Friday, August 03, 2012
Thursday, August 02, 2012
New York City, embracing an experimental mechanism for financing social services that has excited and worried government reformers around the world, will allow Goldman Sachs to invest nearly $10 million in a jail program, with the pledge that the financial services giant would profit if the program succeeded in significantly reducing recidivism rates.
The city will be the first in the United States to test “social impact bonds,” also called pay-for-success bonds, which are an effort to find new ways to finance initiatives that might save governments money over the long term.
First used in Britain and now being explored in Australia, the bonds are rapidly capturing the imagination of some public officials in the United States: on Wednesday, Massachusetts announced that it was completing negotiations with two nonprofit groups to finance juvenile justice and homelessness programs, with the promise of repayment only if the programs work.
This might bother me less if we already hadn't seen the dark side of auctioning off prisoners to private companies.
Making a profit off a human life should be anathema to any civilized society, but I'm afraid that bar was lowered to the ground long ago in America. Just look at our healthcare system pre-Obamacare. Death panels, indeed.
This program has noble aims, don't get me wrong. The idea is to have Goldman Sachs implement a program that helps inmates obtain the tools and counseling to make it in the real world once they leave. This is in the hope that there will be fewer repeat incarcerees.
I bet when the first slaves washed up on the shores of the colonies, the justifications of slave owners were just as noble. Indeed, "tame the savages" was probably right at the top of the list, just like it is in the Goldman Sachs contract.
That's not to say that there shouldn't be a rehabilitation track for inmates and incarcerees (the distinction being that Riker's is a detention center, nominally a place to await trial, but de facto, it's a prison, a place where the guilty serve time.) There should be a rehabilitative facility at Riker's and it should be fully funded, as the small investment we make now in a young man or woman can prevent a far larger expense if he or she does end up back in the prison system.
The idea that a major investment bank is making money off these same young men and women should not be just unsettling, it ought to be raising barricades around the island, the mayor's office and Goldman Sachs headquarters.
This is slavery, pure and simple.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
NEW YORK (AP) — Mitt Romney has been on the national political stage for nearly a decade — through two presidential bids, countless campaign events and millions spent on TV ads. But the likely Republican presidential nominee still isn't well-known to most voters.
So now he's trying to fix that.
With less than 100 days until the Nov. 6 election, Romney is starting to introduce himself to them in earnest — through a combination of carefully selected media appearances and biographical ads — before President Barack Obama's efforts to define him in a negative light cripple his candidacy.
Here's the thing: if you've been a public figure for twenty years, and people still don't know you, introducing yourself in the final 100 days is pointless.
I suspect on the campaign trail that Mittens will be asked a lot of uncomfortable questions and will be unable to answer them fully, as determined as he is to remain an enigma. And these questions won't be from the press, they'll be from very confused voters.
People who try to reconcile the claims of a "job creator" with the reality of an outsourcer. People who try to reconcile the claims of "tax reductions" with the fact that you have not paid taxes in the past ten years (according to Harry Reid.) People who try to reconcile the self-reliant pioneer with the fact that the government helped you every step of the way in achieving billions.
I can't see President Obama losing this race. Mittens will be lucky to place second.
"The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country — and we haven't seen them since.""The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along, paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return"
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Even before he was wheels-up for London, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s overseas trip was drawing comparisons to then-presidential candidate Barack Obama’s 2008 overseas trip.
Both were candidates looking to appear presidential and polish up their foreign-policy credentials.
From claiming London was not ready to host an Olympics (note to Mitt: they were two up on you when you decided to "abandon" Bain for Salt Lake City) to commenting on the disparity between Israeli wealth and Palestinian poverty-- created in large part by official Israeli policy favoring investment in Jewish areas and ignoring Palestinian, where Mitt decided it was "cultural"...which itself seems to paint Israelis as wealth-obsessed-- it seems Mitt could not open his mouth without putting his shoe in it.
Then he made sure he swallowed his socks, too, by pointing out that healthcare in Israel costs 8% of GDP, whereas in the US, it's 18%.
Errrm, Israel has nationalized healthcare, Mittens. You know, like Obamacare? Perhaps you know it better as Romneycare.
About the only thing Romney could have done worse was to walk into a kosher restaurant in Jerusalem and order the lobster.
He was probably glad to get to Poland, where he could review Rafalca's performance in the Olympic equestrian events. Rafalca is probably lucky Paris didn't get the Olympics, or he'd be outsourced to a dinner plate by now.
I mean, at least Poland went smoothly.
Monday, July 30, 2012
Is Mitt Romney too wimpy to be president?
That’s the (purposely) provocative question Newsweek asks on its cover this week. It’s a question sure to stir controversy — and one without an easy answer.
Newsweek seems to define Romney’s alleged “wimpiness” as a sort of wide-ranging insecurity that forces the Republican presidential candidate into a series of gaffes like the ones he committed in London late last week.
When a national magazine publishes on its front cover speculation that a major party candidate does not have the right stuff to be President (and said story is picked up by its erstwhile sister national publication), ballgame's over.
Romney will now be forced into even deeper gaffe territory, scrambling to prove Newsweek wrong. He claims it doesn't matter, but many independent voters do still read magazines and newspapers like Newsweek and the Washington Post, and the question is now in their minds.
You can try to ignore it, much like Sarah Palin did when Katie Couric deconstructed her on national television, and that will play to the base (I can hear the rightwing machine churning gears already...Michael Tomasky is a dyed-in-the-wool lefty reporter) but not to the portion of the electorate you desperately need to either turn out or stay away in droves.
And since you can't control the crackpots on the right, well, this election is going to mirror the 1992 election in so many ways. There, Pat Buchanan threw red meat to the base and ended up making Bill Clinton a credible candidate despite the Gennifer Flowers story and the "I didn't inhale" story.
We looked at the wimp, looked at the fact he couldn't get Buchanan to rein it in for a night, and looked at the out of touch patrician of the past four years with gaffes galore and realized this was not a man we could trust in the midst of a recession.
About the only way Romney has been steadfast and stalwart is in hiding his taxes and lying about his time at Bain Capital, which is hardly a courageous position to take (although one could make the argument that it's a bold one.) Add to that the numerous foreign policy slip ups and the fundraising on foreign soil and you start to get the picture of desperation and insecurity.