January 10, 2012

Granite State Surprise? (Converted to Brief Live Thread)

Filed under: Activism,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 5:48 pm

The Suffolk poll (HT Hot Air), which found support for Mitt Romney at 33%, has a (to me) surprising breakdown of respondents:

NHprimarySuffolkJan11

The majority are not Tea Party-sympathetic and are not conservative. Really?

Either the “Live Free or Die” State’s Republicans have abandoned conservatism in larger numbers than I would have thought, or the Suffolk poll found a group of respondents to the left of mainstream primary voters. If it’s the latter, it would seem to indicate that Romney’s 33% might actually be artificially high.

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UPDATE, 9:15 p.m.: Going live for a little bit here — The biggest news of the night isn’t the Mitt Romney win, which was expected, but two other salient facts.

First, after spending almost all of the past four weeks polling in the mid-30s to mid-40s, Romney appears to be on track, once again, as has almost always been the case both this year and in 2008, to either underperform or come in at the low end of expectations. He’s carrying 37% of the vote with 46% of the precincts counted.

Second, and it’s hard to understate how important this is to you hardcore establishment my-or-the-highway establishment Republicans — Romney is on track to barely more votes this year, and conceivably fewer, than he did in 2012. (Update, 10:45 p.m.: Nope, larger numbers of votes started coming in from later-reporting precincts after 10 p.m.)

He tallied 75,546 votes four years ago (also confirmed here). Depending on how heavily populated the remaining precincts are and how they fall to Romney, it looks like his total could possibly be as low as 75,000 or as high as 80,000. (Update: It’s looking more like 85,000 – 90,000.)

UPDATE, 9:35 p.m.: Half of precincts counted – 38,000 votes. Projects to 76,000.

UPDATE, 9:55 p.m.: 62% and 49,000. Projects to 79,000.

UPDATE, 10:45 p.m.: Oddly, a whole lot of votes came in but not a lot of precincts, and it looks like Romney’s winning total will be around 90,000. Still, 37%-38% in a state which is adjacent to Massachusetts shouldn’t blow anybody away.

UPDATE, 11:45 p.m.: Well, yours truly definitely fell victim to an election tally which saved the populous precincts for last. Romney’s total will probably push 100,000 when the night’s over.

Sister Souljah Does Not Deserve a Place on the Cincinnati Library’s MLK Day Reading List

Filed under: Activism,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:10 pm

Being Sister Souljah Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry — and that you can pivot to becoming a successful author while no one expects you to apologize, let alone atone, for the hate you’ve spread.

That’s the sad but true reality of today’s disparate treatment of black racism vs. white racism.

For those too young to remember, Sister Souljah was at the center of a controversy during the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton. The ever-opportunistic Clinton was at an event involving Jesse Jackson:

Angry rappers, such as Sister Souljah and Ice-T, speak for a generation of black youths with little faith in the mainstream political system. This week they both got a chance to talk to Middle America on the network news and talk shows.

Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton criticized Sister Souljah for contributing to racial polarization last Saturday when addressing Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition.

Souljah, whose real name is Lisa Williamson, was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people.”

Clinton condemned the remarks, and was critical of Jackson’s organization for giving her a forum.

Her message In “The Hate That Hate Produced,” was, “Souljah was not born to make white people feel comfortable/I am African first, I am black first/I want what’s good for me and my people first/And if my survival means your total destruction, then so be it.”

Jackson defended Souljah and accused Clinton of using the incident to embarrass him. Some Democratic leaders worry that the civil rights leader’s anger could cut black support for the likely Democratic nominee in the general election against President Bush and likely candidate Ross Perot.

Souljah, in a news conference and a series of TV appearances this week, attacked Clinton’s character and accused him of trashing her to appeal to conservative white voters.

That is, of course, exactly what Clinton did, and it indisputably helped him to win the presidency by convincing some voters that he wasn’t the far-left liberal he really was. And of course, Jesse Jackson fell back in line, while Clinton later became widely known (this is serious, for those who weren’t there and won’t believe it) as “the first black president.

As far as I can tell, Souljah has never publicly apologized. In fact, there are still those who believe Clinton owes her an apology.

The unapologetic Souljah has gone on to write books and now fashions herself as a “Wife, Mother, Educator, Author, Speaker, Institution Builder, Thinker, Advisor!” Though her upcoming events list is a bit lean (/understatement), she will lecture audiences on one or more of thirty topics.

Last week, Bill Sloat the Daily Bellwether caught the fact that Souljah’s book “Midnight and the Meaning of Love” made it to the reading list at the Cincinnati Public Library for Martin Luther King Day. Really.

The web page’s introductory sentence tells us:

Celebrate his birthday with one of these African American staff picks from the Library’s collection.

The “African American staff” book pickers showed really poor judgment in their selection. Sloat briefly describes Souljah’s book and why it shouldn’t be associated with MLK Day (bolds are mine):

It is about a teenage boy and his teenage wife. He is black and 16, she is Japanese. Yes, they are underage minors. There is sex, violence, polygamy and a showdown with Asians — who some might feel are stereotyped in Sister Souljah’s tale. Fans believe she has mellowed since she became the Queen of urban lit. Still, it’s hard to square her gritty novel with the humanitarian works that Ohio’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission wants celebrated in his memory this year. The commission’s idea of a humanitarian is someone who pours their heart into making life better for others — someone who promotes the betterment of all people and the elimination of pain and suffering through their own selfless service. Pretty tall order.

Obviously, Sister Souljah books should not be banned nor censored. The library is absolutely within its responsibilities to own and circulate titles under her authorship. But it might want to weigh whether her newest novel is consistent with Dr. King’s standards, teachings and the spirit of his dreams for our nation. He knew that hate was hate, whether preached by white, black, Christian, Muslim or anybody in any culture or religion. He stood up to it.

The library should remove Sister Souljah’s book from their MLK Day list and apologize to the community for their tone-deaf lack of judgment. I made that suggestion myself by sending an email here:

(this email is also being published at BizzyBlog.com)

I am outraged at the inclusion of a book by Sister Souljah in the Library’s Martin Luther King Day reading list. That the book itself is of questionable relevance to Dr. King’s nonviolent message is the least of its problems.

The bigger problem is that Sister Souljah herself did not and I believe still does not subscribe to nonviolence or the goal of racial harmony. She has never apologized for the racial hate she spread as she made her fortune in rap music two decades ago.

Your book choice demonstrates extraordinarily poor judgment and mocks Dr. King’s memory. It should be removed — not from the library of course, but from your MLK Day list — and the Library should apologize to the community for its error.

Follow-up, Jan. 12 — “Cincinnati Library Response to Email Protesting Sister Souljah’s Presence on MLK Day Reading List”

The Associated Press’s Stinky ‘New Distinctiveness’

“Journalism with Voice”

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This column went up at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Sunday.

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Just in time for the 2012 elections, the Associated Press, which yours truly has taken to calling the Administration’s Press, has consciously decided to inject even more left-wing bias into its reports.

A leaked memo published on December 13 by a sympathetic Michael Calderone (so sympathetic that he got out the heavy-duty Huffington Post shovel for his opening sentence: “The Associated Press has been getting it first and getting it right for the past 165 years”) described something called “The New Distinctiveness.”

Don’t fall asleep, folks. When you read the memo’s text, and just a bit between the lines, what you find is a justification for and formulation of a new form of agenda journalism from the people whose only job should be relaying the facts, something they have been doing a progressively (pun intended) more poorly in recent years:

AP wins when news breaks, but after an hour or two we’re often replaced by a piece of content from someone else who has executed something more thoughtful or more innovative.

Gee guys, do you really think you’re done collecting facts after an hour or two? Let other folks “think” and be “innovative.” As soon as you have more, better, and clearer facts, they’ll have to update. If you stop gathering facts, which you do all too often already, readers’ eyes will move elsewhere, with no motivation to return.

Despite the lip service to “digging deeper” appearing several paragraphs later, the big strategic enchilada in the memo has nothing to do with facts and everything to do with spin:

Journalism With Voice. We’re going to be pushing hard on journalism with voice, with context, with more interpretation. This does not mean that we’re sacrificing any of our deep commitment to unbiased, fair journalism. It does not mean that we’re venturing into opinion, either. It does mean that we need to be looking for ways to be more distinctive and stand out in the field — something our customers need and want. The why and the how of the news are as crucial as the who, what, when and where.

Here I thought “Journalism with voice” referred to TV and radio broadcasts.

A day later, Logan Churchwell at Accuracy in Media wondered: “[H]ow does one report with ‘voice’ while maintaining a ‘deep commitment to unbiased, fair journalism?’” I did too. The answer is: You can’t.

Though AP’s implementation appears to be in its early stages, Churchwell thinks he has seen a bit of the future of the New Distinctiveness. Justifiably, he doesn’t like it one bit. He cites with examples a clear three-step “playbook” the wire service is already using to frame GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney for the general election, well before the primaries have even been decided:

  1. “Paint Romney as filthy rich; like his daddy before him.” It appears to be an AP requirement that Romney be serially cited as a “multimillionaire” (so is Barack Obama, guys, as well as a large plurality in the House and a majority in the Senate), and that references to his father, who passed away sixteen years ago and was mostly out of the public eye for two decades before that, must remind people of how rich he was, even though in his heyday George Romney’s company with its thrifty line of compact Rambler cars made the cover of Time, where he was dubbed a “folk hero.”
  2. “Suggest to readers that either Romney is too smart, or Republicans are too dumb to understand him.” Because after all, only dumb people bitterly clinging to guns and religion could possibly vote Republican, and anyone who went to an Ivy League school must be beyond their pathetic ability to understand.
  3. “Always remind the reader that he’s a Mormon.” Pretty interesting, given that there seems to be a hard-and-fast rule at AP and in the rest of the establishment press that you cannot ever mention the Obamas’ nearly 20-year affiliation with the church run by the overtly racist Jeremiah “God D*mn America” Wright, or the fact that the Obamas have rarely attended church since they arrived in Washington.

The AP shouldn’t even think about doing “Journalism with voice” — which if used at all should be carried out as a separate, clearly-labeled enterprise — until it does a passable job of clearly reporting the facts without seeming to bow to the Obama administration’s wish not to see anything particularly negative or to political correctness in general.

Just a few of many odious examples from the past two weeks:

  • An unbylined report on January 5 gave readers who didn’t get to the fourth of five paragraphs the impression that the administration’s summer jobs initiative will involve 180,000 paid positions. Even then, it only told us that “many” will be unpaid. How many? Try 110,000.
  • On December 30, Korea bureau director Jean H. Lee might as well have been auditioning to be the North’s next propaganda minister, as she effusively marveled at the omnipresence of pictures of the recently deceased Kim Jong Il throughout the countryside. Lee never called him anything worse than a “leader.” Attempting in what was supposed to be a straight news report to outdo Michael Moore’s disgraceful reference to happy kids flying kites in Iraq under mass murderer Saddam Hussein in Fahrenheit 911, Lee wrote of how “Young men in bumper cars bash each other gleefully at an amusement park that Kim ordered renovated as part of a bid to ‘improve the people’s daily lives.’” Gosh, if only he had lived longer.
  • Concerning signing statements, those heinous things presidential candidate Obama promised he would not use, a December 28 report by Jim Kuhnhenn told readers that Obama only said he would make them “more transparent,” while a December 31 report by Julie Pace “cleverly” avoided using the term “signing statement” until the fifth paragraph. Earlier, she only referred to “a statement accompanying his signature.”

Guys, how about getting the stench out of your stinky everyday reports first before getting adventurous? Oh, I forgot; you’ve got a President to get reelected.

Romney and Bain

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,General,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:10 am

http://www.bizzyblog.com/wp-images/RomneyNo0808Jeff Emanuel at RedState

… let me sum up by making sure I’ve got this right: in an election in which jobs and Obamacare are the top two issues, the ‘inevitable’ Republican nominee is a person whose business career consisted in no small part of eliminating jobs, and whose signature legislative achievement is the enactment of state-run health care. Is that about right?

Yup.

Let’s look at the first element of Jeff’s concern and whether Romney’s time at Bain Capital should fairly be considered a liability.

To get started, readers should understand that there is a difference between venture capital, which is designed to nurture and build a great business or to make an already great business greater; turnaround financing, which is meant to bring a once-great business back to life, but which in the process often necessarily initially involves painful layoffs and cost-cutting former owners and managers resisted (see Herman Cain, Godfather’s Pizza), and which of course won’t always work; and “vulture capital,” which is designed to pick apart the carcass of a functioning business solely in the name of rewarding original investors at the expense of future growth, stakeholder well-being (employees, suppliers, public investors, etc.), and sometimes even the viability of the business itself.

I would argue that venture and turnaround investors are critical to capitalism’s effective functioning, while those who are deliberately involved in vulture capital as defined are usually not engaging in legitimate capitalism.

Bain Capital has definitely engaged in venture and turnaround investing, which is fine. But it also appears to all too often have crossed the line into vulture-land. Perhaps — emphasis perhaps — it never entered transactions solely for that purpose. Regardless of its initial intentions, Bain has from all appearances ended up engaging in vulture capitalism by converting turnarounds which weren’t working out and gutting their carcasses in the name of making sure that its investors still achieved their desired (very high) returns while everyone else (employees, creditors, communities, the investing public) was left high and dry.

Take one example: Ampad (originally graphic created at the Boston Globe; click to enlarge in a separate tab or window):

AmpadHistory1993to2001

Bottom line: $5 million invested, $100 million extracted, company liquidated.

Ampad is the Bain investment Ted Kennedy cited in the 1994 Massachusetts Senate race with brutal effect to defeat Romney, who had been leading in some polls in mid-September, by 17 points.

Note that at the time of that Senate election Ampad’s odious history was just beginning. In 1994, Romney could credibly defend the investment as a turnaround attempt. Whatever he tried to do to defend himself in 1994, it obviously failed miserably.

What does Mitt have to say about the seven years which followed? Well, apparently not much.

The following is from Romney’s campaign web site. In other words, Team Romney is apparently proud of the following exchange on Fox News’s morning show, where Steve Doocy handed the candidate an open-ended question, twice — and he failed to answer it, twice:

BRIAN KILMEADE: “Now I want to bring you to a fired employee of yours who was trotted out last time you wanted to be the senator of Massachusetts against Ted Kennedy. His name is Randy Johnson. Randy Johnson worked for a paper company, Bain Capital took it over. He got fired, along with others. He’s angry. Listen.”

RANDY JOHNSON: “I look at the candidates that are out there. I understand what his record is. I know what he did to us at AmPad. They bought AmPad in ’92. They bought my plant in ’94. They went public with the IPO in ’96. And then in 2000, they let AmPad go bankrupt and made $100 million. Tell me what’s right. There is something wrong with that.”

STEVE DOOCY: “Well, It sounds like he was trotted out by the DNC. So you’re right, they’re already coming after you.”

MITT ROMNEY: “Oh, of course they will. And I’m going to be able to talk to people across the country about the President’s record. This is a president who lost more jobs during his tenure than any president since Hoover. This is 2 million jobs that he lost as President. And by the way, when he was overseeing General Motors and Chrysler, how many factories did he close? How many dealerships? How many thousands upon thousands of Americans had to be let go in an effort to try and save those businesses? That’s what we did in our business. And I’m very happy in my former life; we helped create over 100,000 new jobs. By the way, we created more jobs in Massachusetts than this president’s created in the entire country. So if the President wants to talk about jobs, and I hope he does, we’ll be comparing my record with his record and he comes up very, very short.”

STEVE DOOCY: “Governor, what would you say to that fellow, Randy Johnson, right there, who did lose his job in that takeover?”

MITT ROMNEY: “No one ever likes to see someone lose their job. It’s just a tragedy, and any time you’re in an enterprise that you’re trying to turn around and it’s going down the hill, you try and turn it around and sometimes you have to cut back on the size of the enterprise. That’s an awful thing to have to do, but you try and do that to save the business.

What is so impressive about these responses? Of course pointing to Barack Obama’s scandalously miserable record is appropriate, but Romney twice failed to explain Ampad when specifically asked, and really didn’t even acknowledge that Ampad failed (i.e., it was “cut back” to zero). Why?

Perhaps it’s because there’s nothing of which to be proud about Ampad’s demise or in several other Bain deals, as detailed by Josh Kosman at the New York Post in February of last year:

… the former private equity firm chief’s fortune — which has funded his political ambitions from the Massachusetts statehouse to his unsuccessful run for the White House in 2008 — was made on the backs of companies that ultimately collapsed, putting thousands of ordinary Americans out on the street. That truth if it becomes widely known could become costly to Romney, who, while making the media rounds recently, told CNN’s Piers Morgan that “People in America want to know who can get 15 million people back to work,” implying he was that person.

Romney’s private equity firm, Bain Capital, bought companies and often increased short-term earnings so those businesses could then borrow enormous amounts of money. That borrowed money was used to pay Bain dividends. Then those businesses needed to maintain that high level of earnings to pay their debts.

But Romney in 2007 told the New York Times he had nothing to do with taking dividends from two companies that later went bankrupt, and that one should not take a distribution from a business that put the company at risk.

Yet Geoffrey Rehnert, who helped start Bain Capital and is now co-CEO of the private equity firm The Audax Group, told me for my Penguin book, “The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Is Destroying Jobs and Killing the American Economy,” that Romney owned a controlling stake in Bain Capital between approximately 1992 and 2001. The firm under his watch took such risks, time and time again. …

* Bain in 1988 put $5 million down to buy Stage Stores, and in the mid-’90s took it public, collecting $100 million from stock offerings. Stage filed for bankruptcy in 2000.
* Bain in 1992 bought American Pad & Paper (AMPAD), investing $5 million, and collected $100 million from dividends. The business filed for bankruptcy in 2000.
* Bain in 1993 invested $60 million when buying GS Industries, and received $65 million from dividends. GS filed for bankruptcy in 2001.
* Bain in 1997 invested $46 million when buying Details, and made $93 million from stock offerings. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2003.

Romney’s Bain invested 22 percent of the money it raised from 1987-95 in these five businesses, making a $578 million profit.

there’s little question he made a fortune from businesses he helped destroy.

True, Kosman is being more than a little unfair, given that Bain has had at least a few spectacular successes (e.g., Staples, Sports Authority) in the remaining 78%.

But if Romney can’t explain the failures, Kosman’s narrative is the one which will stand.

Seventeen years after his initial attempt at entry into politics was thwarted, Mitt Romney still doesn’t have a response to the issue which derailed him against Ted Kennedy.

If nominated, it’s more than reasonable to believe that he won’t have one in the fall. The Democrats will dust off the playbook from 17 years ago, update it for the additional examples, and pound Romney’s candidacy to a pulp. Not only will Romney lose, but a Republican Party tarred with Bain will not see significant (if any) gains in House and Senate races, squandering what should be a golden opportunity to win control of the executive and legislative branches.

That’s why he must be stopped.

Tuesday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (011012)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:30 am

Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow later. Other topics are also fair game.

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Positivity: Social Media Saves Baby’s Life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:57 am

From Stockton, California (video at link):

10:11 p.m. PST, January 5, 2012

One Stockton baby has a huge following because of a serious health problem. Turns out social media saved his life.

A simple video captured 7-month-old Holden Shoemake’s first milestones. That video saved Holden’s life.

“Hopefully his life has touched other people. We hope,” said Scott Shoemake, Holden’s father.

Be the first to know! Sign up for FOX40 breaking news alerts.

Holden suffers from Noonan syndrome. It’s a genetic disorder that prevents him from eating and swallowing.

“He just vomited every feeding. Like a volcano, pretty much,” said Cheryl Shoemake, Holden’s mother.

So Scott and Cheryl fed Holden through a tube attached to his stomach every three hours, five times a day.

Despite this rigorous schedule, the Shoemakes consider themselves lucky.

Holden spent the first two months of his life in the hospital and was given a two percent chance to live.

“This is the most important decision you can make and probably the best. Just for him to start eating and be somewhat normal I guess,” said Cheryl.

And for Holden to be normal the Shoemakes need expert help.

They found the Los Altos feeding clinic at a price tag of $20,000.

Scott and Cheryl couldn’t afford it and that’s when social media came in. It started with just telling Holden’s story.

And soon, the “Loving Holden” fund got 1,300 followers on Twitter and 2,400 fans on Facebook.

They got the $20,000 in two days.

“We give all our credit to our faith in god and just our trust in that and the community of people praying. There’s special things that happen when people pray,” said Scott. …

Go here for the rest of the story.