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Archive for January 17th, 2012

Doing Nothing Really Helped, Joe!

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Joe Paterno says he ‘backed away’

 

Joe Paterno, in the midst of treatments for lung cancer, made his first public statements since being fired after 46 seasons at Penn State, telling The Washington Post he did not know how to deal with the situation when he received a report that his former defensive coordinator was accused of abusing a boy in the shower at the Penn State football facility.

“I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was,” he told The Post in an extensive interview at his home in State College, Pa. “So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.”

The Post account describes Paterno, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, as physically weakened from his chemotherapy treatments, speaking with a rasp. The two-day interview was monitored by his attorney, Wick Sollers, and a communications adviser, Dan McGinn.

Paterno’s cancer diagnosis was revealed Nov. 18, nine days after he was fired by Penn State in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal that has resulted in 52 counts of child molestation against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Paterno had announced his retirement early on Nov. 9, but the Penn State board of trustees fired him and school president Graham Spanier about 12 hours later.

Sandusky says he is innocent and is under house arrest after posting $250,000 bail. His next court appearance is a March 22 pretrial conference.

In addition, Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, who is on leave, and a school vice president, Gary Schultz, face trial for charges of perjury and failing to report suspected child abuse and have left the school.

Paterno said he wished he knew how allegations against Sandusky didn’t come to light until this year. “I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “It’s hard.”

Paterno gave The Post his account of how and when he was told of the abuse allegation against Sandusky — a man with whom he had a professional, not personal, relationship.

Paterno said that until assistant coach Mike McQueary, in 2002, approached him, he had “no inkling” of a possible dark side to Sandusky, according to The Post.

“He (McQueary) told me what he saw, and I said, what? He said it, well, looked like inappropriate, or fondling, I’m not quite sure exactly how he put it. I said you did what you had to do. It’s my job now to figure out what we want to do,” Paterno told The Post.

“So I sat around. It was a Saturday. Waited till Sunday because I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing. And then I called my superiors and I said, ‘Hey, we got a problem, I think. Would you guys look into it?’ Cause I didn’t know, you know. We never had, until that point, 58 years I think, I had never had to deal with something like that. And I didn’t feel adequate.”

Paterno affirmed reports that McQueary was not specific in describing what he allegedly saw, and he told The Post that even if he did, “I don’t know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.”

Paterno also said he did not know of the 1998 abuse allegation levied by the mother of a boy who was part of Sandusky’s youth foundation, the Second Mile.

Joe Paterno, 85, was admitted to the hospital Friday for observation due to minor complications from cancer treatments, his family said. Earlier in the day, he had given the Post an interview from his bedside, though he was ill.

Jay Paterno, one of Joe Paterno’s three sons, told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi in an interview last week that his father was “very anxious to get out there soon and start to tell his side of the story and start to express — get all the facts out.”

Jay Paterno added: “He’s fighting like crazy. But it takes some, takes some energy out of him like it does anybody else. I mean, he said to me, ‘I get tired from time to time.’ ”

In a statement released to The Associated Press, his family said he continues to undergo a “regimen of treatments” for what they have termed a treatable form of lung cancer.

The family hoped his latest stay would be brief. He most recently was in the hospital last month after re-breaking his pelvis following a fall at home. That stay also allowed Paterno to continue taking his cancer treatments, which have included radiation and chemotherapy.

Paterno had previously hurt his pelvis when he got run over accidentally by a player in practice in August, forcing him to spend most of the regular season coaching from the press box.

He remains employed as a tenured faculty member, and details of his retirement were being worked out and would be made public when finalized.

The schools trustees have said they intend to honor Paterno’s contract as if he had retired at the end of the 2011 football season.

The trustees’ firing of Paterno has come under scrutiny from several former players, as well as some alumni critical at meetings this week with school president Rodney Erickson about the motivation to oust Paterno.

© 2012, agentleman.

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January 17th, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Politics Is All About $, Right?

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By GAIL COLLINS

 

Usually, the recipient was a poor schlub who was over the top with joy until it turned out that the money didn’t buy happiness. Clearly, we were all better off in our humble homes, clustered around our 14-inch TVs.

I am bringing this up because the current presidential race has demonstrated that a million dollars is nothing — nothing — these days. Nothing! A million dollars is what they give you for designing the best pantsuit on a reality TV show.

Now, if you want to impress people, you have to be a billionaire, for sure. There are about 400 billionaires in the United States, and, while some of them are famous, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, many have profiles so low that their own families may not recognize them. Really, it could be the guy living down the block, if your block happened to contain a 30,000-square-foot Tudor with 10 bathrooms.

But even the humblest billionaire wants to be on the campaign trail this year. They’re everywhere. Rick Santorum has Foster Friess, a mutual fund manager who likes the fact that Santorum starts the day with 50 push-ups. (“That’s the kind of energy level that the Republican Party needs right now.”) Friess has vowed to give Santorum’s super-sized political action committee at least a million. Which certainly is the least he could do for all that exercise.

Newt Gingrich’s “super PAC” got $5 million from billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a casino owner, in what Adelson’s associates said was an act of friendship. I certainly hope so, since giving money to the Gingrich-for-president effort at this point is like betting that the New York Jets will win the Super Bowl. You would think that a casino owner would know what futile acts of desperation look like.

Jon Huntsman’s dad is a billionaire, which didn’t seem to help as much as you would think. (Once again: not buying happiness.) Mitt Romney is probably only a quarter-of-a-billionaire, which, in this company, is kind of the equivalent of playing the harmonica for lunch money on the street.

But it’s hard to be sure about Mitt’s wealth because he has refused to release his tax returns. This is something every major presidential candidate in recent history has done, but so what? If every major presidential candidate in recent history jumped off the roof, would you expect Mitt to do that? How many other major presidential candidates in recent history came from the business sector? How many drove to Canada with their family dog strapped to the roof of the car? So, really, stop with the sweeping generalizations.

Romney does appear to have more billionaire pals than anybody — 10 percent of all the billionaires in the country are already giving money to Mitt, including Sam Zell, Destroyer of Great Newspapers, and John Paulson, a hedge fund operator who made a killing in 2007 by betting against the housing market. Forbes, which put Paulson at No. 17 on its list of richest people in America in 2011, said he had made $4.9 billion in the preceding year.

People, how much TV time do you think a person like that could buy if he put his mind to it? Seriously, by September we could be seeing entire networks devoted to nothing but Mitt Romney. Every week, Mitt will solve crimes, save patients with extremely rare diseases, build a house for a deserving family, help Zooey Deschanel with her dating problems and win bids for abandoned storage lockers all around the country.

Not that President Obama won’t have enough money to buy a channel of his own, if he wants one. So far, the president is behind Mitt in the billionaire donor sweepstakes, but he is still doing fine, thank you very much. So well, in fact, that a spokesman for the re-election campaign has been forced to denounce the idea that Obama will raise $1 billion. There’s that number again.

All these billionaires would not be so worrisome if the Supreme Court had not totally unleashed their donation-making power in the Citizens United case. Gingrich, who loved that decision, was furious when Mitt’s rich friends chipped in to run anti-Newt ads in Iowa.

He declined to acknowledge that the two things had any connection whatsoever.

“In fact, this particular approach, I think, has nothing to do with the Citizens United case. It has to do with a bunch of millionaires getting together to run a negative campaign, and Governor Romney refusing to call them off and refusing to be honest about it,” he told MSNBC.

Except for the part where the law that the court overturned had to do with keeping a bunch of millionaires from getting together to run a negative campaign. But, really, if they’re only millionaires, how much harm could they do?

 

© 2012, agentleman.

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January 17th, 2012 at 12:46 pm

GOP And Poverty

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This Week in Poverty: Kids, Jobs and GOP Myths

Greg Kaufmann on January 12, 2012 – 10:00pm ET

This Week in Poverty: the impact of stress and early intervention on poor kids, the state of children in America, and the GOP breaks out some Golden Oldie myths about poor people, black people and a lack of work ethic… But first:

The Vital Statistics

US poverty (less than $22,300 for a family of four): 46 million people, 15.1 percent.

Kids in poverty: 16.4 million, 22 percent of all kids.

Deep poverty (less than $11,157 for a family of four): 20.5 million people, 6.7 percent of population.

Impact of public policy, 2010: without government assistance, poverty twice as high—nearly 30 percent.

Impact of public policy, 1964–1973: poverty rate fell by 43 percent.

Number of Americans “deep poor,” “poor” or “near poor”: 100 million, or 1 in 3.

GOP: Welcome to South Carolina

Kids 8 and younger living in poverty: 28 percent, tied for fifth worst in the US (including DC).

People living in poverty: 18.2 percent, eighth worst.

High school graduation rate (2008): 61.9 percent, third worst.

Unemployment rate (avg. month, 2010): 11.2 percent, sixth worst.

On Children and Poverty

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has an outstanding op-ed on the link between “toxic stress” in young children and their educational, health and social outcomes later in life.

Research shows how pliable the brain is in the prenatal and early years—how brain architecture can be changed for better or worse and then is increasingly difficult to modify over time. (For more info, check out these three videos from Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child.)

Kristof writes that parental affection and presence are key since “the stress emerges when a child senses persistent threats but no protector.” Early intervention programs also make a huge difference. The Nurse-Family Partnership does home visits with poor women who are pregnant for the first time, until the child reaches age 2. Studies show that at age 6 participating kids are one-third as likely to have behavioral or intellectual problems as kids who weren’t enrolled, and half as likely to be arrested at age 15.

The American Academy of Pediatrics concludes, “Protecting young children from adversity is a promising, science-based strategy to address many of the most persistent and costly problems facing contemporary society.”

Kristof’s article made this reader wonder how we as a society help parents “protect young people from adversity.” One important question: where will the good jobs come from considering our decimated manufacturing sector? It’s tough to be a constant, protective presence for your children—especially as a single parent—when you’re working two or even three low-wage jobs that don’t pay enough to lift your family out of poverty. It’s also tough to provide adequate childcare when only one in seven families that qualifies for childcare assistance actually receives it. Finally, we don’t help parents on welfare when job-training and education aren’t allowed to count toward their work requirement, making it even more difficult for them to obtain better jobs to support their families.

Children’s Economic Well-Being Deteriorating

A recent report from Brookings Institution Fellow Julia Isaacs—commissioned by First Focus—suggests that the recession continues to take a heavy toll on children and families, including an increase in 2011 in both child poverty (the official stats don’t come out until September) and the number of children receiving food stamps.

More than 1 in 4 American children now receive food stamps (SNAP)—that’s nearly 21 million kids, and 2 million more than last year. The program is open to individuals with incomes of less than 130 percent of poverty—about $2000 per month for a family of three.

Using state-specific data on unemployment rates and SNAP caseloads, Isaacs also predicts that child poverty increased in 2011 by 340,000 children, which would raise the child poverty rate by about a half percentage point. (Isaac writes that her prediction might be a conservative one—her colleagues have estimated a rise of as much as 2 percentage points to 24 percent child poverty.)

Finally, 6.5 million children were living with unemployed parents during an average month in 2011, 3 million with a parent looking for work six months or longer. The report observes that poverty and a parent being unemployed both affect a child’s development in the short-term—including psychological stress and academic performance, and increased incidences of abuse and neglect—and in diminished career opportunities and earnings as an adult over the long-term.

A Little Help From Obama

When President Obama proposed his American Jobs Act back in September, he included $1.5 billion toward summer jobs and year-round employment for low-income youth ages 16–24. That was important, considering that just 49 percent of that age group was employed in July, the month when youth employment usually peaks, including only 34.6 percent of African-American youth and 42.9 percent of Hispanic youth.

The bill was dead-on-arrival given a GOP majority in the House and a filibustering Senate. So now President Obama is trying to use the bully pulpit to secure commitments from government, businesses and non-profits to hire “Opportunity Youth”—the 6.7 million young people ages 16-24 who are unemployed, not enrolled in school, and do not have a college degree. (They comprise 17 percent of the 39 million 16–24 year olds in the nation.) So far, employers have responded with 70,000 paid summer jobs and 110,000 unpaid summer or year-round work opportunities. The administration’s goal is to reach 250,000 jobs by summer, including 100,000 paid jobs and internships.

“It’s a good start in terms of focusing some attention on an issue that desperately needs it—before we get into the summer,” says Desmond Brown, consultant to Half in Ten, a national campaign to reduce poverty by 50 percent over the next ten years. “We still need a lot more job training and work opportunities for low-income and less educated workers, but given the political landscape, this is a good kick-off.”

The White House is making the case that investing in these jobs saves money over the long-term. It estimates $93 billion in lost tax revenue and higher government spending to support these 6.7 million disconnected youth in 2011 alone. Without intervention, over their lifetime there will be “a $1.6 trillion burden to meet the increased needs and lost revenue from this group.”

An additional note on how job opportunities like these can reduce poverty: last year, Half in Ten made a significant finding that only 4 percent of households with more than one earner are in poverty as compared to 24 percent with a single earner. While conservatives seize on that data to say that marriage is the way out of poverty—it isn’t the only path. Summer and year-round programs aimed at connecting disadvantaged youth to education and work experience are critical in this regard.

GOP Would-Be Presidents Peddling Myths

“The African-American community should demand pay checks and not be satisfied with food stamps,” said Newt Gingrich; “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money,” declared Rick Santorum; and “We are…dragged down by a resentment of success,” offered Mitt Romney.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow does a superb job debunking myths—explaining that, for example, “the largest group of SNAP beneficiaries is by far non-Hispanic whites” and “most SNAP participants are either too old or too young to work”—and also lays out the GOP’s use over the years of a “historical mythology which evokes the black bogyman, who saps the money from the whites who earn it.”

Joy Moses, a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, brings a dose of reality to Santorum’s rhetoric as well. She points out that “most people receiving public benefits aren’t collecting somebody else’s money, but their own” in the form of Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment Insurance—programs that beneficiaries and their employers have paid for with taxes taken out of their paychecks. Also, unemployment insurance and TANF (cash welfare for families)—which represent just 4 percent of federal spending—pay such small amounts and are time-limited so that people couldn’t live off of them even if they wanted to. (TANF benefits don’t raise a family’s income above 50 percent of the poverty line in any state!)

As for Romney, he seems to be onto something: the cause of the economic collapse, a shrinking middle-class and rising poverty is that we simply drag ourselves down due to success envy. It’s got nothing to do with economic mobility, low wages, lack of access to higher education, unequal public schools, a deteriorating safety net, gutted financial regulation, etc. In fact, at bedtime tonight I told my children that some day they too can sell toxic securities that they themselves bet against, watch people’s lifetime savings go down the tubes and be rewarded with mega-bonuses for doing it—and be proud!

Quote of the Week

“Race is usually less about facts than historical mythology, which evokes the black bogyman, who saps the money from the whites who earn it. Ever since blacks first arrived on these shores in chains, they have been perceived as lazy and dependent on whites—first as slaves, and then as ‘entitled’ citizens.” —Charles Blow

© 2012, agentleman.

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January 17th, 2012 at 8:16 am

$ Rules Both Democrats and GOP

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By Robert Scheer

There is a full-blown debate going on in, of all places, the Republican Party about the failings of the governing, corporate-sponsored kleptocracy. Not so on the Democratic side. Spared a primary battle, the incumbent president need not defend his economic record, which is basically a redo of the save-Wall-Street-first stance initiated by his Republican predecessor.

That bipartisan establishment consensus, in which the enormous power of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve was harnessed to bail out the financial industry swindlers while ignoring the plight of their victims, has been challenged only on the Republican side, where the libertarian Ron Paul has tapped into the enormous populist rage among voters.

There is no comparable dissent among leading Democrats, who have been loath to take on Barack Obama’s embrace of crony capitalism—that fatal melding of Wall Street wealth with Washington political power—the way Paul and even Newt Gingrich have powerfully challenged Mitt Romney, the GOP’s Obama doppelgänger.

Yes, doppelgänger, and please don’t try to scare me with those hoary tales of how Romney is the second coming of the far right on social issues, when his entire tenure as Massachusetts governor proved quite the opposite. The issue in this campaign is the economy, and on that, by the time of the general election, there will be no serious substantive difference between the two major parties’ candidates. Both will squarely be on the side of the financiers who created this crisis.

The attacks on Romney’s association with the rapacious Bain Capital could apply with equal force to the Clinton administration veterans whom Obama has entrusted with managing the nation’s economy. The list begins with Lawrence Summers, who pocketed more than $8 million in Wall Street loot during the period when he was a top economic adviser to the Obama 2008 presidential campaign. Summers received $5.2 million from the D.E. Shaw private equity fund, which was up to the same sort of shenanigans as Romney’s Bain Capital.

Imagine the outrage among Democrats if a President Romney were to rely on three successive chiefs of staff with résumés as steeped in banking greed as those Obama has appointed. The first to guard the gate to the president was Rahm Emanuel, whose political career was generously backed by Magnetar Capital, an Illinois hedge fund that was a major purveyor of subprime mortgage-backed securities. Then came JPMorgan Chase’s William Daley, paid $5 million a year as the representative of that company in Washington, working to soften Obama’s already tepid efforts at reregulating the banks. And now, Jacob Lew, another Clinton-era retread who made himself wealthy between Democratic administrations by being COO of Citigroup Alternative Investments, specializing in betting that people’s mortgages, which other branches of Citigroup sold, would go belly up.

 

What has changed in American politics is that the growing army of disenfranchised stakeholders now fit as comfortably within what has been thought of as the plutocratic Republican Party as within its faux-populist rival. In an attempt to exploit the palpable populist anger in the Republican base, Romney’s opponents, as The Wall Street Journal reported, opened a “Pandora’s box of bitter attacks” claiming “in his business career he was a corporate predator, a heartless shredder of companies and jobs and the personification of all that is wrong with capitalism. …”

It is a line of attack that has worked because, as the Journal’s Gerald F. Seib points out, “Today’s Republican Party has become steadily more blue-collar, more populist and more influenced by voters who act as much like independents as Republicans. All of that makes the idea of attacks on capitalist behavior arising from the traditional party of capitalists a little less bizarre.”

The stats to back up that assertion are compelling; according to exit polls, 75 percent of Republican primary voters in New Hampshire had family incomes of below $100,000, and almost half did not have a college degree. It was from their ranks and among the nearly half of voters who identified as independents that Paul and third-place finisher Jon Huntsman pulled much of their support.

National polls support the notion of a more populist Republican base, and as the combined results of WSJ/NBC News polls over the last year show, blue-collar voters were slightly more likely to identify as Republicans than Democrats. Most startling was the finding from those same national polls when respondents were asked which party was responsible for the economic crisis: “Republicans were precisely as likely as Democrats to blame ‘Wall Street bankers.’ ”

But as the presidential election is now shaping up, voters will not be given a choice to rebuke Wall Street by either major party. Expect razor-thin differences between Romney and Obama on the key issues at the heart of our economic crisis—the ravages of predatory multinational corporate capitalism that turns the nation state into a vehicle for ill-gotten gain, mocking both Adam Smith’s claims for the invisible hand in a truly free market and the assumptions of Jeffersonian democracy in which governance is in the hands of the common folk who are also stakeholders.

© 2012, agentleman.

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