Category Archives: Politics

Political links (and others) on Sunday Eve

Too bad, sponsors—a company collects $1 million on kickstarter but doesn’t deliver on the product end.

•AT&T argues that net neutrality violates their First Amendment right to decide who it can transmit over the Internet and at what speed, the same way a paper gets to decide what news gets in.

•Uber says that as it doesn’t own its cars and isn’t the employer of the drivers, it’s not bound by disability-rights laws.

•The GOP has been talking more about economic inequality lately, but it’s still fine with tax cuts for millionaires.

•Digby points out that the Obama administration wants details of the US’ torture activities covered up (because it might make someone angry, and lead to attacks!) the White House doesn’t stop Dick Cheney or CIA officials from openly bragging about torture. More here.

•There’s also torture in South Sudan.

•I’ve discussed before the way some conservatives live to make the poor suffer. Although Kansas’ new policy—not allowing Kansans to access more than $25 in welfare benefits at a time, by ATM withdrawal—may be just a way to give the banks’ bottom line a juicing, I suppose. Either way it’s a horrible policy, based on the possibility that someone receiving welfare benefits may have cheated. This is what happens when you design programs on the assumption that if even one person abuses them, the policy is bad.

•Human Rights Watch reports on Ruth Evans, a soldier whose career was deep-sixed when she reported sexual assault.

•A lot of virgin olive oil isn’t that virgin.

•A battle between the big credit bureaus and multiple state attorney generals results in new rules on how the bureaus handle disputes.

•Bikers going at each other with guns? Not thugs and not a riot, according to the media. Ta-Nehisi Coates wonders why white people can’t follow Martin Luther King more?

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Stoning women to death and other political links

A men’s rights rant argues that if feminists oppose a death penalty for female adulterers “see women as lifelong children: too weak, frail, stupid and mercurial to be trusted with adult responsibility when it comes to adhering to the strict requirements” of a proper marriage and unable to undertake “adult responsibilities.”

Quite aside from the implicit assumption that stoning to death is an appropriate penalty for women who cheat (yet not for men who cheat, because—the post is quite explicit—it’s more important to keep women faithful), the writer is completely wrong. Much of the Victorian concept of men and women having separate spheres was because women simply weren’t adults the way men were: they could handle domestic chores but nothing so coarse as politics or business. And a truly feminine woman never discussed that, she just gave light, fluffy babble to amuse the man.

Oh, the blogger does assert that we need more equal marriage, but to get that we have to restore economic inequality: if the man has all the money, then women will have to work harder to be sexy and keep the balance of power, so it’s a world of win for everybody!

•Corporations sponsoring the World Cup in Qatar (2022) are very, very concerned about human-rights violations and the treatment of workers building the stadiums … but not enough to do anything.

•According to GM, when you buy your car, you’re not really buying the software it runs on, which makes it very hard to deal with the hardware.

•Delta allegedly keeps small travel sites from tapping its data. Funny, corporations feel the perfect right to use our data when they want to …

•The Care.com website bans one member without saying why. But they reserve the right to tell other people.

•Local boys: A professor from Duke explains that Asian Americans are totally cool about acting white like a minority should, unlike those black people who refuse to assimilate and go around shooting each other all the time. And when he got criticized, OMG, thought police! Good discussion here.

•And more thought police—someone dared criticize a conservative!

•Subsidies to bring jobs to states or communities don’t work that well.

•Abortion bans around the Americas.

•The GOP’s core is dying off. But the party is still big on war.So is David Brooks who admits the Iraq War was mishandled but still wants intervention.

•Speaking of Iraq, a National Review writer explains it was all for the best—it got W a second term, so all the dead are a win-win!

Bryan Caplan, the libertarian who thinks women had more freedom in the 19th century than the 21st, also thinks the Shah of Iran was “strong on civil liberties.” Incorrect.

•Opening up the Arctic to oil drilling is a bad policy decision

•Some people like to tweet and drive. Or watch video and drive. What could go wrong? Which makes this post (and discussion in comments) quite pertinent.

•A painter in Iraq is facing prison for criticizing the regime.

•A congressman declines to explain why he pushed his wife and mistress to get abortions, but still supports an abortion ban.

•The FBI illegally spied on protestors fighting (peacefully) the Keystone pipeline. Sounds familiar.

•Once again Republicans show their devotion to state’s rights.

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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

New And column out—

About the current efforts to make anti-gay legislation a “state’s rights” cause.

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Thoughts on Avengers II, with spoilers (#SFWApro)

As I mentioned yesterday, one of the things I disliked about Avengers: Age of Ultron, was the plot element that Natasha’s Soviet masters sterilized her before sending her into the field. This is presented as one of the multiple obstacles to a ‘tasha/Bruce Banner romance, as she feels it denies her the normal life she sort of wants.

This post on NPR captures what bothered me: it’s not that the idea is a bad one itself, but with so few women on screen, making a major female superhero’s character element center on her woman-parts feels stereotypical. The writer, Linda Holmes, then points out that if the Widow had been given any of the other character arcs, it would still have raised gender issues. The Hulk is subject to out of control emotions; Tony causes trouble by not listening to wiser advice; Cap prissily worries about language. Holmes conclusion is that the only way past it is when we have enough women that the characters don’t have to stand for All Womanhood (I’ve touched on this topic myself).

For a much less satisfying analysis, we have Sonny Bunch in the Washington Post, (not a direct link) tackling the fact (which many people have pointed out) that even as they’re fighting Ultron, the Avengers place a high priority on protecting and rescuing civilians. In contrast, Man of Steel has Superman demolishing half of Metropolis without apparently giving any thought to endangered civilians. There’s a lot of Internet speculation A2 was at some level intended as a This Is How To Do Superheroes to the earlier film.

Bunch’s take is that when the heroes started rescuing civilians instead of smashing the robots, he became very impatient (“[expletive deleted] the civilians!”) because the mission had to come first. And that people who prefer A2 “prefer soothing falsehoods to harsh truths” because Man of Steel “more closely reflects the way war is fought today”—it’s gritty and realistic and accepts that yeah, you can’t fight a war without killing innocent people (Bunch, unsurprisingly, writes for a number of conservative outlets). And besides, everyone had already left Metropolis when the fight started, so nobody was at risk! (Bunch pulls this out of his butt, declaring that “obviously” nobody would stick around. But if we’re going with gritty realism, there’s no way millions of people can clear a big American city fast. Or even a small community. I’ve had experience on that).

The obvious flaw in this is that )super-hero films aren’t war movies. Man of Steel isn’t a metaphor for modern war, it’s a super-hero story. A Superman story. And Superman does put a premium on saving innocent lives, as one of the Kryptonians taunts him during the movie. Because he’s about more than getting the mission done and taking out the bad guys. He’s just better than that, at least if he’s done right. And MoS director Zach Snyder is clear,, that the scream at the end is “Superman realizes he doesn’t want to kill,” not, as Bunch claims, “Superman realizes sometimes you gotta kill people.”

Plus, moving to the real world again, the “civilian casualties are inevitable” mantra has blurred suspiciously into “There’s no point in caring about civilian casualties, no point trying to prevent them” and I disagree on both counts (should we write off a 68 year old woman hit with a drone strike as just inevitable?) So all things considered, I’ll side with the team that actually cares about the bystanders.

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Filed under Comics, Movies, Politics, Writing

Unlinked, unhonored and unsung: political linkage

What if Ayn Rand wrote the Baby Sitter’s Club?

•Verizon and Sprint will pay $158 million to settle charges they turned a blind eye to dubious third-party charges on phone bills because of related fees.

•I’ve mentioned Joseph Epstein before, as a believer we were better off in the days when white guys ran everything. His new theory: Obama and (if elected) Hilary Clinton are totally elected based on their minority status, whereas white guys ran for office entirely on merit.

Consumerist on the Salmonella risks of chicken and the ineffective regulations relating to it.

•Our old friend David Brooks is now whining that nobody’s having serious moral discussions. He’s wrong.

•Personally I find the idea of a computerized fitting room a little creepy.

•No, abortion is not easier to get in the US than in Europe.

•Google’s self-driving cars are already involved in accidents (though not necessarily the car’s fault).

•So much for supporting the troops: Texas right-wingers are worried new military exercises are setting up for a military takeover of the state.

•One peer review had a simple solution for improving a paper: have male co-authors to avoid “ideologically biased assumptions.”

•My current home state of North Carolina had its own religious-rights don’t-have-to-serve-gays bill that was even more generous to believers than any other that’s been passed around (they can disregard a law if it’s a “burden” rather than a “significant burden” for instance). It didn’t pass, but I’m curious how the pols who supported it would react when someone other than the religious right started exercising their freedom?

•One small victory: The NSA’s fondness for collecting bulk metadata about phone calls without any connection to national security is illegal.

•I was never under any illusion the culture wars were fading away any time soon. But if you were, Digby has the scoop.

•If you think your hospital being “in plan” for medical insurance means all your tests and treatments are in-plan—no, not always.

•Slacktivist once quipped that some conservatives are curdled with horror at the thought of food stamp recipients getting decent cheese. Unfortunately,  it’s impossible to parody right-wingers any more (more here).

•I’ve read plenty of assertions that if people would just be good and do whatever the police command, they’d be fine. Which is a)not true. People, particularly black Americans, have been shot or beaten while handcuffed, on the ground and generally not fighting back. Some white people on the other hand, can threaten and point guns at the cops and be fine. Digby has more. Me too.

•A reminder how blatant and ugly sexual harassment can get.

•A 10 year old in Paraguay has been raped, is now pregnant and can’t get an abortion. Because having a 10-year-old bear a child is healthier! Oh, and the mother, who reported that the stepfather was abusing the girl but got no response from authorities, is now jailed for not doing more to stop it.

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Won’t Someone Think of the Poor Right-Wing Social Justice Warriors?

Much as Brad Torgersen argued that his real issue with left-wing specfic isn’t race or politics but how much it hurts the field, so author John Ringo is claimng that Baen Books is the only genre publisher that has consistently grown its sales because it never publishes a book unless it’s a “cracking good tale.” Other companies have chosen to publish politically correct texts by “social justice warriors” (which seems to be the new buzzword for Liberal PC—and may I say that using “social justice” as a pejorative automatically gets my hackles up. Because justice in society is a good thing) and so there sales tank.

Ringo makes multiple points, pretty much all debatable or just plain wrong:

•White males have dominated the arts for centuries. The only possible exception is music, where black artists had talent, but were denied the rewards of their ability.

As with John Wright’s assertion that Europeans produce the most beautiful art, I’m disinclined to accept Ringo’s claim his statement is unquestionable and unassailable. For much of human history, Africa, Asia and South America produced their own art, and many of them still do. Certainly the US as far as I know has dominated the movie and pop music world for a long time, but painting? Sculpture? And manga and anime show Japan is quite capable of cutting into some of our dominance.

I’m not clear whether Ringo is imply whites are actually better than other people, or just that we’ve managed to dominate through racism or business tactics (he declines to get into that). I’m also unclear how this fits into the rest of his post—I’m guessing his theory is that Social Justice Warriors are demanding that publishers rectify white dominance by any means necessary, rather than simply trying to write good books.

13055592•Said warriors care absolutely nothing about anything except whether a piece of fiction conforms to their politics. This is the only reason John Scalzi’s Red Shirts won a Hugo, because while the book isn’t about social justice, Scalzi conforms to all the expected liberal norms, so the SJWs gave him an award.

Evidence? None, other than the fact Scalzi doesn’t like the book. Me, I’ve never read it precisely because it sounds too fan-fic (and not in a good way); even if I thought the same after reading it, what would that prove? As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes awards go to books/movies/plays/TV shows that don’t deserve them. It doesn’t take a conspiracy.

I’d also like to point out that I can find the kind f political correctness Ringo laments very easily on the right wing. Conservative Michael Medved once wrote that he hated recommending a particular movie because he’d heard the screenwriter donated to Democratic candidates. It’s hard to get more PC than that (I have other examples, but not enough space).

•Because other companies are dominated by social-justice books, Baen does better than all of them combined.

Suffice to say John Scalzi and Jason Sanford show that Ringo’s numbers and logic don’t add up: the evidence doesn’t show that Baen is an invincible juggernaut.

And as Scalzi points out, Baen Books has published extremely left-wing and radical Joanna Russ. Also Eric Flint, a self-confessed socialist. So if Baen only publishes cool, exciting stories regardless of politics, apparently SJWs can, in fact, turn out “cracking good tales.” Which kills Ringo’s thesis.

All of which got me wondering, why is it that all these complaints about how politics are fouling the genre never include right-wing tracts? My friend David Bagwell’s Grandchildren of Liberty is loaded with David’s thoughts on the UN, environmentalism, the Constitution and Islam. The Caliphate, by Tom Kratman, warns against Muslims taking over and dominating Western Europe [edited after Kratman left a comment below—I made an invalid assumption]. L. Neil Smith’s novels are long lectures on libertarianism and Terry Goodkind’s Faith of the Fallen devotes half its pages to a bad Ayn Rand knockoff. Larry Niven cowrote Fallen Angels, in which an extremist environmentalist movement takes over the US, shuts down all science and tech and even represses SF because it’s too pro-science.

By Torgersen’s logic (that readers want fun adventures and don’t expect political tracts) these would all be bad books. So why single out the left-wingers?

If I were to guess I’d say the objection is to the politics, not the fiction.

(All rights to image with current holder)

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Police brutality and other links

If you’re a black and ride a bicycle in Tampa, you may get ticketed for things white cyclists don’t. As usual, police claim these stops are a good way to catch criminals wanted for worse crimes … but 80 percent of the stops result in arrest.

•Down in Miami, police have arrested employees at one small store just because they were in the store and working. Hmm, could race be a factor?

•Baltimore: Ta-Nehisi Coates points out that while police are calling for nonviolence after the death of Freddie Gray, nobody told the cops to be nonviolent toward the now-dead prisoner. Oh, and Baltimore has shelled out more than $5.7 million in recent years to settle brutality charges. Fortunately state law protects the rights of police accused of brutality.

•The Supreme Court recently set limits on how long police can keep a pulled-over driver waiting in order to bring up drug-sniffing dogs. At the link, LGM wonders how much of a restriction it really is.

•Why did our government need to take out a 68-year-old woman with a drone strike?

•You may have heard Radio Shack is in bankruptcy proceedings. That means some of its customer information may go up for sale to interested buyers or creditors.

•Conservatives predicted the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t help the uninsured. Now that it’s lowered the number of uninsured Americans, some right-wingers have a new meme: Everybody predicted that, so what difference does it make?

•That previous bullet point is actually better logic than anti-gay marriage arguments at the Supreme Court offer. Speaking of which, if you want to listen to kinky gay porn, Northier Than Thou suggests catching some anti-gay preachers. Here’s one extreme case.

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