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Moneyed, but Popular? Jeb Bush’s #RightToRise Hashtag Swamped by Hard Rock Band

Jeb Bush is in financial gloat mode. But does this mean he's popular?Jeb Bush’s campaigns are gloating right now. Sure, Jeb Bush’s official campaign, which is limited to accepting only a few thousand dollars per donor, is doing poorly: it has raised just $11.4 million so far this year. But Jeb Bush’s shadow Super PAC campaign, with which it is in close coordination in possible violation of the law, can accept cash in unlimited amounts from just a few people.  Bush’s Super PAC campaign has grabbed $103 million from its few donors.  Taken together, these amounts represent the largest campaign cash grab for any candidate in the 2016 presidential race yet.  On the other hand, Jeb Bush’s reliance on his Super PAC indicates that his base is narrowly limited to a very few, very rich, people — and unlike in the money race, in the primary elections very rich people still only get to vote once.

To gauge Jeb Bush’s popularity among actual people, not Swiss bank accounts, let’s turn our gaze to the social media platform Twitter, where on January 7 2015 Bush declared that people wanting to show support for his campaign should use the hashtag #righttorise.  On Twitter, it takes actual people, actually using a hashtag, to make a hashtag succeed.  When I last checked back in April, only a dozen people in the entire United States were using Jeb Bush’s hashtag.  Let’s take another look, this time tracking use of the #RightToRise hashtag for the month of July to date:

Use of RightToRise Hashtag by the Jeb Bush for President 2015 hashtag and others, July 2015

The Bush campaign has lost control of the #RightToRise hashtag, with the vast majority of Tweets being used to promote a new album by the Detroit hard rock band Wilson.  The next most popular use of #RightToRise is to make statements opposing Jeb Bush, and the third most popular use of #RightToRise in tweets is for Wilson fans to make fun of Jeb Bush for his hashtag fail.  Only one post on Twitter in July has featured a pro-Bush statement made independently from the Jeb Bush campaign.

The bottom line: Jeb Bush is very popular among wallets.  He is not popular among people.

Three Graphs: Per Capita GDP Up, Worker Productivity Up, Worker Pay Stagnant in the USA

Three graphs:

Gross Domestic Product per Capita, Adjusted for Inflation, 1979-2014, United States

Source: USDA Economic Research Service

Labor Productivity (Economic Output per Hour Worked), 1948-2015

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Real Median Annual Income of Full-Time,Year-Round Workers in the United States, in Inflation-Adjusted 2013 Dollars, by sex, 1971-2013, United States, Source U.S. Census Bureau

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The juxtaposition speaks. How do you respond?

What’s in a Name? Yet Another Study Uncovers Ethnic Discrimination in America

In a field experiment described in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, S. Michael Gaddis and Raj Ghoshal sent out responses to 560 “roommate-wanted” advertisements in four cities in different parts of the country: Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, and Houston. These responses were made equivalent in all aspects but in the use of either a name widely recognized as representing a the identity of a white woman or in contrast the use of a name widely recognized as representing the identity of an Arab woman. The white names: Brenda Olson, Heidi Wood, Joan Peterson, and Melany McGrath. The Arab names: Fatima Al-Jabiri, Basimah Hadad, Iman Farooq, and Maryam Qasim.

This figure from the publication of Gaddis and Ghoshal’s results shows how people equivalent in all respects but their names were treated in these four American cities.  The outcome variable is the percentage of the time that the responses to the advertisements resulted in a positive (“you can be my roommate”) or potentially positive (“give me a call and let’s talk about it”) message from the real person who posted the real advertisement:

Gaddis and Ghoshal 2015 audit study results

As you can see, the United States remains a place of discrimination.

I encourage you to read the full research report for yourself.

What Bobby Jindal Doesn’t See About The Issues That Matter To Americans

Bobby Jindal is limping along in his quest to become the Republican presidential nominee in 2016. He’s got twice the support of Carly Fiorina, but that’s only because Carly Fiorina has the support of just one percent of Republican voters in the latest poll.

Jindal is trying to get in touch with Republican voters by conducting a poll, which purports to gather input about the political issues that matter most. That poll, however, only contains the following options for voters to choose from:


The limited scope of these options will astonish anyone who pays attention to politics as it has been discussed outside of extreme right wing circles. It’s shocking, for example, that Jindal only seems to acknowledge the possibility of defending one and a half amendments to the Constitution, neglecting the rest of the document. Jindal has no problem proposing the idea of using the American government to stop religious movements he doesn’t like, and then offering to defend religious liberty in the very next breath, but he doesn’t even acknowledge the constitutional problems of military tribunals, indefinite detention, torture and government surveillance against Americans.

Jindal’s vision of health care reform includes nothing more than repealing one piece of legislation. Expanding and improving medical care seems completely outside his imagination.

Jindal’s list of issues for the 2016 presidential campaign doesn’t include racism, sexism, environmental protections, economic equality, regulation of Wall Street, the influence of secret big money in politics, trade deals that send jobs overseas, protection of voting rights, or the effort to prevent new wars.

A presidential candidate who begins his campaign with such a limited scope of vision isn’t aiming to represent all Americans. He’s trying to gain power to impose his own narrow view on anyone else.

Whatever your opinion is about the issues that Jindal identifies, or the others that American voters care about, Jindal’s refusal to recognize the breadth of perspectives in our country is reason enough to withhold support for his presidential campaign.

Jeb Bush Fact Check: Is Declining Worker Productivity to Blame for America’s Economic Rut?

Jeb Bush said it July 8 in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader:

New Hampshire Union Leader: Anything specific?

Jeb Bush: “We’re working on a strategy to, that’s kind of under, let’s say, my aspiration for the country, and I believe we can achieve it, is 4% growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut we’re in.”

Is the economic “rut” that America’s in the fault of American workers?  Is the workforce participation rate really at all-time modern lows?  Is the problem that Americans aren’t working like they “should”?  Is the problem that American workers aren’t productive enough?

Here’s a general measure of workforce participation as gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics: the participation rate of civilians aged 16 and over:

Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate, 1948 to 2015

Is 1950 modern times?  Is 1960?  Is 1970?  Is 1980 pre-modern?

There’s another problem with that figure… it includes people of retirement age who, of course, Jeb Bush isn’t suggesting should be back in the work force (is he?).  This is why the BLS compiles a second statistic: the labor force participation rate of civilians of prime working years, age 25 to age 54:

Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate for those aged 25-54, from 1948 to 2015

In other words, the civilian labor force participation rate is historically really quite high for people in their prime working years.  If Jeb Bush wants to make the overall labor force participation rate really go much higher, he’s going to have to put retirees back to work or he’s going to have to implement a child labor scheme.  Is that what Jeb Bush really wants America to do?

And as for the notion that worker productivity is the problem, well, let’s look at another BLS statistic, labor productivity per hour worked (defined here):

Labor Productivity (Economic Output per Hour Worked), 1948-2015

For more than two generations, Americans’ work has steadily generated more and more economic output per hour worked.  Employers have continued to get more and more and more out of their workers as the years have dragged on.  American workers are not at fault here either.

Insisting that Americans who are already more than four times as productive as their grandparents should put their noses even harder to the grindstone is more than a little bit out of touch.  Given Jeb Bush’s record as a corporate leader for an abusive employer, his statement is more than a little bit troubling.

P.S. This just in: Jeb Bush’s Super PAC just released its fundraising figures for the first half of 2015: $103 million.  Where do you think all those millions came from?  The workers Bush has been saying need to work longer hours?  I’m guessing not, but Bush knows: according to Eli Stokols he’s hosting a two-day get-together today and tomorrow with his biggest contributors at the exclusive Bush family compound in Kennebunkport.

Republicans In Congress Vote To Trash National Ocean Policy

One month ago, it was World Oceans Day, a day to celebrate and honor the oceans, but also a day for people to dedicate themselves to protecting the oceans from ecological harm. The message of World Oceans Day is of increasing importance with every passing year, as marine ecosystems suffer growing damage from the consequences of poorly planned human activities. Overfishing, pollution, offshore drilling and ocean acidification are threatening the survival of many individual species, as well as reducing marine biodiversity overall. The grave condition of marine ecosystems was the impetus for the development of a National Ocean Policy, a single vision around which to coordinate action across the federal government to deal with the environmental crisis in our planet’s seas.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, however, don’t seem to have understood the point of World Oceans Day, or to have recognized the importance of the National Ocean Policy. Yesterday, all but 5 Republican members of the House of Representatives voted to defend a measure in H.R. 2822, an appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior, that outlaws the use of any funds to support “ecosystem-based management components of the National Ocean Policy”.

These congressional Republicans are content to sit back and do nothing while life in our oceans continues to dwindle. Perhaps, standing on the land, they find it difficult to envision how any troubles beneath the waves could trouble our lives. They forget that the oceans make up most of the biosphere on Earth, and that without the resources of the seas, human populations would suffer massive economic harm.

It’s not conservative to vote to neglect the health of our planet’s largest natural resources. It’s just plain stupid.

Scott Perry Blasts Obama For Failing To Use The Coast Guard To Deal With Islam

The Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency hearing this morning, organized by the subcommittee’s chair, first-year U.S. Representative Scott Perry, was an exercise in the surreal. The hearing, titled Examining DHS’s Misplaced Focus on Climate Change, consisted mostly of bluster by Representative Perry, mixed in with stunned responses from the three administrators and one scientist called by Perry to testify.

Typical was the accusation Perry made during his opening remarks. Perry complained, “At the Coast Guard Academy graduation in May, President Obama said that “climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security.” Statements like these contrast with the President’s efforts to broker a deal with Iran and failure to call the enemy what it is – radical Islamist extremism.”

How does a statement observing that climate change constitutes a national security risk contrast with an effort to negotiate an end to nuclear weapons development by Iran?

What would Scott Perry have Barack Obama do? Would he have the President lecture the Coast Guard about its need to confront “radical Islamist extremism”? What could the Coast Guard do to deal with “radical Islamist extremism”? Does Representative Perry think that Muslim terrorists are coming by boat to the United States?

If Scott Perry wants to see a contrast, he should contrast his own confused statement with the carefully prepared statement of Marc Levy, Deputy Director of the Center for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University, who was called by Perry to testify at the hearing today. “The premise of this hearing is backwards,” Levy explained. “The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is not doing enough to prepare the country for security threats from climate change.”

“Since 2009 every National Threat Assessment by the Director of National Intelligence has pointed to climate change as a major security threat,” Levy told the subcommittee, and noted that the impacts of climate change have already made several towns in Alaska uninhabitable. Levy identified a body of scientific research showing that “climate stress is very strongly statistically associated with political violence and instability”, and cited additional research indicating that the particular forms of climate stress most strongly correlated with political violence and instability are growing in both magnitude and frequency.

Levy also reminded the subcommittee that, as the impacts of climate change increase, funds for programs to deal with the resulting security threats have decreased. Congress has eliminated funding for the CIA’s climate crisis response center. MEDEA, a program that enabled climatologists to work with intelligence data in order to assess security risks resulting from climate change, has also been eliminated by Congress.

Levy provided two and a half pages of references to substantiate his position. Representative Scott Perry brought nothing but his opinion – and his funding from the fossil fuel industry – to the table.

congressman scott perry loves his plaque

Examining the Misguided Hearing Examining DHS’s Misplaced Focus on Climate Change

This morning, the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency in the U.S. House of Representatives will be holding a hearing that the subcommittee chair, Representative Scott Perry, has titled “Examining DHS’s Misplaced Focus on Climate Change“.

While Homeland Security zealots have been busy spreading stories about terrorist threats that don’t exist, these same politicians have opposed dealing with threats that do exist, such as the damage already being caused by climate changed.

Increased sea level is already causing higher risk of flooding for coastal communities. Not just homes, but also national landmarks such as Cape Canaveral and Ellis Island are at risk of going under the waves.

Wildfire seasons are already longer and more costly. Heat waves are already longer and more intense – and are killing more people, as with the heat wave in India that was so hot it killed over a thousand people as it melted asphalt roads.

Extreme weather events are bringing flooding to some areas – but intense, long-lasting drought to others, as with the extreme drought that is currently parching California, straining our nation’s agricultural networks.

These things are real dangers to our national security, and they merit attention. Globally, 400,000 deaths per year are currently attributed to climate change – and climate change is growing worse year by year. Given that the Department of Homeland Security is spending huge amounts of money for airport security to stop terrorists that don’t exist using screening measures that aren’t effective anyway, we need more Homeland Security funds to be redirected towards the climate threat, not less.

Of course, dealing with environmental issues rather than with fears of a Muslim invasion is contrary to the political formulas that have brought politicians like Scott Perry into their positions of power in the first place. For Scott Perry’s congressional campaign in 2014, the oil and gas industry was the second largest source of funding. It’s no wonder that Congressman Perry thinks that efforts to bring the dangerous consumption of fossil fuels under control is “misplaced”.

scott perry congress

A Desperate Cry for Help

 we have air conditioning we are cool 
Posers who know it.  They want someone, need someone to bring them into the fine, refreshing, redemptive mist of evaporative cooling.

This week, Barack Obama reaches 750 days without Answering America’s Surveillance Petition

It’s now been 746 days since the petition to Pardon Edward Snowden met the required standard of the official White House petition website (100,000 signatures within 30 days) to obtain a response from the Obama administration.

Snowden, you’ll recall, exposed the government’s activities to, in multiple ways, spy on its own people without a warrant. The U.S. government had insisted it wasn’t doing that, and now insists that having revealed the truth made Snowden a traitor. Many outside the government consider Snowden’s act a public service. 746 days later, there has been no response to the petition from President Obama or anyone else in the Obama administration, adding a broken promise of petition response to the lie of no domestic warrantless surveillance.

On Saturday, we’ll reach 750 days of Barack Obama’s stonewall. How long does it take for the status of “delayed” to convert to “denied?”

The Weakness Of Email Marketing: Your Snake Oil Leaves A Slimy Record

I got an email from Rosetta Stone last night, informing me kindly that it was my last chance to take advantage of a special $209 deal for a discount on a year’s worth of their automated foreign language instruction software. The deal would end last night, Rosetta Stone said, and so I had better act fast.

rosetta stone email marketing spam

The thing is, I have been getting similar emails from Rosetta Stone’s email marketing program for months.

On June 29, I was told by a Rosetta Stone marketing email that the $209 email would expire that evening. Other special discounts were ending soon back in May, April, March, and beforehand. Some of the discount deals were for $199. Some were for $219.

What’s amazing to me is that the Rosetta Stone email marketing team expects me not to notice that their supposedly expiring offers keep on coming back. They’re offering to train me to learn foreign languages, but expecting that I can’t read the pattern of repeated emails in plain English, clogging up my inbox.

The discount price changes every now and then, but the supposedly special offers have been coming like clockwork.

The clock is not ticking toward an end of deals. The clock is just ticking on and on and on and on and on.

The email marketers hired by Rosetta Stone are trying to use a cheap trick, developed by hucksters at places like the boardwalk of Atlantic City, called the false sense of urgency. They try to stop potential customers from thinking critically by manufacturing the perception that a special deal is on for only a limited time, and so, to grab the savings, it’s important to act fast. There’s no time to think!

The reality is that there’s always time to think, and deals are almost never really available for only a limited time. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is just trying to get you to buy a product that they know is substandard in quality.

It’s not just slimy software companies that use this approach of false urgency, of course. Politicians do it too. They tell us, over and over again, of the urgency of certain situations. If they aren’t resolved right away, they say, disaster will befall us… and then, when those situations aren’t resolved, and disaster doesn’t befall us, they wait a few months and then start the warnings up all over again.

The nuclear negotiations with Iran are subject to this huckster’s tactic. Over and over again, Republicans tell us that Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons, and unless we act now to attack, we will all be sorry. We’ve been hearing this message for the better part of a decade. Yet, the Republicans expect us not to remember the way their warnings proved to be hollow so many times in the past.

The more politicians use this tactic, the less likely we are to pay attention when an urgent threat really does emerge. Like the boy who cried “wolf”, the politicians who cry “Nuclear Iran” have hurt their own cause, using cheap tactics to grab attention instead of holding serious language in reserve for when it is genuinely necessary.