Saturday, April 22, 2017

Signs From The Science Marches


Today is the day when people march for science and against Trump's unreality views of the world.

I picked some of my favorite signs:













I don't have the photographer's credit for the top three.  The last one is from here.  More fun placards here.

And one more, added later:




And added even later, because who can resist this one:


Friday, April 21, 2017

Alex Jones. The Conspiracy Theorist Who Has Trump's Ear.







Alex Jones is an American far-right radio pundit and conspiracy theorist.  His website, InfoWars.com, is one of the central factories producing fake news for the white male supremacist movement, politely called the Alt Right.

It's a sign of these unsettling times that the current president of the United States, one Donald Trump,  called Jones's reputation "amazing" in a 2015 interview, promising not to let Jones down.  It's another sign of these troublesome times that Trump appears to get some of his "news" from Jones's fake news factory.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Bill O'Reilly, Sexual Harassment and the Sound of Silence




Bill O'Reilly has been let go by the Fox News, not because he sexually harassed women and had to pay many millions in compensation, but because he got caught, all this became public, and advertisers started to withdraw their loot from Fox.

I'm joyous over the advertisers' boycott.  It shows that the times are changing for the better.  They are not changing fast enough, of course.  As evidence I point at the Pussygrabber-in-chief.

The O'Reilly case made me think of what it means that successful settlements of sexual harassment cases require the accusers to be silent about what has happened:
The end for O’Reilly was set in motion by a scathing New York Times investigation in early April that revealed that he and Fox had settled five allegations of harrassment brought by Fox employees over a 15-year period. The company and O’Reilly paid out $15 million in exchange for his accusers’ silence.
Because of that silence, every new post-settlements victim of O'Reilly could well believe that she was almost the only one, that if she came forward nobody would believe her but that her career would be over.  And because his tendency to sexually harass women was not something we were supposed to know*, new female employees at Fox News might not have been aware of the risks of, say, entering a room alone with Bill O'Reilly.

Indeed, requiring such silence as the price of compensation benefits the serial sexual harassers and hurts any future victims they may one day have.

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*  I don't know if older employees warned newcomers about O'Reilly's penchant for violating women's private space, but even if those warnings existed, the whole scope of his activities may well have been unknown, with the exception of the one earlier case extensively covered in the media.






Tuesday, April 18, 2017

More Pleasant Reading About Women


More pleasant than my usual topics, that is.  I am passionate in wanting to see a fairer world and that makes me focus on covering work that still needs to be done.  But sometimes it's good to sit back and enjoy the gains we have already won.  Yes, they can be lost, and vigilance in this context is as important as in the context of refusing to normalize Trumpistan.  Still, I hope you enjoy what follows:


1.  Kathrine Switzer participated in the Boston Marathon in 1967 and again this year:

Fifty years ago, a runner officially entered as K.V. Switzer participated in the Boston Marathon. On Monday, she did it again at age 70.
Kathrine Switzer’s marathon in 1967 became historic because she was the first woman to complete the all-male race as an official entrant — her registration as “K.V. Switzer” hid her gender. The race resonated far beyond a footnote in the record books when an official tried to force her from the course after a few miles.

2.  Mother Jones has put together a partial list of women's inventions or other deeds which history later erased or assigned to men.  I have not checked the validity of all of them, but it's a fun list to contemplate in these cold and dark days of the Trump-Putin-Erdogan-etc. era and among much religious fundamentalism.  Religious fundamentalism and dictatorships are not exactly conducive to independent female lives or general equality.


3.   The US women's national team (USWNT) has ratified a new five-year contract with US Soccer:

On Wednesday, U.S. Soccer announced that it had ratified a five-year collective bargaining with the U.S. women’s national team, ending a contract negotiation that’s been in overdrive for over a year, particularly since the USWNT filed a federal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging U.S. Soccer with wage discrimination last March.

The USWNT launched an “Equal Play, Equal Pay” campaign to highlight the pay discrepancy between the women’s and men’s national teams last summer, and while this new CBA doesn’t provide exact equality, it is a significant improvement over the previous deal.
The wage discrimination case that led to the new contract can be read in this Atlantic article.


4.   A 57-year old female astronaut made her eighth space walk last month. 

5.  Some interesting recent "firsts" for women: 

Parliament Square in London, England, will get its first female statue to go with the existing eleven statues of men.  It will be of Millicent Fawcett, a suffragette and a feminist, to celebrate the centenary of British women's right to vote.

Dr. Vera Songwe from Cameroon became the first woman to become the Executive Secretary for  the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

Becca Longo became the first woman to win an NCAA football scholarship to play for a Division II team or higher.

Second Lt. Lillian Polatchek:

became the first female graduate of the Army’s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course, and the first woman to lead a Marine tank platoon.

Cressida Dick will be the first woman to lead London's Metropolitan Police Force.









Trump and Erdogan, Sitting In A Tree


Our Dear Leader has congratulated the Dear Leader of Turkey on the latter's increased dictatorial powers:

Donald Trump has congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his victory in Sunday's referendum that gave him sweeping new powers.
The US president's phone call contrasts with concern by European leaders who have pointed our how the result - 51.4% in favour of the changes - has exposed deep splits in Turkish society.
Mr Erdogan has rejected criticism from international monitors who said he had been favoured by an "unequal campaign".
"Know your place," he told them.

"Tyrants of a feather flock together?"  Or is Trump doing realpolitik?


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Weekend Reading 4/15/17: White House Easter Egg Roll, Trump as Horsefly And Other Topics



1.  The White House Easter Egg Roll event is really complicated.  Who knew it could be that complicated?

I disagree, however, on the person to be viewed as responsible for the success or failure of the event: the president's wife.  The "job" of the First Lady is a sticky relic from the traditional unequal marriage where the wife is expected to be her husband's employee, without any formal payment scheme, but still full responsibility for stuff like organizing an Easter Egg Roll.  Because it is for the children and children are the women's job?

It's Donald Trump's job.  If he can't do it, he can hire someone else to do it for him.


2.  An interesting take on the metamorphosis of one Donald Trump from a chubby pupa to something with wings.  Presidential wings now that he has dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever!  So presidential.  Though I suspect he is a horsefly. 

Anyway, Jonathan Chait argues that Trump has managed to shed everything that distinguished him from your usual Republican politician, except for his "ethnonationalist themes."*  That's courtesy-speech for white male supremacy, my friends, but with the adjustments it's that only for the top white guys.

3.  A few articles remind us of the relative dearth of women in literature and the cinema.  Worth pointing out when the usual conservative argument about women and the STEM fields is that women's interests and talents lie elsewhere.  In literature and the arts, for example.

The reasons for the under-representation of women are complicated and deserve a separate post**.

But the metaphor I think might apply here is that for some the trip to the top involves elevators all the way through the 200 floors, for others it means having to take the stairs between the fiftieth and the ninetieth floor, and yet for others it means having to use ladders on the outside of the building.  People learn about those differences in the relevant industries, so whether some are just not interested in making the climb to begin with is a moot point, because the climb is not the same for all equally talented folks.

4.  Our Dear Leader has privately signed

a bill on Thursday that allows states to withhold federal money from organizations that provide abortion services, including Planned Parenthood, a group frequently targeted by Republicans. 

Why a private signing?  President Trump adores public hullabaloo, after all.  Perhaps making it possible for red states to deprive poor women of reproductive health care isn't something that he wants to be remembered for.  But the Republicans-in-power love the idea of killing Planned Parenthood dead.  Dead as a doornail, even though Planned Parenthood says that only three percent of its services are abortion-related.  Still, who cares about poor women and their needs.

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*  Rick Perlstein makes a somewhat different argument which is also worth reading.

**  A very long post, actually, but I'd like to say a few words here about the second link in part 3 which asks why women so rarely seem to have written the "big books" of popular history.

Clears throat.

You cannot write a famous book if your book doesn't become famous.  You cannot be a path-breaker if nobody follows your path.  So the first problem here is the fact that audiences and reviewers do not regard women writing some gloriously simple and thought-provoking book about, say,  wars as inherently equally credible as a man writing such a book.

Still, there are women who have succeeded in that task of making big books, and even more can be found if we acknowledge the fact that readers have certain pre-existing biases about which topics are important.  Deaths?  Very important, especially if violent.  Births?  Women's stuff, not terribly important.

I may have exaggerated a little there.  But not much.

Then there's the expected reactions.  Mary Beard found out about them when she joined the online conversations and when all the woman-hating trolls found her.  Because sweeping and simplifying arguments are much easier to attack than detailed and carefully documented and nuanced arguments, women, who by now expect harsher criticism, are probably more likely to settle with the latter ones.  But, alas, that's not what "big books" are all about.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Cats


Because they are an Internet tradition.  But before that, here's a message from Franz Kafka:

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.

His books are a useful lecture series about how to live in a world which doesn't make sense, such as Trumpomania-land.

Drat.  This is supposed to be a cheerful post, so here are the two gentlemen who truly are not bothered:





Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What Does Trump Know? And Other Rants.




Our Dear Leader knows nothing, and he is utterly unaware of his own ignorance, thinking that such ignorance is widespread among the powers that be. 

Vox gives us one example:

President Donald Trump recounted an absolutely astounding detail about one of his conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping in comments published by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday afternoon. Apparently, Trump came into his first meeting with the Chinese leader, in early April, convinced that China could simply eliminate the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program. Xi then patiently explained Chinese-Korean history to Trump — who then promptly changed his mind.
“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” the president told the Journal. “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power [over] North Korea. ... But it’s not what you would think.”

You may have missed Trump's earlier sudden realization that the US health care and insurance systems are exceedingly complex and intertwined:

If there’s one thing almost everybody across the political spectrum knows about health-care reform, it’s that it’s really hard. People who study the issue closely know it. People who don’t follow the issue know. (That’s why lots of smart people don’t follow the issue closely — it’s really hard!) But there is apparently a category of people who did not realize until very recently that the issue is hard, and that category consists of Donald J. Trump, who told reporters today, “It’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

Can I say the Dunning-Kruger effect, at last? 

Dear friends, may we raise a toast in its honor?  After all, there are few other options for knowing-yet-surviving a reality in which the ship of state is steered by someone who both knows nothing and doesn't care that he knows nothing.  Indeed, he doesn't know that he doesn't know.  Hence the arrogance...

Yet sixty million voters chose a know-nothing-and-proud-of-it president.  At least we didn't get a bitch steering that ship of state!  At least all we have to worry about now are possible Russian spies in the administration and the possible start of WWIII.  No email scandals!

What caused this rant?  I talked to a fervent Sanders-fan yesterday, and he argued that Hillary Clinton would have been every bit as evil and bad as Donald Trump has shown himself to be.

Only three possible theories can explain such opinions at this time, given the fact that Hillary Clinton was certainly extremely qualified for the job, intelligent and hard-working; all qualities Donald Trump lacks. 

The first of those theories is spelled misogyny, meaning the fear of any woman in a powerful position.  It may not be the explanation in this particular case, but I do regard the visceral hatred of Hillary-that-bitch-from-hell as fairly good evidence that the lizard brain has a role to play in that anger.

The second theory applies to those voters who are never going to need an abortion, who are never going to be discriminated against in the labor market because of their sex and/or race, who are never going to be delayed at the border or denied entry to the US, who are unlikely to ever need food stamps or public transportation. 

For them there's not that much of a difference between a somewhat centrist Democratic candidate who gave speeches to Wall Street people for money and a candidate whose administration consist of billionaires, alt right (white male supremacist) prophets and possibly even one real Nazi.  It doesn't matter that much to them if the Supreme Court changes its robes into the white robes of the Ku Klux Klan.

Until the date when Trump either starts a major war or Mother Nature calls it quits on us, the fleas in her fur-coat, and calls in the Exterminator.

But until that time certain voter groups have the privilege of ignoring the very real and awful differences between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The third and final theory, and the one I believe to be the correct in several cases, is that for some psychological reason I don't quite understand many Democrats or lefties are still re-living the primary battles, existing in 2016, unable to move on and accept what is happening today.  

That inability to move forward is not the same as wanting to change the Democratic Party from the inside.  The latter work is valuable, the former is harmful, and it's pretty easy to spot the difference.  Fighting the primary battles over and over again is pointless.  Trying to get better Democratic politicians is not.

Still, we must not stop trying to douse the fire in Washington, DC, while also planning how to build more fire-proof governments.  And we must NOT start to accept the behavior of this administration as the New Normal.  Remember Bannon's promise to dismantle the administrative government?