn't watch Outraged Dude go back to his car. I found his theatrics embarrassing for some reason, but never felt threatened. It made me uncomfortable watching an ostensible adult lose his temper like that in public over something so trivial.
I didn't know it at the time, but my husband had locked the doors right after we got into the car and joined the line of cars. I doubt I would have thought of that, but then it would never occur to me that some guy would jump out of his car and try to start a fight. But then if I had been driving, it's not obvious to me that that would have happened. I haven't been in anything even resembling a fistfight since Phillip What-his-face tried to tell me that girls shouldn't be allowed play football in the 4th grade.
I guess I shouldn't have tackled him so hard :p The thing is, it did occur to my husband, but then his experience includes other guys trying to start fights.
I might have let the guy in even though he was being a jerk, but then again I might not have. I really dislike people who try to get their way by intimidating others, and Outraged Dude was clearly used to other people backing down in the face of his beefy majesty. I don't know whether I would have looked him right in the eye (twice) the way my husband did, though.
As we pulled onto the road leading out of the parking lot, I did say to him, "You know what would have really made him mad? I should have taken his picture with my iPhone."
Will have something up later today (probably after lunch). Work day started very early this week!
June 15, 2012
Friday Nite Lyrics
Well now the babies are all settled
And the twilight's givin' in
She looks like you, he looks like her
And we all look like him.
Maybe it's just a little thing,
The way I feel tonight
A little joy
A little peace
And a whole lotta light
Friends and family are the greatest joys in a life already crammed to bursting with wonder. But new babies are the best of all.
Congratulations, paterfamilias :)
June 14, 2012
Work is over, the Spousal Unit is in Tampa and there are two pans of Watermelon Granitas in the freezer.
"Your Mother Was a Hamster and Your Father Smelt of Elderberries!"
Republican nominee Mitt Romney's guerrilla tactics continued Thursday, as the campaign bus circled the venue where President Barack Obama will be speaking this afternoon.
As it passed the assembled throngs of supporters awaiting entry to the event at Cuyahoga Community College, the bus honked its horn dozens of times, before circling around to do it again. Obama supporters jeered and booed each time the bus passed the line outside of the security screening area.
The Romney campaign has routinely deployed aides to infiltrate events featuring Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who wait online like regular supporters, but once inside spin the media live.
Let's see if the Editorial Staff understand the narrative:
1. Romney is a mean spirited brute because one of his campaign busses HONKED ITS HORN AT A CROWD.
2. The far classier and more presidential Obama is deploying "truth teams" to Romney events, because... [pick your favorite explanation]:
1. The Obama campaign can't trust the largely pro-Obama media to
fact check either of the candidatesfaithfully parrot his talking points any more?
2. This administration feels that branding dissent or disagreement as "lies" will elevate the tone of the debate and pour the healing balm of Gilead on the troubled waters of political discourse.
Civility, cubed. Does this guy know how to lead by example or what?
3. They seriously believe that likely Obama voters are uninformed, gullible saps who trust and believe Republican candidates implicitly. Without brave, truth telling Truth Teams to protect us from all these confusicating policy debates and dueling facts,
progressive leaning votersthe poor schmucks don't stand a chance against Romney's blinding charisma?
I happen to like Romney but let's face it - the rap on him is that he isn't a natural politician. Which, come to think of it, is a definite mark in his favor.
3. The specter of the President of the United States using the aptly named Bully Pulpit to intimidate and attack private citizens on his Enemies List is, like, so five minutes ago. Can this guy lead by example or wha....
4. As the villainry are no doubt aware, "Honky" is a racially charged epithet referring to "typical white people". And we all know how dedicated the President is to healing the destructive racial divisions that have plagued this country for far too long.
Let us speak no more of this troubling blot on an otherwise genteel and civilized exchange of visions.
Fun with Outdated Gender Stereotypes
In today's edition of Gender Sensitivity Is Important, Unless Of Course We're Talking About You (in which case, it's political correctness run amok) disrespected Dads are pushing back against inaccurate and outdated stereotyping of fathers in ads and the media:
There's a movement under way among dads in America that's changing what you see on TV. Across the country, more and more are fed up -- and rising up against the stereotype of the inept, clueless father.
"We're not the Peter Griffin or the Homer Simpson that we're often portrayed as," said Kevin Metzger, who runs the Dadvocate blog.
It's often the chief gripe among the dads I interview about modern fatherhood.
David Holland, father of three, rails against "doofus dads" in ads. In his blog Blather. Wince. Repeat., he calls them "Madison Avenue's go-to guy."
During every commercial break, he says, he and his wife "try to see who can be the first one to spot the idiot husband or father."
In a sign of their growing power, dads out to end the stereotype recently scored a knockout blow against a pair of TV ads.
A Huggies ad earlier this year said the company put its diapers "to the toughest test imaginable: dads, alone with their babies, in one house, for five days."
What exactly made time with dad "the toughest test imaginable?" The ad showed dads making some unpleasant faces and ended with a woman saying, "good luck, babe."
Another Huggies ad featured a group of dads not changing their babies' diapers while watching an entire game through "double overtime."
Angry dads and moms responded with complaints, saying fathers aren't incompetent parents who leave their kids in dirty diapers.
Chris Routly took it a step further, creating a petition on change.org.
"This wasn't just that they had created a bumbling dad character or that sort of thing or just excluding dad," like so many other TV portrayals, he said. "They were using language that was really saying dads are terrible at this stuff."
Huggies took action.
It's hard to know what to think of this, frankly. I find the lazy/irresponsible/dumb slacker male stereotype offensive on lots of levels, but then I have found negative stereotyping of women offensive for as long as I can remember. But the fact is that stereotypes exist for a reason: they are a sort of shorthand for phenomena we see over and over again in the real world. A stereotype that runs counter to our experience doesn't resonate - it literally doesn't make sense to us.
What I'm having some trouble with is the "not all Dads are like that..." argument. Not all wives are emasculating nags, not all professional women are vicious, ball breaking harpies who enjoy humiliating men and are threatened by/undermine other women (in fact, literally every mentor I've had in my professional life has been female, which is remarkable since I've worked for far more men than women), and not all gorgeous blonds are ditzy, gold digging bimbos. The real question here is not so much whether all men or all women conform to the stereotype, but rather whether enough men and women conform to the stereotype to make it recognizable to us?
Complaining - or simply being offended - about stereotypes is something I understand. And I have no problem (in theory) with letting companies I do business with know if they're offending me. If they want our business, it's probably a good idea not to insult the customer.
What bothers me about this is the gender grievance aspect. While men absolutely are depicted in negative ways in media, they are also depicted - more often than women - in very positive ways. Which portrayal we get is context sensitive - if the focus is on adventure or heroism, men are portrayed positively as strong, capable heroes:
One of the most prominent male stereotypes in the media is that of the alpha male. Whether a character is the strong silent type, an action hero, a big shot, or an athlete, the ideal of masculinity is the figure of dominance. He is in control of his own emotions and actions, and is often in control of others as well. He is physically strong, or socially powerful. He is probably physically attractive and aggressive. The alpha male character is likely to be either violent, or put in violent situations, which he is more than capable of dealing with.
Characters who possess the alpha male traits are found in movies, cartoons, and video games. He-Man, Rambo, and Batman are quintessentially masculine. Popular actors such as Harrison Ford, Will Smith, Bruce Willis, and Wesley Snipes all have played many alpha male roles.
Recent attempts to show women as strong, capable heroines have met with resentment and derision, as though being someone others can look up to/emulate is strictly male turf (or simply laughable on its face). Often cited are the improbable scenarios where a female defeats men in a fight, though the point is somewhat undermined in the context of cartoons, fantasy and science fiction movies, and other genres that regularly show men doing wildly improbable things like jumping onto a truck moving 60 mph from an overpass or the hero with no previous fighting experience who magically (!) defeats 6 ninjas in a dark alley armed with nothing more than improvised numchucks constructed on the fly from a string of extra strength dental floss and two stale Twix bars.
When the context shifts to comedy, we get an object of ridicule: the beta slacker dude.
Another influential trend in the media portrayal of men is the beta male. This character is often found as one of the main characters of television sitcoms. Unlike the capable alpha male, the beta male is more or less incapable of everything. He tends to fail, and rarely tries to be successful. He is fundamentally worthless to society, and manages to survive through luck, or a capable mother, wife, sister, or friend.
He is Homer Simpson and Al Bundy. He is Spencer Shay from the children's sitcom iCarly, and Raymond from Everybody Loves Raymond. This male stereotype is another version of masculinity; another choice for boys and young men to emulate.
I often wonder whether the real solution to the problem of negative stereotypes isn't more complaining but more praise for the companies who get it right? Let's face it: whether it's an ad campaign, a blockbuster movie or a children's show, what companies really want is a product their customers like.
At the risk of conforming to another negative stereotype (the smug, know it all mother), positive reinforcement works - and without the tiresome, speech and humor squelching side effects of campaigns to pressure companies to show us only pleasing depictions of ourselves that bolster our amour propre.
What do you think?
Will you Patriarchal Hegemonists never tire of oppresssing Womynkynd?
Spanx is a line of undergarments that offers solutions for women of all sizes and shapes. You can target bulging stomachs, jiggling upper arms, aging breasts and any other body part that may need some enhancement. No longer an item of fantasy play or a secret amongst plus-sized women, Spanx products have become prized accessories flaunted by the Kardashians, Oprah and suburban moms.
Spanx's selling point is that it helps smart, successful women of all ages to build their confidence by, well, looking good. But playing with fire might be a more adequate metaphor when we consider that less than half a century ago, women denounced Spanx-like garments as symbols of oppressive beauty standards.
When women got rid of girdles and garter belts en masse in the 1960s, they didn't only reject restricting undergarments. (And restrict they did; it's hard to ride a bike, perform surgery or even breathe, as Adele learned, when your midsection is squeezed tight).
They also rejected a society in which women were underemployed, underpaid and underappreciated. Throwing away girdles and curlers seemed like the dawn of a new era. Women got jobs, demanded equal pay and learned to be as tough as their male peers.
Why were we not informed that the secret to ridding the multiverse of thousand-year-old oppressive gender stereotypes was as simple as peeling off a few layers of uncomfortable U-trau? We'd have gotten nekkid ages ago!
Clearly this is just another example of pushy, domineering men exerting their irresistable mind control rays on their fully equal and independent lesser halves. How *do* y'all get us to co-sign your nefarious schemes for disempowering and discouraging us from competing in a man's world:
Fifty years later, the girdle-like Spanx is back thanks to Sara Blakely, a brilliant woman who built a multimillion empire. Blakely used $5,000 to start a brand that defines its category, shapewear. She owns 100% of a company that turns a handsome profit. She is the youngest female self-made billionaire in the world. She would be a darling of the women's movement if her innovation wasn't antithetical to everything else it stood for.
... as we regretfully rubbed the last vestiges of Tuscan sun from our toes, we ruefully reflected that the Patriarchy had us coming and going. Even getting dressed in the morning was rife with sexual traps. Should we succumb to men's inner fantasies and dress like Marilyn Monroe? Or toe the corporate line and end up looking like Helen Thomas? It was all so unfair - no matter what we did, we ran the risk of unwittingly doing what THEY wanted while MEN had the glorious freedom to run about all day in silk cravats and pinstripe suits! They didn't have a care in the world!
Why were women always the victims?
June 13, 2012
Conceal Your Shock
The NYT comes out squarely in favor of unsustainable economic policies that don't achieve their intended purpose:
Across the country, many states like Pennsylvania that happily accepted stimulus money to pay for existing employees are laying off those workers now that Congress has turned off the spigot. Over the last three years, at least 700,000 state and local government employees have lost their jobs, including teachers, sanitation workers and public safety personnel, contributing a full percentage point to the unemployment rate.
...Since the stimulus began in 2009, Washington has provided more than a third of state budgets, supporting as many as half-a-million other jobs, but that wasn’t enough to prevent layoffs, which have only increased since the money began running out.
Having dutifully informed us that the stimulus didn't actually manage to save public sector jobs or improve the economy, the Times would like Congress to double down on failure:
... putting educators and others back to work ultimately depends on Congress, where Republicans are blocking vital legislation to bolster a faltering economy.
Of course the fly in the Times' ointment is that the vast majority of job losses have occurred in the private sector:
... during the Great Recession so far, 92% of employment decline has been in the private sector. To some extent this is what we should expect, the private sector represented 84% of employment prior to the crash, that’s where the action is. Public sector employment has declined only half as much in relative terms as the private sector, and public employment is at any case too small a portion of the labor market in the United States to be the driving force.
... If we start counting at the start of Obama’s first full months of presidency instead of the start of the recession public sector job decline is 0.6 million, not much different. It takes Krugman-levels-of-delusion to convince oneself that this 0.4 or 0.6 million decline explains the disastrous job situation in a country with 133 million workers and 201 million working age adults.
Fortunately, Herr Krugman's capacity for delusional thinking appears to be America's one inexhaustable natural resource:
Austrians argue -- correctly, I believe -- that the real problem that becomes manifest during the boom is that investors are led down the wrong paths into investments that cannot be sustained, period. Take housing, for example. Since the Housing Bubble burst in 2007-08, the government has poured billions and billions of dollars into trying to reflate the bubble, yet overall housing prices are continuing to fall.
Keynesians have no answer for this, because in their view, if the government or private consumers continue to throw money at an asset, then it automatically should be sustained. Yet, it is obvious that the housing market it not behaving according to Keynesian dictates.
It's a strange world in which the solution for a recession triggered by the predictable collapse of unsustainable investments by private citizens turns out to be unsustainable investments by the federal government. Keep that in mind the next time the Obama Re-election Campaign accuses conservatives of doubling down on the very failed policies that got us into this mess.
June 11, 2012
The Editorial Staff wish to apologize for the lack of blogging of late. We find it hard to concentrate when our leg is being munched by a stuffed crocodile.
Please give us a day or two to clean up the severe infestation of small, noisy boys plaguing Villa Cassandranita and we'll be back to bore the villainry senseless with our inane ramblings mid-week.
June 06, 2012
Angry Rhetoric Alert!!!
The Editorial Staff wonder whether we'll be seeing a slew of overwrought, alarmist op-eds about how "violent rhetoric" leads to violent attacks that hurt innocent people?
We're guessing not. Pure. Comedy. Gold.
Legal Out of State Dollars Trump Illegal Out of State Votes?
Rumors to the contrary, neither the rule of law nor Democracy died yesterday. Despite the best efforts of big labor and a host of outside agitators, the system worked as designed... unexpectedly!
Now that this annoying voting business is so eight hours ago, a weary nation can turn its attention to the fight that really counts: the battle of competing narratives. How can we transform a local election into an accurate to 5 decimal points predictor of what to expect in November of 2012? Nevermind that that election is between two different men competing in a far larger area with different weapons and weaknesses. We want closure and we want it now!
If only there were some sort of pre-preliminary-but-scarily-accurate pre exit poll for the national election. Think of how much money and time we could save by getting it all over with now, before we are forced to contemplate pesky tradeoffs, think about the issues, or (heaven forfend!) listen to yet another debate during which neither candidate can say what he really thinks because while both parties long for honesty and courage from our candidates, no one actually votes for the guy who respects our intelligence enough to be straight with us! Such political incompetence is a deal killer in a professional politician.
Politicians must be able to address complex policy debates with the kind of reassuring moral certitude that makes us feel that there's a simple, painless solution for even the most complex problems. What this country really needs is a more authentic inauthenticity.
In case you haven't guessed, the Princess is feeling a mite cranky this morning :p
In 2010, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker beat his Democratic opponent by 5%. Two years into a term marked by controversy, strikes, and media fueled Occupy-style activism, it's not terribly surprising that Walker survived the recall. The odds were always in his favor.
What is interesting is that he increased his 2010 margin of victory by 2% and his party swept all four open Senate seats. [Update, 8:37 am: in the comments to another post, Texan99 comments: "Latest news -- it wasn't close in the races for governor, lieutenant governor, or three of the four state senators, but the Democratic challenger may have won the fourth senate race. That shifts control of the state senate to the Democrats by one vote. The Republicans still control the state assembly, so we're probably looking a gridlock in which the reforms already implemented will stay in place, but nothing more will be accomplished."] While the Editorial Staff are not quite ready to invest it with as much significance as some, that matters.
Now it's all over except for the spin. Progressives, who up until the polls turned against them were hyping the recall as The People's Revolution, will now suddenly find themselves alternating between ennui and an understandable desire to move on to the next People's Revolution. On our long commute from work last night, the airwaves were full of innuendo about "bought elections" and Walker's entirely legal out of state donations.
One wonders whether reports of unions bussing in illegal, out of state voters will receive equal time and attention? Narrative prediction: any illegal votes are unimportant and uninteresting (and anyway they were canceled out by Walker's perfectly legal out of state donations) so we should all just Move On.
After the White House was peppered with questions about President Obama's distance from Wisconsin's election to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker, Mr. Obama tweeted his support for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in between star-studded fundraisers in Manhattan Monday night:
"It's Election Day in Wisconsin tomorrow, and I'm standing by Tom Barrett. He'd make an outstanding governor. -bo."
The president has resisted Democratic entreaties to campaign on behalf of Mr. Barrett in an election where Mr. Walker holds a slight lead and one that many political observers view as harbinger for the presidential election. It may have been a lesson learned the hard way after Mr. Obama waded into the losing Democratic Senate campaign of Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts in 2010, fueling stories that his support wasn't powerful enough to help Ms. Coakley over the finish line.
If Mr. Barrett feels slighted by the president's marked absence, he's not admitting it.
He told CNN's Starting Point on Tuesday that he feels ignored by the president "not one bit."
"It started out as a grassroots movement," he said. "It will end as a grassroots movement, as it should be," he said.
Well, it would appear that the grassroots have spoken. They weren't the *right* grassroots, so this election will suddenly fade from an event with national significance to a mere blip on the never ending road to serfdom. The takeaways?
The People have sent A Strong Message of Strength to Scott Walker.
Wisconsin's teachers have engendered a heartwarmingly organic and spontaneous love for public unions in their young charges... using public money!
“If teacher unions want to be strong and well supported, it is essential that they not only be teacher unionists, but teachers of unionism. We need to create a generation of students who support teachers and the movement for workers rights, oppressed peoples’ rights. That’s our responsibility.”
So much for not having enough time to do anything but teach to the test!
June 05, 2012
Pay No Attention to that Annoying Man with the Calculator!
“Women still earn just 70 cents for every dollar a man earns. It's worse for African American women and Latinas.”
— President Obama, Remarks on Equal Pay for Equal Work, June 4, 2011 (The White House later corrected the president’s statement to 77 cents.)
“Women earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn, with women of color at an even greater disadvantage with 64 cents on the dollar for African American women and 56 cents for Hispanic women.”
— White House Statement of Administration Policy on Paycheck Fairness Act, June 4
The WaPo calls Obama for using misleading statistics and apples to oranges comparisons to hide the fact that the playing field is a lot more level than is good for grievance politics:
The 77 cent figure comes from a Census Bureau report, which is based on annual wages. The BLS numbers draw on data that are based on weekly wages. Annual wages is a broader measure — it can include bonuses, retirement pensions, investment income and the like — but it also means that school teachers, who may not work over the summer, would end up with a lower annual wage.
In other words, since women in general work fewer hours than men in a year, the statistics may be less reliable for examining the key focus of the legislation — wage discrimination. Weekly wages is more of an apples-to-apples comparison, but as mentioned, it does not include as many income categories.
The gap is even smaller when you look at hourly wages — it is 86 cents vs. 100 (see Table 9) — but then not every wage earner is paid on an hourly basis, so that statistic excludes salaried workers. But, under this metric for people with a college degree, there is virtually no pay gap at all.
This brings us to our larger point: Broad comparisons are inherently problematic. As the BLS points out: “Users should note that the comparisons of earnings in this report are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that may be significant in explaining earnings differences.”
Indeed, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis surveyed economic literature and concluded that “research suggests that the actual gender wage gap (when female workers are compared with male workers who have similar characteristics) is much lower than the raw wage gap.” They cited one survey, prepared for the Labor Department, which concluded that when such differences are accounted for, much of the hourly wage gap dwindled, to about 5 cents on the dollar.
Not only did the White House pick the statistic that makes the wage gap look the worst, but then officials further tweaked the numbers to make the situation for African Americans and Hispanics look even more dire.
The BLS, for instance, says the pay gap is relatively small for black and Hispanic women (94 cents and 91 cents, respectively) but the numbers used by the White House compare their wages against the wages of white men. Black and Hispanic men generally earn less than white men, so the White House comparison makes the pay gap even larger, even though the factors for that gap between minority women and white men may have little to do with gender.
Another day, another victim. Will we womenfolk ever see economic justice?
Color Me Über Shocked....
Brace yourself: Wisconsin Democrats say they are preparing for the event that the hotly contested recall race could drag on for weeks, or even longer.
Floating the prospect of a recount is, of course, a message that bolsters the party’s claims that the race is closer than people think and that it will go down to the wire — despite polls showing Walker with the lead.
...If a recount is requested after Tuesday’s election, the process couldn’t even begin until the election results are certified in another two weeks, said Reid Magney, a spokesman for Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board.
In the Supreme Court race recount last year, the recount of the April 5 ballots lasted more than a month, with the Wisconsin elections board finally certifying the results on May 23.
On the positive side the local legal industry may get its own mini-stimulus out of this:
...the party will have more than 440 lawyers in the field on Tuesday “doing election protection activities but also tasked with recount preparation, making sure that we know where absentee ballots are at, making sure that we have a strong handle on what’s happening out there.”
It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good :p
June 04, 2012
When You've Lost Fred Hiatt....
The editor of the WaPo doesn't seem to think Obama has the spine to do what's needed to fix the budget crisis:
To fund the services Americans expect, the government will have to spend at least 19 or 20 percent of GDP, probably more like 21 or 22 percent as society ages. It has to find a way — not this year or next but over the next decade — to raise as much as it spends.
Revenue will have to go up, and the rising arc of health care and pension spending will have to be bent down. Democrats hate the latter, Republicans hate the former, and voters don’t like either. Achieving a grand bargain will require a leader with the steel to stand up to his own party; the charm and muscle to assemble a legislative coalition; and the eloquence and passion to persuade voters.
Hiatt's framing of the problem (as one of funding "the services Americans expect") is revealing, particularly since quite a few Americans have no desire to pay for those services. The budget problem is consistently framed as being a function of the parties but the real problem seems to be not the parties, but an electorate that wants an ever increasing number of services, but only if someone else pays for them. Politicians base their promises on what they think we want, and are only too happy to promise us the moon but elide past what that will cost down the road. So the real question seems to be, who has the courage to tell voters from both parties what they don't want (but need to) to hear? In this regard, Obama's record isn't promising:
The reason to doubt Obama can be summed up simply: He’s had his chance. When the Simpson-Bowles commission presented its plan to reduce the federal debt, with bipartisan support, the president ducked. “If it had been President Clinton, he would have said, ‘God, I created this, this is wonderful. It was all my idea,’ ” co-chair Erskine Bowles, a Democrat, later recalled. “So we were really surprised.”
When Obama was nearing a deal with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the president upped the ante — from $800 billion to $1.2 trillion of tax hikes— dooming its prospects. The White House says Boehner never agreed to a genuine $800 billion and couldn’t have delivered anyhow; we’ll never know. This year, with the nation hurtling toward a series of potentially devastating fiscal deadlines, Obama is inert, apparently trusting that all can be put right in a lame-duck session.
Given the opportunity to assess Romney's fiscal record, one might expect Hiatt to examine Romney's efforts to rein in spending and address the deficit as governor of Massachusetts. Instead, he focuses like a white hot laser beam of truthiness on blissfully fact free generalities .... and the obviously relevant No Child Left Behind:
... good luck finding evidence of spine in Romney’s political career. In moderate Massachusetts, he was a moderate. In conservative national primaries, he was a conservative. From big things (immigration) to less big (flak over his appointment of an openly gay spokesman), Romney’s default position has been to pander and cave.
Still, both men have occasionally bucked their bases. On education, for example: Obama has for the most part resisted pressure to give up on teacher evaluation, while Romney (unlike his rival Rick Santorum) has, at least to an extent, withstood states-rights pressure to abandon No Child Left Behind and the idea of accountability.
Fortunately, USA Today does the work Hiatt can't be bothered to do:
Massachusetts' Democratic-dominated Legislature blocked many of Romney's proposals, said Maurice Cunningham, chairman of the political science department at the University of Massachusetts-Boston .
"The ideas that he proposed were good ideas and workable ideas," Cunningham said. "I don't think he got as much done as he might have wanted to, but he did work on consolidating agencies, and I think those things were way past time to do it and they made logical sense."
Romney has offered few details about what exactly he would cut from the federal government as president, but has pledged major overhauls, spending cuts and efforts to streamline the federal government's bureaucracy.
"The president has made little effort to rein in redundancy and waste," Romney said during a recent speech in Iowa. "My approach to federal programs and bureaucracy is entirely different."
To illustrate his point, Romney noted a 2011 report issued by the Government Accountability Office that identified 34 areas where redundancies were found in the federal government.
During a closed-door fundraiser in April, Romney was overheard telling attendees he may seek to eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He has also mentioned paring back the Department of Education.
But reforms like these are easier said than done, as President Obama has experienced as recently as this year.
Obama has requested authority to merge a litany of trade-related agencies, but the proposal has languished in congressional committees and is unlikely to see the light of day this year.
Presidents from 1932 until 1984 had the authority to reorganize the federal government, Patricia Dalton, the GAO's chief operating officer, told a Senate hearing on Obama's proposal recently. The authorization lapsed during President Reagan's first term, and no president has had it since.
President George W. Bush pushed to regain the independent reorganization authority but Congress never acted on it.
Presidents and candidates often promise consolidation, but their intentions rarely consider Congress' role, said Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University.
The programs "belong to congressional committees, subcommittees and individual members, they put them there, they knew that there was duplication and overlap when they created each one of these programs," Light said. "They were put there because they were in their institutional and electoral interests."
Some might see this as an indictment of Romney's leadership skills, but as the article makes depressingly plain, it is also very much an indication of structural problems that make it unlikely (absent some sea change in public opinion) that even a Republican-led Congress would do much to change the status quo.
Tell me where I'm wrong here - what, specifically, do you expect a Republican president to do to cut spending and how - specifically - would he get Congress on board? Or do you think Congress can be bypassed? If so, how?