Category Archives: Morality

“LIB FASCISM” – FAKE MORALITY AND GOVT GREED

Seattle attempts to impose morality with ridiculously high taxes on sugary drinks
rare.us

Seattle has decided to impose a 1.75 cent per ounce tax on all sugary beverages within the city with the hopes of raising a $15 million revenue stream that it will use for programs to help people “have better access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” as Seattle station KIRO 7 explains. The price of Gatorade Frost Variety Pack at Costco, usually $15.99, with the $10.34 tax, shot up to $26.33, leaving customers with sticker-shock.

There’s more than a few problems with the new tax scheme, which a sign right next to the Gatorade in Costco helpfully demonstrates.

As with all excise taxes, this one is easily avoided: customers can visit Costco stores in nearby Tukwila or Shoreline and skip paying the City of Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax. Customers are less likely to make extra inconvenient trips if the price changes are barely noticeable–but with such a steep price change, many residents will likely take the extra trip.

Some are saying they will switch to diet soda instead, which city officials say is “the point,” according to KIRO7. “Not necessarily to switch to diet soda, but getting consumers to go for healthier options.”

The position the tax advocates take is oddly contradictory, as  Scott Drenkard of the Tax Foundation summarized on Twitter:

“First they interview people at the Costco who are rightfully shocked at how high prices on soda and sports drinks are now (they are almost doubled). Then they interview a public health advocate who says ‘that’s right! We want these prices to change people’s behavior and slow sales!’ Then they talk to the consumer, ‘think you’ll change your behavior, maybe even shop somewhere else?’ And she’s like, ‘ya the Tukwila store is close enough.’ Then they ask a city council member if this will hurt local [business], who says ‘there is no data’ suggesting that. Then the SAME public health advocate says that people won’t respond to price increases, shopping elsewhere because it isn’t ‘worth their while.”

If advocates are truly concerned about public health and want people to change their behavior by consuming sugarless beverages then the tax will indeed slow sales and hurt local businesses. It has to because that’s the only way it will actually induce people to lower their calories; assuming you believe that this model works.

But the government doesn’t actually want everyone to switch away from sugary drinks or it won’t be able to collect that $15 million it’s hoping for. That’s why using the tax code to punish or reward behavior is tragically short-sighted.

Government attempts to disincentive certain behavior often have subversive effects (beyond forcing people to take longer trips or purchase sugar-free brands.) The point of these policies is to drastically reduce usage; but while the pricing cuts demand, it also fuels smuggling and black markets.

A steep soda tax opens up the way for an illegal underground trade in soda. Before you laugh, realize that’s exactly the problem that arose in Philadelphia when similar taxes were introduced. In New York, these types of sin taxes led to stratospheric taxes on cigarettes, which buoyed an underground black market in “loosie” cigarettes. Tragically, police enforcement of the tax also led to the death of Eric Garner on Staten Island, who died in police custody after allegedly resisting arrest.

His action, selling loose cigarettes, was only a crime because of these types of policies. Governments, including the City of Seattle, should avoid creating similar situations.

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Social media is ripping apart society

Former Facebook exec: Social media is ripping apart society
www.fastcompany.com

Facebook’s former vice president for user growth Chamath Palihapitiya recently gave a talk at the Stanford Graduate School of Business that’ll probably make you think twice about your social media use (via the Verge). The entire talk is well worth a watch, but some of his most prominent remarks included:

  • That he feels “tremendous guilt” about Facebook. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
  • “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created [including the hearts, likes, and thumbs up of various social media channels] are destroying how society works.” He added, “[There’s] no civil discourse, no cooperation; [only] misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem–this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”
  • Regarding an incident in which seven innocent men in India were lynched after a hoax about kidnappings spread through WhatsApp: “That’s what we’re dealing with. And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.”
    Unsurprisingly, when it comes to social media, his children “aren’t allowed to use that shit.”
    MG

 

The Bill Clinton Affair – Gross Disservice to Women

What if Ken Starr Was Right?
www.nytimes.com

Former President Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton in 1998. Credit Paul Hosefros/The New York Times

In the longstanding liberal narrative about Bill Clinton and his scandals, the one pushed by Clinton courtiers and ratified in media coverage of his post-presidency, our 42nd president was only guilty of being a horndog, his affairs were nobody’s business but his family’s, and oral sex with Monica Lewinsky was a small thing that should never have put his presidency in peril.

That narrative could not survive the current wave of outrage over male sexual misconduct.

So now a new one may be forming for the age of Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump. In this story, Kenneth Starr and the Republicans are still dismissed as partisan witch hunters. But liberals might be willing to concede that the Lewinsky affair was a pretty big deal morally, a clear abuse of sexual power, for which Clinton probably should have been pressured to resign.

This new narrative lines up with what’s often been my own assessment of the Clinton scandals. I have never been a Clinton hater; indeed, I’ve always been a little mystified by the scale of Republican dislike for the most centrist of recent Democratic leaders. So I’ve generally held what I’ve considered a sensible middle-ground position on his sins — that he should have stepped down when the Lewinsky affair came to light, but that the Republican effort to impeach him was a hopeless attempt to legislate against dishonor.

But a moment of reassessment is a good time to reassess things for yourself, so I spent this week reading about the lost world of the 1990s. I skimmed the Starr Report. I leafed through books by George Stephanopoulos and Joe Klein and Michael Isikoff. I dug into Troopergate and Whitewater and other first-term scandals. I reacquainted myself with Gennifer Flowers and Webb Hubbell, James Riady and Marc Rich.

After doing all this reading, I’m not sure my reasonable middle ground is actually reasonable. It may be that the conservatives of the 1990s were simply right about Clinton, that once he failed to resign he really deserved to be impeached.

Yes, the Republicans were too partisan, the Starr Report was too prurient and Clinton’s haters generated various absurd conspiracy theories.

But the Clinton operation was also extraordinarily sordid, in ways that should be thrown into particular relief by the absence of similar scandals in the Obama administration, which had perfervid enemies and circling investigators as well.

The sexual misconduct was the heart of things, but everything connected to Clinton’s priapism was bad: the use of the perks of office to procure women, willing and unwilling; the frequent use of that same power to buy silence and bully victims; and yes, the brazen public lies and perjury.

Something like Troopergate, for instance, in which Arkansas state troopers claimed to have served as Clinton’s panderers and been offered jobs to buy their silence, is often recalled as just a right-wing hit job. But if you read The Los Angeles Times’s reporting on the allegations (which included phone records confirming the troopers’ account of a mistress Clinton was seeing during his presidential transition) and Stephanopoulos’s portrayal of Clinton’s behavior in the White House when the story broke, the story seems like it was probably mostly true.

I have less confidence about what was real in the miasma of Whitewater. But with Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky, we know what happened: A president being sued for sexual harassment tried to buy off a mistress-turned-potential-witness with White House favors, and then committed perjury serious enough to merit disbarment. Which also brought forward a compelling allegation from Juanita Broaddrick that the president had raped her.

The longer I spent with these old stories, the more I came back to a question: If exploiting a willing intern is a serious enough abuse of power to warrant resignation, why is obstructing justice in a sexual harassment case not serious enough to warrant impeachment? Especially when the behavior is part of a longstanding pattern that also may extend to rape? Would any feminist today hesitate to take a similar opportunity to remove a predatory studio head or C.E.O.?

There is a common liberal argument that our present polarization is the result of constant partisan escalations on the right — the rise of Newt Gingrich, the steady Hannitization of right-wing media.

Some of this is true. But returning to the impeachment imbroglio made me think that in that case the most important escalators were the Democrats. They had an opportunity, with Al Gore waiting in the wings, to show a predator the door and establish some moral common ground for a polarizing country.

And what they did instead — turning their party into an accessory to Clinton’s appetites, shamelessly abandoning feminist principle, smearing victims and blithely ignoring his most credible accuser, all because Republicans funded the investigations and they’re prudes and it’s all just Sexual McCarthyism — feels in the cold clarity of hindsight like a great act of partisan deformation.

For which, it’s safe to say, we have all been amply punished since.

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