Monthly Archives: March 2016

The ‘Troubled Teen’ Kidnapping & Torture Industry

It’s amazing to me that such an industry exists – largely Christian – but there’s an entire Reddit support forum for people who have escaped. This interview (below) on the Cracked podcast is harrowing. Partially because of the facts of the case itself – the beatings, the imprisonment, the starvation, the running from child protective services. And partially because the voice and absolutely uninteresting commentary of Jack O’Brien – who narrates the podcast – makes me want to jab ice picks into my own ears. See if you can manage any better than I did:

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Senate Will Be Democratic After 2016

To some extent, handicapping electoral races is a fool’s errand, because predictions are easy to make and often incorrect and we’ll all find out the results on election day anyway. And to some extent, race rankings reveal more about the person or institution doing the ranking than they do about the races themselves. Still, they’re fun to do, and of greater-than-zero interest if you follow politics or the person/institution doing the predicting.

But I wouldn’t be writing this article if I wasn’t annoyed by another one – this article in The Hill predicting the 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2016. First, because that’s an unhelpful way to do the ranking; a better way is the likely/lean/tossup system used by dailykos and others.

And secondly, because I think the bias of The Hill itself is showing in their ranking (that is, non-ranking) of John McCain. He’s the former Republican nominee and a longtime favorite of the DC establishment, but this year I think he’s quite likely to lose.

The Dailykos rankings are a more credible prediction than the one I’m about to make, partly because they will change over time, as events and candidates shape the races over the coming few months. Instead, I’m predicting now that Democrats will pick up 8-11 Senate seats, giving Democrats a 54-57 seat post election majority.

Secondly, the Dailykos rankings express more gradation than I’m about to. I’m just going to predict winners and losers, and a very few toss-ups.

Predicting a Senate majority isn’t difficult. Democrats win more seats in Presidential years, because that marquee election drives turnout among Democratic base voters (like low-income and younger voters) who tend not to vote when less is at stake. Also, Republicans are defending far more seats in 2016: fully 24, while only 10 Democratic seats are up for election. And the last time this class of Senators was elected, in 2010, it was a Republican wave year, in which the nascent tea party and discontent with Obama motivated Republican base turnout,while Democrats were less enthusiastic than they were in 2008. Therefore many of the seats Republican Senators first won in 2010 are up for election, in generally blue terrain.

Two more recent events have influenced the Senate picture. The first is the likely nomination of Donald Trump at the head of the Republican ticket. Recent polling has indicated that most Republican voters will support the nominee – even if it’s Trump – but he does shed many conservative voters. Some (like a few acquaintances of mine) object to his vulgarity, crassness, and outright racism. Others don’t think he’s qualified to lead the country. And some voters may be put off by Trump’s apostasy; his policy positions are occasionally misaligned with the conservative mainstream, or have been in the past. At the same time, a Trump ticket is likely to galvanize Hispanic voters to turn out and vote Democratic.

The second is the death of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and the opposition by Senate Republicans to confirming any replacement – even before a nominee was announced. This opposition is in line with the sentiments of the Republican base, but not civic-minded people who believe in the Constitution, and object to this degree of politicization of the high court. Republican Senator Grassley of Iowa, for instance, has received unprecedented condemnation from the Iowa media over his uncharacteristically partisan stance, and he hasn’t been responding well. In other, more competitive races, like in New Hampshire, the refusal to consider a nominee may play a further role in undermining Republican incumbents. If Trump does indeed win the nomination, defending the idea that he should appoint the Justice instead will become even more difficult.

I don’t believe any Democratic seats will flip. Both Nevada and Colorado may be close, but Hispanics are a major voting block in both states, and the Democratic nominee in Nevada, the sitting Attorney General, is herself Hispanic. She’s running against a credible Republican, a sitting member of the US House, but the same can’t be said in Colorado, where the Republican candidates are entirely small-fry.

The following Republican seats will flip:

  • WI (Johnson vs Feingold)
  • IL (Kirk vs Duckworth)
  • FL (Open; likely Democratic candidate is Murphy)
  • NH (Ayotte vs Hassan)
  • OH (Portman vs Strickland)
  • AZ (McCain vs. Kirkpatrick)
  • PA (Toomey vs Unknown, likely to be McGinty)
  • IN (Open; Unknown vs Hill)

And I predict two of the following three toss-ups will flip:

  • IA (Grassley vs Judge)
  • MO (Blunt vs Kander)
  • NC (Burr vs Ross)

If only one of the three survives, I predict it will be Blunt.

There. That was fun.

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Tot Shoots Mom

The Stranger used to have a recurring series of these excerpts – it’s amazing how many there are (without the irony):

A proud, pro-gun mom was accidentally shot by her 4-year-old son—just a day after the Second Amendment-loving woman boasted about her tot’s shooting skills. The Florida boy found the loaded weapon in mom Jamie Gilt’s car Tuesday and shot her as they cruised down a Putnam County road, officials said. The 31-year-old mother survived the mid-drive attack and is in stable condition.

“Even my 4 year old gets jacked up to target shoot with the .22,” Gilt wrote on Facebook Monday during a fiery online debate about guns as a means of self-defense. The Jacksonville mom maintained she has the right to shoot anyone who threatens her and her family—and she’s teaching her kids to do the same…

Officials said her son in the backseat fired a .45 caliber handgun into the back of the driver’s seat. The bullet pierced through the cushion and struck the mom in the back. It’s not clear how the tot got his hands on the loaded weapon or where it was stored in the vehicle…. The 4-year-old was not injured. He is now in the care of other family members, and the Department of Children and Families is investigating the case, officials said. Detectives are now trying to determine exactly how the boy got a hold of the gun. He will not face charges.

One more excerpt:

“This is definitely not a criminal event. This is an accidental shooting,” Capt. Joseph Wells of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office said.

There ought to be criminal charges – not against the child, obviously, but against the parent.

As a country, we used to treat drunk driving in this way – as an unfortunate accident. And when you injured or killed a member of your own family because of your drunk driving, we’d say, “It’s a tragedy. They’ve suffered enough,” and – as in this case – no criminal charges would be filed.

But foreseeable negligence with a car that results in death or injury (due to alcohol) is no different than foreseeable negligence with a gun that results in death or injury. The result is the same – death or injury – and the cause is the same (negligence). Only the means is different – but not a difference that should have any legal distinction.

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Bicycles vs Cars

A back-of-the-envelope estimate for the differential impact that cars and bicycles have on your life and wealth:

Driving a car at 70MPH for one hour:

  • 20 minutes of lifespan erased
  • $35.00 per hour of money burned

Riding a bike at 12MPH for one hour:

  • 4.5 hours of lifespan gained
  • $100 of monetary gains secured

On a Per-Mile Basis:

  • Car: Lose 50 cents and 18 seconds of life
  • Bike: Gain $8.33 and 1350 seconds of life

Go read the whole thing.

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44% of Republicans Want to Make Christianity Our Official Religion

This is crazy:

From the party that’s constantly hollering about Freedumz!, this is hypocrisy at its worst. Nationwide, more than a third of Republicans say that Islam should be illegal in the United States, according to a new PPP poll provided exclusively to Daily Kos Elections. Nearly half—a 44 percent plurality—say Christianity should be our official religion.

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Just Because He’s Gay

A heartbreaking story of parental abuse:

Joel was frustrated that his parents wouldn’t provide his immunization records to the school or to him. He found out that his insurance had either expired or they had canceled it,” Alice said. “He had to go and sign up for Medicaid himself as an independent adult and he had to check ‘homeless’ on the form. They basically threw him out and they don’t want anyone helping this kid. This has been really, really emotionally difficult for Joel—I’ve heard that kid crying himself to sleep at night—and he’s such a great kid. He has talent. If you met him you would get why he has so many people are pulling for him.

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If You’re Against Sex Work, You’re A Bigot

I agree with most of the article; here’s a sample:

We need a varied, active, and dynamic picture of sex workers, not a muffled, stunted one. I started porn after going to grad school for writing and biology and being a college English instructor. I know plenty of porn performers with other jobs: meteorology, fashion design, dairy farming, law, freelance writing, directing, nursing, nonprofit organizing. Those are just off the top of my head. Yes, there are porn performers who—like many writers, actors, etc.—have no other job and are struggling. And there are other sex workers working out of various causes of necessity. The point isn’t that doing sex work out of need doesn’t exist. Nor is the point that we have to absolutely love sex work to do it. Not everyone loves their job, and sex workers should not be singled out and forced to simply because of the “sex” in their work. The point is, your picture of who sex workers are must be multifaceted. It’s a picture that’s ineluctably complex, yet anti-sex activists want us to hear one voice and will symbolically kill the rest of us to achieve the effect.

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Fight the Power


I agree with the bird.

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Great logic.

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The Case for Reparations

I read the entire article, and I agree.

The state’s regime partnered robbery of the franchise with robbery of the purse. Many of Mississippi’s black farmers lived in debt peonage, under the sway of cotton kings who were at once their landlords, their employers, and their primary merchants. Tools and necessities were advanced against the return on the crop, which was determined by the employer. When farmers were deemed to be in debt—and they often were—the negative balance was then carried over to the next season. A man or woman who protested this arrangement did so at the risk of grave injury or death. Refusing to work meant arrest under vagrancy laws and forced labor under the state’s penal system.

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