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Taylor Swift: "Misogyny Is Ingrained in People From the Time They Are Born"

| Tue May 19, 2015 9:36 AM EDT

According to this year's "Hot 100" list, an annual inventory in which Maxim's editors meticulously rank famous women by level of attractiveness, Taylor Swift is 2015's reigning queen of female hotness. Rather than use the title to gloat about her declared hotness, Swift used the magazine's cover to call out the double standards women face everyday and the importance of feminism in her life today: From Maxim:

Honestly, I didn't have an accurate definition of feminism when I was younger. I didn't quite see all the ways that feminism is vital to growing up in the world we live in. I think that when I used to say, "Oh, feminism's not really on my radar," it was because when I was just seen as a kid, I wasn't as threatening. I didn't see myself being held back until I was a woman. Or the double standards in headlines, the double standards in the way stories are told, the double standards in the way things are perceived.

Swift's interview is especially noteworthy considering in 2012, she shied away from the label to the Daily Beast, telling the news site she didn't view matters as a "guys versus girls" situation. This was also during a time in which the media unfairly portrayed Swift as something of a pathetic boy chaser—a female singer who used her lyrics to lament about the latest boy who got away.

Since then, she has shattered that image with very real, thoughtful insight into an industry built on sexist frameworks:

A man writing about his feelings from a vulnerable place is brave; a woman writing about her feelings from a vulnerable place is oversharing or whining. Misogyny is ingrained in people from the time they are born. So to me, feminism is probably the most important movement that you could embrace, because it's just basically another word for equality.

This is what young girls need today. Now, we leave you with her badass new video, "Bad Blood."

 

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Obamacare Is Making It Easier to Be a Young Working Parent

| Tue May 19, 2015 6:20 AM EDT

With Kevin Drum continuing to focus on getting better, we've invited some of the remarkable writers and thinkers who have traded links and ideas with him from Blogosphere 1.0 to this day to contribute posts and keep the conversation going. Today we're honored to present a post from economist Dean Baker.

The main point of the Affordable Care Act was to extend health insurance coverage to the uninsured. While this is a tremendously important goal, a benefit that is almost equally important was to provide a guarantee of coverage to those already insured if they lose or leave their job. This matters hugely because roughly 2 million people lose their job every month due to firing or layoffs. As a result of the ACA most of these workers can now count on being able to get affordable coverage even after losing their job.

The ACA also means that people who may previously have felt trapped at a job because of their need for insurance now can leave their job without the risk that they or their family would go uninsured. This could give many pre-Medicare age workers the option to retire early. It could give workers with young children or other care-giving responsibilities the opportunity to work part-time. It could give workers the opportunity to start a business. Or, it could just give workers the opportunity to leave a job they hate.

While it is still too early to reach conclusive assessments of the labor market impact of the ACA, the evidence to date looks promising. Republican opponents of Obamacare have often complained that the program would turn the country into a "part-time nation." It turns out that there is something to their story, but probably not what they intended. The number of people who are working part-time for economic reasons, meaning they would work full-time if a full-time position was available, has fallen by almost 16 percent from the start of 2013 to the start of 2015. This is part of the general improvement in the labor market over this period.

The number of people working part-time involuntarily is still well above pre-recession levels, but it has been going in the right direction.

It is true that the employer sanction part of the ACA has not taken effect (which required that employers with more than 50 workers provide insurance or pay a penalty, but it is not clear this would make a difference. Under the original wording of the law (Obama subsequently suspended this provision), employers would have expected that the sanctions would apply for the first six months of 2013. We found no evidence of shifting to more part-time work during this period compared to the first six months of 2012.

But there is a story on increased voluntary part-time employment. This is up by 5.7 percent in the first four months of 2015 compared to 2013. This corresponds to more than 1 million people who have chosen to work part-time. We did some analysis of who these people were and found that it was overwhelmingly a story of young parents working part-time.

Back in the old days we might have thought this was an outcome that family-values conservatives would have welcomed.

There was little change or an actual decline in the percentage of workers over the age of 35 who were working part-time voluntarily. There was a modest increase in the percentage of workers under age 35, without children, working part-time voluntarily. There was a 10.2 percent increase in the share of workers under the age of 35, with one to two kids, working part-time. For young workers with three of more kids the increase was 15.4 percent.

Based on these findings it appears that Obamacare has allowed many young parents the opportunity to work at part-time jobs so that they could spend more time with their kids. Back in the old days we might have thought this was an outcome that family-values conservatives would have welcomed.

As far as other labor market effects of Obamacare, there has been a modest uptick in self-employment, but it would require more analysis to give the ACA credit. Similarly, older workers are accounting for a smaller share of employment growth, perhaps due to the fact that they no longer to need to get health care through their jobs. These areas will require further study to make any conclusive judgments, but based on the data we have seen to date, it seems pretty clear that Obamacare is allowing many young parents to have more time with their kids. And that is a good story that needs to be told.

It's Experiment Week

| Mon May 18, 2015 12:49 PM EDT

As you all know, I'm recovering nicely from my chemotherapy. That is to say, technically I'm recovering nicely. All my numbers are in a good range and are continuing to improve, and there's every reason to think that will continue.

However, I still feel crappy. Heavy fatigue and nausea rule my day. But I'm thinking that I might—might!—be feeling ever so slightly better on that front. Just a smidgen. Plus I'm so bored I could scream. So I'm going to test my energy level this week by writing two blog posts a day. It's unlikely that any of them will include heavy analysis. They'll be more in the mold of this morning's post, "Marco Rubio is a Moron," which was not exactly a strain on my gray matter or powers of concentration. But it was kinda fun.

Anyway that's the plan. And just to add to the difficulty factor, it turns out my neighbors are beginning a 3-month home gutting and remodel. That should be nice and noisy, especially since we share a common wall with them. So here's my tentative daily schedule:

  • Eat breakfast
  • Rest
  • Write blog post.
  • Rest.
  • Take a walk around the block.
  • Rest.
  • Write blog post.
  • Rest.
  • Take a shower.
  • Rest.
  • Eat lunch.
  • Rest.
  • Take another walk around the block.
  • Rest.

And....that will probably do it. We'll see.

Obama Finally Joins Twitter

| Mon May 18, 2015 12:44 PM EDT

After years of being bound to the occasional "-bo" sign-offs on the official @barackobama Twitter account (run by his political group Organizing for Action), President Barack Obama finally got his own personal account today!

The official word from the White House informs us the new account will serve as a  way for the president to "engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him."

The shiny new @POTUS handle describes Obama as a "Dad, husband, and 44th President of the United States." One probable mistake, though: He left his DM's wide open.

 

Marco Rubio Is a Moron

| Mon May 18, 2015 11:51 AM EDT

Here's the latest from Florida wunderkind Marco Rubio:

Marco Rubio Struggles With Question on Iraq War

Under a barrage of questions from Chris Wallace of Fox News, Mr. Rubio repeatedly said “it was not a mistake” for President George W. Bush to order the invasion based on the intelligence he had at the time. But Mr. Rubio grew defensive as Mr. Wallace pressed him to say flatly whether he now believed the war was a mistake. Mr. Rubio chose instead to criticize the questions themselves, saying that in “the real world” presidents have to make decisions based on evidence presented to them at the time.

“It’s not a mistake — I still say it was not a mistake because the president was presented with intelligence that said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, it was governed by a man who had committed atrocities in the past with weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. Rubio said on “Fox News Sunday.”

A moment later, as Mr. Wallace tried to pin him down on his view, Mr. Rubio began to reply, “Based on what we know now, I think everyone agrees — ” but Mr. Wallace cut him off before he finished the thought.

“So was it a mistake now?” Mr. Wallace asked.

“I don’t understand the question you’re asking,” Mr. Rubio said.

The truth is that I don't care about Rubio's actual position on the Iraq War. The guy's trying to run on a platform of more-hawkish-than-thou, and that's pretty much all I need to know. Most of the time he sounds like a ten-year-old trying to sound tough in front of the older kids.

But I'm seriously beginning to wonder if he has a 3-digit IQ. After Jeb Bush's weeklong debacle trying to answer this question, every Republican candidate ought to have their own answer figured out. And not just figured out: by now their answers ought to be poll-tested, cut down into nice little sound bites, and so smoothly delivered you'd never even know this was a tricky issue in the first place.

But no. Rubio sounded like this question came as a total surprise. Seriously, Marco? This guy does not sound like he's ready for prime time.

John Oliver Explains How the Chicken Industry Systematically Screws Over Impoverished Farmers

| Mon May 18, 2015 9:56 AM EDT

Americans eat a ton of chicken—so much so, chicken farmers produce 160 million chicks a week just to keep up with national consumption, according to the latest "Last Week Tonight." But despite the industry's massive output, many contract farmers live near or below the poverty line, all while working under the constant fear of losing their jobs. And that's because the business model is such that farmers own the equipment used to raise the chickens, and corporations own the chickens.

"That essentially means you own everything that costs money, and we own everything that makes money," Oliver explains.

Perhaps the most damning part of the segment is a defense from Tom Super of the National Chicken Council, who responded to the question of why farmers live under the poverty line with the following: "Which poverty line are you referring to? Is that a national poverty line? Is that a state poverty line? The poverty line in Mississippi and Alabama is different than it is in New York City.”

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Oliver shot back. "It doesn't matter. The poverty line is like the age of consent: if you find yourself parsing exactly where it is, you’ve probably already done something very, very wrong."

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Obama Just Announced a Plan to Restrict Police Use of Military-Style Equipment

| Mon May 18, 2015 8:42 AM EDT

On Monday, the White House announced a plan to set new restrictions on local police departments from obtaining military-style equipment from the federal government. The limitation on military gear is part of an ongoing effort to rebuild trust between community members and law enforcement officials following the unrest seen in Ferguson, Missouri, particularly the police response to protesters there.

The announcement is in response to a report put forth by a task force created by the president in December to address broken police relations, especially in minority communities, across the country. Banned items include wheeled-armored vehicles, battering rams, grenade launchers, and more.

"We are, without a doubt, sitting at a defining moment in American policing," Ronald Davis, head of the Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, told reporters on Monday. "We have a unique opportunity to redefine policing in our democracy, to ensure that public safety becomes more than the absence of crime, but it must also include a presence for justice."

For a deeper look into how local police departments became so militarized, check out our in-depth report, "The Making of the Warrior Cop," here.

No, the GOP Has Not Lost Its Lust for War

| Mon May 18, 2015 6:15 AM EDT
Sen. Marco Rubio favors the Liam Neeson "Taken" strategy: "We will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you."

It seems like only yesterday that the conventional wisdom was that the Republican Party was on the cusp of a major shift in philosophy: The libertarians had made huge inroads into the party and the rank and file was very, very taken with their agenda—most especially their isolationist foreign policy. The fact that there are exactly two senators who might be called true libertarians, Rand Paul and Mike Lee, and no more than a handful in the House, did not strike political observers as evidence that Republican voters might not be quite as enthusiastic in this regard as they believed.

For a piece entitled "Has the Libertarian Moment Finally Arrived?" in the New York Times magazine last August, journalist Robert Draper spent some time with a few "libertarian hipsters." He was apparently smitten with their hot takes on various issues, and how they were changing the face of Republicanism as we know it. Of course, there's nothing new about libertarians and conservatives walking hand in hand on issues of taxation, regulation, and small government, which orbit the essential organizing principle of both movements. Where libertarians and Republicans disagree most is on social issues like abortion, marriage equality, and drug legalization. (The libertarian-ish GOPers have found a nice rhetorical dodge by falling back on the old confederate line that the "states should decide," which seems to get them off the hook with the Christian Right, who are happy to wage 50 smaller battles until they simply wear everyone down or the Rapture arrives, whichever comes first.)

This was now a return to "the real" GOP philosophy, as if the last 70 years of American imperialism never happened.

But what Draper and many other beltway wags insisted had changed among the GOP faithful was a new isolationism which was bringing the rank and file into the libertarian fold. They characterized this as a return to "the real" Republican philosophy, as if the last 70 years of American imperialism never happened. Evidently, the ideological north star of the GOP remains Robert Taft, despite the fact that 95 percent of the party faithful have never heard of him. After quoting Texas Gov. Rick Perry saying that we should cut costs by closing prisons, Draper asserted:

The appetite for foreign intervention is at low ebb, with calls by Republicans to rein in federal profligacy now increasingly extending to the once-sacrosanct military budget. And deep concern over government surveillance looms as one of the few bipartisan sentiments in Washington…

The bipartisan "concern" over government surveillance is unfortunately overstated. Polling shows that it ebbs and flows depending on which party is doing it. And regardless of the sentiment, the default solution is to fiddle at the edges, legalize the worst of it, and call it "reform."

And while it is correct to say that Republicans loathe what they perceive as "federal profligacy," there is little real evidence that they think reigning in the military budget is the proper way to cut spending. Politico quizzed a group of activists and "thought leaders" in Iowa and new Hampshire recently on the subject who said that federal debt was their primary concern and suggested that cutting the defense budget had to be on the table. But polling tells a different story. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza noted this in the latest NBC-WSJ survey:

Republicans say that national security/terrorism is the single most important issue facing the country.

More than a quarter of Republicans (27 percent) chose that option, putting it ahead of "deficit and government spending" (24 percent) and, somewhat remarkably, "job creation and economic growth" (21 percent), which has long dominated as the top priority for voters of all partisan stripes.

Beyond those top line numbers, there are two other telling nuggets in the data.

The first is that Republican voters are twice as concerned as Democrats about national security and terrorism. In the NBC-WSJ survey, just 13 percent of Democrats named national security as the most pressing issue for the government; job creation and economic growth was far and away the biggest concern among Democrats (37 percent), with health care (17 percent) and climate change (15 percent) ranking ahead of national security and terrorism.

The second is that national security is a rapidly rising concern for Republicans. In NBC-WSJ poll data from March 2012, just eight percent of Republicans named it as the most important issue for the government to address.

The GOP has carefully laid the groundwork for a full-scale assault on Hillary Clinton on this front with their Benghazi crusade.

Cillizza reported that a "savvy Republican operative" explained that this threefold increase in concern can be attributed to the rise of ISIS and the movie American Sniper arousing the militarist urge in the GOP base. That may be true, but let's just say it was never exactly deeply buried. In the aftermath of the latest disaster of nationalist bloodlust, they kept a low profile just long enough for the rest of the country to get past the trauma of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. But it didn't take ISIS or a Clint Eastwood movie for the right's patriotic fervor to return; it is one of the ties that binds the coalition together, and it's never dormant for long.

Moreover, no one should be surprised to see national security returning to the top of the agenda as Republicans set their sites on the first woman Democratic nominee for president. After all, they have spent many decades portraying the men of the Democratic Party as little better than schoolgirls on this front. You can be sure they will not forsake the tactic in the face of an actual woman candidate. Indeed, they've carefully laid the groundwork for a full-scale assault on Hillary Clinton's capabilities in this department with their Benghazi crusade. And as Heather Hurlburt pointed out recently in the American Prospect, there is good reason for Dems to be concerned here:

The majority of voters express equal confidence in men and women as leaders, but when national security is the issue, confidence in women's leadership declines. In a Pew poll in January, 37 percent of the respondents said that men do better than women in dealing with national security, while 56 percent said gender makes no difference. That was an improvement from decades past, but sobering when compared to the 73 percent who say gender is irrelevant to leadership on economic issues.

Yet, aside from the fact that the GOP base has been hawkish on national security for at least 70 years, and that their best opportunity to defeat the (presumed) first woman presidential candidate may lie in deep voter anxieties about a woman's ability to execute the role of commander in chief, we are to believe that Republicans are going to run in 2016 on an isolationist platform. If that's the case, the GOP presidential candidates didn't get the memo. As Karen Tumulty reported recently in the Washington Post:

As recently as two years ago, it appeared that the 2016 presidential contest was likely to become a monumental debate within the Republican Party over national security and foreign policy.

But not anymore. Although national security is Topic A for the growing field of candidates for the GOP nomination, it is becoming harder to discern any differences among them.

The contenders are a hawkish group—at least in their sound bites. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been the most skeptical of military intervention and government surveillance, but even he has proposed increasing defense spending and staged an event during his announcement tour in front of an aircraft carrier in South Carolina.

That's right, even Rand Paul is proposing to increase defense spending. And the rest of them are sounding more like cartoon movie heroes than presidential candidates on the stump (perhaps lending some support to that American Sniper theory). Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who just released his very muscular national security manifesto, the "Rubio Doctrine," probably wins the award for most hawkish speech thus far, thanks to this bit during a recent meeting of GOP candidates in South Carolina:

On our strategy on global jihadists and terrorists, I refer them to the movie Taken. Have you seen the movie Taken? Liam Neeson. He had a line, and this is what our strategy should be: "We will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you."

The crowd went wild. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker went in a different direction by first sharing his innermost thoughts:

National security is something you hear about. Safety is something you feel.

But lest he be construed as some kind of touchy feely, wimpy Wisconsin cheese-eater, he then brought the house down with a red-meat cri de coeur:

I want a leader who is willing to take the fight to them before they take the fight to us.

The crowd came to its feet and cheered.

Frankly, I feel a little bit sorry for poor old Rick Perry who, back in October, delivered what may be the most aggressive warhawk speech of the cycle so far—before anyone was paying attention. He spoke in London, where there's no shortage of national security anxiety these days:

What all of these various hate groups have in common is a disdain for, and a wish to destroy, our Western way of life.

And someone needs to tell them that the meeting has already been held. It was decided, democratically, long ago—and by the way through great and heroic sacrifice—that our societies will be governed by Western values and Western laws.

Among those values are openness and tolerance. But to every extremist, it has to be made clear: We will not allow you to exploit our tolerance, so that you can import your intolerance. We will not let you destroy our peace with your violent ideas. If you expect to live among us, and yet plan against us, to receive the protections and comforts of a free society, while showing none of its virtues or graces, then you can have our answer now: No, not on our watch!

You will live by exactly the standards that the rest of us live by. And if that comes as jarring news, then welcome to civilization.

(Prime Minister David Cameron seems to have taken notes: He was reportedly set to say pretty much the same thing in his Queen's speech, while adding some meat to the bone by proposing various kinds of government censorship and suppression of activity.)

It's obvious that the GOP is not making the big switch to isolationism any time soon. So what are all those libertarian Republicans going to do? Are they willing to suck it up and sign on to the GOP's imperial project, once again selling out their most deeply held views about America's place in the world for a couple of cheap tax breaks? It's not as if they have to. There is one candidate in the race who has a long record of antiwar positions and is fully onboard with shrinking the military industrial complex until it only needs a bathtub in which to float. He has no interest in worrying about American "prestige" around the world or spending any blood and treasure on behalf of commercial interests.

His name is Bernie Sanders in case anyone is wondering. He's even an Independent, one of the very few in the US Congress. Unfortunately, it's highly unlikely that any libertarians will join his campaign. Which is also quite telling. When it comes to making a choice between voting against war and voting for tax breaks for millionaires, tax breaks for millionaires wins every time. Their priorities have always been clear—and the leaders of the Republican Party know they'll never have to change a thing to buy their loyalty.

For Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, a Strong Round 2

| Mon May 18, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
The Traveling Kind
Nonesuch

If only Hollywood sequels were this good. Following Old Yellow Moon, their captivating 2013 collaboration, rootsy stalwarts Emmylou and Rodney have recombined for another go-round, which may be even more entertaining than its predecessor. The two first crossed paths professionally 40 (!) years ago, when Crowell joined Harris’ band. Their recent work together has underscored the virtues of experience and, yes, age. No longer needing to prove anything, both seem as loose and confident as they've ever been, delivering heartrending tunes like "You Can't Say We Didn't Try" with the simple, sure-handed eloquence that marked the Everly Brothers' best, and rockin' out in fine style on the rollicking "Bring It on Home to Memphis." Harris' still-beautiful voice has acquired a darker, slightly rougher texture that adds authority, while the weathered grace of Crowell's singing makes him a perfect match. A fine job by all concerned, including the stellar players.

Blast From the Past: Billy Ward and His Dominoes

| Mon May 18, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Billy Ward and His Dominoes
The Complete King/Federal Singles
Real Gone Music

Superstars on the 1950s R&B scene, Billy Ward's Dominoes launched the careers of two amazing singers: Clyde McPhatter, who later fronted the earliest incarnation of the Drifters on such hits as "Money Honey" and "Such a Night," and Jackie Wilson, whose high-energy solo smashes included "Lonely Teardrops" and "Baby Workout." While this two-disc, 58-track collection is a mixed bag thanks to the corny likes of "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano," the high points are undeniably thrilling. Among them: the outrageously sleazy "Sixty Minute Man," showcasing single-entendre bass vocalist Bill Brown; the funereal lament 'The Bells," wherein McPhatter mixes hysterical sobbing and piercing shrieks in truly bizarre fashion; and Wilson's rip-snorting "You Can't Keep a Good Man Down." Crank up the time machine, pop a top, and let the fun begin.