Category Archives: Politics

Sexual harassment: now that we know how common it is, what do we do?

It’s a good thing that so many women are talking openly about harassment. But now what? Sure, exposing harassers and dealing with them is good, but preventing harassment is better. As Echidne says, the pendulum could swing the other way, or it could wind up like the reaction to mass shootings — shock after a new revelation, then back to status quo. Which would be bad.

Echidne says, permanent change would require men not supporting or defending other men who harass; punishment that puts a penalty on the harassers (someone else suggested it’s also important punishment be frequent enough to be actually intimidating) ; and changes to the underlying culture.

How we get there? That’s tougher. Worse the solutions some people want are the same they always want: women have to behave better. Sexist antifeminist Matt Walshl f0r instance, says we fix things by having people “observe the Mike Pence Rule” (never be alone with a member of the opposite sex), emphasize chastity and also modesty.

As noted at the link (not direct), men beiing chaste would help — but I doubt that’s what Walsh means. It’s just part of his general view that premarital sex inevitably leads to rape (part of the conservative myth of the golden age of chastity). And “Modesty” only makes sense if Walsh thinks it’s slutty behavior or clothing that causes rape/harassment. But Weinstein’s assaults were carefully planned; Roy Moore often asked girl’s parents for permission to meet with them. That’s predatory calculation, not blind lust.

Ross Douthat (who blamed Harvey Weinstein on sexual permissiveness) suggests we Do Something to prevent men in patriarchal systems from using their authority to abuse women. True, but as Echidne points out at the link, it’s the nature of patriarchy that men rule over women; conservatives in all three Abrahamic religions impose rules of modesty on women, limit their freedom and promote male dominance (and Douthat’s cool with that stuff). Sexists say patriarchy protects women; exploiting women is actually part and parcel of patriarchy.

As for the Pence rule, why should women be shut out of mentoring or meetings because Pence can’t trust himself to stay chaste? I can just imagine if it were a woman in power making that decision: right-wingers would be shrieking about how the Evil Feminazi is discriminating against men by refusing to meet them or they’d declare that nobody would want to rape the fugly old bat. The Pence rule will only be considered a good solution by right-wingers as long as its women whose careers are affected (some of Weinstein’s victims, for instance, were afraid refusing a meeting would be a career-killer).

On the left, following Al Franken admitting to a charge of sexual harassment (dating back some years, to when he was just a comedian), there’s been debate about what the right “strategy” is in this situation. I definitely don’t think that should be the primary issue; I don’t know if resignation (as it has nothing to do with Franken’s elected office) is the moral course, but whatever the moral path is, Franken should follow it (some discussion of that in this LGM post).

For a bonus, there’s muchon in this LGM post about discussi Sen. Al Franken and whether he ought to quit. I have no opinion on whether an incident of harassment (taking place while someone else was around, Matt Walsh!) years before his election is grounds for resigning (that is not an excuse for it), but I don’t think “he should resign or the right-wingers will just say that’s proof ‘the left’ is just attacking Moore” is a good argument. Right-wingers can just as easily hold up Clinton or Edward Kennedy or a myth like “pizzagate” if they want to prove it’s the left that’s really the problem; it won’t matter whether liberals denounce the behavior or not (e.g., Maureen Dowd discussing how in the alt.America where Clinton beat Trump, Weinstein isn’t exposed). If Franken resigns, it should be because that’s the right thing to do, not just a political tactic.

What’s a good solution? As  I’m inclined myself to rephrase one of Cato’s letters from 1721: “The only security which we can have that men will not harass, is to make it their interest not to harass; and the best defense which we can have against their being predators, is to make it terrible to them to be predators. As there are many men wicked in some stations, who would be innocent in others; the best way is to make wickedness unsafe in any station.” But again, how?



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Becoming un-Moored (ROFL)

So Monday I mentioned the women who claim lying theocrat Roy Moore hit on them when they were underage, and that some Republicans were defending him (better a pedophile for senator than a Democrat, and no I’m not kidding). Since then the ground has shifted so rapidly it’s worth some more links:

The American Family Association and other religious conservatives still support Moore. AFA official Sandy Rios brushed off the charges on the grounds there isn’t a man who “doesn’t have something in his past, in his box of secrets, that he’s ashamed of sexually?” Particularly since the 1960s when all that evil free love started subverting godly behavior (we’ll just ignore that for some Christians the age difference is very godly). Of course this kind of open-mindedness never applied when Bill Clinton cheated, even though he acknowledged his sin and asked for forgiveness — precisely what Christians are supposed to do. Somehow sins can only be washed away for Republicans like Moore and Newt Gingrich.

Likewise, Fox News Jeanine Pirro has done a complete 180 on whether old sex-crime charges are important: she used to think so but in Moore’s case hey, it was 30 years ago, forget about it okay?

Several Alabama churches that supposedly came out in support of Moore say he’s lying about that (their endorsements predated the current scandal). Others stand firm.

And the charges keep coming. That Moore was banned from a local mall for chasing teenage girls. A woman says she was 16 when Moore tried to rape her. Moore makes the claim he never dated any young girls without their mothers’ permission, which for some conservative Christians probably sounds reasonable.

Some conservative pundits (though not all) are declaring Moore damaged goods. Ross Douthat has condemned him and discussed how male-dominated churches must hold men accountable — though as Echidne points out, that’s not practical. I suspect Roy Edroso is right: it’s one thing for a right-wing Christian polemicist like Rios to stand by Moore, but an NYT columnist like Douthat has to look good to the mainstream audience. In the current debate over harassment and predation, that makes supporting someone like Moore a career risk.

One writer at the ever-vapid Federalist is worried enough about the big picture to resort to the old stand-by: Moore isn’t a conservative. Moore ignored higher court decisions (ordering judges not to issue marriage licenses to gays, even after the Obergefell decision, for instance) which violates the law and no conservative would do that. Of course the same writer (as noted at the link) had no problem with that in an earlier article, describing Moore’s defiance of the law as proving him an “anti-establishment conservative,” the kind we need more of in Congress!

More generally, lots of conservatives support Moore’s actions and those by other anti-gay officials. Large numbers of religious conservatives have embraced him as their champion. Would The Federalist claim all those people are anti-conservative? If not, just what makes more not one any more?

Will any of this make a difference to Alabama voters? Will they decide it’s all a conspiracy by the Washington Post? As a former Bible Belt resident, I suspect they’ll vote for the “godly” Moore (who apparently retro-opposes the civil rights movement) — what does a little assault matter compared to fighting against the Homosexual Agenda? That’s why Rios claims an attack on Moore is an attack on Christianity.

But I have slightly more hope than Monday that I’m wrong. And being wrong would be good. While I’ve heard arguments Moore in the Senate would just make Republicans look worse, I think the risk of legitimizing or normalizing his extreme views is much worse. Better he stay out of DC.

Fingers crossed.


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Conservative nostalgia is a dangerous delusion

So Kevin Sorbo’s wife Sam Sorbo has an editorial on Fox News (not linking to it) recycling the time-honored conservative/religious right about how America has lost its moral compass: “American society used to be governed by Judeo-Christian do-unto-others morals. But we have drifted (been pushed, really) into a hedonistic YOLO (You Only Live Once) cultural morass. The upshot of this is a distinct lack of respect for human life in general, as well as a pervasive, insidious obsession with self.” And go figure, her primary examples are not billionaires demanding the biggest tax cuts but Clinton supposedly selling U.S. uranium to Russia and football players protesting police-on-black violence.

Fantasies of some golden age when everyone was moral, kids respected their elders and we could leave our doors unlocked probably go back as long as we’ve had doors. The trouble is, Sorbo, like a lot of religious conservatives, wants us to believe it’s true (and may believe it herself). It’s not. “Judeo-Christian do-unto-others morals” (I always interpret “Judeo-Christian” as “Christian but we don’t want to sound bigoted”) didn’t do anything to stop the hundreds of blacks lynched in the South under Jim Crow — white evangelical churches were strongly against integration and civil rights (that was Jerry Falwell’s big political issue for years). Conservative Christianity was on the wrong side of the women’s rights movement, then on the gay rights movement. Some members are against any religion but their own having First Amendment rights. The idea that we’re in some moral cesspool because we don’t follow Ms. Sorbo’s view of God is just crapola.

Case in point, Bible-thumping theocrat Roy Moore has now been accused of hitting on and getting physical (though not actual presentation) with girls as young as 14 (oh, here are his past views on rape and child abuse). I will be astonished if it makes a difference because a lot of voters in the Bible Belt define “Christian” as anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-liberal, and Moore fits the bill nicely. One voter has declared it’s better to vote for a pedophile than a Democrat because he hates Democrats and thinks they’re evil (a view he apparently does not hold of pedophiles).

Sean Hannity’s interview with Moore apparently left some pundits convinced he’s guilty.  But it’s unlikely any Republican pols will do anything to oppose Moore but wring their hands.

I blogged a while back about allegations Eddie Berganza at DC Comics was a sexual harasser. Buzzfeed presents the words of several women who say yes, he was.

Putin says Russia didn’t meddle in the 2016 election. Trump is very, very upset that people don’t believe him — it might hurt Putin’s feelings.

Trump might not build a border wall or repeal Obamacare, but he’s sure as hell getting right-wing judges appointed to the bench.

Trump thinks a primary argument for passing Republican tax cuts is that he’ll pay a lot without them.

Apparently the UK finds Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity violate broadcast standards for news shows.

A member of the sexist Proud Boys movement thinks trans candidates only won because women have the vote and women vote based on feelings. In contrast, presumably to his loathing for transsexuals which I’m sure he imagines is totally logical.

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Believing the worst, and other topics

For openers, we have a Trump-backing pastor’s claim Hollywood is rife with cannibalism and human sacrifice. Why do people swallow this stuff? Like Alex Jones’ claims about Satanic pizza parlors sex-slave rings based on Mars,  it’s a convenient way to feel good: “Their message here is not ‘x is bad’ but ‘I, personally and heroically, disapprove of x'” as Slacktivist puts it at the second link. For example, those people who were excited to know evil liberals were going to wage war on them last weekend.

As Hilzoy points out this is seductive (a way to feel virtuous without doing anything virtuous) but it’s also self-destructive, unjust and toxic. Slacktivist adds, however, that when we see evidence people aren’t arguing in good faith, we should trust the evidence (“The presumption of charity in conversation is just like the presumption of innocence in a criminal trial”).

Moving on—

Harvey Weinstein employed an army of detectives and spies (literally ex-Mossad agents) to keep his victims quiet (h/tip the Mary Sue). And David Brooks explains it’s all those people engaging in free love that make Weinstein possible. Lucy Prebble looks at casting-couch culture. And what of Weinstein’s employees?

The Republican tax plan specifies that fetuses qualify for college savings plans.

One of those baker vs. gay couples cases is headed to the Supreme Court. Scott Lemieux discusses why the cake shop is in the wrong.

Right-wing pundits respond to the most recent shooting massacre. Like the inevitable claims more guns in church is the solution. Novelist Brad Thor made a similar point about the New York vehicular homicide recently, but he’s wrong.

No More Mr. Nice Blog suggests if right-wingers keep demanding Muslims police their extremists, gun culture should be held to the same standard. Echidne, however, argues against sweeping generalizations.

In response to John Kelly’s claim the Civil War failed through lack of compromise

If Republicans want to make taxes simpler they could support proposals for form-free filing.

Trump picks anti-feminist Penny Nance, who thinks Frozen should have had a male protagonist, as our ambassador at large for women’s issues.

Coal country workers still believe Trump will revive the industry.

Trump’s ruling that employers with moral objections to birth control don’t have to cover it begins to have effect. Or does it — apparently Notre Dame University is backing off.

Trump may be president, but he’s indistinguishable from a pissed-off loudmouth drunk. Unfortunately his core supporters are totally committed, insisting simultaneously he’s accomplished a lot and that they don’t care he hasn’t accomplished anything. I think the interviewees are an excellent example of people not arguing in good faith — for all their claims Trump’s a dynamic, accomplished leader, they can’t actually cite any evidence.

According to some right-wingers, the correct response to any terror attack should be fear and pants-wetting.

Mark Silk looks at the divisions over immigrants in the Catholic Church.

All the reasons we shouldn’t be nostalgic for George W. Bush’s presidency (“The Iraq disaster killed 4,500 U.S. soldiers, something like 400,000 Iraqis, and radically destabilized the entire region. It led directly to the rise of ISIS and contributed powerfully to the Syrian Civil War. It was the worst foreign policy blunder in American history.”)

To end with good news: woot, that was some great electioneering Tuesday! It doesn’t make President Shit-Gibbon dissipate (and some of the racist ads at the link are horrifying), but all those victories prove that (as usual) the same side of America isn’t dead yet.

And to end on a really fun (but very raunchy note — NSFW people!) here’s Rachel Bloom’s Hugo-nominated music video, Fuck Me Ray Bradbury! All rights to cover below remain with current holder.


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The First Amendment is not just for religions you believe in

So recently we’ve had Bryan Fischer, who thinks the First Amendment only applies to Christians, declaring Muslims should be denied positions in Congress, even if they’re elected. Roy Moore, the probable soon-to-be-senator from Alabama, says the same. and other Republicans aren’t going to fuss about it.

They are not unique. So here’s an unpublished (slightly revised) column I wrote for And Magazine before they dispensed with my services:

To paraphrase the Slacktivist blog, anyone who feels compelled to follow up “I support religious liberty” with a “but” probably doesn’t support religious liberty. Case in point, Southern Baptist pastor Dean Haun of Tennessee. “By all means let s stand for religious liberty in America, but—” Haun said in January. The “but” being he doesn’t support freedom for Muslims, and opposes other Baptists supporting it.

Haun recently resigned from the Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board after it filed a court brief supporting the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, NJ. A township had refused to approve the society’s proposed mosque, the society sued (and won). For Haun, supporting the rights of a religion he doesn’t believe in goes against his faith: “If we defend the rights of people to construct places of false worship, are we not helping them speed down the highway to hell? I want no part in supporting a false religion, even if it is in the name of religious freedom.” He adds that Islam isn’t a religion anyway but a “geo-political movement that seeks to replace our values and even our faith with sharia law. I doubt if the situation were reversed if the Muslims would stand up for our religious liberty.” (He is, by the way wrong on that).

Supporting religious liberty only when you agree with the religion is the equivalent of “honest when convenient” — you don’t believe in religious freedom, you believe in your own religion’s freedom (I’m sure Haun would shriek to the skies if someone denied his church any rights). This is the reasoning that’s led to so much bloodshed in the name of religion. Muslims have warred on Christians, Christians have warred on Muslims. Catholics persecuted Protestants for rejecting the one true faith. Protestants persecuted Catholics for believing in a false church. Puritans fled to America so they could worship as they chose; when Quakers in Puritan territory wanted to worship as they chose, Puritans whipped, exiled or hung them.

The drafters of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (and the many Americans who supported and ratified them) understood this. They gave us a founding document that guarantees freedom of religion for all and bans religious tests for federal office. A lot of Americans thought that was unChristian — a Jew, a Muslim, even an atheist could become president. George Washington, however, celebrated that in the United States, “all possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.” Haun, apparently does not.

There’s an old quote to the effect that “they came for the Jews and I did not speak up because I was not a Jew; they came for the socialists and I did not speak up because I was not a socialist … they came for me and there was nobody left to speak up.” The point being that protecting the freedom of people you disagree with is, if nothing else, enlightened self-interest as well as morally right. As JFK put it, an attack on one religion should be viewed as an attack on all. Unfortunately too many people don’t see it that way: like Haun and Fischer, they want the government to come for the Muslims. Either they’re so naive they imagine their obviously true religion will never be on the receiving end, or they see oppressing Muslims as one more building block in the Christian theocracy (their version of Christianity, of course) they intend to build here.

Haun talks about Islam trying to impose its religious laws on us, but how is that any different from the Republican religious right? Zealots who think their beliefs about gay marriage, women’s rights, birth control and countless other things should supercede the rights and beliefs of anyone who disagrees. I’m pretty sure Haun and Fischer ain’t going to stand up for my religious rights any more than they do for Muslims. I support their right to believe and advocate for a government that favors Christianity — but if they think that’s “religious freedom” they’re either lying to us or themselves.


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And sexism for Thursday, because one day a week isn’t enough (unfortunately)

The Catholic forced-birth nonprofit Human Life International supports El Salvador’s complete ban on abortions. Which includes jail time for women who abort no matter what the circumstances, even with a nonviable baby and the mother’s life at stake. But remember, forced birthers really, really don’t want to punish the mother!

Speaking of which, I’ve written before about the kind of nonsystemic prosecutions and judicial decisions that punish the mother. I think it’s an example of the spontaneous order this libertarian feminist post talks about (which is not to say the author would agree with me). The post discusses how repeated rapes, threats and acts of harassment, even though they’re not organized by the Sexism Central Committee, can add up so that rape culture spontaneously forms. Likewise, I think, all the countless little forced-birth decisions (like Texas banning insurers from covering abortion costs) create a kind of spontaneous order of forced-birth culture.

A men’s rights activist argues that as women weren’t allowed to serve in combat until recently, the military were discriminating against men by getting them killed or maimed. So the solution is to draft women and no men until there are as many dead and injured women as the male dead of the past. An “involuntary celibate” says women who stay in abusive relationships should be prosecuted as they’re helping the abuser.

A Harvard Business School articles argues that if you believe men are superior to women it’s totally not sexist to discriminate in hiring! At the link, Shakezula cries bullshit.

Slacktivist reminds us that fundamentalists had no problem with Roe v. Wade until the 1980s, so they didn’t always think Abortion Is Obviously Murder.

It doesn’t matter whether its Weinstein harassing women or Milo Yiannopoulis talking about sex with fourteen year olds, it’s liberals who are at fault. Of course as Lance Mannion points out, to conservatives liberals are always at fault. Case in point, Bret Stephens of the NYT explaining Weinstein getting away with it can all be blamed on Hollywood! liberals! (or women!) rather than Power and Money! Oh, and Yiannopoulis is already on the way back to the right wing’s good graces (“he and I are on the same page here, in this excerpt from an interview with America magazine, which he says they refused to print”).

Or of course, we can blame taking prayer out of schools (note: kids can pray in schools, schools just can’t organize prayers) for Weinstein. Or turn assault into a comic punchline.

John Scalzi and Mark Evanier look at how it’s possible not to know about predators like Weinstein (which Scalzi notes is not saying “nobody who wasn’t harassed didn’t know.”). The NYT looks at business people who take the Pence option: don’t meet with women alone rather than “don’t sexually harass women.” Echidne looks at how that and other “solutions” put the burden on the women. One suggestion for a better approach? Imagine the woman who wants to meet with you was Dwayne Johnson.

Sexist but funny in a black-humored way: white supremacists are torn between the need to recruit white women and the desire to subjugate them (” ‘it is a woman’s responsibility to prove she is worthy of the privilege’ of submitting to a man and bearing his children”).

For something with some sense, Drew Magary writes on Deadspin about being a jerk (to women and others) and believing he was 100 percent justified: “Anyone who gets offended is overly sensitive. PC. Hysterical. Weak. They’re just pretending to be offended to get attention. White guys simply can’t imagine anyone getting truly upset over words, mainly because there are no such words that can traumatize them similarly.” Only now he’s learned better, and it sounds like he really has. Hat tip LGM. Magary’s post ties in a lot with what I wrote about the jerk/free spirit dichotomy.

And for more good news, here’s a profile of the judge who helped one illegal immigrant get an abortion despite the Trump administration’s opposition.

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Let’s heil, heil Donald, right in the Donald’s face! (#SFWApro)

I’ve seen some people arguing online that mocking white supremacists and neo-Nazis is a bad idea because it makes them look like clowns, instead of villains. And because making fun won’t defeat them. In response to A, I don’t think so. In response to B, that’s setting the bar high — might as well say Democrats shouldn’t have run against Trump because that didn’t stop him getting elected.

So here’s one verse for a modern take on Spike Jones’ classic WW II song, Der Fuehrer’s Face:

“When the Donald tells us, he is the master race,
Let’s heil, heil, right in the Donald’s face!
Not to love the Donald is a great disgrace
So let’s heil, heil, right in the Donald’s face!”

It ain’t great art but it does brighten my day a little.

On a less cheery note, let’s look at October in white supremacy:

Three white supremacists are charged with attempted murder during a Richard Spencer speech (shooting at the other side, of course). Vox lists some of the other white supremacist attacks.

Michael Christopher Estes has been charged with planting a bomb at a North Carolina airport to fight a war on American soil. Unsurprisingly as he’s not a Muslim, the case hasn’t grabbed a lot of attention. Likewise I suspect we’d hear more about Daniel Wenzek, who drove into a crowd of anti-immigration protesters if he’d been black and they’d been white supremacists and  we’d probably have charges filed faster.

White Supremacist Matthew Heimbach thinks that deporting nonwhites from America is like getting rid of house guests who stay too long: “I’m gonna have to get you out of my home, one way or the other, because this isn’t your home. You have a home to live in. All peoples have a right to their own nation. But they don’t have a right to take a nation from another people. So the idea of deportations, what’s wrong with that?” Like every other believer in the white homeland bullshit, he is not proposing WASP Americans go home and leave this country to the Native Americans or the Hispanics, who were all here before the rest of us.

Slacktivist looks at how “respectable” white evangelicals have done nothing to oppose white evangelism’s embrace of Trump and his agenda. Ditto with a depressing number of right-wing pundits who don’t want to be labeled as white supremacists but nevertheless enable them. Or Megan McArdle who complaints liberals are throwing around “white supremacist” as a charge is why Trump won, because reasonable right-wingers have heard so many people accused of being racist they didn’t take the charges seriously (that a lot of McArdle’s conservative readers might have considered it a plus she does not acknowledge).

However I will take her warning to heart and note that Gen. John Kelly reciting neo-confederate talking points doesn’t make him a white supremacist, but it does make him wrong. And that denying the Civil War was about slavery has been a right-wing talking point for decades (it was all about state’s rights, no, of course those southerners weren’t racist, they were very fine people). So Kelly (who is certainly a hardboiled political player) is giving aid and comfort to those for whom the Confederate States of America was a glorious dream they wish had succeeded.

All rights to image remain with current holder.

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