Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Category: Politics

To Stop Sexual Misconduct, We Must Put An End to “Bros Before Hoes”

I’ve been thinking about the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal for a while. It just keeps getting worse. Apparently former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak helped Weinstein cover his tracks by putting him in touch with ex-Mossad agents. Those agents manipulated, intimidated, and lied to Weinstein’s victims in a bid to shut them up or discredit them. In the meantime, more famous people are facing multiple accusations. Some of them are people I liked–I enjoyed Kevin Spacey. I enjoyed Louis CK. But when there’s this much smoke, there’s fire.

I haven’t written on this yet, because it’s so hard to deal with politically. We can’t just lower the standards of evidence for these cases. We can’t presume guilt in the absence of evidence. And yet, when it comes to most forms of sexual misconduct, there can never be enough physical evidence for a conviction. We just have the things that people say. When lots of people are saying the same things, we can be pretty sure something bad happened. But it’s not enough to put people in prison. Usually when I write about a social issue, I have some positive proposal. It feels wasteful to write when I don’t. But today I finally had a thought I think is worth sharing. Here goes. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Usefully Distinguish Terrorism From Other Forms of Violence

I’ve noticed there’s been a bit of an uptick in think-pieces about what counts as “terrorism”. These tend to be built around a common observation that white mass murderers tend not to get the “terrorist” label and that the Trump administration reacts very differently to mass violence when the perpetrator is Muslim, an immigrant, a refugee, or a close relative thereof. Perhaps the most strident example is Matthew Walther’s piece in The Week in which he claims that there is “no such thing” as terrorism.┬áIt’s the return of a conversation we saw in 2015 and which has tended to repeat whenever some high profile mass violence occurs. This debate results from a lack of clarity in the way we think about violence. Let’s fix this.

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Canadian Donald Trump is Coming

For a couple of years now I’ve had a theory, one I haven’t told you all about. It goes something like this–Canada is just like us, but 5-10 years ago. Here’s how it works.

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The Thing Scaramucci Gets Right

From time to time, we get famous speakers at Cambridge. Yesterday brought us Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci–President Trump’s briefly tenured communications director. The Mooch had some low points. When asked about climate change, Scaramucci claimed that the phenomenon is 60% human caused, but 40% caused by “natural cycles” which affect “the earth’s position relative to the sun.” This drew audible laughter from the audience. I learned in middle school about the Milankovitch cycles–the problem for the Mooch is that they take tens of thousands of years and move much too slowly to account in any significant way for changes in the climate that occur over just a couple hundred years. But while the man has his flaws, he did make one point that bears repeating–for some reason, it’s still okay in American politics to pick on Italian-Americans.

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How Trump’s Executive Actions are Like Obama’s–And How They’re Not

President Trump is fed up with everyone and everything. For months now, congress has refused to implement his agenda. He’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore. Does that sound like someone you know? It should–late in his presidency, Barack Obama became exasperated with years of Republican obstruction. He turned to his lawyers. What could the administration do unilaterally that might be legal? They threw the kitchen sink at it, trying all sorts of things and leaving it to the courts to decide what would stick. Like Trump, Obama began taking more executive action late in the first year, though most of his biggest and boldest moves came in the second term:

The fact that Trump is frustrated and is looking for ways to weasel around institutional impediments shouldn’t surprise us. When the Supreme Court got in Franklin Roosevelt’s way, he tried to pack the court with sycophants:

What’s interesting is how transparently bad this executive action is.

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