Daily Archives: 19 Jan 2015

Shepard Smith and the Region of Bigotry

Shepard SmithIs Shepard Smith trying to get fired?! Actually, I doubt it. He’s just a bit of a loose cannon. And let’s just be clear here: he’s gay and he’s liberal — maybe not liberal like I am, but liberal like Hillary Clinton is. He is like this festering boil of humanity and reasonableness on the body of Fox News. And when he oozes some actual truth onto the screen, it is a thing of beauty. But if he ever pops, it will be transcendent.

On Friday’s Shepard Smith Reporting, he did a segment on the Supreme Court taking on same-sex marriage this term. In discussing it, he said, “Not in every case, but in most cases, the same states which were fighting integration, are fight this as well: those states that always seem to be behind the curve for reasons that are explainable and understandable.” Whatcha mean by “explainable and understandable,” Shep? I know that gives the network some wiggle room, but we all know what you mean: the reason these states fought integration before and are fighting same-sex marriage now is because they are controlled by bigots.

And it gets even better. John Bussey notes that there is still disagreement on same-sex marriage and Smith interrupts him and says, “There’s still disagreement on segregation!” You should watch it. Smith seems to know that he has to be very careful. It reminds me of an old article at Gin and Tacos, Fatigue Factor, “I recall distinctly from the years of being a Republican… It was exhausting, frankly, to keep one’s motives hidden.” What he was talking about was the way that Republicans claim they need to enact voter-ID laws before the voter fraud, when it is just a way to stop Democrats from voting. Smith’s in a more difficult position where he can’t even be honest with what policy he’s in favor of. But you can just tell that he’s pleased as punch:

But is Shepard Smith really in danger of losing his job? Probably not. A commenter over at Media Matters, JimWolf359, noted, “I don’t think it’ll happen. He makes good window dressing for Fox. ‘See? We are fair and balanced when we want to be! Just ask our token liberal, Shep if you don’t believe us.'” I hope he’s right. I probably wouldn’t think much of Smith if he were at CNN or MSNBC. But at Fox News, his awkwardness and liberality is charming.

There is one question. Rumor has it that in his recent contract negotiations, he tried to get the okay from the network to him to “come out.” They weren’t willing to do that. Apparently, their target audience (85 year old white men) is still anxious that television screens can transmit The Gay. But if same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, will Fox News allow Smith to get married? Time will tell.

Stronger Swiss Franc Help EU Economy

Swiss FrancFor the last week, I’ve felt as though I ought to write about what has happened in Switzerland, but I haven’t been able to find a hook. It’s still kind of hard to get too excited about Europe generally, and Switzerland in particular, with its economy that is roughly 4% of our own. Just the same, Switzerland’s per capita GDP is roughly $80,000 and the US’s is only $50,000. So I’m not smug about this; it is just that Switzerland is a small country. What’s more, what is wrong with European economic policy seems pretty simple: shared currency, austerity, and German arrogance. It is this last item that provides the hook.

The German government has really been impossible throughout this economic crisis. It has used the rhetoric of moral rectitude to bludgeon the rest of the European Union, “If only you acted like us, you would be doing well!” That’s just not true. As Paul Krugman is fond of saying, “Economics is not a morality play.” Germany wants to continue to keep its exports cheap, thus helping to keep the rest of Europe depressed. It’s typical conservative “shared sacrifice”: you sacrifice everything and I’ll share nothing.

Last week, Switzerland did something that is kind of the opposite. It stopped pegging the Swiss franc to the euro. Up to that point, the franc had been artificially lowered because the Swiss economy is actually doing quite well. This act caused the franc to shoot up in value — as much as 30% at one point. This is good news for the rest of the EU. It means that Swiss exports will be more expensive and Swiss imports will be cheaper. It should also mean that the Swiss economy should take a little hit and unemployment should go up (but unemployment is very low now).

This highlights one of the most exasperating issues I have when talking to people about economics. Pretty much everyone thinks that a strong dollar is a good thing. It sounds good, right? And it is good — for the 1%. If you have a lot of money, then the more that money is worth, the better. But most people don’t have a lot of money, and most people need a job. For these people, a weak dollar is better because it makes our exports more competitive and imports less competitive.

An interesting aspect of this is that most people are upset (or were in 2012 when the media was covering it) that China was artificially holding down the value of its currency. This, everyone understood, made it harder for US businesses to sell to China and made Chinese businesses unfairly competitive selling to us. But the very same people who were upset about this, also wanted a strong dollar. What China is doing is strengthening our dollar! It is inconsistent to say, “I want a strong dollar and I want American exports to be competitive!” If you are for the strong dollar, you are for shipping jobs overseas for the benefit of people who already have too much money.

So what Switzerland did last week is what we’ve wanted China to do for years and years. It’s strange that Paul Krugman thinks it is a bad thing. I think that Dean Baker, as usual, has this one right. In fact, he even related it to Germany:

This is not a big deal with a relatively small country like Switzerland, but imagine that Germany left the euro (hold the applause) and adopted the same policy of deliberately under-valuing the new mark against the euro. Germany would then run large trade surpluses and the other euro zone countries would run large deficits, draining away demand. Should we applaud this policy as a form of quantitative easing that needs to be supported?

This is what needs to happen. The shared currency — especially the fact that Germany is part of it — is what is stopping the currency in Greece and other depressed nations from weakening so that their economies can grow. The Swiss National Bank didn’t do this for altruistic reasons. Krugman is probably right that its reasons are bad. But it will have a good effect on the EU.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr Day!

Martin Luther King JrHappy Martin Luther King Jr Day, everyone! As you ought to know, today is not his birthday. He was actually born on 15 January 1929. Given that his father lived to be just shy of 85 years old, there is a very good chance that King would be with us today if he had not be assassinated. It’s sad on a personal level, of course. But on a public level, it was a catastrophe; it would have been nice to have had him fighting for us for these last 47 years.

Rather than write something new and brilliant, I’m just going to quote from some of the articles I’ve written about him in the past. This is very long, so I’ve put it all below the fold. Continue reading →

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan PoeOn this day in 1809, the great writer Edgar Allan Poe was born. I hate to be repetitious. I featured Poe last year. And I could have written about Paul Cezanne — an artist that I’ve come to admire much more as I’ve gotten older. But… it’s… Poe! Other than John Steinbeck, there really is no other writer who I so admire in his totality. (Maybe also Graham Greene.) I don’t know, maybe it is pathetic. I doubt it. And maybe it is just that Poe was the right man for his time. But he combined brilliance with technical perfection in a way that I don’t see in any other writer.

It’s hard to know what to make of Poe’s life. Artists have a tendency to mythologize themselves. But two things do stand out. One is his marriage to his first cousin — he was 27 and she was 13. It isn’t clear if they ever consummated the marriage, but they lived together as a seemingly devoted couple for 11 years until she died of tuberculosis. And then there is the bizarre question of Poe’s death. There are a zillion theories. I figure it is very simple: he was on a bender, passed out in the street, became very ill and died. His wearing someone else’s clothes doesn’t seem too hard to integrate into that story.

But I think that Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare did the world a great favor by provide Poe the perfect death in their screenplay for The Raven. If you don’t know what I mean, check out my review of the film, The Raven Doesn’t Suck. Anyway, to celebrate Poe’s birthday, let’s do two things. First, let’s watch Vincent Price perform “The Tell-Tale Heart.” It’s a great story and Price does it really well. As I recall, he gets a couple of words wrong, but it is amazingly accurate:

And to decompress from that, let’s listen to Sarah Jarosz’s charming “Annabelle [sic] Lee”:

Happy birthday Edgar Allan Poe!