Friday, July 31, 2015

Hey Women. All That Progress You Thought You Were Making? Fox News Has Other Ideas.


Fox News commentator Andrea Tantaros: I wonder
which angle she's working. What do you think?

Caught this in Salon via Fox News. It seems, when it comes to down to it, pleasing your man is job one:


What used to pass for feminine behavior decades ago, looks kind of creepy, doesn't it? Weird. It's, I don't know, pretty Stone Age, isn't it? It is Fox, though.

Note. To be fair, they're right about one thing. Mags like Cosmo are filled with this shit. but, uh, seriously? I guess Fox News knows its demographic.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Second-Best America: When Real Solutions Are Politically Toxic, All We Have Left Is Second-Best (at Best).


And, then we have a country that squanders so much of the talents of its citizens.


I'll keep it simple. Read this blog post by Paul Krugman. He gets right to it.

Police Will Keep Killing People, Especially If They're Black


...and that's very depressing.

Who shot whom in these pictures? Take a guess.

Also, guess what the black man did to make the cop shoot him. He very mildly stood up for his rights. Within seconds, he was shot in the head, died instantly. For a change, the cop, Ray Tensing, has been charged with murder. A rare "victory."

I've seen the video. It's depressing. If you want to see it, go here.

Shit should stop. Certainly won't. Why? It's a tradition that goes back several hundred years. momentum? Yeah, killing blacks has momentum. It's fucked up. Maybe we should have a conversation.

Another important point, also common with police shootings. A fellow officer backed up Tensing's initial, dishonest, report. Read about that here. Will the fellow officer who lied in support of his colleague lose his job? Hope so, don't count on it.


Monday, July 27, 2015

The Facts Aren't Important to Conservatives, Hillary Edition


Editor-in-Chief Dean Baquet: We can't be held responsible if someone lied to us. Really?

The New York Times botched a Hillary Clinton email story but good, spent a few days trying to clean it up without saying, "Boy, did we screw up!" while managing to look to conservatives like the Clinton campaign had editing rights to the paper. Any way you look at it, the Times has done better (though its Iraq War run-up reporting was seriously underwhelming in the accuracy department).

Conservatives -- again, for the umpteenth time! -- thought they had scored the big one on Hillary, and when they didn't, they went ballistic with the Paper of Record, not because it got the facts wrong and fixed them after the Clinton campaign called them on it. No, conservatives went ballistic because now the facts weren't so damning (possibly there is not there there, for the umpteenth time!).
S.E. Cupp is a conservative commentator who unfurls often bareknuckled punditry on various programs across CNN programming. On Friday afternoon she was on “The Lead with Jake Tapper” doing what conservative commentators do, which is to stick it to the New York Times. “I think it’s worth pointing out that we are all talking about it notably because the New York Times changed their headline, their lead and the link to this story…Because Hillary asked them to,” she said in a segment with Tapper and former White House strategist Dan Pfeiffer. “The New York Times re-published the Pentagon papers against the will of Richard Nixon and had to go to the Supreme Court to do it. It is not the New York Times that changed their headline back.”
Now, S.E.'s problem is that the New York Times did actually blow it: There was not and probably never will be a criminal inquiry into Hillary's private email because some anonymous source or another either lied or got their story seriously wrong. That's when serious journalists with, er, strong ethics go, "Oh, sorry, Hillary, the facts don't bear out our accusations," and call it a day. Conservatives find an article with actual facts in them to be a dish served cold:
Speaking of the NYT story in question, Hillary can feel lucky because she apparently has Wikipedia-esque “edit this story” capability for Times articles her campaign’s not entirely happy with:
The New York Times made small but significant changes to an exclusive report about a potential criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s State Department email account late Thursday night, but provided no notification of or explanation for of the changes.
The paper initially reported that two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation “into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information on a private email account she used as secretary of state.”
That clause, which cast Clinton as the target of the potential criminal probe, was later changed: the inspectors general now were asking for an inquiry “into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state.”
The Times also changed the headline of the story, from “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email” to “Criminal Inquiry Is Sought in Clinton Email Account,” reflecting a similar recasting of Clinton’s possible role. The article’s URL was also changed to reflect the new headline.
Until the election, Hillary and the NYT will be known respectively as “Jump” and “How High?”
Of course, what Michelle Malkin's blog is up in arms about is that, at the Clinton campaign's request, the Times corrected their own mistakes. That, again, is highly irritating to conservatives, who mostly till now continue to run with the botched story because they like it better. Who cares if it's not the truth. Truth? It's overrated.

Eric Wemple at the Post:
Or, as Cupp said, “Hillary asked them to” change the story. And that, conservatives argued, was the scandal. NewsBusters, the conservative watchdog of mainstream media, scolded the newspaper for caving: “[T]he Hillary team had complained to the Times about the initial Thursday night story, and the paper (surprise) complied.” Breitbart sniffed, “New York Times Stealth-Edits Clinton Email Story at Her Command.” Fox News contributor Monica Crowley:
On Fox News Friday afternoon, former George W. Bush press secretary Dana Perino echoed the notion: “I had a chance to work at the White House, too. Do you think for one second, that if I had a complaint about the lead of the New York Times story and I called and complained that the New York Times would have fallen over themselves to change it?”
 [...]
As a piece of media criticism, this outburst was a two-story flophouse with termites running amok in the joists. On one level, habitual critics of the New York Times were so blinded by their bias against the newspaper that they couldn’t stand still and appreciate what the paper had done: “Break” a “story” about a criminal probe into Hillary Clinton over her e-mails. It had put its good name on the line for a towering scoop that — if true! — could have seriously hurt her 2016 presidential hopes. It moved aggressively on the story, as well — way too aggressively, as a matter of fact. A Democratic spokesman for the House oversight committee, which is closely involved in Clinton e-mail stuff, told the Erik Wemple Blog: “Unfortunately, the New York Times did not check with us before running its story, even though we have offered to help in the past and could have corrected these errors before they showed up on the front page. We do not know who the New York Times talked to, but we talked to the Inspectors General themselves.”
Given that context, you might suppose that the paper’s conservative critics could have forgiven the paper for scaling back a few words. They didn’t.
 In other words, conservatives flipped out over a scandal snatched from their cold, dead hands. The truth? Again, who cares? They want the scandal!!

Travelgate, Vince Foster, Whitewater, and now Benghazi and emails.
And I want to be president? I should want OUT, is what I should want...

Here's some worthy perspective from Josh Marshall.

And here's some rather unworthy perspective from Howard Kurtz of Fox News. He doesn't get the story wrong, per se, it's just that he leaves out that the Times has been rolling back the story more and more since it came out, and he also does what Beltway reporters like him do ad nauseum: He perpetuates the Hillary-doesn't-tell-the-truth narrative, regardless of how true that narrative is.


Kurtz isn't lying. He's simply perpetuating misinformation. You don't have to love Hillary to appreciate how she's being gamed, slandered. It's what they do. No wonder she can't get her favorables up. She has enemies constantly throwing spaghetti at the wall. Some of it sticks, regardless of its hollowness.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Marco Rubio Trumps Trump with "Obama's Got No Class" Statement


Has Rubio jumped the shark? Yeah, maybe.

Talk about having no class. Rubio says Obama has "no class?" Horseshit.

Watch Chris Matthews react on MSNBC. In several seasons of nutjob, wacko, conservative hit jobs on Barack Obama -- a fundamentally decent, honorable man of no small charm, sense of humor, and general eloquence on so many subjects -- Marco Rubio made the pettiest, nastiest attack on the president. He should be ashamed. Prick.

Just to get some attention to his sorry-ass campaign. Whether or not Rubio himself has "class," I'll leave that to others. But one thing he is this season is a loser.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

John McCain Is a War Hero for Being Captured During a War We Had No Business Fighting


This is the classic picture of McCain's time as a POW. It shows him in bed with
injuries suffered while ejecting from his his plane. Why always this picture?

Yes, why always that picture? Aren't there pictures of him after he recovered from his injuries sitting around bored and eating crappy rice or something? Just asking.

On a serious note, this Business Insider Malaysia article features some of McCain's own words on his time in a Hanoi prison. It's harrowing. I don't know if it makes him a hero or not. Just surviving his imprisonment is a testimony to both his determination and, I imagine, dumb luck.

We tend to glorify war and the soldiers that fight them. We take it for granted that those who fight for us deserve a special status. Just surviving combat renders soldiers heroes of a sort. I don't begrudge them that status. But I also believe we take it too far, especially regarding wars we had no business fighting. We should fight fewer wars and produce fewer wounded warriors and anoint fewer war heroes.

John McCain has done alright for himself, given that he came from a celebrated Navy family, barely made it out of Annapolis (fifth from the bottom of his class, 894th out of 899), crashed his plane twice, ditched a third, was shot down in a fourth, and was involved in a shaky incident in Spain (flying too low, he sliced some power lines). A fifth plane he was in blew up on the deck of his aircraft carrier, which led to a fire that killed 134 sailors. He barely survived the disaster and was not to blame in any way. Just bad luck.

Still, it's hard to say he was a war hero, though he did manage a few good missions over Vietnam, two of which earned him commendations. Only his days as a POW gained him his war hero status. I suppose it's as it should be.

Still, Vietnam was a cooked up war that didn't need to happen. So were Afghanistan and Iraq, and we grant war-hero and wounded-warrior status to thousands of young men we never should have sent into battle.

I don't begrudge them their status, but I question a country that cannot stop fighting wars of choice. We lost 50,000-plus lives in Vietnam while killing over 3 million Vietnamese. Remind me why? Most Americans couldn't say off the top of their heads, except communism or something.

Back to McCain. This Rolling Stone article in 2008 puts a lot in perspective. He and George W. Bush share a lot in common, mostly that, because of their families, they failed up. Bush's failures were, obviously, far more consequential, and one of my favorite presidents, LBJ, is largely responsible for the catastrophe that was the war in which John McCain gained his war-hero acclaim. Funny how that works, and funny how I can admire and condemn Johnson in the same breath.

This all started because Donald Trump questioned John McCain's heroism. Frankly, Trump should be allowed to do just that. The outrage is all bullshit. Was McCain a hero? Did he have to keep crashing planes? Did we even belong in Vietnam? That last question is what we should be talking about, not whether a plane crasher should be a hero for, in the end, being shot down and living to tell about it.

Donald Trump is the current frontrunner in the GOP race for the nomination. What that says about the GOP in more important than whether or not John McCain should be a somebody who built a career on his misfortune.

Or should John McCain be a somebody who picked Sarah Palin for his running mate?

Thanks, McCain. Was Sarah Palin a better choice for the White House
than, er, the Donald? Luckily, we'll never know.

A serious note. While trying to gauge American attitudes toward the Vietnam War, I found this Jim Webb piece on the subject. While I disagree with his conclusions, I was impressed by his broad knowledge of the subject. Webb, now a Democratic candidate for president, makes a strong case for the war and says he'd fight it again. He blames the loss of the war -- yes, we lost the Vietnam War -- on political incompetence, a manipulated press, and the "dissent movement," which he clearly feels was unpatriotic.

I grant that he remembers a different war from the one I chose not to fight in. Yes, I protested the war on my college campus -- was suspended for a term because of my participation, wrongly singled out as a leader (I wasn't) -- and remain proud of my dissent. As for patriotism, I remain deeply skeptical of patriotism. Like religion, it causes more death than life, more destruction than redemption. 

I support Hillary Clinton for president and had privately mentioned Jim Webb as my favorite for the veep slot. I still expect it to happen. But reading Webb's reflections on war -- and knowing Hillary's hawkish side -- I wonder if a pacifist like myself should support a team that embraces war as an essential option available to resolve international disagreements. Right now, I prefer the diplomatic Barack Obama. He came into office willing to expand in Afghanistan. That didn't work, and he's resolved not to make a similar mistake in Iran. I commend him for it.

Did we need to fight in the Middle East to stop the spread of radical Islam? No, we fought in the Middle East and helped expand and sustain the radical Islamic movement, just as our failure in Vietnam may have led to the killing fields of Cambodia. Webb believes the West worked together to prevent communism from overtaking the whole of Southeast Asia, whereas I believe our meddling in various countries since World War II has fomented more war and misery than if we let history run its course while we pursued diplomatic solutions. We may never know if George Kennan's containment policy -- one that Truman embraced and Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson pursued, on which Kennan later reversed himself -- was a mistake. Did we really need to fight the Cold War? It's unknowable, but it's worth reflecting on.

Finally, I want to remark on the Wikipedia entry on George Kennan that I linked to above. I've read through it more and find Kennan and his evolving positions and recommendations to be very wise indeed. It's a great read about a great and long career. Read though as much as you have time for. It's enlightening.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Minimum Wage Debate: What Are We Missing?


Why should taxpayers pay part of Walmart's labor costs through welfare payments?

If the minimum wage is so low -- and if employment practices prevent full-time work as a means of lowering labor costs -- that many workers must receive welfare payments to survive, we're not doing it right, full stop.

And yet we see an obvious divide: liberals prefer a higher minimum wage while conservatives argue that minimum wage increases will backfire. Both sides have studies that back them up. Sort of, that is, meaning that the studies on both sides are all over the map because we have no natural experimental data on which to base our hypotheses. In other words, we ain't been raising the minimum wage much, so we don't know what will happen.

We do have some experiments: San Francisco and Seattle -- cities with such high living standards that they need minimum wage increases simply to attract low-skill workers needed for, if nothing else, food services -- have raised minimum wages well above the national average. There is scant evidence that these cities' economies have crashed or lost jobs.

We have examples, like Germany, Australia, France, Ireland, and Denmark, that do well with higher minimum wages.

In the arguments I've scanned, I've noticed we're missing something in the U.S. debate, and that's that we are assuming that markets are better at setting prices than governments are. Yes, the debate is taking place in a capitalistic, free-enterprise economy with declining labor unions. And that might be why we are getting this all wrong.

If we decide that regulating the labor market is the way to reduce poverty and improve the lot of the working class, then we are considered liberal in our thinking. If, on the other hand, we want to let the market for labor decide with the least regulation -- and that might imply that there should be no minimum wage laws -- then we are considered conservative in our thinking.

I easily observed this just today by reading this, this, this, this, and this in the Washington Post. The five stories are mostly from the conservative side, at least in that the assumptions are drawn without challenging the basic concept that we should avoid overly regulating markets, if at all. But the five articles represent the state of the debate as it is taking place in America today.

And it ain't pretty, and it comes down to this: Help the poor, but not too much. Why? Because raising the minimum wage will hurt business, and business will react by employing fewer people, thus restoring some workers to their prior state of misery because higher wages are bad for business!

Of the five articles I link to -- all are from the Washington Post -- two by George Will and Robert Samuelson represent the conservative oh-no-you'll-wreck-business-don't-do-it! point of view on minimum wages, two by Catherine Rampell and Dylan Matthews represent attempts at balance on the subject, and one by Mike Konczal represents the view that raising the minimum wage, in general, can have positive outcomes.

Only Mike Konczal is an actual economist, and his argument, unsurprisingly, has statistics that indicate raising the minimum wage would have good results. Of the five, I liked Konczal's the best, possibly because his article is entitled "Economists agree: Raising the minimum wage reduces poverty." In other words, his question was how can we reduce poverty. And his answer was by paying higher wages where they count the most, that is, among the very poorest.

That's asking the right question and getting the right answer. It's preferable to these alternatives:
  • How can we pay the least amount of wages and increase profits, which will then be shared by business owners and their investors?
  • How can we find the sweet spot -- raising wages just enough that we don't hurt the bottom line or disturb the prevalent labor market efficiencies but appear to care ever so slightly about the working poor -- that will make us feel marginally better about ourselves?
  • How much longer can we pretend that minimum wage increases will harm the job creators and thus end up hurting the working poor?
One thing is clear: What we're generally missing in this debate is a sense that the real question to answer is, "How do we improve the most lives within the economy we control?"

That is the question Bernie Sanders is asking, which explains many of his policy preferences. Martin O'Malley is closer to Sanders on this issue. Hillary Clinton agrees, but remains vague in her policy pronouncements. It appears, though, she has moved left.

The GOP candidates, to a person, don't prefer giving raises to the poor and working classes. For them the question remains, "How do we lower taxes on the rich and do the least for the poor and working classes before we begin to lose the support of low-information voters who, by appealing to their racism and nativism, we've successfully bamboozled all these years?"

A not so incongruous picture: How many people in this photo of people protesting
Obama's visit to Tennessee are liberal? How many are likely to vote Republican?
How many would like to see the minimum wage go up without knowing their
voting for Republicans will make sure it doesn't? How many completely get
why they chose to wave Confederate flags as an anti-Obama gesture?

Bonus article: I found this surfing for graphics. It's a concise debunking of arguments against raising the minimum wage. It rings true. Read it as a companion piece to Konczal's.