Articles about Politics



The economic logic of the plastic bag tax: it’s not just a “sin tax”

Today I went to the grocery store. I didn’t want to: it’s New Years day, it’s raining, and Jon and I have a cold. But we ran out of Nyquil, so something had to be done. While I was at the store, I picked up Nyquil, some chicken breast, some eggs, and two spring rolls from the nice Japanese man at his Sushi counter. I went to the self-checkout kiosk, and worked my way through it. When I tapped the screen to show that I was finished, there was a prompt I’d never seen before: “How many bags would you like to purchase?” it asked. I glanced over at my groceries, cuddled up in one of the store’s plastic bags. Normally I bring my own canvas bags, but I was tired and in a rush and it slipped my mind. As of today, Dallas has instituted a Plastic Bag Tax, you see: and it had me thinking about free market economics and government regulation all the way home.

Boxers and flirting got my friend kicked out of school: the conundrum of sexual harassment

A friend of mine in college was accused of sexual harassment. Let’s call him Mike (that’s not his real name). Mike was six foot three, with a lean well-defined muscular body. Athletic and fit without being bulky, like a runner or a swimmer. He had tanned skin, shoulder-length shaggy hair, and a boyish face that radiated innocence and charm. He constantly smelled of patchouli, and wrote poetry in a little notebook. He was also hyper-sexual. He slept with a lot of women, and flirted with everyone. This is a story about how his sexuality and flirting got him into trouble, and lead to him sexually harassing a woman without even realizing it.

Why I am not against military drones

I’m against war, but I am not against military drones. Why not? Because when I hear other people explain why they are against military drones, I find none of the arguments convincing. So here I will go through four specific arguments I hear from people when they try to tell me why they are against military drones, and I will explain why those arguments are stupid and wrong. When I’m done, I think you won’t be against military drones, either.

Republicans won back the Senate because Obama is black. True or false?

Jimmy Williams, Executive Editor of Blue Nation Review, said on MSNBC last night that if we did not have an African-American president, Democrats would have done better in the midterm elections. Of course, conservative pundits have been all over this quote, and have paraphrased it in a number of ways, including things like “Democrats BLAME the election on Obama’s race!” and “Democrats say the ONLY REASON Republicans won is Obama’s race!” Are these fair characterizations of what Williams said? Before you dive in and decide whether you agree or disagree with any of these statements, it’s worth looking at what they really mean.

I’m anti-feminist, if by “feminist” you mean…

My good friend and colleague Milo Yiannopoulos said in an interview about his views on GamerGate: “I’m anti-feminist, if by ‘feminist’ you mean shrieking misandrists.” He is not alone in his perception of feminism. Many people see feminists as hyperbolic mean-spirited angry people who think all flirtation is sexual harassment and all sex with men is rape. This common perception has prompted backlash movements, and lead to celebrity after celebrity separating herself from the term “feminist.” Part of the problem is the strategies that many feminists use to convey their message, with the video “10 hours of walking in NYC as a woman” being a particularly potent recent example. For feminism to make progress, it needs to acknowledge why videos like this one do not resonate positively with the vast majority of people who watch it.

Is tolerance good enough for liberals?

Suzanna Walters has argued that gay people (and other minorities) should not be advocating for tolerance. To her, “tolerance” is not a high enough bar to set. She makes an emotionally appealing argument: Used in one sense, the word “tolerance” means “to put up with” or “to endure.” She basically argues that we shouldn’t be fighting for a world where people despise gay people but “put up with them” nonetheless. I can understand why a lot of people would agree with her interpretation. But she’s wrong, on at least two different levels.

Republicans and toilet paper

In the novel Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson includes a section (more or less unrelated to the main plot of the novel) describing a government “memo” about toilet paper. It is a brilliant bit of satire. The memo, for government employees, describes the problem of carefully tracking and regulating toilet paper usage at work, policies surrounding bringing toilet paper from home, sharing toilet paper in the office, and what may or may not be contributed to the “toilet paper pool.” But there was one part of this satirical commentary that stood out to me more than any other, because it reminds me EXACTLY of how the Republican Party is acting these days.

Ukraine, Putin, the CIA, and the modern version of Game of Thrones

Instagram was the last place I expected to have a deep political conversation. But then, a Ukrainian guy I follow on there posted this picture, and all hell broke loose in the comments. I ended up going back and forth with someone who turned out to be not only pro-Putin, but outright “anti-Western Society”. It was enlightening, but surreal, and if nothing else it makes me grateful that these international social media allow us to have conversations with people of all types, from all backgrounds. So here is a fragment of the conversation, just for you to think about. What do you think? Does he have a point? Is he just a product of pro-Russian propaganda? Or is it more complicated than that? I’ll let you decide…

The emotional release of bomb-throwing

When the Supreme Court of the United States handed down their decision on the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case yesterday, ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, people on the internet had two options. On the one hand, they could take time to carefully read the exact wording of the decision, find out what legal experts had to say about the implications, weigh information from a variety of sources, and then give a considered reaction. Or, they could slam out histrionic knee-jerk reactions based solely on the title of the decision and their own assumptions, typing as quickly as possible to get their voices on record as soon as humanly possible. You can guess what most people did. Personally, I actually did a little of both… and the fun I had during my “I’m going to yell and scream and troll!” phase was both enlightening, and a bit scary.

The problem with “Muslim religious extremists”

Whenever an Islamic extremist blows something up, or threatens to blow something up, or threatens to do any other act of terrorism, the headlines always include the term “Muslim extremist” or “Islamic terrorist” or some variation of those. Liberals have a problem with this, and it is often difficult for people who are not liberals to understand why. There actually is a reason, although it rarely gets discussed in a detailed or nuanced way. It has to do with the psychology of conversation, the way people understand language, and the radically different way that liberals and conservatives think about the cause of terrorism.

Why do conservatives hate Obamacare?

This is a rough transcript of a conversation that I had with the man sitting next to me during a flight from North Carolina to Dallas. The main described himself as conservative, and I just couldn’t resist: I had to bring up Obamacare. Now, I’m not saying that all conservatives are exactly like this guy, or even that all conservatives dislike Obamacare. However, I do think this conversation illustrates one of the biggest factors in conservative resistance to the Affordable Care Act… in a fairly dramatic way.

On Brendan Eich and anti-anti-gay bullying

In case you haven’t heard, the story goes like this: Once upon a time there was a man named Brendan Eich. He co-founded Mozilla, the company first behind the Netscape browser and later behind the Firefox browser, and was one of the originators of the Javascript programming language. He also donated a bunch of money to the California Proposition 8 campaign, which had the goal of making gay marriage illegal in California. Recently, he was appointed to be the CEO of Mozilla. All hell broke loose, people protested, and he ended up resigning. The question of the day is: was he unfairly bullied out of office for his anti-gay beliefs?

What if the people are just wrong?

I hear this argument a lot recently: “Sure, the people want X or the polls say Y, but what if the people are just wrong?” We need to be honest about the answer to this question. In some ways, the fact that this question is cropping up is a symptom of the escalation of our rhetoric in American politics today, and the rhetorical division between differing sides in political debates. We when we reflect on our own cultural consciousness, there is a sense that we feel like the “other side” is alien and unknowable: not only do “those people” disagree with us, but we can never truly comprehend how they think. There is no hope of compromise or intellectual discourse, because the other side is constantly being presented as though it is incomprehensible, baffling, and alien.

Obamacare is like my toilet

It’s hugely fashionable these days to make analogies between Obamacare and all kinds of things. So I will jump right on board: Obamacare is like my toilet, and I can explain why. Jon and I are remodeling our condo in Dallas, and as part of this project we bought a gorgeous one-piece dual-flush Kohler toilet […]

Don’t boycott ‘Ender’s Game’; donate to the Trevor Project instead

Konrad Juengling asked for my opinion about his article about Boycotting “Ender’s Game”. This is a topic that I feel strongly about, so I’m putting it here. Dear Konrad, I agree with you 100% when it comes to your opinion of Orson Scott Card as a human being. His own political and social beliefs are […]

A response to Chris Krok on the topic of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin

Every radio commentator has been doing their own post-mortem on the Zimmerman trial today. I want to respond specifically to the discussion by Chris Krok, local Dallas radio host on WBAP. Why focus on Chris Krok? Because in some ways I think his reaction represents the real, typical, “reaction of the people”. The reaction of […]

What do liberals think of polygamy?

Conservatives love the “Gay marriage will lead to polygamy! Are you saying you really support polygamy?” argument.  Surprisingly, I rarely hear the intelligent, correct liberal response to this. Instead, I hear a lot of mealy-mouthed waffling.  Libertarians (and some liberals) say “Hell, yeah! There is nothing wrong with polygamy!” which doesn’t quite feel right to […]

Rush Limbaugh’s subtle conspiracy theory

Rush Limbaugh, if nothing else, is good at rhetoric. He’s so good, he can get hordes of people believing in what is effectively a loopy conspiracy theory, without them even realizing it. Consider this excerpt, paraphrased from Rush’s radio show on June 12, 2013:   The entire motivation of the Democrat party, although they will […]

Islamists, Christianists, and Conservativists

As our politics in the United States get more radicalized and divided, there is a corresponding rise in use of ist labels that people use to point fingers at each other. When I first heard the term “Islamist”, I didn’t like it. For one thing, the people who seemed to delight in using the term […]

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