Archive

  • It's Not Your Senator's Job to Stop Ebola

    Flickr/Krysten Newby
    To the endless list of inane things candidates accuse one another of, we can now add this: My opponent has not done enough to stop Ebola! Or actually, in this case it's local media , and the politician in question is Pat Roberts; but Roberts' opponent is picking up on it (and may have been the source of the story, since a nearly identical report appeared on a second local news station ): On the stump and in television interviews, Senator Pat Roberts has taken aim at the White House's response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa, and in the United States, including calling for a travel ban to effected [sic] West African nations. But when Roberts had a chance, as a member of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, to attend a special joint hearing with top public health officials briefing lawmakers on the virus and the fight against it—he was a no-show. If only Pat Roberts had been at that hearing, we'd all be safe. There are few criticisms more meaningless and yet...
  • Can Robots Offer Amazon Moral Redemption?

    An Amazon fulfillment center in Scotland. (Flickr/Chris Watt/Scottish Government)
    If you're like many liberals, you probably feel conflicted about Amazon. On one hand, they seem to carry every mass-produced product in universe, and they usually have the lowest price, or nearly so. Shopping with them is incredibly convenient. On the other hand, the " fulfilment centers " at which people toil to pick and pack all the products people buy are basically the 21st century sweatshops, where workers endure horribly demanding work and demeaning treatment for low pay (Amazon isn't the only company that uses them, but they're the biggest). A few years ago, we learned that in the summer at some fulfilment centers they would park ambulances outside to cart off the workers who got heat stroke, because it was cheaper than installing air conditioning (which they eventually did in the face of a bunch of bad publicity). And the Supreme Court just heard a case involving Amazon workers who want to be paid for the time they are required to stand in line waiting to be searched like...
  • Kentucky Candidates Agree: Coal Is the Future!

    Flickr/Matt Zaske
    There was a debate in Kentucky yesterday between U.S. Senate candidates Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes, and while there was lots of disagreement, one thing both candidates agreed on is that what their state and America needs is more of that sweet, sweet coal. McConnell accused Grimes of being complicit, because she's a Democrat, in "Obama's war on coal," and Grimes protested that she loves coal more than she loves her own mama (though not quite in so many words). Throughout this campaign they've both been so enthusiastic about coal, you almost expected them to pull out a few lumps of the stuff and start smearing it all over their faces while moaning, "Oh, coal, God yes, coal, coal, COAL!!!" Here's a dose of reality: There are only a tiny number of people left in Kentucky who mine coal. According to the state's department of energy: "At the end of 2013, coal mines in Kentucky directly employed 11,885 people." Since there are about 3.4 million people over the age of 18 in...
  • Maybe That Wendy Davis Attack Ad Wasn't Really So Bad, After All

    (AP Photo/The McAllen Monitor, Gabe Hernandez, Pool)
    O n Friday, the campaign of Wendy Davis, the Democratic nominee for governor in Texas, released an ad that was powerful enough to not only get condemned by liberals and conservatives alike, but to convince some journalists to abandon their stance of objectivity. "Wendy Davis is running one of the nastiest campaign ads you will ever see," read a headline in the Washington Post . "Outrage spreads" over the ad, said the Los Angeles Times . What has everyone so angry is that the ad refers to the fact that Davis' opponent, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, uses a wheelchair, with a picture of an empty one. I'm going to argue that Davis' ad may be less problematic than many people are making it out to be. But it does tell us a good deal about how these kinds of attacks should be judged. Let's start by taking a look: Here's the text: "A tree fell on Greg Abbott. He sued and got millions. Since then, he's spent his career working against other victims. Abbott argued a woman whose leg was...
  • A Wild Week for Voting Rights

    J ust a month before the election, voting rights have been on a wild ride. The Supreme Court began its term by reinstating voting restrictions in Ohio and North Carolina after federal appeals courts put these laws on hold for unfairly burdening voting rights, particularly for people of color. But last night, the Court took action to stop Wisconsin’s voter ID requirement from going into effect only weeks before Election Day, and a federal court struck down Texas’s voter ID law after a trial on the merits, ruling for voters in both cases. So while voters in North Carolina and Ohio face more burdensome voter restrictions, voters in Wisconsin and Texas will not be disenfranchised by unconstitutional discriminatory photo ID requirements in November . Here’s what happened in each state. In the two states where voter disenfranchisement will continue, same-day voter registration was rolled back. Last week the Court stayed the 6 th Circuit order and allowed Ohio’s cuts to early voting to...
  • Should the Democrats Abandon Hope of Getting Relief from Voter Suppression In the Courts?

    Flickr/Theresa Thompson
    Yesterday there were two rulings on voting rights cases, both of which were decided in favor of the liberal side of the argument. But don't get too excited. I hate to be eternal pessimist on this issue, but neither case is likely to turn out the way liberals and Democrats want. In fact, we're almost at the point where — until the current makeup of the Supreme Court changes — liberals should keep themselves from ever thinking the courts are going to stop Republican efforts at voter suppression. I'll get to the consequences of that in a moment, but first let's look at the two cases yesterday. The first was in Texas, where a federal judge struck down the state's voter ID law. In refreshingly blunt language, the judge called the law an "unconstitutional poll tax," and said that the legislators who passed it "were motivated, at the very least in part, because of and not merely in spite of the voter ID law's detrimental effects on the African-American and Hispanic electorate." Which is...
  • Sex, Lies and the Secret Service

    MSNBC
    Paul Waldman talks with MSNBC's Chris Hayes about the likelihood that someone either in or close to the Secret Service leaked the story of a White House volunteer's alleged dalliance with a sex worker in Cartagena while working advance for President Barack Obama's visit there in 2012—and the implications of a rift between the president's staff and the people sworn to protect his very life.
  • The Larger Context of Restrictions On Voting

    Flickr/jamelah e.
    Yesterday the Supreme Court issued an order overruling an appeals court decision about a series of voting restrictions passed last year by the state of North Carolina, which will allow the restrictions to remain in place for this year's election, until the case is ultimately heard by the Court. And in a happy coincidence, on the very same day, the Government Accountability Office released a report finding that voter ID requirements reduce turnout among minorities and young people , precisely those more-Democratic voting groups the requirements are meant to hinder. There's a context in which to view the battle over voter restrictions that goes beyond whether Republicans are a bunch of meanies, and it has to do with the things parties can change easily and the things they can't. I'll explain exactly what I mean in a moment, but first, the law at issue was passed just weeks after the Supreme Court's conservative majority gutted the Voting Rights Act, allowing North Carolina and other...
  • In the U.S. Senate, 'Independence' Is Overrated

    Flickr/Behzad No
    On Tuesday, the contenders for the Senate in Virginia, incumbent Mark Warner and challenger Ed Gillespie, had a debate in which they apparently spent a good deal of time arguing over who would be the most independent. Gillespie charged that Warner just votes in lockstep with President Obama, while Warner charged that Gillespie is a partisan hack. But here's my question: Is independence really something we want in a senator? And even if it is, might it not rank way, way down the list of desirable qualities? For the record, Mark Warner is one of the more conservative Democrats in the Senate (his DW-NOMINATE scores put him as the 43rd most liberal senator in the 112th Congress and the 50th most liberal in the 111th). And it's safe to say that there is no one running for Senate anywhere in the country less likely to be independent of his party than Ed Gillespie, who has spent his career as a Republican operative and lobbyist. But as a liberal, should I be horrified that Gillespie would be...
  • Americans In the Grip of Irrational Fears, Just Like Usual

    Flickr/NIAID
    Thomas Eric Duncan, the American who contracted Ebola in a visit to Liberia, died today in Texas. That tragedy will obviously be big news, and it will lead more people to freak out about the disease, something that will be heartily encouraged by the cable news channels (or at least by Fox News, which has apparently been going a little crazy on the "We're all going to get Ebola because Obama hates America Benghazibenghazibenghazi!" line). And freaked out we are. Let's look at some poll numbers: Gallup asked people "did you, personally, worry about getting the Ebola virus yesterday, or not?" Twenty-two percent of people said that they worried yesterday about getting Ebola. Then they asked people how likely it was that they or someone in their family would get Ebola. Four percent said "very likely," 10 percent said "somewhat likely," 34 percent said "not too likely," and 49 percent said "not at all likely." On one hand, almost six in seven Americans are still tethered to reality on this...

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