Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Tourist In An Alternative Reality. Visiting The Extreme Right.

So I spent some of my precious hours studying to understand those who are drawn to the extremist thinking of Stephen Bannon, the man who is promising us the reign of the working man.  And the most important truth I brought home with me is this:  Those folks really do live in an alternative theory, with a very different alternative set of "facts."

For instance, did you know that George Soros is behind everything having to do with the progressive causes?  Hillary Clinton was his puppet, he funded and perhaps hired professional agitators for the Black Lives Matter protests.  Indeed, because he has given money to all sorts of liberal causes, from La Raza to NOW, all those organizations now do his bidding.

Many YouTube videos provide "evidence" on all this, including "evidence" on what George Soros has said publicly, though the problem is that those statements come without the questions he answered or the context in which he answered them.

Some of the videos also show brown people committing violent acts or wrecking lamp posts and so on, but there is no information who the people in the clips are, where the videos were taken or when.  We are simply told that the violence is by, say, Middle Eastern or African refugees in Europe, and that Soros is somehow behind the refugee crisis.

Interviewing the New Ideologue of This Country

Stephen Bannon, of the Breitbart News fame, and now Donald Trump's ideological brains, has given an interview about our future:  It's going to be fifty years of Alt Right power.  Or white supremacy, if you wish.

At the end of the interview, the writer of the piece says this:

Bannon now becomes part of a two-headed White House political structure, with Reince Priebus — in and out of Bannon's office as we talk — as chief of staff, in charge of making the trains run on time, reporting to the president, and Bannon as chief strategist, in charge of vision, goals, narrative and plan of attack, reporting to the president too. Add to this the ambitions and whims of the president himself, and the novel circumstance of one who has never held elective office, the agenda of his highly influential family and the end-runs of a party significant parts of which were opposed to him, and you have quite a complex court that Bannon will have to finesse to realize his reign of the working man and a trillion dollars in new spending.
"I am," he says, with relish, "Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors."

Bolds are mine.  So I guess what Bannon is openly willing to defend is not white supremacy, but male supremacy.

Friday, November 18, 2016

From The No-Comment Files


We are going to have a lot more of this.

And this:

The rules are different now. 

Well, they have always been different for Democrats.  Republicans can yell "Lock Her Up" at rallies, Wall Streeters can yell "Lock Her Up," too, but no, you can't boo Mike Pence at a Broadway Show because that is rude.  Talking about pussy-grabbing, however, is not rude, and our new Attorney General -elect isn't even sure if it's sexual harassment to grab someone's vulva.

I'm beginning to get the feeling that those pesky rules are different for girls, too. 

My Thirteenth Blog Anniversary

Was on the election day.  There's a deep message in that, I guess.

Thank you for your company along whichever section of the road you have traveled with me.

A White Supremacist Speaks

To get a better idea of the people who believe that Donald Trump is in their camp, check out this NPR interview with one white supremacist.  David Duke also loves Trump's choices.  And more about Stephen Bannon.

I put my hazmat  suit on a few weeks ago and waded into several white supremacist sites (they hide behind the term Alt Right).  It's important to point out that those sites are also woman-loathing.  White women wouldn't have a good time inside the white supremacy.  Women are seen as a fertility resource, owned by the men in the movement, and many of the more misogynist MRA themes about women are very common on the Alt Right sites:  Women are treacherous, manipulative and in need of male control in all spheres of their lives.

The Post-Election Anger

I understand the anger of those who lost.  The results had not been predicted, the winner didn't only campaigned on economic policies which struck a chord, but also on racism, white supremacy and misogyny, and those, too, struck a chord or at least didn't matter enough for many who voted for Trump.  The new America that is being created is not going to be a country of equal opportunities for all.  After all, Stephen Bannon is its head strategist.

What I don't understand is the continuing anger of those who won, especially the radical extremist wing of the Trumpeteers.  Yet there are many examples of that anger, from the attacks against minorities and women on the streets to the Starbuck protests and plans to boycott firms such as Pepsi, because of this:

 PepsiCo garnered their wrath last week when CEO Indra Nooyi talked about the election in an interview with the New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin at a conference on Thursday. “They are all in mourning,” she said of her daughters and employees. “Our employees are all crying. And the question that they’re asking, especially those who are not white: ‘Are we safe?’ Women are asking: ‘Are we safe?’ LGBT people are asking: ‘Are we safe?’ I never thought I’d have had to answer those questions.”

These comments were unacceptable to the radical extremist Trumpeteers.

Just think of that for a moment.  Rather than reassuring all of us who belong to the groups (which together constitute the majority) Trump kept Othering all through his campaign, those Others should now do what?  Shut up?  Submit?

What would a mature leader do in this situation?  Let me think.  How about giving a speech telling his supporters to stop the harassment and slurs?  How about reassuring people who have been Othered that they are going to be safe?

Donald Trump may be mature in age, but he is certainly extremely immature as a statesman.  Indeed, he is doing very little to rein in the white male supremacist wing of his coalition.  I doubt he cares, to be quite honest, because this is not about accolades and people cheering him.

How To Fight Back: Second Tip: Refuse To Condone Hate

The Southern Poverty Law Center has tips on community organizing against hate.

They have a petition to ask Donald Trump to condemn bigotry and hatred (heh).

Added later, because I forgot the most important part of this post:

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.
Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

For Laughs

From the Onion, a political satire site:

A video letting you get acquainted with Stephen Bannon, Trump's Best Friend Forever.

The great relief when the tyrannical yoke of moderate respect for women has been removed by the election of the pussy-grabber-in-chief.

Today's Political Reading List

From one of those disgusting coastal elitists.  What else can you possibly call a goddess, though a little more respect is expected.  After all, it might rain snakes next week if I feel so inclined, and I do.

More seriously, I am gathering here articles which enhance our understanding of some aspects of the 2016 elections and which might point out areas where action is beneficial.

 Zeynep Tufekci writes about the role of fake political news on Facebook.  Social media is now the most important source for news in the United States, but not all those news are real ones.  Two examples:

Donald J. Trump’s supporters were probably heartened in September, when, according to an article shared nearly a million times on Facebook, the candidate received an endorsement from Pope Francis. Their opinions on Hillary Clinton may have soured even further after reading a Denver Guardian article that also spread widely on Facebook, which reported days before the election that an F.B.I. agent suspected of involvement in leaking Mrs. Clinton’s emails was found dead in an apparent murder-suicide.

There is just one problem with these articles: They were completely fake.

The Denver Guardian doesn't even exist.  It turns out that teenagers in Macedonia were behind many of the false right-wing news, because they could make money out of them.  I recommend the entire Tufekci article.

We must demand that Facebook does better than this.

Several articles have recently surfaced on rural white resentment, sometimes on rural white Christian resentment.  I recommend this view of what took place in the rural areas of Wisconsin, and this very opposite view concerning what the problem really might be.

The above overlaps with white working class resentments, whether they are economic, racist or sexist or (as is most likely to be the case) a knotted mess of all of those things*.  This is one take on some roots of that resentment.  It also mentions the traditional views about gender roles in that population.  Some argue that the women among the white working class didn't mind Trump's grab-them-by-the-pussy utterances, because that kind of stuff is just everyday life for them, just the way they believe men are.

The recent treatment of white working class voters as the possible-to-swing-voter-group that Democrats lost in this election is extensive all over the media**, even though most of those who voted for Donald Trump were your usual suspects:  Registered Republican voters, many quite affluent.  The white working class voters got prominence because of their role of defeating Hillary Clinton in the swing states.

What should be done about the white working class deserting the Democratic Party?***  Should anything be done to lure them back?  Or should we just wait for them/us to die out?

Most of what I've read on the latter topic veers into the distasteful category.  For instance, to write, with hope,  that the demographic decline of whites in the United States will take care of the problem the Democratic  Party has amounts to saying that we'll just wait until you guys die out, taking your cultures**** to extinction with you.

That is pretty insulting. Try replacing "whites" in such statements with any other racial or ethnic group and you will see what I mean.  And so do those white working class members who voted for Trump.

On the other hand, those who urge the Democratic Party to focus on the resentments of white working class voters will have to explain to me how the Party would cope with the fact that many of those resentments are not purely about economics but also about race and gender roles.

An increased focus on jobs, pay, vacations and combating rapidly rising economic inequality gets my strong recommendation.

But what compromises would that entail, given the intertwined nature of economic, racial and sexual resentment?  Would women's issues (affecting more than half of the population) once again be labeled "special interests," something to be put on the back burner?  I have recently met that old argument again.


*  As described in this article:

What they want is what they used to have: predictable jobs and long-standing social networks in stable communities. As liberals note, the social networks in which they were embedded reflected strict racial and gender hierarchies and enforced a conformity to community norms that was very painful for gays and lesbians, political dissidents and women who dreamed of doing something in the world outside the home. But they provided a stability that has since disappeared.

More on all that, especially the role of women voters (of all races and ethnic groups) and issues affecting women will be served to you in the near future.  On this here blog.

**  See here for a critique of the white working class focus.  Possible links to the white working class topic are so many that I cannot pick among them.  They are easily found, however.

In reading them remember a couple of important caveats:  First, the voting data we have now is from exit polls, which have their problems, and, second, the working class doesn't consist of only white workers, and despite the election-linked focus on white working class men, the economic plight of both working class women and minority men is greater, on average, than that of white working class men.

*** Note that the desertion of the party by the white working class began a long time ago.  Remember the Reagan Democrats?

****  It's crucial to stress that many in the white working class, both men and women, voted for Hillary Clinton.  We must not create a bogeyman out of one group, when most of those who voted for Trump were long-term Republican voters.  And yes, it's "cultures" in plural, because the working class cultures are place-specific.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Let's See What Trump Is Doing For His Not-So-Wealthy Base

For all those who voted for economic Change with a capital c*, let's see what the tea leaves predict might change, compared to the Obama administration:

1.  The estate tax might go away.  Such a relief, because it currently affects all ordinary Americans who leave 5.45 million dollars or more to their heirs.  I can already see the boom this causes in the Rust Belt, even if the Trump administration replaces it with a capital gains tax for that portion of the inheritance which exceeds 10 million dollars:

If estate tax repeal happens, it would be a tremendous gimme to the rich (including eventually Trump and his family). In tax year 2015, just 4,918 estates paid $17 billion in estate taxes (less than 1% of federal revenue). More than a third was raised from the richest of the rich—the 266 estates valued at $50 million or more brought in $7.4 billion to the Treasury.

2.. Wall Street is celebrating:

Christmas has arrived early for Wall Street in the early days of the Donald Trump era.
A populist candidate who railed against shady financial interests on the campaign trail is now putting together an administration that looks like an investment banker’s dream.

Former Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin has been seen at Trump Tower amid rumors that he’s the leading candidate for Treasury secretary. Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross appears headed to the Commerce Department. Steve Bannon, another Goldman alum, will work steps from the Oval Office. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon remains a possibility as Treasury secretary and will serve as an outside adviser if he doesn't get the job.
It’s a restoration of Wall Street power — and a potential flip in the way the industry is regulated — perhaps unparalleled in American history.

3.  Remember how Trump swore not to touch Medicare, the federal health care funding program for the over-65 population?  Well, things have changed, what with the election, and now it will be "modernized:"

There’s a lot that you should know about the Republican Medicare plan, a plan that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) hopes to enact shortly after President-elect Donald Trump takes office, but the entirety of it can be summarized in just one sentence.
Republicans want to charge seniors a lot more for inferior health coverage.

Given that voting for Trump was positively correlated with age, that's an interesting choice.  Note, also, that Medicare is not the only program funding the health care needs of the elderly.  Medicaid, the system which currently funds health care for the poorest of the poor, also funds a considerable chunk of long-term nursing care for the elderly.  The Republicans plan to suffocate it over time:

It is hard to overstate the importance of Medicaid, which insures 77 million people, pays for more than half of all births in some states, covers about two-thirds of nursing home residents and provides treatment for many people addicted to opioids. Spending on Medicaid, by the federal government and states combined, exceeds $500 billion a year.
Of the 20 million people who have gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act, officials estimate, 12 million are insured by Medicaid — with few of the problems that have plagued the new insurance exchanges, or marketplaces.
But change is coming. In his campaign manifesto, Mr. Trump said Congress must repeal the Affordable Care Act and give each state a lump sum of federal money — a block grant — for Medicaid. Congress passed legislation in January to repeal the health law and roll back its Medicaid expansion. Mr. Obama vetoed the measure, but Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin has vowed to put similar legislation on a Republican president’s desk.

Bolds are mine.

Block grants are wonderful devices for cutting funding, if they are not adjusted for inflation or population changes over time.  If the Republicans are successful in making such cuts, Trump-supporters, among others, may have to start saving a lot of money for grandma's nursing home expenses (which averaged almost 7000 dollars a month in 2016).

4.  Trump campaigned on huge tax cuts for the middle class, for the "forgotten men and women of this country."  Reality is more complicated:

But Trump's plan does the opposite, says Lily Batchelder, a law professor at New York University and visiting fellow at the Tax Policy Center.
"If you look at the most wealthy, the top 1 percent would get about half of the benefits of his tax cuts, and a millionaire, for example, would get an average tax cut of $317,000," she says.

And not all middle class Trump voters would see their taxes drop:

Lily Batchelder, a law professor at NYU and visiting fellow at the Tax Policy Center, says Donald Trump's plan would boost taxes for many families, with some of the largest increases applying to single-parent families "because of the repeal of the head of household filing status and personal exemptions."
  • A single parent with $75,000 in earnings, two school-age children and no child care costs would face a tax increase of around $2,440.
  • A single parent with $50,000 in earnings, three school-age children and no child care costs would also face a tax increase of around $1,188.
  • A married couple with $50,000 in earnings, two school-age children and no child care costs would face a tax increase of about $150.
  • Other married couples would get almost no benefit.
Hmm.  Wonder if any of that was intended?  After all, the Christianists who voted for Trump don't like families led by single mothers, though of course these rules also apply to single fathers and widowed individuals, whatever their sex.

* This post concentrates on proposed changes which are not going to help Trump supporters with moderate incomes.  The super-rich are naturally going to have a bonanza.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

And The Rest Of The World? How Will It Survive Trumpism?

This is quite a fascinating interview about Trump's possible foreign policy.  Try to find your jaw from the floor afterwards.  Note, also, the statement made by the former Swedish prime minister, Carl Bildt, around ten minutes and 34 seconds into the interview.

He states that if Trump's foreign policy will be based on the three themes he has persistently talked about over the years,  it would mean the end of the West as we know it.

He then elaborates on that apocalyptic vision.  The interviewer summarizes that elaboration as stating that Trump's theoretical platform on foreign policy would make the West poorer, more likely to be at war, and it would also reduce freedom, democracy and human rights in the world.

I recommend listening to the whole discussion, because the participants actually know the field, and because there is something eerie about hearing their calm and careful pronouncements about this mess we are now in.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How to Fight Back. First Tip: Give Mike Pence a Christmas Present

This will be a series of posts, I hope, including one about the best ways to intervene to stop street harassment of those who have been declared prey in this world where the Alt Right guys think Trump has given them a hunting license.

I'm beginning with something easy and safe:  Donate to Planned Parenthood.

Many poor women have no other source for gynecological care.

Better still, give your donation in the name of Mike Pence:

He staunchly opposes abortion rights and in 2011 led the charge to defund Planned Parenthood as a member of the House of Representatives, an effort that ultimately failed but nearly forced the federal government to shut down. As governor, he signed one of the nation’s most stringent abortion laws, which mandated that miscarried or stillborn fetuses be buried or cremated and that women have an ultrasound at least 18 hours before a scheduled abortion. It also barred abortions of fetuses with disabilities or because of their race, sex or ancestry.

The Eleventh Commandment: Do Not Normalize The Ideology of Donald Trump

1.  Do not normalize Trump values.  Do not normalize bigotry and hatred because it was expressed in a folksy way.

Some already  interpret the election results as a right to go out and kick people who don't look exactly like they do.*  Many are now afraid of their fellow citizens, what they might do, and how far Trump might allow it.  He has appointed an out-and-out racist-misogynist-whitemalesupremacist as his chief strategist, and that man has his ear.  That man's news organization is also suing the media for stating that the organization is one for white supremacists, despite this statement by Bannon himself:

"We're the platform for the alt-right," Bannon told me proudly when I interviewed him at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July.
 For more on that, check out my post below.

2.  Do not expect that Trump will act as an outsider**.   The Republican Congress still aims to give the rich humongous tax cuts, aims to destroy Social Security and Medicare as well as all environmental  protection.  No, we are not going to get Trump-the-billionaire-outsider; we are going to get both the old wingnut fundie your-wombs-are-ours stuff and the old wingnut big-wallet-boyz stuff, but on top of that we are going to get white supremacist horrors.

3.  Stop the bickering about who caused Trump's coup on our side of the aisle.  It's a waste of time, even if the purpose is to learn for the sake of the future, because it's like sitting in your living-room, trying to figure out how to buy better fire insurance while all the time the house you are in is on fire.  Besides, the wounds that bickering cause will fester much longer and create a revenge-is-best-served-chilled mentality in all  participants.

It is the voters who ultimately bear the responsibility for both getting informed and for the way they voted.  A large enough minority of Americans voted for Donald Trump, and that minority will now rule because of the Electoral College.

4.  Stop normalizing what is needed to cooperate with the Trump administration.  You can cooperate with him, but you cannot normalize the vicious hatred in order to do so, you cannot explain that Breitbart News is just an ordinary news organization for just very conservative conservatives when it publishes articles with headlines such as this:

 ‘Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?’

Equal rights for more than one half of this country's population is like cancer?
We cannot allow that way of thinking to be seen as normal.  We cannot collude with those values by normalizing Bannon's messages.

5.  The time to fight back is now.  It is much harder later on when the Trump Reich is in full swing.   And small attempts to destroy the underpinnings of democracy, such as the idea of the president suing the media for what they write, should be extremely strongly protested, because if they are ignored we will soon have no free press.


* The main targets for attacks have been African-Americans and Hispanics, but women in general have also met with a higher level of attacks and more online threats, and anti-Semitic symbols, such as the swastika, are used more.
 For some recent incidents see here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

And lest you think that feminist bread-and-butter issues will not be affected, note that misogynists also feel empowered.  For one example of how "might makes right" see what this commenter to one of the hate sites has to say about us women:

**  He might, because he is utterly unpredictable.  But what I have seen so far is that he is going to pass all the normal governing to extremist Republicans, while he gets the accolades (and presses the nuclear button, should someone insult him).

Monday, November 14, 2016

Meet Stephen Bannon, Trump's New Strategist

It's a sign of these times that my first reaction to hearing that Trump's Chief of Staff would be Reince Priebus was a sigh of relief!  Please, someone, turn off this nightmare.

If you can't do that, you might be interested to learn that the man I feared would hold that position, Stephen Bannon, will be Trump's chief West Wing strategist.

Stephen Bannon is an extremist right-wing media provocateur, the executive chairman of Breitbart News,  a website which has published articles with these titles under his rule:

“Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.”
“Political Correctness Protects Muslim Rape Culture.”
“Suck It Up Buttercups: Dangerous Faggot Tour Returns to Colleges in September.”
“The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ Is Simple: Women Should Log Off.”
“Two Months Left Until Obama Gives Dictators Control of Internet.”
“There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews.”
“Trannies Whine About Hilarious Bruce Jenner Billboard.” 
My friends, this is the man who now has continuous access to the president of the United States, and he is a beauty!

This article argues that he is connected to the White Supremacist Movement, and he certainly is connected to the Alt Right, which I think is the White Male Supremacist Movement:

"We're the platform for the alt-right," Bannon told me proudly when I interviewed him at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July.


Exactly who and what defines the alt-right is hotly debated in conservative circles, but its most visible proponents—who tend to be young, white, and male—are united in a belief that traditional movement conservatism has failed. They often criticize immigration policies and a "globalist" agenda as examples of how the deck is stacked in favor of outsiders instead of "real Americans." They bash social conservatives as ineffective sellouts to the GOP establishment, and rail against neo-conservative hawks for their embrace of Israel. They see themselves as a threat to the establishment, far bolder and edgier than Fox News. While often tapping into legitimate economic grievances, their social-media hashtags (such as #altright on Twitter) dredge up torrents of racist, sexist, and xenophobic memes.

I have visited the Alt Right websites.  First and foremost they are racist.  But they are also sexist.  White women are needed to populate the white Vaterlands, but they are certainly not viewed as equal participants in the movement.  More like the resources the movement requires, something along the idea that women's sphere should be limited to Kinder, Küche, Kirche.

That's the background of our Stephen.  We shall soon learn what he has in mind for the citizens of this country.  Sadly, that is now likely to depend on the race and ethnicity of those citizens.  Oh, and of their wives, of course.