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More on zero tolerance

A few days ago I wrote about my fear that the Democrats would adopt a zero tolerance position regarding allegation of sexual impropriety. Not surprisingly, some have:

As calls for Senator Franken’s resignation rose yesterday, there was talk about the need for zero tolerance of sexual misconduct. For example, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) tweeted: “We must commit to zero tolerance—which is where I believe we as a country and Congress should be—and that means Senator Franken should step down.”

This sort of extreme view seems to have become almost settled wisdom among Democrats in DC, but if my own observations are any guide, it is not so widely shared outside the DC bubble. Opinions were almost unanimous, and most strongly voiced by some of the women at our recent Drinking Liberally group, that Franken should not have resigned.

It does appear that people not totally immersed in the bubble are beginning to see that a bit of nuance, and, at times, cold political calculation, are necessary, particularly in the political clime in which we now find ourselves. Nancy LeTourneau, the blogger whose post I linked to above, went on to make an observation similar to that I made in my post:

The arena in which I am most familiar with the use of zero tolerance is schools. It began as a slogan over 20 years ago to suggest that schools should draw a clear line about what was unacceptable behavior and administer harsh consequences to any student who crossed it. The entire effort was a huge failure that became the feeder for the school-to-prison pipeline. Here is an ABC News report on zero tolerance that aired back in 2003.

At this point, a lot of people (especially politicians) are trying to position themselves as “tough” on this issue by gravitating to simplistic responses like zero tolerance. Those of us who are actually interested in real change need to speak up on behalf of responses that help all of us grapple with a difficult issue and set the stage for some common understanding of a complex problem. We shouldn’t settle for anything less.

It should be noted here that already Republicans are taking advantage of the Democratic zero tolerance push. The Republican governor of Michigan has put off a special election to fill John Conyers position, thus depriving his consitituents (mostly black, so who cares, right?) of representation for almost a year, while, the Democratic governor of Minnesota has done what all Democrats seem to do:

Now Gov. Mark Dayton is throwing a wrench in the works by evidently appointing a caretaker on the condition she not seek to keep the seat, which opens the seat up to the real possibility of Republican capture in 2018 (maybe by Norm Coleman, the Republican Franken defeated in 2008). I wonder how many Senate Democrats calling for Franken’s head would have thought twice if they’d known Dayton was going to pull that boneheaded move, instead of appointing a younger star like state Attorney General Lori Swanson who could build a real Senate career.

As the post above goes on to point out, there’s something not quite right about demands that people resign without any form of due process. Democrats were unwilling to let the ethics process play out, and, if Heitkamp’s statement is any guide, will be unwilling to do so in the future. So, someone like Franken, who acknowledges wrongdoing, the seriousness of which is not yet really known, must go, while politicians who simply deny, deny, deny, get to stay. This, of course, yet again favors the Republicans.

The national Democrats act as if they have Senate seats to spare, and can easily throw a few away in service to a zero tolerance policy that make no real sense. I suspect with good cause that their constituents don’t see it in such black and white terms, but the beltway bubble is a real cultural phenomenon. A lot of us are more concerned about the fact that by throwing Franken under the bus, the Democrats may have destroyed any chance we have to prevent a Trumpian takeover of the Supreme Court. Our always marginal chances of taking over the Senate have not been enhanced by this move and that’s the point most of the Liberal Drinkers, male and female alike, were ranting about at our recent gathering. The future of the planet is at risk. We really have to think twice about imposing purity tests on our own, when we have no capacity to impose like standards on the Nazis who currently control our government.

David Brooks is an asshole (but you knew that)

I believe I have paid tribute to driftglass before, but I must do so again. He reads and deconstructs David Brooks so that I don’t have to.

I normally don’t even glance at Brooks’ column, but this morning some evil spirit possessed me and I perused the first few paragraph, in which I read this:

Five years ago, Charlie Craig and David Mullins walked into a bakery in a strip mall in Lakewood, Colo., to ask about a cake for their wedding. The baker, Jack Phillips, replied: “I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, cookies, brownies. I just can’t make a cake for a same-sex wedding.”

As Adam Liptak of The Times reported, Phillips is a Christian and believes that the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman. Phillips is not trying to restrict gay marriage or gay rights; he’s simply asking not to be forced to take part.

Craig and Mullins were understandably upset. As Mullins told Liptak, “We were mortified and just felt degraded.” Nobody likes to be refused service just because of who they essentially are. In a just society people are not discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.

At this point, Craig and Mullins had two possible courses of action, the neighborly and the legal.

At that point I did two things. I calmly and without raising my voice one tiny bit (do not try to confirm this characterization of my actions with my wife) pointed out to my wife that David Brooks is a fucking asshole. I then thought to myself: “I need not trouble to go further, as I can wait until later today and let driftglass do my spewing for me”.

He has come through admirably.

By the way, did I mention that David Brooks is a fucking asshole?

Gosh, whatever happened to States right?

Men and women of principle:

The garbage fire in the White House may have his hands full stumping for a Republican child molester this week, but never doubt the rest of his party’s willingness to stump for the nation’s mass murderers.

Republicans lined up a vote this week in the House on making it easier for gun owners to legally carry concealed weapons across state lines, the first gun-related legislation since mass shootings in Nevada and Texas killed more than 80 people.
The bill is a top priority of the National Rifle Association, which calls it an important step to expand the right of gun owners to travel freely between states without worrying about conflicting state laws or civil suits.

Ask them and they’ll all tell you they are fervent believers in state’s rights, so long, as it turns out, that those rights are used to enrich the rich, destroy the environment, or oppress the oppressed, among other noble goals. Try to improve people’s lives and suddenly they’re all for the Feds stepping in.

More ranting about Democratic messaging

I just want to pass on this post from Crooks & Liars. It features a clip of Orrin Hatch condemning the folks who are draining the government fisc be dependence on government benefits, thus making renewal of the CHIP program, so hard, after he voted to give people who inherit from daddy or mommy billions of extra unearned dollars:

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-naturally) of Utah has been flirting with the idea of retiring, so perhaps it’s that “nothing left to lose” attitude that lets him go on the Senate floor and bemoan the millions and millions of freeloaders (buying into liberal philosophy) that drain the federal treasury so that it’s difficult to keep good programs like CHIP running.

Read the whole thing, but for me the important thing is the obvious point, made by the C&L blogger, that this sort of thing is fodder for exploitation come the fall, if only the Democrats would have the sense to use it:

If the Dems were smart, they’d make ads of this clip interspersed with pictures of Americans struggling while Jared and Ivanka go on yet another ski trip and Don Jr. and Eric go hunting wild game and run them continuously between now and 2018.

The post links to articles documenting the millions it is costing us to support our new royal family. It couldn’t be hard to put together an effective advertising campaign around all this. Why do I find it so hard to believe the Democrats can pull it off?

Hello, Fellow Peasants

It now looks like only a miracle will prevent the passage of the Transfer the Money from the Masses to the Aristocrats tax deform bill. That miracle is not likely to happen, so I think it’s safe to say that we can declare today to be the official beginning of the American plutocracy, which perhaps will become a national holiday someday. Wait, take that back. Our overlords aren’t about to create any more holidays, since they’ll want to keep us working, since they’ll only have to pay us enough to keep us in bread and water.

There are some on the left who are sure this will lead to electoral victory for the Democrats in 2018 and beyond, but such people have too little or too much faith in the Democrats, depending on how you look at it. I have faith that the Democrats can snatch defeat not just from the jaws of victory, but from its very gullet. The Democrats have not, at least since the days of Reagan, been able to come together behind a coherent and effective message to sell their party to the American people. We see right now that instead of a concentrated attack on the Republican effort to destroy the middle class, the Democrats are falling all over themselves to insist that some of their number resign over sexual harassment allegations. Whatever the proper response might be to any individual case, that is not what the Democrats should be talking about at the moment. We will probably gain seats next November, but our uninspiring message and our Wall Street friendly DCCC recruited candidates will leave many discouraged and homebound.

So, time to learn how to tug at our forelocks, whatever in hell a forelock is.

A foolish consistency

Over the past few weeks the nation has engaged in a rather heated conversation about sexual harassment. Republicans have been their usual hypocritical selves. Many liberals, meanwhile, have bent over backward to avoid the charge of hypocrisy have embraced what I submit is a foolish consistency. The urge to consistency requires two things. First, we must believe any woman who steps forward with a claim that she has been harassed, and second, any man who has engaged in any form of conduct that can be characterized as sexual harassment must be tossed aside. If he holds a public office, he must resign. If he is an entertainer, he must never get another job.

The end result of all this may be more of what we’ve seen in the past. Republicans get a pass (think, David Vitter), while Democrats are banned from public life (think Eliot Spitzer). We can also see a variant of this coming with the information leaking out about Congressional settlements of workplace harassment claims; so far it’s two Democrats to zero Republicans, and you can almost bet that we’ll hear nothing about any Republicans while getting a steady drip of Democrats.

I’m not saying avoiding hypocrisy is unimportant, but I do think that it’s also important to have a sense of perspective and that we consider the context in each individual case. Adopting a zero tolerance policy is not necessarily the way to go. I recall, when I was on the school board, being put in the position of expelling a little kid who brought a tiny little knife to school in violation of such a policy. It seemed a bit much.

It is certainly the case that we should not reflexively accuse the accusers of lying. On the other hand, we live in a politically charged moment. It seemed odd, to me, that the first we heard of the Franken charges was a tweet from Roger Stone before the woman herself came forward. In addition, she also works for Sinclair broadcasting, and was herself filmed grabbing a guy’s butt during the rehearsal in which Franken allegedly harassed her. That doesn’t mean he didn’t do something he shouldn’t have done, but it suggests that the context is such that the political death penalty is not necessarily in order. I understand we’ve just seen a reverse example; a woman went to the Washington Post with a made up story that she had been harrassed by Roy Moore in order to set the newspaper up. In a perverse way, the woman, who was working with James O’Keefe, has buttressed the stories of the actual victims, because the Post exposed her. So, going forward, it is not the case that we must believe every accuser; though we should certainly not dismiss them out of hand, nor should we engage in attempts to blacken their reputation unless and until evidence comes out to justify it, as in the situation at the Post.

It is not hypocritical to fail to call for the resignation of every politician accused or guilty of some sort of sexual impropriety. Context matters, as do other factors. Consider Moore vs. Franken. Moore has denied what appear to be extremely credible allegations. He is accused not just of sexual harassment, but of predation upon minors as young as 14 years old. Rather than showing remorse, he has blamed the victims and used the accusations as a fundraising tool. He is, moreover, an avowed political foe of women’s equality generally. Franken, on the other hand, has shown what appears to be true remorse for an incident in which he was either in the wrong or that was morally ambiguous. He has made no attempt to blame the victim, even though the circumstances are such that there is at least a whiff of something not quite right. Nor has what remains of the liberal media sought to demonize her, as the folks at Fox would have done were the situation reversed. Franken is a supporter of women’s rights. You can call that hypocrisy given what he is accused of doing, but the fact is that everyone, in the course of their life, does something stupid that they come to regret. The important thing is that they come to regret it, and don’t blame others for their acts. There is a world of difference between the two men, and that implies that there is a difference in how they should be treated at the present time.

And now, slightly off the point; a prediction. Given that he is running in Alabama, which may be the stupidest polity in the nation, if not the world, I give Moore a 90% chance to win. I sincerely hope I’m wrong. Once he’s ensconced in the Senate, his Republican colleagues will forget all about his sexual transgressions, just as they were willing to overlook his racism, provided he votes to enrich the rich. Meanwhile, they’ll go after Franken. The folks at Fox will have no problem with that, and the word hypocrisy will never be uttered on that channel, at least not in this context.

A % here and a % there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money

It goes without saying that Paul Ryan and the Republicans are lying when they claim their tax bill is designed to benefit the middle class. Okay, some of them may not be lying. Some of them may be so stupid that they believe the bullshit Ryan is peddling but, same difference. If you’re a Member of Congress you can be presumed to be smart enough to educate yourself beyond getting a daily dosage of Fox and Friends.

Anyway, this is a gimmick that I hadn’t heard anything about, so I’ll pass it on. I have been familiar with the Republican attempt to use a “chained” CPI to determine Social Security benefit increases, but hadn’t thought about the possibility that it could be used to screw people in other contexts.

By way of background, the “chained” CPI assumes that when tuna gets too expensive, people will switch to cat food, and so it’s only right that the inflation index track the cost of cat food and forget about tuna altogether. It’s been floated previously as a way of reducing Social Security benefit increases, but, as Dean Baker explains, it’s also a backdoor way to raise taxes on the middle class, one that the Republicans have included in their tax plan:

Reductions in Social Security benefits are extremely unpopular across the political spectrum. The program enjoys enormous support among both Democrats and Republicans and people are far more likely to say that benefits should be raised than cut. For this reason, the public should be paying attention to a little noticed provision in the tax bill passed by the House today and which also appears in the bills under consideration in the Senate.

In both cases, the basis for indexing tax brackets would be shifted from Consumer Price Index (CPI) to the Chained Consumer Price Index (CCPI). The difference is that the CCPI takes account of when people change their consumption patterns in response to changes in relative prices.

The classic example is that beef rises in price and chicken falls, we would expect people to consume less beef and more chicken. The CPI assumes that people don’t change their consumption patterns while the CCPI adjusts its basket to assign less importance to beef and greater importance to chicken.

For this reason, the CCPI shows a somewhat lower rate of inflation than the CPI. Typically the gap is 0.2–0.3 percentage points. This matters in the tax bill because the cutoff for the tax brackets is adjusted each year by the CPI. If the CCPI is used rather than CPI, then the cutoffs would rise less rapidly.

For example, if the cutoff for the 25 percent bracket is $40,000 for a single individual and the CPI showed 2.0 percent inflation, then it would rise to $40,800 for the next year. This means a single person would face a tax rate of 25 percent on income above $40,800. If the CCPI showed an inflation rate of 1.7 percent, then the cutoff would rise to $40,680. This means a single person would face a tax rate of 25 percent on income above $40,680.

In a single year, this difference will not mean much, but after 10 years, the difference in the indexes would be between 2.0–3.0 percent and it would grow more through time. This will add a fair bit to many people’s tax bills.

Baker goes on to point out that the change in the tax bill will make it easier to apply a chained CPI to Social Security, even though there is less justification to apply it to the elderly than to the population as a whole, as Baker explains in his post. But for the moment, it’s a gimmick that amounts to a backdoor way of raising taxes over and above what they would otherwise be on a substantial number of people; with those bearing the brunt definitely not in the .01%.

Nazis don’t really care about free speech

I am going to beat a still living horse, the media’s persistent willingness to buy into the terminology of the right. We’ve grown so used to terms like “pro-life” that even many on the left use them precisely the way that the right wants them used.

What brings this to mind, yet again, is this article in today’s Boston Globe. The online version does not repeat the print edition’s article title, which in the print edition is: Tempers flare at free-speech rally.

The rally, in fact, has nothing to do with free speech, except as window dressing for a Nazi rally. That is absolutely clear, despite the presence of some useful idiots who may or may not actually hold the liberal beliefs they purport to espouse.

To give the Globe its due, an online portfolio of pictures of the event puts the words “free-speech” in scare quotes, which sends the appropriate message. But using the term without qualification in the title to a story sends a message, particularly to those who skim the headline and go on to the next story, who might well conclude that the counter-protestors were against free speech.

To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a Nazi is just a Nazi.

A mystery solved?

Over the last day or so I have been completely mystified. Various Republicans have come out urging Roy Moore to withdraw from the Alabama Senate race. Some, such as Mitch McConnell, have even said that they believed his accusers.

This all seemed strange to me. The man was already known to be a racist and religious bigot, so what’s the big deal about mixing a little pedophilia into the mix, particularly if it all happened when he was a Democrat?After all, they had no qualms about backing Trump, whose casual claim that he had every right to walk into a dressing room full of teen beauty contestants (along with his frequent allusions to how hot his own daughter is) at least verges on pedophilia if its not evidence of pedophilia full blown.

Only one thing is important to these people: power and holding onto it, so what was the problem. After all, the guy was running for office in Alabama, and if you had to pick the stupidest state in the nation, you couldn’t go wrong if you guessed Alabama. But, it turns out, maybe even Alabamans aren’t stupid enough:

This is real, folks—straight from the Senate Republicans’ internal polling, Democrat Doug Jones now leads Republican sexual predator Roy Moore by 12 points … in Alabama! Politico writes:

Jones led Moore 51 to 39 percent, according to the survey taken Sunday and Monday. The NRSC withdrew its support for Moore after the Washington Post published the first allegations against Moore on Thursday, and the group’s chairman, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said Moore should be expelled from the Senate if he wins on Dec. 12.

The poll shows a dramatic turn against Moore in Alabama: In early October, a committee poll had him leading by 16 points, and a survey early this month had him up by 9 points. Moore’s favorability numbers also tanked, from 49 percent in early October to 35 percent in the NRSC’s latest poll.

That’s a 28-point shift and it’s exactly why GOP Leader Mitch McConnell uttered the fateful words, “I believe the women.” He believes them precisely because most Alabama voters clearly do, just like our own David Nir theorized. Ready for the cherry?

Several sources who reviewed the poll results said it also tested how Attorney General Jeff Sessions would fare as a write-in candidate, and the results were not favorable.

The linked article ends with a suggestion that we give money to Doug Jones, which I have just done, yet again. The amazing thing about Jones is that he’s actually a fairly good candidate in his own right, not one of those DINO’s favored by the DSCC. That’s because, assuming that no Democrat could win in Alabama, they didn’t bother to interfere.

I should add that there is an alternative way of looking at all this. This poll may not be genuine, but simply something leaked by the Republicans to try to force Moore out of the race. Still, that begs the question of why they would do it. It is inconceivable that they really care that he’s a pedophile.

Democrats: We can do this! (Lose, that is)

Yet another indication that the Democrats are anxious to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory:

Bipartisanship, long left for dead in Washington, has struck again. And Wall Street looks to be the winner.

In the wake of the Equifax scandal, Congress has been under pressure to act. But the price of modest reforms in Washington is often much larger giveaways elsewhere, and that pattern holds true in the agreement announced Monday between nine Senate Democrats and the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee.

The measure would roll back several key financial regulations, including sections of the Dodd-Frank Act. It does so under the cover of offering consumer protections and coming to the aid of community banks — though the financial institutions that benefit have not-so-obscure names, like American Express, SunTrust, and BB&T.

The offending Democrats are all from states that, if not red, are red tinged, but that really doesn’t excuse or explain this, or even make it rational. You don’t win votes in Montana by carrying water for Wall Street. If memory serves, the present occupant of the White House ran against Wall Street. What you accomplish in spades by carrying that water is dampening the enthusiasm of the people the Democrats need to win in 2018.