Political Media Recommendations

In the March 16, 2016 Ask The Politics Guys episode, Mike and Jay passed along their political media recommendations in three categories: websites, books, and movies / documentaries. Below are links to everything they mentioned:

New York Times (Mike’s #1 site)
Wall Street Journal (Jay’s #1 site)
The Guardian (Mike)
The Monkey Cage (Mike)
The Upshot (Mike)
FiveThirtyEight (Mike)
The Atlantic (Mike)
Kevin Drum (Mike)
John Cassidy – Rational Irrationality (Mike)
The Wall Street Journal Op-Ed Page (Mike)
Right Turn (Mike)
Tyler Cowen – Marginal Revolution (Mike)
Ross Douthat (Mike and Jay)
The Volokh Conspiracy (Jay)

Mike recommends the Feedly RSS reader, which makes following multiple politics sites way easier than opening a bunch of web pages. (If you’re a Mac / iOS user, Reeder is also really good.)

Navigating the News (Mike, of course)
America’s Failing Experiment (Mike)
Amusing Ourselves to Death (Mike and Jay)
Supercapitalism (Mike)
Winner-Take-All Politics (Mike)
The Righteous Mind (Mike)
How Markets Fail (Mike)
The Quartet (Jay)
Richard Brookheiser’s books (Jay)
Washington: The Indispensable Man (Jay)
Snobbery (Mike and Jay)
Class (Mike and Jay)
Witness (Jay)
Liberal Fascism (Jay)
Coming Apart (Jay)
The Great Debate: Burke & Paine (Mike)
– not mentioned in the podcast, but we wanted to include
   something about the thought of Edmund Burke

Movies & Documentaries
No End in Sight (Mike)
Inside Job (Mike)
Network (Mike and Jay)
Wag The Dog (Mike)
Team America: World Police (Mike)
Being There (Jay)
The Queen (Jay)

Trade Agreements and America’s Failing Experiment

In what may appear to be a scene out of Bizarro World, many congressional Republicans are pushing to give President Obama fast-track trade negotiation authority while the president’s own party is doing its best to make sure that their leader fails in his effort to gain more authority over trade deals.

On one level, it’s straightforward interest-group politics at work: Democrats and their labor allies fighting the job losses that will may come with an agreement with Republicans and their business supporters focusing on the corporate profits to be made.

But on another level it’s an object lesson in the failure of modern American democracy, which Professor Kirby Goidel and I talked about in Politics Guys Episode 12: America’s Failing Experiment. In our conversation, and in his book, Professor Goidel argues that too much responsiveness to special interests and/or the specific interests in their districts makes congress unable to act in the general public interest. The president, on the other hand, as the only public official elected by the country as a whole, is in a much better position to act for the good of the entire country.

One of the solutions Professor Goidel suggests is greater use of mechanisms that limit congressional discretion while still giving congress a say. Fast-track trade authority, which allows congress to vote trade deals up or down, but doesn’t permit amendments, fits the bill perfectly. Too bad the president’s own party can’t see past its own short-term parochial interests and support him on this.

Media to Hillary: Be Less Boring!

The general consensus on Hillary Clinton in the mainstream media seems to be that she’s an ultra-ambitious, risk-averse, condescending paranoid who will probably be our next president. That sounds about right, though I think it’s important to keep in mind that what makes a good candidate for the media isn’t necessarily what makes a good candidate for the people.

The media wants fireworks, and lots of them. At this point, that’s something Hillary Clinton has absolutely no incentive to provide. Is she risk-adverse? Sure, but that’s exactly the strategy you’d expect for the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination. Criticizing Clinton for not being bold enough is like screaming at a head coach to throw deep when his team is up by three scores in the fourth quarter. It might make for great TV, but it would be a truly stupid strategy,

Hillary Clinton is many things, but ‘stupid’ is not one of them.

You Deserve Hillary’s Bloodless, Condescending Campaign – The Daily Beast.

I Hate Presidential Campaign Reporting

The media does a less-than-stellar job of covering American politics, but when presidential campaigns roll around, they always find a way to increase their usual level of irrelevance and asininity. Take, for example, this gem of a piece from Vox, which tries (and fails) to make a worthwhile story out of the typography Marco Rubio’s campaign is using. Or this bit of jackassery from The New Republic, arguing that Hillary Clinton should name Barack Obama as her running mate.

The thing is, this stuff is coming from media organizations that purport to be devoted to informing people about politics. Ezra Klein, the founder of Vox, claims to be a big fan of political science research – which almost universally finds that campaigns – not to mention campaign typography – matter very little.

So why all this worthless coverage? That’s pretty obvious – to pull in an audience hooked on irrelevance; an audience that, in most cases, can’t appreciate what a disservice this ‘news’ is to them. It’s one thing for this sort of stuff to come from reporters who may not actually know any better, but that’s not a true for either Vox or The New Republic.

In other words, they’re not being ignorant. They’re being manipulative. Which is why I hate presidential campaign reporting.

Why don’t all police have body cams? It’s not the cost.

The only reason we know that a North Charleston, SC police officer murdered a fleeing suspect is that this unconscionable act was captured on video. The bad news is that so many other abuses aren’t filmed. While body cameras for police aren’t by any means a panacea, they have been demonstrated to significantly reduce use of force. Why, after all the incidents in recent years, aren’t they mandatory for all police?

One of the most commonly cited issues is cost. Police budgets are tight, and the expense of not only purchasing a camera for every cop, but keeping the camera data and doing all the back-end servicing and maintenance is too much. It’s not a bad point: a typical camera runs about $400, which is actually less than the costs associated with storage and maintenance, which add around $600 per year. In other words, an extra $1000 per year, per officer. (Actually, that’s slightly inflated, as all of the cameras wouldn’t have to be replaced every year. But it’s a nice round number, so let’s stick with it.)

But that’s peanuts for the federal government. There are around 920,000 sworn officers in the United States authorized to use force, federal, state, and local. But again, just to make the numbers nice and clean, lets round up to 1 million. Outfitting them with cameras and providing the necessary storage and maintenance would cost $1 billion per year. (Though this number is surely high, as prices for mass purchases would almost certainly be lower.)

To put this in perspective, $1 billion is 0.02 percent of the 2015 federal budget. It’s less than half the cost of a single nuclear attack sub. Here’s another way to look at it: earlier this year, President Obama announced that we’d be keeping 9,800 troops in Afghanistan for another year. The Congressional Research Service has estimated that this will cost about $3.9 million per troop, per year, for a total of $38 billion. In other words, 257 fewer troops in Afghanistan means an extra $1 billion that could fund a ‘body cams for every cop’ program.

Do we care more about the security of Afghanistan than we do about American citizens? Sometimes I wonder.


We Need to Talk About the White House Easter Photo

It doesn’t seem possible to improve on the below photo, from the White House, and the accompanying comment, from the American Spectator, so we’re simply reposting the photo and telling you to read what the Spectator has to say about it.

We Need to Talk About the White House Easter Photo

Vox is Disappointed in Trevor Noah. I’m Disappointed in Vox

Ezra Klein’s ‘explanatory journalism’ site Vox.com seems to have concluded that Trevor Noah is guilty of not meeting the high moral standards required of a Daily Show host. (A requirement I wasn’t even aware of until now.) They base this conclusion on half a dozen tweets, out of thousands that the comedian has made over the years.

Vox claims to pride itself on careful, dispassionate examination of data (really) before making conclusions. But I guess that careful, dispassionate examination of thousands of Trevor Noah tweets was just too hard, and not nearly as fun as following the pack in all of its moral outrage at Noah’s failings.

New Daily Show Host Makes Jokes. Some People Upset.

In an absolutely stunning revelation, it’s been discovered that Trevor Noah, who will be taking over The Daily Show when Jon Stewart leaves, has made jokes. Jokes that have offended some people. As opposed to all those amazingly funny jokes that offend absolutely nobody. You know, jokes that tend to start with, “Knock, knock…” (Politico, 3/31/2015)

Hillary Clinton Deletes All Her Email (Whoops)

Hillary Clinton deleted all the emails on the private email server she used while Secretary of State, according to the chair of the House committee investigating Benghazi. But she promised that her attorneys looked over everything and made sure all work-related emails were released. I *totally* believe her, because when it comes to sharing with the public, Hillary has such a great track-record. (Politico, 3/27/15)

DEA Agents Party With Drug Cartel Hookers

You may be a damn good DEA agent, but around here, we do things by the book!—- attend a party with drug cartel hookers, and you’re looking at a two to ten day suspension!

“Seven of the 10 DEA agents alleged to have participated in the gatherings — most of which took place at “quarters” leased by the U.S. government — admitted to having attended the parties, the report found. They received suspensions of between two to 10 days.” (Washington Post, via MSN News, 03/26/15)