Friday, December 09, 2016

Andy Puzder for the Secretary of Labor: Up Is Down And Down Is Up

Andy Puzder is a masterly pick for Trump's Secretary of Labor, given that the real objective is to wreck the Department of Labor.

If you can't find an extant slave owner for the job,  picking a crony capitalist whose interests are to keep labor as cheap as possible is a fantastic move

Puzder owns fast food restaurants, well known for their excellent wages and benefits and career prospects.  He is opposed to any substantial increases in the minimum wage (it would hurt his wallet).  He also cares so much about his workers that he has opposed rules which would make more workers eligible for overtime pay.  You see, if workers are paid more, then Puzder will hire fewer of them.  In 2012, Puzder's own salary and other compensation amounted to $4.485 million.  But did he demand overtime pay?  You bet your ass he did not.

Puzder, the newest member of the demolition derby administration, is also going to be the guardian of women's rights in the labor market!  I can't stop laughing.

Here's how much he loves us women:

Consider the infamous Carl’s Jr. ads. You may remember them—the spots featured scantily-clad celebrities like Kate Upton and Paris Hilton eating the company’s burgers in graphic closeup. The ads, which have been repeatedly compared to porn, inspired boycotts and criticism.
Puzder’s response? “We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don’t sell burgers,” said the CEO in a 2011 press release. “We target hungry guys, and we get young kids that want to be young hungry guys.”
So.  Puzder wants to use ads to teach young boys the proper objectification of women.

But then Donald J. Trump broke that thin veneer of pretense we had going for a few decades, the idea that out-and-out sexists just might suffer some negative consequences.  Now pretty much anything goes in the grab-your-burger-and-pussy administration.

Also, there is this:  Puzder joins the growing group of men in the Trump administration who have been accused of assaulting women.  Perhaps the accusations are baseless?  Who knows for sure, but I'm still agog at the lack of screening the Trump transitioning team demonstrates.

On the other hand, Trump himself sets an example of how women are going to be properly judged in the new Trump Reich:  Hotness matters and that's it.  A bit like curries on a menu.

Oh, and one more question:  How is this administration shaping up to help those angry white working class voters in the Rust Belt who voted for Change?  I guess change they are getting.

Morning in Trump's America: Victory Laps, Protest Bans and A Reading List

Welcome to the Trump reality.  Our Dear Leader-Elect is running victory laps!  That is an unprecedented development in the land of the brave and the free (sic), but it is the truth, nevertheless.  Trump loved the adulation of his campaign rallies so much that he's just going to continue them.

And because he loves adulation and detests criticism, this is happening:

Plans for several large protests in Washington, D.C. the weeks before, during, and after the inauguration will have to be canceled or moved out of historically important parts of the city. The Presidential Inauguration Committee which Donald Trump now controls, has effectively arranged to ban protests and large gatherings in key and historically important demonstration areas in the nation's capital.
In a reportedly unprecedented move, the Presidential Inauguration Committee, via the National Park Service, last year, before Trump was the nominee, filed for and received permits shutting down areas like the National Mall, which is the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech and the culmination of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Also closed off will be surrounding areas of Pennsylvania Avenue, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial.

All that applies to the Women's March, planned for the day after inauguration.
Dictators do not care for demonstrations, and I'm beginning to fear that Trump aspires to dictatorship.

Should that turn out to be the case*, here are some useful things to read:

Why scientists worry about Trump

We are back to the world where making trains run on time is all that matters

Masha Gessen's advice:  How to fight a dictatorship

A 20-point guide to defending democracy

Deep thoughts about the meaning of this election

In which everything mattered

* I am not saying that it will be the case.  But it's extremely important to resist every move aimed at destroying democracy, even if the future turns out to be just the more familiar crony corrupt capitalism administration where friends of Trump loot the government coffers and the one percent gets "tax relief" which is taken away from the frail elderly.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

The Right-Wing Formula For Motherhood in The Trump Era

This juxtaposition of two news items about women in the US is worth highlighting:  First, Ohio passes a very strict abortion bill:

Donald Trump's election, and a presumption that he'll appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, spurred Ohio Republicans to pass what would effectively be the nation's strictest time-based abortion law, a legislator said.
Ohio lawmakers on Tuesday passed a controversial "Heartbeat Bill" that would ban abortions in that state from the moment the heartbeat of a fetus can be detected -- which usually occurs about six weeks into a pregnancy.
How many women know that they are pregnant at that six weeks point?

Never mind.  Ohio is just following the usual forced-birth playbook of the Republicans.

But what makes the story interesting is the reference to Donald J. Trump, our Dear Leader-Elect,  and the fact that  Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, told us the proper place of mothers:  It's not in the White House:

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said that mothers should not accept high-powered career opportunities—a standard that does not apply to fathers, in Conway’s opinion.
Put those two Trump-initiated snippets together, and what do you get?

The extreme right-wing plan for women:  Women's fertility is for the society (and its ultra-fanatic religious people) to control, not for women themselves,  but once children are born any difficulties that might cause are none of the business of the extreme right-wing.  They wash their hands!  No, more than that:  They tell us that the mothers of small children should not try to get powerful paid jobs.

Or any type of jobs, really, because the conservatives also oppose subsidized childcare, parental leaves and any other arrangement which would help parents of small children to both work for money and to parent.

Mothers are expected to care for children and absorb all the costs of doing so, including lower lifetime earnings, lower retirement benefits and a smaller likelihood of getting promotions or, indeed, that entry into those high-powered career opportunities Ms. Conway believes should go to fathers.

But the right-wing plan is even direr for the poorer mothers who work in low-paying jobs without proper access to daycare, without paid parental leave and possibly surrounded by people who share Ms. Conway's views about the proper place for mothers: Doing grunt work for pocket money or out of the labor force altogether.

I'm not sure if this post makes the point I want to make:  The right-wing in this country wants to socialize decisions about conception, about pregnancy and even about giving birth, but once a child is born, everything should be privatized:  Almost all responsibility is saddled on the shoulders of the mothers, while the wider conservative society, in general, refuses to budge one inch from its traditional gendered expectations about the role of mothers.*

* It's worth noting that the white supremacists, some of whom are firm Trump supporters, also wish to see white women's roles roughly limited to childbearing and child-rearing, while someone else decides how many children they are to produce for the Vaterland.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

And The the Demolition Derby Administration Approaches Maturity

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be managed by a climate change denier,  Scott Pruitt:

Pruitt has been a vocal critic of what he called the EPA's " activist agenda" and has said he does not believe climate changed is caused by man-made carbon emissions, saying the debate over climate change is "far from settled."


Pruitt, among the nation’s most vehement critics of the EPA and Obama administration climate and environmental policies, has forcefully opposed federal mandates for power plant pollution controls and cutting carbon emissions to curb Americans’ impact on the climate.

Fasten your seat-belts and don your gas masks.  The ride ahead will be bumpy.  And possibly short...

I always find the use of "belief" in these contexts fascinating, just as I find the idea that the debate might be "far from settled."  I guess you could argue that there are still people who believe that earth is a flat pancake with maple syrup on it, so in that sense no debate is ever entirely settled.

Anyway, the point is that Pruitt will destroy the EPA.  That's his task in the demolition derby administration, where all the departments the conservatives don't like are assigned to those who wish to wreck them.

I'm sure that those who voted for Trump because of economic frustration will love Pruitt.  He's going to get rid of all those pesky environmental regulations which hamper business (but might also keep us breathing).  What's annoying is that the death of this earth won't affect only those of us who voted for Trump.

Here's another fun aspect of the demolition derby administration:  Remember how Trump ranted against the Washington elites?  Remember how he promised to drain the swamp?

Good times those were, good times.  But now the people Trump has actually picked are mostly from the elites and denizens of that swamp they are supposed to drain.  Almost all of his picks are extremely wealthy.  Now, before language became perverted that meant they belonged to the elite.  And it still refers to those who are going to be out of touch with the white working class people of the Rust Belt.

Gender and the 2016 Elections. Part II: Did Sexism Affect The Results?

1.  Why did Donald J. Trump win the Electoral College in the 2016 presidential elections?  Fierce battles have been waged, ferocious wars have been launched, all over the "real" reason why Trump triumphed (heh).

Was it white supremacy that motivated his base?  Was it pure racism?  Fear of the Mexicans invading?  Was it the economic despair among those white working class members who dwell without hope but with great bitterness in the Rust Belt ghost towns?

Or was it desire for change with a capital C, from the Tea Party Republican fringe to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party?  A fairer income redistribution?  An end to the dwindling of the American middle class?

Why the need to choose just one reason, I wonder.  The Trump voters (all voters, really) might well have over sixty million different stories, each with its own package of complicated, often poorly reasoned and poorly understood explanations.

Some may have voted their economic anxiety, some their racial resentment or xenophobia,  some may have voted for tax cuts, some for the end of all "baby-killing" and so on.  This isn't anything new.  As I have shown in my previous post, many Republican voters just decided to come back home to Daddy, even though Daddy this year is a pussy-grabbing racist narcissistic member of the international financial elite who cannot leave the slightest insult unanswered.

The intellectual games  to tease out the "main" reason for Trump-love are fun, but they are ultimately not very productive, because the real reasons why we vote for a certain candidate are all braided together.  They can even influence each other, and some of them are most likely subconscious and thus invisible, even to the voter herself or himself.

Take the economic resentment explanation:   How voters view the overall economic situation depends on the administration in power and other political events.  Here's an example, a few days after the elections:

After Trump won last week's election, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents now have a much more optimistic view of the U.S. economy's outlook than they did before the election. Just 16% of Republicans said the economy was getting better in the week before the election, while 81% said it was getting worse. Since the election, 49% say it is getting better and 44% worse.
Conversely, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents' confidence in the economy plummeted after the election. Before the election, 61% of Democrats said the economy was getting better and 35% worse. Now, Democrats are evenly divided, with 46% saying it is getting better and 47% saying it is getting worse.

My point is not that economic woes wouldn't have mattered in the 2016 elections, but that the voters' feelings about the state of the economy can be colored by those same voters' general feelings about the administration in power.  For some, even the race and/or gender of the sitting president affects that economic evaluation. (1)

This intertwined aspect of one's reasons for voting in a certain way complicates the answers to the question I posed in the title of this post:  Did sexism affect the results?

It is further complicated by the fact that very few voters are going to answer political surveys by saying that their vote for Trump was motivated by their hatred of all those bitches and sluts and manipulative whores and the desire to keep them from power, even if that is the true reason.  Rather, they will give some other, more acceptable reasons for their vote, and the same applies to those who vote their racism or anti-Semitism or other types of bigotry.

2.  Given all that, what was the role of sexism in the 2016 presidential election?

Surely it had some role to play, because despite the way Hillary Clinton was seen as the insider, as the elitist,  as the pursuer of the same-old-same-old Obama policies or neoliberal policies, as the most powerful political agent of the last thirty years, the fact remains that she has girl cooties.

And our inherited traditions warn us about those cooties.  The Bible tells us that the man is the head of the household and that women should be silent in the congregation.  The Quran tells us that men are placed above women in the divine hierarchy,  Confucianism expects obedience from women, and even Buddha taught that wives should be obedient to their husbands.  And Aristotle viewed men as more expert in leading than women.