Thursday, November 03, 2016

Snippet Posts 11/3/2016: Women Priests, Honey Badgers and Sexist Stuff

1.  The Never-Never-Land in the Never-Never-Time:  That's when and where women can become priests in the Catholic Church, according to the pope (who is not a woman), who quotes another pope (who wasn't a woman, either):*

Pope Francis said on Tuesday he believes the Roman Catholic Church's ban on women becoming priests is forever and will never be changed, in some of his most definitive remarks on the issue.
He was speaking aboard a plane taking him back to Rome from Sweden, in the freewheeling news conference with reporters that has become a tradition of his return flights from trips abroad.
A Swedish female reporter noted that the head of the Lutheran Church who welcomed him in Sweden was a woman, and then asked if he thought the Catholic Church could allow women to be ordained as ministers in coming decades.
"St. Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this and it stands, this stands," Francis said.
Francis was referring to a 1994 document by Pope John Paul that closed the door on a female priesthood. The Vatican says this teaching is an infallible part of Catholic tradition.
The reporter then pressed the pope, asking: "But forever, forever? Never, never?
Francis responded: "If we read carefully the declaration by St. John Paul II, it is going in that direction."

The Three Big Guy Religions are one of the biggest reasons why progress on women's rights is slow.   Not too surprising, given that they were all created a very long time ago and reflect patriarchal norms of that time and place,  but extremely sad, because those norms are interpreted by many men and women as the never-changing values determined by a divine power.

2.  This video might be about those who will rule this planet after humans have committed mass suicide in various forms (climate change and wars, including religious wars, short-sighted greed and short-sighted overpopulation).

3.  Mila Kunis makes a point about the difficulty of figuring out when someone is treated unfairly because of sex, race, ethnicity and so on.  The dilemma is that such unfair treatment is based on the group one belongs to, but it cannot always be distinguished from treatment resulting from an individual's own acts:

The Bad Moms star penned a strong and lengthy open letter in A Plus magazine detailing sexism she's experienced in the entertainment industry.
"Throughout my career, there have been moments when I have been insulted, sidelined, paid less, creatively ignored, and otherwise diminished based on my gender," she wrote. "And always, I tried to give people the benefit of the doubt; maybe they knew more, maybe they had more experience, maybe there was something I was missing. I taught myself that to succeed as a woman in this industry I had to play by the rules of the boy's club. But the older I got and the longer I worked in this industry, the more I realized that it's (expletive)! And, worse, that I was complicit in allowing it to happen."

That problem applies to the treatment of Hillary Clinton, too.  Is she treated more harshly because she is a woman or because she is the person she is?

You decide.  But the various t-shirts and pins worn by some Trump supporters do suggest that the contempt towards women, as a class, is certainly one aspect of the Hillary hatred:

*  And so on, all the way down to who wrote the Bible  or the Koran or the Talmud (mostly) and who made decisions at various religious councils.  It's possible to get this beautiful, water-tight (drowning) and air-tight (can'tbreathe) explanation which actually doesn't use a single woman's  opinion, but is attributed to the entirety of all the faithful.

But you knew that, already.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Job Interviews. Applicants Trump and Clinton.

Imagine this:  You are looking for someone to hire for a job in your firm, and you conduct the job interviews without much mention of what the job entails.  Instead, you talk about baseball or dogs and cats or beer and hairstyles.

Then imagine this:

Since the beginning of 2016, ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News have devoted just 32 minutes to issues coverage, according to Andrew Tyndall.
Differentiating issues coverage from daily campaign coverage where policy topics might be addressed, Tyndall defines issues coverage by a newscast this way: “It takes a public policy, outlines the societal problem that needs to be addressed, describes the candidates' platform positions and proposed solutions, and evaluates their efficacy.”
And here’s how that kind of in-depth coverage breaks down, year to date, by network:
ABC: 8 minutes, all of which covered terrorism.
NBC: 8 minutes for terrorism, LBGT issues, and foreign policy.
CBS: 16 minutes for foreign policy, terrorism, immigration, policing, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
And this remarkable finding from Tyndall [emphasis added]:

No trade, no healthcare, no climate change, no drugs, no poverty, no guns, no infrastructure, no deficits. To the extent that these issues have been mentioned, it has been on the candidates' terms, not on the networks' initiative.

Policy is boring!  It's not like Wiener's wiener!  It's not like Trump's reality show brags!

But wait!  There's more:  In this job interview for one of the most important jobs on the globe one candidate's utter lack of relevant expertise is entirely ignored.  It doesn't matter.  The other candidate's relevant expertise is regarded as a disadvantage, because it makes her an insider.

And I haven't even gotten to the part where only one candidate's purported misdeeds are viewed as clear evidence of a criminal mind.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

On Buttermilk

1.  My grandmother believed that buttermilk was the healthiest drink a child could have.  I hated the taste with the fire of a thousand suns.  Because she was a clever woman, one summer she served me the first strawberries from her garden in buttermilk.  Because I was a sneaky child, I waited until she left the kitchen for a moment and then rinsed the buttermilk off the strawberries.

2.  If you are so inclined, you can buy two different sorts of buttermilk in Finland.  One is the kind you can buy here, the other, called "long buttermilk" consists of strands which are cousins to snot.  If you upend the container, the strands dangle menacingly in front of your eyes.

3.  As you may have figured out, I would never date buttermilk.  But I love the buttermilk cake!  Go figure.

Here's the recipe, in metric units (sorry, American bakers).  If you have a measuring cup with both Imperial and metric units, you can use that one.  If you don't have one of those, my translations are in parentheses.*


2.25 deciliters of buttermilk (0.95 cups)
a drop of cream (tablespoonful)
1.5 teaspoons of baking soda
1.5 deciliters of white sugar (0.63 cups)
1.5 deciliters of molasses (0.63 cups)
1 teaspoon of ground cloves
2 deciliters of raisins (0.85 cups)
1.5 deciliters of melted butter (0.63 cups)
4.5 deciliters of white flour (1.9 cups)

Butter and flour a bundt pan**.  If you have them, use bread crumbs instead of flour.  Heat the oven to 350F (175C).  Mix all ingredients in the order given***.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake about an hour or until a toothpick or a fork comes out clean.

Two important observations:  The first time I made this by grinding the cloves right at the point of adding them I found out that one teaspoon of freshly ground cloves will take the top of your palate off and release smoke from your ears.  If you like that effect, go ahead and follow the recipe with freshly ground cloves.  I tend to use only half a teaspoon of them now, but one teaspoon is probably correct for pre-ground cloves.

Second, I detest raisins even more than I detest drinking buttermilk****.  I have never added them and the cake turns out just fine without them.  It would be turned into the garbage with them at the Snakepit Inc..

The cake is not very sweet, it gets better over a few days, and it's very nice with coffee.


* I'm imagining someone carefully trying to follow those measurements!  My guess is that you can round off without anything horrible happening.

**  You could probably use some other kind of pan, too, such as one of those oblong bread pans.

*** This is what makes the cake so easy!  No beating, no kneading, no nothing, just add everything and mix.

****  They really are rabbit droppings.  People pretend that they are food.

IOKIYAR: On The New FBI Witch Hunt

That acronym means It's OK If You Are Republican, and it applies to many aspects of American politics.  For instance, Republicans can be rude, because it's part of their brand, but Democrats can't be rude, because it's not part of their brand.  Democrats must pretend to be bipartisan; Republicans can openly be as partisan as they wish, and the press will only report the failings of the Democrats.

This has been going on for years.  President Obama extended a hand across the political aisle several times.  Sometimes he had his hand bitten, sometimes it was ignored.  I'm not sure if he learned his lesson.

Anyway, he was the person who appointed James Comey to the directorship of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).  Comey is a Republican.

It's that little fact which makes judging his Friday news dump difficult.  Is he acting for the Republican Party here?  Or is he just following the letter of the law about what he has to do?

If you have been having fun or visiting some other planet (lucky you), this is the letter James Comey sent on Friday:

Perhaps he had to send it?  Some legal experts believe so.

At the same time, the letter is surprisingly empty of content:  "Because those emails appear to be pertinent to our investigation, I agreed that we should take appropriate steps to obtain and review them."

In other words, Comey hasn't seen them.

Later he writes:

"At the same time, however, given that we don't know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don't want to create a misleading impression."

Put that into your pipe and smoke it.  The Trumpeteers are certainly doing so, believing that they have something wonderfully illegal and intoxicating in that pipe, something that will lift Trump high.  In fact, we have no idea if any of the emails are from Hillary Clinton, and I have read that they are not from her private server.

It's the timing* of Comey's statement which has received most criticism:

Comey’s letter to Congress has subjected the FBI director to withering criticism. Top Justice Department officials were described by a government source as “apoplectic” over the letter. Senior officials “strongly discouraged” Comey from sending it, telling FBI officials last week it would violate longstanding department policy against taking actions in the days before an election that might influence the outcome, a U.S official familiar with the matter told Yahoo News. “He was acting independently of the guidance given to him,” said the U.S. official.

How about the timing of other email scandals in various past US governments?  Now that's a pertinent question, I would think, so I went searching for similar strict adherence to laws, ethics and regulations.

And I found interesting items, such as this one:

Clinton’s email habits look positively transparent when compared with the subpoena-dodging, email-hiding, private-server-using George W. Bush administration. Between 2003 and 2009, the Bush White House “lost” 22 million emails. This correspondence included millions of emails written during the darkest period in America’s recent history, when the Bush administration was ginning up support for what turned out to be a disastrous war in Iraq with false claims that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and, later, when it was firing U.S. attorneys for political reasons.

Like Clinton, the Bush White House used a private email server—its was owned by the Republican National Committee. And the Bush administration failed to store its emails, as required by law, and then refused to comply with a congressional subpoena seeking some of those emails.

And this one:

Did Colin Powell suggest that Hillary Clinton should use her private email account as secretary of state—as he had admittedly done in that same job several years earlier?
Last week, The New York Times confirmed that Powell did offer her precisely that advice, based on an account in my forthcoming book on Bill Clinton’s post-presidency. Yet Powell has responded by insisting that he has “no recollection” of such an incident.

Toward the end of the evening, over dessert, Albright asked all of the former secretaries to offer one salient bit of counsel [to Clinton].... Powell suggested that she use her own email, as he had done, except for classified communications, which he had sent and received via a State Department computer on his desk. Saying that his use of personal email had been transformative for the department, Powell thus confirmed a decision she had made months earlier.

And these cases:

Recently Jeb Bush released a large volume of emails from the personal – i.e., non-governmental – email account that he routinely used as Florida governor, and then praised his own transparency with self-serving extravagance. The only problem is that those released emails represent only 10 percent of the total. The rest he has simply withheld, without any public review.

When Scott Walker served as Milwaukee county executive, before he was elected Wisconsin governor, he and his staff used a secret email system for unlawful campaign work on public time; that system emerged as part of an investigation that ultimately sent one of his aides to prison (another was immunized by prosecutors). Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has used a personal email account for government business, as has former Texas governor Rick Perry. So have Florida senator Marco Rubio, and various congressmembers who have been heard to spout off about Clinton’s emails, such as Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz.
Those examples epitomize hypocrisy, of course — yet none compares with the truly monumental email scandal of the Bush years, when millions of emails went missing from White House servers – and many more were never archived, as required since 1978 by the Presidential Records Act. Dozens of Bush White House staff used a series of private email accounts provided by the Republican National Committee (whose loud-talking chairman Reince Priebus now mocks Clinton as the “Secretary of Secrecy”). The RNC’s White House email clients most notably included scandal-ridden Bush advisor Karl Rove, who used the party accounts for an estimated 95 percent of his electronic messaging, and by Rove’s staff.
Among many other dubious activities, Rove aide Susan Ralston used her private RNC email to discuss Interior Department appointments with the office of crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who wanted to influence the department on behalf of gambling interests. According to Abramoff associate Kevin Ring, another White House official explained to him that “it is better not to put this stuff in their email system because it might actually limit what they can do to help us, especially since there could be lawsuits, etc…” While Rove was forced to surrender some emails involving his notorious exposure of CIA agent Valerie Plame, he retained the capacity to delete thousands of emails.

I quote in such length because it's worth doing:  The rules are different for Republicans.  I also suspect that the rules might be particularly harsh for female Democratic politicians.

Comey's letter has effects similar to the ordeal by water in medieval witch trials:  Throw the woman in the water!  If she floats, she is a witch and must be burned.  If she drowns, she was innocent.   The similarity is in the outcomes from this letter.

The accused cannot win, and neither can H. Clinton, not really, because she cannot defend herself against accusations which are utterly unspecified.

* See also this article which argues that Comey acted as the rules required him to act, except for the timing:

15) Did Comey breach law enforcement norms by sending yesterday’s letter?
For starters, the Justice Department is very cautious about taking major actions in politically loaded cases in the immediate run-up to an election and has policies expressly limiting this kind of activity. This caution exists because our political culture doesn’t want the FBI to influence elections by opening or conducting investigations in a fashion prejudicial to one of the candidates. A 2012 memorandum from Attorney General Eric Holder to all Justice Department employees articulating this policy says that “If you are faced with a question regarding the timing of charges or overt investigative steps near the time of a primary or general election, please contact the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division for further guidance.” While the Public Integrity Section declined to comment on whether Comey followed these guidelines common sense suggests that Comey, by consulting with Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and the attorney general herself, did something more than consult with Public Integrity. And it’s not clear that the steps he has taken (authorizing a review of emails) count as “overt investigative steps” anyway, though the letter to Congress might.
That said, this is a case in point of why this policy exists.
Here Comey opened a new set of questions about one of the major party candidates with 11 days to go in the campaign—questions he has all but said he can’t answer yet. Doing so offers an open-ended opportunity for Clinton’s opponents to make inferences about her conduct. And Trump has done exactly that, saying yesterday “they are reopening the case into her criminal and illegal conduct that threatens the security of the United States of America. Hillary Clinton’s corruption is on a scale that we have never seen before.”
More generally, as discussed above, Comey’s willingness to talk about his investigative findings is itself atypical—and generally frowned upon.
Notably, the attorney general and Yates appear to have cautioned against what Comey did. Prior to his announcement, the attorney general allegedly “expressed her preference” that Comey follow the Department of Justice’s practice, described above, and not comment. Despite her advice, at least one administration official has said that Comey felt “obliged” to inform congress because he had promised to do so if there were developments in the case.