Joho the Blog » romney

October 17, 2012

Taking the fun out of Binder Women

I’m of course loving the Binder Women meme. Hilarious.

But let me for the moment take all the fun out of it:

1. The first thing President Obama did upon taking office was sign the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Meanwhile Romney refuses to commit to equal pay for women.

2. Romney’s story about his Binder Women was utter BS. In fact, according to The Phoenix

in 2002 — prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration — a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.

They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected.

His administration had fewer women than the national average.

For those keeping score, it’s now: Bullshit 3, Truth 0.

3. Joe Biden today wonders why Mitt had to search for “qualified women.” (If I weren’t on a train with crappy wifi, I’d post the meme: “Some of my best friends are qualified women. I have a binder full of them.”)

4. [Added an hour later] As plenty have pointed out, Mitt’s idea of supporting women last night was to give them flex time (wow, there’s an idea that was innovative 30 years ago) so they can go home and cook dinner. See ladies, you can? have it all! (Some brilliant analysis — and writing — by Binder Person Amy Davidson.)

5. I think this tweet from the Obama campaign sums it up well: @BarackObama: Last night, the President talked about women as breadwinners. Romney talked about them as resumes in ‘binders’. http://OFA.BO/AEWhjM

This hilarious meme is deadly serious.

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September 25, 2012

Explaining Mitt: An hypothesis

Like many people, I’m scratching my head trying to understand how Romney can say some of the things that he’s said over the past few months.

After he offered to bet Rick Perry $10,000 at one of the debates, you know his handlers took him aside and said something like, “Governor Romney, the bet was a good idea. Punchy and fun. But, just so you know, $10,000 is a lot of money to most people. Just knock off two or three zeroes next time. In fact, that’s in general a good rule of thumb for you: ‘Before you speak, two digits off the peak.'”

And when Romney told college students to borrow money from their parents to start a business, his handlers said, “Great going with the pep talk, Governor. But next time keep in mind that most parents don’t have a lot of spare cash around. Here’s a mnemonic for you: ‘Parents pay-rents.’ Got that?”

And when Romney said that he has friends who own NASCAR teams, his handlers said to him, “Good for you for bonding with the NASCAR crowd, but most people are there to root for a team, not because they own one. Here’s a phrase that might help: ‘Owners are boners. Employees, puhlease.'”

So why doesn’t it sink in? Mitt’s smart. And I don’t think he’s incapable of empathy. So, I have an hypothesis, which I offer as a way to make sense of his repeated and, frankly, weird stumbles.

Remember when in 5th grade you picked a foreign country to write a report on? Let’s say it was China. You read some age-appropriate books. You drew some pictures. You explained, as best as your 10-year-old brain allowed, some of China’s history, a bit about their language — pictograms are cool! — and then perhaps you wrote about what life is like in China for a child your age. And, if you were very lucky, you got a pen-pal in China. Sure, after a few exchanges, the correspondence ended. But it was pretty thrilling while it lasted.

And if you were a typical ten year old, you made a bunch of dumb mistakes that now you laugh about. You asked your pen-pal what his favorite baseball team is, or what she got for Christmas. From this you learned that life in China is more different from yours than you had imagined. It’s a crucial lesson.

My hypothesis is that Mitt has trouble with this lesson: Romney is unable to cognitively understand the situation of others. He can talk so casually about firing people — and he could “restructure” a distressed company so cooly — not because he doesn’t care about workers but because he doesn’t intellectually grasp that most people don’t have the financial backup that he has always had. For the same reason, he genuinely thinks that during his time in Paris as a missionary he struggled the way ordinary folks do. I think it’s the same lack of cognitive imagination that leads him to see others as feeling entitled, when his whole life seems to be based on his own sense of entitlement. It’s a cognitive problem, not an emotional one.

Hey, it’s a theory. But if it’s wrong, as it’s like to be, then we need another hypothesis to explain his pattern of statements that show a fundamental misunderstanding of how life looks to the rest of us.


September 7, 2012

Mitt Romney’s distrust of entrepreneurship

Mitt Romney is taking some flack for using some notoriously flaky science as his example of good science. But in the same passage he betrays a Big Corporate view of how innovation works that should cost him the support of every entrepeneurial startup in the country.

Here’s the passage from his Washington Examiner interview (with a hat tip to BoingBoing):

CARNEY: What role should government have in promoting certain industr

And keep in mind that Romney here is not talking about the auto industry specifically; rather, he is explaining why governments ought not to back entrepreneurial companies. It’s not just that governments are bad at picking winners, it’s that when the winners are startups — even when they’re way out of the prototypical garage — they’re unlikely to get past “delight.” So, wies or economic activities such as homeownership, or manufacturing, renewable energy or fossil fuel energy, eBig Corp xports, or just advanced technology? What sort of subsidies and incentives do you favor? You had some of these in Massachusetts, I know.

ROMNEY: Very limited — my answer Big Corp to your first question. I’m not an advocate of industrial policy being formed by a government. I do believe in the power of free markets, and when the government removes the extraordinary burdens that it puts on markets, why I think markets are more effective at guiding a prosperous economy than is the government.

So for instance, I would not be investing massive dollars in electric car companies in California. I think Tesla and Fisker are delightful-looking ve

And keep in mind that Romney here is nBig Corp ot talking about the auto industry specifically; rather, he is explaining why governments ought not to back entrepreneurial companies. It’s not just that governments are bad at picking winners, it’s that when the winners are startups — even when they’re way out of the prototypical garage — they’re unlikely to get past “delight.” So, whicles, but I somehow imagine that Toyota, Nissan, and even General Motors will produce a more cost-effective electric car than either Tesla or Fisker. I think it is bad policy for us to be investing hundreds of millions of dollars in specific companies and specific technologies, and developing those technologies.

I do believe in basic science. I believe in participating in space. I believe in analysis of new sources of energy. I believe in laboratories, looking at ways to conduct electricity with — with cold fusion, if we can come up with it. It was the University of Utah that solved that. We somehow can’t figure out how to duplicate it.

So, first the problem with his science remark. I understand that he’s boosting Utah. But the 1989 experiment by Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann was famous not only because it could not be replicated, but because it was prematurely hyped by Pons and Fleischmann before it had gone through peer review or had been replicated. (As BoingBoing points out, the Wikipedia article is worth reading.) No matter what you think of the experiment, it is a terrible example to use as proof that one appreciates basic science…unless you’re citing the rejection of the Pons-Fleischmann results, which Romney explicitly was not. The issue is not merely that Romney continues to believe in a discredited claim. The real issue is that this suggests that Romney doesn’t understand that science is a methodology, not merely the results of that methodology. That’s scary both for a CEO and for a possible president.

I’m at least as bothered, however, by Romney’s casual dismissal of entrepreneurial startups as a source of innovation: “I think Tesla and Fisker are delightful-looking vehicles, but I somehow imagine that Toyota, Nissan, and even General Motors will produce a more cost-effective electric car than either Tesla or Fisker.” “Delightful” is a dismisive word in this context, as evidenced by the inevitability of the “but” that follows it. Romney, it seems, doesn’t believe that startups can get beyond delight all the way to the manly heavy lifting that makes innovation real. For that you need the established, massive corporations.

Wow. Could there be a more 20th century vision of how a 21st century entrepreneurial economy should work?


July 25, 2012

The Anglo-Saxon president

Wow. An adviser has explained to the Brits that Romney better understands and appreciates the UK because Romney is Anglo-Saxon:

We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”.

This is as close to a casually racist remark as we’re likely to get, at least I hope. I’m finding it hard how to take it otherwise. So, maybe the adviser thought he (she?) was making a positive statement about shared heritage, the way President Clinton might have talked about feeling a special bond with Ireland because of his Irish heritage. But I think this goes beyond tone deafness. This is not a statement of warm feeling, but a negative statement that without that shared heritage, you can’t really understand the UK. It is (to me) very clearly an attempt to boost Romney while declaring Obama to be Other: Obama can’t understand America because he’s not really one of us, where the “us” means Anglo Saxons. If there’s a more charitable way of taking this and its implications, let me know.

I only wish that the first stop had been Germany so that the adviser could have talked about how to fully appreciate the shared history we have with that country, we need an Aryan president.


[A couple of hours later:] The Romney campaign has officially denied it. His press secretary said:

“‘It’s not true. If anyone said that, they weren’t reflecting the views of Governor Romney or anyone inside the campaign,’ she told in an email. Saul did not comment on what specifically was not true.”