Category Archives: Politics

Writing and copyright links (#SFWApro)

I’d planned something deeper, but I’m too zonked.

•The Supreme Court OKs a patent on cheerleader uniforms. The majority says it’s just about the decorative parts of the uniform; the dissenters say the ruling still goes too far.

•Wicked Cozy Authors on what drives readers away from a series (here’s my own thoughts on the same topic).

•Vulture on why Netflix should have given us an Asian-American Iron Fist rather than a white guy. Matt Foster looks at the general weakness of Iron Fist (I’ve only seen one episode so far, but it didn’t impress me). Atomic Junk Shop argues that keeping the Bronze Age origin and race is part of respecting the source material — but I can’t see that “white guy” is an essential part of the character. And the first episode isn’t respectful at all (hey, let’s turn the story of a martial-arts super hero into a dull soap opera!).

•Justina Ireland argues it’s a mistake to make up oppressed races in a fantasy world rather than tie the setting to real-world discrimination. And that redeeming racists is a plotline that’s geared strictly to white audiences. I haven’t had time to think whether I agree with her, but they’re interesting enough to link to.

•Robert Nielsen looks at cultural appropriation and the Irish — the use of Celtic symbols by white supremacists and “Plastic paddies” who move to Ireland and go native.

•Jim C. Hines has completed his annual survey of novelist incomes.

•The great comics artist Berni Wrightson (cover by Wrightson, all rights to current holder) died this week.

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Trump, Trump’s budget and his faithful voters

So as I previously blogged about, Trumpcare actually makes things worse for poor, rural and older voters. And his budget now takes a hacksaw to pretty much everything but military spending, for example Meals on Wheels. Which at the link Trump’s budget director explains needs to guarantee the money is “used in a proper function,” which in this context is pure bullshit. It’s being used to feed people who need it, that’s its function. Mr. Mulvaney doesn’t even go so far as to trot out the usual cliches about waste and fraud, just … oh, I don’t know. Oh, and Trump also wants to gut the CDC and National Institute of Health because … well, he’s got the money for a doctor, why should he care? Echidne offers some thoughts about the budget including cuts to other services to the poor. And about Mulvaney’s tough talk. And that while the CBO predicts insurance premiums will go down after 2020 (after an initial increase), that’s because of things like fewer seniors having insurance. Not to mention that by restricting the use of Planned Parenthood for Medicaid patients, it prevents lots of poor people from getting breast or cervical cancer screenings, let alone abortions or birth control (and will therefore lead to lots more unplanned and unwanted pregnancies (Side note: Paul Ryan, who was able to save for college because his family received Social Security Disability, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to cut Medicaid even while he was back in college).

Given that Trump campaigned on promises of better jobs, better and cheaper health care and a better social safety net, will it matter to Trump voters when he screws them over? Salena Zito, one of the countless oh-so-wise conservatives who tell us what poor whites really think, says that contingent (of course a lot of Trump supporters make quite a bit of money) is solidly behind him: they know industrial jobs, factory jobs, mining jobs are going away, but they don’t mind, “it’s tax and regulation reform that they all believe will truly help their community.” As noted at the link, it’s hard to believe the man on the street conveniently regurgitates Republican talking points. Heck one of the things the election brought out was how little the Republican base cares about that stuff compared to the better deal Trump promised them.

As Zito doesn’t quote anyone actually saying that, I suspect she’s er, interpreting flexibly. Still, it’s quite possible that even if Trump does bring down a world of economic misery, they’ll stay loyal. For some people (based on my experience in the Florida Panhandle) Republican is as much a part of who they are as being Baptist or Catholic (or whatever).  For others it’s the appeal of Trump’s America=White policies; one thing Zito’s interviewees are enthusiastic about is Trump’s hardline on Muslims and Hispanics coming in. But that doesn’t have the same salt-of-the-earth, Republicans-are-decent-people feel she’s trying to convey. And some people see a clear difference between Trump and Congressional Republicans, which might make it easier to keep worshipping him. Some people, like the 25 year old who doesn’t know it’s Obamacare lets him stay on his parents’ insurance, are just clueless. For a lot of conservative Republicans, it’s about abortion — as long as he’s against it, nothing else matters. A Forbes article says a lot of white people don’t notice all the ways government supports them — mortgage interest deduction, employers’ write-off for health insurance, etc. — or see it as something they’ve earned, unlike the black/poor voters who are moochers.

So maybe they’ll cling to Trump fiercely, whether from racism/sexism, cluelessness, rationalization or religion. Or maybe their faith in Trump will shatter once they feel the effects of Trumpcare and the budget. Unfortunately, it’ll be too late for them to get their insurance back (and as Digby notes at the link, too late for lots of people who didn’t vote for President Shit-Gibbon. Stay tuned.

But to end on a cheerful note, former NC governor Pat McCrory is weeping and wailing (and maybe gnashing his teeth) that it’s soooo hard to get a job now because his support of HB2 has set people against him. Why can’t we just get along? Like the Bible says, ex-governor, he shall make of your name a sign and a proverb.



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Quoted for Truth

From Lawyers, Guns and Money‘s comments section, though I forget which post: “Republicans’ complete abdication of even any pretense of caring about governance has left Democrats alone to shoulder the full burden, and it’s simply more than they (or any one party) can handle.

They’re expected to be the reformist “we need to do better” party, the skeptic “how are we gonna pay for all this?” party, and the pragmatist “we need to keep the lights on” party, all at the same time. Every new Democratic government has to handle three huge responsibilities all at once: 1) repairing all the damage done to the system by the arsonists who just left, 2) performing all the routine maintenance that the system needs just to keep running (and that the arsonists have of course neglected to do), and 3) anticipate, plan for, and enact all the upgrades and expansions that the system will need in order to keep doing what it’s supposed to do while keeping up with the way the world’s changed.

Even all that might still be manageable if the arsonists were gone, or at least, a negligible minority as they were post-1932. But no, enough people insist on continuing to send them to Washington that all three tasks described above have to be performed while the arsonists continue to riot and throw bricks and Molotov cocktails at the infrastructure you’re trying to fix. It’s simply not possible for one party to handle this much bullshit at once.”

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White achievement, like white grievance, is always legitimate

So while on my trip, I wound up watching an episode of Law and Order that pissed the hell out of me.

The story involves a prominent black reporter who recently interviewed a fugitive from justice. When a man hunting the fugitive turns up dead, the prosecutors and cops crack down and demand the reporter divulge everything he knows about where to find the fugitive. But it turns out that like Jayson Blair at the New York Times the reporter just made up the whole thing — and killed the victim, who knew the fugitive well enough to see through the bullshit.

Alt.blair’s attorney’s bizarre defense? Society is to blame! Alt.Blair got his job because of affirmative action! So because he was unqualified, therefore he had to make shit up to stay employed! And that led to the killing! Don’t people realize that affirmative action just makes every achievement by a black person suspect? Their qualifications are never taken seriously? Hell, affirmative action is racist in itself—we’re telling black people that all that ever matters is the color of their skin!

I realize he’s the defense attorney and therefore biased, but I can’t believe we’re just meant to see it as a Hail Mary play. Because he discusses the flaws of affirmative action a lot, whereas the prosecutor only gets one counter-argument, tossed off and not even mentioned. So I’m inclined to take it as Western Union. And it’s a telegram I disagree with.

First off, while race may have been a factor in the real Jayson Blair’s rise, it was only one factor. He wrote well (according to the link), he delivered seemingly awesome stories — is it that strange he advanced quickly? Stephen Glass at New Republic made stuff up for years too, and he’s white. So why blame alt.Blair completely on race?

For that matter why assume alt.blair’s unqualified, rather than a talented reporter? Even if race was a factor in hiring him, that doesn’t mean he’s unqualified. I’ve been hired multiple times through personal connections; it doesn’t mean I was the stereotypically incompetent nepotism hire. Why does a black man getting into college partly because of race mean he should be judged more suspiciously than a legacy admission — someone who got into college because his parents are alumni?

Simple. He’s black, therefore everything is suspect. Not because of affirmative action, just because he’s black. If it was before affirmative action, he’d be a token hire. If it was before “token hire” was a concept he’d be just “what the hell is that n-word doing here?” People who doubt a black man’s ability would doubt it just as much a hundred years ago. Or simply ignore or deny it or resent it.

A white guy though? Don’t be silly. Nobody’s going to assume a legacy hire or the business owner’s son might be an inbred imbecile who only got ahead on his connections. Back pre-affirmative action, I doubt the defense attorney would have been worrying “Wow, do you suppose my white doctor’s really good? What if he only got into medical school because they refused some women and black people?” Writing about Trump voters, Ta-Nehisi Coates said that white grievance, no matter how absurd, is still taken as legitimate by lots of people. Likewise white achievement (and male achievement — most of this applies to women just as much) is assumed to be legitimate until proven otherwise. The default assumption is that the white man earned what he got.

Is the lawyer or the episode’s writer suggesting that if we just drop affirmative action, then talented black people will get ahead under their own power? Because that ignores that there’s lots and lots of racism left. White people will get ahead because they’re white, even more than they do already.  Nor does the laywer offer a solution — no suggestion that, say, we aggressively punish people who violate the laws on hiring and firing minorities. We should apparently just accept discrimination (as long as it’s not against white people) until that enlightened day when we’re all singing kumbaya.

As solutions (and arguments) go, that one’s less than optimal. So was the episode.

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Here we go again

One of the first columns I did for And magazine was about conservatives objecting to “subsidizing” a woman’s sex life by having birth control covered in Obamacare insurance. Sean Hannity, for example, declared that as he’s not the one getting laid, there’s no reason he should pay for the birth control. My column pointed out that this is how insurance works: healthy people subsidize worse-off people. It would make just as much sense to argue that “I don’t smoke, why should I pay for the cancer treatment of people who do?” Or that policies shouldn’t cover prostate cancer, as women are never going to need that coverage. But of course that wouldn’t further the right-wing war on birth control and on women who have sex without  consequences.

But now Sen. Paul Ryan has taken the leap: his latest argument against the ACA and the individual mandate is that “The people who are healthy pay for the people who are sick.” As LGM and ThinkProgress point out, that’s how all insurance works. Health insurance. Ryan’s Trumpcare plan. Car insurance. Home insurance. E&O insurance (which protects businesses against the financial consequences of “errors and omissions” they might make). It’s how companies stay solvent. If insurers don’t get enough money from healthy people (or people whose houses don’t burn down or cars don’t crash), they go out of business. The purpose of the individual mandate is to ensure that doesn’t happen. Otherwise healthy people could delay until they need insurance and then take out the policy.

What Ryan is doing, of course, is reworking this simple fact to a)single out Obamacare and its mandate as some uniquely awful program; b)imply Trumpcare will fix it (it won’t — as noted, this is just how insurance works) and c)phrase it language Republican audiences are used to, about how the takers and moochers (someone else) are living high off the money paid in by hardworking Americans (themselves). Charles Pierce points out it’s much the same process by which Ryan’s family stayed afloat after his father’s death thanks to Social Security whereas Pierce (and others) were paying money in (Of course that hasn’t stopped Ryan from condemning supposed moochers who rely on government assistance any more than Rep. Steve Fincher receiving millions in farm subsidies stops him from condemning people who receive food stamps.)

While several takes have been “Paul Ryan doesn’t understand insurance” I’m pretty sure he does — it’s just not in his interest to acknowledge the facts.

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Well this is getting interesting

So the Republicans have released their Obamacare sort-of-repeal plan. “Trumpcare” includes lots of goodies for people with more income to put in HSAs or more taxes to write off, and make sure lottery winners are shut out of Medicaid. (Consumerist has some thoughts) It’s running into lots of opposition, not only from Democrats but Republicans who think modifying Obamacare is not enough — wipe it from reality or nothing! Plus those who know their constituents like having health care and don’t want to face the blowback from taking it away, and the bill does that: Jonathan Chait points out the tax credits to help buy insurance go down for the poor and rise for the rich (more here). And despite all the talk of cutting premiums, AARP says that for older adults they’ll go up under Trumpcare And it’s a bad deal for women too as it drops requirements plans cover maternity and prenatal care, among other things (showing again that right-to-life is more about forcing women to bear children than taking care of fetuses).

As this poses a serious challenge to passing “Trumpcare” people are speculating why Sen. Paul Ryan is backing such a long-shot bill — is this the best he can get? Does he overestimate his chances? Does he figure Republicans will be better off if repeal fails? Is it a case of “be careful what you wish for” as various Republicans realize the risk from taking away people’s healthcare. Rick Perlstein points out that conservatives believe cutting off government-supplied healthcare is a moral act. Sen. Jason Chaffetz seems to express the same view when explaining that the bill will require poor people to be responsible and buy healthcare instead of an iPhone. Because poor people are immoral unless they suffer. Roy Edroso suggests, similarly, that it’s catering to the angry, PO’d Trump voters who want those damn moochers to suffer! Jonathan Chait (at the link above) thinks Republicans backed themselves into a corner by their own tactics and rhetoric .

President Shit-Gibbon has informed America that “this will be a plan where you can choose your doctor,” but nothing I’ve heard from either side indicates this will happen. All health-care plans have in-network and out-of-network doctors — about the only people who gain more choice will be the rich people who can use their HSA to pay for any doctor they want.

In further loonie news, Trump HHS Secretary Tim Price says Medicaid takes away people’s health care … somehow. Ryan explains that it doesn’t matter that millions of people lose care, what matters is that it lowers costs! No explanation how it will do that, but it’s an axiom for free marketeers that allowing people to use “too much” health care is why health care is so high (like Rep. Bill Huizinga, who’s proud that he didn’t take his kid to the E/R until he was absolutely, positively sure the boy’s arm was broken).

So it’s kind of fascinating to watch as a train wreck … except that if the train gets to the station, millions of people lose health care or have to settle for inadequate care.I can’t really relax enough to enjoy it. Even the fact lots of Repubs think this bill is worth backing (and some object because it’s not vicious enough) is chilling.
But on the plus side, there’ll some satisfaction to watching the Shit-Gibbon freak out again when Trumpcare does not automatically become law.



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In the age of Trump, I can always lead my link posts with sexism

Of course that’s true in most ages. And it’s not just Trump — it’s important to remember that while other Repubs may not brag as much about grabbing women, they’re not passing women-friendly policies. In Mississippi, a committee blocked a bill that would have allowed spousal abuse as a grounds for divorce, because that would lead to more divorce. A bill in Texas (same link) would allow doctors to lie to a pregnant patient about the fetus’s health so she won’t think about aborting it. Over in Colorado, Republicans have shut off funding for a program that makes it affordable for low-income women and teens to use IUDs and other birth-control devices. The program has successfully reduced abortion rates and teen birth rates but of course it makes it easier for women to have sex without consequences, so there you are. Melinda Gates, however, stresses how important controlling pregnancy can be to a woman’s life.

•But let’s remember, Trump can always make it worse. AG Jeff Sessions is very anti-choice and extremist pro-violent abortion groups hope to make the most of it. Bible-thumping right-winger Jerry Falwell Jr. is now leading an education task force and wants colleges to stop handling sexual assault complaints. Of course, nothing stops a woman reporting assault to the college and the police  —but I have a strange feeling Falwell isn’t going to be pushing police to deal with rape allegations more effectively.

•Women wearing white pantsuits to Trump’s State of the Union speech in support of Clinton? The important thing is their bad fashion sense, according to one Republican. I can just imagine their reaction if Clinton had worn a wig like Trump’s.

•So a female actor criticized a reporter for calling Melania Trump a hooker. Slate says defending Melania ignores her role in Trump’s ultra-sexist administration. Gotta say I disagree with Slate — it’s always a good thing to call out sexist slurs, even directed at horrible people.

•Sterling Jewelers has been accused of turning a blind eye to sexual harassment.

•Kansas Republican Roger Marshall opposes the medicaid expansion under ACA because “the poor will be with you always.” At the link, Slacktivist explains how Marshall is completely getting Jesus wrong.

•Rebecca Traister looks at how The Handmaid’s Tale holds up 30 years later. She includes quotes from one reviewer about how absurd said reviewer found a future in which the US and Russia aren’t at each other’s throats and right-wing fundamentalists have vast power in government.

•A North Dakota Republican says repealing blue laws would be bad, because women should make their husbands breakfast in bed instead of shopping.

•No we are not drowning in illegal immigrants — the levels are a lot lower than a few years back.

The Future That Liberals Want. Imagine that, people just … sitting there. Not bothering anyone. Not bothering anyone else. Sounds good to me (and reminiscent of the segregationist insistence in White Flight that all your public spaces belong to us).

•While Trump has gotten more criticism from the press than W did at this point, many reporters gushed over the state of the union speech. And while Sen. John McCain may talk tough about Trump’s conduct, one writer predicts he won’t back it up with deeds.

•Creationist Ken Ham claims pre-Flood humans were far advanced — but even his imaginary museum displays don’t show it.

•Charles Pierce says Trump supporters should just accept they deserve the flak they’re getting. Nevertheless, one campus libertarian complains it’s harder to be right-wing/libertarian than gay in college. Why, when he invited Milo Yiannopoulis to speak, he actually got criticized!

•AG Sessions wants to crack down on pot. Nevertheless, a new bill has been introduced to end the federal ban on marijuana.

•A Tibetan soccer team has been told it can’t get visas for the US. Gotta watch those infamous Tibetan terrorists, right?

•Trump has announced his intention to publicize crimes committed by immigrants. Presumably because they involve foreigners killing Americans whereas Americans shooting foreigners is A-OK with him.

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