Once a bully…

I was going to follow up my last post about binders full of women with some history about Mitt Romney’s bullying of women as well as his general bullying.  Then I remembered I did a post on his bullying of women politicians in Massachusetts.

Even though everyone, including me, thought that the President lost the first debate, I also thought that Romney looked like a bully.  The problem was President Obama did not look Presidential not standing up to it.   Last night Obama stood up to him.  Let us hope it is not too late.  Let’s look at some of Romney’s history.

Back in May the Washington Post ran a long story about Romney’s prep school years.  I thought at the time it was quite troubling and I still do.  Jason Horowitz wrote

Mitt Romney returned from a three-week spring break in 1965 to resume his studies as a high school senior at the prestigious Cranbrook School. Back on the handsome campus, studded with Tudor brick buildings and manicured fields, he spotted something he thought did not belong at a school where the boys wore ties and carried briefcases. John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.

“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenage son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.

A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

The incident was recalled similarly by five students, who gave their accounts independently of one another. Four of them — Friedemann, now a dentist; Phillip Maxwell, a lawyer; Thomas Buford, a retired prosecutor; and David Seed, a retired principal — spoke on the record. Another former student who witnessed the incident asked not to be identified. The men have differing political affiliations, although they mostly lean Democratic. Buford volunteered for Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008. Seed, a registered independent, has served as a Republican county chairman in Michigan. All of them said that politics in no way colored their recollections.

“It was a hack job,” recalled Maxwell, a childhood friend of Romney who was in the dorm room when the incident occurred. “It was vicious.”

And there were incidents involving at keast one teacher.

One venerable English teacher, Carl G. Wonn­berger, nicknamed “the Bat” for his diminished eyesight, was known to walk into the trophy case and apologize, step into wastepaper baskets and stare blindly as students slipped out the back of the room to smoke by the open windows. Once, several students remembered the time pranksters propped up the back axle of Wonnberger’s Volkswagen Beetle with two-by-fours and watched, laughing from the windows, as the unwitting teacher slammed the gas pedal with his wheels spinning in the air.

As an underclassman, Romney accompanied Wonnberger and Pierce Getsinger, another student, from the second floor of the main academic building to the library to retrieve a book the two boys needed. According to Getsinger, Romney opened a first set of doors for Wonnberger, but then at the next set, with other students around, he swept his hand forward, bidding the teacher into a closed door. Wonnberger walked right into it and Getsinger said Romney giggled hysterically as the teacher shrugged it off as another of life’s indignities.

Is this funny?  I’m not a psychologist but I still see a cruel streak in Romney.  His remarks about the 47% and his liking to fire people are all part of the pattern of dismissing people who don’t fit into his very small world.  I think it is frightening that a man like this can be view as “strong” rather than for what he really is.  It scares me that he could be President.  Is he going to bully world leaders?  And where will that lead us?  People who were interviewed for the Post article said he had mellowed and these were youthful pranks.  I think he has just channeled his aggression in ways that appear to be more acceptable.

Ask yourself if he has really changed.  Ask if you want someone like this to be President of the United States.  I only hope that people wake up in time.

Go vote and vote for Barack Obama.

President Obama at second presidential debate

Binders Full of Women

The President nailed it tonight!  I’m sure I will write more tomorrow, but I wanted to write about Romney’s “binders of women” comment.

As you may remember when Mitt Romney was first elected Governor of Massachusetts he ran as a moderate Republican.  And he did want to take affirmative action in having some women in his cabinet.  The call did go out to various women’s groups, including some I was involved with,  and we did provide him with resumes of qualified women for cabinet posts.  I guess someone put the resumes in a binder for him.

So Romney said at least one true thing tonight:  He got binders of women when he was governor.

But referring to binders of women is probably a natural figure of speech for Romney even if anyone else would call them resumes. His history shows that he doesn’t much like women who have any power.  After all, he bullied Jane Swift who was acting governor into deciding she wasn’t going to run after all.  (Swift denies the bullying, but she had already picked a running mate and one day, the truth will come out.)  He also tried to bully Candy Crowley tonight.  I think this is all part of his general lack of respect for women along with our needing flexible hours so we can go home and cook dinner!

Photograph:  Doug Mills/The New York Times

The Damn Yankees

As anyone who follows this blog knows, I am a Red Sox fan.  As a convert (I have rooted for the Dodgers, Phillies, and Atlanta Braves through the years), I am pretty rabid.  The one thing all those teams have is a dislike for the Yankees.  So last night as I watched the Yankees come back in the 9th I couldn’t stand to watch any more.  Around the 11th I turned off the radio, too.  I should have stuck it out for one more inning.  Instead I started thinking about the musical Damn Yankees.

Damn Yankees was a Broadway hit in 1955 with Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston.  It is the story of a middle-aged Washington Senators fan who sells his soul to the devil for a chance to bat and beat the Yankees.  In the movie version, he turns into Tab Hunter so I remember it well.  Anyway the cursing of the Yankees goes way back and not just for Sox fans.

What happened after I stopped listening was both thrilling (Detroit won!) and sad because Derek Jeter (the only Yankee I like) broke his ankle in the top of the 12th.  His season is over and we can only hope it isn’t the end of the career.

Derek Jeter injured his ankle in the top of the 12th inning.

Fans everywhere wish him a speedy recovery.  But I for one hope that this is the end of the damn Yankees for this season.  I know that baseball executives want a major market team in the World Series, but I’m hoping for Giants-Tigers.

Photograph: Barton Silverman/The New York Times

The Vice Presidential debate in song

Very clever, those Gregory Brothers .

The Gregory Brothers — Andrew, Michael, Evan and Sarah (who is married to Evan) Gregory — are best known for their YouTube music-video mash-ups, including the series Auto-Tune the News and Songify This!, in which they make songs out of non-songs and unintentional singers out of intentional speakers. They live in Brooklyn.

we present you the vice-presidential debate as it should be: Songified. It is our hope that someday, the vice-presidential candidates of the future will learn a lesson and just sing the whole thing to begin with.

http://www.nytimes.com/export_html/common/new_article_post.html?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2012%2F10%2F12%2Fopinion%2Fvice-presidential-debate-highlights-songified.html%3Fsmid%3Dpl-share&title=%E2%80%98V.P.%20Debate%20Highlights%2C%20Songified%E2%80%99&summary=The%20Gregory%20Brothers%20present%20a%20musical%20mash-up%20video%20of%20the%20vice%20presidential%20debate.

Enjoy!

Boomers and the job numbers

What does the retirement of the baby boom generation have to do with the job numbers you might ask.  I never thought of my retirement impacting the unemployment rate but reading Paul Krugman in the New York Times this morning, I realize that in a strange way I am helping the economy.  Yes, I’ve read all  the stories about how we didn’t save enough, how our homes (the big retirement plan for many) have lost value, how interest rates are hurting retirees, how the numbers are going to make Medicare and Social Security go broke and on and on.  But it never occurred to me that maybe the estimated 10.000 people a day who retire might actually be good for the economy.  Think about it.  Each person who retires has the potential to open up a job for someone else.  The bottom line is there is still work that needs to be done and at some point someone will be hired to do it.

 

AARP Social Security for Dummies Book Jacket

 

Krugman writes

 …the methods the bureau uses are public — and anyone familiar with the data understands that they are “noisy,” that especially good (or bad) months will be reported now and then as a simple consequence of statistical randomness. And that in turn means that you shouldn’t put much weight on any one month’s report.

In that case, however, what is the somewhat longer-term trend? Is the U.S. employment picture getting better? Yes, it is.

Some background: the monthly employment report is based on two surveys. One asks a random sample of employers how many people are on their payroll. The other asks a random sample of households whether their members are working or looking for work. And if you look at the trend over the past year or so, both surveys suggest a labor market that is gradually on the mend, with job creation consistently exceeding growth in the working-age population.

On the employer side, the current numbers say that over the past year the economy added 150,000 jobs a month, and revisions will probably push that number up significantly. That’s well above the 90,000 or so added jobs per month that we need to keep up with population. (This number used to be higher, but underlying work force growth has dropped off sharply now that many baby boomers are reaching retirement age.)

Meanwhile, the household survey produces estimates of both the number of Americans employed and the number unemployed, defined as people who are seeking work but don’t currently have a job. The eye-popping number from Friday’s report was a sudden drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent, but as I said, you shouldn’t put too much emphasis on one month’s number. The more important point is that unemployment has been on a sustained downward trend.

But isn’t that just because people have given up looking for work, and hence no longer count as unemployed? Actually, no. It’s true that the employment-population ratio — the percentage of adults with jobs — has been more or less flat for the past year. But remember those aging baby boomers: the fraction of American adults who are in their prime working years is falling fast. Once you take the effects of an aging population into account, the numbers show a substantial improvement in the employment picture since the summer of 2011.

unemployment

unemployment (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

 

So the job growth and unemployment figures are slowly improving.  The overall trend is up for growth and down for unemployment.  I think one of the most shocking reactions to the numbers was the notion that they were somehow being manipulated and the things were actually much worse.  Do some like Jack Welsh actually want things to either get worse or at least to stay bad?  They just can’t bring themselves to admit that President Obama may be succeeding – despite Congress and the Republicans and turning things around.  Do they really need to win that badly?

Krugman says it better

…The U.S. economy is still far short of where it should be, and the job market has a long way to go before it makes up the ground lost in the Great Recession. But the employment data do suggest an economy that is slowly healing, an economy in which declining consumer debt burdens and a housing revival have finally put us on the road back to full employment.

And that’s the truth that the right can’t handle. The furor over Friday’s report revealed a political movement that is rooting for American failure, so obsessed with taking down Mr. Obama that good news for the nation’s long-suffering workers drives its members into a blind rage. It also revealed a movement that lives in an intellectual bubble, dealing with uncomfortable reality — whether that reality involves polls or economic data — not just by denying the facts, but by spinning wild conspiracy theories.

It is, quite simply, frightening to think that a movement this deranged wields so much political power.

Explaining the new jobs numbers

The number of jobs added grew again in September reflecting the slow but steady growth and unemployment dropped below 8% for the first time since January 2009, the month President Obama took office.  Republicans, including Jack Welsh the former CEO of General Electric, are going to argue that the Bureau of Labor Statistics somehow cooked the numbers to help the President. Ezra Klein explains why this couldn’t be the case.

We’ve hit that moment in the election when people begin to lose their minds. Case in point, within minutes of the jobs report, Twitter filled with Republicans claiming the books were somehow cooked, the numbers aren’t real, etc.

Let’s take a deep breath. Jobs reports are about the economy, not about the election. Confusing the two leads to very bad analysis.

This is a good jobs report in a still-weak economy. The 114,000 jobs we added in September aren’t very impressive. The revisions to the last two months, which added 86,000 jobs to the total, were much more impressive. Those revisions also suggest that September’s jobs could get revised up — or, of course, down. So be careful about reading too much into that number. Still, these are, at best, good, not great, numbers.

The chart shows the number of jobs added pretty consistent with previous numbers.  So where is the controversy?

The controversy, if it’s worth using that word, is over the unemployment rate, which dropped from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent. That’s three-tenths of one percent. That’s what all the fuss is about.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: The data was not, as Jack Welch suggested in a now-infamous tweet, manipulated. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is set up to ensure the White House has no ability to influence it. As labor economist Betsey Stevenson wrote, “anyone who thinks that political folks can manipulate the unemployment data are completely ignorant of how the BLS works and how the data are compiled.” Plus, if the White House somehow was manipulating the data, don’t you think they would have made the payroll number look a bit better than 114,000? No one would have batted an eye at 160,000.

The fact is that there’s not much that needs to be explained here. We’ve seen drops like this — and even drops bigger than this — before. Between July and August the unemployment rate dropped from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent — two-tenths of one percent. November-December of 2011 also saw a .2 percent drop. November-December of 2010 saw a .4 percent drop. This isn’t some incredible aberration. The fact that the unemployment rate broke under the psychologically important 8 percent line is making this number feel bigger to people than it really is.

Wonkblog posted this chart soon after the numbers were released.

 

The explanation

…the unemployment rate is a function of two things: the number of people
employed, and the number of people in the labor force. But the proportion of
people in the labor force actually went up, suggesting the fall in the
unemployment rate reflects a real improvement, rather than people stopping their
work search…

The Bureau of Labor Statistics looks at the unemployment rate in several ways as Klein explains.

Which leads to another argument: That U6, the broadest measure of labor-market pain, didn’t move, which should make us skeptical of the fact that U3, the normal unemployment rate, did move. That’s just misunderstanding what U6 is.

U6 is not an unemployment measure. It includes part-time workers who want full-time work. So it doesn’t count the increase in part-time work. But every measure of actual unemployment — U1, U2, U3, U4, and U5 — went down. You can see them all here. Again, there’s no mystery.

Klein concludes

This is an encouraging report. What it tells us is that the labor market has been a bit better over the last few months than we thought, and that the recovery hasn’t slowed in the ways we feared. What the response to it tells us is that the election is driving people a little bit crazy.

You can see more charts by clicking the various links.

Slick Willard

Mitt Romney shook his etch-a-sketch again last night.  My husband says we should call him Slick Willard.

Right after the debate ended last night I predicted that as badly as the President did last night that the fact checkers would find that Mitt made more misstatements of fact than the President.  That at least is happening.

The Daily Kos posted this list

The results of Wednesday night’s first presidential debate are in and it’s official: Mitt Romney won round one. He was aggressive, he was decisive, he delivered. Of course he also lied through his teeth for most of the debate.

Romney lied:

  • When he claimed that “pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan.” They’re not.
  • When he said that President Obama had “cut Medicare by $716 billion to pay for Obamacare.” Obama didn’t.
  • When he denied proposing a $5 trillion tax cut. He did.
  • When he said President Obama had “added almost as much to the federal debt as all the prior presidents combined.” Not even close.
  • When he resurrected “death panels.” That was called “one of the biggest whoppers of the night.”
  • When he stated that half the green energy companies given stimulus funds had failed. Only if three out of nearly three dozen is half.

Stay tuned. These just scratch the surface.

And Jackie Calmes wrote this in the New York Times

To viewers of the first presidential debate who knew Mitt Romney only from the Republican primary season or Democratic advertising, the man on the stage on Wednesday night must have sounded surprisingly moderate.

Tax cuts under a President Romney? On the whole, really wouldn’t be any. Government regulation? Good for business. President Obama’s education policies? Lots to like there. Mr. Obama’s health care plan? Would keep some of its key provisions.

Republicans are reveling in the instant analysis that Mr. Romney outscored Mr. Obama on Wednesday night, largely on style points for aggressiveness.

Yet many conservatives, who have long viewed Mr. Romney’s ideological commitment with some skepticism, might have been less than thrilled with his tone. Mr. Romney, in front of a national television audience, took the opportunity to present himself as a reasonable pragmatist who was willing to work across the aisle as governor of Massachusetts — risking criticism that this was another “Etch-A-Sketch” moment for him, potentially reviving accusations that he is a flip-flopper.

Questions from the moderator, Jim Lehrer, about whether there is too much government regulation seemed the softest of softballs to a conservative. Yet Mr. Romney’s answer was not exactly out of the Tea Party playbook.

“Regulation is essential,” he said emphatically. “You can’t have a free market work if you don’t have regulation. As a businessperson, I had to have — I needed to know — the regulations. I needed them there. You couldn’t have people opening banks in their garage and making loans. I mean you have to have regulations so that you can have an economy work. Every free economy has good regulation.”

He also said

Much like George W. Bush in 2000, Mr. Romney seized on the issue of education to signal — especially to women, who lopsidedly support Mr. Obama — that he supports a muscular role for the federal government. In Republican primary debates, the popular answer, and one Mr. Romney has floated in the past, is to call for abolishing the Department of Education.

Mr. Romney did say the primary role in education should be at the state and local level.

“But the federal government also can play a very important role,” he said, adding, “The federal government can get local and state schools to do a better job.”

As for federal spending, “I’m not going to cut education funding,” Mr. Romney said. “I’m planning on continuing to grow.”

One of his big tax cutting examples was to cut funding for Public Broadcasting by saying he is going to fire Big Bird.  James Lipton was on Hardball tonight pointed out that Romney once said that he liked to fire people – and he was a having a good time being the Bain executive and firing not only Big Bird, but Jim Lehrer the moderator.

So did Slick Willard’s act work?  Here are the first poll numbers from Ipsos/Reuters as posted on the Daily Kos.

The top-lines are encouraging for everyone—Mitt Romney improved his lot, while President Barack Obamadidn’t lose any ground. What does that look like? Like this:

Obama 48 (48) Romney 43 (39)

That four-point jump for Romney was real and significant and takes him from “getting blown out of the water” to merely “lagging quite a bit behind.”

First thing to note is that the post-debate sample has more independents and fewer Democrats than the pre-debate one. No, that’s not some major conspiracy. Please leave that shit for the other side. It just means that poll samples will float from poll to poll. Nothing nefarious about that.

So check it—Obama’s favorables are unchanged from before and after the debate, 56-44. But looking at the crosstabs, Obama stayed solid with Democrats, gained a tiny bit with Republicans, and … kicked ass among independents. Seriously, flipping his faves among independents from 46-54 to 54-46, a 16-point shift, is a pretty big deal.

Now look at Romney’s favorables. He definitely improved, from 46-54 to 51-49. He desperately needs those numbers to improve (and improve further) if he wants to be competitive. So, good news, right?

Well, Romney improved marginally with Democrats and stayed even with independents. So where did he improve? Among Republicans, where his “very favorable” jumped a solid 10 points, from 36 to 46 percent.

So is this what Romney set out to do? Solidify his GOP base and trick some Democrats into thinking that he wasn’t as horrible as they thought?

There is a very nice chart so click on the link.

Maybe Slick Willard won’t play after all.

Bye, Bye Bobby

Mercifully, the Red Sox season came to a close yesterday.  Daisuke Matsuzaka ended his run with a loss.  Poor fellow, he never adjusted to American baseball or maybe to Red Sox baseball.  The same for Bobby Valentine who was fired today.  Peter Abraham wrote this afternoon

The Red Sox moved swiftly after ending their season Wednesday night, telling Valentine that he would not return for the second year of his contract to manage the team.

The Sox finished 69-93, their worst record since 1965, and finished in last place in the American League East for the first time since John Henry and Tom Werner became owners 11 years ago.

“I’m disappointed, yeah,” Valentine said in an impromptu meeting with reporters after he first eluded them as he started a bike ride Thursday afternoon. “This is not the press conference that I was expecting at the end of the season.”

Not since 1934 had the Red Sox fired a manager after only one season. But the 62-year-old Valentine was a controversial choice to replace Terry Francona, and his tenure proved rocky.

“A lot of things didn’t go well, but an experienced manager is supposed to put his finger in the dike and keep the water on the other side,” he said.

Of course we had seen this coming for sometime now.  Bobby falling off his bike was symbolic of the season.

So now it is time to move on.  Sign Cody Ross.  Sign David Ortiz.  Hope that Ellsbury can stay healthy.  Ditto Pedroia.  And who should he the next manager?

Red Sox Lose - Getty.jpg

The Obnoxious Boston Fan  posted this advice for the new manager.

Dear Next Red Sox Manager:

Congratulations. Managing the Red Sox is a dream job for anyone who doesn’t have it. You will be the most scrutinized boss in New England, especially now that the FBI is no longer “tracking” Whitey Bulger.

Good luck, sir, you’re going to need it.

Every Red Sox fan – at least once or twice a game – knows that he or she can do the job better than you. Every move you make will be second-guessed, criticized, analyzed, applauded or jeered, depending on the result. You will almost always be wrong. We will almost always be right.

Very few of us know first-hand the challenges of managing multi-millionaires with guaranteed contracts and the massive talent and ego helped them earn those multi-million dollar deals. The Red Sox team that you greet on Day One in Fort Myers cannot bear any real resemblance to the team that sulked off the field in humiliating defeat Wednesday night in the Bronx.

Many of the core players will or perhaps should be the same – the cheerful Cody Ross, the surgically-repaired Dustin Pedroia, the hopefully re-signed and content David Oritz, the genuine Texas-Could-Be-Tough-Guy Will Middlebrooks, the-ever-consistent Clay Buchholz and the glad-this-season-is-over Jon Lester. This core has as much potential to win the coveted first or second-wildcard as does the Orioles or A’s and is strong enough to even reach the ALCS. There is neither enough firepower at the plate nor octane on the mound to win a division nor survive pair of seven-game series and win a World Series championship.

And he ends with this

You are fortunate to be replacing Bobby Valentine. It would be nearly impossible to do any worse in 2013 than he did in 2012. Valentine didn’t lose control of the Red Sox, he never had it, nor ever cared to. His presence was all about Bobby Valentine from his introductory press conference to final, whining farewells this week. This is not about you, it’s about them. If you can get through your first press conference without being the star of the show, that will be considered progress.

Simply doing a better job than your predecessor won’t be good enough. Everyone will demand a championship every year. But Red Sox fans as a whole are a patient lot and will give you and the organization a chance as long as they are treated like adults and not a bunch of six-year-olds who still believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the second wildcard when the team is 12 games out in August. My parents both lived and died their entire lives without ever seeing a World Series parade in Boston. Most of their grandchildren, on the other hand, don’t remember a time when the Red Sox hadn’t won a championship  Trust me on this one, Mr. New Manager, Red Sox fans are a patient and forgiving, if given the chance.

Reasonable Red Sox fans – no that’s not an oxymoron – know this team is at least two years away from serious contention, if not three. You’ll have a guaranteed contract, probably at least three-years in length. So act accordingly.

Take charge.

Be the boss.

Lead.

Neither accept nor dispense bull—-, especially when dealing with the players.

Do not follow and get everyone else the hell out of your way. Dealing with the media is a part of the job, but they are not your core audience nor do they generate the bajillions of dollars needed to sustain the Monster and all whom work beneath its spell. Be professional and they will/should act accordingly. Don’t play them off one and another and don’t, under any circumstances, allow yourself to become the story with foolishness and faux threats to punch them in the nose. And you’re free to ignore what idiots like me say once you’re done reading this letter.

Simply put: “Do your job.”

The pressure is on, Ben Cherington.  Pick well.  We are waiting.

Round one: Romney

Never thought I’d be writing those words, but President Obama was off his game tonight.  Romney was aggressive and lied and flipped, but seemed credible.  The President never called him on it except a little on the Obamacare/Romenycare issue.  This was a missed opportunity.  I think the President had decided to just be Presidential and it didn’t work.  Maybe he wasn’t prepared, but his mind just wasn’t there.

Was it enough to turn the election?  Not sure.  Romney being aggressive and walking over Jim Lehrer was not particularly attractive.  Will it turn people off?

This was always a tight race and it just got tighter.

Will the first debate decide the election?  Will anyone pay any attention to the fact checking which will show, I think, more Romney errors?  Can the President’s team go back and figure out how to use his words against him in the next debate?

And one final thought, Joe Biden’s words haunted this debate.  Can he overcome this against Paul Ryan?

Very disappointing.

More tomorrow.