The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, February 11, 2016.

AP: "Sirhan Sirhan was denied parole Wednesday for fatally shooting Robert F. Kennedy after a confidante of the slain senator who was shot in the head forgave him and repeatedly apologized for not doing more to win his release. Paul Schrade's voice cracked with emotion during an hour of testimony on his efforts to untangle mysteries about the events of June 5, 1968. The 91-year-old former labor leader said he believed Sirhan shot him but that a second unidentified shooter felled Kennedy."

White House Live Video
February 11

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Public Service Announcement

New York Times (February 4): "Pregnant women whose male sexual partners have spent time in a country with confirmed transmissions of the Zika virus should either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.'

USA Today: "Women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception, federal health officials said Tuesday, in a move to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome. 'Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,' said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking.'"

New York Times (January 14): "Federal health officials are debating whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in newborn babies. Officials say it could be the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak." ...

     ... NYT Update (January 15): "Federal health officials on Friday advised pregnant women to postpone traveling to 13 Latin American or Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in babies." ...

... The Washington Post reports on the crisis in Brazil.

Washington Post: "Scientists announced Thursday that, after decades of effort, they have succeeded in detecting gravitational waves from the violent merging of two black holes in deep space. The detection was hailed as a triumph for a controversial, exquisitely crafted, billion-dollar physics experiment and as confirmation of a key prediction of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity."

New York Times: "... 21-year-old [Arthur Ashe] toppled the tournament’s top-seeded tennis player in a stunning upset on July 30, 1964. We published two photographs of Dennis Ralston, ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time, who walked off the court in defeat. But we didn’t run a single photograph of the winner.... On that day in 1964, he was ranked sixth in the nation and had yet to win a national title. ...

... The 1964 Times story is here. The page has blown up the above photo, worth viewing just to feast your eyes on that gorgeous young man. ...

... The Times is publishing previously unpublished photos of black historical figures & events every day this month. You can see those published to date here.

CW: Not sure if the movie is any good, but Ron Howard's intro is primo. Here's the trailer:

... The New York Times story, by Brooks Barnes, is here. "Kept a secret for months — no small task in Hollywood — 'Funny or Die Presents Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie' was released to coincide with Mr. Trump’s victory on Tuesday in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary."

New York Times: The leader of a group of "aging thieves" who last year pulled off "the largest burglary in England’s history" may have been an ex-policeman. The others have been captured, but "Basil" is still at large & his identity is unknown to investigators. Surely there will be a movie.

Washington Post: "Media mogul Sumner Redstone has resigned as board chairman at CBS Corp. after a court battle raised questions about the 92-year-old executive’s mental competence. He was replaced by Leslie Moonves, the longtime CBS president and chief executive, CBS announced Wednesday. The transition took effect Tuesday when Redstone was appointed to the role of CBS chairman emeritus, CBS said."

... New York Times: "A small 16th-century oil on panel largely kept in storage at a Kansas City, Mo., museum is a work by the Dutch Renaissance master Hieronymus Bosch, researchers [in the Netherlands] said on Monday, a finding that, if accepted by other scholars, would add to the tiny list of about 25 recognized Bosch paintings in the world. The painting, 'The Temptation of St. Anthony,' dated 1500-1510, had previously been attributed to the workshop of Bosch or to a follower of Bosch, known for his comic and surreal images of heaven and hell and the earthly moral purgatory in between."

Radio host Diane Rehm discusses her "retirement" plans with Karen Heller of the Washington Post.

Washington Post: "A lost story by famed British children’s author Beatrix Potter — the Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — has been discovered among her memorabilia and will be published this year more than a century after she wrote it. Jo Hanks, a publisher with Penguin Random House who made the discovery at London’s Victoria & Albert museum in 2013, called the story the biggest Potter discovery in generations and almost certainly the last, the London Times Newspaper reported Tuesday."

Boston Globe: "Late Night host (and New Hampshire native) Seth Meyers stars in this trailer for his fake movie, Boston Accent, which just laughs at all the devices used in every movie ever made in Boston":

Tim Egan's Confession: "I can no longer wait in a grocery store line, or linger for a traffic light, or even pause long enough to let a bagel pop from the toaster, without reflexively reaching for my smartphone."

Planet Nine. Caltech: "Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly." ...

... CW: Planet Nine, my ass. I will never abandon Pluto! But this is a mighty thrilling development. ...

... UPDATE. Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post interviews Mike Brown, one of the discoverers of Planet Nine. It turns out, as certainly every astronomer knows, that Mike Brown was also the guy who killed Pluto! Even his daughter is mad at him for that.

New York Times: "Five planets will parade across the dawn sky early Wednesday[, January 20,] in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month. Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It will be the first time in more than a decade that the fab five will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York."

Los Angeles Times: "The backlash against this year's Academy Award nominations escalated Monday with announcements by director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith that they would boycott the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony, citing the absence of people of color in all four acting categories for the second year in a row. If other prominent entertainment industry figures join the boycott, it has the potential to spoil Hollywood's annual showcase event."

Donald Trump playing Donald Trump in movies & on teevee shows:

New York Times: "#OscarsSoWhite, that damning hashtag that made the rounds last year, can again, unhappily, be revived for this year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced Thursday morning.... The only Academy nods for two of the year’s biggest films about African-American characters went to white people.... In all the lead categories — best director, picture, and all four acting categories — only Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the Mexican auteur who won best director and picture last year, for 'Birdman,' adds a note of diversity. This year he was nominated for 'The Revenant.'”

Los Angeles Times: "Nominations for the 88th Academy Awards have been announced, and 'The Revenant' is leading with 12, including for best picture. Other nominees for best picture are 'The Big Short,' 'Bridge of Spies,' 'Brooklyn,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'The Martian,' 'Room,' and 'Spotlight.' All the snubs, surprises and reactions from nominees coming below." Full coverage via the linked page.

Christian Science Monitor: "... thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, the lowly incandescent bulb is getting a jolt of new life. The six-researcher team says it has found a way to boost the bulb's efficiency twenty-fold, which would leave today's favored compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the dust, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology." ...

     ... CW: If these bulbs go into production, it should make Rand Paul very, very happy. If only MIT could do something about his big-shit problem. Science does have its limits.

Los Angeles Times: "A 21-year odyssey came to an end Tuesday when National Football League owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and gave the San Diego Chargers an option to join the Rams in Inglewood."

** Washington Post: "In a paper published in the open-access journal eLife this week, researchers say they have pinpointed what may well be one of evolution’s greatest copy mess-ups yet: the mutation that allowed our ancient protozoa predecessors to evolve into complex, multi-cellular organisms.... Incredibly, in the world of evolutionary biology, all it took was one tiny tweak, one gene, and complex life as we know it was born." The paper is here. ...

... CW: Sorry, fundies, this is a lot more exciting than a trip to the Noah's ark amusement park or whatever it is.

The Los Angeles Times' Golden Globe coverage is here.

New Yorker: More Pluto!

New York: "Lumosity is one of these 'brain training' programs, and yet, according to the Federal Trade Commission, many of those claims aren’t backed up by science. On Tuesday, Lumos Labs — the company behind Lumosity — agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $2 million for misleading consumers on claims that playing these mental games would help with cognitive performance and prevent mental decline as we age. 'Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,' Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. 'But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.'”

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

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
Comments for this entry have been disabled. Additional comments may not be added to this entry at this time.