Friday, July 13, 2018

Weekend Reading: Other News About Women And Religion Etc.

The news snippets in the post are collected over time.  Some are very recent, others are a little older, but they are all of some interest, even though the urgency of the Trump reality has pushed them aside. I have marked some items with a plus-sign and some items with a minus-sign, depending on whether I view the news good or bad.

1 (-)  There are all sorts of far right men's organizations today, such as the Proud Boys.  Its founder, Gavin Innes,  tells us that the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is great news for the patriarchy*.  By that Innes literally means that men have the power, women obey, and all women should really stay at home, under the leadership of their lord and master.   And part of that plan, of course, is the denial of reproductive rights for women.

It's bitterly hilarious how similar those goals are to the gender-related goals of ISIS, given that the US far right pretends to hate ISIS.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Trump Goes To Europe

I have been reading about Trump's European policies. They are a fun reminder of the fact that those who voted for Trump are getting closer to breaking the whole world.  I have been told that they wanted change, and change they are getting.  If the outcome in foreign politics is a bit like hiring a hurricane to redecorate the living-room, well, the client knew the decorator is a hurricane, right?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

We Cannot have Enough Laughs With Brett Kavanaugh

That would be the Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's choice to replace Anthony Kennedy who is retiring from the Supreme Court.  Kavanaugh is a Catholic conservative guy and a white guy.  Nothing wrong with being any of those things, of course, though it's a little weird that Catholics are 22% of the US population, but 55% of the Supreme Court Justices*.  On the other hand, the white guy over-representation** can be explained easily by noting that the Republican Party is largely ruled by white guys, and that the world is mostly ruled by guys.

Here are a few fun things about the way various pundits and media giants have approached the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh:

First, the august Gray Lady, the New York Times, rushed a fun opinion piece into print yesterday.  It tells us liberals why Kavanaugh is really good for us.  The Gray Lady posted something similar about Neil Gorsuch earlier:

I immediately thought of all little bunny rabbits getting an email explaining to them why smart foxes are much better representatives of their interests than stupid foxes. 

Second, Byron York, a conservative commentator, tells us that Brett Kavanaugh respects women:

BYRON YORK (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): On the women's issue, obviously a lot of women voted for Donald Trump and if you looked at that ceremony last night, there was a lot of talk about Brett Kavanaugh's respect for, relationships with women. He has two daughters, he coaches their basketball teams. He reveres his mother, who is a teacher who went to law school and then became a judge. He talked a lot about the role of women in his life and the important roles that they play, women of accomplishment. He talked about hiring clerks, a majority of whom were women in his role as a circuit court of appeals judge. So there are two sides to that angle and I think you will hear a lot about Brett Kavanaugh's respect for women. 

Bolds are mine.

I come out in a nettle rash whenever I see the word "respect" applied to large demographic groups, not to something an individual has achieved or said,  because there's usually a hidden intention in that, more clearly put in this quote from the Turkish dictator, Recep Erdogan, in 2014:

"You cannot put women and men on an equal footing," he told a meeting in Istanbul. "It is against nature."


Women cannot do all the work done by men, he added, because it was against their "delicate nature".
"Our religion regards motherhood very highly," he said. "Feminists don't understand that, they reject motherhood."
He said women needed equal respect rather than equality.

And also from Erdogan in 2014:

“Our religion [Islam] has defined a position for women: motherhood,” Erdoğan said at a summit in Istanbul on justice for women, speaking to an audience including his own daughter Sumeyye.
“Some people can understand this, while others can’t. You cannot explain this to feminists because they don’t accept the concept of motherhood.”
He recalled: “I would kiss my mother’s feet because they smelled of paradise. She would glance coyly and cry sometimes.
“Motherhood is something else,” he said, claiming that it should be a woman’s priority because Islam exalts women as mothers.

Bolds are mine, again.  Note the similar references to respect and to reverence.  Note the similar absence of equality of men and women as a possibility.

I also get these allergic reactions whenever I see the argument that societies should preserve "women's dignity."  The Catholic conservatives often use that formulation, presumably because it would be terribly undignified to see a woman attempt something and then see her flop on her face, maybe with her knickers showing.  So better not to let her try.   — The religious conservatives never speak about "men's dignity."

So, to translate all that into the world of bunny rabbits and foxes:  As long as the bunny rabbits act like nice little bunny rabbits, they will be respected and revered before being fricassed.

Enough with the fun stuff.  What's the planned role of Brett Kavanaugh***?

Your guess is as good as mine, but he just might be designed to guarantee that Roe v. Wade will be killed a slow death, with the thousand loving cuts by a conservative knife.  That's because a quick overturning Roe v. Wade would probably not be good for Republican votes.  Many single-issue (forced-birth) voters might then not bother to vote at all or might even vote for Democrats, and some women might even get a bit angry.

But those kinds of delicate manipulations are difficult to achieve, so we might just be prepared to kiss federal abortion rights a nice goodbye.  They are dead in practice in many areas already.


*  Or more, if we count by religious upbringing rather than what church the Justice currently belongs to, because Justice Neil Gorsuch  grew up as a Catholic but now attends an Episcopalian church. 

The over-representation of Jewish people is even larger, given that the percentage of Jewish Justices currently on the bench is  33% while Jews are 1.9% or 2% of the US population, though it's important to remember that the representation of small population groups in such small samples (n=9) cannot match their population percentages, except on average,  over exceedingly long time periods.  Indeed, even one Justice who is, say, Native American, would over-represent that demographic group while on bench. 

More generally, to evaluate the representativeness of these choices we would need to have data on the religions of all people who have legal training and experience sufficient to qualify them for the bench.

Still, it's fair to point out that the overall number of women who have ever served on the Supreme Court is dismally small, compared to the fact that women are one half of the general population.

And yes, I am aware of the No Religious Test clause.  It's still of some concern to note that so many men on the bench are conservative Catholics, given that the Catholic Church does not approve of abortion or even of contraception.  Access to contraception is an absolute prerequisite for women's social, political and economic equality. 

** Trump has been appointing white men into the judiciary at rates not seen for thirty years:

So far, 91 percent of Trump's nominees are white, and 81 percent are male, an Associated Press analysis has found. Three of every four are white men, with few African-Americans and Hispanics in the mix. The last president to nominate a similarly homogenous group was George H.W. Bush.

The group that is qualified for those jobs, especially when they must also be Republicans,  is probably whiter and more male than the general population.  But that alone doesn't explain the tilt Trump is bringing back.  As a reminder,  white men are roughly 32% of Americans in general, but 55% of the Justices on the bench.

***  Some cynical people say that Trump picked him because Kavanaugh might now be open to the idea that a sitting president might be exempt from criminal prosecution.  Should come in handy if Trump is found guilty in the Mueller investigation and then appeals that finding to the Supreme Court.  Well, a goddess can dream of something like that happening, though it will not. 

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Fuck Civility. My Second Post on the Sarah Huckabee Sanders Controversy

The background for this post can be found in my first post on this topic:  Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Donald Trump's official "mouth," was denied service at a Virginia restaurant because of her political views, and that began a "national conversation" on civility in American politics and public life.  

You can see that giant "conversation" by searching for "civility" in Google news:  A long, long list of opinion pieces crops up.  And no wonder, because we all already think we know what civility is and whether it's good or bad in politics.  That makes research unnecessary and the writing fuckin wonderful!

Except for us obsessive-compulsive perfectionists. We have to do research, and so I did that.  After lots of it (and lots of chocolate, thanks, kind donors) I chose the question I want to address:

Why are some people allowed to be rude in politics and others are not?  Why would it sound shocking to hear the kind and gentle Echidne tell someone to go and fuck themselves with a tiny rusty plague-infected Q-tip,  when hearing the same from, say,  Rush Limbaugh wouldn't sound shocking at all, except perhaps for the use of the word "fuck?" 

Because much of social media is simply a giant cesspit, I limited my analysis to people who have a large audience and a public presence.  Here are the results:

Monday, July 02, 2018

Purple Family Values

Remember "family values?"  They were the big talking point among Republicans in the 1990s, used to combat anything from abortion, same-sex marriage, women working outside the home, and sex education in schools. 

Family values were always a code, to be deciphered by the readers.  But the intended meaning of this code was that families should be under patriarchal leadership, that husbands should bring home the bacon and wives should cook it and that there should be many children (the number dependent on some divine power entering the husband's testicles, I guess), none of whom would ever go to daycare because their mothers would not work for money.

It was a clever code, of course, because who wouldn't value families, eh?  Those who heard or read the words "family values" instinctively inserted their own family values (love of parents, children, mutual support and care, say) into them.  And that made the code work.

Still, whatever the actual contents of the term, "family values" were meant as something normative:  the way someone thought things should be, not as something positive:  someone describing things the way that person thinks they are.

That long preamble is to explain why I found an opinion piece by Matthew Schmitz in the New York Times pretty weird.  Schmitz treats the term "family values" as a mix of positive and normative concepts.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Welcome to Gilead?

These are unusual times we live in.  The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood may have been more realistic than many suspected.*  For one example, consider one candidate rumored to be on Trump's shortlist for the Supreme Court:  Amy Coney Barrett.

Rammesh Ponnuru, a right-wing pundit, wants her to be the nominee, because then the Republicans overturning Roe wouldn't all be men!

I love that.  I do love sick humor in a sick era.

In 2017 the New York Times had this to say about judge Barrett:

Ms. Barrett told the senators that she was a faithful Catholic, and that her religious beliefs would not affect her decisions as an appellate judge. But her membership in a small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise never came up at the hearing, and might have led to even more intense questioning.

Some of the group’s practices would surprise many faithful Catholics. Members of the group swear a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another, and are assigned and are accountable to a personal adviser, called a “head” for men and a “handmaid” for women. The group teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.

The bolds are mine, if such boldness is still allowed from the feebler sex.

I have some serious concerns about a Supreme Court which is so very unrepresentative of the general population in religion that the overwhelming majority is already Roman Catholic.  I get the arguments for ignoring the judges' religions, but the Catholic Church does not exactly advocate equality of men and women, or approve the use of contraceptives.

But I have much more serious concerns about the idea of a Supreme Court Justice who believes that the husbands are the heads of the wives.  If Barrett is placed on the bench, then the real Justice would be her husband, right?  Because he can overrule her in everything.

And I also have problems with that lifelong oath of loyalty to each other that the members of this sect swear.


* A joke appearing around the time the book was first published goes something like this:
Women in Britain:  What a thrilling tale!
Women in Canada:  The tale makes me a little uncomfortable.
Women in USA:  How much time do we have?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Judging The Conservative Supreme Court Judges

The US Supreme Court, now nicely on its way to becoming a permanent subsidiary of the Global Trump Corporations, decided on three important and interesting cases during the last week.  The Republican Boys' Club was the 5-4 majority in all the cases, and their three decisions shared a fascinating fact:

They all serve to strengthen existing power hierarchies: