Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Trump Administration Aborts The Birth of An UN Resolution On Rape in Wartime.

There was a time in America when most of the proposed forced-birth laws allowed for abortion in the case of rape.  Alas, this is no longer the case, because our right-wing has been radicalized!*

As one example of this, the United States succeeded in turning a United Nations resolution on rape in conflict into something which simply tut-tuts on rape.  China and Russia further helped the United States by making sure that there would be no UN body whose job it is to monitor rape in wartime and to report on it!

There’s something mesmerizing  about such resolutions!  On the surface they look like support for the rights of rape victims, but a deeper look tells us that they are filled with foul-smelling air, signifying nothing. 

Except, perhaps, that the rights of women, the largest group among victims of rape, are very very secondary in this world.

What the United States accomplished was the removal of this language from the resolution:

"Recognizing the importance of providing timely assistance to survivors of sexual violence, urges United Nations entities and donors to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services, in line with Resolution 2106."

As Jill Filipovic notes:

It's bizarre and frankly cruel to oppose a resolution about rape by objecting to sexual and reproductive health care. Not to put too fine a point on it, but rape is a crime that directly impacts a woman's sexual and reproductive health.

Rape can damage a woman's sex organs. It can result in a sexually transmitted infection. It can result in an unwanted pregnancy -- something that can compound a rape survivor's trauma. Any standard of care for sexual violence survivors includes providing sexual and reproductive health resources.

For rape survivors who are able to get medical care within a few days of the attack, that means prophylaxis to prevent the transmission of HIV and other infections; emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy; an exam to gather evidence; treatment of any injuries; and psychological care.

For survivors who don't receive care until much later, the standard of care includes treatment of infections and injuries, as well as psychological care (something that, in crisis settings, is in high demand and short supply). And yes, rape victims should also be entitled to end their pregnancies -- something that is safe and legal in much of the world.

But none of that matters to the strong forced-birth bloc inside the US Republican Party.  All that matters to those people is that a woman who is, say, gang-raped by enemy soldiers not be allowed to avoid the possibly risky pregnancy and forced birth of a child from that rape.

All this reminds me of the Monty Python song Every Sperm Is Sacred.


* We should study how that radicalization happened.  Online?  By listening to Fox News and by reading  In all those fundie mega-churches? 
(This is sarcasm.)

Friday, April 26, 2019

Trump On Trade Deals, Again

Remember when our Supreme Leader withdrew the US out of the twelve-nation Trans-Pacific partnership, the free trade deal Obama had begun to negotiate but didn't finish? 

It was one of Trump's first acts as dictator, and it was based on his general view that the US was the victim of relentless worldwide bullying, and that he can do better trade deals, given that he sees himself as the master of the Art of the (bilateral) Deal.

The other eleven nations, of course, went on with creating the free trade deal, and now the chickens have come home to roost:

While Trump was busy slapping tariffs on China and other countries, Japan also concluded a pact with the European Union that lowered duties and other barriers to ease trade flows. Between the EU and Asia-Pacific, Japan is now starting to import substantially more from its free-trade partners, at America’s expense. That’s bad for U.S. farmers who were already reeling from tit-for-tat tariffs on soybeans and other farm goods entering China. 
For some products, the difference in tariffs is stark. Australian wine entering Japan is taxed at 5.6% and will eventually drop to zero. There’s no duty at all for wine from the EU and Chile. But for California, it’s 15%.

This is one of the zillions of chickens, most of whom are coming home to roost, because a sufficient number of American voters (with lots of help from Vlad's people) decided that competence, or the ability to see wider connections,  was totally unnecessary in the president of this country.  Even narcissism was perfectly acceptable. 

At least we avoided the email scandals...

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Microsoft's Damore Moment

Microsoft is having its own Damore moment!  An internal discussion wonders if women are innately unsuited for engineering and similar fields, and if aiming for diversity actually constitutes discrimination against white and Asian men.

I have no idea if those internal discussions tried to explain why men of other ethnic groups or races might not be innately suited to engineering, but never mind.

Here's the money shot from the discussion, as reported by Quartz:

The posts were written by a female Microsoft program manager. Quartz reached out to her directly for comment, and isn’t making her name public at this point, pending her response. 
Does Microsoft have any plans to end the current policy that financially incentivizes discriminatory hiring practices? To be clear, I am referring to the fact that senior leadership is awarded more money if they discriminate against Asians and white men,” read the original post by the Microsoft program manager on Yammer, a corporate messaging platform owned by Microsoft.

I have bolded the two sentences I want to address in this post.

Note that this female Microsoft program manager assumes "something" about the initial situation, and that "something" is a necessary though unmentioned foundation for her argument to hold.

What is that "something?"

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Helpful Echidne Thoughts For Today

1.  I caught myself in the online information bubble when I realized that my Twitter feed covered the New Zealand massacre and its aftermath in great detail, but pretty much did not mention the Sri Lanka massacre. 

It's good to be aware of the chance that the coverage we choose for ourselves ends up one-sided like that.  The reverse, of course, holds those who follow largely right-wing sources.

2.  When I'm tired my writing becomes more obscure, more academic, more wordy.  It can be hard to be short, succinct and simple without being very wrong.

3.  When you get that itchy feeling that something someone writes is off in politics, etc., but you can't quite tell why, there are two solutions which usually work for me: 

First, wait a while, and the little librarian in your brain will bring you the message which slid right past your aware mind on the first reading but was filed away on your (dusty) memory shelves.  That message can be about really one-sided references, say, or false interpretations of data or about an unusual way of employing some common term.

Second, think about what the hidden assumptions in that piece might be.  For example, does an economics piece ignore the impact of, say, a price increase on everything but one tiny market, thus ignoring all wider effects?  Or does a piece about gender roles simply assume sexism away before it even begins?

4.  Political opinions are great fun.  For instance:

Pete Buttigieg is sooo smart!  Smartness is good.
Elizabeth Warren is sooo smart!  Smartness is bad.


Donald Trump believes himself to be above the law.  Hence he threatens to sue everyone whose view is that he is not above the law.

5.  I am making sima this year.  It's the traditional Finnish mead drunk around the first of May.  The only tricky thing in the preparation is to make sure that your bottles won't explode.  That's why the recipe tells you to "loosely cork" the bottles.  Because I hate raisins I don't eat them, but they are crucial for finding out when the sima is ready.  It lasts about a week in the fridge.  The traditional accompaniment is a Finnish version of funnel cakes. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Funniest Reaction to Mueller Report. From Trump Himself.

I take my humor where I can find it in this valley of grief (and of automatic vehicles and sex robots).  It's too bad that my sense of humor is unusual, because otherwise this would be the most popular site in the whole universe.

Anyway, after having spent several hours wading through the entirety of the redacted Mueller report I got a kick out of how many people interpreted the report without having read it. 

It's a lot quicker that way, of course, and, as we have all learned in the last two decades, nobody is ever taken to task for being wrong in the political media.  Besides that way gets you a much hourly wage rate per published piece.  Which reminds me that I must ask for money sooner rather than later.

But the funniest reaction to the report came from Trump himself!  The report tells us, in excruciating detail, how many times Trump's underlings saved him from even more blatant obstruction of justice by "forgetting" to carry out his orders and by general disobedience.

Rather than thank them for that service, Trump is very irate, because people might now think that he is not the autocrat he firmly believes to be:

"Nobody disobeys my orders," Trump said during a walkabout on the South Lawn for the annual Easter egg roll.

He was questioned by CNN's Kaitlan Collins about whether he was worried some of his staff were shrugging off his requests, as depicted by Mueller, whose full redacted report was made public last week.
The document contained anecdote after anecdote of aides refusing to carry out some of Trump's demands to short-circuit the special counsel's investigation. The trend was so marked the report's authors made note of it in their assessment.

The bolds are mine.

Trump's narcissistic mirror tells him that he is the most powerful man in the universe and that nobody dare disobey him.  This, to him, is more important than whether he might be found guilty of obstruction of justice or not.

Two Pew Surveys: What Do World's People Think About In- And Out-Migration And About Gender Equality?

The Pew global opinion surveys are very informative.  Two fairly recent ones deserve a closer look. 

The first is from last December.  It's about the views citizens in twenty-seven countries hold about immigration and emigration.  This graph shows the findings (click on it to make it bigger):

The take-home message of that survey is that people in quite different parts of the world prefer less in-migration.  Majorities in Greece, Hungary, Germany, Italy and Sweden hold that opinion, but also majorities in Israel, Indonesia, Argentina, South Africa and Kenya*.  Also:

In every country surveyed, less than a third say their nation should allow more immigrants to enter.