Monday, January 23, 2017

And A Little More on the Women's Marches

The overall numbers for the Women's Marches just in the US are awe-inspiring and awesome:

A professor of political science in Connecticut has aggregated the data from public reports of crowd sizes at the women’s marches across America on Saturday and reached an astonishing conclusion: More than 1 in every 100 people in the U.S. turned out to march against Donald Trump and for women’s rights on the second day of his presidency.
Drawing on reports of 526 different marches in towns as disparate as Wichita Falls, Texas — reported turnout: 150 people — and Washington, D.C. — reported turnout: more than 500,000 — University of Connecticut professor Jeremy Pressman, working with international relations professor Erica Chenoweth from the University of Denver, estimated that 3,341,823 to 4,611,782 people turned out to march across the nation.
The Census Bureau estimated that the U.S. population as of mid-2016 was 323,127,513.
“The overall number is bigger than I expected,” Pressman told Yahoo News about his findings on the protest crowds. “With a low estimate it’s a little bit above 1 percent, and with a higher estimate, it’s probably closer to 1 1/2 percent.”

And that is a wonderful emotion for the resistance work!

Speaking of resistance, Media Matters summarizes a few quips from some conservative men about the marches.

Many of them are wonderful examples of the continuing need for feminism, because they suggest that the proper role for women is to serve and service men ("my shirts don't iron themselves." "the ham sandwiches don't make themselves") or that only really ugly women would want equality.  But Piers Morgan's tweet deserves closer theoretical analysis:

Morgan's idea of masculinity is a subtractive one*:  Any rights women gain must come from men's rights, because in his minds those rights always add up to some constant total.

Taken to the logical extremes, the only way men can be truly masculine is if women are doormats with zero rights. 

Poor Piers.  His world is full of frightening things, such as women walking or wearing pink hats.  Or speaking, I guess.

And this is so very weird:  A tweet by Michael Cohen, a Special Councel to Donald J. Trump, about those pink pussyhats many marchers wore:

As far as I know most of those hats were hand-knitted or hand-crocheted, many by the marchers themselves or by other women who wanted to contribute to the march. You know, self-reliance and other such -- um -- conservative values.


* Credit for this term goes here.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Women's Marches

Were yuuuge!  Bigly!   Beautiful, as our Dear Leader would say.  Not sad!

The pictures at the New York Times, taken of marches all over this country and in other countries are proof of those adjectives.  Every continent was covered, even Antarctica.  The total numbers are hard to estimate, but I believe that at least three million marched in the US alone.  And the marches were joyous and peaceful.

There is a time for critical dissections and analysis, and I'm a goddess of analysis by both basic nature and training.  But there is also a time to grab that righteous emotion, that love, that anger, that coming together as one giant circle of friends,  and today is that time.  Time to feel that we are not alone, time to know that we are not alone, time to organize for the future.  Time to be heard.

Trump's inaugural speech (possibly written by the white male supremacist Bannon?) referred to Trump's concept of neglected Americans. I have heard several experts state that the many women and men and children who marched today are not the usual crowd who turns up for political rallies.  These are people who may never have marched before, people who have woken up because of Donald Trump.  And these are people who will NOT stay neglected by his administration, however much Trump might wish they do.

Here is a collection of the best signs people spotted in the various marches.

What To Read, 1/21/17: Alexandar Hemon and Rebecca Solnit

1.  Alexandar Hemon on how to write during the chaos presidency is worth reading, though it's not cheerful in itself.  The quote I liked was this one, because it might ring a bell in many who were taken by the sudden jack hammer of malevolent surprise on the evening of the elections:

Societies generate realities and present them as self-evident ("we find these truths to be self-evident..."), and art plays a crucial role in that operation. When there is a major rupture, the whole structure of self-evidence falls apart and the shock exposes how badly it has been maintained. It turns out that nothing is the way we thought it was; we're not the country we thought we were; people are not who we thought they were; the leaves on the street are not the leaves I recognize; my neighbor might be a Trumpist killer, or at least a spy; reality no longer meets my reasonable expectations, it no longer fits my knowledge. The moment when we cannot in any way connect what is taking place and what we know is a traumatic one, because the solidity of reality — the belief that its continuity cannot be altered — catastrophically falters.
The good news is that we can survive those ruptures, some in our personal lives, and many of us, including Hemon, have survived and even gained wisdom from that struggle.  

The other good news might be what my therapist friend told me:  It's not irrational to fear a tiger when a tiger actually roams outside your house; it's rational.  She also pointed out that the chaos has always been there, that we have always been surfing it, spinning spider webs across it,  that we are good at that spinning, that the spider webs are strong, and if we hold hands we can get to the other side of the rupture.

2. Rebecca Solnit's passionate voice on Donald Trump's misogyny is worth hearing.   The stew that boiled over on the election day had many, many ingredients, but the spice of misogyny was certainly included.  Its flavor has merged with other flavors in the post-election simmering, but if you close your eyes and concentrate you can taste it.

It tastes like shit.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Killing the DOJ's Office on Violence Against Women: The Russian Connection.

Trump plans to put the government on a starvation diet!  Well, parts of it, those the Republicans and Trump detest.  These includes such girly crap as the National Endowments for the Arts and for the Humanities, because only girly people like arts and such.  But it also might include the Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women:

The Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women oversees a total of 25 grant programs, which distribute funds to organizations committed to ending sexual assault, domestic abuse and dating violence. 

Most recently, the office launched a "Safer Families, Safer Communities" site to enforce the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in June that states people convicted of domestic violence can't own firearms. In October, the office awarded $9.85 million in funds to investigate gender bias in policing, and in September, distributed $25 million to addressing campus sexual assault. 
But the Trump team would like to see the Department of Justice's efforts to tackle some of the most serious issues affecting half of the United States population terminated — all in the name of saving government dollars.

For the sake of honesty, the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief didn't just come up with this plan on his own:  It was already in the Heritage Foundation's blueprint for drowning the government not in the bathtub as Grover Norquist used to threaten, but in a tiny thimble, suitable for very tiny fingers.


Here's where things get very interesting:  Putin and Trump are Best Friends Forever and have similar societal blueprints.  Last summer Russia finally passed a law banning domestic violence.  Before that:

Given that there was no specific law in Russia prohibiting domestic violence, victims who wanted to press charges had to be their own prosecutors. The system for this was so complicated that 90 percent of cases were dismissed for technical reasons. In 2012, NGO and government representatives started drafting the first domestic violence law for Russia. Things were looking good for women in the country of Anna Karenina—until Putin was elected to a third term of presidency, ultra-conservatism gripped the nation, and a complicated grassroots movement called the All-Russia Parents’ Resistance reared its head.  
Once praised by Putin as the “true patriots of Russia”, these civil activists “protect” Russian kids from adoption to foreign families and promote family beatings as a cultural tradition. “I think they see the traditional family as a traditionally patriarchal family. What they are mostly implying is that this law takes away the man’s right to control his family members,” Pisklakova says.

But not to worry!  The new law may already be ailing:

Women’s rights activists have expressed fury over a legal amendment under consideration in the Russian parliament which, if passed, would decriminalise domestic abuse.
The amendment would make “moderate” violence within families an administrative rather than criminal offence, punishable by a fine rather than a jail sentence.
Those behind the bill say they believe it supports “traditional values” and stops the state from snooping into family matters.
But activists say it removes protection for the vulnerable, normalising husbands who beat their wives, parents who beat their children, and family members who beat elderly relatives.
The Russian justification is all about traditional values and who gets to beat whom.  I think the American justification for killing the Office on Violence Against Women boils down to the same thing.


While Preparing for the Coronation: The Competency Hearings

Some of the funniest* moments of the desperate last-moment preparations for the Demolition Derby administration:

1.  Rick Perry thought the job he is going to have was all about being a spokesman for American oil and gas industries:

When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.
In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.

2.  Mr. Perry's qualifications for the job appear ever so slightly different from the last two energy secretaries:

Mr. Perry, who once called for the elimination of the Energy Department, will begin the confirmation process Thursday with a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee. If approved by the Senate, he will take over from a secretary, Ernest J. Moniz, who was chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department and directed the linear accelerator at M.I.T.’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Before Mr. Moniz, the job belonged to Steven Chu, a physicist who won a Nobel Prize.
For Mr. Moniz, the future of nuclear science has been a lifelong obsession; he spent his early years working at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Mr. Perry studied animal husbandry and led cheers at Texas A&M University.

3.  Scott Pruitt, Trump's choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  hadn't checked what a safe level of lead in drinking water might be:

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency said at his confirmation hearing Wednesday that he didn’t know one of the most basic things about drinking water safety. 
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) asked Scott Pruitt if “there is any safe level of lead that can be taken into the human body.”
The answer is a simple “no,” but somehow Pruitt didn’t say that. 
“Senator, that is something I have not reviewed nor know about,” said Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma.  
“I would be very concerned about any level of lead going into the drinking water or obviously human consumption,” he continued, “but I’ve not looked at a scientific research on that.”

4.  Betsy deVos, Trump's nominee to run the Education Department is a funny choice to begin with, given that she has no training or background in education.  But there was also this from her confirmation hearings:

Sen. Tim Kaine, Democrat from Virginia, asked DeVos about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which guarantees services to students with disabilities. It has been a federal law since 1990. Kaine asked if all schools should meet the requirements of the law.

"I think that is a matter that's best left to the states," DeVos said. 
Further questioning from Kaine seemed to reveal DeVos's lack of understanding about IDEA. Later, Sen. Maggie Hassan, Democrat from New Hampshire, asked more pointedly about DeVos's knowledge of IDEA. 

"So were you unaware when I just asked you about the IDEA that it was a federal law?" Hassan asked.
"I may have confused it," DeVos said.

Oh, and Ms. deVos believes that  grizzly bears might be a valid reason to have guns in schools.

But the most important snippet to take home is that Ms. deVos refuses to rule out not funding public schools (which cater to 90% of all students).   That, of course is the Demolition part of the Derby.


*Only in the sense that I'd rather not bawl my eyes out, and sarcasm is the healthiest of the alternative coping mechanisms.

Added later:  And then there is Tom Price, here grilled by Elizabeth Warren.

Friday, January 13, 2017

On The Killing of The ACA

The Republicans are gonna kill it dead!  Like slapping a fly and then wiping the corpse off into the garbage bin, and presto!  All is good.

The peons can have their Medical Savings Accounts!*  That means having to save for medical expenses, though from pre-tax income, so if you make, say, $30,000 a year you are going to be in deep shit, because you won't be able to scrape together enough to fund much anything in health care. (Did I ever tell you how much my broken arm ended up costing me and the system?)

If real people weren't going to die because of this right-wing fox trot (hot trot? the trots?), the whole thing would be pretty amusing.  Our Dear Leader-Elect demands (demands!) instant killing of the ACA and instant replacement by something or other. 

Except that there's no way such instant acts are feasible.  The Republicans don't have a ready-made alternative, and even if they did, to install it would take at least several months.  That Trump doesn't understand that is blood-chilling.

What will be the consequences of the killing of the ACA?** 

Here's my prediction:  We are going to have roughly twenty million people without health insurance, again.  And no, dear Republicans, they can't just go into the ER and get treated for nothing.  The ER doesn't do radiation treatments for cancer or follow-ups or anything but the stabilizing of patients.  Without money, that is.

And here's my prediction:  People are going to die who wouldn't have died without this wonderful killing operation, and many of those voted for Trump.

Sometimes I am very very slow.  It took me this long to realize that all the anti-Obamacare stuff comes from the fact that it raises the taxes of those who earn over $250,000 a year!  Everything else is created by right-wing propaganda***
*  There will be other stuff, too, such as the freedom to buy health insurance across state borders which will make all the sellers move to the state with lowest required contents for the package and highest allowed premia, and high-risk pools which will be utterly inadequate, because so many people will be put into them (such as anyone with a pre-existing condition or anyone over fifty?).

But what will go away (slap the fly) are free preventive care, free birth control and, most importantly, those subsidies for lower income people.

** A ballad should be made out of that.  (Let me tell you the story of the ACA and those who wanted her dead....)

***  The markets have trouble and the premia have risen rapidly in some markets.  But the premia rose more rapidly before the ACA and will rise more rapidly again.  It's crucial to separate the general maladies of American health insurance from the specific problems of the ACA markets.

Do Not Normalize The Trump Administration: The Case Of Chuck Johnson, Twitter Troll Extraordinaire

Do any of you remember the famous Twitter troll, Chuck Johnson?  He was so bad by doxxing people* and by  telling his acolyte trolls to harass and threaten people that he was finally permanently banned by Twitter.  And that takes some doing.

Ah, I remember him well, and that's because many of his tweets were the most out-and-out woman-hating, black-hating, Jew-hating tweets I ever came across.  Sadly, I didn't screen-cap them.

Why would I regret that?  Well, now he is among the powers that rule over us!

Would you have believed, say, two years, ago, that the white male supremacists in 2017 will be advising the incoming president on who to appoint to his team?

But that's where we are:

Charles “Chuck” Johnson, a controversial blogger and conservative online personality, has been pushing for various political appointees to serve under Donald Trump, according to multiple sources close to the President-elect’s transition team. While Johnson does not have a formal position, FORBES has learned that he is working behind the scenes with members of the transition team’s executive committee, including billionaire Trump donor Peter Thiel, to recommend, vet and give something of a seal of approval to potential nominees from the so-called "alt-right." 
In the months leading up to the election, Johnson, 28, used social media and his website to stump for the President-elect while also publishing misinformation on Trump’s detractors. Now, Johnson is helping to pick some of the leaders who may run the country for the next four years.

I'm sure Trump will be the president for all Americans when he gets advice from the likes of Chuck Johnson.  To see what Johnson thinks of blacks and of Jews, check out this Southern Poverty Law Center article.  Be forewarned:  It's not pretty.

The morale of this post:  DO NOT NORMALIZE THE TRUMP ERA.  RESIST.


* By publishing the names and addresses of all sorts of people on Twitter.  In several cases the individuals thus treated had to leave their homes because of the threats of violence they received.  In at least one, and possibly two cases, the names given belonged to individuals who had nothing to do with whatever Johnson was fuming about, but who were still harassed and threatened.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Trump Speaks. The Peons Listen.

Trump's press conference was unique!  It was the weirdest ever!  Watching it from another planet would have been beautiful, tremendous!

It was all those very big things, not just because of the incoherence of this aspiring American dictator, as Charlie Pierce so beautifully noticed, but also because  our Dear Leader-Elect said things like these:

And the admirals have been fantastic. The generals have been fantastic. I've really gotten to know them well. And we’re going to do some big things on the F-35 program and perhaps the F-18 program. And we’re going to get those costs way down, and we’re gonna get the plane to be even better and we’re going to have to some competition. And it’s going to be a beautiful thing.

So we been very, very much involved -- and other things. We had Jack Ma, we had so many incredible people coming here -- they’re going to do tremendous things, tremendous things in this country. And they're very excited


I look very much forward to the inauguration. It’s going to be a beautiful event. We have great talent, tremendous talent. And we have all of the bands -- or most of the bands from the different segments of the military. And I've heard some of these bands over the years -- they’re incredible. We’re going to have a very, very elegant day. The 20th is going to be something that will be very, very special, very beautiful
And on being asked about the most recent (unsubstantiated!)*  report on his possible connections with Russia:

Ok, first of all, these meetings, as you know, are confidential, classified. So I'm not allowed to talk about what went on in a meeting. But we had many witnesses in that meeting. Many of them with us. And I will say again, I think it's a disgrace that information would be let out. I saw the information. I read the information outside of that meeting. It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It did not happen. And it was gotten by opponents of ours, as you know because you reported it and so did many of the other people. It was a group of opponents they got together -- sick people -- and they put that crap together. 

I have bolded the terms which I find fascinating, coming from the mouth of a president-elect of one of the most powerful countries on earth.**  Notice something interesting about them?   Well, other than a president-elect saying "crap" in a presser.

They convey no actual information.  They are intended to affect emotions.

But the most astonishing part of our Dear Leader-Elect's first press conference was none of that.  It was this:

At his presser today, Donald Trump confirmed the very worst fears of ethics experts, announcing a new arrangement for his business holdings that is designed to garner nice headlines but is unlikely to do much to reduce the possibility of conflicts of interest and, possibly, full blown corruption.
Trump did nothing to address the central ethical problem he faces: He will not divest himself of his holdings, only transferring control of them to his two sons.

He is gonna run the country and his sons are gonna run his commercial empire.  They will never (never!) tell their dad which government moves would benefit their enterprises, no foreign dignitary will never (never!) try to gain favors from Trump by, say, giving extra help to Trump's firms in other countries.  Nope!  And should it happen, we won't know, because Trump refuses to release any information on his finances.

Finally, Trump's temper tantrums against the press should frighten all of us.  The National Press Club has this to say about Trump's use of the term "fake news" whenever something critical of him is written:

“It is dangerous and unhealthy to declare a news item as 'fake news' to distract from facts that you may not like or don't favor your perspective. Our incoming president must treat the news media as the vital cornerstone of our democracy that it is. To label something as 'fake' in an effort to undermine news outlets endangers the trust granted journalists by the public and is antithetical to our country's values.

* As noted in the New York Times article about those two pages Buzzfeed published.  And noted.  And noted.  And noted.  On the other hand, watch this.

** I have demoted the US from the most powerful country on earth, largely because it is now a loose cannon.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Further Tales From the Demolition Derby Administration: Ethics and the GOP, Katy Talento and Sid Miller

The one we are going to have under Dear Leader-Elect.  Interesting developments came and went while I lay moaning in the arms of Mr. Influenza, but one of them is worth a backwards glance, though it took place in the Congress and not in the transitioning team of the Trump administration.

That was the Republicans' failed attempt to spay, neuter and geld the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent and bipartisan entity created in 2008 in the wake of certain ethics scandals, and to leave in its place a zombie version answerable to the GOP.

Trump opposed that plan, probably because it came too soon.  The country is not yet open to looting, and to so openly prepare for it is in bad taste.  Besides, it's Trump who decides about looting the government coffers, not your rank-and-file Republicans, though they naturally will get their dibs.  That's because a demolition derby administration destroys institutions, not the material aspects of those.  The latter can be carted home, assuming that there will be no viable ethics investigations.

Or that is the reading of many on that gelding attempt.  Given that, why did the Republicans think they would get away with it?  How bad are they as politicians?  Or are they playing some n-dimensional chess game where failing on this aspect of looting is intended to make some slightly less open move more invisible?

Never mind.  The Republicans will have plenty of time for looting, after the demolition vehicles ride over everything.

Trump has not forgotten us, the little ladies, either, so he appointed a female health care staffer, Katy Talento,  to his team!  She believes that birth control of the type women control: the IUD and the pill, causes miscarriages and later infertility.

Her appointment smells of Mike Pence to me, the Vice President-Elect who wants to see women barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.  Access to female-controlled birth control must be made more difficult for that plan to succeed.

Finally,  Sid Miller, the Texas agricultural commissioner, might be heading for a similar job in the demolition derby administration.  His shtick is to eradicate waste in the National School Lunch program which provides poorer children free lunches.

I though the idea of reducing waste in cooking and storing food was a wonderful and environment-loving initiative, but, alas, that's not what Sid worries about.  He stays awake at night because some children whose parents aren't poor enough might be eating free, nutritious meals at the taxpayers' expense.*

If that name, Sid Miller, rings a faint but ominous bell in your ears, yes, this is the same man whose Twitter account sent out this tweet in early November:

 That must give him bonus points for the USDA job in the mind of our Dear Leader-Elect.


*  Where I grew up, free and nutritious school lunches were provided for all children, irrespective of parental income.  The idea seems perfect to me:  It guarantees at least one well-balanced daily meal for every child, it can be used to teach children to eat together, to have good table manners, and it rescues zillions of parents from the task of having to prepare separate lunches every day.  Most importantly, putting good food into children is a fantastic investment for the future of us all.

There are economies to scale from such cooking, too, and so the overall cost (funded from taxes) could well be less than the total cost of the US type system.

That's why I'm not upset about "misuses" of the US system. 

Friday, January 06, 2017

A Postcard From the Land of Influenza

I bought a ticket (a flu vaccination) not to travel here, but this year it failed to work.

Try something fun:  Say "influenza" with the kind of stuffed sinuses (sini?) which produce extremely colorful moments in my sickness.  The result is something deeply erotic.

And this is also fun:  I haven't had a meal this year!

But I'm finally on the mend, and send this postcard only to let you know why the silence on the blog.