Category Archives: Politics

Curfew must not link tonight

The World Vision charity recently announced that it’s going to allow gays who abstain from sex outside of marriage and practice fidelity within marriage to work for them (this is the same standard as for straights). The group stated specifically it’s not endorsing same-sex marriage, but conservative Christian donors decided that wasn’t good enough and World Vision reversed itself to protect $840,000 in revenue. Defeating the Dragons vents about Christians who would sooner see children starve than tolerate the switch. More venting here and here. And Slacktivist looks at the comments on the story in Christianity Today.
•As you may know, the religious right has been active in pushing for Uganda’s death-for-gays laws. A local political candidate “Molotov” Mitchell insists that it’s ridiculous to worry about what goes on in Uganda—but somehow he seems to mean the people criticizing the US push, not the pastors who worry Ugandan gays might not be executed. But never mind because he has gay supporters … who chose to remain anonymous, but he swears they’re real people. And his views on setting tougher standards for abortion clinics are all about protecting women, not about making it harder for clinics to operate! And he’s a birther (or at least he produced birther videos which is close enough).
•Mitchell is also a fan of Ron Paul, who contrary to some media reports is not a socially liberal Republican.
•A federal labor official has ruled that college football players can unionize. ESPN explains the whys: The athletes generate tremendous value for the schools and are supervised like employees.
•Drug companies say they’ll stop providing antibiotics for fattening up farm animals. Consumerist has doubts.
•The restaurant industry says wait staff are so highly paid they don’t need a minimum-wage increase.
•A Wal-Mart manager <a href="http://consumerist.com/2014/03/25/would-expanding-the-white-collar-overtime-exception-change-this-walmart-managers-life/”>discusses the proposed changes to federal overtime rules.
•A Pennsylvania doctor says he can put dying people into suspended animation.
•Yet another explanation of how liberals are the real racists, and blacks are oh so angry that liberals favor racist policies such as affirmative action, which are a code-word for “You’re inferior!” (Curiously nobody has ever applied that standard to policies that favor legacy admissions to college).
•Mighty God King shreds a libertarian proposal for supposedly fixing the economy.

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Hobby Lobby Lobbies Supremes!

Which is to say, Hobby Lobby’s claim (and also Conestoga Wood, another company fighting this) that its owners can’t pay for employee contraception without violating their moral code has come before the Supreme Court. Dahlia Lithwick sees the voting, based on the Court arguments so far, as four/four with Justice Kennedy as the swing vote. Which she suspects is bad, because Kennedy is anti-abortion and he says that if corporations can be forced to pay for birth control, abortion is the next step.
My personal response would be, so? Abortion is legal and as one of the appellate judges already said, Hobby Lobby is a corporation. Even though it’s owned by a small family, legally it’s a separate entity. The owning family benefits because this protects them from being sued for corporate misdeeds or debts (there are exceptions that let someone “pierce the corporate veil” but that’s not the norm). So turning around and saying the corporation is defined by their religious beliefs is a bit too selective. And as the two links above point out, if corporations can refuse birth-control, what about refusing gay workers? Divorced workers? Women in positions of authority? Will judges just rubber-stamp everyone who claims a religious belief or will they have to critique how sincere the owners’ views are? And in a large corporation who decides what offends the owners. 51 percent shareholder vote? Is 40 percent enough?
Plus, of course, the owners aren’t paying for anything. They provide their staff with insurance as part of their compensation. The insurance has to meet minimum standards, which include providing women’s gynecological needs. Claims women want someone else to subsidize their sex are bullshit.
Lithwick does think the decision might be narrow, applying only to closely held corporations for instance. But even that would be a big plus for the corporate side.
Of course, part of this is about the belief that only irresponsible sluts use birth control. We have, for example, a Fox News analyst who claims contraceptive coverage includes euthanasia. And Hobby Lobby even objects to paying for doctor visits if the doctor discusses contraception or abortion (shades of the global gag rule). Despite which the Independent Women’s Forum says it sides with Hobby Lobby to protect the rights of patients to talk freely with their doctors (no it doesn’t make sense. Anti-feminist women usually don’t).
Mother Jones points out Hobby Lobby’s insurance actually covered contraceptives before the mandate kicked in. Which leads several bloggers at the links above to think that opposing the Affordable Care Act is a big part of the issue. Likewise one right winger says the faithful can find common ground with the enemies of faith: Just repeal part of Obamacare and kill off the tax exemption for employer-provided health insurance.
Bonus: LGM looks at the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which requires the federal government cut believers some slack if a law imposes an unfair burden on a particular religion. The blog concludes the burden imposed by having birth control (which, as noted by several of the writers linked herein, is not an abortifacent) covered by insurance doesn’t make the cut.

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Filed under economics, Politics, Undead sexist cliches

This little link went to market—

This is not the first time I’ve heard it argued that being a wife is literally a job—and that failing to provide your husband with sex on demand is therefore neglecting your job duties.
•The Republican assault on voting rights continues. Now conservatives are arguing that if a law makes it harder for minorities to vote, that’s perfectly Constitutional as long as oh golly gee whiz, that effect wasn’t what they intended at all. LGM has more.
•Much like other religious groups, ultra-orthodox Jews are not keen on reporting child-abuse cases.
•The Supreme Court is going to hear arguments in Hobby Lobby’s claim it shouldn’t have to cover contraception. LGM reports that includes not paying for visits where the doctor discusses contraception. TPM wonders how much further the argument could spread. LGM also points out that it’s not a mandate: The government doesn’t require Hobby Lobby provide insurance, only that it’s plan meets minimum standards.
•John Podhoretz argues that even though Obama’s not responsible for the Malaysian plane’s disappearance, it reflects badly on him. And right-bloggers continue grumbling Obama’s too wimpy against Russian aggression.
•Here’s a grim one: An abusive, drug-using guy with a famous family gets break after break from the legal system when up for possible prison time. Now he’s murdered his girlfriend.
•A group has claimed Verizon is delaying phone-line repairs to push people off landlines and onto Internet-phone service.
•An Obama administration officials says bans on revealing federal secrets are like banning drunk driving: It doesn’t matter whether Edward Snowden caused any damage, the government is entitled to act to prevent possible damage. Of course, I could make the same argument against illegal warrantless spying: The reason the Fourth Amendment is in the Constitution is to prevent possible damage, so obviously the government should pay a price for crossing the line. Only as with most discussion of this issue, the logic only works one way.
•AT&T insists ditching net neutrality is for our own good.
•If for-profit colleges leave students with no job prospects and lots of debt, that’s just the free market at work, according to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.
•In a sane world, Susan Patton, the woman who thinks college women should marry before they graduate if they want to be happy, would still be writing letters to the Princeton Journal (she’s an alum). Instead she got a recent WSJ op-ed and now a book out. Here are some of her worst ideas, such as telling single women to spend 25 percent of their time on their studies/career, 75 percent on their love life. Oh, and she’s also a rape apologist (“If you are too drunk to speak, then you may be incapable of saying no or warding off unwanted advances. And then it’s all on you.”). Of course, so is WSJ editor James Taranto, so no surprise she got that column.
•Robert Nielsen explains why taxation isn’t theft.
While taxation is coercive (you do X, you pay tax Y) I know a lot of libertarians who complain about that are actually fine with coercion as long as it’s done by corporate America. Libertarian pundit Tibor Machan, for example, has complained that taxation is slavery (as noted at the link, it isn’t), but he openly advocates for privatizing everything so the corporate owners will have absolute authority over roads, utilities, public speech etc. with none of that icky democracy spoiling the purity of his ideas.

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More reviews will have to wait

Our four mile walk today has left me a little stiff (I must remember to stretch out when I get home!) not to mention toting a dozen or so books back from the library later. So book reviews wait until tomorrow, but here are some links!
•Some Walgreens stores have a new program that gets pharmacists out from behind their set-aside area. Does it make it easier for them to get distracted? For the theft of drugs? For people to see someone else’s confidential data?
•Comcast insists it’s totally dedicated to net neutrality. And Time-Warner’s CEO has a financial windfall waiting if the merger with Comcast goes through.
•Mapmakers often include fake places and streets to confuse plagiarists. In this case, the fake place became real.
•Your credit score is only one of the ways computers decide whether you’re worth doing business with. Not news to me—I’ve read about similar computer-sorting tricks for a while—but still interesting. And expensive: the price you get online may not be the same as someone else gets.
•The ongoing story of Christian colleges ignoring sexual harassment.
•The Internet Monk discusses the theory that being Christian doesn’t protect you against getting divorce. Apparently the response from some conservatives is that it’s only the half-hearted, not-really Christians who get divorced while those who are strong in their faith stay together. The Monk concludes the evidence doesn’t support this.
•A reminder at how much black inner-city neighborhoods were built by white political and financial manipulation (keeping blacks out of the suburbs). If you want an indepth look, I highly recommend James Loewen’s Sundown Towns.
•A protest against wage theft is not the same as a fight to raise the minimum wage, despite what one National Review writer thinks.
According to writer Amity Shales, the only reason workers want a 40 hour week is to keep their taxes down; if we just slashed taxes, people would happily work 50 or 60 hours. At the link, LGM rips into her argument.
This strikes me as part of the perennial conservative/libertarian push to reframe everything as worker choice. The 40 hour week limits their choice of when to work, child labor laws restrict the freedom of kids to help support the family and so forth. Because once all legal obstacles are swept away, we can negotiate with our corporate employers from a position of complete equality.
Similarly, I read an article recently that projected that in the exciting Future of The Workplace, if workers on a particular shift are overloaded, the company will simply text its off-duty staff offering them a higher wage to come in and help. And I was wondering why the hell a company would bother? I’ve known retail companies that would simply put employees on call when they expected they might need extra people on shift. Or use more precise computer-selected schedules. In the current economy, why offer incentives instead of orders?
•One of the staple claims during the Cold War was that if anything, even budgetary figures for secret programs, was disclosed, it would give The Enemy valuable information. The attitude hasn’t gone away: As Utah struggles with a drought an NSA center claims publicizing how much water it uses (at bargain rates) to cool its computer center would give vital information to The Enemy. As Digby says at the link, how exactly would that work? “Ok, they can’t have more than 278 servers given this much water usage—that’s the one piece we need to launch our cyber-warfare attack!”
•A Montana court case forces one payday lender to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars because it charged more than state law allowed.
•Defeating the Dragons says purity balls aren’t the pedophilic ritual some writers make them out to be, but they’re horrifying anyway.

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John Scalzi on problematic writing (#SFWApro)

On his Whatever blog, Scalzi has a good post and comments discussion about “problematic” writing: material with sexist/racist/otherwise objectionable content, or work by someone with views the reader finds repellent. Scalzi does a good job discussing the factors that influence him to buy or not buy someone’s work, whether logical or personal.
Anyway I realized I kept thinking and thinking about the topic and decided I’d clear out my head with a blog post.
For me personally, avoiding work is largely by gut reaction. If I love everything about a work but its sexism, I’m going to be more tolerant than if my reaction was “meh.” I object to the racism in some of Robert E. Howard’s stories, for instance, but I can live with them. Likewise, I love Steve Englehart’s run on Marvel’s Defenders despite his appalling portrayal of the Crusades as heroic Westerners against evil “Muhameddans” during one time trip.
I’m also more forgiving of older works. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels, for instance, show the attitudes of his time. His female leads in the Mars books are repeatedly at risk for rape, and tend to stand passively but bravely waiting for the hero to save them. It reminds me a lot of the captivity narratives that were so popular in 19th century America.
I can cut Burroughs more slack than someone writing the same sort of thing today. But that’s me: nobody who objects to the way he writes women is obligated to say “Well, he’s a man of the past, I’ll just keep reading to be fair.” If your gut reaction is that you don’t like the sexism—or for that matter, you make a purely intellectual decision not to read the books—that sounds perfectly reasonable to me (besides, it’s not as if “product of his time” is a get out of jail free card. L. Frank Baum was older than Burroughs and he supported women’s rights).
I can also tolerate the kind of default-setting sexism—men get all the action and heroism—better than works which are overtly sexist. I stopped reading John Norman’s Gor books (back in the days when they were marketed as sf adventure rather than b&d fantasies) when the third book included a lecture on how women were obviously biologically hardwired to submit to men. And I have more trouble with Burroughs when he goes Western Union and writes scenes specifically to drive home Women Should Not Be in Charge.
The one thing I won’t do is deny that the sexist/racist elements are there. It’s the one thing nobody should do (“I love this book! It can’t be sexist.”). Of course, it’s also possible to debate whether something is really sexist or racist (I’ve seen plenty of such arguments) so I’m not sure that’s much help.
As for creators, I use much the same standard. I’m not usually deterred from watching films or reading books because the creator was racist/sexist/homophobic/anti-semite/whatever. I stopped reading Orson Scott Card not so much because I loathe his views on gays and race, though I do, but because I simply can’t take him seriously as a writer. A guy who claims legalizing gay marriage justifies armed insurrection and that Obama is creating an army of black storm troopers to crush America (as noted at the link) is just too cuckoo for me (though as I have several of his older books, I don’t rule out rereading them). But I can understand why other readers won’t touch him with a 10-foot pole because of his views.
Of course, when John C. Wright wrote about how women characters who go outside traditional female roles are all just Men With Boobs (you can click through if you want to read his original piece), I dropped him from my list of Writers to Read Someday. There are lots of books on the list and I have no attachment to Wright (never having read him) so why not trim the list a little?
I don’t think any of this provides much deep insight, but for whatever it’s worth …

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Linksville

Champions of the rich continue to insist that talk of “inequality” is just envy. Why aren’t we working on policies that benefit everyone?
For one thing, it’s difficult to come up with policies that benefit the 99 percent but aren’t going to affect the 1 percent. As the past two or three decades have shown, slashing taxes and regulations on corporations and the rich ain’t gonna cut it.
And of course, the 1 percent’s definition of policies that both reduce inequality and benefit everyone is a little skewed. Like slashing food stamps instead of farm subsidies.
And Eric Schmidt is still better than many: more conservative rich people would quite happily gut the safety net and insist poor people deserve to suffer (more examples here).
Contrary to conservative myth, public charity didn’t take care of all poor Americans before the New Deal. Government programs have been present in America from the first, especially if you include (as the article does) things like the right to create Limited Liability Companies (which give investors protection from liability without having to set up a corporation) to generate investment for local economies.
•A McDonald’s franchise operator must pay a half-a-million for wage theft.
•Distillers battle over how to define Tennessee whiskey.
•Slacktivist predicts (as the blog has previously) that soon right-wing evangelicals will not only hold up anti-birth control as a tenet of the faith, they’ll insist that it’s always been an issue, even though it hasn’t. The same thing, as the post notes, happened with abortion which wasn’t a big issue for most Protestants when Roe vs. Wade went through.
•If you’ve heard conflicting reports about a big federal database tracking license plates, here’s the short version: the government’s not building a database, but that’s because police and Homeland Security are relying on pre-existing private companies building up the data.

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They say its my birthday—

So I’m lying around and clearing up bookmarks instead of working.
•In light of yesterday’s discussion of the FBI’s COINTELPRO program, this report on tactics intelligence agencies consider useful online is eerily familiar. To discredit hackers, leakers and activists (as noted in the article, not necessarily anyone convicted or even charged), for example, they can lure them into compromising situations, send fake emails or set up fake blogs by their supposed victims.
•Corporations are also quite willing to launch smear campaigns against scientists whose work is inconvenient.
•Maine legislator Lawrence Lockman claimed some years ago that if it’s legal for women to abort, then it should be legal to rape them. Because after all, rape doesn’t kill anyone, unlike abortion. This, of course, makes no sense even if you believe abortion is murder unless you think rape is something uppity women have coming to them (he also describes rape as the perpetrator’s pursuit of “sexual freedom.”
•A basic guide to bitcoins. Here’s a critique of Newsweek’s Best Guess story on the identity of bitcoin’s creator.
•Bigotry based on religion is still bigotry.
•It’s legal in Massachusetts to take photos up a woman’s skirt.
•Why the Comcast/Time-Warner merger makes sense for them, but not for us.
•Bryan Caplan, who thinks women were better off before they got the vote or any other rights, also thinks poor people are by definition undeserving. And any senior who hasn’t made enough money to retire comfortably likewise deserves the consequences of becoming sick or old with no safety net. I find this personally objectionable, and also irrational: As Helaine Olen points out, most people simply can’t pull that off. Even people who do prepare and save can find themselves facing worse trouble than they can cope with (medical bills, loss of job, etc.). But as someone pointed out to me recently, a lot of libertarians desperately want to believe that capitalism is a moral system that spreads its rewards to the deserving. Even though it’s not true.
•A Nigerian writer/activist recommends women forget about the baggage and stereotypes associated with “feminist” and support the idea of feminism.
•Some rightbloggers gush over Putin’s manly ways in contrast to wimpy Obama.
•A teenager rapes a five-year-old and gets community service. The girl’s mother says the DA told her that’s because Boys Will Be Boys.
•Ohio doctors say a state anti-abortion law prevents them advising patients who need an abortion for medical reasons.
•Gay people? Terrorists? Same thing according to some anti-gay activists.
•Pat Robertson claims some Planned Parenthood clinics have a billion dollars in assets. It’s a lie. Funny, and I thought God had this thing about bearing false witness … Likewise a church manipulates sales of pastor Mark Driscoll’s book to get it on the bestseller list.
•The International Monetary Fund admits that inequality is bad for growth.
•Some papers aren’t giving up on print.
•A judge says some prosecutors are bending the law. Prosecutors denounce him as biased.
•A good discussion of cultural appropriation.
•LGM argues that no, Nixon did not give the left more than Obama has.
•A Tweeter asks women to recount what they were wearing when they were raped. Unsurprisingly, it’s not usually sexy clothes.
•No, the Texas economy is not a model for America to follow. For most people it’s actually worse than many less publicized, more liberal states, such as Vermont.
•This Ruthless World on making a public apology.
•An in-depth analysis of the workers who rejected unionizing at the new VW plant. It’s complex and the writer does a good job breaking it down.

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Masonry (#SFWApro)

The Atlantic does an in-depth analysis of how Netflix creates subgenres (Cult Mad Scientist Movies from the 1970s!) for targeting recommendations. The writer, Alexis Madrigal, is thrown for a loop by the sheer number of subgenre descriptors that reference Raymond Burr of Perry Mason (e.g., Understated Dramas starring Raymond Burr).
At Obsidian Wings, Dr. Science suggests that’s because Perry Mason fills a gap that’s not being addressed: The show isn’t romantic, sexy, or violent. It’s cerebral and understated. And nobody figures those are winning traits. Plus it skews old, and Hollywood wants a young audience. Slacktivist wonders if part of the appeal is that Perry is for the defense, in contrast to TV where almost all the legal/crime shows are on the side of the cops or the prosectuion.

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Everything old is new again. Like spying on Americans and wanting to lock them up.

THE BURGLARY: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI by Betty Medsger is a depressing reminder that very little in the 21st century debates over government surveillance is new, except the technology.
The book recounts a once-infamous 1971 incident (I’d never heard of it myself—1971 was a little before I got interested in politics) in which a handful of antiwar activists (Vietnam War) decided to see if they could learn any facts behind the rumors that the FBI was spying on left-wing activists, even those who were nonviolent and not committing any crimes. They scoped out the FBI regional office in Media, PA, organized a plan for the caper—despite nervousness about what would happen if things went wrong—and broke in the night of the Muhammed Ali/Joe Frazer fight (figuring everyone would be glued to the tube so the office complex would be more deserted than usual). They succeeded and were never captured or identified, though the book, with their consent, names them (Medsger was one of the journalists who received copies of the documents from the raid).
What they discovered was the crack in the FBI legend so carefully built up by Director J. Edgar Hoover over the years. Far from being a dauntless crime-fighting organization pitted against the sinister octopus of organized crime, Hoover’s overwhelming obsession since the FBI’s birth had been the left wing: Communists, socialists, “pinks” (people who weren’t Reds but were sympathetic), and people who were none of those but questioned the status quo anyway (Hoover seems to have been a textbook authoritarian). The documents taken in the burglary, and subsequent revelations building upon them made multiple revelations:
•Hoover had maintained a list of subversives to be locked up in the event of war or national emergency as potential threats. The list stretched to thousands of people. Several attorney generals (Hoover’s nominal superiors) had told him to drop the plan, but he ignored them.
•The FBI actively spied on anti-war protesters, civil-rights protesters and everyone else. It had infiltrated groups to an absurd extent: The Socialist Workers Party, 2,500 strong at its peak and completely legal, had been infiltrated by a total 1,600 FBI agents over the years.
•The feds also did their best to disrupt and destroy left-wing movements. Trying to push Martin Luther King to suicide. Spreading rumors actress Jean Seberg, who openly supported civil rights, was having an illegitimate mixed-race baby (Medsgers credits this with killing Seberg’s career). Much of this was under the umbrella of COINTELPRO, an organized anti-leftist FBI campaign.
•Requiring agents to develop black informants. If that was impossible—they worked in a community with no black residents—they had to file for an exemption.
None of this targeted people for violent acts, criminal acts or even conspiracy. Simply crossing the government was enough. If a magazine published an article critical of the FBI, Hoover investigated the author. If people wrote in to the magazine and said they liked the article, Hoover investigated them too. If it meant assigning people away from investigating real crimes, so be it. It makes me suspect there’s some truth to one writer’s theory I read some years back, that Hoover hated dissent much more than he did crime. Criminals, after all, were breaking laws, but not trying to change them, unlike the civil-rights activists and anti-war protesters.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Obsessive spying on anyone even vaguely suspicious, plans to detain people as enemy combatants … and much as with the Bush II and now Obama spying, very little accomplished. As Medsger notes, for all the FBI’s work, it never anticipated the Weathermen bombings and the FBI didn’t catch them (most of them turned themselves in years later).
Which is why we have a fourth amendment. Because this is what governments do. It’s what law enforcement frequently does. How we get the lawmen to start obeying the law again … I wish I knew.

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Late-night links

Columbia Journalism Review looks at a couple of papers receiving financial support from local government. Ethical? Or not?
•A former Countrywide bank executive was found liable for a scheme to sign up mortgage borrowers knowing they couldn’t repay the loan, then sell the loans to the government. She’s now working at JP Morgan earning a big bonus, so the government wants to fine her more money. Go, feds!
•McDonalds employees are filing class-action suits claiming they were cheated of overtime.
•The Hobby Lobby fight against providing contraceptive coverage is bringing out cries from the right wing about how getting to choose whether to have sex or not is bad for women. No surprise. Heck, the religious right even hates the Girl Scouts.
•In light of my last And column about chivalry, here’s Mike Huckabee explaining how he treats female opponents with chivalric respect. As if to confirm the point about chivalry being a reward for subordinate women, Huckabee’s a firm believer men must rule.
I will also bet money that if he ever runs for the same office as a woman, he won’t be that chivalric.
•A guest Slacktivist post from Samantha Field on how Pensacola Christian College’s handles rape cases (three guesses who’s at fault). Unsurprisingly, PCC denies everything.

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