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The Bombs Fall Elsewhere

There’s a bit of a flap over Iran, nukes, Israel, the US, etc., etc., etc. Discussion of sanctions, unexpected strikes, war. In other words, no biggie.

But, this just in, as they say, from Reuters:

But Israel, in weighing military action, faces the risk of a backlash from Congress and the American public if oil prices spike during a still-fragile economic recovery ….

“It’s the law of unintended consequences,” said an outside expert who advises the White House on national security. “This could lead to the first real reassessment in a generation of how America and Americans feel about Israel.”

If gas prices go up, that’s different. That changes everything.

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Why Austerity is Necessary: short version

US White House state dining room during Bush PresidencyDoes anyone honestly think austerity is important to the restoration of fiscal balance because discipline and frugality lead to wealth? The people promoting austerity are invited to dinner in places like the room to the right. They’re doing well and not practicing austerity, so the answer must lie elsewhere.

And, really, it’s not that hard to figure out if you remember not to listen to a word they say.

  • 1) For whatever reason (the crash in this case) there’s not enough money to go around.
    • 1a) It is necessary to get the money from somewhere.
  • 2) You could get it from rich people.
    • 2a) If you do this by making them take the loss (= no taxpayer-funded bailout), they will threaten to take their ball and go home. (For instance, “I won’t buy your treasury bonds. I’ll buy somebody else’s.” Government goes into cold sweat worrying about finding money and has a crisis of confidence. This is the real “confidence fairy.”)
    • 2b) Assuming you must bail out the rich, the government could cover the cost by taxing the rich. But the wealthy own the media, plus they can defund re-election campaigns, so the actual people in government would be out of a job. This, too, leads to cold sweat, but it does not yet have a catchy name. (The “keep-my-job fairy”?)

  • 3) You could get it from everybody else.
    • 3a) Everybody else objects because they didn’t cause the problem, so why should they pay for it?

Because austerity! It sounds so much better than,

“You pay for it. I don’t want to.” And way better than,

“I don’t need you for anything, Bub. Pay up.”

Full disclosure: I am (obviously) not an economist.

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My religion is to kill your religion

The discussion about the birth control pill fiasco has boggled my mind. I’ll explain the title toward the end, but let me start with my bogglement. There are whole swathes of blogland who feel that so long as the pills are available, it’s all good. They don’t see a problem with the fact that, as Charles Pierce puts it:

The Church has claimed — and the president has tacitly accepted — the right to deny even its employees of other faiths the health-care services of which it doesn’t approve on strictly doctrinal grounds. That is not an issue of “religious liberty.” That’s the enshrinement of religious thuggery in the secular law.

That’s also a remarkable departure in a country founded on the separation of church and state, a country where as recently as twenty years ago even the most conservative of Supreme Court justices asserted that religious practices cannot conflict with the law of the land. Dakinikat quoted a few days ago:

The free exercise [of religion] clause and its meaning is well established. There is very little ambiguity about what it is and what it is not.

“In 1878, the Supreme Court was first called to interpret the extent of the Free Exercise Clause in Reynolds v. United States, as related to the prosecution of polygamy under federal law. The Supreme Court upheld Reynolds’ conviction for bigamy, deciding that to do otherwise would provide constitutional protection for a gamut of religious beliefs, including those as extreme as human sacrifice.”(1)

The Court stated that “Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious beliefs and opinions, they may with practices.”

Or, as the Reclusive Leftist says:

“[I]n 2000, the EEOC ruled that employers who failed to include birth control coverage in their prescription healthcare plans were in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That’s because the Civil Rights Act forbids discrimination on the basis of sex. The EEOC allowed no exceptions for religious institutions.

What the Obama Administration has done now is to basically reverse that. They’ve said, “You know what? Never mind. That clause in the Civil Rights Act about discrimination on the basis of sex? Forget it.”

So, yes, the pills will still be there for women who need them. But not because the government says women have the same right as everybody else to make their own decisions about their own health care.

The pills are still there, but not because you have a right to them. It’s because nobody has taken them away yet.

Losing your rights is not a win. Getting birth control pills by the grace of Obama is not a win. Unless you mean a win for him. Now this is something that’s his to bestow … or for those bogeyman Republicans to take away. Or, given Obama’s past actions in non-election years, his to bargain away.

That is why rights are important. Having rights means people who violate them can be held accountable. Receiving dispensations means constantly asking (begging?) for what you need, and tough luck when you don’t get it.

We’ve seen that movie play out in abortion rights. Riverdaughter summarizes:

The same thing happened with abortion. It was merely a few workarounds, a few inconveniences. If you really need an abortion, it will still be there for you. You just need to assuage the consciences of a few religious people. That’s how it started. But how has it ended? In some states, there is only a single provider and women have to risk losing their jobs to get an abortion. It’s no longer just a few workarounds. Now, it’s a major ordeal.

And that progression happened because for too many people it wasn’t about the right to decide your own medical procedures. So long as they still had some kind of escape from forced pregnancy, it was just too difficult to argue about rights. The result is that here we are. Too many people are just glad they can still get birth control pills. Arguing about rights is divisive, difficult, aids and abets Republicans (see above, re “bogeyman”), and time-consuming. And it’s physically nauseating to realize that you’re not a human being in other people’s, including the President’s, mind.

Because the subhuman status of women is an unavoidable consequence of not acknowledging their right to make their own medical decisions. It’s a logical consequence of putting a religion, any belief, ahead of the civil rights of citizens, any citizens.

I’ll go through the steps. There aren’t many. Read more »

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Charles Murray and the Moral Collapse of the Working Class

A long time ago an anthropologist named Ruth Benedict pointed out that the people recognized as criminals in a given society cause a tiny fraction of the damage inflicted by the powerful members. This was whether it was measured by financial loss or physical injury. (Think about wars, if it’s hard to picture tycoons beating people up.) Think about the crash of 2008, if it’s hard to see the rich picking people’s pockets. In general, the statement squares with my intuition of what goes on, and it probably squares with yours, too.

So why does Murray spend a whole book worrying about the moral collapse of the working class? If he’s that worried about the end of Civilization as we know it, shouldn’t he be agonizing over the morals of politicians and hedge fund managers instead of worrying about the wake of a rowboat when it’s in the wake of the Queen Mary?

Addendum: And, what’s more, by “moral collapse” he doesn’t seem to mean beggaring others or getting them killed, he seems to disapprove of their increasing inability to be married. (I say seems because I can’t read his ramblings. I get my information secondhand from Krugman who’s made of sterner stuff than I.)

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If you have to ask, you can’t afford it

Is there one single solitary action flowing from the Campaigner-in-Chief in the White House, just one, which is a plain old good thing? You know, just good. No gotchas. No gimmes. No ha-ha-fooled-ya.

So, one feature of this new health care law which is Obama’s “signature issue” and “major accomplishment,” which is grinding toward implementation at the speed of a globally-warmed glacier, one feature was going to be better information.

At long last, we have the new improved format. Not the information, yet. But the format has been achieved. Woo-hoo!

The rules set the designs for easy-to-understand forms that describe health insurance benefits. The forms are intended to provide the same details on all policies using the same plain-English terms — defined in an accompanying glossary — so consumers can compare policies easily. The law also mandates that the forms give examples of specific coverage, explaining how much a plan pays on average for common medical conditions.

Excellent. What more could one want?

Well …

But the bottom line — a policy’s price — is missing from the requirements issued Thursday because the goal of the health law was coverage and benefits….


Of course. Coverage and benefits have nothing to do with price. Silly me. They’re for people with enough money to make it an irrelevant detail.

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Swarm of flying robots: I want

Continuing my must-have vehicles series … fleets of tiny drones flying in formation in a lab. I think about fifty or so would be just the right amount to fly around the house while I cackle wildly. (But, wouldn’t you know, the first thing everyone says is, “Military applications!”)

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In the must-have vehicles series

There is, at long last, a worthy addition to the field of flying cars, ice sailers, alien electric three-wheelers, dune jumpers, and lawn chairs.

Behold, the sphere chair.

Seat atop a self-balancing sphere that somehow rolls the occupant forward. Not sure how. And what happens when you brake?

Segway, eat your heart out.

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