Girls, girls, girls

Big fan of the Lena Dunham’s great HBO show, Girls.  One of the things that really impresses me about Dunham is how comfortable she is with her own sexuality.  Now, it’s an HBO series, so you’re pretty much guaranteed nudity, but I don’t think there’s many young women who would be the writer/producer of a show and frequently feature themselves in various states of disrobing and sexual awkwardess.  Especially if they are clearly far from Hollywood’s anorexic ideal.  Now Dunham is far from fat, but she looks like a pretty typical 20-something woman you’d see in the street.  And that’s almost never the type of 20-something woman you would see mostly naked on HBO.  Basic point– good for her.  Ta-Nehisi Coates addressed almost this point nicely:

What Girls says is “F**k the gaze.” Lena Dunham ain’t really performing for you. She’s saying people like me–which is most of you–like to f**k. And in a real narrative of real life, the people who do most of the f**king don’t actually look like Victoria Secret models. Your expectations for what f**king should look like are irrelevant. Here is how it looks like to the narrator. I kind of love that. In this (perhaps limited) sense, I can understand the “For Us, By Us” acclaim. The show’s disregard for male notions of sex is pretty profound. And it achieves this while still giving us a fairly interesting cast of male characters.  [this is my cleaned up version, because, honestly, there’s just some words I don’t like on my blog]

NC taxes– take from the poor to give to the rich

The wrongheadeness of the Republican Party in NC is truly breathtaking.  Now that they have full control of our government, they can finally implement their evil plans.  (“evil? Evan just asked me while looking over my shoulder.  “Yes, Evan.” )  Like cutting taxes on the rich and raising them on the poor.  Seriously.  It’s that simple:

RALEIGH — Republican lawmakers outlined a proposal Wednesday to revamp the state’s tax system, offering a slew of reforms that would radically shift the tax burden in North Carolina.

The proposal would eliminate personal and corporate income taxes in exchange for higher state sales taxes levied against groceries, medical expenses and other currently tax-free services.

Senate leader Phil Berger said the moves are necessary to modernize the state’s tax code and kick-start a struggling economy. He pointed to the state’s tax rates, saying the current 6.9 percent corporate tax rate and 7.75 percent personal tax rate for the highest earners are among the highest the region.

Now plenty of smart people across the spectrum agree that we should broaden our sales tax base to include services, but I certainly have not heard reasonable people saying we need to get rid of the exemption on the sales tax for food.  That exemption is quite important for preventing the tax from being hugely regressive.  But, the Republicans want to tax poor people for their food while cutting income tax.  Just unreal.  Wral put together a nice video on the impact (sorry, can’t embed).

I think the venality and folly of it largely speaks for itself, that said, friend and reader DC pretty much nailed it on FB (and I’m going to assume it’s alright with him that I copied his status here):

You want to talk about “being competitive with other states”? Lets talk about good schools, modern transportation, and an unspoiled environment. How do we stack up on those lists? Lets talk about a state where our tax burden is shared and where those who have benefited from all this state has to offer, give back their fair share. Lets talk about the people from all over the country ( and world) who relocate here because of world class universities and a culture of making sure we all succeed. Sure, taxes are one piece of that, but it’s not why so many people are drawn here. And do we really want to be attracting folks whose sole criteria for relocation is how little they chip in for shared infrastructure?

Depressing.  Our new governor got broad support by portraying himself as moderate.  Now we’ll see what he’s really made of.

Reality vs. the gun nuts

Of course, you can read about this sort of reaction anywhere and all the time, but it really is staggering just how completely out of touch with reality the ardent “gun rights” crowd is.  The N&O got a response from a local “2nd Amendment” group:

Paul Valone, president of Grass Roots North Carolina, an all-volunteer Second-Amendment advocacy group, said that none of the president’s proposals will help the problem of gun violence and that their real purpose is ultimately to eliminate private gun ownership.

“The proposals they’re advocating have all been tried, and they’ve all failed,” Valone said.

Focusing on “so-called assault weapons,” he said, is just the start, and a ban on those would be followed by bans on other guns, and the confiscations of weapons people already own. The government would achieve that, Valone said, through the use of records created by requiring background checks on all private gun sales, another of the president’s proposals.

“It’s a de facto registration system,” Valone said, “and that’s a necessary prelude to confiscation.

“These proposals must die, and we’ll target any politician who supports them.”

I heard a similar sentiment voiced by an NRA pooh-bah on NPR the other day.  Good lord, these people are just completely out of touch with reality.  For one, it starts with an absurd lie.  These proposals have not all been tried and failed.  True of the assault weapons ban, but absolutely and completely false about universal background checks and more effective enforcement of gun trafficking.  Not to mention, that of course this is not just the first step on the slippery slope to confiscation.  Get a grip already!!  And I suppose my commute home I’m about to make is a necessary prelude to quitting my job as a college professor to become a Nascar driver.  Ugh.

Just how nuts this is

When Jon Stewart is on, he’s on.  Wonderfully shows just how absurd the positions of the gun nuts are regarding the ATF.  The gun crowd always says a variation on “we just need to enforce existing laws.”  Yet, what they have done is written other existing laws which make it absurdly more difficult for the government to actually enforce existing laws.  Stewart’s piece basically epitomizes what is so wrong and crazy about the rabidly pro-gun crowd:

Alternate Seuss titles

OMG this collection of “if Dr. Seuss books were titled according to their subtexts” is absolutely brilliant (via Kottke).  Here’s a couple.  More at the link.

As you may recall, I’m particularly fond of Racists and other stories.

Photo of the day

From N&O days’ best:

Steam rises from the warm waters created by the Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant at Coffey County Lake in Kansas, January 6, 2013. (Michael Pearce/Wichita Eagle/MCT)

Kleiman on the proposals

As my regulars know, when it comes to most all things criminal justice, I defer to Mark Kleiman, so I was anxiously awaiting for him to weigh in on Obama’s proposals.   I feel good to know that he was likewise surprised by the boldness and breadth of Obama’s proposals.  And when it comes to the policy merits, he is mostly pleased:

Instead, the President went wide and big: all of the above, plus a renewed assault weapons ban, stiffer sanctions for gun trafficking, prosecution for ineligible felons who try to buy guns, money to hire extra cops, school security and counselors, and some sort of mental-health agenda.

Still, when Wayne LaPierre says “It’s about banning your guns … PERIOD!” he is obviously Saying The Thing That Is Not. As with the Romney campaign, reporters will have to decide whether to report the falsity of the charge in the same sentence in which they report the charge. Add that to the utterly over-the-top ad targeting Sasha and Malia, and we could finally see the NRA start to lose some of its power.

The same applies to the reflexive Republican accusation that Obama is trying to seize dictatorial power by using his authority as the head of the Executive Branch to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” As far as I can tell, none of the executive actions he announced today gets anywhere near the line.

Substantively, the minimalist agenda had most of the feasible items likely to actually reduce gun violence. (Not clear that a ban on selling new high-capacity magazines would matter much, but it, plus the AWB, provides a nexus to Newtown. Everyone has to wrestle with the fact that the event that put guns back on the political agenda is so atypical that good legislation will mostly be about something else. An Australian-style ban might or might not work, but it’s nowhere near feasible politically.)

My concerns is that by going to bold, Obama may have weakened the chance of anything happening, and as Kleiman points out, the “minimalist” agenda of ” background checks, real penalties for gun trafficking and straw purchasing, high-capacity magazines, tracing, data, research” are actually likely to have a real impact on gun violence.  That said, I presume Obama knows what he’s doing.

If we could actually seriously crack down on straw purchasers and unregulated sales and allow for meaningful gun tracing, we would really be onto something.  Give me that, and you can have your assault weapons.  Will be very interesting to see how this plays out politically.  And let’s not forget, this isn’t just a political game, many of Obama’s proposals will quite literally save lives.  We’ll never know which ones, but lives would undoubtedly be saved.  The only question is how much the “pro-life” party is going to fight against those lives.

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