Thursday, May 31, 2012

Motor Voter, Photo Voter: The Eric Holder Paradox

    In 1993, the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), also known as the Motor Voter Act (because laws that rhyme are better,) was signed by Bill Clinton.  According to the Justice Department's website, the purpose of the law was to make "it easier for all Americans to register to vote and to maintain their registration."  Just last week, Eric Holder, in an address at the Annual Meeting of the American Law Institute reaffirmed the Obama administration's commitment to enforcing and strengthening that law:
We must keep working to enforce provisions like the “Motor Voter” law – and, to that end, have recently filed two lawsuits to increase access to registration opportunities beyond local DMV offices.  In one of those cases, we reached a settlement with the State of Rhode Island that resulted in more voters being registered in the first full month after our lawsuit than in the entire previous two-year period.  And in just the past year, we’ve participated as an amicus in five separate lawsuits raising issues under Sections 7 and 8 of the NVRA.
    In the same speech, Eric Holder explained his Justice Department's continued opposition to voter/photo ID laws:
The recent wave of changes to state-level voter identification laws also has presented a number of problems requiring the Department’s attention.  In December, we objected to South Carolina’s voter ID law, after finding – based on the state’s own data – that the proposed change would place an unfair burden on non-white voters.  And this past March, we objected to a photo ID requirement in Texas because it would have had a disproportionate impact on Hispanic voters.
    Juxtaposing these two Justice Department positions presents an interesting paradox.  On one hand, Motor Voter is put forth as one of the best ways to make "it easier for all Americans to register to vote" because of the ubiquity of DMV locations and the need for most Americans to periodically visit a DMV office.  And yet requiring the acquisition of a photo ID is deemed to place "unfair burden[s]" and have "disproportionate impact[s]" even though the very same DMV offices are where photo ID's are acquired.
    Of course, in addition to DMV offices, Motor Voter also requires voter registration forms to be "available at local registrar offices, ... public assistance offices and disability-service offices, to groups doing voter registration drives, and through the internet on the website of the chief election official."  In that case,
[t]he voter registration portion of the application may not require any information that duplicates information required on the driver’s license portion of the application and may require only the minimum amount of information necessary to prevent duplicate voter registrations and permit State officials both to determine the eligibility of the applicant to vote and to administer the voting process.
So registering to vote is part of a larger process of filling out a (notoriously complicated and intrusive) government application.  Is obtaining a photo ID so much more of an "unfair burden" with a "disproportionate impact" than most of our other interactions with government?
    And what about registering by mail?  Motor Voter allows for that, too. And the required forms of identification?
These forms of identification are: 1) a current and valid photo identification; or 2) a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter.
Imagine that.  A photo ID.  Of course, it may be argued that exceptions are built in to Motor Voter to allow for hardships, and casting provisional ballots is provided for as well.  But most, if not all, state laws requiring ID for voting have similar exceptions.  The target of these state laws is vote fraud, not voters.  But Eric Holder and the Obama administration are going out of their way to erect roadblocks to these laws.  The result is a weakening of the integrity of the very system that Motor Voter and the original Voting Rights Act were ostensibly meant to broaden and protect.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

You Say Potatoe, I Say Amercia

    Spelling holds a special place in American Presidential electoral politics.  The most infamous is, of course, Dan Quayle's 1992 misspelling of "potato" that earned him the top slot for spelling gaffes in a presidential campaign.  Earlier in the 2012 campaign, Republican Jon Huntsman's campaign misspelled their own candidate's name as "John." And now this week comes news that the Romney campaign struggled with the name of our country.  The Washington Post reports:

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign misspelled the word “America” on its new iPhone app, and it’s already paying a price for it.
In the app, the phrase “A Better America” is misspelled “A Better Amercia.” The misspelling was picked up and tweeted widely Tuesday night, soon spawned a hashtag-driven Twitter meme in which people imagined just what Amercia stood for and what kind of policies Romney had planned for Amercia.

But if you think "Amercia" is bad, listen to this.  Mitt Romney supporter Donald Trump reported this week that President Obama's birth certificate misspells "Kenya" as "H-a-w-a-i-i"!

Monday, May 28, 2012

President Obama's Economic Bright Spot: Republican Controlled States

    Last month, I wrote about the clear and demonstrably superior performance of Republican-controlled* states in reducing unemployment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the April state numbers on Friday, May 18, and if anything, the difference is even more stark.  Just as the national rate dropped from 8.2% to 8.1% from March to April, many individual states (both Republican and Democrat) showed some degree of improvement.  I have updated my raw data spreadsheet, and the bullet points from my April posting are updated here:
  • 9 of the 10 states with the lowest current unemployment rates are under Republican control, including six under complete Republican control, one of which is North Dakota with the lowest rate of 3%
  • 6 of the 10 states with highest current unemployment rates are under Democratic control, and the four worst are all under Democratic control, one of which is Nevada with the highest rate of 11.7%
  • 9 of the 10 states with the greatest improvement from 2009 to 2012 are under Republican control (and 8 of those are under complete Republican control)
  • 7 of the 10 states with the worst performance from 2009 to 2012 are under Democratic control
  • 9 of 16 states with current unemployment rates greater than the national average are under Democratic control
  • The state with the greatest improvement from 2009 to 2012 (38%) is Michigan, under Republican control
  • The two states with the worst performances from 2009 to 2012, Louisiana and Idaho (the rates actually went up,) are under Republican control, but their current rates are still less than the national rate of 8.1%
  • States under Democratic control saw an average decrease of 9% in the rate of unemployment
  • States under Republican control saw an average decrease of 16.8% in the rate of unemployment, close to double the improvement of states under Democratic control
As I said last month, if the decrease in the national unemployment rate had matched that of Republican controlled states, it would already be around 7.8%.  Conversely, if it had followed the Democratic controlled states, it would still be at 8.5%.  There are some anomalies: Vermont is under complete Democratic control and yet has performed very well; and four states under complete Republican control are included in the states with the highest 2012 rates.  There are obviously other factors at work in the states economic and employment situations, but the big picture is clear.  States under Republican control scored nearly double the improvement of states under Democratic control - the correlation is unmistakable.  And the Republicans could easily make the argument that if they had control at the national level as well as the state level, that progress could be accelerated.
    Since the economy seems destined to be the main focus of voters as November approaches, Mitt Romney and Republicans need to do more than just (rightly) point to the failings of the Obama administration and the Democrats on jobs, despite three and a half years of "focusing like a laser" on the economy.  The facts presented here tell the positive message in the unemployment situation:  Republicans are already doing what they can in the face of a national employment malaise, to borrow Jimmy Carter's 1970s terminology.
    Speaking of President Carter... As I noted back in March, during his 2008 campaign, President Obama asked voters to ponder the Reagan-inspired question, "Will our country be better off four years from now?"  The president may well come to regret asking the question.  Republicans need to confront voters with the question and the answer: "Is our country better off after four years under Democratic President Obama?  Not so much.  But look what Republicans have done in the states.  Put us in charge and we can do the same for the whole country.  Not with mandates and taxes and regulations, but by getting government out of the way of the nation's economic engine, the American people."  Not only does this claim have the benefit of being true and easily illustrated with the facts, the positive message will provide a sharp contrast to the campaign of fear and divisiveness the Democrats and the president are waging in an attempt to eke out a second term.

*"Control" is based on holding at least 2 of the 3 of the following: governor, upper legislative house, and lower house.  “Complete control” means holding all three.   



Sunday, May 27, 2012

What Was That About Obama and Spending? Oh, It Was Nutting...

    Rex Nutting has gotten quite a bit of attention lately for his analysis of spending increases during President Obama's term in office so far.  Others, including James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal and John Hinderaker at Power Line, quickly debunked the claim, so I will not rehearse the inaccuracies and distortions here.  However, there are a few things worth noting.
    First, Rex Nutting was not quite as concerned back in 2009 that Obama not be tagged with the big spender reputation.  In a column just prior to the passage of the $787 billion "stimulus" package in 2009, Nutting bemoaned Obama's shortcomings in explaining his ideas to the American people:
 In a news conference and various town-hall appearances, [Obama's] directly addressed the major criticisms of his proposal to jolt the economy out of this recession with a massive tax cut and spending bill. In extreme detail, using facts and logic, he pretty much demolished all the opponents' arguments that it's wrong to try to fix the economy by cutting taxes and spending money.
A little further down, he writes:
And [Republicans have] had success with their bizarre claims that government jobs aren't jobs and that government spending doesn't stimulate the economy.
So in 2009, Nutting was cheering on Obama's desire for more government spending.  The day after Nutting's column, just a few weeks into his presidency (and only the fifth month of "Bush's" 2009 fiscal year,) his wish was partially fulfilled as Congress, absent any Republican votes, approved the $787 billion "stimulus."  And now in 2012, Nutting is attempting to relieve the pressure Obama is feeling for getting his wish.

    Second, Nutting wrote another column in 2009 citing the huge increase in deficit in the second quarter of the 2009 fiscal year.
Much of the increase in outlays in March came from extraordinary investments by the government in banks and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, loans to credit unions, and increased spending from the stimulus package for unemployment insurance and Medicaid.
While it's true that the "investments" to which Nutting refers were part of the bailout of the banks passed under Bush, it is also true that Obama fully supported that $700 billion plan, not to mention another $50 billion for troubled automakers.

Third, and perhaps more remarkable, is an under-reported quote from Nutting's recent column (perhaps because you have to click through to page 2 of the story to see it.)  While the "Obama's getting a bum rap as a big spender" claim has garnered most of the attention, Nutting says this about the spending that his column tries to pin on Bush and the "previous Congress":
By no means did Obama try to reverse that spending. Indeed, his budget proposals called for even more spending in subsequent years. But the Congress (mostly Republicans but many Democrats, too) stopped him. If Obama had been a king who could impose his will, perhaps what the Republicans are saying about an Obama spending binge would be accurate.
 So after all that, Nutting concedes that Obama wanted to go on the spending binge that Nutting argues didn't happen, but was largely thwarted by Republicans!  And as far as Obama as king, perhaps this is where Nutting hits closest to the truth.  President Obama himself said in March 2012, “If Congress refuses to act, I’ve said that I’ll continue to do everything in my power to act without them.”  And a year earlier, the president was even more explicit:
Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China. As one official put it, ‘No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in Tahrir Square.’
 Even though the Obama campaign quickly glommed on to Nutting's column as evidence that the president is not the profligate spender his opponents accuse him of being, they may be better off letting this kerfuffle fade into the background.  If more details begin to filter out, we might start hearing, "If you think that was bad, you ain't see Nutting yet!"

Friday, May 25, 2012

‘Just the Way Business Works’

    In the midst of all the talk of private equity, vampire capitalism, anti-Robin Hoods, and even apple-and-coconut comparisons, perhaps the voice of reason needs to cut through all the hyperbole and put the entire matter into perspective:
Now, we knew from the start that [it] was going to entail some risk, by definition. If it was a risk-free proposition, then we wouldn’t have to worry about it. But the overall portfolio has been successful. It has allowed us to help companies... It’s helped create jobs. There were going to be some companies that did not work out; [this] was one of them. But the process by which the decision was made was on the merits. It was straightforward. And of course there were going to be debates internally when you’re dealing with something as complicated as this.  

*   *   *   *   *

        There are no guarantees in the business world about success and failure.  That is just the way business works, and everyone recognizes that...  you cannot measure the success based on one company or the other.

So, is this Mitt Romney explaining what happened in the case of Bain Capital and GST Steel?  Or a Romney spokesman patiently explaining private equity to some journalists?  No, actually the first quote is from President Barack Obama, and the second from Press Secretary Jay Carney.  Both are addressing the failure of solar-panel maker Solyndra, which, despite a $535 million loan guarantee from the government, filed for bankruptcy in 2011, laying off 1,100 workers in the process.
    In a quote reminiscent of the Bain Capital commercials the Obama administration has been running against Romney lately, "'I was told by a security guard to get my [stuff] and leave,' one [Solyndra] employee said."  However, as Jay Carney said, "you cannot measure the success based on one company or the other."
    But that was last year.  And besides, the Obama administration was only trying to save the planet.  Romney just wanted to make money.  As I said at the beginning, it's all about perspective.  And there's nothing like an election to bring things into focus.

Still Don't Know Much About History - In Spanish

    Last Friday, May 18, the Obama 2012 campaign launched a new website, GottaVote.org.  As I noted at the time, the website told the story of Dorothy Cooper, a 96 year-old African American woman, and the article began as follows:
Dorothy Cooper was born in 1915, before women or African Americans could exercise the right to vote in the United States.
Of course, while women of any race could not vote until 1920 when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, African American men were granted the right to vote in 1870 with the ratification of the 15th Amendment.  As I noted, practically speaking, states often found ways to prevent blacks from voting well into the 1960s when Voting Rights legislation was passed.  However, even though the Obama campaign used the ambiguous phrase "could exercise the right" which might have justified the claim, within 24 hours "or African Americans" was removed and the sentence now reads:
Dorothy Cooper was born in 1915, before women could exercise the right to vote in the United States.
Or, to be more accurate, the phrase was removed on the English version of the website.  Here's a screenshot from today from the Spanish Language version of GottaVote.org:

I have only a couple of years of high school Spanish under my belt, but I believe I'm not going out on a limb to interpret "afro-americanos" as African Americans.  So the Obama campaign was fairly quick to correct the English version (whether in reaction to either my blog post or the tweet I sent them, I do not know - I received no response.)  However, a week later, Spanish speaking visitors to the site are continuing to get the wrong story.  And although Google Translate is certainly not the definitive source, the phrase "tuvieran el derecho de votar" comes back as "have the right to vote," a much less ambiguous wording than "could exercise the right" to vote.  If anyone can provide a more accurate translation, I will update what I have written.
    So the question remains: Is this simply a mistake, or a deliberate attempt to mislead?  I lean towards the former, but now that we are a week out from the website's launch, it's almost inconceivable to me that a statement that flatly ignores the 15th Amendment to the Constitution remains unchanged.  That this statement is being made on a website run by the campaign of the sitting President of the United States is inexcusable.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Chronicles of the Chronicle: Part II

    On May 8th, I wrote about the firing of blogger Naomi Schaefer Riley from the Brainstorm blog of the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Rather than conducting an examination of Riley's work, I focused on another brainstorm blogger Laurie Essig to see if her writing "conform[ed] to the journalistic standards and civil tone" that Liz McMillen had cited in her reasons for firing Riley.  My investigation showed that a post Essig had written the same week as the Riley controversy raged was not merely uncivil, but smeared the voters of North Carolina and a state senator's wife with a quote from a Huffington Post story that was later partly retracted.  Ms. Essig's post was even time-stamped after the HuffPo piece was updated, yet it did not take the new information into account.  Indeed, as of today, her original screed remains posted and uncorrected at Brainstorm.
    It was with anticipation then that I read Ms. Essig's latest post, Count Romney and the Reign of Bain Capital.  While this post is clearly less vitriolic than the earlier one, the scholarship is once again found wanting.  Ms. Essig has no problem with the Obama campaign using the "vampire" metaphor for private equity firms; rather, she seems to feel it doesn't go far enough and that the Obama team could be making more of it:
The Obama campaign’s vampire metaphor is hardly anti-capitalist propaganda. It is, in fact, a fairly accurate description of what happens when neoliberal economic policies lead to almost zero regulation of the market. Bain Capital did in fact bankrupt the company featured in the ad, Kansas City’s GST Steel. According to The Week,
In 2001, shortly after Romney left Bain, GST went bankrupt, 750 employees lost their livelihoods and pensions, and Bain walked away with a $12-million profit.
Alas, what Obama and the Dems are offering is not a larger critique of the no-holds-barred capitalism of the past three decades, but rather a plan to mitigate the effects of rising income inequality with government programs.
    However, if one follows the link to The Week, it turns out The Week is not saying what Ms. Essig implies, that "Bain Capital did in fact bankrupt the company featured in the ad."  They are simply restating what the Obama ad implied.  In fact, immediately after the description of the ad comes this: "Democratic donor and financier Steve Rattner, who oversaw the auto bailout ... called the attack 'unfair,' arguing that it was not Bain's responsibility to create or preserve jobs, but to make profits for its investors."  The passage that contained the quote Ms. Essig cited did more to cast doubt on the claim than it did to confirm it.
    In addition to this distortion, Ms. Essig is trafficking in the classic logical fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc:  Bain Capital owned GST Steel.  GST Steel went bankrupt.  Therefore, Bain bankrupted GST Steel.  This amounts to:  I own a dog.  My dog died.  Therefore, I killed my dog.  The assertion is vacuous.
    The real story of Bain and GST Steel is actually quite different from the one Essig and the Obama campaign have spun, as Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out.  The Obama campaign at least provides some further detail they believe backs up their contention, but Ms. Essig cites nothing at all, dealing another blow to Brainstorm's aspirations of "scholarship."
    Although I did not explicitly state this in my May 8th post, I have no desire to see Ms. Essig lose per position at Brainstorm.  I simply would like to see her editor, Liz McMillen, own up to the blatant double standard that prompted her to fire Naomi Riley.  She and the Chronicle certainly have every right to hire whomever they wish to blog on Brainstorm, as well as the right to fire them, even for their ideology (as long as it's in keeping with their contract.)  But as a prominent voice in the ostensibly open-minded community of academia, the Chronicle should at least have the integrity to acknowledge its biases.

We Don't Need No Education

    Normally I would not do an entire post over a two-letter word (although those who have been subjected to my grammar/copyediting-Nazism might dispute that,) but if you are going to pick on someone about education, you'd better have all your i's dotted, t's crossed, and use the correct prepositions.  Today, @BarackObama retweeted this:

"On" subjects?  When your child brings come his report card, do you say, "What grade did you get on math?"  Of course not.  Rather, "What grade did you get in math?" Nit-picky?   Sure, but that's half the fun of grammar.  And another thing: Should the Democrats, the party that calls itself "progressive" really be giving F's anyway?  F's are so twentieth-century.
    Oh, and one more thing.  At least now that we've seen Romney's report card above, we know more about his grades than we do about Obama's, since he has yet to release his college transcripts... KIDDING!  (I know, Romney has not released his either.)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sigh... Yes, More POTUS Tweets [Updated]

    I am posting this out of a sense of obligation, but frankly, keeping up with the @BarackObama Twitter feed is getting a bit tedious (tweetious?)  Here are two tweets that came one after the other Monday evening:

First of all, no one is asking the President to "maximize profits."  I think we'd all the thrilled beyond words if we were simply less than a trillion dollars from breaking even, but the President's budgets aren't even close.  And second, "Your job [as President] is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot."  I defy you to pull out your pocket Constitution, go to Article II, Section 1, and find anything that could even remotely be roughly paraphrased as "figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot."  Somehow I doubt the Latin translation of this phrase will appear on any future government buildings or monuments; rather, it will die a quiet and ignominious death in the land of tweets - and so it should.

Update: The Obama campaign is fighting back!

Now they just need the Latin translation and a hunk of marble.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts (Cough-Cough-Cough)

    From the President's Twitter feed today:

Here's the full phrase as popularized by the NBC football oriented TV series Friday Night Lights:

Notice anything different?  Does this indicate a Freudian lack of confidence on the part of Obama 2012?

G.K. Chesterton on Conventional Wisdom

    I have been reading some of the works of G.K. Chesterton lately.  Most recently, I began "The Napoleon of Notting Hill."  While I have only read the first few pages, the opening paragraph is a classic commentary on what we now call "conventional wisdom," or the collective vision of the future, near and far, by the day's intellectuals and social scientists, among others (including, ahem, bloggers):
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. And one of the games to which it is most attached is called "Keep to-morrow dark," and which is also named (by the rustics in Shropshire, I have no doubt) "Cheat the Prophet." The players listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clever men have to say about what is to happen in the next generation. The players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely. They then go and do something else. That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun.
Of course, this applies not only to what is going "to happen in the next generation," but sometimes next week, month, or year.  A word of caution to all of us who try to read the tea leaves that true wisdom is anything but conventional.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Barbie and Zoey: Mother-Daughter Team For Obama 2012

    The Obama campaign website is a never-ending source of entertainment for me.  This recent blog entry is a good example.  While Barbie is the mother, it is Zoey, the daughter-half of the team, who provides the historical context for the 2012 elections:
Zoey: "We went to a house party a family friend was throwing a few months back. We both wanted to volunteer [with the Obama campaign,] so why not do it together? Being at the house party and remembering what our country was like before [Obama] took office, I knew I had to do something."  [emphasis added]
Echoes of Solzenitzen.  I wonder what the English word for "gulag" is?

But it’s this answer that really kills me:
Zoey: "My parents raised my brother and I as equals, and it's so frustrating that if we had the same job, he'd be making more money than me. It doesn't make sense.
"Also, it's terrifying to know that the rights that I've had over my body my entire life could now be taken from me. So many women before me fought so hard, and that could all be taken away from us. Every single mother in this country has battled sexism their entire life, and knowing that my mom has had to watch me fight the same fights is heartbreaking. I don't know how she's done it. She's worked so hard for me to have more advantages than she's had, yet we're struggling to move ahead."
The Obama campaign could have had the courtesy to allow the recent college graduate a chance to edit her answer for grammar, but there's nothing they could have done to mask the overwrought sense of impending doom and lack of proportion this young woman exudes from every pore:
  • "it's terrifying to know that the rights that I've had over my body my entire life could now be taken" (her entire life! all 22 years!)
  • "could all be taken away" (possibly even the right to vote?!)
  • "my mom has had to watch me fight the same fights" (is this a Sandra-Fluke-as-everywoman reference?)
  • "I don't know how she's done it" (would that Harriet Tubman had been so courageous)
  • "more advantages than she's had, yet we're struggling to move ahead" (again with Sandra Fluke?)
As I've stated before, it is not so much that there are people who feel this way that gets to me.  It is that the Obama campaign promotes these stories in order to appeal to his supporters, and beyond that, to those he hopes to win over.  Unless we are able to reach more young people with a conservative message, winning in November with Mitt Romney will not be enough.  Our country is in need of re-education (no, no re-education camps!), and Republicans and conservatives had better be up to the task.

Senator Charles Schumer to Facebook Co-Founder: "Dislike"

    News that Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin had renounced his U.S. citizenship prior to the Facebook IPO this week really put a burr under Senator Chuck Schumer's saddle.  Schumer was incensed that Saverin appears to be avoiding taxes that he would incur should he sell his shares of Facebook that are estimated to be worth about $4 billion (LA Times):
"This is a great American success story gone wrong," Schumer said. "Mr. Saverin wants to de-friend the United States just to avoid paying taxes, and we're not going to let him get away with it."
And part of what "not going to let him get away with it" means:
...mak[ing] sure he never sets foot in the U.S. again unless he pays tens of millions of dollars in taxes he will owe after the company's initial public offering Friday. 
 By announcing his (and Sen. Bob Casey's) legislation in such a targeted way and personal way, we have the spectacle of a sitting Senator appearing to threaten a virtual Bill of Attainder to punish Saverin.  Since Bills of Attainder are specifically prohibited by the Constitution and Senator Schumer is no amateur, he and Casey will doubtless find a way to broaden the scope of the law to avoid this pitfall.  Schumer's legislative experience is particularly evident in the naming of the legislation:  "Expatriation Prevention by Abolishing the Tax-Related Incentives for Offshore Tenancy Act, a name designed to produce the acronym Ex-PATRIOT Act." (If Senators invested a fraction of the energy they use to produce acronyms to balance the budget, the deficit would vanish in no time.)
    Senator Schumer's enthusiasm to use legislation to punish the wealthy has not always run so high.  In 2007 when Democrats were considering tax increases to finance more government spending, Schumer balked.  The New York Times reported:
Mr. Schumer said in an interview that he was torn between the need to protect an industry vital to his home state and the need to generate revenues to finance government programs. He said a tax increase on private equity and hedge fund executives could lead to an exodus of jobs and companies from New York, and even from the country. He said the plan, if enacted federally, would also lead to an increase in New York State tax that would further bear down on the industry. He said he worried that the industry was being unfairly singled out. [emphasis added]
“Unintended consequences often occur when you do major tax work. And you have to be careful,” Mr. Schumer said in the interview, held in his office just off the Senate floor.
Ironically, it was the Mitt Romney-like vampires ("private equity and hedge fund executives") who are the current target of the 2012 Obama campaign that Schumer was concerned about in 2007 fleeing his home state along with their companies and jobs.  But these days, Schumer is more concerned with electoral consequences than "unintended" ones.  Although Saverin denies that taxes are behind his decision, Schumer is grandstanding with a constitutionally questionable and punitive law to score points in an election year.  The current legislation seems part of the overall Buffett Rule/tax-the-wealthy strategy the Democrats have made part of their 2012 campaign.  "The despicable trend that Saverin exhibits must be stopped dead in its tracks," Schumer scolded.  The same could be said of Schumer's cynical politcal theater.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Race to the Bottom - Divorce Equality

    Do we Marylanders live in a progressive state, or what?  Our state Court of Appeals has just ruled that, even though same-sex marriage will not be legal in Maryland until January 2013 (unless a ballot initiative is successful at blocking it), same-sex couples may divorce in our state now.  The AP reports:
Maryland's highest court ruled Friday that same-sex couples can divorce in the state even though Maryland does not yet permit same-sex marriages.  The Court of Appeals ruled 7-0 that couples who have a valid marriage from another state can divorce in Maryland.  The case involved two women who were married in California and denied a divorce in 2010 by a Maryland judge.   "A valid out-of-state same-sex marriage should be treated by Maryland courts as worthy of divorce, according to the applicable statues, reported cases, and court rules of this state," the court concluded in a 21-page ruling.
You've got to love the phrasing: "worthy of divorce."  It's barely been a week since the President made his announcement voicing his support for same-sex marriage, or "marriage equality" as the advocates are calling it.  Robin Roberts of ABC News should stay by the phone in case the President wants to make a similar endorsement of the equally cherished right of "divorce equality."  And Maryland is blazing the trail.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Don't Know Much About History [Updated]

Update: Although I received no direct response from the Obama campaign yesterday after I contacted them about the error, as of Saturday morning, the GottaVote.org website below has removed "or African Americans" from the sentences I highlighted in the original posting below.  The pages have simply been revised with no reference to the original erroneous statement, although the Google cache of the site contains the original.  I will try not to be hurt that the Obama campaign has not sent a note of thanks.  I am just that magnanimous.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Friday morning, the Obama 2012 campaign began promoting a new website, GottaVote.org.  One section of the website contains stories about how voting rights and regulations affect individuals.  One of the stories concerns Dorothy Cooper, a 96 year-old African American woman, and the article begins as follows:
Dorothy Cooper was born in 1915, before women or African Americans could exercise the right to vote in the United States.
Here's a screenshot of that part of the page:

While it was not until 1920 that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing women the right to vote was ratified, the 15th Amendment prohibiting the denial of voting rights based on color or race was ratified in 1870 following the Civil War.  So while it is true that no women, African American or otherwise, could vote in 1915, and it is also true that states often found ways to discriminate against blacks  well into the 20th century before civil right legislation was passed in the 1960s, the Obama campaign is at least 45 years behind the times in its assertion that African Americans could not vote in 1915.

Update:  This is also the first item highlighted on the blog at the new site (screenshot below.)

Update: I just noticed a third place the incorrect claim appears (at least part of it,) on the home page of the site as a preview to their news/blog page:

Since their site says "Voting is easy when you have the facts...," let's hope the rest of their facts were better researched than this one.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Planned Parenthood and Same-Sex Marriage

    Curiously, Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood recently released a statement in response to President Obama's endorsement of the concept of same-sex marriage:
“Planned Parenthood applauds President Obama for his historic announcement on marriage equality today. This president has been a steadfast ally for women’s reproductive health and rights and for the rights of all men and women to participate fully in society.
“Planned Parenthood believes that reproductive rights are deeply connected to civil rights for all Americans. We have long stood with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the struggle for full equality – many of whom turn to Planned Parenthood for health care, information and education – and today we join LGBT communities to celebrate President Obama’s commitment to equality.” 
It is unclear why PP found this proclamation by the President worthy of public comment given the tenuous connection between same-sex marriage and PP's "Who We Are" statement:
Planned Parenthood delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide.
Other press statements are much more closely linked to "health"-related issues, abortion, and funding of PP. The obvious answer is that this is a political statement.  Whatever pretense PP likes to try to maintain that the organization is all about health and reproductive rights, they clearly follow the path of the political left.  What makes the current statement so risible is the degree of praise that PP is willing to bestow on President Obama for a purely cosmetic announcement of his position.  His administration has made no policy changes, nor are any planned.  Imagine if you will if the President had said the following in the context of abortion:
"Well-- well-- well, what I'm saying is is that different states are coming to different conclusions. But this debate is taking place-- at a local level. And I think the whole country is evolving and changing. And-- you know, one of the things that I'd like to see is-- that a conversation continue in a respectful way." [Source: ABC News]
 Does anyone believe Cecile Richards would have been so sanguine as to "celebrate President Obama’s commitment” in that case?  No, neither do I.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


    Earlier this year, President Obama submitted his fiscal 2013 budget proposal.  First came this headline in March:
Obama's budget gets shutout in House 0-414
Today, we have this headline:

Senate rejects Obama budget in 99-0 vote
Bipartisanship!  Unprecedented!  The Holy Grail of politics!  So, are we all happy now?

Joe Biden Underwater on Mortgage? [Updated - Probably Not]

    Vice President Joe Biden released a financial disclosure form that appears to show he is dramatically underwater with a mortgage he has on his Wilmington property.  The only real estate listed on his form (page 6) says "J - Rental Property (residential), Wilmington, DE" and the value range checked off is $100,001 - $250,000.
    His liabilities, on the other hand (page 8,) lists a Home Equity LOC (line of credit) in the range of $100,001-$250,000.  In addition, on page 9, the Home Equity LOC is listed again, but with a range of $15,001 - $50,000, and a mortgage of $500,001 - $1,000,000 is listed as "Mortgage on Principal Residence (including rental property.)
    The property then is worth a maximum of $250,000 (which frankly, is hard to believe [UPDATE: Most likely this is the value of only the portion of the residence that is rented],) but the Vice-President appears to owe more than $600,000 in mortgage and line of credit debt.  Can this possibly be accurate?  If so, the President hasn't had far to go when looking for homeowners hurt by the housing crisis.

UPDATE:  Apparently, due to a quirk in the recently enacted STOCK act, "With the annual filings in May, 2012, mortgages on lawmakers' personal residences, which were previously only disclosed if the house produced income, will now be reported in all cases."  However, the value of the primary residence apparently is still not required to be listed on the form.  I don't know the reason for this oddity, but it greatly reduces the chance that the Vice-President is actually underwater despite the impression created by the financial disclosure form.  However, a new question arises: Why would the rules mandate the inclusion of a liability when the corresponding asset remains unlisted?

Math is Hard [Updated - So is English]

Update: A reporter I contacted pointed out that the Obama campaign says "$50 per donation", not "$50 per donor."  In other words, for example, one person gives $50 twice during April: this means $50 per donation, $100 per donor.  As a relative newcomer to writing about campaigns, I failed to note this distinction . Turns out English is hard sometimes, too.  Mea culpa.
Original snarky post:

    This morning, the Obama campaign tweeted some contribution figures for April.  The screen shot below is from the @BarackObama Twitter feed in the order they were sent, so from all appearances, they are meant to be taken as a package:

One of the main talking points of the Obama campaign is that they are the campaign of the little guy, so they often make a big deal of size of the the average contribution.  Indeed above, they tout the average as $50.  However, let's do the math:
Yes, that's right.  They have understated the average contribution by 50%.  The average is actually double what the Obama campaign has claimed.  However, if you have ever perused a budget proposal submitted by the Obama administration, you already know math is not their strong suit.

Update: So far (as of 9:46 AM,) media outlets I have checked are just repeating the campaign's figures.

Time™ Out!

    In the matter of the Time Magazine cover controversy (I am not going to link to it... you know which one I mean):  Of course this is a transparent effort by Time to gain readers (or at least lookers) and sell more magazines.  It's intelligence-insulting to suggest anything to the contrary.  I will refrain from commenting on the substance of the article itself as I have not read it.  But did anyone, especially the mother herself, even consider the long-term effect of this cover photo on the boy?  If she wishes to show herself to the world in this manner and can find a news magazine willing to publish it, she's certainly got that right.  Her son is less than four years old and could probably run around naked in his front yard and not think much of it.  But now this image is out there forever.  It's a safe bet that this will make his middle school/high school years just a little more awkward than they would be anyway, and what adolescent boy can't use a little more awkwardness?  A couple of decades ago, a mysterious blank spot might have appeared in the family scrapbook one day and the story would only exist in family lore and in the Past Issues microfiche at the library, but since Al Gore invented the World Wide Scrapbook, there's no hiding it.  This boy joins the growing club of Americans with embarrassing internet photos, the vast majority of which are self-inflicted through foolishness or bad judgment.  There was plenty of foolishness and bad judgment to go around at Time Magazine, but it came not from the pre-schooler.  Rather, it was the work of his own mother and other adults who should have known better and they owe him a lifetime of apologies.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Writing Between the Lines

    Because sometimes you have to read the real tweets between the lines.  If that doesn't work, sometimes you even have to write between the lines.

The Five Trillion Dollar Tweet

    The Obama campaign has raised the bar on gall, or perhaps cluelessness.  Here's a tweet from Tuesday afternoon from the Orwellian TruthTeam2012:

One almost gets the sense it's an inside joke-tweet that someone sent out accidentally, a la Anthony Weiner.  Did a TruthTeam member not recognize the irony that the national debt has increased by $5 trillion since President Obama took office, at least partly due to the nearly $1 trillion "stimulus" that "loaded up" the government with more debt?  This is the latest in a series of misfires just this week from the Obama campaign that raises the question, is the 2008 magic really gone?  If not, the Obama campaign and their TruthTeam are certainly chipping away at it, tweet by tweet.

Barack Obama Facing Serious Primary Challenge in Arkansas

    From the Weekly Standard:
A new poll of Arkansas Democrats shows Barack Obama receiving support from only 45 percent of Democratic primary voters in Arkansas’s Fourth Congressional District, while 38 percent support his underfunded and relatively unknown primary challenger, Tennessee lawyer John Wolfe, Jr.  Seventeen percent are undecided in the district poll.
 Pundits and other political observers agree that this development is particularly disturbing for the President because his Arkansas opponent is not a felon or even currently imprisoned.

Some Equity is More Evil Than Others

    President Obama headlined a pricey fundraiser on Monday at the home of the president of the Blackstone Group in New York.  ABC News reports:
Hamilton “Tony” James — the president of the Blackstone Group, the nation’s largest private equity firm — is hosting a $35,800-a-head dinner for Obama, with 60 Democratic allies expected to attend, according to a campaign official. Many in attendance are expected to have ties to the private equity sector.
What makes the timing particularly interesting is that Monday also marked the beginning of the Obama campaign's latest round of attacks on Mitt Romney's record at the private equity firm he once headed, Bain Capital, even going so far as to set up a separate website called Romney Economics.  (I should at least in passing gratefully acknowledge that so far the Obama campaign has resisted employing the term "Romneynomics.")  One of the banners on the website reads "The Romney Model" and clicking on it brings up the following:

This is of course meant to evoke memories of the fictitious Gordon Gekko's (protrayed by Michael Douglas) infamous "Greed is good" credo from the film "Wall Street."  Bain, and by extension, Romney, cared nothing for workers, only for profit.  A video produced by the Obama campaign even contains a quote from someone who lost a job at a company Bain managed calling the equity firm a "vampire."

    So is the President's fundraiser of choice today a different kind of vampire, er, equity capitalist?  The Blackstone Group lays out its mission on its website under the heading "Our Approach."
Blackstone’s primary objective is to manage our business — and our Limited Partners’ capital — with care, discipline and patience.  We strive to deliver compelling risk-adjusted returns over the long term.  Many of our investment vehicles, such as our corporate and real estate private equity funds and credit funds, are structured with lives of up to ten years or longer.  This long-range view enables us not only to ride out market cycles, but also to maximize value through operational improvements over time. [emphasis added]
At this point you are probably asking yourself, "Where is the part about 'creating jobs'?" I, too, searched in vain for it.  Even more shocking are these quotes from "Selected Transactions" also on the Blackstone Group website [emphasis added]:
  • Kraft executed the transaction as a tax-free split-off and merger to maximize after-tax shareholder value and realized approximately $2.6 billion in value.
  • Stiefel’s objective was to ... maximize value for its shareholders.  Stiefel and Blackstone determined that a sale process may be able to create superior shareholder value and pursued a targeted auction including the most viable strategic parties.
  • As part of this process, Blackstone evaluated and executed asset sales to maximize overall value.
There are more, but you get the idea.  Blackstone's "Approach" is identical to that of Mitt Romney's fellow Bain vampire, Marc Walpow: create wealth for investors.  Although the impression President Obama gives is certainly to the contrary, I can say with certainty that when the Obamas, as any investor, seek to invest their considerable resources, the item at the top of the list is not "how many jobs will my investment create," but rather, "what will provide the greatest return."  Obviously the list will include other factors: level of risk, length of time of the investment, and even more aesthetic considerations, such as "what industries or sectors am I comfortable with" and yes, even considerations about jobs and employee working conditions within an industry.  Both Blackstone Group and Bain Capital tout their successes in job creation when it is consistent with their primary focus.
    Despite the unparalleled success of the free market/capitalist system in the United States that has eclipsed all other nations in history, even with its warts, in the degree and widespread nature of the prosperity it has produced, there are still many who get squeamish about the dog-eat-dog perception with which free markets are often caricatured.  Certainly there are excesses, greed, cruelty, and injustice, and God has ordained governments to keep such proclivities of mankind in check.  Laws and regulations and the reach of both will be a constant source of push and pull between business, government, and society at large.  Our system has flaws and has room for improvement, but compared to all others, there frankly is no comparison.  And based on the President's $35,800 per plate fundraiser today, after deducting for food, travel, and Hope 'n Change napkins, I have no doubt his 2012 election campaign has turned a fairly healthy "profit."  The President may decry the carnage left behind by greedy vampires in private business in their thirst for greater and greater returns, but he knows that even in his business, politics, money is the lifeblood.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Something the Candidates Can Agree On

    The Obama campaign sent out a series of tweets today enumerating Mitt Romney's "qualifications" to be president of the United States:




Let's see... During Barack Obama's presidency, the country's debt has increased $5 trillion; the President has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for his campaign and the Democrats, has taken 16 or more vacations in the past three years with his family, and will be set for life with a pension and speaking fees when he leaves office; the percentage of the population with jobs in the U.S. has shrunk dramatically since 2009; and the country's credit rating has been cut and it heading for bankruptcy.  Yup, based on President Obama's own record, I'd say Romney has a point.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day From The Affordable Care Act

    I would like to take credit for the title of my post, but the White House beat me to it.

    Yes, nothing says "Happy Mother's Day" like a political statement about an increasingly unpopular piece of legislation during an election year.  Act now to reserve your Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act Father's Day cards!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hope (For a Dollar) and Change

    While reading an article on Salon.com today (is it OK to admit that?), I noticed an Amazon advertisement for a "rare" Obama campaign poster.  Clicking on the link, I found that several different posters are available in addition to the 24 x 36 print of "Hope" for .  As it turns out, "hope" comes fairly cheap these days:

The good news is that with the shape the economy is in, many more people can afford to buy the poster now.  The bad news for the 2012 Obama campaign is, will anyone want to?

UPDATE:  As of Saturday, May 12, the price has jumped to $4.17, a 135% increase!  The Obama campaign has got to be wishing today that Amazon was a better read on the electorate than the polls.

Log Cabin Democrats

    One gets the sense from the Obama campaign's response to the President's announcement regarding same-sex marriage that the whole thing was like a surprise party gone wrong.  Preparations have been under way behind the scenes for months, perhaps years; the President has on more than one occasion issued unequivocal support for traditional marriage; then at other times, he gave hints that perhaps something was afoot.  But on Sunday, Joe Biden leaned too heavily on the closet door and came stumbling out into the living room.  Surprise!
    Whether or not Biden's slip was part of the plan (a matter of some debate,) within hours if not minutes of the President's interview with ABC's Robin Roberts, the Obama campaign began to release a torrent of tweets on their Twitter account, blog entries on barackobama.com, fund raising emails, and even YouTube videos proclaiming the end of Evolution - the President had arrived at the highest form of same-sex marriage positions.
    But has he?  Even though the President's supporters let fly with a million dollars in new campaign contributions almost overnight, many commentators on both sides of the political divide are unconvinced.  Rush Limbaugh spent a good deal of time on his show Thursday explaining that nothing has changed.  Everyone already knew President Obama supported same-sex marriage anyway, and his announcement on Wednesday was nothing more than rhetoric - his administration has committed to no actions to bring about the end goal.  He wants to leave the decision "up to the states," which is in itself problematic given his administration's stand on the Defense of Marriage Act.  The President's supporters are certainly used to empty rhetoric by now, but the "historic" nature of the moment seemed to have once again trumped the less promising reality.  It is even likely the President timed his coming out to follow the drubbing same-sex marriage took in North Carolina in order to capitalize on the fury its supporters felt.  The lower the low, the higher the high.
    But once the euphoria wears off, how will the President's followers view what the President himself was quick to cast as "history" being made?  It has occurred to me Obama’s gay marriage stance sounds an awful lot like Lincoln’s oft criticized letter to Horace "Go West, Young Man" Greeley.  President Lincoln wrote to Greeley in an effort to explain that as President, saving the Union took precedence over all other considerations, including slavery, regardless of his personal feelings.  Critics have tried to paint Lincoln as weak on slavery based on this letter despite the fact that soon after he wrote the letter, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves and paid for it with his life a few short years later.
    The modern LGBTers see themselves as the modern day slaves, oppressed by society much like blacks in the days of Lincoln.  Frankly, I find the equivalence repugnant and silly, but for purposes of comparison, let's see what the President was really saying in his announcement on Wednesday.  With apologies to Abraham Lincoln, I have slightly altered the wording of his letter (Lincoln's original words are italicized) to fit the current controversy in which President Obama finds himself enmeshed:
As to the policy I "seem to be pursuing" as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.  If I could save my presidency without gay marriage I would do it, and if I could save it by gay marriage I would do it; and if I could save it by allowing some gays to marry and some to not marry I would also do that. What I do about gay marriage, and LBGT people, I do because I believe it helps to save my presidency; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save my presidency. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men and women every where could marry whichever sex they choose.
President Obama's supporters have often characterized him as a modern-day Lincoln.  On Wednesday, he played that role, but in their interpretation of Lincoln, in the least admirable way.  As it becomes clear in the coming months that the president will issue no Emancipation Proclamation of his own, perhaps those supporters will recognize the hard truth that while both Lincoln and Obama hail from Illinois, the current president is just another Chicago politician after all.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Un-Conventional Choice?

    The National Journal reports that some in the Democratic party are voicing doubts about holding their national presidential nominating convention this year in Charlotte, North Carolina for a growing variety of reasons.
  • Democrats who already were queasy about the site of their national convention could be excused after Tuesday's election in North Carolina if they asked, "Tell me again just why we're going to Charlotte this year?" In fact, many Democrats privately are asking exactly that after the state's voters overwhelmingly approved a measure outlawing not just same-sex marriage -- which already was illegal in North Carolina -- but also any form of civil unions.
  • [L]abor unions... are still miffed that the party decided to go to a "right to work" state and a city with few unionized hotels.
  • [A]n unpopular Democratic governor who has decided not to run for another term, likely handing the statehouse to the Republicans. And don't forget a messy sexual harassment scandal that has forced the state Democratic Party's executive director to resign...
  • And, oh yes, there is the fact that President Obama will be accepting his nomination with a speech at the unfortunately named Bank of America Stadium, an occasion that will lead to a run of stories about the $45 billion that the banking powerhouse received in the unpopular TARP bailout.
   Well, it seems that West Virginia is out of the running for a relocation of the convention after an embarrassing performance for President Obama in the Democratic Primary there on Tuesday.  A relatively unknown challenger and federal inmate, Keith Judd (pictured right), garnered 41% of the vote against the incumbent.  (The use of "relatively" in that previous sentence is even somewhat charitable, but regardless, one gets the impression that Judd was a stand-in for "none of the above" on the ballot in a state that is feeling less than charitable towards a president who seems to have targeted one of the state's largest industries, coal production, for extinction.)  But speaking of Judd, perhaps the Lone Star State would be a good choice for the Democratic convention since the party's newest rising star currently resides deep in the heart of Texas.  Runner-up primary candidates are often given prime time speaking roles at conventions and since Judd's ability to travel is currently, um, limited, maybe Texas is just the ticket.  Who knows? Now that his recognizance has been elevated, maybe he could get a weekend furlough.  On second thought...

"History" in Perspective

A speech to the troops before battle - August 26, 1776

Gettysburg Address - November 19, 1863

A tweet - May 9, 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Chronicles of The Chronicle

    I've been following the saga of the Chronicle of High Education versus Naomi Schaefer Riley, a (former) blogger on Brainstorm, the group blog of The Chronicle, most recently in James Taranto's column today.  Riley recently wrote a scathing indictment of graduate level "black studies" programs entitled "The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations."  After a few days of controversy, Riley was fired from the blog when Brainstorm editor Liz McMillen had an epiphany that Riley's piece didn't "conform to the journalistic standards and civil tone" the readers of Brainstorm expected.
    So it is with bated breath that I now await the announcement that the next ex-Brainstorm blogger will be Laurie Essig, who teaches at Middlebury College.  Ms. Essig wrote a blog post on May 7th entitled "Amendment 1, Protecting the ‘Caucasian Race’ and a Whole Lot of Stupid," a critique of the anti-gay marriage amendment up for a vote today, May 8th, in North Carolina.  Based on a single source, a Huffington Post article ("scholarship"), Ms. Essig assails the citizens of North Carolina with rather colorful charges of not only racism, but even throws eugenics into the mix:
Of course, the amendment is not just stupid, but also completely logical, at least within the logics of racial and sexual hygiene that haunts contemporary marriage debates. According to a report in the Huffington Post, the wife of the state senator who wrote the bill, Jodie Brunstetter, said:
 The reason my husband wrote Amendment 1 was because the Caucasian race is diminishing and we need to uh, reproduce.
But eugenics and a highly racialized and classed order have always been the reason that marriage was protected and unmarried people were not considered full citizens in this country. 
Ms. Essig manages to smear not only Jodie Brunstetter and traditional marriage itself, but those who seek to defend marriage (which at this point seems to include about 60% of the voters in North Carolina.)
    Already it seems Ms. Essig lacks the civility and scholarship the Chronicle values so highly, but her journalistic standards may be somewhat lacking as well.  The Huffington Post article to which Ms. Essig refers contains the following update:
Jodie Brunstetter didn't explicitly link North Carolina's marriage amendment with protecting the declining Caucasian race, a woman with knowledge of the conversation now concedes. Freelance writer Kate Maloy told the Winston-Salem Journal that Brunstetter had commented that America was founded by whites, that "the Caucasian race is diminishing," and said that it was important to preserve America as established by its founders. But Brunstetter did not state explicitly that that was why the amendment had been proposed, Maloy said.
The degrees of separation on the original "quote" from the state senator's wife are stunning: Mrs. Brunstetter -> unknown conversant -> "woman with knowledge" of conversation -> freelance writer Kate Maloy -> Winston-Salem Journal -> Huffington Post -> Ms. Essig.  (The law of averages almost requires that Kevin Bacon must be involved somehow.)  But even more remarkable is that the update on the HuffPo story is date/time stamped at 12:05 PM on 5/7/12.  Ms. Essig's post on Brainstorm is 4:16 PM on 5/7/12, more than four hours later that same afternoon.  And yet there's no mention of that  caveat in her posting.
    The ball is in your court, Liz McMillen.  Upon Naomi Riley's firing, you wrote:
One theme many of you have sounded is that you felt betrayed by what we published; that you welcome healthy informed debate, but that in this case, we did not live up to the expectations of the community of readers we serve.
You told us we can do better, and we agree.
So, is the vote in North Carolina about, in the words of Ms. Essig, "moral crusaders [who want] to protect the 'Caucasian' race from the pollution of sex outside of marriage." Is this "better"?

Seen Being Green

    Last night, I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast that turned out to be from last summer.  The main segment of the show is about “conspicuous consumption” as relates to drivers who like to be seen in their Priuses more for the optics than for the actual energy savings, but it’s the short anecdote right at the top of the show that really grabbed my attention:
Economist Tim Harford of London:  “Now it turns out wind power can be pretty effective. But you need a really, really big windmill in a really windy location to be efficient. These little windmills, especially in an urban environment, where you don’t get a consistent flow of wind, they generate an incredibly small amount of energy. Really, really ineffective. Indeed, there’s a fantastic example from the British physicist David MacKay, who points to building-top windmills in Japan that actually have little electric motors in them to keep them spinning around, because otherwise they would look really stupid on top of the building and not actually moving. So, these windmills actually cost energy.”
It makes me wonder how many people with hybrid cars might actually just fill them with gas and drive them that way rather than bother to plug them in every night.  They'd still get the benefit of being seen driving a hybrid with its clean-energy aura, but without the fuss of remembering to recharge the battery.  Let's face it: when you've got a cell phone, iPad, Kindle, laptop, and iPod to keep recharged, do you really want to have to remember to plug in your car?  As a public service, I'll publish the confessions of any hybrid owners out there who would like to come clean... so to speak...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Michelle Obama's New Book: It Takes a Veggie

    Michelle Obama's new book, as Paul Bedard reports this morning, will soon take its place along side Hillary Clinton's "It Takes a Village" in the Democratic First Ladies' Social Commentary library.

Bedard writes:
Timed perfectly for the summer barbecue season, and her hubby's reelection campaign, first lady Michelle Obama is finally set to unveil a professionally-written and photographed book about her veggie garden and get-fit initiative May 29.
It remains to be seen if Mrs. Obama's book is as heavy-handed in its proposed solutions to society's ills as Hillary Clinton's book.  In the meantime, we can just enjoy that fact that the photographer for Mrs. Obama's book is named Quentin Bacon.

Mmmmmmmmmmm.... bacon...  Everything goes better with bacon!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Name That Campaign

    Here's a challenge for you.  Below are the main menu bars from the websites of both the Obama and Romney campaigns.  Try to guess which one is which:

    Visually, they are quite similar.  The "Donate" button is (of course) prominently displayed in red on both.  Other choices, such as "videos", "issues", and "states" are the same.  Still others are worded differently, but also clearly match up: "bio" = "about", "news" = "blog", "store" = "shop", and "volunteer" = "get involved".  By now, the good students will have recognized the odd man out: "groups".  Is there anyone who is still confused about which menu bar goes with which campaign?  Spoiler alert!

That's right.  It's the website of the politician who said on election night 2008:
"Rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America."
The Obama campaign recently resurrected this theme on Twitter:

(Not only are there no red states or blue states, but about a dozen states are completely missing in  deference to the visage of the President.)  Coincidentally, four days after this tweet, the official WhiteHouse.gov site also got into the act with their weekly feature West Wing Week video: "West Wing Week: 5/4/12 or 'Out of Many, We are One.'"  However, the way the campaign and the Democrats choose to appeal to voters, Al Gore's infamous 1994 remix of E Plurbis Unum as "out of one, many" would be more apropos.