Thursday, May 24, 2012

Two shocking and sad commentaries on life today

1.   In the 11 years of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, more U. S. military veterans have committed suicide than have died in combat.

2.   The financially strapped New Orleans Times-Picayune, will cease daily publication.   This venerable newspaper can't make it today, and thus a major U. S. city will have no daily newspaper.


FoxNews makes you dumb . . . again

Several months back, I reported a study that showed the those whose only source of news is FoxNews are less well informed than those who don't watch any news source at all.

The subjects of the study were all residents of New Jersey.  Now Fairleigh-Dickenson University has repeated that limited study with a nationwide sample -- with similar results.

Those who listen only to NPR have the highest scores on questions about domestic news.    Those who listen only to FoxNews have the lowest -- and the are lower than those who watch/listen to no news at all.

Of course, this arouses my statistics-indignation.   Is this cause or effect?   That is, do they know less because they get wrong information from FoxNews?   Or do people who watch FoxNews tend to be dumber than people who watch NPR?

My guess:   both contribute.   The two media outlets appeal to such different types -- and, without evidence to prove it, I'm reasonably confident that you would find NPR audiences generally a good bit smarter -- or at least caring more about evidence, logic, etc -- than FoxNews audiences.    But, if you're constantly fed misinformation and biased views that often ignore the facts, then it's going to show up in how you score on a test about the news.   So it's probably some of both:  skewed audiences plus misinformation.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Keystone pipeline would DECREASE gasoline production

Republicans have been trying to score political points against Obama for not approving the Keystone XL pipeline construction, even though it could have caused serious environmental harm.   They claim the pipeline would increase domestic production and thus reduce the price at gasoline pumps, and they hoped that it would seem self-evident to the average voter:   more gasoline produced in the U.S. = lower prices.    A variation on "Drill, baby, drill."   Plus making us less dependent on "foreign" oil (Canada is a friend, after all, even if "foreign.")

That outcome was not true, even on the face of it, given that the fluctuating price of gasoline is primarily the result of crude oil prices on the global markets, and the president has virtually no control over that.   Further, Keystone would not in itself increase production of gasoline for domestic use;  whatever it produced would simply go onto the world markets and be absorbed.

Now comes a study released by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which in fact contradicts the Republicans' (bogus) claims:   The Keystone XL pipeline would actually decrease gasoline production in the U.S.   In fact, when TransCanada first proposed the pipeline, their selling pitch was that it would drive up U. S. prices and hence give Canadians more revenue for their crude oil.

But of course reality matters little to Republicans who see a possible political point to score against Obama;  after all, what does a little lying matter when the future of capitalism depends on defeating him in November?

Here's how the NRDC says this would work:

Currently, crude oil from Canada goes to refineries in the U. S. Midwest, which are designed to produce as much gasoline as possible from the crude oil.   With the Keystone XL pipeline diverting much of that crude oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast, the U. S. production of gasoline would actually decrease, because Texas Gulf refineries are designed to produce as much diesel fuel as possible.

Thus, there would be an overall decline in gasoline production and an increase in diesel production by U. S. refineries.

Republicans are dead set on forcing the pipeline approval.  Obama has said he will veto the bill.  Look for this study to be smeared in some way by special interest money.  If NRDC is to be believed, might it make a difference?   Or is the lobbying money just too enticing to let actual facts come into the picture?


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

And the Republicans fire back

It's going to be a long, hot summer.

Obama has fired his economic opening shots at Romney for what might be called "destructive capitalism," although Obama didn't use that term.  I just made it up.  Others have called it "vulture capitalism."

Anyway, Republicans are fighting back -- with some pretty heavy ammunition.

They called Obama a socialist all through the GOP primary season.  Now Roger Ailes, creator and head of Fox News, says that Jon Stewart "admitted to me" once, over drinks in a bar, that he (Stewart) is a socialist.  So there we have the war between the news moguls  (no small coincidence that Fox News is a favorite target of Stewart's biting satire).

Now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is getting into the act of bitchiness.  In a Capitol Hill press conference today, the embalmed one told reporters:
President Obama is attacking capitalism. 
And he went on:
I do think that it's interesting to note that the whole notion of our success and of capitalism seems to be under attack by this administration across the board, not just in the campaign, but through the actions of the government itself. . . . I think the view of this administration is that if you're making a profit you must be up to no good. You must be either mistreating your employees or cheating your customers or both.

This is certainly the most anti-business administration since the Carter years.  At least you can say this for President Carter: He was largely incompetent. This administration has actually done a lot of damage. 

Ouch !!!   Well, I guess if you have no economic solution to offer, you fall back on being bitchy.

So the right-wing message mavens have decided that the coordinated lede for the week is to be "Democrats are waging war against Capitalism."   "Waging war on religion" a few weeks back didn't have much traction -- except in the Kool Aid crowd, who will oppose Obama, no matter what is said by anyone.    It's also an attempt to take the spotlight away from their own "war against women."


Honing the message

Despite all the distractions (gay marriage, abortion, birth control, "war on women," "war on religion"), this election will ultimately be decided primarily by economic factors and, hopefully, by a thoughtful debate about the role of government.

Obama's message is getting honed to a sharper pitch.   Starting with a broadside attack on Romney's touted performance at Bain Capital, Obama is now finding the answer to Romney's rejoinder about being proud to have been successful.

Here's what Obama said yesterday: 
If your main argument for how to grow the economy is `I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,' then you're missing what this job is about. . . .  It doesn't mean you weren't good at private equity, but that's not what my job is as president. My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. My job is to make sure that the country is growing not just now, but 10 years from now and 20 years from now.
This should be the key message.   Democrats accuse Romney of destroying jobs and putting people out of work in the companies he closed;   Republicans respond saying Romney created 100,000 jobs with companies he made successful.   Tit for tat, and the voters get lost.

Elsewhere yesterday Obama also talked about the job of a CEO being to make as much money for the company as possible;  but that's not the job of the president of the U. S.   It's to make sure opportunities and help are available to all people, not just a few.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Romney's opposition to marriage equality

Nathaniel Frank, PhD, author of Unfriendly  Fire:   How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America, writes on his blog about Obama's 'coming out' for marriage equality and about Mitt Romney's contrasting backwardness:

Even if you suspect that Obama's pro-gay announcement this week is an effort to distract voters from the struggling economy, something critical has changed: LGBT issues are now being used as a wedge in our favor, not against us. Finally! . . .
Romney reacted to Obama's evolution by digging in his heels.  He said that states are free to bar a gay man from entering a hospital to sit by the bed of his dying partner of 50 years. . . .  [Obama's] reluctance was always about the word "marriage" and was never so extreme as to allow this sort of rank cruelty -- the height of immorality.
Romney has said he even opposes civil unions "if they're identical to marriage other than by name."    Frank points out that:
. . .  Romney admits that what matters to him is giving gay people fewer rights than straight people. Holding onto the "m" word is not enough for Romney types; they need to feel superior. Romney's position can be based on no other principle than casting gay people as lesser. . . . 
Consider the episode of the prep school Romney "policing" his classmates' conformity in hair style by pinning down a frightened and tearful boy and cutting off his long, bleached hair, after yelling to his accomplices, "He can't look like that. That's wrong.  Just look at him!"

As he now apologizes for "going too far," Romney insists that he had no idea at the time that the boy might be gay.
That is, he bullied the boy not because he knew him to be gay, but because he looked nonconformist, specifically gender-nonconforming.

In other words, his practice was to police norms for no other reason than to police norms. And here's why that's important: Romney's only stated reason for opposing LGBT equality . . .  is that heterosexuality is a longstanding norm. As he said in a primary debate, "Three thousand years of human history shouldn't be discarded so quickly."

So Romney would uphold discrimination and unequal treatment of gays and lesbians for no better reason than "it's always been this way."   As Frank says:
"Tell that to the opponents of 
slavery, stoning, and segregation."

That's powerful stuff.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

The whole story in a bomb-shell

It's not the first time, so it's really no surprise.   But wouldn't you think the Republicans would be a little more nuanced, a tad more circumspect, in such a parlous time of budgetary woes?

This is about the defense budget that the House Republican majority passed.  It includes spending some $4 billion more than the White House and Pentagon requested.   All are either for political reasons (to appear tough on defense) or as earmark favors to the defense industry.

Mind you, these extra expenditures are for things the Pentagon says it does not need, like an East Coast missile defense system, certain fighter jets, and putting the brakes on reducing the size of our forces.

At the same time, the same Republican budget makers are slashing domestic funds that are vital to needy people's survival -- like food assistance, Social Security benefits, and Medicare/Medicaid funds.

The election battle lines are being drawn, and I would not want to be on the Republican side.   Look at their priorities -- unnecessary spending to benefit a few who don't need it by cutting government services to those who do.

This should be our bumper stickers for 2012:
Republicans rob the poor to benefit the rich.
That should be the line we hammer and hammer, just the way they would do if things were reversed.