You can access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.
Groupon representative announced that, in the future, they will block their advertisements from appearing on The Apprentice website.
Sony officials announced Tuesday that hackers might have obtained personal information, including credit card numbers, from 77 million users of its PlayStation gaming system. Ray Suarez discusses the breach’s impact on Sony, its users and the future of online security with former hacker and Wired.com editor Kevin Poulsen.
(Transcript and audio)
The economy slowed sharply in the first three months of the year as high gas prices cut into consumer spending, bad weather delayed construction projects and the federal government slashed defense spending by the most in six years.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that the economy grew at a 1.8 percent annual rate in the January-March quarter. That was weaker than the 3.1 percent growth rate for the October-December quarter. And it was the worst showing since last spring when the European debt crisis slowed growth to a 1.7 percent pace.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other economists say the slowdown last quarter is a temporary setback. They generally agree that gas prices will stabilize and the economy will grow at a 3 percent pace in each of the next three quarters.
But gas prices are still going up.
An inflation gauge in the report showed consumer prices rose last quarter at the fastest pace in nearly three years, with most of the increase coming from higher fuel costs
In the January-March quarter, consumers boosted spending at a 2.7 percent pace. That was down from a 4 percent pace in the prior quarter and was the weakest pace since last summer. Consumer spending is important because it accounts for roughly 70 percent of overall economic activity.
The current No. 2 man at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp — and a strong contender to take over from Chairman Sheila Bair in the coming months — speaks at a volume just north of a whisper at FDIC board meetings.
Those who have worked with him say Gruenberg is quiet behind the scenes as well. They warn, however, not to mistake his low-key style for a lack of strong beliefs, which include a firm approach to reining in risky bank practices.
“His style is softer but he can be quite fierce when he wants to be,” said John Dugan, who served with Gruenberg on the FDIC board when he was Comptroller of the Currency from 2005 through 2010.
This quiet assertiveness may soon be put to the test, with the FDIC going toe-to-toe with brash Wall Street figures as the agency reshapes banks’ capital, redesigns their pay packages, and forces them to write “living wills” that lay out how toppling firms may be dismantled by the government.
Economic Policy Institute:
Most of the measures that comprise the overall GDP rate do not suggest that job growth is imminent. Final demand—a measure of output growth that strips out the influence of inventory investment (a particularly volatile component of GDP and one whose movements are quite hard to interpret quarter-to-quarter)—rose even more slowly than overall GDP, growing at only a 0.8% annualized rate in the first quarter, the slowest since the third quarter of 2009 (the first following the official end of the Great Recession). Domestic demand growth—a measure of final demand stemming from U.S. residents—also rose very slowly, growing at a 0.9% annualized rate, the lowest rate since the fourth quarter of 2009.
All of the signs in this report point to an economy that remains below potential because it lacks sufficient spending. Another clear sign that the economy is running below potential is the continuing slow growth of core prices—prices minus food and energy products—whose changes are both volatile and driven largely by supply-side influences in the short-run. The “market-based” deflator for core personal consumption expenditures (a closely watched indicator of inflationary pressures building up in the economy) rose by less than 1% between the first quarters of 2010 and 2011. Given this data on slow spending growth and decelerating wage pressures, it is odd indeed that boosting economic growth is not a higher priority among Washington policymakers.
President George W. Bush stepped away from the ranch yesterday to “opine on the issues of the day” with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. First up, a lesson on Texas tea. Bush suggested Americans try to “understand how supply and demand works” and realize that offshore drilling is key solution to rising gas prices. “If you restrict supplies of crude, the price of oil is going to go up and it affects gasoline,” he said.
But, in what is becoming an unfortunate pattern for the ex-president, his own former administration official disagrees. Doug Holtz-Eakin, the White House’s Chief Economist under Bush, joined MSNBC’s Chris Matthews Tuesday to discuss the problem of rising gas prices. When asked whether the conservative “dig, drill” mantra would actually lead to lower gas prices, Holtz-Eakin — who was also the cheif economic adviser for Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) 2008 presidential campaign — offered a simple answer: “no“
The government currently regulates only operators of offshore drilling rigs, such as BP, and in turn holds them responsible for any contractors they hire. Experts say that by delegating the supervision of contractors the government is essentially taking the word of rig operators that facilities are safe and comply with regulation. As Reuters reported, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, Michael Bromwich, first raised the issue Monday, saying he thinks his agency has the authority to oversee contractors and that he intends to do so.
Melissa Schwartz, spokeswoman for the offshore drilling regulator, emphasized that Bromwich’s proposal “would in no way change the responsibility of operators.” But she said her agency was still reviewing critical aspects of how the new system would work, including whether federal inspectors would examine additional facilities themselves or simply obtain greater authority to hold contractors responsible for violations.
The agency is also beefing up its enforcement capacity and hiring more inspectors as well as personnel for a new environmental compliance unit. It plans to hire 33 staffers for the environmental enforcement unit by the end of the 2012 fiscal year, as well as 24 new inspectors as funding permits, Schwartz said.
There are currently 60 inspectors charged with oversight for about 3,500 drilling rigs and pumping platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Bromwich told the Columbia graduate students who attended Tuesday’s recruiting meeting that he was making new hires to carry out his agency’s growing regulatory mandate.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has an excellent series of charts making the point that not only does the American health-care system spend much more than anyone else, but that spending has been growing much faster than everyone else’s, and is now so high that our government spends more on health care than the governments of countries with single-payer systems — and that’s true even though most of our health-care spending is private! But let’s start at the beginning. Here’s what we spend vs. what everyone else spends:
And here’s the growth in that spending over time. Note that in the 1970s, we were approximately equal to the rest of the world. It’s really in the ’80s and ’90s that the gap between us and everyone else opened up:
But perhaps the piece de resistance is this chart, showing the percentage of gross domestic product that countries spend on private and public health-care expenditures. The United States spends more through the government than — deep breath — Japan, Australia, Norway, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Canada or Switzerland:
In other words, we’re spending more on government-provided health care than most countries where government-provided health care is pretty much all there is. In the end, what’s remarkable about the American health-care system isn’t just how much we spend but how inefficiently we spend it. And I suspect that these charts are actually understating our spending, as I doubt that they capture the enormous cost of the tax break for employer-provided health insurance, which I doubt is classified as “spending” in their figures.
For more detail on some of the systems that are so effortlessly outperforming ours — including one that’s right here in the United States — head here.
- Rate Regulation, AB52(Feuer), Would Allow Regulators to Deny Unjustified Rate Hikes
* Key Bills Pass To Implement New Federal Rules and Consumer Protections in State Law
* Some Seek to Improve Eligibility and Enrollment So More Californians Get Care
* Bills Move Onto Appropriations Committee, Then Onto Floor Votes in May
Perhaps the biggest step we’ve taken to support those affected by autism and their families happened over a year ago, with the signing of the Affordable Care Act. Now, new insurance plans are required to cover autism screening and developmental assessments for children at no cost to parents. Insurers will also no longer be allowed to deny children coverage for a pre-existing condition such as ASD or to set arbitrary lifetime or annual limits on benefits.
Also, thanks to the new law, young adults are allowed to stay on their family health insurance until they turn 26. For a young adult with autism spectrum disorder and their family, that means peace of mind. It means more flexibility, more options, and more opportunity to reach their full potential.
Ultimately, there is more support for Americans with autism than ever before. This means more promise of new breakthroughs that will help us understand autism even better. But in order to continue meeting the needs of people with autism, the Combating Autism Act must be fully reauthorized. We still have a long way to go. Working collaboratively with important partners, the Affordable Care Act and the Combating Autism Act will allow us to continue important research and develop and refine vital treatments.
Department spokesman Xochitl Hinojosa said Monday the department is reviewing “the request to open the Malcolm X murder. We decline further comment at this time.”
Alvin Sykes of Kansas City — architect of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act who in an April 6 letter asked the Justice Department to review Malcolm X’s assassination — praised the department’s consideration.
He said he is hoping Attorney General Eric Holder will bring “more investigative resources and prosecutorial jurisdiction to credibly address the guilt or innocence of a broader net of past, present and potentially future suspects in this case.”
A new biography by the late Manning Marable raises questions about who was involved in Malcolm X’s killing at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem on Feb. 21, 1965 — less than a year after he had left the Nation of Islam.
[Or, we’re all being played?]
Shiloh Baptist Church in the District said it has received threatening phone calls and e-mails after an Easter visit from President Obama and a conservative television commentator’s subsequent playing of a videotape in which the pastor said that those espousing racial prejudice do so “under the protective cover of talk radio.”
The Rev. Wallace Charles Smith said the church has received more than 100 threats since Fox News channel’s Sean Hannity aired a tape Monday of a speech Smith gave in January 2010 at Eastern University in Saint Davids, Pa.
On Sunday, Obama and the first family visited the church, founded in the 1860s by former slaves. On Monday, Hannity aired a clip of a speech Smith gave when he served as president of Palmer Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
“It may not be Jim Crow anymore,” Smith says in the videotape. “Now, Jim Crow wears blue pinstripes, goes to law school and carries fancy briefs in cases. And now, Jim Crow has become James Crow, esquire. And he doesn’t have to wear white robes anymore because now he can wear the protective cover of talk radio or can get a regular news program on Fox.”
The facts about Barack Obama’s birth never wavered. But the more the fraudulent theories were debated and dispelled in major news media outlets, the more people seemed to believe them.
The theories asserted that Mr. Obama was born in Kenya, and is therefore not eligible to be president. In waves of media coverage — the vast majority of it critical of the so-called “birther” position — reporters tried to debunk those theories. But opinion polls found that doubts among Americans about his citizenship grew over time, as if the very fact of the debate caused the issue to fester in more minds.
“It seemed to really be getting traction in the polls,” said Mark Whitaker, the managing editor of CNN Worldwide. That, he said, was why CNN dispatched a camera crew to Hawaii last week to fact-check the conspiracy theories, something it had done three years ago, when Mr. Obama first released legal proof of his eligibility while running for president.
Most in the news media do not share Mr. Farah and Mr. Corsi’s view. There was distaste evident in the voices of television anchors while they talked about the citizenship issue on Wednesday; the MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer, reading feedback from viewers, said many were “angry at the media for even covering the Trump birther nonsense.”
At the White House, the NBC correspondent Chuck Todd wondered aloud if Google and its ilk — which enable instant access to all manner of information — cannot be “starved,” then how should the media handle “crazy lies?”
Most segments of the media kept the so-called “birther” movement at arm’s length when it emerged in the early months of the Obama presidency. By then, legal proof of Mr. Obama’s birth had already been released and groups like FactCheck.org had verified its authenticity.
But murmurs on Internet forums led to whispers on talk radio. Some hosts shrugged it off, but others, like Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs, questioned why the long-form birth certificate had not been released.
Only after Mr. Trump spoke out did it become a major topic for the news media. Fox News Channel commentators, who had rarely invoked the issue, started bringing it up, as did their guests; Sean Hannity, Fox’s 9 p.m. host, asked repeatedly in March, “Why can’t they just release the birth certificate?”
Indexing of last week’s news coverage by the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that of the three main cable news channels, MSNBC hosts spent substantially more time talking about the citizenship issue than those on CNN or Fox News. What were they saying? That the theory was ludicrous.
C-SPAN, the network known for its ad-free broadcasts of congressional proceedings, purports to present their content in a balanced manner. Their mission statement reads:
C-SPAN is a public service created by the American cable television industry: To provide C-SPAN’s audience access to the live gavel-to-gavel proceedings of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and to other forums where public policy is discussed, debated and decided — all without editing, commentary or analysis and with a balanced presentation of points of view.
It’s surprising, then, that C-SPAN has repeatedly simulcast the show of Iowa radio bigot Jan Mickelson, an apparent birther who is virulently anti-gay. In a speech at a conservative event last month that was broadcast by C-SPAN, Mickelson said that because President Obama “has left out ‘equally endowed by our Creator” in his recitation of the Declaration “even after he’s been told several times that he’s an Arab” for doing so, his actions must be “deliberate” and are therefore “evil.”
On Tuesday, C-SPAN dedicated two and a half hours of airtime to giving Mickelson’s show, which he describes as “fairly right of center,” a national audience.
The decision to install Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense and place Petraeus in charge of the CIA has largely been read as signaling continuity in administration policy, with Panetta being uniquely suited to anticipated budget fights over funding for DoD. But for Marc Thiessen, Petraeus’ appointment to the CIA is a cause for worry, because of his outspoken opposition to torture:
Thanks to Obama the CIA is out of the interrogation business, so there is no immediate impact on U.S. interrogation policy (or lack thereof). But that is also the problem. Appointing a CIA director with such restrictive views on interrogation does not bode well for the chances of much-needed improvements in our detention and interrogation policy.
When Thiessen says that the Obama administration has no “interrogation policy” what he means is that it doesn’t torture people. For him, the two are basically synonymous. But the administration does have an interrogation policy, and it’s one that the CIA is involved in.
During a Senate hearing in February, Senator Marco Rubio pressed Panetta on whether or not the CIA needed to employ the torturous interrogation techniques used by the prior administration in order to gather intelligence. Panetta responded: “I think right now, the process that we have in place…it brings together the best resources that we have to get the intelligence we need, and I think it works pretty well.”
So, yes, the Obama administration does have an interrogation policy, and the CIA is involved in crafting and implementing it. Thiessen’s problem is that the policy doesn’t involve enough torture. Whatever other concerns people might have about Petraeus’ move to head the CIA, for those of us who believe torture is both morally reprehensible and entirely counterproductive, Petraeus’ outspoken opposition to torture and his defenses of American values and the rule of law are a feature, not a bug.
Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.) has drawn a primary challenge from the left, and Republicans hope to exploit the intraparty battle to weaken him for a general election.
Since his 2006 election, Shuler has been a top target for the GOP, which failed to unseat him in the 2010 Republican wave. The conservative Democrat — who bucked his party this winter by voting against Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) to be the Democratic leader — also easily deflected a primary challenge last cycle.
But Cecil Bothwell, a liberal, self-described “atheist” who serves on the Asheville City Council, announced this week his primary bid against Shuler in the 11th district. Bothwell told Roll Call that he opted for a primary bid, instead of his initial plan to run as an independent, because he was not confident he could collect enough signatures to get on the ballot.
Bothwell previewed his campaign stump speech for Roll Call, saying he thinks free trade is a “scam,” wants to devalue the dollar, end the war on drugs, get the U.S. military out of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and cut the military budget in half.
[I]deology trumps facts.
And it doesn’t matter what the ideology is, whether socialism, any brand of fundamentalist religion, or free-market extremism. The psychological literature shows quite consistently that a threat to one’s worldview is more than likely met by a dismissal of facts, however strong the evidence. Indeed, the stronger the evidence, the greater the threat — and hence the greater the denial.
In its own bizarre way, then, the rising noise level of climate denial provides further evidence that global warming resulting from human CO2 emissions is indeed a fact, however inconvenient it may be. Read the rest.
The piece, published today on the Australian news blog The Drum, is by Stephan Lewandowsky of the School of Psychology at the University of Western Australia.
Of course, just being aware that ideology can deeply skew how people filter facts and respond to risks begs the question of how to make progress in the face of the wide societal divisions this pattern creates.
It’s easy to forget that there’s been plenty of climate denial to go around. It took a decade for those seeking a rising price on carbon dioxide emissions as a means to transform American and global energy norms to realize that a price sufficient to drive the change was a political impossibility.
Governor Rick Snyder said in his education address that 23 school districts are on the verge of getting emergency managers who’ll be able to cancel union contracts and redesign the system as they sit fit. Most of those are in Greater Detroit. So far, Detroit’s school system is the only one in the state with an emergency manager — that’s the guy who’s thinking of closing the Catherine Ferguson Academy for pregnant girls and young mothers.
Conservative groups outspent liberal groups by a more than 2-to-1 ratio heading into an Election Day that brought the biggest Republican sweep in the House of Representatives in decades and sliced into the Democratic majority in the Senate.
“The Democrats brought a bat, and the Republicans brought a grenade,” said Dave Levinthal of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign money. “If you think spending is out of control by outside groups, it likely will blow your mind in the presidential election.”
President Obama has repeatedly lambasted conservative groups for their role in the midterm elections and criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in January that opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate and union spending on election ads.
Conservative spending has topped $187 million this year, up from $19.6 million in 2006, the last midterm election, the center’s data show.
In more than 50 House races, outside groups and party committees outspent the candidates, a USA TODAY analysis shows. Other trends:
•In the 48 House contests in which outside groups spent a combined $1 million or more, Republicans won two-thirds, a USA TODAY analysis of election results and campaign reports shows. In one Upstate New York district, conservative groups such as American Crossroads, the Tea Party Express and the 60 Plus Association bought $2.8 million in negative ads attacking freshman Democratic Rep. Scott Murphy on health care, helping Republican Christopher Gibson win 55% of the vote.
•Self-funded candidates of both parties faired poorly Tuesday. Only four of the 15 federal candidates who put $1 million or more into their own campaigns won on Tuesday, according to a tally by the Center for Responsive Politics.
•U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $32 million on 67 House and Senate races. The USA TODAY analysis shows that 72% of chamber-backed candidates won so far. But, it spent nearly $5 million against Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who won.
[2010’s] spending should spur Democrats to start raising cash for their own outside efforts, said Mark Aronchick, a longtime Democratic fundraiser in Philadelphia. “Interest and advocacy groups that support the Democratic agenda need to stop wringing their hands and step up to the plate,” he said.
Trump/Koch at a Party in the Hamptons:
As Joe Romm noted the other day, Ezra Klein has an interesting column in WaPo making the case that, in terms of policy, Obama “is a moderate Republican of the early 1990s.” Putting aside the emergency measures responding to the economic crisis, Obama’s signature initiatives have been a health-care bill modeled on Mitt Romney’s and a cap-and-trade bill modeled on George Bush Sr.’s. Both of those original policies were successful, but when Obama took them up, Republicans fled en masse. Says Klein, “as Democrats moved to the right to pick up Republican votes, Republicans moved to the right to oppose Democratic proposals.”
I agree with Kevin Drum that those policies were never truly Republican: They were compromises Republicans felt forced to accept to avoid worse (i.e., more liberal) policies. It’s probably fair to call them centrist. Either way, I’m not sure “moved to the right” is the best way to describe what Republicans have done.
In short, Republicans have mastered post-truth politics. They’ve realized that their rhetoric doesn’t have to bear any connection to their policy agenda. They can go through different slogans, different rationales, different fights, depending on the political landscape of the moment. They need not feel bound by previous slogans, rationales, or fights. They’ve realized that policy is policy and politics is politics and they can push for the former while waging the latter battle on its own terms. The two have become entirely unmoored.
So it’s not that they “moved right” on some policy spectrum when Obama took office. They just adopted a new political strategy, namely total, unremitting, hysterical oppositionalism. Mitch McConnell accurately foresaw that it was the only thing that could revive the battered party after 2008, and it has paid off richly. Conservatives are becoming less reticent about voicing their real agenda, but the agenda itself never changed.
The political logic behind Obama’s center-right health-care plan (and center-right cap-and-trade plan, and too-small stimulus with too many tax cuts, and too-mild financial reform) is that there is a “center” in the policy spectrum, and that if he chooses policies located there, moderate Republicans, by virtue of their previous policy commitments, will be forced to work with him, and he will get credit for being reasonable and centrist, which will translate into votes, victories, and political momentum. That has been the basic approach of his presidency. Unfortunately, it reflects a naive policy literalism that is absolutely ubiquitous on the left.
What happened instead? On policy after policy, Obama began with grand, magnanimous concessions (see: offshore drilling) and waited in vain for reciprocation. He adopted center-right policies … and was attacked as a radical secular socialist Muslim babykiller. Every Dem proposal, no matter how mild, has been a government takeover complete with confiscatory taxes, death panels, and incipient tyranny. The fusillade of lies began early and has continued unabated.
Now, on the naive, positivist view, the media and other elite referees of public debate should have called a foul. Republicans should have been penalized for opposing and maligning policies that they’d supported not long ago, for brazenly lying, and for rejecting all attempts at compromise. They chose the strategy; the strategy should have been explained plainly to the public.
But the crucial fact of post-truth politics is that there are no more referees. There are only players. The right has its own media, its own facts, its own world. In that world, the climate isn’t warming, domestic drilling can solve the energy crisis, and Obama is a socialist Kenyan. (Did you see Obama’s birth certificate yet? If he had that much trouble convincing people he was born in the country, how did he expect to convince them he’s a reasonable moderate?) Obama can back centrist policies all day, but there is no mechanism to convey that centrism to the broad voting public. There is no judge settling disputes or awarding points. His strategy — achieve political advantage through policy concessions — has failed. His approval ratings are down and the government is headed for a train wreck.
If it’s not “maybe this was a mistake,” or “your sister is the pretty one,” it’s something else, like, for instance, “I think Barack Obama was born outside the United States and is constitutionally ineligible to be president.”
That’s one theory we can apply to birtherism — and it’s the theory offered up by respected pollster Gary Langer, who heads up Langer Research Associates and directs polling for ABC News.
A wave of recent surveys have shown that doubts about Obama’s birthplace are stunningly prevalent. In a CBS/New York Times poll, 25 percent of all respondents and 45 percent of Republicans said they do not think Obama was born in the United States. A total of 18 percent said they weren’t sure. According to Fox News, 24 percent do not think Obama was born in America.
Maybe, just maybe, those poll respondents don’t actually think what they say they think, Langer suggests. Maybe they say all this for some other reason — such as that they just don’t like the president.
As an example, Langer points to belief in global warming. While most Americans believe global warming exists, the fraction of global warming believers has shrunk over the past few years, according to polls, even as the scientific consensus has solidified in global warming’s favor. …People might have told pollsters that they don’t believe in global warming not because they actually don’t believe in it, but as a way to register their opinions on cap-and-trade, for instance, or unilateral U.S. policy action, the three polling experts asserted.
Stated beliefs in global warming had really only dropped off among conservatives and Republicans, they found, while opinions among moderates and Democrats remained mostly steady. They came up with some correlation coefficients, relating respondents’ stated policy positions to their stated beliefs on global warming, and found that correlations had gotten stronger on the right, in particular, within the past year.
The three concluded:
We suggest further that there can be a message-sending element to the way respondents answer survey questions – not always to answer the question in the way we imagine, but in the way they desire. Respondents who oppose or are skeptical about proposed policy solutions on global warming, yet who see such policies as increasingly likely given the change in administration, may be more apt to express opposition to such policies by any means available – including by withdrawing their expressed belief that global warming is occurring. They use such questions as a vehicle to express antipathy toward the solution, not to voice a firm disbelief in the existence of the problem.
Of course, it’s also possible that positions on cap-and-trade, for instance, really did change people’s beliefs on global warming, and that actual beliefs, not just stated ones, are deductively tailored to fit other opinions.
According to Langer’s theory, birtherism may well teach us that answering a poll can be an act of retribution, maybe even a sadistic one, or at least a way to register a complex matrix of associated thoughts and feelings. There is almost no social consequence to saying words out loud to a pollster over the phone, unless one’s friends are listening, so Obama’s critics probably feel freer to say something outlandish, such as that he was born outside the U.S., when talking to CBS or Fox.
Looking at polling from this perspective would require a more behaviorist approach. And if birtherism leads a verified polling expert to raise such questions, maybe birtherism will force us all to think differently about polls — the most common empirical metric in politics.
If you doubt the prevalence of birtherism, or if you suspect that beliefs about President Obama’s birthplace are simply being confused with uncertainty, this poll from CBS and The New York Times may convince you otherwise:
CBS asked the question directly. The exact wording, as CBS tells The Atlantic:
According to the Constitution, American Presidents must be “natural born citizens.” Some people say Barack Obama was NOT born in the United States, but was born in another country. Do YOU think Barack Obama was born in the United States, or do you think he was born in another country?
The “no” population is not inflated. CBS does not press respondents who say they don’t know or don’t have an opinion, as some pollsters do. CBS accepts uncertainty as a response, and we should take the comparative “no” and “I don’t know” populations as legitimate.
There’s an argument to be made that, for people who haven’t looked into Obama’s birthplace, being uncertain is totally reasonable. If a pollster calls asking where Obama was born, and one hasn’t read anything about it, what else can one say, other than “How should I know?”
Asserting positively that Obama was born outside the U.S. is different. And among the 534 Republicans in CBS’s oversample group, more of them held this opinion than either of the two alternatives.
Yes, I know you’re bored of hearing me and others point out that the nonstop chatter about the deficit is completely out of sync with voter angst about the economy and jobs.
But here’s another interesting finding, buried in today’s Marist poll, showing this in a new way: Obama’s big deficit reduction speech didn’t budge Obama’s low approval numbers on the economy and didn’t budge the numbers showing high public economic anxiety.
The poll found that before Obama’s speech, 40 percent approved of his performance on the economy, versus 58 percent who disapproved of it. After Obama’s speech, those numbers were 41-56 — statistically the same.
The poll also found that before Obama’s speech, 57 percent said the “worst is yet to come” on the economy, versus 38 percent who said the worst is behind us. After Obama’s speech, those numbers wer 57-39 — again, statistically the same.
[I]t’s becoming increasingly clear that all the deficit chatter is doing nothing to reassure voters about their number one concern.
Indeed, this is also supported by a recent New York Times poll finding that amid rising economic pessimism, only a paltry 29 percent think a major reduction in the deficit would create more jobs.
[T]he relentless bipartisan focus on that one topic to the exclusion of others is leading more and more people to tell pollsters they’re worried about it. That in turn reinforces a sense among public officials that it should continue to be their number one focus. And people aren’t hearing anyone talk to them about the economy, even though it’s far more likely than the deficit to influence their vote next year.
BOEING decided a few years ago to build its 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina, the Wall Street Journal opines, because it was afraid its union in Washington was too strong. South Carolina is a “right-to-work” state: Title 41, Chapter 7 of the state code makes it illegal for companies and unions to sign a contract in which anyone who works at the company has to join the union. That makes it extremely difficult to organise effective unions, and Boeing hoped it wouldn’t have as many strikes at a plant in South Carolina as it had experienced at its plants in Seattle in recent years. The unions sued over the move, and the National Labor Relations Board has now awarded them a preliminary order blocking the factory from operating pending an investigation into whether the company’s shift of production to a union-hostile state in order to avoid union activity constituted “anti-union animus”.
Anyway, here’s the sentence I found most amusing in the WSJ‘s editorial: “Boeing management did what it judged to be best for its shareholders and customers and looked elsewhere.” Boeing’s motivation for shifting production to an anti-union state was not to benefit customers. If Boeing felt it could raise prices for the airplanes it builds without losing market share, it would do so in a second, regardless of whether that was “best for its customers”. Companies try to lower operating costs in order to raise profits or cut prices and win market share, not out of a selfless desire to benefit customers.
But the more important flaw here is that the reason why Boeing might have judged its decision to move production to South Carolina “best for its shareholders” was that it didn’t think it violated labour law to flee your union. If it did violate labour law, then Boeing made a bad decision and delivered negative value to its shareholders. To put things another way, if America had labour laws that were uniform from state to state like any other normal economic power, rather than a race-to-the-bottom system where states are pressured to weaken labour laws in order to entice employers, then there would have been no reason for Boeing to move production. There is simply no moral content to Boeing’s decision to move production to South Carolina. Boeing doesn’t get brownie points for engaging in regulatory arbitrage and stiffing its unions just because it judged that move to be best for shareholders. Congratulating Boeing for trying to deliver shareholder value is like congratulating it for building and selling airplanes. That’s simply what the company does. Boeing’s decision was a judgment about how to play, given its evaluation of the rules of the game. The question of whether companies should be allowed to flee their unions is a question about what the rules of the game ought to be, in order to deliver value to the economy and to society.
Mr Blanchard may be right that, given that labour and other business laws differ from state to state, the United States might best be understood as the world’s largest free trade area, rather than a single country. But does anyone think that the United States would be a dramatically less prosperous country if it had uniform labour and business law throughout its territory? Have right-to-work laws in 22 states made such an immense contribution to American prosperity that without them America would not be the world’s largest and wealthiest economy? Really? Seriously? Would American technological ingenuity have been crippled if the whole country had to follow the labour laws that obtain in Silicon Valley?
I don’t think so. I think if there were no right-to-work states, American GDP wouldn’t be significantly different than it is today. And if America did have uniform labour laws, then Boeing’s decision as to whether to produce in Puget Sound or South Carolina would have nothing whatsoever to do with unions. If labour laws in South Carolina and Washington were equivalent, the only thing the workers in Puget Sound would have to worry about is whether their demands would lead the company to lose market share or to move production overseas. The first might be a real worry; the latter is a marginal issue for Boeing workers because the company is a defence industry-supported national champion firm.
Now maybe unionised Boeing workers should be more worried about hurting the company’s market share as it competes with EADS and with regional-jet builders like Embraer and Bombardier. It certainly sounds like the company has a strike problem. But EADS’s labour force is hardly non-unionised. If Boeing is having more trouble with its unions than its competitors are, it’s possible that the fault lies with the company, rather than with the unions. What’s happening here is that anti-labour laws in certain states allow companies to shift investment to those states in order to get around their unions. And efforts by unions to block that manoeuvre can then be condemned as “restrictions on capital flow”. The issue isn’t freedom of capital. The issue is whether employers can use a threat to move production to a union-hostile state as a negotiating tactic in collective bargaining.
As I walked to work this morning, I got a text message from the @jjpolitics account on Twitter announcing that President Obama would release his long form birth certificate. I stopped in my tracks as my immediate thought became, “It’s happening again. This White House is caving in to extremism.” (I recalled how Green Jobs Czar Van Jones was dismissed, essentiall at the behest of conspiracy theorist, plagiarist and fear-monger Glenn Beck). Along with my surprise, however, I felt a deep sadness, especially once I read the coverage of the President’s remarks and most especially when I saw this disgusting video of Donald Trump.
It was during my viewing of this video that I began to cry. I thought of my ancestors, both direct and collective, who had fought and died so that I might be treated as an American. I then thought of this fetid, smug, hate-filled, wealthy white man taking credit for the release and yet still not being satisfied. It does not matter how long we’ve been in these United States. We will never be American.
So, tears in my eyes, pain in my heart and rage in my soul, I composed this video message. More than written text, it comes close to expressing my full pain at witnessing a white man who was handed everything call the President of the United States (and me) a nigger.
While Kern has long history of taking outlandish positions — from saying homosexuality is more dangerous than terrorism to introducing legislation to force teachers to question evolution — her bigoted comments reflect a disturbing trend among even mainstream conservatives to blame valuable social safety net programs for creating a culture of dependency or even “slavery.”
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
A couple of years ago, as his fellow psychologists debated whether narcissism was increasing, Nathan DeWall heard Rivers Cuomo singing to a familiar 19th-century melody. Mr. Cuomo, the lead singer and guitarist for the rock band Weezer, billed the song as “Variations on a Shaker Hymn.”
Where 19th-century Shakers had sung “ ’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,” Mr. Cuomo offered his own lyrics: “I’m the meanest in the place, step up, I’ll mess with your face.” Instead of the Shaker message of love and humility, Mr. Cuomo sang over and over, “I’m the greatest man that ever lived.”
The refrain got Dr. DeWall wondering: “Who would actually sing that aloud?” Mr. Cuomo may have been parodying the grandiosity of other singers — but then, why was there so much grandiosity to parody? Did the change from “Simple Gifts” to “Greatest Man That Ever Lived” exemplify a broader trend?
Now, after a computer analysis of three decades of hit songs, Dr. DeWall and other psychologists report finding what they were looking for: a statistically significant trend toward narcissism and hostility in popular music. As they hypothesized, the words “I” and “me” appear more frequently along with anger-related words, while there’s been a corresponding decline in “we” and “us” and the expression of positive emotions.
“Late adolescents and college students love themselves more today than ever before,” Dr. DeWall, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky, says. His study covered song lyrics from 1980 to 2007 and controlled for genre to prevent the results from being skewed by the growing popularity of, say, rap and hip-hop.
The extent and meaning of this trend have been hotly debated by psychologists, some of whom question the tests’ usefulness and say that young people today aren’t any more self-centered than those of earlier generations. The new study of song lyrics certainly won’t end the debate, but it does offer another way to gauge self-absorption: the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The researchers find that hit songs in the 1980s were more likely to emphasize happy togetherness, like the racial harmony sought by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder in “Ebony and Ivory” and the group exuberance promoted by Kool & the Gang: “Let’s all celebrate and have a good time.” Diana Ross and Lionel Richie sang of “two hearts that beat as one,” and John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over” emphasized the preciousness of “our life together.”
Today’s songs, according to the researchers’ linguistic analysis, are more likely be about one very special person: the singer. “I’m bringing sexy back,” Justin Timberlake proclaimed in 2006. The year before, Beyoncé exulted in how hot she looked while dancing — “It’s blazin’, you watch me in amazement.” And Fergie, who boasted about her “humps” while singing with the Black Eyed Peas, subsequently released a solo album in which she told her lover that she needed quality time alone: “It’s personal, myself and I.”
Two of Dr. DeWall’s co-authors, W. Keith Campbell and Jean M. Twenge, published a book in 2009 titled “The Narcissism Epidemic,” which argued that narcissism is increasingly prevalent among young people — and possibly middle-aged people, too, although it’s hard for anyone to know because most of the available data comes from college students.
In a meta-analysis published last year in Social Psychological and Personality Science, Dr. Twenge and Joshua D. Foster looked at data from nearly 50,000 students — including the new data from critics — and concluded that narcissism has increased significantly in the past three decades.
During this period, there have also been reports of higher levels of loneliness and depression — which may be no coincidence, according to the authors of the song-lyrics study. These researchers, who include Richard S. Pond of the University of Kentucky, note that narcissism has been linked to heightened anger and problems maintaining relationships. Their song-lyrics analysis shows a decline in words related to social connections and positive emotions (like “love” or “sweet”) and an increase in words related to anger and antisocial behavior (like “hate” or “kill”).
“In the early ’80s lyrics, love was easy and positive, and about two people,” says Dr. Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University. “The recent songs are about what the individual wants, and how she or he has been disappointed or wronged.”
Some psychologists are skeptical that basic personality traits can change much from one generation to the next (or from one culture to another). Even if students are scoring higher on the narcissism questionnaire, these skeptics says, it may just be because today’s students are more willing to admit to feelings that were always there.
Dr. Twenge acknowledges that students today may feel more free to admit that they agree with statements on the questionnaire like “I am going to be a great person” and “I like to look at myself in the mirror.” But self-report bias probably isn’t the only reason for the changing answers, she says, and in any case this new willingness to brag is in itself an important cultural change.
The community organizing affiliate of the AFL-CIO is coordinating with state labor groups to hold monthly meetings of the unemployed in five U.S. cities, in hopes of connecting the jobless with helpful resources and involving them in local politics.
Hundreds of jobless Working America members (and non-members) have attended meetings in Portland, Ore.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Denver, Colo.; Pittsburgh, Pa. and Minneapolis, Minn., officials said. The meetings, which began in February, are part of a campaign called “America Wants to Work,” aimed at helping struggling workers at a time when public officials are more focused on slashing spending on social programs and taking away collective bargaining rights.
Working America’s 98,000 members in New Mexico, some 11,000 are unemployed. Working America is launching the New Mexico Wants to Work campaign in collaboration with the New Mexico Federation of Labor, the United Way of Central New Mexico, and the Central New Mexico Central Labor Council.
The America Wants to Work campaign is reminiscent of Working America’s effort last year to mobilize its unemployed members ahead of the midterm elections in November. Among the group’s 3 million members, half a million are jobless, according to a spokeswoman.
What started as one couple’s fight against gas drilling in their local park grew into a campaign to save more than 700,000 acres of Pennsylvania forest.
When Jen Slotterback found a well pad stake in a local park, she realized the forest would soon be taken over by a natural gas drilling—and the controversial process hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—unless she did something to stop it. Jen and her husband Jim had never organized a campaign before, and they only had 11 days before the vote on whether to allow fracking in the park. In that short amount of time and with the help of the Responsible Drilling Alliance (RDA), the Slotterbacks mobilized their community to save Rider Park. The board unanimously voted against the drilling.
Now the Slotterbacks and RDA are campaigning to save more than 700,000 acres of forest throughout Pennsylvania from fracking.
As they pooh-poohed the power of protest and political recall energy building across Wisconsin since Scott Walker pushed through his rollback of collective bargaining rights and introduced a far-right state budget proposal, Sykes belittled the idea that what was happening was a new civil rights movement.
Then I walked over to UWM for a rally, and I do not recall ever seeing in my 28 years in Milwaukee such a big and diverse crowd.
Blacks. Whites. Latinos. Oldsters. Students. Teachers. Women. Men.
You know what? It is a new civil rights movement – – based on workers’ rights to organize and students’ rights to an affordable education so they can find gainful employment and have the voice that Walker’s union-busting would deny them.
PETITION: Exxon reports $10.7 billion in profits and still gets subsidies? Tell Republicans: End Giveaways to Big Oil
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Racists are irrational and illogical in their attempts to justify their prejudices.
~ Sargent Shriver