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Daily Kos Fri, 19 Dec 2014 01:36:51 GMT  

Sen. John McCain, position-switcher extraordinaire
John McCain
I had an idea once. It was awful.
To understand the Republican position on Cuba all you need to know is that whatever Obama does is wrong. That's all. Sen. John McCain, please demonstrate.
Yesterday, for example, McCain issued a joint press statement with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), offering a rather predictable condemnation.

“We agree with President Obama that he is writing new chapters in American foreign policy. Unfortunately, today’s chapter, like the others before it, is one of America and the values we stand for in retreat and decline. It is about the appeasement of autocratic dictators, thugs, and adversaries, diminishing America’s influence in the world. Is it any wonder that under President Obama’s watch our enemies are emboldened and our friends demoralized?”

But:
In May 2008, the Arizona Republican was his party’s presidential nominee, and he traveled to Miami to endorse the same U.S. policy towards Cuba that’s been in place since 1960. The Wall Street Journal ran this report at the time, noting the degree to which McCain had “evolved” on the issue.

Sen. McCain’s stance on Cuba appears to have evolved since the 2000 presidential primaries, when he faced Mr. Bush, then the Texas governor. At the time, Mr. Bush played to the Cuban-American exile community and Mr. McCain acted the moderate, recalling his role in normalizing relations between the U.S. and Vietnam and saying the U.S. could lay out a similar road map with the regime.

What a noble thought. Shame you flushed it as soon as the elections were over.

It is getting to the point where we may need to offer serious cash money to any Republican that comes up with an actual policy on something—don't care what—that is not either a long-discredited fiscal notion that has been repeated for decades after it was first attempted and failed or, worse, just a rote declaration that whatever the opposition does is wrong, whatever it is, even if the opposition did what you were saying they should damn well do before they did it.

Seriously, this is an embarrassment to our democracy. We can't have a two-party system if one party exists as nothing more than a music box.


Pensito Review Fri, 19 Dec 2014 01:36:52 GMT  

Obama Approval Among Latinos Is Up

10 points

Amount President Obama’s approval rating with Latinos has jumped since he announced a new policy of deportation relief for millions of undocumented immigrants, a new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll finds. The new survey of Latino adults shows that 57% now say they approve of the job that Obama is doing, compared with 47% of Latino voters who said the same in September, before the immigration announcement.

10 points

Amount President Obama’s approval rating with Latinos has jumped since he announced a new policy of deportation relief for millions of undocumented immigrants, a new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll finds. The new survey of Latino adults shows that 57% now say they approve of the job that Obama is doing, compared with 47% of Latino voters who said the same in September, before the immigration announcement.


http://blogs.ajc.com/mike-luckovich/feed/ Fri, 19 Dec 2014 01:36:52 GMT  


ThinkProgress Fri, 19 Dec 2014 01:36:52 GMT  

Mom, Dad, This Is My Boyfriend. We Met On A Hook-Up App.

How do you explain Tinder to your parents? A thorough investigation.

The post Mom, Dad, This Is My Boyfriend. We Met On A Hook-Up App. appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Gabrielle, 22, joined Tinder as a joke. The punchline is, that’s how she met her boyfriend.

It’s all very modern, it’s totally fine, it’s not weird at all, except for the part where she had to explain Tinder to her parents.

By then, Gabrielle and her boyfriend been dating for four months. They’d met in Greenville, South Carolina, where Gabrielle is from, and though she didn’t know it at the time, she would eventually move to Chicago and they would stay together long distance. So it was time to have the talk. The Tinder talk.

“Well,” she remembers starting the conversation. “There’s this app.”

Her mom asked, “What do you mean?”

Gabrielle jumped right to, “Some people do it just to hook up with people.” Immediately, she thought: oh, crap. Because then she had to explain what “hooking up” meant.

Her mom listened, then clarified: “One night stands?”

“Yes,” Gabrielle said.

“I can’t believe you!” said her mom. But she came around. “Well, I guess that’s how it is for kids these days. You’ve got to do it somehow. I went to bars, and I guess this is the equivalent of going to a bar.”

“She was kind of mellow about it,” Gabrielle says now. “My dad just doesn’t understand.” The technology confused him—“You go on and swipe?”—and he found the whole notion of judging a potential date solely on someone’s face to be callow and superficial.

Gabrielle told him to Google it, “and that was a terrible idea,” she says. “Because lots of awful things came up.” He somehow bypassed all the bad press about Tinder’s behind-the-scenes operations, but he couldn’t miss the main event: people in college using Tinder as a hook-up app, as its creators always intended.

Gabrielle has friends who just lie about using apps, like one girl who has been in a relationship for seven months with a guy she met on Tinder. “I don’t think she has any thought of telling [her parents] how she met him,” she says. “They just keep up the ruse that they met at a party or met at a bar.” But she wanted to be honest with her parents, and she expected them to press her for details. “I knew that they would ask me, ‘how online, how on an app, what are the specifics?’ So I just flat-out told them.”

She was more nervous about her boyfriend’s mother than she was about her own. “I thought she might think less of me,” she says. “Like I’m some dirty tramp on an app trying to pick up her son.” And in truth, “She was kind of put off by it. I think it was mainly just the hook up culture [aspect].”

“She’s never said anything to me” to suggest that Tinder is a problem, Gabrielle says. “I just always feel extremely awkward around her.”

This time of year is already rife with potentially tense encounters. It’s home for the holidays season, which brings with it in-laws who don’t mix, siblings who can’t share space without fighting, the divorced-kid schlep from one parent to another—or, if you’re spending Christmas with a spouse, from one parent to another to another to another. Family time is so famously fraught, websites like this one issue guides on how to “survive” basic conversations about current events.

On top of all of this—the star on the tree, if you’re so inclined—is romantic love. If you want to introduce your significant other to parents who live out of town, this is your moment, unless you want to wait until the next office-sanctioned vacation time, which is easily five months away.

Introducing your boyfriend or girlfriend to your parents is stressful enough if you met in an analog way: in school, at work, a party, a bar. Even online dating, well established as the foundation of many a marriage, is relatively easy to explain. (Think of how many people sponsor their children’s JDate or Match account, in the hopes to nudge long-single millennials toward the altar?) But the apps are in a category unto themselves. The apps require translation. The apps ostensibly exist to facilitate casual sex. Even though plenty of people use them for purposes both more frivolous (“let’s send a weird message to this person and see what they say”) and serious (actual dating) than that, the reputation of “hook-up app” remains.

Tell Mom and Dad you set up an online dating profile in the hopes of meeting a person with shared interests, goals and religion: no big deal. Tell Mom and Dad you signed up for an app that was built to be “Grindr, for straight people” that relies on snap judgments of how hot someone looks in their Facebook profile picture: bigger deal. And that’s before you have to backtrack and explain what Grindr is. Add in one of the most dreaded parent-to-kid conversation topic of all time—sex, the pursuit thereof—and you have everything you need for the most awkward intergenerational interaction of your year.

Everyone in the online and app dating scene seems to agree on two things: One, there is no reason for there to be a stigma around meeting your significant other this way. Two, there is definitely still a stigma.

dreidel1

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos

According to a 2013 Pew study, “Online Dating & Relationships,” one in ten Americans have used an online dating site or mobile dating app; when you just look at people who identify as “single and looking,” that number jumps to 38 percent. The most likely demo to check out the Matches and Tinders of the world: American adults ages 25 to 34, 22 percent of whom have used dating sites or apps. A whopping 23 percent of online daters say they’ve met a spouse or someone with whom they had a long-term relationship through an online dating site or app.

Yet while attitudes toward online dating are more positive than ever, a significant minority of the public views online dating skeptically.

Gabrielle has certainly heard from “people who think you can’t find normal people on Tinder, that people are weird, or are looking for one-night stands… that there’s no way you can get a normal, decently attractive person and be in a relationship with them.” She tells those people that she and her boyfriend “met at a party.”

Rachel, 25, lives in Washington D.C. and met her boyfriend through Hinge, the app that connects users through mutual Facebook friends. “Once things got serious, it started to cross my mind,” she says. “How am I going to tell my mom? Or, God forbid, my grandma?” But right around Thanksgiving, the two sat down to coordinate a “tell the parents” game plan, in anticipation of spending some of the December holidays at each other’s’ family homes.

Rachel opted not to tell her parents that she was using any dating apps. “I doubt they know they exist,” she says. And there’s only way she can picture this conversation working: “Literally, I would need to show them the app itself… I would need to start from the beginning and sort of walk them through it, and show them that I wasn’t being reckless.”

Because apps like Tinder and Hinge are “so non-traditional,” Rachel says, “I think [my family] would be worried that somehow the relationship itself lacked something… I think they would question the legitimacy of the connection… despite the fact that that’s how we met, and we’ve been dating for months, and everything else has been normal from that point forward.”

Friends can be as judgmental as family. “People hear, ‘We met through an app,’ especially Tinder, and it’s like you were on it to hook up with someone and just fell into this other thing.” This, even though Rachel says “I actually don’t know a single person who is using it as a hook-up app.”

Most of the couple’s friends are in the dark about how Rachel and her boyfriend got together. “The idea that we met our current significant other on a dating app is a little weird for both of us.” They both see themselves as “pretty traditional people,” Rachel says, which she thinks is why “I’m still hesitant to 150 percent put it out there that this is how we met. Our line, so far, has been that we met through friends of friends—which isn’t a lie, because that’s how Hinge works. But we still don’t feel 100 percent comfortable.”

For some, the reputation of Tinder as an app for screwing around actually works in their favor. Zach, Gabrielle’s boyfriend, says most of his guy friends claim to use Tinder for casual sex but secretly hope a serious relationship will come out of all that swiping.

“My best friend, who has been on it quite a bit, he’s seen a few girls, but he’s a little bit too macho to admit that he’s actually looking for something serious,” Zach says. “He tries to downplay the seriousness of pretty much all of his relationships. And when you add it the social networking or online dating app, that doesn’t help the situation, admitting that, ‘Oh, maybe I couldn’t do this on my own, just going out and meeting someone at the bar.’”

Why do people always ask couples how they met? Romance is weird, the internet is still new-ish, but everyone likes to think love is a code that can eventually be cracked. The people who ask that question aren’t really asking about the other couple; they’re asking about themselves. Maybe it’s market research for their love life. It’s as if people think they can craft their own ideal endings if they spend enough time studying other people’s beginnings.

We have a cultural obsession with how couples meet. Romantic comedies rely on the perfect — or perfectly imperfect — meet-cute. There are television shows constructed entirely around the premise that how parents find each other is the most compelling love story of all; about how mismatched duos find each other; on how workplace romances spark even when said sparking is strictly prohibited.

Stanford psychologist Michael Rosenfeld, author of the study “How Couples Meet and Stay Together,” knows pretty much everything there is to know about how couples meet and why couples care so deeply about their origin story.

“The story of how they met is a story that has been rehearsed and practiced and repeated,” Rosenfeld said. “Ir’s like the national founding myth, with George Washington and the Boston Tea Party. These are stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.” Couples have no issue sharing this story, he said. “The only real problem I had when I do the survey is some people wrote so much that it didn’t fit in the box.”

tinder-lol4

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos

Why is this moment — one that arguably gets less and less important the longer a couple stays together — carry so much significance? “I think it’s a story about who they are. For the two people, this is an important moment… It’s a reassuring story that reaffirms not only the value of the relationship but that first moment, that love at first sight, that first inkling that they had. I think that’s something that generally, in couples, they want to bring out and highlight because it reminds them of something powerful and important that has led them to where they are.

Margaret, 24, lives in New York City. When it comes to dating, she and her dad “have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.” But he happened to call her while she was on the way home from a Tinder date. He asked; she told. “At that point, he was probably just shutting down internally.”

Conveying the interface of Tinder isn’t too tricky, she says, and she can sell her folks on the idea, generally speaking, of technology as a dating tool. “I think maybe the weirdest thing for them to grasp [is that] online dating [like] Match and eHarmony are set up with the purpose of meeting someone for a long-term relationship and possibly marriage. So the hard thing is to explain, ‘This is a casual thing meant to introduce you to new people, that it’s low-commitment and fun.’ There’s a lower barrier to entry.”

It’s a conversation that, depending on the proclivities of your parents, may be tougher for daughters than for sons. For a guy to tell his parents he wants to date around is one thing; for a girl to say she wants to date, and maybe/probably have sex with, multiple guys before settling into a relationship, even in 2014, is typically a more sensitive matter. Research has shown that “women face more negative judgment than men when they are known to engage in casual sex,” a double-standard that is likely heightened when the people doing the judging are an individual’s parents.

What Margaret has tried to do “is create my own Tinder narrative for them.” She’s “skirting around” the fact that Tinder started as a hook-up app “by never mentioning that aspect to my parents, and they are unaware that that’s what it is intended to be.”

“I try to be forthright with [my parents], at least in terms of my own experience, and that’s really all you can do,” she says. “It’s a delicate balance of telling them what I’m up to and what’s going on, and also glossing over parts of it that are less savory.”

Speaking of less savory: a look at the corporate side of all this coupledom.

Like most things that seem fun, reckless, and youth-driven, Tinder is part of an elaborate business strategy. Tinder is owned by IAC, which also owns Match.com, OKCupid, and How About We. (Most of the “niche” dating sites, including JDate and Christian Mingle, are owned by Spark Networks; eHarmony is privately held.) Match and Tinder aren’t in competition with each other. Just the opposite; they’re designed to get users to make a lifetime commitment—to dating apps. Their dream: you’ll start on Tinder as a teen and sign up for Match when you outgrow that swiping.

How big is the Tinder business? Some stats, from a recent Forbes story on now-former CEO of Tinder, Sean Rad (he was ousted from his post in early November and now serves as president and board member):

Tinder, which has logged 600% growth over the past 12 months, has been downloaded 40 million times since it launched in 2012. The 30 million people who have registered collectively check out 1.2 billion prospective partners daily—that’s 14,000 per second… Tinder is now facilitating almost 14 million romantic matches every 24 hours. As originally planned, Rad then confidently revealed the idea for the premium service, as 1,000 tweets shot across the Internet heralding the news… Sources put Tinder’s monthly active users near 18 million (about half its registered base) and daily users around 9 million.

That’s swell for IAC, except for one thing: they haven’t monetized Tinder yet. Get excited for a future full of Tinder Premium, which Greg Blatt, chairman of Match Group, said in the IAC’s Q3 2014 earnings call, “is going to monetize in three ways, effectively the same as all the rest of our products do, which is a combination of what I’ll call subscription revenue, a la carte revenue and advertising revenue… My instinct is that Dating continues to be a category where even in the ‘freemium’ model, there is real value to certain features and there is a meaningful number of people who will pay extra for those features.” So the things people love most about Tinder—how it’s easy, low-commitment, and free—will likely disappear soon.

tornaments

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos

A conspiracy theorist could suggest that these apps and sites are, in fact, constructed to fail. That is, they are good enough to keep you dating, but deliberately bad enough to prevent you from ever meeting your OTP, so you continue to need their services well into adulthood. Bolstering this narrative is the fact that 32 percent of internet users polled by Pew agreed with the statement that “online dating keeps people from settling down because they always have options for people to date.”

Another unromantic tidbit about Tinder: co-founder and former marketing executive Whitney Wolfe sued Rad and co-founder Justin Mateen in July, claiming they harassed and verbally abused her, discriminated against her, deleted her title and contributions because of her gender, and generally were despicable human beings. Wolfe reportedly settled for “just over $1 million” about a month and a half ago, within a week of Rad stepping down from his CEO spot.

When Kate*, 25, was with the boyfriend she met on Tinder (they’ve since broken up but were together for five months), they agreed: no telling the parents, no telling friends.

“We were kind of, I’m not going to say embarrassed, but we’re more traditional,” she says. So the party line was, “We met through friends in D.C.”

The lie became “a kind of inside joke thing.” Whenever someone would ask how they met—“Unfortunately, it’s one of the first questions that you get”—they would “always giggle and look at each other really quick.”

“But,” she says. “I actually dreaded that question every single time.”

Kate is “still kind of unsure about the online space” and says she would probably “stick with some alternate story” even if she met a significant other on a more established site. “I think I still have that very idyllic and picturesque view of how I’m going to meet the person I’m going to end up with, and I guess that is the old-school, traditional way I was raised.”

Kate has even thought through what she would tell her kids, in the event a Tinder-boyfriend became her Tinder-husband. “I would have let it out of the bag later on. After your friends get to know them, and your family gets to know them… they’re such an integral part of your life, so at that point, I think it wouldn’t really matter.”

She says even her peers can be condescending about her use of Tinder. “Some people I talk to are like, ‘You’re on Tinder? Don’t you know what it’s for?’” Not that she thinks this assessment is fair. After all, she points out, Tinder “is a bit more of a legit way of meeting somebody than a drunk frat house makeout.”

Just thinking about telling her parents that she met her boyfriend on Tinder makes Amy*, 25, deeply uncomfortable. “How do you explain something to someone that doesn’t have any context for it, who didn’t grow up in the age of online dating?” she asks.

That challenge is exacerbated by the fact that all the media coverage of Tinder “portrays it in the extreme. It seems very negative and shallow,” Amy says. “You don’t want your parents to think of you that way. So if they know anything about it, it’s starting from behind. You’re competing with that reputation, because there’s nothing out there that’s like, ‘Tinder’s great!’”

She is worried that her dad already has the wrong idea, that he thinks Tinder is “seedy.” He’s read articles about the app “and he thinks it’s deplorable,” she says. “He thinks [it’s about] judging someone’s face and their physical appearance… I don’t want him to associate me with the gross side of it.”

While she knows people who take detours around the Tinder talk—straight-up lying about how they met, using euphemisms like “we met online,”—Amy, who lives in New York City, doesn’t want to avoid the issue. “I feel like, if you’re going to be on it, you kind of have to own it. And by telling my parents, it puts me in control, and that makes me more comfortable. I can say: ‘This is my experience. You might read other things.’… If there was any sort of initial judgment, I just want to diffuse that.”

Lying, Amy says, ends up creating a problem where one doesn’t need to exist. “You’ve told them to be ashamed of something” that doesn’t need to be shameful.

flake

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos

“I work in an office with a lots of young, single women, and to hide that—if I was in the opposite position, and there was someone I was friends with at work [and] she told me she met her boyfriend on Tinder, it would make me feel better about that service. So I just think, why hide it? People are going to think what they think. You can only control yourself.”

Besides, that question—“So, how did you meet?”—is not the be-all end-all for her. “You can still have a romantic comedy kind of meet-cute,” Amy says. “But if that’s not working for you, or if you work from 8:00 in the morning to 7:00 at night, if you’re open to online dating, I think people have become more comfortable with meeting that way. I know some people say they wouldn’t want to meet someone online. And it’s like, if you want a better ‘story’ than meeting someone online, there doesn’t seem to be any depth behind it. Maybe they think it’s embarrassing. But if you meet online, it’s a real person. I think some people forget that.”

“There is no disadvantage for couple longevity for meeting online,” Rosenfeld said. “It’s not true that people who meet online in general have a more casual or superficial thing going than people who are, say, introduced by your mother. I think the idea in the past is if you’re introduced to your partner by somebody who is really important to you, say your mom who knows their mom, that relationship is going to have more longevity because you’ll have more connections. But the truth is, your mother doesn’t actually know that much about this other person. She is not that useful a font of information about who might be desirable to you. She just knows another adult her age with a child your age. So it seems perfect! But the truth is, you’re in a better position to know what you like.”

The anxieties that couples who met on Tinder have, the fears of judgment from parents — that mom and dad will think, if you’re on Tinder, you must be slutty or shallow and so is your Tinder-girlfriend — just don’t jive with the science. Parents, Rosenfeld said, actually do just want you to be happy (though there is some self-interest involved). “In this day and age, parents have less and less input over their adult children’s romantic lives. There was a time fifty years ago when most single young adults were living with their parents, and parents just had a lot more leverage over who you dated. If you’re in a serious relationship with somebody, generally the parents are usually loathe to object, because young people readily choose the partner over the parents, because they’re independent from their parents. They don’t need their parents to put food on the table. And the parents realize that. So I don’t see parents making a lot of frivolous objections.”

Though much of Rosenfeld’s research predates the advent of Tinder and other dating apps, he said, “Anytime we have new technology, there’s always a little bit of anxiety about the way the new technology might create problems. There’s always an anxiety about how the new technology affects our social lives. The internet and smartphone, those technologies reach into our lives in a lot of new and interesting ways, so I think it’s natural for people to feel a bit anxious about it… But from all the evidence I can see, technology plays a really useful role, and one of the things that it does really wonderfully is put people together. Putting people together answers a pretty important human need, and if the technology can do that for us, it’s a good thing.”

And what if all your family knows about Tinder is its origin as an app for casual sex? “Tinder is like the bar, but we’ve always had the bar,” he said. “We’ve always had places where people went to meet people and pick them up. And even Grandma knows about that.”

*First names changed upon request. All last names withheld upon request.

The post Mom, Dad, This Is My Boyfriend. We Met On A Hook-Up App. appeared first on ThinkProgress.

‘The Interview,’ Pirated DVDs, And North Korea’s Access To Hollywood Movies

The "Hermit Kingdom" is not as hermetically sealed than you may think.

The post ‘The Interview,’ Pirated DVDs, And North Korea’s Access To Hollywood Movies appeared first on ThinkProgress.

AP412163448460v2

CREDIT: AP

The movie The Interview, which was just pulled from American theaters thanks to threats from alleged North Korean hackers, spins around an assassination attempt on the Kim Jong-un, the country’s autocratic, “dear leader.” While the slapstick comedy is not one that American audiences would take seriously, censors in the isolated, communist country may be worried that it’ll be smuggled in the “Hermit Kingdom” which is not as hermetically sealed as you might expect.

In North Korea, the media — along with much else — is tightly controlled by the state. Under a centrally controlled broadcasting system, there is only one main channel, the Chosun Central Broadcasting Channel, available nationwide on TV. People find it boring, though, because most of the contents on the channel are focused on Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, or something set up to promote their propaganda.

“Everyone knows it is all set up,” defector Mina Yoon writes of the one state-controlled TV channel there. “Therefore, people want to watch movies by buying DVDs.”

North Korea has been called “one of the most repressive media environments in the world,” but in recent years, it has begun to open up to the modern age. The country got access to an internet service or mobile phone network last year. That’s a feat, considering North Korea has fewer roads than Detroit, and that even domestic travel is a luxury far beyond the reach of most North Koreans.

Owning a TV, much less a DVD player, isn’t widespread. But in this modern era, foreign media does make it through the country’s tightly guarded defenses. Yoon says that her family was one of the was one of the only ones in her town to own a TV in the 1990s. There was rarely enough electricity or time to watch it, but she says that kids from around the neighborhood would jockey for position to.

“People usually watch movies made in North Korea, China or Russia,” Yoon writes. “Only few people dare to watch American or South Korean movies. If anyone is caught watching movies from those countries, there are consequences. Whoever watched those forbidden movies would be sent to political prison camps, youth correctional institutions or disciplinary camps.”

Even if the movie becomes available there, few might be willing to watch it a film in which Kim Jong-un’s head explodes in a fireball, given these harsh punishments.

Suki Kim is a writer and journalist who taught at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology to get a sense of what life was like for the country’s young people. Despite the focus of their university, Kim said in a Q&A provided by her publisher that her students’ “lack of general knowledge” was astounding — in part, because of North Korea’s strict censorship.

“They though their intranet, a censored network of pre-downloaded information, was the same as the internet,” she said. “One student asked me if people spoke Korean in the outside world and another asked if it was true that naengmyun [North Korea’s national dish] was hailed as the best in the world.”

Kim experienced a form of that censorship herself. “We were always accompanied by minders, whose job it was to watch us and make sure we did nothing unauthorized,” she said. “Sometimes they even followed us to the bathroom.” She wrote about her experience in a memoir called, Without You, There Is No Us.

Although she taught English to the children of some of the country’s top officials, she soon realized that the elite live in constant fear of being purged. That’s in no small part because of the access they have to happenings in the outside world. She recalls one moment when a student suggested that a rock song be sung instead a patriotic song and then immediately looked down as if to try to shut out what he had just revealed about himself — an interest in the world outside of North Korea.

There are real risks to accessing unauthorized media in North Korea. In October, ten officials were executed after being charged with corruption as well as watching South Korean soap operas – a “highly illegal” activity despite recent crackdowns.

But some are still willing to take the risk. A favorite soap is Dr. Stranger, which centers on a South Korean doctor who is brought to North Korea to save the life of Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Il-sung.

“The popularity of Stranger among university students is not waning,” a North Korean source told the Guardian. “No matter how much [authorities] try to step up the crackdowns, there are already many people for whom watching South Korean dramas is part of life. In fact, it is Party officials, their children and students who are driving the popularity.”

As travel and the internet reveal what life is like outside of the country, the untrammeled belief in the Kims’ divine rule over North Korea is harder to maintain.

“When I was living in North Korea,” Jae Young Kim wrote as part of a series called Ask a North Korean, “I rarely called the Kims by their real names and I never dreamt of questioning their leadership. In a country where we grow up thinking about our leaders as Gods, for many of us it would just never make any sense to even think about criticizing them.”

“Things are changing, though. With the increasing levels of information coming into North Korea through foreign videos and radio, people are starting to realize that North Korea is much poorer than the outside world,” she wrote, adding, “Many people still think the poverty in North Korea is because of sanctions from the outside world, rather than the corruption and inefficiency of the leadership.”

That change of thinking helps explain why North Korean authorities may do anything to stop The Interview from getting out into the world — and into the country they are trying to keep isolated from it.

The post ‘The Interview,’ Pirated DVDs, And North Korea’s Access To Hollywood Movies appeared first on ThinkProgress.

ACLU Sues To End Almost Total White Control Over Ferguson’s Majority Black School System

The election rules in Ferguson all but ensure that white school board members will set policies for black students.

The post ACLU Sues To End Almost Total White Control Over Ferguson’s Majority Black School System appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Hayes Marshall Nabrit

CREDIT: AP

A lawsuit filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union paints a grim picture of a school district whose leadership bears little resemblance to its student body. Although “African-American students accounted for 77.1% of total enrollment in the Ferguson-Florissant School District in the 2011-2012 school year,” only one of the district’s seven school board members are black. This is the district that includes Ferguson, Missouri, where the police shooting of African American teenager Michael Brown triggered widespread protests.

Under white-elected leadership, according to the ACLU’s complaint, “[t]he District experiences significant racial disparities in terms of enrollment in gifted programs, access to advanced classes, assignment to special education programs, and school discipline.”

The complaint describes a pattern that is common in many school districts that were once segregated by law. White residents dominate a local school board, even as the overwhelming majority of students are black and most white families send their children to private schools. The complaint alleges that “only 13% of the district’s student body is white” and “approximately 68% of white school-age children who live in Ferguson or Florissant do not attend public schools in the District.”

Although the public school system primarily serves African Americans, whites enjoy a slight majority in the districts’s voting age population. 49.69% of this population are white, while 47.37% are black, according to the complaint. Yet whites are able to leverage this very narrow majority into near total dominance of the school board due to the unusual way that the district holds elections. Elections “are held at-large and take place in April of each year.” Thus, because the district’s entire population votes on each board member, whites have the ability to out-vote African Americans in every election.

The lawsuit challenges this practice as a violation of one of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that survived a recent Supreme Court decision hamstringing much of the law. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits election rules that “result[] in denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” It also prohibits schemes that dilute the impact of minority voting under certain circumstances. The at-large voting scheme, according to the complaint, effectively robs black votes of their effectiveness because the white majority tends to vote together, as does the African Americans minority.

Additionally, the complaint notes that holding elections in April “generally produces lower turnout in the African-American community, rendering it more difficult to elect African-American preferred candidates.” In 2012, for example, November turnout during a presidential election was 54% among Ferguson’s black voters. In 2013’s April election, by contrast, only 6% of eligible black voters and 17% of white voters cast a ballot in Ferguson’s municipal elections.

The post ACLU Sues To End Almost Total White Control Over Ferguson’s Majority Black School System appeared first on ThinkProgress.


PoliticusUSA Fri, 19 Dec 2014 01:36:52 GMT  

New York Bans Fracking Due to Health Risks – Wisconsin Bans Fracking Regulation Due To Greed
Republicans depend on lies and deceit to convince their ignorant base to support dangerous policies, and it is why they criticize science and unbiased research so vehemently; particularly surrounding issues surrounding the fossil fuel industry and its risk to the environment; and Americans' health.

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ACLU Files Lawsuit Claiming Racial Discrimination In Ferguson School District Voting
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Thursday is a St. Louis federal court in which it claims the Florissant-Ferguson School District is practicing racially discriminatory system in its election process.

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Republicans Shattered As Obamacare’s Success Drives Level Of Uninsured To Historic Lows
A new study by the White House Council of Economic Advisers has found that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the percentage of Americans who lack health insurance is heading for a historic low.

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Paul Krugman Fri, 19 Dec 2014 01:36:52 GMT  

Notes on Russian Debt
Debt without deficits, and other tales.
Jeb’s Bubble
Why, exactly, is he running?
Lowflation and the Fed
Reasons not to hike.

Media Matters for America - Latest Items Fri, 19 Dec 2014 01:36:52 GMT  

Media Erroneously Claim Obama Overstepped His Authority By Restoring Diplomatic Relations With Cuba

Media figures are criticizing President Obama for the current diplomatic re-engagement with Cuba by falsely suggesting that taking executive action to ease some travel and trade restrictions is legally questionable. In reality, the embargo is a result of decades of executive actions under both Republican and Democratic administrations, and Congress has explicitly reaffirmed executive discretion of the type the president is taking to modify U.S. relations with Cuba.

Obama Announces Restoration Of Diplomatic Relations Between The U.S. And Cuba

New York Times: "U.S. To Restore Full Relations With Cuba, Erasing A Last Trace of Cold War Hostility." On December 17, Obama announced that he would take steps to improve ties with Cuba by lifting some travel and trade restrictions as well as reopening the U.S. Embassy in Havana. As the Times reported, the "historic deal" brokered between Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro "broke an enduring stalemate between two countries" that has lasted for decades:

President Obama on Wednesday ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the opening of an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century as he vowed to "cut loose the shackles of the past" and sweep aside one of the last vestiges of the Cold War.

The surprise announcement came at the end of 18 months of secret talks that produced a prisoner swap negotiated with the help of Pope Francis and concluded by a telephone call between Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro. The historic deal broke an enduring stalemate between two countries divided by just 90 miles of water but oceans of mistrust and hostility dating from the days of Theodore Roosevelt's charge up San Juan Hill and the nuclear brinkmanship of the Cuban missile crisis.

"We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries," Mr. Obama said in a nationally televised statement from the White House. The deal, he added, will "begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas" and move beyond a "rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born." [The New York Times, 12/17/14]

Media Figures Suggest Obama Is Overstepping His Authority

Fox's Monica Crowley: "Now You Actually Do Have An Imperial Presidency Under Barack Obama." On the December 18 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Monica Crowley argued that Obama's decision to improve relations between the U.S. and Cuba is further evidence of the president "setting some seriously dangerous precedents." Crowley also said Obama has "just acted on his own because he doesn't care about the rule of law, Congress, or public opinion." [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 12/18/14]

CNN's Ana Navarro: Deal Is A "Very Unilateral Change Of Policy." On CNN Newsroom, CNN political commentator Ana Navarro criticized the deal as a "very unilateral change of policy." She added that "there's only so much that the president can do through executive order. I'm sure there's much more he can do. But the U.S. embargo is codified in law. That means that it needs to be decodified in law." [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 12/17/14]

Fox's Kennedy: Obama Cannot "Touch" The Embargo "Without Congressional Approval." On Fox News' Outnumbered, co-host Kennedy said Obama "could not unilaterally lift the embargo" against Cuba. Kennedy continued, "you can't touch [the embargo'] without congressional approval." [Fox News, Outnumbered, 12/17/14]

Embargo Began With Presidential Action, But Was Later Signed Into Law

Kennedy Initiated Embargo Against Cuba Through Executive Action In 1962. On February 3, 1962, President Kennedy announced a total trade embargo of Cuba. The Associated Press described the decision as "the beginning of a comprehensive ban on U.S. trade with the island that has remained more or less intact ever since." [Associated Press, 2/7/12]

Federal Laws Formalized Embargo In 1992 And 1996. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act "bar[red] trade with Cuba by U.S. corporate subsidiaries in other countries." According to PBS NewsHour, the 1996 Helms-Burton Act "formalized the U.S. trade embargo of the island nation, in effect by presidential order since the Kennedy administration." [Sun-Sentinel, 10/24/92; PBS NewsHour, 7/16/01]

Bush Tightened Travel Restrictions In 2003. The BBC reported that in October 2003, "US President George Bush announce[d] fresh measures designed to hasten the end of communist rule in Cuba, including tightening a travel embargo to the island, cracking down on illegal cash transfers, and a more robust information campaign aimed at Cuba." [BBC News, 10/11/12]

Obama Is Not Lifting The Embargo, But Experts Have Long Agreed That The President Has Ample Discretionary Authority In Its Implementation

The Hill: "Neither The Trade Nor The Travel Embargo Is Being Lifted." As The Hill reported, while the president "has significant powers at his disposal" to make changes to trade and travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba, Obama's action does not lift the embargo entirely. Moreover, Obama's executive action is based in part on statutory authority already granted to him by Congress:

President Obama has significant powers at his disposal to make the U.S. trade and travel embargoes on Cuba meaningless, though action by Congress is required to formally lift the sanctions.

Six separate laws dictate the terms of sanctions on Cuba. They range from the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 to the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000.

It was President John F. Kennedy who prohibited U.S. exports to Cuba under the Trading with the Enemy Act shortly after Fidel Castro took control of the island nation.

Since then, Congress has moved periodically to toughen the sanctions with legislation, and a series of presidents have also taken executive steps to tighten or loosen the screws on Cuba.

Experts agree that Obama, who with actions on healthcare and immigration has signaled a willingness to test the lengths of executive power, has significant discretion when it comes to U.S. policy toward Cuba.

The six laws are written in a way to give the executive branch latitude in enforcing the law, and regulations are used to implement many of the sanctions.

"The laws were written in such a way that gave the executive branch a good amount of leeway," said John Kavulich, senior policy adviser for the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. "He has a lot of discretion, and it seems as though he's intending to use it.

Obama on Wednesday announced the U.S. will seek formal diplomatic relations with Cuba, and travel and trade restrictions will be eased.

Neither the trade nor the travel embargo is being lifted, but Obama's announcement will make it easier to get a license to travel to Cuba and will allow visitors to bring back goods to the United States. Americans also will be able to send up to $8,000 a year to Cubans and will no longer need a specific license to do so. [The Hill, 12/17/14]

Government Accountability Office: "The President Has Broad Authority To Modify" Embargo Regulations. The GAO has been asked repeatedly to analyze the president's executive discretion on diplomatic relations with Cuba within the bounds of "various laws, regulations, and presidential proclamations regarding trade, travel, and financial transactions." The GAO, an independent legislative agency charged with nonpartisan analysis of U.S. policy, has concluded that Congress has codified the power of the president to "ease regulatory restrictions" of the embargo and if certain conditions are met, and even end sanctions entirely:

The President has discretion to further ease regulatory restrictions such as those on travel, remittances, gift parcels, and trade with Cuba. For instance, the President can authorize travel under a general license for non-family travelers -- such as freelance journalists, professional researchers, and full-time students -- who currently must obtain a specific license; further increase the amount of cash remittances that travelers may carry to Cuba; and further expand the list of items eligible for gift parcels.

The President is authorized to suspend or end the embargo in the event of certain political changes in Cuba. Under the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996, on determining that a transition Cuban government is in power, the President may take steps to suspend the embargo, including its implementing regulations restricting financial transactions related to travel, trade, and remittances. He may also suspend enforcement of several legislative measures related to the embargo. LIBERTAD also requires that on determining that a democratically elected Cuban government is in power, the President must take steps to end the embargo, including the implementing regulations, and that once he has made such a determination, certain listed embargo-related legislative measures are automatically repealed. [Government Accountability Office, 9/17/09]

American University Professor Of Government: Congress Gave The President "Virtually Unlimited Licensing Authority To Tighten Or Loosen Sanctions." Although the legal authority for the embargo originated with the executive actions of former Presidents Truman and Kennedy during the Cold War, the ability to end it entirely has been curtailed by Congress. However, as American University School of Public Affairs professor William M. LeoGrande explained, bipartisan Congresses still "codified the president's authority to license exceptions to the embargo":

Although [the Trading With The Enemy Act of 1917 (TWEA)] was its original statutory foundation, the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 (aka Helms-Burton) wrote the embargo into law by stipulating that the economic sanctions in place at the time of passage would remain in place until Cuba underwent regime change. And other laws authorize various bits and pieces of the embargo: for example, the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (§620(a)) gives the president the authority to impose a trade embargo on Cuba; the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 prohibits trade with Cuba by foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies; and the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 prohibits tourist travel (§7209(b)). So the embargo would continue even without TWEA.

But the president's legal authority to change Cuba sanctions would become far more tenuous. The TWEA gives the president virtually unlimited licensing authority to tighten or loosen sanctions, authority that would disappear if the president failed to renew it. When Helms-Burton codified the Cuban sanctions regulations, it also codified the president's authority to license exceptions to the embargo, thereby loosening sanctions, since the regulations specifically refer to that authority (§515.201). But absent some statutory authority other than TWEA, it is not clear that the president could tighten sanctions.

A president who tried would be vulnerable to legal challenge by anyone sustaining damage as a result. In Regan v. Wald, the Supreme Court found that President Ronald Reagan was legally justified in tightening restrictions on travel to Cuba because of the broad authorities he retained under TWEA. [Huffington Post, 12/2/14]

Economic Sanctions Expert:  Presidents Have Repeatedly Modified The Embargo "Without Action Or Approval By Congress." In a legal analysis prepared for a 2011 Brookings Institution forum on relations between the U.S. and Cuba, Stephen Propst, an attorney specializing in export control law and economic sanctions, concluded that the "President retains broad authority to significantly modify and even ease specific provisions of the Cuba sanctions." Furthermore, as Propst explained in the analysis, multiple presidents -- including former President George W. Bush -- have unilaterally modified the regulatory enforcement of the embargo, providing precedent "to ease sanctions against Cuba" through executive action:

Through a complex series of federal statutes, Congress has codified the comprehensive U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba and restricted the President's authority to suspend or terminate those sanctions until a "transition government" is in power in Cuba. Notwithstanding these statutory requirements, the President maintains broad authority and discretion to significantly ease specific provisions of the Cuba sanctions regime in support of particular U.S. foreign policy objectives recognized by Congress, including the provision of humanitarian support for the Cuban people and the promotion of democratic reforms. In fact, since Congress codified of the Cuba sanctions in 1996, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have each exercised this authority to ease the scope of restrictions applicable to Cuba, without action or approval by Congress. This executive authority to modify the Cuba sanctions is grounded in Constitutional, statutory and regulatory provisions that empower the President and the responsible executive branch agencies to grant exceptions to the sanctions through executive actions, regulations and licenses. The authority is particularly broad in certain areas, such as telecommunications-related transactions and humanitarian donations, where Congress has explicitly granted discretion to the President under existing statutes. 

[...]

Notwithstanding this framework of successive federal statutes mandating sanctions against Cuba, the President retains broad authority to significantly modify and even ease specific provisions of the Cuba sanctions. This conclusion is supported by two separate reports prepared by the U.S. General Accounting Office ("GAO"), following detailed reviews of the statutory framework and regulatory actions taken by the executive branch since the enactment of Helms-Burton in 1996. Specifically, the reports prepared at the behest of Congress in 1998 and in 2009 concluded that (i) the President still maintains "broad discretion" to make additional modifications to the Cuba sanctions; and (ii) prior measures, implemented by the executive branch that have had the effect of easing specific restrictions of the Cuba sanctions, have been consistent with statutory mandates and within the discretionary authority of the President. ["Presidential Authority To Modify Economic Sanctions Against Cuba," 2/15/11]


Right Wing Watch Fri, 19 Dec 2014 01:36:52 GMT  

Right Wing Round-Up - 12/18/14

http://blog.buzzflash.com/rss.xml Fri, 19 Dec 2014 01:36:53 GMT  


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