Thursday, June 22, 2017

The "Hectoring" Nancy Pelosi



Did you know that Jon Ossoff didn't lose the special election in Georgia because district six there is a deep, deep, deep red conservative place where his victory would have been a miracle in any case, but because of Nancy Pelosi, that ugly old hag from San Francisco with San Francisco liberal values (baby killing, homosexual marriages)?

That's the take of many political writers I have read today, but nobody went quite as far as Matt Lewis at the Daily Beast.  He ends his list of Pelosi's horrible flaws by writing this:
The last reason Pelosi was such an inviting target is that she’s not just a liberal; she’s a liberal woman of a certain age. Now it’s politically incorrect to admit this, but it seems that in much of the county, whether we’re talking Hillary or Pelosi, they come across as hectoring. What is more, this stereotype plays into policy concerns about the “nanny state,” etc. We can label this visceral dislike of them “sexist” if we want, but it seems to be that a lot of men and women alike are repelled by their style. To be sure, it is dangerous for me (as a dude) to note this, but it seems to be an observable phenomenon that liberals would do best not to ignore. 

I had to roll on the floor a bit (yes, snakes can do that very well), laughing until I cried.  Matt thinks that old women are really icky, their speech is hectoring,  and they should shut up.  Better still, they shouldn't be in positions of power.  

He is aware, poor thing, that those opinions some mistaken people might see as sexism, but because sexism is so fu**ing common, Democrats should get on board with it.  Perhaps a handful of young and nubile women can be employed to lick the envelopes so that the female base of the Democratic Party won't completely go away?

That is so precious.  I"m glad, in a weird way, to be living during an era when not only fascism but even fairly overt bipartisan sexism is returning, because then we can speak about it, though so far it has been mostly in euphemisms about the necessary end of "identity politics."

Let's put that into a wider framework (1):  The United States has never had a female president, the current Congress is 81.6% male, while men are less than one half of all Americans.  There are only four female governors in the US, Nancy Pelosi was the first (and so far the only) female Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Hillary Clinton was the first woman nominated by a major party to run for the presidency of the United States.

But even those numbers are too much!  The screeching and hectoring vampire bitches from the iciest hell are rising and grappling for the bloody crowns which rightfully belong to others!  And they are no longer even young enough to be fertile eye-candy! (2) 

Political diatribe is very different when its object is a female politician.  Even Sarah Palin suffered from that, so a woman doesn't necessarily have to be an old hag from San Francisco to get Hillarized:  The criticism is more bitter when it is aimed at women, the hind-brain thoughts blurt out as they did in that quote above, and I always smell a strong whiff of outrage: "howdareshe!"

So this is a rant, because I have earned the right to rant on my blog.  It's not that Lewis isn't correct about the enduring nature of American sexism, the dislike of powerful women, the interpretation of their speech style as "hectoring" or "screeching", although he doesn't address any of the reasons for that sexism, but suggests that we should just all get along with sexism. 

But thinking about the reasons is useful before we make that crucial decision:

The right-wing fundamentalists are taught that women are not to be dominant over men and should stay silent in the public sphere.  The online MRA and Alt Right trolls agree and see their task as the monitoring and control of uppity women of all colors.  Some other fractions of the conservatives (including the MRA and Alt Right ones) believe that evolution has created women to be naturally submissive and home-oriented, that evolution has created men to only value young boobs in women and that societies are naturally led by men.

Feminists have been labeled man-haters, home-wreckers and feminazis so successfully that many women won't even call themselves by that term (or define it so widely that men drop out of the picture altogether) even when they agree with such boring values as gender equality and general fairness.

Finally, because women are still scarce in politics, every powerful woman becomes a mythical symbol for all womanhood, and that elicits real fears in those who don't want to see their own gendered lives changed in unpredictable ways.

But remember also the Million Women Marches.  Remember that women, right now, are the backbone of the Resist-movement.  Remember that it is women of African ancestry who have been the most faithful of all Democratic voters.  And remember that if the Democratic Party loses its female base it can surely kiss goodbye to most political power. 




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(1)  Think about that data for a few minutes and then relate it to the kind of coverage Hillary Clinton's campaign got in the vast majority of news.  We all politely agreed to close our eyes to the fact that she was attempting something unprecedented.

Instead, we argued about how bad a candidate she exactly might be, and though most on the left would start their attacks on her by stating thatofcoursethereissexismofcourse, the final assessment tended to be that she was a very flawed candidate, never mind why,  and that she represented only the waning powers of the Clinton clique.  Now, women, by the very definition, cannot represent the waning powers, as women have never been in power in the US.  It's a miracle how easily we forget that.

(2)  These comments are from following the criticisms of various female politicians over the last years.  Many are from comments sections, some from actual columns or articles.

It is not only men, by the way,  who view powerful women with discomfort.  We are all born into the same culture and the messages women receive while growing up make many internalize sexist views.  Besides, the gains from feminists activism are unlikely to accrue in the near future, while its costs certainly will.  Patriarchal structures, on the other hand, reward their supporters almost instantly.










Tuesday, June 20, 2017

More Information on Those White Working Class Voters Who Went For Trump


You can listen to John Sides, a  political scientist who has studied this topic here, starting at 15:30 and ending at 37:24. 

It's well worth your time if you want to understand why some white working class voters voted for Obama in 2012 but moved to Trump in 2016.  That's because Sides' research has something other studies of the 2016 elections lack:  A data bank of the political opinions of the same 8000 individuals over several years.

This allowed him to see how a person's attitudes and opinions in, say, 2011 seem to have influenced that person's vote in 2012 and also in 2016. 

That resolves several problems cross-sectional studies done on, say, the level of a county in 2016 have.  For instance, if a county went for Obama in 2012 but for Trump in 2016 a cross-sectional county-level study cannot tell us why that happened.  Perhaps those who voted for Obama in 2012 stayed at home in 2016 in greater numbers or perhaps those who voted for Trump in 2016 stayed at home in 2012 in great numbers or perhaps a large number of voters switched parties etc.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Things To Read, 6/19/17



1.  This article by Jerry Useem says that power causes brain damage.  That would be human power, not electricity, say.

I don't have any expertise in the required field, so take this with a pinch of salt*:

Useem's article reminded me not so much about brain damage but about how social intelligence is developed and maintained.  The lower you are on some totem pole, the more social intelligence you need to survive and thrive.  This applies particularly to the ability to read the mood and intentions of the more powerful people, to become "bilingual" in a different sense.

Once someone is sufficiently powerful, the demand for those skills is much less and the skills themselves can rust.  But there are people who have never had the need to develop social intelligence of that type.

2.  Rebecca Traister has interviewed suburban white Democratic women in Georgia's sixth district,  a very Republican area.  These women were not politically active in the past, but the election of Donald Trump woke them up, and they are now very active.

This doesn't mean that Ossoff is bound to win the special election, but it might make those of us more cheerful who were despondent over the number of white women who voted for Trump.  Besides, it's important to read encouraging pieces, too.**

3.  The Republican Senators are designing our health care system and they won't let anyone else look over their shoulders to see what the Senate proposal might contain.  But as Jeffrey Young points out, the result will certainly be something much worse than the Affordable Care Act, except for the quite wealthy.

Still, I detest that secrecy, because its intention is to make it impossible to properly critique the proposal.  Instead, it will be rammed down our throats.

4.  An example of modern sharecropping?  In sharecropping the poor peasants bore all risk while the owners of the land they farmed were guaranteed a certain annual income with no risks.

If the linked story has its facts correct, this modern case is even worse:

It's as if the sharecroppers were promised the chance to buy the fields they farmed by making small regular payments over time.  But one failed harvest or delayed payment would have given the landowner the right to get rid of the sharecropper and also keep all the money that was paid toward the purchase of the field.

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* Social intelligence may not be the correct term, in any case.  Social skills might be a better one, because they are skills most of us can acquire. I know that from having lived in different cultures where body gestures, facial expressions and loudness of voice can mean very different things.

** An article I came across after publishing this post also talks about women waking up in various parts of the US.



 
 

Friday, June 16, 2017

When Women Speak. The Examples of Kamala Harris and Veronika Hubeny.



Did you know that Kamala Harris's rapid-fire prosecutor-like questioning of Jeff Sessions was evidence of hysteria?  Jason Miller thinks so, in any case, though of course he used to be one of Trump's henchmen, so references to women and their wandering wombs might play well to Trump's new base, the "Alt Right":

KIRSTEN POWERS: Can I just go back to something that Jason [Miller] said? How was Sen. [Kamala] Harris (D-CA) "hysterical?" I don't really understand that. I mean, she was asking some tough questions -- 
JASON MILLER: I believe this is the second hearing in a row with completely partisan screed. 
POWERS: But, how is that hysterical? 
MILLER: It was. From my perspective, my, I would say objective, perspective, I mean it was -- it didn't seem like there was any effort to try to get to a real question or get to the bottom of it. She was purely out there to shout down --

Whatever one might call Harris's style of questioning, hysterical it was not.  But Miller called it hysterical, because Harris is a woman.  If that connection can be made to stick, we are at the beginning of Harris's long road to Hillarization.

Certain adjectives have gendered connotations:  Though men can be called hysterical, that label comes much more easily to our minds when we want to apply some derogatory label to women.  "Hysterical," after all, comes from the Greek hystera, for the womb, and hysteria was originally viewed as a medical condition of women, caused by something wrong with their wombs.

I have no way of knowing if Jason Miller carefully picked that adjective, for political purposes, or if it just smoothly flowed out of his maw.  But a slightly different recent event about how sex affects the way we treat people is probably evidence of not overt sexism but of obliviousness*:

While watching a panel titled “Pondering the Imponderable: The Biggest Questions of Cosmology,” Marilee Talkington noticed that the moderator wasn’t giving physicist Veronika Hubeny, a professor at UC Davis and the only female on the panel, her fair share of speaking time.
So when the moderator, New Yorker contributor Jim Holt, finally asked Hubeny a question about her research in string theory and quantum gravity, then immediately began speaking over her to explain it himself, Talkington was furious.
Fed up with the continuous mansplaining, Talkington interrupted Holt by yelling loudly, “Let her speak, please!” The crowd applauded the request.

The moderator apologized, and Hubeny herself minimized the meaning of the incident.  And that's fine.  But it's still worth pointing out that this is something that happens quite a bit, and the way to reduce it is consciousness-raising:

Think about the reasons why ignoring certain people has traditionally been almost cost-free, why ignoring other people has traditionally been very costly, indeed, and how we have all absorbed those rules (though differently, depending on our own status) without even realizing that we have absorbed them, as if by osmosis.

Explicit (rather than implicit) rules also help in reducing any unconscious bias we might have:  Make sure that everyone gets the same amount of time in a debate, for example.

The problem of invisibility or inaudibility** doesn't apply to only women.  It can apply to any group who has traditionally not been powerful in a society, but the most accentuated form of the problem does crop up with women, perhaps, because women have been easier to ignore without negative consequences, and because a modest and relatively silent*** role is still one which fits better with the normative expectations of how women should behave.

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*  This footnote was added a day later, because I forgot the Uber case.  One board member, David Bonderman, cracked a silly joke about women talking too much at a meeting which was all about changing Uber's culture, including it's sexism. Bonderman has since resigned from the board.

It's that obliviousness, again.  I can't think of a perfect parable to explain how it strikes me, but it's as if a board member of a charity funding wheelchairs to elderly people made one of those "Help!  I've fallen and can't get up!" -jokes.

**  And neither does the earlier example about gender-specific adjectives.  There are race-specific slurs and adjectives with negative connotations about gays and Lesbians and so on.

It's not that those adjectives can't be used about other groups, but when they are applied to the "target" group (such as when "hysterical" is applied to a woman), the adjective bears a double-load:  It has its direct meaning and then it brings with it all the stereotypes about that particular group.

Come to think of it, they have that double-load, at least in the case of gendered adjectives, even when applied to some other group.  A man called "hysterical" is also implicitly called a sissy.

***  This article explains how that works in the criticisms of Hillary Clinton's post-election speeches.   Funnily enough, this later article suggests that she should go quietly away.  Into the night.







Wednesday, June 14, 2017

From My Archives: It Can't Happen Here.


One of the earliest blog posts I ever wrote is relevant for this era.  It's a review of Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here.  You figure out why someone seems to have been able to predict the rise of Donald Trump so many years ago.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Thirty-Nine States And Counting


That's the number of states in which some part of the electoral systems are known to have been hacked by Russians.  The real number could very well be higher.  Fun snippets:

In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data.
...

The new details, buttressed by a classified National Security Agency document recently disclosed by the Intercept, show the scope of alleged hacking that federal investigators are scrutinizing as they look into whether Trump campaign officials may have colluded in the efforts. But they also paint a worrisome picture for future elections: The newest portrayal of potentially deep vulnerabilities in the U.S.’s patchwork of voting technologies comes less than a week after former FBI Director James Comey warned Congress that Moscow isn’t done meddling.

Bolds are mine.

Charlie Pierce has something to say about all this:

We are creeping ever closer to actual evidence that there was Russian ratfcking of the vote totals in the last election. Not long ago, people wouldn't even suggest that out loud. We were made vulnerable to something like this because of the interference by the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore, by the curious goings-on in Ohio in 2004, by a relentless campaign to convince the country of an imaginary epidemic of voter fraud, and by a decade of voter suppression by any means necessary.

What I want to add is this:  Let's go back to paper ballots and hand counting.  Let's have voting scheduled for two consequent days, such as Saturday and Sunday.  Let's make federal rules which stipulate equal access to voting equipment, compared to populations of voters, in all districts.  And if the voter ID requirements remain, let's make those voter IDs free and easy to get hold of for all people.

Finally, Pierce surmises that Obama decided to stay mum about all this before the election "so as not to undermine the public's confidence in the integrity of the elections". 

Perhaps.  But that's a bit like not telling someone about a possible (but not certain) cancer diagnosis so as not to make them upset and worried and afraid, even though it also leaves them in the dark about possible treatments.

We Are Not in Kansas Anymore. On Sam Brownback's Economic Experiment.



Sam Brownback, a Christianist fundamentalist and the governor of Kansas, has completed his tax-cut experiment, though not voluntarily:


The topic on the table: the governor’s 2012 tax plan, the most sweeping tax cut in state history. The governor called the cuts a “real live experiment” of the principle that slashing taxes and cutting government spending would spur economic growth that would power the state.
But over the last five fiscal years, that plan has failed to create enough jobs and businesses, leaving Kansas’ overall revenue — the money it spends on the mass of state services from fixing roads to schools to social services — down by some $3.6 billion.
The Republican-led Legislature, weary of severe budget shortfalls, handed Brownback a new tax plan aimed at reversing the state’s sinking fortunes by raising $1.2 billion more over two years. Income tax rates would go up, and 330,000 owners of “pass-through” businesses such as law firms and family farms would start paying taxes again.
The governor vetoed the plan. But on Tuesday, in a stunning rebuke, the Legislature overrode the veto, wiping away the centerpiece of Brownback’s conservative agenda.

These natural experiments using flawed macroeconomic models are painful for those who must be the subjects in them, but they are useful lessons for the rest of us.

This clip is added just because.  And so is the title of the post. 



Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article155431604.html#storylink=cpy



Monday, June 12, 2017

Snippet posts 6/12/17: On love of Our Leader, anti-Sharia Marches and Russian Anti-Corruption Demonstrations



1.  Today's belly laugh:  First watch this video clip about Trump's cabinet meetings.  Then watch this spoof of it by Chuck Schumer (a Democrat, and the Senate Minority Leader) and his people.