A war on sex?

The truth is, when you look past abortion to the anti-contraception sentiments of many Republicans, it really is hard not to conclude that Republicans really just don’t want women having casual sex.  Amanda Marcotte:

Despite all the hand-waving about fetal tissue, Tuesday’s hearings were a confirmation that the attacks on Planned Parenthood are a proxy for the largerreligious-right movement to reverse the sexual revolution brought to Americans by feminism and reliable contraception. Recreational sex, however, continues to be wildly popular among the public. Deluging people with bloody fetus pictures isn’t dissuading them from their enthusiasm for affordable contraception that makes stress-free recreational sex possible.

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How to lie with statistics: pro-life version

Take a look at the numbers in this chart (provided in a great Vox post breaking it down):

Wow.  There’s lying with numbers and there’s really lying with numbers.  Here’s what the chart should actually look like:

abortion_chart1

And two charts is enough, but suffice it to say other non-cancer screening services went up considerably.

So it’s not true, as the chart implies, that Planned Parenthood has been performing more abortions while drastically cutting back the provision of other services. The overall number of non-abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood barely changed at all, going from 10.29 million in 2006 to 10.26 million in 2013.

That’s a lot of services to take away from people to (probably not even) prevent 300,000 abortions.

Photo of the day

From Telegraph’s animal photos of the week:

A swan enjoys the early morning light at Golden Acre park in Leeds on the first day of astronomical Autumn which happens with the Equinox of September the 22/23

A swan enjoys the early morning light at Golden Acre park in Leeds on the first day of astronomical Autumn which happens with the Equinox of September the 22/23Picture: LNP

Can we blame the media for Donald Trump?

John Sides says yes.  Here’s the key chart from his latest post:

The correlation between those lines is 0.93 (the maximum possible is 1.0).

So why is Trump’s coverage declining? At least partially responsible is a series of events that have brought other candidates into the spotlight. For example, Fiorina’s share jumped on Sept. 10 when Trump criticized her appearance, and again after the Sept. 16 debate. Rick Perry’s and Scott Walker’s shares jumped when they each dropped out of the race. Carson’s share of coverage increased after his controversial remarks about Muslims. Rubio’s share of coverage shot up when he took on Trump

Just as news coverage helped create Trump’s surge in the polls, it appears to be helping create his decline. We’ll see if that continues.

I hope not!  Donald Trump is too much fun.

Donald Trump really does want to be president

How do I know?  Because after all sorts of populist rhetoric on taxes he’s come out with a tax plan, that dare I say, out-Trumps, other Republican tax plans.  That is, it is based even more on unicorns and rainbows than your typical Republican tax plan.  Poor hedge fund managers have to be the rich fall guys and pay some more tax, whereas pretty much all the other rich guys get a huge tax cut.  And the deficit?  Well, that explodes.  I really like Catherine Rampell’s take: Trump as Santa Claus:

The Two Santa Claus Theory was coined by Republican strategist Jude Wanniski in 1976. He argued that if Democrats were going to offer generous spending programs — that is, anoint themselves the “Santa Claus” of spending — Republicans needed to proffer their own gifts as well. Republican insistence on deficit-conscious spending reductions certainly seemed Scrooge-like, after all, and was turning off voters. Wanniski proposed that the GOP boost its popularity by becoming the “Santa Claus of Tax Reduction.”

Trump has taken the Two Santa Claus Theory a step further. For a man who so unabashedly celebrates his own greed, he is proving himself quite generous to the general public (with other people’s money, of course). Rather than choosing between spending and tax cuts, he’s giving voters pretty much everything they want, price tags and deficits be damned.

Take the tax plan he announced Monday. It’s gonna be the greatest, most un-loser-like tax giveaway, ever. Especially if you’re rich…

Trump’s giant tax cuts look a lot like Jeb Bush’s previously announced, wealthy-tilted plan, except with even lower rates. Trump promises to reduce personal income-tax rates across the board, cutting the top marginal rate to just 25 percent from the current 39.6 percent. Trump would cut the top capital gains rate to 20 percent, from today’s 23.8 percent.

He would also reduce corporate taxes to 15 percent from their top current statutory rate of 35 percent and eliminate the estate tax.

Trump’s oft-repeated (but false) claim that he’d raise taxes on the wealthy seems based solely on his willingness to close the carried interest loophole

While denigrating Obamacare’s largesse, he has also promised more generous health care, among other goodies.

“I am going to take care of everybody,” he said on “60 Minutes,” …

So how does Trump reconcile his giveaways on both sides of the fiscal ledger with his party’s alleged commitment to fiscal conservatism? Oddly, he’s not citing the usual supply-sider nonsense that tax cuts magically increase tax revenue. Instead, Trump just promises he’ll get us a really good deal — typically by getting someone else to pay for it. Maybe it’s Mexico, maybe China; either way, someone else. How he’ll strong-arm these sovereign nations into paying our bills, he doesn’t quite bother explaining.

But no matter. Merry Christmas, everyone!

And Danny Vinik.  After a nice run-through of the various numbers, the conclusion:

Add it all up and you have—approximately—$4-5 trillion in tax cuts with less than $2 trillion in new revenue. The total cost? $2-3 trillion. That’s an enormous gap.

Even if you use “dynamic scoring”—taking into account that lower taxes are likely to boost economic growth and thus bring in additional revenue—it’s impossible to see how this plan would break even.

Who would be the winners of the Trump tax plan? The rich. [emphasis mine]

And Jordan Weissman:

On Monday, a left-leaning think tank analyzed Donald Trump’s new tax plan and found it would cost roughly $10.8 trillion over a decade, more or less cratering the government’s finances into fiery rubble while largely benefiting the rich. That estimate, however, did not account for any salubrious effects the proposal might have on economic growth. What happens when you do?

Today, the conservative Tax Foundation offered an answer.Without factoring in growth, it found that Trump’s plan would actually add $11.98 trillion to the 10-year deficit. Once the boost to growth that would result from slashing taxes is factored in, it would only cost $10.14 trillion … more or less cratering the government’s finances into fiery rubble

Theoretically, this should be problematic for Trump, who claims his proposal wouldn’t add to the debt or deficit. But the funny thing is, I actually think he’ll run with this. Because his cuts are so, so huge, the Tax Foundation—which has great faith in the ability of tax reductions to spur the economy—says the plan will create 5.3 million extra jobs over 10 years. Jeb Bush’s own deficit-ballooning tax proposal—which Trump seems to have more or less grabbed, then doctored a bit by slashing rates further—would add a mere 2.7 million jobs, according to the think tank’s math. Marco Rubio’s preferred tax cuts, which once seemed completely laughable in their own right but appear almost quaint compared with the Donald’s, would add just 2.6 million. Thus, Trump can get on stage (or heck, run a TV ad) and brag that an established right-leaning think tank believes his tax policy proposals will create twice as many jobs as his competitors’.

So, there’s plenty of serious analyses showing that Trump’s plan is a fantasy and a joke.  The important question is how will the political journalists cover this?  As the joke embarrassment as it is or just one more Republican tax plan.  I fear the latter, but the reality is certainly the former.

Just how much sexual assault on campus

As always, disclaimer: sexual assault on campus is a real problem and we should certainly do all we can within reason to minimize it.  Of course, “within reason” does not include violating all standards of due process for the accused or using wildly inflated statistics to make a point.  I meant to write about the latest study responsible for plenty more “1 in 5 college women are raped” etc., headlines.  Of course, that’s not what the study showed.  Of course, nobody wants to be kissed against their will either, but only one of these things is actually a felony.

Anyway, since I never did write anything critiquing the survey, my procrastination has paid off as the Post recently published a really interesting critique from Brookings scholar and National Journal senior editor, Stuart Taylor  (i.e., this is no anti-feminist with an ax to grind).  Here’s some of the more compelling points that are left out of most discussions of the issue:

Below are three ways in which the 288-page AAU survey report is grossly misleading, as are others like it and the credulous media coverage of them all.

First, the extraordinarily low response rate of students asked to participate in the AAU survey — 19.3 percent — virtually guaranteed a vast exaggeration of the number of campus sexual assaults.

Even the AAU acknowledged that the 150,000 students who responded to the electronic questionnaire were more likely to be victims of sexual assault than the 650,000 who ignored it because “non-victims may have been less likely to participate.”

Start with the fact that 60 percent of the 150,000 students who responded were female, even though half of all students at the surveyed schools were male. Then ask yourself whether you would be more likely to take the time to respond to such a survey if you were a sexual assault victim or if you were not.

Yep.  Huge potential problem with non-response bias.  There is every reasonable reason to believe that those who did respond to the survey are systematically different than those that did not.  I find this next bit particular damning (all emphases in original):

These tables indicate that about 2.2 percent of female respondents said they had reported to their schools that they had been penetrated without consent (including rape) since entering college. If extrapolated to the roughly 10 million female college student population nationwide, this  would come to about 220,000 student reports to universities alleging forced sex over (to be conservative) five years, or about 44,000 reports per year.

But this would be almost nine times the total number of students (just over 5,000) who reported sexual assaults of any kind to their universities in 2013, the most recent data available, according to the reports that universities must submit to the federal government under the Clery Act.

Some other issues:

Worse, the AAU also tallied as victims all respondents who said yes when asked whether anyone had sexually touched them “without your active, ongoing voluntary agreement” — for example, attempting more intimate contact “while you were still deciding.”

No criminal law in America requires such “affirmative consent” to make sex lawful, although some (not all) universities have recently moved in that direction…

Third, a red flag should go up for any reporter or other reader who notices the AAU’s acknowledgment that — for the vast majorities of poll respondents who said they had not reported to campus authorities the events that the AAU classified as sexual assaults — “the dominant reason was it was not considered serious enough,” (emphasis added)…

More astonishing still, 75 percent of respondents who told researchers that they had been “penetrated using physical force” said they had never reported this to authorities — and 58.6 percent of that 75 percent said they “did not consider it serious enough” to report. [emphasis mine]

This most plausible explanation is that most of those classified by the survey as “victims” of sexual assault or rape did not really think that they had been sexually assaulted.

Wow.  Quite the critique.  And again, sexual assault on campus (and not on campus) is a real problem that we should definitely work to reduce.  But scaring people and influencing policy with super-dubious statistics is never a good thing.

(Also, a great take from Emily Yoffe).

Christianity and politics

To recent pieces on the topic that I really enjoyed.  First, non-Christian Fareed Zakaria seems to get the essence of Christianity far better than those on the religious right:

When I came to the United States in the 1980s, I remember being surprised to see what “Christian values” had come to mean in American culture and politics — heated debates over abortion, abstinence, contraception and gays. In 13 years of reading, reciting and studying the Bible, I didn’t recall seeing much about these topics…

That’s because there is very little in there about them. As Garry Wills points out in his perceptive new book, “The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis,” “Many of the most prominent and contested stands taken by Catholic authorities (most of them dealing with sex) have nothing to do with the Gospel.” …

If you want to understand the main message of Jesus Christ, you don’t have to search the Scriptures. He says it again and again. “Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.” [emphasis mine]

Jesus has specific advice on how to handle the poor. Treat them as you would Christ himself, sell your possessions and give to the poor. When you hold a banquet, Jesus says, do not invite the wealthy and powerful, because you do so in the hope that they will return the favor and reward you. Instead, invite the dispossessed — and you will be rewarded by God. It is because he expects so much from the rich that he said that it was easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven.

We live in a meritocratic age and believe that people who are successful are more admirable in some way than the rest of us. But the Bible notes that “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise . . . but time and chance happeneth to them all.” In the Kingdom of Heaven, it warns, “the last shall be first, and the first last.” In other words, be thankful for your success, but don’t think it makes you superior in any deep sense…

He [Pope Francis] is simply reminding each of us that we have a moral obligation to be kind and generous to the poor and disadvantaged — especially if we have been fortunate. If you have a problem with this message, you have a problem not with Pope Francis, but with Jesus Christ.

Meanwhile, last week I really enjoyed Gregg Easterbrook’s smackdown of Kim Davis’ (Kentucky anti-homosexual clerk) Old Testament brand of Christianity:

But here’s the thing. Christian theology says the New Testament amends the Old: what happened in the days of the apostles amends what came long before. Acts 13:39: “By this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” (Acts is the founding text of Pentecostalism.) Jesus overturned existing law about sin, the Sabbath, the afterlife and many other matters. His ministry proclaimed “a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” (II Corinthians 3:6.) “Letter” in this context means archaic law—that is, the law Davis, Cruz, and Huckabee want applied today.

When conservative Christians justify opposition to gay relations by citing ancient scripture, by the most amazing coincidence they don’t mention the other stuff there. The ancient passages that denounce same-sex relations also denounce eating shellfish and trimming one’s beard. The Christian who says God forbids homosexuality – then shaves before going out for dinner at Red Lobster – is speaking from both sides of his mouth.

In Leviticus, the Old Testament book that calls homosexuality an abomination, God not only sanctions but encourages slavery. Leviticus 25:44–46 , spells out rules for seizing, holding, and selling slaves. And there’s no estate tax: slaves may be kept “as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property.” In Deuteronomy 21:18–21, near the passages on the abomination of same-sex relations, ancient scripture directs that a disobedient child be taken by his parents to the city gate and stoned to death.

If banning homosexuality is “God’s authority” to a modern Christian, ritual murder of children ought to be as well. So why don’t today’s Judeo-Christians believe in slavery and filicide? …

Republican candidates thumping their chests about how admirably Christian they are skip the fact that Christ banned exactly such puffery. (Matthew 6:1 reads, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”)…

In the eight hundred thousand words of the Bible, one can find a verse to support just about anything. Even so, it’s disturbing that contemporary Christian conservatives lash out against homosexuality by calling on ancient divine pronouncements of anger, rather than upon the serene divinity who offered the world unconditional forgiveness.

Voicing the thoughts of the serene God in John 15:12, Jesus summed up Christian theology in one sentence: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Once, God was full of anger; ultimately, the Maker cared solely about love. Why don’t today’s Christian conservatives understand that the second part amends the first part? [emphasis mine]

Good points throughout both.  I really like Easterbrook’s point that you can find a bible verse to justify almost anything.  That said, it is abundantly clear that Jesus’ central message was on love of others, especially the poor and downtrodden.  Its a shame that this message seems to be at the periphery of so many Christians take on how their religion meets politics.

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