Friday, December 29, 2017

Today In Review. Or Echidne's End-of-Year Post.

1.  I went to get my hair cut today.  The hairdresser had a bottle of Barbicide on the shelf.  So disappointed to learn that it's not intended for killing Barbies.

2.  It's bone-chilling cold here.  An interesting observation:  Being very very angry, furious and full of spitting rage does keep the body warmer.  It still needs a hat, two pairs of mittens and warm pants.  And swearing at bad drivers who think they can save car cleaning costs by wiping their vehicle with pedestrians isn't conducive to warmer toes and fingers.

3.  Ever since my first day of blogging I have written quite a bit about women's issues, especially the sexism in various types of research.

I began that endeavor all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, full of naive innocence and hope that even if my blog is tiny, it would have some impact. 

Now my writing eyes have dimmed and my writing tail (shutup!) is all draggled.  What's the point, I mutter, angrily kicking at lumps of ice. 

If you press a seesaw at one end it just rises at the other end. If one type of simplistic essentialist* explanation of what's wrong with those dratted girl brainz is disproved, another one just takes its place**.  The history of science shows that to be the case, of course, but as I wrote, I used to be optimistic and naive about the chances of turning the debate to something more realistic.

4.  Trump's New York Times interview reads like a verbal coleslaw.  Well, that's how he sounded during his election campaign, too, which means that millions of voters wanted a verbal coleslaw president to steer this country and to represent it to the rest of the world.  All covered in white mayonnaise.

A furious debate seems to be happening about the rights and duties of the interviewer who let Trump shred his words left, right and center, and who didn't challenge Trump on any of his many lies.  That debate seems to be spreading to the question what the proper role of the media might be.

Given that roughly half of this country believes the mainstream media to be the purveyor of nothing but fake news (Grey Poupon on the coleslaw?), the proper role of the media might be one of those topics where the train has left a station a long time ago.

I am certainly mixing my metaphors today. 

What is the state of Trump's cognitive health?  Both Ezra Klein and Charlie Pierce suggest that he is not a well man.   Pierce believes that Trump is suffering from the onset of dementia.  Who knows?  But if that's the case, well, the signs were no different during the election campaign and that was good enough for millions of American voters. 


*  The kind which allows for no complicated interactions between genes and the environment, for example, or the kind which gives human history a biological explanation,  utterly ignoring the impact of laws, norms and opportunities which varied vastly for men and women. Or the kind which is based on what a divine power has presumably told some nomadic herders a thousand or two thousand years ago. 

As an aside:  I am NOT arguing that there are no biological sex differences or that people are blank slates at birth.

**  And not all those who hold such views are found on the political right, though most of them are.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Echidne's Pitch to Vanity Fair

What do you think of the idea of Joe Biden running in 2020?  Something along these lines:

Or do you think Biden's history is so tainted by the right-wing propaganda over the years, that he is so much in the pockets of the capitalists that he should rather take up
a) crocheting
b) ice-fishing
c) lobbying?

Which should I propose as a topic for the Vanity Fair magazine, to match this recent take by them on Hillary Clinton?

That is really cutting and great.  Young white women and men suggest that the first woman who got within spitting distance of the US presidency should take up knitting or do more walking in the woods or start teaching alternate nostril breathing.

I have nothing to say here about Hillary Clinton as a politician or as a person.  What I am interested in this post is Hillary Clinton as the first female candidate who almost became the president of this country. 

The smoke and mirrors treatment of her whole career has effectively hidden that fact from our eyes and turned her candidacy into its exact opposite:  The old old same same shit of the powerful in American politics. 

It's not necessary to ignore the criticisms of her to also point out that what she was trying to do would have been path-breaking for the women of this world.  But very few in the media point that out.

To suggest that an older woman in politics should take up knitting, a traditionally female occupation or hobby, will strike future historians as one example of the reason Hillary Clinton did not win the 2016 presidential election.  Old women should be doing volunteer work or knitting.

And of course the video is a joke, and I get it.  But for a joke to be funny one must agree with the underlying hidden assertion, and in this case it just might be a sexist-and-ageist assertion.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Post-Christmas Trump Thoughts

Donald Trump ushered the Christmas season in like this:

President Trump was in a celebratory mood on Friday night and told a group of his wealthy friends, “You all just got a lot richer” after he signed the tax cuts into law. Trump reportedly uttered the words to a group of friends who were having dinner nearby at Mar-a-Lago, including two friends who spoke to CBS News about the remark.
Anyone spending time at what has come to be known as the “Winter White House” is not exactly suffering economically, considering the initiation fee is $200,000 and annual dues are $14,000.
I love the tone-deafness.  A holiday centered around the idea of a young traveling couple who couldn't find a room at an inn but had to sleep in the barn where their child (Jesus) was then born, and our Dear Leader uses the occasion to rejoice with his rich friends over a successful plot to make the rich even richer, never mind the poor or the middle class.  Cue Ebenezer Scrooge.

I have written similar bitter posts about Trump's complete and utter lack of social skills, about his narcissism and about his very limited ability to understand the kind of behavior we used to expect from our politicians and especially those who are seen as representing the country.  But he probably just doesn't care, because he is a star, and a star can grab any pussy and act like an asshole everywhere.

We are now used to a president who tweets whatever nasty thoughts he might have, who attacks the free press, private individuals, celebrities and the FBI, and who lies more often than Pinocchio.

"Oh, that's just how he is,"  I've heard some say.   "A man of the people," I've heard some say.  "He's just talking back to the elites*, something we all wanted to do, and now he is doing it for us," I've heard some say.

And suddenly,  what used to be unacceptable for the president of the United States to do or say has become acceptable, even expected.  The unthinkable is now very thinkable, and not only in the way our Dear Leader uses his Twitter account, but also more widely.

The Republicans barely bothered to pretend that the tax reform was for the benefit of the middle class.  It was for the donors to the Republican Party, for the new oligarchy running the policies of this government.

And it was for the corporations.  It's beginning to look as if anything the "industries" ask Trump will deliver.  Lower profit taxes?  Sure!  Fewer regulations?  Certainly!

The latter seem to include lower fines for nursing homes which mistreat their residents and rolling back regulations on offshore oil drilling which were created after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster:

BSEE says that the cuts will save the oil industry $900 million over ten years. The proposal has not been made public, but the WSJ reports that some of the changes include easing rules that require the streaming of real-time data of oil production operations to facilities onshore, which allows regulators to see what is going on. Another rule that would be removed requires third-party inspectors of equipment, such as the blowout preventer, to receive certification by BSEE.

Getting rid of unnecessary red tape is not a bad idea.  But what if that "red tape" is all that is keeping some system from falling apart?  All that is keeping some predators from exploiting the frail elderly in nursing homes or all that is keeping the oil industry from maximizing its short-term benefits by increasing the risks its employees must take?

I don't see nuanced debates about how best to cut or shred the red tape or about the costs of doing so**.  Rather, what the industries want the industries get.

Which should be a little disconcerting, given that corporations don't yet have voting power in this country.

What is the point of this rant?  Perhaps that Trump's personal oafishness is catching and infecting our wider political system.


*  I find it ironic that the way "elites" are used in the right-wing information bubble carefully excludes the moneyed and corporate elites.

*  The latter include the potential future losses of life and potential future pain and suffering. The costs and benefits of less regulation should be compared to the costs and benefits of current regulation levels, and not only to the industries being regulated but also to its workers and its consumers.