Friday, August 17, 2018

Art For The Weekend

In 2011 I wrote a series of posts on four 19th to 20th century female Finnish painters.  I found it still interesting*.  Another Finnish painter of the olden times I like is Hugo Simberg, a symbolist painter.  Here is his Garden of Death, to set a happy tone for the weekend:

Doesn't that remind you of Death in Terry Pratchett's Discworld fantasies?


*  The Finnish proverb goes:  Who would raise the dog's tail if not the dog himself?
Meaning that one must show self-confidence.  I think I will keep the male terminology in that proverb...

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Trump's White Evangelical Base

A WaPo article (from last June) about the politics of various evangelical groups in the US points out something fascinating about the 2016 presidential elections:

...according to Election Day exit polls, 80 percent of white evangelicals supported Donald Trump. Among all other – nonevangelical — whites, 59 percent voted for Hillary Clinton.
I had not seen that difference put so clearly elsewhere.  What it means is that the white evangelicals are an important part of Trump's base. This should be hilarious, given that Trump is anything but a religious man, and because religious people are supposed to walk their talk.  But it could be the case that religion in this context is a tribal marker rather than as a confession of faith.

The linked article suggests that white evangelicals' vote for Trump was driven by their fear of losing racial and religious status.  This may also explain why rank-and-file white evangelicals approve of Trump's refugee policies and dislike immigration in general.

For my take on how that vote might also link to anxiety about gender, see this post.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Gross Gender Earnings Gap Revisited

I have written about the gross and net earnings gaps* many, many times.  It's the latter which we want to use when looking for possible sex- or race-based (or both) discrimination in the labor market.

That's because the net earnings gap gets as close as observational data can to the ideal where we would compare two individuals, identical in all other characteristics except the one or the ones we study (say, sex, race, age etc.).

It's not exactly the same as that theoretical ideal, but it's loads better than the gross earnings gap which does not take into account differences in education, experience, and other things which affect how much people earn, on average.  In some forms it doesn't even take into account differences in hours, days or weeks worked.

But the net earnings gap does that.  More about it in this post and here.   And that's why the feminist left should not use the gross gap in earnings as the measure of labor market discrimination.

But the anti-feminist right does something worse when it argues that studies have conclusively shown that there is no gender gap in earnings after women's own free-and-voluntary choices are taken into account.   Good studies have shown no such thing, if they sample a proper cross-section of workers.

The studies the right decides to focus on are only about very young workers, just beginning their working lives or careers. Given that the Equal Pay Act of 1963 makes it illegal to pay men and women different wages for exactly the same work, and given that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes discrimination in hiring illegal, it's hard** for employers to discriminate against any particular group among brand-new workers.

It's the passage of time*** which allows any possible discriminatory motives to be satisfied.  For example, men and women can be promoted at different rates, irrespective of their productivity and other characteristics, or on-the-job training can be offered to one group but not to the other group etc.

This post discusses one study that has been very popular among the anti-feminists.  You probably notice by now that because it fails to standardize for education it's comparing apples to oranges, even if the results were only applied to the group of young, single, metropolitan workers.  But they have been applied much more widely than that.


* The gross gap between, say, women and men would be calculated by dividing the earnings of an average woman by the earnings of an average man, preferably both expressed in earnings per hour, week and so on.

The net gap corrects the gross gap for hours worked, education, experience and other relevant factors which affect how much someone works and are mostly viewed as non-discriminatory.  The net gap is what still remains after those calculations are carried out.

**  Not impossible, given that earnings information is usually kept hidden in the US, but harder than it would be without those laws. As an aside, the UK right spreads the same propaganda about the wage gap not existing after women's "voluntary" choices are taken into account.

***   The right-wing argument is that the earnings differences accruing over time are due to women's choices to focus more on their children and less on their careers.  But note that we cannot conclude anything of the sort from the data, because discriminatory effects also accrue over time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Paper Ballots. The Best Answer For Secure Voting Systems.

First, these hilarious news about hacking voting machines:

This weekend saw the 26th annual DEFCON gathering. It was the second time the convention had featured a Voting Village, where organizers set up decommissioned election equipment and watch hackers find creative and alarming ways to break in.  


In a room set aside for kid hackers, an 11-year-old girl hacked a replica of the Florida secretary of state’s website within 10 minutes — and changed the results.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Caitlin Flanagan Loves Jordan Peterson. As Is To Be Expected.

Remember Caitlin Flanagan?  If not, I wrote about her anti-feminism a long time ago, more than once.

Now she has come out in praise of Jordan Peterson, the new prophet which many conservative men follow.  If you are not familiar with Peterson's work, you can get a crash course right on this blog*!

Her ode to Peterson makes for hilarious reading.  She tells us that her teenage son and other young men suddenly had someone to listen to who argued against identity politics:

That might seem like a small thing, but it’s not. With identity politics off the table, it was possible to talk about all kinds of things—religion, philosophy, history, myth—in a different way. They could have a direct experience with ideas, not one mediated by ideology.

Bolds are mine.

I have read (and reviewed) Peterson's little book, and one thing it is certainly mediated by is ideology:  The name of the book is 12 Rules For Life.  An Antidote to Chaos, and Peterson tells us, repeatedly, that chaos is the eternally feminine.  He also tells us that patriarchy has existed for the good of us weak, feeble and leaky women, and he has a whole chapter in his book about masculinity in peril.

Professor Peterson has also wondered, in 2017, if feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance:

And more recently he has asked:

“Is it possible that young women are so outraged because they are craving infant contact in a society that makes that very difficult?”

 No, Caitlin.  No.  Prophet Peterson is not a non-ideological source ideas (if such a thing even were possible).  His ideology is anti-feminist, based on societal hierarchies** and the belief in natural male supremacy.  His sources are often based on the nuttier kind of evolutionary psychology, and he is a biological essentialist who believes that women would be much better off at home.

In that he shares Flanagan's views, of course, though those views do not apply to Flanagan herself.  And that sharing-of-views explains why she likes Peterson's ideas.***

*  A few useful posts, in order:  This one introduces you to Peterson and his debating technique, this one talks about chaos as eternally feminine and order as eternallly masculine, and this one is the first post in my book review of Peterson's book.  More right-wing ideas about Peterson are discussed in this post.

** He has become famous for arguing that lobsters have hierarchies, which means that hierarchies are very old and humans also have them.  And the dominant guy lobster gets to mate with all the female lobsters.  What this means about humans he never says out loud,  but you can figure it out!  Peterson's acolytes can now buy t-shirts which say "Top Lobster!"  There's also one which says "White Lobster"...

Of course evolution is much more complicated than just putting some quick equal-sign between lobsters and humans, as this marine biologist points out.

And, as an side, this is a good review of Peterson's book, with a title about lobsters.

***  Peterson's other views are firmly right-wing, too, with a few small variations.  The Alt Right loves him, by the way.   Scott's take on other aspects of the Flanagan piece also covers some of this.

Short Posts About Women's Issues, 8/10/18.

1.  A Japanese medical school has employed a unique solution to the female dominance in higher education:

A Japanese medical school deliberately cut women’s entrance test scores for at least a decade, an investigation panel said on Tuesday, calling it a “very serious” instance of discrimination, but school officials denied having known of the manipulations.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made a priority of creating a society “where women can shine”, but women in Japan still face an uphill battle in employment and face hurdles returning to work after childbirth, a factor behind a falling birthrate.
The alterations were uncovered in an internal investigation of a graft accusation this spring regarding the entrance exam for Tokyo Medical University, sparking protests and anger.
Lawyers investigating bribery accusations in the admission of the son of a senior education ministry official said they concluded that his score, and those of several other men, were boosted “unfairly” - by as much as 49 points, in one case.

They also concluded that scores were manipulated to give men more points than women and thus hold down the number of women admitted, since school officials felt they were more likely to quit the profession after having children, or for other reasons.

Note that last sentence.  I have just been reading all those right-wing MRAs and Jordan Peterson types who argue that women really prefer to stay at home with the children.

And if they don't, well, Japan has a second solution  (other than altering test scores) to that one, too:  Make working after having children very difficult for women, due to discrimination against mothers.  

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Some Finnish Fun

This cartoon rings such a bell with me.

The hat the cartoon stick figure Matti wears is a traditional men's beanie, with associations to Kalevala.  Well, I associate it with that and the playing of kantele.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Brothers Under The Skin. On ISIS And US Alt Right Movements.

 (Sarah Wasko, Media Matters)

The Proud Boys participated in Saturday's fascist demonstration in Portland Oregon, which made me have another look at the principles of such Alt Right movements as the Proud Boys:  Their contempt for women, their adulation of white nationalism/supremacy and their  love of physical violence.

If I replace the "white nationalism/supremacy" bit in the above sentence with "extremist Islam", that amended sentence would also neatly summarize the principles of ISIS.

Both types of movements have strong hate policies and rankings against "outsiders", both movements are willing to use violence, and both movements want to limit women's activity to reproduction, childcare and housekeeping*.  The Proud Boys, for example, say that they adulate housewives**.

Essentialist or religious arguments about women's proper roles as limited to the home are used in all such movements. The sexes tend to be segregated and men rank higher than women.

There are differences, too.  ISIS is a much larger movement and one explicitly based on religious tenets, while the various Alt Right movements are either right-wing Christian or secular,  and much smaller. Estimates about the number of, say,  active Proud Boys hover around six thousand.

ISIS has also been far more violent and far more misogynistic in its actions than, say,  the Proud Boys movement (perhaps because the latter has not had the power to act out its principles).  And in the imaginary global religious warfare the two movements would be on opposite sides.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Today's Bad Poem

Here it is:

The stifling heat
it has me beat
I wish I weren't
made out of meat

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Who is Q? Or The Latest Right-Wing Fringe Conspiracy Revisited.

Remember Pizzagate?  That was just a prelude in the genre of truly nutty right-wing conspiracy theories.  Now meet the Storm*, the perfect storm, the conspiracy theory to rule over all right-wing conspiracy theories!

It explains the whole world!  The Las Vegas massacre was an inside job.  The Mueller investigation is just a cover for an actual investigation of Hillary Clinton and other similar vampire bitches and godless commies, and will end with most of the liberal-left in American politics in prisons.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy is alive, leading the conspiracy (and probably cohabiting with Elvis), and any day now Trump will institute a coup which ends the power of the deep state in American politics.  He is protected by the military, because the FBI and the CIA are part of the deep state, and it's the military which will launch the coup on his behalf and on the behalf of all those who believe in the Storm.

MS-13 murdered Seth Rich.  The people ruling the world through deep state in the US  might be the Rothschilds or the Illuminati, depending on the specific nuttiness and bigotry among the hoax creators.  And don't worry, pedophilia, as speculated in the Pizzagate is still part of this vast intertwined explanation and it is still run by the political left and the Hollywood left.

We hear about this wonderfully inane conspiracy theory now, because several people in the audiences of Trump's election campaign rallies (they never end as his need for adulation is a bottomless well) wore t-shirts with a large Q in the front or held up signs saying "We Are Q."

To understand both the roots of this conspiracy theory and to see why it's rubbish, to begin with, we need to understand what Q is And for that we need to go back to last October:

And Yet More Tax Relief For The Very Rich?

It still shocks me (though it shouldn't) how blatantly the Republican Party caters for the very wealthiest among us.  The Trump Reich has already lowered taxes for the super-wealthy (and thereby further increased the income inequality in this country).  Now the administration is trying to relieve that terrible tax burden* of the very rich even more:

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) this week introduced legislation that would reduce the amount people pay in capital gains taxes, as conservatives press the Treasury Department to take action on the topic.
The bill from Nunes, a senior member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, would index capital gains to inflation. He argues that the measure would build off the tax-cut law President Trump signed last year and incentivize investment.
“This bill will continue the tax-cutting trend that began with the tax relief bill last year,” Nunes said in a statement Friday. “This is a common-sense reform that will remove an unjust tax, contribute to economic growth, and help both large and small investors keep more of their own money.”

The bolds are mine.

Note the word "relief" and "tax-cutting" and that silly reference to "small investors."  The truth is that capital gains almost completely accrue to the wealthy:

By dollars, more than 75% of capital gains tax are paid by taxpayers reporting income over $1,000,000. Just over 1% of capital gains taxes are paid by taxpayers reporting income of $100,000 or less. “Therefore,” writes Burman, “the most well-off would reap the largest benefits from a policy change to index the basis of capital assets.”

So what is the "common sense" Nunes sees in this reform?  Probably the idea that people shouldn't be taxed on that part of their capital gains which are due to nothing but inflation.  His bill would index capital gains to inflation.

That's common sense, right.  So how about doing the same when taxing interest income, dividends, earned income and so on?  All those, after all, can also be affected by inflation.

Likewise, if we want coherent government policies about taking inflation into account, why don't we index-link the countable assets thresholds** for those seeking Supplementary Security Income (SSI)?  This was suggested in a letter to the editor in the New York Times

And, indeed, my own check of the letter-writer's information showed that the countable asset thresholds were the same in 1989 as they are in 2018 ($2000 for an individual and $3000 for a couple).  Clearly, those thresholds should be index-linked, too, if capital gains are.

What about the contribution to economic growth Nunes sees in his proposal to index-link capital gains?  Well, at least one study suggests that the effects would be at most minor.

Sigh. All this is happening behind the curtain while on the stage capers the clown prince of this country, one Donald Trump.

*  It's as if the Republican Party is a nurse doing triage at a hospital Emergency Room, and that nurse always prioritizes rich people's slight colds or zits over poorer people's strokes or heart attacks or broken bones.  Real nurses don't do that, but then they are not paid by the Koch and Mercer families for services rendered.

If you want to get why I am angry at all the tax-relief jargon, well, this is why.

** This site explains what these assets are.  For someone to qualify for SSI, that person's countable assets must not exceed the threshold value.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Sharing the Limelight? Women in the Film Industry

The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative's newest annual study is out.  That study examines diversity of various types in the film industry.  This year's study analyzed both 1,100 films from 2007 to 2017 and one hundred films from 2017 (1).

The main findings of the study are that women's share of speaking roles  has barely budged in the last ten years.  It still hovers around 30%.  But women do far worse behind the cameras than in front of them:  In 2017 only 10.1% of writers and 7.3% of directors were female.  And though women were 18.2% of producers in that year, they were less than one percent of composers.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Scott Pruitt's Resignation Letter And Career As Signs of Non-Normality

Scott Pruitt's resignation letter from the Trump administration was published several weeks ago, but it's preposterous enough to analyze even later.

It's an adoring love letter, one that an abject and fearful underling would send to a dictator who has the power of life and death over that underling.

Here are some snippets:

Truly, your confidence in me has blessed me personally

Your courage, steadfastness and resolute commitment  

I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity

 I believe you are serving as President today because of God’s providence. 

Your Faithful Friend,
Scott Pruitt

This, of course, was written by a guy who was looting the EPA while pretending to administer to it.  It's not customary practice to appoint looters to run the government, and it's not normal practice to write resignation letters of the above type.  We should all remember what was normal in the past, because if we forget that, democracy will wither away.

Under a normal administration Pruitt would have been a major scandal.  Under this administration he is just the scandal of one day, and another scandal will turn up the following day.  But do remember that this should not be normal.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Greetings From Your Average Opportunist Parasite

That opportunistic parasite, my dear readers, would be me, and probably quite a few of you.

The international Men's Rights conference was held this year in London, England, with some two hundred participants from twenty-four countries.  Paul Elam, the founder of the website Voice for Men, greeted the conference via a video link:

After a speech in which he described women as “opportunistic parasites in the lives of men”, he was greeted to rapturous applause.
“Society piles complete and total responsibility on men for its existence” he said. “Almost all the sacrifice, of blood and sweat and of life that is required to keep the world turning, to keep us living in relative comfort and safety, is male sacrifice. Women won’t do it. Women can’t do it.”

This would be so utterly hilarious* if Elam's woman-hating words weren't aimed at half the humanity, that half which actually reproduces the society, with a lot of sacrifice, blood and sweat, and then also plays as many other roles as it is allowed in keeping that world turning.

But it's not hilarious.  Here is a man spouting an extreme form of misogyny, and the overarching reaction from others is a yawn, a shoulder shrug, or someone muttering that this is just a small group of weirdos so better ignore them. 

No other form of bigotry gets such an out, and no article describing other forms of bigotry would then branch into asking if those forms of bigotry might actually be justified by some unfairness done to the bigots.**

*  I'm seeing myself as a large snake-like leech, swimming in the societal waters, ready to attach my suction cups to any male who happens to pass by.  Then I'm set for life and no longer need to work for money or beg for pittances by blogging.  And when I have sucked one guy dry I will just move to the next one, with bank accounts full of alimony money and my chocolate reserves high.  

** I don't mean that men wouldn't have any just causes they should work for (though, in fact, feminism works for many of those, too).

I mean that no other group claiming to work for social justice is treated the way these particular men's rights activists are in writing:  The mainstream (first wrote mainsteam) articles usually begin by describing  the activists' red-hot hatred of women but then segue into trying to understand that rage as maybe just a little justified.  An article on, say, anti-semitism would never ever do that. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

On Evidence and US Politics. The M&M Theory

My many flaws do not include irrationality.  If anything, I'm too boringly granola-conscious, brain-addicted and robotic in my writing, and too conscientious not to double-check sources when I write about something*.

So it has been a hard lesson for me to finally understand that rational arguments and proper interpretation of evidence have almost no role to play in American politics which is as tribal as the rooting for a football, basketball or baseball team.

1.  Here's a parable of what I found yesterday while surfing some Trump supporters' Facebook pages:

Think of opening a bag of M&Ms (or Smarties, for some of you) and spreading them out on a saucer.  This is what you would see:

Monday, July 23, 2018

What Is Happening to the Newspapers? The New York Daily News As The Story

The New York Daily News will axe half of its editorial staff.  The basic reason:

Like so many other print publications, the Daily News has battled faltering advertising revenue amid a transition to a digitally centric media landscape. The paper reportedly lost $90.4 million over the last three years.
 The killer of newspapers is the Internet because of two distinct problems it causes for traditional and even digital newspapers:

Friday, July 20, 2018

Trump's Outrages Do Not Matter

Unless they hurt the Republicans in Congress.  As long as the Republican base wants Trump, other Republican politicians will give lip service, reluctantly, against some of the worst of Trumpism.  But they will not act.

The checks and balances have failed.  The executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government are all in Republican hands.  Thus, even though Republican voters are not the majority of Americans, they control everything.

And the role of the press, in a democracy, is severely hampered by a president who calls it the enemy of the people.

Just thought that you want a reminder about the reasons I write such dismal posts, these days, and why they show an obsession on Trump:  I believe in democracy.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Weird Coincidences? Or Does The R Stand For Russia or Republicans?

Are these very weird coincidences or something else?  You decide.

First, on Monday, the US Treasury department

said it planned to end requirements that certain tax-exempt organizations identify their financial contributors on their tax returns.

The decision means groups such as the National Rifle Association, Planned Parenthood, and the AARP will no longer have to tell the IRS who’s giving them money.
This plan would make it easier for dark money to hide. 

Then,  on Wednesday, a Russian citizen, Maria Butina,  was  indicted for working as the agent of a foreign power in the US without registering as one, and perhaps for even spying.  She used the NRA (National Rifle Association) to infiltrate various conservative groups.  Her Russian handler is reported to be Alexander Torshin, a close ally of Putin who used to be a Russian senator.    And:

...the FBI reportedly is investigating whether Torshin illegally funneled money to the Trump campaign through the NRA—which backed Trump with a record $30 million.
There we see a reference to possible dark money, funneled through the NRA.

Another similar pairing caught my eye:

First, we have all been debating if Trump will ever admit that Russia meddled with the 2016 elections, but the rest of us know that Russia did exactly that, and plans to meddle in the 2018 elections, too.*

Then, this happened:

House Republicans plan to vote Thursday on a spending bill that excludes new money for election security grants to states, provoking a furious reaction from Democrats amid a national controversy over Russian election interference.
At issue is a grants program overseen by the federal Election Assistance Commission and aimed at helping states administer their elections and improve voting systems; Democrats want to continue grant funding through 2019, while Republicans say the program already has been fully funded.

The Republicans in the House are acting in a way which might lend itself to several explanations.  But the most obvious one is that they don't want to have the elections monitored too closely, because that would stop some plan which benefits them.

And, perhaps also coincidentally, all this is exactly what Vladimir Putin desires.  His foreign policy aims at causing distrust in democracy inside the so-called Western liberal countries and at creating mistrust in the government among their citizenry.


* The Washington Post wrote:

Officially, Russia admits nothing about interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections, but Kremlin-controlled state media is not as reserved in its messages designed for internal consumption. Russian state TV hosts brazenly assert, “Trump is ours,” and joke that the U.S. lawmakers traveled to Russia “to make deals with our hackers, so they can rig the midterms in favor of Trump’s team.” They gleefully anticipate that Putin will run circles around “political neophyte” Trump, “educating” him about world events from the Russian perspective.
I don't know if that lawmakers' visit was the one a group of Republicans made over the US Independence Day, but I wouldn't be at all surprised.  The optics, as people say these days, are terrible about making a trip like that on the fourth of July.  But nevertheless, eight Republican Congress critters did exactly that. 


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

How Trump Thinks. My Theory.

 Auguste Rodin:  Thinker

It's impossible for me not to try to understand Donald Trump's mind.  I think it's impossible for a lot of other people, too.  And so I have spent some time making up theories about how he sees the presidency, how he sees the elections and how he sees the press.

These theories do not rule out his narcissism, his megalomania, his unpredictability or his very thin skin, but one, in particular, tends to explain his behavior well. (Let me know what you think.)

Here's the gist of that theory:

Trump's thinking is rigid and concrete and linked to the cult of personality.  He sees the presidency as a dictatorship, and the elections as a way of picking the personal characteristics, beliefs and values of the winning candidate for the nation as a whole,   from that point onward. 

When Trump was declared the winner in November 2016, he interpreted the meaning of this as follows:

Everything he believes is now what America believes.  Because he was already known to hate the European Union when he won, Americans showed that they want a president who hates the European Union, and because he was already known to love Putin* when he won, Americans showed that they want a president who loves Putin. 

Trump doesn't have to learn anything more.  It could even be against the will of the people who wanted what Trump already was.

This theory explains why Trump is so angry with any media criticism and why he equates that media criticism with being an enemy of the country.  The country has  chosen him as the dictator, he and the country are now the same, and to criticize him indeed IS to criticize the country.  Besides, people elected his values, opinions and actions.

The theory also explains why Trump could not anticipate the severe kind of criticism he received after the meeting with Vladimir Putin.  He is now the personification of the country, and any criticism is treasonable, or at least fake news.

Last, but not least, the theory explains Trump's obsession with the 2016 elections.  Now, any president would dislike doubts about his (or, perhaps one day in a thousand years, her) legitimacy, but given Trump's thought patterns, those doubts present an incredible threat to him.  If he didn't win fair and square, then all of what he is was rejected.

* Now why he loves Putin is a different question.  It could be that Putin has something on Trump, or it could be that Trump simply worships warlords and dictators.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

And Then Trump Said:. Or On the Helsinki Meeting And Its Aftermath.

There's a reason
 for treason
and a season, 

That's as far as I have gotten with my political ditty for yesterday, to celebrate the Helsinki* meeting (Putin looking like a sleek gray cat playing with a large tufted orange cat-toy, enjoying its squealing and its skittering, moving a firm paw to redirect it when needed).

Now, treason is a strong word to use, a word we should handle carefully, a word like a red-hot rain of doom, not to be splashed over all the Internet in cat-sized letters.  Let's keep the powder dry for the day when it's really needed... 

And if we keep screaming that the sky is falling, who will believe us when it actually does fall?

By the way, did you notice when it fell?  That might have been some time in 2016.  We may not have a proper word for what happened, a word strong enough, but we all felt that seismic shift.

So take it for granted that I was joking about treason in the above paragraphs, or not**.  Besides,  Trump is still loyal to himself and for him loyalty to himself is loyalty to the country  (" l'Ă©tat, c'est moi").

After the debriefing with Putin, Trump tweeted this:

And in the meeting itself:

... Mr Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to allegations of meddling in the 2016 presidential vote.
"President Putin says it's not Russia. I don't see any reason why it would be," he replied.

Who are you gonna believe?  Your own intelligence agencies or Vlad the Impaler?

This is such fun (of the sinister kind):  Now Trump tells us that he misspoke, 24 hours ago,  and had meant to say he saw no reason why it was not Russia that meddled.

His aides got to him, to get that correction,  though it will be fun to see how long that restraining hold might stick.  Or perhaps (I'm bending over backward to be kind here), Trump decided to wait a full day before correcting a mistake that completely changed the meaning of the sentence, one with great political significance, too?

Trump's antics are like a newly-formed scab on a scratch or a cut.  I can never keep my paws off that scab, even though I know that I shouldn't remove it, just to see what's happening under it. 

But I always do.  And so I write about the Trump Reich when there's no real value in such writing.


*  Helsinki is pronounced HELsinki, not HelSINKi.  That was the one informative bit in this post.  You are welcome.

**  I'm learning from the master of manipulation here, our Dear Leader.  Meaning is always whatever one means at a particular moment, truth is what makes one feel good, and every opinion and value can change in the blink of an eye.  The later is why other countries love our Donnie:  He keeps things fresh, life exciting,  and people on their toe tips.

Monday, July 16, 2018

And Then The Incredible Offer!

This is such a hilarious time to be alive (in the tragic sense, of course).  Trump traveled to report to his liege-lord (at the Helsinki briefing) and all went well.  Putin even made an incredible offer about the twelve Russians who work(ed) for Putin's government  and who have now been indicted for interfering in American elections in 2016:
Trump said Monday that Putin made an “incredible offer” to allow US investigators work alongside Russian investigators.
“He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that's an incredible offer,” Trump said.

I cannot stop laughing.  I sound like a hyena now.   I bet Putin cannot stop laughing, either.

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 McInnes,  tells us that the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is great news for the patriarchy*.  By that McInnes 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,” ErdoÄŸan 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:

Monday, June 25, 2018

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

The Sarah Huckabee Sanders controversy is fuckin hilarious.  Sanders, the spokeswoman of our Dear Leader, the Supreme Shining Commander, the Troll-in-Chief and the Eternal Emperor Donald fuckin Trump, was denied service at a Virginia restaurant on Saturday.

That denial-of-service (heh) appears to have been a protest against Trump's treatment of little children who crossed the US border with their parents or guardians who didn't have proper papers.  Those little children were then separated from their parents or guardians and caged.

Various people inside Washington's power circles clutched their pearls (or, in most cases, their jockstraps) contemplating the rudeness of the restaurant owner who refused to serve Sanders and her companions:

Friday, June 22, 2018

Meanwhile, Behind the Curtain

The Melania Trump jacket controversy is probably an intended distraction so that the media will incessantly natter about something which ultimately has no real-world consequences, while behind the curtain unpleasant attempts to dismantle the republic brick by brick and to poke holes in the social safety net continue:

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Womp, Womp

The title of this post consists of two words uttered by Trump's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski:

Corey Lewandowski dismissed the story of a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who was reportedly separated from her mother after crossing the border illegally.
While appearing Tuesday on Fox News, former senior Democratic National Committee adviser Zac Petkanas shared an anecdote he had read about "a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome" who had been "taken from her mother and put in a cage."
"Womp womp," the former Trump campaign manager responded.

Who knows what Lewandowski may have meant by that deep utterance.

What it means to me is an excellent synopsis for the slow death of all ethics and even pretend-ethics in the Trump Reich: 

Trump praising the strength of the North Korean dictator who has murdered many and keeps his people like some farmers keep cattle?  The pictures of Trump with the French president Emmanuel Macron in the White House replaced with pictures of Trump with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator?

Womp, womp.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

My Trump Rant, Saturday 6/16/18

While we are mesmerized by the circus our Dear Leader is giving us (the panem et circenses principle of governing), the busy little Republican termites are gnawing at the floor of this republic,  and the bully boyz and girlz in the administration of our Dear Leader are redecorating the public rooms of this republic by demolishing most everything which doesn't benefit the interests of the moneyed elite or of the radical right-wing religionists.

These are among the things which are happening:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Today's Anti-Feminism: Young Women's Leadership Summit And The Lack of Feminist Critique of Islam

1.  The conservative Young Women's Leadership Summit takes place between June 14th and 17th:

Turning Point USA, the student-aimed conservative organization that raises its money by stoking fear among rich conservative donors about the alleged liberalization of college campuses, will host its fourth annual Young Women’s Leadership Summit June 14 through 17. Slated to address the young women attending is a roster packed full of misogynists.
And, indeed, there's an anti-feminist for each of my ten fingers, as the linked story tells us.   Many are of the "biology-is-destiny-but-only-for-women-psst-your-eggs-are-getting-old" type, others like the variation of "boys-will-be-boys-and-will-harass-girls, " and yet others are of the "feminism-is-cancer" type.  It's wonderful to think how such speakers will motivate young conservative women toward leadership!

Maybe in the sense of the Aunties in Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale?

And the Republican Party wonders why they have trouble getting women to run for political office...

Even Jordan Peterson will be present!  Maybe he will introduce those young conservative women to this question of his:

“Is it possible that young women are so outraged because they are craving infant contact in a society that makes that very difficult?”

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Summit

I listened to Trump's press conference while cleaning behind the bookcases*.   I learned that his memory is so good he doesn't need to have any information archived, and I also learned that no previous American president could manage to do anything about the problem of the Korean peninsula, because they weren't focused on it, and even if they were, they didn't have Trump's negotiation skills or the great people he has.

I also learned that Trump loves Kim Jong-un**, but he doesn't love Justin Trudeau, and the iconic photograph of the G7 meeting where Angela Merkel appears to scold him is just not real, because he gets on with Merkel very well.  And of course I learned that this short summit was a great success.

Which it may well have been, at least for North Korea***, given that I didn't catch anything about how the promised denuclearization of the country would be verified.  Perhaps that is something for future "hashing-out of details?" 

And all those pesky human rights violations?  Well, the two countries may become more similar over time through a different developmental path, what with the current US practice of separating children from their parents at the southern border, for those who lack proper travel documents.

I don't want to be too cynical.  A face-to-face meeting of the two "dictators" is certainly a noteworthy event and could well lead to some easing of the tensions in the two Koreans if competent people continue the needed negotiations.

Finally, here's the picture of Trump with Kim Jong-un and the flags of the two countries.  I'm going to momentarily cease my slightly more serious writing to note that aliens from outer space would get weird ideas about Terran men's hairstyles if all they had as evidence was this one picture:


*  Yes, I am bonkers.  But I'm also getting rid of hundreds of books.

The bookcases are tall, not moved for years, because books have the odd habit of multiplying when removed from the shelves and then there's no floor-space to move the cases.  I found dog hair behind them and one embroidery I had forgotten I made.

**  He loves dictators, warlords and strong men, probably, because he loves adulation and people who wish to keep their heads attached to their necks will adulate the dictators, warlords or strong men who hold the power over them.  Trump wants that adulation.

He doesn't love democratically elected leaders, because they are all beta men or crooked women and weak.  Very weak.

***  Even getting the dictator normalized by having him stand next to America's very own dictator-to-be is a victory.  And Trump seemed to promise to cease the military training exercises that the US military has been carrying out with the South Koreans.  That came as a surprise for many South Koreans and the US military stationed there.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Listicle of Trump News, To Mess Up Your Day

The only mentally sound way to read news about Trump is as a form gallows humor.  It would be perfect if we were watching the end of the Western liberal coalition from another planet while drinking beer and munching on popcorn.

1.  Speaking of beer, Trump's tariffs on aluminum will be paid by those who drink beer in the US:

Tariffs on aluminum used for beer cans “does kind of hit home” in Wisconsin, Sensenbrenner said.
American brewers fill and sell about 36 billion aluminum cans and bottles per year. Those cans hold 62 percent of the beer volume sold in the U.S., according to the Beer Institute that represents the industry.
Aluminum cans are the single largest cost in U.S. beer production, according to an analysis from the economic research firm John Dunham & Associates.
“The aluminum tariff is a tax on beer and will have severe consequences for brewers,” John Dunham said.
Beer drinkers will “ultimately” bear the cost of it, he said.
Hilarious, and so is the rest of that linked article, talking about the great costs of Trump's tariff policies to rural America.  That, my sweet friends, is where Trump's base is located.*

Friday, June 08, 2018

Winning Bigly In The Trade Wars?

I love Catherine Rampell's take on the trade wars Trump started.  She explains in very simple terms what is new about Trump's tariffs, and what the likely consequences for the US will be:  Mostly negative.

That is because the other countries are not led by narcissistic simpletons.  When they decided on their first counter-attack in this war Trump began, they chose to put tariffs on only those US products which they can easily buy from other countries than the US (which keeps the suffering of their own consumers and industries low), AND they chose to put tariffs on products which are more likely to hurt Trump's base (items such as Kentucky bourbon, Iowa-farmed pork and Ohio-made washing machines).

In terms of the potential effects on the US, Rampell gives us these estimates:

A report released this week by the Trade Partnership, a consulting and research firm, estimated that the ratio of jobs lost to jobs gained from Trump’s trade actions will be about 16 to 1: 26,280 steel and aluminum jobs gained, compared with 432,747 jobs eliminated throughout the rest of the economy.
But not to worry!  Things have never been this great under any other president!  That the current strong labor markets are due to Obama's policies (as these things work with a time lag) will be ignored by all, though the slump which now will follow from the trade wars is probably going to be attributed to Obama among the right-wingers.*

I managed to write nicely until that last paragraph.  There I failed, because I read about Trump's temper tantrums.  He doesn't want to go to the G7 meeting, because the other kids were mean to him, and narcissists cannot take that. 

Indeed, he plans to leave before the discussion would turn to climate change and the environment.   How dare the other six leaders be angry at Trump for breaking the liberal Western alliance and endangering the environment!

Well, there will probably be the G6 in the future**, with Angela Merkel leading it.

* In this odd tribal era with its strong racist tinge, everything that Obama achieved must be dismantled. 

Hence the court case by several states concerning "Obamacare" (ACA), which may well remove the protections ACA has provided to individuals with pre-existing conditions. 

Before the ACA, insurers in the individual markets could turn people down if they were deemed too expensive to insure, or charge them much more for any policy. 

And this is a likely outcome from the court case by several Republican-led states:

The Trump administration won't defend central provisions of the Affordable Care Act, saying in a legal filing Thursday night that key parts of the Affordable Care Act should be invalidated and that the individual mandate is unconstitutional.
The filing came in a lawsuit brought by the state of Texas and a coalition of other Republican-led states who have filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas challenging the constitutionally of the Affordable Care Act. The states argue that after Congress eliminated the penalty for the individual mandate last year, effective in 2019, it destabilized other sections of the law.
"In its filing the DOJ said that it agrees with Texas that the individual mandate is now unconstitutional and therefore it will not defend key provisions of the law in the suit," said Timothy Jost, of Washington and Lee University School of Law.
The provisions DOJ says should be invalidated are central to the ACA and would gut protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

Got it?  The Trump administration first removes the individual mandate, then agrees that without the individual mandate ACA cannot work.   We can all now rejoice, for the horrible burden of having almost all the citizens in the country with access to health care will now be taken off our backs!  Should that back later break, however, we are on our own.

** This is not to be read as general support for the kind oligarchic political power relationships which currently prevail in international politics.  But all Trump is offering is chaos.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Worrying About the Online World And Democracy

1.  In May Timothy Snider wrote an opinion piece on the return of fascism in the Washington PostHe argues that the Internet has not spread freedom around the world but rather its opposite:

According to Freedom House, every year since 2005 has seen a retreat in democracy and an advance of authoritarianism. The year 2017, when the Internet reached more than half the world’s population, was marked by Freedom House as particularly disastrous. Young people who came of age with the Internet care less about democracy and are more sympathetic to authoritarianism than any other generation.
As usual, correlation does not prove causality.  But it's certainly true that the serious harms of the Internet have not yet been addressed.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Suffer The Little Children

Jeremy Stahl has written on the Trump administration's policy of separating asylum-seeking parents from their children at the US border.  The administration argues that there is no such formal policy, but a pair of speeches last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions seemed to herald the launch of a formal policy, calling it a “zero-tolerance” immigration measure. “If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” Sessions said. “It’s not our fault that somebody does that.” Kelly, now Trump’s chief of staff, stated again last month in an interview with NPR that the purpose of “family separation” is deterrence. “The name of the game to a large degree … a big name of the game is deterrence,” he said.
The current secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, did not provide a direct answer when asked by NPR if “family separation at the border … [was] meant to act as a deterrent,” explaining that it’s very common for adults to get separated from their children when they commit crimes. In testimony before Congress in April, Nielsen said, “When we separate, we separate because the law tells us to, and that is in the interest of the child.
Bolds are mine.

In the interest of the child?  Note that whether the parents trying to enter the United States without the necessary visas are viewed as criminals or not, the children certainly cannot be so regarded.  Yet this policy is designed to cause most damage to the children, not to their parents (however much they may also suffer).

This is because childhood abandonment must be one of the very worst experiences any child can have, and even more so if the child is forcibly wrenched from the parent.   What are the long-run psychological consequences of being abandoned in such a brutal way?  Even if the families are later reunited, the wound will be there and may not heal.

The headline of Stahl's article calls this policy "a moral and legal abomination," and that it is.  It applies the greatest punitive impact on those asylum-seekers who are wholly innocent of any wrong-doing:  the children.

It's irrelevant that the policy might have great deterrent power*.  So would shooting everyone without proper papers at all border entry points, and "civilized" countries should not consider such policies.  Authoritarian regimes, of course, might do just that, depending on the whims of the dictator.


*  The true long-term deterrents are a) supporting real democracy and safety in the source countries of the asylum-seekers and migrants and b) actively improving the economies of those countries to reduce poverty.  

Few people trek across vast distances while facing all sorts of dangers just for the chance to experience living in an alien country with a different culture and language.  Most are driven to that because of violence and/or poverty.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Cathy Young on Jordan Peterson And Feminism. And My Responses.

Three examples of the most misogynist parts of American culture were among the things I read on Friday:

First, the New York Times posted an opinion piece concerning the women of the Alt right: the fascist/racist/misogynist part of the American electorate.

Friday, June 01, 2018

The Full Frontal Insult. Or On C**ts.

The word "cunt" is back in the news*.  Who can say it?  In what venue?  Why is it bad to use it?  Or is it bad? 

Does the badness depend on whom we call cunt?  If it's one of our political foes, is it an acceptable weapon in the war where all weapons are legal, never mind the Geneva conventions? 

Why do some call the word an obscenity while others do not? 

Why is "cunt" in much wider use in Britain than here, and why does it seem less hate-filled there?  Why do most young Finnish women routinely use the word and the verb derived from it  ("vituttaa" to make one feel angry, irritated, frustrated, cunty?)?

To answer such questions I resort to the onion metaphor.  Many problems are like onions, consisting of layer after layer, and the answers you get change as you keep peeling the layers.  You also cry copiously.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Today's Trumpery

1.  The trade wars have begun.  Trump woke up today, checked what his current opinions might be, and imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the EU.  Canada is already promising to use retaliatory tariffs against the US:

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Short Posts, 5/30/18: The Le Carré World, The Importance of Facts And The Culture of Cruelty

1.  When reality imitates a John le CarrĂ© spy novel.  Well, given dictators such as Vladimir Putin, we shouldn't be astonished by that. 

2.  I saw several tweets about the German football team which was banned for not giving the Nazi salute in 1934:

Friday, May 25, 2018

Memorial Day Weekend Reading

1.  This is an informative article on what may have happened to those 1500 minors lost by the refugee resettlement office.  Some of the news is good, i.e., that these children are lost only in the sense that the refugee resettlement office didn't keep tabs on them once they were relocated, so that many of them could be quite safe.  On the other hand, the ones who ran away or some of those who were placed with strangers may not be safe.

The Trump administration's decision to separate parents from children at the border* (in the absence of visas etc.) is going to make things much worse, however, because a) there will be many more children who must be placed somewhere and b) because these children are likely to be younger than unaccompanied minors, and therefore more vulnerable.

2.  Another interesting article on Trump's immigration policies, this time about his relationship with Kirstjen Nielsen**, the Homeland Security Secretary.  I particularly liked this quote:

It remains unclear, according to several people familiar with the situation, how much longer the relationship can last, but the strains illustrate the difficulty faced by Trump subordinates who are tasked with delivering policy solutions to match his most soaring promises.
The president has a very rudimentary understanding of what the border is all about and how you secure it,” said a former Department of Homeland Security staffer who worked closely with Nielsen. “And she’s also not one of the border fire-eaters that have his ear right now.
“She’s in an impossible, no-win situation.”

Bolds are mine, and stress the sentence which really is not a bug but a feature:  Many who voted for Trump are equally ignorant of immigration policies, and Trump needs to deliver to that group.

3.  Several political "firsts" for women have happened recently.  Stacey Abrams, in Georgia,  became the first African-American woman nominated by a major party to be the governor of a state. 

Barbara D. Underwood became the first female New York state attorney general, though for a dismal reason:  The resignation of Eric T. Schneiderman who has been accused of sexual (or, rather, physical and sexual) violence against his past partners.

More generally, many more women have entered politics since the 2016 election.  One of the silver linings of the Trump cloud (the biggest cloud, the best cloud, of course).

4.  Jordan Peterson's past mentor now regrets that mentoring.  

5.  Exit polls from the Irish abortion referendum strongly suggest that abortion will become more legal in Ireland which currently has extremely restrictive laws about abortion.  I take that as good news.

6.  The honeysuckle is flowering in my garden.  I planted it for the scent which is evocative, one of those scents which you cannot smell if you actively try.  You must wait patiently and then — for a few seconds — you smell it and almost understand the minds of the night-feeding hawk moths, its major lovers (pollinators).  Solomon's seals share both the flowering time and the evocative nature of their scents.  To catch it in the spring air you must go out at nightfall.


* A horrible and heartless decision.  This should go without saying, but these days it must be said.

** The relationship may not be bad just because Trump gets angry at anyone not showing proper allegiance to him and his beliefs, but also because Nielsen is a woman.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin: Two Republican US Senate Candidates Would Ban All Abortions.

Wisconsin's Republican US Senate candidates Kevin Nicholson and Leah Vukmir are fighting for the votes of the forced-birthers*.  They have both told a pro-life advocacy group that they favor a ban on abortions with no exceptions.

Kevin and Leah want American girls and women to have a future where they, too,  can be raped and then die giving birth to the rapist's child, as recently happened to a young girl in Paraguay.  And Paraguay's laws aren't even quite as stringent as the ones Kevin and Leah desire here:

They would allow no abortion, ever.

Dear North Korea. Trump Writes A Letter.

I want to hear Daffy Duck read T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land.  It would be hilarious. 

Trump's letter,  telling the North Koreans that Trump would pull out of the planned summit because of hurt feelings, should also be read in Daffy Duck voice.  This bit is the most delicious one:

Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting. Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place. You talk about nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.
It sounds good as a Daffy Duck speech, doesn't it?   First the hurt feelings, then the mystery sentence:

Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.

And, finally, reminding the North Koreans that Trump's war penis is far bigger and more frightening.  Such a good job, Donald.

I cope with the Trump Reich by using gallows humor.  Lots of Americans approve of his work as the president*, and that's what makes gallows humor a good survival tool.  Or alcohol, I guess, but goddesses don't drink as we cannot get drunk.

At least we now have a natural experiment likely to give us an answer to the question:  Can a know-nothing amoral narcissist successfully run this country?  Perhaps to the ground.

* I have noticed that people, in general, don't understand the time lag in various economic policies.  The boom we are enjoying now is mostly due to earlier events, not Trump's first year in absolute power.  But he gets the credit for that.

That might be one reason why so many approve of Trump, but the most important reason is the overwhelming tribalism in American politics.  If it's your team, then it must be right.  Just leave your brain home when you go to watch the political football games and you will feel fine.