Friday, September 21, 2012

Mitt Nears 700 Lies

Mitt Romney was caught in 28 more lies during the past week as he continued to run a campaign that has so little regard for the truth that his pollster recently boasted the campaign would not be "dictated by fact checkers."  

"I thought many months ago that it was at least possible that Mitt Romney would be more cautious about telling falsehoods as the election drew closer," Steve Benen wrote in his 35th weekly installment of "Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity at "After all, candidates can get away with more in, say, April than in September -- there's far more scrutiny now.
"Alas, Romney seems unfazed, both by the calendar and by life under a microscope -- he keeps repeating falsehoods without any real concern for consequences," Benen noted.
Since Benen started keeping count of Romney's lies in January, he has documented 682 Romney lies through Friday, according to our count.  He appears likely to break through 700 lies in the coming week. 
With only six weeks remaining before the election, Romney will have to step up the pace, needing an average of 53 lies a week to reach the plateau of 1,000.  His average is 19.48 lies per week since January, with a personal high of 37 lies in week 31, ending Aug. 24. But as his increasingly desperate campaign enters the stretch run, the temptation to stretch the truth can only increase.
— Jim Cullen

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mitt Romney declares class warfare against poor and near-poor

Others have already done a good job of reporting and analyzing the latest manifestation of Mitt Romney’s foot-in-mouth disease, aka his declaration of class warfare against the poor and near-poor that he recently made in front of a group of wealthy donors. 

For those who have been visiting Jupiter or Mars, here is the kernel of his remarks:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what… All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them….And they're hopeless…I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

The 47% figure refers, of course, to the number of American households that pay no federal income tax.

Journalists have rightfully jumped all over the Mittman. DavidWeigel analyzed the statement in detail in Slate, pointing out the several conflations, e.g., assuming that the 47% who don’t pay income taxes are all on welfare. As Weigel, National Public Radio and others have already written, the 47% includes most senior citizens receiving Social Security and military personnel. Many have remembered to say that those in the “47%” pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, plus state, local and sales tax. Most journalists from all points of the political spectrum have discussed how bad Romney looks in this latest dust-up. Some have even dared to utter the words “class warfare,” a phrase usually proffered by arch conservatives opposed to returning tax rates for the wealthy to what they were before the Bush II temporary cuts.

There’s not much more I can add to the discussion that’s new, but I did want to take a look at those in the 47% who are not part of the military or seniors on Social Security: those whose taxable income after deductions is lower than the threshold for paying federal income taxes. To state the obvious—they don’t pay taxes because their income is too low!

Who are these people?

They serve you in fast food restaurants and they sweep your floors. They’re the cashiers in supermarkets and Wal-Mart. They may be fixing your roof or parking your car. They change your bedpan in the hospital. They may be on the assembly line of non-unionized companies. A lot of twenty-somethings with college diplomas and no job prospects are in this group.

The crime here is not that these good, hardworking people don’t pay income taxes, but that they earn so little money that after tax credits they fall under the threshold for paying taxes.

Be it senior citizens who have worked and paid into the Social Security system for decades, the honorable men and women we send off to risk their lives often in meaningless wars or the poor and near-poor, these people do not deserve the angry and offensive criticism of Romney and the Tea-partiers. These people are neither “hopeless,” nor do they refuse to take “personal responsibility for their lives,” as Mitt put it. Blaming the victim is an old game for right-wingers. That a candidate for the presidency is playing it is shameful and shocking.

I’m going to end by going out on a limb and stating unequivocally that when those sympathetic to Romney’s view close their eyes and conjure an image of the 47% of the population who they believe are sucking society dry, all they see is black and brown. Like “food stamp president,” “47%” is a racial code word for African-Americans and Hispanics. They won’t say it, because they don’t have to.  That’s the beauty—and the ugliness—of code words.

Monday, September 17, 2012

An argument in favor of reading the daily news in a hard copy newspaper

By Marc Jampole

We’ve been having some irritating problems with our home delivery of the New York Times lately, so I over the past few weeks I have gone back and forth between reading the Times online and in hard copy.  Reading the newspaper for a few days in one medium and then switching to another has enabled me to recognize some contrasts in the newspaper reading experience between paper and screen. 

What I’m talking about is a once-a-day review of the news that many people do in the morning or evening, not the constant grazing for “new” news or to follow a breaking story that so many of us now do using computers or computer-like devices. I like to read the hard copy of the newspaper over tea and breakfast (but after I have checked my email, Twitter and Facebook), but when it doesn’t arrive, I end up going through it online as soon as I turn on my computer.

For all three of the major differences I find in the online and hard copy read experience, I prefer the hard copy in each case, as follows:

1.      It takes longer to read a full newspaper online.
It takes a long time to do all that clicking back and forth, from the home or section page to the article to the second part of the article back to the home/section page and on to another article. I have a pretty new computer, but sometimes there is still a 5 or 10 second delay before the copy appears on the screen.  Reading the hard copy is much faster.

2.      An online newspaper makes it easier for people to avoid the news they don’t want to read.
When I leaf through a hard copy of the newspaper, I see everything that the editors want me to see on every page, what the Times calls “All the news that’s fit to print.”  I might only want to read the headline, but it’s pretty hard to avoid the first sentence, photograph and large pull-out quotes. Thus by leafing through the paper, you get the world, albeit the world according to one view. By contrast, once you get past the home page, it’s much easier to skip articles or even whole sections of most online versions of the newspaper. It would be impossible to have it any other way unless the screen were as big as a two-page spread of a daily newspaper.

3.      A sense of time is lost online
The hard copy newspaper represents a point in time that is repeated every 24 hours. On the Internet, stories are constantly updated, so it’s easy to lose sense of the chronology of the news unfolding after the events occur. The constant updating also can lead to errors as media outlets compete with each other to be the first to bring the news to the public’s attention. More problematic is the ease at which stories can hang around, especially at news aggregators that decide what to post based on the popularity of articles.  Often you see a story that looks new, but it’s really days and sometimes even weeks old. This loss of a sense of time distorts the long-term significance of news stories.

I’m not condemning online news.  I routinely follow stories during the day online, and peruse all the news via Google News and Yahoo! twice a day (but only after I have read the Times).  I do think, however, that the gradual replacement of the hard copy of the daily newspaper represents a decline on the quality of life and is leading to an electorate that has lost some of its ability to sort out the chronology of events.

I want to close with another of my occasional news story comparisons. It’s sad to consider what the following comparison says about our society, the level of public discourse and the collective wisdom of our editors in prioritizing information.

Here are the two sets of information I fed into the Google News search box over the weekend. In each case, I used the minimum number of words I thought it would take to produce a result:

Story: Some photographer took photos of the wife of the grandson of the Queen of England while she was topless on a beach.
Key words used: Kate topless
New stories: 4,314

Story: A team from Stanford and Lawrence Livermore Laboratory found that if we harnessed all the wind energy on Earth to produce electricity it would produce 100 times the current global use and the wind turbines would affect temperatures by a mere .2 degrees Fahrenheit and add one inch to the annual rain total worldwide. The team also proposed a conceptual plan for making the wind energy dream come true.
Key words used:  wind energy Stanford Livermore
New stories: 211

News editors think we should care more about the boobs of a mildly attractive mediocrity than the fact that a team of researchers have proof that we can engineer our way out of the climate change crisis and our coming shortages of carbon-based fuels.  The significance of this preference is, as the Latins would say, res ipsa loquitor – a thing that proves itself.