Some thoughts on misogyny, relationships, and blame

June 2, 2014 – 3:20 pm by John

The miswired psychopath who killed six people at UC-Santa Barbara has inspired an outpouring of commentary and social-media "activism", a surprising amount of which has been excellent in my opinion. I'm referring to the commentary on the general topic of misogyny, sexism, and harassment in the modern Western world, not that on the murderer and the murders themselves. The quantity and quality of soul-searching, empathizing, useful commentary I found on the former topics surprised me, for two main reasons, I think: (1) because so much of that commentary is so often shallow, reductionist misandry; and (2) because those issues are only tangentially related to the topic of the UCSB murderer by virtue of the fact that he was driven by misogyny, among other things.

I mean, sure, a certain amount of lazy or outright dishonest, Amanda Marcotte–level, man-hating, man-blaming, collectivist drivel was expected. And a certain amount of discussion forum–level, woman-hating, woman-blaming, somehow Obama- and terrorism- and Benghazi-related drivel was expected in return. (You know exactly the type of discussion forum poster and Twitter user I'm talking about, don't you?) But several of the columns I've read have been great, and here are my comments on a few.

Ever strident in her role of balancing out the Amanda-nuttiness at Slate's XX Factor, Amanda Hess has written multiple fair and thoughtful columns about the UCSB murders and the misogyny that's on everyone's mind this past week. In her column Why It's So Hard For Men to See Misogyny, she notes that, well, obviously, we don't experience it, but we also don't even see or hear most of it because the men who perpetrate it intentionally avoid doing it in front of other men. Her theory is that men respect other men's "domain" and back off a woman when they find out she's taken.

I think the thesis of her two columns was best stated in the last paragraph of that one:

Some men are using this death count [i.e., more men than women] to claim that Rodger’s killings were not motivated by misogyny, but that is a simplistic account of how misogyny operates in a society that privately abides the hatred of women unless it’s expressed in its most obvious forms.

Her second column, “If I Can’t Have Them, No One Will”: How Misogyny Kills Men, fleshes out this thesis and its supporting evidence better. (The former column was more anecdotal and concerned the reasons women and therefore society seem to tolerate so much subtle, sneaky misogyny and harassment, though I question how misogynist or sexist the men in her anecdotes really were. More on that later.)

For example, she writes,

In the wake of the murders, some leveraged Rodger’s death count to argue that, if anything, Rodger’s crimes were an expression of his hatred of men, not women. If he was such a misogynist, why were his victims mostly male?

(I think, honestly, the most accurate answer is that his roommates happened to be male. If he lived with three females, then ceteris paribus, I think the death count would have been five women and one man. Hess doesn't touch on that.)

Women’s issues are often dismissed as a niche concern, but we constitute half of the human population. Once that’s recognized, it’s not hard to see how hating us can inflict significant collateral damage among all people—including the men who are our partners, our relatives, and our colleagues. Misogyny kills men, too.

... But men who loved women also incurred Rodger’s wrath. “I will destroy all women,” Rodger wrote. “I will make them all suffer for rejecting me. I will arm myself with deadly weapons and wage a war against all women and the men they are attracted to.” Rodger viewed women as objects, and he resented other men for hoarding what he viewed as his property. “If I can’t have them,” he wrote, “no one will.”

In her 2007 book Whipping Girl, Julia Serano noted that misogyny is the belief that “femaleness and femininity are inferior to, and exist primarily for the benefit of, maleness and masculinity,” and that’s an attitude that works to police both men and women. It expresses itself in the bullying of insufficiently masculine boys, in the pervasiveness of homophobic slurs, in the suppression of open emotional expression among men, and in overwhelming violence against trans women, who are especially stigmatized for appearing to reject what some consider as their God-given male bodies.

Then there is the male toll from domestic violence against women. Over the past decade, organizations that fight domestic violence have begun to take a closer look at all of the deaths that result from dating and spousal relationships, beyond the victims who are killed by their intimate partners. Women are overwhelmingly the victims of domestic violence murders. But men die, too. Some are killed by their partners, male or female. Others are killed by police after killing their partners, or attempting to. Many kill themselves. And every year, a number of men die at the hands of other men who murder the current partners of their ex-girlfriends or ex-wives. ... Jane Doe Inc., an advocacy organization against domestic violence in Massachusetts, expanded the bounds of its own annual death count in 2005 to include homicides where “the homicide victim was a bystander or intervened in an attempted domestic violence homicide and was killed” and ones where “the motive for the murder was reported to have included jealousy” in the context of an intimate relationship. "The human toll from domestic violence is grossly underestimated,” Jane Doe reported in 2006. “Domestic violence homicides represent just the tip of the iceberg regarding mortality and morbidity resulting from domestic violence.”

Hess also makes the important, underappreciated point that the male-on-male-violence aspect of misogyny often goes unnoticed, or at least unnoticed as being part of misogyny, but it's still there. Male-on-male violence absolutely can and does result from misogynist, possessive, entitled attitudes. In these cases the misogyny mainly manifests as envy or jealousy ("If I can't have hot girls, then I'll lash out at you for having them"). So just because he killed more men than women and seemed to hate men equally as much, his murder spree could still be a manifestation of misogyny (among other things, probably).

It is not uncommon for men who resent women to take out their aggressions on other men, but unlike public violence against women, male-on-male attacks slip more easily underneath our cultural radar. When Jersey Shore reality star Snooki was punched by a man at a bar while cameras rolled, the guy was instantly mobbed by her protective male friends and, later, widely condemned by television viewers. But as Cord Jefferson detailed in Jezebel at the time, violence between men on the show—often enacted in fights over the show’s female characters—was completely normalized. Both scenarios are evidence of misogyny’s societal impact; only one is accepted as such.

A year before the murders, Elliot Rodger used this dynamic to his advantage when he attended a college house party that he later wrote in his manifesto was an attempt to give the “female gender one last chance to provide me with the pleasures I deserved from them.” But the female partygoers failed to satisfy, and, drunk and dejected, Rodger hopped onto a 10-foot ledge and openly attempted to shove off the women he disdained, and the men who had occupied their attentions. When police confronted him about the incident, Rodger claimed that it had simply been a boyish fight between men, who Rodger said had attacked him for acting too “cocky.” This excuse helped Rodger evade immediate punishment and allowed the misogynistic roots of his anger to go undetected.

Backed up by everyday examples and statistical evidence, Hess makes the strong point that yes, a murderer who obviously hated women and saw them as objects for him to possess can still have been motivated by that misogyny even though he also hated men and killed more men than women. She concludes:

Elliot Rodger targeted women out of entitlement, their male partners out of jealousy, and unrelated male bystanders out of expedience. This is not ammunition for an argument that he was a misandrist at heart—it’s evidence of the horrific extent of misogyny’s cultural reach.

Brendan O'Neill would seem to disagree. In a guest column he wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times, Therapy culture and a killer's rage, he posits that the psychotherapy "culture" that emerged in about the 1970's has put so much emphasis on the patient's self-esteem and self-worth that it has become narcissistic and almost (to use my own word) obsequious to the self in all ways, so that if spoiled narcissists don't get their way and can't make people see how great they are, then they can't cope with that rejection and so lash out. O'Neill, noting that the killer was only involved in men's rights/woman-hating forums for a few years but was in therapy for 14 years, hypothesizes that this narcissistic therapy culture is what drove him to blame his shortcomings on others and channel his blamelessness into misogyny and murder.

That could be true in this case, but then the question must be asked: How many other people has modern "therapy culture" saved from hatred, murder, and suicide? Maybe psychologists and psychiatrists have prevented dozens or hundreds of murders over the past few decades and contributed to only a few. Now, psychotropic drugs, on the other hand, could be a lot worse than therapy-induced narcissism, and several mass murderers have been on antidepressants. But again, how many mass murders were prevented by antidepressants? Is it possible to even grossly estimate that? I haven't heard anything about the UCSB killer's medication history, but I think that would be useful information.

My favorite column so far is Jamie Varon's, mainly because it exposes the inadequacy of mere awareness and hashtag activism to accomplish anything, to change anything. Her thesis is that compassion towards boys and young men, the disproportionate committers of violent and sexual crimes, along with a cultivation of their own compassion, feelings, sensitivity, creativity, and individuality, can help them grow into responsible, well-adjusted adults who don't feel the need to lash out at society for their own frustrations. I don't think this is just hippie-feel-good stuff of no consequence. It's clear that nearly all mass murders are committed by men who suffer from mental illness compounded with feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, worthlessness, and blamelessness, so if we even can do anything to prevent such tragedies, short of forcibly institutionalizing everyone with signs of psychiatric problems, it starts with boys and their feelings.

How can it get better? How can we fix this? How can we find ways for men to grow up without shame, without aggression, without pent-up anger? How do we raise men and women to seek help when they need it, to be able to express their feelings and frustrations freely, to go throughout their life without gender normative pressure to be something that perhaps they don’t feel comfortable being? How can we raise children and educate adults on how to allow more freedom and open-mindedness?
What do people do with all their awareness? Awareness and blame walk the finest of tightropes and depending on a person’s history, can be interpreted in either direction, no matter the intent. Because awareness can easily turn into suspicion which can easily turn into expectation which can easily turn into assumption which can easily turn into fear, then we’re victims and men are the monsters, even before they’ve spoken a word to us.

Because, here’s the thing: in one way or another, we’re all part of the problem, some more than others. But we all perpetuate it and allow it. We are all culpable parts of a nuanced cog.

We say, “Teach your children not to rape,” without offering up reasons for why men are taking out their aggression in this way. In fact, we’re not asking even why men are this aggressive in the first place. ...

And the discussion we are having right now is misguided. We are pointing out the SYMPTOMS, not the root cause of a larger issue. We are ignoring the true diagnosis of what is at the heart of our violence problem. By sharing our stories, we are finding strength in numbers, which is valuable in its own right. However, when the stories and awareness circle around symptomatic experiences, instead of a useful dialogue about how we can move forward as a species, then all we are doing is agreeing with each other and that becomes insular and not helpful.

Because, the men who truly need to be heard and who truly are at the heart of this issue, are the ones who are responding defensively with, “not all men are like this,” and yes, we belabor them and roll our eyes at them, because, “duh!” but that’s insensitive.

The way we treat men is insensitive. Sometimes I feel like we are a group of popular girls at a high school who, if anyone ever disagrees with us or voices an opinion, our answer is to laugh at them, to snicker, to degrade them. Are we better? Do we have the answers? Are women not part of the problem, too?

Do women not profit off the way that men are reduced to their sexual urges? Do women not see opportunity in men that will happily buy their affection, prostitution or otherwise? Do well-known celebrities not experience intense reward and value for being a real-life version of what a man has been taught is his fantasy? Do women not, every single day, profit from their objectification? Do women not buy beauty products and watch shows and movies and consume and consume and consume all sorts of things that are direct propaganda that lead to the symptoms of aggression that they then bemoan on a hashtag?
Nobody is innocent here. Every single day, whether you are aware of it or not, you and I are perpetuating the same ideas that are leading to aggression. We buy movies where men attack other men who hit on their girlfriends and call it romantic. We immortalize a writer who perpetuates obsessiveness and aggressiveness and call it love. We tell men to pursue us, to come get us, to make us feel wanted, to put us into weaker positions by paying for us and supporting us and making us dependent on them, all the while calling this chivalrous and charming. We want men to be sensitive, but when they are, we make fun of them for being soft and “crying like a girl.”

(Well, certainly more women than ever don't do this but actively, vocally eschew that weak, old-fashioned behavior; the women who oppose it most strongly are, in fairness, the progressive feminists.)

When a man chases us down the street and we’re attracted to him, it’s sweet. When a man chases us down the street and we’re not attracted to him, it’s harassment.

All the while, men know ALL OF THIS that I explained above, plus more confusion about what it means to be a man. We throw everything we can at men and then go, “sort this out on your own and if you have any questions, we’re going to laugh at you.”
Honestly, I think it’s confusing to be a human being right now. Women have banded together and there’s more of an understanding, because women are encouraged to share their feelings, express themselves, and be sensitive and compassionate. ... At some point, we allow women to be free — albeit, with body image issues, of course, which is a totally separate, layered topic — but we put rules and restrictions on boys. You have never seen more determination than a father who wants his son to play sports, most of which encourage violence and aggression.

Here I think is the only egregious material mistake Varon makes. It is two-pronged.

First, society puts rules and restrictions (and expectations!) on girls, whether consciously and specifically or not.

Second, I have rarely seen so many wrong ideas about sports and youths packed into so few words. For instance, name three sports that any remotely sizable subset of boys play that "encourage violence and aggression". There's football...I think that's literally it. Hockey doesn't, especially not anymore, though it is more conducive to injuries than most sports. Nobody boxes anymore. Hardly any young boys play rugby in America. Never having wrestled, I am still pretty sure both violence and aggression are two of the quickest routes to losing and/or disqualification in wrestling. Every other youth sport I can think of is self-evidently non-violent and non-aggressive.

The fact is that sports are physical without being violent or aggressive, which is exactly why they are one of the best types of activities that boys—and girls, too!—can engage in. Sports are fun, they provide fresh air and exercise, and they let the participants let off steam. Sports teach the value of hard work, self-discipline, responsibility, teamwork, sticking with a commitment, learning from mistakes, and getting better, not bitter, from losing. They teach us that success can only be achieved as the direct result of long effort and devotion. They teach us the value of sportsmanship and healthy competition, because we recognize that every other competitor is in the same boat as us and they are only doing their best to win fairly, just like we are. (Presumably.) They also teach us that working hard, having the drive to win, improving little by little, and giving our best have merit in and of themselves but that they don't guarantee any outcome, and that that's okay.

Of the few things I can proclaim confidently about psychology and behavior, I am nearly 100% certain that substantially fewer boys would grow into violent, disrespectful, bitter, entitled men if they had more and better youth sports experiences. And for the boys who try it and don't like it, other hobbies teach many of the same lessons, such as music, art, writing, making and building things, scouts, gardening, cooking, computer programming, the list goes on. No, hobbies aren't going to solve our mental-health and male-violence problem, but sports would help, not hurt.

Mothers and fathers put much less of a box around girls. They are encouraged to use their imagination — if they want Legos, their parents are not worried about what it means; they simply give her Legos. God forbid, a little boy wants to play with a Barbie — most parents are not evolved enough to see that just because their boy wants to play with a Barbie does not mean he’s anything except curious and imaginative, as children are wont to be. However, this suppression of natural urges is struck down very early on, from how they should play to how they should act to how they should talk to how they are supposed to present themselves to the world.
And yet, men are encouraged to suppress their natural desires, not in a sexual way, but in a human way, as in their natural desire to be imaginative, creative, loving, sensitive, empathic, compassionate, nurturing, expressive.

Did you notice that as you read the above words you automatically associated them with being feminine? With being a woman? A woman is allowed to be anything and encouraged to do so, but men, and here’s the silent killer, are not. They are not, but we tell them that they are, that they have the world at their feet, that they are privileged and that we are oppressed and all they have is their confusing feelings towards this that they are not encouraged (again, discouraged) from expressing. Yes, there are real issues facing the way women are treated and I am not insensitive to that, but we must stop this blame.

We. Must. Stop. This. Blame. We are blaming and pointing fingers, instead of using the best tool we can use to actually inspire change which is COMPASSION.

We are compassionate when, instead of rolling our eyes and muting the men who say NOT ALL MEN ARE LIKE THIS, we listen. (I am, admittedly, a hypocrite on this, because I’ve rolled my eyes at many men and I can acknowledge this is the problem because I’m a fucking part of it.)

Compassion is asking WHY, not stating facts. Compassion is, instead of blaming parents for raising vicious children or instead of blaming women for wearing lascivious clothing or instead of blaming men in general, we open up a discussion as to how men and women got to this impasse. Why are we here?

I mean, fuck, how are some men growing up into men who then hate women? This is disturbing. But this is what we do, we don’t open up discussions. We point fingers, blame, write our two cents, and then spend the rest of the day muting and blocking anyone that doesn’t agree with us. ON BOTH SIDES. We’ve become people who are so fixed in their views that open-mindedness is not just absent, but it’s a pipe dream at this point. And, in our political correctness of not wanting to ever excuse what someone did, we paint the perpetrator as insane or ill and move on. ...

I want to hear from men. I want their stories, too. I want to know what it’s like to grow up not knowing what to do, because you’ve been told how to be and it’s such a stringent view of life that you can’t reconcile who you are up against who you’re supposed to be. I want to know what it’s like to feel that you must make money in order to earn the right to be loved by someone who you never know actually loves you for you (or if they are loving you for what you provide). I want to know what it’s like to date when you’re told that “no means no” but that also, “persistence is key” and that women “play hard to get.” I want to know what it’s like to grow up being fed messages that tantalize your sex drive, that are designed perfectly to get you to buy things and achieve things, that sell you the idea of women as a reward for hard work and financial success, but then to be told that you must respect that woman who allowed herself to be bought. I want to know what it’s like to have to suppress every natural urge you might have that doesn’t fit within the teeny tiny allowance of who you’re allowed to be, lest you forgo your manliness. I want to know what it’s like to grow up perhaps on the spectrum of sexuality (like women do, but are not demonized to explore, but their curiosity is celebrated by men) but to have to suppress that and fit into gender norms that are archaic, but the same norms you have to uphold or you will be cast out.

I want to know what it’s like to be excessively and overwhelmingly taught to objectify women, but then be demonized for doing so. Do men who have questions and feelings and thoughts on this subject have a million blogs to turn to? Do men have community to talk about these things? ...

I want to know what it’s like to, just by virtue of having a penis, feel pressured to initiate a conversation with a woman he finds attractive — only to be, most times, rejected and humiliated, but then have to do it again if he has any hope for finding a partner to share his life with. Men are supposed to initiate a date, talk to you first, ask you out, pay for everything, suppress their urge to copulate until you’re ready, keep paying for things, hope they measure up, worry that you’ll try to change him, worry that he’s some sort of uncut diamond you want to polish, feel like they have to buy you, and then be made to feel powerless in more ways than you could probably imagine.
[emphasis in original]

This last paragraph, better than any I think I've ever read, encapsulates the romantic/sexual frustration that I and millions of other men felt growing up. Jamie Varon shows quite a lot of insight about the frustrations of being a young man for someone who doesn't have a penis. It reminds me of this passage by Norah Vincent, a woman who disguised herself as a man for 18 months to learn what it's like to be a single man on the dating scene (and to write a book about it), whom I first heard about from Amy Alkon's blag:

If you have never been sexually attracted to women, you will never quite understand the monumental power of female sexuality, except by proxy or in theory, nor will you quite know the immense advantage it gives us over men. Dating women as a man was a lesson in female power, and it made me, of all things, into a momentary misogynist, which I suppose was the best indicator that my experiment had worked. I saw my own sex from the other side, and I disliked women irrationally for a while because of it. I disliked their superiority, their accusatory smiles, their entitlement to choose or dash me with a fingertip, an execution so lazy, so effortless, it made the defeats and even the successes unbearably humiliating. Typical male power feels by comparison like a blunt instrument, its salvos and field strategies laughably remedial next to the damage a woman can do with a single cutting word: no.

Sex is most powerful in the mind, and to men, in the mind, women have a lot of power, not only to arouse, but to give worth, self-worth, meaning, initiation, sustenance, everything. Seeing this more clearly through my experience, I began to wonder whether the most extreme men resort to violence with women because they think that's all they have, their one pathetic advantage over all she seems to hold above them. I make no excuses for this. There are none. But as a man I felt vaguely attuned to this mind-set or its possibility. I did not inhabit it, but I thought I saw how rejection might get twisted beyond recognition in the mind of a discarded male where misogyny and ultimately rape may be a vicious attempt to take what cannot be taken because it has not been bestowed.

Sexual desirability and female attention are, for many men—too many men—their main source of self-worth. For almost all other men, this sexual-romantic prowess ranks a close second in worth-giving behind having a well-paid job that can support an entire family. This isn't women's fault, it isn't men's fault, it's just...all of our fault. Together. Somehow. Maybe biology's or nature's fault.

If that sounds too collectivist and too responsibility-absolving, then fine, it might be, but that's because a collective, societal, cultural, nebulous "blame" is the best I can do because I don't have any clear answers. Neither do you. What is clear from what I've experienced throughout my life and read over the past week is that the relationship between men and women on the whole is too adversarial, too partisan, too combative. A large proportion of people see the other sex as the enemy, or at least the opponent. Most women think they have it harder in the dating/relationship realm, and so do most men. My take is that men have it harder in the dating/relationship/sex realm while women have it harder in the appearance/clothing/attractiveness realm, in addition to legitimately fearing for their own safety much of the time and being too often groped, belittled, or otherwise harassed and attacked merely for being female.

I can now return to Amanda Hess's first column mentioned above, in which she details through anecdotes how women are constantly having to suffer discomfort, annoyance, harassment, or worse but don't usually raise a fuss about it. I said I question how wrong some of the supposed misogyny, sexism, or harassment she recounts really is, so let me quote her at length again.

The night after the murders, I was at a backyard party in New York, talking with a female friend, when a drunk man stepped right between us. “I was thinking the exact same thing,” he said. As we had been discussing pay discrepancies between male and female journalists, we informed him that this was unlikely. But we politely endured him as he dominated our conversation, insisted on hugging me, and talked too long about his obsession with my friend’s hair. I escaped inside, and my friend followed a few minutes later. The guy had asked for her phone number, and she had declined, informing him that she was married and, by the way, her husband was at the party. “Why did I say that? I wouldn’t have been interested in him even if I weren’t married,” she told me. “Being married was, like, the sixth most pressing reason you weren’t into him,” I said. ...

Four years before the murders, I was sitting in a bar in Washington, D.C. with a male friend. Another young woman was alone at the bar when an older man scooted next to her. He was aggressive, wasted, and sitting too close, but she smiled curtly at his ramblings and laughed softly at his jokes as she patiently downed her drink. “Why is she humoring him?” my friend asked me. “You would never do that.” I was too embarrassed to say: “Because he looks scary” and “I do it all the time.”
Women who have experienced this can recognize that placating these men is a rational choice, a form of self-defense to protect against setting off an aggressor. But to male bystanders, it often looks like a warm welcome, and that helps to shift blame in the public eye from the harasser and onto his target, who’s failed to respond with the type of masculine bravado that men more easily recognize. Two weeks before the murders, Louis C.K.—who has always recognized pervasive male violence against women in his stand-up—spelled out how this works in an episode of Louie, where he recalls watching a man and a woman walking together on a date. “He goes to kiss her, and she does an amazing thing that women somehow learn how to do—she hugged him very warmly. Men think this is affection, but what this is is a boxing maneuver.”

I assure you, men don't think this is affection. Anything less than a kiss is not affection. Anything less than a kiss is not necessarily rejection, which is the point Louis C.K. and Hess are making: that we see polite rejection as non-rejection and proceed boldly under that premise. But you don't need to distort (or misunderstand) the facts to make a point. We know a dodged kiss when we see one, and we don't consider it good. We might not see it as the rejection it is, but we don't consider it good.

My main response to the three paragraphs quoted above is that much of the behavior that women find objectionable results from the pressure men feel to initiate every conversation with a woman, to find out if a woman is interested in him and find out if she wants to go on a date with him, to "go get" a woman instead of waiting to be gotten. (Okay, and alcohol.) Based only on Hess's descriptions of the pushy drunk guy at the backyard party and the aggressive drunk guy at the Washington bar, I'm inclined to say that the worst those men were guilty of was making unwanted advances. As described, it wasn't harassment and it wasn't aggression. If it goes on too long, if there's unwanted touching, or if he doesn't listen to their rejection, that's when I'd say it crosses the line into inappropriateness. Making every unwanted conversation with a guy you're uninterested in, even the drunk ones, into harassment or misogyny or entitlement doesn't do anyone any good.

Hess makes the point that it's bad for women to tacitly allow this unwanted attention out of politeness or fear, and it's bad that their best excuse seems to be "Sorry, I'm taken." But maybe Jamie Varon is more on the right track: Maybe our society at large, including most of both genders, is at fault for putting all the pressure of initiating almost any romantic relationship on the males, from grade school on. Hess makes the point that women do carry some of the blame, for not being more direct and impolite, but I'm saying that a wider, less explicit, but no less acutely felt societal expectation is to blame.

The women that Hess and Louis C.K. describe have had to endure and witness their fair share of inappropriateness, disrespect, unwanted attention, and pushiness, and some subset of it is aggression and harassment. So why do men act like that? Why do they resort to actions and attitudes that women find uncomfortable or pushy? What is the root of that behavior, which they arrived at rationally? The answer isn't just alcohol, and you're not going to stop people from drinking anyway. Why do Hess and Louis C.K. think it's bad (for society, not just the man) that a man interprets a hug as a non-rejection and continues to pursue a romance where none is to be found? Part of the answer could be that men didn't hear enough (any) firm No's in their lives, from women or their fellow men. But I contend that even more of the answer lies in the absolute necessity men feel to impose themselves on single-looking women, whether in social situations or just out in the world randomly, if they hope to ever find a mate.

This is not excuse-making or dodging the issue of real harassment. It's a real problem men face that could explain a large part of the problem women face. The pressure is pervasive, constant, weighing. The expectation is nearly 100% one-way. Sure, more women than ever are asking men out and even asking men to marry them, but the only direction they had to go was up. Men feel the pressure to initiate every relationship, and they feel the sting of rejection more acutely and more often. They rely on liquid courage not mainly to dull the inevitable sting but to enable them to even start the conversation at all.

Many men, especially at first, so fear the embarrassment of rejection that the prospect paralyzes them. Other men try to protect themselves from the embarrassment and the paralysis through alcohol, or they take what I've seen described as the "machine gun" approach: fire 100 bullets (pick-up attempts, not real bullets, calm down) and maybe they'll be successful once. In order to be "successful" in the world of romance—which admittedly often means dating or sleeping with as many women as possible, not finding a wife—many men say that you have to put a rejection out of your mind immediately and not think about it except as a learning experience, and move on unphased. This clearly leads many men, possibly some of the ones Hess has witnessed, to pursue a woman long after she's decided he has no chance, and this comes off as pushy or harassing. They don't see it as pushy, they see it as their role in the dating world. They don't see it as harassment, they see it as necessary. They don't see it as entitled, because that's not how they feel. If they are oblivious to the woman's uninterest, it is because forging boldly ahead, damn the torpedoes, is the only way they've learned to deal with the certainty of a low success rate and the feelings of worthlessness that come from a rejection.

Sometimes, instead of moving on to a different woman unphased, a man continues pursuing the same woman, with varying degrees of directness. The tough-luck nice-guy protagonist who follows this path in romantic comedies is not fantasy concocted to sell tickets; it happens in real life. My co-blagger Kelly is a perfect example of it, and he was successful and remains with that girl to this day. Persistence and boldness, which, sure, can become pushiness and harassment, are successful sometimes. That doesn't make drunk oblivious guys sexual harassers or sexual aggressors. That doesn't put them in the same ballpark, much less the same spectrum, as domestic abusers, rapists, and murderers. It doesn't even make them misogynist, sexist, or entitled. It makes them either sensible or desperate, depending on the situation.

Instead of, or in addition to, chiding women for politely abiding men's unwanted, uncomfortable advances, maybe Hess should question why we allow this one-way relationship-starting dynamic to persist in Western society. How often do women approach men at a bar or social gathering and ask them out? How many women are aware of how one-sided this dynamic is and have tried to do something about it? Oh, that would make people look askance at them and call them slutty or easy? Well, how often do women interject and stop their fellow women from making such asinine, harmful judgments about other women? About as often as men interject and tell their fellow men to stop acting disrespectful, I'd wager.

Jamie Varon is right: In general, men and women both need to listen and understand more and blame less in order to substantially reduce the amount of misogyny and harassment men direct at women.

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Not all women, not all men

May 31, 2014 – 3:22 pm by John

As with so much about Twitter and the rest of the internet, the recent #YesAllWomen movement, which took place in the wake of the UCSB murders but which both legitimately and laughably moved far away from the killer's supposedly misogynist motivation and into the everyday fears and annoyances that women suffer in 21st-century America, was a mix of good and bad.

The #YesAllWomen meme is derived from feminists' derogatory #NotAllMen meme, in which they basically dismissed and ridiculed men who pointed out that most men aren't misogynist, sexist, entitled, or anything approaching rapey. "Pff," these women scoffed, "such a high percentage of you ARE like that that all you can resort to is a pathetic 'not all men are like that.'" With their Twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen, feminists supplied retorts to the "not all men" excuse-makers by pointing out that yes, ALL women suffer certain fears and dangers and harassments because some large enough subset of men are violent, dangerous, or at least crass and sexist.

This, to me, seems irrefutable and perfectly legitimate to point out as a conversation-starter in our vicously circular culture war. You shouldn't believe the statistic that 20% or 25% of college women have been sexually assaulted, but the upper range of the other reported statistics (1 in 6 American women) is truly deplorable, if accurate. One in six! It is also deplorable that sexual assault is the most under-reported violent crime, with at least 80% going unreported to police.

So there is no overreaction, no feminist victimizing, no man-hating involved in women's being afraid to walk alone at night, in the discomfort they feel at bars, cons, and other social events, or in the precautions they feel they have to take to avoid groping or verbal harassment. My impression is that it is completely legitimate to say that yes, ALL women are justified in feeling scared or uncomfortable in situations where men don't.

Some of the things that these Twitter warriors claimed applied to all women, on the other hand, are truly ridiculous and laughable. The reason I'm writing about them is not only because ridiculousness deserves ridicule (invites it, in fact), but also because bogus, trumped-up claims can do real harm to actual past and future victims of actual transgressions. Just as a made-up rape accusation can, justifiably or not, damage the (perceived) credibility of the next real rape victim, so can empty complaints about oppression and harassment make reasonable people doubt the validity of other claims and question the general reasonableness of the people who make the bogus complaints.

For those who don't see what complete garbage this is, I'll explain it to you in all seriousness: It casts all men as potential murderers and sows suspicion about all men. This is otherizing, collectivist hatred that reduces an entire half of the species to its Y chromosome and sex organs. Feminists across the world, in all cultures and all languages, should be shouting to this Ashley Sinha: "You're the reason so many men treat all feminists as man-hating 'feminazis'! You're harming our cause!"

This is so ignorant it's infuriating. No, all women aren't victims of the NRA, or guns, or the Second Amendment. Second, men are by far disproportionately victims of gun violence in the West and across the world. Third, and possibly most important, thousands if not tens of thousands of women belong to the NRA, and thousands use guns to defend themselves from rape and other crimes every year.

More reductionist man-blaming and more misunderstanding of the word "all". There are over 100 million women in the United States. Clearly, not all of them will be victims of domestic violence, and clearly "us men" aren't all doing the killing.

"John," you say, "you're taking the wording of the hashtag too literally. He doesn't mean his statistics apply to all women or extrapolate to all women. It's an expression of solidarity."

Yes, I agree, the hashtag was used in dumb, ineffective ways, and Twitter is an awful place to make a serious point about anything or cite any statistics that can't be easily summarized in 140 characters.

Because you just know that some man is going to harass, denigrate, and abuse her, eventually? How enlightened.

Again, they misuse the word "all" to make a political point.

Hyper-concerned misandry gives you the ability to see the future now.

This is simply false. It is so mathematically improbable as to be obviously false without having to take a survey to find a counterexample. I know women, including my wife, who have not been harassed, at least not in such a way that they considered it harassment. I don't doubt that you define harassment to be such a slight annoyance that you see it, hear it, and experience it everywhere and all the time, because that is clearly how some women need to live their lives and see the world in order to feel better about themselves and give their lives some grounding to hold onto. That grounding is good old-fashioned, reliable, unchanging, unquestioned, self-assured, otherizing hatred. But no, not every single woman I know or don't know has been sexually harassed.

Obviously you are not paying attention. Most people, in fact, seem to be very uncomfortable about the telling of rape jokes.

Men (and boys) are told not to harass all the time. In fact, the anti-harassment lesson is pounded into us so firmly that it results in the suppression of not only harmful sexual urges and not only harmless sexual urges but also many males' general rambunctiousness, assertiveness, confidence, and comfort with the opposite sex. I would go so far as to say, with only anecdotal and not statistical evidence to support me, that the hyper-sensitive, hyper-PC suppression of boys' (and girls') natural behavior and sexuality has done far more harm than good on the sex-crimes front.

Not a single civilized human being has said a single nice thing about him. You know how I know? Because saying a nice thing about him makes you an uncivilized troglodyte. It may be circular reasoning, but it's factually correct.

Yes, all women what? Are expected to drop out of college if they get married? I doubt even a large minority of women who get married during college are asked if that means they're done with their education. And I doubt that people even silently wonder that about many women who get married during college. True, all but one of the women I knew who got married during school did it in grad school and not undergrad, but no one in my professional/social/peer group even wondered if that meant they were done with school or career, either at that time or upon graduating. Once again, just because it happened to you or even a lot of people you know does not mean it applies to all women.

So like 1% of women?

Well, that's just the opposite of constructive.

All women? Why wouldn't all men? I have a better question: Why wouldn't you ask that at the job interview—you know, the time you're supposed to find out those things about a company?

And, finally, the most ridiculous, embarrassing one of all the Twittersphere:

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Thick libertarianism and bigotry and public shaming

May 5, 2014 – 11:45 pm by John

This is an email I sent to Sheldon Richman on May 3:

Dear Mr. Richman,

I had a few thoughts about your recent TGIF column "Libertarianism Rightly Conceived" and how thick and thin libertarianism might be applied to some recent news stories, and I hoped you could share your perspective. I don't think I belong squarely in the "thick" or "thin" camp—just libertarian—but I certainly used to lean strongly "thin".

The news stories I refer to are Mozilla's Brendan Eich being forced to resign over a supposedly bigoted political donation, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling being suspended for life and fined by the NBA, and (much less newsworthy) game developer Josh Olin being fired from Turtle Rock Studios for Tweeting, "Here's an unpopular opinion: Donald Sterling has the right as an American to be an old bigot in the security of his own home. He's a victim." One reason I thought it'd be helpful to explore how thick libertarianism applies to those news stories is that your aforementioned column is more about argumentation and the philosophical reasons thick libertarianism is better than thin, and not about how thick libertarians would address any specific goings-on in the world today. I think people would be better able to judge the merits of thick and thin libertarianism if they saw how each would manifest in day-to-day situations. A second reason is that all three of those news stories are notably devoid of any government action or First Amendment issues, and the main way in which thick and thin libertarianism seem to differ, at least in practice, is how they would handle non-governmental, not-directly-rights-violating, social and labor issues.

One widespread objection to the Brendan Eich episode is that only a few years ago, presidential candidate Barack Obama expressed the very belief that got Eich run out of town, and in the same year in which Eich's donation occurred (2008). Another politician who I assume is popular among the left-liberal Mozilla employees who demanded Eich's resignation, Hillary Clinton, only publicly embraced gay marriage in 2012 or 2013. So the point is that Eich donated money to a politician running on an anti-gay-marriage platform at a time when the majority of Californians, the majority of Americans, and, indeed, those outraged employees' darling presidential candidate agreed with Eich. But suddenly, now that the tide of popular opinion has currently (and probably permanently) swayed to their side, everyone who doesn't conform must be eliminated immediately. There was no hint that Eich had ever or would ever treat any Mozilla employee (or, indeed, anyone else) with unfairness or disrespect.

One of the main differences between Eich's toxic political donation and the (illegal) tape-recording that got Donald Sterling ousted is time: If Sterling had made similar comments publicly, even at an official NBA (or NFL or MLB) event in, say, 1950, he would almost certainly not have been punished in any way. That doesn't change how wrong and harmful racism and bigotry are, but it does highlight that the way in which society handles these types of social issues depends on the times and on majority opinion. Maybe it shouldn't depend on the tide of popular opinion and feelings, but it does.

There has been less objection to Sterling's ouster than Eich's because racism has long been recognized as hateful and harmful by almost all Americans, whereas equality in marriage rights has only recently tilted in that direction. (There has also been less objection to Sterling's ouster because of his ostensibly racist actions, not just words, in his real estate dealings. Yet another reason, possibly the best one, that few object to Sterling's ouster is that the voluntarily agreed upon "NBA Constitution" supposedly allows it.)

But libertarians have always been on the right side of both gay-rights and race issues, not just recently. Whether a libertarian limits his notion of libertarianism to issues of government and coercion or expands it to include various issues of social justice such as racism and patriarchy, libertarians have always advocated equal rights and equal laws for all individuals and championed the belief that all individuals are equal in both a moral and a legal sense. Before the NBA and other sports leagues were this politically correct, before Silicon Valley programmers were so "enlightened" by left-liberalism, before game development companies were so sensitive to PR crises caused by any hint of political incorrectness, libertarians recognized and championed the rights of all people to be treated equally, at least under the law. So should libertarians have been demanding the ostracization of homophobic, racist, sexist, misogynist, etc. employees, owners, CEOs, managers, sports figures, and anyone else all along? Should thick libertarians?

If thick libertarians don't demand that others see the light on such social issues or else hit the highway, then how are they different from thin libertarians? Only in the things they write and advocate, and not in the actions they perform and the policies they recommend? Am I wrong in even using these racism/bigotry/free speech/PR examples to try to distinguish between thick and thin libertarianism? They seem perfectly apt for discerning any important distinctions that exist.

It is important to note that even though no government was involved in any of those stories, the issue of free speech (or maybe I should just say speech) was. Does thick libertarianism say that the answer to abhorrent speech is more speech, or does it say that the answer is some form of socially administered punishment in the economic/financial/employment realm? If the former, then it doesn't seem to differ in practice from thin libertarianism. If the latter, then I think thick libertarians could run afoul of exactly what Lew Rockwell worried about but you dismissed in your TGIF column: mob-enforced thuggery that will be hard to restrict to the "right" issues and the "right" cases.

I use the word "thuggery" because I have seen it applied to the recent spate of free speech violations on college campuses, and I think it applies in at least Brendan Eich's case. In Sterling's case, if anyone is the thug, it is Sterling, and I understand that the NBA has a right (indeed, a need) to manage its public perception according to its own interests. In Turtle Rock Studios' case, the trigger-happy way in which Josh Olin was fired seems more like hyper-PC overreaction by executives than mob-enforced thuggery or anything like that. But I think my point remains: If thick libertarianism demands social justice in non-coercion-related, non-government-related ways, then I worry that it rests on a slippery slope that can lead to such thuggery as demanding that hateful speakers not be allowed to give speeches on college campuses and that very good, even brilliant, executives be fired for suddenly minority opinions.

In the Sterling case, he was unwittingly recorded in the privacy of his own home, with no one but his mistress around. I don't know if any political philosophy should have anything to say about how we should treat such a recording, but it just doesn't feel right to lay such a huge, permanent punishment on someone, even a powerful, actually racist billionaire, based on a private and illegal recording, without any type of hearing or defense or investigation. It also doesn't seem right to base any fine or suspension on the supposedly racist things Sterling did in his real estate business, which have no relation to his status as an NBA owner. (I doubt the NBA did take his supposed real-estate racism into account, but many supporters of the NBA's decision have. I also think the NBA almost certainly made the best decision for its own interests.) How do you think thick and thin libertarianism would differ in addressing these two facets of the Sterling case? Punishing people for privately expressed thoughts that were surreptitiously recorded seems awfully Orwellian, but should we be thankful that those thoughts were recorded in this case? If combatting and eliminating racism and bigotry are a central tenet of the thick libertarian philosophy, then it seems that thick libertarians would be much less conflicted about this whole case than thin libertarians, but I think some intellectual and moral conflict is warranted here.

Regarding Josh Olin's case, which obviously resulted from a Sterling-related tweet, do you think libertarianism of any stripe should have anything to say? Olin expressed sympathy for someone who he thought was wronged by a sensationalist media, by an overreactive, overly sensitive NBA commissioner, and by an unfair process (all the way from the secret recording to the swift, harsh punishment). Olin opposes racism and bigotry, but he committed the PC crime of sort-of supporting a racist billionaire, or at least a racist billionaire's rights. But Donald Sterling wasn't punished for actually doing anything racist, only saying something racist privately. Sterling apparently isn't a raging, frothing racist, as his mistress is mixed-race and he apparently doesn't have much problem with her sleeping with black people (!), only with her bringing them to Clippers games. Trying to put the NBA's need to look after its own PR image and finances aside, is there anything really different, in principle, between the NBA ousting someone who merely said something and Turtle Rock Studios firing someone who merely Tweeted something? Both the NBA and Turtle Rock are within their contractual rights. Both needed to look after their own financial interests. Both got rid of someone for saying something that's somewhere between unpopular and abhorrent. But I think Olin was clearly wronged by his higher-ups, Sterling not so much.

Does thick or thin libertarianism have anything to say about whether Turtle Rock should have fired Olin? Whether they overreacted? Whether someone who defends Sterling's rights is on the wrong side of social justice? Whether there is a stark difference between the Sterling and Olin cases? If it was right (again, morally right in a social-justice way, disregarding the NBA's need to maintain PR and revenue) to ban Sterling from the NBA, then isn't it wrong (i.e., counter to the social-justice fight) to oppose that ban? If it was right (morally) to ban Sterling from the NBA, is it also right to ban all players who think like he does? Why or why not? Is it right for the NBA (or owners, or their lawyers, or private eyes) to entrap others in surreptitious recordings of hateful speech and then ban them for life? If it was right for the NBA to use this private recording that fell into its lap, is it that much more wrong to actively engage in such recordings?

Again, if thick libertarians dislike Olin's firing, then in this case they seem to agree with the thin libertarians; but if they don't think it's so bad, then I think they're on that slippery slope to PC thuggery. If thick libertarians think the NBA made the best decision for its own interests but don't necessarily think Sterling's ouster was right or necessary in the libertarian fight for social justice, then again I think they side with some/all thin libertarians.

In general, would thick libertarians simply boycott the bigoted companies or sports teams and not demand that anyone resign or be fired? But thin libertarians have no problem with doing that or in others doing that, either. Would thick libertarians say it depends on the intricacies of the private contracts signed by all involved? So would thin libertarians. (And many self-described thin libertarians even decry various types of oppressive contracts, such as homeowners' associations, end-user license agreements, purchase agreements that prohibit the purchaser from publishing negative reviews, employment contracts that prohibit employees from publishing certain opinions, etc.) Would thick libertarians say they can only decide whether and how racism (etc.) should be punished on a case-by-case basis? Then the social-justice aspects of thick libertarianism don't seem like staunch principles but rather personal preferences, which don't rank as tenets of a philosophy, to me.

I think I'd better end this email now because it's already longer than I anticipated. Thank you for your time,

John Petrie

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Quote of the day

April 17, 2014 – 9:35 am by John

"But in reality the point of free speech is for the stuff that’s over the line, and strikingly unbalanced. If free speech is only for polite persons of mild temperament within government-policed parameters, it isn’t free at all."
—Mark Steyn, "The slow death of free speech"

I suspect that some of my allies in the libertarian movement who have always been more sympathetic to left-ish concerns don't (fully) realize it or admit it, but modern left-liberalism/progressivism/feminism is the staunch, and proud, enemy of free speech. It is the most fervent and dangerous enemy of free speech that free societies face today, and has been for decades. Its adherents are merely becoming more bold and brazen about it recently, as they get more comfortable with their political power (both at the small scale of universities and the large scale of national governments) and more confident that they are winning the culture war.

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Quote of the day

March 27, 2014 – 11:31 am by John

"...we ought to treat every government as if it were loaded."
Charles C.W. Cooke

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It is not possible to reason with some people

March 25, 2014 – 1:04 pm by John

"Gee, you're just now figuring that out?" you might say. But seriously, think about the full meaning and implication of this fact: Adult human beings of average or even above-average IQ have become so willfully ignorant, so blinded by bias and partisanship and fighting their battles, that they are constitutionally incapable of allowing certain facts and logic to enter their thoughts.

I am referring specifically to the left-feminist protesters at the Supreme Court today, rallying in support of women's rights or reproductive rights regarding the twin cases Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, when of course the cases have nothing to do with women's rights or reproductive rights.

Useful idiots protest at the Supreme Court

Many of the protesters' signs say, "Not my boss's business". You made it your boss's business! Your boss (the owners of Hobby Lobby or any other company) had no problem with your private healthcare choices and purchases before this! They never raised a finger or batted an eye until now! You screamed "Stay out of our reproductive systems and our reproductive choices" for 50 years, and now you want to rope your employers, coworkers, and taxpayers into your reproductive choices (even more than they already were), and they object, and now you are the ones saying these choices aren't your boss's business? The bosses should be the ones saying, "Not my business; leave me out of it." Leave them out of it and go along with your health insurance plan and your out-of-pocket expenses that you and millions of other people have always had! Don't rope someone into your reproductive choices, and then when they object, say "This isn't your business!"

How is it possible for the human mind to atrophy so much? How has their ability to understand logic and interpret facts been so perverted that they interpret facts as their polar opposites?

You left-liberals and self-described "progressives" roped employers and taxpayers into your reproductive choices. You MADE it their business. If you don't want it to be their business, then lobby for the repeal of the contraception mandate.

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Six lies left-liberals tell about the contraception mandate cases

March 24, 2014 – 5:19 pm by John

Gabriel Malor writes at The Federalist:

Lie 1. The contraception mandate cases are about women’s rights.

... Women will have the same constitutional rights to acquire and use contraception regardless of whether Hobby Lobby wins or loses. More than that, they’ll have the exact same rights as they had before the contraception mandate was a gleam in Sec. Sebelius’ eye. What women won’t have is the right to force other people to pay for their contraception, but that has never been a right recognized by the Supreme Court.

In the Bizarro World of the newspapers, not paying for someone else’s contraception is the same thing as prohibiting them from purchasing and using them themselves. This is an obviously false equivalence, but one that leftists are bent on telling themselves. No matter how many times you point out that the business owners in these cases aren’t preventing their employees from purchasing and using contraception, a smug leftist will smile and say “but women’s rights, you see,” as if these magic words excuse the lie.

Lie 2. The contraception mandate cases are about gay rights.

In USA Today, Human Rights Campaign’s Chad Griffin and Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards paint a picture of a world where a decision in favor of religious owners’ decision not to provide contraception coverage unleashes numerous horrors unrelated to contraception coverage, including the possibility that businesses could turn away gay customers. Setting aside the fact that it is already legal for businesses to turn away gay customers in more states than not, this is the classic reductio ad absurdum, wherein letting businesses continue to operate as they have for decades will somehow unleash an apocalypse of discrimination heretofore avoided.

Lie 3. The contraception mandate cases are about for-profit corporate rights.

Let’s flip back to the New York Times. Liptak repeatedly emphasizes that this case involves for-profit corporations seeking special treatment. This is a red herring. The beliefs of Hobby Lobby’s owners are just the same as the beliefs of thousands of owners of non-profit corporations who Sec. Sebelius exempted from the mandate. ...

Liberals seem focused on the “for-profit” characterization of the businesses involved in this case because, by exempting thousands of non-profits from the mandate, they’ve little else to stand on. ...

Lie 4. Corporations cannot exercise religion.

This Sunday’s New York Times took a particularly harsh tone when criticizing businesses that operate according to their owners’ religious beliefs, claiming: “for-profit corporations are not ‘persons’ capable of prayer or other religious behavior, which is a quintessentially human activity.” Again, note the emphasis on “for-profit,” because it is indisputable that non-profit corporations are capable of “religious behavior.” Look no further than, say, my former employer the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tulsa, which like all dioceses in the United States is legally organized in the corporate form.

As with speech rights, individuals do not give up their religious rights when they incorporate, for whatever purpose. In the Hobby Lobby case, where the organization’s mission statement explicitly included a charge to operate in accord with the owners’ religious faith, there can be no question that the corporation was intended to further the “quintessentially human activity” of religious behavior. It is astonishing that leftists cannot grasp the simple truth: corporations are made up of people.

Lie 5. Corporations are asking for dangerous new rights.

... In fact, the plaintiffs in these cases are simply asking for things to go back to the way they were in 2009, when they weren’t compelled by law to violate their religious consciences.

It is not a radical departure from the norm for businesses to pick and chose what health coverage they provide. In fact, that was the norm for decades. What was new and harmful and possibly part of a slippery slope to lawlessness was the decision of Sec. Sebelius to impose her will on businesses, for the first time demanding that they provide morally objectionable coverage or face crippling penalties.

Lie 6. Government has a compelling interest in forcing companies to provide birth control.

To survive a challenge under RFRA, the government must demonstrate a “compelling governmental interest” and employ the “least restrictive means” of furthering that interest. That’s why a great deal of coverage, and indeed the government’s own briefing, is devoted to claiming that birth control is an unmitigated good and direly needed by women who will somehow be unable to get it if religious businesses aren’t forced to provide it.

This claim is complete bunk. First, the vast majority of businesses provided contraception coverage for their employees before the mandate became effective and continue to do so now that it has. Only a small number of businesses, most of which are not very large, are seeking an exemption based on their religious belief. Second, Sec. Sebelius has already exempted 190 million people from the contraception mandate, either because they work for non-profit corporations or because their plans were “grandfathered” when Obamacare became effective.

In short, when 190 million people are purposefully exempted from a law, there can be no argument that it is aimed at a compelling purpose. Providing broad exemptions intended to go on in perpetuity demonstrates that the contraception mandate is the opposite of compelling.

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I knew liberals liked banning things, but sheesh…

March 14, 2014 – 4:00 pm by John

Mollie Hemingway writes about the seven most ridiculous things about the campaign to ban the word "bossy". The whole short thing is worth a read, but this passage was my favorite:

Further, even if there were a sex differentiation here, it’s not the one described by the campaign here:

When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.”

For crying out loud. Has anyone been near a public school classroom recently? I have never in my life ever heard anyone call an assertive little boy a “leader.” There are probably few places more hostile to any male behavior of any kind than our oversensitive, girl-centric classrooms. If a little boy asserts himself in the classroom, he’s sent to the principal.

Yes, there are some slurs that girls face more than boys as they mature. But many of the ones dudes get — I’m thinking of a**hole and d*****bag and what not — deal specifically with being too assertive. Where’s their campaign?

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The contraceptive mandate is wrong for the same reasons the rest of Obamacare is wrong

March 10, 2014 – 6:05 pm by John

Later this month, the Supreme Court will begin hearing Sibelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. regarding Hobby Lobby's objection to Obamacare's "contraception mandate" on the grounds that it violates the owners' religious freedom to abstain from paying for anyone's contraception. Obamacare requires Hobby Lobby to provide its employees only certain kinds of health insurance, all of which now must cover contraceptives, something to which the owners of Hobby Lobby do not want to contribute directly. In the past, Hobby Lobby's employees (presumably) bought their contraceptives with their regular wages, and Hobby Lobby's owners never objected or even brought it up. Now that the Affordable Care Act has outlawed certain health insurance policies, the health insurance that Hobby Lobby employees get through their employer now must include contraceptives.

The outlawing of the old health insurance plans and the requirement that religious, contraceptive-opposing (or abortifacient-opposing, it doesn't matter) employers provide health insurance coverage that includes a contraceptive benefit is just one concrete example of the myriad violations of principles and rights that characterize Obamacare. This health insurance law, like all major regulatory laws, is wrong not because it violates the First Amendment or someone's religious freedom; it is wrong because it violates people's right to buy and sell what they want for mutually agreed-upon terms and to negotiate those terms freely, peacefully, voluntarily, without interference from an outside entity (in this case, the State).

When Congress and the various committees appointed by the Obama administration were writing the regulations that would decree which and how many facets of healthcare would be required to be covered under health insurance plans, it was inevitable that some decisions about coverage would be made politically. That is, the mandatory benefits covered by health insurance plans would not be decided only (or even primarily) by statistics, economics, medicine, or the free choices of buyers and sellers, but also by the desire of politicians to expand their influence and power as well as to be reelected.

The insistence by left-liberal feminists that women's contraceptives be one of the mandated benefits belies their oft-repeated stance that government should stay out of their reproductive choices and their reproductive systems. For some of the more strident feminist activists, their defining political goal is not to free women from the controlling forces of male-dominated, Christianity-flavored government but rather to take control of the government in order to force their left-feminist vision on all of society. If that sounds harsh or overly general, then why are they fighting so hard for the contraceptive mandate? The legal requirement that all health insurance plans, whether bought individually from an insurance company or received as compensation through employment, cover various female contraceptive medicines is a plain example of this true motivation. After decades of vocal protestation against other people meddling in their reproductive choices, they have now won the power to rope other people into their reproductive choices—but on their own terms.

The principle underlying this duplicity is that their positions are the only possible right ones and that they are therefore justified in using the police power of the State to force everyone else to conform. What other people want to do with their money, their jobs, their businesses, their insurance plans, and their lives is simply irrelevant or wrong, and must be stamped out. The only individual choice that matters is what (some) women want to do with their bodies. Abstaining from actively funding left-feminist programs, such as subsidizing contraceptives for women, is now labeled vile woman-hating.

Another relevant issue with the contraceptive mandate and, indeed, all of the mandates of the Affordable Care Act is that politically decided coverage benefits must now be paid for collectively, or at least more collectively, rather than individually, which has led to steep price increases, as was easily predicted. Whereas collectivization of risk (real insurance) is economically, financially, and actuarially viable and sustainable, collectivization of costs is not. Collectivization of costs inevitably leads to higher expenses, if not for everyone then at least for most people, because there is not enough incentive to price-shop (for customers) or to compete on price (for suppliers). We are witnessing this phenomenon in real time in the health insurance market as Obamacare forces millions of insurance policies to be canceled and both individuals and companies are left with only more expensive options in their place. (It should be noted that the new law is only one of thousands of causes of ever-increasing health insurance premiums; the over-reliance on the cost-collectivization plans that we know of as insurance is a paradigm that was created and perpetuated by the U.S. tax code.)

One of the particularly pernicious lies put forth in defense of the contraceptive mandate is that the female employees are going to get their contraceptive money either in the form of wages or in the form of insurance, so...the law must require it to be insurance, I guess is their argument. It isn't immediately clear why they are so adamant that the contraceptives be covered by new health insurance plans instead of wages as usual, until you realize what they really want: for other people to subsidize that cost for them.

Consider this inverview of political science professor Scott Lemieux by Amanda Marcotte (it starts at about the 6:50 mark of the podcast).

Marcotte: Is it really, as the right says, "free birth control"?

Lemieux: No, that's one of the most common misperceptions, and this came up a lot during the Sandra Fluke controversy. The key thing to remember here is that this is part of your wages. So essentially, employers get substantial tax benefits for giving you part of your wages in the form of health insurance rather than in the form of direct wages. ... Employers can't pay you in health insurance and have that insurance not cover anything, so that to qualify for taxpayer subsidies, the insurance has to be relatively comprehensive. And one change made by the Affordable Care Act was, given the centrality of contraception to women's healthcare..., that was simply just an obvious change: that insurance plans, that employers with taxpayer subsidies, should cover contraception. And that's all it does. ... You've earned the health benefits, you're paid in health benefits, and this is simply part of broad requirements that the insurance benefits be comprehensive.

Maybe it never occurs to them to ask the most obvious question: If the women are going to get paid that money one way or the other—wages or insurance—why don't they just want to keep getting that money in wages? The answer is simple: because if they get contraceptives covered under insurance, then every employee on that insurance plan pays for the contraceptives via their insurance premiums, meaning each individual woman only pays for a fraction of her contraception expenses through her own insurance premium.

Say the typical female employee at a certain company spends $30 a month on birth control pills. According to the misconception of Marcotte and Lemieux, the woman and the company, along with the company's contracted insurance provider, can agree upon either (a) a certain wage and a health insurance plan that costs the employer an extra $30/month for contraception coverage, or (b) a wage that is $30/month higher but does not include any coverage for contraception. And everything else for everyone is the same (except for possible tax implications for the employer and employee*). But this is not correct. It was probably true before but is especially true now that male employees and females who don't want or need contraceptives have no choice but to accept a lower wage and an insurance plan that covers contraceptives. In this way, everyone's wage is reduced (presumably not by the full $30) so that everyone's insurance can include this extra contraception benefit, but only some women will use the insurance to buy contraceptives. So these women have a wage reduction of less than $30 but receive a healthcare benefit of $30.

That is what's wrong with Obamacare, and indeed all cost-collectivization schemes, and that is what people are objecting to.

As far as I can tell, either I am right and Obamacare would spread the contraception costs among more than just the contraceptive-purchasing employees, meaning it is a subsidy; or I am wrong and no one would be forced to subsidize women's contraceptives, so no one is better or worse off with those contraceptives being paid for by direct wages or insurance, but Amanda Marcotte and her ilk merely want to stick it to the fucking misogynist Christians and force them to pay for something they morally object to.

(*If you are tempted to object, as alluded to by Lemieux in a side comment that I omitted above, that since wages in the form of health insurance aren't taxed, both the employer and the employee would benefit from paying for contraception via health insurance instead of direct wages, and therefore the calculus is not as simple as $30 here vs. $30 there, then the obvious solution is to reduce all taxes on all wages and compensation, or else treat all forms of income equally so that health insurance is no longer tied to employment for so many people.)

Marcotte: And to be clear, it's not like this is a new thing... I think most health insurance covered it before this, correct?

And Hobby Lobby's health insurance plans didn't cover it before this. What's your point?

Lemieux: Right...there's nothing unusual about it. There's nothing at all unusual about a private health care plan covering contraceptives. And indeed, some studies have suggested that it's actually cheaper overall, given that the expenses involved with childbirth are much greater than covering contraceptives. It's not even clear if having to provide contraceptives even reduces profitability or anything like that. ... But there's nothing at all unusual about this, and there shouldn't be. Obviously, contraception is a fairly fundamental part of healthcare, and there's no reason that statutes to make coverage comprehensive shouldn't include it.
[emphasis added]

This is a good point to insert a brief explanation of what real insurance is and what modern health insurance is. I highlighted Professor Lemieux's statement above because it's a good example of what's wrong with modern health insurance. If something is fundamental and routine, then by definition it is not insurable. Insurance is the collectivization of risk, and if something is routine, basic, and expected, then there is no risk calculation involved. There is no uncertainty in the expenses that will be needed for it. Insurance covers unmanageable, unexpected, catastrophic expenses, such as a car being totaled, a ship sinking, a house catching on fire, a robbery, or a major medical expense that is not normal or expected. A monthly packet of birth control pills or other, emergency contraceptives is not unmanageably or unexpectedly expensive. (If you retort that emergency contraceptives are exactly the type of thing that should be covered under my model of "real insurance" and that they aren't easy to buy, nor are regular birth control pills, which require a prescription, then you can almost certainly blame the politicians that you voted for and not myself or other libertarians, who have long noted that every medicine of every kind should be available over the counter at any store that wants to sell it. Seriously, see if you can answer this: has your Democratic congressman or senator, at the state or federal level, ever introduced a bill to make all reproduction-related medications completely prescription-free?)

Rather than wanting their contraceptives (or a thousand other things—I only write about contraception because it is the hot topic in the to-cover-or-not-to-cover debate) to be insured against some loss or risk or unexpected, catastrophic expense, the advocates of the contraceptive mandate simply want other people to subsidize their contraception expenses. They want Congress (and now the Supreme Court) to mandate a direct transfer payment from non-contraception users to contraception users.

If this were not true, i.e., if the women were going to get $30 in some form of wages and spend $30 on contraceptives either way, why would so many left-liberals be fighting for the contraceptive mandate? I can only conclude that they see the contraceptive mandate as a type of subsidy for women's reproductive health, as well as an opportunistic opening for more such subsidies in the future.

Another pertinent question: Why stop at contraceptives? Do no other routine, affordable goods and services count as fundamental aspects of women's health? Women certainly need food and water to sustain a basic level of health far more than they need contraceptives. Why shouldn't their food and water be provided under health insurance instead of coming out of their wages? Is it merely because food and water are not considered medical care? Because they've never been covered under health insurance before? But the law hasn't mandated contraceptive coverage before, either. At one point, contraceptives weren't covered by health insurance. Why must they be now? Why shouldn't food and water be? Shouldn't people who eat less food subsidize those who eat more? If not, then why? What is the fundamental difference between food and contraceptives that implies one must be covered by health insurance and thereby subsidized by non–contraception users (and it is vile, patriarchal, misogynist woman-hating to suggest otherwise) but women must fend for themselves for the other one every paycheck? The latter being far more expensive and necessary for basic physical and mental health than the former, by the way.

The only answer I can infer is that women have higher medical costs than men through no fault of their own, and left-liberal feminists have decided that subsidizing (collectivizing) the cost of contraceptives (and other aspects of women's health) is a just battle that their side must win, and anyone who opposes them must be a misogynist, male-supremacist, conservative Christian and is therefore wrong about most other things, so to oppose the contraceptive mandate is simply vile misogyny by definition.

Where liberal feminists and conservative Christians lose my interest in this debate is making it about religious freedom or the First Amendment. I understand that the opponents of the law have to make it about that, because they would be laughed out of court if they argued on princple. But the principle requires no religion or Bill of Rights: No one should be forced to pay for something they don't want to pay for. No one should be forced to support, financially or otherwise, something they don't want to support. The contraceptive mandate is wrong for the same reason all those health insurance policy cancellations are wrong: because it violates the volunatry, peaceful associations and transactions of free individuals and the organizations they work for.

There are also practical reasons to oppose the increased collectivization of healthcare costs, primarily that it ultimately increases all healthcare expenses for everyone.

The more things that are covered by insurance, the more expensive the insurance premium will be. A greater number of people paying a (higher) premium for a routine good or service means its cost (to the consumer) has been largely or entirely collectivized. The more a cost is collectivized, the less the actual users and beneficiaries will price-shop or find substitutes, because the less they must pay of its full price. The less incentivized the customers are to price-shop or find substitutes, the less incentivized the suppliers of that good or product will be to compete based on price. The less price competition there is, the less cost-saving (i.e., profit-maximizing) innovation there will be. If companies can make the same profit from charging a higher price and slacking on innovation, then the outcome will be persistently higher prices and less innovation in both the process technology and product technology realms.

This is the past, present, and especially future of the American healthcare/health insurance industries under extensive regulation and cost collectivization.

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Did he do a billion dollars’ worth of work?

January 25, 2014 – 4:13 pm by John

In an article about Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg's net worth surpassing $1 billion, David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect, is quoted as saying, "Did she do a billion dollars' worth of work? I don’t know. She had the good fortune to land in the right place where her talents could really be applauded."

Kirkpatrick's comments incensed many, because how many male billionaires are doubted or questioned in that way? How many people say: Did that man do a billion dollars' worth of work, to amass such a fortune? This tweet by Alex Leo is a good representative example:

Insofar as the targets of their ire (which I'm sure include patriarchy in general or some such, and not just David Kirkpatrick) only question the worth of wealthy females in that way, they have a valid, important point.

My point in writing this post is different, however. My response to their outrage is that libertarians and anarchists severely doubt the deservedness of every billionaire's fortune and, in fact, the fortunes of many millionaires in business, industry, and politics. Our doubt as to the legitimacy of the fortunes of many large business owners, CEOs, and the like is practically a given. The illegitimacy of their fortunes is so understood that we hardly mention it explicitly. Instead, we tend to focus on the success of large corporations and other businesses when their success is owed in part to State interference in the economy. We assume as a matter of course that large businesses (and therefore their owners and executives) amassed such power and wealth through at least partially nefarious means, either by design (through lobbying and rent-seeking) or more indirectly (such as by incidentally benefiting from a regulation or barrier to entry, or by consciously taking advantage of regulations already on the books).

Libertarians and others who are opposed to the political-economic status quo take it as such an obvious given that thousands upon thousands of millionaires got rich by at least partially political (i.e., immoral and illegitimate) means that it's hard to find articles, blag posts, or discussions in which someone comes right out and says that too many millionaires and billionaires owe their fortunes to cronyism and didn't actually provide a million or a hundred million or a billion dollars' worth of value to other people. At least, I had a hard time finding many explicit, nicely phrased examples. But every time a columnist or blagger bemoans cronyism or corporatism or crony-capitalism, or points out how regulations are designed to help the rich and powerful and stamp out competition, we are making the case that some rich people and successful businesses are only so rich and successful because they are powerful and well connected, not because they have provided a great deal of value to other human beings, and that they have therefore not earned their wealth and power.

I did manage to find a few examples by searching Google and by scouring the depths of my memory for blag posts and discussions I had read years ago. Here are merely eight out of the tens of thousands of examples of libertarians or libertarian-leaning people decrying the ill-gotten and undeserved power and wealth of the modern power-elite. Note that whereas the main concern of mainstream feminism regarding the super-rich is that males and females be reviled or revered equally, the main concern of libertarianism regarding the wealthy is whether they have acquired their wealth justly (i.e., through the economic means).

The first half of "Corporations versus the Market; or, Whip Conflation Now" by Roderick T. Long nicely summarizes the major ways in which large corporations (and thus their owners and executives) succeed and make billions off of myriad State policies. It's a great, short, illuminating lesson on some basic tenets of libertarianism.

The 19th-century libertarian Victor Yarros contrasted his camp's theory of just property with that of Auberon Herbert, who thought that millionaires and landlords should be allowed to keep their present wealth even if it could be shown to have been unjustly acquired:

We, on the other hand, while insisting on the principle of private property, in wealth honestly obtained under the reign of liberty, do not think it either unjust or unwise to dispossess the landlords who have monopolized natural wealth by force and fraud. We hold that the poor and disinherited toilers would be justified in expropriating, not alone the landlords, who notoriously have no equitable titles to their lands, but all the financial lords and rulers, all the millionaires and very wealthy individuals. . . . Almost all possessors of great wealth enjoy neither what they nor their ancestors rightfully acquired....

Anarcho-capitalist Hans-Hermann Hoppe said in an interview:

Every person, rich or poor, should be treated the same before the law. There are rich people, who are rich without having defrauded or stolen from anyone. They are rich, because they have worked hard, they have saved diligently, they have been productive, and they have shown entrepreneurial ingenuity, often for several family-generations. Such people should not only be left alone, but they should be praised as heroes. And there are rich people, mostly from the class of political leaders in control of the state-apparatus and from the state-connected elites of banking and big business, who are rich, because they have been directly engaged in, or indirectly benefitted from, confiscation, theft, trickery and fraud. Such people should not be left alone, but instead be condemned and despised as gangsters.

Mutualist-libertarian Kevin Carson wrote in the comments section of one of his articles,

And there's probably some fraction of income over $250k that was really earned through hard work and enterpreneurship.

If Obama's cutoff point were, say, extending the tax cuts for everyone below $5 million, that might be a bit less clearcut for me because at that level the probability that anyone made over that amount of money through non-political means approaches zero.

Charles Johnson has written, "I just want Sam Walton to get his cold, dead hands out of my pockets. The rest is all details, as far as I’m concerned," as well as, "The centrifugal tendency of markets: market anarchists see freed markets, under conditions of free competition, as tending to diffuse wealth and dissolve fortunes — with a centrifugal effect on incomes, property-titles, land, and access to capital — rather than concentrating it in the hands of a socioeconomic elite."

Bill Gates: Flip-Flopping IP Hypocrite by Stephan Kinsella:

Now that Gates has used state-granted IP monopolies to acquire billions of dollars that he can then use to be a bigshot philanthropist, he is all for patents (as my friend Rob Wicks says, Gates is “America’s wealthiest welfare queen”).

Libertarians Battle the Corporate State by James Ostrowski:

Recently, in Buffalo, it was announced that Geico, owned by Warren Buffett, would open a local office in exchange for $102 million in "inducements." All it took was a flunky of Buffett’s to put in a call to the Governor.
When I heard Geico was coming to town, I knew there must be a catch. Why would any company come to Buffalo where it and its employees would be fleeced by the local political class? And the answer is — when your owner is the second richest man on earth, he can manipulate the state’s corrupt political system — corporatism — and get a waiver from the state’s tax slave policies and crazy regulations.
The News has downplayed the $102 million in "inducements" to Geico: tax breaks, grants, and utility discounts. It’s all very complicated which means that politically-connected lawyers and law firms will earn huge fees putting it all on paper. Economic development bureaucrats — a class of people which would not exist in a free society — also will earn huge salaries administering all this legalized graft.
Let me get to the real heart of the matter, though, lest I be misunderstood. I hate taxes so please don’t misconstrue anything I say as believing that drastic tax relief is not needed. But here’s the $64,000 question. Why should Geico get tax breaks and not the rest of us? ...

There are reasons — nefarious ones — why our leaders choose special breaks over citizen-wide tax cuts. First, as in this case, it forces the businessmen to ask for help. That help always comes at a price: contributions, endorsements, and mugging for the cameras at ground-breaking time. That’s why you see politicians at all these openings.

Equally important, the politicians get to run these complex deals through their patronage apparatus — connected lawyers, real estate firms, development bureaucrats — all of whom make an enormous amount of money figuring out how the wired fat cats can avoid paying the taxes and complying with the regulations the rest of us are stuck with. The recipients of the patronage then kick back campaign contributions to the politicians, do free legal work, and form the backbone of their campaign organizations at re-election time.

Thus, the seemingly abstract principle of equal protection of the laws, if enforced, would have an immediate and tangible impact on cleaning up our corrupt political system. "Ideas have consequences."

The bottom line is that our corrupt political/economic system in Buffalo and elsewhere continues as it has for many years. The left thinks that system is capitalism. It isn’t, unless they view Mussolini as a capitalist. No, it’s corporatism or the corporate state, a marriage between big government and big business with big labor as a junior partner. The beneficiaries are of course big business, big government and big labor. Everyone else, that is, 85 percent of us, lose out big-time.

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Hobby Lobby, religious freedom, and contraceptive mandates

January 5, 2014 – 3:49 pm by John

In my sporadic research on the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case (and a basically identical case brought by Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania company owned by Mennonites), in which the companies argue that they should not be forced to pay for employee health insurance that covers contraceptives and thus violates their religious beliefs, I came across a truly remarkable column in U.S. News & World Report: "An Assault Upon the Very Notion of Secular Law" by Laura Chapin. Her column contains as many blatant falsehoods as true statements and opinions.

The Hobby Lobby case threatens to extend corporate personhood to allowing companies to force employers' religious beliefs onto individual employees,...

The federal government threatens to force the owners of a company to pay for a health insurance plan for their employees that violates the employers' beliefs, and the employers object. It is self-evident and self-explanatory why that does not constitute "forcing religious beliefs" on anybody.

deny them health care,...

This assertion is so baldly dishonest as to require no rebuttal. U.S. News & World Report should be ashamed that they published such aggressive, manipulative lies. In the space of one paragraph, Laura Chapin has already descended into Salon-like hyperventilatory desperation.

and opt out of laws they don't like.

Remember, only elected officials with a (D) after their name can violate laws (which they swear to uphold, by the way) and not only receive no rebuke from left-liberals but in fact receive their vigorous defense.

The companies object to certain forms of birth control because the "religious beliefs" of their owners forbid them from covering contraceptives that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg and thus in their minds are "abortifacients."

This column would be a good exercise for high-school students to spot loaded words, misleading statements, lies of omission, and the like, if only it were written above a high-school level. Obviously, Laura Chapin was not writing a news article but rather an opinion column in which she argued for one side of an issue, but puerile tactics like putting "religious beliefs" in quotation marks, as if Hobby Lobby's owners are only claiming to object to the contraceptive mandate based on religious beliefs but in fact are acting solely out of black-hearted, corporate greed, should make anyone doubt Laura Chapin's honesty in other areas. At this point the astute observer might question whether she really seeks any truth or fairness in life or just partisan victories.

Unfortunately for their women employees, the companies' "science" is in line with those who think people and dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time.

This reminds me of a famous quotation by Isaac Asimov: "When people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together." No, it is not as wrong as young-Earth creationism to think some contraceptives are abortifacients. Ella (ulipristal acetate), for instance, can kill a fertilized egg by preventing it from implanting in the womb, though this is rare and might be nearly impossible at the doses at which it is prescribed in the United States.

According to a friend of the court brief filed in the Hobby Lobby case by Physicians for Reproductive Health, the companies "fail to cite any scientific authority for their assertions that any FDA-approved contraceptives are abortifacients ... there is no scientific evidence that emergency contraceptives available in the United States and approved by the FDA effect an existing pregnancy. None, therefore are properly classified as abortifacients."

Fortunately for me and other libertarians, and indeed anyone who defends Hobby Lobby's position not on religious (or scientific) grounds but on plain morality, it is irrelevant whether Hobby Lobby's owners have a legitimate First Amendment claim or sound science. All that is needed is a simple, fair sense of morals and justice: don't force people to pay for something they don't want to pay for. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."

This principle leads us to the understanding that everything about the Affordable Care Act is immoral and unjust, because it forces people to buy things (like extra coverage) that they don't want and prevents them from doing things (like being uninsured, buying a less comprehensive insurance policy, selling a less comprehensive insurance policy, and charging actuarially justifiable rates) that don't harm others. None of the things that are now illegal under Obamacare were violent or fraudulent, so they are victimless crimes like drug use and prostitution.

Nobody is stopping them from practicing their religion or forcing them to use the pill or get an IUD.

No, we're forcing them to do other things that we have decided they should be forced to do, and we have more guns, so...might makes right, I guess? I'm not sure what point Laura Chapin thought she was making by mentioning what the government isn't forcing Hobby Lobby's owners to do. Maybe she was trying to distract her readers from the real point? I don't think it worked.

But this is a pertinent question that Laura Chapin and all other defenders of the contraceptive mandate should answer: What is the difference, in their minds, between forcing someone to use the pill or get an IUD and forcing them to pay for someone else's pill or IUD? Why is one of them so obviously unjust that she scoffs at the idea that a government (her government) would ever do such a thing, while the other is not only acceptable but so right and good that it deserves the backing of law?

But their religious beliefs do not entitle them to make those decisions for their employees – their beliefs stop at their employees' doctors' offices. None of these personal, private health care decisions by workers are any of Hobby Lobby's damn business.

You made it their business! You made it a matter of public policy! You and your left-liberal ilk forced the employer mandate (and thousands of other regulations and proscriptions and mandates, in the ACA alone) onto the American people and American businesses. Note that Hobby Lobby (and Conestoga Wood Specialties) is not objecting and has never objected to any employee doing whatever they want with contraceptives, their doctors, reproductive clinics, etc. They object to being forced to help pay for something that disgusts them. Why does Laura Chapin think it germane that no one is "forcing them to use the pill or get an IUD" but glosses over the fact that Hobby Lobby has never objected to its employees' healthcare decisions before this and isn't objecting to them now? Wait, I know this one: blind bias and shameless demagoguery.

Doesn't she think it odd that, if Hobby Lobby's religious owners objected to the "personal, private health care decisions by workers", they are only now suing the federal government to be allowed to intrude into their employees' personal lives and force their religion on them? Doesn't she think it would have occurred to Hobby Lobby to, y'know, not hire them? Or start forcing the Bible on their employees before 2013?

Clearly the owners of Hobby Lobby are doing no such thing, and I think everyone knows this, but Laura Chapin doesn't let that stop her. The personal, private healthcare decisions of Hobby Lobby's employees are none of anyone's business, as the owners have always acknowledged. But how the owners live their lives, including how they spend their money and what policies their company follows, is the government's business as Laura Chapin defines it.

It's sad that a professional "communications strategist" writing in a relatively well-respected national newsmagazine can call a defense of one's right not to be forced to pay for something they abhor "an assault upon the very notion of secular law". It's also unfortunate that the crux of this argument, from both sides, seems to be religion and the First Amendment. Religion, the Constitution, and biology are not needed here. All that is needed is simple fairness and moral equality: It is wrong to force others to pay for, or in any other way support, anything they object to. If it is an egregious, outrageous affront to human decency for religious business owners to merely continue not paying for something that they have never paid for, then how much more wrong must it be to come into someone's home or business with guns pointed at them, demanding they pay for something they don't want and never agreed to, or else go to jail? Or be killed when they resist, as is their right? Remember that the penalty is always death when you resist the State. In Laura Chapin's State, resisting a law that the country has somehow done without for over two centuries is a radical, dangerous assault on the very notion of secular law. Somehow I think the people who wrote that secular law would disagree.

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Favorite rant of the year

December 31, 2013 – 2:12 pm by John

Clark of is understandably angry. The "system" of corporate-State socialism seems rigged against the little guy, the common man, the individual, the lower and middle classes—and its exploitation of everyone outside of the power elite seems to grow more blatant and more absurd by the year. What set off his latest masterpiece polemic was Judge Giselle Pollack of Broward County, Florida, who has sentenced defendants to who knows how many years in combined jail time for drug-related offenses, will enter rehab for her drug and alcohol problem instead of going to jail like many of her victims. Clark writes,

Twenty years ago I was a libertarian. I thought the system could be reformed. I thought that some parts of it "worked"… whatever that means. I thought that the goals were noble, even if not often achieved.

The older I get, the more I see, the more I read, the more clear it becomes to me that the entire game is rigged. The leftists and the rightists each see half of the fraud. The lefties correctly note that a poor kid caught with cocaine goes to jail, while a Bush can write it off as a youthful mistake (they somehow overlook the fact that their man Barrack hasn't granted clemency to any one of the people doing federal time for the same felonies he committed). The righties note that government subsidized windmills kill protected eagles with impunity while Joe Sixpack would be deep in the crap if he even picked up a dead eagle from the side of the road. The lefties note that no one was prosecuted over the financial meltdown. The righties note that the Obama administration rewrote bankruptcy law on the fly to loot value from GM stockholders and hand it to the unions. The lefties note that Republicans tweak export rules to give big corporations subsidies. ...

What neither side seems to realize is that the system is not reformable. There are multiple classes of people, but it boils down to the connected, and the not connected. Just as in pre-Revolutionary France, there is a very strict class hierarchy, and the very idea that we are equal before the law is a laughable nonsequitr.

Jamal the $5 weed slinger, Shaneekwa the hair braider, and Loudmouth Bob in the 7-11 parking lot are at the bottom of the hierarchy. They can, literally, be killed with impunity … as long as the dash cam isn't running. And, hell, half the time they can be killed even if the dash cam is running. This isn't hyperbole, mother-fucker. This is literal. Question me and I'll throw 400 cites and 20 youtube clips at you.

Next up from Shaneekwa and Loudmouth Bob are us regular peons. We can have our balls squeezed at the airport, our rectums explored at the roadside, our cars searched because the cops got permission from a dog (I owe some Reason intern a drink for that one), our telephones tapped (because terrorism!), our bank accounts investigated (because FinCEN! and no expectation of privacy!). We don't own the house we live in, not if someone of a higher social class wants it. We don't own our own financial lives, because the education accreditation / student loan industry / legal triumvirate have declared that we can never escape – even through bankruptcy – our $200,000 debt that a bunch of adults convinced a can't-tell-his-ass-from-a-hole-in-the-ground 18 year old that (a) he was smart enough to make his own decisions, and (b) college is a time to explore your interests and broaden yourself). And if there's a "national security emergency" (defined as two idiots with a pressure cooker), then the constitution is suspended, martial law is declared, and people are hauled out of their homes.

Next up from the regular peons are the unionized, disciplined-voting-blocks. Not-much-brighter-than-a-box-of-crayolas teachers who work 180 days a year and get automatic raises. Firefighters who disproportionately retire on disability the very day they sub in for their bosses and get a paper cut.

A step up from the teachers and firefighters are the cops: all the same advantages of nobility of the previous group, but a few more in addition: the de facto power to murder someone as long as not too many cameras are rolling. The de facto power to confiscate cameras in case the murder wasn't well planned. A right to keep and bear arms that far exceeds that of the serf class: 50 state concealed carry for life, not just just for actual cops, but even for retired cops.

At the same level of privilege as cops, but slightly off to one side is different class of nobility: the judiciary and the prosecutors. Judges and prosecutors can't execute citizens in an alley, a parking lot, or their own homes ("he had a knife! …and I don't care what the lying video says."), but they can sentence people to decades in jail for things that any clear-minded reading of the Constitution and the 9th and 10th amendments make clear are not with in the purview of the government. They have effectively infinite resources. They orchestrate perp walks. They selectively leak information to shame defendants. They buy testimony from other defendants by promising them immunity. By exercising their discretion they make sure that the bad people are prosecuted while the good people (i.e. members of their own clan) are not.

Above the cops, the prosecutors, and the judiciary we have the true ruling class: the cabal of (most) politicians and (some) CEOs, conspiring both against their own competitors and the public at large. If the public is burdened with a $100 million debt to pay off a money losing stadium, that's a small price to pay if a politician gets reelected (and gets to hobnob with entertainers and sports heroes via free tickets and backstage passes). If new entrants into a market are hindered and the populace ends up overpaying for coffins, or Tesla cars, or wine that can't be mail ordered, then that's a small price to pay if a connected CEO can keep his firm profitable without doing any work to help the customer. If the Google founders want to agitate for Green laws that make Joe Sixpack's daily commute more expensive at the same time that they buy discount avgas for their private flying fuck palaces, then isn't that their right? They donated to Obama's campaign after all!

I am not listing defects in a perfectable system. I am describing the system.

It is corrupt, corrupt, corrupt. From Ted Kennedy who killed a woman and yet is toasted as a "lion of liberalism", to George Bush who did his share of party drugs (and my share, and your share, and your share…) while young yet let other youngsters rot in jail for the exact same excesses instead of waving his royal wand of pardoning, to thousand of well-paid NSA employees who put the Stasi to shame in their ruthless destruction of our rights, to the Silicon Valley CEOs who buy vacation houses with the money they make forging and selling chains to Fort Meade, to every single bastard at RSA who had a hand in taking the thirty pieces of silver, to the three star generals who routinely screw subordinates and get away with it (even as sergeants are given dishonorable discharges for the same thing), to the MIT cops and Massachusetts prosecutor who drove Aaron Swartz to suicide, to every drug court judge who sends 22 year olds to jail for pot…while high on Quaalude and vodka because she's got some fucking personal tragedy and no one understands her pain, to every cop who's anally raped a citizen under color of law, to every other cop who's intentionally triggered a "drug" dog because the guy looked guilty, to every politician who goes on moral crusades while barebacking prostitutes and money laundering the payments, to every teacher who retired at age 60 on 80% salary, to every cop who has 50 state concealed carry even while the serfs are disarmed, to every politician, judge, or editorial-writer who has ever used the phrase "first amendment zone" non-ironically: this is how the system is designed to work.

The system is not fixable because it is not broken. It is working, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to give the insiders their royal prerogatives, and to shove the regulations, the laws, and the debt up the asses of everyone else.

Burn it to the ground.

This post exemplifies one major advantage that amateur, or at least less formal, blogs have over mainstream media and opinion columns in newspapers and the like: the opinions and excoriations that Clark puts forth don't have to be watered down for a "respectable" publication or for a wider audience. Clark is right about everything or at least almost everything in his post, and he says it in the tone that the topic warrants. Pissed the hell off, not thoughtful and even-handed, is how we all ought to feel about most things our governments do. It should pain us to realize that all of these atrocities committed by State officials—that are legal, by the way—are inflicted and endorsed by our fellow humans who want this type of government and continually vote to keep it just the way it is.

It's true, anyone with an internet connection can have a blog whether their writings are worth anything or not, which dilutes the overall quality of the blogosphere. But have you compared the random political rantings around the blogosphere to the crap in the major newspapers and magazines lately? In an extremely good week, not 10% of MSM opinion columns about politics and economics are even non-idiotic, much less insightful, principled, or praiseworthy.

One thing I've noticed around the interwebs during the last few months is that a lot of people place a high value on what they call "nuance" and "subtlety". I put them in quotation marks because, one, they are almost buzzwords now, and two, I'm not sure some people's definitions of those qualities would agree with mine.

Imagine what an opinion column in a major newspaper about Judge Giselle Pollack would sound like. The author would call for "reforms", for a "need to take a second look at sentencing laws", for more "accountability", and would cite the growing opposition to the Drug War and the DEA, etc., and wonder if it isn't time for some form of "scaling back".

Those opinions are not subtle or nuanced. In fact, they are hardly opinions at all. They are weak, non-committal, quasi-opinionated statements designed to make the people who think they already agree with the author give a little cheer of agreement, while simultaneously avoiding offending people who think they already disagree with the author.

Often the "nuance" or "subtlety" that professional journalists and pundits strive for has the effect of steering them farther away from real truth, be it moral, philosophical, or practical, than a simpler, more direct, less qualified position would be. (Or at least a seemingly simpler position would be.) Take non-defensive wars or other "military actions" (please). Libertarians oppose all wars except as a last resort and in defense against an imminent threat, so we oppose any military intervention in the wars, uprisings, revolutions, and yes, sometimes even genocides of other nations. It is common to see warmongers and other interventionists scoff at our simple-minded, "un-nuanced" understanding of the world, as we reflexively oppose any non-defensive military action our government might take. But their devotion to considering all sides of an issue as if they were all equally valid, all possible advantages of a morally repugnant action as if they might outweigh its intrinsic wrongness, or all the "nuance" and "complexity" and "subtlety" of the winners and losers and gains and losses of any action leads them to support (or maybe just rationalize) offensive and interventionist wars. And they pat themselves on the back for understanding all the "nuances" and "subtleties" of the world better than reflexive anti-war libertarians. As if our anti-war position, because we arrive at it so immediately and easily, lacks nuance and subtlety. But their labeling of us as reflexive, naive, unsophisticated sloganeers itself lacks nuance and sophistication. The truth is directly contrary to their over-simplification. We have arrived at our anti-war position because of all the effects intervention has had and continues to have on innocent people both abroad and at home, and because of the waste and abuse attributable to every powerful military but especially the United States military, in terms of both lives and resources.

The same goes for our seemingly reflexive, un-thought-out positions against taxes, government schools, the War on Drugs, and every other government regulation and program, and our ultimate catch-all answer of "abolish it". To the extent that your professional, scholarly obsession with "nuance" and "subtlety" runs afoul of principles and rights, you have formulated bad opinions and reached wrong conclusions. This is why I'm tired of the veneration of "nuance" and "subtlety" as virtues in their own right. I'm also tired of typing quotation marks around those words, but it's justified because they've almost become meaningless buzzwords the way so many people use them.

My point is that Clark's points couldn't be made in a MSM publication, and certainly not in the way that he made them, which makes me glad that amateur, unedited blogs like theirs exist and sad that professional publications seem so scared to publish anything that sounds extreme or not "nuanced". Sure, building consensus and attracting people to your side of the argument with softer words and less insulting (or less extreme) arguments is valuable and justified sometimes. But so is a rant like Clark's. Judge Giselle Pollack doesn't deserve any kind, gentle, wishy-washy, professional-journalism words; she deserves to fuck off and die in a fire, or at least be imprisoned in a hellhole for as long as the combined total of her previous victims, and so does everyone who has voted to perpetuate the police state that the Drug War has enabled.

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