The Politiconomist

Where Politics and Economics Hang Out

Guest Thought Dump: NOM Madness

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Politiconomist Note: I emailed my friend, Rachel Schoumacher, this over the top email (helpfully reproduced on their blog!) from the National Organization for Marriage. With her permission, I’m publishing her response here. Show her some love! I’m trying to talk her into making this a semi-regular thing!

  • “on my device” Is there a more awkward way to say “the smartphone equivalent of the future”? Probably, and “the smartphone equivalent of the future” is undoubtedly one of them. But it doesn’t sound like we reached very hard for a less awkward way to say it, either.
  • “increasing the types of marriage and number of people who can enter into them has decreased the overall number of marriage” Sounds pretty bullshit to me. Except maybe if so many people are entering poly marriages that it has reduced the total annual number of new marriages without reducing the number of people in them. Sure there’s the “marriage is patriarchical tyranny” crowd of flaming queers, but I don’t think they have anywhere near the kind of numbers to displace the huge amounts of the currently disenfranchised participants in loving relationships that they want legal recognition for. There are benefits to a formal marriage that are very unlikely to disappear in a mere decade; some fiduciary, but many that just smooth over otherwise difficult processes. Stupid NOM. You should understand what you’re purportedly protecting better. Marriage is good. People want it. They won’t fight for the right to have it and then stop doing it within a few years because they get bored. Oh, shit, I’m expecting logic from NOM, let’s just move on.
  • “A majority of children are now being born to unwed parents” Is the parent unwed because the parent is single, or because the parent(s) have decided not to participate in a marriage? Also, is the child remaining with said unwed parent or being adopted to a loving family unit of indeterminate size and gender? ‘Cause the latter sounds like a double win for me: the unwed parent doesn’t have to do that terrible “abortion” thing NOM also hates to get rid of an unplanned emotional/financial burden, and folks with lots of time and love to give are able to share it with more children without adding to the overpopulation problem plaguing the world. Oh, and unwed parent doesn’t dump kid on an overburdened foster system that could easily turn a normal child into a sociopath (or give them antisocial tendencies, as it’s so creatively called in some literature).
  • Ah yes, ye olde traditional marriage is one of the foundations of our society, going back for centuries! Perverting it will surely make all our problems worse! argument Except, y’know, the proven fact that children, cis or trans, who are encouraged and supported by their families and society are less likely to do any of the things discussed in the next point. And corresponding studies for queers of most stripes (“all” not used because of lack of available studies, not existence of disproving ones, as I’m sure you’re aware).
  • Regarding the same quote: this terrible thing will lead to other terrible things and some stuff that those things cause! So…truancy and drug use, as well as underage suicides (which may lead to death or hospitalization) and criminality (which may lead to incarceration) just happen to coexist with a reduction in educational attainment? Right. I know, I know, correlation does not prove causation…except when the correlation is between two things where one is often a cause of the other (if you’re truant to the point of delayed education or dropping out, yes, YOU HAVE LESS EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT. Drug use and “criminality” cause truancy, in the sense that kids are often not in school when these things are happening, or the penalties for these things result in incarceration…which means no school or significantly impacted school. And re: suicides—funny story, actually. Dead kids don’t get very far in school [okay, not funny after all]).
  • Blah blah blah poverty Again, if some of those other things NOMhead blathers about were true, it would follow that poverty would increase. But since his reasoning for those things being true is “omg traditional values have never ever changed and if we alter them in the slightest way like giving women the right to vote then it’s the same as – as – as just throwing all those values out the window and pissing on them! And society will collapse and what if a dirty teenage BOY pretends to be a GIRL just to leer at my daughter in the bathroom! [I was initially surprised by the use of a girl for a suspension example, but then I read the reason and was waaaay less surprised…] Then her mother and I might have to discuss sex with her like rational human beings instead of control freaks who want her to remain abstinent until her marriage at approximately 20 years of age to a good Christian boy of our selection, preferably no more than five years her senior.”
  • And the decadent defecation crown on top of the shitpile NURRRR NOT THE RAISING OF THE TAXES RUNNNN FOR YOUR LIIIIVIES

Written by R. A. Stark

December 18, 2014 at 12:38 PM

A Note about Russia’s Falling Economy

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I’m fairly partisan. I’m a solid Democratic voter and my policy opinions, while informed by the evidence, track with that. But I am going to give the credit for Russia’s falling economy to something besides the president.

The international business class, as a whole, hates wars. Wars destroy the factories and other capital they are invested in. They destroy a generation of young labor so driving up wages. They force expensive moves to other countries. I’m aware of important analyses that show that specified business interests love war, and they are often very powerful within the political machinery of a country. But on the whole, investors shy away from war mongers.

Which brings us to Russia. Insofar as major politico-economic shifts are ever simple, this is a case of investors deciding that Putin is not a good steward for Russia. Would you trust a man who has taunted NATO twice not to put your factories in harms way? Putin once introduced Merkel—a woman terrified of dogs—to his dogs. Would you trust him around your money?

Barack Obama perhaps deserves credit for seeing a dimension this blogger didn’t. That patience, that letting the international business community leave Putin high and dry, was good strategy. It’s arguably an important shift for American politics to let international markets abandon aggressors instead of trying to wield our hard power. I take the philosophy of inaction as policy seriously, and this is an excellent case study.

But is unlikely that even a misstep by the President would have saved Russia’s foreign investment accounts. If anything, it would have hurt them more because the manifest situation would have been that much worse; but we would have been harmed too. The over-focus on the President here, even if this is a modest success, ignores the bigger lesson: Good political stewardship is key to economic prosperity.

Putin shot himself in the foot more than Obama every could have hoped to.

Written by R. A. Stark

December 17, 2014 at 1:47 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Sunday Required Reading

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Sunday Required Reading is a link roundup of things The Politiconomist thought were worth your time from the past week, but not worth full commentary on. They’re not required in the sense that you don’t have to read them, but all the cool kids are doing it. By which we of course mean the geeks at The Polticonomist.

The Torture Summary

If you don’t have the stomach to read the executive summary of the Senate’s finding on America’s torture program (and I understand), consider this:

There’s something crucial we shouldn’t lose sight of: Torture was a terrible idea from the beginning because it was clear from the way the program came together that the CIA’s torture regime was never going to work, because it was based on copying Chinese torture methods designed not to elicit truth but to force false confessions.

So, even if there was a ticking clock, the only reason to try torture is because we’re an evil people who break human beings so that they’ll give false confessions and back up our propaganda.

USA! USA! USA!

Dream Smaller on International Aid

I read this piece about international aid and was going to excerpt something. Then I realized I just wanted to quote all of it. Everything I put on the Sunday Required Reading list is good, but this stands out among what’s here.

California’s Drought and Global Warming

Turns out, global warming may not be at the bottom of the desperately bad drought in California.

But according to new research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, California’s drought was primarily produced by a lack of precipitation driven by natural atmospheric cycles that are unrelated to man-made climate change. In other words, climate change may have worsened the impacts of the drought, but it isn’t the underlying cause.

This from Mother Jones, no less.

The United States of Pop

I’m not sure if the now two-week-old tradition of ending on a music video will continue. Either way, the United States of Pop is a consistently cool mash-up by DJ Earworm. So even if we don’t end this way next week, this is a fun way to purge ourselves of a year of pop and, with any luck, never hear All About That Bass ever again.

Written by R. A. Stark

December 14, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Meme I Hate: Local Spending

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This meme makes the rounds from time to time, and it makes me sigh.

I won't lie, my first issue is that garish pink.

I won’t lie, my first issue is that garish pink.

Guys, 3 million dollars in “the economy” works out to be…less than a penny person per year. Thousands of jobs is the statistical margin on BLS data. This is the equivalent of saying if you wave your hands around, you’ll warm up the room. No argument that the energy burned has that effect, merely that the effect is negligible.

There are some interesting questions about whether or not an effect like this actually happens. Given how small this claim is, it is unlikely it is backed by a high quality empirical study. Figuring out something this close to 0 isn’t likely to be reported as happening because it’s too far below the statistical noise that economic systems generate.

One possibility, and one The Politiconomist has sympathy for, is that they blew the order of magnitude on a back-of-the-envelope calculation. By simple multiplication, if every adult (~300 million of us) spent 100 extra bucks, we’d generate about 30 billion dollars for the economy. This is still small potatoes, but measurably small potatoes.

But that raises further questions. There is some debate about the economic effects of not just chain stores in general, but specific chain stores. Personally, I think the critical distinction is between chain stores facing competition and those which can drive down competition. Walmart tends to be more efficient, and thus offers better prices, but part of that is they often have a monopsony* on retail labor. Some studies—but hardly a consensus—indicate the effect of that is to depress wages more than prices.

Regardless, it is unlikely that if we spent 100 extra dollars at local stores we wouldn’t take those 100 dollars from chain stores. This has a deleterious effect on their income, profits, and wages. And while I leave the moral judgement about whether or not you weigh a dollar to local business as worth more or less than a dollar to a chain store, it is unlikely that there is a large economic advantage one way or another.

Which means that 3 million dollars might be incidentally right. But this is a meme I hate because if that’s the case, there is hardly a case at all to care one way or another.




*A fancy word for when a buyer has a monopoly.

Written by R. A. Stark

December 8, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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Sunday Required Reading

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Sunday Required Reading is a link roundup of things The Politiconomist thought were worth your time from the past week, but not worth full commentary on. They’re not required in the sense that you don’t have to read them, but all the cool kids are doing it. By which we of course mean the geeks at The Polticonomist.

Job Numbers

There was an awesome jobs report. 321,000 jobs for the first estimate with expectations of being revised up—and the previous two months revised up as well. Thanks Obama!

Election Cycle Joy

By joy, I totally mean drama. The Clinton campaign does not legally exist yet. Nonetheless, it is already having the kind of infighting that can torpedo a campaign from the inside. Clinton’s biggest opponent for 2016 may be her own staff.

Eric Garner, Part I

There has been a deluge of great writing about Eric Garner’s murder and the ensuing lack of indictment. But this list of The Stages of What Happens When There’s Injustice Against Black People covers most of them.

Eric Garner, Part II

I’m seeing a lot of articles of the “This One Weird Trick Will End Police Violence” variety. Except earnest. Guys, cameras will help. Hiring more college educated cops will help. But be careful. This is also a way to make this about something other than the painful racial disparities this is about.

Eric Garner, Part III

Are you worn out? I’m worn out. Here’s a faery, unicorn, butterfly kitten. Feel better, okay?

This...thing...lives a better world then us; let us strive to reach it.

This…thing…lives a better world then us; let us strive to reach it.

UVA Sexual Assault Controversy

It appears that there are some problems with the Rolling Stone’s reporting of an alleged gang rape that happened ata frat. Read the whole piece— and critically as a lot of the details that don’t “check out” are boiler-plate responses fraternities give. It’s the pledge one that sounds credible. And with that in mind, there’s this:

Jackie contradicted an earlier interview, saying on Thursday that she did not know if her main attacker actually was a member of Phi Kappa Psi.

“He never said he was in Phi Psi,” she said, while noting that she was positive that the date function and attack occurred at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on Sept. 28, 2012. “I know it was Phi Psi because a year afterward my friend pointed out the building to me and said that’s where it happened.”

That’s why she knew? I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t a false report so much as a mistaken one. You have a freshman who re-pieced the night together after the fact for obvious reasons who mixed up fraternities? Hardly out of the question and fits with most of the other stray details. Which isn’t to say that it certainly happened nor that Rolling Stone acted with journalistic integrity. Merely that a literally disoriented freshman (now older) may be at the heart of this.

A Question of Human Dignity

This piece gives a decent run-down of Finland’s SSM victory and how it is likely to be short-lived. However, I give you this:

Similarly, Kari Mäkinen, the Archbishop of Finland’s Lutheran Church became a major advocate for the same-sex cause, giving countless interviews and pushing for reform on the issue within the church. “For me, it is not a matter of opinion. It’s a question of human dignity arising from the basis of the Christian faith,” Mäkinen stated to Yle, Finland’s national broadcaster, prior to Friday’s vote.

But tell me again how religious folks are the natural enemies of gay rights.

Schmaltzy Gay Soft-Rock

I had a conversation about the importance of gay representation in art this week. I may at some point put down my personal experience with the vital importance seeing art that shows that, hey, maybe you aren’t a freak as a closeted gay person, but I don’t have a whole to lot to add to the theory. Since I know the crowd around here is really gay, I thought I’d share the YouTube video that was recommended to me by coincidence after this conversation. Yes, it’s schmaltzy and trite. But it’s gay, schmaltzy, and trite—it’s ours. Plus I’m in love with the way he sings his vowels:

Written by R. A. Stark

December 7, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Politicians Behaving Badly: Peter King

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You Have Wilson Over

I don’t give a lot of citations because, frankly, I don’t have much of a capacity to be stunned by politics anymore. Well, dubious congratulations, Peter King! You’ve stunned me!

“I think it would be very helpful if President Obama went and met with the police officer or invited him to the White House and said, ‘You’ve gone through four months of smear and slander and the least we can do is tell you that it’s unfortunate that it happened and thank you for doing your job.’ And then try to bring the communities together,” King said in an interview with Fox Business News.

This quote begins with the factual error “I think” and goes downhill from there. Helpful? I don’t even have snark for that. And you know what’s unfortunate? Shooting an unarmed teenager a bunch of times.

If you’re so gung-ho about Wilson, you can hang out. On camera. Where it can be used to torpedo your reelection chances.

~The Politiconomist~

Written by R. A. Stark

November 26, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Let’s Talk about Violence

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The first question I have for people calling for cession of violence in Ferguson is what next? What should the people of Ferguson do? Should they go to the police and ask for redress? Take Wilson to court? Appeal to the governor’s office?

These options are so completely, laughably non-starters—not mention exhausted—that I can’t imagine anyone raising them in good faith. But implicitly, that seems to be the call. It’s premised on the idea that if these people were more like white people, they would get treated like white people. It’s nominally true, but simply being complicit in state violence isn’t going to make them white enough to stop the next round of state violence.

And there will be a next round. The awful, recent history of Ferguson has been covered endlessly, but it keeps getting repeated because it matters. This is a town where a black man was served a warrant that wasn’t for him, beaten for pointing it out, and fined for getting blood on the officers’ shirts. Those are the authorities. Is that who the citizens of Ferguson should calm down and talk to?

But the other thing that is getting glossed over is the chronology of this becoming a national issue. Think back to August. The lead was not that an unarmed black teenager had been shot. The lead was a violent confrontation between police—those police I just mentioned—was unfolding in Ferguson. It took some time for the details about the rage to emerge.

If the people of Ferguson had stood passively in August, we would likely not know about the Grand Jury decision.

Am I condoning violence? Only in the warped world where objections to police violence are met with police violence. Certainly, I lean towards the tradition where protesters enter and refuse to leave the courthouse where this happened, not resisting their arrest, but certainly not leaving under their own power. (Quite a few protests are remaining non-violent assemblies, while we’re on this subject.) But the mere threat of violence put the eyes of the world back on Ferguson. That counts for a lot.

If you’re losing sleep over violence, the most important question is why the police always seem to be using it against black folks in Ferguson?

Written by R. A. Stark

November 25, 2014 at 11:47 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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