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:


 

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*  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.
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* 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

...in 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.

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*  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 Carré 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.

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* 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.

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* 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.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Three Unexamined Assumptions in The Theory Of Male-Incels-As-Unserved-Customers-In-The-Sexual-Marketplace


1.  The smelly debate about incels (the involuntarily celibate, but only male), mass killings (by the incels, as defined above) and  the market place for sex (as a description of all heterosexual partnering!)  is based on this implicit assumption which needs to be made explicit:

That there are now many more young male incels than in the past???

I have seen no data on that, but the marriage rates do not support that assumption.  It's quite possible that the number of men who can't get unhindered access to the exact pussy they think they deserve has stayed fairly constant over time.  Only now that group is much more vocal and vicious, at least online.

It also has the support of such deep thinkers as Jordan Peterson, who has recommended enforced monogamy as the solution to this lack-of-pussy problem. So the most unbalanced incels now get validation not only from their fellow-sufferers, but from conservative mega-stars!

That validation even extends to at least "understanding" how violence is the predictable response from these newly created vast masses of incels.  I looked at Peterson's own website (Google Peterson and enforced monogamy) where he attacks the recent NYT article on his opinions and explains to us why everything he says is just recommending your ordinary monogamy because it keeps men from killing so much.  As compared to a system where a small percentage of men hoard all women, just to be clear*.



2.  It's all science based, mind you, and Peterson proves it by quoting the thoughts of such eminent evolutionary psychologists as Daly and Wilson and Buss.  Buss, for example, has argued that women are hard-wired for hypergamy, always going for the top guys in the hierarchy, and Peterson takes this argument for evidence**.

There's a difference between a theory and evidence, by the way, though that  eludes professor Peterson here***.

Indeed, the whole incel debate is based on very little evidence of any kind, but many, many hidden assumptions, and one of those really is the assumption that some minority of men is currently monopolizing all women, and that this is because women are hard-wired to go for high status men only.

And alternative theories can explain why historically speaking women have tended to want to marry up in the hierarchies of education or income:

The simplest one points out that in the past it was largely men who had legal access to higher education or greater wealth or incomes.  This left marriage one of the only ways for women to improve their economic position.  Thus, it's not necessary to assume that women have little gold-digger genes inside their brains to explain why we would find hypergamy among women in the past.



3.  You may have noticed how the problem of involuntary celibacy is framed as a purely heterosexual male problem.  It's a problem of not enough pussy for men.

In reality,  the majority of those who are celibate but would prefer not to be are quite likely to be women.  That is because women, on average, tend to outlive their partners, and because there are also younger women, not just younger men, who cannot find  sexual partners.

The online incels don't care about those women's access to sex, both because for them women are mere objects to be desired and hated, but also because of the basic evolutionary psychology framework the incel world is built on.  Peterson uses the same framework, both on his site and in his recent book:

The assumption that ONLY women make choices about their sexual partners, and that ONLY women, therefore, have the power to reject.

Men, on the other hand, are always willing to f**k anything that breathes, I guess?

It would be fun to see how all those sexual marketplace conservatives would react if we started demanding a fairer distribution of male bodies for all those older female incels.  While the terminology of sexual markets may initially seem gender-neutral, in practice what those guys worry about is access to pussy.

&&&

I wrote this yesterday before a migraine attack felled me for sixteen hours.  On re-reading it, I wonder what made me bother.  Was it my pre-migraine state? 

I get that I'm trying to point out how my long-term focus on bad evolutionary psychology has had an important point, how ignoring the problems in that approach has turned it into the basic philosophy of incels and most of the woman-hating sites, and how we now see it applied to real living people, with bad consequences.

I can also see how not thinking carefully about facts and statistics allows the incel sites to believe their weird theories, in particular if they never go out and try to actually date women or see, outside in flesh-space,  how all sorts of people, many not physically attractive based on our cultural standards, are happily paired and have children.

And it's frightening that a wide debate about the incels can go on without, seemingly, any actual data about how common being a young male incel today is, as compared to the past.  It's hair-raisingly frightening that gurus such as Peterson can calmly argue that mass violence is a natural reaction to blue balls in young men.

It's also disheartening that Peterson's arguments for the return of what essentially amounts to patriarchy is viewed by many as a message from a prophet.

But still. Anyway, here it is, and I hope it will keep my chattering inner muse Erato (he with the sexy tattoos and wild nose rings) silent for a few days.


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*  Which, weirdly, he assumes to be the prevailing situation in the US and Canada?  Or does he?  I'm not sure.  But it's worth pointing out that we do have socially enforced monogamy in those countries.  Polygamy is frowned upon, and the majority of people either marry at some point or enter a long-term relationship with one other person.

**  As do all the online incels.  It's the few lucky Chads (high status men) who have so much sex with all the Tracys (desirable women with big boobs) that the Tracys are used up (though not the Chads) and have stretched out pussies by the age thirty when the incels are expected to marry these leftovers.

***  Several studies show that mate preferences between men and women are becoming more similar (and quite rapidly) in the more gender-egalitarian countries (where women can more easily acquire wealth in ways other than through marriage) .  This is direct evidence against the assumption that hypergamy is hard-wired in female brains.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Spurned Advances Provoked Texas School Shooting? My Take.




Spurned advances provoked Texas school shooting, victim's mother says

That's the recent Reuter's headline on the Santa Fe butchery.  The story itself has more:

Sadie Rodriguez, the mother of Shana Fisher, 16, told the newspaper that her daughter rejected four months of aggressive advances from accused shooter Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, at the Santa Fe high school.
Fisher finally stood up to him and embarrassed him in class, the newspaper quoted her mother as writing in a private message to the Times.

“A week later he opens fire on everyone he didn’t like,” she said. “Shana being the first one.”
Rodriguez could not independently be reached for comment.
If true, it would be the second school shooting in recent months driven by such rejection.
In March, a 17-year-old Maryland high school student used his father’s gun to shoot and kill a female student with whom he had been in a recently ended relationship.

The bolds are mine.  And so is the ice-cold rage such careless writing provokes in me.  In fact, it drives me into writing this response:


Friday, May 18, 2018

Last Day of My Fund-Raising Week. A Gratitude Post.


Cool slithery snake energy* to all who have donated already!   There's still time!

If I were good at the self-marketing business, I would paint myself as the last bulwark (like that word!) against the chaos of multiple Jordan Petersons, the last tiny sane voice online, the last person mutilating the English language on a daily basis, the last goddess still being worshiped.

But I am terrible at marketing.  So just give already.  Don't give if you have no money.  You can tell me how wonderful I am instead.

More seriously, my thanks to you all, both for reading, for thinking, for educating me, for arguing,  and for giving me chocolate money.

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* This can be used for health or for avoiding tricky situations or even for getting boring chores to go faster.

On Lobsters, Dragons And Witches. More Jordan Peterson!



This is a good article on Jordan Peterson and on  his slightly-inebriated-prophet style of speaking and thinking. 

Peterson is the adored father figure of zillions of young conservative (mostly white) men, because he tells them that patriarchal hierarchies are fair, based on competence and that women are biologically unsuited to climb them.

That removes half the competition.  Then all those men need to do is to clean their rooms, stand straight, and speak the truth.  That last bit seems to include telling women that they belong at home.

If you would like to learn more about Prophet Peterson, this is a good first post.  My three-part book review of his best-selling tome begins here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Day Six of My Fund-Raising Week: On Bolton's Smart Choices And Trump's Smart Utterances.


1.  The midterm elections are coming.  It's therefore logical that 

The White House eliminated the position of cybersecurity coordinator on the National Security Council on Tuesday, doing away with a post central to developing policy to defend against increasingly sophisticated digital attacks and the use of offensive cyber weapons.

A memorandum circulated by an aide to the new national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said the post was no longer considered necessary because lower-level officials had already made cybersecurity issues a “core function” of the president’s national security team.
Cybersecurity experts and members of Congress said they were mystified by the move, though some suggested Mr. Bolton did not want any competitive power centers emerging inside the national security apparatus.
The decision was criticized by Mark R. Warner, a senator from Virginia and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I don’t see how getting rid of the top cyber official in the White House does anything to make our country safer from cyber threats,” he wrote on Twitter.

Bolton may, indeed, have higher priorities than the security of US elections (such as being the biggest fish in his pond), especially when the likely outsider influence would not hurt his party.   But yeah, he may also not be aware of the severity of cyber threats.

But whatever Bolton's rationalizations might be, this particular decision looks awful to those who prefer democracy to dictatorships or kleptocracies.

2.   And the president of the United States speaks.  If it's possible to return to a more adult and courteous political discourse one day, this era will provide rich mining for those who wish to do doctoral theses on the worst statements of American presidents.  That's the silver lining to the Trump cloud.

3.   A picture of my pear galette should go here, to make you more likely to give me your hard-earned moneys.  But alas, it has been eaten.

Instead, have a cat picture






Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Day Five of The Fund-Raising Week. What You Don't Know Can't Hurt You?



1.  Here's another of those hidden foundation cracks the Trump administration is causing by demolishing the government:

The Trump administration has killed NASA's Carbon Monitoring System, which was responsible for compiling data from separate satellite and aircraft measurements of CO2 and methane emission across the Earth.
This program allowed scientists to have a picture of the flow of carbon all over Earth.

...
This move will make it harder for nations to be able to verify that quotas are being met according to the promises in the Paris climate accords. Every nation on Earth, except the US, is part of the accord.
This is acting like a father/mother who does not wish to know about his/her child's high fever so destroys the thermometer.  Well, actually it's worse, because it is all about short-term profit at the expense of the future survival of human civilizations.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Is Even One Mass Killing By Guns Proof That Gun Control Does Not Work? Day Two of Fund-Raising Week.


Why would the shooting deaths of seven people (six of them apparently killed by the seventh in what is so quaintly called domestic violence) in Australia (far away) end up on the pages of  the New York Times?  And why were those same deaths trending on Facebook in the US?

The answer, my friends, lies in Australian history about gun control and what that stricter gun control history could teach Americans:

The deaths represent the worst mass shooting in Australia since 1996, when a gunman killed 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania. That event was the catalyst for a significant strengthening of the country’s gun laws an ambitious gun buyback program.

American proponents of gun control, including former President Barack Obama, often point to Australia’s strict regulations and few mass shootings as a guide to limiting such events in the United States. But in the hours after the shooting in Osmington, those who oppose such strict regulations pointed to the tragedy as proof of gun control’s limits — prompting many Australians to argue against that conclusion.

It's not just the limits of gun control that was pointed out in various Facebook posts.  Rather, many used this awful killing in Australia as proof that gun control doesn't work at all.

I get that when people argue politics they often use dirty weapons and illogical tricks and do not care.  Finding even one mass killing as proof that gun control does not work would be such an illogical trick, because the correct comparison would be to juxtapose the Australian and US historical statistics about mass killings, the availability of guns and so on, and then use those properly controlled comparisons to see how many excess mass killings by guns the US might have because of its much laxer gun policies*.

But it's not at all uncommon to find people, in general,  using individual anecdotes to try to prove something about statistical averages.  All an individual anecdote can prove, if true, is that at least one such event happened.  It tells us nothing about average propensities. 

Similarly, many people simply assume that their circle of friends, acquaintances and relatives are representative of all Americans, and that this allows them to judge the validity of various statistical averages which pertain to the whole country.  But very few of us have a random sample from the whole country among our acquaintances.

Many also ignore the "all other things constant**" part of various comparisons in studies and in how to interpret various news items.   Here's one example of that (scroll down), but it also applies much more widely.

For instance, when progressives and liberals want to see if people from different demographic groups are treated equally fairly in, say, jobs, the people to be compared should be similar in other relevant ways except their demographic group memberships.  That could include education and work experience, as one example, unless unfair earlier treatment has caused those to differ between demographic groups.

And this post (go down to 4.) discusses a few other fairly common (but interesting) interpretation problems.

------

*  Note the question I asked there.  If our question is about general gun deaths then the answer may be more complicated, because most gun deaths are not mass killings but individual murders or suicides.

** The ceteris paribus assumption of economics, say, where our goal is to get as close as possible to analyzing a question in such a way that the only variable allowed to differ is the one we wish to analyze.  We can literally hold other variables constant in laboratory studies and some audit studies, but in most observational studies the control is achieved (if only partially) through statistical methods of analysis. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Time To Pay The Piper


That would be me, the piper, and this is the beginning of my annual fund-raising week for this blog and its expenses.

You can donate via PayPal, as explained in the left column, or if you wish to use other means (such as would be needed in shipping a Maserati or the property rights to a solitary island with a lighthouse or emeralds), kindly send me an e-mail.

If you don't have money don't worry.  If you do have money, though, please consider contributing.  My blog has a unique voice, right? 

My warmest thanks to all my readers.  Here's a picture of one of my plantings which nature decided not to sabotage:




Thursday, May 10, 2018

Is Anger An Emotion in Politics? The Answer Is Gendered.



In late April I read that the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had called women more emotional than men:

The report also includes accusations that Kelly made comments that belittled female staffers, saying women are more emotional than men and bristling in private about the accusations made against Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary who was forced out after his ex-wives accused him of domestic violence.

...

But the Trump administration isn’t exactly denying the accusations of sexism. The unnamed White House officials who pushed back on the report said Kelly is a “gentleman” who won’t let men curse when “a lady is present,” and one spokesperson broadly defended the idea that women are more emotional than men (without confirming that the chief of staff said it).
I have written about that old saw many times before*.  It has been one of the handiest little tools history has used to keep women in their place.

It's usually presented in a slightly different package which says that women are more emotional and men more rational.  In that version emotions and rationality are assumed to be mutually exclusive, and if women, indeed, are more emotional then women must be less rational and should not have any important decision-making positions.   

Such as being responsible for the care of infants and small children, I guess.

But I digress.  One reason why the particular belief will not die is that certain emotions are not seen as emotions.  Anger is one of them, but only if expressed by men**.  Thus, this example, from the US House, is not viewed as an example of irrational emotional outbursts:

Two lawmakers on Tuesday evening erupted into a shouting match on the House floor over Speaker Paul Ryan’s firing — and then reinstatement — of the House chaplain, reigniting a contentious religious fight the Wisconsin Republican hoped would fade.
No. 4 House Democrat Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), who is Catholic, and Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) got up in each other’s faces on the House floor and squabbled over the merits of a special investigation into the dismissal. The exchange was so heated that some lawmakers and aides watching worried they’d come to blows, though Crowley’s office said that was never going to happen.

I'm having fun with this post, because the current US president is obviously the most rational and least emotional of all presidents this country has had!  Just consider his decision to scrap the Iranian nuclear agreement.

Most people are not denying that Trump is both emotional and irrational; it's just that this has no effect on our general gendered beliefs about rationality and emotions.  The male examples of emotional behavior do not "stick" to create stereotype changes.

-------
This is a good recent Twitter thread on the topic.  The most salient point for me is that those emotions which are coded female are seen as a weakness while those emotions coded as male are seen as strength.  But this has zero to do with rationality, and being callous is not exactly a desirable characteristic in leaders.

** Anger in women is certainly regarded an emotion and frequently an irrational one.  Just think of the stereotype of "an angry black woman."






  


Why Wages Do Not Rise In Times of Labor Shortage. The Hairy Fruit Dilemma.







New Zealand is wringing its imaginary hands over the tough problem of how to get more people to work harvesting the national fruit, the kiwi:

Kiwi fruit work is physically demanding, commands minimum wage (NZ$16.50 an hour) and requires workers to relocate on a temporary basis, making it an unappealing employment option for many New Zealanders, including those living on welfare benefits.
...


Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated chief executive Nikki Johnson said the problem of filling seasonal vacancies forced growers to appeal for government assistance.
Demand for kiwi fruit has surged worldwide - particularly from China - with 19% more of the fruit produced this year and half still waiting to be picked on the vine.


There are 6,000 unemployed people in the Bay of Plenty region, and 1,200 workers needed on kiwi fruit orchards immediately.


Managing director of fruit company Apata, Stuart Weston, told Radio New Zealand raising payrates would not make a difference and the situation was “dire”.

The bolds are mine.


Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The Renegade Thinkers of The Intellectual Dark Web


Bari Weiss of the New York Times tells us that there are renegade thinkers hiding in the intellectual dark web (or perhaps just in the intellectual darkness).  That's because the mainstream media will not allow them to be heard.  Hence you have never heard of Camilla Paglia or Jordan Peterson or Steven Pinker or Sam Harris!*


Ladies, Housewives! The Founder of Proud Boys Speaks To Us.


Ladies, are you ready to find out what Gavin Innes,  the founder of Proud Boys, yet another misogynistic organization, thinks of you?

The guy is hilarious.  A little dense, too, but being a Proud Boy is very hard work as you shall soon learn.

Here's the start of Gavin's statement:

Ladies, housewives, we love the work you do. We venerate you. We love that you cook and clean, sure, that doesn't take that long. We love that you produce babies with your body then shape them and nurture them. We chide that, we don't have the patience. It's incredible the way you shape a home, you shape a family, you end up shaping a community.

A translation:  Women are of value only as housewives who cook and clean, but that doesn't take long at all.

And sure, women are also of value for giving birth to children and then for bringing them up.  But that doesn't take long at all, either!

And no woman ever has been in the labor force (!).  The labor force is where the Proud Boys are, because, as you will find out, it is they who created the world in which you (ladies, housewives) are just these rather pointless crappy and lazy appendices (though naturally worthy of veneration for the role biology and gods have decreed for you).

More from Gavin:

But it's not as hard as man's work. And that's fine. We don't mind getting our hands dirty. We don't mind losing our hands. We have way more workplace fatalities than women do, and we designed that system. By every metric, men have it worse, including rape, when you include prison. But that's our structure. We made that. And we're fine with it, as long as you keep using that magic baby machine that blows our minds. As Ann Coulter said, right-wingers are the only ones that see women as celestial.

I adore this!  The work the celestial beings, aka women, perform is only housewifery and child-rearing, but it's not as hard as man's work (and takes very little time).

Men get their hands dirty!  Changing diapers/nappies is like inhaling chocolate in comparison!  No woman ever got her hands dirty cleaning or washing clothes or cooking meals or while changing the bed sheets of an elderly patient in a nursing home.

And men don't mind losing their hands (or lives) in workplace accidents, as long as it's clear that men's work is harder and therefore men deserve to outrank women in the society.*  But at the same time men are worse off than women, by every metric, including rape, even though Gavin is completely wrong on that.**

+++

I find the various patriarchal movements fascinating.  They can be ranked in the order of their misogyny: 

Incels are probably the most woman-hating of all groups, because they openly talk about death for the womankind,  but many other manosphere groups, such as pickup artists, come close.

Then there are the Proud Boys who plan to bring back the proper kind of patriarchy where Men are Men And Women Are On Pedestals (so that the men can look up their skirts and so that women can't move) Though Also To Be Despised.

Next comes Jordan Peterson Boys' Own Therapy Movement, based on the view of the world as an eternal fight between chaos (the eternal feminine***) and order (the eternal masculine), where hierarchies are both natural and to be welcomed, and where women's biology holds them back from climbing any of those hierarchies, what with the pregnancies and those babies hanging from their backs.

Peterson is a gateway drug to both the Alt Right in general and the misogyny sites in particular.

These guys tell us that they are going to take the world back.  So it goes.

Most normal people, men or women, don't live in that world and might not be familiar with it.  Hence these missives from me.

-----------

* Innes' arguments are the common ones the manosphere uses.  I have often read there that men deserve to earn more than women, because men are more often found in the really dangerous occupations. 

Never mind that the higher earnings of men are not because of those few dangerous occupations (fishing, say), but because stockbrokers, financiers and software programmers etc. earn so much.  And never mind that women are pretty actively kept out of the dangerous occupations traditionally coded male, such as fishing.

Finally, never mind that the one very dangerous occupation where women are the majority of workers, prostitution, is not counted in those dangerous-occupations statistics, because in most countries it is not a legal occupation, even though the exchanges in the sex work market are supposed to be mutually consensual.

Note, also, that there is no law which stipulates that men must pick the dangerous occupations.  If everything about sex differences in the labor markets is choice, as conservatives argue, then men are choosing the riskier jobs.

And, as a complete aside, if we accept Innes' inane idea that women only work at home then all domestic abuse ending in death should be seen as a workplace fatality.

** I have written a long post about this common argument in the manosphere: That if we include prison rape, then men are raped more often than women.  It is not true, and my earlier post explains why that is the case, with data and all.

It's also worth pointing out that the rapists in prison rapes are rarely women.

*** This is not just a symbolic choice.  Peterson's book is patterned around the assumption that women are a chaotic force which men must control.  To see how he does that and where he goes wrong, you can do no better than reading my three-part review of Peterson's book.  It begins here


 

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Echidne's Short Sunday Sermons



1.  When ISIS commits attacks of terrorism, no Western pundit suggests that perhaps we should give ISIS what it demands.  When incels commit attacks of terrorism,  some pundits and opiners suggest exactly that.  Weird, that.


2.  This NYT piece on cultural appropriation made me wonder if it is a mere accident that many of the little people (people who are not public individuals or owners of vast corporations or powerful politicians) Twitter decides to take down have been young women*.

The NYT case is about someone wearing a prom dress taken from another culture's traditions.  An earlier Twitter case I followed had to do with two white women starting to sell burritos after  acquiring (or stealing) the recipes from women in Mexico, possibly without compensating them.  That enterprise was rapidly closed down, but the Taco Bell, a giant corporation, doesn't seem to be accused of cultural appropriation, even though it was started by a white Anglo man called Glen Bell.

And last year a young German woman studying biology decided to live in the Finnish wilderness on her own, to experience nature first hand.  She fished, gathered lingonberries,  planned to eat insects and cooked with an open fire.  The owner of the forest where she stayed had given her permission.

A local television station broadcast a story** about her experiment.  It resulted in tremendous social media rage in Finland**.  The woman was threatened with rape and violence, so that she would really learn to understand who owns the Finnish culture and the Finnish forests, and various writers in social media tried to find out her exact geographic location.

The topic of cultural appropriation is an important one, of course.  But it should be addressed with proper nuance.  Social media in general and Twitter in particular are not good at nuance.

3.  Enough with the grouchy sermons.  Go out and talk to the trees.   Or even better, listen to them. They are doing their job to keep our world going. 

-------

* A writer at the Guardian seems to wonder about something slightly related:  That fairly ordinary young people get severely chastised in social media.

Those individuals may benefit from various privileges, including racial ones or the privilege of belonging to the locally powerful cultures, but they don't have public power.  And the relative anonymity of social media doesn't let us compare the overall privileges of the individuals on various sides in these quarrels.

It's also worth noting that women of all races and from all ethnic groups tend to be attractive targets for social media anger, for many reasons that you can figure out.  One of them is certainly the lower likelihood of violent or wrathful responses from the targeted women which makes such attacks low-risk for those who practice them.

**  These sources are in Finnish.  The farmer who had given the German woman permission to stay in her forest argues that the hate comments came mostly from young people.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Dandelions


Are delicious right now in the Northern hemisphere.  My yard is completely natural, with no memory of pesticides (a wild jungle!), so I gather the leaves of baby dandelions, clean them and eat them.  The smallest make a nice salad, with a refreshing tang.  The slightly larger ones I parboil and then fry with garlic and olive oil.

Your mileage might differ.

The roots of dandelions can be roasted to make a coffee substitute if you are that way inclined.  The yellow flowers themselves can be picked, with the stems attached, and then woven into a crown or a necklace.  The white seed-heads are among the most beautiful shapes in nature.

Did that make you feel better about the incredible virility of dandelions and their ability to overtake any bare patch of soil they see, including your flower and vegetable beds?

Here's an old embroidery of mine.  The flowers are not dandelions but you can pretend they are, so that the next time you walk outside you will feel yourselves observed.




Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Short Posts, 5/2/18: Blaming Women, What-People-Say Scandals and The Truthiness of Untruths



1.  Did you know what really made the Golden State killer Joe DeAngelo into a serial killer and a serial rapist?  Try to guess.


Monday, April 30, 2018

The Weird And Wonderful World of Sex Inequality. And How Robin Hanson Would Fix the Incel Problem.


Remember the economist Robin Hanson and his proposal that being raped is less harmful than being cuckolded, provided that the rape victim is first drugged and then will never know about rape? (1)

Hanson has now proposed a new and fascinating solution to the blue balls (2) of online incels, the "involuntarily celibate" men who gather together on sites where the sufferers not only comfort each other but also recommend revenge at the world in the form of mass violence and rapes, and who call women subhuman.  That new solution is the redistribution of sex!:

One might plausibly argue that those with much less access to sex suffer to a similar degree as those with low income, and might similarly hope to gain from organizing around this identity, to lobby for redistribution along this axis and to at least implicitly threaten violence if their demands are not met. As with income inequality, most folks concerned about sex inequality might explicitly reject violence as a method, at least for now, and yet still be encouraged privately when the possibility of violence helps move others to support their policies. 
(Sex could be directly redistributed, or cash might be redistributed in compensation.)

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Girl And The Dancing Bear. Or Echidne's Poetry Translation Hour


I haven't done these poetry hours for several years.  The song below is based on a 1976 poem by a Finnish poet Marja-Leena Mikkola.  The poem (which I only learned about yesterday) is so popular in Finland that it lent its name to a Finnish annual poetry award (Tanssiva Karhu).

The poet has stated that she'd prefer to leave the interpretation of the poem to the reader, but that it can certainly be seen in several ways: as a description of real love* and as an ode to the importance of art in dark and dismal times.

I have provided a rough** translation of the poem below but without any attempt at trying to make it rhyme.





When the girl stepped in the wide halls
of her father's house 
she did not know
what was heavy
and what was light.

Then she was taken to the fair
- without care she was, 
without a hat she was -
and there she saw a dancing bear
among the grimacing clowns

And all she had to do then
to know
what was heavy
and what was light,
was to look into the eyes of
the leaping bear.

She forgot her father and mother
she forgot her childhood
and she hid herself among
the traveling clowns.

From then on she walked
with the bear,
From then on she slept
by the bear,
she shared with the bear her bread,
the cold, the hunger and work.

And the bear, the bear danced
when the girl beat on a drum,
and just like the sun eats of the moon
she ate of the bear's heart.

The road ran on, the years passed,
and still the clowns  they were clowning,
and in the midst of the fire and smoke
cheerful music rang.

But the bear at last grew weak,
and it fell on its side,
and it never rose again 
but slowly spoke:

"O, a light we have carried
into these years
of iron and of wrath,
we bore the light to a dark era
while taken for clowns.

The one who walks
the circus road
so long and broad,
that one knows 
what is heavy
and what is light.

The one who rules my heart
must cut it in two with a knife,
for my only crime has been
my bottomless love for her."

Now the mandolins cracked
now the clowns grew quiet
The girl took a knife in her hand
and the spectators paled.


When red drops ran
from the lips of the bear,
it looked at the girl and
said these final words:

"My love for you was like
a trip which has arrived.
Now the drum of my heart is quiet.
O, take it into your hands." 


This tale is old,
and already covered by
the most voiceless dust.
The girl herself doesn't remember
and even she has been forgotten.

------
* Which I needed as an antidote after having read one economist's proposal about how to reduce the "sex inequality" problem in the United States which,  in his view quite understandably, results in threats of violence. The solution (which I will address later) would probably require some kind of force to be applied to women reluctant to part with all that sex they are hoarding or spending on Trump and other top alpha males only.

**  It's pretty bad.  I changed the word "market" to "circus" in one place because the connotations are different in English.  But I couldn't find a good translation for "ilveilijät".  It's roughly the same as clowns but more sinister, about making scary faces and so on.


Friday, April 27, 2018

Friday Thoughts, 4/27/2018: Kevin Williamson's Pregnancy, Trump's Latest Rant and Obligatory Veiling in Iran



1.  Kevin Williamson, the conservative writer who believes that abortion is first degree murder and deserves to be punished as such, is a gift that keeps on giving.

Kevin believes that a fertilized egg is a human being.  Suppose, just as a thought experiment, that someone violently attacks him and inserts a fertilized egg in his abdomen.  Suppose, also, that the necessary changes are made so that the fertilized egg can now use Kevin as its nutrition and as the place where it will grow to a much larger size, finally pushing its way out with considerable pain, discomfort and even the risk of death for Kevin.

Never mind that the whole process is traumatizing, never mind that the raped Kevin would be in pain and shock, never mind that others would be deciding about his life, his health and even about his possible death.   Kevin would not want an abortion, because it is murder.

Or might he change his mind?

I have no idea if Kevin has made such a thought experiment.  But even if he has done so, a thought experiment it would remain.  The questions he pontificates about will never touch his right of self-determination, because nobody can forcefully grow human beings inside him.  Yet I don't see the necessary humility in Kevin's writings, the kind which should be obvious to anyone who actually doesn't have skin in the game in that awful sense.

Perhaps our Kevin makes an exception to his abortion-is-murder rule for rape victims?  But that would be illogical.

2.  This video (about Trump phoning in to the conservative Fox and Friends show) must be great fun to watch from some other planet.  It's a snapshot of the mental state and emotional concerns of the most powerful man on earth:



3.  Many Iranian women have protested the obligatory veiling laws of the Iranian theocracy in the early months of 2018.  This opinion piece, published more than a month ago, clarifies some of the issues which are poorly covered in Western feminist writings.*

-------

* The reasons for that poor coverage are very complicated, but include the argument that those who share the genetic background of the colonizers of Middle Eastern countries shouldn't center their own views about gender equality, acting, perhaps, like ideological colonizers, but should give center stage to women who live in the colonized countries in defining what feminism means for them.  Given the colonizing and racist history, the advice is theoretically excellent. 

But in practice trying to follow it has serious negative side-effects: Women in very patriarchal cultures are not likely to get their voices heard, unless those voices agree with the patriarchal values.  So sometimes the overall effect is a certain type of selective silence among Western feminists.  The scant coverage of ISIS and its treatment of women (which is horrendous by any yardstick) is one example of that silence.










Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Incel Sites As Breeding Ground For Terrorism



Elizabeth Barrett Browning begins her Sonnet 43 with this line:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
If we replace "love" with "hate" in that line we are well on the way to understanding the misogynist sites, because misogyny on those sites comes in all possible flavors.  So many, indeed, that journalists must occasionally explain to those  who are blissfully unaware of the existence of those sites what "incels" might want or what "Pickup Artists" think of women or what "the return of the kings" might mean.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

On the Online Incel Movement




Rumors, as yet unverified by the Toronto police, suggest that the Toronto van killer may have acted out of misogyny.  This is based on a now-removed Facebook post, attributed to the killer:


Some argue that the post could be a 4chan hoax.  We shall see.  But even if it is not, understanding what the incels are and what they believe is both necessary and very unpleasant.  This Twitter thread gives the basic outlines of the hate movement.

And a hate movement it is.

For those of you who wish to know more about Elliot Rodger, "the Supreme Gentleman," I recommend my long post on him, written right after the multiple murders of innocents Rodger committed in Santa Barbara.

Trump's Choices: Pruitt and Pompeo



Trump's choices of people (the best people, the bigly people)  for his administration are always worth a laff riot or two.  Or would be, if we were watching this show from another planet with lots of nectar and manna and popcorn and beer.

Just consider what Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, may have been up to.  The New York Times published a long list of accusations a week ago, and they make charming reading even if some of them are not true.  To give you just one example:

Lawmakers have argued that the Morocco trip, during which Mr. Pruitt promoted natural gas exports, was inappropriate since the E.P.A. plays no formal role in overseeing gas exports. The trip cost about $40,000, according to agency records, with the flights alone costing $17,000.

Pruitt is the proverbial fox guarding the chicken coop. There's a report that he encouraged the National Mining Association to ask Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement.  Remember that the guy is supposed to guard our environment.  Then down a gallon or two of nectar or beer.  That's the way to survive this upside-down world.

For a second example of Trump's weird choices, take Mike Pompeo's nomination as the secretary of state.* 

I'd prefer we didn't take that choice, of course, given that the guy seems to  really dig Rapture** and that the secretary of state can actually increase the likelihood of Rapture coming, in this case by seeing the global politics as a holy war between extreme Islamism and, I assume, extreme Christianism.

Pruitt and Pompeo are good examples of the two important groups among the Republican politicians:  The Money Boyz and the Godbotherers.  Both get what they want.

------
* His nomination is out of committee because Rand Paul flipped his vote on that!  Had he not flipped, Pompeo would have been the first candidate for the secretary of state position who didn't get a favorable recommendation from the committee.   (This footnote has been corrected for an earlier error where I called Rand Paul Paul Ryan.  I always confuse the two names. My bad.)

** For those lucky enough not to know about the Rapture Christians, here's a nice and relaxed take on the history of the concept. 

You know that Rapture has taken place when you see piles of clothing lying on the ground and your fundamentalist neighbors have disappeared into heavens.  (I assume that you will not be among the Raptured if you read this blog.)

That's the time to steal all their belongings, for at the next stage you and I and all other sinners will be eradicated in a fiery storm of punishment from the loving fundamentalist Old Testament god who made all of us in his own image.

Once we have been incinerated, the Raptured will be returned to earth which will become a blissful eternal paradise.

It's that last bit which gives Rapture-believers the incentive to try to end the world now rather than later.



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?

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*  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?

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*  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: