The Wires

Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President reflected on the significant progress made by this country in 2014, and in the nearly six years since he took office":

The Ledes

Saturday, December 20, 2014.

New York Times: "The United States transferred four detainees from the Guantánamo Bay prison to Afghanistan late Friday, the Defense Department announced Saturday, fulfilling a request from the new Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, in what officials here characterized as a show of good will between the United States and the government in Kabul.The four men are not likely to be subjected to further detainment in Afghanistan, an Obama administration official said."

New York Times: "In an apparent targeted killing, two police officers were shot in their patrol car in Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon by a man who later fatally shot himself in head, police officials said."

Reuters: "Dozens of protesters were arrested on Friday in Milwaukee when they blocked rush-hour traffic on a major highway to protest the killing of an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by a white police officer this year. The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department took at least 73 adults and one minor into custody during the protest that blocked Interstate 43, which runs through the city, according to the department's Twitter feed."

Public Service Announcement

Surprise! December 19: Dr. Oz is a quack.

Washington Post, November 21: Learn how to use your thermostat & save $$$.

New York Times, November 17: "For the first time since statins have been regularly used, a large study has found that another type of cholesterol-lowering drug can protect people from heart attacks and strokes."

White House Live Video
December 19

1:30 pm ET: President Obama holds a press briefing

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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A former resident of Somerville, Massachusetts, calls into outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick's last regular monthly radio call-in show:

Sixteen times Stephen Colbert broke character on his show. With videos. ...

... Winger John Hinderaker of Powerline has never seen Colbert's show, but he's pretty sure it was an hour-long ad for the Democratic party. "I am not in favor of restricting anyone’s right to free speech, but if federal law is going to bar a businessman from contributing enough to buy more than a minimal amount of television time on behalf of his party or his candidates, why shouldn’t Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central be prohibited from airing millions of dollars worth of pro-Democratic Party propaganda?" CW: Evidently, Hinderaker has not heard of Fox "News."

Los Angeles Times: "A hashtag about asking police officers questions for a CNN panel turned extremely negative almost as soon as it was posted Tuesday. #AskACop was meant to be used by viewers who wanted to tweet questions to officers for the town hall segment "Cops Under Fire,” hosted by Don Lemon. There was an overwhelming response -- most of which were criticisms toward police." CW: Apparently CNN had no idea people were pissed at the police.

Bill Carter of the New York Times: "For nine years, Stephen Colbert has relentlessly maintained his pompous, deeply ridiculous but consistently appealing conservative blowhard character on his late-night show, 'The Colbert Report' — so much so that when he puts the character to rest for good on Thursday night, he may have to resort to comicide. The Grim Reaper is his last guest."

New York Times: "Life on Mars? Today? The notion may not be so far-fetched after all. A year after reporting that NASA’s Curiosity rover had found no evidence of methane gas on Mars, all but dashing hopes that organisms might be living there now, scientists reversed themselves on Tuesday. Curiosity has now recorded a burst of methane that lasted at least two months. For now, scientists have just two possible explanations for the methane. One is that it is the waste product of certain living microbes.... It could have been created by a geological process known as serpentinization, which requires both heat and liquid water. Or it could be a product of life in the form of microbes known as methanogens, which release methane as a waste product.... The scientists also reported that for the first time, they had confirmed the presence of carbon-based organic molecules in a rock sample. The so-called organics are not direct signs of life, past or present, but they lend weight to the possibility that Mars had the ingredients required for life, and may even still have them."

"Oh, God, It's Mom." Kelly Faircloth of Jezebel: "Oh my Lord, shut it down, here is the greatest moment in the history of C-SPAN: A (very Southern) mama called into one of their shows to yell at the guests. Not because she disagrees, but because the guests are brothers and both her sons and she is sick and tired of their shit":


Escape from Alcatraz. Live Science: "... on the night of June 11, 1962, three inmates left Alcatraz in one of the most mysterious prison breaks in American history. John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris tucked dummy heads into their bed sheets and snuck into an unused utility corridor through holes they had crudely drilled through their cells. Then, from the prison roof, they shimmied down the bakery smoke stack and climbed over the fence. From the northeast shore of the island, they floated away from the prison on a small raft made from more than 50 stolen raincoats that were inflated with a musical instrument that was converted into a pump. Even the FBI still calls the plan 'ingenious' on its website. After a 17-year investigation, federal authorities concluded that the men most likely drowned during the escape...."

... BUT ...

... The linked story above has a better video, but it's not embeddable.

Rolling Stone: "David Letterman will retire from late-night television on Wednesday, May 20th. The Late Show host's production company Worldwide Pants announced the news, according to Deadline, with CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves praising Letterman’s 'remarkable legacy of achievement and creative brilliance [which] will never be forgotten.'"

Washington Post: "New information from NASA's Curiosity Rover suggests that Mars may once have had large, long-lasting lakes above ground. That would challenge the more popular theory that water on the planet was only underground, or only appeared in a few areas for a short amount of time. The key to this latest theory is Mount Sharp, which stands 3 miles tall and sits in the red planet's Gale Crater. But Mount Sharp is a curious formation: The layered mountain is made of different kinds of sediment. Some layers were probably deposited by a surrounding lake bed, and other seem more likely to be the result of river or wind deposits." CW: Yeah, there was probably once a really well-developed life on Mars with flora & fauna & -- eventually -- little green men who didn't believe in climate change.

New York Times: "After weeks of planning, New York City welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Sunday for a three-day visit, greeting Prince William and his wife, Catherine, with the blend of enthusiasm, sarcasm and bemusing antagonism that tends to tail the urban celebrity tourist."

The Wrap: "Longtime CNN political anchor Candy Crowley is leaving the network."

December 6: Max Fisher of Vox: So two white guys -- guys who will have no trouble finding other jobs -- get fired, & half the New Republic staff walks out in protest. Where was the outrage when Marty Peretz was editor & writing racist screeds? The contrasting reactions speak "to a larger problem of how we think about racism in American society and particularly in the elite media institutions that have badly lagged in employing people of color." ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&M: "For all its sins [of the past], I don’t see how turning the magazine into another traffic-chaser under the aegis of a CEO who speaks Meaningless Buzzword and apparently lacks the attention span to read more than 500 words at a time is a good thing." ...

... Charles Pierce: "... contra Chait, and even though the magazine unquestionably has regained a lot of its lost quality, especially in its actual reporting, I think the notion that The New Republic is 'an essential foundation of American progressive thought' is a ship that sailed a long time ago." ...

... Zandar in Balloon Juice: " The number of damns I give about TNR as a going concern at this point equals approximately the number of black voices writing for the magazine, which is to say zero, but YMMV."

... December 4 & 5: Dylan Byers of Politico: "Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier, the top two editors at The New Republic, quit on Thursday amid a shakeup that will relocate the Washington-based magazine to New York City, sources there told Politico on Thursday. Gabriel Snyder, a Bloomberg Media editor who previously served at The Atlantic Wire, has been tapped to replace Foer as editor. The magazine will also reduce its print schedule to 10 issues a year, down from 20." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "More than two dozen members of the staff of The New Republic, including several contributing editors, resigned on Friday morning, angered by an abrupt change of editors and what they saw as a series of management missteps. The resignations include the senior editors Alec MacGillis, Julia Ioffe and Isaac Chotiner, and the contributing editors Sean Wilentz and William Deresiewicz, according to several staff members who are leaving. A list compiling the names of those resigning was obtained by The New York Times." ...

     ... AND more from Jessica Roy of New York. ...

... Jonathan Chait: The New Republic has lost its way. ...

... Ezra Klein: "It's a bit early, I think, to write The New Republic's eulogy. Gabriel Snyder, the magazine's new editor, is a smart and web-savvy guy." ...

... Leah Finnegan of Gawker: "Indeed, an entire magazine is now doomed to fail because a white man has been fired and — gasp — an internet-savvy white man has been brought in to replace him! In TNR's 100-year history, I never would have imagined such a triage of injustice. It's clear that the new leadership of the magazine—with all their greasy Facebook money—is dead set on ruining a (historically racist) publication no one ever read in the first place, and was on the slow road to Irrelevance City. What will Chris Hughes do next? Perhaps the publication might even become interesting. Scream!"

Charles Pierce is completely taken with Ed Snowden. He's brave, credible & intelligent, blah-blah, & the film "Citizenfour" is bee-youtiful. For an antidote to starry-eyed Charles, see this review by Fred Kaplan of Slate.

This is quite cool:

 

Washington Post: "Scientists are 99.999 percent sure, in their most conservative estimate, that remains found in 2012 really do belong to King Richard III. These results, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, put a 529-year-old cold case to rest -- all thanks to some intense genetic detective work." CW: Let's hope one of the expert detectives wasn't Shaun Parcells. You may weigh in, Dr. Schwalb. ...

Welcome to Gramercy Park! -- "one of the most forbidden places in Manhattan." New York Times: Woody Allen couldn't get in to film, Robert De Niro couldn't get in, but Shawn Christopher, who was honeymooning in Manhattan, borrowed a key and "took three 360-degree panoramas using Photo Sphere, a Google app, and then uploaded them to the company’s ubiquitous Maps site. He had gotten into the park using another of his favorite technologies, Airbnb, where the room he rented included not only fresh linens and Wi-Fi but also one of the 383 coveted keys to the park. Mr. Christopher was unaware at the time that guests had to be accompanied by key holders on their visits and that commercial photography was prohibited." So take an insider's view of the park.

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Monday
Apr092012

The Commentariat -- April 10, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on David Brooks' little celebration of the resurgence of American big business. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

Adam Sorensen of Time has a pretty good piece on President Obama's effort to push the Buffett Rule in a week many Americans are thinking about their taxes anyway....

... Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald: "Lunch: $10,000 a plate. Good seats to hear John Legend sing: $5,000. Dinner: $30,000 per couple. The public-relations value of President Obama’s $2 million South Florida fundraising binge Tuesday: Priceless — for the GOP. While raising all this money from the wealthy, Obama will be advocating for higher taxes on the wealthy. And, by and large, the taxpayer will foot the bill."

Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic: in his criticism of the Supreme Court, President Obama was right.

Big Fat Liar. Kate Zernicke of the New York Times: "Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey exaggerated when he declared that unforeseen costs to the state were forcing him to cancel the new train tunnel planned to relieve congested routes across the Hudson River, according to a long-awaited report by independent Congressional investigators." CW: in case you have bought into Christie's claims about being a straight-shooter, the GAO report should give you pause. ...

     ... Krugman Update: "... this turns Christie’s whole narrative on its head. He poses as the tough guy willing to make hard choices to secure his state’s future. Instead, he turns out to be a guy willing to eat the state’s seed corn — as one of the critics quoted in the article says, to 'cannibalize' a project essential to the state’s future — so as to secure a short-term political advantage." ...

     ... Alex Pareene of Salon: "Whoops, turns out Chris Christie was just lying about everything when he canceled that train tunnel project in 2010.... Christie’s willingness to brazenly lie about irresponsible budgetary decisions while somehow maintaining his 'responsible fiscal conservative' cred is why so many Republican elites hoped he’d jump into the 2012 presidential race. There’s always 2016!"

Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post: "President Obama’s landmark health-care initiative, long touted as a means to control costs, will actually add more than $340 billion to the nation’s budget woes over the next decade, according to a new study by a member of the board that oversees Medicare financing. The study is set to be released Tuesday by Charles Blahous, a conservative policy analyst whom Obama approved in 2010 as the Republican trustee for Medicare and Social Security. His analysis challenges the conventional wisdom that the health-care law, which calls for an expensive expansion of coverage for the uninsured beginning in 2014, will nonetheless reduce deficits by raising taxes and cutting payments to Medicare providers." CW Note: the Post story neglects to tell the reader that Blahous draws his primary paycheck from an organizaiton heavily-funded by the Koch brothers. Ah, journalism. ...

     ... ** Update: Paul Krugman, with an assist from Jon Chait of New York magazine, explains the funny math that Blahous used to reach his totally bogus conclusion. Krugman's final word: "... this is basically a sick joke that doesn’t pass the laugh test. Unfortunately, it seems that some news organizations don’t have mandatory laugh-testing."

Eric Kleefeld of TPM: "Elizabeth Warren’s campaign announced Monday that it raised $6.9 million in the first quarter of 2012 for her race in Massachusetts against Republican Sen. Scott Brown. This is more than double Brown’s fundraising haul for the quarter, with the incumbent having brought in $3.4 million. Brown’s campaign also announced last week that it had $15 million cash on hand, though, which will keep him ahead of Warren in his total war chest." ...

... Steve Kornacki of Salon: "This is further confirmation that what was initially seen as one of Warren’s chief liabilities as a candidate – Wall Street’s hostility toward her, and its dedication to pouring money into Brown’s campaign – is just as much a strength. Her reputation among progressives as a rare, uncorrupted advocate of the 99 percent has made her campaign a magnet for donations from across the country."

Harold Pollack in the Washington Monthly: "Paul Ryan ... is out selling a House Republican budget whose stated particulars include $4.6 trillion in tax cuts weighted strongly to the affluent alongside punishing cuts to social programs and the denial of health insurance coverage to tens of millions of people covered under health reform.... Ryan and other Republicans are apparently wrapping their proposals within the flag of the 1996 welfare reform.... You don’t need Frank Luntz focus group to find out that welfare reform is popular, and that welfare recipients are not. Framing budget cuts as cutting welfare therefore has obvious appeal." CW: this is not a particularly well-written post, but it speaks to a point I hope to comment on later today: how the GOP frames social safety net programs to make them unpopular.

Right Wing World

NEW. Charles Pierce hopes the rumors are true that Romney will choose Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), a/k/a "the zombie-eyed granny-starver," as his running mate.

Devin Dwyer of ABC OTUS News: "As part of a weeklong campaign around the Buffett Rule, President Obama's re-election team is making Mitt Romney the face of income tax inequality. On a conference call with reporters Monday, top Obama surrogates blasted the Republican candidate for keeping years of tax returns secret, using offshore bank accounts for some investments, and enjoying a lower effective tax rate than most middle-income Americans."

Extend Foot. Shoot. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "By definition, the majority leader of the House has the majority of incumbents to protect in an election. So it came as something of a shock when House Republicans learned that a political action committee affiliated with Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, who currently holds that leadership slot, had donated $25,000 to a group devoted solely to taking out incumbents.... The group’s target list reads like a who’s who of the House Republican old guard.... Mr. Cantor has been on the defensive...."

Kevin Drum: Pastor Rick Warren tells ABC's Jake Tapper that helping the poor "robs them of their dignity." CW: What would Jesus do if he heard Pastor Rick so distort his teachings? Probably smite Pastor Rick upside the head. ...

... Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly: "Much of the over-the-top language of the Christian Right, in fact, is part of a difficult but psychologically essential effort to turn comfortable white suburban believers into the wretched of the earth, hounded by powerful secular elites and their corrupt poor-and-minority clients into subjection. Enter one of those brightly colored evangelical megachurches and attend closely and you will catch more than a whiff of the Catacombs.... Nothing thrills the rank-and-file quite like those viral emails suggesting that Obama is plotting to ban religious broadcasts or even herd martyrs into concentration camps. A lot of today’s Christian conservatives are feeling too much pity for themselves to share much with the poor, who generally vote wrong and can be dismissed as pawns of the Evil One."

Local News

Clueless Cheesehead. Travis Waldron of Think Progress: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) quietly repealed his state’s equal pay law last week.... The law was enacted primarily to address the massive pay gap that exists between male and female workers, which is even bigger in Wisconsin than in other states.... State Sen. Glenn Grothman (R) ... led the [repeal] effort because of his belief that pay discrimination is a myth driven by liberal women’s groups.... Grothman blamed females for prioritizing childrearing and homemaking instead of money, saying, “Money is more important for men.” ...

... Andy Kroll of Mother Jones: In the upcoming Wisconsin recall election, "The most potent anti-Walker messages ... slam Walker for pushing policies harmful to the middle class, slashing education funding, and grabbing power via a secretive redistricting process. What's more..., Democrats' anti-Walker strategy will center on two key issues: the secret 'John Doe' investigation targeting Walker aides and what Democrats calls Walker's 'war on women.'"

News Ledes

 A very weird news day:

... Orlando Sentinel: The lawyers for George Zimmerman, the Florida man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, announced today that they no longer represent him. "Zimmerman has not talked to or communicated with them since Sunday, said Craig Sonner, one of his lawyers. Worse, Zimmerman has done two dangerous things, his lawyers said, He telephoned a special prosecutor who's trying to put together a criminal case against him, and he called Sean Hannity of Fox News." ...

     ... Miami Herald Update: "With prosecutors saying they will announce a decision in the Trayvon Martin case by Friday, George Zimmerman appears to have struck out on his own."

New York Times: "Reed Whittemore, a former poet laureate of the United States whose work’s calm, unruffled surface belied deep subversion below, died on Friday in Kensington, Md. He was 92."

New York Times: "On Tuesday night, the University [of Arkansas] fired [football] Coach Bobby Petrino in the wake of an embarrassing scandal that began with Petrino getting in a motorcycle accident last week." Petrino initially claimed "that he was riding alone on his motorcycle at the time of the accident. Just before the police report became public, Petrino admitted that he did have a passenger. It turned out to be Jessica Dorrell, a 25-year-old woman who was a former Arkansas volleyball player and with whom Petrino admitted having an inappropriate relationship. Petrino, who is married with four children, had also recently hired Dorrell for a football department staff position for which 159 candidates had applied."

New York Times: "Brian J. Dunn, chief executive of the electronics retailer Best Buy, resigned unexpectedly Tuesday during an investigation by the board into what it called his 'personal conduct.'”

Miami Herald: In the wake of Miami Marlins coach Ozzie Guillen's saying, "I love Fidel Castro," "The Marlins, whose new taxpayer-funded stadium sits in the heart of Little Havana, took the first step toward trying to heal the rift Tuesday by announcing Guillen will be suspended for the next five games...."

Washington Post: "Rick Santorum announced Tuesday that he is suspending his presidential campaign, all but bringing to a close the 2012 GOP presidential contest and effectively handing the nomination to Mitt Romney." New York Times story here. ...

     ... Update: here's the Times' full story.

Guardian: "The wife of the controversial Chinese leadership contender Bo Xilai is 'highly suspected' of murdering the British businessman Neil Heywood, state media have reported, in the biggest scandal to hit the party for decades. Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun, who worked at the family's home, have been transferred to judicial authorities, the official news agency Xinhua reported." ...

     ... Update: New York Times story here.

Los Angeles Times: "One hundred years ago, the people of the English port city of Southampton watched and waved as the greatest ship of its time sailed away to New York carrying more than 1,500 cheering passengers and crew. On Tuesday, the city remembered the Titanic.... Several hundred descendants, relatives and residents of the maritime city ... gathered for a moving ceremony to pay tribute those who were killed on the night of April 15, 1912."

New York Times: "Previewing the message that President Obama will take to Florida on Tuesday, his economic team released a brief report making the case for his so-called 'Buffett Rule,' a proposal that would ensure the wealthiest Americans pay at least 30 percent of their income in federal taxes."

New York Times: "Angela B. Corey, a Republican state attorney with a reputation for toughness, has decided not to seek a grand jury review of the Trayvon Martin shooting, keeping the resolution of a case that has transfixed the nation solely in her hands."

Reuters: "Two white men accused of shooting five black people in Tulsa, Oklahoma, killing three of them, have confessed to authorities, media reports said on Monday, citing police and court documents."

Guardian: "Abu Hamza, the radical cleric who became the face of violent extremism in Britain, can be extradited to the US to face terrorism charges, the European court of human rights has ruled. The court in Strasbourg said the human rights of Hamza and four other men held in Britain – Babar Ahmad, Syed Talha Ahsan, Adel Abdel Bary and Khaled al-Fawwaz – would not be violated if sent to the US to stand trial."

New York Times: "North Korea said on Tuesday that it had completed preparations to launch a satellite into orbit, as South Korea and other Asian nations told their airlines and ships to change their routes to avoid the North Korean rocket."

AP: "The names of three dozen journalists allegedly involved with a shady private investigator have been leaked to the Internet, another potential embarrassment for Britain's scandal-tarred media. Paul Staines, who blogs under the name Guido Fawkes, has published what he says are more than 1,000 recorded transactions between News International staffers and disgraced detective Steve Whittamore."

Reader Comments (19)

Did Einstein really say that?

It sounds like something he might have said since he was hounded regularly by conservatives who tried to portray him as a communist dupe and "foreign born agitator" for advocating such un-American actions as severing our ties with right-wing murderous dictators like Franco. ("That nice Franco. He's only trying to kill commies. Him and his good buddy Hitler.They're just high-spirited lads...")

On the other hand, one can find the basis for Einstein's antipathy to extremist Republicans (the only ones who get any notice these days) in his difficulties with the various theories of quantum mechanics.

Quantum theory, you may recall, posits that particles of matter (and anti-matter as well) can appear at any place. In fact, a particle can seem to exist in two different places at the same time. Kind of like Romney holding two or three, or more positions on the same issue at the same time.

But maybe that's what Albert was talking about when he was working on "Special Relativity: The Universe's Etch-a-Sketch".

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Nah. It's totally fake. In fact, in many iterations, the tagline is, "Or you could vote for Obama."

BTW, the source for the citation above is someone both Akhilleus & I know personally.

April 10, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

As usual, NYT comments are closed by the time I'm able to read them, but I am once again stunned by the tone-deafness of Brooks. How can he, in the first paragraph talk about the increase in revenue per employee over the last few years without mentioning that none of those revenue gains actually went to the EMPLOYEES who produced them? The workers are toiling longer and harder for the same (or less) money, while the Romney's of the world are laughing all the way to their Swiss banks.

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercakers

@cakers. That was my first thought, too. But as Brooks doesn't bother to tell you, the workers who are producing those great profits are more than likely bringing home much less than even you imagine. Why? Because they are not American workers, as the Wall Street Journal article -- which Brooks fails to link -- points out. As we know, American workers are competing not just with robots and other mechanical productivity enhancements but also with workers from China & Mexico who make pennies an hour.

Almost as galling, the corporate honchos, not to mention Brooks & Co., think that's something to boast about.

Yahoo, BTW, is planning to lay off workers because their return-per-worker is a mere $353K per employee, while Google & Facebook get $1.2MM per worker. As far as I can tell, these are strictly revenue, not profit, figures. The Times reported that "Last year, it earned over $400,000 in profit per employee, more than Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil or Google." So Google must be reinvesting a lot of that $$$. And Apple is making a lot off of those oppressed Chinese workers.

April 10, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

I wonder how product sales would go for a big multi-national company that had a well-known, well-respected brand -- if the company ran an ad that said, truthfully, "We had a good year last year. So instead of sharing all the dividends with our stockholders, we're putting a lot of it where it belongs -- in the pockets of our workers. Every employee who was with us all of last year will get a $10,000 bonus. So come shop at Lowe's (or wherever), where we value our employees and our employees value you. By the way, we hope other companies will join us in giving more than just a pat on the back to the American worker. You all deserve the best."

Years ago, when I worked for ABC TV, the network had a banner year. Instead of plowing all their profits back into the corporation, they gave each of us a $2,000 bonus. That wouldn't have mattered much to the big shots, but it made a real difference to me -- a single mother. ABC didn't advertise it, but I can tell you I didn't mind their slave-driving ways quite as much after I got that unexpected gift.

April 10, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

Marie, please forgive a random thought. I work with a lot of 16- and 17-year-olds. Occasionally, I will work with a student who is bright and capable but unmotivated and fearing commitment (as in committing to the work; when one does so, one can no longer say, "Well, I could have done better ...."). Almost always, such a student is from a wealthy household. Putting what looks like two and two together, I realized that the image that "tough love" paternalistic economists may conjure when they decry giving the poor "too much" are their own children! Can I be on to something here?

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney

@Jack Mahoney. Sure. The "tough love" that goes to the children of the rich, of course, also usually comes with an incredible number of handouts, from cradle to young adulthood. Great schools, extra-curricular activities, SAT tutoring, connections to find a job, down payment on that first house, etc.

I suspect many of the rich think they are also paying for such handouts for the less fortunate. They're not. Instead, job prospects for the middle class & below are not as good as those for their parents; the jobs they do get pay less & may not offer much prospect for advancement; kids who go to college are saddled with huge debt, etc.

A few weeks ago Mitt Romney told a young man concerned about the cost of college to go to a cheap college. It was a "you're own your own" moment. Meanwhile, I'm sure it didn't occur to Mitt that there was any reason he shouldn't have been handed an Ivy League post-graduate education. Or any reason he should have sent his kids thru college & grad schools (three of Romney's sons have Harvard MBAs, one is a Tufts Med School doctor & one has a BYU undergrad degree. Was Mitt ever tough on the kids? Probably. But not as tough as he was on that "regular" kid whose parents couldn't afford to send him thru 5 or 6 years of higher education.

April 10, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

I found it a bit ironic that Brooks made this statement: "If given enough freedom, Economy I entrepreneurs will create the future jobs we need. Government should prepare people to enter that sector but get out of its way as much as possible." I took this to mean that government should be responsible for training people for these "wonderful" jobs, yet a Times editorial today blasts the Romney-endorsed Ryan plan for proposing drastic cuts in job training: "Last month, the House passed a 2013 budget written by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin that would reduce spending in the category of Education, Training, Employment and Social Services by $16 billion from the previous year, or 22 percent, on top of all the cuts forced by Republicans over several years."

A few weeks ago, I was talking to our local Ford dealer, and praising the company for building some of the newer models once again in the U.S. He reported on recent trip to Michigan, where he and other dealers toured one of the plants, which apparently would be capable of building a car almost entirely by using robots. However, the unions (boo, hiss) won't allow the company to implement this plan in its entirety. Apparently, each robot-manufactured car would cost the consumer $2-3000 less. I responded by asking two questions: If robots replace the workers, then where will people get jobs? And, how many cars will the robots and their families be buying?

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

@Jack Mahoney and Marie: I saved this quote from Phillip Kitcher's column yesterday because I thought it was well put:

"Without enormous support, access to inspiring teachers and skillful doctors, the backing of self-sacrificing relatives and a broader community, and without a fair bit of luck, the vast majority of people, not only in the United States but throughout the world, would never achieve the things of which they are, in principle, capable. In short, Horatio Alger needs lots of help, and a large thrust of contemporary Republican policy is dedicated to making sure he doesn’t get it."

In other words: "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody." Elizabeth Warren

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

@Janice. I'm all for technological advancement. But when a company cuts costs thru mechanization, they should find other work for the displaced workers. If they don't they should pay more than a measly hike in their unemployment insurance payments as compensation: they should be hit with a huge one-time-only tax that more than pays for the retraining of laid-off workers. Companies that can afford to mechanize can afford to retrain or "repurpose" workers.

I also favor reduced work weeks: 35 hours and/or 4-day weeks. That goes for professionals, too. I don't want to see a doctor who's been working an 100-hour week or a 24-hour shift.

I think American companies can compete in a global economy AND pay their workers adequate salaries.

April 10, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

@Janice. Thanks. I like those quotes, too, & I'm glad you reminded us.

April 10, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

@Jack Mahoney: Your comment reminded me of the long ago summer I spent teaching young men and women (mostly men, as statistics would attest) who had all the seeming advantages of wealth but could not read. Oh, they read somewhat, but not very well, and the program (expensive from what I heard) was supposed to remediate them to a point closer to what their professional parents would have expected of their spawn as a birthright.

We had some success--I don't think we took their parents' money under false pretenses; certainly my pittance was honestly earned-- but no one of them was likely to be admitted to the university next door (where Mitt Romney began his undergraduate career), but what I took away from the experience--aside from a few techniques I used to good effect in later years--was a memory of the extraordinarily pained expression of one of the young men's faces as he tried to read as well as his parents thought he should. God, did he try! and his expression displayed the effort. It was as hard to watch as it has been easy to remember.

I always hoped his parents, and the other parents in the same situation, knew how much their children wanted to please them and loved them the more for it. And I also prayed they grasped the "there but for fortune" message that one boy's pain expressed: There's a whole lot of luck in this world and too much of it is bad.

Judging by the sources of the Right's PAC money, too many of my generation did not get that message.

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

The Lori Montgomery piece in the Washington post gets pretty well worked over by Jonathon Chait in New York Magazine: http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/04/bogus-obamacare-deficit-study.html

Those Koch brothers do get around.

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLorem Ipsum

@The Constant Weader--

Hey! I went to a (then) "cheap university" for both my BS and PhD (the University of California), thence on to a post-doc at a vastly overrated (IMHO) Ivy League university, and finally on to a scientific career that was both reasonably financially rewarding and personally very satisfying.

I realize that even the once-inexpensive, quality state universities are under a great deal of financial stress these days owing to cutbacks in state funding. Thus, they, too, are increasing their fees at a rate in excess of inflation.

Nevertheless, they continue to offer quality educations at comparatively lower prices to those bright enough to realize that they will get out of their educations what they choose to put into it, rather than simply relying on the Ivy League cachet (or comparable "name brand") on their diploma to guarantee them a "good job" and maybe even a satisfying career, the latter of which is the more important.

Loser Presidents Dubya and Obama both have Ivy League degrees, and neither is worth the paper on which their diplomas are printed, or maybe even the tissue paper in the stalls of a public restroom.

Romney's advice was actually good advice, at least for those of us amongst the hoi polloi . Go someplace you can afford, instead of graduating with a mountain of debt. Allow your accomplishments to speak for themselves, instead of relying on the brand name on your diploma to speak for you. Shun the expensive Ivy Leagues and equivalents, and force their prices down.

There is only one reason that "prestige universities" can continue to charge their extortionate fees. Because there's a sucker born every minute, willing to pay the tariff for an education that, in general, is not worth that extravagant price. And then they're prepared to piss and moan to the public about the mountain of debt that she/he accrued while getting that degree.

Cry me a river.

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZee

@The Constant Weader--

I hope that your renewed moderation/participation means that your eyesight is recovering?

Best wishes,

Zee

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZee

@Zee. As you well know, most of the UC schools have excellent reputations & in some fields at some branches they are No. 1, beating out all the Ivies & others. So UC is an atypical "state school." It's also hard as hell to get into, even for California residents.

I had good grades in high school & participated in a lot of extracurricular activities so I'd seem "well-rounded," & there were several state schools I didn't get into: William & Mary was one, & Douglass College, which was the women's school for Rutgers, both rejected me as I recall (or else they didn't give me financial aid, which was effectively a nice way of saying, "no thanks"). So even back in the dark ages, state schools were awfully stingy with what out-of-state students they would admit. I did get into a good state school -- University of Wisconsin at Madison -- and maybe some others. I recall I decided not to go the University of Texas because they required that I submit a photo -- they wanted to know what color I was. I was the color they would have accepted, but I decided not to accept them.

I don't know what the situation is now, but when I went to school & for decades after, the family's finances didn't matter much. If Brown or Princeton wanted you, they would find the financing, usually partly in scholarships & partly in loans. Your parents just filled out a financial application & if the reviewers figured the folks could afford to pay, say, $5,000 a year for you, you might get no scholarship to Berkeley and $20,000 of financial aid at Harvard.

Grad school back in the day was close to free if you finished up in the time that was expected; there were all kinds of fellowships & assistantships. I even got a research assistantship as an undergrad at Wisconsin. My first husband lollygagged on his Ph.D. thesis & he ended up taking out a government loan, but the government forgave half of that because he went into teaching.

In short, money back in the day was a consideration, but not much of one. We didn't know how easy we had it. Compared to today's students our little travails were nothing. I don't think kids have a right to a higher education, but I also don't think an education should ruin them for a decade or more. The Obamas always say they were still paying off their student loans up till a few years before Obama ran for president. I think his book sales are what paid them off. That's horrible. I really want young people today to get the same breaks I did.

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarie Burns

@Loren Imsum. Thanks. I had read an excerpt of Chait's takedown in a Krugman post that I linked earlier, but hadn't read the whole Chait piece. My recollection is that Lori Montgomery has written quite a bit of garbage that real economists regularly knock, so I take everything she writes -- even stuff that doesn't come straight out of KochLand -- with a grain of salt. Not sure, but I think she's also a mouthpiece for the deficit hawks & is the kind who writes stuff like "Herman Cain's budget proposal aims to simplify the tax code and reduce federal taxes in all economic brackets." Period.

April 10, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

@Zee: I've just discovered why the universe has a liberal bias: because it's multi-variate. Few things are simple; a multitude of factors are often in play. Not to bury or bore you with biography, but my undergraduate education at what you would call a prestigious school was paid for by a tuition grant (my parents could contribute little), what is now called work study, and summer work. I graduated owing almost nothing. My M.A. at the same school was another story. We had to borrow it all, including the hospital bill for the birth of our first child. That NDEA load carved out a monthly payment from us long enough for the son born that year to be old enough to understand why we celebrated its last payment when we could say we finally owned him. That same son (the hippie one) attended the same university. For him we were $65,000 out of pocket. The next only child (the yuppie one), born 15 years after the first, also went there. That one cost us about $130,000. Two points: first, we are all immensely grateful for the education and the opportunities the institution provided, regardless of the cost in part because we believe that when you value an education in dollar terms, you miss its primary value, and you surrender to the value system--measuring everything a monetary yardstick--that has us so confused about what is good for ourselves, our families, or for the country. Second, the doubling of the cost between our two sons' university tenure was a rough gauge of what happened to the cost of college education in only 15 years.

Now, six or so years later, the situation is far worse, placing even a public university education beyond the reach of far too many. Another factor: Public universities have been known to arrange course offerings in a manner that will not allow students to graduate in only four years because they liked the tuition stream running in spate. And another: Loans were readily available, in fact encouraged; they too kept the university coffers full. The universities and the banks were complicit in the student loan problem just as the lenders had a lot to do with the housing bubble. Yet on more: Right now, public universities are frequently expanding enrollment of out of state and out of country students because they pay more than the residents.

Yes, education does cost too much, particularly if its value is measured in potential earning power. But the value of an education is a matter of priorities, not just for individuals and families, but for states and the nation. There are many things wrong with our current system, but accepting Romney's platitude won't fix them. Instead, what he said implies a comfort with the two-tier (maybe three or four) system we have now. When fewer and fewer can afford a college education, doing what they can afford doesn't solve the problem. In fact, it exacerbates the social problems caused by our increasingly unequal distribution of wealth and opportunity.

I mentioned in an earlier post that luck is not evenly distributed either. My generation was lucky; in comparison, when it comes to their college education, those born in the last twenty years are not.

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@Ken Winkes. Thanks for the update in real numbers -- numbers that are really scary. And we wonder why the best & brightest decide to take those Wall Street jobs instead of doing something more "noble" or just more to their liking. Wall Street is one of the few venues that pays enough to retire some of that student debt.

April 10, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader
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