Photo of the day

Hiked down Linville Gorge yesterday to the base of Linville Falls.  Quite a fun hike and challenging at times with a four-year old on your back.  I don’t usually do much with the in-camera effects on my Canon S100, but I really liked how the “super-vivid” setting turned out on this scene of icicles near the base of the falls.  More here.


Steven Greene

Quick hits (part II)

0 1) So, there’s some “scam” where you get any piece of crap published as a so-called academic paper if you pay for it.   Supposedly, these are “predatory” journals that prey on clueless academics, but seriously, anybody dumb enough to fall for this is not smart enough to be a successful academic anywhere.

2) In some places, solar and wind are starting to compete successfully on price.

3) Paul Waldman argues that the Supreme Court should be the biggest issue of the 2016 campaign.  I don’t think it will be, but he’s right– it should.

4) Rolling Stone offers the 30 best Star Wars moments (complete with clips).  I haven’t paid any attention to Star Wars VII, but this teaser trailer totally sucked me in.

5) A NYT forum on whether Catholic priests should be able to get married.  I’ll make it simple– yes.

6) Riding a bike to work as a metaphor for white privilege.  Not bad.

7) Ezra Klein’s take on Darren Wilson’s story.  In truth, either Wilson or Brown must have acted incredibly stupidly.  My guess is that both did. But there’s so much conflicting testimony we’ll truly never know.

8) That said, there really can be little doubt that poor public policy choices have very much to do with how Ferguson got to be Ferguson.

9) The mind is so powerful when it comes to disease.  For example, whether you experience asthma symptoms from a theoretical trigger could depend entirely on whether or not you expect to.

10) Johnston County NC police and prosecutors basically ruined a man’s life by falsely charging him with being part of a child pornography ring despite the complete obviousness that he was not involved (at least he’s free now).  When I make a mistake, somebody gets a B instead of an A.  When police and prosecutors make mistakes, lives are ruined.  They ought be more damn careful.

11) An Atlantic piece suggesting that the rise in tattoos is a feature of a modern identity crisis.  Whatever it is, I still don’t like ’em.

12) A little late for Thanksgiving, but loved this visual guide to understanding all your extended relations (i.e, what exactly is a second cousin once removed).

13) More evidence that the best way to prepare for tests is taking tests.

14) How GE tests their jet engines (with animated gifs).  Very cool.

15) Lessons for education reform from the Slow Food movement:

It’s hyperbolic—and sort of creepy—to say that students are directly analogous to animals packed into crowded feedlots and pumped with hormones before their slaughter. But the analogy works on some levels: Just as factories aim to maximize profit, schools seek to boost test scores. In both cases, shortcuts are irresistible. Animals are injected with growth hormones, and students are taught quick tricks to answer test questions they don’t fully understand.

16) Chuck Schumer is an idiot and represents all that’s wrong with the Democratic Party.  If Democrats should not have used their majority ton enact health care reform, what’s the point of being a Democrat.  To enact vague programs for “the middle class” if you listen to Schumer.

17) Corporations and Republicans always complain that environmental regulations are going to be way more harmful than they ever actually end up being.  Every time.  But for some reason people listen to the chicken little act.  Krugman on the problem.

18) When you read this list of consensus diet tips at Vox, I can’t help but be impressed by how much of this advice is already incorporated into Weight Watchers (which is why I continue to advocate for it).  Also, a lot of this was in The End of Overeating.

19) Not impressed by Mockingjay Part I.  First, I hate the idea of splitting books into two movies, just to make more money.  The book does not deserve two movies.  Second, I blame the source material– the movie did the best it could with taking this mediocre book and breaking it into two parts (I loved The Hunger Games, but damn did the series go downhill).

20) I loved The Yellow Birds— a fantastic little novel about the Iraq War.  I have not enjoyed the language in a novel this much since McCarthy’s The Road.

Photo of the day

From a truly awesome Telegraph gallery of a photo competition celebrating the natural beauty of Scotland:

Velux Lovers of Light photography competition - St Andrews Day pictures

Eilean DonanPicture:

The ultimate diet!

Loved this Vox interview with Matt Ferguson, nutritionist and author of a new book on “diet cults.”  His take just seems to make all kinds of sense:

JB: When you looked at the evidence supporting all these popular diets, what did you find?

MF: Every diet claims to be the best, but the fact is that it’s not. It doesn’t mean you can’t get good results from certain diets. When people commit to these diets in a sensible way, they can be effective. But that’s also the first bit of evidence that there is no one true way to eat. We’ve seen that you can chose diet A or B, commit to it in the same way, you’ll get the same results…

JB: I recently talked to a bunch of other diet and weight-loss experts for a story and they all pointed out that, even though they know there’s no one “best diet,” their patients often demand one. They want rules.

MF: There is a comfort in certainty. When you’re looking for a solution to a problem that’s really troubling, a problem that affects your health, self-esteem, and relationships — and the solution isn’t obvious — it’s only natural to want to find something that you can be absolutely certain about. That not only works but you know it works. You can relax and turn your brain off, and not think about it. What people want is a pill. But if you can’t have that, you want a diet that’s a functional equivalent of a pill: simple, tidy, neat, certain.

Ferguson actually has his own “diet,”  But it’s not really a diet, so much as a science-based framework for thinking about how we eat:

JB: Your book is really an anti-diet book, but you too propose a sort of diet: “agnostic healthy eating.” Can you tell me about it?

MF: It’s a high quality version of a culturally normal diet. I take the entire universe of foods, and divide them into 10 basic types: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, dairy, grains, sweets, fried foods. I rank them in terms of quality. That ranking is base on scientific research. The lowest quality food is fried food, and highest quality is vegetables. We can agree that it’s a sensible ranking. All I suggest is that people weight their diet toward the high quality end and away from the low quality end.

There’s just a little more detail on this here:

There’s One Rule

Agnostic healthy eating has no particular rules, but there’s a simple guideline that makes it easier to practice consistently.

There are 10 basic types of foods: vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, high-quality meats and fish, whole grains, dairy, refined grains, low-quality meats, sweets and fried foods. The first two types are classified as “mandatory,” the next four as “recommended” and the last four as “acceptable.”

The one rule of agnostic healthy eating is this: Each week you must eat each of the two mandatory foods more often than any other food type; you must eat any of the recommended food types you choose to eat more often an any of the acceptable food types; and you must eat any of the acceptable food types you choose to eat less often than any of the mandatory or recommended food types.

The rest is details…

He actually gets a little too rule-bound for my taste in that snippet, but it’s hard to argue with that as a healthy approach (I think he gives in to the idea that people want rules).

But in the end, we all know that some foods are healthier than others and we should eat more healthy foods and few unhealthy foods.  Not complicated in theory.  In practice, being at my in-laws house for Thanksgiving means being surrounded by foods at the bottom end and my willpower muscle is at a low ebb.  But next week I’ll be good.

Quick hits (part I)

1) It really is pretty ridiculous what the state of NY lets ultra-orthodox jews get away with not teaching in their schools (and as I learned on TAL, it’s all political).  Here’s a really interesting story of one young man who rebelled against a system that left him devoid of all sorts of basic knowledge.  Of course, he’s been ostracized for this.

2) SNL version of I’m Just a Bill

3) After this Radiolab episode on Translation, I became really interested in where ribosomes come from.  As a result, I now know about the RNA World Hypothesis.  I’m going to have to use this in my daily conversations to sound more intelligent.

4) Just another all-too-typical American story of a man who spent decades in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.  Ricky Jackson was convicted based on the coerced and manipulated testimony of a 12-year old.   What’s not typical is Jackson’s 39(!) years behind bars.

5) I’m not at all surprised that college students who manage to be disciplined enough to take and attend morning classes tend to be more successful than their peers.  I suspect it’s not much at all about being a “morning person” but about being a “self-disciplined” person.

6) We’ve been learning all the cool ways in which bacteria are so important to our overall health.  What if certain viruses play a key role as well.

7) Speaking of which, the New Yorker’s excellent new story on fecal transplants is currently not behind the paywall– read it while you can.  For what it’s worth, I suspect I would make an excellent donor.

8) How the Marines are trying to figure out whether women should be able to have front-line combat roles.

9) Lenore Skenazy in Vox on the “cult of kiddie danger.”

10) Will Texas kill an insane man?  Do you have to ask?  Nice NYT editorial on the matter.

11) Adequately funding a court system is really important if you actually believe in justice.  In NC, apparently not so much.

12) Somehow, I failed to link the blockbuster Rolling Stone story on the culture of rape in UVA.  In many ways, worse than the horrific rape described is the fact that UVA students seem far more concerned about their social status than whether their “friends” are victims of sexual violence.

13) And Charlottesville resident Dahlia Lithwick’s excellent take.

14) I was intrigued by Reihan Salam’s argument that we should end birthright citizenship.

15) It’s nice to be rich and get a lower tax rate.

16) Hopefully you saw what may be the greatest football catch ever.  I really enjoyed this NYT piece asking a whole bunch of different photographers how they got their shots.


Photo of the day

Nothing says Thanksgiving like Spongebob in a Santa hat.  I’m thankful that lots of you out there actually find what I have to say and share interesting enough to keep on reading.  Thanks!

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27:  Nickelodeon's Spongebob

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 27: Nickelodeon’s Spongebob Squarepants balloon returns for the 88th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 27, 2014 in New York City.  Rob Kim, Getty Images

The police are allowed to shoot people

From my perspective, the shooting of Michael Brown is sufficiently ambiguous that Darren Wilson was never going to be convicted of anything.  I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, it just is.  We give the police an amazing amount of latitude in their legal ability to shoot people.  My sense if probably a little too much latitude, but legally there’s a ton of precedent for Darren Wilson shooting Michael Brown and not facing any legal consequences.  The truth is factually ambiguous police shootings of unarmed suspects happen all the time with the officer not facing any consequences.  The difference in this case is that the protest in Ferguson means we all know about it.

Some useful perspective from Jamelle Bouie:

None of this was a surprise. It’s extremely rare for a police officer to face an indictment for a shooting, much less criminal punishment. “The FBI reported 410 justifiable homicides by law enforcement in 2012,” notedTalking Points Memo in an August story following the events in Ferguson, “The number of indictments appear to be minimal after a TPM review of available press reports.” And it’s not just shootings; earlier this year, Georgia police mistakenly raided a home and seriously injured a young child. Prosecutors convened a grand jury, and the grand jury voted against an indictment. “The drug investigation that led to these events was hurried, sloppy, and unfortunately not in accordance with the best practices and procedures,” wrote the grand jury in its decision. Still, no one from the police force was held accountable.

The truth is that the law gives wide berth to the police’s use of deadly force…

Beyond this, there are the general standards for use of deadly force by police, which give wide latitude to officers who use their weapons. The Supreme Court allows police to use their weapons in two circumstances: To defend their lives and to stop an escaped felon. If Wilson believed that Brown was a felon—or committed a felonious offense—then he was justified under existing law. And if Wilson believed he was in danger of losing his life—a belief that only has to be “objectively reasonable,” not likely or even possible—then, again, he was justified under existing law.

And 538 that points out that grand juries not indicting is incredibly rare.  Except in police shootings:

As my colleague Reuben Fischer-Baum has written, we don’t have good data on officer-involved killings. But newspaperaccounts suggest, grand juries frequently decline to indict law-enforcement officials. A recent Houston Chronicle investigationfound that “police have been nearly immune from criminal charges in shootings” in Houston and other large cities in recent years. In Harris County, Texas, for example, grand juries haven’t indicted a Houston police officer since 2004; in Dallas, grand juries reviewed 81 shootings between 2008 and 2012 and returned just one indictment. Separate research by Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip Stinson has found that officers are rarely charged in on-duty killings, although it didn’t look at grand jury indictments specifically.

Vox covers many of the same points, but I like their perspective on how the prosecutor handled the grand jury:

Alex Little, a former federal prosecutor who spent six years trying violent crimes, including homicides, told Vox’s Amanda Taub in August that the strategy raised concerns about McCulloch’s commitment to seeking justice in the case:

So when a District Attorney says, in effect, “we’ll present the evidence and let the grand jury decide,” that’s malarkey. If he takes that approach, then he’s already decided to abdicate his role in the process as an advocate for justice. At that point, there’s no longer a prosecutor in the room guiding the grand jurors, and — more importantly — no state official acting on behalf of the victim, Michael Brown…

Then, when you add to the mix that minorities are notoriously underrepresented on grand juries, you have the potential for nullification — of a grand jury declining to bring charges even when there is sufficient probable cause. That’s the real danger to this approach…

In an interview Vox’s Amanda Taub conducted with David Rudovsky, an expert in police prosecutions, he explained that various stages of the criminal justice process — from being investigated by police peers, to being prosecuted by attorneys who work closely with police, to natural jury bias toward law enforcement — makes it rather rare for cops to go to jail for misconduct on the job. This plays out not just in Ferguson, but across the nation.

And Jon Cohn on the failure to indict:

At this point, and pending a thorough examination of everything McCulloch has posted online, it’s difficult to feel confident about exactly what happened in Ferguson on that day. Given the standards of Missouri law, which gives police officers deference when they claim self-defense, it’s also difficult to imagine a trial jury agreeing to convict Wilson of a crime. That alone might have been reason enough for a Grand Jury not to find “probable cause” of a crime, according to Frank Bowman, a professor of law at the University of Missouri:

A finding of probable cause means that the grand jury is able to conclude, based on the evidence, that it is more likely than not that each and every element of a charged crime exists.  The fact that some evidence exists to support one or all elements doesn’t amount to probable causeparticularly if there is also evidence pointing the opposite direction on some or all elements. … The grand jury does not need the level of certainty, beyond a reasonable doubt, required for conviction by a trial jury. But if it is to serve any useful function as a protection against unfounded prosecution, it must refuse to indict unless it is convinced that a crime was committed.

We are chosen to have a society where police can conspire to legally steal your cash and can shoot people with impunity in all but the most egregious circumstances (I don’t doubt that the substantial majority of these shootings are actually justified, but not to the degree that is currently allowed by our legal system).  Maybe this is how it should be, but I think the pendulum has gone too far in our hope for the police to “keep us safe.”  Especially when you consider the racial angles of how this plays out.  I’m not actually optimistic of meaningful changes, but this case does very much highlight the decisions we have made in this regard as a society and (hopefully) call for us to reexamine them.

GMO Trees!

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the American Chestnut– a pretty awesome tree (really!) that once dominated many American forests.  And made it’s way into popular folkore (“chestnuts roasting on an open fire”).  Alas, it pretty much went extinct in the mid 20th century to do a fungal blight.  There’s been a number of breeding efforts (with Asian Chestnuts) that have failed to bring it back.  Well now scientists at SUNY have created a GMO chestnut that is resistant to this fungus but otherwise has pretty much all the same properties of the classic American Chestnut.  Awesome!  I’m ready for some in NC.   This being a GMO, of course, things aren’t that simple.  I learned about this via Quirks and Quarks which eventually led me to this terrific Scientific American article that looks at the history of the the chestnut as well as the modern science.

Humans are both responsible for the demise of America’s chestnut forests and the only species on the planet that can do something about it. Since the 1980s several generations of Leopold’s colleagues at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (S.U.N.Y.–ESF) have toiled to restore the American chestnut to its native habitat. One semisuccessful strategy has been mating American chestnut with blight-resistant but much smaller Chinese chestnut, selectively breeding the hybrids to achieve a tree that is as genetically and physically similar to an American chestnut as possible, yet still resilient. Genetic engineering has offered another even more successful route to restoration. By taking genes from wheat, Asian chestnuts, grapes, peppers and other plants and inserting them into American chestnut trees, William Powell of S.U.N.Y.–ESF and scores of collaborators have created hundreds of transgenic trees that are almost 100 percent genetically identical wild American chestnut yet immune to C. parasitica. The scientists hope to get federal approval to begin planting these trees in the forest within the next five years (See “The American Chestnut’s Genetic Rebirth” in the March 2014 issue ofScientific American)…

If S.U.N.Y.–ESF’s Powell and his colleagues succeed in planting young transgenic blight-resistant chestnuts in the wild, chances are good that the trees will successfully expand their domain—relatively quickly in some areas; slowly but surely in others. Over the decades this new generation of American chestnuts will change the forest from floor to canopy: Their uppermost branches will bring shade to areas that have too little; their quickly decomposing leaves will carpet the soil and drift into streams and standing water, staining the water with nutrients; their trunks will be home to billions of insects and mammals, their branches the foundations of nests; and, one day, when the trees are mature enough, they will drop scores of chestnuts for the first time in more than a century.

This Ars Technica article looks at the policy/politics of the matter:

But there’s still the matter of public approval. One place these trees might be planted is on public parkland—the areas of protected forest that preserve the habitats where it once thrived contain many state parks and two national ones. But the mission of these parks is generally to preserve the natural ecosystem, and it’s safe to assume that some people will object to a transgenic plant being introduced to a natural ecosystem.

The other place the trees are likely to go is private properties. The research is funded in part by The American Chestnut Foundation, which is enthused about returning the species to the wild. Presumably, some of its members will be just as enthused about putting the trees in their yards. Whether their neighbors will be equally enthused is debatable.

So far, the debate within the US about the role of genetically modified organisms has been relatively muted compared to that in Europe. And, fortunately, the subject has not become politically polarized; concern about the risks posed by the technology are similar across the political spectrum. But that data also makes it clear that a lot of people do perceive a risk, despite decades of study and use that haven’t revealed any problems.

The use of GMO crops is likely to continue to expand—a recent analysis of global data suggests that GMO crops raise yields, lower pesticide use, and increase farmers’ income. But for most citizens, their use as crops is an abstraction, something that happens far away. It may be that the transgenic chestnut will be the first time many people are faced with seeing a GMO plant up close—and have to decide if they want one in their backyard.

As for that Chestnut tree in the backyard?  Sounds awesome– sign me up.

Cancer is inescapable

In the big picture, it is probably better to die from cancer than most other causes.  Of course, there are the truly heartbreaking stories of people dying all too young from cancer, but for the most part dying of cancer means you have lived a pretty long life and did not die from many diseases or illnesses that tend to kill people at younger ages.  I really liked this NYT piece on the inevitability of cancer and what it really means when more people die from cancer:

Half a century ago, the story goes, a person was far more likely to die from heart disease. Now cancer is on the verge of overtaking it as the No. 1 cause of death.

Troubling as this sounds, the comparison is unfair. Cancer is, by far, the harder problem — a condition deeply ingrained in the nature of evolution and multicellular life. Given that obstacle, cancer researchers are fighting and even winning smaller battles: reducing the death toll from childhood cancers and preventing — and sometimes curing — cancers that strike people in their prime. But when it comes to diseases of the elderly, there can be no decisive victory. This is, in the end, a zero-sum game. [emphasis mine]…

Though not exactly consoling, the fact that we have reached this standoff is a kind of success. A century ago average life expectancy at birth was in the low to mid-50s. Now it is almost 79, and if you make it to 65 you’re likely to live into your mid-80s. The median age of cancer death is 72. We live long enough for it to get us…

I especially liked this part that explains how cancer is essentially basic to multi-cellular life:

It is not so much a disease as a phenomenon, the result of a basic evolutionary compromise. As a body lives and grows, its cells are constantly dividing, copying their DNA — this vast genetic library — and bequeathing it to the daughter cells. They in turn pass it to their own progeny: copies of copies of copies. Along the way, errors inevitably occur. Some are caused by carcinogens but most are random misprints.

Over the eons, cells have developed complex mechanisms that identify and correct many of the glitches. But the process is not perfect, nor can it ever be. Mutations are the engine of evolution. Without them we never would have evolved. The trade-off is that every so often a certain combination will give an individual cell too much power. It begins to evolve independently of the rest of the body. Like a new species thriving in an ecosystem, it grows into a cancerous tumor. For that there can be no easy fix.

These microscopic rebellions have been happening for at least half a billion years, since the advent of complex multicellular life — collectives of cells that must work together, holding back, as best each can, the natural tendency to proliferate. Those that do not — the cancer cells — are doing, in a Darwinian sense, what they are supposed to do: mutating, evolving and increasing in fitness compared with their neighbors, the better behaved cells of the body. And these are left at a competitive disadvantage, shackled by a compulsion to obey the rules…

As people age their cells amass more potentially cancerous mutations. Given a long enough life, cancer will eventually kill you — unless you die first of something else. That would be true even in a world free from carcinogens and equipped with the most powerful medical technology.

So, what we can do– and are doing– is work to prevent/cure the cancers that strike people in their prime and find a way to alleviate the suffering from those stricken with cancer in their advanced years.  But as far as getting rid of cancer– we’re pretty much stuck with it.

Photo of the day

From In Focus photos of the week:

A foal, right, walks on the land next to a mare as fog covers the landscape during a foggy autumn sunrise in Ezquiroz, near Pamplona, northern Spain, on November 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

The politics of immigration

It’s hard to know exactly how the politics of immigration will play out over the next couple years, but I’ve read three smart (and independent of each other, I think) takes that all make essentially the same argument– the extreme right-wing xenophobia Obama’s actions will unleash among Republicans will politically benefit Democrats.  It remains to be seen, of course, but this strikes me as a fairly likely scenario.  Drum:

Ah yes, Steve King of Iowa. The odds of shutting him up are about zero, and with primary season approaching he’s going to become the de facto leader of the anti-immigration forces. In the same way that Republican candidates all have to kiss Sheldon Adelson’s ring and swear eternal loyalty to Israel if they want access to his billions, they’re going to have to kiss King’s ring and swear eternal hostility to any kind of immigration from south of the border—and they’re going to compete wildly to express this in the most colorful ways possible. And that’s a big problem. Expressing loyalty to Israel doesn’t really have much downside, but effectively denouncing the entire Hispanic population of the United States is going to steadily destroy any hopes Republicans have of ever appealing to this fast-growing voting bloc.

And that’s not all. Republican leaders are not only fearful of next year’s primaries branding the GOP forever as a bunch of xenophobic maniacs, they’re afraid it’s going to wipe out any chance they have over the next two years of demonstrating to voters that they’re a party of adults.

And Chait:

And here is where Obama’s announcement will leave its deepest imprint. The emotional momentum in the Republican Party now falls to its most furious, deranged voices. Michele Bachmann has denounced what she calls “millions of unskilled, illiterate, foreign nationals coming into the United States who can’t speak the English language.” Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama has even presented the most sympathetic slice of the immigrant community — the ones serving in the military — as a source of insidious competition and even treason. (“I don’t want American citizens having to compete with illegal immigrants for jobs in our military … These individuals have to be absolutely 100 percent loyal and trustworthy.” Steve King, a regular font of nativist outbursts, is setting himself up as a power broker in Iowa, which will command center stage in the GOP primary for months and months on end.

And Noam Scheiber (who takes a broader look– well worth reading– on how conservatives focus on procedure to try and obscure their unpopular policy aims):

And yet, try as they might to stick to the script, there’s something about dark-skinned foreigners that sends the conservative id into overdrive. Most famously, there’s Iowa Congressman Steve King’s observation last year that for every child brought into the country illegally “who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

While King tends to be especially vivid in his lunacy, he’s no outlier. Just yesterday departing Congresswoman Michele Bachmann opined that “the social cost [of Obama’s order] will be profound on the U.S. taxpayermillions of unskilled, illiterate, foreign nationals coming into the United States who can’t speak the English language.” (Not to worry, GOP leadershipKing and Bachmann are graciously slinking off stage. They’retraveling to the Mexican border today to inspect the problem first-hand.)

The problem with drawing these crazy relatives down from the attic isn’t just that it exposes the GOP’s soothing proceduralism as a sham when it comes to immigration reform. It’s that it exposes the GOP’s proceduralism as a sham more broadly. It simply defies logic to believe that Mexicans (and maybe Muslims, the other minority group Bachmann et al feel comfortable hounding) are the only group of non-white or non-affluent Americans the GOP’s conservative wing disdains. And the longer the immigration debate goes on, the more damage will be done to that fiction.

With all this, it’s hard to see how cooler heads are going to prevail in the GOP.  And, of course, it’s not just Hispanics who get turned off by the rhetoric of the crazy, the more this becomes the GOP “brand” the more it can hurt the party among all voters.  Definitely something to watch for 2016.

Benghazi and scandal bias

You might not have heard that the House Republican committee investigating Benghazi released a report on Friday afternoon (the timing is not a coincidence) that completely undermines all the wild-eyed, Fox News, “scandal” allegations.  There’s a very nice summary from Drum:

It’s hard to exaggerate just how remarkable this document is. It’s not that the committee found nothing to criticize. They did. The State Department facility in Benghazi had inadequate security. Some of the early intelligence after the attacks was inaccurate. The CIA should have given more weight to eyewitnesses on the ground.

But those are routine after-action critiques, ones that were fully acknowledged by the very first investigations. Beyond that, every single conspiracy theory—without exception—was conclusively debunked….

Late on a Friday afternoon, when it would get the least attention, a Republican-led committee finally admitted that every single Benghazi conspiracy theory was false. [emphasis mine]  There are ways that the response to the attacks could have been improved, but that’s it. Nobody at the White House interfered. Nobody lied. Nobody prevented the truth from being told.

It was all just manufactured outrage from the beginning. But now the air is gone. There is no scandal, and there never was.

Drum’s subsequent post points out that this total exoneration of the White House was basically buried by the media.

You know what sells newspapers and gets cable TV ratings?  “Scandal” allegations, no matter how flimsy.  You know what doesn’t?  Thoroughly researched reports showing that those allegations were bunk.  Of course, if this was a Republican presidential administration, I absolutely guarantee you that there would be plenty a website going on about the “liberal media bias” involved in this.  The point, of course, is that the media simply is not interested in an ideological agenda or “fairness.”  They are interested in eyeballs (i.e., it is a business) and that always has been and always will be the primary way in which our news is “biased.”  Benghazi and how the media covers “scandal” is just one more in an endless list of examples.

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