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Fox News Host Sees No Racial Factor in South Carolina Killing

| Thu Apr. 9, 2015 2:41 PM EDT

Fox News host Greg Gutfeld is not racist. How not racist is Greg Gutfeld? Very not racist! You're a racist. (You're a racist.) But Gutfield doesn't even see race. What's race? A race? Are we running a race? The word "race" for Greg Gutfeld only has one definition: a competition of speed.

White cop guns down unarmed black man in cold blood: a thing that happens unbelievably often in the United States. Almost always the cop gets to walk away scot-free. But this time the cop is actually charged with murder! Not because South Carolina is so evolved (haha), but because a video emerges that puts on display the undeniable reality of the cop's crime.

The Fox News chyron even calls it straight: "Video shows white police officer shooting black man in back." But apparently the Fox News chyron is less evolved than Fox News host Greg Gutfeld. Because Greg Gutfeld saw something else:

"I didn't see a black man killed by a white cop. I saw a man shoot another man in the back."

If Greg Gutfeld were at Wounded Knee, he'd say he didn't see white soldiers massacring Native-Americans.

If he were at Stonewall, he'd say he didn't see straight cops beating gay men.

And if he were in Pleasantville, he'd say he never saw color.

(via TPM)

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Finally, a Candidate for People Who Think Jeb Bush Isn't WASPy Enough

| Thu Apr. 9, 2015 1:56 PM EDT
Tanned. Tested. Ready. Chafee.

Last week it was Ted Cruz. On Wednesday it was Rand Paul. And now, meet your newest presidential candidate: former Rhode Island Republican senator turned former Rhode Island Democratic governor Lincoln Chafee! Bet you didn't see that one coming.

Rhode Island Public Radio reported the news this morning:

Chafee said the launch of his exploratory committee will be made via videos posted on his website, Chafee2016.com.

"Throughout my career, I exercised good judgment on a wide range of high-pressure decisions, decisions that require level-headedness and careful foresight," said Chafee. "Often these decisions came in the face of political adversity. During the next weeks and months I look forward to sharing with you my thoughts about the future of our great country."

Lincoln Chafee, of the Rhode Island Chafees, won't be the next president, although he does enter the Democratic primary with strong name recognition among people who use "summer" as a verb. Chafee's father, great-great grandfather, and great-great uncle all previously served as governor of the state. Lincoln ran for the family seat only after losing his spot in the Senate in 2006 to Sheldon Whitehouse (of the Rhode Island Whitehouses), whose father had roomed with Chafee's father at some college in New Haven before entering the diplomatic corps (like his father before him).

But there is something worth highlighting in his announcement interview:

Chafee said his focus will be on building a strong middle class coupled with environmental stewardship. Chafee, who voted against former President George W. Bush's Iraq War, noted that Mrs. Clinton voted for it. He said he aims to send a clear message that "unilateral military intervention has damaged American interests around the world."

Did you catch that? It's easy to forget now that she's the email-destroying, dictator-courting villain of Benghazi, but there was a time when Hillary Clinton's biggest weakness was something else entirely: Iraq. Clinton's support for that war (and her inability to assuage its opponents) was the fuel for Sen. Barack Obama's rise in the polls in 2007. Eight years later, the issue has been all but erased from the political debate.

Don't bet on Chafee being the man who brings it back.

Elizabeth Warren: "I Don't Support the Death Penalty" for Boston Marathon Bomber

| Thu Apr. 9, 2015 1:47 PM EDT

On Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said she is opposed to sentencing Dzohkhar Tsarnaev to death, one day after the Boston Marathon bomber was found guilty on all 30 charges related to his involvement in the deadly 2013 attack.

Speaking on CBS This Morning, Warren said, "Nothing is ever going to make those who were injured whole…My heart goes out to the families here, but I don't support the death penalty." "I think he should spend his life in jail, no possibility of parole," she said. "He should die in prison."

"The alternative to the death penalty—it's not as if you set this guy free. He's put away…he's not someone who is able to keep sucking up a lot of energy. The families need their chance to move on."

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R), on the other hand, supports putting Tsarnaev to death.

Watch the full video here:

These Maps Show Why We Keep Electing Climate Change Deniers

| Thu Apr. 9, 2015 5:45 AM EDT
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) uses a snowball to disprove global warming.

One of the most significant obstacles to addressing climate change is the fact that huge numbers of US politicians reject the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are warming the planet. Why does the situation persist? How can a senator who (literally) holds up a snowball as evidence that global warming is a hoax keep winning reelection? How can someone who declares himself a climate "skeptic" be a front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination? As newly released research from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication makes painfully clear, GOP climate deniers actually hold views that are quite similar to those of the voters who elect them.

The Yale research is based on data from more than 13,000 survey responses since 2008. It estimates that nationwide, just 48 percent of people agree with the scientific consensus that global warming is caused "mostly" by humans. While other recent polls have found a somewhat higher percentage who say they believe humans are causing the planet to warm, Yale's numbers are not a good sign for those—like billionaire activist Tom Steyer—who are trying to turn climate change denial into a disqualifying political position.

Things look even more discouraging when you use the researchers' snazzy interactive maps to break down the estimates by congressional district. The blue districts on the map below are places where the researchers' statistical model predicts that fewer than half of respondents believe that humans are primarily responsible for climate change. Yellow/orange districts are places where at least half of respondents accept the scientific consensus. As you can see, there's an awful lot of blue—according to the data, 58 percent of US congressional districts have majorities that don't accept the climate science.

congressional districts
Yale Project on Climate Change Communication

The margin of error on the data makes it impossible to rank with certainty the districts with the most climate denial. Still, the two darker blue portions on the map are noteworthy—these are the only congressional districts in the country in which under 40 percent of residents are estimated to accept the scientific consensus. Texas' 1st District (where 38 percent believe the science) is represented by Louie Gohmert, a Republican who thinks that the world "may be cooling" and that the rising level of carbon dioxide is a good thing because it will mean "more plants." Alabama's 4th District (39 percent believe climate science) is represented by Republican Robert Aderholt, who has argued that "Earth is currently in a natural warming cycle rather than a man-made climate change." And it's hard to see on the map, but California's 12th District has the highest percentage of residents projected to believe that humans are causing climate change—65 percent. That district is in San Francisco, and it's represented by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Adding elected officials' party affiliations to the Yale data makes it clear that these aren't simply one-off examples: In the average district with a Democratic member of Congress, 54 percent of adults believe humans are largely responsible for global warming; in the average GOP-controlled district, less than 46 percent agree.

Similar patterns exist at the state level:

state map
Yale Project on Climate Change Communication

In Oklahoma—home to snowball-wielding climate denier Sen. James Inhofe—just 44 percent of residents believe humans cause global warming, according to the researchers' estimates. The same is true in Kentucky, which is represented in the Senate by Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul. Paul has said that he's "not sure anybody exactly knows why" the climate is changing.

One final note: Take a look at the early presidential primary and caucus states—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. According to the Yale data, none of these states have majorities that accept the scientific consensus. (Nevada, at 50 percent, is the best of the four.) And when you consider that Republican primary voters are far more hostile to climate science than the general population, there seems to be very little incentive for GOP presidential candidates to embrace the truth about global warming.

The GOP's Campaign to Make You Hate The IRS Is Kind of Genius

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 3:46 PM EDT

People hate the IRS. Of course they do! When Pew Research asked people earlier this year how they feel about various parts of the government, every agency received positive marks—except the IRS. And last month, Rasmussen found that a scant 31 percent of voters trust the tax agency to fairly enforce the law. Let's face it: the agency tasked with taking money out of paychecks is never going to be popular.

But people have even more reason to despise encounters with the agency these days, thanks to a concerted effort by Republicans in Congress to slash the tax collector's budget. From the front page of today's Washington Post:

Since 2010, Republicans on Capitol Hill have slashed the IRS budget by $1.2 billion, or about 17 percent, adjusting for inflation. Just this fiscal year, $346 million was cut.

By contrast, cuts across the rest of the government have been far more modest and concentrated. Between 2012 and 2014, automatic spending reductions shrank non-defense spending, as adjusted for inflation, by 1.3 percent, while IRS spending was chopped 5.6 percent, according to Scott Lilly, a budget expert at the Center for American Progress.

Those budget cuts have made dealing with the IRS this tax season a true pain in the ass. As the Washington Post details, just four in ten callers to the IRS's help line are actually able to get assistance from a real human, while the number of unintentional hang-ups from an overworked phone system have ballooned. And the cuts are actually costing the government: thanks to a 5,000-person reduction in the agency's staff over the past four years, tax cheats can more easily skate by.

Attacking the IRS is one of the simplest lines a politician can roll out. It's a favorite rhetorical turn for presidential candidate and senator Ted Cruz, who's said he'd like to "abolish the IRS, take all 125,000 IRS agents and put them on our southern border," to applause at this year's CPAC.

Meanwhile, Democrats are wary about offering an equally vocal defense of the IRS, hesitant to be tarred as just typical tax-and-spenders. Sure, President Obama has included increases for the agency in his congressional budget requests, but it's never been a major issue that he'd consider wielding his veto pen over. But without a more robust defense, the IRS could wither away and replace the DMV as a punch line for why government doesn't work.

Another State Agency Just Banned the Words "Climate Change"

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 3:45 PM EDT
Madison, Wisc.

The climate change language police just struck again.

Last month it was in Florida, where former staffers with the state's Department of Environmental Protection alleged that senior officials, under the direction of Gov. Rick Scott (R), had instituted an unwritten ban on using the phrases "climate change" and "global warming." Scott denied the claim.

This week's incident is much less ambiguous. Yesterday, the three-person commission that oversees a public land trust in Wisconsin voted 2-1 to block the trust's dozen public employees "from engaging in global warming or climate change work while on BCPL time."

In proposing and voting on the ban, the commission "spent 19 minutes and 29 seconds talking about talking about climate change," according to Bloomberg:

The move to ban an issue leaves staff at the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands in the unusual position of not being able to speak about how climate change might affect lands it oversees…

The Midwest warmed about 1.5F on average from 1895 to 2012. Pine, maple, birch, spruce, fir, aspen, and beech forests, which are common in the region, are likely to decline as the century progresses, according to the latest US National Climate Assessment.

The ban was proposed by newly elected State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, a Republican who ran on the unusual campaign promise to swiftly eliminate his own job. At a public meeting on Tuesday, according to Bloomberg, Adamczyk said he was disturbed to learn that the agency's director, Tia Nelson, had spent some time co-chairing a global warming task force in 2007-08 at the request of former governor Jim Doyle (D). Dealing with climate issues—even responding to emails on the subject—isn't in the agency's wheelhouse, he said. Adamczyk didn't immediately return our request for comment.

Adamczyk was joined in voting for the ban by State Attorney General Brad Schimel (R), also newly-elected. Schimel is handling Gov. Scott Walker's lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency over President Barack Obama's new climate regulations. The ban was opposed by the commission's third member, Secretary of State Bob La Follette, a Democrat.

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The Walter Scott Shooting Video Shows Exactly Why We Can't Just Take the Police's Word For It

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 3:10 PM EDT

A white police officer in South Carolina was arrested and charged with murder on Tuesday, after a shocking video emerged showing him fatally shooting an unarmed black man attempting to flee from the scene. The video, which was first published in the New York Times, captures the lethal confrontation between Officer Michael Slager and Walter Scott that quickly ensued during a traffic stop, which included Slager firing eight shots at Scott.

Slager originally told police that Scott had stolen his Taser and attempted to use it against him. This narrative was largely accepted by police authorities, at least according to what they initially told local media. The first report of the fatal encounter reported by the Post and Courier on Saturday ran with the headline, "Man shot and killed by North Charleston police officer after traffic stop; SLED investigating":

An officer’s gunfire disrupted a hazy Saturday morning and left a man dead on a North Charleston street.

Police in a matter of hours declared the occurrence at the corner of Remount and Craig roads a traffic stop gone wrong, alleging the dead man fought with an officer over his Taser before deadly force was employed.

The officer’s account, witness statements and other evidence gathered from the scene are now the subject of a State Law Enforcement Division investigation to determine whether the shooting, the state’s 11th this year involving a lawmen, was justified.

A statement released by North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor said a man ran on foot from the traffic stop and an officer deployed his department-issued Taser in an attempt to stop him.

That did not work, police said, and an altercation ensued as the men struggled over the device. Police allege that during the struggle the man gained control of the Taser and attempted to use it against the officer.

The description reads eerily similar to police deaths that occur all around the country. If it had not been for the video's eventual publication, it's easy to imagine this being the press' final narrative of how Scott died. Oftentimes, newspapers struggle to report anything more than what law enforcement agencies tell them.

In the case of the Post and Courier's first story, the paper's note that "in a matter of hours" police were quick to label the incident nothing more than a "traffic stop gone wrong" is revealing, as the video that has since surfaced clearly shows a very different account: Slager shoots Scott in the back multiple times; an object that appears to be Slager's Taser is placed next to Scott's body as he lays handcuffed on the ground.

It's unclear when authorities became aware that a video of the incident existed, but on Monday, Slager appeared increasingly defensive. Speaking through an attorney, he doubled down on his actions to the same paper, saying he had "felt threatened" by Scott and needed to "resort to deadly force":

A North Charleston police officer felt threatened last weekend when the driver he had stopped for a broken brake light tried to overpower him and take his Taser.

That’s why Patrolman 1st Class Michael Thomas Slager, a former Coast Guardsman, fatally shot the man, the officer’s attorney said Monday.

Slager thinks he properly followed all procedures and policies before resorting to deadly force, lawyer David Aylor said in a statement.

Monday’s developments filled in some of the blanks in what was South Carolina’s 11th police shooting of the year.

By Tuesday, the Times and the Post and Courier had obtained a bystander's footage of the incident and the stories published that day are a direct about-face of the initial account, with both papers leading with news of the officer's arrest and murder charge. The Post and Courier's lead below:

A white North Charleston police officer was arrested on a murder charge after a video surfaced Tuesday of the lawman shooting eight times at a 50-year-old black man as the man ran away.

Walter L. Scott, a Coast Guard veteran and father of four, died Saturday after Patrolman 1st Class Michael T. Slager, 33, shot him in the back.

Five of the eight bullets hit Scott, his family’s attorney said. Four of those struck his back. One hit an ear.

In just a few days, the account's drastic evolution in a single newspaper highlights yet again the problems surrounding police reporting—issues that have received national attention following recent events in Ferguson and New York City. Scott's tragic death underscores the power video can bring to police accountability. As Scott's family said during an appearance on the Today show Wednesday, this video helped an officer avoid a successful cover-up. "It would have never come to light," Walter Scott Sr, Scott's father, said. "They would have swept it under the rug, like they did with many others."

BREAKING: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Has Been Found Guilty On All 30 Counts in the Boston Bombing Trial

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 2:03 PM EDT

A Massachusetts jury has found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty on all counts in the Boston Marathon Bombing trial, making him eligible to face the death penalty.

Tsarnaev faced 30 counts, 17 of which carried a possible death sentence.

Next up comes sentencing which could begin as early as Monday.

This post will be updated as more information becomes available.

Watch:

 

 

 

Let the 2016 Presidential Poster Wars Commence!

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 9:20 AM EDT
Michael Mechanic

Is this the first salvo in the 2016 presidential campaign poster wars? This past week, somebody plastered this poster—guerilla style—at well-trod locations around San Francisco.

What was the artist thinking? Was this a subtle jab at Cruz's hubris or a bona fide attempt to promote the guy—or just a cool design? I could see it psyching up the GOP base in Kevin's Orange County stomping grounds. But in San Francisco? Only 13 percent of this city voted for Romney. A Ted Cruz fan hoping to boost the Texas senator's presidential hopes would be wasting his time posting these around here—even if they are pretty cool looking.

Maybe the message was meant to reach rich tech libertarians who have moved north from Silicon Valley and might be game to donate. You know, the crew who admire Ron and Rand Paul and seem to have forgotten that the tech industry was built on massive government funding. Then again, given Cruz's head-scratching position against net neutrality—he's called it "the biggest regulatory threat to the internet"—he's not likely to get much love from the tech world. Even the Obama-haters on Cruz's Facebook page had to ridicule his position.

My favorite Cruz poster to date went up last March around Beverly Hills, where Cruz was slated to appear at the annual dinner of the conservative Claremont Institute. (The artists, being artists, got the hotel wrong.) But Cruz was indeed, as the poster joked, "loving it." Here's what he tweeted:

I just hope Bernie Sanders, the left's favorite bomb thrower, decides to run. I'm dying to see what street artists will make of him. 

Brian Williams Was "Obsessed" With Mitt Romney's Underwear

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 9:09 AM EDT

Vanity Fair is out with a deliciously gossipy long read on the troubles at NBC News by Brian Burrough. The focus is largely on Brian Williams and his recent drama but it also goes into the larger culture clashes that have dominated 30 Rock since Comcast took over NBCUniversal from GE in 2011. There was the Today drama. There was the Meet The Press drama. Now the Nightly News drama.  Drama with a capital D!

This is the type of story Vanity Fair is so good at. (Back in February they had the definitive insider account of the Sony leaks.) If you like this sort of thing, you should read the whole article

Here are some of my takeaways from it:

A lot of people are sniping about NBC News president Deborah Turness.

Turness gets a lot of blame for NBC News' troubles but it's not clear to me that any of the criticisms really mean much. One of the problems with this genre of story is that it's necessarily almost all blind quotes and the criticisms are so predictably broad and meaningless. A la:

"News is a very particular thing, NBC is a very particular beast, and Deborah, well, she really doesn’t have a fucking clue,” says a senior NBC executive involved."

It's not that this is gibberish, it's that it is meaningless. Everything is a particular thing. Every place is a particular beast. All this quote tells you is that an unnamed senior NBC executive doesn't much care for Deborah Turness, not one bit, boy howdy. 

When the criticisms do get a bit more specific they're muddled and contradictory. She is blamed for not being tough enough with talent ( “She’s letting the inmates run the asylum. You have kids? Well, if you let them, they’ll have ice cream every night. Same thing in TV. If you let the people on air do what they want, whenever they want, this is what happens.”) but also dinged for not being nice enough to the talent's agents? ("She didn’t understand that you communicate [with the talent] through their agents. Like if [WME co-C.E.O.] Ari Emanuel calls, you have to phone back the same day.")

Then there is this stuff:

"It was almost unfair to give Deborah this job,” says one NBC observer. “She was basically overmatched. From day one, it was difficult, even just managing the daily job. Because it’s a big job, it’s got a lot of intricate parts to it, and you know she had a rough time with it."

[...]

"Come on!” barks one critic. "Anybody with a triple-digit I.Q. who interviews somebody to come in as president of NBC News you ask, ‘What are you going to do with the 800-pound gorilla? With Today?’ And Deborah’s answer was ‘You hire Jamie Horowitz!’ It was almost like it was Deborah’s cry for help. Like if you’re overwhelmed and you don’t have a lot of confidence or vision, you bring in other people: ‘Help me, I’m drowning."

Overmatched. Overwhelmed. She was given a job then found herself drowning in it. She hired a male producer from ESPN as a cry for help. This is the sort of language people somehow never use when describing male executives.

Maybe the president of NBC News is bad at her job—NBC News definitely has struggled under her watch—but no where in this whole thing does anyone articulate in any meaningful way how she is bad at her job.

Comcast treats talent with the same disregard they treat their cable customers.

"To be honest, you got the sense they couldn’t fathom why NBC worried so much about the talent; you know, ‘Why are these people worrying so much about what Matt Lauer thinks?’”

NBC staffers resent the fact that Brian Williams has nice hair and good cheekbones.

An industry insider adds, “There is also a lot of envy of Williams’s movie-star good looks, his long happy marriage to a wonderful woman, great kids, and he’s paid millions to read a thousand words five times a week from a teleprompter.”

Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw don't like each other very much.

“Tom and Brian,” one longtime friend of both men says with a sigh, “that was never a good relationship. Tom pushed for him to get that job. But Brian never embraced Tom. And I don’t know why…. He knows the rank and file will never love him like they did Tom, so he never tries. That’s the reason there’s not a lot of support for Brian over there.”

Brian Williams resents Tom Brokaw for not saving him.

“Tom didn’t push Brian out, but he didn’t try to save him, either.”

[...]

While he has accepted responsibility for his actions, friends say, Williams is bitter, especially at those who he believes might have saved him.

“I talked to Brian about this,” says one friend, “and I’ll never forget what he said at the end. He said, ‘Chalk one up for Brokaw.’”

Side note: Want to giggle yourself silly? Say, "Chalk one up to Brokaw" out loud like you're playing Brian Williams in an off-Broadway play. Repeat until you see the humor. It's pretty fun.

Brian Williams exaggerated his personal tales of valor and glory because Tom Brokaw is just so great.

“I always felt he needed to jack up his stories because he was trying so hard to overcome his insecurities,” this executive says. “And he had to follow Tom, which brought its own set of insecurities. He likes to sort of tell these grandiose tales. But, can I tell you, in all the years we worked together, it never rose to the point where we said, ‘Oh, there he goes again.’ I just saw it as one of the quirks of his personality.”

Brian Williams thinks in boxes.

"...his wife [Jane] tried to explain. She said he put things in boxes [in his mind]. He would only talk about what was in those boxes on-camera.”

I have no idea what this means.

Very serious NBC News people think Brian Williams is unserious.

“What always bothered Tim was Brian’s lack of interest in things that mattered most, that were front and center, like politics and world events,” says a person who knew both men well. “Brian has very little interest in politics. It’s not in his blood. What Brian cares about is logistics, the weather, and planes and trains and helicopters.”

“You know what interested Brian about politics?” marvels one longtime NBC correspondent, recently departed. “Brian was obsessed with whether Mitt Romney wore the Mormon underwear.”

This is so Broadcast News, right?

Brian Williams wanted to be a late night host.

According to New York, he talked to Steve Burke about succeeding Jay Leno. When Burke refused, Williams reportedly pitched Les Moonves, at CBS, to replace David Letterman, who was soon to retire. Moonves also allegedly declined. Though his appearances on shows such as 30 Rock and Jimmy Fallon successfully repositioned Williams as a good-humored Everyman—and thus expanded not only his own brand but that of Nightly News—they were not popular among many of his colleagues.

[...]

After refusing Williams the Leno spot, Steve Burke offered him a consolation prize: his own magazine show, Rock Center, a bid to anchor what he hoped would be the second coming of 60 Minutes. It wasn’t. Rock Center debuted in 2011 to tepid reviews and worse ratings.

There is a lot more. If you've made it this far, go read the whole article.