Karen Hunter Hates Young Women

Karen HunterI just saw a very annoying thing on Chris Hayes’ new Show All In. There was a panel discussion of Judge Edward Korman’s smack down of the Obama administration over their repellent handling of the youth exclusion to allowing Plan B to be sold over the counter. The problem was Karen Hunter on the panel. She was arguing that it was wrong to allow 11-year-old women to buy a birth control drug from a pharmacy without their parents’ approval.

The panel did not address the hateful nature of Hunter’s argument. They claimed that the issue was that requiring the drug to be behind the counter meant that women over 17 had a harder time accessing it. And others noted that they had no problem with 11-year-old women being able to buy birth control medication. I am completely in agreement with these arguments. But they don’t really counter what Hunter was saying.

Karen Hunter misses the entire issue. She even mentioned that we should be concerned about these young women getting STDs. Indeed we should! But stopping them from getting birth control medications will not stop them from having sex. Clearly, these young women have already had sex. So Hunter’s argument is the same as the anti-abortion arguments that I discussed in On Hating Women. She wants to punish women for the sin of having sex. If we care about 11-year-olds having sex (and I think we ought to), then we should care about 11-year-olds having sex. Stopping them from mitigating the harms associating with having sex will not do anything to stop them from having sex.

I agree with the other three members of the panel. But I really wish they had called out Karen Hunter on her hateful attitude (which is the same as President Obama’s, by the way) toward these young women.


Note also what a mature act it would be if an 11-year-old took it upon herself to purchase and use Plan B after having unprotected sex. That’s the kind of behavior we should applaud, not punish with an abortion or poorly timed motherhood.

Obama’s Ideal Budget

Obama NopeEveryone seems to pretty much agree with me regarding the administration’s announcement that they are going to put Chained-CPI into their new budget: bad policy, bad politics. But I’ve reached a new place with regards to Obama. I now think that there are two things he wants to accomplish in budget negotiations: he wants to raise taxes and cut entitlements. He does not want one more than the other. So this budget isn’t a compromise; it really is what he thinks of as ideal.

Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo was perhaps the most hopeful with an article titled Bad News Friday. He pointed out that at least this makes everything solid. As he put it, “The question is whether this is a sign that Obama’s willing to go negotiate further toward the right, or whether he’s just re-cementing his final offer.” But that would only be true if Obama’s offer actually moved the Republicans.

This morning I wrote, “When the president tries to actually get something for the concession, the Republicans will rebel, ‘But Chained-CPI is already part of the baseline!'” Well, right on cue (in fact, while I was writing that sentence), Beutler wrote another article, Boehner: Not Good Enough. Here is what John Boehner thinks of Obama’s offer:

If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there’s no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes.

Obama is committed to being reasonable and if that requires that he give Boehner 100% of what he wants, so be it!

Matt Yglesias put the point delicately, calling it, “a risky strategy.” But he noted very clearly that the Republicans have already rejected the deal Obama is offering both in a general, philosophical sense and in a specific sense. There really is nothing to be discussed:

It’s crystal clear and utterly unambiguous. The White House is frustrated by the fact that lots of folks in the media don’t seem to see it the way I do and this budget is, among other things, part of a strategy to turn that around. But that’s a doomed strategy. The ways of bipartisanthink are mysterious and won’t be unraveled by any new proposals. To many people, the fact that a deal hasn’t been made is all the proof they need that both sides are equally at fault.

And then he notes, “Inside the Beltway, Republicans can say ‘well, look, we disagree about taxes but why don’t we just do these entitlement reforms that even the president thinks we should do.'” And within three hours, John Boehner said:

If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there’s no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes.

Jonathan Chait said that this whole thing is not news, but that it was bad politics. The truth is, however, that it is news. As Jonathan Bernstein countered, “The budget is usually the president’s opening offer in the budget game.” The president put cuts to Social Security in his budget. This is the first time that a Democrat has ever done this. That’s news!

But as usual, no one agrees with me quite as perfectly as Digby. In trying to answer why the president wants to cut entitlements, she wrote:

I do not know the answer to that. But he does want to cut them, there can be no doubt. He said he wanted to do it since before he took office in 2009 and has continued to say it ever since. No, he has not been explicit about it very often (although he has upon occasion) and campaigned on a murky fill-in-the-blank phrase “balanced approach to deficit reduction” but it’s been out there for the past four years.

Chain-CPI is his preferred policy. That much is clear. Again, John Boehner:

If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there’s no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes.

And you have ask yourself, “Why should this ‘reform’ be held hostage for more tax hikes?” Really! It is clear that Obama really does want these benefit cuts. Sure, he also wants tax hikes. But why should Obama and Boehner not move forward on this one bit of policy they most clearly agree on? I’m beginning to think the Republicans are right when they say that Obama is greedy—that he wants to get everything. We’ve been mistaken to think of Chained-CPI as a concession to get what the tax cuts that he wants. He really wants both Chained-CPI and tax cuts. In that case, he should take Boehner’s offer.

I’m not being sarcastic here. This is what Obama wants. The only way to stop him is to pressure the Democrats in Congress. Please: contact your representatives and make it clear you will not accept any cuts to Social Security. You might add that doing so will fatally wound the Democratic Party for the next generation. Of course, that wouldn’t bother Obama. In fact, he would likely see it as a good thing. It would prove what a transformational figure he has been. Only Nixon could go to China. Only Obama could destroy Social Security.

Are Republicans Killing Women?

Bill GardnerThe remarkable map below is from health researcher Bill Gardner via Sarah Kliff at Wonk Blog, This Map of America’s Female Mortality Rates Is Pretty Terrifying. The reason that Kliff refers to the map as “pretty terrifying” is that 43% of US counties are seeing rising levels of female mortality. In the red counties, the life expectancy of women is going down. In the light blue-green counties, it is increasing slowly. And in the blue counties, it is increasing substantially. The map is indeed striking:

Female Mortality Rates

But there is an elephant in this map that neither Gardner nor Kliff even mention. For that, we must turn to economist Dean Baker who wrote this morning, “I hate to be partisan here (seriously—I criticize the Obama administration all the time), but this map showing declines (blue) in mortality rates for women and increases (red) looks a lot like voting patterns.” And in fact, the correlation is shockingly clear:

2012 Presidential Election Results

As Baker notes, this isn’t as simple as “the Republicans did it!” For one thing, there are many factors that affect healthcare that are not determined by state policy. But there are still a great many. How Medicaid is run in one such factor. But there are lots of others. Just think about reproductive healthcare. A state can (and increasingly does) make it harder to get birth control and abortions. What’s more, red states simply make it harder to be poor, and poverty is a killer even under the best of circumstances.

It is interesting that Kliff didn’t even mention this correlation, especially when the colors (red and blue) correspond exactly to the traditional (Republican and Democratic) party colors. And I don’t expect many outlets to pick up on this correlation. It will be seen as too partisan, even though it is just a fact—and one that has broad implications. But as Baker notes, “Needless to say, if the color pattern were reversed we would be hearing this as the lead news story for the next century.”

Obama’s Prized Chained-CPI

Obama NopeI give up! This morning, Obama announced that he will continue to bargain with himself.

On Wednesday, Jared Bernstein discussed a number of budget items that we face. The most important of which was his argument that Obama should not put Chained-CPI into his budget. Chained-CPI is basically just a way to cut Social Security benefits without explicitly doing it. It allows the cost of living increases of the program to lag behind the actual rate of inflation that seniors face. Bernstein rightly notes that it is just bad negotiating.

What he doesn’t say, but what is clear enough is that the Republicans will take the concession and move on. When the president tries to actually get something for the concession, the Republicans will rebel, “But Chained-CPI is already part of the baseline!” But as I’ve argued before, this isn’t really a sign that Obama is a bad negotiator; it is a sign that Chained-CPI is just a policy that Obama wants. If anything, the concessions that the Republicans in theory will offer are just political cover for the extremely unpopular policy proposals he wants.

This morning, Paul Krugman offered a far more charitable take on what Obama is doing:

So what’s this about? The answer, I fear, is that Obama is still trying to win over the Serious People, by showing that he’s willing to do what they consider Serious—which just about always means sticking it to the poor and the middle class. The idea is that they will finally drop the false equivalence, and admit that he’s reasonable while the GOP is mean-spirited and crazy.

But it won’t happen. Watch the Washington Post editorial page over the next few days. I hereby predict that it will damn Obama with faint praise, saying that while it’s a small step in the right direction, of course it’s inadequate—and anyway, Obama is to blame for Republican intransigence, because he could make them accept a Grand Bargain that includes major revenue increases if only he would show Leadership (TM).

Oh, and wanna bet that Republicans soon start running ads saying that Obama wants to cut your Social Security?

I only disagree with the part about why Obama is doing this. The rest is dead on: Obama will get very little credit for doing it and the Republicans will campaign against Democrats in 2014 by saying that they want to cut Social Security.

With friends like Obama, who needs conservatives?

No Calvin All Hobbes

Thomas HobbesBooker T. Washington was born on this day in 1856. Food safety scientist and advocate Samuel Cate Prescott was born in 1872. We have a bunch of actors: Walter Huston (1883); Spencer Tracy (1900); Melvyn Douglas (1901); Bette Davis (1908); Gregory Peck (1916); Nigel Hawthorne (1929); and Frank Gorshin (1933). And the great lecturer Lord Buckley was born in 1906.

The great independent filmmaker Roger Corman is 87 today. Colin Powell is 76. Just a note about the general: I will have difficulty ever forgiving him for Iraq, but I certainly will never forgive him if he continues to not admit his sins. The director of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, Peter Greenaway is 71. And Max Gail, Wojciehowicz on Barney Miller, is 70.

The day, however, belongs to Thomas Hobbes who was born this day in 1588. He was not exactly a modern liberal, but he was far ahead of his time. What’s more, 200 years before the founding of the United States, he was working out a lot of the basics of liberal political philosophy. He helped make us what we are today—I mean that in a good way.

Happy birthday Thomas Hobbes!

We Need More Politicians

George Washington - Federal HallOn Tuesday, Daniel Schuman wrote, Congress Deserves a Big Fat Raise. This is something I’ve long supported. I hate the argument that we should pay our elected officials less. These arguments are, at base, nothing but bitterness. What’s more, even if we paid them nothing it would save us a negligible amount of money in the grand scheme of local, state, and (especially) federal budgets.

Schuman focuses exclusively on the Congress and primarily on the fact that current office holders make less than they used to. For example, Representatives made 20% more in 1992 than they do now. What’s more, their staffs have seen no pay increases for longer than that. And the total size of their staffs have decreased between 30% and 40%. What’s more, all of these people could make more in the private sector and this is why most of them will go on to do just that.

The article points out one very important aspect of all of this. Inexperienced staff members go to work in Congress and then end up dealing with lobbyists who not only have more experience, but who used to do those very same jobs. Unfortunately, Schuman doesn’t spend much time at all discussing how this warps the way legislation gets done. One of the most important ways that this happens is by under-staffed (and under-experienced) Congress members ending up relying on lobbyists and other private interests for information about legislation. In fact, these lobbyists often write the legislation. This isn’t technically corruption, but in practice, it is far more harmful than corruption.

Matt Yglesias followed up on this article with one of his own. But he offered a most ridiculous suggestion: pay legislators more by having fewer of them. I think we already have too few legislators. When the United States was founded, there were 68 Representatives for a population of 3,929,214 people. That’s 57,783 people per Representative. Currently, there are 435 Representatives for a population of 313,914,040 people. That’s 721,641 people per Representative. That’s a factor of 12.5 greater. What has happened in the United States that makes it an order of magnitude easier to reflect the opinions of the people? The answer, of course, is: nothing. In fact, it is likely that we ought to have a smaller ratio.

This is an important issue to me and I bring it up a lot in conversation. The reaction of people, almost without exception, is: that would cost a fortune! That just isn’t true. I haven’t been able to find an authoritative estimate of the actual cost of running the House of Representatives. Let’s suppose it is $5 million per Representative per year. (Note: this is about twice the cost estimates that I’ve seen, so my calculation is almost certainly grossly high.) With this assumption, the cost of the House is about $2 billion per year. This is substantially less than 0.1% of the federal budget. Increasing the size of the House by a factor of ten would raise this up to somewhat less than 1% of the federal budget. That isn’t that much to spend to greatly improve democratic access and accountability.

The financial issue could be more important on the state and local levels. But the “people to representative ratio” is not as bad at these levels. The California State Assembly, for example, has the worst people to representative ratio in the nation and it is still only half the corresponding number for the House of Representatives. But Yglesias’ idea of having a single chamber in the states is just ridiculous. The cost of the legislature is not the source of our budget problems. We can increase pay and improve staffs without cutting down on the number of representatives.

Schuman sums up the issue well:

If we want our representatives to work for us, we must pay them well enough to stay focused on the people’s business. We should make sure they have enough competent, experienced assistants to do their own research and draw their own conclusions. Right now we aren’t paying for quality work, and it shows.

We need more legislators and we need to pay them in accordance with the importance of the job they do. We treat teachers the same way: we act like they are scum and pay them as though they are worth about as much. We need to change the way we think. The problem is not them; it is us.

Were Women Allowed to Act in the Theater in the Shakespearean Era?

Adrienne LecouvreurAs I was putting together today’s birthday post, I came upon Adrienne Lecouvreur, a French actress during the early 18th century. I had no idea who she was, but she was born in 1692 and it got me to thinking about the laws against women actors in England during the Elizabethan theater. As I recalled, this law was repealed at some point in the middle of the 17th century, but I wasn’t sure when.

In my search for that information, I came upon an interesting page on the Yahoo! “answers” subnet. It purported to answer the question, “Were women allowed to act in the theatre in the Shakespereian era?” That questioner wrote, “I remember reading that there was a law in Spain that said they could. But I don’t know if that only covered Spain.”

The answer is that it depends upon the country, but in England, women were not allowed on the stage until 1660. Of course, you wouldn’t know that from reading the Yahoo! “answer.” In fact, the best that anyone did was to know as much as the questioner did. The “best answer” was by user “liz h,” who wrote:

No they were not. It was seen as immoral for men to stare at women. It led them to sin. Laws may have been different in Spain rather than England. However, I doubt it. Spain was a strict Catholic nation. They started the Inquisition in the 1300s and generally suppressed most minorities.

Americans especially like to think the English are now and always have been better than their darker skinned brothers and sisters in Europe. This is not the case. The English are generally every bit as vile and disgusting as everyone else. And when it comes to sins of sexual repression, the English often lead the pack. That was certainly true in terms of their laws about the theater.

Most of Europe was far ahead of England when it came to allowing women on the stage. And the plays of that era were much improved by having woman play the female roles. As Gary Taylor discusses in his fabulous Reinventing Shakespeare, the fact that boys played all the female roles in English plays of that time, generally limited the plays to having two kinds of female characters: nubile women and old hags. The plays of Lope de Vega exhibit a much wider range of characters.

The “best” answer offered by Yahoo! is offensive and it is an example of the danger of the internet’s “polling” approach to the truth. The other answers are just as bad in their own ways. The one person who was aware that women were allowed on the stage in Spain claimed that actors were all disreputable, which is simply not true; the most successful actors were very well connected, being included even in court functions. Another writer thought that England was the only place that had an important theater movement. There was also a common implication that the female parts were played by men. In fact, even the old women characters were played by boys. (I suspect they got most of their information from watching Shakespeare in Love.) In fact, allegations of pederasty was one of the biggest complaints about the theater at that time. (Of course, those people generally wanted to abolish theater, not just transvestite acting.)

It is always disconcerting to see pages like this “answer” on Yahoo! And they make it hard to set the record straight. I’ve tried in the past, and even after registering, I wasn’t able to post anything. But even if I’d accomplished that, my answer would just go to the bottom of the list, where few would even see it. That is part of the brilliance of Wikipedia: when information is presented, it’s out there in front so everyone can see it, and it is a simple matter to fix if it’s wrong. It’s just too bad that there is no “question and answer” interface to Wikipedia.


Note also in the “answer” the attack on Spain about the Inquisition. First, it was primarily the Catholic Church that started the Inquisition; it was not specific to Spain. What’s more, it was started in 1480s, not the 1300s. And England was Catholic at that time. And it wasn’t intended to suppress minorities. It was intended to make sure that the converted Jews and Muslims were maintaining the church orthodoxy. Later, of course, they started their “convert or leave” policy. Anyway, liz doesn’t know what she’s talking about, and this stuff has nothing to do with the question.