Friday, April 20, 2018

Weekend Reading, 4/20/18: Black Maternal And Infant Deaths, Capt. Tammie Jo Shults And Richard Cohen on Reverse Discrimination

1.  This is an excellent and upsetting article on the high black maternal and infant death rates in the United States.  The problem is not a new one, but not much seems to have been done about it.  Recent research has been able to rule out poverty, lack of access to prenatal care and different levels of pre-existing health problems as the only explanation that would matter.  Something else also matters, given that affluence, good access to prenatal care and high education levels do not seem to equalize the white and black maternal or infant death rates.

The first article I link to suggests that the combination of racism and sexism might be that missing explanation, both in the way black women have to live with both of those and in the way the health care system treats them*.

This is a problem we, as a country, must solve.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

On Babies in the Senate And On Child Care Expertise

It can be enlightening to  read two or more random news stories one after the other.

Today, for instance, I first read the story about Senator Tammy Duckworth's infant daughter, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey, and the rules in the US Senate which until now have barred children from the Senate floor:

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Short Posts 4/18/18: On Sean Hannity, James Comey and The End Of Online Privacy

These are "breaking the silence" posts.  Sometimes the political events of the day or of the week are like a smorgasbord with too much hard-to-digest food, and then I am like Buridan's ass:  I cannot choose what to write about but dither in silence.

1.  What to say about the journalistic ethics of Sean Hannity, the Fox News pundit, who has pontificated on the witch-hunt against Donald Trump* and against Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, when we learn that Hannity himself is Cohen's client?

I guess he has no journalistic ethics, because an ethical journalist would have recused himself from covering issues with such personal connections.

The American politics now resembles the fights between fans of different sports teams:  It doesn't matter what the facts are, it doesn't matter what bad things your side may have done; all what matters is to win at any cost, and your side is always right, by definition. 

Well, that's what I see from the right-wing.  Not so sure about what the left-wing is doing when they are not carrying out circular firing squads or practicing being invertebrates.

2. And then Comey and his book.  Comey the Saint, Comey the Satan, Comey the Pure, Perfect and Perfidious. 

I do not care for Mr. Comey, for reasons that Hecate describes very well here, and I am pretty sure that whether the original impetus came from the New York's office of Trump-loving FBI boyz or from somewhere else in the organization, an important subconscious bias against women in power fueled much of the Hillary-hunt.

Which, by the way, is still continuing.  Hillary must be put into prison.  Well, our Dear Leader tweets about the need to jail all sorts of private people.  That's how he uses the bully pulpit the presidency offers:  To attack his private enemies in bouts of narcissistic rage.

3.  Here's a missive from our dystopian future:  Facebook was/is planning to help people with a new initiative to combine medical data with Facebook data:

Facebook's pitch, according to two people who heard it and one who is familiar with the project, was to combine what a health system knows about its patients (such as: person has heart disease, is age 50, takes 2 medications and made 3 trips to the hospital this year) with what Facebook knows (such as: user is age 50, married with 3 kids, English isn't a primary language, actively engages with the community by sending a lot of messages).
The project would then figure out if this combined information could improve patient care, initially with a focus on cardiovascular health. For instance, if Facebook could determine that an elderly patient doesn't have many nearby close friends or much community support, the health system might decide to send over a nurse to check in after a major surgery.
Health policy experts say that this health initiative would be problematic if Facebook did not think through the privacy implications.
"Consumers wouldn't have assumed their data would be used in this way," said Aneesh Chopra, president of a health software company specializing in patient data called CareJourney and the former White House chief technology officer.
"If Facebook moves ahead (with its plans), I would be wary of efforts that repurpose user data without explicit consent."

I find this proposal equally hilarious and enraging.  Sure, we all know by now that what Facebook makes its money from is the private information users put online and the private information of other users they interact with.  But to sell that information to doctors and hospitals, especially without explicit consent?  And information which is aimed at one's friends and acquaintances, not at one's health care providers?

The example in the above quote is an inane one, by the way.  The health care professionals are supposed to ask patients preparing for surgery if they have someone at home or someone who can come in for a few nights, or if they need a visiting nurse. 

That is my experience, in any case.  To try to figure out something like that from Facebook posts is a total crapshoot, because people don't always tell the truth in social media.  As someone recently said, people put their best face forward to their friends in Facebook and their worst face forward to strangers on Twitter.

I also immediately thought of someone who might post a picture of a bacon breakfast on Facebook, a few weeks after heart surgery, and then the avenging health care angels would swoop upon him or her.

Finally, the system is supposed to be anonymized.  But depending on the particular medical conditions and particular geographic areas it can be possible to identify specific individuals from such data.

All this is spying if there is no consent.

It's also an interesting example of the way information about us, the users of the Internet, has become one of the major commodities that are traded online, without any of the money flowing into our pockets.  So who has the property rights to that information?


*  I have met witches, and you, Donald Trump, are not one.  For one thing, witches have a lot of training and knowledge. 

Besides, the real witch-hunts were arranged against people with very little social and no political power:  Old women without relatives who had land the neighbors wanted and so on.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Paul Ryan's Farewell

Paul Ryan is retiring*.  He is currently the Speaker of the House of Representatives, he is fairly young and he doesn't look ill**.  He states that he wants to spend more time with his family.   But that excuse is believed only of female politicians.

Why is he really retiring?  His party is in power everywhere, his party can do anything they wish, including ignoring democracy, and his party is now responsible for everything that happens.  Why wouldn't Ryan want to be one of the most powerful macho men in the universe?  Why wouldn't he want to create the kind of fundamentalist-capitalist paradise his people dream about, a mixture of the power of the almighty conservative god and the power of the almighty dollar?

Nobody is willing to say why he is really retiring, or at least taking a break,  at this point in time.  It could be that he needs to isolate himself from Donnie the Deranged for a year or two, before running again to take Donnie's throne.   He could watch from far the collapse of the Republican Party in the midterms and then get back in the saddle.

That explanation assumes something which may not be true:  That Trump is too deranged for a sufficient number of former Republicans who might therefore vote for a Democratic candidate even in safe red districts.

But the reverse explanation is equally possible:  He may have been told that he will not win another term because his voters have become so extremist that they are now holding arms or merging with the Alt Right.  Yes, perhaps the pretty extreme Paul Ryan is now not deranged enough for the new Trump Party.

The capitalist wing of the Republican Party and the fascist-religious wing of the Republican Party might be fighting for supremacy.  Ryan is the scion of the former, and other than as a source of all the funding,  the appeal of a party which works only for the one percent may be dying.  That appeal is replaced by something pretty frightening:  A party for Aryan men and the families they rule.

Okay.  That last paragraphs was courtesy of my own private nightmares.  But not knowing the exact reason why so many rats are leaving the sinking ship is worrisome.  Is it because the ship indeed is sinking?  Or is it because the current rat population is replaced by a more voracious and meaner population, driving away the old incumbents?


*  This post is entirely based on my own amateurish but divine opinions.  It's fun, for a change, to write something which does not involve an eternity of tedious research first.

**  On the other hand, he does look like a cute Mickey Mouse:

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Spring Is In The Air

In the Northern hemisphere. 

Christina Hoff Sommers And Closing The Gender Wage Gap

Christina Hoff Sommers, a famous anti-feminist,  is a good environmentalist.  To honor the Equal Pay day (which was yesterday) she recycled an argument she made four years ago:

I know that this is an old argument, because I answered her then, in a three-post series.  You should really read all three posts in that series (because they are not bad), but the proper answer to the above tweet is in the last post where I discuss why her proposal would do very little to close the overall wage gap.

Monday, April 09, 2018

On Arrogance

It's a fun topic to think about, arrogance.  I can spot several different kinds of arrogance, but not a single one is the kind of arrogance I would be allowed. 

To see why, let's define arrogance.  One dictionary defines it as "an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions."  Note the adjectives "overbearing" and "presumptuous."  Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren would be viewed in that light, even if their attitude of superiority was manifested because they, in fact, were superior in some specific field.

In general, the level at which women are regarded as arrogant is much, much lower than the level at which men are so regarded, and women are quickly viewed as presumptuous or overbearing, even if they are only giving information about their own actual qualifications*.  And that's why I'm not really allowed any arrogance.  That's also why I have to be Greek goddess to get the kind of adulation I deserve and need for survival (divines who are not worshipped evaporate).

So I'm not very experienced in successful arrogant utterances, but I can still spot when others are arrogant.  Our Dear Leader is extremely arrogant, the stable genius that he is, though the best approach to understanding him is to view his reactions as "narcissistic rage."  

Andrew Sullivan is an example of a writer whose arrogance exceeds the size of the Pacific Ocean.  Here's an example from one of his recent columns (on race and genetics!**) where he criticizes what he has decided to be the lefty/feminist view of evolution:

Friday, April 06, 2018

The Song of Kevin, Brave And Bold

Kevin Williamson, for those who are not addicted to American political bickering, is a very very conservative journalist.  He was recently hired, for ideological diversity reasons,  by the Atlantic Monthly magazine which has a mostly liberal readership.  And then a few weeks later he was fired by them.

Some parts of the story are inside baseball, of real interest to only those who work in the field.  Other parts not so much.

Williamson is known as a very good writer in the troll genre.  You can get a taste of his trollery here.  But what caused the Atlantic Monthly to part ways with him was his assertion that women who have had abortions should be executed for the pre-planned, callous and clinical murder of the weakest among us*.  Preferably by hanging.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Short Posts, 4/4/18: Fake News, Paraguayan Abortion Laws And Amazon Customer Reviews

1. A new study (not peer-reviewed or read by your august goddess,  so remember that) suggests that fake news turned quite a few voters away from Hillary Clinton:

The study from researchers at Ohio State University finds that fake news probably played a significant role in depressing Hillary Clinton's support on Election Day. The study, which has not been peer-reviewed but which may be the first look at how fake news affected voter choices, suggests that about 4 percent of President Barack Obama's 2012 supporters were dissuaded from voting for Clinton in 2016 by belief in fake news stories.

It has the usual chicken-and-egg problem, because those who disliked Clinton to begin with are more likely to believe negative fake news about her.

2.  In March, a fourteen-year-old rape victim died in Paraguay while giving birth. Paraguay has the kind of abortion laws American forced birthers want to have here.  This made my eyes tear up:

“It was very sudden. They attempted advanced resuscitation in intensive care, but we could not save her. Her body was not ready for a pregnancy,” Hernán Martínez, the director of the National Hospital of Itauguá, told local media.
Bolds are mine.  Others decided that she was to give birth, nevertheless.  First her rapist and then the people who made those abortion laws.  She was murdered, to all practical purposes.  You figure out the culprits.

3.  Certain types of Amazon customer reviews are fun to read.  These are about a pen intended for women.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Trump News, 4/3/18

1.  Our Dear Leader is going to send military troops to guard the Mexican border against migrants.  I'm certain-sure that Mexico has no problems with the idea of foreign troops massing at its border without a declaration of war.

2.  The Sinclair Broadcast Group, a Trump-adoring local news network, which will soon reach 70% of American households (mostly because all anti-trust enforcement has ended as the rich don't want it), has gone on full assault against the mainstream media as the purveyor of fake news. 

 The chairman of the group, David Smith, the son of the founder of the company and an extremely rich man,  says that all print media lack credibility.  All. Note that he is one of the handful of very rich men who actually run this country.

Watch John Oliver's take on the latest news about Sinclair news.  It's worth your time:

I have long suspected that the daily brainwashing by Fox News is one of the main reasons for the ever-increasing anger and hatred American conservatives feel.  Their grievances are coddled and justified every day on Faux, the news they are offered are very biased (in both the tilt of the coverage and what is not covered at all), and they get regular messages about those who don't share their political news as the real enemies of the country who are not really even quite human.  After a few years of that it's no wonder that the Fox audience lives in a different reality and believes in a totally different sets of "facts."*

So the Sinclair group is something to worry about, unless the idea of a dictatorial right-wing United States is what you truly prefer.

3.  The most powerful leader on this planet keeps using the Twitter to yell about his private grievances and to pick on his personal enemies.  He gets his information from Fox News, refuses to learn anything about anything (say, that erecting import tariffs will cause retaliation) and probably thinks of war as something that would make him look like an even bigger warlord, with a penis so large that he would need a wheelbarrow to cart it around.

That he spent Easter tweeting angrily about migrants might look very minor in that context.  But remember that in other countries the leaders would probably just wish their citizens a pleasant holiday and so on. 

That used to be the case here, too, but no longer.  This new president of the country can use his bully pulpit to bully people just because he gets a kick out of it. 

Extreme selfishness, crudeness and bigotry is something we now take for granted in a leader, though naturally not in any woman who strives to gain that position.  Women must be absolutely flawless in every single possible manner, and ambition (such as is shown by running for an office) is a terrible flaw in a woman.  It demonstrates selfishness. 


*  We all need to make sure that we don't live in information bubbles, of course, and we all need to learn how to judge evidence, how to assess the reliability of someone purporting to give evidence and so on.  But the belief in the deep state, the Pizzagate, the Seth Rich debacle and the new scandal about QAnon are signs of something far worse than not knowing how to assess evidence.  Probably not caring at all if something is true or not.

Tucker Carlson: Patriarchy Is Gone

Tucker Carlson is my favorite Macho-Media-Man. He recently opined on the end of men in the United States:

TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): The patriarchy is gone, women are winning, men are failing.

It's a zero-sum game, babes!  Or a seesaw.  If women are rising, then men must be falling.  It's not possible that a society could be fair to everyone, I guess.

Carlson's long speech (which you can watch here) on the plight of American men lists several problems which hit men harder (1) than they hit women:

Men are more likely to die from drug overdoses and leave the labor force due to addiction, men are more likely to kill themselves and men are more likely to commit felonies and go to prison.  Boys are more likely to fail at school and men are now less than 50% of college students.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Sighs of Silent Struggles. Or Echidne News.

The headline has enough hissing for a snake goddess blog and it's bad enough to please me now.

I have spent days and days on two very long posts which have responded to my attention by becoming knottier and twistier and harder.  It's disheartening to be so tired that you are not quite sure if your eyes have rolled across the room and if your fingers have worn down to stumps from typing and yet realize that you have nothing ready for posting.

And when you go to sleep the theories and evidence and difficult questions dance polka in your brain and stick their forked tongues out.

These are the silent struggles.  These are goddess-world problems.  Disappointing, of course, especially for my large and thirsty audience, but not life-altering.

Just kidding.

I have bread crumbs and cake crumbs (and yogurt, probably) under the keys in my computer keyboard.  They cause me to get multiple ffffs and tttts and colons.  Extensive cleaning has not fixed the problem.  Should I buy one of those little gadgets that is supposed to snap out the keys?

Any alternative to those?  A fork?

I have the Tactile Pro keyboard, because it's ergonomically the best I have found (better than the ergonomic keyboards for me), so the keys in theory come out.

Women's Jobs And Men's Jobs Affect The Gender Gap in Wages

Here's an old example about one of the many ways in which occupations can become segregated by sex:

I have written a piece about how economists have tried to explain why women would still, in 2018,  crowd into lower-paying female-dominated jobs. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Reproductive No-Choice News

Kentucky's Republicans are passing new laws about abortion:

The Kentucky House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday to ban a common abortion procedure from the 11th week of pregnancy, in what would be one of the strictest abortion limits in the United States.
The bill, which was approved by the state Senate last week, will now go for approval to Governor Matt Bevin, a Republican who has described himself as "100 percent pro-life."
Officials at Bevin's office could not immediately be reached for comment.
The House voted 75-13 in favor of the measure. It previously passed a similar version of the measure but had to approve changes the Senate made. Both bodies are controlled by Republicans.

Mississippi Republicans also passed a new law restricting abortion:

Saying that he was “saving the unborn,” Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi signed into law on Monday a measure that would ban almost all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion rights supporters called it the earliest abortion ban in the country, and said it was an unconstitutional restriction that defied years of federal court precedent over the limits states may impose on abortion providers.
The only abortion clinic in the state quickly filed a complaint in federal court to block the law.
The bill, labeled the Gestational Age Act, was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the Republican-controlled State Legislature this month.

And in Poland the very conservative party in power is introducing further abortion restrictions:

Lawmakers from the governing Law and Justice party, who have previously tried to ban all abortions, are making a renewed push to outlaw them, even when the fetus is sure to die in infancy.
The government dropped the earlier bill after it set off nationwide protests in 2016. Lawmakers revised the legislation to make it less harsh, including dropping criminal penalties for women who have abortions, and the new version has once again stirred women in Poland to take to the streets.

Yes, Polish women have taken to the streets to protest the new proposal.  But the lawmakers will keep proposing more and more restrictions.  The process is similar in the States, too: the house is demolished plank by plank, window by window, and door by door.

As I have often written before, the existence of proper birth control and legal abortion is fundamental for women's equality with men: 

Someone must take care of children, over a very long span of years, someone must feed and clothe them.  But conservatives are not interested in solving those questions in some more egalitarian form or in subsidies for those who have children or in programs which help women to return to the labor force after staying out of it to take care of children.  Indeed, from the conservative angle the wombs are a socialized space while children, once born, are someone's private concern.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday Posts Dump, 3/23/18:: On Bolton, Guns, Guns, Katsuko Saruhashi and Angry Birds

1.  When will I ever learn to unthinkingly put the month before the day in giving the date?  Early childhood education imprints our brains very very deeply.  I still cross my sevens, too.  The point could be that fighting beliefs we accrue at an early age might be extremely difficult in politics, too.

2.  So the Mustache of Death,  John Bolton, is back in power.  He loves war.  He is a warmonger who sells war the same way an ironmonger sells iron. Which means that you should fasten your seat belts.  We are in for some turbulence, which Trump, of course, will love.  It will make him the most powerful of all warlords.

3.   Jaelynn Willey, the sixteen-year-old girl who was wounded in a school shooting in Maryland, was taken off life support and has died.   Time Magazine tells us that the seventeen-year-old boy who killed her was motivated by  — wait for it! — lovesickness:

Tuesday’s school shooting in southern Maryland that left the shooter dead and two students wounded increasingly appears to be the action of a lovesick teenager.

So lovesickness can kill.  That would be the message.  The other message is that if a guy really loves you then he just might kill you!

Normalizing something of that sort is extremely dangerous and extremely stupid.  If we are to search for the causes of school killings, carried out by young white men in the US, then entitlement might be  the one cause to focus on:  The belief that they are entitled to love, respect, and all the goodies others have not been taught to expect as almost-automatic rewards.  Though the abundance of weapons is the true proximal cause, check out 4chan and 8chan and similar sites to see how disappointed faith in automatic entitlement really operates.

4.  In Sacramento, an unarmed black man, Stephon Clark, was shot dead by the police in his grandmother's backyard.  The police state that they took the cell phone in his hand for a gun and shot in self-defense.  So it goes.

This is yet another example of an unarmed black man being killed by the armed police. 

But it is extremely unlikely that the Trump administration will do anything about this or its root causes:  that being black means much higher odds of getting killed by the police while unarmed, other things being the same,  and that the police is now as militarized as the mass killers in school shootings.

5.  Katsuko Saruhashi would have turned 98 yesterday.  She was the first woman in Japan to receive a PhD in chemistry, in 1957. She developed more sensitive methods for measuring radioactive fallout.

I had never heard of her.

6.  These pictures of Finnish birds are wonderful.  One example, reflecting how I feel after having been under the weather (a mild flu?) for the last week:

I think the bird is Regulus Regulus.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Godbotherers Who Love Trump

That eighty percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, the adulterous foul-mouthed bigot,  is one of those wonderful phenomena about religions: 

Faith is defined by those who hold it (people), saints in the Catholic Church are created by people, second-guessing whom their god might view as saintly.  Holy books are interpreted by people based on what they want god to declare.  That those books were collected over centuries, that their messages were filtered through many people with particular views and values, and that their messages are very clearly based on the time and place and the social mores of that time and place; all that is largely ignored.  That's because the insiders determine the answer to these questions, even when outsiders are forced to abide with their interpretations, and respect them.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Bullying Trump Administration

The Trump administration reminds me of a truly nasty gang:  bullying, sadism, humiliations and the use of adolescent and demeaning humor against its presumed internal enemies.  And just as in a gang (or so I imagine), the only upheld value is obedience and fidelity to the leader of the gang.  Everything else is negotiable, except the adoration of the Trump.

A lack of expertise about the field one is supposed to govern seems to be a basic requirement for a job in the administration.  Think of Betsy deVos. Think of Trump's pick to run Indian Health Service.   Think of Larry Kudlow, Trump's  new top economic advisor, who does not have a degree in economics,* but who is a media personality.

One might say that incompetence has been a prerequisite for a position in this administration, whether it is combined with malevolence or not.  Now it's beginning to look as if malevolence is also required.

* I am not ruling out the possibility that someone might make a good economics advisor without a PhD in economics, but an academic background at least guarantees that the person has had to learn all the alternative theories and the critiques aimed at each.  Someone who believes in unregulated markets in every fuckin thing probably has not had that exposure.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Gender-Integration At Work Decreases Gender Stereotypes

Familiarity may not breed contempt.

This is the take-home message from a Norwegian study, at least based on* the summary of the working-paper about the study:

We examine whether exposure of men to women in a traditionally male-dominated environment can change attitudes about mixed-gender productivity, gender roles and gender identity. Our context is the military in Norway, where we randomly assigned female recruits to some squads but not others during boot camp. We find that living and working with women for 8 weeks causes men to adopt more egalitarian attitudes. There is a 14 percentage point increase in the fraction of men who think mixed-gender teams perform as well or better than same-gender teams, an 8 percentage point increase in men who think household work should be shared equally and a 14 percentage point increase in men who do not completely disavow feminine traits. Contrary to the predictions of many policymakers, we find no evidence that integrating women into squads hurt male recruits' satisfaction with boot camp or their plans to continue in the military. These findings provide evidence that even in a highly gender-skewed environment, gender stereotypes are malleable and can be altered by integrating members of the opposite sex. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Meet You At The Wall

Thus ended Trump's answers to questions about the firing of Rex Tillerson as the Secretary of State and the hiring of Mike Pompeo as his replacement.

Trump's wall comment was about his fabulous wall against Mexico, but it reminded me of being placed against the wall, of firing squads, of reaching a dead-end.

As someone wisely said, it's a new season of the Reality Show "The President," and to keep the interest of the audience some administration members  must be fired.

I hope that's all this is.  I do fear that the dogs of war will be let loose* in some place where they are currently sleeping, and that this will be done for purely selfish and short-term reasons, without anyone being allowed to consider the longer-term consequences to the world, and, yes, to the United States and its citizens.

But let us hope that saner minds prevail.  And let's keep the resistance going!

*  I fervently pray (to myself?) that this is because of my inherent gloominess.  But Trump's statements about nuclear weapons during his campaign (that is the campaign before he became our Dear Leader, not the campaign he is running now) were not reassuring.  And starting another war could keep him in power, American voters apparently believing that a war president shouldn't be replaced.

Monday, March 12, 2018

What's Bad For The Goose Is Not Bad For The Gander: Gendered Coverage of US Politicians' Sins.

Gendered politics are such fun to figure out. 

Consider this:  Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is asked to take a DNA test to determine if she indeed has Native American ancestry.  Trump calls her "Pocahontas" in a recent speech.  That she may not have Native American ancestry is a Crime.  That this is the only thing opposition research has been able to dig up about her is ignored.

Consider this:   Donald Trump (P-USA) has for  years claimed false ancestry:

It seems the Trump family has been lying about their ancestry for a couple of generations. Donald Trump himself claimed in his book Trump: The Art of the Deal from 1987 that his father came to America as a boy, having emigrated from Sweden.
But it's not true. At least not according to the biographies The Trumps: Three Generations That Built An Empire by Gwenda Blair, and The lost tycoon by Henry Hurt.
In their research into the Trump family, both author's have come to the conclusion that the Swedish origins was just a story invented by Trump's father. During the middle of the 19th century, Trump's true decent - German - was simply bad for business.

This false claim is not a Crime, and Warren doesn't call Trump "Crooked Viking" or anything similar.

Consider thisHillary Clinton (private person now) might get her past e-mail scandal scrutinized, once again.

Consider this:  Colin Powell seems to have used private e-mail during his time at the Secretary of State, too, and several Trump aides have done the same.  But we have no  Colin Powell e-mail scandal, and no Trump administration e-mail scandal.

What can we conclude from all those considerations?  That Republican male politicians can get away with most anything*, while Democratic female politicians  can get away with nothing.  Had those women spent all their prior lives in a convent, the headlines would tell us that one day hair was showing from under their veils**.

I see this difference in the treatment of politicians' past sins and mistakes correlate with both the gender of the politician and his or her party, though the latter relationship might simply reflect the scarcity of women among Republican politicians.

The icing on this unequal treatment cake is naturally the leeway our current charlatan-in-charge receives.  His campaign rally speech in Pennsylvania once again proved that the president of this country has finally given the really stupid part of the populace their representative, and that the truly vicious ones also have their leader now:

Trump also railed against top Democrats rumored to be considering a presidential bid in 2020. He suggested that the media would be disappointed with a Democratic victory, as Trump's presidency has been a boon for television ratings.
"Could you imagine covering Bernie? Or Pocahontas?" he said, using a derogatory nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. "How about that? Can you imagine having to cover Elizabeth Warren for four years?"
Trump also slammed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and attacked Rep. Maxine Waters as "a very low-IQ individual," but said he'd be delighted if Oprah Winfrey ran against him so he could defeat her.

Within that speech Trump singled out women out of proportion to their presence in the top political tiers, and the insulting of Rep. Maxine Waters is truly nasty.  That tells something about Trump.  And the people who voted for him.


*  David Vitter is naturally one of the main examples of this Teflon-like surface male Republican politicians have benefited from before Trump.  Trump is naturally the finest, greatest example of that.  It matters not at all what sins he might be guilty of; the right-wing white Christians adore him.

** Consider the story about Kamala Harris sleeping her way to the top as one example.  It's not based on facts, but that has not stopped it from being distributed in the right-wing information bubble.  When it gets enough coverage there, the NYT and the WaPo will feel obligated to cover it.  Probably.


Trump On Guns

What the Trump administration plans to do about school killings:

The White House on Sunday vowed to help provide “rigorous firearms training” to some schoolteachers and formally endorsed a bill to tighten the federal background checks system, but it backed off President Trump’s earlier call to raise the minimum age to purchase some guns to 21 years old from 18 years old.
Responding directly to last month’s gun massacre at a Florida high school, the administration rolled out several policy proposals that focus largely on mental health and school safety initiatives. The idea of arming some teachers has been controversial and has drawn sharp opposition from the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers lobby, among other groups. Many of the student survivors have urged Washington to toughen restrictions on gun purchases, but such measures are fiercely opposed by the National Rifle Association, and the Trump plan does not include substantial changes to gun laws.
The first bout in this debate goes to the gun manufacturers*.  Indeed, arming teachers will make the scene of any mass shooting more chaotic, making it impossible for the police to know which of the several people with guns is the killer. 

Then there's the possibility that armed teachers might themselves start shooting, and the enormously underestimated difficulty of teachers actually hitting only the correct target(s) when responding to someone opening fire on the premises. 

Finally, I very much doubt that armed teachers would be any kind of deterrent.  Most school killers are planning to go out in glory, and an armed guard at the latest school shooting did not interfere at all.

But none of this matters, because arming teachers is not expected to achieve anything.  What is important is that gun sales are not restricted, and that seems to have been accomplished.  Indeed, those teachers are an extra market! 

Mission accomplished.

*  I fervently hope that this is not the end, because it would resemble the aftermaths of all earlier massacres where nothing was achieved, except the guaranteed availability of weapons to those who plan similar butchery in the future. 

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Some Fun On The International Woman's Day

In an alternate reality:

The United States elected a female president in 2016, one Donna Trump (on the left in the above picture), the scioness of a wealthy family.  She has been married three times and often boasts about her extramarital sexual conquests.  When her third husband was having a vasectomy operation in the mid-2000s, president Trump used the opportunity to have a fling with a famous male porn star.  She later had to pay him so that he wouldn't tell about the fling.

President Trump has had children by three different baby daddies, and has a custom of ranking men by their butts and how their front bulges look.  When she used to run the Male Hunk Of The Universe pageants, she would sometimes enter the men's dressing rooms to ogle, because, as she stated, she could do it.

She has also ridiculed physical handicaps in her campaign speeches and advocated physical violence against hecklers present at them.

In that alternate reality, Ms. Trump won 80% of the votes of white Evangelical Protestants. 


My apologies for not saving the source for this old newspaper article, which you may already have seen elsewhere:

It's a hilarious example in lots of ways, though clearly times have improved for women who dabble in works of art.  They are taken a little bit more seriously as artists. At least the "wife" job would be entered later in the article.

The International Women's Day, 3/8/2018

Because I'm an ancient blogger, I have written about the International Women's Day far too many times.  Today's posts are therefore not going to be terribly serious, after this one:

The majority of world's women are still born into societies where their births have less value simply because they are daughters and not sons, are still kept away from better jobs and education,  and are still absent from any positions of social and political power.

Most large religions, especially in their traditional branches, as well as most traditional cultures,  openly and explicitly regard women as lower in value than men, dictate their allowable social roles on that basis, and contribute to the inculcation of these beliefs into girls.

Two thirds of the world's adult illiterate are women.

Many girls are still forced into arranged marriages at a young age, many girls are kept out of school, and many girls are made to give birth before their bodies are ready.  Female genital mutilation is still common, though on the decrease.

When you read articles debating flexi-time or child-care in the west, remember the above.  When you hear that our favorite conservative numbskull, Tucker Carlson, argues it's men who really are oppressed in this world, remember this.  When you hear that all need for feminist activism is over, remember that Saudi women might be allowed to drive this year or the next year, though they are still subject to male custodianship in all aspects of their lives.

But we need not become despondent about the state of the world:  All those differences can be changed, and changing them will also provide general benefits for everyone.   For instance, educating girls creates more competent parents and more productive workers, thus raising the general health and wealth of the communities they belong to.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

I Missed the Saga of Sam Nunberg!

This always happens to me, missing out on fun stuff.  For the last four days I've been deep down in the well of deadlines, scribbling away like a madwoman in the attic.  And yesterday I missed this.

It's a wonderful parable of the leadership we have now, a wonderful parable of the changes in acceptable social interactions Donald Trump's ascent to power has created.  Today almost anything goes, almost anything is presidential, tariffs can be suddenly raised by someone who would have failed Econ101, repeatedly.

And the media just writes it all down!

More popcorn, please.  Now, that does NOT mean that I'm having a good time, but gallows humor is sometimes the only type of humor which helps while we wait for the hangman.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Short Posts 3/1/18: On Authoritarianism, Elections, Anti-Semitism, And Pay Differentials Between Men And Women

1.  Authoritarianism is the new-old fashion in politics:

The surprise disclosure on Sunday that the Communist Party was abolishing constitutional limits on presidential terms — effectively allowing President Xi Jinping to lead China indefinitely — was the latest and arguably most significant sign of the world’s decisive tilt toward authoritarian governance, often built on the highly personalized exercise of power.
The list includes Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, all of whom have abandoned most pretenses that they rule according to the people’s will. Authoritarianism is also reappearing in places like Hungary and Poland that barely a quarter-century ago shook loose the shackles of Soviet oppression.
There are many reasons for such moves by Mr. Xi and others — including protecting their power and perks in an age of unrest, terrorism and war amplified by new technologies — but a significant one is that few countries have the standing or authority, morally or otherwise, to speak out — least of all, critics say, the United States.

Warlords everywhere.  And the current president of the United States no longer supports those universal human values Eleanor Roosevelt helped to create in 1948.  He wants to be the Greatest, Biggest Warlord ever.  With the prettiest ponies.

This is not quite as depressing as it sounds, because it's possible to fight the disease once it is diagnosed.  The alternative is to take the lead of the Taoist thinkers and spend the rest of our lives watching fishes make circles on water or goddessing.

2.  Because the rise in authoritarianism means a decline in democracy, fighting for democracy everywhere is imperative.  In the United States this includes paying a liiitle bit of attention to fair and transparent elections:

Nearly 16 months after the presidential election, and more than eight months before the critical midterms, many state and federal officials are convinced the Russians will be back. They're concerned that 2016 was laying the groundwork for a possible future attack.
These first two dismal points highlight the importance of wresting the control of the government away from those who don't like democracy.  We can do it!

3.  Louis Farrakhan has re-emerged.  He gave a very long speech, available on YouTube, and in it he still expressed his great hatred of the Jewish people*. 

It's not just the far right which today expresses anti-Semitism, in other words.  We should condemn such statements wherever they come from, just as we should condemn sexism and racism, say,  even when they are expressed by demographic groups otherwise severely oppressed, and just as we should criticize all religions for their possible misogyny, not just, say, American fundamentalist sects. 

4.  The Brits are talking about the gender wage gap because now information on the gap inside large firms is available.   While the reasons for the gap in earnings between men and women are many, lack of information about what others earn certainly makes it hard to do anything about the gap.  A culture of silence about earnings benefits the firms who can continue paying some groups less.

So finding that the guy in the next cubicle makes a lot more even though he has a lot less experience and education can, indeed, be rage-inducing, as the article states.

I found the differences in bonus payments especially interesting.  How are bonuses determined?  Are the grounds subjective or objective?  Does an employee have to negotiate for a bonus, specifically?  And if so, how does that work out for women when we know from studies that negotiating might backfire for them?

5.  After scanning through my post I depress myself!  My apologies for that.  I have edamame beans.  What is the best way of eating them?


*  He also expressed religious reservations about LGBT rights, suggested that someone is altering marijuana to make men of African ancestry "soft," and gave a nod to one of the founders of the Women's Marches (who was present at the speech), while also telling women to cook healthier meals for their husbands so that obesity is avoided.  

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Creation Of Fake News on the Parkland Slaughter

The Washington Post tells a story about how conspiracies and fake news are hatched* on such sites as 4chan and 8chan and Reddit and how the lies then take their first flights via YouTube and Facebook.  The specifics of that story are about the most recent school killing.

If you have read Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, you know how such fake news are feathered to look credible:

Bored with their work, three Milanese editors cook up "the Plan," a hoax that connects the medieval Knights Templar with other occult groups from ancient to modern times. This produces a map indicating the geographical point from which all the powers of the earth can be controlled―a point located in Paris, France, at Foucault’s Pendulum. But in a fateful turn the joke becomes all too real, and when occult groups, including Satanists, get wind of the Plan, they go so far as to kill one of the editors in their quest to gain control of the earth.

Well, credible to those who are not good at judging evidence, or who prefer the conclusions over the road that got them there.

Given that I used one literary reference on fake news, here's another I spotted yesterday while re-reading** Hilary Mantel's books about Thomas Cromwell.  It's from Bring Up The Bodies:

What is the nature of the border between truth and lies?  It is permeable and blurred because it is planted thick with rumour, confabulation, misunderstandings and twisted tales.  Truth can break the gates down, truth can howl in the street; unless truth is pleasing, personable and easy to like, she is condemned to whimpering at the back door.
The beauty of the truth naturally depends on what one desires truth to be...

* I seem to insist on using the bird simile  here for fake news.  To continue with it, the eggs are laid by either gun fanatics/white nationalists/racists/misogynists/etc.  and/or by a group of alienated and bored teenage boys.  The latter group just wants to blow up the world of us "normies."  Well, the world of you " normies," given that I'm a goddess which is not normal.

** Her style is elegant and worth studying, but I am particularly awed by her use of the voice, the way the point of attention shifts and returns.

Monday, February 26, 2018

And Sixty Million Plus American Voters Thought This Guy Would Be An Adequate President...

President Trump

on Monday claimed he would have run into a Florida high school to prevent a gunman from carrying out this month's mass shooting.
"You don't know until you test it, but I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon,” Trump told a gathering of governors at the White House. "And I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too."

It's always about Him, the adulation of Him, the intelligence of Him, the great courage of Him.

Take a second to consider how the media would have reported a similar boast from, say, president Hillary Clinton!  But at least we don't have to suffer through e-mail scandals (largely, because those scandals are not viewed as scandals when done by the Trump administration) or have a crooked woman running the country.

The normalization of the Trump values proceeds, however much some of us want to fight back.

On the topic of that quote:  None of us know how we would act in a dire emergency, until we find ourselves in one.  Practice and training help, but even those who have trained and practiced may find themselves freezing when things turn real.  And yes, there are heroes and heroines*, people who sacrifice themselves for a greater chance of rescue for others. 

But running into the building (how would Trump run?) without a weapon would have been utterly useless, and speculating about that while completely safe is disrespectful to those who were actually there.

Why write about Trump's inane comments (while bad stuff takes place behind the curtain)?  Perhaps I should not have done so.  But I still can't get over the responsibility Trump voters have for our current miseries.  It's not ultimately Trump that is the problem (the country can absorb quite a few carnival barkers), it's Trump in the White House that is the problem.


*  I have heard a story from  another country where the head mistress at a school shooting offered her own life in exchange for the lives of the threatened youngsters.  The shooter took hers, and perhaps one or two of the others were saved by her sacrifice, given that someone could pass on the story. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Saturday Cats

Putting cat pics up on blogs on either Friday or Saturday is a hallowed Internet tradition.  As old as blogs are, and don't we all know that they are ancient.

In any case, here are two cats.  In one picture.  Together.  Happy looking.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Fake News Can Kill

One mother of young children sent me a Facebook-disseminated story about vaccines from a site called Neon Nettle.  Neon Nettle is a mostly fake news site about health research and health issues.

This particular story (not linking to it but to the corrections) argued that the process of creating the flu vaccine was what caused the mutation of the flu virus, supposedly into a more deadly form.  The site posts a lot of anti-vaccination fake news, and this particular mother had used the site's misinformation as the basis for her decision not to get anyone in her family vaccinated.

Fake news are not only a problem in political propaganda, but much more widely, and the online era has expanded the reach of such news to a far larger audience.  In the past health news, for instance, were reported by the established press, and the largest newspapers (often the intermediate sources for smaller newspapers) employed properly trained health care reporters.

This is no longer the case.  Anyone with net access can make up news or interpret them.  The evaluation of the truth value of such news is left to the audience.  Clearly, many cannot evaluate information in those terms, and in some cases shouldn't even be asked to do so.*

Add to this the clickbait value of certain types of research findings, and we get an environment where sloppy reporting and fake news are rewarded**.  It's that reward structure we need to change. 


* Because sometimes the problem is in the studies themselves, in bad methodology, poorly interpreted results and so on.  Reporters covering health research on a full-time basis often know enough basic statistics and have learned which journals are not real peer-reviewed ones.  This allows them to avoid publicizing most bad research.

But one study looks like another study in truth value to a lay reader, and the cleverer fake news sites use that and a pseudo-scientific writing style to make their lies look credible.

In other words, education can help in making the audience more informed about fake news, but it cannot be a complete substitute for higher quality reporting.

** For an example which is not about fake reporting but about the lack of incentives for publishing any corrections to that initial reporting, see this post.

Note, also, that the way some social media sites try to respond to our past reading and browsing behavior can make this problem more severe, if they first give you suggestions which are similar to your past choices.   That "tailoring to individual preferences" reinforces the walls of already existing separate information bubbles.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Annie Scrap Your Gun

The recent school killing in Florida resulted in the deaths of seventeen individuals*.  It also produced the usual pro-gun chatter which follows every school killing in this country:

Prayers and thoughts, let's not politicize a tragedy, let's not penalize law-abiding (always that word!) citizens with guns for something they did not do.  Guns don't kill people, people kill people.  And so on.  And on.  And on.

But this time something is different in the air.  The teens (the major targets in school killings) are not accepting all that usual crap.  They are fighting back and they are organizing:

And the owner of the gun shop where the butcher bought his AR-15 assault weapon has closed its doors "indefinitely."

I hope that something truly changes, but I'm not holding my breath.

The reason for my skepticism comes from the Pew survey from last June, about Americans' views on gun control and gun rights:

A majority of gun owners (66%) own multiple firearms, and about three-quarters (73%) say they could never see themselves not owning a gun.
Many American gun owners exist in a social context where gun ownership is the norm. Roughly half of all gun owners (49%) say that all or most of their friends own guns. In stark contrast, among those who don’t own a gun, only one-in-ten say that all or most of their friends own guns.

In short, the love of guns is cultural.  It's very difficult to change cultural norms, and attempts to change them are viewed by those inside the culture as contempt, outsider meddling and as infringement of their basic freedoms.

More importantly, I've come to see that the ultimate justification for gun ownership for many is emotional, not fact-based.  One example of how gun manufacturers have used this can be seen in the following (older) advertisement:

The emotional basis of some gun ownership can be also seen from the Pew survey:

While the right to own guns is highly valued by most gun owners, not all gun owners see gun ownership the same way. Half of all gun owners say owning a gun is important to their overall identity – with 25% saying this is very important and another 25% calling it somewhat important. Three-in-ten gun owners say owning a gun is not too important to their identity and 20% say it’s not at all important.

Gun owners in that survey tell that the most important reason for owning a gun is personal protection (for the owners and their families).

But some other answers suggest that the gun is viewed almost as a talisman,  something that will act on its own against all the imagined threats, even if the owner cannot shoot very well, even if the owner hasn't practiced much and even if the owner has never thought through what might happen when several people take out their guns in, say, a school killing.  How can the police know who the killer is then?

Among the Pew survey answers which cast doubt on the personal protection argument is this one:

When asked about their own habits, roughly half of gun owners with children under 18 living at home say all of the guns in their home are kept in a locked place (54%) and all are unloaded (53%).
Still, many gun owners with children say at least some of their guns are kept unlocked and loaded. In fact, 30% of these gun owners say there is a gun that is both loaded and easily accessible to them all of the time when they’re at home.
Is it easily accessible to the children of those gun owners, too?  Because if it is, the personal protection argument rings hollow.

If emotions, fear and identity concerns indeed are what truly lies behind the desire to own guns, gun control arguments based on evidence and facts will not make anyone change their minds.

This is because the very idea of relinquishing one's guns can immediately bring up images of the gun owner as a weak and hapless victim, someone bound to end up dead at the hands of some other person with a gun.  And those other people can always get guns illegally.

Against that onslaught of fear even the butchering of countless young children begins to look acceptable.

Or it has looked acceptable in the past.  Things just might be different now.


For those of you who prefer facts, the New York Times has published a good statistical summary which compares the United States with other countries.


*  Only days after the massacre, Florida state House voted down a motion to ban many types of assault weapons and large capacity magazines.  Sigh.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Short Posts, 2/16/18. On Russian Election Interference, Porn As Sex Education And Other Interesting Topics

1.  Thirteen individuals working at a Russian troll farm have been charged with "an audacious scheme" to criminally interfere in the 2016 US presidential election.  The indictment makes for fun reading.

It shows that the main goal of the trolling (1) was to disrupt, to sow distrust of American institutions and doubt about factual evidence, to create false evidence,  and to exacerbate existing political divisions within the US.  That appears to be Putin's plan of interference in Western liberal democracies.

The concrete focus of the scheme was to stop Hillary Clinton from winning the election.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The President Opposes Domestic Abuse! Aren't You Glad To Learn That, Finally?

When the two ex-wives of White House aide Rob Porter accused him of domestic violence (including choking), we were first told that this was shocking new information for Trump's Chief of Staff John Kelly who, nevertheless, urged Porter to stay and fight the accusations. 

Porter resigned, but then we learn that he couldn't get security clearance because of these accusations and that Kelly may have been aware of them much earlier than he has stated.  So now some would like Kelly's head on a plate, with parsley.

Let's put this drama into a perspective by starting with Donald Trump and the kind of views he holds.  One example:

Monday, February 12, 2018

Short Posts, Monday, 2/12/18: Economic Inequality in the US, Whataboutism, Flawed Voting Systems

1.  Economic inequality in the United States is greater than in Europe.  The 2015 economics Nobel prize winner, Angus Deaton, has written an interesting article on inequality, well worth reading.  He refers to the toothless anti-trust enforcement and the death of trade unions as two reasons (among many) for the increases in wealth and income inequality.

I see many of the developments of the last three decades as an intentional push to move every type of power up the economic hierarchies, but the process has been slow.  And then, one fine morning, we wake up into a world where a handful of large firms are both selling us everything and also buying our labor.  The power has slowly slipped and slid to that side of the market, and the owners of those large firms also have the power to buy the government policies they want.  That political power is now being used to stop us making the corrections that are urgently required:  Enforce anti-trust laws, recreate a countervailing power for the giant corporations.

2.  Asma Jahangir has died.  She was a Pakistani human rights advocate, fighting, all her life, against powerful interests in her country:

Critics often questioned her focus on the country’s minorities and on women’s rights. She fended off such criticism as misplaced.
“Yes, I am very unhappy, extremely anguished at human rights violations against Kashmiris in India or against Rohingyas in Burma or, for that matter, Christians in Orissa. But obviously I am going to be more concerned of violations taking place in my own house because I am closer to the people who I live with. I have more passion for them,” Ms. Jahangir told Herald.
“And I think it sounds very hollow if I keep talking about the rights of Kashmiris but do not talk about the rights of a woman in Lahore who is butchered to death.”

Whataboutism.  It is extremely commonly aimed at those who focus on women's rights.

3.  Future historians (assuming there will be a future) are going to scratch their heads wondering why the news about troubled voting systems have caused hardly a ripple in our public conversations.  If the elections can be manipulated democracy will be over.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

More on Jordan Peterson

The Guardian asks how dangerous he is, and appears to answer: "very."

For more on professor Peterson and his ideas, I recommend the fruits of my female labor on this blog.* 

First, the post in which I explain why Peterson's facts didn't win the famous (seen six million plus times on YouTube) Channel 4 interview, even though he did win it, because the interviewer was unprepared.

This matters, as the right wing folks keep telling us that Peterson's arguments in that debate were the truth.

Second, do read my long review of his book. (The links are in order of the three posts in the series.)

I spent a lot of energy on it, and it's a pretty good response to all sorts of essentialist Damore-type arguments about why women suck in STEM and also why women doing so well in college in general also sucks!

I wanted to put many of the references in one place, and they are in the end notes to the three posts.  You can ignore those if you wish, but you might want to bookmark the posts and put that in your debate arsenal.


and (added later) this article.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Trump Wants A Military Parade

Yes, he does.  And he just may get one.

Let's give him some models he might want to use for it.  Here's Berlin 1933:

And here's North Korea in 2017

Russia in 2016

Turkey in 2014

My thoughts on this? 

First, Trump has a mental age of about five years.  He wants what he wants and it doesn't really matter if what he wants is good for the country. 

Second, there is no particular reason for a military parade.  No special anniversary of the country, for instance.  This parade is just for Donald Trump, I guess.   And that smells of a dictatorship, even of totalitarianism.

Third, it might be difficult to criticize the parade without that being used (in the fake news bubble) as a criticism of the US military, whether it is intended for that, too, or not.  This could be part of Trump's plan (and part of the greater plan to truly tear the country apart).

And fourth, boasting about its military might is below par for a country with the largest, most humongous military budget on the globe.  It comes across as menacing, threatening and bullying.  It certainly doesn't signal great self-confidence in the fundamental values of the United States.

Four Thoughts On The Current Stage Of The Trump Reich

1.  It's un-American and even treasonous not to applaud when Our Supreme Leader gives good labor market news.  So says Our Supreme Leader, and therefore this must be true.  Well, it would be true if the United States already were a dictatorship.

2.  The Trump administration approach to preventing and controlling pandemics could serve as a metaphor of many of the changes it has created.  The changes all share the view that nothing bad will ever happen, and that, say,  all firms only think of the best of their customers, so it's unnecessary to have safety regulations at work or at home, or rules which protect the environment or even an office intended to protect the interest of consumers. 

Besides, by the time the next catastrophe happens, Trump might already be gone, and his friends, too.  With the money bags, filled from the government coffers?

Whatever the case about that might be, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are going to cut their pandemic prevention efforts by eighty percent.  This is because of lack of funds:

Most of the funding comes from a one-time, five-year emergency package that Congress approved to respond to the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa. About $600 million was awarded to the CDC to help countries prevent infectious-disease threats from becoming epidemics. That money is slated to run out by September 2019. Despite statements from President Trump and senior administration officials affirming the importance of controlling outbreaks, officials and global infectious-disease experts are not anticipating that the administration will budget additional resources.
A pandemic is unlikely to stay out of the United States, even if it begins in some other country, and the odds of another pandemic happening in the next few years are fairly high, if the past can be used to predict the future. 

But the Trump administration doesn't seem to care, perhaps because it is an administration staffed by people who adore Trump, rather than by people who have the skills and experience necessary for the job?  Or because it is an administration not for the American people, but only for Trump's real base (the Koch brothers, the Mercer family and others in the one percent)?  Or both?

3.  Something related is taking place inside the State Department which is slowly turning into a ghost town, largely, because Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wants it that way.

But the deeper concern I have about those changes is this (from last December):

Elizabeth Shackelford, who most recently served as a political officer based in Nairobi for the U.S. mission to Somalia, wrote to Tillerson that she reluctantly had decided to quit because the administration had abandoned human rights as a priority and shown disdain for the State Department’s diplomatic work, according to her letter, obtained by Foreign Policy.
The State Department’s role in internal government debates also had “diminished,” she wrote, with the White House handing over authority to the Pentagon to shape the country’s foreign policy. Meanwhile, unfilled vacancies and proposed budget and staffing cuts had left the department adrift, with weakened influence inside the administration and on the ground, she wrote.

Bolds are mine.  If the Pentagon is to shape the foreign policy of the United States, what kind of policies should we expect?  And if the US abandons human rights as a priority, while showing disdain for diplomatic work, what kind of a world will then come about? 

My guess is that it will be one in which human rights, including women's rights, matter not at all, while warfare matters very much indeed, though probably not in the sense of trying to prevent the slaughter wars cause.

Am I quite incorrect if all this sounds very much like the choice not to care about other people, the choice never to use "soft" options and the choice to always blow the war horns?  What is the role the Trumpites see for this country?  Something like Turkey or Russia?  Well, I guess Angela Merkel is now the leader of the liberal West.

4.  Last but not least, the recent stock market plunge.  Our Supreme Leader told us often that the credit for the bullish stock market was his.  So what about yesterday's deep and dramatic nosedive in that market?

The result is that a president who tossed aside traditional presidential caution in cheerleading the stock market now stands poised to take the blame for any correction.
“This is a risk that the president clearly set himself up for,” said Charles Gabriel of Capital Alpha Partners, a Washington research firm. “Until now, Trump’s had kind of a free ride in this market and taken so much credit for it, even though so much of it was due to easy-money policies from Janet Yellen and the Fed. Now she’s out the door and volatility is back.”
 So.  But at least he got rid of that woman in the Fed.



Saturday, February 03, 2018

The Nunes Memo

The Nunes memo was supposed to be a great move in the Republicans' war against the FBI.  I think its release fell flat, for reasons spelled out in several articles which came out after its release, but given the extremely tribal nature of today's American politics, I'm certain-sure that most Republicans found it a real smoking gun (check the comments on that last link!).

I get the importance of any move which could stop the Mueller investigation into the Trump campaign and the Trump administration.  Republicans don't want to go down with the captain of their ship, even if that captain himself drilled the holes in the hull. 

And for the Mueller investigation to stop, Trump needs to get rid of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein:

Rosenstein is key to the Russia investigation because he has the power to fire Mueller, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia matter.

But Rosenstein isn't firing Mueller.  If Trump could replace him with one of his own stooges, that stooge could then fire Mueller, and Trump believes that he would then be safe from further harassment.  The release of the memo had the partial goal of making Rosenstein's firing seem more appropriate.