April 23rd, 2012
erickstoll

The Real Romney

In The New Yorker, Louis Menand looks past the Republican primary posturing to examine what Mitt Romney really believes. 

Romney’s program is logical (which doesn’t mean that it’s practical). He believes that if freedom is to be fostered and preserved around the world the United States needs a stronger military. For the United States to have a stronger military, it has to grow economically. For the nation to grow economically, American companies must become more productive. And, for American companies to become more productive, business has to be allowed to do business. This means that Americans have to tolerate, to appreciate, even to encourage what Romney calls (using a phrase borrowed from Joseph Schumpeter) “creative destruction.”

It’s a strange slogan for a politician to adopt at a time of high unemployment and economic uncertainty, but Romney invokes it in his book and he uses it in interviews, because it’s precisely what he means by business. To make the future, we have to be willing to destroy some of the present. “It takes a leap of faith for governments to stand aside and allow the creative destruction inherent in a free economy,” as Romney puts it. We can’t be sentimental. And everything can be thought of in this way, from the production of microchips to the education of children. If we want cheaper chips or better schools, we have to be willing to pay the transaction costs. The unwillingness to do so is what’s holding us back.

Read the full article here. 

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April 3rd, 2012
arvindsuguness
The Story Behind The Murder Of Trayvon Martin
In this major report, The New York Times brings us the most comprehensive account to date of the Trayvon Martin shooting, delving not only into the events of the shooting itself, but also into the lives of Trayvon and his shooter, George Zimmerman:

Over six feet tall and lanky, Trayvon was interested in girls, computer games, sports and the beat of the rap and hip-hop emanating from the ear buds of his smartphone. Sleeping in Miami Dolphins bedsheets, he was all teenage boy, and more.
…
Easygoing, with a default mood set at “chillin’,” as one schoolmate, Suzannah Charles, put it. The kind of kid who made tiny cakes in an Easy-Bake Oven with his 7-year-old cousin; who spoon-fed a close uncle, Ronald Fulton, who is quadriplegic, when his nurse was unavailable; who was an integral part of a close-knit family — raised properly, family members say, by Mr. Martin and his ex-wife, Sybrina Fulton, who works for Miami-Dade County’s housing agency.
…
George would stick up for a chubby boy in the neighborhood who was being bullied, recalled Austin (who, like Stephanie, asked that his last name not be used). “And if George saw bullies walking by his house, he would pull out his hose and spray them down and tell them they were wasting their time and to go and do something else.”
Mr. Zimmerman was also security-minded, Austin said. “He would knock on people’s doors at night and say that it was late and that ‘You better close your garage door.’ ”
But not everyone saw Mr. Zimmerman as their protector.
A 17-year-old African-American, Teontae Amie, who lives at the Retreat, recalled that Mr. Zimmerman once wrongly accused his friend of stealing a bike. “When you see him, you think automatically that he might try something,” said Teontae, who added that he kept his distance from the neighborhood watch coordinator.

Read the full article here.
// Follow Read This, Not That on Tumblr / Facebook / Twitter //

The Story Behind The Murder Of Trayvon Martin

In this major report, The New York Times brings us the most comprehensive account to date of the Trayvon Martin shooting, delving not only into the events of the shooting itself, but also into the lives of Trayvon and his shooter, George Zimmerman:

Over six feet tall and lanky, Trayvon was interested in girls, computer games, sports and the beat of the rap and hip-hop emanating from the ear buds of his smartphone. Sleeping in Miami Dolphins bedsheets, he was all teenage boy, and more.

Easygoing, with a default mood set at “chillin’,” as one schoolmate, Suzannah Charles, put it. The kind of kid who made tiny cakes in an Easy-Bake Oven with his 7-year-old cousin; who spoon-fed a close uncle, Ronald Fulton, who is quadriplegic, when his nurse was unavailable; who was an integral part of a close-knit family — raised properly, family members say, by Mr. Martin and his ex-wife, Sybrina Fulton, who works for Miami-Dade County’s housing agency.

George would stick up for a chubby boy in the neighborhood who was being bullied, recalled Austin (who, like Stephanie, asked that his last name not be used). “And if George saw bullies walking by his house, he would pull out his hose and spray them down and tell them they were wasting their time and to go and do something else.”

Mr. Zimmerman was also security-minded, Austin said. “He would knock on people’s doors at night and say that it was late and that ‘You better close your garage door.’ ”

But not everyone saw Mr. Zimmerman as their protector.

A 17-year-old African-American, Teontae Amie, who lives at the Retreat, recalled that Mr. Zimmerman once wrongly accused his friend of stealing a bike. “When you see him, you think automatically that he might try something,” said Teontae, who added that he kept his distance from the neighborhood watch coordinator.

Read the full article here.

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March 28th, 2012
chasewhiteside

Mitt Romney and the Individual Mandate

As the Supreme Court debates whether or not the individual insurance mandate in the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, and Republicans root for a ruling that would dismantle the bill, it’s worth remembering that the mandate, like many aspects of “Obamacare,” were originally conservative proposals. Though observers point to the court’s decision as a potential issue in this year’s presidential election, it was Romney who long fought for an individual mandate, while Obama was initially opposed:

Romney had accomplished a longstanding Democratic goal—universal health insurance—by combining three conservative policies. Massachusetts would help the uninsured buy private insurance; it would create a deregulated online marketplace; and it would require that everyone carry insurance. Uninsured citizens no longer would use the emergency room as a primary-care facility and then fail to pay their bills. “It’s a Republican way of reforming the market,” Romney said later that day. “Because, let me tell you, having thirty million people in this country without health insurance and having those people show up when they get sick, and expect someone else to pay, that’s a Democratic approach. That’s the wrong way. The Republican approach is to say, ‘You know what? Everybody should have insurance. They should pay what they can afford to pay. If they need help, we will be there to help them, but no more free ride.’ ” …

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama did not support a mandate as part of his health-care plan… Obama ran a television ad in which he criticized Clinton’s proposal for a mandate on the ground that “it forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can’t afford it.” …

If it were not for Mitt Romney, with assistance from the Heritage Foundation and George W. Bush, it is extremely unlikely that Obama would have passed his universal health-care law last year. Bob Kocher worked on health care in the Obama White House… “We asked the question ‘What plan can you invent that would cover a lot of people and not change anything?’ ” he told me. “We want them to buy private insurance, and so you end up wanting an exchange. You know you have to provide subsidies because some people can’t afford to buy private insurance. And you don’t really want to go from an uninsurance rate of sixteen per cent down to ten per cent, because it just doesn’t seem like you’ve accomplished that much, so then you say, ‘I need to add on a mandate.’ And then you add in the mandate and then suddenly you end up with a mandate, an exchange, subsidies. And that’s Massachusetts.”

Read the full article here.

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March 8th, 2012
chasewhiteside

RTNT On The Problems With KONY 2012

The deluge of social media attention that has been given to the simplistic KONY 2012 campaign and the surrounding haze of misinformation has reaffirmed our purpose at Read This, Not That. Joseph Kony is a warlord and a monster - this much cannot be denied. The present controversy swirls not around Kony himself, but rather around the substance of the campaign, and the intentions of the organization behind it: Invisible Children.

Conversations are raging across the web between supporters and detractors - conversations that suffer, in many instances, from a lack of understanding about the current state of Uganda and of Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (details of which are notably lacking from the film.)

There has been much resistance to criticism of the campaign, resistance founded in knee-jerk reactions meant to defend the perceived good intentions of Invisible Children. The appearance of a noble cause to mask questionable action is not anomalous in our world. As such, it is our responsibility to be skeptical, especially when engaged with propagandistic media that aims to affect us emotionally and prompt a very specific reaction: in this case, to give money to Invisible Children.

Our effort here is to offer articles that inform the debate surrounding KONY 2012 and to encourage everyone to embrace critical conversation, even when that gaze is directed at what appear to be good intentions. Things are rarely as simple as they are made out to be, and we can be sure that the state of Uganda and the LRA is not as simple as the KONY 2012 campaign makes it seem.

Michael Wilkerson, writing for Foreign Policy, asks what the video is meant to accomplish:

So the goal is to make sure that President Obama doesn’t withdraw the advisors he deployed until Kony is captured or killed. That seems noble enough, except that there has been no mention by the government of withdrawing those forces — at least any I can find. Does anyone else have any evidence about this urgent threat of cancellation? One that justifies such a massive production campaign and surely lucrative donation drive?

TMS Ruge, writing for Project Diaspora, pleads with us to respect the agency of Ugandans:

This IC campaign is a perfect example of how fund-sucking NGO’s survive…They are, in actuality, selling themselves as the issue, as the subject, as the panacea for everything that ails me as the agency-devoid African. All I have to do is show up in my broken English, look pathetic and wanting. You, my dear social media savvy click-activist, will shed a tear, exhaust Facebook’s like button, mobilize your cadre of equally ill-uninformed netizens to throw money at the problem.

Ugandan Journalist Angelo Izama, writing at This Is Africa, finds KONY 2012’s portrayal of Uganda outdated:

To call the campaign a misrepresentation is an understatement. While it draws attention to the fact that Kony, indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in 2005, is still on the loose, it’s portrayal of his alleged crimes in Northern Uganda are from a bygone era.

Musa Okwanga, writing for The Independent, discusses the complexities the video left out:

What the narrator also failed to do was mention to his son that when a bad guy like Kony is running riot for years on end, raping and slashing and seizing and shooting, then there is most likely another host of bad guys out there letting him get on with it.  He probably should have told him that, too.

Guy Gunartne, writing for Codoc, questions the wisdom of Invisible Children’s preferred policy of military intervention:

The LRA is reported to be 90% made up of abducted children – military defeat would mean engaging in combat and targeting of the very victims of this war; these children are the LRA.

The author of Visible Children examines the armies on the other side of the war:

Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission.

Glenna Gordon, who took the photograph above, takes issue with the filmmakers’ self-aggrandizement in this interview for The Washington Post:

People who have lived there for years, bona fide aid workers who have studied foreign policy and other relevant fields like public health, who are really there because they are trying to solve problems — they see Invisible Children as trying to promote themselves and a version of the narrative. 

Eric Ritskes, writing at Wanderings, reminds us that it is not about us:

It falls into the trap, the belief that the problem is ignorance and the answer is education. When we tell more people about Kony and the LRA, something WILL happen. It’s not true…More education does not change the systems and structures of oppression, those that need Africa to be the place of suffering and war and saving…We need to learn: It’s not about us.

Kate Cronin-Furman & Amanda Taub, writing at The Atlantic, discuss the arrogance of the campaign:

Perhaps worst of all are the unexplored assumptions underpinning the awareness argument, which reduce people in conflict situations to two broad categories: mass-murderers like Joseph Kony and passive victims so helpless that they must wait around to be saved by a bunch of American college students with stickers. No Ugandans or other Africans are shown offering policy suggestions in the film, and it is implied that local governments were ineffective in combating the LRA simply because they didn’t have enough American assistance.

Patrick Wegner, writing at Justice in Conflict, offers some final thoughts:

To conclude, the Kony 2012 campaign is a reminder why we should see advocacy campaigns to interfere in conflicts with some scepticism, no matter how good the cause…. It also challenges us to think of ways how to design advocacy campaigns that mobilise many people without dumbing down the problem and its purported solution.

[Edit:] Invisible Children has responded to some, but not all of the criticisms here. 

We put in a lot of work reading, reviewing, compiling, and excerpting these pieces for you, and hope you will consider them in this debate.

 - The RTNT Team

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March 1st, 2012
arvindsuguness
Remembering A Conservative Blowhard
Andrew Breitbart, who ran a network of Conservative websites, died at the age of 43 last night. In this 2010 profile for The New Yorker, Rebecca Mead paints a picture of a man who has mastered the act of outrage:

Breitbart considers himself an accidental cultural warrior. “I am not as partisan as people think I am,” he told me, calling himself eighty-five per cent conservative and fifteen per cent libertarian. His conservatism fails him on issues such as the legalization of prostitution, and he sometimes tilts toward favoring gay marriage. “But, when the entire media is structured to attack conservatives and Republicans, there is a huge business model to come in and counterbalance that,” he said.
He does not pretend to be an expert in policy, or to be particularly interested in it. “Just because I am paying attention to politics and culture doesn’t mean that I should be talking about the health-care bill, talking about the minutiae,” he told me. Instead, Breitbart is obsessed with wresting control of the political narrative from the established media organizations. If the wire services that Breitbart aggregates, and the bloggers he recruits, serve as his content providers, then Breitbart might be called a malcontent provider—giving seething, sneering voice to what he characterizes as a silenced majority.

Read the full article here.
More:  Also see a 2010 Interview of Breitbart conducted by RTNT Editor Chase Whiteside.

Remembering A Conservative Blowhard

Andrew Breitbart, who ran a network of Conservative websites, died at the age of 43 last night. In this 2010 profile for The New Yorker, Rebecca Mead paints a picture of a man who has mastered the act of outrage:

Breitbart considers himself an accidental cultural warrior. “I am not as partisan as people think I am,” he told me, calling himself eighty-five per cent conservative and fifteen per cent libertarian. His conservatism fails him on issues such as the legalization of prostitution, and he sometimes tilts toward favoring gay marriage. “But, when the entire media is structured to attack conservatives and Republicans, there is a huge business model to come in and counterbalance that,” he said.

He does not pretend to be an expert in policy, or to be particularly interested in it. “Just because I am paying attention to politics and culture doesn’t mean that I should be talking about the health-care bill, talking about the minutiae,” he told me. Instead, Breitbart is obsessed with wresting control of the political narrative from the established media organizations. If the wire services that Breitbart aggregates, and the bloggers he recruits, serve as his content providers, then Breitbart might be called a malcontent provider—giving seething, sneering voice to what he characterizes as a silenced majority.

Read the full article here.

More: Also see a 2010 Interview of Breitbart conducted by RTNT Editor Chase Whiteside.

February 28th, 2012
arvindsuguness
Have Republicans Lost Their Minds?
The Republican primary has been all over the place, with one month’s front-runner quickly becoming the next month’s also-ran. Writing for New York Magazine, John Heilemann reviews the unbelievable events so far, the damage those events have done to the remaining candidates, and the path ahead for the Republican party:

With Obama having looked beatable months ago, a botched bid to oust him—especially if coupled with a failure to take over the Senate—would usher in a full-blown Republican conflagration, followed by an effort to rise from the ashes by doing the opposite of what caused the meltdown of 2012.
What that would mean for the GOP would differ wildly depending on which of the two current front-runners, along with the coalition that elevated him to the nomination, is blamed for the debacle. “If Romney is the nominee and he loses in November, I think we’ll see a resurgence of the charismatic populist right,” says Robert Alan Goldberg.
…
But if it’s Santorum who is the standard-bearer and then he suffers an epic loss, a different analogy will be apt: Goldwater in 1964. (And, given the degree of the challenges Santorum would face in attracting female voters, epic it might well be.) As Kearns Goodwin points out, the rejection of the Arizona senator’s ideology and policies led the GOP to turn back in 1968 to Nixon, “a much more moderate figure, despite the incredible corruption of his time in office.” For Republicans after 2012, a similar repudiation of the populist, culture-warrior coalition that is fueling Santorum’s surge would open the door to the many talented party leaders—Daniels, Christie, Bush, Ryan, Bobby Jindal—waiting in the wings for 2016, each offering the possibility of refashioning the GOP into a serious and forward-thinking enterprise.

Read the full article here.

Have Republicans Lost Their Minds?

The Republican primary has been all over the place, with one month’s front-runner quickly becoming the next month’s also-ran. Writing for New York Magazine, John Heilemann reviews the unbelievable events so far, the damage those events have done to the remaining candidates, and the path ahead for the Republican party:

With Obama having looked beatable months ago, a botched bid to oust him—especially if coupled with a failure to take over the Senate—would usher in a full-blown Republican conflagration, followed by an effort to rise from the ashes by doing the opposite of what caused the meltdown of 2012.

What that would mean for the GOP would differ wildly depending on which of the two current front-runners, along with the coalition that elevated him to the nomination, is blamed for the debacle. “If Romney is the nominee and he loses in November, I think we’ll see a resurgence of the charismatic populist right,” says Robert Alan Goldberg.

But if it’s Santorum who is the standard-bearer and then he suffers an epic loss, a different analogy will be apt: Goldwater in 1964. (And, given the degree of the challenges Santorum would face in attracting female voters, epic it might well be.) As Kearns Goodwin points out, the rejection of the Arizona senator’s ideology and policies led the GOP to turn back in 1968 to Nixon, “a much more moderate figure, despite the incredible corruption of his time in office.” For Republicans after 2012, a similar repudiation of the populist, culture-warrior coalition that is fueling Santorum’s surge would open the door to the many talented party leaders—Daniels, Christie, Bush, Ryan, Bobby Jindal—waiting in the wings for 2016, each offering the possibility of refashioning the GOP into a serious and forward-thinking enterprise.

Read the full article here.

February 27th, 2012
atomvincent

Immobile America

Writing for The New Republic, Timothy Noah addresses the myth of class mobility in the United States, from its honest and historical roots to its ever-decreasing present.

In a 2005 paper, Joseph Ferrie, an economics professor at Northwestern, studied census records about the occupations of fathers and sons between 1850 (the year Alger turned 18) and 1920 (21 years after Alger’s death and the year Adams turned 42). Ferrie then compared these records with father-son data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics during the second half of the twentieth century. He divided everyone into four categories: “unskilled worker,” “farmer,” “skilled or semi-skilled worker,” and “white-collar worker.” To keep both data sets consistent, he limited his inquiry to white, native-born males. Ferrie also made some technical adjustments to allow for the different occupational structures of the two eras. What he found was that the equivalent of 41 percent of farmers’ sons advanced to white-collar jobs between 1880 and 1900, compared with 32 percent between 1950 and 1973. Ferrie’s conclusion held up when he looked at all four job categories and when he compared other stretches of the late nineteenth century with other stretches of the late twentieth. Between the horse-and-buggy days and the interstate-highway era, American society had become significantly less mobile.

These findings are all the more striking because the 1950s and 1960s were a period—the last period in the United States, it turned out—when intergenerational mobility was increasing. The economy was booming, and men born during the Great Depression and World War II were enjoying opportunities that their fathers could scarcely imagine. Even so, mobility in this postwar era was no match for the mobility enjoyed by the generations of workers who lived during Alger’s lifetime and James Adams’s youth and early adulthood.

Read the full article here.

February 20th, 2012
atomvincent

Our Democracy, Bought and Sold

Writing for the New York Review of Books, Elizabeth Drew examines Super PACs, the war on voting rights, and the whimpering end of our democratic process at the hands of moneyed interests.

By any objective standard Santorum had no business being in the presidential race. His mediocre Senate record and his scratchy intolerance of opposing views on social issues were bound to get him in trouble. Santorum not only opposed abortion without the federally required exception for rape or the life of the mother, but he even opposed contraceptives, saying that the states should regulate them.

Having come triumphantly from Iowa, where he was first announced to have nearly tied Romney (only to have it announced more than two weeks later that he had won), Santorum found himself facing less sympathetic audiences in New Hampshire, particularly young people, and he was often met with boos. Santorum’s dismal vote in New Hampshire (he came in fifth) would ordinarily have sent a candidate home. But he was able to fight on in South Carolina thanks to the generosity of Foster Freiss, a billionaire mutual fund tycoon in Wyoming. Freiss gave the Santorum Super PAC the Red, White, and Blue Fund $1 million to keep going. According to Politico, Freiss issued instructions on the types of ads it should run while traveling in Santorum’s entourage.

Read the full article here.

January 19th, 2012
chasewhiteside

Newt Gingrich Attacks the So-Called “Liberal” Media—But What Liberal Media?

Writing for The Nation, Erik Alterman explores the frequent conservative critique that the mainstream media is “liberal,” which immunizes Republican candidates from all sincere journalistic efforts to point out fallacy, inaccuracy, or hypocrisy in their positions.

Conservatives are extremely well represented in every facet of the media. The correlative point is that even the genuine liberal media are not so liberal. And they are no match—either in size, ferocity or commitment—for the massive conservative media structure that, more than ever, determines the shape and scope of our political agenda.

In a careful 1999 study published in the academic journal Communications Research, four scholars examined the use of the “liberal media” argument and discovered a fourfold increase in the number of Americans telling pollsters that they discerned a liberal bias in their news. But a review of the media’s actual ideological content, collected and coded over a twelve-year period, offered no corroboration whatever for this view. The obvious conclusion: News consumers were responding to “increasing news coverage of liberal bias media claims, which have been increasingly emanating from Republican Party candidates and officials.”

Read the full article here.

January 17th, 2012
chasewhiteside

Google’s History of Censorship

While Google is coming out against the proposed PIPA and SOPA legislation that would effectively allow the U.S. government and private U.S. companies to effectively censor foreign content deemed to violate domestic U.S. laws, it wasn’t that long ago that Google, seeking to expand its presence in China, the world’s fastest growing online market, had its own role in censoring the web. From Clive Thompson, for the New York Times Magazine:

Yet Google’s conduct in China has in recent months seemed considerably less than idealistic. In January, a few months after Lee opened the Beijing office, the company announced it would be introducing a new version of its search engine for the Chinese market. To obey China’s censorship laws, Google’s representatives explained, the company had agreed to purge its search results of any Web sites disapproved of by the Chinese government, including Web sites promoting Falun Gong, a government-banned spiritual movement; sites promoting free speech in China; or any mention of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. If you search for “Tibet” or “Falun Gong” most anywhere in the world on google.com, you’ll find thousands of blog entries, news items and chat rooms on Chinese repression. Do the same search inside China on google.cn, and most, if not all, of these links will be gone. Google will have erased them completely.

Read the full article here.

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