Smart takes
March 17, 2014

Over at The New York Times, Timothy Egan notices a strange similarity between Paul Ryan's rhetoric on poverty, and that of the English authorities during the 19th century potato famine in Ireland:

A great debate raged in London: Would it be wrong to feed the starving Irish with free food, thereby setting up a "culture of dependency"? Certainly England's man in charge of easing the famine, Sir Charles Trevelyan, thought so. "Dependence on charity," he declared, "is not to be made an agreeable mode of life."

And there I ran into Paul Ryan. His great-great-grandfather had fled to America. But the Republican congressman was very much in evidence, wagging his finger at the famished. His oft-stated "culture of dependency" is a safety net that becomes a lazy-day hammock. But it was also England's excuse for lethal negligence.

There is no comparison, of course, between the de facto genocide that resulted from British policy, and conservative criticism of modern American poverty programs.

But you can't help noticing the deep historic irony that finds a Tea Party favorite and descendant of famine Irish using the same language that English Tories used to justify indifference to an epic tragedy. [The New York Times]

I don't think anyone really thinks dependence on charity or a culture of dependency ought to be a long-term condition. Self-reliance is an indisputable virtue. But for the truly helpless, there can be no pathway back to self-reliance if one starves to death. Famine is not honorable or virtuous. Nor is it civilized to live in a country where the poor starve to death.

Paul Ryan would do better to set out an agenda of job creation than lecture the poor on the virtues of self-improvement. There are lots and lots of people who want jobs, who want to work and want the dignity of self-reliance — so many that there are 2.9 job seekers for every job opening. People can't lift themselves out of poverty and off welfare if the economy isn't creating an abundance of jobs. Job creation comes first. John Aziz

2016 Watch
1:57 p.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) slumps, he's insisted he isn't dropping out of the 2016 presidential race. In addition to low poll and fundraising numbers, Paul should have another chief concern: one of his opponents, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Both candidates attended the Republican Liberty Caucus in New Hampshire on Friday, and Politico reports things didn't look too hot for Paul, who might be losing the libertarian base to his colleague:

Cruz, who enjoyed a standing ovation when he took the stage, deviated several times from his standard stump speech. He flaunted his philosophically libertarian credentials, name-dropping economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, who are idolized in liberty circles. The Texas senator, who is generally hawkish on foreign policy, also stressed to the non-interventionist crowd that he doesn't support "nation-building," and noted that he opposed a proposal to intervene in Syria.

Though Paul's speech was also well-received, some voters in attendance who had strongly supported Paul's father, Ron, in 2012, said they were more confident in Cruz than in the younger Paul.

"Cruz is stronger, he'd have more spunk as president," one told Politico. Julie Kliegman

race in america
12:51 p.m. ET

Activists took to the National Mall to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March in Washington, D.C, on Saturday. In 1995, hundreds of thousands of black men gathered to raise awareness about social and economic inequality.

Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, who led the first march, called for an anniversary reprise to include other marginalized groups under the theme "Justice or Else," MSNBC reports. The event comes after the Black Lives Matter movement picked up steam over the past year in protesting police brutality against unarmed black people, including Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray.

"It was a very special moment in my life, it was a moment that actually changed my life, so my main goal is to try to expose young people to that same thing," said Victorious Hall, a 2015 attendee who recalled attending the original event as a 13-year-old. Julie Kliegman

11:51 a.m. ET
David Livingston/Getty Images)

Actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner spoke out about the sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby, telling The Associated Press on Friday that they "tarnished" the iconic '80s sitcom. Amid backlash over dozens of women accusing Cosby of rape, sexual assault, and drugging, TV Land pulled all re-runs of the show in 2014.

"My biggest concern is when it comes to images of people of color on television and film, no matter what...negative stereotypes of people of color, we've always had The Cosby Show to hold up against that," he said. "And the fact that we no longer have that, that's the thing that saddens me the most because in a few generations the Huxtables will have been just a fairy tale."

Warner said he's been in touch with Cosby, but wouldn't comment on their conversations. Cosby has not been charged with any crime.

On Friday, Dateline interviewed 27 of his accusers, the same day Cosby was scheduled to give a deposition in Los Angeles. The video recording will be sealed for at least 60 days. Julie Kliegman

Around the world
11:02 a.m. ET
Defne Karadeniz/Getty Images

Two bombs at a Turkish peace rally killed at least 86 people and injured 186 others Saturday.

The explosions hit a crowd gathered near a train station in Ankara, the nation's capital, as they readied to rally against renewed violence between Kurdish rebels and Turkish security forces. Following the attack, Kurdish rebels declared a temporary cease-fire as the nation prepares for Nov. 1 elections.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombings. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the blasts show "strong signs" of suicide bombings.

"The greatest and most meaningful response to this attack is the solidarity and determination we will show against it," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. Julie Kliegman

10:35 a.m. ET

The Secret Service agent credited with saving former President Ronald Reagan's life died Friday at age 85. Retired agent Jerry Parr died Friday of congestive heart failure, according to his wife, Carolyn, The New York Times reports. Parr's last tweet was a photo of him with Carolyn:

When John W. Hinckley Jr. opened fire on Reagan on March 30, 1981, Parr shoved him into a limousine, jumped in on top of him, and instructed the driver to take off.

"When he was about probably six or seven feet from the car, I heard these shots," Parr said in 2013. "I sort of knew what they were, and I'd been waiting for them all of my career, in a way. That's what every agent waits for, is that."

When Parr saw Reagan was spitting up blood from a bullet that struck him, he diverted the car to the hospital, where the president underwent surgery and returned to work 12 days later.

"Jerry was not only one of the finest Secret Service agents to ever serve this country, but one of the most decent human beings I've ever known," Reagan's widow, Nancy, told CNN on Friday. "He was humble but strong, reserved but confident, and blessed with a great sense of humor. It is no wonder that he and my husband got along so well." Julie Kliegman

Gun Violence
8:17 a.m. ET

President Obama flew to Roseburg, Oregon, on Friday to address families grieving from the Oct. 1 Umpqua Community College shooting, when a gunman killed nine people.

"I've got some very strong feelings about this because when you talk to these families, you're reminded that this could be happening to your child, or your mom, or your dad, or your relative, or your friend," he said. "And so we're going to have to come together as a country to see how we can prevent these issues from taking place."

Obama met with about 40 people at Roseburg High School for an hour before making his public statement.

"It wasn't a discussion, it was a hug," one woman described the meeting to The Oregonian.

Some gun rights advocates protested Obama's presence in Roseburg with demonstrations at the airport and in front of the school. Julie Kliegman

7:49 a.m. ET
John Gress/Getty Images

Despite repeatedly denying he was interested in the position, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is reportedly considering a run for House speaker, legislators told CNN on Friday. He said he's "thinking and praying on it," according to Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah).

Mitt Romney, who tapped Ryan as his 2012 presidential running mate, is one of many urging him to put his name in to replace John Boenher (R-Ohio) after Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) shocked Congress by dropping out of the race Thursday.

"I wouldn't presume to tell Paul what to do, but I do know that he is a man of ideas who is driven to see them applied for the public good," Romney said in a statement. "Every politician tries to convince people that they are that kind of leader; almost none are — Paul is."

Leaving Capitol Hill on Friday, Paul declined fill in reporters on his chances of entering the race.

"Sorry guys, I'm just going to go," he told reporters. "The Packers are at home. They're going to beat the Rams and cover the spread." Julie Kliegman

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