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Rand Paul Flubs the Facts on the Minimum Wage

| Mon Jul. 21, 2014 3:33 PM EDT

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says the minimum wage, like Trix, is for kids. Speaking in San Francisco over the weekend, the likely 2016 presidential candidate took issue with the president and first lady over an interview they gave to Parade, in which the Obamas suggested their daughters should work minimum wage jobs because "that's what most folks go through every single day." It was a fairly innocuous comment. But Paul argued it sent the wrong message. Per Politico:

Speaking at a downtown conference for libertarian and conservative technology types, the Kentucky Republican and prospective 2016 White House contender said he had an "opposite" view from the Obamas when it comes to seeing his own sons work delivering pizzas and at call centers.

"The minimum wage is a temporary" thing, Paul said. "It's a chance to get started. I see my son come home with his tips. And he's got cash in his hand and he's proud of himself. I don't want him to stop there. But he's working and he's understanding the value of work. We shouldn't disparage that."

Paul, a libertarian, was echoing the argument made by those who oppose raising the minimum wage: That those jobs are largely filled by young adults just entering the job market—people who are taking these low-paying positions before moving on to the better-paying jobs—so it's no big deal if the compensation is at the bottom end of the scale. A low wage might even be beneficial, by providing an incentive to get to the next level. But this is not supported by the facts. Only a quarter of minimum wage workers are teenagers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly half of minimum wage earners are over 25, and 585,000 (18 percent) are over 45. These aren't kids just learning the value of the buck; they're adults who need income to support themselves and their families. As Mother Jones has reported previously, the current minimum wage doesn't come close to doing that. Just take a spin on our living-wage calculator.

If Paul truly believes a low wage is "temporary" for most minimum-wage workers, perhaps he should take the Obamas' advice for their daughters and spend some time working in a fast-food joint.

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Watch: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's Emotional Speech on Child Migrants

| Mon Jul. 21, 2014 2:56 PM EDT

On Friday, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced a plan for his state to temporarily shelter up to 1,000 unaccompanied children who have recently fled to the United States as part of the ongoing border crisis. He cited America's history of giving "sanctuary to desperate children for centuries," the "blight on our national reputation" when we refused to accept Jewish children fleeing the Nazis in 1939, and his Christian faith as reasons for the decision. "My faith teaches," he said, fighting back tears, "that if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him but rather love him as yourself." The Joint Base Cape Cod and Westover Air Base are the two facilities being considered as possible locations.

Notably, Patrick has said "maybe" to a 2016 run for president.

If the Left Wants Scapegoats, Just Look in the Mirror

| Mon Jul. 21, 2014 1:31 PM EDT

Thomas Frank is convinced that Barack Obama single-handedly prevented America from becoming the lefty paradise it was on course for after the financial meltdown of 2008:

The Obama team, as the president once announced to a delegation of investment bankers, was “the only thing between you and the pitchforks,” and in retrospect these words seem not only to have been a correct assessment of the situation at the moment but a credo for his entire term in office. For my money, they should be carved in stone over the entrance to his monument: Barack Obama as the one-man rescue squad for an economic order that had aroused the fury of the world. Better: Obama as the awesomely talented doctor who kept the corpse of a dead philosophy lumbering along despite it all.

....In point of fact, there were plenty of things Obama’s Democrats could have done that might have put the right out of business once and for all—for example, by responding more aggressively to the Great Recession or by pounding relentlessly on the theme of middle-class economic distress. Acknowledging this possibility, however, has always been difficult for consensus-minded Democrats, and I suspect that in the official recounting of the Obama era, this troublesome possibility will disappear entirely. Instead, the terrifying Right-Wing Other will be cast in bronze at twice life-size, and made the excuse for the Administration’s every last failure of nerve, imagination and foresight. Demonizing the right will also allow the Obama legacy team to present his two electoral victories as ends in themselves, since they kept the White House out of the monster’s grasp—heroic triumphs that were truly worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. (Which will be dusted off and prominently displayed.)

I see this kind of thing all the time on the right. If only we had a candidate who refused to sell out conservative values! A candidate who could truly make the American public understand! Then we'd win in a landslide!

It's easy to recognize this as delusional. Tea party types are always convinced that America is thirsting for true conservatism, and all that's needed is a latter-day Ronald Reagan to be its salesman. Needless to say, this misses the point that Americans aren't all reactionaries. In fact, as the embarrassing clown shows of the past two GOP primaries have shown, even most Republicans aren't reactionaries. There's been no shortage of honest-to-God right wingers to choose from, but they can't even win the nomination, let alone a general election.

(Of course you never know. Maybe 2016 is the year!)

But if it's so easy to see this conservative delusion for what it is, why isn't it equally easy to recognize the same brand of liberal delusion? Back in 2009, was Obama really the only thing that stood between bankers and the howling mob? Don't be silly. Americans were barely even upset, let alone ready for revolution. Those pathetic demonstrations outside the headquarters of AIG were about a hundredth the size that even a half-ass political organization can muster for a routine anti-abortion rally. After a few days the AIG protestors got bored and went home without so much as throwing a few bottles at cops. Even the Greeks managed that much.

Why were Americans so obviously not enraged? Because—duh—the hated neoliberal system worked. We didn't have a second Great Depression. The Fed intervened, the banking system was saved, and a stimulus bill was passed. Did bankers get treated too well? Oh yes indeed. Was the stimulus too small? You bet. Nevertheless, was America saved from an epic collapse? It sure was. Instead of a massive meltdown, we got a really bad recession and a weak recovery, and even that was cushioned by a safety net that, although inadequate, was more than enough to keep the pitchforks off the streets.

As for Obama, could he have done more? I suppose he probably could have, but it's a close call. Even with his earnest efforts at bipartisanship at the beginning of his presidency, he only barely passed any stimulus at all. If instead he'd issued thundering populist manifestos, even Susan Collins would have turned against him and the stimulus bill would have been not too small, but completely dead. Ditto for virtually everything else Obama managed to pass by one or two votes during his first 18 months. If that had happened, the economy would have done even worse, and if you somehow think this means the public would have become more sympathetic to the party in the White House, then your knowledge of American politics is at about the kindergarten level. Democrats would have lost even more seats in 2010 than they did.

Look: Obama made some mistakes. He should have done more about housing. He shouldn't have pivoted to deficit-mongering so quickly. Maybe he could have kept a public option in Obamacare if he'd fought harder for it. Maybe, maybe, maybe. But probably not. Like it or not, America was not poised for a huge liberal wave in 2008. It just wasn't. It was poised for a fairly routine cycle of throwing out the old bums and electing new bums, who would, as usual, be given a very short and very limited honeymoon. Democrats actually accomplished a fair amount during that honeymoon, but no, they didn't turn American into a lefty paradise. That was never in the cards.

All of us who do what Thomas Frank does—what I do—have failed. Our goal was to persuade the public to move in a liberal direction, and that didn't happen. In the end, we didn't persuade much of anyone. It's natural to want to avoid facing that humiliating truth, and equally natural to look for someone else to blame instead. That's human nature. So fine. Blame Obama if it makes you feel better. That's what we elect presidents for: to take the blame.

But he only deserves his share. The rest of us, who were unable to take advantage of an epic financial collapse to get the public firmly in favor of pitchforks and universal health care, deserve most of it. The mirror doesn't lie.

Fighting in Gaza Bad for Mankind, Great for Right-Wing Website

| Mon Jul. 21, 2014 11:59 AM EDT

Israel's ground offensive into Gaza, which began last Thursday after a week of air strikes, has come with a heavy price: 20 Israelis and 445 Palestinians have now died since the conflict flared up two weeks ago. But at least one group is happy about the news—WorldNetDaily, the far-right website, which reports, in a story titled "Hamas Rockets Boon to Israel Tour," that the ground offensive has been good for business:

WASHINGTON – During the week Hamas fired thousands of rockets on Israel, interest in WND's Israel tour with Joseph Farah and Jonathan Cahn spiked, with 68 signups in seven days, the most in a one-week period since registration began in February, WND announced.

"I thought news of thousands of rockets raining down on Israel would be a deterrent to Americans who were thinking about joining us on WND's Israel tour," said Farah. "It wasn't at all. In fact, it seems like Americans are eager to show solidarity with the Jewish state at this time."

The second annual tour is on pace to match last year’s size, with nearly 400 participants, most originating in the U.S.

Congrats, guys.

High School Kids Brave the Anti-Vax Jihadists

| Mon Jul. 21, 2014 11:41 AM EDT

Here's a heartwarming story for you. Prompted by the decline in vaccination rates among children in San Diego, a group of students at Carlsbad High School decided to make a short documentary about "the science of disease and the risks facing a society that is under-vaccinated." You can probably guess what happened next:

Complaints began to arise when a local newspaper reported that the students were tackling "the issue of immunizations." A blogger who saw the article contended that the movie, still a work in progress, was sure to be "propaganda." That led to a flurry of frightening phone calls and Internet comments directed at CHSTV, [advisor Lisa] Posard said.

Posard said she hadn't realized that vaccines were such a controversial subject. She and CHSTV teacher Douglas Green wanted to shut down production, she added. But the students, angered by what they saw as bullying, insisted on completing the film.

The final version of "Invisible Threat," completed in spring 2013 but shown only to select audiences, took a strong pro-vaccine position.

Critics, who said they hadn't been allowed to see the movie, leaped back into action about a year later, when the film was set to be screened on Capitol Hill.

Focus Autism and AutismOne organizations complained about the movie's Rotary Club backing and about the involvement of Dr. Paul Offit, a University of Pennsylvania pediatrician and immunization proponent. They argued that "Invisible Threat" was "scripted with industry talking points" and that the movie seemed to be the work of adults operating under false pretenses, not students.

Thanks to the McCarthyite cretins in the murderous vaccinations-cause-autism movement, to this day the documentary has barely been seen outside the confines of the school. It will finally get posted on the Web on August 1st. Maybe it will save some lives.

More Pointless Bluster on Foreign Policy, Please

| Mon Jul. 21, 2014 10:51 AM EDT

Via Politico, Here's the latest on American attitudes toward foreign policy:

Asked whether the U.S should do more to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine, just 17 percent answered in the affirmative....More than three-quarters of likely voters say they support plans to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016....Forty-four percent of likely voters favor less involvement in Iraq’s civil war....Likely voters prefer less involvement in Syria’s civil war over more involvement, 42 percent to 15 percent.

Based on this, can you figure out which party is more trusted on foreign policy? You guessed it: Republicans, by a margin of 39-32 percent.

Bottom line (for about the thousandth time): Americans prefer the actual foreign policy of Democrats, but they prefer the rhetorical foreign policy of Republicans. They want lots of bluster and chest thumping, but without much in the way of serious action. In other words, pretty much what Reagan did.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 21, 2014

Mon Jul. 21, 2014 9:47 AM EDT

Two US Marines alongside two Japan Ground self-defense soldiers practice techniques at Kin Blue beach in Japan. (US Marine Photo by Cpl. Henry Antenor)

"Country Funk Volume II" Is the Perfect Summer Soundtrack

| Mon Jul. 21, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Various Artists
Country Funk Volume II 1967-1974
Light in the Attic

Country FunkLike its predecessor, the beguiling Country Funk Volume II, 1967-1974 is a collection of rebels, reprobates and other outsiders blurring genres and donning different guises. Ranging from big names to cult favorites, this dud-free, 17-track romp captures Kenny Rogers in his pre-crooner, almost-psychedelic phase and the chameleon-like Bobby Darin (here billed as Bob) in his down-home hippie groove. R&B greats Larry Williams and Johnny Watson team up for freaky rock and roll, while Willie Nelson tries out his outlaw persona—and likes it. Elsewhere, former Byrd Gene Clark puts a rootsy spin on the Beatles, and sleepy JJ Cale mines a deep, soulful groove. And there's plenty more to dig on this scruffy, lovably offbeat set, which makes a perfect summer soundtrack.

Fast Tracks: Reigning Sound's "You Did Wrong"

| Mon Jul. 21, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

TRACK 5

"You Did Wrong"

From Reigning Sound's Shattered

MERGE

Liner notes: "Where have you been, my friend? I've been calling you for days," croons Greg Cartwright, comforting a heartbroken pal in this bracing garage-soul lament.

Behind the music: The Memphis multitasker has a slew of other bands on his résumé, such as the Oblivians and Compulsive Gamblers.

Check it out if you like: Retro floor-shakers like the Deadly Snakes and King Khan & the Shrines.

This review originally appeared in the July/August 2014 Issue of Mother Jones.

Armed With a Backpack Studio and a Plane Ticket, Beat Making Lab Sows Global Activism

| Mon Jul. 21, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

In Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, fences as far as the eye could see were topped with barbed wire. Glass bottle shards protruded from concrete walls so that no one could scale them. Some buildings were even corralled by electric barriers. They resembled fortresses—all but one. "At Yole!Africa, the walls were completely bare. Students were sitting on them," recalls Pierce Freelon, one of the founders of Beat Making Lab.

Where can art happen? "The answer is 'anywhere and everywhere.'"

Beat Making Lab, a project that began in 2011 as a music production and entrepreneurship class at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, had morphed into an international expedition to teach kids how to make beats and set up makeshift studios for around the world. Yole!Africa, a Congolese Center for Art and Cultural Exchange, was their first stop. "When you came in, there were two concrete slabs where artists are dancing," Freelon adds. "You don't need a dance studio with hardwood floors, with windows and a ballet bar, to put in work and do dance. You can do it in the dirt."

They had come to lend that DIY mentality to an art-form not yet represented at Yole!Africa. With just a backpack full of gear—USB microphone, keyboard, laptop, MIDI controllers, headphones, and software—Freelon and BML cofounder, the producer/DJ Stephen Levitin (who has worked with the likes of Azealia Banks, Camp Lo, Mos Def, and Wale) set up shop in a storage room and launched their first two-week workshop. "In terms of where [art] can happen?" Freelon says, "the answer is anywhere and everywhere."

In 2013, the duo helped produce songs from a prison in Panama. They brought beat-making tools to the beaches of Fiji. They held sessions on the streets of Senegal and Ethiopia. Along the way, they documented their experiences and created videos for the songs their students created. Here's one from Ethiopia:

Before long, the project caught the attention of PBS, which signed on to help produce a web series. Season 2, which launches today, kicks off in Nairobi with the video at the top of this post. The beatmakers have taken a more political turn this time around. In Kenya, they partner with /The Rules (a "global movement to bring power back to people, and change the rules that create inequality and poverty around the world"), interweaving recording sessions with spoken word workshops led by Jamaican poet Staceyann Chin, and digital power-mapping workshops led by Ann Daramola (a.k.a. Afrolicious). The goal: to encourage participants to deploy art in the cause of activism.

“It was the ill-est thing ever," Freelon says. "Those same students who have been thinking about tax havens and queerness and patriarchy are now coming into our Beat Making Lab and making beats."

Freelon and Levitin hope to keep expanding into new territory. Up next on their wish list are Palestine, Israel, India, and China. "We left Kenya saying we need not ever go back to what we were doing in 2013," Freelon says. "From this time forward we are going to have a deeper, more intentional process."

Subscribe to BML's YouTube channel to see the story unfold.