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Sargent spots a divide in the GOP presidential field:

Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, and Jeb Bush are calling for respect for the courts’ decisions on this matter and/or respect and understanding for people on both sides of the issue. But Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are suggesting continued resistance; both have talked about a Constitutional marriage amendment.

He wonders how this will impact the primaries:

Candidates who are striving for (relative) moderation on gay marriage, such as Bush, Rubio, and Romney, are framing their position as rooted in conservative values: Respect for the rule of law and/or for those (even gays and lesbians) who want to enshrine lifetime commitments to one another. Will that assuage GOP primary voters?

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The Humanity In Losing A Pet

Jan 27 2015 @ 4:45pm

In an essay sharing how the death of her cat was easier - and better handled by caregivers - than the death of her parents, Margo Rabb recalls the end of that final trip to the vet’s office:

In Juliet’s office [at the clinic], they let me stay on their couch with Sophie’s body for as long as I wanted. My husband left work and met me there. “How long do you want to stay?” he asked me, staring at her body on my lap. “Forever,” I said. I pictured myself wandering around the city, still holding my dead cat. Maybe my friends wouldn’t notice. Maybe they’d mistake her for a fur stole. When I’d told them about Sophie’s diagnosis, weeping, sometimes I felt ashamed to admit that I felt such deep grief over a cat. I wrote in my diary: “The strange thing is it’s not dissimilar from the grief I felt for Mommy and Daddy — how the grief displaces everything, and nothing feels the same anymore.”

The experience left her looking for answers:

Was it because Sophie was an animal that her loss was easier to bear, and easier for [my veterinarians] to give comfort? Or was it luck and the lack of it, to have encountered gentle care for my cat and harsh care for my parents?

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To say I stood up and cheered as I finished reading Jon Chait’s new essay on the resurgence of a toxic political correctness on the left would be an understatement. There’s some great reporting in it that really helps put into context what the new guardians of the identity politics left are up to. Here’s one nugget:

Last March at University of ­California–Santa Barbara, in, ironically, a “free-speech zone,” a 16-year-old anti-abortion protester named Thrin Short and her 21-year-old sister Joan displayed a sign arrayed with graphic images of aborted fetuses. They caught the attention of Mireille Miller-Young, a professor of feminist studies. Miller-Young, angered by the sign, demanded that they take it down. When they refused, Miller-Young snatched the sign, took it back to her office to destroy it, and shoved one of the Short sisters on the way.

Speaking to police after the altercation, Miller-Young told them that the images of the fetuses had “triggered” her and violated her “personal right to go to work and not be in harm.” A Facebook group called “UCSB Microaggressions” declared themselves “in solidarity” with Miller-Young and urged the campus “to provide as much support as possible.” By the prevailing standards of the American criminal-justice system, Miller-Young had engaged in vandalism, battery, and robbery. By the logic of the p.c. movement, she was the victim of a trigger and had acted in the righteous cause of social justice.

Chait has lots more where that came from. But the essay really deepens in the comparison between the early 1990s – when political correctness made its first appearance – and now. The difference is that the illiberal policing of speech, the demonizing of dissent, and extreme identity politics have now transcended the academy and arrived in social media with a vengeance. Twitter and Facebook encourage mutually reassuring groupthink, in which individuals are required to “like” anything that isn’t white, male, cisgendered etc., in which an ideology is enforced by un-friending those with other views instead of engaging them, and in which large numbers of Twitter-users can descend on a racist/sexist/homophobic etc miscreant and destroy his or her career and social life in pursuit of racial/gender/orientation “social justice”.

I’m an established blogger with an independent site and have witnessed several such campaigns now – and they cannot but exact a toll. I’m fine with being called a self-hating gay or homophobe or misogynist or racist or anti-Semite, but what of those with much less independence? People with media jobs in which any deviation from the p.c. norm renders them anathema to their peers, those in the academy who are terrified of committing a “micro-aggression”, those in minorities who may actually have a different non-leftist view of reality: what pressure are they being put under right now?

It seems to me they are being intimidated by an ideology that utterly rejects the notion that free speech – including views with which one strongly disagrees – can actually advance social justice, and by a view of the world that sees liberal society entirely in terms of “power” rather than freedom. And if you look across the non-conservative online media, this orthodoxy is now close to absolute. The few brave enough to take on these language and culture police – I think of Emily Yoffe’s superb piece on campus rape in Slate – will get slimed and ostracized or ignored. Once you commit a heresy, you cannot recover. You must, in fact, be air-brushed out of the debate entirely.

The right has its own version of this, of course. Many of us dissenters were purged and rendered anathema years ago. But look where that has actually left today’s GOP. It’s turned into this. And the left’s new absolutism on identity politics – now taken to an absurd degree – should, in my view, worry liberals more. Because it is a direct attack on basic liberal principles. Chait:

Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree. The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal. The historical record of American liberalism, which has extended social freedoms to blacks, Jews, gays, and women, is glorious. And that glory rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph.

And reason is not constrained by gender or race or orientation or anything else.

One tip of this spear is related to sexual orientation, of course, in which some parts of the gay left are back to what they love most of all: “eliminating freedom for their enemies”. And you can see why.

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A reader notes that “the movie Donnie Darko included an exchange on this very question“:

Another reader raises his hand: “Uh, what about language?” Another picks “writing, of course”:

Speech is encoded in our DNA as the way we transmit information from one person to another. Writing is not. Yet writing functions as a kind of disembodied DNA. We can transmit any kind of information, from personal to cultural to technological through writing. Writing is what makes it possible for us to know how much is owed or due to thousands of other people, at a glance. It is how we transmit religious traditions, with great fidelity, over generations, and it is how we speak to others long after we are dead. A single person, knowing how to read and armed with just a few basic ideas, could rebuild civilization in a week if he had access to a decent small-town library. Nothing else even comes close.

Another goes with:

Cheese.

Man, I love cheese.

Another recommends a recent book on the subject, How We Got to Here, by Steven Johnson:

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Deficits

Deficits are predicted to rise somewhat in the near future:

The U.S. deficit will fall to its lowest level since 2007, but it is expected to begin rising quickly after 2018, according to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office. The difference between federal spending and revenue will fall to $468 billion or 2.6% of GDP this fiscal year, which is the lowest level since 2007, the CBO says. The deficit will continue to fall slightly in 2016 and hold steady in 2017. But then it will begin rising once more, reaching 3.0% of GDP in 2019 and 4.0% in 2025.

Matt Klein looks at the causes of those larger deficits:

More than all of the projected increase in the US federal budget deficit between now and 2025 is expected to come from higher interest payments on the existing debt.

He goes on to wonder whether those larger deficits will materialize. Krugman seconds Klein:

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That’s what Amy Sullivan calls The Fall:

The show, which stars Gillian Anderson in her first major television role since The X-Files went off the air in 2002, came under heavy criticism when the first season aired in 2013 for complaints that it glamorized violence against women. Serial killer Paul Spector (Fifty Shades of Grey’s Jamie Dornan) revels in the “aestheticism” of posing the nude bodies of his victims, washing their skin and painting their nails after he’s killed them. Some critics thought the show went beyond simply telling a story to the point of sharing Spector’s obsession with the women’s bodies.

I can certainly sympathize with fatigue over the seemingly endless tally of dead women on television. … But the debate over The Fall’s first season obscured the show’s revolutionary treatment of women and the topic of sexual power. In fact, I haven’t seen another program that so directly challenges and rewrites the traditional conventions of crime dramas, starting with Anderson as DSI Stella Gibson, a highly-regarded London cop who gets called to Belfast because investigators there need her expertise on a murder case.

Refreshingly, none of the tropes we’ve been trained to expect in a story about a powerful woman play out. Nobody resents Gibson’s appearance on the scene or questions her authority. Her gender is a non-issue; subordinates hop to when she enters a room and they follow her commands without question. Gibson doesn’t try to submerge her femininity and stomp around barking out orders. In Anderson’s restrained yet compelling performance, Gibson is cool, calm, and always chic, with the most fabulous coat in detectivedom.

I discovered it a couple weeks ago and now just have the final episode to watch. I can’t express how smart the series is, and how superb and commanding Gillian Anderson is as Stella Gibson. This is the feminism I believe in: a woman totally in charge of her life and of her career, whose authority is unquestioned, whose complexity and brilliance are celebrated, who utterly owns her sexuality and deploys it as coolly and as aggressively as any man would. At no point did I fear for a vulnerable Stella Gibson, even as I was deeply moved by her own female take on the victims of rape and murder, and even though she was obviously at times in great danger. I saw instead a master investigator whose nail-biting duel with a disturbed (and way hot) serial murderer became gladiatorial. Somehow gender slipped away from relevance, even as Anderson’s gender was absolutely integrated into her entire character. That’s new and powerful. It makes Girls seem as adolescent as it actually is.

Charlotte Alter is also a fan of the BBC series, now available on Netflix streaming:

[T]here’s little doubt that The Fall is great for women. …

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VFYWC-2-4-0

Turns out this week’s contest was one of our most challenging ever, with only around twenty entries submitted, such as:

Oakland. Looking at the Claremont Hotel. A wild-ass guess, of course.

Another reader is seeing things:

Finally, an easy one. Clearly, this is not an actual window view. It’s an early landscape by the British Artist, Stephen Darbishire, in the years prior to his Impressionist period. I couldn’t find the print on his website, but it’s undoubtedly his. Thrilled! I got one!

Another was wondering about Virginia, West Virginia, or England:

There is no snow so I don’t think it’s New England. The gold trim around the window could indicate it’s an elegant old manor house or hotel. The determining factor will be the pine tree and where that particular fir grows. Someone will know as they always do!

Sadly no amateur arborists this week, but this reader gets us to the right continent at least:

I’ve come to admire the people who just send in a gut response almost as much as the ones who spend hours puzzling out a more likely answer. So, in the midst of a bout of insomnia waiting for the sleep aid to kick in, I have spent about five minutes on this.

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The Party Of No And Dunno

Jan 27 2015 @ 12:28pm

A reader writes:

I hope a lot of voters were watching CBS on Sunday night when 60 Minutes interviewed Boehner and McConnell to talk about their plans now that the GOP controls the House and Senate. Both men acknowledged that the economy has been recovering and that the recovery has been picking up steam. They also acknowledged that the recovery has mostly only benefited the top income-earners while leaving the majority of Americans stuck in neutral. Boehner and McConnell want to “do something” to address income inequality and make sure those on the bottom of the economy have the opportunity to move up. They basically accused Obama of only helping the top 1% (which seems a complete reversal of the stories we’ve been hearing from them the last six years, but I digress).

This all sounds good enough to me, since for so long, it seemed the GOP was unwilling to even acknowledge there was an issue with inequality. If they want to blame Obama, I don’t really care so long as they are willing to present solutions.

So, the interviewer then asked if they would support raising taxes on top income earners. Answer:

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Medicare Wants To Pay For Outcomes

Jan 27 2015 @ 11:25am

Sarah Kliff puts a favorable spin on the news:

The Obama administration announced Monday a sweeping new plan that will directly affect thousands of hospitals and doctors across the country. The federal government now plans to pay Medicare doctors more if they help patients get healthier — and less if their patients just stay sick. This would be done by tying 85 percent of all Medicare payments to outcomes by the end of 2016 — rising to 90 percent by 2018.

The idea is to move away from the broken and expensive “fee-for-service” system, which pays doctors a flat amount for every surgery and physical they perform — even if they do nothing to actually help a patient.

Orszag is excited:

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A major doctors’ group supports reclassifying cannabis:

There’s some very early, and largely anecdotal, evidence that marijuana might be an effective treatment for some forms of epilepsy in children who haven’t responded to traditional medications. It’s partly to help bolster these types of clinical studies that the American Academy of Pediatrics today recommended that the government re-classify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, a category that includes other addictive, yet still therapeutic, substances like oxycodone, morphine, and codeine. Currently, marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug, along with things like heroin and acid, which are thought to have no medicinal value.

German Lopez spells out why reclassification has proven so difficult:

When marijuana’s classification comes under review, its schedule 1 status is consistently maintained due to insufficient scientific evidence of its medical value.

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