The Ledes

Thursday, August 25, 2016.

New York Times: The town of "Amatrice[, Italy,] was the worst hit by [a 6.2 earth]quake [Wednesday], which also damaged surrounding towns. As of Thursday morning, the deaths totaled at least 247, officials said. The story discribes the heartbreaking search for victims." -- CW  

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/weather/hurricane/article82198287.html#storylink=cpy" -- CW 
The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, August 24, 2016.

Washington Post: "Rescue workers scrambled to reach survivors buried under rubble in isolated towns and villages across central Italy on Wednesday after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake and a series of strong aftershocks struck the region overnight, collapsing homes, rattling buildings as far away as Rome and Venice and leaving an escalating toll of dead and injured." -- CW ...

... Washington Post Update: "At least 159 people died in the quake, a death toll that could jump as search crews rake through the rubble in cities, towns and villages­ across the regions of Lazio, Umbria and the Marches. Hundreds were injured and missing. Thousands were left homeless." -- CW 

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: (August 2): "Federal health authorities on Monday urged pregnant women not to visit a South Florida neighborhood where new cases of the Zika virus have emerged, the first time officials have warned against travel to part of the continental United States due to the outbreak of an infectious disease.” -- CW

... Guardian: "The search for life outside our solar system has been brought to our cosmic doorstep with the discovery of an apparently rocky planet orbiting the nearest star to our sun. Thought to be at least 1.3 times the mass of the Earth, the planet lies within the so-called 'habitable zone' of the star Proxima Centauri, meaning that liquid water could potentially exist on the newly discovered world." -- CW 

Guardian: "A fisherman in the Philippines has kept what might be the largest natural pearl ever found hidden in his home for more than 10 years. The enormous pearl is 30cm wide (1ft), 67cm long (2.2ft) and weighs 34kg (75lb). If it is confirmed to have formed within a giant clam, as has been reported, it would likely be valued in excess of US$100m." CW: Looks like there will be a fight on this: when he moved house, the fisherman entrusted it to his aunt for safekeeping. "With his permission, she offered the pearl to the mayor, Lucilo R Bayon, to serve as new tourist attraction of city." -- CW 

"Giovanni della Robbia’s 'Resurrection of Christ,' made for an entrance gate to the villa of the Antinori family outside Florence." Brooklyn Museum photo. CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times: "One of the most innovative art-as-advertising firms in late-15th- and early-16th-century Florence was the della Robbia workshop, a family concern that prospered for three long-lived generations. Its specialty was a brand of glazed terra-cotta sculpture that was physically durable, graphically strong and technologically inimitable. (The exact methods for producing it remain a mystery to this day.)... The Museum of Fine Arts [in Boston is mounting] “Della Robbia: Sculpting With Color in Renaissance Florence”..., a show of ideal size and scholarly weight that includes among 46 pieces one of the tenderest Renaissance sculptures in existence — 'The Visitation' by Luca della Robbia — on first-time American loan from its Tuscan church."

Michelle & Barack -- The Movie. Richard Brody of the New Yorker reviews “Southside with You,” "a drama about Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson’s first date." Brody calls the film "a fully realized, intricately imagined, warmhearted, sharp-witted, and perceptive drama, one that sticks close to its protagonists while resonating quietly but grandly with the sweep of a historical epic." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Requiring longer passwords, known as passphrases, usually 16 to 64 characters long, is increasingly seen as a potential escape route from our painful push toward logins that only a cryptographer could love."

The New York Times features photos of the exteriors of Bill & Hillary Clinton's residences over the years.

Brian Hickey of the Philly Voice: When Leroy Black died at age 55, he got two obituaries in the Press of Atlantic City: " In the first obit, his 'loving wife, Bearetta Harrison Black' gets top survivor billing. In the second, however, Bearetta is nowhere to be found, but 'his long-tome (sic) girlfriend, Princess Hall' appears in her place. A man answering the phone at Greenidge Funeral Homes told PhillyVoice that the obituaries were placed separately because 'the wife wanted it one way, and the girlfriend wanted it another way.'" ...

... CW: Kinda reminds me of the headstone a widow placed on her husband's grave in the Key West cemetery: "Harry, I Know Where You're Sleeping Tonight."

New York Times: "A surprisingly specific genetic portrait of the ancestor of all living things has been generated by scientists who say that the likeness sheds considerable light on the mystery of how life first emerged on Earth. This venerable ancestor was a single-cell, bacterium-like organism. But it has a grand name, or at least an acronym. It is known as Luca, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, and is estimated to have lived some four billion years ago, when Earth was a mere 560 million years old."

Ian Crouch of the New Yorker: "For a few days, at least, [Stephen] Colbert abandoned the political equanimity that he’d adopted when he started his 'Late Night' job." BTW, here's Laura Benanti's segment:

Washington Post: "Benny" (for Ben Franklin), the mystery philanthropist of Salem, Oregon, has given away more than $55,000 in $100 bills, which s/he hides in odd places like "pockets of clothing, in diapers, in baby wipes and in candy." -- CW 

Jumping Jupiter! New York Times: "Ducking through intense belts of violent radiation as it skimmed over the clouds of Jupiter at 130,000 miles per hour, NASA’s Juno spacecraft finally clinched its spot on Monday in the orbit of the solar system’s largest planet. It took five years for Juno to travel this far on its $1.1 billion mission, and the moment was one that NASA scientists and space enthusiasts had eagerly — and anxiously — anticipated. At 11:53 p.m., Eastern time, a signal from the spacecraft announced the end of a 35-minute engine burn that left it in the grip of its desired orbit around Jupiter." -- CW ...

... Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post has more on the importance of the mission. CW: This, BTW, is another fine example of your government actually at work.

New York Times: "Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” signed off the air for good on Saturday evening [July 2], after 42 seasons, as millions of listeners, many in their cars on a holiday weekend, tuned in via public radio. With the exception of a telephone call from President Obama, the show, which was recorded Friday at the Hollywood Bowl in front of 18,000 people, ambled along the way it always has. There were pretty country-folk songs; an ad for Powdermilk Biscuits; a clippety-clop 'Lives of the Cowboys' skit; a heartfelt version of 'Every Time We Say Goodbye.'”

Washington Post: Gay Talese disowns his forthcoming book, 'The Voyeur’s Motel,' after he learns some of the incidents in the supposed true story are certainly fictional. The narrative “chronicles the bizarre story of Gerald Foos, who allegedly spied on guests at his Colorado motel from the late 1960s to the mid-1990s.... 'I should not have believed a word he said,' the 84-year-old author said after The Washington Post informed him of property records that showed Foos did not own the motel from 1980 to 1988.... The book, which will be published July 12, was excerpted in the New Yorker magazine in April. The story attracted widespread media attention and led producer-director Steven Spielberg to buy the movie rights to the book. Spielberg has lined up Sam Mendes...." ...

     ... Update. CW: For a day, I thought maybe Talese had developed a smidgen of ethics in his old age. Guess not. Here's the story now, from the WashPo: "Upon reflection, author Gay Talese says he’s disavowing his earlier disavowal of his own work."

Dan Shaw of New York writes a lovely remembrance of New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham.

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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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