Friday, February 24, 2017

Jamies Winston Gives An Inspiring Speech To Fifth-Grade Boys. To Fifth-Grade Girls? Not So Much.



Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston spoke to fifth graders at a Florida school last Wednesday.  His talk was to inspire the children, to give them hope and higher aspirations.

And this is how he inspired them:





That, my sweet readers, is how traditional gender roles are reproduced, only in a much louder voice than usual.

Winston explains his way of inspiring little girls to do great things by digging the hole deeper:



Imagine the calculation behind that!  To make one boy feel better, it's perfectly acceptable to make every girl in the room feel worse and less confident*.  That's some word choice mistake...

Jamies Winston is not only famous for his football skills but also for this:

On December 7, 2012, Erica Kinsman filed a complaint with the Tallahassee Police Department accusing Winston of “sexual battery, assault, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress arising out of forcible rape.” She was allegedly encouraged to stay quiet, and State Attorney Willie Meggs didn’t open the investigation in to the allegations until 11 months later. Weeks later, Meggs laughed his way through a press conference where he announced that Kinsman’s account of the night wasn’t credible and that no charges would be filed.
More recently, Meggs told reporters that while he didn’t have enough evidence to file charges, he does “think things that happened there that night were not good.”

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* He clearly uses the subtractive model of masculinity, where what the boys are is NOT what the girls are.  Thus, to encourage the boys he must discourage the girls.



President Bannon at the CPAC: The Media Is The Opposition Party


He called the media the opposition party which is always wrong.  Here is a different view about the importance of a free press:

The retired admiral who designed and oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden says President Trump’s superheated charge that the mainstream news media is the “enemy of the American people” is not just wrong, but also could pose a dire threat to American democracy. Reporters, however, must get their facts right, cite reliable sources and be aware of their own biases and pride.
“The president said the news media is the enemy of the American people,” William McRaven said Tuesday. “This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.
Bolds are mine.

We know by now democracy is not terribly high on president Bannon's to-do-list, though it does top his to-undo-list.

Comedy From The Trump Reich: Sebastian Gorka, CPAC and Alt-Right



Meet Sebastian Gorka, Trump's deputy assistant and a supposed expert on radical Islam.  Here is the most hilarious quote from the article:

But Gorka, who prior to Trump’s inauguration crowed to Fox News that “the alpha males are back” in charge, isn’t in the White House because of his CV; rather, the available evidence suggests he’s there because of his hard-line beliefs.

I love that image of alpha males*!  It's straight out of the manuals of pickup artists, of course, but I got the instant image of Mr. Gorka clad in a furry loincloth, carrying a club, and ululating while hammering at his chest.  Then he grabs Trump by the famous hair and drags him to some backroom.

So.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

So How Is Our Dear Leader Faring? Deportations, Bathrooms and Sickness


Our Dear Leader is certainly keeping some of his promises. 

1.  While the Obama administration did deport (or try to deport) those undocumented immigrants who were charged with a serious crime, the Trump administration has truly expanded the definition of who may be deported:

“Under this executive order, ICE will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement,” a fact sheet released by the Department of Homeland Security said, using the acronym for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “All of those present in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention, and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”
That includes people convicted of fraud in any official matter before a governmental agency and people who “have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits.”

Given that, it is to be expected that 15,000 extra customs and immigration officers are to be hired, more camps are to be built and so on.  This is interesting when we consider the simultaneous hiring freeze in the Federal government.

It is also to be expected that the kinds of sweeps which are taking place now create cases like this one.

All this is frightening for what it tells us about the priorities of those who hold the real power in the Trump administration and about the chaotic nature of many of its actions. 

Where are these immigrants going to be returned?  Some proposals suggest that our Dear Leader just plans to dump all of them in Mexico, including the ones who are not Mexican citizens.  I am pretty sure that Mexico won't be happy with that.

And what are the consequences of these mass deportations to American industries where many of the undocumented work?

Finally,  does it matter at all to the Trump people that net immigration from Mexico, say, appears to have turned negative by 2015?   Mexico is still the largest source country for immigrants, both documented and undocumented to the US.*

2.   Trump has rescinded the Obama administration's federal guidelines which allowed transgender students in schools to use the bathroom matching their gender identity.  Now it's up to the states to decide. It sounds like Trump's new Secretary of Education, Betsy deVos, wasn't too happy about that.

I would like to know who is behind this change.  It might let me predict what other rights will be left to the states to decide.

3.  Will the Affordable Care Act (ACA) be repealed and replaced, in the very near future, as our Dear Leader has promised? 

I watch the whole farce with some sinister satisfaction**, because it looks like the Republican Congress members are facing some tough questioning on this at their town halls and because I have an inkling about the enormous difficulties taking apart and rebuilding a complex system will create. 

Anything the Republicans might actually offer will leave poorer Americans without access to good quality care in the medically required amounts.  But as the real point of the repeal is to cut the taxes for the wealthy, some type of repeal we will see.

Or maybe not.

The Republicans in Congress are the dog who likes chasing cars but doesn't actually expect to catch up to one.  Well, now it did.

The mess any rapid and drastic changes might cause will kill people.  So will a return to the pre-ACA status quo, which is what the Republican planlets*** I've read would mean.

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*  Depending on the method used,  China might now be the largest source country.  But the 2015 Pew survey suggests that Mexicans are, in any case,  the majority of undocumented immigrants in the US.

**  I'm obviously not satisfied when I think of the patients in the system or of the people who will now struggle. 

***  Little attempts at plans, without proper numbers etc.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Milos We Shall Always Have Among Us


That is from the Bible of Echidne, and the Milos refer to Milo Yiannopoulos*, but also to Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing performance artists.  Who knows what their real values are, whether conservative or not,  other than the desire to stand in the glaring limelight of politics and to own several beach properties?  But that type will always be among us, and Milo himself is not gone.

Yes, the CPAC dis-invited him as a keynote speaker,  because of his support for pederasty, even though he was initially invited because of his support of white heterosexual cis-male supremacy and because of his misogyny and open racism.  It's always interesting to find what the unacceptable might be, and pederasty support still qualifies.

Milo also lost his book deal with Simon&Schuster.  I always wondered why Simon&Schuster initially bothered defending the book deal by saying that the book would contain no hate speech.  It's the hate speech its potential market wanted to read, after all.  But never mind.  Once it looked bad for Simon&Schuster, the deal was off.  Probably not enough money now.

And Milo resigned from Breitbart.  But I very much doubt he is gone.  After all, he gets tremendous publicity right now, including from my scaly fingers.  Even if he is gone in this incarnation, another will pop up tomorrow.  Those people are just too much fun as the mouthpiece for festering hatreds, and punching downward is always much the safest form of humor in the society.

Indeed, it's actually the most politically correct form of humor, unlikely to lead to a political assassination with, say, a poisoned umbrella tip.

When I scanned the recent Yiannopoulos headlines I noticed that several of them called him "a provocateur."  That made me imagine what I would be called if I had an act like his but in reverse **.  Probably some much nastier things.  It's always salutary to learn which opinions are called "controversial" and which people are called "provocateurs."

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*  I have discussed Milo, at least in part, in these three blog posts.  The last one links to some of his thoughts on feminism and women.

** Yes, I could easily create one if I was willing to use false generalizations, bad data and call people names and take small isolated incidents and argue that they prevail everywhere. 



Trump's Great Negotiating Skills And the US Trade Policies


High level international politics is like playing simultaneous chess games against dozens of opponents, while blindfolded and on sedatives.  Donald Trump thinks the game is tic-tac-toe, and even in that game he only thinks about his first move.  Hence the way his rallies told us that only he can fix everything, how his extremely simple solutions will fix everything, how he is the smartest yam in the whole wide world.

He cannot see the complexity of the game, or perhaps he doesn't care.  Its agony for all of us who do see that complexity, as we know what could happen after Trump's boisterous first moves.

To give you just one example, Trump's policies toward Mexico cause Mexicans to react:

Some lawmakers were alarmed by reports that Mexico is exploring a deal to buy corn from Brazil and Argentina instead of the United States to retaliate against Trump’s threats of tariffs on Mexican imports. 
“We’ve got plenty of history of when we do something some country doesn’t like then they retaliate against us,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a senior member of the Finance and Agriculture committees.


Imports from Mexico and exports to Mexico are not independent of each other.  Trump cannot yell at the president of Mexico and expect no negative consequences from that, and what he says to Mexico other countries will also hear.  This changes plans and policies everywhere, and I, for one, would like a president who understands that.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Few More Trump Press Conference Thoughts: The Perfidy of the Media, Hillary Clinton Still The Rival



Now that a day has passed since our Dear Leader spoke to, and admonished, the media, I have these thoughts to offer about what makes Donald Trump tick.

1.  The press conference was largely about the Greatness Of One Donald Trump, and about attacking those who in his view are hampering the general adulation he so rightly deserves.

Thus, he kept returning to Hillary Clinton, he kept telling us how much better he is than Hillary Clinton, and he kept reminding us of his absolutely tremendous election victory.

He can't stop thinking about her, the rival who lost,  and this is not the typical pattern new presidents demonstrate when beginning their administration. But Trump is greatly bothered by her, by some niggling doubt that perhaps his victory wasn't quite that shining, quite that bigly, and so he can't stop addressing the topic.

2.  The most common theme in the press conference, by topic count, was Trump's great dislike of the media.  He returned to that topic several times, he admonished the journalists who were present, he demanded certain types of questions, and he kept telling the journalists that they represented fake news.

This is because the media is not sufficiently adulatory, not sufficiently in the anus kissing business.  Trump needs the crowds to cheer for him, and what is a press conference but a small crowd in front of him?  In short, the reasons for the two topics:  Hillary Clinton's perfidy and the crookedness of the media, have the same root:  Trump's narcissism.

3.  My final thought troubles me greatly, and that is the way Trump works to turn the media into his real opposition.  It smells of the treatment of the press in countries where the rulers are essentially dictators (Russia and Turkey come to mind), and it opens up the very real possibility that facts are whatever the Dear Leader wants them to be.

Trump's tirades against the media exclude the Fox News, because Fox is conservative and pro-Trump.  He likes praise!

But note that Trump's anger is squarely aimed at the most highly rated news organizations in the world:  the New York Times, the BBC and so on.  If he succeeds in making a sufficient number of his supporters into the deniers of those news that are most likely to be based on actual research and multiple sources, how are Americans ever able to agree on even what may have happened?

That is not a bug, but a feature in the plans of the power behind Trump's throne, Stephen Bannon.  Dictatorships require what Trump is trying to achieve here, although the reasons Trump attacks the press are much closer to home and have to do with having to read negative news about His Own Greatness.

The question how to determine what "truth"  might be is complicated and philosophically difficult.*  But Trump's only statement on how he decides what  is fake and what is true is demanding that he be viewed as a credible eye-witness:  "I was there."

The problem is that he is not an impartial observer of the events.  Rather' he is the center of the whirlpool and he is extremely interested in shining a good light on himself. 


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  *  But it's feasible to explain how one might try to establish, say, the truth of an academic study:

Establish the credibility of the individuals who carried the study out (based on their curriculum vitae, academic reputations and earlier studies), and the credibility of the journal that published the study, assuming it is a published study (whether it is peer-reviewed, whether access to publishing is just based on paying money etc., the rejection rate of the journal etc.).

Learn about any public statements of the researchers, their membership in various political organizations, and other opinions they have given in interviews.

But NONE of that means anything, except for being a small additional check.

Most of the verification should be focused on finding what other studies, deemed central in the field have found, and of course what the study itself says.  The methods of the study, the theories it chooses to address or to hide, its sampling method, the size of the sample and its composition, the measures the study uses:  All these must be evaluated.  Does the study have methodological errors, data handling errors or severe omissions of alternative explanations?  Do its conclusions follow from its findings?

And if the evaluator's skills or knowledge are insufficient for all that work, then the study authors and other experts should be used to find the answers to unsolved questions.

Doing all this doesn't guarantee that the final assessment is correct, but the alternatives are much worse.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Trump's Speech in Adjectives, 2/16/2017


This is my interpretation of Trump's speech at today's press conference, right to the point when he starts to take questions.  I picked out most of the adjectives he used, and list them here, beginning from the start of the speech.  The list is not necessarily exhaustive, because I based it on listening to the speech, not on the transcript.  The former is the way most people would have received the speech:

great
tremendous
very well
tremendous
fantastic
important
important
strong
strong
terrible
out-of-control
late
terrible
catastrophic
good
proud
incredible
incredible
tremendous
good
good
wonderful
broken
dishonest
tremendous
out-of-control
broken
fantastic
fantastic
great
worst
massive
great
great
happy
greatest
depleted
depleted
depleted
strong
strong
strong
not happy
happy
outstanding
brilliant
great
wonderful
horrible
great
safe
bigly
bigly
great
great
great
great
great
 big

The positive adjectives are used to describe his first weeks of presidency, his cabinet and Supreme Court picks and his future plans.  The negative adjectives are used about the state of the country, the murder rate in Chicago (horrible) and the American media (broken, dishonest, broken).

I find the repetition fascinating, and I bet it works.  Trump also stated that he inherited a mess from Obama  at home (not true) and abroad (not Obama's doing), and he used the word "mess" a total of five times in that context.  He referred to ISIS as a cancer twice, and he used "chaos" to describe both the 9th circuit which ruled against his Muslim travel ban and twice to describe the state of the American media.

The American military, according to Trump (not in reality), is depleted, depleted, depleted, but he will make it, and the police, strong, strong, strong. (Isn't it interesting that he singled out the military and the police for expansion?) 



The Decriminalization of Domestic Violence in Russia: God-Approved



I have written about the decriminalization of domestic violence in Russia before, but Christina Cauterucci at Slate's XX Factor makes a point which I missed.

It is this:

The Russian Orthodox Church has also pushed for looser restrictions on domestic abusers, claiming that the state should not interfere in family matters and that calls to make domestic violence a crime are informed by Western influences that want to impose liberal values on Russia.
I find it shocking how quickly the battle lines of the cold war have been redrawn so that the identities of the enemies remain the same, but the reasons for the enmity are quite different. *

Whereas in the past much of the fighting was over communism vs. capitalism, now at least some of it is about "cultural values," and it's Russia which this time defends conservative patriarchal values against equal rights for women, in general, or for LGBT individuals.

Not that  there actually is any one coherent ideology that could be defined as "liberal values" in the West.  But the West is used in that manner in Russia, to create the appropriate external enemy.

This reminds me of they way the Western colonial oppression in the Middle East created a reaction based on similar arguments about "Western values," and how in that context, too, the equality of women and men and the rights of LBGT people were (and are) opposed as alien constructs and as not supported by religious authorities.

Yet, as I have written before, those civil rights which exist in the West were won only after long and hard struggles, and they are still opposed by many (even in the Trump administration).  To view human rights as an idea applicable to only the decadent** West is terribly sad.  Millions will be deprived of their human rights because of that framing.

Still, my main point in this post is the role of religious authorities in the control of women.  As far as I can tell, women cannot be ordained in the Russian Orthodox Church, but that church still makes statements about women's proper place and appears to choose to side with the domestic abusers against their victims.

This, and many other similar examples from the major religions make feminist questioning of religions always imperative.


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* This is more from Putin's point of view than from the angle of, say, one Donald Trump who probably would nod his head at everything Putin says, though not necessarily having thought about any of it.

**  The concept of "decadence" is seldom defined in these kinds of debates, but when it is, it tends to focus on the assumed behavior of women, not the assumed behavior of men.  Examples are how women dress, how many sexual partners they may have, whether women stay at home caring for their children as good women should and so on.

Even though not all parts of the definition are equally gendered, most are.  Check it out, and you find that it's women's behavior (and also LGBT behavior) that truly disturbs the cultural conservatives, not, say, behaviors such as men's pornography viewing or men having many sexual partners or extra-marital sex.





More Alternative Facts: Trump on the Prevalence of Autism



Donald Trump and Betsy deVos met people* who educate children or are parents at the White House.  There's a short YouTube video on that meeting:



One of the educators works with autistic children, and Trump took the opportunity to make wildly exaggerating statements about the prevalence of autism.

Jesse Singal writes about this.  The educator whom Trump quizzed is called Jane in this clip:

After Jane noted that many of her students have autism, Trump asked, “Have you seen a big increase in the autism, with the children?” Jane replied in the affirmative, but seemed to couch her response as being more about an increase in demand for services — she didn’t explicitly agree there’s been a big increase in the overall rate. Trump continued: “So what’s going on with autism? When you look at the tremendous increase, it’s really — it’s such an incredible — it’s really a horrible thing to watch, the tremendous amount of increase. Do you have any idea?

Singal then quotes an actual expert on autism, Steve Silberman:

“There’s no consensus as to whether or not there’s been any significant increase in the actual prevalence of autism, period,” said Silberman. “The real debate is whether or not there has been a small increase, and there are a number of factors that could play a role in that small increase. For instance, it’s well established that older parents have more autistic kids and people are waiting longer to get married and have kids now, so there may be a small increase there. Some people claim that there are some environmental factors — notably, not vaccines — that may be contributing to a small increase. But the consensus is that there has been no huge, startling, ‘horrible,’ as Trump said, increase in autism. And the CDC estimate has been flat for a couple of years, just as they expected it to be, because the major source of the increase that started in the 1990s was broadened diagnostic criteria and much more public awareness of what autism looks like.”
Looks like Trump disseminates fake facts here, too.

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*  Mostly women,  because teaching is a female-dominated (and not that well paid) occupation until we get to the college level.  I also noticed, based on the introductions, that home-schooling women were the largest single group of educators around that table, even though we are told in the video that those present represent public schools, public charter schools, private schools and home schoolers. 

That is odd, given that home-schooling is much less common than sending one's children to public or private schools.

Whether that is a sign of things to come from the Education Department under deVos is unclear. 



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

School Lunches in the Republican Era


Representative Steve King (R-IA) has proposed  new legislation:

H.R.610 - To distribute Federal funds for elementary and secondary education in the form of vouchers for eligible students and to repeal a certain rule relating to nutrition standards in schools.


I have no idea if this proposal could pass.

It has two parts.  The first consists of distributing Federal funds for elementary and secondary education through vouchers which could be used to pay for private schools or public schools or home-schooling...

The second part would abolish the nutritional rules about school lunches which were created during the Obama administration:

The rule prescribed by the Food and Nutrition Service of the Department of Agriculture relating to nutrition standards in the national school lunch and school breakfast programs published on January 26, 2012 (77 Fed. Reg. 4088 et seq.), and revising parts 210 and 220 of title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, shall have no force or effect.

So high-fat, low-nutrition school lunches would, once again, be AOK, and the removal of those rules would open up a lucrative additional market for various fast-food chains.  An increase in obese and malnourished children just might be a side-effect of all that, but that's the parents' problem and at least no Michelle Obama is policing what American children eat!


   

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Retirement of Michael Flynn



Russia Today, Putin's mouthpiece, called the resignation of Trump's national security adviser Michael Flynn " a retirement."  Put that in your folder labeled "Alternative Facts."

This video, from last year, is worth watching.  It shows how Michael Flynn argued that Hillary Clinton would be a dangerous president, because of her use of a private email account.  The audience of his speech starts chanting "Lock her up!" and Flynn doesn't hush them but agrees with them.

A prime example of projection as a political defense mechanism.*

Given the recent revelations on his own international entanglements, perhaps he would now wish to give a speech about how one Michael Flynn should be locked up?

Nah.  Rules are different for Democrats and they certainly are different for Democrat bitches.  They don't even have to break laws to be lock-uppable.**

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* Like projection as a psychological defense mechanism.
** Not a real word.  But it should be.