Saturday, June 29, 2019

And Our Dear Leader Speaks About The Demise Of Liberal Democracy

This is funny:

President Trump held a lengthy news conference Saturday in Osaka, Japan, during which he displayed his apparent ignorance of some very basic political terms and historical concepts.
When asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments saying Western-style liberalism was “obsolete,” Trump apparently thought this term literally referred to the western United States and American liberals.


Democratic liberalism, of course, does not refer to the western United States, but rather the Western world -- which generally includes the United States and much of Europe. And liberalism is a political theory that values the freedom of the individual. That term has come to be associated with left-leaning American politicians and political activists, but some right-leaning political thinkers still claim the term as their own.
Broadly speaking, democratic liberalism has been the leading political ideology across the western world since World War II. Of late, though, populist movements across Europe have gained power, leading to questions about how long liberal democracies can survive. Putin’s comments were clearly about that, but Trump doesn’t appear to have processed this very significant development on the world stage.

No.  It's not funny.  It's frightening, as if we live in a mirror world where the Russian dictator is pleased that the idea of democracy, freedom of the individuals and associated concepts such as human rights are now becoming obsolete, and the wannabe American dictator doesn't even understand what the fuck Vlad The Impaler is talking about.

The BBC has a more detailed take on both the meaning of liberal democracy in the Western world, and Putin's assertions:

"Putin's position is that Russia has a specific and different kind of civilisation, where sovereignty trumps democracy, and national unity and stability trumps rule of law and human rights," says Prof Cox.
"Not surprisingly, he's not keen on Western-style liberalism, which he'll see as a fundamental challenge to his style of government.

Bolds are mine. 

Putin's views remind me of how Mussolini, too, made the trains run on time...

Never mind.  The point of this post is that while Putin's war-of-the-ideas uses sophisticated weapons in, say, cyber-warfare, Trump brings with him a toy train.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

And Alabama Keeps Moving Toward Gilead. The Case Of Marshae Jones.

In Alabama, the state which takes The Handmaid's Tale not as dystopian fiction, but as an instruction manual about the proper care and management of those pesky females, this happened:

Marshae Jones was five months pregnant when she was shot in the stomach. Her fetus did not survive the shooting, which the authorities say happened during a dispute with another woman.
But on Wednesday, it was Ms. Jones who was charged in the death.
Ms. Jones, 28, was charged with manslaughter and booked into jail on a $50,000 bond, according to the authorities in Jefferson County, Ala. The police have said she was culpable because she started the fight that led to the shooting and failed to remove herself from harm’s way.
“The only true victim in this was the unborn baby,” Lt. Danny Reid of the Pleasant Grove Police Department, said after the shooting in December, reported. “It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby.”
My dear readers, welcome to a taste of the wonderful world where egg-Americans have full human rights and therefore their carriers do not*.

To see how that will work in the glorious future, should the forced-birthers get their way, consider this manly opinion by Lt. Reid:

“When a five-month pregnant woman initiates a fight and attacks another person, I believe some responsibility lies with her as to any injury to her unborn child,” Lt. Reid said then. “That child is dependent on its mother to try to keep it from harm, and she shouldn’t seek out unnecessary physical altercations.”

She probably shouldn't drink alcohol, either, or smoke tobacco.  She probably shouldn't go scuba diving or mountain climbing, she shouldn't travel to dangerous places, and she probably shouldn't be allowed to be in the military or the police or the fire brigade.  What if she goes out alone, at night, in a potentially dangerous area?  What if she eats too much tuna?  Fails to take folic acid?

Duh, some of you might say.  It's only for nine months per child.  Isn't a healthy child worth a few restrictions on your life? 

And most women do make those restrictive choices on their own.  But this is not about their decisions.  It's about the society decreeing that they cannot have the same rights as other adults do.  In other words, human rights for egg-Americans will remove at least some rights from adult women that adult men get to keep.

It could get even worse: 

Because any fertile woman is potentially pre-pregnant, and because pregnancy is invisible to outsiders in the early stages, this way of thinking can easily slide into the policing of all women between the ages of, say, ten and fifty, including keeping them away from dangerous occupations and hobbies and scrutinizing every miscarriage for possible evidence of a homicide.

That's the dystopia we might one day live in if the forced-birthers have their way.  I don't think it will become reality, because most people don't want to see that world realized.  But the doctrine of full personhood of egg-Americans will unavoidably lead us there.


* Quite a few women, often women of color,  are already familiar with that world.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Children In Cages At The Border: A Feature, Not A Bug.

I rarely write about certain topics*, even when they are of great importance, even when I worry about them every single day.  That's because often I have nothing useful to contribute to what is already being said, or I have no special expertise in the area.  Just joining in the general lamentations about the atrocities that the Trump administration perpetuates doesn't seem particularly worthwhile.   The Greek chorus is loud enough, but the White House is sound-insulated.

What is taking place at the US southern border is one of those topics where my voice is unnecessary, in general, though I do worry about the lack of debate on the left side of the political aisle on what ideal immigration policies would look like, what the US should have done to prevent the current perfect storm from taking place to begin with,** and how to prepare better for similar future events.

Children in cages.  People with any empathy are aghast at the news that some three hundred children were held in cages, many, if not most, separated from their parents or guardians at the border, left without proper basic care and adult supervision.

We can thank the Trump administration policies for a large part*** of that problem, and especially Stephen "Dead Eyes" Miller, the architect of the current immigration policies, the so-called "zero tolerance" among them.   As McKay Coppins writes in an Atlantic Monthly article,

But while Miller’s influence on this issue is a matter of documented fact, his motives remain somewhat murkier. Why exactly is he using his perch to champion a measure that’s so unpopular that it’s opposed by fully two-thirds of Americans? Theories abound, of course—ranging from ideology to incompetence to xenophobia—but they are almost all products of distant speculation.
Coppins believes that Miller wants to "agitate," to create "constructive controversies", because he trusts that they will ultimately resolve to Trump's advantage in the next elections:

But for Miller, it seems, all is going according to plan—another “constructive controversy” unfolding with great potential for enlightenment. His bet appears to be that voters will witness this showdown between Trump and his angry antagonists, and ultimately side with the president. It’s a theory that will be put to the test in November. In the meantime, the heartrending orchestra on the border will play on.
 But why would the voters side with the president here? 

This is where the "feature, not a bug" arguments comes out to play:  Miller wants the news about children in cages to leak out, because he wants those news to be seen and discussed in the source countries of the current migrants and asylum seekers. 

It's as if he is whispering in the ears of those planning to come to the US about what might happen to their children if they do make the journey, suggesting that whatever the reasons they contemplate leaving might be, the likely treatment they would face at the US border is even worse.  And for that approach to work (i.e. to noticeably reduce the number of migrants seeking entry into the US), the news must be cruel enough.

That all-whip-no-carrot approach is, of course, the way this administration carries out almost all its foreign policy, except toward countries led by strong-men dictators whom Trump admires.


*  Climate change is the most important one of those.  I do what I can in my own life and try to be well-informed, but I'm not a scientist in that area. 

** The reverse of what Trump did.  Give more support to the source countries of the recent migrants in ways which would improve their security safety and economic position.  People don't usually want to leave their countries if they have a safe choice to stay.  And the US, for historical reasons,  owes some real help to that area.

Such aid is not only good for people who live there but also for peace, the control of migration and even for creating new markets for US products, through greater affluence.  And if properly thought out, it's also good for human rights.

Fighting climate change is another central part of the longer-run solution to global migrations and the problems they cause.

For more about some of the problems in the current asylum-based system, see this Time article from last November.

*** Though the sudden increase in the numbers of asylum-seekers and migrants and the lack of resources and preparedness at the border also contributed.