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Lincoln Died 150 Years Ago Today and If He Were Still Alive He Wouldn’t Have Been a Republican

| Wed Apr. 15, 2015 12:03 AM EDT

On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth while attending a play at Ford's Theater in Washington, DC. Lincoln died the following morning, just six days after General Robert E. Lee had surrendered and the Civil War, which lasted four years and killed an estimated 750,000 soldiers, officially ended.

JT Vintage/Glasshouse/Zuma

As the country commemorates the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's death, the debate over how the Republican Party has changed since then has been renewed. Lincoln, the first Republican president, has long been a source of pride for modern-day conservatives who still claim to be part of the "party of Lincoln." His legacy is regularly cited by GOP politicians when they find themselves having to defend the party against charges of gutting civil rights and holding racist attitudes towards minorities. But as Salon notes this week in a piece titled, "Abraham Lincoln would despise you all: Race, the South and the GOP’s most delusional fantasy," attempts to invoke Lincoln in present-day Republican ideology are ultimately futile. The party's staunch opposition to gay marriage, for example, clearly distances itself from Lincoln's to the fundamental "proposition that all men are created equal."

One perfect example of what the GOP once was and what it became can be seen in then-Senator Jim Jeffords' explanation of why he was moved to leave the party in 2001. In his speech, which came shortly after George W. Bush became president, Jeffords said his initial decision to declare himself a Republican was largely rooted in principles that aligned with the "party of Lincoln." But Bush's shifting principles ultimately changed that for him:

In the past, without the presidency, the various wings of the Republican Party in Congress have had some freedom to argue and influence and ultimately to shape the party's agenda. The election of President Bush changed that dramatically.

Looking ahead, I can see more and more instances where I'll disagree with the president on very fundamental issues—the issues of choice, the direction of the judiciary, tax and spending decisions, missile defense, energy and the environment, and a host of other issues, large and small.

Of course, Republicans aren't exactly pleased with this perspective. A peek into that mindset is offered in this editorial in the Wall Street Journal published on Tuesday:

On a Lincoln anniversary that will no doubt bring even more lectures about how the GOP has abandoned its first president, we do well to remember that Old Abe was a man who enforced his red lines (e.g., no expansion of slavery). Before that, he was a corporate lawyer who rose from poverty through hard work and ambition—and wanted an America where everyone had the chance to do the same.

If America's progressives wish to embrace this Lincoln legacy, more power to them.

One hundred fifty years later, it's understandable why both parties are eager to claim Lincoln's legacy.

This CEO Just Raised His Company's Minimum Salary to $70,000 a Year

| Tue Apr. 14, 2015 11:04 AM EDT

Inspired by research suggesting that the emotional well-being of many of his employees could be improved by a raise, the owner of a Seattle credit card payment processing company has just announced that he will boost their minimum salary to $70,000.

The New York Times reports Gravity Payments founder Dan Price will slash his own $1 million salary to $70,000 and use a majority of the company's forecasted $2.2 million profits this year to help pay for the bold move. Many of the workers affected by the raise include sales and customer service representatives.

Of the company's 120 employees, 30 will see their salaries almost double.

"The market rate for me as a CEO compared to a regular person is ridiculous, it's absurd," Price told the Times. "As much as I'm a capitalist, there is nothing in the market that is making me do it."

In the rest of the country, the wage gap between top executives and well, everyone else, is staggering: In 2014, Wall Street bonuses alone amounted to nearly double the combined income of all Americans working full-time minimum-wage jobs.

Publicity stunt or not, Price's plan is a unique story about one CEO's effort to directly address income inequality and create liveable wages for his workers. If successful, we can only hope this turns into a Times trend piece.

This Kid's Reaction To Hillary Clinton's Campaign Video Is So Amazing

| Mon Apr. 13, 2015 1:42 PM EDT

Hillary Clinton announced her presidential bid yesterday. There were a lot of reactions! Conservatives had reactions! Liberals had reactions! Lions, tigers, and bears had reactions! All of those reactions were garbage. This is the one true reaction.

 

Zeke is ready for Hillary. Just not in the way she'd probably expect...(This was Z's immediate reaction to viewing HRC's announcement video. Instant meltdown.)

Posted by Erin Celello on Sunday, April 12, 2015

Children are our future.

Watch John Oliver and Michael Bolton Serenade the Unsung Heroes Working for the IRS

| Mon Apr. 13, 2015 8:51 AM EDT

Everyone hates the IRS. And as Tax Day nears, complaints about the much-despised agency grow louder and angrier. On the latest "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver dedicated his show to defending the IRS and its employees, who are subjected to working a thankless, challenging job everyday.

"Blaming the IRS because you hate paying your taxes is a bit like slapping your checkout clerk because the price of eggs has gone up," Oliver said. "It's not her fault, she's just trying to help you get out of the store."

Recent budgets cuts, coupled with constant changes to complicated tax laws only make the situation worse.

Of course, asking viewers to sympathize with the IRS is a difficult task. To help, Oliver recruited singer Michael Bolton to serenade a wonderful ode to the agency, "the anus of our country." Because as the lyrics note, you'll never "miss your anus till it's gone." Watch below:

The Mountain Goats' New Album Takes On the Noble Warriors of Professional Wrestling

| Mon Apr. 13, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

The Mountain Goats
Beat the Champ
Merge

Don't be fooled by the easygoing folk-pop melodies and likable everyday-guy vocals: John Darnielle, leader of California's long-running Mountain Goats, writes some of the sharpest, most thoughtful songs around. On Beat the Champ, he turns to professional wrestling, one of his cultural fixations (another being death metal), and as usual, treats his characters with perceptive compassion, savoring the orchestrated drama of the "sport" without a hint of condescension. While "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero" ("I need justice in my life") highlights the uplift that wrestling's morality plays provide for the fans, more often Darnielle depicts the daily struggles, emotional and physical, of its participants in and out of the ring. From "Choked Out" ("I can see the future, it's a real dark place") to "The Ballad of Bull Ramos" ("Get around fine on one leg/Lose a kidney, then go blind/Sit on my porch in Houston/Let the good times dance across my mind"), his noble hard-luck warriors are not soon forgotten.
 

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Gwyneth Paltrow Confuses Her Latest Master Cleanse with Attempt to Relate to the Poor

| Sun Apr. 12, 2015 10:21 AM EDT

Who better to speak to the struggles of food stamp recipients than Gwyneth Paltrow? The actress and founder of GOOP, the oft-ridiculed lifestyle blog that peddles everything from $900 throw blankets to $50 sunscreen, was recently summoned by chef Mario Batali in an Ice Bucket-esque challenge to join him in the fight against food stamp cuts.

A worthy cause for sure. But judging by the items she cobbled together to last her an entire week alone, it's difficult to take Paltrow's good intentions seriously:

I am no chef, but it looks to me as if the above snapshot would fail miserably in feeding a whole family for even just one meal, let alone a whole week. It does, however, look like the makings of an excellent detox recipe—if you happen to enjoy that kind of thing.

Out of touch is just how we like you, Gwyneth! Stay golden.

(h/t Jezebel)

Elizabeth Warren Explains How Washington Corruption Protects the "Tender Fannies" of The Rich

| Fri Apr. 10, 2015 9:54 AM EDT

During a spot on the "Daily Show" Thursday night, Senator Elizabeth Warren broke down the ways in which big banks and large corporations have rigged Washington politicians in order to ensure "the tender fannies of the rich and the powerful are always carefully protected."

"Powerful corporations, rich people, have figured out that if you can bend the government to help you just a little bit, it’s a tremendous payoff," Warren told host Jon Stewart. "And if you can bend it to help you just a little bit more, and a little bit more, the playing field just gets more and more tilted, and the rich and the powerful just do better and better."

The Massachusetts senator, whose appearance was tied to her book A Fighting Chance, went on to explain how both the steady circulation of money and the constant presence of lobbyists in Washington have worked together to create a culture in which such corruption is the norm. Watch below:

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)

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.