Thursday, November 15, 2012

Obama's "gifts" to actual people undermines Republicans, corporate "people" lose election

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times were allowed to listen in on a conference call Romney had with his fund-raisers post-election:
In a conference call with fund-raisers and donors to his campaign, Mr. Romney said Wednesday afternoon that the president had followed the “old playbook” of using targeted initiatives to woo specific interest groups — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”
“In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said, contrasting Mr. Obama’s strategy to his own of “talking about big issues for the whole country: military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth.”
Mr. Romney’s comments in the 20-minute conference call came after his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, told WISC-TV in Madison on Monday that their loss was a result of Mr. Obama’s strength in “urban areas,” an analysis that did not account for Mr. Obama’s victories in more rural states like Iowa and New Hampshire or the decrease in the number of votes for the president relative to 2008 in critical urban counties in Ohio.
“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift,” Mr. Romney said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”

The president’s health care plan, he said, was also a useful tool in mobilizing black and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers: 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics.
“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity — I mean, this is huge,” Mr. Romney said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”
This dude is so friggin' clueless. All of these "gifts" are policies to help people enter and remain in the middle class. They are all designed to provide security to people so that they can become and remain productive members of our economy.

And wow it's great to hear him finally say that women are a specific interest group. We knew he thought so. Free contraceptives, woo! Here's a clue, Mitt: it's not only college-age sluts who are using contraceptives. Some women actually engage in this thing called family planning that allows them to optimally care for their families. Also, let me make a correction: the contraceptives are not free, they are covered 100% by the insurance that is either paid for or earned by an economically productive member of society.

And sure, let's just kick young people out of the health insurance market when their parents are willing and able to cover them until they are gainfully employed. It's not like college grads are having a hard time finding salaried positions with good benefits or anything. Let's just let them run around uninsured so that they wait until they are half-dead to drag their penniless asses to the ER to get super-expensive treatment for completely manageable health issues.

And why should all of those bums making only $35K a year get any help purchasing health insurance? Obviously they are lazy assholes who refuse to take responsibility for their own lives and are simply waiting for the gubment to take care of them. It's not like it's hard work to make $35K a year or anything. If they are so lame they can't even pay for unexpected  medical expenses then, well, I don't know I guess we should let them go bankrupt and lose their homes die in the gutters or something.

And those Dream Act kids? HA! Who cares that we spent 12 years and an untold amount of taxpayer money to educate them? Who cares that they are college-educated or have mastered a skilled trade or are willing to defend and serve this country that doesn't even want them? We shouldn't allow them to participate in our economy as productive, tax-paying individuals! We should make them constantly fear for their own livelihoods! They should fear deportation to a country that they may not even remember and that may not truly accept them because they are American!

Republicans have been so obsessed with lowering taxes and decreasing regulations on business because they say that uncertainty prevents growth. Not knowing what unexpected expenses or requirements may pop up causes businesses to proceed cautiously with plans to hire and expand. Well, Obama's so-called “gifts” to “special-interest groups” seek to create certainty in the economic lives of people. If you can educate yourself without fear of eternal debt, care for your health without fear of bankruptcy, take care of and earn a living for your family without pricing yourself out of daycare or even out of your own house, and fully contribute to our economy without fear of authorities, then you have a much greater degree of economic security. This could lead us into discussion on whether economy is driven by many individuals each contributing their talents and efforts, or whether it is driven by a few select individuals in some Ayn Rand-ian manner.

I suppose what it comes down to is the idea, espoused by Romney and others, that “corporations are people.” I personally disagree with this notion. But regardless of my own beliefs, even if corporations are indeed “people,” as proponents of corporate personhood would have us believe, corporate “people” should not take precedence over people “people.” Unfortunately, that’s what the Republican party has become. They are the party of corporate “people,” whereas the Democratic party is that of people “people.” This election has demonstrated that it doesn’t matter how strong corporate “people” are, how much money they pour into PACs, how they threaten the jobs of their employees, how much they fear-monger via preferred news outlets, or how many “poll” results they pull out of their asses. If the people “people” are sick and tired and riled up, they will go out there and they will vote and the will of the people “people” can indeed overpower that of corporate “people.” Now, if we can just motivate the people “people” more often, we will probably be even better off…

Monday, November 12, 2012

Post-Election Roundup

Okay, it's not really a roundup, it's just a place to dump interesting post-election stuff I happen to run into. It is by no means comprehensive. I will probably add to it as I come across more.

By Maureen Dowd in the New York Times:

Team Romney has every reason to be shellshocked. Its candidate, after all, resoundingly won the election of the country he was wooing.
Mitt Romney is the president of white male America.
Romney and Tea Party loonies dismissed half the country as chattel and moochers who did not belong in their “traditional” America. But the more they insulted the president with birther cracks, the more they tried to force chastity belts on women, and the more they made Hispanics, blacks and gays feel like the help, the more these groups burned to prove that, knitted together, they could give the dead-enders of white male domination the boot.
Romney was still running in an illusory country where husbands told wives how to vote, and the wives who worked had better get home in time to cook dinner. But in the real country, many wives were urging husbands not to vote for a Brylcreemed boss out of a ’50s boardroom whose party was helping to revive a 50-year-old debate over contraception.

By David Brooks in the New York Times:
During the 2012 campaign, Republicans kept circling back to the spot where government expansion threatens personal initiative: you didn’t build that; makers versus takers; the supposed dependency of the 47 percent. Again and again, Republicans argued that the vital essence of the country is threatened by overweening government.
These economic values played well in places with a lot of Protestant dissenters and their cultural heirs. They struck chords with people whose imaginations are inspired by the frontier experience.
But, each year, there are more Americans whose cultural roots lie elsewhere. Each year, there are more people from different cultures, with different attitudes toward authority, different attitudes about individualism, different ideas about what makes people enterprising.
More important, people in these groups are facing problems not captured by the fundamental Republican equation: more government = less vitality.
The Pew Research Center does excellent research on Asian-American and Hispanic values. Two findings jump out. First, people in these groups have an awesome commitment to work. By most measures, members of these groups value industriousness more than whites.
Second, they are also tremendously appreciative of government. In survey after survey, they embrace the idea that some government programs can incite hard work, not undermine it; enhance opportunity, not crush it.
Moreover, when they look at the things that undermine the work ethic and threaten their chances to succeed, it’s often not government. It’s a modern economy in which you can work more productively, but your wages still don’t rise. It’s a bloated financial sector that just sent the world into turmoil. It’s a university system that is indispensable but unaffordable. It’s chaotic neighborhoods that can’t be cured by withdrawing government programs.

The New Civil Rights Movement points tells of 22 states filing petitions to secede the U.S. Of course you know good ol' Texas is on the list. The Texas petition reads:
Peacefully grant the State of Texas to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government.
The US continues to suffer economic difficulties stemming from the federal government's neglect to reform domestic and foreign spending. The citizens of the US suffer from blatant abuses of their rights such as the NDAA, the TSA, etc. Given that the state of Texas maintains a balanced budget and is the 15th largest economy in the world, it is practically feasible for Texas to withdraw from the union, and to do so would protect it's citizens' standard of living and re-secure their rights and liberties in accordance with the original ideas and beliefs of our founding fathers which are no longer being reflected by the federal government.
As of Nov 12 at 1:54 pm, there are 23,401 signatures. If petition has 25,000 signatures within 30 days, a member of the executive branch must respond to it. Let me respond for them: "Good luck securing your border!"

blue milk links to a couple of articles worthy of contemplation.

Ken Rudin of Political Junkie has a good summary of the whole election.
Obama finished with 332 electoral votes — 62 more than the 270 needed to put him over the top. (Romney received 206.)
And what accounts for this result? According to leaders of the Tea Party and others on the right, the reason why the GOP suffered on Nov. 6 is because Romney was too moderate.
Hahahaha! Um, I think not. He goes on to illustrate all of the crappy teabaggers that lost in the Senate race, then points out (much like everyone else) the demographic shift that is underway:
Obama won women by 11 points. He took 71 percent of Latinos, 73 percent of Asians, 93 percent of blacks. Sixty percent of voters under 30. Once upon a time, winning the white vote by a 61-39 percentage — as Romney did — would be enough for victory. Those days may be gone.
And of course there's the fact that Romney was just an incredibly weak candidate:
In the eyes of many, there never was the sense of who the authentic Mitt Romney really was. It was a problem for him when he squared off against his fellow Republicans and it was a problem in the fall. It wasn't that he was too moderate, or too conservative. It was a question of which was the real Romney.

Romney's defeat and the amazingly dramatic response to it by his supporters has prompted the formation of White People Mourning Romney, where you can see pictures of Republicans looking sad, horrified, and utterly defeated when the election results were in. Awesome.

And here you can see the 20 best Obama Memes, and celebrate that we have four more years to inspire even more awesomeness.

This guy Eric Garland wrote a "Letter to a future Republican strategist regarding white people." Hilarious while also sadly true.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cranky Fat Feminist's Cranky Rant Summarizes My Thoughts Exactly

This cranky rant from Cranky Fat Feminist on UniteWomen handily summarizes my thoughts on the GOP's policy stances regarding my personal bodily autonomy. The whole thing is good, especially this part:
“Life begins at conception.” Did you learn in your health/sex ed class that its quite common for eggs to be fertilized but simply fail to implant in the lining of the woman’s uterus? So then is the woman a murderer for failing to have the perfect uterus for that particular egg to implant in?
I've had a similar thought myself: Should I have a funeral every time my period is a week late?

When I graduated college, I was no longer covered by my parents' health insurance. I turned to Planned Parenthood for birth control in the months between graduating and finding a salaried position with benefits. Under ObamaCare, I would not have been kicked off my parents' plan. I could have stayed on several more months until I had an employer-provided plan. Under a Ryan/Romney government, not only would I be kicked off my parents' plan upon graduation, but I also would no longer have Planned Parenthood available as an alternative. I would have been SOL. These assholes refuse to acknowledge that these programs allow people to fully realize their economic potential and become productive members of our economy. They prevent us from becoming dependent on government, not the other way around.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

To learn about the CPRIT scandal, start here

Here is a starting point for researching the CPRIT / UT funding scandal. It's in Nature newsblog item entitled Texas cancer institute to re-review controversial grant. It's kind of old (from May of this year) but is a good overview and has many links.
The Texas cancer world has been rocked by controversy since the 8 May resignation of Alfred Gilman, a Nobel laureate and chief scientific officer at the US$3-billion, taxpayer-funded Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) in Austin.
In leaving, Gilman cited his concerns about an $18-million “incubator” grant speedily awarded in March, without scientific review, to a team at the Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS) at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Gilman left UT Southwestern to go work for CPRIT.

UPDATE 11/28/12:
Houston Chronicle reports that Jerry Cobbs, the cheif commercialization officer at CPRIT, has resigned.
Cobbs also tried, in March, to slow down the fast-track approval process for the largest grant awarded by the cancer agency.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

KGOY: Kids Getting Older Younger

Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies' facebook page linked some things I'd like to think about. One was a link to the Media Education Foundation, which made a documentary called Consuming Kids: the Commercialization of Childhood. The documentary is an hour long. I'm not sure if this is available online, but I'd like to see if I can get it on Netflix. It was discussed in a blog post (eats shoots 'n leaves) that compares corporate grooming of chidren to be consumers to that of pedophiles. The blog points out that the U.S. is the only nation that has deregulated advertising to children (ah, yes we can thank our Republican golden boy Ronald Reagan for that one, too.) That post refers to previous post of the same blog discussing a loss of empathy among college students over the past 30 years. The latter post says that questions regarding the loss of empathy issue are basically answered in the documentary. The loss of empathy study is discussed in Scientific American, as well. Finally, PPBB links a news video about what marketers call "KGOY," or Kids Getting Older Younger. It is from 2004, in the height of the midriff-baring tank-top fashion phase. I'm really happy that long shirts and layers have come back into fashion.

In the past couple of weeks, my daughter has made the movie character/product marketing connection. We were in the store looking at Band-aids, and she saw some with Cars on them. But to her they weren't Cars, she didn't know about the movie, to her they were just cars. We got them because she liked them. Later that weekend, we decided to watch a movie, and we thought, hey, since we got the Band-aids we can watch the movie. Her brain instantly made the connection. She's big on both bandages and TV (meaning DVDs or Netflix, mind you) right now. Since then she has gotten a Woody drinking cup and become famililar with Toy Story. Yesterday in the grocery store, she stopped cold in front of a display of Disney-themed coloring books, enamored by the Cars book. I thought to myself, when she becomes familiar with all of the characters on display in that rack, we are going to be in trouble. The marketing machine is amazing and it catches you when you least expect it.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Science faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students": My synopsis of a study in PNAS

I came across a scATX blog post about an article in Inside Higher Ed discussing a new PNAS study that empirically demonstrates a bias against women among science faculty. The IHE article was a decent overview of the study. A blog post in Scientific American was actually a much better summary, and it addressed in clear terms what makes the study unique and why it is important.

Here is my summary of the PNAS paper "Science faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students."

The PNAS paper begins by noting the U.S. will be faced with a deficit of scientists and engineers in the next decade. The number of women pursuing higher science education has certainly increased over the years, but "there is a persistent disparity between the number of women receiving PhDs and those hired as junior faculty." Translation: women are getting their PhDs and jumping the academic ship. Why?

Biological differences in ability between the sexes have been disproven. So, study has focused on lifestyle choices and preference. Perhaps women have other things they'd prefer to focus on than pursuing an extremely demanding position. Perhaps they are more interested in non-science disciplines. Perhaps they take on more caregiving responsibilities than their male counterparts. How do you prove any of this? You can't prove it, you can only demonstrate a correlation. The fact that you can't prove or disprove what made a woman choose a particular career path has led some to conclude that there is no bias in science, the gender gap exists as a result of choice or preference. (snort)
"Past studies indicate that people's behavior is shaped by implicit or unintended biases, stemming from repeated exposure to pervasive cultural stereotypes that portray women as less competent but simultaneously emphasize their warmth and likeability compared with men."
Are academic researchers objective individuals that are above bias? Or are they, as some research demonstrates, "people who value their objectivity and fairness [who] are particularly likely to fall prey to biases, in part because they are not on guard against subtle bias?" The authors provide a long list of evidence favoring the argument for sexism in science, including "science is robustly male-stereotyped," inequitable resource distribution among sexes, perception of unequal treatment, and bias presence in other fields. They also point to studies demonstrating women are perceived as more likeable but less competent, but note that these studies utilized undergraduate students and not faculty members.

In this study, the subjects were faculty members chosen to lend "a high degree of ecological validity and generalizability" to the results, meaning they were chosen in a manner to make them representative of research academia at large. The subjects were each provided with an undergraduate student's application for a lab manager position and asked to evaluate the student. The "student" in fact did not exist, and faculty members each evaluated identical applications, with the exception that half had a male name and half had a female name. Let me clarify: research science faculty evaluated job candidates with identical GPAs, research experience, student statements, and faculty recommendations... the applications were COMPLETELY IDENTICAL in every way EXCEPT the sex of the applicant.

The authors sought not only to demonstrate the existence of sexual bias, but also to define its "mechanisms and consequences within academic science." They chose the lab manager position because it is typically the route by which undergraduates move into graduate studies. Faculty test subjects evaluated the applicant's perceived competence, their hireability (in terms of salary offerred), and whether they were deserving of faculty mentoring.

The rating for these three measures (competence, hireability, and mentoring) was scaled from 1 to 7. The authors also administered the Modern Sexism Scale, which "measures unintentional negativity towards women, as contrasted with the more blatant form of conscious hostility toward women." The authors did all kinds of statistical analyses on the responses.

The results?
"Our results revealed that both male and female faculty judged a female student to be less competent and less worthy of being hired than an identical male student, and also offered her a smaller starting salary and less career mentoring."
All of the author's hypotheses proved true. Women are viewed as less competent, but more likeable than men. They are also afforded less mentorship and offered less money. These results are true regardless of the gender of the faculty member. This tells us that female faculty members are biased and don't even know it. There is a distinct and measurable difference in opportunities awarded to aspiring scientists based solely on their sex, and those faculty providing those opportunities are not even aware of it.
"The fact that faculty members' bias was independent of their gender, scientific discipline, age, and tenure status suggests that it is unlikely intentional, generated from widespread cultural stereotypes rather than a conscious intention to harm women."
So, if a group of people who pride themselves on their objective thinking can be influenced by negative gender stereotypes, is there any doubt that folks who are decidedly NOT objective thinkers exhibit, at minimum, a subtle sexism? (I'm talking to you, politicians. yes, even the lady-politicians.)

So what's the good news? The good news is that we now have empirical evidence demonstrating a clear effect that gender bias has in the world of science. Many folks who poo-poo'd the anecdotal and correlational evidence in the past may realize hey, wow, this really is an issue. Many faculty members might be encouraged to re-evaluate how they perceive potential students and employees. From Ilana Yurkiewicz in Scientific American:
"Certainly, some gender bias in the workplace still takes the form of blatant misogyny. But a large portion of it does not. It’s subtle. It’s subconscious. And many people who perpetrate it, if only made aware of what they are doing, would want to change."
Awareness is the first step if we are to change the culture. This study is the first big step in the right direction. The authors note that the next logical step is to evaluate the effectiveness of education about gender bias in science, noting that similar educational programs have been effective in combating subtle, underlying racial biases.

All quotes are from the original paper cited below, except for the quote attributed to Yurkiewicz. Citation below copied from PubMed.

Science faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students.
Moss-Racusin CA, Dovidio JF, Brescoll VL, Graham MJ, Handelsman J.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Sep 17. [Epub ahead of print]

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sh*t Hits the Fan for Mittens

There are many things that I'd like to blog about (or at least call attention to so I can look back on things later), but usually I put it off until something pushes the buttons just right. This week the shit hit the fan, at least for Mitt Romney.

Yesterday, Mother Jones published several short video clips secretly filmed while Romney was hosting a fundraising dinner. They basically confirmed what we have suspected all along: Mittens is completely out of touch with American society, and sees the electorate not as a diverse group of individuals whom he would represent, but as basically haves and have-nots. Oversimplified take-home lessons from these clips:

  1. Half of the electorate is a bunch of shiftless deadbeats that will never vote for him because they are waiting for the government to send them their check
  2. The things that animate Democratic and Independent voters are completely different from those that animate Republican voters. They are this whole other species that must be demystified so they can be wooed into voting republican. Oh, and they plan to make up lies to do this wooing
  3. Members of his campaign team worked for Netanyahu (Isreali Prime Minister), and know "which ads work" (presumably the false ones).
  4. He doesn't think the electorate will engage with highly intellectual subject material, which is why his campaign is devoid of any real substance. Because we are too stupid to be interested or factor it into our voting decision.
  5. He predicts markets will pick up if he is elected, and if Obama is re-elected he predicts doom.
So, yeah, basically what we've suspected all along. He thinks we are all losers. Yesterday evening Romney gave a press conference and looked pretty darn disheveled. His eyes are all crazy and he didn't get his hair done quite right. Although I must give him credit, it was the first time I thought he was actually saying what he thought and believed (well, except for the video prompting the conference to begin with...). Basically he stuck with what he said, though acknowledged he did not put it elegantly, encouraged the anonymous source to release the full video, and peppered in a few "of course I want what's best for the American people"s.

The Obama camp responded via Twitter contrasting Romney's disdain for half the population with Obama's vow to be everybody's president. Their Tumblr posted a map of the U.S. and a pair of scissors, asking Romney to cut out the 47% of the country that doesn't matter. In and interview with David Letterman, Obama reiterated his vow to be everybody's president, not just to the folks that voted for him. And on and on.

Today Mother Jones posted the full version of the video. I listened to most of it but was otherwise occupied so didn't quite catch all of it. It didn't sound like the previously posted clips were cut to be taken out of context, they pretty much summed up the content. There was a considerable amount of foreign policy talk, including his thoughts on why there can never be an Israeli-Palestinian peace. He basically sounds like his take on foreign policy is to be a big bully. A lot of it was more on the subjects in the early clips. At one point, a guest asks why he isn't pressing the issues discussed at the dinner in his campaign. Also, he referred to the Hispanic voting block and black voting block, as if race/ethnicity is the one defining factor of your personal experience and political philosophy, and of course when referring to women he spoke of their kids, because hey if you are a woman without kids then you aren't even worth consideration. 

Romney did appear on Fox news today, but I haven't been able to watch the interview. Also, his campaign is pointing at a video of Obama discussing wealth redistribution, which they say contrasts their philosophy. The speech was made in 1998. As in, fourteen years ago. The most damning thing they could find on Obama is fourteen years old? Interestingly, New Civil Rights Movement points out that this video was "uploaded today to YouTube by someone who opened their YouTube account today, and has uploaded only that video. (Gee… Who could that be?)"

Many think it's the end of the road for Romney. I know I do. Josh Barro at Bloomburg proclaims that "Today, Mitt Romney Lost the Election." And David Brooks at NYT lists the many ways Mittens is out of touch and says that "he’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign." Pretty bad for a conservative to say.

PS Listen to the very beginning of the recording, where Mittens discusses how smooth Obama thinks he is, and how that is supposedly expected to win over our enemies, and how Obama carries a small stick but Romney will carry a big stick.... I swear this man has a small dick and is envious of Obama's presumably large black dick. A little insecure there, Mittens? LOL