Speculations on MSNBC Shake Up

Ed SchultzI’m sure you’ve heard that MSNBC is moving Ed Schultz to weekends and moving in Chris Hayes to do his old time slot. In one way, I’m thrilled about this. Chris Hayes is a good, solid, and articulate liberal. He is the best thing that MSNBC has. I look forward to watching his show while I cook dinner each night. (I get the east coast feed.) But I’m kind of sad about what this says for the network and perhaps liberalism more generally.

MSNBC is a good example of how corporations are never liberal. Even when they are pushing liberal news, they still approach the whole thing in a way that goes against both the best impulses of liberals and conservatives. It is clear what the network is doing. They are trying to appeal to a younger (Hipper!) demographic. To put it bluntly: they are going after me.

I’ve always had my problems with Ed Schultz. He’s kind of a blowhard. He doesn’t signal that deep down he’s an intellectual (because he’s not). He is far too partisan. And yet: he is the best that liberalism is. He is the New Deal and the Great Society. He is the defender of labor unions and workers’ rights. He is a living symbol that every woman and man is best served by the Democratic Party that existed before it ran away from liberalism with its tail between its legs.

This isn’t to say the new generation isn’t strong and proud. Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes are hopefully the future of liberalism. Maybe they are a sign that the years Schultz worked through the Democratic Dark Ages will finally pay off. We need to hold up Ed Schultz as an ideal, not shove him into the weekend wilderness. But he will not be forgotten, because I will seek him out there. I’m sure I will be in good company.


According to Peter Weber, a big part of Schultz’s departure is due to the demographics of his audience. He has very good ratings, but they skew too old. Clearly, MSNBC is going after this younger demographic—especially with Sean Hannity at 51 and Bill O’Reilly at 63. (Not to mention their audiences skewing even older.) Rachel Maddow is 39 and Chris Hayes, 34.

Letter to Obama Regarding EPA

Obama CopeDear Mr. President:

Why is the EPA going to delay regulating greenhouse gases in power plants? Look:

1. The economy is bad.

2. Businesses are sitting on piles of money they won’t spend.

Thus, now is the perfect time to implement environmental regulations. It will clean up the environment and create jobs. A win-win!

Don’t be dumb about this. Don’t be afraid. Be a proud liberal. It isn’t just morally right, it practically right. Also: it is good politics (at least it will be within a couple of years).

Now go make the country proud!

—Frank Moraes

PS: I hope that you don’t treat these email comments any less seriously than phone calls. Some of us don’t like phones. But if email is counted for less, please tell me; I’ll write you regular letters!

(It would be good for the post office too. And that reminds me: I really don’t like how Congress since 2006 has been abusing one of the very best—and Constitutionally mandated—government functions. I’m just saying.)

The Ides of March

Julius CaesarWhy should we beware the ides of March? Certainly we should be concerned about the Romans who counted days in as logical a way as they counted numbers: that is very illogically. Take the ides for example. They are on the 13th of the month. But not in March. In March, they are on the 15th. Why? Because the Romans are nasty people that way. I know what you’re thinking, “Oh, there must be some system like the ides is on the 15th for months with 31 days!” Oh, Grasshopper! Your ignorance is so charming! But it is still ignorance.

Let’s begin with the number of days. Why do some months have 30 days and others have 31 except for February which has less? (There is an easy way to remember which.) The reason we have such a screwy system is thanks to—Wait for it!—the Romans! What did the Romans ever do for us? They gave as a really stupid calendar!

There are better ideas for calendars. My favorite is that we make every month 30 days. That gives us 5 (or 6) left over at the end. That we call the new year celebration where everyone stays drunk or otherwise pleasantly intoxicated. And on the last day, we hang all the bankers who’ve pissed us off that year.

Now back to those ides. The ides were on the 15th in March, May, July, and October. While it is true that those months have 31 days, what the hell happened to January, August, and December?

According to Shakespeare, “A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.” According to Wikipedia, an actual soothsayer told him that something bad would happen to him by the ides of March. (Ingrown toenail?) If said soothsayer really existed, he was probably as confused about the dates as we are. So who knows? “A hard rain’s a gonna fall!” Anyway, Julius Caesar fully deserved to be killed, although it would have been best if he had been allowed to live a little while to let the people see what an asshole he had become. (Of course, looking at American, maybe they never would have noticed.) Regardless, it is pretty clear that the republic was over. On to the zany years of the emperors!

But at least, we’ll always have the play!

Deep in the Heartlessness of Texas

Deep in the Heartlessness of TexasWomen’s healthcare is a mess in Texas. To get the full picture, I recommend you read Jaeah Lee’s incredible article, This Is What Happens When You Defund Planned Parenthood. But let me give you just a little taste of what it is like deep in the heartlessness of Texas.

For the last two years, Texas has passed up $30 million per year in federal Medicaid funding, all in an effort to destroy Planned Parenthood. Their plan has been pretty successful: 53 clinics have been forced to shut down. But here’s the thing: not one of those clinics performed abortions. So the intent of the Texas legislature to wipe out the “abortion industry” has utterly failed.

But it’s worse than that. In their effort to end abortion (because conservatives just love the unborn even as they hate the born), they have managed to do a lot of damage to women’s access to birth control. The Texas Health Commission estimates that these policies will, in next two years, lead to 24,000 unwanted pregnancies resulting in a cost of up to $273 million.

That’s the thing about allowing ideology to rule policy making: it ends in stupid policy. I suspect even now these legislators would claim that spending an extra billion dollars (over ten years) is a small price to pay for all the fetuses they save. Of course, it isn’t clear that they are even saving fetuses. Abortions are down by about 10%, but it isn’t clear whether this is due to new laws or not. Dan Grossman of Ibis Reproductive Health says that most women are not changing their minds about abortion after seeing their state required ultrasounds.[1]

The following graph from Lee’s article, probably shows what is really going on.

Fading Texas Family Planning

The number of women being served by all resources is plummeting. And that may be the point. As I’ve written before, the anti-choice movement is anti-woman.

[1] The idea that women are children who don’t know what they are doing when they get an abortion is the most repellent aspect of these ultrasound laws. And I think they get to the heart of what anti-choice men (especially) think about the wider issue. This is all about controlling women. It has almost nothing to do with protecting the fetus.

Debra Milke and the Injustice System

Debra MilkeThis is a picture of Debra Milke. You can see she’s a pretty woman but there is a lot of pain in that face. She has suffered a lot. Her 4-year-old son was murdered 23 years ago. And for the last 22 years, she’s been on death row of taking part in his murder. She’s innocent, of course. Hopefully, she will be released from prison very soon.

Milke is, of course, yet another example of the evilness of the death penalty. If most proponents of these laws had their way, Milke would be long dead. “I don’t want to pay for them to sit in jail! Just kill the bastards!” Sadly, I’ve heard that time and again over the years—even from liberals. The government has a hard time keeping the roads free of potholes, but somehow it is perfect when it chooses to kill.

What is most appalling about the case of Debra Milke is how she was convicted. There was no physical evidence. There was no eyewitness evidence. There was just the claim by a cop that he “didn’t buy” her reaction to hearing that her son had died. This was apparently enough to not only arrest and convict her; it was enough to sentence her to death.

The cop was Armando Saldate. He had a history of misconduct including multiple cases where he was caught lying under oath. (Note: cops lie under oath all the time; it is fairly rare that their lies are so outrageous that they are caught.) He claimed that the actual murderer told him that Milke hired him to kill her son. He also claimed that Milke confessed to him. None of this was recorded and somehow Saldate “lost” his notes. So basically, Saldate claimed that Milke was guilty because he said so. And the jury and the judge went right along with him.

The death penalty will always be flawed because humans are flawed. Every proponent of the death penalty who I know always brings up cases where a guy walks into a McDonald’s and shoots someone with 50 eyewitnesses while being recording with 29 video cameras. I point out that these kinds of cases are always pleaded and almost never get the death penalty. It is people like Debra Milke who get the death penalty. And they respond that it shouldn’t be that way and that the death penalty is totally great. Meanwhile innocent people continue to be murdered by our “justice” system.

Once Milke is released, these same proponents will say, “See: she was finally exonerated! And now she can sue!” Not really. She was exonerated after 22 years that these same proponents argue against. She had 22 years of false imprisonment. And if she is allowed to sue (and it is very likely she won’t be allowed to), it will hardly make up for the injustice that was done to her.

More Evidence 47% Video Unimportant

47 PercentJohn Sides has a great article in Salon, Romney Likely Loser, Even Without Famous Video. It puts some numbers behind what I’ve long been saying: the 47% video didn’t change the election. My argument is based upon how people think. If the video showed Romney sneaking out of his campaign bus to give cash out to the homeless, it wouldn’t have gone viral; no one really thought that Romney was the kind of guy to do that. The 47% video, on the other hand, was a big deal because it seemed to show Romney in an unguarded moment being exactly what everyone already thought he was: a plutocrat who thinks he is above everyone else.

Sides (along with his colleague Lynn Vavreck) look at this question from the standpoint of the polling data. What it shows it that for a short period of time, a number of Romney supporters (about 5 percentage points or 10% of his total support) became “undecided.” But as soon as the first debate was over, they came back to the fold.

This basic dynamic happened to Obama after the first debate. Some of Obama’s supporters started claiming they were undecided. They all came back after the second debate. And Romney’s gains after the first debate? They were just people who claimed to be undecided but were always going to vote for Romney. In the end, the main reason Obama won re-election was not his campaign; it was his get out the vote machine.

We make a big mistake when we overstate how important the minutia of campaigns are. Of course it’s exciting and fun for us political junkies. And given that the stakes really are high, it is easy to forget that it is mostly just a bunch of people like us who are even paying attention. But look back at the poll aggregators. Nate Silver, for example, never had Romney ahead once the general election had started. There were no wild swings. And the minor swings there were were based on supporters of one candidate getting mad and claiming to be undecided when they really weren’t.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg at 80

Ruth Bader GinsburgThe only member of the Grateful Dead who I respect, Phil Lesh, is 73 today. The shockingly great Sly Stone is 70. And Ry Cooder is 66. Lightnin’ Hopkins would have been 101 today, but he didn’t even come close. A damned good day for musicians.

It is also Judd Hirsch‘s 78th birthday. I’m not much of a fan, but I enjoyed Taxi when I was a kid. The once great and still very good David Cronenberg is 70. The great comedy writer Madelyn Pugh would have been 92, but she stopped functioning at 90.

A big happy birthday goes out to the only liberal member of the Supreme Court: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She is 80 years old today. The sad thing is that she will probably not be on the court much longer. I suspect she will step down in the next couple of years to make sure that a Democrat will get to replace her. Even still, like all Supreme Court replacements for the last 30 years (except, of course, Ginsburg herself): the replacement will be more conservative than the justice he or she replaces.

I like having Ginsburg on the court. It reminds me of the days before America was a plutocracy. Here is Lightnin Hopkins performing “Baby Please Dont Go” just for her:

Rob Portman Affected By Gay Bigotry

Rob PortmanRob Portman, who has previously supported employers being able to fire people just because they’re gay, has come out in favor of same sex marriage. But don’t get too excited. He has changed his position because he learned that his son is gay. Is that a Republican all over or what?

This morning, Jonathan Chait asks a good question about this, “[W]hy should any of us come away from his conversion trusting that Portman is thinking on any issue about what’s good for all of us, rather than what’s good for himself and the people he knows?” We shouldn’t because he isn’t. This would be like Richard Mourdock saying, “I just learned that my daughter was raped and now I see that rape is always wrong!” Welcome to the party bud, but you’re still a complete asshole.

Last year, I wrote about the Cheneys as they related to this issue. I think this completely sums up what is going on with Portman:

How can these kinds of conservatives look at their entire ideology with this one exception carved out and still maintain their faith (because it is nothing if not pure faith) in the rest of their belief system? Why does it not make them think, “Maybe I’m wrong about all those other things I have no first-hand experience with.” Certainly it is true that the Cheneys would be absolutely against gay rights if it were not for their daughter. How can they continue to think that they would have conservative ideas about welfare if they had any experience with being economically challenged? How can Dick Chaney continue to think that he would be so pro-war if he had not had better things to do than serve in the military during the Vietnam War?

I’m happy to have yet another ally in the fight against bigotry. But it is very clear that in 20 years, gay rights won’t even be an issue between the parties. This is why it is so important to focus on economic issues. Being for gay rights doesn’t make you a liberal; it just makes you a human being. Unfortunately, as Portman shows: Republicans only join the human race when they are directly impacted by the injustices of the world.