The Republican Quote Debate(s) Unquote

GOP Presidential Candidates Participate In Pre-Debate Forum In Cleveland

The Washington Post has a full transcript of the prime-time debate, and also a transcript of the “undercard” debate. It’s also worth checking out Factcheck’s quick overview of both the main and the undercard debates.

“Businesswoman and former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina” had the greatest success at distinguishing herself from the pack, and seems likely to “advance” to the prime-time debate in the next round. In my personal estimation, Chris Christie wins the contest for most vacuous fluff, by answering a serious question about civil liberties by crying “nine eleven! Nine eleven! Nine eleven!”

On the substance… well, it’s all pretty dire, isn’t it? All of these candidates seem to agree that the main thing to do about immigration is to build a “wall,” even though there’s strong evidence that doing so will not only kill some immigrants (admittedly, not something I think any of these candidates care about), but actually increase the number of undocumented immigrants (which is something they claim to care about).

Meanwhile, Cruz derides the 2013 “Gang of 8″ bill as “amnesty.” But if that bill – which would have hired thousands of new border patrol agents, spent billions on wallbuilding and security measures, and the “amnesty” would have required potential immigrants to “wait for 13 years, pay all back taxes, learn English, no legalization for people with criminal records, and citizenship or permanent residence only after the border becomes fully secure.” If that’s unacceptable “amnesty,” then basically nothing is acceptable to the Republicans Cruz represents. And no one disagreed with Cruz.

Cruz also called for a mandatory five sentence for any undocumented immigrant who is deported and then returns to the USA. A disproportionate and vindictive idea, and again, no disagreement from any of the other Republican candidates.

Republicans like to say that they’re not anti-immigration, but in practice, they are. Favoring unreasonable and vindictive “reforms” to immigration is not, for any practical purpose, different from opposing immigration in general.

Also depressing: Everything said about Iran. Everything said about abortion. Transphobic comments from Huckabee, misogyny from Trump. Well, basically, everything.

(The opposition to same-sex marriage is, for me, beginning to seem less depressing than pathetic. You lost, people. Move on.)

Part of the problem is that the Republican base wants this; they have genuinely terrible policy preferences, and of course their candidates reflect this preference. And they also clearly want belligerence, hence the Trump moment.

The non-debate debate format is a lesser part of the problem, but as a debate geek it’s a part I find especially irritating. The debates are designed to keep candidates from pressing each other, and to prevent any candidate from being able to discuss anything in depth. Rather than the “clown car” approach, I wish that the Republicans (or the Democrats, if the Democrats had a large number of candidates) would have a series of small debates – three candidates per debate. In each debate, one of the better-known candidates should face off against two of the lesser-known candidates. This would both make the better-known candidates have to work harder and justify their positions more, and give the lesser-known candidates a better chance to show voters who they are in (relative) depth.

So that’s how I’d have the debates run if I were dictator (although if I’m a dictator, then what are we having an election for?). What did y’all think of the debates?

Posted in Elections and politics, Immigration, Migrant Rights, etc | 35 Comments  

I think this Key & Peele video is brilliant.

Posted in Education | 5 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm: The Scream In Context Edition


  1. A gallery of surreal paintings by Polish artist Igor Morski
  2. How One Law Banning Ethnic Studies Led to Its Rise. In your face, Arizona censors!
  3. Reflections on Our Obsession with “Calling Out” Cultural Appropriation
  4. ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES: Why Women “Prefer” Less Or Should Accept Less There’s some really sharp discussion here of the difference between an abstract personal preference and a preference in the context of available choices.
  5. FilmOn can use cable systems’ copyright license to stream broadcast TV on the internet | Electronic Frontier Foundation. This is a sensible and logical decision which might still be overturned.
  6. New Documentary “The Mask You Live In” Dissects Modern Masculinity | Bitch Media
  7. Another Troubling Police Encounter with a Black Motorist. A good summary of the arrest of Sandra Bland, and then her death by (alleged) suicide in jail.
  8. #BernieSoBlack: Why progressives are fighting about Bernie Sanders and race – Vox
  9. The Earthquake That Will Devastate Seattle – The New Yorker And Portland too, alas poor me. Not a short article, but very well-written – a page-turner, honestly. Living in Portland, of course, I had three people helpfully point this article out to me, starting with Grace, because it is apparently necessary that I live in terror. :-p
  10. “It’s important to note that there is no substantive difference between Walker and Bush on the nuclear deal.” | The American Conservative
  11. Oregon Sensibly Votes to Make Oral Contraceptives Available Without a Prescription | Mother Jones
  12. Shifts and living history | Comics212 Both in best-seller lists and in Eisner Awards, women in comics are a very big deal.
  13. Beyond the Model Minority Myth | Jacobin
  14. A.E.Brain: Gender Identity and the Brain – a Round-Table I haven’t watched this video yet, but it looks interesting.
  15. High schooler proves “No Irish Need Apply” signs existed despite denials – The best part is the extremely civil debate in the comments between Rebecca A. Fried (the high schooler) and Richard Jenson, the professor whose work she’s disputing.
  16. “I did indeed f*ck up”: How an online campaign against a transphobic comic completely changed the tenor of the debate –
  17. Anita Sarkeesian On Why Women Don’t Talk About Online Sexual Harassment
  18. Paintings of the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian In Ascending Order Of Sexiness and Descending Order of Actual Martyring
  19. How 3-D printed arms are changing kids’ lives around the world – YouTube
  20. Scientists have discovered whether being a first, second or third child makes a difference – The Washington Post The answer: Nope.
  21. There’s a simple way to end gerrymandering. Too bad Congress made it illegal. – Vox
  22. ‘Hobby Lobby’ Is About Blocking Contraception Access, Not Religious Liberty
  23. The Unit of Caring discusses consent and the moral justification for statutory rape laws. There’s a followup post, too.
  24. Gardena Shows Why Police Can’t Be Trusted to Decide If Video Should Be Public – The Atlantic
  25. Don’t blame your expensive lunch on minimum wage increases | Joseph Mayton | Comment is free | The Guardian
  26. The Struggle of Female Carpenters – Lawyers, Guns & Money
  27. Labels, Not Identities | Thing of Things
  28. Sentencing Law and Policy: In praise of GOP Rep. Sensenbrenner making the moral case for sentencing reform
  29. Abigail Fisher, Please Stop Blaming People of Color for Your Mediocrity
  30. Fannie’s Room: Workplace Rule #3: White Male Privilege Is Real, and Yet Denied Against All Evidence
  31. How did he manage it? A man’s secret to a successful career, revealed.
  32. Link: Every Single Word | Consistent Panda Bear Shape A series of Youtube videos in which “every single word” spoken by a character of color in a popular movie is cut together into a single appallingly short video.
  33. The Debate Link: Executions and Their Alternatives
  34. The Debate Link: Aly Raisman’s Muscles “I was struck by this statement by [Olympic gymnast] Raisman, though, which is a stark commentary on how (female) bodies are viewed normally…”
  35. The Outrageous U.S. Role in the War on Yemen | The American Conservative
  36. Sentencing Law and Policy: Former US District Judge Nancy Gertner talks about drug war casualties she had to create
  37. Where the health care money is, in charts | The Incidental Economist
  38. Petition – Georgia: Add Outkast to Stone Mountain! How to improve “the confederate Mount Rushmore.” I signed the petition.

Posted in Link farms | 127 Comments  

No, Surveys Do Not Use Overly Broad Definitions Of Sexual Assault

This is a guest post by Carla, which originally appeared on her blog Writing in Water, and appears here with her kind permission.


A favourite tactic of critics of sexual violence surveys is to claim they inflate their results by wording questions too broadly. Three surveys in particular have attracted their attention: Mary Koss’s 1987 survey of college students, NIJ’s 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Survey (CSA) and the CDC’s 2011 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS). The first of these, Koss’s survey—the original source of the “one in four” statistic—is now almost thirty years old, but it still looms large in the minds of rape truthers, who continue to try to debunk it. More recently, the White House’s focus on violence against women has drawn attention to CSA and NISVS. These surveys are the source of the White House’s claims that one in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college and that nearly one in five women will be victims of attempted or completed rape respectively.

Since critics of these surveys have mostly concentrated on questions asking about incapacitated rape or sexual assault, a prefatory note is in order. Rapists unsurprisingly favour the most vulnerable victims they can find. A woman incapacitated by drugs or alcohol—that is, a woman who is unable to resist—is a vulnerable target for a rapist. (This is in no way to blame women who drink to excess; rapists who target incapacitated women are as responsible for their crimes as those who use physical force.) In environments where drugs and binge drinking are common, such as on university campuses, it is not just unsurprising that a high proportion of rapes would involve incapacitation: we should expect that this would be the case.


Mary Koss’s seminal survey of experiences of sexual violence among female college students revealed shockingly high rates of sexual assault—12.1% disclosed being raped since the age of 14 and a further 15.4% disclosed being victims of attempted (but not completed) rape. Koss’s research was groundbreaking in the way it lifted the veil on acquaintance and date rape, which until then were not part of the national lexicon. In addition, her rigorous approach, with its detailed, explicit questions, revolutionised the way in which surveys of sexual assault are designed. Almost thirty years after it was first published, its validity has never (whatever Wikipedia says) been challenged by researchers in the field of sexual violence.

Koss’s research soon attracted negative attention in the media. One of the most persistent criticisms of her research has been the claim, originating in a 1992 essay in the journal Society,1 that the incapacitation question captured events that were not rape. This focus on the incapacitation question is misleading, because removing it from the survey does not alter the results substantially—the number of women disclosing rape or attempted rape falls from one in five to one in four. Nonetheless, criticism of these questions has helped convince many that Koss’s estimates of sexual violence prevalence are wildly inflated.

For reference, the question that Koss asked her respondents was:

Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?

The mention of drugs or alcohol given “by a man” may seem odd, but it was worded this way because it was designed to mirror Ohio law which, like many other jurisdictions at the time, only recognised incapacitated rape when the drugs or alcohol were administered by the rapist. (Since Koss did not ask about events where the victim drank or took drugs of her own accord, this is a highly conservative definition of incapacitated rape.) According to the Society essay, “as [it] stands it would require a mind reader to detect whether an affirmative response” to this question “corresponds to a legal definition of rape.” For example, “[i]t could mean that a woman was trading sex for drugs or that a few drinks lowered the respondent’s inhibitions and she consented to an act she later regretted.” We might think about what it means for someone to be sceptical about the scale of sexual assault uncovered by Koss’s survey while simultaneously believing that her numbers can be accounted for by women prostituting themselves for drugs or being unable to tell (or lying about) if they actually consented to an act or not.

However, we don’t need to guess if Koss’s survey participants were able to interpret the question correctly. Her rigorous testing of her survey questions (called the Sexual Experiences Survey, or SES) was one of the reasons why her research was so groundbreaking. None of Koss’s critics has found fault with the methods she used to test the reliability of her questions; the most they have been able to do is to imply—in an utterly unwarranted attack on her professional integrity—that she might be misleading the public about including the incapacitation questions in her testing (they were).2 At any rate, any question about the reliability of Koss’s questions should have been put to rest by the fact that more recent surveys using more explicit questions to ask about incapacitated rape have consistently yielded comparable results to her 1987 survey.


CSA surveyed over 5000 undergraduate women at two large universities. 28.5% of the participants disclosed experiencing attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetimes and 19.8% of seniors disclosed experiencing completed sexual assault since entering college.3 |4 Because CSA focuses on sexual assault, a figure for lifetime prevalence of rape isn’t given, although 3.4% of all respondents (that is, not just seniors) disclosed being victims of completed physically forced rape and 8.5% disclosed being victims of completed incapacitated rape since entering college (note that these figures are not mutually exclusive).

Taking their cue from criticisms of Koss’s research, critics of CSA have claimed the question about incapacitated sexual assault is so broad it captures all sexual encounters under the influence of alcohol. For example, an article in USA Today described the incapacitation question as including any “sexual encounters while intoxicated,” while one in the National Review characterised it as “broad and ambiguous” and “includ[ing] questions about sexual contact that occurred in cases where someone was ‘drunk,’ not only in cases where the person was ‘incapacitated.’” According to another critic, “What might be dismissed as a foolish drunken hookup is now felony rape.” One critic goes even futher, claiming that not only does the incapacitation question capture people who are “just drunk enough to go along with something he or she wouldn’t do when sober,” but that the questions asking about physically forced sexual assault are “worded so ambiguously that they could refer to a clumsy attempt to initiate sex, even if the ‘attacker’ stops once rebuffed.”

Most critics avoid quoting the actual question on incapacitated sexual assault. Its wording is in fact very explicit. The question is in two parts. First, respondents were asked:

Has someone had sexual contact with you when you were unable to provide consent or stop was happening because you were passed out, drugged, drunk, incapacitated or asleep?

Positive responses to this question then prompted the respondent to be asked if the “sexual contact” included:

*Forced touching of a sexual nature

*Oral sex

*Sexual intercourse

*Anal sex

*Sexual penetration with a finger or other object.

This question plainly does not ask about any and all sexual encounters where the respondent was intoxicated. It asks about sexual contact that occurred when respondents had been drinking so much that they could not consent or stop what was happening. In other words, it captures people who were incapacitated. It strains credulity that a reasonable person would interpret this as including consensual drunken sexual encounters, particularly given its context in a survey explicitly asking about unwanted sexual activity and its position immediately after a question on physically forced sexual contact.

The question about physically forced sexual contact, incidentally, begins with the following preamble:

The questions below ask about unwanted sexual contact that involved force or threats of force against you. Force could include someone holding you down with his or her body weight, pinning your arms, hitting or kicking you, or using or threatening to use a weapon against you.

Respondents were then asked:

Has anyone had sexual contact with you by using physical force or threatening to physically harm you?


Has anyone attempted but not succeeded in having sexual contact with you by using or threatening to use physical force against you?

Finally, they were asked the questions listed above describing specific sexual acts.

The idea that this question is “worded so ambiguously that they could refer to a clumsy attempt to initiate sex, even if the ‘attacker’ stops once rebuffed” is baffling. Perhaps for some a crisis of inept men whose attempts at seduction cannot be distinguished from attempted physically forced rape is more plausible than a crisis of sexual assault of young women.


Unlike the previous two surveys, which focused on college students, NISVS surveyed women in the general non-institutionalised population. It had a sample size of almost 10,000 randomly selected women, of whom 18.3% disclosed completed or attempted rape over the course of their lifetime. Broken down further, 12.2% reported completed forced penetration, 5.2% reported attempted forced penetration and 8.0% reported incapacitated rape (note that these categories are not mutually exclusive).

NISVS has attracted less attention than the other two surveys. Many critics of it (see, for example, here, here and here) actually seem to be unaware that it is an entirely different survey from CSA. Most other critiques of NISVS rely on a 2012 Washington Post article in which it is claimed the survey defines sexual violence in “impossibly elastic ways” and, more specifically, that the question about incapacitated rape includes all “sex while inebriated.”

The actual wording of the incapacitation question in NISVS is slightly different from CSA. First, the respondents were read the following preamble:

Sometimes sex happens when a person is unable to consent to it or stop it from happening because they were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out from alcohol, drugs, or medications. This can include times when they voluntarily consumed alcohol or drugs or they were given drugs or alcohol without their knowledge or consent. Please remember that even if someone uses alcohol or drugs, what happens to them is not their fault.

They were then asked:

When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people have ever had [vaginal sex etc. with you]?

Significantly, the Washington Post article quotes only the second part of the question; the implicit claim is that the question could be interpreted as asking about four separate scenarios that include being 1) drunk 2) high 3) drugged and 4) passed out and unable to consent. But this is obviously not how the question is supposed to be interpreted. As this blogger points out, the preamble makes it clear that the phrase “unable to consent” is supposed to modify all four of the adjectives “drunk,” “high,” “drugged” and “passed out.” What’s more, as with Koss’s survey, we know this is how respondents were likely to interpret it because, like all the questions in NISVS, it underwent cognitive testing to ensure it was interpreted correctly. It’s simply fanciful to suggest that the (admittedly shocking) rates of rape revealed by this survey are the result of misunderstanding of the incapacitation question. After all, anyone determined and creative enough can find alternative interpretations for almost any question, but that doesn’t mean people actually taking the survey are likely to do so—otherwise we might as well give up administering surveys altogether.

Of course, no survey is perfect and getting people to disclose sensitive events like sexual assault is particularly challenging (although perhaps not for the reasons that critics of sexual violence surveys imagine). Questions should be, and are, tested, refined and improved. It’s distressing, however, that people with no expertise in sexual assault research are given public forums to make baseless claims about the methodology of these surveys. Yes: it’s shocking to learn that sexual violence is experienced by so many women. It may defy our personal sense of what is reasonable or believable. But it is precisely these preconceptions—our desire to believe that the world is a certain way—that should force us to be critical, especially when confronted with laypeople purporting to debunk established, peer reviewed research.

  1. Gilbert, N (1992), ‘Realities and Mythologies of Rape,’ Society 29.4: 4-10. []
  2. Gilbert 1992. []
  3. This sentence has been corrected. Originally it said “19.8% of seniors experienced attempted and completed sexual assault while at college,” but it should have said “completed assaults” only. []
  4. An addendum from Carla: [CSA researcher] “Chris Krebs also told me that when you take out sexual battery (that is, you only measure completed rapes) the number falls from 1 in 5 to 1 in 7.” []
Posted in Mary Koss controversy, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues | 27 Comments  

A Link Farm For Discussing The Fake Planned Parenthood Video

I don’t have all that much to say, at the moment, but thought people might like having a thread to discuss it.

  1. The Planned Parenthood controversy over aborted fetus body parts, explained – Vox
  2. 3 Deceptive Edits In The Video Claiming Planned Parenthood Is “Selling Aborted Baby Parts” | Research | Media Matters for America
  3. No, Donating Fetal Tissue Isn’t Illegal
  4. A Fact-Based Guide to Resisting Anti-Choice Propaganda in the Wake of the Attack on Planned Parenthood. Some useful vocabulary words defined here.
  5. Why Planned Parenthood won’t stop donating fetal organs – The Washington Post
  6. Planned Parenthood fetal body parts video: How it was used to attack breast cancer funding.
Posted in Abortion & reproductive rights | 4 Comments  

People are very concerned that fat kids, most of whom probably aren’t even fat, aren’t hating themselves enough

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones is so very concerned, because “our kids are fat” but “they don’t know it.” Not that Kevin read a study, exactly, but he did read Fat kids don’t know they’re fat anymore, a post at Washington Post’s Wonkblog written by the also-so-very-concerned Roberto Ferdland. Hey, and FoxNews is totally on this:


It’s hard to be sure, because these people’s citations are crappy, but I think the study they’re all referring to is More Overweight Adolescents Think They Are Just Fine, in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

1) First, to set some context, let’s look at some photos of a few real people and their BMIs.1


The standard for what counts as “overweight” and “obese” varies by age; the older you are, the higher your BMI can be before you’re classified as overweight or obese. The study people are reporting on looked at kids ages 12-16. The three women whose photos I found don’t appear to be ages 12-16 – they’re college-aged, I’d guess – but the photos above still give useful context for what these BMI definitions of “overweight” and “obese” mean in real life, context that’s entirely lacking in the stories I linked to.2

So please keep this in mind: A twelve year old with a BMI of 22.7, like Stacey, would be “overweight” according to the standards used by this study. And if she didn’t think of herself as overweight, according to this study, that would be a problem. Similarly, a sixteen year old with a BMI of 25.7, like Shauna, would be “overweight,” and if she thinks her weight is normal, this study wants her put on a diet. And a sixteen year old with a BMI of 30, like Sharon, would be “obese,” and again, this study does not want her thinking of her body as acceptable.3

2) When FoxNews and The Washington Post do stories like this, they want readers (or viewers) to imagine genuinely, unambiguously fat teens going “I’m not fat! What are you talking about?” Because that is a very compelling story, albeit not a true story. As well as being notable because How amazing! How could they not know they’re fat?!?, it gives the comforting feeling of prejudices confirmed. It’s common to think of both kids and fat people as being unintelligent, and this story relies on that prejudice to seem plausible.

Here’s the photo that Kevin chose to illustrate his post, for example. For those of you who don’t want to click through, it shows a line-up of well-above-average-size fat children. The photo was originally a stock image that showed all the kids from head to toe, but in Kevin’s article the photo was cropped to make it into a dehumanizing headless fatties photo. (I’m not assuming that Kevin himself did the cropping or photo selection.)

It’s not remotely plausible that the kids in that photo – or anyone that fat – is unaware that they’re fat. They’d have to be in comas not to know, because our society has been slamming them with this knowledge (and telling them IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE!) for their whole lives. But those kids are, apparently, who Kevin imagines when he reads this study; he worries that there are loads of genuinely fat people, like me, who somehow have never realized we’re fat.

Trust me, Kevin. We know. You can stop worrying. What this study shows is that lots of kids, most of whom aren’t fat, think their bodies are normal. Which they are.

3) The “overweight” and “obesity” levels for kids are, by the way, completely useless and arbitrary.4

The definitions are based on comparisons to government data from the 1960s through the 1990s. So when a reporter writes that 30% of kids are overweight, all that means is that 30% of kids would would have been in the 85th percentile of BMI for kids several decades ago. There’s no scientific reason to believe kids in 1965 were the “correct” weight, or that 85% is a meaningful cutoff point; these are simply the divisions chosen because they wanted something they could attach a number to.

Making things even more arbitrary, in 2010 they changed the labels so that kids that were “in danger of overweight” in 2009 are now “overweight,” and the kids formerly called “overweight” are now “obese.”

4) There are a ton of unstated but dubious assumptions underlying all this concern – the belief that being fat is the same as being unhealthy, the idea that fat children become fat adults, the idea that kids being less accepting of their bodies makes them healthier – that I don’t feel I have time to address in this post. But for a start, I’d recommend reading this well-cited article by Jon Robison (pdf link). Here’s a sample:

When it comes to fat children and adult morbidity, the relationship appears to be… tenuous. In the study of a thousand British families the authors concluded that there was “no excess adult health risk from childhood or teenage overweight.”

Furthermore, in the review of 17 studies that examined the tracking of obesity from childhood to adulthood mentioned above, children whose fatness persisted into adulthood had no more disease risk than adults who had never been fat. In fact, fat adult women who were also fat as children actually had lower triglycerides and total cholesterol.

Though it is often taken for granted that fat children means unhealthy children, the extensive review of screening and interventions for childhood overweight in the journal Pediatrics in 2005 “did not locate adequate longitudinal data relating childhood weight status to childhood health outcomes.”

The much heralded national “epidemic” of childhood diabetes has also failed to materialize. Although type II diabetes may be increasing in certain ethnic groups, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the disease is “still rare in childhood” with the incidence remaining much lower than other childhood afflictions that seem to garner significantly less media coverage.

5) This study is good news, even though the study authors don’t seem to realize that. If this study’s findings are accurate, then a lot more kids are accepting their bodies as “normal” today. That’s wonderful news, both for fat kids and for non-fat kids. Let’s keep up the good work.

  1. These photos came from Kate Harding’s wonderful “Illustrated BMI Categories” photoset. The women chose to share their photos with their BMI information publicly. []
  2. I’m sorry I haven’t created a similar image of BMIs illustrated with photos of young men, because the official BMI standards for boys are every bit as ridiculous, and every bit as harmful. But writing this post has already taken me forever, and I’m not even half done with it, and for whatever reason far fewer boys have put their photos online with their BMIs that I can find, so I apologize to myself and all the other fat boys out there. []
  3. For a girl age 12, a BMI of 21.8 or above is “overweight,” and a BMI of 25.2 or above is “obese.” For a girl age 16, 24.6 BMI or above is “overweight,” and 28.8 BMI or above is “obese.” Here’s the source for these BMIs (pdf). The official BMIs for “overweight” and “obese” for boys are similar. []
  4. Here, have a bunch of links about appalled parents finding out that the government classifies their rather thin kids as fat: 1 2 3 4 5 6. Seriously, click through. Look at the photos. []
Posted in Fat, fat and more fat | 6 Comments  

Greece and Democracy


I’ve been following the news from Greece with horrified fascination. A few quick thoughts:

1) I don’t think there’s any legitimate argument in favor of austerity anymore – even the IMF admits that austerity is incredibly harmful.

2) And yet, the IMF is one of the entities forcing austerity down Greece’s throat. Because the IMF is about helping the wealthiest countries, not about doing what’s best for the economies it’s “helping.”

3) It’s also obvious that using the Euro, rather than having an independent currency, has been incredibly harmful to Greece’s ability to recover.

4) But, given that they are in the Euro, I don’t have an opinion on what Greece should ideally do. There’s an theory that they should leave the Euro, suffer through a couple of years of economic collapse, and then use their devalued currency to leverage a recovery fueled by tourism and manufacturing. As bad as it is, it’s better than the alternative, which is an unending depression fueled by imposed austerity policies.

That theory sounds appealing to me, and to many other progressives. The trouble is, the theory might not work out in practice. I definitely don’t feel certain enough to feel comfortable advocating for this outcome or that outcome, when all these outcomes will be associated with so much suffering.

5) I do feel very strongly, however, that the decision should be made by Greek citizens, through Democratic procedures. And it’s obvious that is not being allowed to happen. Instead, the decisions are being made by people with absolutely no democratic accountability:

Days before Varoufakis’s resignation on 6 July, when Tsipras called the referendum on the Eurogroup’s belated and effectively unchanged offer, the Eurogroup issued a communiqué without Greek consent. This was against Eurozone convention. […] After a handful of calls, a lawyer turned to him and said, “Well, the Eurogroup does not exist in law, there is no treaty which has convened this group.”

“So,” Varoufakis said, “What we have is a non-existent group that has the greatest power to determine the lives of Europeans. It’s not answerable to anyone, given it doesn’t exist in law; no minutes are kept; and it’s confidential. No citizen ever knows what is said within . . . These are decisions of almost life and death, and no member has to answer to anybody.”

This isn’t just a matter of the “unelected judges” US conservatives often complain about. Judges in the US, even when they’re not elected, are appointed by elected officials who are accountable to voters. Plus, the judges making the decisions, and the politicians appointing them, are themselves Americans.

But in Greece, the most essential decisions are being made by people with absolutely no accountability to Greek voters. That’s a travesty, and not compatible with any real commitment to democracy.

Posted in Economics and the like, International issues | 19 Comments  

“Minions” may beat “Lava” for most sexist kid’s movie of the year

“Lava,” as I hope you don’t recall, is the animated short that accompanies “Inside Out,” the otherwise wonderful new Pixar movie.

As I’ve said before, some cartoonists draw women as “visual aliens”; men are allowed to be earthy and funny-looking and part of a coherent visual universe, but women are there to be pretty. “Lava” is the most extreme example I’ve ever seen.


But it’s possible that the full-length “Minions” is even worse:

‘Minions’ Creator Pierre Coffin on Why None of His Animated Little Yellow Helpers Are Female

For the French animator, who co-directed the new film with Kyle Balda, the masculine-only nature of the Minions owes to their all-around cloddishness. “Seeing how dumb and stupid they often are, I just couldn’t imagine Minions being girls,” he told TheWrap.

As often happens, this is sexism that is both anti-girl (because it implies that girls have less than the full range of human traits) and anti-boy (suggesting that boys are inherently “dumb and stupid”). But I certainly agree that the director has displayed a lack of imagination.

I haven’t seen “Minions,” but Reel Girl did, and found it to be the most sexist kids movie of the year.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Feminism, sexism, etc, Popular (and unpopular) culture, Sexism hurts men | 20 Comments  

A Lesbian Who Should Not Have Been Fired, And A County Clerk Who Should Be


Both these stories have, I think, the same moral: You have a right to be a bigot, but not on the taxpayer’s dime.

Catholic School Teacher Suddenly Fired After Parents Find Out About Her Wife Of 8 Years

Margie Winters, the director of religious education at Philadelphia’s Waldron Mercy Academy, was fired because a couple of students’ parents complained about Winters being gay and married. The school had known all along, but fired Winters anyway.

The firing could put the school in legal jeopardy. Lower Merion Township protects against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and its exemption for religious institutions does not include those that are “supported in whole or in part by government appropriations.” Over the past two years, Waldron Mercy has received more than $270,000 from Pennsylvania’s Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit, and students also receive financial aid through the state’s Education Improvement Tax Credit. If found in violation of the ordinance, the academy could be held liable for backpay, required to rehire Winters, and a penalty as high as $10,000, plus attorneys’ fees.

I hope the school get creamed, frankly. LGBT folks are taxpayers, too; Religious organizations shouldn’t take taxpayer money while expecting to be exempt from the law.

Interestingly, the archdiocese has denied having anything to do with this.

(By the way, there are many, many other examples of Christian organizations firing employees for being queer, or even just for favoring queer rights.)

As regular “Alas” readers know, I usually hesitate to call for people to be fired. But Casey Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, should absolutely be fired. Lifesitenews reports:

Governor Beshear ordered Davis to issue homosexual licenses, or else he must quit. “‘Issue marriage licenses or resign’ — those were the words,” Davis told reporters after meeting with Beshear. “I can’t quit…I have a mortgage to pay.”

Davis’ sense of entitlement is astounding.

Davis has every right to his stupid and bigoted beliefs. He has every right to state those beliefs on his own time. He has every right to quit his job rather than perform job duties he finds abhorant.

What he doesn’t have is the right to keep a job he’s refusing to do.

Posted in Conservative zaniness, right-wingers, etc., Homophobic zaniness/more LGBTQ issues, Same-Sex Marriage | 24 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Talk To The Hand Edition


  1. 12 charts and maps that explain the Greek crisis – Vox
  2. These 25 Examples of Male Privilege from a Trans Guy’s Perspective Really Prove the Point — Everyday Feminism
  3. Environmental activism works, study shows | EurekAlert! Science News
  4. Eight Books You Need To Know About To Understand The Hugo Awards Snafu. This article compares what various reviewers and Puppies have said about eight books.
  5. Girl Scouts choose transgender girls over $100,000 donation – The Washington Post. But then online social fundraising came to the rescue! An interesting story shows how individual wealthy donors, in some cases, have less leverage than they once did.
  6. White America’s racial illiteracy: Why our national conversation is poisoned from the start –
  7. The Genderbread Person v3 An attempt to visualize the various elements of gender and sex.
  8. Officer Pupke Johnathan Edelstein has been contributing some delightful rewritten songs to the File770 comments, and I think this one is my favorite so far. Here’s a verse, click through for the whole thing: “TORGERSEN: Dear kindly judge, your Honor / My buddies need a chance / They’ve not been nominated / And asked to join the dance. / Minorities and women / Have got this thing sewn up / Leapin’ lizards, that’s why I’m a Pup!”
  9. These pages from a graphic-novel-in-progres0s, by Thomke Meyer, are OMG beautiful. This isn’t the only way to do science fiction or fantasy comics well, but it’s an extremely fruitful one, that takes advantages of comics’ strength as a medium.
  10. Queen Bees are Stinging Mad . Stonewall Uprising . WGBH American Experience | PBS A 1969 article from the New York Daily News. Among many things of interest is a discussion of a same-sex marriage, which again shows that same-sex marriage isn’t an idea created by the Massachusetts court system 11 years ago.
  11. Bristol Reminds Us: Shaming Women and Policing Their Bodies Doesn’t Work
  12. Tennessee Hardware Store Posts ‘No Gays Allowed’ Sign In Response To SCOTUS Marriage Ruling – Towleroad
  13. Kentucky Clerks Refuse Marriage Licenses To All Couples, Cite ‘Religious Beliefs’- Towleroad
  14. Last laugh for Republicans in the SCOTUS session that was | xpostfactoid The Supreme Court has accepted two cases that will allow it to do further major damage to unions and to affirmative action.
  15. How Do You Make a Safe Abortion Any Safer? As usual, pro-life arguments are being made in bad faith.
  16. Today we gain a leap second. Why? – Boing Boing
  17. Yeah, baby–new Overtime pay rule is out and it’s strong! | Jared Bernstein | On the Economy
  18. Who can write stories about Trans characters? Contains criticism of Hedwig.
  19. The Debate Link: Seventy Years Later. The global Jewish population level has almost reached pre-Holocaust levels.
  20. “A pessimism trap is where something good has happened, but it’s not cool to be excited that something good happened, so everyone starts trying to temper their joy with cynical comments about how it doesn’t mean much anyway and how it’ll really make things worse.”
  21. Why Are SSM Rights Doing Better Than Reproductive Rights – Lawyers, Guns & Money The answer is named Justice Kennedy.
  22. Growing mold is not sign that food is good for you, and not growing mold does not mean food is fake.
  23. Veronica Straszheim — thoughts on the friendzone
  24. Balkinization: Obergefell and Equality
  25. “Just” Joking? Sexist Talk in Science
  26. Valdenia Winn, Kansas state representative: Facing a disciplinary hearing for calling her colleagues “racist.” The complaint was eventually dismissed.


Posted in Link farms | Comments Off