As you may have heard, the FAA began warning of massive flight delays due to the sequester’s impact on flight control. So the FAA gets a sequester exemption.
As someone planning a couple of flights later in the year, this is good news. Except that, as Echidne, LGM and the Prospect point out, air traffic control is only one of countless functions threatened by the sequester (that was the point). Federal public defenders in the Boston office (where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s case is being handled) may have to take furloughs, for instance, which is lousy for defendants who can’t afford their own lawyer. So why should the FAA get an exemption and not budget items that deal with the social safety net, kids in Head Start, legal rights, etc.
The obvious answer: Flight delays hit people with money enough to hire their own lawyers and get their kids in a good school. It affects federal politicians (as Echidne’s link points out). So they create an exception. Which is a depressing reminder how little the rest of us count. And, of course, defeats the point of the sequester, which was to spread pain all around and make sure everyone’s ox was gored. If the oxen the rich and powerful value are protected, then it’s a bad deal.
Digby, meanwhile, turns in a nice historical post pointing out that people have been screaming Deficit Doom for two decades now. Why do you realize that in 2012, Social Security and Medicare will eat up 100 percent of the federal budget?
In other news San Francisco’s Gay Pride parade had initially announced Bradley Manning would be one of the grand marshals (a symbolic gesture as he’s still in prison). Then SF Pride’s board president Lisa Williams announced that no, he was off the gig and that she wouldn’t “tolerate” any signs of support for him. Glenn Greenwald wonders why the group can tolerate funding from Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other corporations with a record of illegal activities (or alleged activities) but finds Manning’s conduct too horrifying to accept. His conclusion is that Williams is a pro-Obama activist so she’s going to side with the White House on Manning—and that in general, gay equality, while a good thing, isn’t going to disrupt the status quo as far as the distribution of power and wealth in the US.
There’s a great deal of lively discussion of this topic in the comments at alicublog. Some commenters argue there’s no more reason to expect gays to be generally liberal than any other group, and that only the Repubs’ rampant bigotry keeps many gays voting Dem. Further discussion follows on whether this is anything new (has the movement been co-opted by sellouts or were all gays really rock-throwing revolutionaries in the days of Stonewall) and whether it’s reasonable to expect gays to be political radicals any more than straights.
This debate puts me in mind of Randy Shilts’ Conduct Unbecoming, about the history of gays in the military. Shilts says in the book that for years, the ban on gay soldiers wasn’t even an issue because gay activists, as leftists, didn’t think the right to join the military was anything to fight for.
Category Archives: Politics
As you may have heard, the FAA began warning of massive flight delays due to the sequester’s impact on flight control. So the FAA gets a sequester exemption.
Pretty much as long as I’ve been writing about politics (whether columns, blog posts or letters to the local paper), conservatives have quivered with indignation if anyone criticizes them. Over and over, they insist that to say they’re racist/sexist/homophobic or that you’re not going to patronize Chik Fil A because of the owner’s anti-gay views, that’s censorship! Or as one Jewish group put it, gay marriage shouldn’t be legal because if it is, people who oppose it will suffer “moral opprobrium.” Like the Harvard Law student who believed blacks were mentally inferior but didn’t think it was fair to criticize her for that. After all, she feels really, really bad about the evidence inevitably leading her to that conclusion, so it’s not like she’s bigoted or anything!
The latest example of this is libertarian Matt Welch writing about “The Importance of Allowing People to Say That You Can’t Be a Gay Basketball Player and a Christian.” Apparently ESPN’s Chris Broussard responded to basketball player Jason Collins’ coming out by stating “I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian.” (As commenters at the link point out [the link is to alicublog, not directly to Welch]), this is not saying you can’t be a gay basketball player and Christian, it’s saying gays can’t be Christian period). This unsurprisingly earned Broussard a lot of flak, which Welch thinks is a bad thing: “If such comments aren’t expressed, a real conversation can’t be had.”
So if saying that Collins is a fake Christian and that gays are anti-God is “a real conversation,” why is saying Broussard is full of shit not just as much part of the conversation? As the commenters pointed out, the real issue is that it’s not the conversation Welch and Broussard think they should be having, in which Broussard can condemn gays as much as he wants, but he’s not supposed to get condemned back. When they do, it’s exactly the same as people not allowing him to speak.
Broussard talks about Collins “living in unrepentant sin” but as Slacktivist points out, lots of people live in sin. Bankers who foreclose on houses illegally. Jerry Falwell and other Christians who bear false witness against their neighbors for political gain (or Wayne LaPierre of the NRA who’s been lying since 2008 about how Obama’s going to confiscate all our guns). Mitt Romney ripping off workers. Banks using overdraft fees to leech money from customers. Yet somehow nobody refers to those guys as “living in sin.”
In the same post, Slacktivist also has a response to one Baptist leader’s complaint that moral arguments have been “marginalized”in the fight for same-sex marriage: “If he listened, he would understand that moral argument hasn’t been marginalized, it has been marshaled against him. There is a moral argument being made, forcefully and repeatedly, and it is an argument that demonstrates the immorality of Al Mohler and other defenders of inequality.
I’m posting a Destin Log column I did four years ago about evolution to this blog. As I’m not sure how long my stuff my stay on the Log website.
Not the best way to celebrate Darwin’s birthday
(Fraser Sherman, Opinion Column, The Destin Log, February 23, 2009)
If State Sen. Stephen Wise wants creationism taught in public schools, I have a plan to do it in a way that will save Florida money.
Wise prefiled a bill this month (the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth month, no less) requiring science classes teach intelligent design along with evolution, on the ground “you have to teach the other side so you can have critical thinking.” He then goes on to grumble that this will probably lead to a lawsuit since freedom of religion groups “use the courts all the time. I guess if they have enough money they can get it in the courts.”
This is, of course, the classic creationist/creation science/intelligent design tactic, posing as unbiased seekers of truth battling against the crushing orthodoxy of Darwinian dogma. My normal response would be to point out that critical thinking is exactly what scientists have used to conclusively disprove creationism and intelligent design ” a less religious name for the same belief ” time and again.
I would then go on to quote Rep. Alan Hayes “”We must keep the discussion scientific. I don’t know of anyone who is in favor of teaching religion in public” ” and point out that if the state teaches intelligent design, it’s teaching religion, no matter how much Hayes pretends otherwise.
I would explain that the Discovery Institute, the country’s main advocate for intelligent design, has admitted its goal in pushing “ID” is to replace secular science with one that’s “Christ centered.”
That one of the best-known ID textbooks, “Of Pandas and People,” is a creationist textbook reprinted with “intelligent design” wherever it used to say “creationism.”
That courts have consistently found ID and creation science to be thinly disguised religious doctrine. I imagine that’s why Wise is so huffy about having courts weigh in on what constitutes science but thinks it’s just fine for the Legislature to do it.
But even if I said all that, it’s quite possible Wise’s bill will become law; this is Florida, remember? So instead I thought I’d show him a better way to get intelligent design into schools.
The reason we know evolution is science is because it makes a number of predictions regarding natural selection, intermediate fossils, genetics and other things that have been born out. It can be tested, and it can be disproved: As scientist J.B.S. Haldane put it, if someone finds fossilized rabbits in billion-year-old rocks, evolution is done for.
If creationists/IDers want some scientific respect, that’s all they have to do: Make a prediction about what we would discover if ” and only if ” creationism/ID were true, then go out and find proof the prediction holds up. Do that, and creationism will start getting some scientific respect.
So what Wise should do is take all that money the state will have to spend defending his creationist bill and put it into a grant for serious ID research (he could even invite the Discovery Institute to kick in, instead of spending all its money on news releases). If any scientific breakthroughs result, Wise will look like a visionary.
The catch is, nothing would result: Creationism doesn’t work, it’s been disproved multiple times and nobody’s ever come up with a research project to prove otherwise (sorry, saying “I don’t think people could have evolved without God” is not proof of anything). That’s why ID supporters pour money into politicking and PR rather than research.
I fully understand that for some Christians this is irrelevant: If facts contradict Genesis ” or more precisely, their interpretation of Genesis as an absolutely literal six-day event ” they chose to believe the Bible. I will defend to the death their right to do that, but no matter how fervent their belief, it isn’t science, any more than those Christians who believe the “inerrant” Bible proves the Earth is flat have a place spreading their views in geography classes.
If creationists want to do real scientific research and prove me wrong, go for it.
But I’m not holding my breath.
Yesterday I linked to LGM arguing that we should push to apply safety regulations to US corporations and manufacturers, no matter where they set up factories or sweatshops. In regard Matt Yglesias made the counter-argument—relating to the death of 161 workers when a garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed—that the safety laws that are important to the United States aren’t necessarily what Bangladeshis want: Maybe having a job is more important to them than being safe, so we should respect that. And besides, risk equals reward: Dangerous gigs pay more.
Erik Loomis of LGM responds that low-paid work is often extremely desperate: It goes to desperate people who take shit jobs for low pay and have lousy working conditions to boot. And the assumption that workers are “choosing” to accept low safety in return for jobs assumes a)they have some say in this and b)they have any say in anything (union organizers in third-world countries get murdered). Fellow poster Scott Lemieux adds that the owner blatantly violated the safety regulations that did exist, so it’s not as if Bangladesh thinks what he did was acceptable either.
•Republicans are apparently promoting a new set of talking points explaining that George W. Bush’s presidency was an unqualified success: He fought for freedom in the third world, took out governments that threatened us in Iraq and Afghanistan, made the economy boom, lowered taxes, kept us safe from terrorism … While I don’t have time or space to detail every piece of bullshit, I will make a few notes:
•America’s worst terrorist disaster happened on Bush’s watch. So did the anthrax letter and terrorist Jim Adkisson (who shot up a Unitarian church out of the stated desire to kill all liberals).
•Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq were a threat to us. Even at the time nobody claimed Afghanistan was a threat, it was simply taken out for hosting bin Laden and the Taliban. And every claim about how Iraq was a potential threat to us was bullshit. As I note here, either W swallowed everything despite lots of contrary evidence because he wanted to attack Iraq (Bob Woodward quotes Bush as announcing on 9/12 that he “knew” Iraq was behind it), or he lied through his teeth.
•W sanctioned torture. Which is a crime under both US and international law (international laws we’ve signed off on, not some abstract theory). He locked up people without trial, in defiance of the Constitution, including an American citizen, and kept them locked up despite evidence they were innocent.
•He passed tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefited his own economic class, and did so with the specific intention of gutting the Clinton-era surprlus (as he stated before becoming president). He then ran up deficits to a record high through massive war spending ($8 billion of which has never been accounted for. Though admittedly the military has never kept an accurate budget so I can’t blame that on Bush).
•Like every other American president since WW II ended, he backed tyrants and dictators as long as they played for our team (Saudi Arabia being a prime example, but not a unique one). And we’ve had multiple accounts of the governments in Iraq and Afghanistan violating human rights to boot.
•He tried to privatize Social Security, which is not “saving” it.
In general, he was the worst president of my lifetime, and that includes Reagan.
Slate recommends we make birth-control pills as OTC as condoms.
•Rick Pearlstein looks back at 1962, when the good guys beat the bad guys within the law (in the movie Cape Fear). As a pulp fan, I don’t entirely buy this argument: the pulps were full of characters like the Shadow who operated outside the law (as did Batman in his early years), so it’s not as if there was a long tradition of respect-the-law followed by a breakdown. Still it’s an interesting point, and one I’ve heard made before: There’s an old Andy Griffith episode, for instance, where Opie catches a crook confessing on tape and Andy refuses to violate the crook’s Constitutional rights by using the recording. LGM links to Perlstein and several commenters dismiss his thesis; it’s worth reading (and now I’ll have to watch the movie)>.
•Just because the recently defeated gun law specifically says it won’t implement a gun-owner registry, that doesn’t stop Sen. Ted Cruz insisting that this is the real agenda.
•LGM says it’s time to play tough with corporations that violate US law in the way they treat their employees (this is in reference to the legal violation of the Texas fertilizer manufacturer that exploded)—and these should apply anywhere in the world where a corporation does business. I’m all for that. As someone says in comments, they’re not accidents, the deaths are the inevitable result of companies cutting safety measures)
•WSJ’s James Taranto claims the Gosnell case is the result of pro-choicers gutting state regulations on abortion clinics. LGM (again) shows he’s wrong.
•Apparently Rand Paul is fine with drones going after Americans, so long as it’s a nice, black-and-white case (to his credit, he does oppose treating the Boston bomber as an enemy combatant).
•Depressingly familiar scenario: Dartmouth students protest college rape and sexual harassment policies, so they get rape threats.
TYG has been working on some gardening projects, so this morning we headed over to Loew’s. It’s an inconvenient time for me, but she wanted to get the last plants out before this weekend (we have a lot going on, so we won’t have time to do it then) and I needed to get down there and pick up a couple of items for repairs (very, very minor. Mr. Fix-It I ain’t), so off we went.
Which, of course, threw the day’s schedule into disorder, and I have a local event to attend this evening (one of my friends is reading his newly published work), so it’s just links again, mostly about Boston.
•In light of all the confusing reports coming out of Boston after the bombs, my friend Robbyn Brooks discusses the risks of trying to beat Twitter without losing accuracy.
•Roy Edroso looks at right-bloggers mixing Muslim, Muslim! shrieks with gloating over how the bombing somehow totally disproves everything liberals think. Why, liberals even “rationalize this away as two crazy, murderous people who just coincidentally happen to have been Muslims.” Because mass murder is only unrelated to race when you’re white. Whereas as Al Jazeera points out, a lot of commentators are trying to define the bombing in terms of the Brothers being Chechen.
•Wild Hunt looks at pagans among first responders and the relationship between their work and their faith.
•Scott Lemieux discusses the importance of respecting Tsarnaev’s constitutional rights. Emily Bazelon and Joan Walsh discuss whether we should see the brothers as alienated refugees or as disgruntled white Americans.
•John McCain and Lindsay Graham, on the other hand, demand he be tried as an enemy combatant.
•New Apps ponders why we treat a Texas fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 as less newsworthy than a bombing that killed two people (among other reasons, lower-class victims and it isn’t seen as quite as random or scary). Politics also plays a part, I think. When I pointed out how many soldiers had died in Iraq back in my old Destin Log columns, I’d invariably be told that was no big deal, we lose more people in traffic accidents each year. By that logic, of course, the 9/11 deaths were no big deal (these are, surprise, arguments from people who talk about how they love and respect Our Soldiers) … but the 9/11 deaths justify war and I was arguing the soldier deaths were a reason not to fight. So totally different standards.
•And if anyone plays the “Bush kept us safe” card, here’s a list of attempted and successful terrorist attacks during the Bush years. Glenn Greenwald points out that as of yesterday (I haven’t read the news yet today), there’s no reason to think it’s a terrorist attack, other than Muslim=terrorism.
•Sen. Rand Paul argues the real issue is immigration! Just forget about American terrorists such as Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph …
•The House of Representatives has approved a bill that allows (but doesn’t mandate) email and Internet providers to share electronic data with the government, penalty-free, regardless of any contrary state or federal laws. Which the backers absolutely assure is not intended to create a surveillance state, just to make crimefighting easier.
For a look at how that doesn’t work in practice, <a href="•The House of Representatives has approved a bill that allows (but doesn’t mandate) email and Internet providers to share electronic data with the government, penalty-free, regardless of any contrary state or federal laws. Which the backers absolutely assure is not intended to create a surveillance state, just to make crimefighting easier. For a look at how that doesn’t work out, here’s a look at how a previous bill designed to penalize hackers who access high-security sites such as NORAD has been used to target people who, for example, violate terms-of-service agreement. In one case, an alleged hacker faced worse penalties than he’d get for a violent crime.
This is no surprise. Prosecutors and cops love having more and better hammers with which to hit suspects or investigate with. And they hate having their hands tied—why, if they have to Mirandize suspects or wait to get warrants, it’ll be chaos!
The Patriot Act was passed with blithe assurances from the Bush Administration that of course it would only be used in terrorist cases. Before long, cops and prosecutors were using it in non-terrorist cases or refusing to follow even the looser restrictions of the Patriot Act (the FBI’s heightened ability to get financial information was used without any authorization, often just for fishing expeditions). Prosecutors have also stretched the definition of terrorism in absurd ways, for example charging that meth-manufacturing, since it can kill people, constitute making a WMD, ergo terrorism!
Even before 9/11, there were the racketeering acts, designed to make it easier to take down organized crime. They work by claiming two or more offenses (armed assault, extortion etc.) constitutes a pattern of criminal activity, so the culprit’s income, it’s assumed, derives entirely from that activity. Using this argument, it’s possible to confiscate a drug lord or Mafiosa’s entire assets unless he can prove it’s not tied to his extortion, drug-running or whatever.
Then prosecutors used the same laws to target white-collar crooks. And in one Virginia case, a comic-book store: It had sold a couple of books the prosecutor claimed violated state obscenity statutes, ergo a pattern of selling porn, ergo the state could shut down the entire store as a porn producer.
So no, not convinced by these Of Course It Will Never Be Abused claims.
Which leads us to the DoJ’s announcement that it’s going to use the immediate-peril exemption to Miranda to question Dzhokhar Tsarnaev about the Boston bombing. As Glenn Greenwald points out, the exception was originally intended to cover situations of possible imminent danger—though as Thurgood Marshall said in objection at the time (it was a Supreme Court case) that’s legal without an exception, it’s just that the answers can’t be used in court. Under Obama, it’s been broadened to “it’s terrorism, so Miranda doesn’t apply.” (not a verbatim quote, of course). The DoJ and the FBI can ask pretty much anything without a Miranda, not just safety questions like “are there more bombs?”
LGM adds more thoughts, and links (as Greenwald does) to Emily Bazelon’s excellent analysis.
In related links, The New Yorker looks at the accused’s family, and Paul Campos says shutting down the city was the kind of overkill Tsarnaev probably wanted. One blogger questions whether there’s any reason for thinking of it as terrorism other than that Chechens are Muslims (Peter Hart of FAIR makes a related point). To put it another way, if two Muslims had shot up the Columbine high school, would we consider that terrorism too?
I’m ending up too wiped at day’s end after my new schedule to really focus for blogging. So links again today, but I imagine if I wasn’t cooking dinner (it’s an omelet so it’s waiting for TYG to come home before I throw on the eggs) I’d have a little more pizazz at this point.
•I have a new And column out on rape apologists and particularly loathsome quotes. While at the end I offer some things we should be telling sons (instead of just warning daughters), Yes Means Yes reminds us that some rapists simply aren’t interested (“They don’t misunderstand, they just don’t like the answer.”) but that “consent education” is still a good thing.
•I mentioned on Monday that Eden Foods is fighting the contraceptives-covered-by-insurance mandate as a violation of its religious freedom. Now it turns out that Eden Foods’ CEO says he has no religious convictions on the subject, he just doesn’t like government telling him what to do.
•Justice Antonin Scalia explains the Voting Rights Act should go away because it’s giving racial preferment to black people. Because of, what, the right it gives minorities to have two votes counted for every white one?
•Doing more with less people is taking its toll on workers. And boosting profits. And making workers more afraid.
•LGM, in discussing how Ivy League colleges pass on privilege, references a Ross Douthat column (Douthat: ” That the actual practice of meritocracy mostly involves a strenuous quest to avoid any kind of downward mobility, for oneself or for one’s kids, is something every upper-class American understands deep in his or her highly educated bones.”) and generally agrees.
LGM goes on to make the argument that “race” is the first thing people blame when they don’t get into college and think they should, and I believe in a lot of cases, that’s true. A lot of people freak out about affirmative action but never bat an eye at legacy admissions (alum kids get preference) or geographic preference (schools favoring certain parts of the country). And those are often way more significant than affirmative action or racial programs (yet curiously nobody seems to suggest that legacy admissions will be scarred knowing they made it in on something other than merit, one of the standard rationalizations made against affirmative action)
However, I’m much less impressed with Douthat’s column. It references Susan Patton’s letter urging Princeton women to marry in college, but treats it more as a matter of common sense (we marry people we know and bond with), ignoring that Patton isn’t just saying “marry a Princeton man” but that you should marry one before you graduate (or risk that all your life you will dream on alone). Given Douthat’s usual sexism, I suspect he’s quite fine with Patton’s advice.
•And here’s my state, North Carolina, pushing to keep students from voting. Because (as in most other efforts of this sort), they vote wrong.
Slacktivist reminds us that targeting a sports event is nothing new: Anti-abortion bomber Eric Rudolph targeted the Olympics 17 years ago.
It’s a good reminder. There’s an annoying tendency to screen out all the terrorism that took place in this country pre-9/11: Labor and management targeting each other, the KKK, the radical left and segregationist right in the 1960s, black militants, Puerto Rican separatists, right-to-life killers … Yet by the early 1990s, I kept reading articles and columns that sounded if terrorism was something we’d never experienced. Even in the late nineties (post-Oklahoma City, post-Rudolph) I’d see articles written by supposed terrorism experts pondering with great seriousness what would happen if terrorism ever came to America’s shores. Guys (or women) it never left.
Also, this quote from Bruce Schneier:”Terrorism is a crime against the mind. What happened in Boston, horrific as it is, is theater to make you scared. That’s the point.”
And sometimes it works. Digby quotes Chris Hayes, who sees the same willingness to throw over the Constitution in some of the commentary. Digby also isn’t impressed by a reporter complaining how awful it is that they not only don’t have a suspect, they don’t know what kind of suspect: “We’re standing on the verge of a very important national conversation about something, and we have no idea what it is.” As Digby points out, you can do great reporting on a disaster without worrying about how the Big Picture is going to be spun.
The New Yorker, meanwhile, looks at how a Saudi man running from the blast was tackled because apparently he looked so much more suspicious than anyone else running and yelling. And the right-wing enthusiastically piled on with the He Must Have Done Somethings.
•Echidne of the Snakes has often suggested that to some rightwingers women are just aquariums—unimportant containers for the all-important fetus. And here we have a conservative Republican, NH State Rep. Peter Hansen who refers to men protecting “children and vaginas” (he does refer to “women and mothers” later in his letters).
•Not that it’s news but yes, the US did practice torture under George W. Bush.
I’ve been juggling my schedule some, which yesterday left me without any time to blog (I had a writer’s group in the evening). So here’s some links to set things right—Wednesday posts to follow later:
Think Progress lists some of the uglier responses to the Boston bombing, including, of course that Muslims Did It (“Jihad in Boston.” “Yes, they’re evil. Let’s kill them all.”) Glenn Greenwald points out that the history of It’s the Muslims charges before the facts are in goes all the way back to Oklahoma City (he also notes there have been equally unknowable claims it was right-wingers). LGM argues that even if it’s not Muslims, the effect of screaming that it is helps frame the debate.
And while you’ve probably already seen it, here’s a link to Patton Oswald’s declaration that “The good outnumber you, and we always will.” Stephen Jay Gould made much the same point about 9/11 (and I believe, Columbine, though I may be crediting him with someone else’s work): Instead of judging humanity just by the killers, we should judge humanity also by the first responders, by the people who rush in to help, by the people who die to save someone else.
•Erik Loomis says the difference between right-wing and left-wing terrorism is that currently, there ain’t much of the second. Whereas right-wing terrorism has launched more attacks than Islam (as I touch on here). And no, that’s not a veiled way to imply Boston was a right-wing plot.
•Greenwald, in the link above, points out that what happened in Boston isn’t that different from what we do in the Islamic world on a daily basis. Here he notes we’re continuing to hold Muslims for more than a decade, even though they’ve been cleared for release.
•Speaking of our activities in Pakistan, it seems our drone strikes are (gasp!) not as carefully targeted as the White House says.
•A black woman tries to get her Kate Spade wallet repaired. The store’s response: Can you prove it’s yours? The wallet-owner’s white friend takes it in and gets it exchanged on the spot.
I’ll make the usual observation this is only one side of the story, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all. Some of you may remember an even worse incident in 1995, where two black teenagers were confronted in an Eddie Bauer store about the fact they were wearing Eddie Bauer shirts. When they didn’t have receipts handy (who carries receipts for something they’re wearing), a guard forced one of the kids to remove his shirt (he eventually got it back).
•LGM looks at right-wing claims the Gosnell case proves we need tougher abortion restrictions.