Category Archives: Politics

Trump is good for sensible Republicans, and other links

Blogger Shakezula critiques an Atlantic article on the woes of House Speaker Paul Ryan (of the manliest beard ever): he’s trying to propose serious policy changes but hey, Trump keeps stealing the spotlight. But the Atlantic concludes this can work out great for Ryan in the long run—once people see what a mess Trump is, they’ll be ready for a serious policy wonk such as Ryan and his sensible efforts to remake government. As Shakezula points out, one reason nobody’s paying Ryan attention is that his policies aren’t actually groundbreaking (and they’re also bullshit), they’re the same thing Repubs always want: Regulation must be slashed, taxes on rich people must be slashed. These aren’t daring policy suggestions, they’re cliches.

And of course it assumes that the people voting for Trump are enthusiastic about shrinking government rather than, say, hating on Muslims and Mexicans. Which I doubt: as plenty of writers have noted, Trump voters love his calls to boost Social Security, for instance.

•Here’s another classic conserva-pundit theme: cities are horrible places and Americans are rushing to low-tax, small-government rural places. Which as Roy Edroso at the link and several commenters point out, raises the question why the people making this argument are frequently big-city dwellers themselves.

•I don’t have much to say about the Brexit vote, but Charles Stross and John Scalzi save me the trouble.

•I’m delighted Jimmy Johns is no longer using non-compete clauses to stop sandwich makers from taking their skills elsewhere. From my limited legal knowledge it sounds like they’d be unenforceable, but if you’re making sandwiches at Jimmy Johns, you probably don’t have money for a court fight.

•The FBI has frequently abused its authority to issue National Security letters demanding information from businesses. So I’m glad legislation making it even easier to use them flopped in the Senate.

•Not only do we have bacteria immune to current antibiotics, but some bugs can hide their immunity.

•Comcast debits $1775 from a customer’s account for a fee he didn’t have to pay. After repeated promises to pay a refund, a rep tells him all that refund talk was an error—he’ll have to go to his bank for the money.

•Rep. Steve King wants a law that prevents anyone putting different people on our money. And as usual, the racists and sexists are the ones who talk about change, not the totally post-racial King, no sirreee, Bob! And I’m sure Trump doesn’t think he himself was racist when he said that well-educated blacks have the advantage over whites.

•The Intercept points out that not only the police but stalkers and peeping toms can exploit drone surveillance.

•One more argument for a guaranteed income: even call centers jobs could be replaced by robots.

•Studies indicate a lot of millennial men still hold traditional views of the sexes: men leading, women shouldering most child care, etc. While it wouldn’t surprise me if that were true, Echidne of the Snakes says the survey appears to have problems such as not being random (participants took the initiative to sign up online) and other possible sampling issues.

•Megan McArdle outsources bigotry (in the words of Roy Edroso) explaining that British hostility to immigrants and their weird foreign foods is perfectly understandable (I have the strange feeling she’s implying an analogy with America) even though she, of course, is too worldly to ever feel like that. As noted at the link in comments, McArdle appears oblivious that Indian food is a British staple (chicken kedgiree is one of the Great British Dishes according to one poll)

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Links related to the Orlando shooting, and more

Think the Orlando assault had anything to do with hating gays? Nope, say various conservatives, it’s all about Islam—so if you bring up gays, you’re attacking principled conservatives!

•Speaking of which, some people think a Muslim shooting gays is a wonderful thing. Although contrary to the article’s title, I doubt this is “all the people” celebrating 50 dead gays

•Right-wing radio host Rick Wiles thinks Orlando shows we need Muslim control, not gun control — as in, make Islam illegal — and that Obama is an Islamic militant sleeper agent.

•Obama has proposed that anyone on the federal no-fly list can’t own automatic weapons. Conservatives who used to love the no-fly restriction suddenly discover they hate it. I actually agree this is a bad approach because the list seems to be bullshit, and it’s next to impossible to get off it once you’re on it (unless that’s changed the past few years, and I don’t believe it has).  But I’ve always opposed the list—what’s their excuse?

•The “Patriot Movement” which believes federal officials who don’t meet its concept of constitutional government should be killed, has a number of ties to Trump’s campaign. And if he gets elected, they’ll undoubtedly stop shrieking about unconstitutional government—as noted at the link, they were perfectly happy under W despite the federal overreach of enemy-combatant status, the Patriot Act, ex. Put a black Democrat in office, everything changed; with Clinton, it’ll be even worse.

•Back in the 1990s, a number of people went to jail on trumped-up charges of being Satanic child-abusers. There are still plenty of believers in “Satanic ritual abuse.

•A senator argues Walmart saves security costs by cutting security staff and relying on cops, so the money comes from the taxpayers.

•An Uber-employed investigator allegedly posed as a reporter to dig up dirt on a plaintiff suing Uber.

•Samantha Field argues that when Christians sin, the Christian goal should be making things right, not defending a fellow church-goer from criticism: forgiveness matters, but so does justice. This reminds me of a number of things, such as claims a Christian newspaper shouldn’t run an expose on fake Satanist Mike Warnke. Or that for all their talk of forgiveness, conservative Christians never forgave Clinton for his adultery, even though he’s a)a lifelong churchgoer; b)publicly acknowledged his sin and asked for forgiveness. But he committed the cardinal sin of not being Republican, so there you are (these points are mine—I don’t know that Field would agree with them).

•Apparently even a multi-billion dollar endowment won’t stop schools from slashing staff and boosting tuition. More generally, running colleges like businesses is a bad idea.

•Oklahoma cops are now using card readers that can freeze money on prepaid debit cards or transfer the money to the cops. They’ve insisted this will not be abused to take money without evidence it’s tainted digital cash. If it is abused I will be completely unshocked (see links near the bottom of this post).

•Honor killings are on the rise in Pakistan. I was particularly struck by the information that as a murderer can get off if the family forgives him, if the family is behind the honor killing they have a get-out-of-jail-free card.

•I’m not surprised that alongside for-profit prisons we have a for-profit prison healthcare system.

•Wisconsin Democrat Gwen Moore says if the state wants to drug-test the poor before they can receive aid, it should drug test millionaires who claim big tax deductions.

 

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Business and economic links (plus sexism)

At LGM, Paul Campos crushes an argument that a guaranteed universal income is unworkable.

•A JetBlue gate agent tells a woman her shorts are too short to be allowed on the plane.

•Law schools are becoming a money-losing business.

•Banks warned a payment-processing company that the firms they worked with were making unauthorized debits of consumers’ accounts. Payment processer allegedly ignored the warnings. CFPB has now taken the firm to court.

•Free-market fans give lip service to letting companies do their own thing and make their own decisions—but when McDonalds decides to raise wages for employees “artificially” (i.e., they might be able to hire people for less) that’s just wrong! I remember a few years ago, the same complaints about Costco, that by paying decent wages they were robbing the shareholders.

•The federal net neutrality policy has survived its first legal challenge. More will follow.

•Uber is now offering to lease cars to potential drivers who would otherwise be too poor to own a car and drive Uber. Apparently the lease terms are much better for Uber than the driver. Good commentary at the link.

•A new way for airlines to raise money: make you pay for choice of seat, or to sit next to your kids.

•The NFL spent a lot of money funding research on impact-related brain damage, but the funding seems targeted to football-friendly researchers.

•Echidne criticizes a study of Twitter misogyny.

•Some Iranian women dress as men to walk freely in public.

•A Delaware school system’s plan to reduce distractions in school: ban girls wearing tight jeans.

•A Stanford University competitive swimmer is found guilty of attempting to rape an unconscious woman. The judge’s sentence: six months, because of the negative effect a prison term would have on his life. More here. And the father thinks even that’s unreasonable—why should his son’s life be ruined for “2o minutes of action?” A long-time friend of the rapist argues that punishing him is just political correctness— “where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists.” But yes, actually it is. One rape makes you a rapist. It may be you’ve done wonderful things with the rest of your life, but you’re still a rapist.

•When Ken Starr was a prosecutor, he was hard on Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. As president of Baylor University, Starr is a lot softer on footballers who commit sexual assault.

•Samantha Field looks at the Starr case and other examples of Christians covering up/defending rape and abuse. Case in point, Pope Francis and the ongoing priestly abuse scandal.

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Trump isn’t racist, criticizing him is racist! Political links

One of the standard defenses of  WASP (or people who have some part of the WASP privilege) male bigots against people who are Not Them is that the WASP bigots are perfectly happy not bringing up race or demanding special privileges for race or gender, etc. (as if they don’t already have any). No, it’s the minorities and women demanding equal treatment who are the problem—always talking about how they deserve more just for being black/female/Muslim. They’re the bigots, they’re the ones playing the victim card (though of course when WASP bigots talk about themselves being victims, that’s completely justified. Only minorities can be accused of playing the victim).

Trust Trump to take it further. Sure, he may have said a judge who ruled against him was biased because he was Mexican, but that’s not racist! It was Paul Ryan criticizing Trump that was racist! Trump was exposing racism!

•Instead of being so concerned about Trump’s bigotry, perhaps Republican officials should reject it? But just as surely, they won’t. New York Magazine argues that the Republicans will play ball with Trump if he wins (they’ll need him to get their agenda passed)—as I said in my last column, the system won’t restrain him

•NY Mag also suggests that given the issues and racism in play, that the Dems are going with a woman for president is almost the least remarkable part of the current race. Not to mention that instead of trying to duck the abortion issue, Clinton has come out in favor of ending the Hyde amendment that bans Medicaid paying for women’s abortions.

•The New York Times discovered that even when the Atlantic City casino industry was booming, Trump’s casinos hemorrhaged money. However Trump found a way to make out like bandits while others (contractors, investors) got the short end of the stick.

•The NHTSA says self-driving cars would need to double their safety level to reduce road deaths.

•Mergers can shut down hospitals or make types of care (birth control if the new owner is Catholic, say) harder to get. But state rules don’t usually protect against this.

•The FDA needs to do a better job on recalls for tainted food.

•NC right-wing politician Renee Ellmers is (as noted at the link) anti-Muslim, anti-abortion, and thinks Obama is a socialist. But she lost for not being right-wing enough. Roy Edroso breaks down where she fell short.

•Erik Loomis suggests ten rules that should apply to American companies’ supply chain anywhere in the world. I think it sounds good—and it wouldn’t hurt America’s own economy if firms couldn’t outsource to places where unionbusting, sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions went uncontestd.

•So a prosecutor apparently approves perjury to ensure a murderer gets a death sentence. When the murderer challenges his sentence, he wins; the state appeal goes before Judge Ronald Castille, formerly the prosecutor in the case. Castille refuses to recuse himself and rules against the guy. The Supreme Court has ruled that no, that’s not acceptable, with John Roberts and Clarence Thomas dissenting. Which proves that whether Clinton or Trump gets to fill the missing Supreme seat is indeed a matter of importance.

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“We thank God for the gift of the gun”

(Title courtesy of the movie Zardoz) I have mixed thoughts about gun control. I believe that we can restrict guns a lot more than we do without violating the Second Amendment; I do believe the Second Amendment does allow the right for individuals to bear arms. What exactly the restrictions are, and exactly what rights we have, I’m not so sure.

I have no mingled thoughts about the NRA and similar anti-gun control groups. They speak bullshit and nothing but bullshit. They’re the equivalent of “PC” — they have a set of dogmas they adhere to blindly, no matter how badly they fit reality. I’ve singled out some of their nonsense arguments in the past such as “well, they’d just use knives if we took away guns!” or “an armed society is a polite society!” That worked real well in Orlando.

But it’s more than that. Consider for example, that gun-groups are emphatic that events like the Orlando shooting don’t say anything about the power of guns. The gun was irrelevant. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But when guns are in the hands of Real Americans to protect us, hey, totally different! They make us safer! They stop bad guys (John Seavey rips into one current version on Facebook).

Of course the record of private citizens with guns stopping crazed shooters is close to zero, so pro-gun groups have a simple explanation: not enough guns! If we only had more, we’d be safer! It’s the equivalent of the communist and libertarian fantasy about how sure, all the real world evidence shows our philosophies lead to ugly outcomes (the USSR and the regulation-free America of the 19th century, respectively) but somehow, in the idealized world that’s coming, it’ll be different! Likewise, gun violence proves we need more guns. Stupid gun accidents that injure innocent people don’t prove anything.

The NRA doesn’t even want people saying things that are anti-gun, or research into gun violence. After all, stuff like that might lead to people becoming less thankful for the gift of the gun, and then where would be?

I should add that while I don’t doubt the sincerity of most of the NRA leadership in opposing regulation, if you follow the money it’s hard for me not to believe that’s a factor. Most of their cash comes from advertising and donations; I’m sure gun manufacturers are thrilled to have the organization screaming variations of “Buy guns now! Obama/Clinton’s going to ban all gun sales!’

And race is a factor too. When George Zimmerman gunned down Trayvon Martin a few years ago, there were astonishingly few cries from the NRA about how that black kid walking in a white neighborhood would have survived if he’d been packing. Instead, they seemed to side with Zimmerman.

For bonus points, commentary from LGM and John Scalzi.

 

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Running for president and more: political links.

Roy Edroso looks at the short-lived campaign to run gay-loather, sex-negative, anti-abortion, anti-birth control right-blogger David French for president. Whose arguments include that big government is to blame for casual sex (here’s another blogger making a similar point)

•Why is there so much hostility to Clinton? Certainly not gender, according to David Brooks, it’s that she has no hobbies. Echidne imagines how different it would be if Hilary were Harry Clinton. And a Nation article looks at how reporters feel compelled to treat both sides as equivalent, even when one is open about loathing Muslims, Mexicans and women and threatening libel suits against reporters (and other anti-media tactics), while the other is not.

•Republicans wave the attack on our embassy in Benghazi as proof of Clinton’s unfitness. Despite 13 attacks on embassies during Bush’s eight years, they didn’t think that disqualified W for the Oval Office.

•Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is a former Republican governor, but some right-bloggers say he’s not conservative enough to be the Trump alternative.

•Voting for Trump to shake government up is like nuking your neighborhood to kill Japanese beetles on your rosebushes. At the link, Echidne dissects an argument why liberals should vote Trump. LGM demolishes the same argument.

•Trump may talk about how hard the working class has gotten screwed, but he’s not above using bankruptcy to screw his own employees over.

•To give credit where it’s due, some Republicans do acknowledge Trump is unfit to be president. Other Republicans, not so much—after all, Trump’s racist criticism of a judge who made an unfavorable ruling is the Republican norm. And Mark Helperin says “Mexican” isn’t a racial term so Trump’s attack wasn’t racist.

•John Scalzi looks at the greatness of Muhammed Ali. While I’m not a boxing fan, I think Scalzi nails it. And that the changing perceptions of boxing as a cool sport make it harder for later generations to appreciate.

•The FBI is trying to set up a tattoo database that will enable the feds to profile ethnicity, politics, gang ties and religion. The Electronic Frontier Foundation looks at how this could work. EFF also links to a lawsuit about LAPD cops forcing strippers to remove pieces of clothing so the cops could photograph their tats.

•Another broadband CEO says data caps aren’t needed to allocate data, as the cost of supplying broadband keeps dropping.

•The US nuclear system’s computers run on floppy disks. In comments at the link, there are arguments this isn’t such a bad thing (harder to hack, for instance).

•The age of antibiotics may be over. Lawmakers are pushing to find new ones. A shame we can’t blame terrorists, that would guarantee unlimited funds for research.

 

 

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Megan McArdle, Donald Trump and other reprehensible people

Megan McArdle has a new theory on how to suss out the truth of global warming: which side has the superior tone? Which segues into her perennial complaint that just because she’s wrong about something, it’s mean to say so.

•Donald Trump’s Trump University is being sued on charges it didn’t teach real-estate skills, it just ripped students off (more here). Trump’s response: the judge in the case is biased because he’s Mexican! And that the very fact he’s ruled against Trump proves he’s unfair! Which as Scott Lemieux notes, isn’t Trump being stupid, it’s shrewd political strategy. More here.

•While for-profit colleges often advertise themselves as a way to get valuable skills and earn more money, students are likely to end up financially worse off. The big issue seems to be that most students don’t graduate (this is built into the for-profit plan, I’ve read elsewhere—it saves the college having to provide teaching and grading for everyone), so they get debt but nothing else.

•One of the odder ways conservatives can rally against Trump: recruit right-wing pundit David French as a third-party candidate. I’ve written about the odiously sexist French before, but the material at the link should fill you in if you’ve never heard of him.

White supremacists, on the other hand, are delighted with Trump’s success.

•Lesson plans financed by corporations unsurprisingly promote corporate products.

•Many nonprofit hospitals have programs cutting medical bills for poor patients. But some hospitals sue them for full price instead. And some drug companies that hike prices on drugs also pay charities to cover the co-pay, and then let Medicare (and thereby taxpayers) pick up the rest.

•Arguments that white women should be made to have more babies are common in American right-wing politics. Apparently Turkey has its own variation on the theme.

•The clothing industry still exploits third-world workers.

•When the FBI wants information about emails, the law limits what they can ask for without a warrant. But the FBI keeps demanding more — which Director James Comey justifies as the law clearly being written wrong. In short, what the FBI has always done.

•Hissene Habre, former president of Chad, is way beyond “reprehensible” — he sanctioned torture, ethnic cleansing, sexual slavery (to provide his army with women) and is a rapist himself. He’s been found guilty on multiple charges.

 

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