Author: Mitchell Blatt (Page 2 of 25)

A solution to sexual assault

The epidemic* of men being fired for sexual harassment and assault has laid bare the scale of men abusing their power at the highest levels—and the depths to which their depravity extends.

Pundits, journalists, reformers and the public are talking about what can be done to solve the problem. For some men, solving the problem doesn’t so much mean decreasing the incidence of sexual assault as it does protecting themselves from getting fired for allegedly committing sexual assault.

Proposals have included refusing private meetings with women (i.e. students, coworkers, and partners in deals) and invoking US Vice President Mike Pence’s personal policy. If I don’t meet with women, I will never be accused of assault!, the thinking goes.

One obvious problem at the start is that men often have to meet with women to correct papers or discuss topics relating to their work. Shutting women out could deny women opportunities—simply because of improprieties committed by other men.

I would propose what might be a better idea: not sexually assaulting women. Reading the cases from Harvey Weinstein, Louie CK, and Matt Lauer to Roy Moore, Al Franken, and Donald Trump, it’s amazing how many of these controversies could have been avoided if only they didn’t sexually assault people in the first place.

Louie masturbated in front of women in his office. Lauer locked women in his office and attempted to seduce and/or coerce them. Weinstein allegedly raped a dozen women.

The Washington Times paraphrases Jay Richards of the Catholic University of America:

The entry of women into the workforce since World War II, followed by the sexual revolution and the erasure of well-established sexual mores, has left men and women with little guidance as to how to interact in the workplace, Mr. Richards said.

Don’t give women sex toys, like Lauer did, for starters. Don’t make passes at every woman in the office, particularly employees in low-level jobs, and use appurtances of power to pressure them. Don’t meet your subordinates in a hotel room, as Weinstein and Trump made a practice of doing.

Basically, not doing things against someone’s will is a pretty easy and universal rule.

Read More

When will conservatives admit that sometimes a Democrat is better than a Republican?

If you want to vote for the lesser of two evils, then you would vote for the Democrat in Alabama, for the US presidency.

The Federalist published an article by a Christian studies professor at Ouachita Baptist University arguing for Alabama voters to vote for “the lesser of two evils”–by which he meant Roy Moore. Christians supporting a corrupt liar and sexual degenerate guilty of assault? Wouldn’t be the first time they’ve done it in the past two years.

After both questioning the heavily-substantiated allegations and stating that the allegations are probably true, he eventually gets to the meat of his argument:

If one can’t vote for someone who is better (that is, less bad or less evil) or who is equally bad but has better policies, then one should opt out of politics and the voting process altogether!

That sentence, itself, is absolutely true! So why do conservatives and Republicans–including the writer himself–never follow it? To wit, why, if he thinks we should vote for the lesser of two evils, did he write an article expressly advocating for voting for the most evil candidate (“Why Alabamans Should Vote for Roy Moore,” it is titled).

A lot of conservative Republicans are so extremely partisan that they think the very fact of one being a Democrat is the worst thing anyone can do in the world.

Read More

Michael Flynn plea explains a lot

From Trump’s transition, his demands for loyalty, to his recent unhinged tweets, Mike Flynn’s plea deal brings things into focus.

The news that former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn plead guilty to lying to the FBI is a bombshell that opens up uncertainties and rumors to clearer interpretations.

The one single charge appears small when compared to news reports detailing Michael Flynn’s alleged actions as a foreign influence-peddler, his failures to disclosure Russian-sourced income, and even his possible consideration of a scheme to kidnap a Turkish disident living in America and send him to Erdogan in exchange for $5 million dollars. As others have pointed out, including David French, Lawfare’s team, and David A. Graham, intense prosecutors, like the one who threw the books at Manafort, don’t give away sweet plea deals for nothing (Flynn is recommended to face no more than 6 months). This points to Flynn likely cooperating nicely with Mueller and offering useful testimony.

Lawfare noted that Flynn’s deal doesn’t absolve him from all potential charges. Again, another reasonable interpretation is that if Flynn doesn’t deliver he might be facing much worse.

What could the promised testimony be? Already there is a flood of articles reporting that high-level Trump administration officials directed him to communicate with the Russian government, with Jared Kushner being named personally. ABC News reports that Flynn is prepared to testify that Donald Trump directed him to talk to Russia about ISIS. Eli Lake reports that Kushner told him to contact Russia. BuzzFeed reports that Kushner also told him to call foreign countries to lobby them on the controversial UN resolution on Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory that the Obama administration refused to veto. Kushner had previously been reported to have tried to set up a backchannel to Russia.

All three reports, or some variation, could be simultaneously be true; if Trump personally mentioned ISIS, whether as a pretext or otherwise, when telling Flynn to contact Russia, Kushner could have given more specifics. Also worth emphasizing is that the ABC story refers to things Flynn is allegedly prepared to testify to, while the other two refer to things that reportedly happened, the difference between a reporter substantiating a story enough to say it probably happened and investigators substantiating something enough to convince a witness he has no choice but to admit it happened.

The documents reveal what had been reported in the first two months of the Trump administration: that Flynn lied about discussion sanctions with Russian officials. The documents state that Flynn then informed Trump transition team officials stationed in Mar-a-lago about his communications. At the time, Russia abstained from ratcheting up its response, and Trump praised Putin for his “smart” decision. Trump officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, made public statements denying that Flynn had discussed sanctions. Flynn was then fired on the pretense that he had lied to Pence.

At the very least this is reignites the political problem for Trump that it seems that he and his leading deputies likely intentionally misled about Flynn, even after having been warned by Sally Yates.

Furthermore, it makes Trump’s attempts to get the stiffle the Flynn investigation even more suspect. At the time, the Flynn was the particular individual mentioned specifically to Comey in the Oval Office. That he wanted Comey to “see to it” to drop the investigation, and then fired him on pretenses that he would let slip days later were unreliable, suggests with a very high degree of likelihood that he knew something that reflected poorly on him or his administration would be uncovered.

Reports from late in the campaign through the transition up until now about the nature of Russian meddling and the investigation are being confirmed or corroborated with each new indictment that comes out.

Trump Tweets Mirror Flynn Cooperation

Read More

2 new articles for Areo and Acculturated

Your editor Mitchell Blatt is back with big pieces in Accultrated and Areo Magazine.

First, commenting in Acculturated on the lack of appeal for a movie about failed candidate for Texas governor and two-time filibusterer Wendy Davis:

In an interview with Refinery 29, Davis said, “I honestly never believed something like this would happen” (before stating in the next sentence how many people were telling her after the filibuster that a film should be made about her). Indeed, she might be right. The movie idea is still in the early stages of development and might very well end up suffering the same fate as her TV series.

Full article: Why Would Sandra Bullock Want to Make a Movie About Wendy Davis?

Next, in Areo Magazine I point to the problem of clickbait reporting–when journalists and/or editors distort facts in their headlines and leads such that it fundamentally changes the meaning of the story.

If you were reading Salon, ThinkProgress, or Glenn Greenwald this October 3rd, you might think the United States under Trump’s leadership began the process of criminalizing homosexuality and executing gays…

Full article: Why Clickbait Reporting is the Real Problem, Not Liberal Bias

Trump campaigns for himself in speech to Korean legislature

Donald Trump can’t help but brag and campaign to an American audience in any speech he gives abroad.

The latest victims of Trump’s egotism were Korean legislators who heard him speak to their chamber. After going over the inspiring history of Korea’s development, Trump pivoted to one of his favorite topics:

Like Korea, and since my election exactly one year ago today, I celebrate with you.

The awkward syntax makes it seem like he only has been celebrating Korea’s success since his election. Probably he meant to say “since I read a one-page briefing a few days ago.”

Either way, he went on:

The United States is going through something of a miracle itself. Our stock market is at an all-time high. Unemployment is at a 17-year low. We are defeating ISIS. We are strengthening our judiciary, including a brilliant Supreme Court justice, and one and on and on.

That Trump’s overbearing language has become routine shouldn’t make it anymore acceptable. Miracle? Yahoo Finance’s Myles Udland reports, “The U.S. economy added 261,000 jobs in October… … Economists were looking for job gains of 313,000… … Wage gains in October were disappointing…”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie was attacking the economic conditions in Virginia in a race that he lost by nine, a referendum on Trumpism.

The stock market numbers and unemployment rate have been on long-term trajectories, of course. Unemployment has declined from 9% in 2010 to 7.9% in 2013, 5.7% in 2015, 4.8% at the start of 2017, and 4.1% now, and Trump hasn’t enacted any major economic policies in his ten months as president.

The mention of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is most insulting of all to Korean lawmakers, who have justices of their own to approve. Gorsuch is a qualified profession, as are the other eight justices on the Supreme Court, and there’s no reason he merits mention whatsoever in Korea.

But it’s a long-standing tendency of his to go off on brazen, self-congratulatory tangents at what are supposed to be speeches about serious international issues.

Read More

Exclusive paper: Is fear of ISIS rational? A statistical analysis

Summary
In the context of ongoing discussion over whether or not publics in the world are rational in their views on terrorism, this analytical commentary uses data about fatalities from terrorist attacks and results of a Pew Research Center global survey on public attitudes to assess whether concern about ISIS tracks with the threat ISIS has posed to countries. This analysis found that concern about ISIS in most regions of the world tracked with both fatalities caused by all terrorism and fatalities caused by ISIS specifically. Globally, concern about ISIS in a country showed the strongest correlation with fatalities caused by ISIS. The publics of particular countries that faced divergent threat levels from ISIS-affiliated terrorists and non-ISIS-affiliated terrorists also showed the ability to distinguish between the different threats. The results indicate that publics are not, in general, extremely irrational.

My commentary on public opinion and ISIS has been published at the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies. Read my CEJISS commentary here.

Introduction
Are public fears about ISIS rational? A detailed global survey released by the Pew Research Center found ISIS is the issue the world’s people are most concerned about in a plurality of countries surveyed. Across 38 countries, 62 percent of the world is concerned about ISIS, narrowly surpassing climate change as the top issue[1].

This has caused some to suggest that the public’s fear of ISIS is irrational. Michael Cruickshank wrote, “Crazy how irrationally afraid people are off ISIS. Shows how effective their propaganda is”[2]. It’s true that everyday risks like car crashes and murders by common criminals are bigger threats for ordinary people[3][4], but the impact of intentional, targeted attacks on civilizational values causes a bigger fear impact in many people’s minds[5]. Whether or not that is “rational” per se is a question for psychologists and philosophers and others to debate some other day. Instead I shall undertake to assess whether, within the confines of human psychology, the relative risk assessments of various countries are in line with the threat posed to those countries by ISIS.

This analysis focuses on concern about ISIS, as registered in the survey; fatalities caused by terrorism within each country, as tracked by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism’s (START, at the University of Maryland) Global Terrorism Database; and fatalities caused by ISIS, also tracked by START’s database. The results were predictable: there were generally positive correlations between a country’s exposure to fatalities caused by terrorism and that country’s concern about ISIS. There were also some notable departures from correlation, which showed many publics are attuned to specific regional dynamics.

Read More

Japanese election today — Will Abe stay in power?

All seats are being contested in Japan’s House of Representatives. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic administration has faced challenges this year. The cabinet’s disapproval rating eclipsed its approval rating in June for the first time since 2015. The current rate is 45 percent dispproval, 38 percent approval.

Challenging Abe is the Party of Hope’s coalition, a new conservative reformist party, and a liberal coalition consisting of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party, and the Social Democratic Party.

Yet even amongst those who disapprove of Abe’s administration in the Mainichi poll, a plurality, 26 percent, say they plan on voting for the Liberal Democratic Party, while 20 percent support the Party of Hope.

We will see later today if the third-longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history can keep his term going.

Update, 11 pm Tokyo time: Exit polls show Abe’s coalition projected to win, with 300 or more seats in the 465 seat chamber. Currently they control 329.

Weinstein, Trump, and the crisis of confidence in rule of law

Donald Trump’s politicization of the Justice Department hurts faith in rule of law when it is sorely needed. Film producer Harvey Weinstein has been investigated before for sexual abuse, and now, with many more allegations coming out publicly, it is likely that he might have faced serious investigations under any administration.

Yet the appearance of conflict-of-interest and the demonstrated intent of applying law politically casts an inescapable lack of confidence under anything the Justice Department does now. The admissions by Trump that he made explicit political calculations when staffing the Department of Justice and pressured the DOJ to investigate his enemies (Trump says he wouldn’t have picked Sessions if he knew he’d recuse himself, After attacking AG Jeff Sessions for failing to investigate Hillary Clinton, Trump won’t say if he will fire him, Comey documented Trump request to drop Flynn investigation in memo) imply that he would use, or try to use, his power to attack any political enemy he can.

Now it is reported in the Daily Mail that the FBI is opening up an investigation into Weinstein at the behest of the DOJ (although “it is unknown whether the DOJ order came directly from Sessions”). There’s a 90 percent chance that this is justified entirely on the facts of the case. In almost any other administration, there would be closer to 99 percent confidence.

We know how Trump responds to crimes committed by his political allies: he pardons them.

Read More

The political meaning of Korean makgeolli

An excerpt of my latest travel article from my travel blog China Travel Writer:

Koreans have a saying, “Eat once in Jeonju, and you’ll be spoiled for life.” The city of 600,000, which is the capital of North Jeolla province, is a UNESCO Creative City for its gastronomical heritage.

On a visit this past July, I was excited to taste Jeonju’s legendary fare. So why, when I went with two Koreans to a famous dining district, was I staring down at a plates full of silkworm pupae, jelly made of smashed acorns, and a fish that has been fermented in its own urine?

We were at the Jeonmun Makgeolli Town, one of seven makgeolli towns prominently featured on tourism maps. Makgeolli is a Korean “farmer’s wine” made from rice and traditionally served in bowls. It has a reputation as being an honest, working man’s drink. It’s a drink that old men drink straight from the plastic bottle outside convenience stores at 3 in the afternoon. In fact, the national security law during the period of military rule was jokingly called the “Makgeolli Security Law” because so many people were arrested for things they said in casual conversation.

In short, makgeolli seemed to me to be a representative drink for the progressive stronghold of Jeolla, which was the site of both the 1894 Donghak Peasant Rebellion in Jeonju and the 1980 Gwangju Uprising to the south.

Read the full article: Silkworm pupae, urine fish, and farmer’s wine: A meal to remember in Korea’s culinary capital

Mafia Don: Trump as an Amoral Familist

Donald Trump’s presidency has been so strange it has caused columnists around the world to try to conceive of new frameworks to explain politics. But what if what is needed is really an old framework? In 1955, Edward C. Banfield visited a village in Southern Italy and described a dysfunctional politics based on the pursuit of personal and family profit above all else. He called the practitioners of this anti-social morality “amoral familists.” It was the behavior of the mafia and it is the behavior of Donald Trump and his cronies.

The amoral familist will, “Maximize the material, short-run advantage of the nuclear family” and “assume that all others will do likewise,” Banfield wrote. Trump has appointed his daughter and son-in-law into White House positions and put his two sons in charge of his business empire. The Trump administration has used official outlets to hawk his family’s products and has raked in cash from foreign diplomats staying at his DC hotel in the hopes of influencing him.

The effects of this lack of character and the assumption that all others lack character as well corrode to the core of a political system. Banfield noted how the locals in the small town had no trust in politics, and as such, no one trustworthy ran for office, and no one trusted the government to solve their problems. “[N]o one will further the interest of the group or community except as it is to his private advantage to do so.”

Banfield noted an additional 17 points that describe specific things one would expect to see in a society of amoral familists. It is worrying how many appear in Donald Trump’s United States in varying degrees.

Read More

Page 2 of 25

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Get the most important and interesting articles right at your inbox. Sign up for B+D periodic emails.