Friday Morning Reads

Good Morning!

Sandra Fluke gave a wonderful speech to the DNC on Wednesday. The young woman rose to prominence after being denied an opportunity to be the only women speaking to a Issa congressional panel on the coverage of birth control in all insurance programs.  She was savagely attacked by the right wing press then and now.  Here are some horrible tweets that show exactly how awful women in the spotlight are treated by the right.

Let’s get one thing straight first: Contrary to what Limbaugh said, just because a woman wants to have easier access to contraceptives does not make her a slut or a prostitute.

But in order to promote a radical agenda that would deny women access to something so basic as birth control, conservatives took to Twitter after Fluke’s speech to, once again, repeat the disgusting falsehood that she wants the government to “pay” for her social life and to bash her for “whining” about it on a national stage.

Here’s a sampling of tweets that Think Progress spotted:

Sandra Fluke: I am woman, hear me whine.

— Todd Kincannon (@ToddKincannon) September 6, 2012

Shorter @sandrafluke #DNC speech: Me me me me me me. Free free free free B(irth) C(ontrol).Eeeeevil GOP.

— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) September 6, 2012

Don’t lecture conservative women about empowerment while demanding that we pay for what goes on in your bedroom #DNC2012

— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) September 6, 2012

I wonder if she has “Birth Control Martyr” business cards.

— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) September 6, 2012

I hope someone was passing out free condoms tonight, otherwise Sandra Fluke might be in trouble tomorrow.

— Michael Berry (@MichaelBerrySho) September 5, 2012

Sandra wants taxpayers to pay for her tanning appointments.

— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) September 6, 2012

So, there’s a new “fish” story from Paul Ryan out and about the web.  First, we heard that Ryan lied about his marathon running feats.  Now, we’re hearing a story about Mountain Climbing.  Lies seem to come easy to Romney and Ryan, as BB pointed out.  This one is really interesting.  How many fourteeners has Ryan really climbed?

Craig Gilbert, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, wrote the original story, back in 2009, about Ryan’s mountain-climbing record. He has now written an update and amplification of exactly what Ryan told him then. Here are relevant parts from the original interview:

Ryan: “My mom was very outdoorsy …  We spent our summers doing backpacking trips in the (Colorado) back-country, you know, Snowmass Lake, Capital Peak, spent all our summers doing that …  went all over White River National Forest, just the whole Elk range. I mean I’ve climbed every fourteener in that range and the three around there … So I got into climbing fourteeners when I was 12, with my brother, Stan. My mom got us into that.”
Question: “How many fourteeners have you climbed? Or how many times?”

Ryan: “38. I think that’s my last count.”

Question: “Those are just climbing peaks that are 14,000 feet?”

Ryan: “I’ve done it 38 times. … I’ve done 38, but I think the number of unique peaks is something like twenty… no, no it’s like thirty or something like that. I counted it up a year or two ago.”

Question: “Most of those in Colorado?”

Ryan: “All of them are in Colorado. So I think I’ve climbed like 28 (peaks), and I’ve done it 38 times, because I’ve done a number of them a few times. So I was, you know, kind of into that stuff.”

So, now folks that are real fourteeners are weighing in on the possibility of that actually being true. According to folks that know what they are doing, it’s likely another Ryan Whopper. So, is Ryan a serial peddler of fish stories or has all that reading of Ayn Rand prevented him from processing reality?

I loved Jared Bernstein’s post on yoyo economics and politics.  It’s a theme that both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton spoke about at the DNC.  The idea of YOYO (your’re on your own) vs. We’re in This all Together is a good way to put the election this year.

Protecting the rights of individuals has always been a core American value. Yet in recent years the emphasis on individualism has been pushed to the point where, like the diners in hell, we’re starving. This political and social philosophy is hurting our nation, endangering our future and that of our children, and, paradoxically, making it harder for individuals to get a fair shot at the American dream.

This extreme individualism dominates the way we talk about the most important aspects of our economic lives, those that reside in the intersection of our living standards, our government, and the future opportunities for ourselves and our children. The message, sometimes implicit but often explicit, is, You’re on your own. Its acronym, YOYO, provides a useful shorthand to summarize this destructive approach to governing.

The concept of YOYO, as used in this book, isn’t all that complicated. It’s the prevailing vision of how our country should be governed. As such, it embodies a set of values, and at the core of the YOYO value system is hyper-individualism: the notion that whatever the challenges we face as a nation, the best way to solve them is for people to fend for themselves. Over the past few decades, this harmful vision has generated a set of policies with that hyper-individualistic gene throughout their DNA.

The YOYO crowd—the politicians, lobbyists, and economists actively promoting this vision—has stepped up its efforts to advance its policies in recent years, but hyper-individualism is not a new phenomenon. Chapter 1 documents archaeological evidence of YOYO thinking and policies from the early 1900s, along with their fingerprint: a sharp increase in the inequality of income, wealth, and opportunity. The most recent incarnation can be found in the ideas generated by the administration of George W. Bush, but the YOYO infrastructure—the personnel with a vested interest in the continued dominance of these policies—will not leave the building with Bush. Unless, that is, we recognize the damage being done and make some major changes.

One central goal of the YOYO movement is to continue and even accelerate the trend toward shifting economic risks from the government and the nation’s corporations onto individuals and their families. You can see this intention beneath the surface of almost every recent conservative initiative: Social Security privatization, personal accounts for health care (the so-called Health Savings Accounts), attacks on labor market regulations, and the perpetual crusade to slash the government’s revenue through regressive tax cuts—a strategy explicitly tagged as “starving the beast”—and block the government from playing a useful role in our economic lives. You can even see this go-it-alone principle in our stance toward our supposed international allies.

While this fast-moving reassignment of economic risk would be bad news in any period, it’s particularly harmful today. As the new century unfolds, we face prodigious economic challenges, many of which have helped to generate both greater inequalities and a higher degree of economic insecurity in our lives. But the dominant vision has failed to develop a hopeful, positive narrative about how these challenges can be met in such a way as to uplift the majority.

If you’d like to read the full text of President Obama’s acceptance speech last night it is reprinted here in full.

If you reject the notion that this nation’s promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election.

If you reject the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election.

If you believe that new plants and factories can dot our landscape; that new energy can power our future; that new schools can provide ladders of opportunity to this nation of dreamers; if you believe in a country where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules, then I need you to vote this November.

America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now.  Yes, our path is harder – but it leads to a better place.  Yes our road is longer – but we travel it together.  We don’t turn back.  We leave no one behind.  We pull each other up.  We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.

The election theme music is Bruce Springstein’s “We Take Care of Our Own”.  Quite a contrast to the Throw yo Momma from the Trian, isn’t it?  I love this song because it was written partially about Hurricane Katrina.

“From the shotgun shack to the Super Dome …”

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

Be careful driving across any bridge in this country.  Chances are that it’s unsafe.

The American Society of Civil Engineers, the nation’s oldest national engineering group, has awarded America’s roadways a grade of D-, rated one in four bridges as “structurally deficient or functionally obsolete” and warned that thousands of American dams are on the verge of failure. It warned that unless tax dollars are redirected, the whole thing could crumble.

Altogether, Americans spend 4.2 billion hours a year stuck in traffic because of poorly maintained roads at a cost of $78.2 billion annually in squandered time and fuel.

The average age of America’s 600,000-plus bridges has reached 43 years old, and Congress needs $17 billion a year to make them safe for use.

The nation has 6,000 deficient dams, with 1,800 of them rating a high “hazard potential,” which means that structural failure could kill people.

The society’s complete report card can be found here.

I live next to two drawbridges over the canal with the levees that flooded and killed so many in the lower ninth ward.  The two of those things predate WW 1 and are out of commission a lot.  They even look rickety any more.  I just shudder to think what will happen one day.

Sit down.  I just about fell off my chair when the ACLU tweeted this one last night.

Some school officials in West Virginia think boys and girls are so “hard-wired” to learn differently that they have implemented some major changes in their middle school: boys and girls are separated into different classrooms for all their academic classes and  taught using radically different methods.

At Van Devender Middle School (or Vandy), a public school in Wood County WV, the boys’ classroom is brightly lit and cool, and the students are allowed to run around to blow off steam. They can sit in beanbag chairs if they wish and their desks are moveable and do not face each other. The girls’ classrooms are warm and dimly lit, and students are expected to remain in their seats and face each other while they work, even if they find that distracting.
 Girls are supposed to discuss their feelings about novels while boys are supposed to discuss the action in the books.

Adding insult to injury, this is their neighborhood middle school, to which they were assigned by the Board of Education.

The explanation for implementing this radical version of single-sex education there?  On some state-standardized measures, Vandy students were performing less well than the rest of the county.  Somehow, separating the students by sex for all of their academic core curriculum classes and teaching them differently was supposed to fix this problem.  Even though all the other middle schools – the ones supposedly outperforming Vandy – were coed.

This separation was based on the work of Leonard Sax and the organization he founded and runs, the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education (NASSPE), which holds conferences and teacher trainings to promote the theory that boys’ and girls’ brains are so different that they should be placed in separate classrooms and taught using different methods. These theories have traction because they are simple to implement.

You may want to stay seated for this one too.  GOP freshmen Congressmen go wild in Israel. Kansas Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder puts the junk in junket.

The FBI probed a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee that involved drinking, numerous GOP freshmen lawmakers, top leadership staff – and one nude member of Congress, according to more than a dozen sources, including eyewitnesses.

During a fact-finding congressional trip to the Holy Land last summer, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) took off his clothes and jumped into the sea, joining a number of members, their families and GOP staff during a night out in Israel, the sources told POLITICO. Other participants, including the daughter of another congressman, swam fully clothed while some lawmakers partially disrobed. More than 20 people took part in the late-night dip in the sea, according to sources who were participants in the trip.

Since we’re on stupid Republican Congress critterz, did you know Paul Ryan’s new found fame has led to increased sales of Rand’s books?  How depressing is that?

While Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney didn’t get an appreciable bounce after naming Paul Ryan as his running mate, the late Ayn Rand sure did.

The philosopher who favored individualism over collectivism has won renewed attention with the choice of Ryan, who in 2005 credited Rand as being “the reason I got involved in public service.”

Ryan has since scaled back that praise, citing  Rand’s atheism. Rand died in 1982.

The Rand box set of two of her works – “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead” – cracked the Top 100 “Movers & Shakers” list on Amazon.com earlier this week. The online retailer’s gauge measures the biggest increases in sales ranking compared with the previous 24 hours. Rand’s books jumped 20 percent in the rankings yesterday.

Romney didn’t enjoy quite as big an uptick in support, according to the Gallup tracking poll released on Aug. 15, which showed support for the Republican increased 1 percentage point to 47 percent of registered voters in the three days following the Ryan announcement.

Hypocrisy seems to be Ryan’s strong point. He supported Economic Stimulus under Dubya.

As it turns out, Ryan’s stimulus hypocrisy extends back at least an entire decade. In 2002, Republican President George W. Bush proposed a similar — if less ambitious — stimulus plan to the one President Obama signed in 2009. Like Obama, Bush sought to goose the economy through an influx of public sector cash. His stimulus plan included an extension of unemployment benefits and a plan to mail checks directly to millions of Americans. Ryan took to the House floor to defend this plan, accurately noting that additional government spending would help move the economy out of a recession:

We have a lot of laid off workers, and more layoffs are occurring. And we know, as a historical fact, that even if our economy begins to slowly recover, unemployment is going to linger on and on well after that recovery takes place. What we have been trying to do starting in October and into December and now is to try and get people back to work. The things we’re trying to pass in this bill are the time-tested, proven, bipartisan solutions to get businesses to stop laying off people, to hire people back, and to help those people who have lost their jobs. . . .

We’ve got to get the engine of economic growth growing again because we now know, because of recession, we don’t have the revenues that we wanted to, we don’t have the revenues we need, to fix Medicare, to fix Social Security, to fix these issues. We’ve got to get Americans back to work. Then the surpluses come back, then the jobs come back. That is the constructive answer we’re trying to accomplish here on, yes, a bipartisan basis.

A Newsweek/Daily Beast op ed By Niall Ferguson has economists and journalists alike fact checking his wrong economics. We call Shenanigans!  Krugman calls it unethical.

There are multiple errors and misrepresentations in Niall Ferguson’s cover story in Newsweek — I guess they don’t do fact-checking — but this is the one that jumped out at me. Ferguson says:

The president pledged that health-care reform would not add a cent to the deficit. But the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation now estimate that the insurance-coverage provisions of the ACA will have a net cost of close to $1.2 trillion over the 2012–22 period.

Readers are no doubt meant to interpret this as saying that CBO found that the Act will increase the deficit. But anyone who actually read, or even skimmed, the CBO report (pdf) knows that it found that the ACA would reduce, not increase, the deficit — because the insurance subsidies were fully paid for.

Now, people on the right like to argue that the CBO was wrong. But that’s not the argument Ferguson is making — he is deliberately misleading readers, conveying the impression that the CBO had actually rejected Obama’s claim that health reform is deficit-neutral, when in fact the opposite is true.

More than that: by its very nature, health reform that expands coverage requires that lower-income families receive subsidies to make coverage affordable. So of course reform comes with a positive number for subsidies — finding that this number is indeed positive says nothing at all about the impact on the deficit unless you ask whether and how the subsidies are paid for. Ferguson has to know this (unless he’s completely ignorant about the whole subject, which I guess has to be considered as a possibility). But he goes for the cheap shot anyway.

We’re not talking about ideology or even economic analysis here — just a plain misrepresentation of the facts, with an august publication letting itself be used to misinform readers. The Times would require an abject correction if something like that slipped through. Will Newsweek?

Joe Wiesanthal at BI shows how Ferguson gets wrong a lot.  There’s a list of things he’s been wrong on that’s quite lengthy as well as putting the blame on Obama for China’s huge GDP which is on target to surpass ours some time in 2017.  That’s the comment below that mentions that some tings are inevitable.

Niall Ferguson has a huge piece in The Daily Beast saying Obama needs to get fired titled: “Hit The Road, Barack.”

It’s basically an ell-encompassing takedown of Obama’s record on the economy (it still sucks), the deficit (it’s getting bigger) and America’s standing in the world (The Mideast has not gotten safer).

It even hits Obama for stuff like this, which seems totally inevitable at some point, regardless of who is President.

Anyway, as you read Niall Ferguson, it’s worth noting that he has been wrong on economics ever since Obama took office.

I’m getting really tired of putting up a huge list of Republicans who seem to have caught the pathological lying disease.  What’s happened to the GOP?  It seems like ever since they got religion, they also got a bad case of Pants-on-Fire.  It gives all of us a case of Hair-on-Fire.

What’s on your blogging and reading list today?