Friday, January 05, 2018

The Trouble with Kirsten Gillibrand!

Is the same as the trouble with Hillary Clinton, quite accidentally and for no particular other reason:

The larger question about Gillibrand, though, is whether she is too transparently opportunistic to be a viable candidate after the rejection of another New York politician criticized for basing her positions on supposedly canny calculations rather than on from-the-gut convictions.

That is Ciro Scotti at the Daily Beast.

Criticizing politicians for their policies is to be recommended.  Criticizing politicians a specific way only because they are women is problematic.  For instance, how often have you seen a male politician criticized for selfishness?  Yet here are a few more quotes about Gillibrand:

For Gillibrand, nearly every move seems to be a self-serving playing of the angles. While it’s not surprising to see a politician behave this way, Gillibrand seems to be an especially egregious practitioner of the finger-in-the-wind politics that so many voters can no longer abide.  

But one thing seems clear: Those denunciations and their timing were all designed to be right for Kirsten Gillibrand.

So what do we have here?  Gillibrand is selfish.  Gillibrand is not authentic ("canny calculations rather than from-the-gut convictions").  Gillibrand is a weather vane who changes her policies based on what works for her.

When you put all those together it's hard to think of a similar article about a male politician, but several about Hillary Clinton.  As Madeleine Aggeler points out at the Cut:

All politicians are opportunistic; it’s practically a job requirement. But Scotti falls back on the same old, tired, lizard-brained and misogynistic argument that people used against Hillary Clinton: That ambitious women are off-putting.
The sample size is yet too small, but I'm collecting information to see if female politicians, when turning into "too" powerful, get the Hillarization treatment, and what that treatment might consist of.  There is a pattern. 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

More Trump Gifts To His Base: A Lump of Coal For Christmas

Coal miners were extensively used in Trump's campaign speeches.  They may or may not have voted for him, but coal mining is what Trump promised to resuscitate in the US:

President Donald Trump spent much of his campaign promising to bring back coal, an industry that he said then-President Barack Obama had demoralized with too many regulations. So in July when Trump declared at a rally that he had created 45,000 coal jobs since the start of his presidency, many coal miners rejoiced.

The only problem seems to be that number was nowhere close to true. In fact, since the beginning of Trump's presidency, just 1,200 coal-mining jobs have been created, according to monthly reports by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, the 1,200 coal jobs during Trump's presidency thus far are just 100 more than were created between August and December 2016 under President Obama.

Place all that against this news:  Coal mining deaths are higher in 2017 than in 2016, and the Trump administration is considering these regulatory changes:

Last month the Trump administration brought up for review standards implemented by Barack Obama’s administration that lowered the allowable limits for miners’ exposure to coal dust. MSHA indicated it is reconsidering rules meant to protect underground miners from breathing coal and rock dust — the cause of black lung — and diesel exhaust, which can cause cancer.
So if the coal miners got a lump of coal in their stockings this Christmas, who is it who received real presents? 

The wealthiest one percent of Americans and corporations*. 

Corporations are now people (thanks, Citizens United), and it is the mining corporations which benefit from relaxed health regulations, just as it is the industries which benefit from a rollback of disability rights or from reduced use of fines  to stop negligent nursing homes from harming their residents.

All that red regulatory tape that has now been cut just may have held together the health and well-being of some workers and consumers.  But they are not Trump's real base.

* As was made very clear with the enormous tax "relief" the richest among us got from the Republican's tax "reform."

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

The First Conspiracy Theory of 2018: The Storm

Remember PizzagateSomething equally tasty is baking in the ovens of the right-wing rumor mills:

A new conspiracy theory called “The Storm” has taken the grimiest parts of the internet by, well, storm. Like Pizzagate, the Storm conspiracy features secret cabals, a child sex-trafficking ring led (in part) by the satanic Democratic Party, and of course, countless logical leaps and paranoid assumptions that fail to hold up under the slightest fact-based scrutiny. However, unlike Pizzagate, the Storm isn’t focused on a single block of shops in D.C., or John Podesta’s emails. It’s much, much bigger than that.
The eye in the middle of this "Storm" is that famous 4chan site where woman-haters, neo-Nazis and similar nice folk get together and chat over tea and biscuits:

On October 28, someone calling themselves Q began posting a series of cryptic messages in a /pol/ thread titled “Calm Before the Storm” (assumedly in reference to that creepy Trump quote from early October). Q claimed to be a high-level government insider with Q clearance (hence the name) tasked with posting intel drops — which he, for some reason, called “crumbs” — straight to 4chan in order to covertly inform the public about POTUS’s master plan to stage a countercoup against members of the deep state. It was, in short, absolutely insane.
Let's see.  Q is supposed to be a high-level government insider.  Q is supposed to have the equivalent of top secret clearance.  Yet Q uses 4chan as the site to which he or she will release extremely secret material.  And Q writes sentences like these:

False leaks have been made to retain several within the confines of the United States to prevent extradition and special operator necessity. Rest assured, the safety and well-being of every man, woman, and child of this country is being exhausted in full.

Rest assured, nobody with high-level security clearance writes that poorly.  On the other hand, I do see that type of writing in the phishing attempts where someone tries to pretend to be from PayPal or "your administrator."

It's very sad that disproving any part of the conspiracy will have no effect on the true believers.  We urgently need better basic education in this country, including the basic rules about how one judges the truth of various assertions.

Beginning-of-the-Year Post: How Echidne Would Rule This Globe

If I were the dictator of this planet my long-term policies would be these:

1. Address climate change.  It may well be the case (as this dismal article about our likely future argues) that humans are simply not psychologically equipped to cope with the large short-term costs of trying to ameliorate it.  But the alternative truly is too dismal.  I like reading dystopian science fiction.  I don't want to live in it.

2.  Address the funding of  economic development in poor countries.  That means real money expenditure, real attention to curbing corrupt governments and elites from taking all the money, and real emphasis on education.  I'm an education fanatic, because I believe it is the one thing which will work best in the longer run.

As with the attempts to slow down climate change, the short-run costs of these policies are likely to be large and include, for example, the prioritizing of education over many other urgent needs.  But the alternative here, too, is dire, and includes vast floods of migrants who leave areas without any employment opportunities but also who do not have the education to be gainfully employed in the countries they try to reach.

3.  Reduce population growth.   This is no longer a popular goal for either side of the American political aisle.  But I believe it is absolutely necessary if we are to have less climate change and space for all the other animals and wilderness, too. 

One argument that has recently become popular is that the earth can house many more people if only all of us agree to live very frugally forevermore.  From that angle it is the wealthiest twenty percent (us) who should cut back on our excess consumption, and that, indeed,  is desirable from the climate change control angle. 

But the eighty percent who are less wealthy don't want the rest of us to become equally poor; they want to become as wealthy as we are, to own SUVs and computers and so on.

To enable all people on earth to have an equally high standard of living we simply must become fewer than we are right now.  And cutting back on fertility is a far kinder way of achieving that goal than the alternatives:  War, famine and disease.


Many of the current violent conflicts have at least some of their roots in conflicts over resources, and resource conflicts are created by a mismatch between the size of available resources and the number of people wanting them.  Climate change affects agricultural resources.  Thus, all three of the above policies Echidne-The-Dictator would impose would also reduce the likelihood of warfare.


4.  Maintain a focus on human rights and economic equality.  There are signs which suggest much less emphasis on human rights, including the equality of men and women.  The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report for 2017 shows, for the first time since the reports were begun, a widening of the gap between men and women.  Progress seems to have stalled in some key areas and in a sufficient number of countries to affect the overall figures.  

The election of Donald Trump and the strong whiffs of dictatorship coming from Russia, Turkey and Hungary also suggest a retreat from human rights and from relative economic equality.  Austerity politicians in many European countries are like mice gnawing on the strands of the social safety nets and I see no progress toward creating such safety nets in other parts of the world.

This last policy matters, not only because I believe in its basic values, but because it interacts with the previous three policies.  Increasing economic opportunity in the poorest countries must not mean the development of a small, rich and powerful local elite, at the expense of everyone else.  If that is what happens, the migrant flows will not stop.  

Likewise, ignoring girls' rights to a childhood and education will cause the education initiative to fail.  Early marriage, for example,  handicaps girls for life, because it limits their ability to acquire skills for the labor market.  Early marriage is also likely to result in unequal marriages and large family sizes.  

The custom of early marriage is at least partly based on the view of girls and women as largely reproductive and sexual resources, to be bartered between families.  A focus on women's human rights makes that less likely and also supports the population control initiative, because more educated women have fewer children.


I am not the dictator of this globe and these policies will not be pursued, of course.  But I think the world would be a better place if I ran it. Mmm.