Lend/Lease….Burning Braziers…and Mitt Romney

Good Evening

Mitt Romney met with some of Britain’s important politicians and leaders today…below you will find a video clip of his meeting with Tony Blair, former PM of Great Britain.

Ha, that was my attempt at a joke, it is a scene from It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World  .

Here is the dialogue from the scene:

J. Russell Finch: You want me to tell you something? As far as I’m concerned the whole British race is practically finished. If it hadn’t been for lend-lease. If we hadn’t have kept your whole country afloat by giving you billions that you never even said “Thank you” for, the whole phony outfit would be sunk right under the Atlantic years ago.
[Hawthorne screeches to a stop]
J. Russell Finch: What are you stopping for?
J. Algernon Hawthorne: Get out of this machine.
J. Russell Finch: Get out? You can’t…
J. Algernon Hawthorne: It’s my machine, I will do as I bloody well please. Out!
J. Russell Finch: I’m awfully sorry. I’ve been very edgy today and if I said anything about England, I apologize.
J. Algernon Hawthorne: Glad to hear you say so.

J. Algernon Hawthorne: I must say that if I had the grievous misfortune to be a citizen of this benighted country, I should be the most hesitant of offering any criticism whatever of any other.
J. Russell Finch: Wait a minute, are you knocking this country? Are you saying something against America?
J. Algernon Hawthorne: Against it? I should be positively astounded to hear anything that could be said FOR it. Why the whole bloody place is the most unspeakable matriarchy in the whole history of civilization! Look at yourself! The way your wife and her strumpet of a mother push you through the hoop! As far as I can see, American men have been totally emasculated- they’re like slaves! They die like flies from coronary thrombosis while their women sit under hairdryers eating chocolates & arranging for every 2nd Tuesday to be some sort of Mother’s Day! And this positively infantile preoccupation with bosoms. In all time in this wretched Godforsaken country, the one thing that has appalled me most of all this this prepostrous preoccupation with bosoms. Don’t you realize they have become the dominant theme in American culture: in literature, advertising and all fields of entertainment and everything. I’ll wager you anything you like that if American women stopped wearing brassieres, your whole national economy would collapse overnight.

No…but seriously, that scene up top is the way I would imagine that meeting would go.  I am going to stick with Romney for a bit more.  There is a new “flub” making the rounds, Romney calling Britain a Tiny Island…Mitt Romney Dismissed England As “Just A Small Island”

“England [sic] is just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn’t make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn’t been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler’s ambitions. Yet only two lifetimes ago, Britain ruled the largest and wealthiest empire in the history of humankind. Britain controlled a quarter of the earth’s land and a quarter of the earth’s population.”

What a minute…that part about Britain being lost to Hitler is sort of like what Milton Berle said up top.

And then there is this: Mitt Romney Issued Comically Bizarre Cartoon-Mitt-Romney Olympic Pins

Via: google.com

H/T to Boston Boomer via PDGray for those two links to Buzzfeed.

Romney is in London, personally insulting the Brits left and right...watch as Romney causes a stir in Britain

“It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out,” Romney told NBC News, and he called the late-developing concerns over security staffing “disconcerting”.

Romney, a former businessman and one-term governor who managed the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, is largely untested on the world’s political stage, and he hopes to assert himself in a tight and highly expensive presidential race with foreign visits that also include Israel and Poland.

He ended up putting British Prime Minister David Cameron at least briefly on the defensive.

In response to Romney’s remarks, Cameron said: “We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.”

Why doesn’t Romney just kick him in the balls, and tell Cameron he has ugly children…Hmmm, he is on his way to Poland next, wonder what sort of insults he will let fly there. Like BB says,

How much do you want to bet Romney will ask Lech Walesa how many poles it takes to screw in a lightbulb?

Meanwhile…his campaign is getting some criticism about how they are handling Obama’s recent speech about people getting help to start a business. Have you seen Romney’s answer to his campaign’s  Obama misquote about small businesses? Two local businessowners tapped by Romney to speak out on Obama have bios that contradict message

Two local business owners the Mitt Romney campaign tapped on Wednesday to speak out against President Barack Obamaand government interference couldn’t have been more contradictory choices to speak out on the topic.

The point of the 11 a.m. news conference was to stress that small business owners succeed because of their own grit and determination and don’t need government to do it. It’s part of a Romney campaign line of attack that’s trying to capitalize on comments Obama made in July 13 speech. Obama was talking about how even the most successful business owners didn’t do it completely alone, that they were helped by others, including those in government.

The Romney campaign is using a snippet of the speech to suggest that Obama is instead saying that government is solely responsible for the success of private business owners. That’s not so. Obama isn’t anywhere close to saying that. But in TV ads, that’s the point Romney is making.

And it appears to be working. The line of attack spread Wednesday to 24 events in swing states across the country, from Columbus, Oh., to Palm Beach and Raleigh, N.C. In Tampa, the campaign spotlighted Rebecca Smith, owner of the construction company A.D. Morgan Corp., and Lou Ramos, owner of Value Enterprise Solutions, an information technology company.

“None at all,” Ramos said, when asked what role government have fed into their success.

“I was asked the other day on whether I feel if government doesn’t support small business,” Smith said. “And I think the answer is resounding. Not only does (Obama) seem not to understand business, and he doesn’t seem to want to accord the business leadership with the credit of making the choice to lead and risk in starting a business, I would go one step further and say that our president seems to oppose the success of small business.”

One problem with having Ramos and Smith, both registered Republicans, as speakers on this topic: they both said they didn’t see the entire Obama speech that they find so personally insulting. Ramos said he later read the complete trancript, but couldn’t remember from where he got it. Smith acknowledged she saw only news reports of the speech, either on NBC or Fox News.

Are you ready for the second problem?

But the other, more puzzling problem the two have for this particular Romney message is that rather than wanting to get out of the way of big government, Smith and Ramos have embraced it and benefitted from it greatly.

Read the rest at the link above.

All these strange things coming from the Romney camp. What do you expect from someone who has, what Andrew Sullivan calls : The Persistent Oddness Of Mitt Romney

…something else he said in his “insult to England” interview:

I have to tell you. This is Ann’s sport. I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it, I will not be watching the event. I hope her horse does well.

WTF? If your spouse’s horse were in an Olympic contest, would you not even watch? This is either a fib, designed to insulate him from whatever minimal fallout there is from owning a dressage horse; or it’s true and he’s just unlike other human beings. I mean, Obama makes sure he sees his daughters’ high school sports games. But Romney won’t even watch his wife’s horse at the Olympics?

Wow, I think this remark is not a way to distance himself from the rich “sport.”  I believe the man does not give a shit…because it is not his horse, it is his wife’s horse. If something deals with a subject other than Mitt Romney, he does not have the compassion to be even slightly involved or interested with it.

I have plenty of links for you tonight, so let’s get on with it.

One of the latest Obama ad: ‘It’s a scary time to be a woman’ – No Shit! 

But as Susie Madrak points out, the Republicans will only “care” about women when it benefits their agenda : Gee, the GOP suddenly cares about women’s health

Glenn Greenwald hits on the Chick-fi-la “gay” problem: Rahm Emanuel’s dangerous free speech attack

And another asshole’s twitter is getting him in trouble…James Taranto: A-Hole!

I figured after a little time off I wouldn’t get so sick reading and writing about the twisted minds of the conservative/TeaCrack Party, but I was wrong. Twitter has really fueled their lunatic scribblings. Check this out.

John Cole:

James Taranto, the WSJ rightwing nutjob whose job is the Best of the Web feature, which invariably means reposting whatever Glenn Reynolds or the halfwits at NRO write every day:

assholeofthecentury.jpg

Credit: BalloonJuice

Nasty James Taranto tweet

He is, of course, referring to the reports that a number of men used their bodies to shield their loved ones during the Aurora massacre. Most of us thought of this as a noble and amazing sacrifice, but to the American Taliban, these may have been slutty slut sluts who use birth control (or even worse, vote for Democrats!) and make their own decisions, so whether or not they deserved to be saved is up to wingnut judgment.

I simply had to put that dickish tweet in this post…read the rest at the C&L link.

Of course,  Taranto is not the only ass making the Conservative Tea-Party scene…Nugent Doubles Down, Claims Aurora Shooter Could Have Done “More Damage” With Single Shot Rifle

And with all the talk of losing American Liberties, we have this commentary on Bloomberg and his soda ban.  In Bloomberg’s Healthy NYC, Still Afraid to Take (on) Sick Days

Connie posted this next link in the comments, but I think it is too cool not to be mentioned on the front page.

Dramatic Time-Lapse Videos Show Changes to Earth’s Surface Using 40 Years of Satellite Images

There are more videos at the link.

In other science news,  Ground-breaking windpipe-transplant child ‘doing well’

The first child to have pioneering surgery to rebuild his windpipe with his own stem cells is doing well and is back in school.

Ciaran Finn-Lynch, who is now 13, had the ground-breaking surgery at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital in 2010.

Using Ciaran’s own cells meant his immune system would not reject, and attack, the organ.

His surgeons said things were going well so far and that Ciaran could live the life of a normal teenager.

All you anti-stem cell research GOP nuts…stick that in your pipe and smoke it!

And lastly, this…h/t to Lawyers, Guns and Money.  ‘Secundus Defecated Here': What Ancient Graffiti Means Today

Easily the best thing I’ve seen on the internet in a while I found late last week while cruising around Tumblr. It was a link to Pompeiana.org, a website from some classics scholars interested in educating the public on Pompeii, which was destroyed in the first century by Mount Vesuvius. The whole site is interesting, if not a little dated aesthetically, but what I found most intriguing was the graffiti page.

Indeed, in an effort to more deeply understand Pompeii, researchers have delved not only into the city’s architecture and frescoes, but also all the graffiti to be found throughout its ancient walls. But before you go assuming the ancient Pompeiians vandalized with only the most brilliant bons mots—“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” everywhere, perhaps—I suggest reading exactly what the excavators have dug up. Here, a list of some of my favorites:

  • Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men’s behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!
  • Restituta, take off your tunic, please, and show us your hairy privates.
  • I screwed the barmaid.
  • Apollinaris, the doctor of the emperor Titus, defecated well here.
  • I screwed a lot of girls here.
  • Sollemnes, you screw well!

If you’d like to read all the graffiti (and I recommend you do), you can do so here. But you needn’t read it all to see one thing very clearly: Despite whatever beliefs you may have about the dignity of the Roman Empire, a whole host of Romans, it seems, were foul-mouthed, hyper-sexual, and frequently prone to sophomoric humor. The Pompeiians were a smart people, of course, and they built a beautiful city well ahead of its time. But it turns out that they were also kind of juvenile. Go figure.

I love it!

Personally, I think the insults are the best:

VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1816: Epaphra, you are bald!

VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1826: Phileros is a eunuch!

VIII.2 (in the basilica); 1820: Chie, I hope your hemorrhoids rub together so much that they hurt worse than when they every have before!

Surprised there is no quote that says, “I fart in your general direction.”

Well, that is it for tonight’s evening reads. What is going on in your world tonight?


Romney is at it again…

This time he is sticking his bully nose into the issue of Syria…

Romney Condemns Obama’s Syria Policy – NYTimes.com

Syria over the weekend has presented Mitt Romney with a new opportunity to sound a familiar theme: that President Obama’s foreign policy is feckless and lacking in courage.

Mr. Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, condemned Mr. Obama on Tuesday for a “policy of paralysis” toward Syria that he said had allowed President Bashar al-Assad to “slaughter 10,000 individuals.”

But Mr. Romney’s own prescriptions for ending the mounting death toll in Syria have been less definitive than his denunciations of the president.

No kidding…

He called for the United States to “work with partners to organize and arm Syrian opposition groups so they can defend themselves” — a policy that goes somewhat further than Mr. Obama’s but falls short of the airstrikes advocated by Republicans like Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

The White House has rejected arming rebel groups, saying it does not know enough about them and does not want to “further militarize the situation.” But the question of whether to arm the Syrian opposition has also split Republicans.

Such caution, from both the incumbent and the challenger, reflects the complexities of the Syrian uprising as well as the recognition that Americans have little appetite for another large-scale military engagement.

Even human rights groups are not demanding intervention.

“No human rights organization wants to criticize the administration for failing to do something we haven’t yet asked them to do,” said Tom Malinowski, the head of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch. “We see more complexity and risk in Syria because of the sectarian dimension and the weakness of the opposition.”

In situations like this, it seems like Romney should keep his big mouth shut…Maybe I am wrong?

This is an open thread, I had a sick kid tonight so I am running behind…


The Bane of Bain

I have to write about this.  The recent media hoopla surrounding Cory Booker’s comments about Bain Capital just put me over the top.  I guess it’s just an occupational hazard with me. I teach this stuff. I study this stuff. I know the difference between venture capital, capital angels, and corporate raiders.  I’m wondering how many politicians actually grok this.  Oddly enough, Romney’s Republican primary rivals knew the difference before they were forced to tow the Romney line.  I did watch Newt Gingrich last night on Piers Morgan (only because Lama was here and it was on)  and he doesn’t seem to be able to fully embrace the Bain Mission.The best Gingrich could say was it was a better job than any thing Obama has done. He said something obligatory about Obama raiding the tax payer’s funds.   Gingrich still knows what Romney did is not from the positive ledger side of equity capital firms.

Venture capitalists are wonders to be hold and represent the best of the best.  These guys take on tremendous amounts of risk and usually bring a lot of business acumen to a start up firm.  Frequently, start up firms are high tech and ran by nerdy scientists who are great in labs and on computers.  They known nothing of financing, bringing products to market, or monetizing an investment.  This is a true partnership of great minds and money.  This is not what Mitt Romney did when he was CEO of Bain Capital.  Romney’s firm could’ve been a contender in the angel category except that’s not what he did either.  Warren Buffet has been an angel investor many times. Romney’s firm basically ran like a pack of hyenas to a company that was struggling and used the law to extract its life force.

Ralph B reminded me of several articles that have been out there written by financial economist wonks like me explaining why Romney never got a hero’s welcome in the past and should not get a pass right now.  Putting corporate raiders into the same pile as the rest of equity capital firms is like saying cancer is just basically another cell that exists in your body.

Here’s three excellent points by Konczal on why Romney isn’t an angel or a venture capital hero.  Romney’s firm played the sociopathological side of the equity capital game. They were serial killers.

1. Tax/regulatory loopholes. I did an interview with Josh Kosman, author of The Buyout of America, where he argued that the whole point of the enterprise is to game tax law loopholes. Private equity “saw that you could buy a company through a leveraged buyout and radically reduce its tax rate. The company then could use those savings to pay off the increase in its debt loads. For every dollar that the company paid off in debt, your equity value rises by that same dollar, as long as the value of the company remains the same.”

A recent paper from the University of Chicago looking at private equity found that “a reasonable estimate of the value of lower taxes due to increased leverage for the 1980s might be 10 to 20 percent of firm value,” which is value that comes from taxpayers to private equity as a result of the tax code.

That’s one thing in an industry with large and predictable cash flows. But after those low-hanging fruits were picked, as Kosman explained, “firms are taken over in very volatile industries. And they are taking on debts where they have to pay 15 times their cash flow over seven years — they are way over-levered.”

This critique has power as far as it goes. But let’s combine it with another issue.

2. Risk-shifting among parts of the firm. Traditional “creative destruction” is about putting rivals out of business with better products and techniques. Leveraged buyouts and private equity are about something different, something that exists within a single firm. This is often described as putting new techniques into place, firing people and divisions that are not performing, and generally making the firm more efficient.

The critique here is that, instead of making the firm more efficient, it often simply shifts the risks into different places. As Peter Róna, head of the IBJ Schroder Bank & Trust in New York, described it in 1989:

The very foundation of the LBO is the current actual distribution of hypothetical future cash flows. If the hypothesis (including the author’s net present value discounted at the relevant cost of capital) tums out to be wrong, the shareholders have the cash and everyone else is left with a carcass. “Creating shareholder value” and “unlocking billions” consists of shifting the risk of future uncertainty to others, namely, the corporation and its current creditors, customers, and employees…

The notion that underleveraging a corporation can cause problems is neither new nor unfounded. What is new is the assertion that shareholders shouid set the proper leverage because, motivated by maximizing the return on their investment, they will ensure efficiency of all factors of production. This hypothesis requires much more rigorous proof than Jensen’s episodic arguments… although Jensen denies it, the maximization of shareholder returns must take place, at least in part, at someone else’s expense.

Shareholders gain, but at the expense of other stakeholders in the firm. This isn’t the normal winner/loser dynamic, where some suffer in the short-term to do what’s best for the long-term. Here the long-term suffers to create short-term winners. Once again, this issue becomes problematic when combined with another critique.

3. Dividend looting. The theory behind private equity, as Róna caught above, is that it requires shareholders to be the proper and most efficient group to set the leverage ratio. But what if, instead of setting leverage for the long term to make the firm more efficient, shareholders simply use additional debt to pay themselves, regardless of the health of the firm? As Josh Kosman put it:

If you look at the dividends stuff that private equity firms do, and Bain is one of the worst offenders, if you increase the short-term earnings of a company you then use those new earnings to borrow more money. That money goes right back to the private equity firm in dividends, making it quite a quick profit. More importantly, most companies can’t handle that debt load twice. Just as they are in a position to reduce debt, they are getting hit with maximum leverage again. It’s very hard for companies to take that hit twice…

The initial private equity model was that you would make money by reselling your company or taking it public, not by levering it a second time…Right after this goes on for a few years, you’ve starved your firm of human and operating capital. Five years later, when the private equity leaves, the company will collapse — you can’t starve a company for that long. This is what the history of private equity shows.

The biggest difficulty I have with all this political back and forth is that Republicans and Democrats will take money from Wall Street as political donations without really looking at the individual or the firm.  Some private equity firms are value-added.  Others basically remove value from the US economy. Romney falls into the looter baron role.  However, Booker and Obama have both taken political donations from all breeds of these guys. So, they may not have closed down the companies or bootstrapped Yahoo, but they’ve been in on the spoils.

Again, let’s look at what some of Romney’s Republican rivals said.

1. “The idea that you’ve got private equity companies that come in and take companies apart so they can make profits and have people lose their jobs, that’s not what the Republican Party’s about.” — Rick Perry [New York Times, 1/12/12]

2. “The Bain model is to go in at a very low price, borrow an immense amount of money, pay Bain an immense amount of money and leave. I’ll let you decide if that’s really good capitalism. I think that’s exploitation.” — Newt Gingrich [New York Times, 1/17/12]

3. “Instead of trying to work with them to try to find a way to keep the jobs and to get them back on their feet, it’s all about how much money can we make, how quick can we make it, and then get out of town and find the next carcass to feed upon” — Rick Perry [National Journal, 1/10/12]

4. “We find it pretty hard to justify rich people figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company, leaving behind 1,700 families without a job.” — Newt Gingrich [Globe and Mail, 1/9/12]

5. “Now, I have no doubt Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips — whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out because his company, Bain Capital, of all the jobs that they killed” — Rick Perry [New York Times, 1/9/12]

Even the media doesn’t know a damn thing about the variants of equity capital firms. ABC appears to be joining FOX news in spreading stupid tropes and canards.

Private-equity firms aren’t supposed to create jobs; they’re supposed to make money for their investors, which to a large extent include pension funds and university endowments. The companies in which they invest are sometimes on the brink of failure to begin with, and are likely to go bankrupt without outside help. These risky investments often include making decisions like cutting costs and jobs.

But in the little-understood world of private equity, Obama has seized upon a basic formula — Romney and Bain plus companies equals some lost jobs and millions for Romney — to argue that he’s unfit for the Oval Office.

Defending the Bain ad, Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said the campaign isn’t “questioning the purpose of the private-equity business as a whole.”

“Why did Romney and his partners succeed even if the company failed?” LaBolt asked rhetorically on a conference call.

Probably because private-equity firms don’t necessarily rise and fall with the companies in which they invest. Finance experts explained that faced with a decision over bankruptcy, those firms are obligated to protect their investors, not the workers at the company. Pumping more money into a company that has shown signs of failure isn’t as smart a move business-wise as cutting losses to save investors money.

Actually, angels and venture capitalists do exactly all of that and make money if they do it right.   The above description is just whacked. I’d drum a student out of my corporate finance class that tried to offer this up.  But, the media can print just about any old thing it wants to and get away with it.  Most private equity firms are NOT corporate raiders. There are even funds that do project financing that help Governments build things like dams, highways and universities.  Gordan Gecko’s way of business is not the life blood of the private equity market.  They can provide seed money, start-up money, expansion and development money and a lot of money that isn’t based on gutting existing businesses. Some specialize in transfers of power from a sole owner who is retiring to a new group of owners.  Most don’t drain the firms of capital when they leave either.  Romney was a pirate not some kind of private enterprise swashbuckler.

Enuf said.

Okay, so that’s my lecture\rant for the day.  I’m going back to grading papers now.  That is all.


Why is Romney the Almost-Human?

Everybody — well, me, and Charles Pierce, and bostonboomer, and well, everybody — sees him as a stiff awkward robot with less charm than a Roomba.
Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner with lights on. Photo: benfulton, cc on flickr

Yes, that’s at least partly because he’s a rich guy who has to mix with the rubes on nothing stronger than caffeine-free Coke. And it’s partly because he’s been lying for votes for so long, it takes more and more time to get the right lies out of storage. A Roomba doesn’t have to do either of those things.

But, really, are those issues unusual for a politician? They all have to campaign among the manyheaded and sanitize their hands every few minutes. They all lie like tombstones, and we know it. So what is it with Romney? Why are the other politicians just doing what politicians do, but Romney gets called a robot?

I’m beginning to think that maybe it’s because he’s so bad at lying. It’s written all over his face that he doesn’t believe any of the drivel himself, that he’s reading his speeches to the proletariat because that’s what you have to do, that he’s going through the motions.

He’s such a bad liar, we can see him doing it. But truth-telling is so far off the table it’s in the Marianas Trench somewhere. That means we have to examine the only alternative. Good liars.

In the RE (Rove Era), elections are about piling on the most stimulating lies. For three and a half years we’ve had someone doing pretty much the diametric opposite of everything he campaigned on, and when he goes out campaigning now … people still believe him when he says the next four years will be different. He’s one of the best liars in all history.

It’s like a choice between being swindled out of your money or your house. Both alternatives are repulsive, but with a bad liar, we might be on our guard and actually get ripped off less. With a sweet-talking bamboozler, in Vastleft’s inimitable words, half the country accepts it while the other half demands even worse.

Crossposted from Acid Test


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

Lots of things don’t surprise me these days.  That would include the news that Clinton and Obama were more fiscally conservative than either of the Bush presidents or Ronald Reagan or Nixon or Ford.  For that matter, Carter came in third. Once again, evidence shows that Republican memes are lies.  Here’s a list of possible excuses for the Republican binges.

Let me anticipate some of your objections before you make them. (1) Reagan was fighting a war, he jacked up defense spending instead of discretionary spending, and he inherited a recession with inflation that might, well, inflate his numbers. This is all true, but expanding defense was Reagan’s choice, and a dollar spent, on no matter what, is a dollar taxed or borrowed. (2) Bush was fighting a war and battling a recession, too. Yes, but he had neither inflation nor a Great Recession. (3) Don’t play relativity games with me…too much government spending is too much government spending, even if Obama’s predecessors were worse! There is a time for government cuts, but it’s not when you have 9 percent unemployment and your interest rates are below 2%. (4) The language of Obamacare and financial reform are better indicators of big government than federal spending. It’s fair to measure government size by its total involvement in people’s lives, but that deserves a longer post. (5) We should be more concerned about the taxes and spending to come than the spending that has past. But they haven’t happened yet, so they’re not part of the president’s record.

Economix shows us how the recession has decreased the number of people that have health insurance. Some have lost coverage due to job loss. Some have lost insurance because their employers have scaled down benefits.

The share of children and working-age adults who had insurance through an employer fell 10 percentage points during the last recession, according to a study released on Thursday by the Center for Studying Health System Change, a nonpartisan research group in Washington.

From 2007 to 2010, the share of children and working-age adults with employer-sponsored coverage fell  to 53.5 percent from 63.6 percent, according to the study.

The major contributor to the decline was the loss of employment during the downturn, with almost a third of the people younger than 65 living in a family where no one was working, according to the study. The study is based on the center’s 2007 and 2010 Health Tracking Household Surveys.

The surge in unemployment, coupled with the steady deterioration of the number of employers offering coverage and the number of workers signing up for insurance, is causing a “steady erosion” in employer-based coverage, said Chapin White, a senior researcher at the center who is an author of the study.

I wrote a post on Saturday on how  the Obama administration seems to have back pedaled on its birth control coverage mandate for all but strict religious organizations.  It appears that by providing self-insurance, organizations can avoid having private insurers providing the benefit for them.  This would mean many schools, universities and hospitals–large employers of women–could avoid the mandate to provide women’s preventative health care.

Taking a conciliatory tone and asking for a wide range of public comment, the Obama administration announced this afternoon new accommodations on a controversial mandate requiring contraceptive coverage in health care plans.

Coming after a month of continued opposition from the U.S. bishops to the mandate, which was first revised in early February to exempt certain religious organizations, today’s announced changes from the Department of Health and Human Services make a number of concessions, including allowing religious organizations that self-insure to be made exempt.

It appears that the Administration has no problem with religious institutions discriminating against women or persons that don’t hold their specific views.

Romney’s won the Puerto Rican primaries.  While the delegates are apportioned, Romney’s margin of victory will still give him the entire delegation.

Mitt Romney will win Sunday’s Republican presidential primary in Puerto Rico, CNN projects, based on vote results obtained from local party and election officials.

At 8:35 p.m. ET, with about 23% of total ballots accounted for, the former Massachusetts governor had a substantial lead with more than 25,000 votes — or 83% of the vote.

Rick Santorum was a distant second, at 8% with slightly more than 2,500 votes.

The other two candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, were further behind with 2% and 1% of the vote, respectively.

Speaking at a rally Sunday night in Vernon Hills, Illinois, Romney said that Puerto Rican voters were clear about which of the four candidates “most represent their feelings” — and especially their desire to nominate someone who can bring about a stronger economy and smaller government. He said his party can appeal to Latinos, and win the presidency, with a low-tax, pro-business message.

I’ve been watching this story unfold with absolute horror.  This one has the feel of something that will make the wind change.  Seventeen year old Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch “captain” with a police fantasy and a racist mindset.  The more you hear about his killer, the more it will make you wonder about who lives in your neighborhood.

On February 26, 2012, a 17-year-old African-American named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida. The shooter was George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old white man. Zimmerman admits killing Martin, but claims he was acting in self-defense. Three weeks after Martin’s death, no arrests have been made and Zimmerman remains free.

Here is what everyone should know about the case:

1. Zimmerman called the police to report Martin’s “suspicious” behavior, which he described as “just walking around looking about.” Zimmerman was in his car when he saw Martin walking on the street. He called the police and said: “There’s a real suspicious guy. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about… These a**holes always get away” [Orlando Sentinel]

2. Zimmerman pursued Martin against the explicit instructions of the police dispatcher:

Dispatcher: “Are you following him?”
Zimmerman: “Yeah”
Dispatcher: “OK, we don’t need you to do that.”

[Orlando Sentinel]

3. Prior to the release of the 911 tapes, Zimmerman’s father released a statement claiming “[a]t no time did George follow or confront Mr. Martin.” [Sun Sentinel]

4. Zimmerman was carrying a a 9 millimeter handgun. Martin was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. [ABC News]

5. Martin weighed 140 pounds. Zimmerman weighs 250 pounds. [Orlando Sentinel; WDBO]

6. Martin’s English teacher described him as “as an A and B student who majored in cheerfulness.” [Orlando Sentinel]

7. Martin had no criminal record. [New York Times]

8. Zimmerman “was charged in July 2005 with resisting arrest with violence and battery on an officer. The charges appear to have been dropped.” [Huffington Post]

9. Zimmerman called the police 46 times since Jan. 1, 2011. [Miami Herald]

10. According to neighbors, Zimmerman was “fixated on crime and focused on young, black males.” [Miami Herald]

11. Zimmerman “had been the subject of complaints by neighbors in his gated community for aggressive tactics” [Huffington Post]

12. A police officer “corrected” a key witness. “The officer told the witness, a long-time teacher, it was Zimmerman who cried for help, said the witness. ABC News has spoken to the teacher and she confirmed that the officer corrected her when she said she heard the teenager shout for help.” [ABC News]

13. Three witnesses say they heard a boy cry for help before a shot was fired. “Three witnesses contacted by The Miami Herald say they saw or heard the moments before and after the Miami Gardens teenager’s killing. All three said they heard the last howl for help from a despondent boy.” [Miami Herald]

14. The officer in charge of the crime scene also received criticism in 2010 when he initially failed to arrest a lieutenant’s son who was videotaped attacking a homeless black man. [New York Times]

15. The police did not test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol. A law enforcement expert told ABC that Zimmerman sounds intoxicated on the 911 tapes. Drug and alcohol testing is “standard procedure in most homicide investigations.” [ABC News]

The police down here in New Orleans are considered to be so out of control that the DOJ may be taking over operations shortly.  We also have had several suspicious shootings down here recently. 

New Orleans police officials confirmed Thursday that the 20-year-old man who was fatally shot by a plain-clothed narcotics officer during a drug raid at a Gentilly house a day earlier was unarmed. New Orleans police officer Joshua Colclough, 28, fired a single shot Wednesday evening that killed Wendell Allen, 20. Police officials were guarded in their comments about the shooting Thursday, citing the ongoing investigation.

“We have not been able to yet completely understand what exactly occurred,” Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said Thursday.

The shooting took place inside a red-brick, two-story home at 2651 Prentiss Ave. in Gentilly. Officers were executing a search warrant at the home following a days-old probe of marijuana dealing. Serpas said officers later found drug paraphernalia and 138 grams of marijuana — about four and a half ounces — inside the residence.

It was the second fatal shooting of a suspect by police within a week in the NOPD’s 3rd District, a relatively sleepy swath of residential neighborhoods that stretch from Lakeview through Gentilly. In last week’s incident, in Mid-City, two officers were badly injured in a gunfight before the alleged gunman, 20-year-old Justin Sipp, was killed by police gunfire.

Here’s another horrifying story from NY.

A trans woman says that when she was arrested for a minor subway violation, NYPD officers belittled her, called her names, asked about her genitals — and kept her chained to a fence for 28 hours. Now she’s suing. And it turns out she’s far from alone.

In her lawsuit, Temmie Breslauer says she was arrested on January 12 in a subway station for illegally using her dad’s discount fare card (only seniors and people with disabilities can get these). She says the arresting officers — the suit names one, Officer Shah — laughed at her. When they took her to the station, a desk sergeant asked her “whether she had a penis or a vagina.” Breslauer explained that she was in transition. Then, instead of putting her with female inmates or in her own room, the department allegedly chose this course of action:

[S]he was fingerprinted, seated on a bench, then painfully chained to a fence wherein, for no apparent reason, her arm was lifted over her head and attached to the fence to make it appear that she was raising her hand in the classroom. She sat there in that position for 28 hours.

She also says officers not only refused to call her “she,” they instead referred to her as “He-She”, “Faggot,” and “Lady GaGa,” and asked her “So you like to suck dick? Or what?” Meanwhile, people arrested for the same minor crime (misdemeanor “theft of services”) she was were calmly processed and allowed to leave. Finally, she was able to go before a judge, who gave her two days of community service. She says the whole ordeal aggravated her existing PTSD and left her sleepless and suicidal.

Makes you wonder what ever happened to honest, decent people, doesn’t it?

So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?