Monday, December 2, 2013

Rulers and Servants

Money must serve, not rule!

-- Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (2013)

The Distress of the Privileged got its 300,000th page view on Saturday. If you liked that post, check out my recent article "Political Empathy" in UU World. It isn't exactly a sequel, but builds on some of the same ideas.

This week everybody was talking about Pope Francis

which I discuss in detail in "What to Make of Pope Francis?"

and neocons were wailing about not going to war with Iran

For about a decade, it's been an article of faith among neocons that war with Iran is inevitable: The Iranian leadership is insane, you can't negotiate with them, all they understand is force, and so on. Sooner or later they're going to build an atomic bomb, so we'd better attack sooner rather than later. As recently as a week ago, John Bolton told us, "an Israeli military strike is the only way to avoid Tehran’s otherwise inevitable march to nuclear weapons."

By and large, the people saying this are the same ones who sold us the Iraq War -- Saddam was likewise insane and building nuclear weapons, we'd be welcomed as liberators and all that. So it's a continuing mystery why they get major-media platforms from which to make "expert" predictions that never pan out in reality.

The recent interim nuclear deal President Obama worked out with Iran creates a real possibility that sane Americans might get what we want -- Iran without nuclear weapons well into the future -- without blowing up anything or killing anybody. This comes on the heels of a deal to get rid of Syria's chemical weapons, again without firing a shot. (Neocon Brett Stephens described this as "the administration ... worming its way out of its own threat to use force to punish Syria's Bashar Assad.")

If that possibility becomes real, then the whole neocon worldview collapses, as it should have years ago, when it became clear that everything they had predicted about the Iraq War was false.

The result has been a lot of, well, squealing like stuck pigs. Neocons used their inexplicable media power not to dissect the agreement and find its flaws, but to shout "Munich!" and "Worse than Munich!" at the top of their lungs. I agree with Daniel Drezner's assessment:

the Munich analogy has been degraded to the point where #worsethanMunich deserves it's own Alanis Morisette song that permanently devalues the term.
Reading these articles will teach you virtually nothing about the content of the agreement or how it might yet go wrong. Instead, you'll get a lot of polemic, a lot of bad historical analogies, and more in the endless neocon series of scary-but-divorced-from-reality predictions.

and everybody wondered whether is fixed yet

The White House says it will work for more than 80% of users, that it can handle 800,000 users a day, and that it will continue to improve.

The important thing, though, is the back end: Does the data you enter get delivered accurately to the appropriate insurance company, who can then cover you? It's going to be a while before we can assess that. Ezra Klein (who has been following this more closely than just about anybody) comments:

So there remain reason for concern. But here's what's indisputable: is improving, and fast. Or, to put it differently, will be fixed. In fact, for most people, it is probably fixed now, or will be fixed quite soon.

And if you're wondering how the government is going to convince 20-somethings to sign up for ObamaCare, it isn't. Their moms are going to do it.

and "abolition porn"

It's tough to get people's attention when, like John Derbyshire, you've been booted out of the gated community of respectable right-wing commentators for being too racist. Yeah, you can still write for Taki's Magazine or VDare, but who reads those anyway?

Never fear, the true scum can always rise to the top: Derbyshire started his November 20 column talking about "12 Years a Slave" (which he admits he hasn't seen), labeling it "abolition porn" and going on to argue that slavery wasn't really as bad as all that.

Bang! He's back on the national radar. ThinkProgress, Alternet, Rightwing Watch ... nobody on the Left could resist such artful trolling. Congratulations, John. You made us look.

and you also might be interested in ...

Salon's Sean McElwee summarizes the reasons to believe that growing inequality comes from changes in political power, not changes in technology.

OK, it's the holidays. You eat, you get depressed about gaining weight and sitting in front of the TV, so rather than go jogging you think: Why bother? I can't possibly run far enough to burn off that second piece of pecan pie.

New research explains why you should bother. Exercise doesn't just burn calories, it changes the way your body operates. A mere seven-day experiment showed a significant difference between over-eating-and-sedentary young men who did short-but-vigorous daily exercise and those who didn't.

the volunteers who had exercised once a day, despite comparable energy surpluses, were not similarly afflicted. Their blood sugar control remained robust, and their fat cells exhibited far fewer of the potentially undesirable alterations in gene expression than among the sedentary men.

As the Hobby Lobby case moves to the Supreme Court, I appreciate Annalee Flower Horne's Quaker perspective on giving people "conscience exemptions" from following the laws that apply to everyone else.

Many Quakers are pacifists, so they object to being drafted into combat roles or even (for a smaller number of them) paying taxes that fund wars. They deal with this moral conflict by agreeing to alternative non-combat service or "by making sure they don’t make enough money to incur tax liability." In other words, they recognize that conscience has a price, and they willing pay that price.

Now along comes Hobby Lobby, demanding a consequence-free exemption to paying for birth control on the grounds that it violates their conscience. ...

If the Green family’s conscience really forbids them from meeting their legal obligations under the Affordable Care Act, then they have the option to arrange their lives so as not to incur those obligations. They can choose not to run a two billion dollar corporation.

But if they’re not willing to make those sacrifices–if their ‘conscience’ only compels them so far as they can follow it for free–then they are not conscientious objectors.

And they and their fake conscience objection can get the hell off my lawn.

I gave my opinion on this subject in July: “Religious Freedom” means Christian Passive-Aggressive Domination.

One more Annalee line worth quoting:

I won’t even ask which version of the bible they’re reading where Matthew 25.36 reads “I was sick and you sued not to cover my medical care.”

Polling three years before a presidential election is mostly about name recognition. So sure, VP Biden is the Democratic front-runner if Hillary Clinton decides not to run.
The most sinister aspect of NSA spying isn't the crimes they might find, it's the legal-but-embarrassing stuff that they can use to intimidate or discredit people they don't like.

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