Author Archives: Sarah Baker

Election 2016: Thoughts in the Aftermath

  1. This is how libertarians feel after every election. We learn to live with it. So will you.

2. I believe in free trade. Trump doesn’t. I’m for a strong First Amendment. He isn’t. I want to reduce the size of government. He wants to make more of it. I think he’s divisive and mean and uniquely unfit to be president. He emboldens an unnerving group of racists, xenophobes and misogynists better relegated to the fringes. And since he will be serving with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, I won’t even get gridlock.

3. We all have a choice about where to focus our emotions. POTUS is one office in one branch of government at one level. Last night, good things happened — amazingly good things, things so amazingly good they brought tears to my eyes — in down ballot races and on ballot issues.

4. There is no denying some of Trump’s supporters are racist, misogynistic xenophobes. But that’s NOT the ONLY source of his support. For people who literally don’t know the reasons that non-bigots support Trump — because they won’t accept that such people exist — maybe instead of dismissing the world as a terrible, awful, irredeemable place that you weep to explain to your children, maybe try something else:

Listen to what his supporters are saying and engage in some self-reflection.

5. Listen when they say the jobs have left their areas. That they can’t afford their health insurance premiums or the penalties for not having it. They can’t afford their tax rates. They can’t afford to take their kids to see the doctor, can’t afford to take vacations with their families, live in fear one-paycheck-to-the-next of missing their mortgage payment. Listen when they say they are afraid of losing jobs to overseas and to immigration. Listen when they say they are afraid of terrorism inside the U.S. Listen, and don’t reflexively dismiss their concerns as closet racism.

6. Listen when they say how seriously they take their right to own and bear arms. Don’t reflexively dismiss them as redneck fetishists. Don’t sneer on social media about how they must have some anatomical shortcoming for which to compensate. Listen when they say they will die on the hill of the Second Amendment because they are afraid of an authoritarian leader taking control of the country.
That burning?
That’s irony.

7. Listen, as well, to why they didn’t like the other candidate. How they feel about entrenched political dynasties who sell access to make millions, who conspire to rig the economy for their friends in the 1%, and do nothing while the poor and middle class fall further behind. Dismissing those concerns as manufactured manifestations of sexism is lazy.

8. You guys could have had Jim Webb. Are you even kidding me? Jim. Webb. Instead, you nominated an intensely disliked career politician with serious ethical shortcomings and no real vision to fix the problems facing our country. A war hawk and a drug warrior who is as bad as Trump on the First Amendment and worse on the Second.

9. Have we learned yet that money doesn’t buy elections?

10. There are reasons our founders gave the Executive branch limited powers and implemented a system of checks and balances. Voters and politicians who turn their heads at expansions of powers while their own people are in office — welp … chickens … coming home … to roost.

11. Remember who exercised the nuclear option.

12. If it’s any consolation, the GOP probably won’t change things that much. Why not? Because they love the status quo too! Gitmo didn’t go away and the ACA probably won’t either.

13. Jocelyn Baker called this shit a year ago. Her basis: wide support for Trump among far-left multiculturalist types in Los Angeles. “That…doesn’t make sense,” you say. Who cares? It happened.* Your mission, should you choose to take it, is to figure out why.

14. Now who “threw away” their vote?

 

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*I don’t mean he won California. I mean his wide support among that group suggested something was going on that traditional paradigms didn’t explain.

Sarah Baker is a libertarian, attorney and writer. She lives in Montana with her daughter and a house full of pets.

Why I’m Not #WithHer

Some right-leaning libertarians have expressed annoyance that I reserve so much scorn for Donald Trump as opposed to the Democratic candidate. It’s not that I think Hillary Clinton is optimal or even better in any significant sense. It’s just that Clinton’s particular form of evil is banal and boring and old news. Trump is new and freakish and unprecedented – hence more interesting.

That being said, the following are among the reasons I am not #WithHer:

Clinton is a war hawk. She supported the invasion of Iraq, which spilled blood, deposed a secular dictator, destabilized the region and created a vacuum for groups like ISIS. See also, Libya. Since she first entered national politics, there has never been a U.S. war not for self-defense that Clinton did not support.

Clinton is a drug warrior whose tough-on-crime policies have included mandatory minimums, three-strikes laws, more drug enforcers, more prisons, more funding, and violent intervention in foreign countries. The policies she has supported have resulted in lost lives. They have also resulted in mass incarceration of people separated from their families and left rotting in prisons. She claims to support reform but rarely moves beyond platitudes to identify specific policy proposals, such as by supporting Rand Paul’s criminal justice reform bills. During the ’08 campaign, she criticized Barack Obama for being soft on crime for opposing mandatory minimums.

Clinton is not committed to the rights enshrined in the First Amendment. She has repeatedly supported government interference with Constitutionally protected speech. She has blamed artistic media for violent crimes, tried to ban the sale of violent video games to minors, supported mandatory content-filters on electronics, and supported bans on expressive acts like flag burning. She thinks the government should forcefully limit spending on political speech, wants to deny space to extremist speech on the Internet, wants to overturn Citizens United, and demands back-doors for encryption.

Clinton is not committed to the rights enshrined in the Second Amendment. She thinks District of Columbia v. Heller was wrongly decided. She repeatedly dodges questions about whether she thinks the Second Amendment guarantees any individual right. She (like Trump) wants to deny the fundamental right to bear arms to people, never charged with any crime, who have been placed on government “lists.”

Clinton’s economic policies would further strain our economy and place unprecedented burdens on taxpayers. Overregulation and excess government spending stunt the economy and make it harder for the poorest of people to get ahead. Minimum wage hikes and corporate tax hikes kill jobs. Punishing corporate inversions makes consumer prices artificially high. Government handouts as reparations are not sufficient to put people in the positions they could achieve if they were simply provided a free market in which to participate.

Clinton is delusional on government healthcare and education. Government subsidies cause the price of things to go up – not down. Increased costs necessitate rationing, which is what you see in virtually all of the nations that have attempted to find a way around this simple economic truism.

The ACA is imploding. There is no way to use insurance to increase access while simultaneously bringing down costs. If we want increased access at lower costs, then we have to address the root causes of high costs. Democrats don’t want to accept that those root causes are universally government interventions in the marketplace.

Government subsidies have also caused the cost of higher education to skyrocket, indebting students for decades with loans for an education they didn’t need and that took years to obtain. “Free education” shifts the pain to taxpayers, but does nothing to address the unnecessarily high cost.

Forget the economic absurdities, though. Where does the Constitute allocate to the federal executive or the federal legislature the power to provide people with education and healthcare? It doesn’t.

Clinton is a big-government statist whose instincts are always either authoritarian or evasive. She doesn’t like being specific about policies because she doesn’t have good ones and doesn’t care to develop them. Her interest in government is mainly self-interested: trading access for gratuity.

I am not and never will be #WithHer.

Sarah Baker is a libertarian, attorney and writer. She lives in Montana with her daughter and a house full of pets.

I DID Call the Police. Here’s How It Worked Out For Me.

Over the past 24 hours I have been surrounded in person, online and over media by people announcing they don’t believe the Trump accusers (or the Clinton accusers) because they didn’t call the police at the time of their alleged incidents. I need to get this off my chest. The thing Trump joked about. Well that exact thing happened to me. I did call the police and here is how it worked out for me:

I was a 19-year-old college student in Missoula, Montana. My friends and I went to see Quiet Riot in a bar. It struck us as funny, somehow.

Quiet Riot.

In a bar.

In Montana.

At some point, I was separated from my friends. I went to the bathroom or to get a drink or something, I don’t recall. As I was pushing through the crowd to get back to my friends, that’s when it happened. The exact thing Trump says he can do to women.

Now, a word here about what I was wearing.

Not because it’s relevant to me “deserving it.” But it is relevant to how easy it was to get inside my clothes.

Inside me.

I was wearing a white peasant skirt. Above the knees but not by that much. Loose and billowy. My underwear were white and satiny. Not at all skimpy. Full coverage and loose fitting. I have no memory of my top or my shoes or how I wore my hair that night. I recall the details of the skirt and underwear clearly.

Because they were loose-fitting and that made it easy.

I was pushing through the crowd to get back to my friends. The bodies were packed tightly together and it was slow going. All of a sudden someone’s hand was moving up under my skirt, into my underwear, into me.

It was such a complete shock. One minute I was just walking through a crowd and the next a stranger’s finger was inside my body. I looked over my shoulder and found myself looking into the eyes of the finger’s owner.

The look on his face is something I will never get over.

It said that he knew it was a violation, that he didn’t care because I deserved it, and that there was nothing I could do about it.

He was still inside me at that point.

For years I would think to myself, why didn’t I fucking punch him? Why didn’t I head butt him? Why didn’t I tackle him and start whaling on him and refuse to stop until the whole place came to a halt?

I can only say that in the moment, a lot of things conspired against it. Part of it was the shock. Part of it was the look on his face. In it was something I had never confronted before, never contemplated, never even really knew existed. And it intimidated me. Part of it was simply the tight space. There was literally no room to fight. Our bodies were packed so closely together. The only people paying attention were the ones packed around me and they all had the same smirk on their faces he did.

In that moment, my instinct was only to get away. I pulled away from him, pushed on through the crowd and made it back to my friends. I was breathing strangely and talking choppily. I told people what had happened. Those people told other people. Everyone thought I should call the police.

Of course, I thought, as thought returned. That’s what you do. If you don’t, then he can do it to someone else. You’re supposed to stop him.

One of my friends talked to the owner of the bar. He talked to me and then he called the police (this was before cell phones).

Guess what happened?

Several police cars came. A bunch of cops shut down the concert, shut down the bar, and made everyone in there file out past me in the hopes I could identify the guy. I never saw him in that line of faces. He must have left before the cops got there or maybe he went out a back door. I saw lots of other things. Curiosity. Amusement. Sympathy. Encouragement. Disbelief. Annoyance. Disgust. Condemnation. I saw what it looks like when a face says the word “whore.”

After they were all gone, one of the cops put me into a police car to talk to me. He said the way I was dressed invited certain behaviors. He said that I was 19 years old and in a bar. He said that I was drunk. He said the owner of the bar was going to prosecute me if I ever stepped foot in there again.

Some of you are probably thinking, well yeah, you shouldn’t have even been there and you could have gotten that bar owner in a lot of trouble and you probably cost him a lot of money. I don’t blame you for thinking those thoughts. I don’t think it makes you a bad person. How could I, when I have thought them too?

Those thoughts are why some victims don’t call the police.

I never found out who the finger guy was. Just some random stranger who put himself inside me and then went on his merry way. Maybe we have passed each other on the street and I never knew because it was a long time ago and I was drunk.

It’s weird because our culture seems most comfortable with two models for women in the wake of assault.

In one, the one you see most often in fiction, the woman stops having consensual sex, gets nervous and jumpy around men, is scared to go places, and cries all the time. In the other, her lack of evident distress renders her story unbelievable.

Well, nothing changed in my relationship with my boyfriend. I didn’t stop liking sex. I wasn’t scared of men. I wasn’t jumpy or nervous anywhere. Nothing changed in my classwork. I became more aware of personal safety issues, but the changes were subtle. For the most part, my relationships with people and the world continued as they had before.

I can imagine many reasons victims don’t call the police. Belonging to a familial, social, or religious culture in which victims are perceived as damaged, for example. Fear of losing a spouse or significant other. Fear of having a consensual sexual history divulged. Fear of being perceived as one of those troublesome women who cause too much drama. Fear of professional repercussions.

Of all the possibilities, I can only speak of one from experience. Maybe they feel like they’re acting too normal for anyone to believe the words they would need to speak.

Because sometimes there are no marks on your body and no obvious ones on your soul and you’re a little bit in shock and the façade of normalcy you’re wearing makes you think they won’t believe you. And having to look into all those judging faces as you tell the thing that happened, the thing you yourself sort of agree can’t be that important or it would have left deeper marks – you know that part would leave marks, so maybe you should just cut your losses.

In the weeks that followed, a victim’s advocacy group called me several times. “I’m fine,” I told them each time. Because I was fine and what else was there to say? We all knew they were never going to find that guy. We all knew they weren’t out looking.

Because I was fine.

The feeling of that strange finger inside of me would return viscerally at the oddest moments, though. For the first year, it happened a lot. Then I thought of it less often. Now the memory of that finger has lost its sharpness.

Not the look on his face though. That part will never fade.

I never thought my clothes were inviting. Even if I had, I still wouldn’t have judged myself for wearing them. Nor for being 19 and in a bar. Nor for being drunk.

I judged myself for not fighting back. That part bothered me even more than the look or the finger. Because I’m only responsible for me. And I just stood there and took it and did NOTHING to wipe that smirk off his face.

It’s been 25 years and I just cried when I typed those words.

If someone were to do the same thing to me again now, I like to think I would fight back this time. I guess you never know until it happens.

I’m not sure I would call the police.

Sarah Baker is a libertarian, attorney and writer. She lives in Montana with her daughter and a house full of pets.

If Trump Is a Pig, Does It Matter If Bill Clinton Is Also a Pig?

Bill Clinton admitted having extra-marital sexual relationships. One of them was with a much younger intern who was, for all intents and purposes, his employee. The relationship with Monica Lewinsky was icky and troubling due to the assumed power differential between the two parties – but there was nothing illegal about it.

Bill Clinton was accused of raping and sexually assaulting other women. No jury has found him guilty and he is therefore presumed innocent. Some people who feel strongly about due process for other men accused of crimes they deny committing, do not seem to grant the same benefit of the doubt to Bill Clinton.

Donald Trump has also been accused of raping and sexually assaulting women, including a 13-year-old girl. He has never been convicted by a jury and is therefore presumed innocent. Yet, again, some people who feel strongly about due process for other men accused of crimes they deny committing, do not grant the same benefit of the doubt to Donald Trump.

Trump admits the following:

“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Cue the moral relativism. Nothing is good or bad except in relation to something else. No time should be wasted discussing one thing if there is something more egregious available to be discussed.

But Bill Clinton!!! Why aren’t we talking about Bill Cliiiintonnn?!

Go ahead and talk about it! No one is stopping you. We’ve been talking about the allegations against Bill Clinton for decades. Talk about them some more if it floats your boat. I know it’s a novel concept, but we can actually talk about more than one thing at a time. And, now bear with me here because I know this one is hard, but they can both be bad.

If we never talked about anything except the absolute worst, most seriously bad thing in the universe, we would only ever talk about war, cancer and entropy.

Oh, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump might be sexual predators who should not be allowed anywhere near public office…but what about serial killers, hmmm? They actually kill people, why aren’t you denouncing them?

What about the fact that the Earth might get hit by an asteroid any moment and we would all cease to exist and you’re just distracting from the real issues by talking about who should be President? Of a country that’s only existed for, like, a couple hundred years? Weighed against the fate of the planet that has existed for more than four billion?

You’re so small….

But while all the partisans enlightened people who know what really matters are discussing the truly important things – like rehashing decades old unproven allegations against a man who is not running for office – let me clarify a couple of things.

First, Bill Clinton was never convicted. He denies the allegations. Donald Trump was accused by his own words. People can decide for themselves if that’s a distinction that matters, but it does exist.

Second, the problem is not that Trump said a bad word or spoke vulgarly or objectified women, as some like Sean Hannity have suggested – attempting to contrast that with Bill Clinton’s (alleged) conduct. Trump’s “words” described “actions” he claims he engaged in. As Robby Soave writes at Reason: “Grabbing an unsuspecting and unwilling person’s genitals is a criminal act of sexual assault under any definition of sexual assault.” I do not find Trump’s phrasing to be as definitive as Soave. But at a minimum, it suggests encounters that are deeply ambiguous on the issue of consent.

People can decide for themselves how important that is to his fitness for office. Don’t expect everyone else to ignore it.

 

Sarah Baker is a libertarian, attorney and writer. She lives in Montana with her daughter and a house full of pets.

Katie Couric and Her New Documentary “Under the Gun”

Katie Couric is taking heat for a misleadingly edited scene in her new gun control documentary called Under the Gun, which is currently airing on the cable channel EPIX. In the scene, Couric asks a group of gun rights supporters how we can prevent “felons or terrorists” from purchasing guns if we fail to perform background checks.

In response, her interviewees are seemingly stumped by the question, relegated to awkward silence. For nine seconds, they twitch and shift and flutter their eyes. One looks off into the distance, searching for an answer.

It is laughable to anyone who has not reduced gun rights supporters to caricatures.

To be sure, the question is a confusingly worded one. What is the set of circumstances in which someone walking around free, buying guns, would be revealed by background check as a “felon” or “terrorist?” If Couric meant convicted felons and terrorists, then presumably they are in prison, not out buying guns. If she meant convicted felons and terrorists who have served their time and been permitted back into society, then there is a legitimate question as to whether their Constitutional rights should be restored. In any event, we already have laws precluding convicted felons from owning guns and requiring background checks to ensure they do not.

However the question is meant to be interpreted, it is not exactly groundbreaking. This is not new terrain. This is not something gun rights advocates have never considered. The vast majority of gun rights supporters have already extensively considered this issue and come to a reasoned opinion.

Thus, to anyone in the gun rights community, Couric’s footage is an easily identifiable fraud. Unsurprisingly, audio footage obtained by the Washington Free Beacon has confirmed it to be precisely that. What actually occurred, as would be expected, was that the interviewees gave immediate, polite responses to the question.

In fact, with varying degrees of clarity and eloquence, they tried to articulate the points I raised above. Their responses may not have been the best way to cover those points in the film. If the director had wanted to play Couric asking the question and then explore responsive concepts in some other manner, I doubt anyone would have faulted the creative decision. But manufacturing nine seconds of awkward, twitchy silence suggests the director had another goal in mind.

Called out on the manipulative editing, director Stephanie Soechtig explained that her intention was to “provide a pause for the viewer to have a moment to consider this important question” and that she “never intended to make anyone look bad.” Shortly thereafter, Couric said she supported Soechtig’s statement and was “very proud of the film.”

There are a couple different ways to interpret all of this.

One is that Soechtig and/or Couric are being dishonest about their motivation for altering the footage. The real reason was to perpetuate a narrative in which gun rights supporters are portrayed as reckless and ignorant, red state dullards without the most basic concerns for public safety. Showing the interviewees answering the question—or cutting away without playing the nine manufactured seconds of silence—would detract from that narrative and leave an unfortunate impression that gun rights supporters actually have reasons for their positions.

Alternatively, Soechtig/Couric are telling the truth. It is not gun supporters they perceive as simple, but rather their own audience. The viewers needed those nine extra seconds of silence to confront such a groundbreaking question, to wrap their neophyte minds around its unprecedented implications.

Or perhaps there is simply a strange sort of narcissism at play. In this interpretation, it is Soechtig/Couric who are the simpletons. In their minds, no one had ever confronted this mind-blowing question until Katie Couric so amazingly thought of it. Playing the actual footage would have interfered with viewers’ appreciation of Couric’s prowess in asking this life-altering question. So instead the filmmakers faked some footage to leave a more suitable impression.

It is certainly possible to be both a journalist and an activist. While I do not always agree with his positions, I acknowledge that Glenn Greenwald does both so well that each component is made more powerful by the other. It works because he is honest and transparent about the activism, while approaching the journalism part ethically and with humility.

In contrast, altering footage to show something that flat out did not happen is neither journalism nor a particularly competent form of activism. It is storytelling for naïve audiences. It is fundamentally dishonest and narcissistic. And it will not promote dialogue about gun safety.

Update: Couric has provided further response to the accusations.

Sarah Baker is a libertarian, attorney and writer. She lives in Montana with her daughter and a house full of pets.

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