if I have a stroke today, Tovia Smith, it’s your fault

I’m serious, about the stroke. I just can’t function in a world where quality journalism is so important and yet so hard to find. Here’s Tovia Smith, of NPR, making the same argument that Columnist Boyardee made the other day— that our recent colleges graduates are struggling because they didn’t take “practical” majors. I promise, I’m looking at this less as a matter of defending the liberal arts and more as a matter of asking for absolutely elementary journalistic quality. If you are writing a story that suggests that our recent graduates are struggling because they didn’t take practical majors, you have to perform at least two minimal functions.

Number one, you have to demonstrate that in fact many people are taking these majors.

Number two, you have to demonstrate that there are in fact actual bad economic consequences for these majors.

Not only does Tovia Smith fail to demonstrate those things, she seems not to understand that these are basic requirements for such a story. Since the well-remunerated professional can’t bother to check the facts, I’ll do it for her. Again: in vast numbers, American college students do take supposedly practical majors. Business, for example, is the most popular major by a broad margin. See for yourself:

Check the link for all the specifics.

There are similar no facts within the piece whatsoever to justify the idea that supposedly impractical majors have worse economic outcomes than supposedly practical ones. And while the NCES doesn’t track those outcomes, the best evidence available to me suggests that the liberal arts don’t have worse economic outcomes than supposedly practical, “career” oriented majors. If Smith bothered to make an argument with any kind of reference to evidence, I might be able to rebut it, and the burden is of course on her to make that argument. But she didn’t, so I can’t. As I said in the post on Frank Bruni, a far, far more persuasive case can be made that recent graduates are suffering across fields and skillsets, thanks to inadequate aggregate demand. (Maybe somebody should do something about that.)

If you know Tovia Smith, you might ask her why she failed in such a comprehensive way. If you follow her on Twitter, you might tweet her this post. If you know editors or administrators at NPR, you might ask them if they have any standards of evidence, or if they employ ombudsmen, or who exactly let this piece out without evidence in the first place. Absent that, there’s essentially no way to get accountability for journalism that is inadequate in the most elementary terms. The American media is a comprehensive failure.



Krugthulhu Versus The King In Yellow Gold

Paul Krugman and Ron Paul, arguing over whose policy cuisine reigns supreme. It’s worth a gander.

This could lead to a fighting or a challenge. Ron Paul repeatedly uses Get Your Socialism Off My Lawn from his stump speeches where he’s still running for Dwarf-in-Chief of Lost Carcosa (he’s short, cranky, good at digging himself into holes and obsessed with obsolete relics and gold), but Kroog’s Mighty Beard Tentacles invade the argument with sanity at several points throughout and he’s clearly having none of Ron’s crap, pointing out that Diggy Diggy Hole’s arguments here have been applied in the real world through austerity cuts and the results have been kind of poopy.

Open thread.



Borrowed Ethnicity

Looks like the wingnuts are all aflutter because, according to “family lore,” very, very white lady Elizabeth Warren may have some Native American ancestry, and Harvard and / or other educational institutions that employed the professor may have listed her as a minority in faculty directories.

I think this sort of thing happens more often than we think. I doubt very much Warren ever tried to benefit from Affirmative Action or organize a Trail of Tears reenactment as the more disreputable wingnut outlets are claiming.

However, as a pale, freckled white lady of English, Irish and Scandinavian stock who could pass for Warren’s kinswoman, I can attest that I grew up hearing rumors in my own family of a Native American great-great-grandmother, and that I took some pride and comfort in the thought that perhaps all my forebears didn’t appear to be carved out of cream cheese.*

Not that, aside from the need to seek shade during daylight hours, there’s anything wrong with being a pale and freckly WASP. But if you subtract being the beneficiary of hundreds of years of privilege, it’s kind of boring.

[*H/T: Steel Magnolias; X-posted at Rumproast]








One-Note Samba

Political messaging is hard in the details but the overall plan is simple enough that an eighth-grade pep squad could articulate it: tell us why you rock, and why your opponent sucks. Sometimes circumstances dictate that “rox” or “sux” alone have to carry the day, but over the long span of the campaign, you need a mix of both. This latest Obama ad is a good example. Obama’s clean energy initiative rocks, Romney’s lies and Swiss bank account suck, the end.

Here’s some typical Romney campaign imagery, and at least for this biased and simpleminded observer, the 24/7 “he sucks” is wearing thin, and it’s also getting him into trouble. The latest dust-up over the Bin Laden killing is a good example. Some things are just better left untouched by the candidate, and the right response to Obama’s Bin Laden celebration would have been to let surrogates handle the sniping and to have Romney highlight what he would be doing differently to make America stronger. But he lacks the “I rock” portion of his campaign, so his “all sux no rox” campaign had to chew up the bait that Obama laid down for him, and after they did, Obama made them look like chumps. (BTW, the often criticized Josh Marshall is right that Obama did the bitch-slapping here and even this Morning Joe regular agrees).

Even the “sux” portion of Romney’s program is just hollow reliance on right-wing tropes. The Jimmy Carter example was a good one, because anyone who’s over 40 remembers how much that raid hurt Carter. If you remember that, then you know how the Bin Laden raid could have turned to shit, and if it had, we’d have ended up with years of Rove-style messaging about Obama’s weakness.

These guys have been living in a Beavis and Butthead world where just saying “Barack Hussein Obama”, “Michelle is Fat” or “Just Like Jimmy Carter” gets a high-five from the other idiots in the room, and it’s starting to show.








Field hearing

I’m going to this Monday, so if you’re in or around Cleveland, it’d be good if we had a supportive crowd of democracy enthusiasts outside the courthouse:

DURBIN ANNOUNCES FIELD HEARING ON OHIO VOTING LAW
Field Hearing Will Be Subcommittee’s Second Examining State Voting Laws

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – US Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, today announced a field hearing examining the impact of Ohio’s new voting law, HB 194, which restricts early voting, eliminates the requirement that poll workers direct voters to the proper precinct, and makes it harder to vote absentee. The hearing will be held on Monday, May 7th, at the Carl B. Stokes United States Court House in Cleveland, Ohio. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) will join Durbin at the hearing.

Ohio’s new law reduces the number of early voting days from 35 to 17, eliminates voting on the weekend before an election, removes the requirement that poll workers direct voters to their proper precinct and prohibits county boards of elections from mailing unsolicited absentee ballots. HB 194 will be subject to a ballot repeal measure in November. Witnesses will be announced at a later date.

“For more than half of the life of our Republic, a majority of Americans were not allowed to vote. Fortunately, we learned from these mistakes and expanded the franchise and reach of our democracy though six constitutional amendments,” Durbin said. “Worryingly, a spate of recently passed state voting laws seem designed to restrict voting by making it harder for millions of disabled, young, minority, rural, elderly, homeless, and low income Americans to vote. Protecting the right of every citizen to vote and ensuring that our elections are fair and transparent are not Democratic or Republican values, they are American values.”

“We should encourage seniors, students, minorities, and working Americans to vote, rather than making it harder for them to do so,” said Brown, who served as Ohio’s Secretary of State for two terms. “But rather than protecting the right to vote – we have seen brazen attempts to undermine it. The march toward free and fair elections continues to be burdened with voter suppression and denial. Voting is a right enshrined in our Constitution – not a privilege bestowed by the few. By helping eligible voters access the ballot, we uphold the integrity of our electoral system.”

Over thirty states have new or pending changes to current voting laws. States seeking to change their laws have passed or proposed provisions that significantly reduce the number of early voting days, require voters to show restrictive forms of photo identification before voting and make it harder for volunteer organizations to register new voters. Supporters of these laws argue that they will reduce the risk of voter fraud. The overwhelming evidence, however, indicates that voter fraud is virtually non-existent and that these new laws will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of elderly, disabled, minority, young, rural, and low-income Americans to exercise their right to vote.

The Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights held a hearing on these new state voting laws in September of last year. In January, the Subcommittee held their first-ever field hearing in Tampa, which examined Florida’s restrictive new voting law. More information on those hearings can be found here and here.

Who: US Senator Dick Durbin
US Senator Sherrod Brown

What: Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights
Field Hearing: “New State Voting Laws III: Protecting the Right to Vote in America’s Heartland”

When: Monday, May 7, 2012
9:30am ET

Where: Carl B. Stokes United States Court House
801 West Superior Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio

The voter impersonation fraud scam is basically a cottage industry at this point and so may never die, but the claim by conservatives that certain groups of voters are breaking the law really shouldn’t be allowed to go completely unchallenged, because it isn’t true. It was never true. They invented it. There is not not now and was never a problem with people who are not legal voters impersonating other legal voters in order to cast ballots in US elections.

At base, this is and always was an attack on the character of certain targeted voters, because that’s what it means when conservative leaders and lawyers and elected officials say “voter fraud!” They mean certain targeted voters are breaking the law. That’s a direct accusation, it’s a lie, and it shouldn’t go unchallenged.

It’s rare in US politics to go after voters, but somehow conservatives have gotten away with it. Ordinarily political operatives and marketing people target “leaders” or “politicians”, but they steer clear of attacking individual voters. I can’t help but wonder why conservatives have gotten away with attacking these particular targeted voters.








Rupert’s Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Morning

It seems that Britain MP’s have decided that Rupert Murdoch running a major media empire in their midst is not in Blighty’s best interests.

Global media tycoon Rupert Murdoch is not a “fit and proper person” to run a major international company, British lawmakers investigating phone hacking at his tabloid the News of the World reported Tuesday.

The ruling could prompt British regulators to force him to sell his controlling stake in British Sky Broadcasting, a significant part of his media empire.

This one’s pretty big, folks.  It means whether or not old Rupert here was actually the fellow behind the phone hacking nonsense, British lawmakers have decided that he should be held responsible for it.  Bloomberg News is even more blunt:

Murdoch “turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications,” the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee said in a report published in London today. “This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organization and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corp.”

Ouch.  The question now is the level of punishment that Murdoch and News Corp will receive.  It could be nothing.  It could be having to divest itself of all B Sky B holdings.  We’ll see.  But this is the first real blow to Murdoch we’ve seen from the fallout of the phone hacking, and I’m betting it won’t be the last.

[UPDATE] In the comments MattF finds the Guardian article containing the full text of the Select Committee report.

Labour MPs and the sole Liberal Democrat on the committee, Adrian Sanders, voted together in a bloc of six against the five Conservatives to insert the criticisms of Rupert Murdoch and toughen up the remarks about his son James. But the MPs were united in their criticism of other former News International employees.

The cross-party group of MPs said that Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of News International, was “complicit” in a cover-up at the newspaper group, and that Colin Myler, former editor of the News of the World, and the paper’s ex-head of legal, Tom Crone, deliberately withheld crucial information and answered questions falsely. All three were accused of misleading parliament by the culture select committee.

Interesting breakdown of the votes there.



Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Happy May Day!


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… aka Beltane, or Walpurgisnacht, the festival to mark the start of the bright half of the year. To our agricultural ancestors, it meant the beginning of six months of hard work to ensure that the year-end festival at the beginning of November would celebrate prosperity, or at least the chance of making it through the dark winter. And if that sounds somehow political, well, we humans are a political species…