A popular conspiracy theory is spreading in the Trump family. It’s totally false.

A popular conspiracy theory is spreading in the Trump family. It’s totally false.
By Matt O’Brien

Donald Trump listens to the applause of the crowd at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 21, 2016.   (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)Donald Trump listens to the applause of the crowd Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during his walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 21, 2016.  REUTERS/Rick WilkingRepublican presidential nominee Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during his walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 21. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post) Cleveland, U.S., July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The unemployment rate is not a conspiracy. It is not manipulated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And anyone who suggests otherwise is either uninformed, or trying to misinform uninform others.

Which is to say that you shouldn’t listen to Donald Trump & Co. For a year now, the alleged billionaire has insisted that the “real” unemployment rate is something like 42 percent instead of the 4.9 percent it actually is. He hasn’t said how he’s gotten this — maybe this—maybe it’s from the same “extremely credible source” who told him President Obama’s birth certificate was fake? — but fake?—but the simplest explanation is that he’s just ballparking how many adults don’t work. That’s 40.4 percent right now. The problem with using that number, though, is that it counts college students and stay-at-home parents and retirees as being equally “unemployed” as people who are actively looking for work but can’t find any. So it doesn’t tell us too much, at least not on its own, unless you think it’s a problem that we have more 70-year-olds 70-year olds than we used to.

Or unless conspiracy theories are one of your favorite accessories, asseems to be the case with the father, and now the son, Donald Trump Jr. On Sunday, he told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the official unemployment numbers are “artificial” ones that are “massaged to make the existing economy look good” and “this administration look good.” How do they supposedly do this? By, he claimed, defining “the way we actually measure unemployment” to be that “after x number of months, if someone can’t find a job, congratulations, they’re miraculously off” the jobless rolls. off [the jobless rolls].” The only problem with this theory is it’s false. The BLS hasn’t changed the way it measures unemployment during the Obama years, and there is zero evidence it has changed the numbers themselves. Not only that, but Donald Trump Jr. doesn’t even seem to know how unemployment is defined in the first place. As the BLS explains, everyone who doesn’t have a job but is trying to find one counts as “unemployed.” It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been looking as long as you are, in fact, are in fact still looking.

But that’s not to say the unemployment rate tells us everything we need to know about the labor market. It doesn’t. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellenwill tell you that herself. There are still a lot of people who want full-time but can only find part-time jobs. Still There are still a lot of people who want to work but weren’t able to find anything for so long that they’ve given up looking for now. And still a lot of people who would want to work again if wages were high enough to make it worth their while. But none of this is a secret. The BLS publishes all this, it all too. So-called broad unemployment includes all these people who technically aren’t unemployed but aren’t fully employed, employed either. That’s 9.6 percent today.

Even more damning than that, though, are the millions of people who “should” be working but aren’t. Those are the 25- to 54-year-olds 25 to 54-year olds who, for the most part, are too old to still be in school, but too young to be retired. In 2000, 81.9 percent of them worked; in 2007, 80.3 percent did; percent; but only 77.8 percent do today. That adds up to at least 2.5 million missing workers.

Source: BLS

Where have they gone? Well, some of them are probably people who decided to go back to school. Others are probably parents who felt like they had to stay at home since their wages wouldn’t have covered the ever-increasing costs of child care. childcare. And the rest are probably people who are still waiting for the recovery to reach them. Indeed, as you can see above, the share of 25- to 54-year-olds 25 to 54-year olds who have a job has only made up half of the ground it lost during the recession.

The boring truth is that the economy is in a lot better shape than it was when Obama took office, but that it could be in better shape still. The recovery, in other words, still has a ways to go. But that’s a lot different from saying that we have 40 percent unemployment and that the government is trying to cover it up. That just suggests you don’t understand — or don’t understand–or want to accurately describe — how describe–how stats work and you don’t know how to look up the ones you think the BLS is hiding.

It’s not what you’d expect from a major party presidential candidate.

July 26, 2016 at 09:49AM
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Donald Trump’s New York Times interview reveals a dangerously lazy mind at work

Donald Trump’s New York Times interview reveals a dangerously lazy mind at work
By Matthew Yglesias

Being president of the United States is hard work. It’s work, it’s important work, and Donald Trump has proven time and again he’s much too lazy to do the job. Not too lazy in the sense of sleeps in too much — he’s clearly happy to maintain a frenetic pace of activity when doing things that engage him, him like tweeting or doing television or phone interviews — but too lazy in the sense of being unwilling to put in the time and repetition reps necessary to master new things.

That is the unescapable message of the interview he conducted with David Sanger and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times that’s published today on their website. It’s an interview that demands to be read in full, because the full context is much more horrifying than the one headline featured feature where Trump suggests he would unilaterally abrogate America’s NATO commitments to the Baltic countries and possibly spark a third world war.

The problem with Trump is not just the specific things he says but the casual way in which he says them and the comical “logic” that ties them together. Most of all, it’s the repetition — the fact that it keeps happening without Trump showing any capacity for growth or any interest in doing the work that would make him better at answering questions. For better or worse, Trump is now the GOP nominee, nominee and there are hundreds of professional Republican Party politicians and operatives around the country who would gladly help him become a sharper, better-informed candidate.

It doesn’t happen because he can’t be bothered. It’s terrifying.

Trump doesn’t know what an alliance is for

Trump does not appear to have any understanding of the general purpose of military alliances.

Here he is speaking not just of NATO NATO, but of the general American practice of forming security alliances with foreign countries — a practice he seems to think should be replaced by an imperial regime in which America extorts cash tribute from countries under our thumb:

TRUMP: If we cannot be properly reimbursed for the tremendous cost of our military protecting other countries, and in many cases the countries I’m talking about are extremely rich. Then if we cannot make a deal, which I believe we will be able to, and which I would prefer being able to, but if we cannot make a deal, I would like you to say, I would prefer being able to, some people, the one thing they took out of your last story, you know, some people, the fools and the haters, they said, “Oh, Trump doesn’t want to protect you.” I would prefer that we be able to continue, but if we are not going to be reasonably reimbursed for the tremendous cost of protecting these massive nations with tremendous wealth — you have the tape going on?

SANGER: We do.

HABERMAN: We both do.

One thing that’s particularly remarkable about this passage is that Trump specifically acknowledges that he’s talked about this before, with these very same two reporters, and that his remarks were not well-received. That earlier interview took place in on March 26, so Trump has had almost four months to devise a better-informed answer.

He just didn’t bother.

Trump doesn’t seem to know what a trade deficit is

Things like the US defense commitment to Taiwan or the future of NATO are things that a lot of pointy-headed elites in Washington care about, but they’re not gut-level voting issues to most people. Trade policy, however, is a frequent political hot button. It’s also a signature Donald Trump policy issue — one on which he’s reverse traditional Republican Party policy setting the stage for a possible realignment.

So it’s alarming to realize that his ignorant view of military alliances is actually specifically grounded in a baffling view of trade policy. He explains to Sanger that defense commitments to foreign countries might make sense if they lead to trade surpluses:

SANGER: We were talking about alliances, and the fundamental problem that you hear many Republicans, traditional Republicans, have with the statement that you’ve made is that it would seem to them that you would believe that the interests of the United States being out with both our troops and our diplomacy abroad is less than our economic interests in having somebody else support that. In other words, even if they didn’t pay a cent toward it, many have believed that the way we’ve kept our postwar leadership since World War II has been our ability to project power around the world. That’s why we got this many diplomats ——

TRUMP: How is it helping us? How has it helped us? We have massive trade deficits. I could see that, if instead of having a trade deficit worldwide of $800 billion, we had a trade positive of $100 billion, $200 billion, $800 billion. So how has it helped us?

These two things simply have nothing to do with each other.

I would say that I am puzzled as to what Trump could be thinking, but it’s quite clear he’s not thinking at all.

Later in the interview, Haberman asks Trump a specific question about an issue Trump has discussed extensively in his campaign — the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA. And Trump has nothing at all to say:

HABERMAN: What kind of change could you make in terms of Nafta without fully withdrawing from it? How could you?

TRUMP: You’ve got to be fair to the country. Everyone is leaving. Carrier just announced they’re leaving. Ford is building a massive plant. So I have a friend who builds plants and then I have to go. I have a friend who builds plants, that’s what he does, he’s the biggest in the world, he builds plants like automobile plants, computer plants, that’s all he does. He doesn’t build apartments, he doesn’t build office space, he builds plants. I said to him the other day, “How are you doing?” He goes, “Unbelievable.” Oh, great, that’s good, thinking about the United States, right, because he’s based in the United States. So I said, “Good, so the country is doing well.” He said, “No, no, not our country, you’ve got to see what I’m doing in Mexico.” He said: “The business there is unbelievable, the new plants we are building. People moving from the United States.” That’s what he does. One-story plants. You understand?

People have been arguing about NAFTA since George H.W. Bush was president. There are vast armies of policy expert veterans of clashes over NAFTA and other trade deals who could have worked with Trump to devise an answer to this very basic question.

He just didn’t bother.

It gets worse

Laughably unprepared for the most basic, obvious questions, Trump turns out to also be unprepared for non-obvious questions. Here, for example, are his thoughts on cyber attacks from abroad:

SANGER: We’re under regular cyberattack. Would you use cyberweapons before you used military force?

TRUMP: Cyber is absolutely a thing of the future and the present. Look, we’re under cyberattack, forget about them. And we don’t even know where it’s coming from.

SANGER: Some days we do, and some days we don’t.

TRUMP: Because we’re obsolete. Right now, Russia and China in particular and other places.

SANGER: Would you support the United States’ not only developing as we are but fielding cyberweapons as an alternative?

TRUMP: Yes. I am a fan of the future, and cyber is the future.

He is a fan of the future.

Trump can’t admit when he doesn’t know

Next, as a prank, Sanger asks Trump about something genuinely obscure:

SANGER: President Obama, as you probably know, as you probably read, is considering a no-first-use pledge before he leaves office for nuclear weapons. We don’t have one right now. Some other nations do, some don’t. Would you consider that stabilizing?

TRUMP: Depends on who we are talking about, it depends on who we are talking about. I would only make that commitment as the agreement is being signed. I wouldn’t want to play my cards. I don’t want to say that.

This is, in some ways, the worst of them all.

I cover politics for a living. I had no idea that President Obama is considering making a pledge that the United States will only use nuclear weapons against another country that has already used nuclear weapons first. I’ve read nothing about this. I don’t know why he’s considering doing this now, I don’t know what the arguments for or against doing it are, and I don’t know which countries have made such a pledge in the past or why.

Trump, I gather from his answer, hasn’t done any of this either. But he won’t admit it.

This is a deadly sin in a president. It’s a very big, very complicated job, and the person doing the job also has to spend a lot of time on routine political work, meet-and-greets with sports championship winners, attending international conferences, and other things that don’t involve studying detailed briefing books. Stuff is going to come up that you don’t know anything about. And you need to be willing to admit it so someone can help you.

Ignorance on the scale Trump demonstrated on the NAFTA answer is an awful look for a candidate. It’s a signature issue of his campaign, campaign and he ought to have something to say about it. But ignorance of something like the nuclear no-first-use pledge is eminently forgivable. He just needs to say he is sorry but he hasn’t yet had a chance to study that in detail yet, yet but he’s building a great team of advisers advisors and is looking forward to discussing the matter with the professionals at Strategic Command when he’s in office.

Trump hasn’t done the work — and won’t

There is a certain routine and rhythm to a successful American presidential campaign. It starts with a person guy who, necessarily, only has relevant experience in certain aspects of the job of presidenting. Opponents and skeptics in the media raise questions about his preparedness to handle this, that, or the other thing.

And the candidate, as he gains steam and picks up support, takes specific, concrete steps to address those weaknesses. He meets with advisers who have worked at high levels high-levels of government before or who are acknowledged as academic experts. His campaign issues policy papers and delivers “major addresses” on a growing range of subjects.

Trump just hasn’t done this stuff.

He didn’t do it back when nobody was taking him seriously, he didn’t do it back when he’d emerged as a frontrunner most of the party leadership was uncomfortable with, he didn’t do it pre-convention when he was trying to solidify party support, and now he’s not doing it as part of the general generation election. It would require, at this point, a truly heroic leap of faith to believe that he’s going to do it after he’s president — after he’s proven all the fools and the haters wrong.

He can’t be bothered. And it’s frightening.

Watch: How the Republican Party went from Lincoln to Trump

July 21, 2016 at 11:30AM
via Vox: All Posts by Matthew Yglesias http://ift.tt/2a388fW

your memory should be longer than 7 years

your memory should be longer than 7 years
By Freddie

Last night and today are the days to talk about how Donald Trump is the scariest politician in American history. Trump is monstrous, but unlikely to be elected. And, more, he’s not even worse than our previous president, George W. Bush. How have you all forgotten this stuff already?

  • The invasion of Iraq was one of the greatest foreign policy crimes in the history of this country. At least 600,000 Iraqis died as a direct result. The country’s entire civil infrastructure was destroyed; its professional and managerial classes were killed or fled. America lost 4500 soldiers and over $2 trillion dollars. The invasion in general and horrors like Abu Ghraib in particular helped do incredible damage to our international reputation. The invasion destabilized the country and directly contributed to the rise of ISIS. The principle of international cooperation and UN approval of foreign wars was undermined. A country was poisoned, figuratively and literally, for generations.
  • Whatever your thoughts on the Afghanistan invasion in general, the prosecution of that war failed in its most basic tasks during the Bush administration. Osama bin Laden was not captured; the Taliban was not permanently defeated; a functional and free Afghanistan did not emerge. The war devolved into an intractable, violent quagmire.
  • Bush responded to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina with utter apathy for days as poor people literally drowned in the streets of New Orleans. There was ample warning from the National Weather Service, and a concerted effort by the federal government to get people out of the city could have saved many lives, but no such help came. Bush publicly praised Michael Brown, the now-disgraced FEMA director, despite Brown’s total incompetence in handling the crisis.
  • The Bush administration did nothing to address the conditions that led to the financial crisis back when they could perhaps have been addressed. In fact that contributed to a culture of lax enforcement of regulations and a generally permissive culture that allowed Wall Street to run amok. They appeared to be caught completely unawares by the crash, despite many warning signs. Their response, while successful in preventing a worldwide economic meltdown, amounted to a vast, taxpayer-funded payout to the very same banks and wealthy people who created the crisis in the first place.
  • The tax cuts pushed by the Bush administration immediately upon entering a period of war and national emergency may be genuinely unprecedented in terms of slashing taxes just as a country entered a period of war. The Bush administration slashed taxes, claiming that most of those cuts would be for the middle class; that was a transparent lie.
  • Bush was a key figure in building a vast network of illegal surveillance of both Americans and others.
  • The Bush administration was complicit in torture, the establishment of a due process-free prison for Muslim men at Guantanamo, and the disappearing of “suspected terrorists” to foreign black sites without legal review or accountability.
  • After 9/11, thousands of Iranians took to the streets to protest the attacks. The Iranian government made overtures of solidarity towards ours. It was the best opportunity for rapprochement in my lifetime. That chance was destroyed by the (David Frum written) “Axis of Evil” speech.
  • Bush pulled the US out of the Kyoto protocols, one of the most essential pieces of international climate change action ever.
  • The Bush administration deepened the War on Drugs, even after 9/11, and continued to pursue nonviolent drug offenders with zeal even as we poured vast sums into fighting terrorism.
  • Bush was a staunch opponent of abortion. He was a staunch defender of the death penalty. Enforcement of equal housing and equal employment opportunity laws declined and stagnated in his term. He supported vastly increasing budgets for anti-undocumented immigration enforcement along the US-Mexico border. His administration elevated unqualified or outright incompetent people to roles of immense importance. He pushed Medicare Part D, a massive transfer of government money to pharmaceutical companies, without expanding coverage or access to essential medicine for the vast majority of Americans. He championed the disastrous No Child Left Behind school reform bill. He participated in retribution against Valerie Plame for her husband’s role as a whistleblower. He dramatically expanded executive power in all of the worst ways. He was a disaster, from start to finish, someone with the blood of literally hundreds of thousand of people or more on his hands, a war criminal, a bigot, a historical villain of the first order. And he was in charge of this country 8 years ago.

Yet, somehow, I keep reading today about how Donald Trump is the scariest politician ever. Yes, Trump is a monster. Yes, his speech was bad. Yes, it is frightening that we have created this moment — that all of us have created this moment. But the worst politician of our lifetimes? He isn’t the worst politician of this decade. Meanwhile, the man that deserves that dubious distinction has somehow gained a reputation as a funny old idiot uncle, a Zelig figure who happened to wander into history, instead of a cruel and profoundly conniving politician of elite lineage and profound ambition. And some of the people who complain about Trump now championed him in the past, including some Democrats. In the nightmare scenario, it’s hard to imagine a Trump administration being as comprehensively horrific as that of George Bush.

I get the urge to call the present the most important time ever. (Because you live in the present, right, and so that makes it the most important.) And I get that perspective doesn’t do much for click through numbers. But history is important, and it’s essential that we recognize that business as usual has caused impossible human suffering in this country, that the true American monster was a guy called reasonable and impressive by many of those sensible moderates sounding the alarm now.

This is what your country is. This is what your country always has been. Donald Trump doesn’t make America ugly; Donald Trump reveals its ugliness to people who are too comfortable to want to hear it. The day after Trump is defeated, they’ll go back to numb apathy. Many of the people who cry today for undocumented immigrants won’t say a word as a Democratic president enforces our already-horrific immigration law. They won’t lift a finger against our already-existing war on Muslims. The status quo will stay the status quo and the rot that the ugly Trump campaign rotten Trump has revealed will go right on rotting.

July 22, 2016 at 10:25AM
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it was the best of punctuation; it was the worst of punctuation–

it was the best of punctuation; it was the worst of punctuation–

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July 22nd, 2016next

July 22nd, 2016: I’m at San Diego Comic Con today! If you wanna meet up and exchange ONLY THE HIGHEST OF FIVES, here’s where and when we can make that happen!

Hey, my new (NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING, WHAT WHAT) book Romeo and/or Juliet is on super sale on Amazon! Less than $12! WHAT A STEAL, YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY BUY IT RIGHT AWAY

– Ryan

July 22, 2016 at 12:00AM
via Dinosaur Comics! http://ift.tt/2alL9yp



"Or maybe, because we're suddenly having so many conversations through written text, we'll start relying MORE on altered spelling to indicate meaning!" "Wat."

July 20, 2016 at 12:00AM
via xkcd.com http://xkcd.com/1709/

Suspect in Baton Rouge cop killings: “Don’t get a woman if you cant keep her in check”

Suspect in Baton Rouge cop killings: “Don’t get a woman if you cant keep her in check”
By David Futrelle

"Cosmo" explains himself on YouTube

“Cosmo” explains himself on YouTube

The man suspected of murdering three Baton Rouge police officers in what’s being called an “ambush” shooting earlier today has been identified as a 29-year-old ex-Marine named Gavin Long.

On the internet, Long was better known as Cosmo Setepenra, Setepenra, a self-described “freedom strategist, mental game coach, nutritionist, author and spiritual advisor” who expressed his peculiar worldview at length in a number of YouTube videos, in blog posts and in several self-published books with titles like “The Cosmo Way: A W(H)olistic Guide for the Total Transformation of Melanated People Vol.2 The Ascension (Volume 2).”

“Cosmo,” who was killed by police in the shootout this morning, seems to have dabbled in an assortment of ideologies, many of them fringe. In a video posted earlier this month that looks in hindsight like an announcement of today’s shooting rampage, he declared himself both a former Christian and a former Nation of Islam member. Police say he carried a membership card for a black “sovereign citizen” organization. He was a regular poster on conspiracy websites and a member of a group that claimed to fight against the imaginary evil of “gangstalking,” as well as “Remote Brain experimentation, Remote Neural Monitoring of an entire Humans Body” and “Patented Voice-to-(Human)-Skull (the forceful 24/7 of projected noise to a citizen’s head).”

While it will take some time to untangle his paranoid, often delusional, worldview, a few things are pretty clear. He had a deep animus towards police, and was angered by recent police shootings of unarmed black men. In a Tweet, he hailed Dallas police shooter Micah Johnson as “one of us!” and declared that “my religion is justice.”

He was also a raging misogynist, a self-proclaimed “alpha male” and “alpha preneur” who believed that men need to keep women “in check.”

In a blog post/podcast in June, he declared:

The Man is the leader, he has to take responsibility for keeping his woman in check at all times. Dont get a woman if you cant keep her in check. …

Alpha Males Dont Leave A Bitch Un-Checked!

He then listed the names of a number of celebrity athletes who, in his mind, illustrated the dangers of allowing “bitches” bitches to remain “un-checked.”

Ray Rice, Terrel Owens, Ben Rothlesburger, Ray McDonald, Lamar Odom, etc etc etc They let their woman get them into some shit and it cost them Millions. Well Its because they didnt have their woman in check.

Ray Rice, as you probably recall, was caught on a surveillance camera knocking out his fiancee with a blow to the head. Ben Rothlesburger has been accused more than once of sexual assault. Ray McDonald has been charged with “rape by intoxication … domestic violence, felony false imprisonment, child endangerment, and violating a court order.”

But in Cosmo’s mind, the real crime of these men was insufficient bitch-checking.

Yea Ray Rice woman swung on him first, but my thing is that…Do you think that’s the first time that she did that? Im sure she displayed signs of un-Checkability before. Because if a bitch is swinging on you, then you know she been out of line before. Violence against a Man is a clear sign that you simping. There is no worst violation than to be assaulted by your woman.

In another blog post, Cosmo urged men to “be territorial” with “their” women. “Sometimes you might need to invade her independence,” he explained.

Why bring any of this up? Gavin Long/Cosmo Setepenra didn’t target women; he targeted cops, and the three cops he shot dead were men, two white and one black.

I bring it up because there are deep links between traditional “macho” masculinity and violence. But it isn’t just the most macho men who turn to violence to “check their women” or assert their dominance over other men. Men who are anxious about their masculinity are also more likely to resort to violence. As Salem State University professor Felix Amato notes in a recent study, “men’s fear of femininity” can lead to an and assortment of “maladaptive and restrictive behaviors” including violence.

The sort of hypermasculinity that “Cosmo” preached on his blog — in which even the brutal woman-abuser Ray Rice is deemed insufficiently macho — looks a lot like a fantasy dreamed up by someone deeply anxious about their own masculinity. That also seems to describe the hypermacho “Red Pill” lifestyle preached daily on the Red Pill subreddit and on sites like Roosh V’s Return of Kings.

In many cases, the victims of this anxious hypermasculinity are women and children. Indeed, murder-suicides — in which a man guns down his girlfriend or wife or ex-wife and sometimes her children before killing himself — are so common they rarely make it beyond the local news, though the body count from such crimes (to be crass about it) is far higher than the body count from domestic terrorism.

Several weeks ago, a Las Vegas man murdered his wife, chasing her down and shooting her in the parking lot of a Walgreens; he returned to their apartment, where he shot and killed their three children and then himself. None of the networks cut away from their programming to go live to the scene of the crime. Trump didn’t Tweet about it; Obama didn’t make a statement. Outside of a handful of stories (on Raw Story, the Inquisitr and the Daily Mail), the only coverage this horrendous crime got was in the Las Vegas media.

Terrorism makes the headlines. But domestic violence, much of it driven by macho entitlement and/or anxious masculinity, causes more deaths and more damage to our society. If we want to fight violence, we need to start talking about this.

July 18, 2016 at 12:36AM
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Classism and the Politics of SNAP

Classism and the Politics of SNAP
By Sophia Crabbe-Field

While today’s America is fiercely divided over ideological differences, a notable exception is how both the Left and the Right buy into similar myths about U.S. social policy.

This is particularly evident in how Americans—and especially  particularly those in the economic and media elites—tend to view food stamps (now known as SNAP) benefits, versus how they regard Social Security.

SNAP, many believe, is “welfare,” and the two terms are sometimes even used interchangeably. Despite evidence from a UC Berkeley study released this week that nearly half of U.S. child care workers require some form of public assistance, such as SNAP, to survive, much of the public accepts as fact that people who get SNAP don’t work and don’t want to work. They presume that recipients never help to pay for the program and are essentially mooching off too-generous governmental largess. They even take it for granted that most people who collect the benefits are non-white, when in fact the plurality of SNAP beneficiaries has always been white.

The conclusion these sometimes willfully misinformed individuals reach is that SNAP should not only be difficult to get but that recipients are not responsible enough to handle their own benefits and should be willing to submit to very strict micromanagement in terms of how they both obtain and utilize them.

On the other hand, few Americans equate Social Security payments with welfare—most believe that citizens pay for them during their working life and then simply access that same amount of money during retirement, taking back only what they put into the program.

Using this reasoning, it is no surprise that you would be hard-pressed to find an American that doesn’t believe Social Security payments should be easy to get and that recipients should be able to spend them however they like—whether that be on cases of soda or big-screen TVs.

But the underlying assumptions we have about both programs are just plain wrong.

Most people who collect SNAP benefits work, almost always in low-paying jobs. Therefore, they pay into the program over a lifetime of paying taxes. Few able-bodied citizens get help for more than a year at a time and they usually dip into the program only when they lose their jobs or otherwise can’t make ends meet while working. In fact, 90 percent of adult SNAP recipients with children were employed the year before and the year after obtaining these benefits.

In contrast, many Social Security beneficiaries take out far more than they put in and less frequently continue to work—eventually stopping all employment altogether as they age. According to the Urban Institute, a two-earner couple receiving an average wage—$44,600 per spouse in 2012 dollars—and turning 65 in 2010 would have paid $722,000 into Social Security and Medicare and can be expected to take out $966,000 in benefits.

And with increasing advances in health care, seniors are often paid for a far longer period than the program was initially designed to provide benefits for, resulting in a much higher cost. This is precisely why we continue the national debate over the long-term solvency of Social Security. Elders who live longer—those who, overall, tend to be wealthier and whiter than the population as a whole—benefit the most.

Consequently, while much of the public and many politicians view SNAP as shameful welfare and Social Security as virtuous social insurance, each, in reality, embodies aspects of both. Yet due to these ungrounded beliefs about the programs, as well as a stubborn refusal by political leaders and the public to closely examine the facts, each are managed very differently by the government.

For example, Social Security benefits are easily available through federal offices where application procedures are standardized nationwide. But because of the insistence of Southern segregationists who ran key congressional committees when SNAP was first authorized in the 1960s, federal food assistance is ultimately controlled by states, which are individually able to place added barriers—different in every state—in the way of applicants. That’s why Social Security payments are usually a breeze to obtain and to maintain, while SNAP benefits require an onerous application process (often mandating piles of paperwork and requiring multiple visits to government offices) to get and to keep. As a result, nearly all individuals eligible for Social Security retirement benefits receive them, whereas more than a quarter of those eligible for SNAP benefits fail to do so.

And once families receive SNAP benefits, they are legally prohibited from spending them on diapers, toilet paper, vitamins, feminine hygiene products, or hot, prepared food, even if that food is the same price or cheaper than the alternatives—since hot food has been deemed a “luxury” by policymakers.

It should also be noted that the United States is the only major industrialized nation to run a food voucher program like SNAP. Other nations (which, for the most part, haveless hunger than the United States) choose, instead, to trust low-income families with cash payments, which parents can allocate to food, rent, clothing, or other vital needs as they see fit.

And to make matters worse, many states with conservative governors now require unemployed SNAP recipients to attend often-useless job training programs which force aid recipients to take time away from frequently more productive job searches or educational activities.

This desire to micromanage the lives of poor people dates back a very long time. In medieval Europe, “sumptuary laws” were passed to prevent nonroyalty from wearing fancy looking clothing or eating gourmet food that was determined to be “above their station.” Throughout American history, one of the few things that has always seemed to unite wealthy conservatives and upper-middle-class liberals alike has been proclaiming that poor people should behave more virtuously than they themselves do. Some of the most ardent original proponents of alcohol’s prohibition were progressive, mostly upper and upper-middle class women’s rights advocates (who claimed they wanted to reduce domestic violence among low-income households) and reactionary Ku Klux Klan supporters (who wanted to keep booze away from Catholics and blacks).

So it should come as no surprise that key liberals and conservatives have been teaming up to prevent SNAP recipients from buying soda with their benefit cards. Now, if you really press them (and I do), the vast majority of these anti-soda advocates sheepishly admit that they do, occasionally, drink the sweetened beverages—but that they themselves are “responsible enough” to drink it in limited quantities. These champions of abstinence for the poor defend their choices by claiming that their own sugary drink purchases aren’t subsidized by taxpayers. But every soda in America is subsidized, in one way or another, because both sugar and corn syrup receive direct government support, and soda is delivered over government roads and through government ports and airports.

In 2013, when then New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed banning soda in the SNAP program, those same beverages were being given out for free in City Hall, and at events held at Gracie Mansion (where he did not live, but where he officially entertained). The employees at Bloomberg L.P.—the financial media, stock market data, and analysis company he founded and led—were even entitled to unlimited free sodas at work. Although Bloomberg later proposed a citywide ban on oversize sodas, he stopped short of proposing anything more stringent for the general population. Bloomberg’s attempts to more strictly restrict food purchases for SNAP recipients sent the appalling message to low-income New Yorkers that they were uniquely unsuited to making decisions about what is best for their own bodies.

More recently, right-wing Maine Governor Paul R. LePage has tried to essentially blackmail USDA by threatening to cut off SNAP to all 190,000 Maine residents who desperately need them unless USDA agrees to his request to pick and choose what foods people can obtain in the program.

But beyond the philosophical objections to treating poor people differently than everyone else, it is vital to note that banning certain foods from purchase with SNAP dollars would almost certainly not advance the anti-obesity objectives of the scheme’s proponents. This was confirmed by a recent study conducted bythe U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

It is likely that recipients would still use some of their limited non-SNAP food dollars to buy soda. And if you cut Coke from the menu, people with a sweet tooth would just buy other sugar-sweetened products or desserts that are allowed under the plan.

More importantly, there is no evidence that low-income families who receive SNAP benefits shop any less nutritiously than others with similarly low incomes. The problem isn’t that they make poor choices: the problem is that poor people can’t afford to make better choices—or that those healthier choices don’t exist in their neighborhood.

SNAP ban proponents assume that if we just eliminate a few “bad foods” from our diets, we will all be healthier. That’s ridiculous. For all types of people, good nutrition, as well as reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, are also about balance and adopting improved eating and exercise habits from cradle to grave.

A much better approach than banning so-called “bad” foods would be taking far more action to make healthier food affordable and available for struggling families in low-income neighborhoods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s pilot project to allow some online food retailers to accept SNAP benefits is a step in the right direction, and should be expanded. Another positive development is the Obama Administration’s proposed rule that would require stores accepting SNAP benefits to stock healthier food.

It makes far more sense to expect just a little bit more from the companies that receive big government bucks than to further micromanage the lives of the most vulnerable. Let’s start treating all of our citizens who are able to receive help when they need it most—whether they are retiring seniors or struggling working families—with the respect and dignity they deserve.

July 14, 2016 at 10:11AM
via Democracy Journal http://ift.tt/29UAI54

Divider-in-chief by @BloggersRUs

Divider-in-chief by @BloggersRUs
By Undercover Blue (noreply@blogger.com)


by Tom Sullivan

President Barack Obama hugs Eliana Pinckney and her younger sister
Malana Pinckney, daughters of Reverend Clementa Pinckney who was
killed in the 2015 Charleston church shooting. White House photo.

Obama “divided the country” is one of those accusations tossed around so casually on the right that you almost ignore it. It is sweepingly vague, more an exclamation than a truth claim. Like many of the right’s articles of faith, it doesn’t need any substantiation. It is taken as given. No proof required. None offered.

A running gag a college friend used to respond to such blanket assertions was to push back with a stock challenge: “Oh yeah? Name five.” Seems to me Obama’s accusers should have to specify five actions he himself took to divide the U.S. and to explain specifically who he divided from whom. Likely, the challenge would be met with a dumb stare.

Jamelle Bouie takes on the claim that “Barack Obama has made the racial divide worse” at Slate:

The problem of race isn’t that blacks and whites (or other groups) don’t get along. The problem of race is that blacks and other nonwhites face unfair treatment and material disadvantage. The problem of race is that the descendants of enslaved people, and those in close social and economic proximity to them, have been marked for aggression, predation, and deprivation by the dominant socioeconomic group, and suffer as a result. When black Americans say they are pessimistic about “race relations,” what they mean is they are unhappy with that treatment. An America that euphemizes this grievance as a matter of “race relations,” and in the process consecrates race as a natural category, is an America that still isn’t confronting its reality.
The reality that for a black man any encounter with police might spell the last moments of his life is one white America refuses to acknowledge. Yet that plays out with regularity in the news. Cell phone and body cam video has finally made white America a witness to it. For those who wish to look, anyway.

Bouie continues:
To blame Obama for discord—rather than the actual abuses and inequalities that drive the reaction—is a classic example of anti-anti-racism, wherein efforts to address and combat racial bias are reckoned a larger problem than the bias itself. And in the same way, Obama’s willingness to speak to and for black Americans as a black American marks him as the real racist, maligned for acknowledging the reality of racism. It’s a bizarro view of American life where racial discord is caused by speaking out about discrimination, not by discrimination itself.

It’s rich that this argument has currency at the same time that Donald Trump is preparing for his coronation as the presidential nominee of the Republican Party. After years of accusing Obama of fostering racial hatred, of slamming basic empathy as some attack on white Americans, these conservatives—men like Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani—are primed to nominate a man whose political persona is built on actual prejudice and bigotry. A man who casually spreads racist and anti-Semitic propaganda. A man who incites fear and racial hatred for political gain.
Wonder how many RNC regulars will have to throw up during Trump’s acceptance speech next week?

July 16, 2016 at 09:00AM
via Hullabaloo http://ift.tt/29DTLvU

A Note on Muslims, the Constitution, and ‘Suicide Pacts’

A Note on Muslims, the Constitution, and ‘Suicide Pacts’
By David French

I don’t know if Newt Gingrich was making one last desperate play to be Donald Trump’s vice president, but last night he out-Trumped Trump with this unconstitutional nonsense:Here is Newt Gingrich’s full quote on deporting Muslim citizens who fail a religious test: https://t.co/D5B9RVMmp8 http://pic.twitter.com/jYqy0AqRyh— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) July 15, 2016When I noted the plain and obvious fact that such a policy would violate the First Amendment, a number of Trump fans (including people who should know better) tweeted back at me that the Constitution “is not a suicide pact.”But here’s what puzzles me — the classic Trump fan position is
Read More

July 15, 2016 at 03:38PM
via National Review Online – The Corner http://ift.tt/29V17y9

What ‘Pokémon Go’ For HoloLens Would Look Like

What ‘Pokémon Go’ For HoloLens Would Look Like
By Sarah Emerson for Motherboard

GIF: YouTube/Generalkidd

For about a week, I was one of those Pokémon Go players who trudged around the city, oblivious to traffic or other pedestrians, in search of that rare, high CP. Even my dog got tired of going out every time an Onix silhouette appeared on my screen. My interest has slowly waned because I’m tired of all the glitching and, frankly, the game is starting to get repetitive.

But I’m an outlier, as preliminary reports show that Pokémon Go is attracting and retaining active users at levels unheard of in mobile gaming. Right now, nearly 26 million Americans are playing on Android and iOS. And it seems the game’s developer, Niantic Labs, is set on making sure that future iterations are more than just bug fixes—such as an update that would allow players with HoloLens headsets to battle face-to-face in the real world.

GIF: KennyWdev

Yesterday, Fast Company reported that two ambitious developers, KennyWDev and Generalkidd, have been tinkering with versions of Pokémon Go for HoloLens—Microsoft’s mixed-reality, holographic headset—that port full-size characters directly into players’ environments. One of these prototypes even allows gamers to use voice commands during battles, which is a long ways off from the current method of silently mashing your phone’s screen while you lurk at a PokéGym.

As you can see from these videos, the results are pretty impressive. And I’ll admit that facing down a life-size Gyarados by San Francisco’s Embarcadero would be pretty thrilling.

Unfortunately, it’s too early to test either of these proof of concept experiments, and Microsoft still needs to prove the HoloLens can be as accessible and compelling as it claims to be. But it’ll be interesting to see what types of niche communities emerge and evolve from the Pokémon Go phenomenon.

If Pokémon Go for HoloLens does become a thing, just please look both ways before crossing the street to battle that Blastoise, okay?

July 15, 2016 at 01:33PM
via Motherboard http://ift.tt/29Idnhc