Even Republican Women Hate Women

War on WomenI think Dana Milbank is kind of an idiot. He is the ultimate Washington Wanker. He’s a moderate who is great at spouting what all the upper middle class Washington pundits think. You know the stuff: economically conservative, and socially liberal—the beliefs that are totally consistent with their class interests. But even while they are just pushing the policies that are best for them, they think that they are being objective and advocating for what is best for the nation as a whole. Milbank is that kind of loser.

But he does have his moments. In February, he called Bill O’Reilly on his shameful pre-Super Bowl interview with President Obama. And then Monday, he offered up the greatest headline I’ve read in weeks, Conservatives to Women: Lean Back. It runs through the absolutely pathetic Heritage Foundation forum. “The advocacy group held a gathering of women of the right Monday afternoon to mark the final day of Women’s History Month—and the consensus was that women ought to go back in history.”

It appears to have been a truly ridiculous event. The basic idea is that women are happier and wealthier and more conservative when they are married. Now I don’t know about the happier issue. But it is true that married women are wealthier and more conservative. But the argument has things backwards. It is like saying, “Most rich people own boats, so if you buy a boat, you’ll be rich!” The truth is that older women are more likely to be married and older people tend to be richer. And at this time, the older generation tends to be conservative. (It is not true that people get more conservative as they get older, however.) So the big push that if women would just get married they’d vote Republican is just stupid.

But at least it isn’t harmful. But telling women who aren’t in a position to get married that doing so will solve all their problems is harmful. I don’t doubt that being in a good marriage is better than being single for most people of both sexes. But being in a bad marriage is far, far, far worse than being single. And that would be the result of such advice. The truth is that women can decide for themselves if they want to get married. They don’t need to be “encouraged” into doing it.

The whole thing is entirely typical of modern conservatism. Social problems are complex, but conservatives just want to throw simple solutions at them. People are poor? Conservatives say if you get rid of food stamps, that’s just the kick in the butt poor people need. There is widespread poverty in minority communities? It must be young black men don’t have enough billionaires to look up to. And here, single women don’t understand the beneficence that is Ayn Rand? They just need a good Romantic Hero to rape and then marry them! (To be fair, unlike Rand, they don’t specifically endorse rape, although they do provide some apologetics for it.)

Milbank summed up the forum, “Essentially, they’re saying that Republicans aren’t the ones who need to change—women are.” That does seem to be the big problem with these events. And it is clear that the Republican women are a big part of the problem. He finished his article by noting that there were very few women at the event. John Hilboldt of the Heritage Foundation started the forum by saying, “Wow! Where are all the ladies?” To this Milbank made the perfect observation, “It’s a question Republicans may be asking for a long time.” Yes they will.

Afterword

When I was looking for images, I found the following on a conservative website. It is amazingly vile. For one thing, it makes an equivalence that no liberal is making. The argument here is akin to saying, only the Japanese have ever been at war because they are the only ones who ever had a nuclear bomb dropped on them. Another thing is that it wants to say, “See, those Muslims are the ones that abuse their women; not us.” Of course, even if you accept that framing of the issue, American Christian men do that to American women. So what exactly is the point? Also: notice the slut shaming. That Sandra Fluke just wants to have sex and make us all pay for it! This all goes back to Rush Limbaugh; if he hadn’t started all of that creepy ranting, no one would talk about her in this way. And to top it off, they’ve changed the debate—no doubt because of Limbaugh’s widely mocked lack of understanding about how hormonal birth control works. But the issue has nothing to do with condoms unless you are the Pope.

Vile Conservative Take on the War on Women

Two things to note. First: there is a lot more about this that is disgusting; don’t take my comments to be exhaustive. Second: this is the same argument that Richard Dawkins made against women in the atheist community who tried to point out the rampant sexism in the movement. So it ain’t just conservatives.

Cautionary Comment on Inspiration Story

Elliot WilsonI’m not one for inspirational stories. In fact, I hate them. It’s really because I grew up in the United States. Now, for most people, this would mean that I would have grown up to believe in the greatest American myth: the will to success. This is the idea that you can do anything if you try hard enough. This is just nonsense. And it is pernicious nonsense because the flip side of it is that if you fail at something it is just because you didn’t try hard enough. The best some people can hope for is just to be mediocre. Like me on the guitar: I’m not bad but there is no way that I ever would have been great. Some people play guitar for 10,000 hours and become Duane Allman. Others do the same thing and become me. It is what it is.

But I read a great story in the Alaska Dispatch, 100-Mile Backcountry Ride on a Unicycle? No Problem. For the last five years, the loons up in Fairbanks have been doing the White Mountains 100, “a ultra-marathon endurance race staged in Interior Alaska.” It is open to “skiers, cyclists and runners.” And it’s hard: in addition to the 100 mile course, it involves going up 7,400 feet elevation and then back down. So the people who do it are the kind of people I like to think of as crazy.

But we need a different word for Elliot Wilson. On his birthday last year, he decided to learn to ride a unicycle. Because who doesn’t think “unicycle” when Fairbanks comes up in conversation? Later, when he got to compete in the White Mountains race, he thought it would be cool to do it on his new unicycle. But at that point, he could not ride it more than a quart mile without falling off. So, to make what is a long story including a trip to India short, he perfected his technique and won the race. Just kidding! He came in 43rd place out of 65 with a time of 19 hours. But that’s still five and a quarter miles per hour, which is a hell of a lot better than I could probably do on a two-wheeled contraption.

Unlike me, Wilson is a real American. He said, “I set out to do this to prove to myself that one can learn something quickly if one puts their mind to it.” I think that’s nonsense, and not just because he uses three pronouns in the same sentence. In order to agree with that sentence, I’d have to laden it down with so many caveats that it would be unrecognizable. Could I have done what he did? No. Could he have mastered Jackson’s Classical Electrodynamics in six months? Maybe, but I’ve never known anyone to do it. Most people (Smart people!) find they can’t do it after a lifetime.

But it’s still awful cool that this strange young man decided to race a unicycle through the frozen mountains for no particular reason. It is very American. And I mean that in the best sense of the word. Because Americans are at their best when they let fly with their weird. America is, above all, the land of freaks and the home of the bizarre. Play ball!

Afterword

I am well aware that those members of the Cult of Positive Thinking will believe that it is my attitude that prevents me from learning how to ride a unicycle and racing 100 miles in six months. But these are the people who make the world a better place. In my experience, such people have never had to overcome anything really hard. And the research is on my side. A positive mental attitude really doesn’t help people recover from cancer. So if you are a member of that particular cult, do everyone a favor and keep it to yourself. We are only interested in hearing it after you maneuver a unicycle through 100 miles of icy mountain. And then only for a very brief time.


H/T: FARK

Charlemagne and Meritocracy

CharlemagneOn this day in 742 (or 747 or 748) Charlemagne was born. He was also called Charles the Great. Of course, his wife called him Chuck the Not as Great as You’d Imagine. I’m just saying.

He’s notable for more or less putting the old Roman Empire back together. Initially, he was King of Franks with his brother, Carloman. But they didn’t get along and were basically at war with each other. And then Carloman just up and died very conveniently of a nose bleed. “Nose bleed” is a common Germanic euphemism for fratricide. Given that Charlemagne is generally thought well of, most people don’t blame him for killing his brother. But come on!

What I think is interesting about Charlemagne is how entirely typical he is. If you look at “great” rulers like Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, they all start out as royalty. I think we in the United States especially tend to think of such men as having clawed their way to the top. But that’s rarely the case. Instead, they are men born on home plate who take over other rich guy’s ball fields.

Conservatives, I’m afraid, are especially prone to this kind of thinking. That’s why everywhere you turn in conservative media these days, pundits can hardly contain their love of Putin. And if they were honest, they’d admit that they actually have a great deal of respect for Stalin and Hitler. I’m not saying they respect the genocides that both men led, but just that they love the idea of the “tough” leader. But it is mostly a myth. Anyway, Putin didn’t take power; he was given it.

Now I can’t say whether conservatives would like Charlemagne. True, he was an authoritarian. But he was also a capable administrator. Being competent is so girly. Plus, Charlemagne clearly thought that government had a purpose more than simply the enrichment of your already rich friends. In fact, by the standards of his time, he was a liberal. So I think on balance, conservatives would be against him. They’d be out with their signs, “Government Hands Off the Emperor’s Coronation!” Anyway, this song has nothing to do with him:

Happy birthday Charlemagne!

Dean Chambers Knows Obamacare Signups Are Bogus Just Because

Dean ChambersI really don’t want to write about this, but some stories are like smack to a junkie. Remember Dean Chambers? He was the guy behind Unskewed Polls. Despite everything, I thought he at least had a tad of shame. I based that on the fact that right before the last presidential election, he changed his polling results to be in line with what everyone else was saying. But I should have known better because after the election, he started the website Barack O’Fraudo, which claimed that he had been wrong only because of widespread voter fraud committed by Obama.

Okay, so the guy is just an extremist ideologue who is positively useless. But fun! You see, what happened to Chambers is quite clear. In 2012, he didn’t like what the polls were saying. Like a lot of people who have a tenuous grasp on statistics and extrapolation, he was convinced that the polls didn’t reflect reality. After all, everyone he knew was a big Romney supporter. So he looked at the demographic makeup of the polls and found that they were not the same as they were for previous elections. So he “unskewed” them, not realizing that the reason that the polls indicated a more diverse electorate was that the electorate was more diverse. The 2012 election must have been a humiliating defeat for him.

But like most ideologues, Chambers just knew that he couldn’t be wrong. But before he was clever: looking at the demographics of the polls was smart, even though he wasn’t smart enough to be right. At this point, however, he was just dumb. He grab hold of a tired old talking point: “ACORN stole the 2008 election for Obama!” Note how silly this is. If a Democrat couldn’t get elected after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, then a Democrat could never get elected. Whatever. On the extreme right of the Republican Party, the “Democrats cheat” narrative is very big. This, by the way, is what allows them to push voter ID laws without thinking they are against democracy.

This brings us to yesterday, when Dean Chambers wrote an article in Examiner.com, Obama Regime’s Fuzzy Math Is Entirely Fraudulent. Even apart from the content, the article is hilarious. He doesn’t mention the Obama “administration”; it is always “regime.” He uses the word 11 times in an article that is 670 words long. The tone of the whole thing screams off the page as though Chambers fears that tomorrow may not come.

But what is perhaps most wonderful about the article is that it is not really about Obamacare, which is what it purports to be about. The first paragraph is about Obamacare. Then he spends the next four paragraph talking about unemployment. And in doing so, he shows that he doesn’t understand how unemployment statistics are gathered. He’s just ranting. What’s more, Chambers blames Obama for the high unemployment rate in the first months of 2009. Sometimes I think that my own rhetoric is a bit over the top, so I have no idea what you even call this other than the ravings of a mad man.

In the sixth paragraph he completely loses it. He writes, “The most out-of-touch president in the history of the country once declared, ‘we don’t have an inflation problem.’ Yeah right, he doesn’t have a coke problem either.” Nice bit about the cocaine; that’s definitely lends credibility to the argument. But the reason that Obama said we don’t have an inflation problem is, well, because we don’t have an inflation problem. Inflation has been pretty constant at around 2%. True: I think that’s a problem because it is too low, but I know that’s not what Chambers thinks.

He did, however, come back to the ACA. He said, “The Obamacare enrollments numbers are bogus.” This contrasts with his first paragraph where he wrote, “[T]he Regime has quite magically announced the seven million figure is reached.” And the entirety of his seventh and last paragraph, “This magic seven million Obamacare signups is no different than anything else reported by the Regime. Completely fraudulent, fake, and phony.”

It’s a very consistent argument: the Obamacare enrollment number is fraudulent because everything Obama does is fraudulent because Dean Chambers says so. There is nothing else in the article. He looks at no numbers. He unskews nothing. He simply proclaims that reality is different from what everyone else thinks. Generally, this is the definition of insanity. Such people are normally seen on city street corners having angry arguments with invisible people. But not Dean Chambers! He’s a respectable mad man because he tells conservatives what they want to hear.


H/T: Wonk Wire

Supreme Court Strikes Blow for Oligarchy

Welcome to you oligarchy!Welcome to your oligarchy! The Los Angeles Times reported this morning, Supreme Court Lifts Overall Limits on Congressional Campaign Donations. It used to be that donors could only give a total of $123,000 per year to Congressional candidates or political parties. This decision is not a shock, of course. The reasoning is the same as it was for Citizens United. And the same five justices voted in favor of it just like the same four justices voted against it.

According to the article, “The justices noted that donors must still abide by rules that prevent them from giving more than $2,600 per election per candidate.” That’s actually kind of shocking. If money is speech and there is no reason to stop total campaign contributions, how is limiting the amount someone can give to an individual candidate justified? I think I know the reason and it is really upsetting.

John RobertsIf the justices simply removed all campaign finance at once, there would be a backlash. The people would demand a change to the Constitution. The justices know this. So it is their plan to eliminate all limits gradually. That way, by the time the rich own our democracy, it won’t be shocking. It will be just another negative step, but not that much worse than the way things were just before. So there’s no cry for change.

The big problem here is just how radical the activism of the Supreme Court now is. Remember all the discussion of stare decisis when John Roberts was nominated? This is the idea that if you are going to overturn long settled matters, you had better have a good reason. Well, in the case of Citizens United and today with McCutcheon vs FEC, the Court overturned decades-old law. And they have not done it with a scalpel but rather with a baseball bat.

I hope everyone sees just how dangerous this all is. Already, the Court decided that state campaign finance law in Montana was unconstitutional. Step by step, the Court is tightening a noose around the neck of democracy in America. Soon, we will have an oligarchy. Of course, in good American tradition, we will still call it democracy.

We Need a Financial Transaction Tax

Flash BoysWe liberals don’t tend to like bankers. They seem to make a lot of money for doing nothing. But in fact, they do important work. At least some of them. Think about it. There are disparate people who have money they want to invest and disparate people who need investment money. At their best, bankers are like casting directors in the movies. Just the same, here in America, we’ve really mythologized bankers. The truth is that bankers help the economy run well, but they are not the reason the economy runs. And it is totally out of control.

After World War II, financial industry profits were roughly 10% of all business profits in the United States. And they pretty much stayed at that level for a long time. But then they really took off starting in the 1980s. It’s interesting that 1980 seems to be the inflection point where the United States went from a middle class society to an oligarchy. Before the Lesser Depression, the financial industry was responsible for 40% of all business profits in the United States.

There has been a lot of talk recently about “high frequency trading” because of the media blitz for Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys. This is actually kind of strange, because this has been well known for a long time. But anything that gives the issue more attention is good. Because here’s the thing. High frequency trading does not do any of the good things that bankers do. All it does is skim off profits.

And it’s worse than that. Given that these trades take money away from investors, it takes some of the incentives out of investing. What’s more, it pushes the narrative that Wall Street is not doing anything productive and that it is just a big casino. So we should get rid of the high frequency trading. But we don’t need to legislate it out of existence. For a long time, Dean Baker has been pushing a financial transaction tax. As he noted yesterday, “A bill proposed by Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Peter DeFazio would impose a 0.03 percent tax on all trades of stocks, bonds, and derivatives.” That’s a very small fee, which would not affect regular trades. But it is enough to put the high frequency traders out of business.

Of course, the financial industry is completely against such a tax. But this is bizarre. When I go to the store and make a financial transaction of cash for Advil, I have to pay a financial transaction tax, more commonly referred to as a sales tax. And it is 8.75%, not 0.03%. So a financial transaction tax shouldn’t be a big deal. And if we lived in a democracy, it wouldn’t. Unfortunately, both of our political parties are beholden to the financial industry so I doubt anything will change soon.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. In addition to eliminating a truly pernicious aspect of the financial industry, the tax would raise an estimated $400 billion over the next ten years. That is almost five times as much money as Congress just cut from the food stamp program. This is why issues like the financial transaction tax are so frustrating. They are overwhelmingly beneficial. But they aren’t done because a very small number of extremely powerful people benefit by the system staying in its current broken state. Hopefully, Michael Lewis’ book will help to push the matter. And you could, you know, write your representatives and vote.