Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Why We Still Need GLAAD

Flickr/Steven Damron, Greg Hernandez
Flickr/Steven Damron Sharon Stone at the 2008 GLAAD Media Awards I f journalists threw parties the way they write stories, you'd arrive right on time and the hosts would be scooping used solo cups into the garbage. "Party's over," they'd announce, coaxing you back out the door. Any regular consumer of media will know what I mean: Like a zealous mortician, journalists love to pronounce things dead, especially before they've run their course. Last fall, New York magazine declared Brooklyn "over"; 2010 heralded the "end of men," according to The Atlantic ; and Facebook's been killed off and resurrected by journalists more times than one can count. Last week, it was GLAAD (formerly the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) 1 1. In March, GLAAD announced it was dropping the full name to more accurately reflect its work on behalf of bisexual and transgender rights. The organization now simply goes by "GLAAD." that got the journo...

Cruz Control

AP Images/ David J. Phillip
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite L ast week’s news cycle began and ended with Ted Cruz. On Monday, a video of Cruz came out, in which he called his fellow Republicans “a bunch of squishes” on gun control. The talk, given at the Tea Party group FreedomWorks’ summit in Texas, prompted The Washington Post’s conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin to write a piece called “ Don’t be a jerk Sen. Cruz ,” calling on Texas’ junior senator to apologize. If that was supposed to chasten him, it didn’t seem to work: By the end of the week, National Review was reporting Ted Cruz might be running for president. He was one of main points of discussion on Sunday talk shows, and James Carville raved that he was “ the most talented and fearless Republican politician ” in the last 30 years. That, in a nutshell, is Ted Cruz’s political career: through some combination of luck, bravado, and talent, the man always seems to wind up getting what he wants. Let’s not forget, that just a year ago, the Tea Party darling...

Sex, Economics, and Austerity

AP Photo
AP Photo J ohn Maynard Keynes was the sexiest economist who ever lived. This might seem like half-hearted praise since in our mind’s eye the typical economist appears as a dowdy and almost always balding man, full of prudential advice about thrift and the miracle of compound interest. Keynes, with his caterpillar moustache and mesmerizing bedroom eyes, cut a more dashing figure. He had many lovers of both genders, and was married to one of the great beauties of the age, the ballerina Lydia Lopokova. His genius at playing the stock market allowed him to enjoy the life of bon vivant, socializing with the writers and artists of the Bloomsbury group such as Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster rather than dull number crunchers he knew at Cambridge and in the British Treasury. While other economists focused on maximizing economic growth, Keynes wanted to go further and maximize the pleasures of life. Given all this, it’s perhaps not surprising that a much-publicized recent attack on the...

Schneiderman Strikes Back

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who headed a group of state attorneys general that won homeowners and former homeowners a $26 billion settlement from five mega-banks over their foreclosure abuses, announced yesterday that he’d sue two of the banks—Wells Fargo and Bank of America—for allegedly violating the terms of the settlement. The February 2012 settlement with those two banks, as well as JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, and Ally Financial (formerly GMAC), had required the banks to adhere to a set of standards that would end the kind of abuses that had led to wholesale foreclosures of homes when they could have worked out alternative arrangements with the homeowners. Some of those standards—such as requiring the banks to notify struggling homeowners within five days that they had received the documents required to modify mortgages—sound so obvious they shouldn’t have needed to be codified, yet it was precisely such practices that the banks had repeatedly shunned. Homeowner...

Ken Cuccinelli Is Winning. Here's Why.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Gage Skidmore/Flickr The race between Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli isn’t as bleak as the fight between Godzilla and Moth-Ra (thanks, Jonathan Chait, for the comparison ), but it’s close. Fairly or not, McAuliffe is seen as a soulless Democratic Party hack, with few supporters and nothing to connect him to the state or its history. But he’s better than Ken Cuccinelli, whose entire reputation is for right-wing revanchism. He hates taxes, he hates abortion, and has used his position as attorney general to launch ideological crusades against health care reform and climate science. The only difference between him and a candidate like Todd Akin is that Cuccinelli actually stands a chance of winning. To wit, according to the latest Washington Post poll, Cuccinelli holds a ten-point lead over McAuliffe among likely voters, and a five point lead among all Virginians. How is this possible in a state Barack Obama won twice? Demographics. The drop-off between presidential and gubernatorial...

Ringside Seat: A Scandal Is a Wish Your Heart Makes

There are few things that irritate Republicans more than the fact that Barack Obama went through an entire term with nothing but minor scandals to tie him down. No Watergate, no Iran-Contra, no Lewinsky, not even a little Valerie Plame. It wasn't that the GOP didn't try to create one, though. There was "Fast and Furious," in which the administration supposedly let Mexican drug gangs get all kinds of weapons from the U.S. on purpose, so that when it was revealed it could be used as an excuse to take away everybody's guns. Despite the Republicans' best efforts, the conspiracy theory didn't pan out. There was Solyndra, in which the administration supposedly knowingly squandered taxpayer money on a bunch of their cronies using a technology destined to fail. Alas, no sinister criminal activity was found there, either. As scandals go, they were small beans. But then, in the heat of the 2012 campaign, came Benghazi. Four Americans dead, a slightly misinformed Susan Rice repeating slightly...

You Think We Have Lots of Guns Now...

The first working gun made (almost) entirely on a 3-D printer.
There's even more exciting gun news today, coming from a small nonprofit organization called Defense Distributed . They announced that they have successfully test-fired a gun made almost entirely in a 3-D printer. The only part that wasn't 3-D printed was the firing pin. And the bullet, of course. Now previously, people had made gun components in 3-D printers, but prior tests of entire weapons had been unsuccessful. This raises some rather troubling questions, which we'll get to in a moment. But first, here's their short video, which shows the firing and construction of the gun, inexplicably interspersed with shots of World War II-era bombers: They may call this thing "The Liberator," but it's a little too impractical to be able to liberate anyone at the moment. It's probably highly inaccurate, and it holds only one bullet. But this is more a proof-of-concept than anything else, and if you want to, you can go to their website and download the plans, then print one out on your own 3-D...

Discovering the American Majority with the NRA and Conservative Politicians

I have a piece going up later today over at CNN.com on the NRA convention, but there's something I raise there that I want to elaborate on. If you look at the list of Republican politicians who spoke to the assembled firearm enthusiasts, it wasn't exactly the A-team. Last year Mitt Romney showed up, but this year they had failed presidential candidate Rick Santorum, failed presidential candidate Rick Perry, universally disliked freshman senator Ted Cruz, currently unpopular Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, and former half-term governor and current punch line Sarah Palin. Every one of them would like to be president one day, but the only one with even the ghost of a chance is Jindal. And what do they have in common? Some are has-beens, some have reached the pinnacle of their careers even if they don't know it yet, but what distinguishes them isn't just that they're very, very conservative. It's that—like the NRA itself—they're obviously convinced that they represent the majority of the...

Jobs: The Bigger Picture

flickr/woodleywonderworks
The government’s April jobs report produced some happy headlines and a big stock market rally. The dismal March jobs tally was revised upwards from under 100,000 new jobs to a still feeble 138,000. In April, the economy created 165,000 jobs. The nominal unemployment rate dropped all the way from 7.9 percent to 7.5 percent. But look a little deeper and you’ll appreciate just how crummy these numbers are. The typical new job pays far less than the jobs that have been lost. We are still down a net 2.8 million jobs from the number of people who were employed in 2007 before the recession started. All told, there are 22 million Americans either unemployed or under-employed—looking for full-time work and not finding it. One telling indicator is the very low percentage of people who are in the labor force. Before the recession, in 2007, the employment-to-population ratio was above 63 percent, down slightly from its peak of over 64 percent in 2000. Since the great collapse, the ratio has been...

How Low Can Part-Timers' Hours Go?

AP Images/Adam Richard
flick/ Carol Green S ay you’re an employer with an employee who works 30 hours a week. If you have 50 employees or more come next year, you’ll be required either to provide her with health-care coverage, which the Affordable Care Act will by then mandate for all employees who work at least 30 hours a week, or you’ll have to pay a $2,000 penalty for failing to cover her. Or, you could just cut her weekly hours to 29. That way, you won’t have to pay a dime, in either insurance costs or penalties. This thought, not surprisingly, has crossed the minds of quite a number of employers. Right now, the average number of hours an employee in a retail establishment works each week is 31.4 . And a whole lot of Americans work in retail—just slightly over 15 million, according to the latest employment report , out Friday, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Not all of them work hours that hover just over 30, of course, but the UC Berkeley Labor Center has calculated that 10.6 percent of...

Cleaning Up the Airwaves

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin Tom Wheeler, President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the Federal Communications Comission L ast week, President Obama announced he would nominate his good friend and venture capitalist Tom Wheeler to lead the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Wheeler will replace another Obama good friend and venture capitalist, Julius Genachowski, who leaves in his wake an agency more embattled than ever. In announcing the nomination, the president noted that Wheeler is “the only member of both the cable television and the wireless industry hall of fame. So he’s like the Jim Brown of telecom or the Bo Jackson of telecom”; Wheeler was president of the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) from 1979 to 1984, and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) from 1992 to 2004. He is currently managing director of Core Capital Partners, a venture-capital firm, and he has been a prolific fundraiser for the president. By all accounts...

You've Got Sales Tax

flickr/Chris_Hancock
flickr/ Mr. Boger I n 1984, CompuServe launched the first “Electronic Mall,” a Pleistocene-era Amazon with which owners of a TRS-80 personal computer could browse and buy goods over the Internet. Such modern retailers as “The Record Emporium” and “The Book Bazaar” were given prominent virtual storefronts. A full page ad in the May 1984 issue of Online Today boasted, “By the year 2000, the world may catch up with the way CompuServe’s new Electronic Mall lets you shop today.” The world took less time to catch up than that: By 1995, eBay and Amazon had been incorporated; in Amazon’s first two months as an online bookstore, it averaged $20,000 per week in sales. Americans would go on to spend around $700 million online in 1996, and by 1999 sales had grown to $20 billion. Figures released earlier this year by the Commerce Department revealed that Americans spent $225 billion online in 2012—a 400 percent increase in only a decade. That number represents about 5 percent of the $4 trillion in...

Ringside Seat: Executive Disorder

Last summer, Congress passed a law reducing the number of executive-branch positions that require Senate confirmation. One hundred and sixty-six offices would now be able to be filled without endless hearings, anonymous "holds," and everything else that slows down the process of getting people to do the work of government. So, did that streamline hiring and make the executive branch more nimble? Hardly. The problem is that there are still an incredible 1,200 positions that have to go through the "advise and consent" process. We all agree that it's a good idea for the Senate to exercise its oversight when it comes to lifetime judicial appointments and high-ranking positions like cabinet secretaries. But are there really 1,200 people working in the executive branch from whom we couldn't be safe unless they had a confirmation hearing? And the problem now isn't the people working in the far corners of the Commerce or Agriculture departments, it's the jobs sitting unfilled. As The New York...

Feeding the Paranoid Right

Flickr/mjb
In today's edition of Republicans Think the Darndest Things, a poll from Farleigh Dickinson University that came out the other day found, as polls regularly do, that Americans in general and conservatives in particular believe some nutty stuff. That's not news, but there are some reasons to be genuinely concerned, which I'll explain. The headline finding is this: Respondents were asked whether they agree with the statement, "In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties." Forty-four percent of Republicans—yes, almost half—said they agreed. We've been doing pretty well with this constitutional system for the last 224 years, but it's just about time to junk it. The right reaction to any shocking poll result is to say, "Let's not make too much of this." And I don't think any but a tiny proportion of the people who would answer yes to that question would start in or participate in a revolution. Let's take the gun owners who email me every...

A Roaring Jobs Report

Barack Obama/Flickr
Here is the thing to remember about every jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: You have to wait for the revisions. Remember, the monthly jobs report is a scientific survey of households and employers. That doesn’t mean it’s inaccurate, but for any given survey, there are ways to improve the accuracy and reach a higher degree of precision. Month after month, this is what the BLS does—it tests and adjusts, in order to get the most accurate account of the where the economy stands. With all of that said, this month was a solid one for jobs; April employment grew by 165,000 jobs, a decent number, though not as good as it should be given population growth and the still-sluggish economy. The number of long-term unemployed declined 258,000 to 4.4 million (around 37 percent of all unemployed Americans). Joblessness dropped to a four-year-low of 7.5 percent. But more important than this is the revisions. As it turns out, February was the biggest month for job growth in years—the BLS...

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