A French Stereotype That’s True

Apr 17 2014 @ 5:14pm

Catherine Rampell charts a finding from Pew’s report on morality around the globe:

France Affairs

Dylan Matthews captions:

Basically everyone thinks it’s not cool to cheat on your wife. The only country surveyed where a majority did say cheating is acceptable was France; there, about 47 percent disapproved, 12 percent approved, and 40 percent said it’s not a moral issue at all.

The Economist highlights the same report:

Americans are far more likely to disapprove of adultery than people in other rich nations, especially the French. They have grown more likely to frown at cheaters over the years—in contrast to their attitudes to gay sex, which have softened enormously. The data on international attitudes come from an interactive report released this week by the Pew Research Centre. It looks at how 40 countries judge the morality of controversial issues from abortion and premarital sex to contraception and divorce.

A Book Clubber writes:

I just want to say how fascinating I’m finding Ehrman’s book. Can hardly wait for the discussion!


Dear Professor: The book is great. I love it. But I haven’t had much time to read, what with work and house hunting and 420 coming up here in Denver. I bet we’d all appreciate one more week to read about the Jesus transformation. It will make a more lively debate and we’d all be so impressed by your leniency.

with 41% of the book read …

Heh. Well I just had to absorb the Becker book in around 24 hours … so I’m a little behind myself. I plan to post my review of How Jesus Became God next week, and start the discussion with readers thereafter, so buy the book here if you still want to join. There’s still time. Another reader:

I suggest you refer your readers to Harper Collins’ companion/response book, How God Became Jesus. bookclub-beagle-tr It sounds like you could benefit from reading it yourself, after your somewhat surprising admission that Ehrman’s book “may not be the most spiritually sustaining text for Holy Week.” Seeing that the only reason Ehrman has been noticed in the popular realm is for his (somewhat tired yet passed off as something new) arguments denying the truth of traditional Christianity, I wonder exactly what you thought the book would offer. That’s not to say that Ehrman’s work shouldn’t be recommended or discussed, only that a more interesting conversation might come from providing your audience with a more comprehensive understanding of the subject and the arguments on both sides.  After all, I imagine that for many of your readers, the assumption is that Ehrman, like Reza Aslan most recently, is offering some fresh insight, when in reality, as Father Robert Barron notes here, it’s a more of the same old same old.

We actually made a quick mention of the response book in a previous post, but many readers may have missed it, so here’s the link to purchase that book as well, if you’re interested. Its counterpoints will certainly come up in the discussion thread, but the primary focus will be Ehrman’s book.

Mental Health Break

Apr 17 2014 @ 4:20pm

A pop-culture sketchbook in motion:

The Griswolds – Red Tuxedo from Kristian Mercado on Vimeo.

The Putin Way Of War

Apr 17 2014 @ 4:00pm

Anne Applebaum outlines his innovative tactics, which she characterizes as “old-fashioned Sovietization plus slick modern media”:

Thirteen years ago, in the wake of 9/11, the United States suddenly had to readjust its thinking to asymmetric warfare, the kinds of battles that tiny groups of terrorists can fight against superior military powers. We relearned the tactics of counterinsurgency in Iraq.

But now Europe, the United States, and above all the Ukrainians need to learn to cope with masked warfare—the Russian term is maskirovka—which is designed to confuse not just opponents, but the opponents’ potential allies. As I’ve written, the West urgently needs to rethink its military, energy, and financial strategies toward Russia. But more specific new policies will also be needed to fight the masked invasions that may follow in Moldova or, in time, the Baltic states if this one succeeds.

Americans and Europeans should begin now to rethink the funding and the governance of our international broadcasters in order to counter the new war of words.

Kevin Rothrock points out how badly we are screwing up the information war:

Read On

Chart Of The Day

Apr 17 2014 @ 3:39pm

Uninsured Rates

Kliff relays Gallup’s latest numbers:

The polling firm’s data shows states that set up their own exchanges and expanded Medicaid had their uninsured rate fall by 2.5 percent, compared to a 0.8 percent drop in states that have opted out of at least one of the health law programs. Separate federal data has shown that states expanding Medicaid have had faster growth in the public program than those that have opted not to participate. States that do not expand Medicaid essentially leave those in poverty in a coverage gap because they are too poor to qualify for the private insurance subsidies offered to people above the poverty line.

Cohn adds:

As readers of this space know, the Gallup results are very imprecise, enough that nobody should take specific figures too seriously. And these aggregate totals surely mask all sorts of variation among the states. But the overall pattern—a sharp divergence between the two groups of states—is almost certainly real. It’s also very tragic.

Drum piles on:

Read On

Michael Brendan Dougherty notes the many differences between Israel’s and Russia’s predicaments and foreign policies, but he also sees a deep neocon dilemma:

For some neoconservatives, Benjamin Netanyahu is the totem of “moral clarity” on the international scene. And yet, these same writers will say that Obama is being played for a fool over Crimea. If Obama is a fool for not opposing Putin strongly enough, what does that make of Bibi’s moral clarity? Bill Kristol worries that Obama is placating Russia, and has said that Obama’s “weakness” has invited Russia’s aggression in the Ukraine. What has Israel’s silence done? When Kristol says that America should be making Putin’s friends pay a price, surely he doesn’t mean Israel.

Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine if France or Britain or Germany had abstained in the UN vote on the annexation of Crimea, and robbed the US of international support. Do you think Bill Kristol would not have mentioned it? Of course not. We’d be reading the umpteenth Weekly Standard piece on the feckless appeasers and ninnies of Old Europe. But when Israel does the same thing … crickets. Or even, in fact, lionization of Netanyahu as a strong figure on the world stage – compared, of course, with president Obama. After a while you notice something about this faction: when they are engaged on obvious inconsistency, Israel – not America – is almost always the reason why. And they will always, in that instance and that instance alone, blame America first.

Dissents Of The Day

Apr 17 2014 @ 3:00pm

A reader quotes me:

Even as the truth now is that no one with undetectable virus can infect anyone, and no one on Truvada can get infected. Instead of embracing that, we shy from it.

This seems optimistic to me in a way that borders on foolish. Where did you learn this?  I’d love to read the scientific papers or studies that come to that conclusion.  My memory of articles I have read about truvadaTruvada say that in the study group, it prevented infection at a percentage in the high 90s, which is pretty darn good.  But that doesn’t mean “no one on Truvada can get infected.”  I have no beef with anyone who wants to take it to reduce their risk, but you can’t make the claim that a very effective pharmaceutical can protect a person from infection in the same way that a physical latex barrier can.  (I’ve never agreed with your hatred of condoms and side with Dan Savage: If condoms break without people noticing, they can’t make that much of a difference.)

Not to mention that saying a person with undetectable viral load cannot infect anyone also sounds irresponsible at best.  From the CDC website: “However, sexual transmission of HIV from an infected partner who was on ART with a repeatedly undetectable plasma viral load has been documented.”

All that said, wider use of PrEP should be considered, but honesty and facts are called for in discussing its potential.  I think if it were true that no one on Truvada could get infected, you’d see every public health department clamoring to offer it to high-risk populations.

We’ve covered this ground already. Here’s the key study on the impact of undetectable viral loads in preventing transmission. Money quote:

Statistical analysis shows that the maximum likely chance of transmission via anal sex from someone on successful HIV treatment was 1% a year for any anal sex and 4% for anal sex with ejaculation where the HIV-negative partner was receptive; but the true likelihood is probably much nearer to zero than this. When asked what the study tells us about the chance of someone with an undetectable viral load  transmitting HIV, presenter Alison Rodger said: “Our best estimate is it’s zero.”

In over 40,000 unprotected sex acts, no negative partner was infected by a positive partner with undetectable viral loads. A key Truvada study found more than 90 percent effectiveness in preventing HIV infection even among those not fully compliant with the one-pill-a-day regimen. Another study showed that “parti­ci­pants could re­duce their risk of HIV by 76 pe­r­cent tak­ing two doses per week, 96 pe­r­cent by tak­ing four doses per week, and 99 pe­r­cent by tak­ing se­ven doses per week.” 99 percent may not be 100 percent, but it’s pretty damn close. And it’s not that different from condom use in HIV prevention. Condoms are not 100 percent effective either; you need to use them correctly; they can break; and so on. Moreover, stopping sex and putting on a rubber in the heat of the moment may not be as easy as taking one pill a day outside the experience of sex.

Another reader is “horrified that you are using your influence to pass off opinion as science in regards to the prophylactic use of Truvada”:

I’m not an expert, a patient, an advocate, or a physician – I just work for the pharmaceutical industry and I sat through the FDA Advisory Committee hearing on Truvada PrEP in May 2012. I assure you that experts on that panel were concerned about Truvada and resistance – particularly when not taken as prescribed.

Read On

Maia Szalavitz works to debunk the study we flagged yesterday:

The 20 marijuana-smoking participants, who took the drug at least once a week, were deliberately selected to be healthy. If they had any marijuana-related problems—or any psychiatric problems or other issues—they were excluded from participating.

Are you beginning to see what’s wrong? Although the pot-smoking participants showed brain differences in comparison to the controls who were also selected to be normal— both groups were normal! If the smokers had any marijuana-related problems or any type of impairment, they would not have been included in the first place. Therefore, the brain changes that the researchers found were—by definition—not associated with any cognitive, emotional, or mental problems or differences.

Read On

Pushing The Envelope, Ctd

Apr 17 2014 @ 2:23pm


A reader: “Oh how I wish someone in Finland would help us mail protest letters to Putin using those stamps.” Another:

A friend from Finland writes:

Now there are two online petitions going on in Finland. The first, of course, is for banning these stamps. The other is for making a lick-able version, instead of the self-adhesive.

Heh. Another reader:

Despite philately‘s nerdy conservative image, homosexuality has always had a place in the stamp world. In the 1970s, a prominent collection that won numerous competitive exhibiting awards was called “Alternative Lifestyles”.  No one imagined that so many earlier stamps commemorated homosexual men and women, and for most of us (remember, 1975) this was our first awareness of the gay world. It is a tribute to philately, I think, that in this era, such a collection won such widespread praise and won so many national awards. And there was a strong group of prominent homosexual stamp dealers in the 1980s (who also went by the name “gay Mafia”) largely concentrated in the more philatelically arcane “postal history” fields and who were very successful and who threw the best parties. More on the history of gays and philately can be found here.

The View From Your Obamacare

Apr 17 2014 @ 2:00pm

Readers begin to share their stories:

Being left out of the official statistics are people like me who purchased new policies directly from insurance carriers. Pre-ACA, they would not have insured me for any amount of money due to a long list of pre-existing conditions.  As of January 1, they can no longer ask me those questions.  I do not qualify for any subsidies, so there was no need for me to purchase insurance through the exchange.  Instead, I bought insurance without the government middleman, courtesy of the ACA.


I’m a 29-year-old woman and a self-employed writer. Before the ACA passed, I was rejected by every health insurer in California because I had an abnormal pap smear and was diagnosed with HPV, which can cause cervical cancer. I was shocked – not by the diagnosis, which is very common, but by the fact that I could not get any coverage (I am otherwise very fit and in perfect health). I am eternally grateful for Obamacare – not because of the cost (which at $181/mo for a $2000 deductible is much cheaper than the Freelancer’s Union insurance in had in NYC of $270/mo for a $10,000 deductible), but because it allows me to get health care at all.

Read On

Marijuana Is Good

Apr 17 2014 @ 1:42pm

As pot becomes fully legal in some parts of the country, we may soon be better able to discuss its many positive benefits for both the individual and society. At some point, the cannabis movement, like the marriage equality movement in the 1990s, will get out of the defensive crouch (leave us potheads alone!) and into the much more interesting area of the tangible goodness and benefits of “God’s plant.” So herewith a couple of buds in the wind. Dan Savage picks up on the awesome Emily Yoffe’s recent piece on weed and sex:

I didn’t start smoking pot until I was 34 years old. (I was far too busy in my teens memorizing the lyrics to Stephen Sondheim’s shows to bother with weed.) So I had been sexually active for nearly 20 years the first time I smoked pot. Stoned sex was a Kush_closerevelation. For a guy like me—someone with their fair share of hang-ups, body image issues, and, yes, sexual inhibitions—pot was very freeing. It helped me to do something that I had never been able to do on my own: It turned off that voice in my head that said, “You’re not going to eat that, are you?

So, yeah, get high and have sex. It’s amazing—or it can be. Individual results may vary, of course, but pot can make you silly, it can make you playful, and it can put you in the moment. And, yes, it can give you the munchies. But chips aren’t the only things a high person can munch on for hours.

Whoopi Goldberg is now a pot-columnist for Colorado’s The Cannabist. Her first piece is on the wonders of the vape pen in calming her glaucoma-induced headaches:

Read On

A Russian Reconquista

Apr 17 2014 @ 1:18pm

In case anyone doubted his intentions, here’s what Putin said on live TV today:

“The Federation Council granted the president the right to use military force in Ukraine,” he said, referring to the upper house of parliament. “I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right and that we are able to solve all today’s pressing issues via political and diplomatic means,” Putin said.

Putin referred to the region in question by its tsarist name “Novorossiya”, or “New Russia”, as it was referred to in the 19th century under tsarist rule, and suggested it was a historical mistake to hand it over to Ukraine.

He also admitted that Russian soldiers had been in Crimea prior to the referendum, though he still claims there are none in eastern Ukraine:

“Our servicemen stood behind the back of Crimea’s self-defence forces,” Putin said. “They acted politely, but resolutely and professionally. There was no other way to hold the referendum in an open, honest and honorable way and allow the people to express their opinion.”

But Julia Ioffe explains that the Russian invasion has already begun, and looks at some reasons why Ukraine isn’t really fighting back:

Who would do the shooting?

Read On

Bringing A Checkbook To A Gun Fight

Apr 17 2014 @ 12:56pm

Michael Bloomberg plans (NYT) “to spend $50 million this year building a nationwide grass-roots network to motivate voters who feel strongly about curbing gun violence, an organization he hopes can eventually outmuscle the National Rifle Association.” Cillizza expects Bloomberg to become an NRA boogyman (as if he weren’t already):

The more groups opposed to gun control are able to cast the effort to pass measures that would tighten said laws as the efforts of a New York City billionaire bent on telling you how to live your life, the less effective the effort will be. Look at how badly Virginias reacted when Bloomberg ran stings in the Commonwealth in 2007 and when he made comments in 2012 about how so many guns used in New York City came from Virginia.  People don’t like others telling them how to handle their business — especially if that person is a billionaire New York City resident who wants to regulate things like sugar in soda.

Bouie weighs in on Bloomberg’s crusade:

Of course, money is money, and a $50 million investment to combat the NRA could prove effective, even with Bloomberg’s image. But there are problems there, as well.

Read On

When your premise is that the marriage equality revolution began in 2008, that the movement was only then re-branded around the themes of family values and toleration, that the subject had been languishing in obscurity before the gay “Rosa Parks” came on the scene, there are a few things that will necessarily not compute.

Look first of all at the polling on the question. No one can doubt that the actions of a handful of people in the highest regions of the Obama administration would never have happened without this long-sustained, widening and deepening support in the polls. Public persuasion and advocacy were absolutely indispensable to bringing the new majority about, and making cautious politicians capable of changing. So check out Gallup’s polling on the question over the last couple of decades:

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 11.11.17 AM

In 1996, support was at 27 percent. By 2007, it was at 46 percent. It has since peaked at 53 percent in 2011 and 54 percent now. What Becker is arguing is that increasing the support by 8 percent after that early momentum was the only period that matters. The increase of 15 percent before that – in a far less propitious environment – was irrelevant, and in fact, proof that until the key figure of Chad Griffin arrived, nothing was really happening. I’d love to know how Becker can make that argument with a straight face. Or whether on her book tour, she will be confronted with the sheer perversity of that judgment. I also think it’s incumbent on Griffin to say whether that is his view of the matter as well. It sure sounds like it from Becker’s book.

Then there are the following bizarre consequences of her insane history. Among the heroes of her book are Joe Biden and Ken Mehlman.  Now just think about that for a moment. Biden voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 – by far the most damaging moment in the movement’s history. As Isaac Chotiner notes, the book’s fellatial account of Biden’s own pro-gay goodness rests on stories of his past that reveal that he had no issues with gay couples – even as he voted to rid them of any rights by voting for DOMA! This grotesque hypocrisy is glossed over in favor of letting Becker’s source spin his own past uncritically. Ditto with Obama. He was obviously bullshitting on this subject for years. Chotiner:

As was the case with Biden, Obama wants credit for holding a position he knows is wrong. That position also shows a certain contempt for voters, as if they couldn’t figure out that Obama is being dishonest and, of course, supports gay marriage.

As for Mehlman, WTF? He ran the Bush 2004 campaign that used the marriage equality movement to turn out the Republican Christianist base and ensure Bush’s re-election. Without that issue, Bush may well not have won Ohio, and John Kerry would have been president. Now, I was delighted at Mehlman’s metamorphosis and have long believed that we should welcome all converts and hunt no heretics in this cause. I gave him a platform on the Dish I was so happy with his reversal.

But when he is credited as a critical hero of the movement and Evan Wolfson is damned as an obstructionist, you are seriously in an alternative universe. When he is the star, and the large universe of Republicans, conservatives and libertarians who backed marriage equality long, long before Mehlman’s Damascene moment are airbrushed out of history, you can see why this toxic distortion of history is so troubling. The idea that recommending a female interviewer for Obama’s revelation is more important than the decades of legal, educational and political organizing that took place in the teeth of Mehlman’s own brutal attack on gay couples … well, it beggars belief.

Geidner notes another way in which Olson and Boies and Griffin conducted themselves differently than other parts of the movement. They got paid to the tune of $6 million, while previous legal support for marriage equality was almost always done pro bono:

Read On

I’m not sure what Thomas Aquinas – peace be upon him – would make of this latest revelation about “natural law”:

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather k0nt91liu3XXmP47novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but related species in the genus Neotrogla, are the first example of an animal with sex-reversed genitalia. “Although sex-role reversal has been identified in several different animals, Neotrogla is the only example in which the intromittent organ is also reversed,” says Kazunori Yoshizawa from Hokkaido University in Japan.

During copulation, which lasts an impressive 40 to 70 hours, female insects insert an elaborate, penis-like organ into males’ much-reduced, vagina-like opening. The researchers speculate that the insects’ sex organs and sex-role reversal may have been driven over evolutionary time by the resource-poor cave environment in which the bugs live. Males of the genus provide females with nutritious seminal gifts in addition to sperm, making it advantageous for females to mate at a higher rate.

The more we learn about nature, the more the notion that the universe reflects a cosmic version of human heterosexuality gets discredited. Gender can be fluid in some species; in others, females have the testosterone; in this case, females have dicks. And rather elegant ones at that. We now know what Victorian scientists discovered but hid: that same-sex behavior is also endemic in the animal kingdom, unusual, but widespread. We know that some humans are born with indeterminate gender, that others have a gender that belies their external sex organs, that others still have no problem with their gender but are emotionally and sexually attracted to their own.

The reason why this matters is that the vast apparatus of “natural law” still permeates a huge amount of our thinking about human sexuality and emotion.

Read On

Quote For The Day

Apr 17 2014 @ 11:49am

“White feminist Germaine Greer can speak at Brandeis because, in one of the more whimsical ideological evolutions even by dear old Germaine’s standards, Ms Greer feels that clitoridectomies add to the rich tapestry of ‘cultural identity’: ‘One man’s beautification is another man’s mutilation,’ as she puts it. But black feminist Hirsi Ali, who was on the receiving end of ‘one man’s mutilation’ and lives under death threats because she was boorish enough to complain about it, is too ‘hateful’ to be permitted to speak. In the internal contradictions of multiculturalism, Islam trumps all: race, gender, secularism, everything. So, in the interests of multiculti sensitivity, pampered upper-middle-class trusty-fundy children of entitlement are pronouncing a Somali refugee beyond the pale and signing up to Islamic strictures on the role of women,” – Mark Steyn.

Now you could argue that Hirsi Ali has also been invited to speak at Brandeis after the shabby withdrawal of an honorary degree. But Greer was not told she had to engage in a dialogue with her critics on the question of mutilating girls and women. She was given a platform denied to a victim of female genital mutilation. I don’t think it’s Islamophobic to note that glaring inconsistency.

The Cutting Truth

Apr 17 2014 @ 11:25am


In an essay on the experience and expression of female pain, Leslie Jamison considers cutting “an attempt to speak and an attempt to learn”:

There’s an online quiz titled “are you a real cutter or do you cut for fun?” full of statements to be agreed or disagreed with: I don’t really know what it feels [like] inside when you really have problems, I just love to be the centre of attention. Gradations sharpen inside the taboo: Some cut from pain, others for show. Hating on cutters—​or at least these cutter-​performers—​tries to draw a boundary between authentic and fabricated pain, as if we weren’t all some complicated mix of wounds we can’t let go of and wounds we can’t help, as if choice itself weren’t always some complicated mix of intrinsic character and agency. How much do we choose to feel anything?

She confesses:

I used to cut. It embarrasses me to admit now, because it feels less like a demonstration of some pain I’ve suffered and more like an admission that I’ve wanted to hurt. But I’m also irritated by my own embarrassment … I hurt myself to feel is the cutter’s cliché, but it’s also true. Bleeding is experiment and demonstration, excavation, interior turned out—​and the scar remains as residue, pain turned to proof.

(Photo by Kristina Knipe, from her self-harm series “I Don’t Know The Names of Flowers”)

Psychoanalyzing Putin

Apr 17 2014 @ 11:04am

Joseph Burgo makes the case that the Russian president really does suffer from narcissistic personality disorder:

In exploring the past of prominent figures who seem to display features of narcissistic personality disorder, I have found that many of them were childhood bullies who may also have been bullied by others.

Read On

Looking Back On Leaning Out, Ctd

Apr 17 2014 @ 10:43am

A reader argues that our post was based on “a common misconception” about Lean In:

Sandberg doesn’t champion working over staying home. When she tells women to lean in, she’s not telling them to work: she’s saying that for as long as they choose to work, they shouldn’t have one foot already out the door because of what having a family might demand of them in the future. It’s a carpe diem message, and an argument against approaching your career with a defeatist attitude.

Another isn’t sure what attitude to take:

I’m so glad you’re talking about Lean In and hope that it ends up as a thread. I’m a 36-year-old woman acting as the executive at a small organization with a big budget. I love my work, my peers, the intellectual stimulation, my ability to call on my brain to perform backflips and contortions. But I tell you what: it doesn’t make me happy.

Read On

Faces Of The Day

Apr 17 2014 @ 10:19am


Biden’s first selfie. The Onion’s version to follow (I hope).