Two wrongs make… two wrongs

OMG am I so frustrated by all the “liberal” and “feminist” takes on twitter and elsewhere portraying Katie Hill entirely as a victim.  Yes, she is a victim of revenge porn.  Yes, society has massive double-standards regarding the sexual behavior and sexualization of women versus men, but, she had an inappropriate relationship with a staffer.  The former in no way excuses the latter, but from most of what I’ve been reading in liberal redoubts this week, you’d think it does.

This should not be hard.  If you are a liberal and a feminist ask yourself what you would expect of a male member of Congress who had a sexual relationship with a campaign staffer.  Gone.  Yes, the revenge porn sucks, but how does that change the sexual relationship that any good feminist would be demanding that a man be held accountable for.

I hate how much this exemplifies what’s gone wrong with liberal politics these days.  For example, Vox’s Anna North talks extensively about the “media’s” focus on the sexual photos and all her examples are Redstate and Daily Mail.  Those are not exactly NYT and ABC News.

Mike Pesca has been all over the matter this week on the Gist and twitter (this is quite good), and, predictably getting tons of pushback from liberals.  Why should a good liberal like Pesca (or me) be spending time arguing this point instead of attacking unfair sexualization and double-standards?  Because, honestly, piss-poor, cherry-picked reasoning is what I expect from the likes of Kevin McCarthy and Ben Shapiro (I expect far less from DJT), not otherwise thoughtful liberal journalists and pundits.  I want my side to be better.  And a big part of that is admitting that two wrongs = two wrongs.

Great stuff from David Edward Burke:

 If ever there was an opportunity for politicians and pundits to express nuanced opinions about a sex scandal, Katie Hill’s was it. As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” [emphases mine]

We should be able to simultaneously have immense sympathy for Hill as a victim of “revenge porn,” but concede that she made an error in judgment by having arelationship with a campaign staffer, and, allegedly, an affair with one of her Congressional staffers. But in an era when the loudest voices seem to be the most partisan, and the way to gain attention and social media plaudits is with loyalty to your team, the responses to Hill’s resignation revealed hypocrisy from all sides…

But, there is hypocrisy from a subset of Democrats who are driven by identity politics as well. They defend Hill not because she is one of their own, but because Hill’s status as a female victim of cyber exploitation from conservative media apparently outweighs her own culpability for having at least one “power-imbalanced” relationship with a subordinate. While there is a valid argument that Hill is a victim of a criminal invasion of privacy, many of Hill’s defenders focus almost entirely on that aspect of the scandal, as if Hill’s own conduct played no role in her fate. It is especially surprising to see progressives who have previously expressed concern about exploitive boss-employee relationships defend Hill, while ignoring or downplaying the impact Hill’s actions had on her campaign staffer, who in text messages said she was treated “really poorly” and called herself “a mess” due to her relationship with Hill and Helsep.

It is also jarring to see some Democrats treat Hill so differently than they did Al Franken. Kamala Harris, who called for Franken’s resignation before any semblance of due process, said of Hill, “I think there’s no question that she should be given due process, and that she should be respected in this process.” Perhaps Harris’s evolution is proof of a lesson learned, because it is difficult to imagine any fair standard by which Hill deserved due process, while Franken did not.

Another common refrain from progressive writers is that Hill is the victim of an unfair double standard. Even Nancy Pelosi bluntly stated that Hill “has acknowledged errors in judgment that made her continued service as a Member untenable.” But in her final floor speech Hill said the was leaving because of a “double standard” and a “misogynistic culture.” Vox’s Li Zhou wrote that “the penalty [Hill] faced was far more severe than that experienced by many of her male counterparts,” emphasizing Hunter in particular.

Let there be no doubt, women in the public eye are often treated unfairly and differently than men. Double standards and misogyny are all too real. But it is cherry-picking to focus exclusively on Hunter or Trump when our recent history includes many men who have left Congress under similar circumstances to Hill…

If there is a double standard that explains why Hill resigned while Hunter and Trump remain in office, it is not a disparate standard based on gender. Rather, it is based on partisanship. Republicans are simply more willing to tolerate sexual misconduct from party members than Democrats are. As Bill Maher said, when you have a “Magic R” next to your name, “You can get away with pretty much anything.”

Quick hits (part I)

1) Good stuff, as always, from Adam Serwer, bringing in that classic of high school English, “Young Goodman Brown.”

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1835 short story “Young Goodman Brown,” an upright citizen of 17th-century Salem journeys into a New England forest on a dark night and finds himself among fellow Puritans—“faces that would be seen next day at the council board of the province, and others which, Sabbath after Sabbath, looked devoutly heavenward, and benignantly over the crowded pews, from the holiest pulpits in the land”—who are summoning Satan himself to bless their revels…

Hawthorne is appropriate Halloween reading, and especially this year: American society is living through its Goodman Brown moment, a moment when many of the norms we have been taught to admire have been revealed as a shell game for suckers. As Trumpism took hold in the nation in 2015, it was regarded as a kind of temporary madness. But time has revealed that this vulgar spirit is no aberration. It was there all along; the goodly veneer was the lie.

Consider the devolution of Bill Barr, from an “institutionalist” who would protect the Department of Justice to a servant of Donald Trump. Consider the two dozen House Republicans who used physical force to disrupt their own body rather than allow government officials to testify to what they know about President Trump—because to follow the rules of the House, and the strictures of national security, would threaten their party’s grasp on power. Consider the white evangelical leaders who prated to the nation for a generation about character and chastity and “Judeo-Christian morality,” but who now bless Trump as a leader. Consider, if more evidence is needed, the unforgettable moment at the Capitol on September 27, 2018, when Brett Kavanaugh dropped forever the mask of the “independent judge” to stand proudly forth as a partisan figure promising vengeance against his enemies.

The last incident, I think, sums up the horror of what the nation has learned about many of its leaders. It seems likely that Kavanaugh’s self-abasement was not the impulse of a desperate man, but a conscious choice made because, unless he showed himself willing to fight back viciously, he risked losing the support of the president. That choice had the desired effect. Trump embraced Kavanaugh, and used his tirade to move supporters to the polls that November.

This is the point. These are not victims crazed by “polarization” or “partisanship” or “gridlock” but cool-headed political actors who see the chance to win long-sought goals—dictatorial power in the White House, partisan control of the federal bench, an end to legal abortion and the re-subordination of women, destruction of the government’s regulatory apparatus, an end to voting rights that might threaten minority-party control, a return to pre-civil-rights racial norms. The historical moment finds them on a mountaintop; all the kingdoms they have sought are laid out before them, and a voice says, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.”

2) Cool stuff in Wired, “Scientists Now Know How Sleep Cleans Toxins From the Brain.”

When we sleep our brains travel through several phases, from a light slumber to a deep sleep that feels like we’ve fallen unconscious, to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when we’re more likely to have dreams. Lewis’ work looks at non-REM sleep, that deep phase which generally happens earlier in the night and which has already been associated with memory retention. One important 2013 study on mice showed that while the rodents slept, toxins like beta amyloid, which can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, got swept away.

Lewis was curious how those toxins were cleared out and why that process only happened during sleep. She suspected that cerebrospinal fluid, a clear, water-like liquid that flows around the brain, might be involved. But she wasn’t sure what was unique about sleep. So her lab designed a study that measured several different variables at the same time…

What she discovered was that during non-REM sleep, large, slow waves of cerebrospinal fluid were washing over the brain. The EEG readings helped show why. During non-REM sleep, neurons start to synchronize, turning on and off at the same time. “First you would see this electrical wave where all the neurons would go quiet,” says Lewis. Because the neurons had all momentarily stopped firing, they didn’t need as much oxygen. That meant less blood would flow to the brain. But Lewis’s team also observed that cerebrospinal fluid would then rush in, filling in the space left behind.

“It’s a fantastic paper,” says Maiken Nedergaard, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester who led the 2013 study that first described how sleep can clear out toxins in mice. “I don’t think anybody in their wildest fantasy has really shown that the brain’s electrical activity is moving fluid. So that’s really exciting.”

3) Good stuff from Paul Waldman on Warren’s M4A detailed plan:

Elizabeth Warren just released her health-care plan, and I’m going to do something radical. Instead of directing all your attention to the question of how she’ll pay for it, as 99 percent of the coverage is doing, I’m going to focus on what her plan might mean for — get ready — people’s health care.

Don’t get me wrong: The funding is important. But the most important overarching question is what kind of health-care system we want.

Once we’ve decided that, we can figure out the best way to pay for it. Warren’s solution might be good or bad on either point, though what we have right now is really the worst of all possible worlds: A system with horrific problems, costing more than any system in the world, and paid for in ways that are inequitable and unsustainable. Would her plan be better? …

Warren’s plan makes a lot of assumptions, particularly about the multiple streams she plans to use to raise money. And some people will react by saying, “Oh no, there are trade-offs in her plan? Intolerable!”

But there are trade-offs we live with now — some pretty awful ones. Orthopedic surgeons can make $750,000 a year, which is good for Porsche dealerships, but it also means higher premiums for everybody. Hundreds of thousands of people have jobs in the health insurance industry, and insurance companies make billions of dollars in profits; the trade-off is that all of us have to pay for that with our premiums. We have tens of millions of people with no coverage at all. Our current trade-offs are a disaster…

You might think Warren’s plan is a good way to get us there. Or you might think a more incremental plan has a better chance of passing, putting us on the road to that future. Or you might favor something else entirely.

But whatever plan you find most compelling, we should never forget that what we have now is a practical, financial and moral catastrophe. If we decide to change it, we can.

4)  Bernstein on Gabbard:

The good news for them? There’s no reason to worry about her.

To begin with, while there have been two very close elections recently, in 2000 and 2016, most elections aren’t that close and the odds are this one won’t be either. Democrats have been hurt by third-party candidacies before, in particular by Ralph Nader’s Green Party run in 2000, in which he appeared to be deliberately trying to hurt Vice President Al Gore’s chances. But Gabbard is no Ralph Nader. Nader was a famous activist for decades before he ran. He was able to generate an unusual amount of attention for a minor candidate, and Democrats worried with good reason that voters might choose him over Gore. In fact, Nader received 2.7% of the general-election vote, more than twice as much as all the other minor party and independent candidates combined.

But here’s the thing: There will be other names on the ballot whether Gabbard runs or not. And there’s no reason to think that she’d win many votes. More likely, she’ll resemble Cynthia McKinney, a former Democratic representative who ran as the Green Party candidate in 2008 and got fewer than 200,000 votes nationwide. Yes, the similarly obscure Jill Stein wound up with 1.5 million votes in 2016 after getting about a third of that in 2012. What that suggests, though, is that most third-party candidates gain traction not because voters love them, but because they dislike the major-party candidate who they’d otherwise vote for.

This problem will mostly solve itself. Democratic voters really, really, really dislike President Donald Trump. They’re going to be motivated to vote for whoever the party nominates. They’re also going to be far less willing to risk a third-party vote after the 2016 election, just as voters in 2004 abandoned Nader when he ran again.

5) Eric Levitz, “Beto O’Rourke 2020 Has Been Worse Than Useless”

Understandably, many progressives found O’Rourke’s refusal to placate red America on these points refreshing. Surely, no decent society should have millions of AR-15s in circulation. And why should our tax dollars subsidize institutions that promote bigotry in the name of tradition?

I, for one, would certainly favor mandatory buybacks if it were politically and logistically feasible (I’d also love for the state to take just about all the guns, and then disarm the cops while we’re at it). Beto’s support for conditioning the tax-exempt status of religious institutions on whether he approves of their teaching seems substantively bad (and unconstitutional) to me. But if I had my druthers, I’d probably have the state get out of the religion-subsidizing business entirely.

And if Beto had his druthers, he’d be a serious presidential candidate. Which is to say: We can’t always get what we want in this life…

Nevertheless, in an interview on MSNBC Wednesday morning, O’Rourke doubled down on literal confiscation.

This is wildly unproductive. Mandatory buybacks are legislatively impossible, logistically nightmarish, and politically unwise. Elections are won and lost at the margins. There is little-to-no evidence that embracing more ideologically extreme positions spurs higher turnout among unreliable Democratic voters (who tend to be more conservative than reliable ones, especially on social issues). There are a significant number of Americans who oppose Donald Trump but lean right on gun issues. There’s no reason for Democrats to go out of their way to antagonize such voters by embracing relatively unpopular, legislatively nonviable gun reforms. And there is even less reason for O’Rourke to do so. The man is not going to be the Democrats’ 2020 nominee, but he could have used this campaign to fortify his status as a strong candidate for statewide office in Texas. Getting to Elizabeth Warren’s left on firearms probably disqualifies him from that consolation prize. And one can essentially say all these same things about his stance on the tax-exempt status of anti-LGBT churches.

But O’Rourke took his campaign’s malign uselessness to new heights Tuesday night, when he had the temerity to scold Warren for the divisiveness of her wealth tax. After allowing that a levy on the wealth of billionaires might be “part of the solution” to inequality, the man who had just called for siccing big government on Catholic churches and gun owners said the following:

Sometimes I think that Senator Warren is more focused on being punitive and pitting some part of the country against the other instead of lifting people up and making sure that this country comes together around those solutions.

In that moment, it seemed almost plausible that O’Rourke was, in truth, a GOP sleeper agent — or else a Tucker Carlson caricature of elite liberalism come to life. Taxing the wealth of billionaires is popular with a broad, bipartisan majority of Americans. The GOP’s greatest liability with marginal Trump voters is the perception that they’re the party of the superrich and corporations. To the extent that Democrats can make inroads into red America, increasing the salience of popular progressive ideas for equalizing economic power is their best bet for doing so. Warren’s wealth tax represents a step in the direction. By contrast, Beto’s efforts to spotlight relatively unpopular liberal ideas on culture-war issues, while decrying populist rhetoric as punitive and divisise, are music to Republican operatives’ ears.

O’Rourke’s 2018 campaign was a vital contribution to the fight against reactionary rule in the U.S. He deserves some measure of admiration for mounting it. But his presidential bid has accomplished nothing beyond costing his party a promising candidate in the Lone Star State. The longer he drags out this increasingly counterproductive, quixotic crusade, the harder it will be to avoid the question: Members of Beto’s campaign, what the fuck?

6) Drum on William Barr and how secularists are not actually ruining America:

7) This from Claire Cain Miller earlier this year in the Upshot is excellent, “Women Did Everything Right. Then Work Got ‘Greedy.’: How America’s obsession with long hours has widened the gender gap.”  Love this nugget:

Women don’t step back from work because they have rich husbands, she said. They have rich husbands because they step back from work.

8) Good piece from Dan Drezner on how the attack’s on Vindman’s patriotism actually led to reinforcing, rather than breaking, an important norm:

It is truly extraordinary to hear even rabid partisans like Ingraham, Yoo, Kilmeade and Duffy question a decorated war hero’s bona fides because he was an immigrant — and by “extraordinary,” I mean insidious and anti-American. As Jonathan Chait noted:

The Republican position is that there’s no loyalty problem involved in having American foreign policy conducted by an off-the-books lawyer with no security clearance who was apparently on the payroll of the Russian Mafia. The security problem is the NSC official advising an American ally about how to deal with the goons demanding that the ally subvert the independence of its judicial system and insert itself into the American election.

The GOP attack seems particularly malignant given Vindman’s actual backstory..

The story that emerged was that the norm under attack emerged stronger than before.

By midday Tuesday, key members of the GOP’s congressional leadership had pushed back pretty hard against these accusations. Politico’s Burgess Everett and Melanie Zanona reported that “Republicans may quibble with the substance of Vindman’s testimony as they try to protect Trump from the fast-moving impeachment inquiry. But congressional GOP leaders say it’s out of bounds to question Vindman’s patriotism and allegiance to the United States, as some conservative pundits did on Monday night.”…

Still, this is a case in which the attempt to smear someone because they were born somewhere else has actually strengthened and not weakened the norm. In an age in which political courage is in short supply, I’ll take this small victory.

9) Interesting survey finds that about 1/3 of Americans prefer and M4A approach, a 1/3 will take more choice-based universal care, and only 1/3 go for the Republican approach.

10) Good stuff from Paul Waldman on the wildfires:

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” That’s what Ronald Reagan used to say, a summation of his belief that government was not just incompetent but malevolent, a ravenous beast that would steal your money and ruin your life. Or as he put it in his first inaugural address, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Keep that in mind as you consider the fires now spreading over California, particularly one threatened structure that has gotten a good deal of attention:

Hurricane-force gusts and single-digit humidity levels combined Wednesday to spark a number of fires across Southern California, including one here that threatened the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for several morning hours. […]
Ventura County firefighters had several strike teams in place at the Reagan Library, and intensive aerial attacks from helicopters and a DC-10 tanker kept the flames off the hilltop where the building sits. The library’s safety was far from certain, though, during a morning when conditions conspired against hundreds of firefighters on the ground.

Hundreds of firefighters, helicopters, a DC-10 tanker! Funny how when the Reagan Library was threatened, those charged with keeping alive the memory of Reagan’s long career of undermining, degrading and belittling government didn’t call upon the free market’s invisible hand to save them. No, they called the government…

This is a reminder of what Republicans actually think about government, despite what they say about it.

This presidential campaign will be an opportunity to have a real debate not just about whether government should be big or small, but about what it is for and what it should do. The story of the Reagan Library is just one vivid illustration of the fact that conservatives don’t actually object to government per se; they just want to make sure that government helps some people and not others.

11) Speaking of wildfires, Farhad Manjoo on the end of California as we know it:

Probably, because it’s only going to get worse. The fires and the blackouts aren’t like the earthquakes, a natural threat we’ve all chosen to ignore. They are more like California’s other problems, like housing affordability and homelessness and traffic — human-made catastrophes we’ve all chosen to ignore, connected to the larger dysfunction at the heart of our state’s rot: a failure to live sustainably.

Now choking under the smoke of a changing climate, California feels stuck. We are BlackBerry after the iPhone, Blockbuster after Netflix: We’ve got the wrong design, we bet on the wrong technologies, we’ve got the wrong incentives, and we’re saddled with the wrong culture. The founding idea of this place is infinitude — mile after endless mile of cute houses connected by freeways and uninsulated power lines stretching out far into the forested hills. Our whole way of life is built on a series of myths — the myth of endless space, endless fuel, endless water, endless optimism, endless outward reach and endless free parking.

12) Nobel Prize winning economists on how economic incentives are not what we think they are:

Over the last few decades, this faith in the power of economic incentives led policymakers in the United States and elsewhere to focus, often with the best of intentions, on a narrow range of “incentive-compatible” policies.

This is unfortunate, because economists have somehow managed to hide in plain sight an enormously consequential finding from their research: Financial incentives are nowhere near as powerful as they are usually assumed to be.

We see it among the rich. No one seriously believes that salary caps lead top athletes to work less hard in the United States than they do in Europe, where there is no cap. Research shows that when top tax rates go up, tax evasion increases (and people try to move), but the rich don’t work less. The famous Reagan tax cuts did raise taxable income briefly, but only because people changed what they reported to tax authorities; once this was over, the effect disappeared.

We see it among the poor. Notwithstanding talk about “welfare queens,” 40 years of evidence shows that the poor do not stop working when welfare becomes more generous. In the famous negative income tax experiments of the 1970s, participants were guaranteed a minimum income that was taxed away as they earned more, effectively taxing extra earnings at rates ranging from 30 percent to 70 percent, and yet men’s labor hours went down by less than 10 percent. More recently, when members of the Cherokee tribe started getting dividends from the casino on their land, which made them 50 percent richer on average, there was no evidence that they worked less…

Third, we should not be unduly scared of raising taxes to pay for these projects. There is no evidence that it would disrupt the economy. This is, of course, a touchy subject politically: The idea of raising taxes on anyone but the very rich is not popular. So we should start with raising the rates on top income and adding a wealth tax, as many have proposed. The key then would be to link the added revenue to efforts like the ones we describe above, which would serve to slowly restore the legitimacy of the government’s efforts to help those in need. This will take time, but we have to start somewhere — and soon.

13) More interesting research on the connection between population density and political ideology.

14) This was really interesting… Maybe the super-famous Stanford Prison experiment was not actually all it was cracked up to be.

15) Okay, hockey fans, you have to see Andrei Svechnikov’s “lacrosse goal” if you haven’t yet.  I saw it live on TV, but did not fully appreciate it at the time.

16) This is cool.  A college friend of mine and one-time Political Science PhD student who ended up becoming a law professor has written a children’s book that celebrates Native American culture.

17) Ain’t this just the absolute every day Trump story that gets totally ignored.  Vox: “A crucial federal program tracking dangerous diseases is shutting down: Predict, a pandemic preparedness program, thrived under Bush and Obama. Now it’s canceled.”

18) Happy 20th(!!) birthday to my firstborn, who is reading this.  Now down to two teenagers in the house.  Still waiting on three “grown-ups” though ;-).

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