Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Women's Marches

Were yuuuge!  Bigly!   Beautiful, as our Dear Leader would say.  Not sad!

The pictures at the New York Times, taken of marches all over this country and in other countries are proof of those adjectives.  Every continent was covered, even Antarctica.  The total numbers are hard to estimate, but I believe that at least three million marched in the US alone.  And the marches were joyous and peaceful.

There is a time for critical dissections and analysis, and I'm a goddess of analysis by both basic nature and training.  But there is also a time to grab that righteous emotion, that love, that anger, that coming together as one giant circle of friends,  and today is that time.  Time to feel that we are not alone, time to know that we are not alone, time to organize for the future.  Time to be heard.

Trump's inaugural speech (possibly written by the white male supremacist Bannon?) referred to Trump's concept of neglected Americans. I have heard several experts state that the many women and men and children who marched today are not the usual crowd who turns up for political rallies.  These are people who may never have marched before, people who have woken up because of Donald Trump.  And these are people who will NOT stay neglected by his administration, however much Trump might wish they do.

Here is a collection of the best signs people spotted in the various marches.

What To Read, 1/21/17: Alexandar Hemon and Rebecca Solnit

1.  Alexandar Hemon on how to write during the chaos presidency is worth reading, though it's not cheerful in itself.  The quote I liked was this one, because it might ring a bell in many who were taken by the sudden jack hammer of malevolent surprise on the evening of the elections:

Societies generate realities and present them as self-evident ("we find these truths to be self-evident..."), and art plays a crucial role in that operation. When there is a major rupture, the whole structure of self-evidence falls apart and the shock exposes how badly it has been maintained. It turns out that nothing is the way we thought it was; we're not the country we thought we were; people are not who we thought they were; the leaves on the street are not the leaves I recognize; my neighbor might be a Trumpist killer, or at least a spy; reality no longer meets my reasonable expectations, it no longer fits my knowledge. The moment when we cannot in any way connect what is taking place and what we know is a traumatic one, because the solidity of reality — the belief that its continuity cannot be altered — catastrophically falters.
The good news is that we can survive those ruptures, some in our personal lives, and many of us, including Hemon, have survived and even gained wisdom from that struggle.  

The other good news might be what my therapist friend told me:  It's not irrational to fear a tiger when a tiger actually roams outside your house; it's rational.  She also pointed out that the chaos has always been there, that we have always been surfing it, spinning spider webs across it,  that we are good at that spinning, that the spider webs are strong, and if we hold hands we can get to the other side of the rupture.

2. Rebecca Solnit's passionate voice on Donald Trump's misogyny is worth hearing.   The stew that boiled over on the election day had many, many ingredients, but the spice of misogyny was certainly included.  Its flavor has merged with other flavors in the post-election simmering, but if you close your eyes and concentrate you can taste it.

It tastes like shit.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Killing the DOJ's Office on Violence Against Women: The Russian Connection.

Trump plans to put the government on a starvation diet!  Well, parts of it, those the Republicans and Trump detest.  These includes such girly crap as the National Endowments for the Arts and for the Humanities, because only girly people like arts and such.  But it also might include the Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women:

The Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women oversees a total of 25 grant programs, which distribute funds to organizations committed to ending sexual assault, domestic abuse and dating violence. 

Most recently, the office launched a "Safer Families, Safer Communities" site to enforce the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in June that states people convicted of domestic violence can't own firearms. In October, the office awarded $9.85 million in funds to investigate gender bias in policing, and in September, distributed $25 million to addressing campus sexual assault. 
But the Trump team would like to see the Department of Justice's efforts to tackle some of the most serious issues affecting half of the United States population terminated — all in the name of saving government dollars.

For the sake of honesty, the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief didn't just come up with this plan on his own:  It was already in the Heritage Foundation's blueprint for drowning the government not in the bathtub as Grover Norquist used to threaten, but in a tiny thimble, suitable for very tiny fingers.


Here's where things get very interesting:  Putin and Trump are Best Friends Forever and have similar societal blueprints.  Last summer Russia finally passed a law banning domestic violence.  Before that:

Given that there was no specific law in Russia prohibiting domestic violence, victims who wanted to press charges had to be their own prosecutors. The system for this was so complicated that 90 percent of cases were dismissed for technical reasons. In 2012, NGO and government representatives started drafting the first domestic violence law for Russia. Things were looking good for women in the country of Anna Karenina—until Putin was elected to a third term of presidency, ultra-conservatism gripped the nation, and a complicated grassroots movement called the All-Russia Parents’ Resistance reared its head.  
Once praised by Putin as the “true patriots of Russia”, these civil activists “protect” Russian kids from adoption to foreign families and promote family beatings as a cultural tradition. “I think they see the traditional family as a traditionally patriarchal family. What they are mostly implying is that this law takes away the man’s right to control his family members,” Pisklakova says.

But not to worry!  The new law may already be ailing:

Women’s rights activists have expressed fury over a legal amendment under consideration in the Russian parliament which, if passed, would decriminalise domestic abuse.
The amendment would make “moderate” violence within families an administrative rather than criminal offence, punishable by a fine rather than a jail sentence.
Those behind the bill say they believe it supports “traditional values” and stops the state from snooping into family matters.
But activists say it removes protection for the vulnerable, normalising husbands who beat their wives, parents who beat their children, and family members who beat elderly relatives.
The Russian justification is all about traditional values and who gets to beat whom.  I think the American justification for killing the Office on Violence Against Women boils down to the same thing.


While Preparing for the Coronation: The Competency Hearings

Some of the funniest* moments of the desperate last-moment preparations for the Demolition Derby administration:

1.  Rick Perry thought the job he is going to have was all about being a spokesman for American oil and gas industries:

When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.
In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.

2.  Mr. Perry's qualifications for the job appear ever so slightly different from the last two energy secretaries:

Mr. Perry, who once called for the elimination of the Energy Department, will begin the confirmation process Thursday with a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee. If approved by the Senate, he will take over from a secretary, Ernest J. Moniz, who was chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department and directed the linear accelerator at M.I.T.’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Before Mr. Moniz, the job belonged to Steven Chu, a physicist who won a Nobel Prize.
For Mr. Moniz, the future of nuclear science has been a lifelong obsession; he spent his early years working at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Mr. Perry studied animal husbandry and led cheers at Texas A&M University.

3.  Scott Pruitt, Trump's choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  hadn't checked what a safe level of lead in drinking water might be:

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency said at his confirmation hearing Wednesday that he didn’t know one of the most basic things about drinking water safety. 
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) asked Scott Pruitt if “there is any safe level of lead that can be taken into the human body.”
The answer is a simple “no,” but somehow Pruitt didn’t say that. 
“Senator, that is something I have not reviewed nor know about,” said Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma.  
“I would be very concerned about any level of lead going into the drinking water or obviously human consumption,” he continued, “but I’ve not looked at a scientific research on that.”

4.  Betsy deVos, Trump's nominee to run the Education Department is a funny choice to begin with, given that she has no training or background in education.  But there was also this from her confirmation hearings:

Sen. Tim Kaine, Democrat from Virginia, asked DeVos about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which guarantees services to students with disabilities. It has been a federal law since 1990. Kaine asked if all schools should meet the requirements of the law.

"I think that is a matter that's best left to the states," DeVos said. 
Further questioning from Kaine seemed to reveal DeVos's lack of understanding about IDEA. Later, Sen. Maggie Hassan, Democrat from New Hampshire, asked more pointedly about DeVos's knowledge of IDEA. 

"So were you unaware when I just asked you about the IDEA that it was a federal law?" Hassan asked.
"I may have confused it," DeVos said.

Oh, and Ms. deVos believes that  grizzly bears might be a valid reason to have guns in schools.

But the most important snippet to take home is that Ms. deVos refuses to rule out not funding public schools (which cater to 90% of all students).   That, of course is the Demolition part of the Derby.


*Only in the sense that I'd rather not bawl my eyes out, and sarcasm is the healthiest of the alternative coping mechanisms.

Added later:  And then there is Tom Price, here grilled by Elizabeth Warren.