Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Favorite Paragraph

Rarely do you see such a neat and tidy explanation of a tautology at work:

Conservatives would have us believe that the customer is responsible for knowing if the bank is misleading them and that if they didn’t do their own research, that’s their problem. In the next breath they also tell us that corporations would never deliberately harm their customers because the “free” market would punish them. So we should trust the banks but if they lie to us it’s our own fault for believing them. It’s a perfect tautology for holding banks unaccountable for their actions.

H/T to addictinginfo :)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I Can't Believe This State Isn't in Ruins

Here are some handy statistics about one of our 50 states. Without skipping ahead, see if you can guess which of the 50 it is:

Current unemployment rate: 6% (solidly below the national average of 8.2).

Current teen birth rate per 1,000 population: 17 (national average is 34).

Infant mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 5 (national average is almost 7).

Incarceration rate per 100,000 residents: 200 (TX is 640, AZ is 570, national average is 497).

Median income: $60,000 (national average is $50,000).

Marijuana possession is now a civil matter, unless obvious distribution is going on.

Representation over the last six years: mostly Democratic at both the state and federal level.

Care to guess?

- - - - - - -

Meet Massachusetts, a state which, since 2006, has had near-universal healthcare, by way of an insurance mandate, as well as same-sex marriage.

Interestingly, these two achievements were unique at the time of their passage, and were passed under the "severely conservative" Mitt Romney.

In spite of all the RWNJ Chicken Littles out there, during six years of near-universal healthcare and full marriage equality, Massachusetts hasn't slid into the Atlantic or been swallowed by a huge sinkhole. Nor has their job market been destroyed. Nor have we seen employers fleeing the state to escape the burdens imposed by Romneycare. The essential moral character of the state is quite intact. We aren't seeing unusual levels of crime, incest, rape, murder, etc.

Their healthcare system is working very well and hasn't stifled economic activity, though its per-capita cost is somewhat higher than the national average. Marriage equality for loving couples hasn't destabilized the whole state, and it doesn't seem to have destroyed the marriages of Massachusetts heterosexuals.

Chew on that, NOM/GOP/FOX/CPAC/AFA/etc.

Massachusetts: a great place to live since Romney left office there. I'm thinking there's a lesson in all this, and I hope it doesn't take a four-year failboat of a Romney presidency for us to learn said lesson. Mr. Severe Conservative has sworn to dump ACA, fight SSM, regressively tax, maintain marijuana laws, and do everything he can to protect the wealthy and Wall Street.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Job Creation: Misnomer?

We hear so much about who can create jobs better, if at all. But remember what a job actually is: it is fundamentally a response to demand.

Company X has 10 employees who help provide a service or a product. The service or product is better or more affordable, so their sales are increasing steadily. A time will come when a given level of personalized customer service (whatever that may be) begins to suffer because a growing group of people want Company X's service or product. The employees are stretched too thin, and Company X's image might begin to erode because the new customers aren't enjoying their buying experience as much. This is one time where Company X will consider bringing on more staff.

Sales could also increase enough that some additional administrative help is needed, maybe in the form of a full-time accountant, an HR person, whatever. Perhaps a successful salesperson is promoted to a management role, opening a slot for a new salesperson to replace them.

In all cases, hiring decisions are made in response to an immediate need or a perceived need. Seasonal employees may be brought on and trained a week or more before the actual rush begins. At the end of the rush, they are let go because the demand has returned to its normal off-season level.

Here are a few more examples, all of which have something critical in common:

A company who is forecasting a spike in sales after a large R&D project is completed... A firm who is preparing to open into new territories with a large marketing campaign... A company who is awarded a new service contract will prepare for it by bringing on the required personnel such that they can fulfill their obligations... A medical manufacturer has just received approval for their new device or drug will go on a hiring spree... A trade show logistics company will hire when their contracts for the next twelve months show that their 200 employees cannot reasonably complete 210 employees' worth of work.

But you know who won't hire a new employee? A company who doesn't have additional work, or perceived additional work, for them to do. What would be the point? Demand is the number one job creator, and it is demand which can only be artificially inflated by governments in times of economic distressing order to improve infrastructure, develop new sources or delivery mechanisms for energy, improve general quality of life for the citizenry, enhance educational opportunities, etc.

Keynes works because it is based in reality. Trickle down can piss off for the ineffective, cowardly looting that it really is.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Atheist for Vice President?

I was under the impression that one of the least likely sorts of people to be elected president were atheists. And I am quite certain that of the large percentage of Americans who hold this view, it is conservatives who would tend to be the loudest in their anti-atheist President viewpoint.

S.E. Cupp, the well-known conservative atheist, blogger, frequent Fox guest, and author, has over 120,000 followers on twitter. Earlier today, Ann Romney hinted that various women are being considered as running mates for Mitt Romney in the upcoming election.

[Stay with me; I tie this all together shortly.]

Apparently, S.E. Cupp has been receiving more than a few (possibly semi-serious) twitter write-ins for Romney's VP pick. We needn't belabor the fact that she is too young to serve in that capacity--that isn't my main issue here. This is my main issue: a tweet from her around 9pm EST, which read as follows:

“@secupp: Wow, appreciate all the write-ins for my veep appointment, but I'm not old enough. Or anything else enough.”

My main issue is that she's an atheist, her followers tend to be conservative, and I would assume that anyone writing her in for a VP nod would be conservative as well. Are they just sycophants?

Do they really believe she'd make a good VP? Have they forgotten her atheism? Are these merely open-minded, outlying conservative types who want to see someone young and energetic as a contrast to the rather staid Romney?

I have to lean toward the more sycophantic, joking types here. I don't say this to insult her intelligence or as a personal attack on her (again, age notwithstanding)*. I say this because it would indeed be a tremendous indication of progress if we were to see a decent percentage of Americans seriously consider electing an atheist to high office.

Somehow, nice as they might be, I don't see the write-in tweets to Ms. Cupp as being part of such a leap forward in our society.

On the other hand, given Romney's rather hamfisted campaign to date, his lack of specifics on almost anything remotely thorny within his own party, and of course his refusal to run on his major public sector accomplishment while also dodging real conversation on his major private sector accomplishments, perhaps some voters are looking for anything--even an atheist--to energize the base.

*I am on record as being of the opinion that her atheism isn't genuine, having read much of her writings and listened to a significant number of her interviews and appearances over the years. I am willing to be convinced otherwise, but knowing and having associated with hundreds of atheists over the years, she is (to me) uniquely and suspiciously outside even the widely varied norms I have observed.

She spends an enormous amount of time, for example, defending the Christian right, almost totally ignoring its libertarian & liberal sides. She is perfectly willing to tolerate, and even assist in, the erosion of separation of church and state at all levels. She occasionally appears as a sort of generic talking head on programs that don't specifically mention her atheism, but many of her appearances and interviews, and definitely her book, make it clear that she is on those shows because she is an atheist; it informs the reason for her appearance in the first place ("and now, an atheist's viewpoint").

In every case, her presentation of atheism is flawed, illogical, and suspiciously cuddly with right-wing religious ideologies.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Hey, NOM, Send That Letter to Chick-fil-a, Too

Always a neutral organization which wants to keep corporations from forcing their views on their employees and customers whose positions on same-sex marriage vary, NOM sent a letter to corporations in Minnesota requesting just that:

As a cultural matter that has little to do with your corporate mission to serve customers, earn profits, and provide good jobs for the people of Minnesota we would request that _____ adopt a neutral stance on the Minnesota marriage amendment. We do not request that you endorse our efforts to protect the age-old definition of what is a marriage, but only that you stay neutral and respect the conscience rights of your customers and employees who are on both sides of the issue. [...]Wading into a culture war over an issue where _____ has no business interest is to invite public backlash, much like what Starbucks is experiencing in the campaign, with little upside.

No kiddin'. How about you send that letter to Chick-fil-a, a company that has already spent millions of dollars intruding on the same-sex marriage debate, including funding NOM? Tell those corporate tyrants to stop forcing their employees and customers to support a position with which they might disagree.

Yeah, right. As ZJ on freethoughtblogs pointed out, NOM is only selectively neutral, citing their statement on a partnership with Jitters & Bliss Coffee:

This week we are proud to roll out Jitters and Bliss Coffee as a provider of excellent coffee that can be brewed with a clean conscience any time you want at home, at the office or at your church. [...]During the month of July Jitters and Bliss is offering a 5% discount to every customer who enters the promotional code “marriage”. A small portion of each purchase made also goes to support the National Organization for Marriage as we work to educate people and corporations on the importance of marriage to our society.

You gotta wonder if the NOM people just ignore notions of honesty and integrity, or if they just don't care.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mississippi Abortion Ruling

Judge Daniel Jordan today ruled that Mississippi's new law, which effectively shuts down the state's sole remaining abortion provider, must be put on hold. Citing a lack of medical or patient safety reasons for passage, as well as multiple examples of government officials explicitly stating that the purpose of the law was to eliminate abortion services in Mississippi, Judge Jordan has stayed the law pending a hearing on the merits.

Romney and Lying

Always nice to hear a presidential candidate (still presumptive at this point) repeatedly and intentionally lie to secure votes:

Obama has racked up more debt than all previous presidents combined? False.

Obama wants to end Medicare as we know it? Nope - that's a main ingredient in the Ryan budget.

Obama's healthcare overhaul will balloon the deficit? False.

The list goes on, the fact checkers do their work, and still this man lies all the time. I'm wondering if it has become such a habit for Romney that he no longer notices. It's quite obvious he doesn't care.