Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Word Of God

Eagerly awaiting the free speech mavens on the right, screaming about how "safe spaces" and "political correctness" are destroying America when this nonsense is the actual real problem

A UC Berkeley student whose family fled Iraq in 2002 after his diplomat father was killed under Saddam Hussein’s regime, was booted from a Southwest Airlines flight and questioned by the FBI after another passenger heard him speaking Arabic, NBC Bay Area reports.

In a story originally reported in the Daily Californian, student Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, 26, states he was flying home from attending a dinner at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council with Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon when he stopped to make a call to an uncle.

Makhzoomi explained that conversation was conducted in Arabic and, as he said goodbye, he used the phrase “inshallah,” which translates as “if God is willing.”

The student said that after hung up, he noticed a female passenger looking at him who then got up and left her seat.

“She kept staring at me and I didn’t know what was wrong,” he explained. “Then I realized what was happening and I just was thinking ‘I hope she’s not reporting me.’”

Moments later an airport employee asked Makhzoomi to step off the plane and onto the passenger boarding bridge where he was greeted by three security officers.

Makhzoomi was told the woman thought he said “Shahid,” meaning martyr — a term linked to Islamic terrorists

After pointing out the incident was rooted in Islamophobia, the student was told he would not be allowed to get back on the plane as he heard one of the security officers speaking with the FBI.

“At that moment I couldn’t feel anything,” he said. “I was so afraid. I was so scared.”

If Islamophobia has reached this point in 2016, imagine what it'll be like after Trump wins.  I'm tired of hearing about how "liberal fascism" is preventing people from saying things when the real fascism is -- surprise! -- coming from the usual assholes on the "libertarian" right.

And I Miss You Already

GQ columnist Jim Nelson feels much the same way that I do, that America is going to desperately miss Barack Obama when he's no longer President of the United States, and that he'll go down as one of the greats.

Wait. One of the Greatest? you ask, your thumb emoticon poised to turn up or down on me. The guy haters love to hate with their very best hate game? Like 20-Dollar Bill great? Like Mount Rushmore great?

Yep. (We just won’t build Mount Rushmores anymore.) In so many ways, Obama was better than we imagined, better than the body politic deserved, and far, far better than his enemies will ever concede, but the great thing about being great is that the verdict of enemies doesn’t matter.

In fact, and I say this as a Bill Clinton fan, I now feel certain that, in the coming decades, Obama’s star will rise higher than Clinton’s, and he’ll replace Bill in the public mind as the Greatest Democrat since FDR.

This has to do with the nature of Obama’s leadership, which is to play to legacy (and Clinton’s impulse, which is to play to the room). Bill Clinton will long be revered because he’s charismatic, presided over an economic revival, and changed and elevated the view of the Democratic Party. Barack Obama will long be revered because he’s charismatic, presided over an economic revival, and changed and elevated the view of the presidency. He’s simply bigger than Bill.

More to the point, Obama’s legacy is the sort that gets canonized. Because the first rule of Hall of Fame-dom: The times have to suck for the president not to. Civil wars, World Wars, depressions and recessions. You got to have ’em if you wanna be great. That’s why we rate the Washingtons, Lincolns, and Roosevelts over That Fat Guy with the Walrus Mustache. Like Obama, these Great Men were dealt sucky hands, won big, and left the country better off than it was before.

But it’s also why we downgrade the Jimmy Carters and Herbert Hoovers. Were they as bad in real time as we remember them in history? Probably not. But they were dealt sucky hands, only played one round, and left the country feeling worse off. Legacy Game over. (Hoover reminds me more and more of Donald Trump! Elected with little political experience, Hoover was a rich bastard whose central theme was that government was wasteful. His answer to the Great Depression was to start a trade war and build a massive project called the Hoover Dam. The dam turned out to be a giant wall that did not stop or solve larger problems. Déjà vu, thy name is Trump Wall!)

Obama has a few other edges in the long haul of history, beyond specific hurrah moments like Obamacare, rescuing the economy, and making America way more bi-curious. Being the first black president of course secures a certain legacy. But what now feels distinctly possible is that, just as Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed, over time he may be judged less for the color of his skin than for the content of his character. That character came across every time haters or Trumpers or birthers tried to pull him down into the mud or question his American-ness. He just flew above it all. And, luckily, he took most of us with him. He was the Leader not only of our country but of our mood and disposition, which is harder to rule. At a time when we became more polarized, our discourse pettier and more poisoned, Obama always came across as the Adult in the Room, the one we wanted to be and follow.

The "adult in the room that we wanted to be and to follow" characteristic is the one that made me appreciate Barack Obama.  Yes, he's far from perfect and he's made mistakes and outright awful decisions that I've detailed numerous times here over the last seven years and change.

But Barack Obama was the person who got me involved in local and state politics, and made me want to make my country better than it was.

Reagan and Poppy Bush made me think of the presidency as something to be angry at as a kid.  They sent people to wars and those people were hurt and killed.  Clinton didn't make me care either way. Bush 43 certainly didn't make me believe the presidency would ever be used by anyone other than for personal gain.

Obama?  Yeah.  I'll miss the guy, and that's putting it mildly.

Wage Slaves, Con't

With Hillary Clinton joining Bernie Sanders in the national "Fight for $15" minimum wage movement in this week's final scheduled Democratic primary debate in New York, Ezra Klein sounds very large alarm bells that a $15 federal minimum wage would wreck the economy.

He's probably right, and he explains why.

A $15 per hour minimum wage is so high that we don't have any real idea how it would affect the American economy. The all-time high for the national minimum wage, after adjusting for inflation, was about $11 per hour in 1968. Since the 1980s, the national, inflation-adjusted minimum wage hasn't been higher than $8 per hour. 
Economists disagree about whether these more modest minimum wages have produced significant job losses. One recent study, for example, found that the most recent national minimum wage hike — between 2006 and 2009 — "reduced employment among individuals ages 16 to 30 with less than a high school education by 5.6 percentage points." 
Other economists dispute that. A comprehensive study of state-level minimum wage hikes between 1990 and 2006 by economist Arindrajit Dube and two co-authors found "no detectable employment losses from the kind of minimum wage increases we have seen in the United States." 
But when I asked the lead authors of both studies about California's recent move to boost the minimum wage to $15, I found they were on the same page: the increase was so large that the effects are unpredictable. Neither man could rule out the possibility that a $15 per hour minimum wage would cause dramatic job losses
One of the most prominent left-leaning economists in the minimum wage debate is Alan Krueger, co-author of a widely-cited 1993 paper finding that a modest minimum wage hike in Pennsylvania didn't cost jobs. Krueger has served in the Obama administration and supports raising the national minimum wage to $12 per hour. But in a New York Times piece last fall, he warned that "a $15-an-hour national minimum wage would put us in uncharted waters, and risk undesirable and unintended consequences." 

There a two realities right now:  One, California and New York make up more than 56 million Americans, or easily one-sixth of the country.  With cities like Seattle moving towards $15, that number is pushing 60 million, or one fifth of America.  I understand the wage increases are designed to be incremental, but there's still a limit.

The other reality is that the rest of the country can't support a $15 minimum wage.
A big concern with California's minimum wage hike was that California is a large and diverse state. Some parts of the state — like the city of San Francisco — have high wages and a high cost of living; in these areas, a large majority of workers are already making more than $15 per hour, and employers paying less than that may not have much trouble finding the money to comply with the new wage. 
But other parts of California aren't so affluent, and in these areas, the higher minimum wage could cost a lot of jobs. Small businesses in cities like Fresno could be forced to shut down, as customers just aren't willing to pay the higher prices needed to cover the higher wage costs. 
In March I asked Dube — generally seen as a supporter of a higher minimum wage — if it was a mistake for a state as large as California to try such a big increase. Would it be better to let $15-an-hour experiments in San Francisco and Los Angeles play out? 
"If you're risk-averse, this would not be the scale at which to try things," Dube told me.
Of course, that point applies with even greater force to the nation as a whole. Themedian wage in Fresno was $15.48 per hour in 2015, meaning that almost half of Fresno workers will be affected by California's new minimum wage law — either getting a raise or losing their job. 
But as the Washington Post's Catherine Rampell points out, there are four states where the median wage is less than $15 per hour.

Yes, the federal minimum wage needs to go up.  $10.25, which Democrats pushed recently, was a good start.  States like California and New York are acting where Republicans in Congress continue to block any wage increase.  It's been $7.25 for a decade now and is still the minimum wage in 18 states, with another dozen less than $9.

But $15 will cause chaos in places like Alabama or Pennsylvania (yes, $7.25 is minimum wage is a union Rust Belt state like Pennsylvania, folks) or as much as I loathe to say it, here in Kentucky. Kentucky's economy isn't California's or New York's.

A $15 federal minimum wage is going to be ruthlessly painful, and I don't see Clinton or Sanders saying that they have plans to help the millions of people who would lose their jobs.  I don't even hear them admitting there's going to be serious pain in California and New York as a result.

Ezra's right, it's time for Dems to say "OK, but $15 an hour is going to require a lot of other things to make it work, so let's talk about what needs to be done."
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