Category Archives: Politics

Todd Akin: Republicans are repressing rape apologists to win women’s votes!

Todd Akin, the politician who lost re-election after claiming rape can’t get women pregnant, now has a book out. In his memoir, he insists what he said about rape was right (though of course he really, really, really hates rape) but he was bullied by the Republican establishment into apologizing for his remarks. Of course, as Salon notes at the link (hat tip to Echidne), that would mean far from the proud Christian activist he wants us to see him as, he’s actually a mendacious politician just as willing to lie about his fundamental beliefs as all the rest.
I doubt (and hope I’m right) this will lead to a rebirth of his political career, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he became a successful speaker or talk-show host. He is, after all, saying what lots of conservatives believe (as noted in the link at the top, “rape won’t get you pregnant” has been a staple belief in evangelical right-to-life circles), and in the current atmosphere of right-wing political fervor claiming that you’re a purer conservative than the other guys never seems to hurt (and it’s now a staple of right-wing punditry).
And while we’re on the subject of the war on women and those who wage it, Hobby Lobby, some lawmakers are trying to pass a new bill that will get around the Supreme Court’s ruling. Unfortunately, the odds of getting anything through both houses of Congress are minimal.
At Slate, Lithwick and West point out the Hobby Lobby decision is even more of a mess than it first appeared. Part of Justice Alito’s rationale was that the administration had offered religious non-profits a way out of participating, by signing a form stating their religious objections (after which the employees can get birth control coverage, but without the employer providing it). As this imposes less of a burden on religious objectors, Alito’s opinion states, the government should have gone with that option for Hobby Lobby and other “closely held corporations.”
However some groups have insisted that even filling out a form is a burden on their beliefs: Once they do that, the women are going to get contraceptives, so it still violates their principles. And as noted in the Slate article, the Supreme Court has issued an injunction in one such case so that the organization (Wheaton College) won’t have to comply with a lower-court order saying Not a Burden. So after ruling for Hobby Lobby because there was a better alternative, the court has now thrown out the alternative.
No surprise the ACLU and other groups have dropped their support for the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination against employees over sexual orientation or gender identity. ENDA has a religious exemption and after Hobby Lobby, the concern is the Supremes will turn that into a huge gaping loophole.


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I fought vacation and the vacation won

We’re still on vacation, having lots of fun. So much, in fact, that my plans to keep posting regularly—well, as you can doubtless deduce from the lack of any posts in four days, the plan had some flaws. Not that I’m complaining (details and photos of fun—all G-rated, don’t worry—to follow).
So anyway, here’s one article I meant to post sooner, covering various odds and ends
Ronald Reagan’s stories were often fact-free. But his claims of a welfare queen who drove a Cadillac and collected more than $100,000 a year in welfare were true. She was a white woman, Linda Taylor, and her tale is an amazing read.
•Cable companies keep adding channels but our viewing isn’t increasing.
•You may have heard of Phineas Gage, a 19th century man who suffered a brain injury that transformed his personality. It turns out the truth is much more complicated and uncertain.
•In the one episode of Cosmos that I caught a while back, Neil DeGrasse Tyson makes a passing reference to Bishop Ussher, infamous for having calculated the creation of the world at 4004 BC. Tyson held Ussher up (or so it seemed to me) as a typical example of misguided prescientific thinking about the world. As the late Stephen Jay Gould has written, there’s more to Ussher than that. In the first place, he wasn’t trying to calculate the exact date of creation, he was trying to write the history of the human race—which in his worldview was only six days short of the history of the world. Not only that, but calculating the date was extremely complicated due to the complexities of the Old Testament’s history. One of the things I like about Gould is that he’s willing to put thinkers such as Ussher into the context of their own worldview.
•Conservative bloggers and pundits proclaim the Hobby Lobby decision is a victory for religion, hard-working business owners and people who hate women who like sex.
•A black student-body president mocks her white classmates as stereotypical preppies. Hilarity does not ensue, at least not as far as the white students are concerned.
•MIT is working on a ring that can translate non-braille texts for the blind.
•The porn company Malibu’s new tactic in pursuing alleged copyright-violating pirates: Ask them about their porn viewing habits, even if it’s not pirated or produced by the company.
•Novelist Saul Bellow’s son Adam complains there are no programs for funding conservative literary magazines, fellowships and start-ups, only for mainstream writers. Won’t wealthy conservatives open their wallets and support conservative art that can’t make it in the free market? I suppose it comes as no surprise that Bellow is involved in at least one such project.

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Hobby Lobby fallout

Defenders of the Hobby Lobby decision pointed out the company only wanted an out for four types of birth control it thought were abortifacents. Incorrectly, but Alito’s ruling said that was irrelevant as long as they sincerely believed the methods caused abortion.
Unsurprisingly, despite Alito’s proclamation this ruling doesn’t apply to serious medical issues such as vaccination or blood transfusions, it does apply to other types of birth control. The court has ordered lower courts to review several cases in which Catholic-owned businesses want to opt out from providing any birth-control coverage. Government requests for review in similar cases (where lower courts ruled in favor of the company) got shot down.
As Echidne says, giving businesses more power to discriminate based on religion is bound to work badly for women, as all three Abrahamic religions have a strong anti-woman bias on the right.

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Megan McArdle, Justice Alito and Hobby Lobby’s rights

Roy Edroso catches libertarian Megan McArdle (some of her past deep insights here and here) blithely dismissing critics of the Hobby Lobby win: Isn’t demanding your employer buy you birth control no different from demanding he buy you a car or some furniture? If an employer refuses to provide free toothpaste, would you sue him for condemning you to have cavities?

As pointed out at Edroso’s post (and in comments thereon), the obvious difference is that Hobby Lobby isn’t being asked to give employees something for free. Health insurance is part of their pay. Hobby Lobby is simply being told that the coverage has to meet minimum standards, which include providing birth control for women who want it (I imagine if they wanted to pay in company scrip McArdle’s argument would be “Saying you have to be paid in dollars is like demanding you be paid in gold!”).

She also argues that all the decision really does is say Hobby Lobby’s owners should be treated just like a small properitoer, why should that be a big deal? Wow, let’s think … could it be because being a corporation offers Hobby Lobby legal shielding from lawsuits and debt that small proprietor’s don’t have? Because a corporation is, in fact, legally different from a small proprietor?

That same issue is part of what makes Alito’s majority opinion a bad one. As noted in the Edroso post, Alito states that corporations don’t have a legal existence apart from their owners: “Corporations, ‘separate and apart from’ the human beings who own, run, and are employed by them, cannot do anything at all.”

Yet if Hobby Lobby gets sued, the law clearly says that the corporation (or any other) clearly does have a separate existence. If the company can’t pay the lawsuit or settle its debts, the owners don’t make up the difference (there are legal exceptions that pierce the corporate shield, but they’re exceptions). Unlike a sole proprietor (either McArdle, despite years of writing about economics, never learned this, or she is fudging the facts somewhat).

It’s not all about McArdle, of course. Edroso also catches a libertarian explaining the solution is to dump Obamacare and “unleash market forces to lower soaring costs without resorting to price controls or rationing” Because, of course, market forces did such an awesome job picking up the 40 million uninsured Americans around prior to Obamacare. And if people can’t afford to pay for the medical treatment they need, libertarians and conservatives won’t count that as rationing.

While I’ve never agreed with libertarians, years ago I had a certain respect for them. Their position usually ran that yes, in a completely unregulated market, bad things will happen but in the long run, it works out. I don’t believe that an unregulated market will work out well for most people, but at least that view acknowledged some people would get screwed. Now “unleash market forces” is like magic: Bad results? People losing out? Don’t be silly, everyone’s getting a pony.

Someone in the comments also pointed out the Hobby Lobby situation is precisely the bogeyman opponents of Obamacare raised when the bill was going through Congress: What if the government appoints some panel that won’t let your doctor give you the treatment you want? As common with libertarians, if it’s a business that does the same thing, that’s fine.
On the same topic:

•Ruth Bader Ginsberg is much less confident than Alito the genie of a universal religious exemption can be kept in the bottle. Here are some points from her dissent.

•Scott Lemieux looks at the argument the birth-control requirement imposes an unreasonable burden on Hobby Lobby.

•Digby wonders why Hobby Lobby feels it’s morally complicit in its employees using birth control—after all, gun stores aren’t usually considered complicit in shootings?

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Hobby Lobby triumphant and other links

By this time you’ve probably heard that Hobby Lobby won its Supreme Court case (and I notice from the old link that Dahlia Lithwick predicted the vote breakdown). The significant points being, according to Samuel Alito (writing the majority opinion) it doesn’t matter whether IUDs and other birth control are actually abortifacents as long as Hobby Lobby sincerely believes they are; the government can and should work around this by paying for birth control directly; the ruling only applies to “closely held corporations”; and this ruling only applies to religious objections to contraception and specifically isn’t granting the same right to people who object to vaccination, blood transfusions or other medical treatments.
As noted in this linkpost, Lithwick’s discussion, Daily Beast and Slate, closely-held corporations employ around 60 million people so this could affect millions. And it’s entirely possible that Ruth Bader Ginsberg is right in her dissent: Alito can assert this is narrowly tailored as much as he wants, but he doesn’t really offer a logical reason it can’t apply elsewhere. And while he also says flat-out it can’t be used to justify racial discrimination, he pointedly doesn’t bring up discriminating against women or gays (you know, the unserious kind of discrimination).
So very sexist, and potentially worse is in the wings. In other news …

Meriam Ibrahim of Sudan was condemned to death for being Christian when her father was Muslim. At Slacktivist, Fred Clark points out not only are laws that cripple religious freedom this way wrong, they’re bad for the faith they’re supposedly protecting: If everyone’s forced to stay in Islam by law, are they truly faithful?

•The Prime Minister of Morocco sounds a lot like an American conservative in insisting the world is better off if women stay at home. Echidne looks at his speech here.

•The Supreme Court shoots down Massachusetts’ buffer zone around abortion clinics.

•LGM justifiably mocks a pundit who finds a new reason to object to minimum-wage increases, taxes on high earners and protecting the environment—those ideas are from the sixties! How dated! The Republicans are the ones with fresh ideas! Which is a fair point, if you ignore political paranoia about the UN that I was reading as a tween (that’s a looooong time ago) and an enthusiasm for 1800s economics and women staying home. Yes, all that stuff is very fresh.

•And to prove that having new ideas isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, we have Kevin Williamson arguing that if the Affordable Care Act can make people replace bad health insurance with better policies, why can’t the government force everyone in shitty towns to move to San Francisco?

Rape apologist Rod Dreher is shocked, shocked and appalled that “Vice President Joe Biden declared Tuesday that protecting gay rights is a defining mark of a civilized nation and must trump national cultures and social traditions,” adding that “The mark of a civilized nation. Well. Let it be noted that as far as the Obama administration is concerned, traditional Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are vestiges of barbarism.”
Actually, no. The White House didn’t say “silencing people who condemn gays,” it said “protecting gay rights” (Dreher makes it clear he doesn’t see a difference). Sounds fair to me. And it’s not as if “Christianity” as a body condemns gays—plenty of churches and individual Christians support gay rights (I assume the same is true of Judaism and Islam, but I don’t know).
And frankly this sounds way too close to the logic used in defense of slavery and segregation: It’s our culture, it’s our tradition, are you saying we’re uncivilized, that’s a slur on my honor!

•At least one VP at General Motors may have known about the Chevy Cobalt’s defective ignition switches (they can turn off when you don’t want them to) nine years ago.

•A company with an app that lets drivers auction off parking (you’re ready to pull out, see what someone will pay you to wait until they get there) says it will fight San Francisco, which has told the company it can’t make a profit off public parking.

•The new Six Strikes copyright-protection system is supposed to reduce lawsuits and the threat of them. Some copyright trolls apparently hope to use it to find more people to see.


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To bigotry no sanction

My new And column went up today, on religious freedom. No, it went in too late to react to the Hobby Lobby decision today.

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Never mind rape victims, George Will’s the one who’s being persecuted!

As I mentioned earlier this month, George Will has a simple explanation for the growing number of reported campus rapes. It’s the hookup culture plus the fact colleges have made it so cool to claim you were raped: “when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.”
Will does not explain what he thinks the privileges are—a slot on the next Bachelorette? They all get a pony? The men they accuse will be castrated without trial? Possibly he’s just playing the standard right-wing theme that any minority who claims to be persecuted is playing “the victim card.” (much like sexual harassment is something lawyers made up).
Or maybe it’s just the standard rape-apologist claim that rape is what women cry when they’ve had sex and decide they wish they hadn’t, only updated with references to hookups. And if a slut goes around having casual sex, well
Echidne points out what a line of bull this is and also links to Will’s defense (this is a quote from the video, whichI should admit I haven’t watched): “indignation is the default position of certain people in civic discourse. They go from a standing start to fury in about 30 seconds. I think it has something to do with the internet… it erased the barriers of entry to public discourse — that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, the downside of this — there’s a downside to everything — is that, among the barriers of entry that have been reduced, is you don’t have to be able to read, write, or think. You can just come in and shout and call names and carry on.”
Yes, because writing about the “coveted status” of rape victims certainly doesn’t indicate a lack of thought. Or name-calling. He sounds a lot like some anti-gay pundits who feel that saying gays are anti-God, anti-Jesus and possibly pedophiles is part of a perfectly reasonable discussion; it’s when people criticize them and say they’re narrow-minded bigots that things are getting over the top.
Just bite me, Mr. Will.
•Aero warns that the ruling against its TV-antenna service is bad, bad, bad for the tech industry. A Slate columnist agrees.
•LGM on another Supreme Court ruling, regarding recess appointments.
•Johan Goldberg is shocked that people on the left think Dick Cheney and other Bush cabinet members have discredited themselves as experts on Iraq. He actually has one good point, that some of the members of Obama’s administration supported the war, so are they discredited from opinions too?
But then he goes on to explain that he still thinks the Iraq War was right—the arguments for going in were better than the arguments against, even though “against” turns out to be right (he does his best to make it sound like the fact the arguments were wrong were irrelevant). And the current problems aren’t because we invaded a country we didn’t have to invade, they’re because Obama actually pulled out when the Iraqis wanted us to! The fool! Doesn’t he know that our invasion was justified purely by our right to take smaller, weaker countries and destroy them to show our power (Goldberg did not say that in this column, but he has said in the past. So remember, that’s all the argument he needed).
•A company that tried to fine a couple for criticizing them in a review has to pay up $300,000.
•Washington state tries to distinguish edible marijuana products from candy.
•Should hospitals use information from data brokers to track our health?


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The Total Woman

Defeating the Dragons does a regular feature where blogger Samantha Field looks at various Christian how-to-submit and how-to-be-a-real-women books written for Christian women. Frequently when I read them I think of the first book of this type I ever encountered, Marabel Morgan’s The Total Woman.
This book came out around 1973, in the early years of second-wave feminism (as it’s now called). It hit like a bomb: Best-seller (IIRC) with features in magazines and newspapers because what Morgan was saying flew in the face of everything feminists were saying (this no longer surprises me. As Susan Faludi has said, the mainstream media love them some antifeminism).
In the intro to the book, Morgan explains how her marriage was a disaster, primarily because she was too damn uppity. Her husband came and dumped stuff on the table she’d just polished? She got upset. He made plans that conflicted with plans she’d already made? He got outraged at her defiance. At one point he apparently told her he’d notify her 30 minutes ahead of time when they were going out, no sooner. Which would, of course, make it impossible for her to plan anything without talking to him first.
Morgan’s conclusion? Not that her husband is a jerk, but that she’d ruined her marriage. Her solution? Obey him in everything. Literally. No matter what he asks, she would do whatever he said. Along with that, she’d give him lots of sex, and dress up in sexy costumes to greet him at the door after work.
Within a short while, or so Morgan says, he was eating out of her hand. Which was, quite clearly, the point: She was submitting, but it was like topping from below. Over and over, the book emphasized that if readers follow Morgan’s directions, it’s not really a sacrifice because their husbands will be so in love they’ll be willing to do what the wife wants.
A lot of the book was much more conventional, like making a to-do list with your top things to do, then crossing off each item as it’s done (I’m aware that sound simple but if you’re not by nature organized, it’s remarkably effective. I speak from experience). Some of the book was religious (believe God has a wonderful plan for your life) which didn’t seem significant then. I realize in hindsight Morgan was a forerunner of the writers Samantha blogs about, and much more religious than I assumed at the time (this may reflect growing up in a small, fairly rural town where God having a plan for your life wasn’t an unusual idea).
Even as a teenager, Morgan’s idea of a perfect relationship didn’t appeal to me at all. Less now, as I’m aware that no matter how well a woman treats her husband, that’s no guarantee he’s going to change his behavior accordingly. And that if your husband is abusive, it’s nothing to do with whether you worship and obey him or not.
I’m also aware, though not surprised, that Morgan didn’t follow her own advice or at least not after a while. In a follow-up when she had another book out, she admitted she hadn’t had the time in her busy career to dress up in costumes to greet her man. Which is pretty typical of anti-feminists (Susan Faludi writes about this too in her book Backlash).
Morgan, as far as I know, has faded from the public eye. But her philosophy, it seems, lives on.

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Guard the phone! (and other links)

The Supreme Court announced today that police searching a suspect can’t search his cellphone without a warrant. The rationale is that given the amount of personal information on our phones, it’s closer to searching a computer or a house than just frisking a person’s pockets. More here.
•The Supreme Court also ruled that Aero—the company that planned to offer broadcast TV over the Internet without paying cable-type fees—would be breaking the law if it went ahead. So it looks like the company is done for. However it sounds like the ruling stopped short of making a more general ruling that might have threatened various cloud services.
•Are massive salaries for college presidents a good thing?
•A college professor claims his college’s decision not to apply for a Koch Foundation grant is suppression of free speech.

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Impeachment and more! Political links

You’ll be fascinated to know that among other things, Obama recovering that Taliban prisoner is grounds for impeachment. Of course if he hadn’t recovered the guy, I imagine that would have been grounds too.
•A new ruling on patent law from the Supreme Court, and what it might mean in practice.
•GE Capital gives back $225 million to consumers because of questionable business practices regarding fees and credit-card protection plans.
•Pick-up artists and wannabes love their evolutionary psychology.
•A woman kidnaps her two year old daughter from her ex-husband to save her from vaccination.
•The FCC is looking into data bottlenecks imposed by Internet providers on companies such as Netflix.
•There are a number of companies suing people who download bootleg porn. There are now sites fighting the more extreme “copyright trolls” and now one porn company has labelled an anti-trolling site as a hate group.
•Blogger Roy Edroso has often said that when conservatives talk about free speech they mean “why can’t I say the N-word?” And wouldn’t you know, that’s exactly what Glen Beck says the “thought police” are doing.
•No, employers cannot force employees to accept food as wages.
•Cheese frequently upsets regulators because making it involves bacteria. The FDA is concerned about bacteria on wooden boards used in cheese-making but says it’s not banning the boards.
•London is dealing with a real-estate market catering to investors rather than homebuyers. Prices are going up, but fewer people can afford to live there.
Destin Florida, where I used to work, had the same concern: Prices were so high, living in Destin was for tourists, second-home owners, rental-home owners and well-off retirees, not people who worked there. And a city where most property owners aren’t full-time residents becomes a ghost city.
•Yes, debtors prison still exists in practice.
•What does the Supreme Court’s new EPA/greenhouse gas decision mean?
•San Francisco says drivers can’t take money to save their parking spot for someone else.
•Viacom and Cablevision are going to court over the practice of content providers (Viacom in this case) requiring cable companies take several unwanted channels to get the good ones. Of course, as noted at the link, that’s no guarantee we’ll be given the same option, even if Cablevision wins.

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