Monday Miscellany, 8/14/23

Monday Miscellany, 8/14/23 August 14, 2023

Successes in combating porn, voters in red states still want abortion, and U. S. bonds get downgraded.

Successes in Combating Porn

Online pornography has proven almost impossible to stop.  But states have found a way to restrict it that is having considerable success:  passing age verification laws.

Porn sites must require users to prove they are 18 or older by showing government ID.  Most everyone agrees that pornography is harmful to minors. Thus, ID requirements are only reasonable.  This isn’t censorship or infringing anyone’s civil liberties.  These laws are being passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.  And the general public supports them 85%-15%.

Seven states have passed ID laws:  Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, Mississippi, Utah, Virginia and Texas.  Sixteen more states are considering them.

Pornhub, the conglomerate responsible for much of the pornography online, is trying to fight the laws, but meanwhile it has to comply. Not only are the laws keeping away minors, they are also keeping away adults, since hardly anyone wants to identify as a pornography user.  In Louisiana, Pornhub’s numbers are down 80%.

Pornhub is verifying ages in Louisiana, and the Texas and Montana laws haven’t gone into effect yet. But in Arkansas, Mississippi, Utah, and Virginia, Pornhub has simply stopped operating. The company is blocking residents of those states from access to its sites.

Residents who try get a message from a clothed porn star expressing outrage and urging them to contact their lawmakers to get the laws changed.  Pornhub is evidently hoping for a groundswell of support from state residents demanding their right to porn.  But, again, most people are ashamed to come out openly to make such demands.  Lawmakers, activists, and what we used to call decent folk are rejoicing at finally thwarting the pornographers.

Marc Novicoff has written an excellent article on the subject for Politico entitled A Simple Law Is Doing the Impossible. It’s Making the Online Porn Industry Retreat.  It credits Louisiana state representative Laurie Schlegel, a therapist who specializes in sex addictions, for coming up with the laws, which she had the idea for  when she heard singer Billy Eilish lamenting her own early exposure to porn.

Critics, of course, say that tech-savvy minors can find a way to access porn anyway, but not all of them know how to do that.  As Novicoff says, “Sure, there are ways for under-21-year-olds to get their hands on liquor, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pass underage drinking laws.”

Voters in Red States Still Want Abortion

Around this time last year, , voters in conservative, deep red Kansas voters voted down an amendment to the state constitution that would have allowed the prohibition of abortion.  Now voters in conservative, deep red Ohio did much the same, voting down a measure that would have increased the percentage of votes to amend the state constitution from 50% to 60%.

That proposal was in anticipation of a November referendum that would turn abortion into a constitutional right.  Pro-life Republicans apparently assumed that a majority of Ohio voters would vote for that right and hoped to raise the bar.  But that effort was soundly defeated, 57% to 43%.

We cultural conservatives like to assume that most Americans are on our side.  But they aren’t.  When Christians and other social conservatives organized themselves for political action in 1979, they called themselves the  “Moral Majority.”  Maybe they were the majority back then.  But now social conservatives may have to get used to being a “moral minority” and strategize from there.

U.S. bonds get downgraded

The credit rating agency Fitch Ratings, which assesses the quality and security of bonds and other securities, has downgraded U.S. government bonds from AAA, the highest grade, to AA+.

That’s still not bad, but the reasons for the downgrade offer a succinct statement of our government’s economic mismanagement:

The rating downgrade of the United States reflects the expected fiscal deterioration over the next three years, a high and growing general government debt burden, and the erosion of governance relative to ‘AA’ and ‘AAA’ rated peers over the last two decades that has manifested in repeated debt limit standoffs and last-minute resolutions.

Fitch goes on to give more detail about the problems it sees.  One factor, for example, is the “Erosion of Governance”:

In Fitch’s view, there has been a steady deterioration in standards of governance over the last 20 years, including on fiscal and debt matters, notwithstanding the June bipartisan agreement to suspend the debt limit until January 2025. The repeated debt-limit political standoffs and last-minute resolutions have eroded confidence in fiscal management. In addition, the government lacks a medium-term fiscal framework, unlike most peers, and has a complex budgeting process. These factors, along with several economic shocks as well as tax cuts and new spending initiatives, have contributed to successive debt increases over the last decade. Additionally, there has been only limited progress in tackling medium-term challenges related to rising social security and Medicare costs due to an aging population.




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