Sexual assault and proportionality

I was trying to think about why I was so uneasy about the whole Al Franken thing and trying to figure out if it was just because he’s a liberal I really like.  But, no, that’s not it.  It’s that, yes, of course, sexual assault and harassment in all it’s forms is wrong, but not all sexual assault is created equal and we sure should not be pretending like it is.  As usual, Drum captured my thoughts pretty well:

There are two problems here. The first is that too many liberals feel that they have to respond in a maximal way to every possible incident of sexual harassment, partly to maintain their own woke credibility and partly because they want to make sure conservatives can’t accuse them of hypocrisy. The second problem is that we don’t seem to have any good way of talking proportionately about this stuff.

All I mean is this: Not all offenses are the same. Shoplifting is not as bad as grand theft. Assault is not as bad as murder. Saying this doesn’t imply approval of either shoplifting or assault; it’s merely a statement of uncontroversial fact. Likewise, not all sexual abuse is equal. Harvey Weinstein’s rap sheet includes dozens of accusations of groping, forced massages, and possibly rape. Louis C.K. masturbated in front of actresses multiple times. Roy Moore routinely chased after high school girls when he was in his 30s and appears to have aggressively assaulted at least two of them…

It’s no whitewash to say that this is a considerably lesser offense. But if the only response we have to any kind of sexual abuse is to insist on resignation from office and expulsion from public life—mostly to protect our own reputations—we are not acting with any sense of proportionality.

Yep.  I wasn’t sure I was going to get around to this post, but after a conversation with my wife this morning, I do feel like that’s what’s missing from the conversation is a sense of proportionality.  Yes, we should condemn all sexual assault and sexual harassment, but we should most definitely not pretend it’s all the same and all deserves a maximally punitive response.

Now, the reality is that our society has been pretty awful on this for… forever.  Part of the correction may be (probably will be) the pendulum swinging too far the other direction some times.  Alas, I do think that’s a necessary cost of finally seriously grappling with this problem.  That said, no reason we can’t actually try and make the pendulum land where it should.

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The Montgomery Burns party

You would be inclined to think that Republican Party was just being cruelly caricatured by Democrats if they did not so thoroughly embrace every worst stereotype of them just looking out for the richest Americans.  It really is kind of amazing.  EJ Dionne:

The GOP bill that should be called the Cut Taxes on President Trump and Other Very Rich People Act of 2017 always had a secondary purpose: to jack up the deficit so Republicans could later cry out in horror, “Look at that awful debt!” They would then use the pools of red ink they created to justify deep cuts in social programs.

But people who call themselves conservative are shoveling out so much money so fast to corporations and the privileged that they needed some health-care cuts upfront — at the expense of coverage for millions of our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

And so on Tuesday, the Senate majority took an appalling bill and made it even more atrocious. To their ungainly concoction of tax breaks for the various interests that support them, they added the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

The GOP bill that should be called the Cut Taxes on President Trump and Other Very Rich People Act of 2017 always had a secondary purpose: to jack up the deficit so Republicans could later cry out in horror, “Look at that awful debt!” They would then use the pools of red ink they created to justify deep cuts in social programs.

But people who call themselves conservative are shoveling out so much money so fast to corporations and the privileged that they needed some health-care cuts upfront — at the expense of coverage for millions of our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

And so on Tuesday, the Senate majority took an appalling bill and made it even more atrocious. To their ungainly concoction of tax breaks for the various interests that support them, they added the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

Forget about rhetoric.  When it comes to putting the priorities into legislation the Republicans are crystal clear what they are about.  Tax cuts for rich people.  Period.

Image result for montgomery burns

Photo of the day

Click on the link to see this big.  Still pretty cool small.  Milky Way from New Zealand:

The infallible Donald Trump

This Politico article on PA Trump supporter who see him as god-like and incapable of doing any wrong is pretty amazing.  Well worth reading in full.  That said:

What I heard from Schilling is overwhelmingly what I heard in my follow-up conversations with people here who I talked to last year as well. Over the course of three rainy, dreary days last week, I revisited and shook hands with the president’s base—that thirtysomething percent of the electorate who resolutely approve of the job he is doing, the segment of voters who share his view that the Russia investigation is a “witch hunt” that “has nothing to do with him,” and who applaud his judicial nominees and his determination to gut the federal regulatory apparatus. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how readily these same people had abandoned the contract he had made with them. Their satisfaction with Trump now seems untethered to the things they once said mattered to them the most.

I don’t know that he has done a lot to help,” Frear told me. Last year, she said she wouldn’t vote for him again if he didn’t do what he said he was going to do. Last week, she matter-of-factly stated that she would. “Support Trump? Sure,” she said. “I like him.” …

I asked Schilling what would happen if the next three years go the way the past one has.

“I’m not going to blame him,” Schilling said. “Absolutely not.”

Is there anything that could change her mind about Trump?

“Nope,” she said.

It’s almost as if something else, not economic discontent and anxiety as at the core of support for Trump.  But what could it be?

His supporters here, it turns out, are energized by his bombast and his animus more than any actual accomplishments. For them, it’s evidently not what he’s doing so much as it is the people he’s fighting. Trump is simply and unceasingly angry on their behalf, battling the people who vex them the worst—“obstructionist” Democrats, uncooperative establishment Republicans, the media, Black Lives Matter protesters and NFL players (boy oh boy do they hate kneeling NFL players) whom they see as ungrateful, disrespectful millionaires…

“You’re not a fan of equality?” I asked.

“For people who deserve it and earn it,” he said. “All my ancestors, Italian, 100 percent Italian, the Irish, Germans, Polish, whatever—they all came over here, settled in places like this, they worked hard and they earned the respect. They earned the success that they got. Some people don’t want to do that. They just want it handed to them.”

“Like NFL players?” I said.

“Well,” Del Signore responded, “I hate to say what the majority of them are …” He stopped himself short of what I thought he was about to say.

Schilling and her husband, however, did not restrain themselves.

“The thing that irritates me to no end is this NFL shit,” Schilling told me in her living room. “I’m about ready to go over the top with this shit. We do not watch no NFL now.” They’re Dallas Cowboys fans. “We banned ’em. We don’t watch it.”

Schilling looked at her husband, Dave McCabe, who’s 67 and a retired high school basketball coach. She nodded at me. “Tell him,” she said to McCabe, “what you said the NFL is …”

McCabe looked momentarily wary. He laughed a little. “I don’t remember saying that,” he said unconvincingly.

Schilling was having none of it. “You’re the one that told me, liar,” she said.

She looked at me.

The NFL?

“Niggers for life,” Schilling said.

“For life,” McCabe added.

‘Nuff said.

The case for voting for Roy Moore

Seriously.  And, in another case of a favorite writer making the very case that I did with my class yesterday, Chait makes the case for Republicans sticking for Roy Moore.

Republicans have begun to nervously edge away from their party’s nominee for Alabama senator. Not all have abandoned him, though. Alabama Republican and member of Congress Mo Brooks provides an especially forthright version of the case for sticking with Moore. “Who will vote in America’s best interests on Supreme Court justices, deficit and debt, economic growth, border security, national defense, and the like?” he asks, “Socialist Democrat Doug Jones will vote wrong. Roy Moore will vote right. Hence, I will vote for Roy Moore.”

Put aside the absurd labeling of Jones as a “socialist,” as well as the fact that I don’t personally share any of Brooks and Moore’s policy goals. Isn’t this logic actually pretty compelling? As horrific as Moore’s personal character may be, why should his abuse of a small number of people matter more than decisions affecting 300 million people?…

Still, the motivation is understandable. In the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats need to gain three Senate seats to control the majority. Two of them, in Nevada and Arizona, lie within easy reach. The third seat would require a huge upset in deep red territory. If Democrats win a seat in Alabama, then a Democratic Senate in 2019 grows vastly more likely…

It’s easy to feel superior about this when opposition to grotesque treatment of teenage girls lines up neatly with your own party’s well-being. If you’re a liberal, ask yourself what you would do if the circumstances were reversed. Give the other party a Senate seat and a possible majority, and forfeit your control of staffing the Cabinet, appointing judges, and passing laws you consider vital for the country’s future? Or allow one of the votes for those things to be cast by a sexual predator?

Yep, yep, yep.  I would fervently hope my party would find a way to replace the sexual predator in this scenario (i.e., Luther Strange write-in campaign), but absent that, would I really want to vote for a Republican if I thought control of the Supreme Court and the fate of the ACA was at stake?  It today’s super-polarized world, even most Senators are little more than cogs in a Republican machine (McCain, Collins, Murkowski notably otherwise).  Moore would 95 out of 100 times just be another cog.  Does it really matter what the cog has done?  Maybe it does and we need to set some clear lines– no being a sexual predator!– but I think there’s very much a case for accepting that even a Senator is just a cog and that you are voting for a party, not an individual.  And for the record, the President, is no cog.

Roy Moore was always  unqualified

so loved this from Dahlia Lithwick because it’s so important and so overlooked.  Not to mention, I made this very argument to my class yesterday:

But the idea that it might be the alleged molesting of multiple teenage girls and women that could prove disqualifying for Moore, rather than his decadeslong contempt for the law, the courts, and the Constitution, tells us how very far we have strayed from our legal moorings at this moment in history.

Roy Moore has long been the Joe Arpaio of the state judicial branch. He is revered not for his compliance with the rule of law, but for his long-standing performance of figurative—and literal—contempt for any legal ruling or norm with which he disagrees. [emphases mine] Like Arpaio, he has been repeatedly disciplined for acts of contempt towards the courts over the years. And yet this behavior was rewarded with a Republican nomination for a Senate seat that has been a virtual lock for the party…

Brazen, unapologetic contempt for the rule of law is not often a trait associated with judges, much less justices. Yet, this has long been Moore’s calling card and a rallying cry for his loyal supporters. Moore’s patent defiance of the most fundamental tenets of American law should have disqualified him from public office years ago. The opposite has happened: He has been unerringly rewarded for it. We are talking about Moore’s alleged abuse because it represents depraved criminality. But his open lawlessness has been on display for decades.

I guess it’s good to know that there are some lines.  And, sure, I’m glad many Republicans won’t tolerate Moore’s horrible and criminal behavior.  But, damn it I wish they actually cared about the rule of law.  Moore has built his career on flouting it.  He at least denies sexually abusing teen girls.  So, yeah, I’m glad that it makes it much less likely Moore becomes a senator, but, damn, it would be nice if such obvious, blatant, transparent disregard for rule of law actually meant something, too.

The reality of free speech

Pretty nice feature from Cato on Free Speech and tolerance for different opinions.  Some of the key charts:

 

Yes, some pretty disturbing stuff there.  But, ugh, this one:

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