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.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The GOP in a Corner: Trump Makes Perry Look Good!??

Now that he wears glasses, the smart man, the good man. Gerson thinks so.

Not a fan of the GOP, I love this.
[Former Texas Governor Rick] Perry has been blunt in describing the nature of Trump’s candidacy: “What Mr. Trump is offering is not conservatism, it is Trumpism — a toxic mix of demagoguery and nonsense.” Perry understood something early that many of his peers did not. While appeals to nationalism are a traditional Republican strength, xenophobia is a poison. Republican fortunes at the presidential level will not be restored with the political philosophy of Archie Bunker. For the GOP to succeed in this election — and for any viable form of conservative populism to be preserved — Trump must be discredited. Not just defeated, but discredited.
By denying Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) status as a war hero, Trump has done a good job of that himself. Perry has declared that Trump “is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, and he should immediately withdraw from the race for President.” The first part of that sentence is manifestly true. The second part would require a sense of shame, which makes it very unlikely.
So, according to WaPo pundit Michael Gerson, Rick Perry rises to the ranks of THOSE WHO ARE QUALIFIED TO BE PRESIDENT because he's not as whacky as Donald Trump.

My, how the GOP has fallen.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

David Brooks to Ta-Nehisi Coates: But Some Whites Are Nice to Black People!

David Brooks is quite nearly the perfect conservative pundit, not because of himself but because of all the others. He can appear thoughtful and reasonable even when his reasoning is quite suspect, which is most of the time. How can you get angry at someone so thoughtful?

Pretty easily, actually. He's been staying above the fray for months and months now because, frankly, it's hard to talk policy when it's being dominated by clown-car occupants, tea-party nutjobs, and, well, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, both of whom are defining the New Horrible with alacrity and zest.

I can't say as I blame him, except that his new schtick is at once badly reasoned, caramel-like, and replete with his usually sophistry. Okay, I've trashed him as per usual. So, it's on to his engagement with Ta-Nehisi Coates and his new book.

I'll let you read the piece and evaluate it for yourself. But here's my take at Brooks' stab at being relevant on the status of blacks in America vis a vis whites and the American Dream.
  • Coates vividly describes the inescapable oppression all American blacks endure, and he's pissed at the white establishment that historically created and then maintained that oppression right up to this very day. His book is his message to his son about their common heritage of disprivilege as far as the eye can see (if that's a word, but you get what I mean). Coates is not hopeful, let's put it that way.
  • I feel he's right and spot-on. I've watched this for as long as I can remember, feel my own unending participation or at least acquiescence in the world of the white elite, even as I grew up in an ordinary middle-class family. I, by the way, generally wanted for nothing even if my life was not awash in affluence.
  • The blacks don't get that, far from it. They get the cold shoulder, if not the back of the hand.
  • Brooks sees that and is suitably chagrined, humbled. But then he does his "Hey, but it's not that bad! C'mon!" Sheesh.
  • The American Dream is okay because here and there there's a good white person who works hard and hopes that blacks -- that don't live in his neighborhood, but still -- get the same opportunities as he has.
  • In other words, Coates should chill because some whites are nice to blacks! Really!
  • Sorry, Brooks, it doesn't work that way. Sure, Coates is a successful writer and a respected intellectual, but he's still much more likely to get gunned down by a cop, and he's right to fear for his son. Why? Because it's inescapable.
So, yes, shut up, Brooks. You've answered your own question. You can't say, chill, Ta-Nehisi, because you're deeply engulfed in the corrupt world of racism that oppresses the American black, and saying green shoots, it's getting better, here and there, just wait, the world will be a better place... Oh, brother.

Here's a comment on the column that sums up Coates' problem:
I don't think you should be as apologetic about America as you are. You and we in Britain were deep sinners in slavery, but we also exerted our power at its peak to rid the world of it, and let's recall that it was a fight that others resisted for a long time, including in Africa. What's more, Coates sounds unhelpfully self-centred. The idea that the country was built on black bones seems to assume a history of luxurious suburbs occupied by lazy white people bullying the black people doing the real work. That would have come as a surprise to the Irish who dug the Erie Canal, the dust bowl farmers, the poor European men of the northern shanty towns, the Chinese railway workers, to millions of factory workers, to successive generations of the lower east side, and what's more to the idea that the amazing record of American professional, technical, and business history is a record of hard work. The suffering of American black males is real and it does need addressing, but Coates's self-absorption sounds extreme. He is right to insist on justice. You should feel free to insist on truth.
 Horrifying. The man can be forgiven a bit because he's a Brit and is immersed in his own sphere of privilege and may be unaware of the American blacks' milieu. But, sorry, man from across the pond: Coates is self-absorbed because his blackness is visible, in a frightening sense and in ways nothing like our world of whiteness. We shine. He fears. And we did it, and no amount of "yes, but we banned slavery, so we're good guys, too!" can change that.

It doesn't work that way. Chris Rock said something like "You were horrible to us for 300 years, and now you're going to be nice! Bygones!"

It doesn't work that way, Brooks, and you should know better. The fact that you don't speaks volumes.

And one thing to your commenter that should be obvious but wasn't: You talk about "the Irish who dug the Erie Canal, the dust bowl farmers, the poor European men of the northern shanty towns, the Chinese railway workers, to millions of factory workers, to successive generations of the lower east side," but what you miss is that today the Irish, the Italians, the Poles, the Jews are fully accepted into the world of privilege and opportunity. Even the Chinese fill the ranks of the professional class, and when they move in next door, we don't bat an eye.

Blacks are still standing at the gate. Some have entered, but the pain, oppression, and fear endure.

Right now, in 2015, cops are still killing black people. No wonder
blacks are pissed and Ta-Nehisi Coates is not dancing in the streets.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Iran Nuclear Deal Is Good. How Do I Know? Bibi and the GOP Hate It.

Republican Majority Leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, instructs his minions in Congress.

Lots of commentary coming from both sides on the Iranian deal, with one clear message: The GOP is against peace, against any action by Barack Obama, and wouldn't have supported the deal if it were ten times as good. Any Obama success is, by its very nature, anathema to them.

Here's a roundup of facts and opinion:
  • Friedman's not been my fave for a long time, but he got the scoop with an interview with Obama right after the news yesterday. The resulting article is very informative, mostly in Obama's own words, with reasoned commentary along the way by Friedman. Take away? Obama's complex and nuanced foreign policy views overwhelm the entire GOP clown car and, hell, the whole of Congress. What a mind.
  • Fred Kaplan of Slate hits the nail right on the head concerning the main opposition.
  • Dana Milbank at WaPo pointed out the obvious: GOPers like Lindsey Graham and John Boehner condemned the deal so quickly it was obvious they hadn't had time to read it. Credibility? We don't got to show you no stinking credibility!
  • Max Fisher at talks to a nuclear expert who likes the deal and explains why. Best lines in the Article? This:
    "Compared to the deal we could have gotten 10 years ago, if the Bush administration hadn't had their heads up their butts? Not an A! That would have been a great deal!
    "I remember when they had 164 centrifuges, in one cascade, and I said, "You know what, we should let them keep it in warm standby. No uranium, just gas." And people were like, "You're givin' away the store!"
  • No better evidence that opinions are purely partisan than that the Washington Post is deeply skeptical -- while not outright condemning it, to be fair -- and the New York Times thinks it's a great deal.
  • Finally, Andrew Rosenthal at NYTimes gives a rundown of blank condemnation of the deal by the GOP contenders. Big surprise!
 There's tons more commentary pro and con. My gut tells me that Congress will vote against the deal but fall short in the Senate to override an Obama veto. Or maybe they'll wise up and let the deal pass after they realize that, since it's a multinational deal with the major players in the world already signing on, the sanctions regime is all but over already. Might as well keep the deal if the sanctions are finished. But then that would be rational, so all bets are off.

Arne Duncan Sends His Kids to a School That Doesn't Have to Follow His Policies

Arne: My education policies are for losers, not for my kids.

This is fucked up.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s children will attend the private University of Chicago Lab School, where his wife works.

Of course, everyone is free to send their children wherever they wish. What’s interesting about Duncan choosing this school is that it does not practice any of the policies that Duncan has promulgated. It is a progressive school, founded by John Dewey. No Common Core. No evaluation of teachers by test scores. No performance pay.

Duncan attended the prestigious University of Chicago Lab School. The teachers are unionized. President Obama sent his daughters there. Mayor Rahm Emanuel sends his children there.
Duncan: My policies are for thee, not for me. What's not fucked up about that?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The New South? Same as the Old South, but Not for Long

Not sure this was ever real, but it certainly isn't now.

The ripple of incremental change in culture across the South since the Emanuel massacre in Charleston gave rise to some hope of progress. It has been and will be offset by backlashs as counties like Marion in Florida bring back their Confederate flags and pretend nothing has happened. In many ways, nothing of substance has.

But that's only if you look at the shorter arc of time. Change is coming to the South, and it's been long in the making. A new article in the NY Times talks of the new demographics shaping a new New South:
For now, Republican officeholders live in a dream world where they think rhetoric and repetition will somehow cause minority voters and center-left whites to turn into Republican voters. Alarmed Republican political professionals warn that unless their candidates stop obstructing on health care and make progress on gender issues, the party will lose the White House in 2016 and in quadrennial spurts see its Southern hegemony dismantled by new voters in the New Sunbelt.
In presidential politics, the transition will most likely be seen first in red states like Texas, Georgia and North Carolina, all states that could be in play next year and could become purple, if not yet blue, as early as 2020.
In a sense, it’s the reverse of what happened in the South after the passage in 1965 of the Voting Rights Act. For some time, a coalition of moderate white Democrats and newly enfranchised black voters won victory after victory in the old Confederacy. But then, white flight to the Republican Party, driven by the regional appeal of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, wiped out many of those gains, although some major cities still have black mayors. Now we’re seeing a new coalition politics, in which Hispanic, black and Asian voters are joined by Democratic-leaning younger whites who, unlike older white voters, do not care about dog-whistle issues.
The challenge for those clinging to the Old South is to somehow win on the dog-whistle issues while never giving in to the common-good issues that are more inclusive. That's the battleground. As the new coalition rejects discrimination, intolerance, and refusal to help the poor -- read brown people, even though the majority of the Southern poor are white -- the battle lines will shift. Secular will win over religious, people will win over corporations, and attention will be paid to the working class. It won't be overnight, but it's coming.
It is a quintessential Southern pattern. The region’s most affluent citizens always resist the obvious at first. The plantation mandarins denounced Henry Grady’s gospel of industrialization and more humane racial policies. The most prominent Southern intellectuals of the ’20s and ’30s, the Vanderbilt Agrarians, looked to rural values and white paternalism to preserve a distinctive post-Confederate culture. In the ’60s Birmingham’s business leaders allowed George Wallace to run amok in their town. It will take awhile for Southern and national Republicans to understand that, as Mr. Frey put it, “Demographics is destiny.” The longer they take to get it, the greater the odds that multiethnic Democrats will finally break the Republican lock on the solidly red South.
And the Southern Strategy will find its place in the dustbin of history.

Note. For fun, go to this Red State post to see conservative denial on this issue. Then look at these graphics:







The story these maps tell is that Barack Obama was the first president since Johnson in 1964 to win while failing to carry the South. That's forty-four years. In 2012, Obama did worse in the South, yet still won.

Those not paying attention to the shifting demographics, better understand this: If a black man -- ostensibly a liberal but really more center-left -- can win without the South, what happens when the South starts peeling away from the GOP? Republican strategists shudder to think.

Note 2. Meanwhile, Donald Trump doubles down by pounding his chest on Mexican immigration. So good for the Party!

The Donald, not sharing the love with our Mexican brethren.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The GOP Pursued the Southern Strategy. Now They Own It.

If you ever doubted Sir Ronnie's intentions, know this: Choosing Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil-rights workers were brutally murdered, as the place to announce his candidacy for president and including states' rights as a key theme, wasn't an accident. It was his way of telling the South that he doesn't like Negroes, either.

Richard Nixon, a fiercely unpopular politician, was elected president in 1968 largely because Southern Dixiecrats abandoned the Solid South for the Republican Party in the first presidential election following the signing of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Lyndon Johnson knew that would happen and said as much.

Thus was born the Southern Strategy, which Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush used to full advantage. Notice, too, that between Johnson -- who was from Texas -- and Barack Obama, two Democrats won election, and both, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, were Southerners. Obama was the first president since Kennedy to be elected without some allegiance or connection to the South.

Note, too, that George W. Bush spoke early in his campaign at Bob Jones University in South Carolina (which had to cancel its no-interacial-dating policy because of the firestorm that followed Bush's speech). Once more, a Republican was wink-wink-nudge-nudging the South to tell it where the GOP sentiments lie.

Also, consider this: George W. Bush and his brother Jeb, both born-and-educated New England elites, went south to venture out into their own political careers, W. in Texas and Jeb in Florida. A coincidence or a long-term plan to position themselves for a Southern-Strategy-based presidential run? With Jeb now running, I think we know the answer.

Maybe this will work. I can't say. We do know one thing, though. Today's Republican Party no longer resembles the one that could win anywhere, which is why they rely on voter-restriction efforts and gerrymandering to maintain their successes in states and in the House. But they now own the Southern Strategy, hook, line, and sinker, and they rise and fall as a national party on that basis. If the Southern Strategy -- and their willingness to embrace "brown people are scary" and "women should obey their husbands and have babies" and "no birth control or abortions for you" -- is the basis for their policy initiatives, then they have their work cut out for them.

Which is why, currently at least, Donald Trump is the Id of the GOP. Why does he resonate with the GOP base? He says out loud what the other candidates won't. And the base eats it up. Yes, he may fade but possibly not before the nation gets a good glimpse of the Republican soul, the one that blossomed in Philadelphia, Mississippi and is in danger of fading after Charleston, South Carolina.

Why? Because you can take down a Confederate flag or two, but rooting out the true heart of the South will take more than a few gestures. The good ole boys might love you, but escaping the past can be a bitch.

"Moderate" Jeb Bush. That is, if fighting abortion, favoring privatizing Medicaid,
and loving school vouchers is moderate. Let's not forget Stand-Your-Ground, Terri
Schiavo's law and everything else he did as governor. Which was what again?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Just What America Needs: A "Personality-Driven Death Penalty"

Before we get to Justice Samuel Alito's tour de force decision on lethal injection, let's look at an article that highlights one of Justice Stephen Breyer's major objections, that the death penalty is utilized so unevenly across our land. Aside from the concentration of the death penalty in a surprisingly few number of counties, there are DA's that relish going after capital-punishment cases:
“When you start to look underneath the counties and ask, ‘Who is actually prosecuting these cases?’ you realize in most of the counties, it’s one or a limited number of prosecutors,” Mr. Smith said. For instance, in the five years since Lynne Abraham left the office of district attorney in Philadelphia, where she had secured 45 death sentences in 19 years, there have been only three death sentences.
"What you’ve ended up with,” Mr. Smith said, “is a personality-driven death penalty.”
Oh, yeah, that's the way to go about it.

Now, just to see how we can justify a painful execution, let's get inside Samuel Alito's head:
 Our decisions in this area have been animated in part by the recognition that because it is settled that capital punishment is constitutional, “[i]t necessarily follows that there must be a [constitutional] means of carrying it out.” And because some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution, we have held that the Constitution does not require the avoidance of all risk of pain. After all, while most humans wish to die a painless death, many do not have that good fortune. Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether.
So outlaw it already. No? Sammy, you killin' me! But wait, there's more, we discover at SCOTUSblog:
First, the Court explains, the inmates can win only if they can show that the state has a better option than midazolam – which they have failed to do.  Although the inmates had suggested that the state could use two other drugs (which had in the past been used in lethal injections), the state is no longer able to buy those drugs for use in executions.
Death-row inmates, then, have to make do with the iffy drug because they couldn't offer a better alternative, which are no longer available because Europe won't help us kill each other legally. Nice.

So current law on executions is: People on death row will have to take their chances on a more-or-less painful death because of dumb luck or not and also because they had their chance finding a better drug to let us kill them with.

That's fucked up.

Earth to Sam Alito: The Constitution has no "shit happens" clause.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Justice Denied, Supreme-Court-Style?

Strap 'em down, shoot 'em up, and see what happens!

This story of a 38-year quest to kill someone is nothing short of repulsive. I'm against the death penalty, although in certain cases -- Timothy McVeigh, for one -- I don't feel horrible when I hear an execution took place. That might make me "soft" on the issue, but there you are.

But the case of Richard Jordan should shock the conscience of any person in this land:
At that point Owen entered into a plea agreement with Jordan. Under the agreement, Jordan would be sentenced to life without parole in exchange for his promise not to challenge his new sentence. A trial court accepted the plea and sentenced Jordan accordingly.
But the plea agreement Owen prepared turned out to be defective. Mississippi law allowed life without parole only for habitual offenders—which Jordan was not. Jordan asked the trial court to fix his unlawful sentence by changing it to life with the possibility of parole. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed that Jordan’s previous sentence was invalid and sent the case back to the trial court. In the meantime, Mississippi had amended its laws to permit life without parole for all capital murder convictions.
Jordan asked Owen—who reprised his role as special prosecutor—to simply reinstate their previous life-without-parole agreement, which would now be valid. Owen refused. Instead, he sought a new sentencing trial—and asked the jury to sentence Jordan to death. The jury complied. After an extensive reprieve, Jordan found himself once again awaiting execution.
What adds to the depravity of this case is that the same Supreme Court case that briefly led to the abolition of the death penalty in 1976 -- which set aside the death sentence of Charles Manson, who was never retried but instead given a life sentence that he is still serving -- also set aside Richard Jordan's death sentence. Only Mississippi decided to retry the sentencing phase of Jordan's trial and obtained a new sentence of death. Couple that with the remarkably empty-headed majority opinion written by Samuel Alito making a new drug for lethal injections legal, despite the fact that the drug has failed repeatedly and led to some pretty painful episodes during executions. I guess Mississippi can now use that drug to dispatch Jordan.

This after 38 years. And we can't find four justices to agree to hear the case? Disgusting.

Alito's view -- that death hurts, so why shouldn't executions? -- only serves to secure America's place among the cruelest of nations. Happy Fourth of July.

That's some real adjudicating there, Sam. Good, honest, American adjudicating.