Fortunately for Matt Yglesias, Lindsay Beyerstein only leaves him in a metaphorical smoking crater.

A couple of commenters here have persisted in defending Matthew Yglesias’ odious bleat that life is cheaper in Bangladesh because it ought to be because reasons, and that any anger we Westerners might feel about the horrendous loss of life in the recent factory collapse ought more helpfully be directed to buying clothes made in those collapsing sweatshops so that eventually the people making a few hundred dollars a year will have flat screen televisions just like us.

Yglesias is doubling down. In a followup post, he stands by his conclusion that poor countries need to have less stringent workplace safety standards, and adds, as a prelude to accusing his critics of “poisoning the atmosphere,” [see update at end of post]

I’m not really sure what Americans can constructively do to get better enforcement of building codes in Bangladesh

As it turns out, Lindsay Beyerstein has a possible answer:

A group of Bangladeshi and international trade unionists put forward a bold plan to make the garment industry in Bangladesh safer. A surcharge of 10 cents per garment over 5 years would raise $600 million a year, enough to radically transform the infrastructure of the garment industry in Bangladesh. Walmart and the Gap rejected the proposal in 2011.

So that’s pretty handy: All America has to do to make sweatshops in Bangladesh safer is to stop fucking obstructing their being made safer. It’s win-win!

Oh, and a protip to Yglesias: If you persist in discussing the worker safety aspects of US investment in South Asia, you might want to consider not using “poisoning the atmosphere” as a way to tone-troll your critics. We have a 30th Anniversary coming up late next year that will turn that phrase a bit unfortunate.

Updated: in comments, nialscorva correctly points out that I misread Yglesias’ reference to “poisoning the atmosphere.”  My bad. Leaving the post as it was for transparency’s sake.

It’s Matthew Yglesias’ world: we just get blown up in it.

I haven’t had much use for The Lizard of K Street since he posted this sociopathic little gem in 2004:

Did the president really gut the Endangered Species Act yesterday while no one was paying attention? So I’ve heard, at any rate. If so, good riddance. You’ll all yell at me, I suppose, but really: Who cares? Species die, shit happens, get over it.

It is not exactly news that Matthew Yglesias is a tepid thinker. Poking holes in Yglesias’ vacuous, self-absorbed puffery has long been a popular pastime among bloggers from the progressive left to the hard right. He’s got himself a cushy gig these days, squirting out incontinent posts with no detectable logical or factual value, and as long as people give his outlets page views it’s all good. Eyeballs are eyeballs, and it doesn’t matter much if those eyeballs are rolling upward hard enough to burst blood vessels.

But this shit? This shit is inexcusable.

Bangladesh may or may not need tougher workplace safety rules, but it’s entirely appropriate for Bangladesh to have different—and, indeed, lower—workplace safety standards than the United States.

The reason is that while having a safe job is good, money is also good. Jobs that are unusually dangerous—in the contemporary United States that’s primarily fishing, logging, and trucking—pay a premium over other working-class occupations precisely because people are reluctant to risk death or maiming at work. And in a free society it’s good that different people are able to make different choices on the risk–reward spectrum.…

Bangladesh is a lot poorer than the United States, and there are very good reasons for Bangladeshi people to make different choices in this regard than Americans. That’s true whether you’re talking about an individual calculus or a collective calculus. Safety rules that are appropriate for the United States would be unnecessarily immiserating in much poorer Bangladesh. Rules that are appropriate in Bangladesh would be far too flimsy for the richer and more risk-averse United States. Split the difference and you’ll get rules that are appropriate for nobody.

There are three main problems with Yglesias’ argument.

  1. Yglesias’ argument is profoundly immoral. People are willing to take bigger risks to feed their families when they’re burdened by poverty, yes. But arguing that we should use that unfortunate fact as a basic design feature of global workplace safety regulations is vile.
  2. Yglesias’ argument is profoundly ahistorical as well. Workplace safety regulations — and environmental laws, and education for women, and all of the thousands of other social goods we fight for — don’t magically appear when societies’ wealth passes a certain threshold as a result of the airy  fapping of the invisible hand. Those regulations come into being because people fight for them, often dying in the process, against the opposition of the entrenched powers that make the regulations necessary in the first place.  And here Yglesias is on the side of the entrenched powers, willing to wave away yet another workplace disaster so that he can continue to enjoy the cheap cotton shorts, running shoes, and tablet computers he sees as his birthright.
  3. Yglesias’ argument is essentially plagiarized from a 1991 memo by Laurence Summers written when the latter was the chief economist at the World Bank. A salient sampling from that memo:

I’ve always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted, their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City. … The concern over an agent that causes a one in a million change in the odds of prostrate[sic] cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostrate[sic] cancer than in a country where under 5 mortality is 200 per thousand.

An individual human life is worth fewer U.S. dollars in Bangladesh, and so betting that lower-value life against the possibility that you might actually survive your $432 per annum minimum wage job just makes better sense there than it does here, eh Matt? Hell, if the typical Bengali minimum wage worker survives his or her job for three or four years before they get crushed to death by an unsafe building, they may actually have come out well ahead of the game!

It’s a repugnant argument.

Matthew Yglesias should be ashamed of himself.

Some people are born for Twitter


Twitter is a horrible medium for making any kind of lengthy or subtle argument, but it’s great for the casual bon mot—and sometimes it’s a good way to reveal the idiocy of bubble-headed celebrities. Case in point: Donald Trump. Behold, Trump revealed in just 3 consecutive tweets:

Amazing, isn’t it? Torture! Denial of Due Process! Watch My Show!

And this man thought he should be president. I never thought I’d see someone hunting for that office who was dumber and more evil than George W. Bush, and there he is…which probably means he’ll get elected sometime in my lifetime, given my track record on these things.

Occidental College President Jonathan Veitch must resign

Occidental College is a small school in northeastern Los Angeles. It’s got about 2,000 students at any one time. And it’s got a huge sexual assault problem: yesterday, 38 students and alumnae of Occidental filed a Title IX complaint with the Federal Department of Education claiming that the college violated civil rights law in its handling of reports of sexual assaults and rapes — which seem to happen on the Oxy campus with terrifying frequency.

Survivors of rape and sexual assault at Occidental report that administrators threatened them with unpleasant consequences when they enquired about the process of reporting a sexual assault. Survivors were warned that the hearings process was “long and arduous.” One survivor was told she’d be the one switching dorms rather than her assailant. When men were found in the course of college hearings to have indeed committed rapes of their fellow students, they were often merely suspended temporarily — and in at least two cases, those suspensions were lifted on appeal and the rapists “sentenced” to writing book reports instead.

Gloria Allred, who is providing the 38 plaintiffs with representation in their Title IX complaint, reports in the video embedded below that when Occidental President Jonathan Veitch was informed that an accused rapist was on the guest list for a social event at Veitch’s home, he responded by issuing a dis-invitation … to two members of the school’s sexual assault task force.

Here Allred speaks, along with several remarkably brave survivors and supportive faculty member Caroline Heldman, the school’s Politics Department chair.

What’s been the response of Occidental College president Jonathan Veitch to the issue? Browbeating sexual assault survivors in the campus press when they dare suggest he’s sitting with his thumbs up his ass:

I’m dismayed that having agreed to that conversation, a number of well-intentioned people have chosen to cast our motives into doubt; vilify dedicated, hard-working members of Student Affairs; question the sincerity of our response; and actively sought to embarrass the College on the evening news. That is their choice, and there is very little I can do about it. I can say that it reflects poorly on their commitment to this conversation and to the broader education that must take place if we are to change a culture we all find repugnant. The repugnance of sexual assault is not open to question; but the policies and procedures that guide our response to those incidents is something about which reasonable people can disagree. I’m sure there are those who feel that confrontation is necessary to exert pressure on the College to do the right thing. But there is a point where confrontation becomes an end in itself—satisfying, no doubt, but counter-productive with regard to our shared aims. When it crosses that threshold and descends into name-calling, vilification and misrepresentation, it undermines the trust and good will of everyone involved. And worst of all, it does not lead to progress on this important issue.

That letter to the campus paper was published March 5. Veitch has since walked it back some, saying that his letter may have “alienated people who care about sexual assault” and clarifying that his intent was to object to “the implication–reported in the media — that the College is not serious about the issue of sexual assault. We are very serious.”

Serious enough to have brought in, just this week, experienced sexual assault prosecutors as consultants to help the school assess and overhaul its enforcement policy. That’s a smart and sensible move.

It’s just too bad that Veitch waited until campus anti-rape activists lit a bonfire under his doubly enthumbed ass, complete with an appeal to the Department of Education to lift the school’s federal funding, before taking a step he should have taken on Day One. Veitch has been president at Occidental since 2009. That means all the students in the video linked above were raped on Veitch’s watch. All the administrative obstacles to survivors reporting assaults against them mentioned here happened on Veitch’s watch. All the stories relayed in the video above: On Veitch’s watch. All the assigned book reports and community service sentences for acts that should have brought jail time and sex offender registry? On Veitch’s watch.

Not that Veitch’s resigning would fix Occidental College’s rape problem: it sounds as though there are a few other administrators with serious culpability who ought to be examined as well.

But it would be a good start.

Do you want to be like El Salvador?

El Salvador has an absolute prohibition on all abortions — they can’t even be done to save the life of the mother (it’s a very Catholic country, are you surprised?) Now a situation has made the news that exposes the villainy of that policy.

A young woman named Beatriz is petitioning El Salvador’s supreme court to be allowed to get an abortion. Why? There’s a couple of really good reasons.

The four-month fetus is acephalic — no brain has formed. It’s doomed. It will never be viable. At best, it will be born, live a few days as a vegetable on life support, and die.

The mother is suffering from complications from lupus and kidney disease. The fetus won’t even get to the point of being born — the mother will be killed by this pregnancy first.

The heartless, amoral, religiously-based rules of that society are condemning this woman to death. In addition, if any doctor honors their Hippocratic oath and helps her live, they can be prosecuted and sentenced to long terms in prison for it.

Beatriz has been refused a necessary and simple medical procedure because the demented fuckwits of the Catholic Church have prioritized dogma over human life. She has to beg authorities, right up to the highest levels of government, for the right to live.

All because some old assholes believe god has told them that the dying lump of meat in her belly is more precious than a woman’s life.

We’re bullying the manly studs with guns?


Yesterday, I could start the day with the happy news that New Zealand had passed progressive legislation, and then burst into song. Today I have to look at my home country, and…goddamn, but we’re a dysfunctional mess. America is basically a rogue state, run by plutocrats and incompetents.

After Aurora and Newtown, there was a surge of sentiment in favor of checking the extravagant dissemination of deadly weapons in this country. It’s just a little too easy for hateful lunatics and demented haters to get their hands on weapons of mass murder, and so people proposed taking baby steps and moderating America’s addiction to guns just a little bit. So a bipartisan bill made it to the senate that would have made small changes: it would have required more background checks for gun buyers, and it would have banned assault weapons and high capacity clips. These are not terribly restrictive rules. Who could possibly want felons or people with violent mental illnesses to be able to buy guns casually? Who needs a 60-shot magazine for an assault rifle?

The bill was defeated in the Senate. No word if the attending senators rose up and were led in a rousing chorus of Wango Tango by Ted Nugent afterwards.

Take a look at the roll call for the vote. It was almost perfectly split with the Republicans voting against it (Harry Reid joined them!) and the Democrats voting for it (with John McCain!). It was a simple, common-sense bill and the Republicans united to vote it down. I think it’s way past time that we voted every damn Republican down.

Gabby Giffords agrees. In her editorial on the vote, she says,

Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s. To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way.

She’s wrong about one thing: to let neglect and crime rule is the American way. We have to change it. It’s going to take more than just elections and laws, though, we’re going to have to change American culture. Because it’s ripe with assholes.

For example, one prominent right-wing, pro-gun voice is Instapundit. You might want to savor his response to Giffords.


Stunning, ain’t it?

He’s telling a woman who was shot in the head and saw friends gunned down to stop bullying the gun lobby. We’ve got people who want to be able to make impulse purchases of weapons designed with one purpose — killing people — and Instahack calls the victim of one of their assaults a bully because she’s trying to promote sensible gun laws.

You can’t deny it. His is one of the voices of America.

But it’s long past time for the rest of us to tell the gun-obsessed macho boy-children to fucking grow up.

Please read Brian Leiter’s very polite gutting of Instapundit. It’s a thing of beauty.

The Joe Rogan experience

I was sent this curious collection of recent tweets by Joe Rogan, a comedian I’ve never much cared for, but they’re so bizarre I had to put them up for your amusement/contempt. Click for a larger image.


His central point is this one:

I view women that don’t like children the same way I view dogs that like to eat their own shit.

How odd. Personally, I like some children, especially my own, but I don’t automatically melt into affectionate reverence when I see one; I have no problem with someone electing to not have children of their own. I also know from personal experience that, while there are definitely great rewards to raising kids, they are also a giant electrified flaming cattle prod to the butt through most of their childhood. Don’t you remember being a teenager once? Imagine what it’s like living in a house full of scrambled hormones, pimples, tears and frustration.

It’s OK to not want kids, or even to detest the very idea of having kids, as long as you avoid having them and making them as miserable as they’d make you.

But the way it’s phrased by Rogan is so weird: if you don’t like children, it’s equivalent to indulging in process that is disgusting to others. You are socially and psychologically required to want children, or you a morally reprehensible person. That’s a mindset I can’t embrace. We get a lot of the equivalent attitude from right-wingers: if you’re a man who doesn’t like having sex with women, you’re a vile human being.

Which leads into the real repugnant attitude here: all of his comments are addressed to women. Women, you must love children, if you don’t, you’re odd, gross, weak, a “hateful twat”. I have to ask…what about the men?

That’s the more disturbing part of his rant. He’s trying to shame women into doing something he considers vitally important, apparently, but men…eh, they aren’t part of his concern. We men can go ahead and dislike children, and that doesn’t make us weak and gross. That gives the lie to a claim he made in another tweet, that he’s not a feminist, he’s a humanist.

Don’t worry, though. He’s a comedian. He’ll say he’s just joking around.

Just when you thought Libertarians couldn’t get any more revolting

Steven Landsburg carries out three “thought experiments”. They’re all pretty bad — one suggests that we have no grounds to complain about environmental destruction in Alaska if we’re living somewhere else, to which I’d have to reply, “You mean like Mars?” — but the third one…jebus, Mr Creepy McLiberturd is masturbating publicly here.

Let’s suppose that you, or I, or someone we love, or someone we care about from afar, is raped while unconscious in a way that causes no direct physical harm — no injury, no pregnancy, no disease transmission. (Note: The Steubenville rape victim, according to all the accounts I’ve read, was not even aware that she’d been sexually assaulted until she learned about it from the Internet some days later.) Despite the lack of physical damage, we are shocked, appalled and horrified at the thought of being treated in this way, and suffer deep trauma as a result. Ought the law discourage such acts of rape? Should they be illegal?

He provides his Libertarian philosophical answer.

As long as I’m safely unconsious and therefore shielded from the costs of an assault, why shouldn’t the rest of the world (or more specifically my attackers) be allowed to reap the benefits? And if the thought of those benefits makes me shudder, why should my shuddering be accorded any more public policy weight than Bob’s or Granola’s? We’re still talking about strictly psychic harm, right?

Maybe we could even talk about a positive advantage. You go in to a hospital for some essential medical treatment that involves anesthetizing you, and while you’re unconscious, the hospital pays for its services by leasing out your body to anyone willing to pay. Free health care! It’s a benefit, right?

It’s a remarkable claim from a Libertarian. If we’re not using our property at some moment, do we forfeit our rights to it? When Landsburg is not driving his car, is it OK if someone takes a joyride in it as long as it’s returned when he needs it, with the gas consumed replaced?

Is there really no cost to a person if their body is abused while they are unconscious? He writes as if this “psychic harm” is meaningless nothing. Reputation, security, trust…these are mere “psychic” phenomena, so they have no significance to a person?

And what gives this hypothetical rapist the right to use someone else’s body? Flip it around and try to justify the rapist’s exploitation of another for his personal benefit — by what right does that person deserve to “reap the benefits” of someone else’s unconsciousness…or for that matter, reap the benefits of the Alaskan wilderness? Mr Landsburg seems to naturally take the side of the takers and looters.

We’ve got a convenient phrase for what Landsburg is doing: it’s called JAQing off. He’s clearly a master.