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“And I said to her: You are aware that I am not really a virginal submissive with bad taste in men?”

[ 213 ] February 5, 2015 |

I have every confidence that 50 Shades of Grey is terrible in both novel and movie form, and I certainly have no intention of finding out for certain. But I am puzzled by an argument that I’ve seen multiple times on the internets this week:

And oh God, there are so many horrific quotes from the stars about how hard it was for them to find any sexual chemistry between one another, as Defamer’s Kelly Conaboy brutally demonstrated in a quote roundup/analysis yesterday. (Personal favorite: female lead Dakota Johnson describing the sex scenes as “not, like, a romantic situation. It’s more, um, like, technical and choreographed, and less — it’s more like a task.“) In politics, this is what they call bad optics.

The thing is, what Johnson is saying is self-evidently true. Eroticism may work on film or it may not work, but whether it does or doesn’t is generally not related to whether there is a genuine sexual chemistry between the actors. In the very likely event that the film fails, it will be because of bad writing and/or acting, not because the actors viewed acting as a job.

The Calm, Rational Legalism Of ACA Troofers

[ 50 ] February 5, 2015 |

Seems about right:

The insurance industry’s decision to urge the Supreme Court not to throw much of the nation’s health care system into chaos, according to a key behind-the-scenes figure in a lawsuit asking the justices to do just that, is similar to Nazi Germany’s campaign of mass murder against Jews, gay people, Romani and other individuals deemed undesirable by the Third Reich.

The comparison between support for the Affordable Care Act and the Holocaust was posted by a conservative law professor and activist named Michael Greve on a libertarian legal blog. Greve, a professor at George Mason University’s law school, previously served as chairman of the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), where he remains a board member. According to CEI’s website, the organization that Greve used to chair is “coordinating and fundingKing v. Burwell, a case currently pending before the Supreme Court that is likely to strip health insurance away from at least 13 million people if it succeeds.

Whether Social Security is more like Stalin’s forced famines or the Cambodian genocide has yet to be determined at press time.

“Hell Exists on Earth? Yes.”

[ 99 ] February 5, 2015 |

I won’t pay $1700 to live in it.

Meet the New Horrible GOP Health Care “Plan”, Same as the Old Horrible GOP Health Care “Plan”

[ 29 ] February 5, 2015 |

Congressional Republicans are claiming to have a plan to replace the ACA. It is, first of all, not a “plan” in the sense that Republicans have the slightest intention of enacting it. The point is to not to make health care policy but to give an excuse for five judges who may be ready to embrace absurd legal arguments to strip millions of people of their health insurance, and perhaps fool a few more gullible rubes into thinking the Republicans actually have an alternative to the ACA.

In addition, this plan is not really “new”; it’s only a very minor variation from last year’s Burr-Hatch-Upton Potemkin proposal. Which means that on the one hand it would ensure many fewer people, and on the other hand involve substantial middle class tax increases and utterly savage attacks on the poor (not only ending the Mediciad expansion but cutting the Mediciad status quo ante.)

Which is why Republicans prefer talking about magic ponies to actually making health care policy.

An Easy Way to Talk about Privilege

[ 111 ] February 5, 2015 |

If you’re like me you can get frustrated when trying to talk about privilege. Because what seems like a fairly simple concept at first–you may derive some advantage in life by simply being white/straight/able-bodied/etc.–gets more complicated and nuanced as you examine it. But one way I’m comfortable talking about is to admit that I am tremendously privileged. I am white. I am fairly able-bodied. (I struggle with–at times debilitating anxiety and mild depression, but most of the time they’re pretty under control.) I don’t have to worry about money. I am conventional-looking. I am straight. All these things provide me with a way to navigate the world that leaves me feeling pretty confident, safe and secure. (I firmly believe this is one of the reasons I am extremely confident about telling people I am not a person of faith.)

I’d like to think of myself as a somewhat accomplished artist. I am especially proud of the fact that I am self-taught. But this is where my tremendous privilege comes in. You see, I married someone who was cool with my being a stay-at-home hausfrau. And while I’ve always had to cook and clean and run errands and take care of (5!) pets, I’ve mostly lead a life that was pretty enviable in many ways. Because I had security…I had time. Time to work on my art. Time to develop my skills. So much time I ruined my back, hunching over my computer and tablet, teaching myself to manipulate and paint. This is a tremendous luxury that most people would not have, because they’d be out in the world, working or attending college (or both)!

But admitting this costs me nothing. I’m still exceptionally proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’m proud that my art will featured on the cover of a sci-fi magazine (I’ll let you know when it drops) and I’ll be featured in an upcoming book on alternative pin-up art (I’ll let you know when it drops). I worked my ASS off to get to where I am. But my exceptional privilege allowed me to have the time to do that (often pleasurable) work. I have no problem telling you this, because I’d be delusional if I didn’t admit to my considerable privilege.

In the end, privilege is not as simple a concept as it appears at first glance. I think privilege is situational. For instance, there are many areas where my privilege would get me nothing. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never been super-confrontational about GamerGate–all the privilege in the world (for me, a woman) won’t save me from a hive of anonymous image board users from harrassing or doxxing me, as evidenced by the horrible treatment of several high-profile women in the gaming world.

But I’ve tried to think of a situation where being white/straight/male wouldn’t be  at least somewhat of an advantage, and I couldn’t think of one. Well, maybe if you’re auditioning for the role of Othello. Nope, probably not even then.

BREAKING! ACA Troofers Complete Hacks

[ 29 ] February 5, 2015 |

In a shocking development, the Wall Street Journal now believes that the Moops invaded Spain, but at the time believed that tax credits would be available in every state, even after it was clear that some states would not establish their own exchanges.

I don’t know, but — hear me out here — I’m beginning to think that the litigants challenging the ACA are not motivated by convictions about statutory construction, but are merely fanatically opposed to the federal government acting to provide more people with health insurance.

I would not have chosen to make this mistake

[ 40 ] February 5, 2015 |

I want to clarify, though, that the often-told story about how I dragged Farley from a burning Humvee before taking out 12 Iraqi snipers during the first Gulf War is totally accurate.

No Snuggling!

[ 48 ] February 4, 2015 |

Who needs to hear advice from 1914 on how young girls can ensure they are not induced into the horrors of *gasp* lesbianism?

Well, probably nobody needs to hear it but I am going to warn you anyway. Because I am concerned about moral purity. I also assigned it to my students to read for tomorrow.

Avoid girls who are too affectionate and demonstrative in their manner of talking and acting with you; who are inclined to admire your figure and breast development; who are inclined to be just a little too familiar in their actions toward you; who are inclined to be rather free and careless in the display of themselves in your presence; who press upon you too earnestly invitations to remain at their homes all night, and to occupy the same bed they do. When sleeping in the same bed with another girl, old or young, avoid “snuggling up” close together. Avoid the touching of sexual parts, including the breasts, and, in fact, I might say avoid contact of any parts of the body at all. Keep your night robe about you so that you are as well protected from outside contact as its size will permit, and let your conversation be of other topics than sexuality. Do not lie in each other’s arms when awake or falling asleep; and, after going to bed, if you are sleeping alone or with others, just bear in mind that beds are sleeping places. When you go to bed, go to sleep just as quickly as you can. If possible, avoid sleeping with anyone else. It is more healthful and sanitary to sleep in a separate bed . . . certain diseases, both those affecting the genital organs and others, are often conveyed through contaminated bed clothes, body contact, the breath, etc. You can see for yourselves, therefore, that separate beds are good for more reasons than one. . . .

Some girls are low enough to accept pay for bringing about the moral ruin of members of their sex; . . . they are to be found everywhere, in the smallest village as well as in the largest town. Girls who have become discontented with their lot are easily influenced by the sweet, honeyed lies of these vile creatures. Beware of strange women, as well as of strange men, who seek to shower favors and other things upon you for no apparent reason except that they are strangely attracted to you. If you do not, you will live to regret it. Thousands of your sex already have, and lie in nameless graves away from home, most likely in a pauper’s burying-ground, because they had become so degraded in name and fact as to be lost to “the old folks at home.”

Whiskey! Democracy! Sexy!

[ 71 ] February 4, 2015 |

You know, I’m beginning to think that razing a state and killing hundreds of thousands of people in the hope that a better state will magically generate itself in place of the old one may not be the best idea:

Islamic State militants are selling abducted Iraqi children at markets as sex slaves, and killing other youth, including by crucifixion or burying them alive, a United Nations watchdog said on Wednesday.

Iraqi boys aged under 18 are increasingly being used by the militant group as suicide bombers, bomb makers, informants or human shields to protect facilities against U.S.-led air strikes, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said.

“We are really deeply concerned at torture and murder of those children, especially those belonging to minorities, but not only from minorities,” committee expert Renate Winter told a news briefing. “The scope of the problem is huge.”

Children from the Yazidi sect or Christian communities, but also Shi’ites and Sunnis, have been victims, she said.

“We have had reports of children, especially children who are mentally challenged, who have been used as suicide bombers, most probably without them even understanding,” Winter told Reuters. “There was a video placed (online) that showed children at a very young age, approximately eight years of age and younger, to be trained already to become child soldiers.”

Future events such as these will affect you in the future

[ 11 ] February 4, 2015 |

criswell

Law schools for the last twenty years have been testing the elasticity of demand for their product. As tuition has increased each year, outpacing even the rate of inflation, law schools have been pressing toward the point where significant numbers of college graduates may decide that it makes good economic sense to seek less expensive forms of graduate education or forgo additional credentials altogether.

Research to date has yielded no firm answer to the question of how elastic the demand for legal education is. Superficial evidence, however, suggests that demand has proven amazingly inelastic with reference to price.

John R. Kramer, “Will Legal Education Remain Affordable, By Whom, And How?” Duke Law Journal

This article, written by the dean of Tulane’s law school, is a good example of how certain critics of the status quo in American legal education are prone to abuse statistical extrapolation to reach absurdly alarmist conclusions, in the pursuit of obscure agendas that deserve further investigation.

Kramer points out that average private law school tuition increased by 60% in real dollar terms between 1974 and 1986, to reach the startling total of $8,230. This is admittedly a massive increase in the real price of law school attendance, but Kramer’s claim (p. 244) that if private law school tuition increases by an average of 7% per year in nominal dollars between 1986 and 2000 it will be more than $21,000 (!) by the turn of the century is absurd on its face.

What Kramer fails to take into account is that the period between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s featured a very unusual combination of social and economic factors, which produced increases in real tuition that are so obviously unsustainable going forward that any extrapolation based on this period is the equivalent of claiming on the basis of similar statistical “reasoning” that two or three decades from now university presidents will be getting paid seven-figure salaries, with, we must suppose, most of the teaching at their institutions being done by the academic equivalent of drastically underpaid temp workers, in order to help fund this hypothetical orgy of administrative compensation.

The problem with this kind of thing is that it has no logical end point: as someone once said, extrapolation is the crack cocaine of the statistically-minded. After all, why does Kramer stop his extrapolation fourteen years into the future? Because 2000 is a nice round number? Why not extend his analysis out another fourteen years, and conclude that, if the extraordinary circumstances that led to a 60% rise in tuition in real dollars since 1974 continue until then, private law school tuition will average, assuming historical rates of inflation, $43,000, and that, if the gap between the average and the highest rates remain constant, some sufficiently audacious school will be charging $60,000 in tuition and fees?

Similarly, Kramer notes that over the last 12 years student-faculty ratios at ABA schools have declined by 17.5%, from 29.5 to 24.2 to 1. Why doesn’t he keep playing the same statistical game, and inform us that, given this trend, that ratio will be 13.5 to 1 fourteen years into the coming century? And who exactly is going to finance this parade of horribles, and how? Is Dean Kramer’s theory that students are going to take on $150,000 in debt to get a law degree, and that the government will simply loan anyone admitted to law school whatever amount of money law schools choose to charge?

In short, to state Kramer’s thesis is to refute it. All this makes one wonder what Kramer’s real agenda must be. In any case, someone should remind Dean Kramer that alarmism in the putative service of fiscal prudence is no virtue.

A Step Forward for Public Health In California

[ 89 ] February 4, 2015 |

As many of you are already aware, California is having something of a public health crisis, due to the fact that the personal belief exemption for vaccination has been used by large numbers of people, mostly affluent, well-educated believers in “natural” child-rearing to drive immunization rates well below herd immunity levels in certain areas. The result has been epidemics of whooping cough, measles, and other totally preventable diseases.

For a couple of months now, I’ve publicly challenged any state legislator in California to put forward a bill eliminating the personal belief exemption. And now someone has:

Read more…

What Happens if the Court Goes ACA Troofer?

[ 93 ] February 4, 2015 |

One thing we do know, some especially gullible moderate Republicans and perhaps pundits notwithstanding, is that Congress isn’t going to do anything. The more interesting question is how this will play out for the GOP. Jamelle Bouie argues that there will be some negative potential consequences:

For an ideological team trying to win, this is smart strategy. But for a political party trying to prove its mettle ahead of the next election, it’s terrible, irresponsible behavior. It’s also self-defeating. Thirty-six states don’t run exchanges and they’re mostly led by Republican governors and statehouses. And of the 5.4 million middle- and working-class people who buy insurance on those exchanges, 87 percent receive subsidies. In other words, even if Congress doesn’t act, Republicans will still be responsible for cleaning up the mess.

This is one reason why some Republicans are beginning to wonder what the party does if the King challengers win. “We’ve got a number of Republican senators who are talking,” says Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “We are talking with Reps. [Paul] Ryan and [Fred] Upton in the House. We want to be responsible about repairing any damage that Obamacare does. If it creates a shock to the system by causing 5 million Americans suddenly to put their insurance and their subsidies at risk, then we need to think if there’s anything we need to do.” Then again, Alexander continues, “Maybe there’s not.”

Maybe there’s not. That, I think, is the nut of the issue. For as much as there’s some Republican concern for the consequences of King vs. Burwell—even as they cheer the challengers—there are many more in the party who don’t care enough to bother with an alternative. All that matters for them is the win. Or, as North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr told Politico (in a voice that sounds flippant on the page), “As far as I’m concerned, if King vs. Burwell is struck down, the White House is the one responsible to say what they’re going to do next. … They’re the ones between a rock and a hard place because this is their plan.”

The last point is important. Even if there is a political risk, this doesn’t mean that Republicans won’t let the exchanges get wrecked. Just as some Demcocrats took a hit for passing the ACA (and were right to do so, because the point of winning elections is to do stuff), Republicans who are opposed to the idea of helping people without medical insurance will be willing to take some political risk to severely damage the ACA, and while their values are repugnant you can’t fault their strategic calculus per se.

That said, I’m not sure how much political risk there will be. At the federal level, I think there will be very little. Obama is likely to take the primary blame for the failure of “Obamacare” no matter who’s really responsible. Perhaps congressional Republicans will take a little hit as they fail to pass what would be an easy fix, but I certainly don’t think it would be enough to threaten their control of the House in 2016.

At the state level, I agree that it’s a little more complicated. It will in most cases be Republican governments that are unwilling to set up exchanges, and this will hurt some middle class people. But I’m still not sure what the political hit will be. Some states are so solidly red that there’s almost nothing Republicans can do to lose. There might be problems in more marginal states, but again this relies on low-information voters to correctly assess blame for a problem that still only affects a minority of voters. I hope I’m wrong, but I think Republicans would be able to stand by and do nothing as a Republicans in black robes wreck the exchanges and largely get away with it.

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