Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Exclusive View of the Activities for the MIT Summer Day Camp for Boys and Girls

No Its Not Making Ashtrays and Potholders

Day Camp Logo

As an indirect result of a conversation with one of the offspring of The Dismal Political Economist he became aware of the fact the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sponsors a Day Camp for Boys and Girls aged 6 to 13.  The activities are about what one would expect at such a place, the fun is in the eye of the beholder.


A large part of any summer camp is sports.  Here are some of the sports activity your boy a girl would enjoy were they to attend the Camp at MIT.

Parabolic Curves and Basketball:  The campers will play 3 on 3 basketball, but with a slight difference from the regular game.  The home team will be placed at a  spot on a 147 degree angle from the center of the basket, 13 feet away and will be asked to develop the optimal parabolic curve for shooting from that spot.  The visiting team will then take 20 shots from that point using that curve.

The teams will then move to a spot at 216 degrees from the basket and 11.17 feet away and the visiting team will construct the correct parabolic curve and the home team will take the shots using the curve.  The team with the most correct shots gets awarded a patent for their curve and for the opponent's curve.

Sailing:  Campers will be provided with access to a high speed laptop computer, with which they will develop optimal sail angles based on wind direction and velocity, and using a GPS system they will design and build an automatic piloting/sail setting device for 30 foot sailboats.  Advanced teams will be allowed to use a spinnaker.

Bowling:  Using MIT lab facilities teams of campers will develop new compounds for bowling balls.  Each team will compute the coefficient of friction for each compound, and a bowl-off will take place to determine which team gets the marketing rights.


Summer camp is not just about physical activities, at the MIT camp all attendees will have the opportunity to learn to use state of the art computer and develop new applications.

Micro Computing:  The challenge for campers will be to develop a netbook sized computer that incorporates artificial intelligence and brain sensory apparatus to operate the computer by a wireless interface between the computer and the user’s brain.  Additional insurance will be provided free of charge to campers participating in this activity.

Quantum Computing:  Using sub atomic particles in a super conducting environment at absolute zero the campers will develop a quantum computer that will simulate the human brain.  They will then program the computer to play Crazy 8’s.  (Limited to campers 10 and under).


MIT is proud that their day camp doesn’t just focus on sports and computers.  Campers will have the opportunity to participate in singing, dancing, dramatic oratory and stage their own plays.

Pirandello and Gertrude Stein – the Musical:  Using the scenario that the famous playwright and the famous writer and pursuer of an alternative life style had a secret life together, campers will write lyrics and music for a musical comedy to be based on the lives of the two giants of the early 20th century.  Broadway rights will be auctioned at the end of the summer.

American Idiot:  A quiz show format with campers asked to demonstrate their knowledge of early Chinese dynasties.  The team with the lowest score will be sent to a public school in East Hotfoot, Nebraska to serve as role models.


Quadratic Equations:  Each camper will make a short presentation on his or her favorite quadratic equation.  Judges will award style point for beauty, complexity and whether or not a Harvard grad can solve the equation in six hours or less.

DNA Modeling:  Prior to attending camp each boy and girl will have undergone a complete DNA scan.  They will bring that information to the camp and will produce a six foot model of their particular DNA.  There will then be a contest in which other campers will be shown the DNA model without knowing which camper it belongs to and asked to match the DNA to the characteristics of the camper who produced it.

Cold Fusion:  The group of campers that develops the most efficient cold fusion electrical generating device will supervise the installation of that device on the MIT campus along with disconnecting MIT from the power grid.


The highlight of Camp MIT will take place during the final week of the summer.  Campers will be divided into teams of five, and will be given one week to develop a new killer app for a new computing device which they will design.  A panel composed of the physics and computing faculty at MIT will judge the competition.  The winning team will be flown to San Jose, California where a Venture Capital firm will bestow $732 million on the winners for the rights to examine the concepts.  (An additional option worth $1.23 billions will be paid by the Venture group for the right to actually spend $8.45 billion to develop the concept for a commercial use.)

Well, there it is, enroll your child now.  Space is limited.

Conservatives Target a Really Subversive, Anti-American, Anti-Family Value Group – The Girls Scouts

If Ignorance. Stupidity, and Prejudice Were the Coin of the Realm, These People Would be as Rich as Bill Gates

Has anyone anywhere ever thought of the Girl Scouts as something other than a nice, supportive and appropriate group for young girls?  Has anyone anywhere ever harbored any animosity against the Girl Scouts?  Does anyone anywhere think the Girl Scouts are evil?

If you answered “no” to those questions you are obviously no familiar with the modern Conservative movement.  It turns out there is a fair amount of animosity out there for the Girl Scouts by Conservative groups who see the organization as anti-family and pro-abortion rights.

Conservative activists have used social media to encourage parents to boycott cookie sales, pull their daughters out of scouts and push churches not to provide meeting spaces for troops.

Wow, pretty strong stuff.  They must have a really strong case against the Girl Scouts to take such drastic action.  Where most of us see a positive impact on society from the organization,

some religious conservatives see something very different: representatives of a dangerous, secular organization that aggressively promotes abortion and quietly encourages paganism, homosexuality and other alleged social ailments.

And Conservatives are acting on their views

Conservative activists have used social media to encourage parents to boycott cookie sales, pull their daughters out of scouts and push churches not to provide meeting spaces for troops

And at least in the D. C. area they are having some success.

This month, for the first time in our area, a church bowed to the pressure. St. Timothy Roman Catholic parish in Chantilly in Fairfax County ousted 12 troops with 115 girls. In Alexandria, Saint Rita Catholic Church is reportedly considering doing the same.

At St. Timothy, Rev. Gerald Weymes told scout leaders they could no longer use church or parochial school facilities after the current school year. He didn’t offer a public explanation and wasn’t giving interviews.

The truth of the matter is this

But the diocese didn’t deny reports that St. Timothy was unhappy with the U.S. Girl Scout organization’s membership in the international girl scouting association.

The latter group, which has members in 145 countries, supports access to contraception and is also often accused of backing abortion and being affiliated with Planned Parenthood.
To appreciate the extremity of the church’s action, consider the following: America’s Girl Scouts say explicitly, repeatedly, at the neighborhood, regional and national level, that they have no stance on birth control or abortion.

No Girl Scout dues or proceeds from cookie sales go to the international group, called the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Rebecca Munro, a spokeswoman for the association in London, said it has no position on abortion and no relationship with Planned Parenthood.

“Misinformation is passing as fact,” Diane Tipton, president of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital, said in a Jan. 22 statement responding to St. Timothy’s move.

“The Girl Scout organization does not take a position on abortion or birth control, and these topics are not part of the Girl Scout program or our materials. We believe these matters are best discussed by girls with their families.”

And in case anyone thinks that would settle the issue, remember we are dealing with ideology here.  Ideologues of every type reject facts and the truth, after all that’s why they have an ideology, it combats things like logic, facts, data and the real world.

Another defender of the scouts is the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, a group that ought to have some credibility with Catholics. It’s an official church organization and has been actively investigating — and mostly refuting — the accusations for several years.

The federation’s Web site devotes a page to knocking down rumors. Girl Scouts support Planned Parenthood? “Not true,” the federation says. Girl Scout law does not refer to God anymore? “Not true.”

Don’t expect those who attack the Girl Scouts to change their views, that would be admitting they were wrong.  And once they open the door to the possibility that they were wrong on this issue, who knows what other issues they might find out they were wrong on also.  Can’t have that, so the war against 12 year old girls going camping will continue.

Think Flying is Bad Now – Wait Until Delta and U.S. Airways Merge

Want a Boarding Pass?  That Will be $10.00

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Delta Airlines is exploring the acquisition of U. S. Airways in a merger that would create one of the largest carriers in the world.

Delta hasn't yet approached US Airways, the No. 5 U.S. airline, and is still weighing which deal if any would make most sense and have the best odds of success, the people familiar with the matter said. Delta's last transaction was in 2008, when it acquired Northwest Airlines.

Now the interesting thing here is that should Delta pursue its wedding with U. S. Airways, opposition will be voiced, because the competition in the airline industry will take a giant leap downward.  In fact, consolidation of airlines has been a long term trend

The recent tie-ups have formed larger airlines and reduced the number of major U.S. carriers to five from roughly triple that number 20 years ago.

The consolidation has helped the surviving airlines jettison money-losing routes, raise ticket prices and tighten control on their hub airports.

Notice that this consolidation has not helped the public, and in fact the airlines haven’t done all that well either.

But further consolidation will lead to near monopoly status for the remaining airlines.  And if anyone plans to fly after U. S. Airways and Delta have merged, well have your wallet out.  The people who thought up bag fees will have their hands out for fees for just going through the door, you know, an optional fee that allows a person to actually board the plane.

Opposition to the granting of monopoly status to airlines will be tarred with the term “anti-capitalism”, but capitalism is characterized by competition.  The problem of course is that those participating in free markets have too much capitalism and want to replace the competition with monopoly.  

Note to Democrats: Stop Saying We Don’t Envy Mr. Romney; We All Do Envy Mr. Romney

Start Saying: That is Not What Drives Policy

One of the Republican talking points is that the policy of Democrats to increase taxes on the very wealthy to pay for government programs and to reduce the deficit is the result of just pure envy on the part of people.  Their reasoning goes that the rest of us envy the very wealthy and as a result pursue policies which will “punish” them for their wealth.  Those who support higher taxes on the wealthy deny this.

Ok, the first thing that needs to be done here is to admit that yes, the rest of us do envy the rich.  Could anyone ever honestly deny that he or she would not like to have Mitt Romney’s income?  On an after tax basis Mr. Romney has $300,000 to $400,000 of disposable income a week!  In fact, one worries about Mr. Romney, about how he can find ways to spend that much money.  Anyone who says they do not envy the wealth and income of Mitt Romney is just not telling the truth.

But it needs to be pointed out that this envy is not what is driving policy.  What is driving policy is basic economics.  In order to reduce the deficit and pay for needed government programs taxes must be raised.  And given the current level of taxation, the least destructive tax increases are those levied on the very wealthy.  Lower taxes for the wealthy is not what creates jobs, jobs are created by investment that takes place in response to increases in demand for goods and services.  That increase can only come from aggressive fiscal policy.

So yes Mr. Romney, it is true, we all envy your financial situation.  And we would all like at least the opportunity to achieve your financial situation.  And if you have to have a little bit less than $300,000 a week to spend in order to provide education, health care, economic and national security and other government services for people who cannot afford these things on their own, well, we think you ought to understand where we are coming from.

Of course, if Mr. Romney were to take his $250 million of net worth and invest it in a business that hired a bunch of people, and if Mr. Romney were willing to take the risk that he could lose all of his money everyone might be willing to have a different take on this issue.  But that is not what Mr. Romney is doing, is he, unless he is somehow planning massive job creation in the Cayman Islands which is where a bunch of his money resides.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Illustrating Why the Folks at POlitiFact Need to Get Out of the Fact Checking Business

Or Change Their Name, Because they Are No Longer Checking Facts

President Obama has made the following statement which may be true or false, but turns out to be true

"For the first time in 13 years, our dependence on foreign oil is below 50 percent," the announcer says on the ad.

Obama repeated the claim Jan. 24 in his State of the Union address, too.

So how do we know it is true?  Because the ad cites a government data source and the people at PolitiFact checked the source and found out that the statement was correct.

The Obama campaign is correct that U.S. oil dependence is below 50 percent. According to his own source, the energy administration, it was 49.3 percent in 2010. That’s down from a high of 60.3 percent in 2005.

So that ought to be the end of the story, the statement was an objective one concerning data, the data was correct according to the independent source cited and both the Obama campaign and the President himself were making a true statement.  Not so fast.

But fully evaluating the accuracy of the claim also means looking at the context in which it is made.

Obama clearly claims credit in the commercial; and his own source for the claim makes clear that a number of factors, including the poor economy and gains from drilling -- which began before his administration -- are among them.

These are important details. Without them, the claim in the ad -- made specifically to boast of Obama’s accomplishments -- lacks context. And when factually accurate claims leave out such important context, the Truth-O-Meter’s dial turns to Half True.

Note the absurdity here.  The statement is rated at “half true” which is a logical impossibility.  Either dependence is above 50% or it is below 50%.  But PolitiFact thinks it has to go further and pass judgment on a claim that was not made and is not relevant to the accuracy of the fact, the causes and credit for the decline.  This is pure subjective value judgment, not fact checking.

Claiming credit for something that happened that we were involved in is something we all do.  The fact checking should restrict itself to verifying that the "something happened", because that is all they can do.  The audience is smart enough to know the extent to which the speaker was actually involved in creating the "something happened" part, we don't need PolitiFact on anyone else to make that judgment for us.  In fact they are not capable of making that judgment.

So the Dismal Political Economist awards PolitiFact the “Liar, Liar Pants on Fire” designation PolitiFact itself uses. 

Wear it in good health folks.

Financial Writer James B. Stewart Claims He Pays Income Tax Rate of 74% on His Taxable Income

 Doesn’t Release Details – Just Take His Word for It

If It Sounds Too bad to be True, It Probably Is Not True

With the release of his 2010 tax return, Mitt Romney has created all sorts of interest in tax rates.  Mr. Romney of course created a stir by having such a low tax rate, below 15% atg the Federal level on his total income.  James B. Stewart, a renonwn financial writer has done the computations on his tax return, and comes up with the astounding numbers that he pays a much higher rates.

I paid 24 percent of my adjusted gross income in federal taxes and 37 percent in combined federal, state and local income taxes. I paid 49 percent of my taxable income in federal income tax, and 74 percent of my taxable income in combined federal, state and local income taxes. My totals include federal payroll and self-employment taxes.

Now this revelation is going to be a Conservative dream come true.  First of all they will take the number  74% and by leaving out a few details imply that not only Mr. Stewart, but everyone pays 74% of their gross income in taxes.  In fact, looking at the first set of numbers, where Mr. Steward pays 24% of his AGI (which is probably close to his gross income) in Federal taxes sounds about right.  Mr. Stewart is unique, as he is the first to admit.

It turns out that my individual circumstances are a near-perfect storm of punitive tax policies. Nearly all my income is earned, as opposed to capital gains, carried interest or dividend income taxed at a lower rate.

I live in New York City, where I pay some of the highest state and local taxes in the nation. My mortgage deduction is small relative to my adjusted gross income, so it doesn’t help me much.

Now exactly how Mr. Steward can get to 49% tax rate on his taxable income is difficult to see, since Mr. Stewart did not release the details of his tax return.  Note that no one has to make public his or her tax returns, but that if you are going to write about your own personal situation and expect to have any credibility, you kind of have to do that.  If you don’t want to release the tax info, don’t write about it.

Even without knowing his total income we do know that Mr. Stewart has a very high income.  And as he says, his situation is that he works for his income as opposed to someone, say like Mr. Romney who does no work but says he “earned” his money, Mr. Stewart does pay higher taxes than wealthy investors because the tax revisions of the last decades gave preference to investment income over income earned by actually being employed.  And yes, New York city is a very expensive place to live, both tax wise and non-tax wise.  But that is not the real lesson here.

No the real lesson here is not that total taxes are too high, even though everyone will see the Conservatives use the example of Mr. Stewart to say that.  The real lesson is that over the last several decades taxes have been shifted away from wealthy investors and shifted to working men and women.  Mr. Stewart’s tax situation cries out for raising taxes on Mr. Romney and his ilk, and using some of the money to lower them on people like Mr. Stewart.  

U.S. Economy Grew at 2.8% Last Quarter; Europe is Entering into a Recession; What’s the Cause of the Difference

Republican European Policy vs Democratic U. S. Policy

As expected, U. S. economic growth increased in the 4th quarter of 2011, according to very preliminary data released by the Commerce Department.

The nation's gross domestic product -- the value of all goods and services produced -- grew at an annual rate of 2.8% between October and December, the Commerce Department said Friday. The reading was up from 1.8% annualized growth in the third quarter, but below economists' forecast of 3.0% growth.

Ok, not great, not even very good, but certainly good and better than it has been.

In Europe which has an economy similar to the U. S. in size and structure and composiiton, economic growth, with the exception of export dominated Germany is not growing, and many forecasters are of the opinion that the continent will have negative growth in 2012, or what is technically called a “recession’.  So why is Europe not doing well and the U. S. is improving?

The answer to that, as every first year student of economics knows is that Europe has pursued a different policy than the United States.  In Europe the policy makers believe that reducing budget deficits by lowering government spending (and to a much lesser extent raising taxes) will stimulate the economy because, well, because they believe so.  They think that a lower budget deficit will produce an explosion of confidence by consumers and business and that this will lead to higher growth.

The fact that this has not happened and does not seem to be happening now and is not expected to be happening in the future doesn’t seem to discourage anyone over there.  Despite a policy failure that is destroying Greece, reducing economic activity in Spain, Portugal and Italy and is becoming a near disaster in Britain, Europe intends to carry on with the same. 

The United States is worried about the budget deficit, but so far policy makers here understand that if you introduce austerity you will get austerity, and that it is economic growth that is necessary to reduce the budget deficit and to increase employment.  The growth that is taking place now is the result of a significant, albeit, inadequate stimulus package enacted by the present administration.  Why has it taken so long to show effects?  Well in economics there are things called “lags” which mean that the economy takes a while to respond to changes in basic components.

Now the ironic thing is that the Republicans, who are criticizing Mr. Obama for being “European” as though that were some type of huge character flaw are themselves urging the adoption of European policies.  They want to drastically cut government spending, a policy which is European in design and will produce European results.  

One wonders if they are smart enough to know this and just don’t care.  The impression one gets is that they are not smart enough to know this, but they still just don’t care.

No one should get too excited about the numbers, there are plenty of bad signs ahead.

Trade, which was a drag on fourth-quarter GDP after being a positive factor the previous two periods, could further hinder 2012 growth if a European recession cuts into U.S. exports.

Also, government spending fell substantially in the fourth quarter, down 4.6%, a trend that's likely to continue as Washington prepares for mandatory cuts aimed at pushing down the budget deficit. The slowing of spending at all levels of government held back economic growth by nearly a full percentage point in the final months of 2011.

But the good news is that at least for the next 12 months the country does not have Mitt Romney and his European economic policy prescriptions to worry about.  

Opponents of Same Sex Marriage in New York State Turn Out to Be All Hat and No Cattle

Republican Who Voted to Approve Same Sex Marriage Being Protected by Republicans

Last year when several Republican members of the New York State Senate voted to approve same sex marriage, there were dire predictions about their electoral future.  The prevailing wisdom was that they would be punished, in fact the small but influential Conservative party said they would not endorse any Republican who voted for equality and equal rights (our words not theirs).

State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long has vowed not to give his party's endorsement to any Senate Republican who voted for last year's gay marriage law

It was also expected that the fury of the Republican leadership over the issue would doom the re-election chances of the Republicans who voted against the party of prejudice on the issue.  But reality has a way of interfering with ideology.  As New York state redraws State Senate Districts, the Republicans have made a major effort to protect the seat of State Sen. Mark Grisanti, one of the Republicans who changed his mind on the issue of equality of marriage.

Given the enrollment edge of Democrats in his district, and possible political opponents, Republicans, who control the Senate by a 32-30 margin, needed to move Sen. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo into a safer district.

Given the enrollment edge and possible political opponents
, Republicans, who control the Senate by a 32-30 margin
, needed to move Sen. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo into a safer district.
Derek Gee / News file photo

Senate Republicans today unveiled what they hope will be a more politically friendly seat for freshman Sen. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, whose new all-Erie County district will become less Democratic and with far fewer African Americans voters.

Mr. Grisanti’s new district, if ultimately approved will be entirely within the suburbs of Erie County, the Republican leaning part of the western New York landscape that is centered around Buffalo.  In addition to being more Republican friendly, there is another advantage to the new district for Mr. Grisanti

But by keeping Grisanti's district within one county, the Erie County Conservative Party can endorse Grisanti without Long's involvement. It is uncertain, yet, if the local party will back Grisanti, whose re-election chances would be enhanced if he had both the Republican and — smaller, but influential — Conservative line.

So at the end of the day Mr. Grisanti’s decision to put principle above party may well result in his re-election and continued indefinite stay in the New York state Senate.  And all that talk about punishing supporters of equal rights, well that what it was, just talk.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why Everyone (Ok, Except Mr. Gingrich for Reasons That Will Be Made Clear) Loves Nate Silver of 538.com

He Channels His Inner Dr. Seuss!

The Florida primary is on Tuesday, and just about the last word on the subject should come from the most accurate political analyst in the world, Nate Silver.  Mr. Silver uses mathematical models, really big and really good mathematical models, to predict outcomes.  And he is really, really good at it.  Here is his just about final report prior to the Florida voting.

There are traditional polls and automated polls, Internet polls and partisan polls, academic polls and commercial polls.

There are polls where voters checked a box. There are polls that were reported on Fox.

There are polls that called the voter’s house. There are polls where voters clicked a mouse.

Though the numbers were here and there, the outcome was the same everywhere.

Unless there is a major glitch, Mitt Romney will beat Newt Gingrich.

And remember that big lead Mr. Gingrich had right after the South Carolina primary.  Well everyone was warned not to take it seriously, and as the graph shows, no one should have.  Mr. Romney repeated his Iowa strategy, vicious attacks by his "independent" Super Pac, a good ground game and a little help from Mr. Gingrich in the debates.

As for the national polls, Mr. Gingrich has a lead, but those polls have a longer lag than the state of Florida polling.  Furthermore those polls are meaningless until about a week after the Florida primary.  So there is no conclusions to be drawn on the national race, except the one Mr. Romney’s camp has been making all along.  There just does not seem to be a scenario in which Mr. Romney loses.

Mr. Gingrich has said that he will be in the race until the Republican Convention, and Mr. Santorum said that although he is going home, he will continue to be in the race.  This is politi-speak for " we are running out of money and we'll be getting out soon". 

Just When Everyone Thought Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour Was the Worst Ever

It Turns Out He is Even More Despicable

When Republican and Conservative Governor Haley Barbour left that office in the state of Mississippi he issued a huge number of pardons.  There were almost 200 of them, and the New York Times has taken a look at them.

A close look at some of the clemency applications of nearly 200 of the other felons who were pardoned reveal that a significant share contained written appeals from members of prominent Mississippi families, major Republican donors or others from the higher social strata of Mississippi life.

So what kind of people got pardons from the supposedly law-and-order Governor?  Well in addition to the usual group of assailants and murders it seems there were an awful lot of drunk drivers, and not the kind of drunk drivers that ran off the road and knocked down a mail box.  These were drunk drivers who killed people.

The governor erased records or suspended the sentences of at least 10 felons who had been students at the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State when they were arrested, including at least three who killed people while driving drunk and several others charged with selling cocaine, ecstasy and other drugs. 

And though it is not for the squeamish, let’s put a real face on the horrific crimes some of these people did.

One beneficiary, Burton Waldon, had killed an 8-month-old boy in an alcohol-induced crash in 2001. Mr. Waldon, a high school senior at the time, pleaded guilty and received a suspended sentence.

But Mr. Waldon had connections and a family well used to the pardon business.

He is a member of the prominent Hill Brothers Construction Company family, big-money political donors who give mostly to Republicans, including Mr. Barbour. An uncle of Mr. Waldon, Kenneth W. Hill Sr., sought and received a pardon from President George W. Bush in 2006, erasing a federal income tax conviction.

And how about this case

 On a Saturday night in October 1995, a blue Toyota came hurtling down the wrong side of a county road in a town in north Mississippi and crashed head-on into a pick-up truck. Scotty Plunk, the driver of the truck, was killed. The driver of the Toyota, 19-year-old Joel Vann, had been drinking so much that he did not remember the moments leading up to the accident.

Mr. Vann pleaded guilty to “D.U.I.-death,” and in lieu of jail time attended a drug and alcohol treatment program in Washington State. Last January, Mr. Vann applied for a full pardon. A year later, he was one of 198 people to receive a full pardon from Gov. Haley Barbour in his last days in office.

[Note what happens in Mississippi if you get all liquored up and kill someone, a suspended sentence in one case, attendance at a drug and alcohol treatment program in another].

The article documents the clear use of influence from the wealthy and the politically connected to obtain these pardons.  Many of the pardons were not impacted by connections, but there is this

In other cases, applicants relied on someone who had the connections they lacked. The file of one man, who had participated in the gang rape of a 17-year-old in 1976 , included a reference letter from his employer, a large donor to Mr. Barbour and other Republicans.

The applicant received a pardon, as did two young men who robbed a grocery store at gunpoint in 1997. While their post-prison lives appear to be commendable — one is studying for a degree in mechanical engineering at Ole Miss — their petition was reinforced by a letter from Bob Dunlap, a major donor to the Republican Party.

And finally, will the pardons result in additional deaths?  Well there is this one.

Of all the pardons issued by Mr. Barbour, the case involving Harry R. Bostick, first disclosed by a blogger in Oxford, Miss.Tom Freeland, may be the most confounding.

Mr. Bostick, a former criminal investigator for the I.R.S., was sentenced in May 2010 for his third drunk driving offense — a felony — and ordered into treatment.

Several former government lawyers and law enforcement officers who worked with him on federal tax prosecutions submitted letters on his behalf. In one, a former United States attorney, Jim Greenlee, argued that Mr. Bostick had reversed his destructive course of conduct. “He now fits the criteria and meets the human factors that make his pardon a wise decision,” Mr. Greenlee wrote.

In October, Mr. Bostick, 55, was arrested again for drunken driving, this time in an accident that left an 18-year-old waitress dead. The waitress, Charity Smith, was working at Cracker Barrel to save money for college. On a Friday night, her Buick collided with Mr. Bostick’s truck.

Mr. Bostick was charged with his fourth D.U.I. On Jan. 10, he was pardoned for his prior felony D.U.I. by Mr. Barbour.

But don’t worry about Mr. Barbour being attacked by the main stream media, or the pundits of the radio and television, or Fox News.  After all, that would be media bias because Mr. Barbour is a Conservative Republican supporting family values, assuming of course that a “family value” consists of getting drunk and destroying another family in a drunk driving accident.

The Romney Strategy to Win Florida – Massive Negative Ads from “Independent” Super Pac; Assault on Mr. Gingrich by Establishment Conservative Republicans; Move to the Far Right on Social Issues

Will It Work?  -  Probably So

Mitt Romney is not known as “constant” person, in fact he is just the opposite.  But to give Mr. Romney credit, there have been two constants in his life and persona since at least 2006.  The first thing is that he firmly believes (despite a lot of evidence to the contrary) that he ought to be President of the United States.  The second thing is that he will say anything necessary to do the first thing.

Now that Mr. Gingrich has emerged as a credible (or “incredible if you prefer”) alternative, Mr. Romney has decided that Mr. Romney will go to any extreme to head off Mr. Gingrich.  This apparently involves going to extreme positions.  First off is the highly popular “Obama is attacking religion” theme by requiring that employers, including religious employers who are operating businesses not related to their religion to offer contraceptive coverage in their health care plans.

he’s gone forward and said that religious institutions, universities, hospitals and so forth, religious institutions have to provide free contraceptives to all their employees, even if that religious institution is opposed to the use of contraception, as in the case of the Catholic Church. Even in that regard, fighting to eliminate the conscience clause for health care workers who wish not to provide abortion services or contraceptives in their workplace, in their hospital for instance. It’s an assault on religion unlike anything we have seen.

Now the interesting thing here of course is that just the opposite is occurring.  Some religions believe that contraception is wrong, and they are free to say so and to not practice contraception.  Requiring them to engage in contraception would be an attack on freedom of religion.

But these religions want to go further than just practice their religion, they want to force their religious beliefs on non-believers.  So when they operate a business like a health care facility or university, businesses that serve the general public, employ the general public and in most cases take public money, they want to make as a condition of employment the right to deny their employees access to contraception.  The President’s policy is not attacking religion, it is defending the religious rights of those who want to have gainful employment and not have a religious belief forced upon them.

Mr. Romney takes the same stand on the issue of same sex marriage, pandering to the right wing to gain votes. 

There’s been an assault on marriage. I think he is very aggressively trying to pave the path to same-sex marriage. I would unlike this president defend the Defense of Marriage Act. I would also propose and promote once again an amendment to the constitution to define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.

If Mr. Obama is trying to promote same sex marriage, he is doing it in a very unusual way, because to his discredit he is opposed to same sex marriage.  As for the “assault on marriage”, one should note that Mr. Romney’s marriage seems very strong despite his residing in a state that allows same sex marriage.  Maybe if Mr. Romney could tell us how his marriage has been assaulted by allowing same sex marriage right in his neighborhood in Boston he might have a little more credibility with the rest of us.
So anyone who doubts the “constants” in Mr. Romney’s life, well the above is pretty good proof of the two constants we mentioned..

The Sordid Nature of High School and College Football Seeps into the Ivy League Campus of Yale University

And High School Football Doesn’t Get Off Easy Either

Last fall a story came to light about how Yale Quarterback Patrick Witt decided to forego an interview for a Rhodes Scholar award and instead play in the annual Harvard-Yale football game.  Now details are coming out, including one that he really didn’t forgo the interview at all.  It was canceled by the Rhodes Scholar people because Mr. Witt had been accused of sexual assault.

We will forgo any comment on the charge, as there is no final resolution and the charge was made through Yale’s informal complain process.  However the other details in the story are pretty damning against college football in general and Yale in particular.  For example, there is this.

Days after Witt’s withdrawal, The Times reported that Yale’s coach, Tom Williams, had invented parts of his résumé, including a supposed Rhodes candidacy that he had dropped two decades earlier in favor of a chance at a professional football career — an experience that he said gave him a unique ability to advise Witt on his tough choice. Williams resigned in December.

And Mr. Witt couldn’t help but play up his story, with this fiction.

Witt discussed his athletic achievements, his happiness at having transferred to Yale, his N.F.L. ambitions and the conflict between the Rhodes interview and the Harvard game.

“With the Rhodes scholarship, you know, I think that’s just kind of the mold that I try to live by as a student-athlete,” Witt said.

Yale is not covered with glory here

University officials would not discuss other issues, like why Yale did not officially alert the Rhodes Trust of the complaint; what it did upon learning the candidacy had been suspended; and whether Yale ultimately decided not to endorse Witt before he withdrew on his own.

But anyone who has ever come into contact with the Yales of the world knows their arrogance knows no boundaries, and that they feel they are a world unto themselves unanswerable to the public at large.

As for Mr. Witt, his football history shows that basically his parent shopped around for a high school where Mr. Witt could play football and show off his football talents.

Patrick and his older brother, Jeff, transferred from one Atlanta-area high school to another so that Jeff — who would later play quarterback at Harvard — could play in a more pass-oriented offense. But after Jeff graduated from Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga., the team relied on a star running back, so Patrick rarely got to throw.

The family moved to Dallas, where Patrick enrolled at a pass-happy football powerhouse, Highland Park High School. When it became clear he would not start, Patrick transferred within weeks to Wylie High School, in a Dallas suburb, his fourth school in three years.

Exactly how any parent would do such a thing to their child, essentially disrupt his life by moving to four different high schools because of athletics is difficult to comprehend.  And notice that none of the high schools seemed to be bothered by all this.  But why should they, after all none of its seems to bother Yale.

More Evidence that a Policy of Economic Austerity Works – It Works to Produce Austerity

That Has to Be a Revelation to Many

Via Paul Krugman we have an analysis of the  British experience of what happens to economic growth following the peak period before a recession.  As one might imagine the economy declines, bottoms out and then rises.  Well this what would happen under normal policy, but it will not happen if a country adopts a policy to keep it from happening.

Such is the case in much of Europe.  In Britain in particular a ruling coalition headed by the Conservative party decided that the way to bring about prosperity was to raises taxes a little and cut government spending a lot and get rid of at least 400,000 public employees.  This chart shows how things have gone relative to the level of recovery from previous recessions.

The point that is made by the chart is nice expressed by Mr. Krugman.

As Jonathan Portes at Not the Treasury View points out, the ongoing slump in Britain is now longer and deeper than the slump in the 1930s (the figure shows how far real GDP was below its previous peak in various British recessions; the red line is 1930-34, the black line the current slump):

And Mr. Krugman takes a nicely deserved victory lap

I believe that when I began criticizing the Cameron government’s push for austerity, some right-leaning British papers demanded that I shut up. But the original critique of austerity is holding up pretty well, if you ask me.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

David Frum Finds a Reason to Support Mitt Romney – It’s Because Mitt Doesn’t Believe What He Says

Making Real Gold Out of Fool’s Gold –  Sorry, It Cannot Be Done

Far in advance of the 2012 Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal is throwing in the towel for Republicans.  In truth, the 2012 election will be decided by events unknown, unforeseeable and yet to happen, but for Mr. Stephens the despair of the Republican campaign has taken its toll.  He has given up on Mr. Romney and Mr. Gingrich.

As for the current GOP field, it's like confronting a terminal diagnosis. There may be an apparent range of treatments: conventional (Romney), experimental (Gingrich), homeopathic (Paul) or prayerful (Santorum). But none will avail you in the end.

[Yes he did say "homeopathic" with respect to Mr. Paul, hopefully Mr. Santorum doesn't see that.]

The dismal of Mr. Paul and Mr. Santorum is close to dead on, amazing for a Conservative partisan like Mr. Stephens

They are owed some respect, especially for the contrast between their willingness to take a stand for principle against the front-runners' willingness to say anything. But Messrs. Santorum and Paul are two tedious men, deep in conversation with some country that's not quite America, appealing to a devoted base but not beyond it. Sorry, gentlemen: You're not going anywhere.

 And Mr. Stephens almost rises to eloquence on Mr. Gingrich.

Voters instinctively prefer the idea of an entertaining Newt-Obama contest—the aspiring Caesar versus the failed Redeemer—over a dreary Mitt-Obama one. The problem is that voters also know that Gaius Gingrich is liable to deliver his prime-time speeches in purple toga while holding tight to darling Messalina's—sorry, Callista's—bejeweled fingers. A primary ballot for Mr. Gingrich is a vote for an entertaining election, not a Republican in the White House.

And his complaint with Mr. Romney is this

The usual rap on Mr. Romney is that he's robotic, but the real reason he can't gain traction with voters is that they suspect he's concealing some unnameable private doubt. Al Gore and George Bush Sr. were like that, too, and not just because they were all to the proverbial manor born. It's that they were basically hollow men.

which seems like a fair assessment.

Now David Frum is a well known Conservative Republican, a person who served in the Bush Jr. White House and wrote editorials for the Wall Street Journal.  But Mr. Frum is a somewhat serious Conservative, that is, he is intelligent and has good ideas and rational positions many times.  The following is not one of them.

I sympathize with Bret Stephens' frustration with the Republican field, I truly do. I have been wrestling with many of these same midnight doubts for a long time myself.

Yet Stephens' specific complaint about Mitt Romney seems to me if not unfair, then misplaced — or more exactly, misplaced coming from a writer for the Wall Street Journal.

So Mr. Frum does not agree with the assessment of Mr. Romney, and is it because he thinks Mr. Romney is indeed a sincere person with deeply held beliefs.  NO!! It is just the opposite.

I think it's probably true that Mitt Romney is concealing a private doubt, and it is this: Mitt Romney simply does not believe the things that must be said to be a competitive candidate for the Republican nomination. He has zero interest in being a Jon Huntsman-style martyr, so he dutifully repeats them, but he cannot bring himself to repeat them with the conviction that a Republican audience . . .

This disconnect between what Romney must say and what he probably believes weakens him as a candidate, yes. But on the positive side, his disbelief in so many of the things that he is forced to say is exactly the thing that will make him a superior president

So there it is, Mr. Romney would be a superior President because he is so good at saying things he does not believe in just to get the nomination.  So all those flip flops, all that pandering, all the fluff of the Romney campaign, those aren’t detriments, those are attributes! 

As we said, Mr. Frum is an intelligent person,  think how strong one’s imagination must be to originate that argument and think how serious one must be to say it with a straight face.

Should New Jersey Voters Have a Referendum on Allowing Same Sex Marriage?

Yes, In Politics the Best Thing May Not Always Be the Right Thing

[Update:  Gov. Christie has suggested that there should have been a popular vote on Civil Rights legislation in the South in the 1960's.  This pushes the needle back to towards the "buffoon" category in his rating.]

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has proposed to settle the same sex marriage issue in that state by allowing a vote on an amendment to the state Constitution that would allow same sex marriage in the state.

He made his proposal on Tuesday after a town-hall-style meeting in Bridgewater, suggesting that the ballot question be presented to voters as a constitutional amendment. “The fact is, we’re discussing huge change, and I believe we need to approach this not only in a thoughtful way, not in a rushed way, but also in a way where we’re able to get the most input that we can from the public,” he said.

The supporters of same sex marriage rights are opposed to a referendum type vote on the issue, and they have a strong moral point.

“Marriage equality isn’t like sports betting,” said Senator Raymond Lesniak, a Union County Democrat, referring to a referendum on an amendment to the State Constitution on gambling last year. “It’s a civil right, which is already guaranteed in our Constitution. It’s up to the Legislature to guarantee these rights.”

They are right, we don’t vote on basic human rights, the right to equality before the law is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and it is a core principle of American democracy.

But being right does not always mean being correct.  Times have changed, just in the past few years the public attitude has changed on this subject, and the attitudes in New Jersey indicate such a vote could result in approval of same sex marriage.

A poll released by Quinnipiac University last week found that 52 percent of New Jersey voters believed that same-sex couples should have the right to marry, and 53 percent believed that denying them that right constituted discrimination.

So from a practical as opposed to a moral view, it seems like supporters of anti-discrimination should accept the Governor’s offer and have a vote.  If the vote wins it is a clear and unambiguous statement that voters have moved to the correct position on the issue, and a clear rebuke to those politicians who continue to oppose equal rights.

And politicians are about as weak and cowardly a class as you will find in this country.  If they believe the time has come to approve same sex marriage, all but the most adamantly opposed to equal rights for all Americans will start to support the issue.

The upside of a winning vote is huge.  A loss is not that devastating, it would merely postpone rather than eliminate the future approval of same sex marriage.  On that basis New Jersey ought to go ahead and vote.  It is a huge opportunity for the public to express it support for the rights of everyone.