Linky Friday #97

Europe:

[E1] France’s 75% tax has bitten the dust.

[E2] Bosnia and Herzegovina has an insanely complicated system of government. Indicative, perhaps, of a nation that should not be a nation. Or, at least, a degree of (con)federalism that makes them almost independent of one another. Of course, for some, the only fair thing to do is let the Bosnians (or Bosnians and Croats) tell the Serbs what to do because majority.

[E3] Christopher Howse is proud to be a member of the UK’s Dull Men Club.

[E4] Portugal is having difficulty enforcing its immigration law, with visas essentially being sold to wealthy foreigners.

Freedom:

[F1] I know it’s wrong (racist, sexist, a mark of privilege, etc.) to tell people how they should or shouldn’t protest, but… seriously.

[F2] Mad Rocket Scientist doesn’t recommend this article, but does recommend the comments.

[F3] From Mad Rocket Scientist: The culpability of the media, in regards to why we have trouble with police in the US.

[F4] From Vikram Bath: Radley Balko’s predictions for 2015 are crazy.

Blasphemy:

[B1] Jacob Canfield argues that there is nothing wrong with criticizing Charlie Hebdo for running the pieces that precipitated the bombing (and for being “racist assholes.” I don’t know about wrong, but after what happened, I consider it beside the point. And of course you have the right to criticize them (we won’t bomb your house), but Canfield’s free speech doesn’t mean freedom from criticism, either.

[B2] Razib Khan explains that taboos against blasphemy aren’t crazy. They’re normal.

[B3] Daesh (ISIS/ISIL/IS) tried to win converts by reversing a smoking ban. So remember, if you support smoking bans, you’re worse than terrorists.

[B4] Biblical literalism doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means.

Culture:

[C1] The importance of the college football kicker.

[C2] The Dish Network is giving cord-cutters live sports, as well as other channels.

[C3] An author wrote a book on (consumerist) signalling, and perhaps made his point too well.

[C4] From Mark Thompson: You don’t have to live in New York, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, or Boston to experience high culture.  In fact, it may be easier if you don’t.  One quibble with the author – he claims to have a little bit of guilt because he’s underpaying for institutions and artists getting by on a tight budget.  I’m not at all certain how “tight” the budget is, at least for the artists/performers, compared to their big city counterparts.  They have a significantly lower cost of living and, let’s face it, the overwhelming majority of big city artists get paid very little even before adjusting for the high cost of living in those cities.   Even at the local prestige institutions, performers seem to do as well or better outside of the big cities  – the base salary for the Cleveland Orchestra is only about 10% lower than the base salary for the NY Philharmonic, and the difference in overall cost of living means the effective salary for the former is clearly higher.

Housing:

[Ho1] Related to our recent discussion on buying vs renting, the Wall Street Journal had a pretty good rundown. Trulia has a calculator.

[Ho2] Here’s a downside to tiny houses that you don’t necessarily think about: They can be stolen.

[Ho3] The Boston Globe sounds the alarm on age segregation. Honestly, in some ways I wish that we had a bit more of it than less of it.

[Ho4] Paul Krugman (echoing the thoughts of many others) argues that the housing costs of our nation’s talent hotbeds are causing economic inefficiency on a macro scale. Dietz Vollrath argues that maybe we should actually hasten the exodus, since it doesn’t matter where the best and brightest live as long as they life together, and there’s more room in Houston and Atlanta.

Healthcare:

[Hc1] Sweet! All hope is not lost! Scientists have discovered the first new anti-biotic in 30 years.

[Hc2] Good news, says Russell Saunders, your kids can get screen time!

[Hc3] From Mad Rocket Scientist: Ivory Tower, meet Real World. Real world, I’d tell you to be gentle with them, but I know you won’t listen.

[Hc4] Tiffanie Wen looks at why people don’t donate their organs.

[Hc5] PPACA may have tried to devote itself to helping rural health, but it has apparently hastened the rural hospital apocalypse.

Transportation:

[T1] A Morton Salt building wall collapsed, and the Acura dealership next door got the damage.

[T2] Eric Holthaus argues that high-speed rail is a waste of time and money, and a misguided priority for people looking for ways to combat global warming.

[T3] Massachusetts’s Registry of Motor Vehicles is allegedly doing the bidding of insurance companies.

[T4] Rural roads can change the world. Of course, it’s important that they forfeit their pride and voice in national affairs (or vote the right way).

[T5] No surprise that suburbanites commute by car more frequently than city folk, but across demographics, Americans overwhelmingly drive to work.

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101 thoughts on “Linky Friday #97

  1. F1- I am in complete agreement. I am not a fan of the heckler’s veto, the use of free speech to disrupt another’s free speech. This is especially true when the disrupted speech has no relation to to whatever is begin protested. This strikes me as a liberal version of whatever Phelps did.

    B1-One of the problems with making fun of Islam, as opposed to Christianity, is that most Muslims are people of color. A lot of people are going to perceive mockery of Islam by white people as a racist punch down humor while ridiculing Christianity is punch up humor because it is an establishment religion.

    B2-This is irrelevant. Taboos against blasphemy might be the norm for most of human history but they are not the norm in the developed world. Getting your ideals or religion mocked by someone is just a part of Western life. Everybody has to deal with this fact.

    T2-I am in agreement but for different reasons. Most of our cities sprawl and lack a local transit system to make HSR make sense. Once you get to your destination, you will still need a car.

    T4-How much is this because a lot of our cities have really poor transit networks? I’d like to see a comparison between transit rich places like New York, Boston, San Francisco and transit poor cities like Houston, Atlanta, or Seattle.

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    • A lot of people are going to perceive mockery of Islam by white people as a racist punch down humor while ridiculing Christianity is punch up humor because it is an establishment religion.

      This is only evidence that the whole “punching up/punching down” metaphor is deeply flawed.

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      • I agree. I understand where it comes from but it leads to a lot of mischief and misapplication. As religion/ideology, Islam should be no more immune from mockery than other religion or ideology.

        Its a similar problem with hate speech. Sometimes hate speech is really obvious but how do you distinguish between real hate speech and very hostile criticism from an outsider. As far as I can tell, you can’t unless obvious slurs or insults are used.

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      • It’s also considered better form to beat up on your own culture, more than another’s. It’s your culture, if anyone has a right to critique it, it’s you, right?

        It’s why black comedians can get away with quite a bit a white comedian wouldn’t, and why Jewish ones can mock Judiasm in ways non-Jews comedians couldn’t. (Not exactly ‘couldn’t’ — but mocking another culture, race, or religion than your own requires a lot more deftness.)

        Mostly because you’re given a rather large benefit of the doubt when mocking your own — mostly because you’re avoiding power disparities and historical group disputes.

        Americans comedians tackling Islam, for instance, run into the issue that (1) Islam is a very minority religion here and (2) The face of Islam to Americans is pretty darn brown. It runs into power disparities and race issues pretty much right away.

        Which is pretty much my take on punching up and punching down, it’s that it’s a lot easier to poke fun at the people in power or the majority than it is the minority. The latter takes either being a member of the minority, or a certain deftness of touch.

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      • Don’t know, don’t really care. I was speaking in generalities of the whole ‘punch up/punch down’ stuff because a large part of how we process humor is based on it.

        You can punch down successfully, it’s merely much harder — either that, or the people drawn to doing so tend to be crappier at comedy.

        We’ve always mocked the King (if out of earshot of his troops) and our fellow townsmen, but note we no longer group people with congenital disfigurements together and charge admission to gawk at them.

        I’ve heard lots of funny jokes about Islam — Kumail Nanjiani, for instance, makes a number. His are quite different in form and aim than, say, what Louie CK might make. In-group versus out-group, punching up versus punching down, whatever you want to call it.

        In the end it boils down to “Why can black people use the n-word and white people can’t?”. If you can’t grasp why that that simple case is so, you’re not really ready for more complex cases.

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      • In the end it boils down to “Why can black people use the n-word and white people can’t?”. If you can’t grasp why that that simple case is so, you’re not really ready for more complex cases.

        Well, if I am remedial, you will have patience with me. It’s the Christian thing to do.

        This phrase strikes me as off. White people use the n-word all the time. In the last few months, I watched Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave. In both, I saw a whole bunch of white people dropping n-bombs. And yet, I’ve seen no one denouncing Leonardo DiCaprio or Michael Fassbender as racists. Obviously, these things are more complicated. So what you perceive as my inability to perceive the simplest cases, is actually my unwillingness to by your simplest characterizations.

        The problem with the punching up/punching down metaphor is that it tries to take a very complex world of overlapping relationships and map them all onto some sort of easily categorized scale of who is up and who is down. No such scale exists.

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      • morat20,
        I dunno about not charging admission. Aren’t we paying to watch Carnivale and Game of Thrones? Yes, they do need to have at least a modicum of talent… But how much are you really paying to see “Actors” and not “People who have broken their bones so many times they’re a foot and a half shorter than they ought to be”?

        Tyrion doesn’t work with an actor of normal size. Neither does GREGOR.

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  2. F1: kudos for the guy. Call out the a-hats when you can…they deserve it.
    Hc3: LOL well deserved. Welcome to the world the rest of us live in. Damn complainers.
    Hc4: I’ll donate my organs when I get PAID for them. They are mine and I own them. My body my choice. Everyone else is making money.

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  3. On c3

    “…I found myself helplessly attuned to Miller’s own “narcissistic self-displays.” Miller reminds us frequently of his elite education, tells us that he owns several thousand books, lets on about his sophisticated taste in avant-garde art, makes offhand displays of his mastery of….”

    I am always flummoxed by the propensity of egalitarians to want to send their kids to elite universities.

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    • I am always flummoxed by the propensity of egalitarians to want to send their kids to elite universities.

      The “elite” tag is often one that’s applied by people other than egalitarians. You won’t meet many folks that are more egalitarian than the average Bryn Mawr graduate. But most of the women I know who went to Bryn Mawr didn’t go there because it’s “elite”.

      So you have to be careful which labels are applied to the institution by whom. Lots of math nerds go to Princeton, but probably not because the political “elite” has a tendency to go there, too.

      (he argues —tendentiously —that elite university degrees function as covert IQ guarantees).

      That (horrible, horrible argument) is why some faux intelligensia want to send their kids to elite universities. But it’s certainly not a reason why egalitarians want to go there.

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    • Roger,
      most writers start writing to get girls. I only know of one who actually managed to get girls through his writing, though… (can’t tell you who, and you’ve never heard of him besides).

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  4. Hc5: There are some really big problems with this story. Proximity to a hospital, particularly a small, rural hospital, does not equate to appropriate medical care. They’re mostly fine for non-critical care; for the kind that would make the commute to a more distant hospital a non-problem (when it comes to health-care outcomes,) and the question is balancing the cost of keeping them open in that scenario.

    But most small hospitals are not able to handle critical emergencies; and patients would need the transport to a bigger hospital with the ability to provide care. In many instances, those patients may be better off with being taken to the larger facility to begin with.

    So the solution of having formerly rural in-bed hospitals operate as out-patient health centers may be a lot more reasonable; there’s an important cost/benefit analysis that has to happen there, and this article relies on the emotional response of proximity instead of real outcome analysis.

    I know that my mother nearly died in a rural hospital two decades ago because they had neither the skills or equipment to recognize her illness and properly treat it; and it was only after my sister (an RN) insisted she be transferred to a larger hospital that she received proper diagnosis and treatment. So that’s the flip side here; small rural hospitals also kill people because they’re small.

    As to the issue of transport for heart-attack patients; I think this relies on properly trained EMT techs and greater willingness of patient families to call for an ambulance and not transport the patient themselves; but this is based on what I hear from medical professionals here in our small, rural state, where many hospitals have transitioned into health-care centers.

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    • No place in my city (with hills and rivers) is more than 8 minutes from a hospital.
      The difference in mortality rate between 4 minutes to the hospital, and 15, is a lot.
      Most people who live out in rural areas can be more like 30 minutes to the hospital, if not a lot farther.
      You take your risks as you have them, but being out in rural America isn’t good for critical emergencies.

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      • Small, rural hospitals aren’t always good for critical emergencies, either. Small, rural hospitals do not usually have cardiac care units.

        Also, I suspect, there’s an underlying concept here of ‘health care’ as emergency care in rural America, it’s obvious here that the reliance on emergency care is often due to a shortage of actual preventive health care that prevents emergencies; particularly heart attacks and strokes.

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      • Even without cardiac care units, or trauma centers, or whatnot, rural ERs can play a role by stabilizing patients before sending them out. When every minute counts, adding an hour to a trip (the distance between Clancy’s previous employer and the nearest larger hospital) can have significant consequences.

        That’s not to say that the government has to do whatever it takes to keep them viable (you live in ruralia you take your chances), but they serve a really important function to a lot of people.

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      • I think I’m just aghast at the framing; PPACA is, in fact, keeping many small, rural hospitals open as health centers when they would, without it, close because they operate at such large losses.

        Stabilization and transport to a appropriately-equipped facility need to function as a single unit; it is unreasonable to think all Americans can and should live 15 min. from a hospital.

        I’m not saying this isn’t a problem for rural residents, it is. The lack of doctors and dentists in many rural areas is huge; and this makes emergency response even more a factor because so many people don’t get health care until they need emergency care. But suggesting that PPACA is causing hospital closures in rural areas is really a stretch, too; it’s a trend that’s been going on for at least two decades or more, and one that’s gotten more and more complex to understand as medical care has gotten more complex. If anything, we can know that ACA couldn’t reverse the trend of hospital closures already happening, and we also know that it’s helping increase rural access to non-hospital care (hopefully reducing need for emergency care in the process).

        Again, that story is driven by emotional response to the perception of ‘there’s a hospital nearby,’ and not the quality or access to preventive care people have. It’s rather like how we think about education — schools suck, except for my kid’s school; and that’s terrific.

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      • The framing is mostly that it’s hastening or accelerating the trend, not that it’s causing it.

        One of the known effects of PPACA is that it encourages consolidation and making things a bit tougher by operating independently (also an existing trend, to be sure). That is kind of viewed as a good thing, but this seems likely a byproduct of that.

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      • One of the things that the PPACA did was change how some of the federal subsidies for “charity” care flowed. Instead of payments directly to hospitals based on total number of cases, most costs would be reimbursed on an individual basis through expanded Medicaid. The correlation between the closure map in the article and a map of where states have rejected Medicaid expansion is more than suggestive (especially when you add in which states are more generous with their Medicaid reimbursements to care providers).

        It’s not like this couldn’t be seen coming — I’m quite sure that all of the budget staff in all of the states included this feature in their analysis of things to worry about. I know when I was on the budget staff, there were a lot of bills that looked like policy decisions whose purpose was summed up in one sentence: “Bring state policy into alignment with federal funding flow changes.”

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      • PPACA is, in fact, keeping many small, rural hospitals open as health centers when they would, without it, close because they operate at such large losses.

        Rural hospitals have always had a difficult time due to the indigent populations and a payor mix that was heavily weighted to Medicare and Medicaid (something that isn’t good btw). Take a hospital that can barely remain solvent in a pre-ACA world and cut its reimbursements and penalize it for re-admissions (something I’d expect a higher rate of among lower income demographics). Add states that aren’t expanding Medicaid to the fire. What outlook do you expect in the ACA world?

        To the extent the PPACA does what you say it does, those changes are driven by the hospitals needing to adjust their business and capital strategies in order to emphasize outpatient and preventative care. Strong health systems that serve rural markets are or will be opening outpatient facilities, but I don’t know how the PPACA helps independent rural hospitals out of their troubles. The article mentions that hospital officials that run rural hospitals (independent I assume) are desperately seeking to merge or be acquired with a larger health system (that’s what I hear and see too).

        Otherwise, I’m confused. What part of the PPACA can help a hospital that can’t maintain solvency in its current form convert its entire operation to something that the building, staff and facilities aren’t optimally suited for and then expect to survive? It sounds to me like a logistical headache.

        I’m not saying this isn’t a problem for rural residents, it is.

        It’s also a problem for urban hospitals that are independently operated and serve a poor population. Those hospitals stand a better chance of being merged with a larger not-for-profit system though since the larger systems operate in closer proximity.

        But suggesting that PPACA is causing hospital closures in rural areas is really a stretch, too;

        Why? Everyone in the world knows that the reimbursement cuts per the PPACA are putting negative pressure on margins. Ask the hospitals and the ratings agencies what they think about it. Is it that much of a stretch to think that there are hospitals out there that are financially challenged to the point that any negative pressure on their financial position could sink them? Come on.

        If anything, we can know that ACA couldn’t reverse the trend of hospital closures already happening, and we also know that it’s helping increase rural access to non-hospital care (hopefully reducing need for emergency care in the process).

        This sounds more like defending the goals of the act and less like addressing the economic arguments on their merits. Seeing as I work in healthcare real estate, defenses or criticisms of the PPACA on policy grounds are meaningless to me.

        Again, that story is driven by emotional response to the perception of ‘there’s a hospital nearby,’ and not the quality or access to preventive care people have. It’s rather like how we think about education — schools suck, except for my kid’s school; and that’s terrific.

        I disagree. It’s a problem. It may be a short-term problem with an uncertain long-term solution but a problem nonetheless.

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      • Dave,
        Oh, if you let wall street come up with the solution, they’ll just bleed the rural areas dry.
        Then the communities will just dry up and blow away.
        Enough communities are on the edge, that a loss of a hospital, or a walmart could be devastating.

        This is what happens when you chronically underfund infrastructure across the board. Things split at the seams.

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      • Sec. 5313. Grants to promote the community health workforce. Authorizes the Secretary to award grants to States, public health departments, clinics, hospitals, Federally qualified health centers, and other nonprofits to promote positive health behaviors and outcomes in medically underserved areas through the use of community health workers. Community health workers offer interpretation and translation services, provide culturally appropriate health education and information, offer informal counseling and guidance on health behaviors, advocate for individual and community health needs, and can provide some direct primary care services and screenings.

        Sec. 5502. Medicare Federally qualified health center improvements. Directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop and implement a prospective payment system (PPS) for Medicare-covered services furnished by Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). Additionally, adds remaining Medicare-covered preventive services to the list of services eligible for reimbursement when furnished by an FQHC.

        Sec. 5508. Increasing teaching capacity. Directs the Secretary to establish a grant program to support new or expanded primary care residency programs at teaching health centers and authorizes $25 million for FY2010, $50 million for FY2011 and FY2012 and such sums as may be necessary for each fiscal year thereafter to carry out such program. Also provides $230 million in funding under the Public Health Service Act to cover the indirect and direct expenses of qualifying teaching health centers related to training primary care residents in certain expanded or new programs.

        Sec. 5601. Spending for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). Authorizes the following appropriations: FY2010 – $2.98B; FY2011 – $3.86B; FY2012 – $4.99B; FY 2013 – $6.44B; FY2014 – $7.33B; FY2015 – $8.33B.

        Sec. 5304. Alternative dental health care provider demonstration project. Authorizes the Secretary to award grants to establish training programs for alternative dental health care providers to increase access to dental health care services in rural, tribal, and underserved communities.

        Sec. 5403. Interdisciplinary, community-based linkages. Authorizes funding to establish community-based training and education grants for Area Health Education Centers (AHECs) and Programs. Two programs are supported – Infrastructure Development Awards and Points of Service Enhancement and Maintenance Awards – targeting individuals seeking careers in the health professions from urban and rural medically underserved communities.

        Sec. 3102. Extension of the work geographic index floor and revisions to the practice expense geographic adjustment under the Medicare physician fee schedule. Extends a floor on geographic adjustments to the work portion of the fee schedule through the end of 2010, with the effect of increasing practitioner fees in rural areas. Also provides immediate relief to areas negatively impacted by the geographic adjustment for practice expenses, and requires the Secretary of HHS to improve the methodology for calculating practice expense adjustments beginning in 2012.

        Sec. 3104. Extension of payment for technical component of certain physician pathology services. Extends a provision that directly reimburses qualified rural hospitals for certain clinical laboratory services through the end of 2010.

        Sec. 3105. Extension of ambulance add-ons. Extends bonus payments made by Medicare for ground and air ambulance services in rural and other areas through the end of 2010.

        There’s more.

        Much of the benefits for rural hospitals were in place through 2010; I’d guess the logic being that after that, the system would have expanded to create more-affordable services. So in that sense, is correct; they are probably closing now because the supports they received from PPACA expired. But that was also predictable; many of those benefits could have been extended if Congress had any intent of improving (instead of revoking) ACA.

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  5. Ho4: I was pleasantly surprised to see Krugman acknowledge that the problem is ilmits on construction and not a lack of subsidies for renters. (Even Krugman-2015 I would not expect to advocate rent control.)

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  6. Jon Chait defends the right to blasphemy

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/01/charlie-hebdo-and-the-right-to-commit-blasphemy.html

    “The line separating these two positions is perilously thin. The Muslim radical argues that the ban on blasphemy is morally right and should be followed; the Western liberal insists it is morally wrong but should be followed. Theoretical distinctions aside, both positions yield an identical outcome.

    The right to blaspheme religion is one of the most elemental exercises of political liberalism. One cannot defend the right without defending the practice.”

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    • I like Chait; he’s fundamentally wrong here. One can defend the right without defending the practice.

      You can choose not to defend blasphemy, oppose laws against blasphemy, condemn murders in the name of opposing blasphemy, and maintain not defending blasphemy the whole time.

      Insert any X for blasphemy. You’ll find that your inclination to agree with the statement will simply track whether you thought you should be defending the X in the first place. We’ll want to agree with the statement when X = racism, and disagree with it when X = criticism of the state.

      But in fact it’s true for any X. That’s kind of the whole point of, or a big part of the point of, the free expression that the right to free expression protects.

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      • 1. France has a history of anti-clericalism which stretches back to the French Revolution if not before.

        2. Should people not critique their own religions.

        3. Charlie Hebdo probably has more supporters now than it ever did in the past because of the terrorist attack. They would have been seen as just jerks without the murders.

        4. How do you feel about Piss Christ? The Deputy? The Last Temptation of Christ? Trembling Before God? Jesus Camp? Etc.

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      • Authority needs to be challenged including religious authority. I just feel like saying no to blasphemy is a way of letting religious authority go unchecked.

        The anti-circumcision reporters did upset me but I would never dare of not letting them protest because it is blasphemous. I’d rather just speak against them.

        What is the distinction between saying that the Bible is untrue and people are wrong for quoting Leviticus against homosexuals and committing blasphemy?

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    • Yeah, it was Chait I had in mind when I said people are acting as though “I don’t like what you say, but I will defend your right to say it!” was not a thing.

      It’s like they’re not of the ACLU defending NAMBLA, or perhaps Chait agrees with many of ACLU’s critics that defending NAMBLA means the ACLU agrees with the content of NAMBLA’s speech, or at least doesn’t see anything wrong with it, don’t think people shouldn’t do it?

      Chait’s position is not just wrong, it’s stupid, ignorant, ahistorical, and stupid. Did I say stupid twice? Let me say it a third time: it’s stupid. I’m sure if you asked almost any ACLU attorney, they’d say, “NAMBLA is disgusting, and I hate what they do, and would rather they not do it. But I will use my valuable time and knowledge to defend their right to do it in court. ”

      Seriously fucking stupid.

      And you know what, it’s not just stupid, it’s dangerous. It says that we can’t have moral distinctions independent from rights. It says that if we have a right, then we must consider any exercise of that right to be inherently good and unquestionable. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

      Terrorism makes Americans insane. And stupid. And dangerous.

      Also, does Chait support the 2nd amendment? If so, does he therefore have to believe that open carry of assault rifles in the mall is a good thing? Can he not say, “A ban of open carrying assault rifles in the mall is immoral, but people should not carry their assault rifles into the mall?”

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      • You are being unkind to Chait in that he is specifically talking about blasphemy and those other examples are not the same as blasphemy (I know I keep saying this, but it is important). You cannot morally condemn blasphemy without implicitly supporting the ability of the religious extremist to universalize his religious beliefs.

        Of course, you can still choose to hold that belief, but it is not as innocuous as condemning racism or sexual assault on young boys.

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      • Chris,

        Yeah, it was Chait I had in mind when I said people are acting as though “I don’t like what you say, but I will defend your right to say it!” was not a thing.

        I think part of it is that it comes across less like the Voltaire quote, and more like “I believe in your right to say that, but you really shouldn’t say that.”

        Which is not quite the same thing. It’s still a perfectly cool thing to say most of the time, but I believe in this case the important thing (which comes second in Yes/But sentences) is the right to say that. Saying that you believe that they have the right followed by a lot of ink on how terrible a thing it is to say – after they were killed for saying it – is less cool, in my view.

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      • I think part of it is that it comes across less like the Voltaire quote, and more like “I believe in your right to say that, but you really shouldn’t say that.”

        Tough. Get over it. Some people really don’t want us to blaspheme. It’s as much their right to peacefully express that they’d really like us to refrain from blaspheming as it is ours to blaspheme. If they’re simultaneously saying, “…but I acknowledge your right to blaspheme,” then they’ve actually got one up in the Free-Expression Fauxtrage Olympics over the people saying “Don’t ask me not to blaspheme” if that last group isn’t explicitly reaffirming their recognition of the former group’s right to make that request, the way the former group is.

        That this line of critique is being advanced in the name of the right to freedom of expression is a travesty.

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      • Of course, you can still choose to hold that belief, but it is not as innocuous as condemning racism or sexual assault on young boys.

        The is just a bare substantive judgment of yours that you’re trying to universalize. There’s nothing black-and-white here. The fact is,

        Opinions vary.

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      • Perhaps the better interjection was “So what?” rather than “Get over it.” (Apologies.) It comes across as, “I believe in your right to say that, but you really shouldn’t say that” because that’s how they feel. So… so what? If we were talking about some kind of vile racism here, we would feel differently about it.

        Which is fine if we acknowledge that’s just our substantive position on the question. But the tone of this discussion to mind holds itself as treating Big Questions about the Broad Parameters governing Free Expression and our Marketplace Place of Ideas (arm-waving and highly portentous tone intended). That things like this are Fundamentally Misguided.

        If that’s not how we’re talking, then I’ve misapprehended our (not just yours and mine, but the larger) conversation. But if not, then this isn’t the Big Point in the discussion it’s made out to be. Blasphemy & racism. People feel different ways about these, and free expression means freely expressing those different views. It’s a substantive point, not a point that changes or sets the rules about free expression. We can’t claim that people merely peacefully objecting to blasphemy because it offends them is fundamentally violative of free expression norms in a way that our objecting to racism isn;t because, dammit, the racism offends us.

        Why, it’s almost like trying to extend the major liberal norms across many global cultures requires a sometimes-uncomfortable degree of acceptance of the reality of different and conflicting viewpoints, flexibility, toleration, and imagination/perspective-taking.

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      • They can say whatever they want. I’m not going to bomb their house and if God forbid someone else does I am unlikely to make more than a passing mention to disagreeing with the comments that precipitated the bombing because I’d consider that disagreement beside the point.

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      • I’m not going to bomb their house and if God forbid someone else does I am unlikely to make more than a passing mention to disagreeing with the comments that precipitated the bombing because I’d consider that disagreement beside the point.

        Says the person who’s lucky enough not to have particularly strong feelings about blasphemy.

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      • …Keep in mind, it’s not the condemnation of the murders that we’re discussing being diluted (or I didn’t think it was). That unfortunately happened, but we were discussing attaching views about whether we’d like a person to say something to affirmations of belief in free expression. All of which hopefully comes after an unalloyed condemnation of murder. I agree that it’s in terrible taste to attach them to one’s actual condemnation of the murders (as Bill Donohue did), though I defend the right to do that as well.

        To be honest, I wasn’t even thinking of such affirmations (and statements of preferences) coming in the aftermath of violence, though I get that that’s mostly the point you were making. I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong about reaffirming that you stand against blasphemy while saying you support the right to do it, even at such a time, though, so long as you’ve condemned violence without qualification. It is, after all, what you think, if you think it.

        What about generally, then? Say a person support the legal right to free expression, but profoundly wishes people would refrain from using it for blasphemy. Is there something wrong with saying so, other than maybe you just disagree with that value? If not, then I don’t know why we should impose on people who feel that way an obligation not to say so at a time when they will surely be called upon to reaffirm (if they affirm it) their support for the legal right to free expression – an obligation not to say so rooted in the criminal acts of zealots who murdered in the name of that belief. That’s wrong. It’s like saying it would be worthy of criticism to, after condemning unreservedly the act of someone who murdered someone for the act of eating pork, then went on to attach to an affirmation of belief in the right to eat pork, a statement that “I believe my religion is the true and right one, and I can’t alter that it tells me that it’s in fact wrong for any person to eat pork.”

        It denies the reality of the accomplishment that is the move, for many people such as this, from believing due to religion that people shouldn’t eat pork, to affirming that they nevertheless have the right to. And that’s what we’re really after.

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      • You cannot morally condemn blasphemy without implicitly supporting the ability of the religious extremist to universalize his religious beliefs.

        You’ve said this on two threads now, but you haven’t argued for it. I’d like to see the reasoning leads you to this position before I try to address it.

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      • It’s true. I do consider such bombings a magnitude of order of magnitude more significant than blasphemy.

        So, we shouldn’t deny without evidence, do the people who have strong feelings about blasphemy who have condemned these murders in unqualified terms. You can feel strongly about blasphemy and feel even more strongly about murder. You can even feel compelled to say that you feel strongly about blasphemy while talking about your belief in free expression in the aftermath of said murders, and still consider the murders much more significant.

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      • Jaybird, there was once a philosopher, and American, I suspect you know who (I avoid naming him because his name tends to drive people a little crazy), who said that the only principle of liberalism (in the broad sense that almost all of us would accept here, left or right, not in the American bipolar political sense) is the avoidance of cruelty. If we accept that as true (and I basically do), then perhaps it becomes clearer in what ways the beliefs of others produce moral obligations for me.

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      • What about generally, then? Say a person support the legal right to free expression, but profoundly wishes people would refrain from using it for blasphemy. Is there something wrong with saying so, other than maybe you just disagree with that value?

        “It’s still a perfectly cool thing to say most of the time”

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      • If we accept that as true (and I basically do), then perhaps it becomes clearer in what ways the beliefs of others produce moral obligations for me.

        Which brings us back, eternally, to the question of “what are we allowed to do in service to cruelty prevention?”

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      • Sure. Liberalism isn’t just a theory of government, though. Most of us have more values that we do not feel should be enforced at the point of a gun than we do that we feel should be so enforced. In most cases, the response is, “You should not do it,” and we can follow that with our ethical arguments against doing it if need be.

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      • Yeah, other than “I never said anything about obligations”, I am trying to come up with the best way to express myself that won’t end up in an endless loop of clarifications about who must have actually mean what.

        At the end of the day, if the thing you want to talk about most after Charlie Hebdo is condemning blasphemy (or racism or anti-Muslim bigotry), I will draw my own conclusions from that. They’re not likely to be favorable conclusions.

        What I derive from a specific instance of it, though, depends on what was said and when (and by whom).

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      • I will draw my own conclusions from that. They’re not likely to be favorable conclusions.

        Which still matters. And many others will do the same. Start to add them up, and suddenly people find themselves dealing with something that’s going to seem very much like an obligation on pain of… stuff that’s no fun. Lots of people drawing unfavorable conclusions, which depite lots of those people’s intentions otherwise, can often end up in Bad Things for those people (laws, and other real consequences). So yeah, individual”conclusions” are where others’ de facto obligations can start to get going.

        If you don’t want to make your conclusion-drawing the subject of a discussion about what it is you expect of others in order to improve what those conclusions might be, where those are then to an extent taken as something a of a stand-in for what “a person’s” such conclusions might be, you have the option not to express that those are your conclusions. Expressing that is precisely the act of opening them up for public discussion, suggesting they’re reasonable, and getting the ball rolling toward broader assumption of them.

        If you’re saying that if People do X your conclusions will be Y, then you’re really also saying that in order for your conclusions not to be unfavorable, their obligation is not to do X. And in your case and basically all reasonable people’s cases, stating them as your conclusions is really the same thing as stating that they are reasonable conclusions. And whatever someone’s obligation would be that would be necessary to avoid negative conclusions by a critical mass of reasonable people, that is a not-insignificant obligation that they face. It’s not a moral obligation, but instead an obligation of consequences. But those, too, are obligations. They can even be immoral ones.

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      • No, I think I implied they’re probably reasonable, because you’re reasonable. But that doesn’t mean they’re correct. They’re narrowly wrong. Which is why people on the other end of them are not unlikely to face the real threat of a de facto obligation in order for them to be able to avoid narrowly misconceived but nonetheless damaging widespread unfavorable conclusions being wrongly drawn about them. It’s not unreasonably, but it is narrowly wrong, which is a thing reasonable people can correct just with a bit of reconsideration. And widespread (why widespread? because reasonable) unfavorable conclusions being drawn about you is a thing to want avoid, especially if they’re wrongfully drawn. And people shouldn’t have to do things – incur obligations that is – in order to avoid that happening wrongfully.

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      • I think it’s fairly self-evident, to be honest. Blasphemy is, more or less, defined as an “expression that violates a religious taboo.”

        To ask someone not to blaspheme is to ask them to speak in accordance with a religious taboo. If the speaker is not of that religion and is not engaging in a personal dialogue with someone from that religion, to ask them to speak in accordance with that religion’s taboo is to say that the religion’s taboo should guide the speech of the speaker regardless of whether they are of that religion.

        That is synonymous with saying that the taboo should be universalized.

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      • Mark,

        I got a different definition. From Wiki:

        Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God, to religious or holy persons or things, or toward something considered sacred or inviolable.

        FWIW and all.

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      • Nah, it just requires me to have a certain level of respect for my fellow members of the community, or the human race, even. A level of respect that requires me not to insult their lifestyles, beliefs, or world views, unless there is a damn good reason for doing so, like say they lead them to harm people or attack their lifestyles, beliefs, or world views.

        Personally, I find the mocking of religions to be counterproductive in most of its uses. More often than not, in fact, it’s just a way of, as Jason himself might say, signaling one’s group membership.

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      • Nah, it just requires me to have a certain level of respect for my fellow members of the community, or the human race, even. A level of respect that requires me not to insult their lifestyles, beliefs, or world views, unless there is a damn good reason for doing so, like say they lead them to harm people or attack their lifestyles, beliefs, or world views.

        Personally, I find the mocking of religions to be counterproductive in most of its uses. More often than not, in fact, it’s just a way of, as Jason himself might say, signaling one’s group membership.

        Agreed.

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      • Personally, I find all religions to be utter hokum and their adherents to be suffering from an impressive group delusion (and they should all have their heads examined).

        But I try not to say that out loud…

        Too often…

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  7. E3: I would rather be a member of the Sublime Society of Beefsteaks

    F2: Unsurpisingly the comments were shut down. Does anyone have a cached version?

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  8. B2-
    Razib Khan’s article about taboos illustrates one of the issues facing the West, and the weakness of assuming that our framing of things is somehow objective and self-evident.

    I’m talking about secular liberalism, where the state is officially a neutral entity, and everyone is free to pursue their own life, and hold sacred their own beliefs, but not enforce them on anyone else.
    We assume that this arrangement is self evidently good, and any other arrangement is evil.

    There are several problems with this. One as many in the minority will point out, the state is NOT at all neutral with regard to moral values; even when there is no demonstrable harm or externality, certain values are discouraged. An example would be pornography, which the state usually attempts to suppress via zoning and regulation. Another would be controversial groups like the KKK or NAMBLA which are treated differently than more innocuous groups like the Boy Scouts or the United Way.

    But even if those were knocked down, there is the problem that such an ideal of perfect neutrality is itself impossible- it depends on there being an objective reality independent of human bias and subjectivity. Its reflective of the Enlightenment era Newtonian framework of the universe working like clockwork, which itself is a very culturally particular viewpoint. And one that has less and less support from science with each passing day.

    I’m not arguing that state neutrality should be dispensed with entirely. But I am suggesting that the assumption that it is the superior arrangement needs examination and adjustment.

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  9. hc5,
    Just because rural people are poor and undereducated, doesn’t mean they’re stupid. Or that they can’t make good decisions on health care. Now, they may not be YOUR decisions, but …

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    • My criticism is not of rural people generally, but of their elected legislators (both state and federal) specifically. I’m also not criticizing their choices about health care, but am criticizing their choices about health care financing. The legislators are, in large part, neither poor nor uneducated. They have access to professional staff (as well as lobbyists) who will take the time to explain every nuance of the changes the PPACA made. And they have access to political people who can count votes. So what did they do? They made policy choices firmly in the “maybe a miracle will occur” camp. Only none of the possible miracles happened, and they’re getting exactly what the experts told them they were most likely going to get.

      This wasn’t complicated policy. Federal funding stream X will be going away for hospitals in your state. You have rural hospitals that depend on it for solvency. Replacing the stream requires that you (a) expand Medicaid and (b) be somewhat more generous in your Medicaid reimbursement rates. This will require that you spend somewhat more state money, but not much. Their choices… and they’re getting exactly what they chose.

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      • Michael,
        Yeah. I wasn’t upset with you. I was upset with the article who was saying that because they’re poor and sick, they aren’t able to make good decisions about their health.

        People don’t rip perfectly healthy teeth out of their skull for no reason — they call it preventative medicine.

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  10. [Hc3] Business cuts employee benefits in a way that increases employees’ participation in health care costs, blames changes in law that don’t seem to have much relation (insurance costs increasing slower now than before, cadillac taxes far in future, etc.). For whatever reason, conservatives see this as a sign of triumph because they are totally against consumers sharing the cost of health care with their employers anything and everything they think can be associated with Obama.

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