Thursday, October 10, 2019

Short Posts 10/10/19. Kurds in Normandy, Gendered Focus in Political Scandals and A Cat

1.  The president of the United States takes many of his talking points — and most of his political advice, it seems — from various right-wing media pundits. 

Thus we learn that Trump's personal defense* for betraying the Kurds (that"the Kurds didn't help the US in Normandy during WWII") most likely came from an opinion piece by Kurt Schlichter on Townhall (a conservative site only slightly more polite than which stated:

Let’s be honest –the Kurds didn’t show up for us at Normandy or Inchon or Khe Sanh or Kandahar.

The linked New York Times article points out that some Kurds did fight for the Allied in WWII, though perhaps not in Normandy, and that in any case the Kurds were not a country but a large group of essentially stateless people, and this is still the state of the affairs.

The real problem here is, of course, not that Trump blurted out something stupid —  that's now part of the job description for the US president —  but that this particular blurting tells us who Trump's real advisors are.  It's this that should be talked about.

2.  Isn't it fascinating how blasé many in the media have become about Our Dear Leader's pussy-grabbing habits?  A new book on that topic by Barry Levine and Monique El-Faizy tells us that he may indeed be a great pussy-grabber, perhaps the greatest:

Esquire notes that Levine and El-Faizy’s book contains many more previously unreported allegations against Trump.
“While the president has publicly faced allegations from two dozen women, this book reveals another 43 allegations of alleged inappropriate behavior, including 26 instances of unwanted sexual contact,” a note before the excerpt says.
Even the political left and progressives don't seem to pay that much attention to Trump's sexism, perhaps because we already know what he is.  He told us himself, and that didn't stop him from becoming the president of all Americans, including the ones who have pussies.

Contrast the mostly bored treatment of Trump's sexual harassment scandal with the intense focus by the right and the regressives on Elizabeth Warren's pregnancy-discrimination "scandal."**

 3.  Finally, a cat.  Because it's an online tradition to put up a cat picture when you are too tired to tackle more demanding topics.

I want to come back as a cat.

* It would be silly in any case, to base the US foreign politics on which countries were allies during WWII, which were enemies, and which stayed neutral.  If we used that schoolyard argument, then the US should have nothing to do with Germany or Italy and so on.

**  The basic story is this:

Elizabeth Warren’s story, which she’s recounted in several campaign speeches, goes something like this: After graduating from college, she worked for a year as a special needs teacher in New Jersey. “But at the end of that first year, I was visibly pregnant,” Warren said when she repeated the anecdote in the most recent Democratic debate. “And back in the day, that meant that the principal said to me—wished me luck and hired someone else for the job.”
Over the past week or two, Warren critics on both the right and the left have suggested that she’s not telling the whole truth: The Washington Free Beacon surfaced minutes from a board of education meeting in April 1971, when Warren would have been about four months pregnant, that said the board had voted to extend her contract for another year. (Meeting minutes from June of that year say Warren opted to resign instead.) A Jacobin journalist also pointed out that Warren has previously described the circumstances of her school departure a bit differently: In the summer of 1971, she said in a 2007 interview, “I went back to graduate school and took a couple of courses in education and said, ‘I don’t think this is going to work out for me.’ I was pregnant with my first baby, so I had a baby and stayed home for a couple of years.”
The “discrepancies” between these stories prompted CBS News to look into the whole “controversy.” Warren explained that the difference was simply the result of her decision to open up more once she went into politics. CBS also found two retired teachers who worked at Warren’s school at the time and affirmed that there was a “rule” that expectant teachers had to step down around the fifth month of pregnancy. A year after Warren’s departure, the Associated Press wrote that a new state rule would prevent pregnant teachers from being “automatically forced out of New Jersey classrooms.” 
It's important to note that it was only in 1978 that the concept of pregnancy-based discrimination grew real legal teeth.  Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy (or the likelihood of future pregnancy) was extremely common before that era.  It's still not exactly uncommon, of course, and women know this.

Before the 1970s firms could quite openly refuse to hire pregnant women or even young women who might become pregnant, and job interviews routinely asked women about their plans to have children or worried about their coping abilities if they both had a job and a family. 

Indeed, in the 1930s and 1940s women could be forced to resign simply because they got married, and schools in the United States frequently followed that policy.  

This so-called marriage bar was based on essentialist sex role assumptions: The woman's place was at home, the man's place was out in the public sphere.  He was the breadwinner, she the caregiver at home, and should be only dedicated to her children's welfare.

This (quite recent) history matters in interpreting Warren's story and its credibility.