Friday Reads

woman reading blue woodblockGood Morning!!

Well, we have two more years of the tears of a clown to look forward to as Boehner held on to his position as Speaker of the House.  The vote was not without its comic moments.

The tension around Mr. Boehner, who was elected unanimously by House Republicans two years ago, showed in the long, pomp-filled roll call vote, in which each member was called on to publicly announce a choice. A dozen Republicans either voted for someone other than Mr. Boehner, voted “present” or remained silent even though they were in the chamber. It was not until the very last votes that Mr. Boehner cleared the majority he needed.

President Obama called Mr. Boehner to congratulate him.

Some mavericks were members who have been thorns in the speaker’s side for two years, like three representatives who were thrown off committees late last year: Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who voted for Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio; Justin Amash of Michigan, who voted for a fellow sophomore conservative, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho; and Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, who voted for David Walker, the former United States comptroller.

“I think it was a vote of no confidence,” Mr. Huelskamp said. “In this town the intimidation was intense. There were a lot of members who wanted to vote no.”

House Republican leadership aides denied any such tactics and said rumors of strong-arming were unfounded.

A few who opposed Mr. Boehner were newcomers, signaling a new generation of dissent. Representative Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma voted for Mr. Cantor, and Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who prevailed in the Republican primary last year with the help of young Ron Paul acolytes, voted for Mr. Amash. Representative Ted Yoho, Republican of Florida, started his career in the House by voting for Mr. Cantor, to “send a statement,” he said.

There’s a lot of interest around the Al Jazeera buy out of Al Gore’s Current TV channel.   It’s completely unhinged the right wing.  (Not that they’re not usually unhinged about things on a daily basis any way.)  Frankly, I hope it starts to break down the corporate news oligopoly in the country.

Now, in the most American of solutions, the pan-Arab news leader has gone ahead and simply bought its seat at the media table. As Brian Stelter  reported in the  New York Times, “Al Jazeera… announced a deal to take over Current TV, the low-rated cable channel that was founded by Al Gore, a former vice president, and his business partners seven years ago.” For the relatively small sum of $500 million dollars (at least as measured by its oil-rich owner in Qatar) Al Jaz has just purchased entree into more than  40 million cable-ready living rooms across the U.S.

Political concerns aside, some media observers have questioned whether Al Jazeera has, as Stelter  phrased it, “The journalistic muscle and the money to compete head-to-head with CNN and other news channels in the United States.” What a joke! The last time I checked, Sheikj Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the ruler of Qatar, had more money than Allah. And really, how much “journalistic muscle” does one need to compete with CNN these days — not to mention the braying heads of such opinionated and politicized putative “news channels” as Fox or MSNBC? Judging from their most recent efforts — such as completely misreporting the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare, for example — what little journalism is being practiced at outlets such as CNN and Fox these days is, shall we say, far from muscular!

Woman-ReadingAmong the more interesting outcomes is that Time Warner Cable has dropped the channel.

Joel Hyatt, who co-founded Current TV with former Vice President Al Gore, told staff in a Wednesday night memo that Time Warner Cable “did not consent to the sale to Al Jazeera.”

“Consequently, Current will no longer be carried on TWC,” Hyatt wrote. “This is unfortunate, but I am confident that Al Jazeera America will earn significant additional carriage in the months and years ahead.”

A Time Warner Cable spokesman said in a statement that “our agreement with Current will be terminated and we will no longer be carrying the channel.”

Some media observers interpreted the move as motivated by politics.

“Time-Warner cable shows abject political and journalistic cowardice by dropping Current because of Al Jazeera deal,” tweeted Dan Gilmor, a technology writer and founding director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University.

The Time Warner Cable spokesman would not comment on politics when reached by The Huffington Post, but said via email that “we do have an agreement with [Al Jazeera English], though we have no plans to launch it at this time.”

Al Jazeera America will be separate from Al Jazeera English, although roughly 40 percent of the new network’s programming is expected to come from the English-language channel, which is based in Doha, Qatar.

New York Times reporter Brian Stelter reported that Time Warner Cable had warned it might drop Current due to low ratings. On Twitter, Stelter noted that Al Jazeera will acquire Current’s carriage deals with other cable providers, including DirecTV, Comcast, Dish, Verizon and AT&T.

It’s rumored that Treasury Secretary Geithner will leave his position prior to the next fiscal debacle.  He will not be part of the debt ceiling negotiations.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner finds himself in a familiar position: eager to resume life outside government and facing contentious negotiations with Congress over raising the federal debt ceiling.

The last time he was in this predicament, in June 2011, President Barack Obama persuaded him to stay. This time, Geithner has indicated to White House officials he wants to carry through with his plan to leave the administration by the end of this month, even if a deal on the debt limit isn’t in place, according to two people familiar with the matter

Geithner’s departure would increase pressure on the president to name his successor at Treasury. White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew remains the leading contender for the Treasury job, according to the people, who requested anonymity to discuss the private talks.

Geithner, 51, is the only remaining member of Obama’s original economic team and was a key figure in the taxpayer- funded bailouts during the 2008 financial crisis. He’s also had a principal role in negotiations with Congress on the budget deal and in past deliberations over the debt ceiling.

Because Lew’s experience in financial markets is thin, Obama may seek to name a Wall Street executive as deputy Treasury secretary, the people said.

I admit to being a Trekker.  I loved all the series and I actually follow William Shatner on Twitter and George Takei on Facebook.  Yesterday, Shatner sent a tweet to one of the commanders on the International Space Station and got a perfectTrekker reply back.

 

3 Jan 13

@Cmdr_Hadfield Are you tweeting from space? MBB

@WilliamShatner Yes, Standard Orbit, Captain. And we’re detecting signs of life on the surface.

So this just happened:

William Shatner, he of Priceline and also of spoken-word poetry but mostly of Star Trek, is also William Shatner of Twitter. And this afternoon, the actor took to the service to ask a question of the Canadian Space Agency’s Chris Hadfield, who is currently serving as the International Space Station’s Flight Engineer for Expedition 34 — and who has indeed been tweeting from space

Here’s a great list of idiots that we no longer have to see in Congress.  Bless their little hearts!  Say good bye to Mean Jean and crazy ol’ Uncle Ron Paul.  Also, bye bye Todd Akin and Joe Walsh.  We wish we never knew ye!

Newly former Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) is another birther departing the House today. On Schmidt’s highlight reel? She once called a Congressman and decorated marine a “coward,” insisted that China is drilling off the coast of Florida, and wept with joy over the (incorrect) news that Obamacare had been repealed.

There’s a list of ten over there and I’m happy to see every one of them go off to oblivion.

How about some trickle-down feminism?wood cut woman reading

If you read what is popularly known as the feminist press, you’ll notice a focus on the “glass ceiling” that excludes much else. Feminist writers are found celebrating the achievements of Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandburg, cheering Christine Lagarde’s position at the International Monetary Fund, wringing their hands over Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s refusal to call herself a feminist, or asking, as Anne-Marie Slaughter did in the pages of the Atlantic, whether (white, well-off, educated) women can “have it all.”

While we debate the travails of some of the world’s most privileged women, most women are up against the wall. According to the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, women make up just under half of the national workforce, but about 60 percent of the minimum-wage workforce and 73 percent of tipped workers. In the New York area, a full 95 percent of domestic workers are female. Female-dominated sectors such as retail sales, food service, and home health care are some of the fastest-growing fields in the new economy, and even in those fields, women earn less; women in the restaurant industry earn 83 cents to a man’s dollar.

This is where most women spend their time, not atop the Googleplex. This is where feminists should be spending their time, too.

The stakes are clear. Domestic workers, home care workers, nurses, and other largely female contingents must organize their workplaces or the work that most women do will continue to be undervalued, virtually unregulated, and precarious. The deunionization that has left about 88 percent of American workers without unions will drag the rest of us down as well.

Those are my offerings today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list?


Telling the Truth is “Controversial” and “Incendiary” at Politico

Former Politico White House Reporter Joe Williams

This morning, Politico fired their White House Reporter Joe Williams for supposed “incendiary” remarks that he made in an appearance on MSNBC’s Martin Bashir show last week. He had been suspended after complaints from ultra-right-wing outlets Breitbart.com and The Washington Free Beacon.

POLITICO reporter Joe Williams has been suspended pending review of recent controversial comments he made on television and Twitter, POLITICO editors informed staff late Thursday night.

On MSNBC today, Williams made a remark suggesting Mitt Romney was only comfortable around white people. The video was first flagged by conservative website Washington Free Beacon. Breitbart.com ran the video and also flagged a series of tweets Williams had written that made fun of the Republican candidate, particularly in regard to his wealth.

“Regrettably, an unacceptable number of Joe Williams’s public statements on cable and Twitter have called into question his commitment to this responsibility,” POLITICO’s founding editors John Harris and Jim VandeHei wrote in a memo to the staff. “His comment about Governor Romney earlier today on MSNBC fell short of our standards for fairness and judgment in an especially unfortunate way.”

Here is the appearance in question, followed by a transcript of the offending comments:

Transcript:

It’s very interesting that he does so many appearances on “ Fox & Friends .” And it’s unscripted. It’s only time they let Mitt off the leash, so to speak. But it also points out a larger problem he’s got to solve if he wants to be successful come this fall. Romney is very, very comfortable, it seems, with people who are like him. That’s one of the reasons why he seems so stiff and awkward in some town hall settings, why he can’t relate to people other than that. But when he comes on “ Fox & Friends,” they are like him, they’re white folks who are very much relaxed in their own company, so it really is a very stark contrast, I think, and a problem that he has not been able to solve to date, and he’s going to have to network harder if he’s going to try to compete.

Frankly, I have no problems with any of that. I think it’s demonstrably true that Romney is more comfortable with people like himself–whether they’re right-wingers, rich people, or white people. Williams’ tweets are a little more inappropriate. Here’s a collection of them at Breitbart.com. The worst was a retweet of a penis joke about Ann and Mitt.

So what are Politico’s “standards?” Supposedly they want their reporters to be objective and unbiased. Really? The site was founded by two conservatives, John Harris and Jim VandeHei, who were previously at the Washington Post. In my opinion, Politico has a definite Republican slant–in fact I’ve always thought of it as a Republican blog.

I’m not alone in my point of view on this. Here’s TBogg’s characterization of the firing:

The ankle-nippers at Big Dead Andy’s Big Mausoleum of Otherwise Unemployables have claimed another head to be mounted on their wall of Black People We Don’t Like Because They Are Black People. In this case, Joe Williams from the Beltway Daily Racing Form known as Politico

.

This is probably a rude question, but how many black reporters does Politico employ? I’m sure there must be a few, but Williams is was the only one I’m aware of. And Breitbart is now an acceptable arbiter on journalistic ethics? Seriously?

I think it’s understandable that Williams would be thinking in terms of race as well as ideology when he refers to Romney’s comfort level on Fox and Friends. I suppose Fox’s token black guy Juan Williams may occasionally appear on the show, but would Romney even be comfortable with Juan Williams? Remember when he was booed at a Republican debate for asking some questions about Newt Gingrich’s attitudes about poor people and food stamps? I don’t recall Romney protesting the audience’s vile reaction.

At the African American blog NewsOne, Syracuse University Professor Boyce Watkins has a different take on the suspension than Joe Williams’ former bosses at Politico:

[T]here’s a pattern and unfortunately Joe has been affected by it. For the most part, being born a Black man who speaks conscientiously or accurately about issues of race effectively defines you to be a rogue. There isn’t much of a disconnect between the Black man who is stopped and frisked on the street, and the Black male professor/journalist/doctor/lawyer who has his capabilities questioned, even when he does nothing wrong.

Cornel West was a rogue at Harvard for seeking to reengage the black community. I was a trouble maker in elementary school when I answered questions without raising my hand. Barack Obama was defined as a radical leftist by the Republican Party for saying that the wealthy should pay slightly higher taxes. It’s easy for black men to be marginalized very quickly in most mainstream environments, primarily because people are waiting for you to say something that they can define to be volatile or dangerous.

In media, the pattern is quite the same: Just a couple of years ago, Marc Lamont Hill was ambushed by the Right Wing and fired from Fox News for no good reason. After that, Roland Martin was suspended from CNN for making remarks that I personally didn’t agree with, but were acceptable to many millions of African Americans. The consistent and unfortunate reality for many African Americans who work with mainstream (read: White-owned) media organizations is that you must either be a good little boy who goes along with the program or you have to “take your black ass back to the ghetto.” Most of these organizations have little interest in true and meaningful diversity of ideas, they only want to have a black face or two at the table so they can pretend that they are making racial progress.

I’m sure Joe Williams saw the writing on the wall as soon as he was suspended without pay. That’s probably why he went on Current TV on Wednesday, without getting approval from his Politico masters, and spoke honestly once again.

Williams acknowledged to host Bill Press that he made “errors in judgment” but pointedly blamed right wing publications such as The Daily Caller and Breitbart.com for relentlessly reporting on Williams’ purported liberal bias. “Certainly they’re in the business of gathering scalps and we’ve seen it,” he said. He said the story quickly became “about him” rather than what he said. This made him uncomfortable.

After several patronizing attempts by Press to school him on journalistic ethics, Williams said:

“We are paid to observe, but we are not blind.” The host asked if Williams would apologize to Romney. He said if he did that, then “a lot of other people would have to as well.” Further, he said his thoughts on white people are nothing new and that he should not have to apologize: “I probably should have selected my words more carefully. In some people’s minds they were incendiary.”

And finally,

Williams declared that the Washington Press Corps. as a whole has a problem with minority hires and said Politico is no exception.

I’d say he knew he was already gone and had nothing to lose–so why not speak the truth? I’m hoping MSNBC will continue to use Williams as a commentator. He’s far more insightful than hacks like Howard Fineman and Richard Wolffe.