Category Archives: Politics

Bad arguments about bullying, smart arguments about rape culture and other links

Jonah Goldberg, who believes that liberal elementary-school teachers are examples of American fascism, also thinks that teachers stopping bullying cripples American democracy because kids don’t get a chance to work out the rules of playground behavior for yourself, which makes them into fragile snowflakes because protecting kids from bullies is just overprotective parenting. As someone who was bullied, briefly, as a small child, I wonder what universe he lives in where bullies are subject to “bottom-up solutions” other than hitting back (for a lot of kids, myself included, not a practical option).

I’ve seen a number of right-wing objections to anti-bullying programs over the years, mostly centered on the fact kids won’t be able to pick on gays any more. As Goldberg’s National Review colleague David French did another “let them fight” post a couple of months back, I wonder if we’re in for a new wave? Though the emphasis on these seems to be toughness, like that Victor David Hansen post about how living in the country makes him a real man I linked to a couple of days ago.

Of course, coming from the whining wing of the right, where saying “Happy holidays” is an assault and criticizing conservatives is “thought policing,” the insistence all the fragility is on the left makes this argument nonsense anyway.

•We Hunted the Mammoth on the friend zone and Bloomingdale’s “spike your best friend’s drink when they’re not looking” ad. At LGM, Shakezula ponders the weird natural forces that just make these ads appear spontaneously (“a pity there is no process by which people can look at the advertising for their company before it is released and decide, for example, that an ad makes it look like the company condones sexual assault, and – this is the important bit – not run the stinkin’ ad.”).

A study showing rising death rates among working-class whites, but not minorities, has drawn a lot of attention. Echidne looks at some possible explanations that could make the issue a statistical fluke.

•A circuit court has struck down Obama’s executive order against deporting certain immigrants. Scott Lemieux speculates on the effect of a Supreme Court decision, if the court takes the case.

•The FBI asks for Muslim feedback on its new online game about opposing terrorism, but avoids major Muslim organizations.

•Trump says he’ll deport Mexicans humanely, like Eisenhower did. But Ike’s “Operation Wetback” got 88 people killed in just one roundup.

•A nasty bit of misogyny from last year: a social director for one men’s rights site makes up quotes from feminist Jessica Valenti, then explains it was Just a Joke.

•Digby looks at the Koch Brothers’ support for Iowa Senator Jodi Ernst, showing both their ability to spend, spend, spend on candidates and their libertarian priorities: if they can get a fiery free-market champion, it’s OK if she’s a fiery, anti-abortion, fetuses-are-people religious conservative.


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Wednesday’s links are full of woe

Under federal law, the state Medi-Cal program pays for some low-income seniors to afford nursing homes. A lawsuit chargs that when Medi-Cal residents get hospitalized, the state sometimes refuses to let them go home, warehousing them in the hospital instead (where I gather the money comes from a different source)

•Echidne looks at the thinking and ethical codes underlying the recent stoning to death of an Afghani woman for adultery.

•International banking rules set tougher financing requirements to keep banks from getting too big to fail.

•It’s hard to deny that the current Republican campaign is producing exceptionally high levels of bullshit. But some mainstream reporters insist that despite the facts, Repubs are no worse than Dems. I think this is less like David Brooks insisting all candidates’ budget plans are bad so vote Marco Rubio than the desire not to pick sides, like Ezra Klein in 2012 saying he didn’t want to point out Paul Ryan’s budget was bullshit without finding something positive to say aboutit.

•Victor David Hansen grumbles that living in cities is rotting humanity from within because the nanny state takes care of all your needs. It’s not like the country where he has to struggle to survive, worry if the well is running dry, and pack heat for safety—that’s the way to live! In short, another version of the delusion that death and destruction are character-building. Ditto economic collapse. Having reliable water and sewage? Police watching over you? Wimps!

•Ben Carson as an example of anti-knowledge—not just being wrong but willfully rejecting the facts in favor of the reality you’d prefer. Related posts here and here.

•Rick Perlstein looks at Donald Trump’s appeal and whether it’s fascist.

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Obamacare battles, Ebola and other links of interest

•Kentucky governor-elect Matt Bevin ran on opposition to Obamacare. That makes the state a test case on whether Republicans are willing to dismantle the program.

•Libertarian Tyler Cowen has argued against Obamacare on the grounds that “we need to accept the principle that sometimes poor people will die just because they are poor” while simultaneously arguing that we’re actually hurting the poor by denying the right not to spend money on healthcare (my comments on his argument here). He makes a similar argument again, but as LGM points out he fudges the gains from expanding Medicaid by dismissing them: “As a political matter, expanding coverage for the uninsured through Medicaid remains contentious, with many states still refusing to go along.” i.e., Republicans refusing to enact that part of the program proves it’s a bad program. (Cowen on the other hand is fine with government mandated ultrasound probes inside pregnant women, thinks the poor wouldn’t be poor if they were more religious, and believes there’s no logical reason employers can’t require employees to sleep with them—no link handy, sorry).

•Remember when Ebola was going to destroy us all because Obama had mismanaged the crisis? LGM does, and points out how the same sources ignore that Sierra Leone is now ebola-free.

•As the media cracks down on Ben Carson’s baloney—he was offered a West Point scholarship! The pyramids were built as grain storehouses! He knifed a guy in his teens before coming to Jesus—the right-wing defends Carson against this smear campaign. Because nothing’s as rotten as condemning conservatives for what they actually said.

•A lawsuit over off-the-clock bag checks for Apple Store employees is dismissed.

•Just because you tell companies such as Google or FB not to track you when you’re online doesn’t mean they have to listen.

•Smart TVs watch you. Vizio smart TVs watch you more.

•A new cybersecurity bill would make it much easier for businesses to share data about us, including with the NSA.

•Comcast has explained that under its tiered data-cap plan, high users pay more, smaller users pay less. Except you don’t get to pay less. Seriously, data caps are one of those examples where the free market—which in libertarian fantasy-land always makes things better for consumers—doesn’t give us any benefit, it just gives the company more money.

•Jimmy Carter, Sunday School teacher and kick-ass.

•A university health-and-fitness program has turned down a $1 million donation from Coca Cola rather than take pro-sugary soft drink positions.

•Amazon Prime delivery drivers say the company is committing wage theft by treating them as independent contractors when they’re employees.

•As Digby points out, if the Democrats had held Benghazi-type hearings after 9/11 or after the bombing of our Beirut embassy in ’83, Republicans would be screaming about how the left was “politicizing” things.

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Bicycled 14 miles, still sore

So just some simple political links tonight. Sigh, it used to be we’d feel like this when we’d gone more than 30, but we’re out of condition.

•A detailed look at how going to a hospital in your insurer’s network can slap you with big out-of-network bills.

•Marco Rubio would like people to think the benefits of his tax cut go primarily to the poor. Not true. And it’s not like the rich need his help.

•A proposed bill in Russia would penalize anyone who engages in a “public demonstration of personal perverted sexual preferences in public places” At the link, Human Rights Watch condemns not only the principle of the bill (which the backers say is to stop the spread of homosexuality) but the vagueness with which it’s phrased.

•A cop tasers an unarmed man who was running from him, then shoots him as he’s writhing on the ground because she thought he might have a weapon (his hands are quite visibly empty and not doing anything at the time she fires). The jury sided with the cop, despite the video, and the local police union has condemned the public for “demonizing” cops when they have to make split-second decisions.

This shows simply recording cops won’t solve the problem of excessive force: cops think they’re justified if they imagine danger, and juries frequently defer. And FBI Director Comey to the contrary, there’s no evidence cops are holding back because of criticism from the public. And frankly, in cases like the one above, I wish they would hold back.

And here are four cases where cops shot themselves or other officers, but blamed it on someone else.

•The Affordable Care Act allows religious nonprofits to opt out of providing birth control, but lets employees get coverage anyway. The Supreme Court is going to hear cases involving nonprofits who don’t want ACA-coverage for their employees. According to the nonprofits, just saying “We don’t want to provide birth control” compromises their beliefs because it’s the first step to the employees getting coverage. The Scotusblog provides more detail.

As I’ve said before, this sort of thing is never about religious freedom, it’s about the right of some religious conservatives to impose their conscience on everyone else. And of course, about women having sex.

•Data caps at Comcast have nothing to do with some users congesting the Internet — and a leaked Comcast document confirms it.

•It’s a first world problem, but I’m happy the government is cracking down on hotels and convention centers that block customers wi-fi hot spots.

•Two of the country’s largest employee background-check services have been fined $13 million for getting the facts wrong.

•A running topic on the Lawyers, Guns and Money blog is that a number of for-profit law schools are taking federal education-loan money from students with no hope of passing the bar. Here the blog bites back against someone who insists they’re trying to kill the American dream!

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Sexist tech industry paranoia and other links

Software developer Eric Raymond claims he has heard from a Reliable Source that there’s a conspiracy among women in tech to cry rape whenever they get alone with a prominent man in the industry, to either destroy the man or render him “politically pliable.” Evidence? Well the source is reliable, so there you are. And because women are always willing to believe men are guilty of rape, Raymond says it’s perfectly appropriate to believe all women who make rape charges are guilty of lying. Given the attitude so many men have to rape accusations, I don’t believe for a minute that Raymond would have believed the women anyway

(Updated to add this excellent analysis)

•The Senate is considering a bill banning contract clauses that penalize customers for writing honest reviews. If the review is defamatory, the law already allows the company to take action, so the only point in the clauses is to silence disgruntled customers. As in this case, in which a fertility service is threatening to sue the couple that filed a Better Business Bureau complaint.

•Obama has also done some good work reigning in patent trolls, people who (for example) threaten to sue small businesses using some piece of technology on the grounds “We have the patent! If you use it you have to pay us!” The House has also acted against patent trolls, to make it harder for trolls to sue; similar legislation is in the Senate. The goal of course is to make it cheaper to settle out of court than actually fight the trolls. For some examples, click here.

•The Senate is investigating companies that jack up the price of medical drugs sky-high.

•Cutting taxes does not automatically boost the economy or bring in more revenues. Both Reagan and W, for instance, ended their terms with a record deficit. But Republicans keep lying about it.

•LGM has frequently discussed how upper-management heavy universities are getting, and how much money is steered to upper management. Here’s an example.

•Trump’s pitch that he’ll restore America’s greatness resonates with his supporters. A lot of them (in the article Digby links to) are upset about mobility and the economy but apparently prefer to blame the government and immigrants rather than 1 percenters like Trump. And of course, for some “greatness” refers to the days when people didn’t bring up racial problems, “when there wasn’t as much animosity toward each other, when everything wasn’t about race and people just got along.” You know, when all those non-white, non-real Americans knew their place.

•Contrary to claims made in the recent Houston fight over LGBT rights, allowing transgender individuals to use the restroom they prefer will not lead to an epidemic of restroom assault.

•In addition to cops who shoot innocent people, we have cops who rape.

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Not rendering unto Caesar (and other links)

Kentucky clerk of court Kim Davis is going back to court to fight for her right to discriminate against gay couples. That Kentucky’s new governor-elect, Matt Bevin, is on her side probably gives her new hope too. Bevin’s proposal is that, as in Oklahoma earlier this year, the government stop issuing marriage licenses or make it automatic: you download the form and present it to someone “with authority to approve or solemnize a marriage contract” after which you record it with the government.

Given my complete cynicism about Christian theocrats, I wonder who will be given the authority to “solemnize” a marriage contract—will Kentucky follow Oklahoma, where the no civil-marriage bill (which stopped dead in the Senate back in March) only allows Christian and Jewish clergy to make a marriage and everyone else must get a “common law” marriage? If it works out where everyone gets a chance to have a legitimate marriage certificate great, but I’ll believe that when I see it. And in any case, all this effort to save a government employee from serving the public is just wrong.

•Over at The Federalist, a writer mansplains that as women aren’t capable of grasping the principles of limited government, conservatives should scare them with stories that will open their eyes to Government Is Bad. Also bad: women having sex, independent women, women running society, abortion.

•Men, like women, have a harder time conceiving healthy kids as they get older. One conservative concludes this proves birth control is bad. Presumably he imagines the only people who use it are slutty sluts having too much sex.

•Debt collection is often an unethical business and a lot of the targets don’t know their rights. Which is one of several reasons to worry about a Congressional proposal the IRS use private debt collectors (other issues being that where this has been tried, the companies suck up a lot of the money and the feds get less).

•David Barton claims the Founding Fathers were theocratic Christians and minimum wage laws are unbiblical. He does this by making shit up, but that’s good enough for a lot of conservatives to embrace him (to their credit, some denounce him).

•A look at Jeb Bush’s role in the disputed Florida count of 2000 that gave us Jeb’s brother in the White House.

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David Brooks: Republicans have bad policies, vote for them anyway!

So Marco Rubio, like most of the Republican pols, favors a tax plan that involves massive tax cuts benefiting the wealthy: cuts in upper-income tax rates, elimination of capital gains, eliminations of the estate tax, and a loss of federal revenue.

David Brooks admits the plan is unaffordable, but that’s not important because everyone running has bad budget plans. Instead, he suggests that we ignore all the details and focus on “how a candidate signals priorities. Rubio talks specifically about targeting policies to boost middle- and lower-middle-class living standards” so that proves helping the middle-class is what he cares about. A breakthrough! Never mind that his plan favors the rich, what matters is that he says it will help the poor!

I’m not sure what breakthrough Brooks imagines this is. The GOP since Reagan has embraced trickle-down supply-side economics, the claim that slashing tax cuts for the rich benefits everyone, and boosts tax revenue as well. Neither is true, and I doubt even they believe it: when we had a budget surplus in the late 1990s, supply-siders from George W. Bush to the Wall Street Journal asserted not that Reagan’s tax cuts had done the trick, but that taxes were clearly too high—if we cut taxes, it would lower the surplus before the government spent it (and then the same tools started complaining that since we didn’t have a surplus, we’d have to cut Social Security …) And invariably the tax cuts are directed at the rich, but not because wealthy politicians want to cut their own taxes or those of wealthy donors, no, the rising tide will lift all boats!

And being unaffordable has never been a big deal for Republicans. Reagan pushed massive tax cuts and massive military spending and left office with record deficits. W pushed massive tax cuts and massive military/security spending, and left office with towering deficits. Then pundits and Repubs start screaming that we can’t possibly penalize the rich by raising taxes, but with all that red ink we can’t afford the social safety net—it’s helping people who aren’t military contractors or CEOs that’s unaffordable.

As Brooks favors cutting Social Security to get the deficit reduced I can understand him wanting to believe this bilge. But there’s no reason anyone else should.


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