2012 - %3, September

Breaking: You Should Always Tell Your Employer That You're an Honest Person

| Wed Sep. 19, 2012 9:49 PM PDT

The Wall Street Journal reports that more and more companies are turning to software to make hiring decisions for them, rather than using human interviewers:

It isn't just big companies that are turning to software for hiring help. Richfield Management LLC, a Flint, Mich., waste-disposal firm that employs 200 garbage collectors, was looking for ways to screen out applicants who were likely to get hurt and abuse workers' compensation.

About a year and a half ago, Richfield turned to an online test developed by a small firm called Exemplar Research Group. It asks applicants to pick between statements like "When I'm working for a company I take pride in making it as profitable as possible" and "I'm only concerned with how well I can do financially in my job," then rate how strongly they agree or disagree.

The goal is to gauge an applicant's emotional stability, work ethic and attitude toward drug and alcohol. Those who score poorly are considered high disability risks. Richfield said its workers' comp claims have fallen 68% since it has used the test.

Honestly, this just seems like an IQ test to me. Do I take pride in making my company as profitable as possible? Yes sir, I sure do! Do I consider myself a clock watcher? No sir, I sure don't! If you can't figure out that these are the right answers, you might not be bright enough even to be a garbage collector.

Of course, these tests might be trickier than I think. Retail outlets ask questions that test for honesty, and according to one retailer who uses software to screen new clerks, "People who are trying to fool the system are going to get tripped up." Maybe so.

On a more policy-centric note, if this kind of thing becomes genuinely widespread, I wonder if it will create a new class of the permanently jobless. It's a law of nature that there will always be a certain number of people who just don't have good temperaments. Still, even if you're basically a lousy worker — unreliable, quick-tempered, etc. — you can still find jobs here and there since human interviewers won't always figure this out. But if screening software becomes hard to beat (especially among those who aren't too bright), then lousy workers will simply never be able to find jobs. They'll be turned down every time. So then what happens?

Advertise on MotherJones.com

GOP to Jobless Vets: Drop Dead

| Wed Sep. 19, 2012 8:19 PM PDT

As if to underscore Mitt Romney's indifference to the 47 percent, his Republican Party colleagues in the US Senate used a procedural vote Wednesday to block a $1 billion bipartisan bill that would have given tens of thousands of jobless military vets the opportunity to work.

Inspired by President Obama's State of the Union Address challenge to get veterans working, the Veterans Job Corps bill would have created a program to fast-track 20,000 former service members into federal jobs as law enforcement officers, first responders, and parks workers. The legislation "was one of the few pieces of legislation [to] make it through Congress, which has been mired in partisan gridlock for the last two years," reports Stars & Stripes' Leo Shane. A few enthusiastic Republicans even added several provisions to the bill, including measures to increase internet access for job-seeking vets and to aid them in their transitions from military life. "Once it incorporated ideas from both sides of the aisle, I thought it would be an easy sell," Tom Tarantino, a war vets' lobbyist, told the Washington Post Wednesday.

Corn on "The Kudlow Report": The Supposedly "Missing" 2 Minutes of the Romney Video

Wed Sep. 19, 2012 5:12 PM PDT

CNBC's Larry Kudlow gets it wrong trying to defend the Romney videos, and David Corn tells him so. The video's backstory and the "missing" two minutes are explained in the clip below. And the Romney campaign's claim to have debunked the video? Debunked


David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

Romney's Video-Debunking Claim Is…Debunked

| Wed Sep. 19, 2012 4:00 PM PDT

This is getting ridiculous.

After Mother Jones posted video of Mitt Romney sharing remarks with millionaire donors that he would never express to voters—noting that nearly half of the American electorate are moochers and that Romney doesn't believe a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is feasible—Romney did not deny he said what he said. As the cliché goes, he doubled down, saying his remarks were inelegant but a reflection of his views about the rapid growth of entitlement programs in the United States. (Actually, this was a bait-and-switch operation. Romney was not talking policy when he disdainfully described half of the citizenry as parasites and victims.)

On Wednesday afternoon, he went further, with his campaign claiming that the video had been "debunked." In lashing out at the Obama campaign, Romney's crew issued this email:

Today, The Obama Campaign Leveled False Attacks Against Mitt Romney Based On A Debunked And Selectively Edited Video:

Today, Obama Campaign Spokesperson Ben LaBolt Attacked Mitt Romney Based On A Debunked Mother Jones Tape. OBAMA CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN BEN LABOLT: "You heard on the tapes released this week that it's Mitt Romney who would walk away from the peace process." (MSNBC, 9/19/12)

But This Morning, Politico Reported That The Mother Jones Video Was Selectively Edited To Give A False Impression About Mitt Romney’s Views On The Middle East Peace Process. "But the clip initially provided by Mother Jones does not include that part of his remarks, and therefore was not reported by the aforementioned news outlets. Romney's complete remarks about the Mideast peace process were included in the complete video Mother Jones published Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after it released clips from the fundraiser. But the clip posted to the Mother Jones website, which was cited by the national media, cuts out the excerpt in which Romney says that 'American strength, American resolve' will cause the Palestinians to 'some day reach the point where they want peace more than we're trying to force peace on them.'" (Dylan Byers, "Technically, Romney Said Peace Was Possible," Politico, 9/19/12)

The Romney campaign was clearly implying the whole video was rubbish. But there's a slight problem. Politico's Dylan Byers, the source for the debunking charge, quickly noted that he had done no such thing. He wrote:

there is nothing in my report that "debunks" the video.

In his article, posted earlier in the day, Byers had noted how some folks were complaining that we had edited a long clip of Romney talking about the Middle East selectively. In that clip—watch it here—Romney trashed the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, said the Palestinians (whom he lumped into one mindset) did not want peace and only sought the destruction of Israel, that he would not actively pursue the peace process and would instead seek to "kick the ball down the field," and that he had paid no real attention when a former secretary of state had told him that peace might be possible in the Middle East.

That is a total diss of the peace process—and would represent a radical break with US policy, which has supported a two-state solution since the Clinton years.

Yet Romney went on to say—and this clip did not include this—that if the United States showed "resolve….the Palestinians will some day reach the point where they want peace more than we're trying to force peace on them." Thus, peace might be theoretically possible at some point in the distance.

This was not a case of selective editing. The point was to show what was newsworthy: Romney breaking with current policy and stating views that he has not stated publicly. (In an interview this summer, he said he supported a two-state solution.) Nevertheless, some Romney backers have cried foul and managed to turn this into a dispute they can use to raise questions about the secret Romney tape.

But don't take my word. Here's more from Byers:

More mysterious still, is why the Romney campaign wants to debunk a video containing remarks that the candidate doubled-down on in a follow-up press conference.

Slate's Dave Weigel has weighed in as well:

By calling the whole tape "debunked" and "selectively edited," the campaign's hewing closer to the Breitbart.com argument -- the real story is liberal media-Obama collusion. And the result is a sort of paradox, in which Romney stands by what he said in a video that you can't trust.

It was bizarre. After Byers and Weigel had debunked the Romney camp's debunking, Byers heard from a Romney aide who said that the campaign only takes issue with the clip regarding Romney's view on the Mideast, not the entire video.

In other words, the Romney campaign walked back the push-back. It's not challenging the "47 percent" material or anything else; only the Mideast remarks. But, as I've said a few thousand times on television these past few days, the wonderful thing about this story is that people can view for themselves. Watch Romney talking about the Mideast, and it's clear he has contempt for the peace process as it has been conceived for years; does not believe it can work; and would chart a radically different course. The few sentences not included in that clip—but which were included in the full transcript and complete tape we released—do not a debunking make. This maneuver smacks of desperation from a campaign hurt by the undeniable words of its candidate.

Scientists: We Can Build the Starship Enterprise

| Wed Sep. 19, 2012 3:05 PM PDT

While we were all poring over Mitt Romney's aversion to the poor, physicists in Texas gathered to work on bending the space-time continuum so that spacecraft can travel 10 times faster than the speed of light. 

Clara Moskowitz at Space.com has this Quantum Leap episode—er, story—detailing how the researchers are trying to make the concept "popularized in television's Star Trek" run efficiently and, you know, realistically:

An Alcubierre warp drive would involve a football-shape spacecraft attached to a large ring encircling it. This ring, potentially made of exotic matter, would cause space-time to warp around the starship, creating a region of contracted space in front of it and expanded space behind...Meanwhile, the starship itself would stay inside a bubble of flat space-time that wasn't being warped at all...[S]cientists stressed that even outlandish-sounding ideas, such as the warp drive, need to be considered if humanity is serious about traveling to other stars.

The recent brainstorming on interstellar travel was conducted by a diverse array of scientists participating in a NASA- and Pentagon-backed summit in Houston. Previous studies had concluded that, in order to function, a single warp drive would likely require an amount of energy on par with the mass-energy of Jupiter (which is a lot). New calculations by the Johnson Space Center suggest that if the shape of the ring around the spaceship were "adjusted into more of a rounded donut," the drive could run on a mass roughly the size of the famous unmanned space probe Voyager 1.

This would give you an estimated speed of 6.7 billion miles per hour.

There you have it. The era of the man-made space-time warp may soon be upon us. It's just too bad that time travel...

By XXBy xkcd

...has largely been panned as impossible by the scientific community.

Corn on MSNBC: Romney Digs Himself Into a Hole With Class Conflict

Wed Sep. 19, 2012 2:21 PM PDT

Our DC Bureau Chief David Corn, who broke the story of the secret Romney fundraiser videos (full video, full transcript), discusses their political fallout with MSNBC's Martin Bashir. In the videos, Romney insults half the country while pandering to supporters at the $50,000 per plate dinner. Can he turn around the campaign around with the presidential debate in two weeks? 

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

What Was Romney Doing in the #missing2min?

| Wed Sep. 19, 2012 1:47 PM PDT

When our source secretly recorded Mitt Romney's comments at a private fundraiser, the recorder accidentally stopped, according to the source; a minute or two passed before it was restarted. The source provided all the recorded material to Mother Jones, and we published all of it. Unsurprisingly, right-wing pundits have stoked conspiracy talk about the estimated two-minute break in the recording. (Never mind that Romney didn't refute anything from his long talk, instead admitting that his remarks were "not elegantly stated," and doubling down on them.) So the internet did what it does in these cases: It started a meme, #missing2min. What shocking revelations existed therein? Here are some suggestions from the hive mind:


Republicans and the 47 Percent: A Case Study

| Wed Sep. 19, 2012 1:20 PM PDT

Mitt Romney's complaint that lots of people pay no federal income tax has become a familiar conservative lament over the past few years. But how did this become such a staple of tea party conservatism? Here's a case study that gives us a clue.

The main target of Republican ire on the zero-tax front isn't the elderly or the temporarily unemployed. It's poor people. And one of the reasons that so many poor people pay no income tax is the Earned Income Tax Credit, which can reduce your tax bill to zero or less. To qualify, though, you need a minimum income (i.e., you need to have a job), which makes the EITC an incentive to work—and this is why it's an anti-poverty program that Republicans used to support. Reihan Salam tries to figure out why they don't anymore:

A more parsimonious explanation is that cohort replacement and a lack of a sense of history is doing all of the work: many of today's Republicans are unacquainted with the case for the EITC and the child tax credit and the exclusion of Social Security benefits, or they fail to connect these initiatives to the narrowing of the tax base. This isn't a sinister plot.

Maybe. But let's do a quick history review first. Back in the '60s there was a groundswell of support for a negative income tax, a concept that held some appeal as a simple mechanism that could replace the complex alphabet soup of existing New Deal and Great Society anti-poverty programs. But Mr. Great Society himself, Lyndon Johnson, objected to it because it doled out money even if you weren't working. (FDR probably would have opposed it for the same reason.) Republicans agreed that it undermined incentives to work, and the NIT died.

However, after several years of political haggling, Sen. Russell Long (D-La.) won passage of the EITC in 1975. Because it was available only to those with earned income, it provided a positive incentive to work and enjoyed bipartisan support. It was made permanent in 1978, again with bipartisan support.

But then things changed. EITC was expanded in 1986 with support from Ronald Reagan but with far less support from congressional Republicans, most of whom fought the expansion. Another expansion in 1990 enjoyed even less Republican support, and in 1993, when Bill Clinton included a further expansion of EITC in his budget bill, it passed with no Republican votes at all. It was at this point that the EITC became associated exclusively with Democrats, and after the Gingrich revolution of 1994 the EITC became a frequent target of attacks from the GOP. House Republicans pushed for major cuts, and Clinton eventually managed to buy them off only by setting up a special $100 million IRS fraud unit targeted specifically at the working poor.

Roughly speaking, then, Republican support for the EITC has steadily declined since the mid-'80s, and the majority of the party has been actively opposed to it since the mid-'90s. So I don't think you can really blame the current antipathy toward EITC on the historical ignorance of modern Republicans. This all started 30 years ago, when Republicans were still keenly aware of both the program's origins and its conservative policy underpinnings. They just decided they didn't like the idea of giving money to poor people anymore. Now they've gone even further, and Mitt Romney's echo of his wealthy donors' disdain for the nontaxpaying poor is merely the next step along a logical path. Here's the path:

1975-1985: Support for work-oriented anti-poverty programs like the EITC

1985-1995: Mixed emotions toward EITC

1995-2005: Opposed to EITC

2005-present: Not just opposed to EITC, but actively in favor of making the poor start paying income taxes

The EITC hasn't been a bipartisan program for a long time, and its current sorry state within the GOP isn't just due to youngsters who have forgotten their party's past. As the EITC's history demonstrates, for the past several decades the core of the Republican Party has simply become steadily more hostile toward the working poor. They're no longer fellow citizens who deserve some help as long as they're willing to work, they're parasites who are mooching off the sweat of the productive classes. You can decide for yourself if this is sinister or not.

Coal Exec Dresses Up Like Miner for Congressional Candidate's Campaign

| Wed Sep. 19, 2012 10:57 AM PDT

Remember Mitt Romney's Ohio campaign event, where a coal company forced a bunch of miners to take the day off and attend the rally without pay? Now Romney is featuring images of those miners in new TV ads (via Grist).

Of course, there seems to be no sense of irony in using images of men forced to take a day off work without pay to go to a rally in an ad claiming the Obama administration is taking away all the coal jobs. But Romney isn't the only person getting himself in trouble for his appropriation of coal miners. Down in Kentucky's 6th congressional district, Republican Andy Barr is also getting lambasted for a new ad that features Heath Lovell, a coal executive from western Kentucky, dressed up like a miner and accusing incumbent Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler of destroying the coal industry in Eastern Kentucky. Here's the description, from the Lexington Herald-Leader:

In the ad, Lovell talks about the decline of coal trains in Ravenna in Estill County, which is in the 6th District. Lovell claims that Chandler, President Barack Obama and the federal Environmental Protection Agency "are destroying us."
"They are putting the coal industry out of business, and it's just devastating," he says.
Lovell, who has contributed $2,500 to Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, said in an interview that the ad is not misleading.
"I still consider myself a coal miner," he said. "I still go underground and keep up my training."

But make no mistake; he's no miner. The New York Times notes that Lovell and his wife have donated $21,400 to Republican candidates in the last two years, including Mitt Romney. His wife also recently posted this photo of Lovell making pizza with Romney at a fundraiser held in the home of Papa John's Pizza's founder on Facebook:

Romney Cracks Warren Joke at Secret Fundraiser

| Wed Sep. 19, 2012 10:17 AM PDT

Mitt Romney made light of his father's Mexican roots in a secretly recorded video in Florida, joking that if he were Latino, his path to 270 electoral votes would be a lot easier. But it turns out that the Mexican joke was just a lead-in to a riff about Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, the former Obama adviser and Harvard Law School professor who's taking on Sen. Scott Brown this fall. Warren, you may recall, found herself in a bit of trouble this spring when the Boston Herald reported that she had identified herself to her Harvard employers as Native American. Romney, speaking in May as the story was unraveling, had some fun at her expense:

ROMNEY: My dad you probably know was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company, but he was born in Mexico. And had he been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this, but he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico and he lived there for a number of years. I mean I say that jokingly, but it'd be helpful to be a Latino.

DONOR: Pull an Elizabeth Warren!

ROMNEY: That's right I could go out and say—for those who don't know Elizabeth Warren, she is the woman who's running for US Senate in Massachusetts who says that she is Cherokee, has put her application over the years that she is Cherokee, and Harvard put down that she's one of their minority faculty members. It turns out that at most that she's 1/32 Cherokee and even that can't be proven. So in any event, I can put down my dad was born in Mexico and leave it at that.

Watch:

 Warren and Brown will have their first debate on Thursday.