Category Archives: Politics

Religion and a douchebag

Slacktivist catches a charming story: A pastor discovers the person he’s agreed to hold a funeral for is gay, and married. He announces at the last minute that the funeral is off because “I have to stand up for my principles.”
Yes, very principled. I’m sure that if the deceased had been an adulterer, drunk, wage thief or abuser, the reaction would have been exactly the same. Not. As Slacktivist has pointed out many times in past blog posts, Christian anti-gay prejudice has been wildly exalted in the 21st century. It’s not simply “gay sex is wrong” but opposing gay marriage is (according to some religious conservatives) one of the fundamental tenets of Christianity. And opposition includes things like refusing to let them be mourned at your church, at least in this case. Because that would obviously prove the preacher secretly supported gay sex.
•Slacktivist also scrutinizes a Time article complaining that making consent an important moral standard for “is this sexual act okay?” is a bad thing. Because what about stuff like fidelity? What about the damage raw sexual lust can do when let out of the bottle?
As Fred Clark (the slacktivist blogger) notes, this is trick answer: Author Damon Linker is condemning the importance of consent by writing as if that replaces all other standards: consent is bad because everyone who says “consent is important” must be rejecting fidelity, honesty, etc. Which is bullshit. And Linker also seems to think that before the sexual revolution, everyone stayed chaste until marriage. And that’s also bullshit.

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Amazon: we will convert couch potatoes to readers, trust us! (#SFWApro)

Yep, another installment in the ongoing Amazon-Hechette battle. As John Scalzi recounts, Amazon has issued a letter to readers repeating many of the same arguments it’s already made. It also adds some, comparing the fight against affordable (as Amazon defines it) ebooks to George Orwell declaring years earlier that publishers should crush the paperback industry to keep profits high (Amazon gets Orwell wrong) and that lower prices are vital in the 21st century because “books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more.”
Scalzi responds well (and mentions in the comments that he’s not siding with Hachette, it’s just that Amazon’s talking so much more and adopting a pose of noble self-sacrifice for the good of all humanity) but one point he didn’t touch on is the idea of lower costs as an edge for books against other forms of entertainment. It’s not totally absurd, but it does hover somewhere in the netherworld between “speculative” and “total bullshit.”
It’s a variation of the point Scalzi has made about assuming $9.99 ebooks will automatically boost sales. For some authors it could lead to greater profits; for others, the added sales won’t make up for the lower price; for the A-listers such as Rowling, King and Martin, it’s probably a money loser. A new Rowling book is going to go best-seller at a higher price so there’s no incentive to cut.
Back when ebooks were borderline SF, I saw lots of predictions ebooks would be so cheap they’d lead to a rebirth of reading (of course, these also assumed readers would be little more than the price of a paperback). But it hinges on the dubious assumption that people who play videogames or veg out watching TV would read instead if only books were cheaper.
If that were all it took, libraries or used-book stores would fill the gap handily. I can find plenty of books at better-than-ebook prices; for years, I lived almost entirely on what was available at the used-book stores in my neighborhood.
If book prices dropped by half, some people would buy twice as many books. Some people wouldn’t buy any more books and would keep playing Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto or Lego Star Wars. Or keep watching Arrow and Modern Families on TV. Or spend their days hiking, or doing community theater or taking ballroom-dancing classes. Even readers may, as Orwell said, buy the same number of books as they do now, and put their savings into something else. I’d probably fit in that category: Even if books cost half as much, I couldn’t read twice what I do now, so I’m not going to buy them.
So yeah, not a strong argument on Amazon’s part.

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Art is lost the conservative said, let us weep for the soul of man.

Apparently John C. Wright’s claims liberals were anti-beautiful art fits neatly into the current right-wing zeitgeist. Here we have one conservative seething that liberals are destroying beauty in art because we left-wingers can’t separate art from politics. And rape apologist Rod Dreher explains that conservatives make better art because great art requires drawing on archetypes and archetypes are traditional and therefore conservative. Or something like that.
Of course, complaints about modern art and how liberals demand art be politically correct have a long pedigree, so perhaps it’s coincidence all these posts show up fairly close together.
•Another long-standing tradition is predicting that libertarianism is finally about to catch on. Roy Edroso links to an NYT piece trotting out the usual cliches: libertarians are contemptuous of both Republicans and Democrats (this is often taken as a sign of independent thinking in the media). Young voters support legalizing pot and gay marriage which shows they want government out of their private lives, just like libertarians, and they don’t like either party’s handling of the economy. Is this the hour of libertarian triumph?
As Edroso notes, the article hardly touches on economic policy, which is the truly big issue for libertarians: they want regulation on business gone, dead, pushing up daisies (as I’ve mentioned before, the real reason libertarianism misses it’s moment is that most people realize this would suck for everyone who’s not rich or a corporation). For a fair number of them, social libertarianism (get the government out of the bedroom) is not part of the deal or at least a minor one. One of the interviewees in the NYT story says that of course she thinks government should get out of deciding who can get married … which means changing the law to let gay people get married is wrong. And Rand Paul (held up in the article as the Great Libertarian Leader Who Can Win!) is willing to support a federal gay marriage amendment (he fuzzes his position a little here). And then there’s libertarian Bryan Caplan, who argues women were freer in the 1800s than today because the lack of regulation far outweighs the legal restrictions on women.
As the blogger Digby has pointed out, there was a lot more libertarian support for Republicans than Democrats in the past couple of elections (if someone has counter-statistics that prove me wrong, feel free to do so). Yet Repubs are more aggressively interventionist on war issues than Dems and very, very anti social libertarianism. The only libertarian issue where they overlap is deregulation. So apparently that’s good enough.
Slacktivist has noted many times that Roe vs. Wade was no big deal to most Protestants, including evangelicals, when it first hit. Then over the years, it became a flashpoint, a fundamental issue. And now the push against birth control shows the same trend as sexist theocrats—oh, I’m sorry, deeply religious people concerned that using birth control isn’t “openness to life”—push to establish anti-birth control as an issue for Protestants too.
•However you here far more complaints from feminists than right-to-lifers about discrimination against pregnant women.
•The right continues crying that culture is left-wing and conservatives must take it back somehow!
•A black woman writes about a shopping trip to Best Buy. She says she’s used to being asked for her receipt but even that wasn’t good enough, and an employee wouldn’t let her leave until a salesperson vouched for her.
•This profile of gun activist Larry Pratt is striking because Pratt seems to embody so many conservative aspects. For instance, when the government is crushing left-wingers he’s all for it but when it infringes on gun rights, it’s Satan incarnate. He emphasizes the absolutist radical-left approach (no deviation from ideology!) that I’ve mentioned before. And he’s apparently fine attending white-supremacist and anti-semitic conferences as a supporter.

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Filed under economics, Politics, Undead sexist cliches

Drugs, birth control, police brutality and other links.

•The FDA has asked drug companies to stop selling antibiotics to fatten livestock. Consumerist concludes the unimpressed reaction from the stock market is a sign of how toothless it is.
•Digby reminds us that despite right-wing claims all women who use contraceptives are slutty, more married women use birth control than singles (mostly because as a group they’re more sexually active).
•A court has approved a company’s request to subpoena Amazon reveal the names of some anonymous reviewers. The company in question says the reviews are part of a negative campaign to discredit it.
•We have an infrastructure that’s aging and breaking but politicians aren’t willing to maintain it.
•This Ruthless World says no, motherhood is not “the world’s toughest job” because it’s not a job in any definition of the world.
•A new religious exemption for businesses—this time against allowing workers to unionize.
•Tumblr says someone posting footage from an illegal toilet-cam isn’t grounds for taking down the site.
•Whistle-blower Edward Snowden says checking out the occasional private explicit video is a fringe benefit for the patriots in surveillance. This is not surprising: I’ve heard the same thing about cops and IRS agents abusing their surveillance powers (checking out exes or daughter’s boyfriends for instance).
•I’ve posted here about the GOP’s sudden eagerness to deny its war on women. Here’s one tactic for having the cake and eating it too: push legislation reaffirming women’s right to birth control while supporting the right of employers not to have their insurance cover it. Which is close to the anti-abortion tactics: don’t outlaw it, just make it harder and harder to get (as I’ve mentioned before, some employers now claim even signing a form to say they won’t provide coverage violates their rights). Case in point, Ohio legislator John Becker favors a)a bill that won’t let women pay for abortions with their insurance and b)a bill that won’t let women who have Medicaid or public-employee insurance use it to cover IUDs. On being told IUDs don’t call abortion, Becker’s brilliant explanation was that “I’m not a doctor. That’s just my opinion.”
•A police officer puts a man selling bootleg cigarettes in a chokehold. He dies. It happens with chokeholds, which is why cops aren’t supposed to use them. Right-winger AJ Delgado tells readers that police brutality was fine when cops beat up liberal protesters, but that was then and now cops have a union, so that’s bad. And modern cell-phone video makes it impossible to ignore the violence (as noted at the link, the only way to ignore the violence against civil-rights protesters was to close your eyes, which some conservatives were happy to do).

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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

The lines are crossed, the messages mangled

As I mentioned last week, the current Repub talking point on impeachment is that they’re not talking about it, don’t want it, Obama’s bringing it up so that he can get out the vote this fall. Total scam by the guy in the White House!
Republican Representative and rape apologist Steve King apparently didn’t get the memo as he’s announced Obama should be impeached if he doesn’t send back all those kids crossing the border.
I’m confident Repubs will continue playing the We Haven’t Said it game, though. After all, Andrew McCarthy, who wrote a book on the case for impeaching Obama (called in fact Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment) has now declared that of course his book wasn’t about impeachment: “To be clear, neither Bill, I, nor most Obama critics, nor any elected Republicans that I know of, are calling for the president’s impeachment at this point…”
As noted at the link, this kind of plausible deniability is only plausible if you start work before people point it out.

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Amazons and Hechettes, again (#SFWApro)

As I’ve mentioned before, Amazon is trying to squeeze better discounts from publishers, with tactics including refusing to pre-order books from the publishers in question and delaying shipments.
Amazon earlier this month argued that it’s really looking out for customers as this will all lead to lower prices for consumers down the road. The company has also proposed letting Hachette authors keep 100 percent of their purchase price while the dispute lasts, if Hachette agrees (at time of writing, Amazon had not actually talked about the offer with Hachette).
Amazon’s latest argument is one I’ve heard previously from other blogs: Ebooks shouldn’t be more than $9.99, given the lower costs of production compared to hard copy, and authors should get more royalty. And the lower price increases sales so much everyone wins and makes more money.
John Scalzi questions Amazon’s assumptions about correct pricing and whether cutting price will automatically increase sales. He also makes an excellent point about the fundamental assumption ebooks should reflect lower costs of production: Do people also demand restaurants cut soft drink prices to reflect how cheap soda really is? (“Please stop making the cost of production argument for books and apparently nothing else in your daily consumer life.”)
Walter Jon Williams looks at Amazon’s current finances and finds current losses as Amazon moves into new markets against tougher competition. So he concludes Amazon has an added incentive to cut costs everywhere it can, which will inevitably come back to bite authors too. And that the fact Stephen King, JK Rowling and so many other big authors go with traditional publishing is a sign that yes, going with a publisher does give authors something of value. John Scalzi gets into that here, pointing out that while he could sell his books via self-pubbing, his publisher gives him services (cover design, distribution) so he doesn’t have to deal with that stuff. And for right now, that works out well for him.
As Scalzi and Williams say, it’s not that Amazon’s evil, but just like Hachette it’s looking out for its bottom line, not for the good of the community. Which is a perfectly normal thing for any business.

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When workers get paid less, they win!

At least that’s the theory of Virginia Postrel. You see millions of minimum-wage, part-time workers can’t make ends meet because that takes two jobs. And they can’t work two jobs because the schedule for even one part-time job is too unreasonable.
Think the solution is higher pay? Don’t be silly. As Postrel explains, the solution is lower pay: Workers could trade lower hourly pay for a better schedule except that thrice-damned minimum wage law gets in the way! So if we end minimum wage so they get paid less, then they can get a second job and work more hours and everything will be great! And after all, it’s not like removing the minimum would lead employers to cut wages and still impose shitty schedules because … funny, she doesn’t address that.
According to a former Hobby Lobby employee, the chain’s owners’ pro-life beliefs didn’t protect her when she took unpaid maternity leave (she didn’t qualify for the federally guaranteed kind): she got fired.
•On a more cheerful note for labor, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that McDonalds is a “joint employer” alongside its franchisees: it exerts enough control that if labor conditions are unfair, workers can sue Mickey D’s, not just the franchise owner. The Wapo reports that the NLRB is also looking at a California case involving a staffing agency that has similar implications. Needless to say corporations are very unhappy.
•An appeals court has ruled that Mississippi’s last abortion clinic can stay open for now. The rationale is that just saying “women can go out of state so it’s not affecting their rights” is bullshit.
•One of the staple rape apologist arguments is that date rape isn’t really rape or at least it’s not as awful as a regular stranger rape. This Ruthless World explains this is, again, bullshit. Atheist Richard Dawkins’ dismissive comments (quoted therein) are a reminder that ugly as right-wing sexism gets, Republicans and conservative Christians are not the only offenders. Another case in point.
•George Will claims that America can handle an influx of Latino children coming over the border. Fox News freaks out. Given my distaste of Will’s recent rape apologism, it’s nice to see him say something sensible.
•You may have heard this already, but just in case: A teenage Virginia couple sext each other, including sending pictures of their intimate parts. The girl’s mother complains so the boy gets arrested for making and sending “child porn.” Prosecutor Claiborne Richardson actually threatened to have the kid given shots that would give him a hard-on, then take photos of it so his office could determine whether it’s the same penis in the photos.
•Meanwhile, we have a woman arrested because she let her nine-year-old daughter play in the park … alone.
•One of the staple conservative/libertarian arguments is that if the federal government has to fund programs, it should give the money to the states and let them decide how to spend it. LGM says the refusal of severals states to cooperate with Obamacare shows this is a bad idea if you want federal help to actually do good.
•Just because you pay to stop payment on a check doesn’t mean the check will be stopped.
•And despite laws that protect military members from shady financing deals some companies still prey on soldiers.

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Filed under economics, Politics, Undead sexist cliches