Friday, December 08, 2017

On My Blog Anniversary. Take Four: Or Where In The Political World Is Echidne Now?


This is a rant about American politics in 2017 and my place in it.  Let me begin by noting that I have never liked politics as a horse race or a ballet performance, except when it's about something I regard trivial, I have never liked arguing for just the sake of arguing or for the sake of the type of winning where being right doesn't matter, but crushing the opponent does (1).  I have never enjoyed debates where ad hominem or ad feminem slurs are used or where some people are closed out of a debate due to lack of proper tribal credentials.

So it's a miracle that I have kept this blog going for fourteen years, right?  Or possibly not a miracle but a side effect of the hallucination that makes me swear that I am an avatar of a snake goddess?

The following list is about my pet hatreds in American politics.  It tilts toward the liberal and progressive end of the political dimension, despite my belief that our end is much better on almost all counts.  The reason for that choice is that so many of my posts on this blog already are about the heinous acts of the Trump administration, the Republican Party, the Breitbart.com fake information factories, and so on, but very few address the issues I write about below.


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Happy Centenary of the Finnish Independence!




 Here's a flag for you:




The next picture is just because the gentleman in the picture is a Finnish cat, enjoying the scarce and precious winter sun:





And some music:




Added later:

Two interesting articles to read:  First, the short history of Finland as a social democracy, and, second, some interesting facts about Finnish dads.

Monday, December 04, 2017

What Did Women Ever Do?



You may have come across this recent tweet exchange:





Dr. James Kent's argument is common in the manosphere, almost part of its basic bible:

That men are viewed as superior to women is because men are superior to women.  It is, after all, men who created everything, and have done so  all through history*.  The usual examples on the manosphere sites are buildings, roads and bridges, and that's probably what Kent meant when he asked people to look out of their windows and list five things that women have made.

Mel Condon's answer to the tweet is of course the most important one:  Women, indeed, do produce all human beings by gestating them and by giving them birth, and in most cases by caring for them in their childhoods.

That is a very time-intensive job, and before reliable contraception it kept most women from building bridges or buildings or roads, though women were also traditionally kept away from all building sites and from the kind of education which teaches how to build such things.

But wait, there's more!  If we open our mental eyes a bit wider and accept not only directly seeing something but also deducing its presence as evidence,  lots of things made by women can be discerned by looking through our windows in any place where the view includes humans.

Most of the clothes on those humans women made were also made by women, for one example, and many of those humans have food in their stomachs that was cooked by women.  More generally, if we can see into other domestic buildings or hotels from our windows**,  the dirt and disarray we do not see is because of the work of mostly women.  That the drivers on the streets outside can read the traffic signs might be because of the work of elementary school teachers, a female-dominated profession.  And so on.

Still, one aspect of the bigoted comment by our dear Dr. Kent made me note that the traditional gendered division of labor has, indeed, resulted in a situation where the things women make or have traditionally made seem more ephemeral:

People die and disappear before bridges do, meals are digested and new meals must be cooked, clean rooms will become messy again.  Even the few arts traditionally viewed as women's arts (or crafts!), such as textile arts, are by their very nature less permanent than granite statues, most of which were sculpted by men until very recently.

Or consider archeological finds:  The early tools we find tend to be made out of stone or bronze or iron, and most of them apply to hunting, agriculture or warfare.  Those, together with pottery shards, are among the most common finds, not because women didn't make anything but perhaps pottery***:  Rather, those tools are simply much more durable than clothing or woven baskets or other similar artifacts.

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*  The more academic argument on that is discussed in this old post of mine and also in this series of earlier posts.  Still well worth reading.

Note also, that many books explain in great detail the kinds of obstacles women faced if they tried to enter arts or sciences in the past.  Women were formally excluded from universities and arts until the nineteenth century, the medieval guild systems in Europe limited women's access to many professions, to give just a few examples.

To this day girls are steered into different occupations than boys.  Such steering is ubiquitous but hard to spot and almost everywhere in our cultures, but it also happens in explicit career counseling and the same effect can be created by hostile environments in traditionally male occupations or during the education for them.

My point is that more has been going on with respect to this assertion than Dr. Kent seems to know.

**  In many countries women also clean administrative buildings, offices and so on.  This is less the case in the United States where those fairly low-wage jobs are often done by men who are recent immigrants.  I haven't found the reason that difference, though it may reflect the greater fear of crime here (a lot of that work happens at night).

***  And we don't really know who made the tools or the pottery.  We infer the likely answers from how later societies were arranged.





  


Sunday, December 03, 2017

No Booze, Women Or Movies. Chuck Grassley on the High Morals of Rich People As A Reason To Repeal the Federal Estate Tax.



Remember the estate tax demolition plan*?  It's in the House tax "reform" bill, but not in the Senate tax "reform" bill.  Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) favors repealing it.  This is what he told the Des Moines Register:

“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies," Grassley told the newspaper.

And there we go again!  See how the three things "people" are spending every darn penny on are booze (a commodity), movies (a commodity) and women (not a commodity, but turned into one here).  See how "people" exclude the category of "women," or at least heterosexual "women."  See how what the list of items that all the money is spent on also excludes gay men from the group "people."

This is a lot like the joke about someone spending all their moneys on hookers and blow.  Doing that is pretty hard for women, especially hard for heterosexual women, given that there are very few hookers willing to service them. Rather, heterosexual women are the largest percentage of hookers.

So old Chuck objectifies women in that comment.  I don't particularly mind that bit, because I do mind this so much more:

Grassley's comment tells us that he has an image of "people" which equals the image of "heterosexual men."  Grassley is a politician supposed to care for our common concerns.  How can he do it if his image of the "people" does not include the vast majority of women?  Does he ever even consider how his policies affect half of his constituency?

There Echidne goes again, nattering on about something utterly trivial, you might mutter.  After all, listing things one is supposed to consume, such as entertainment, alcohol and sex, is just a traditional way to make a point.  Write about real problems, will you!

It is trivial on one level, sure.  But it's not trivial to realize that powerful people have a certain view of the world and that you are not a default human being in that view.  I get the benefit of belonging to the racial default in this country, but not getting the benefit of belonging to the biological sex default in this country has made me more aware of when the former kind of treatment happens, too.

Then those kinds of statements simply are something that the not-in-the-default-category people would never make, because they see the world as it really is.  Being in the default category blinds one from the fact that there IS one (or several, really).  Just imagine a female politician saying something about "people" spending all their money on Jimmy Choo shoes, movies and booze.  That signals something quite different.
 ***


This post  didn't even get to criticizing the common conservative assumption that rich people, every single one of them, deserve their wealth, because they work hard for it while poor people, every single one of them,  lie drunk and lazy next to the government's teats.  But then that view cannot explain why someone deserves to inherit the wealth they did not work for.

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*  As an aside, the Hill article is dreadful in the way it defines the estate tax:

The estate tax, often derided as the “death tax,” is a 40-percent tax on the wealth of a person after he or she dies. The future of the estate tax is one of the key differences between the House and Senate bills that will need to be reconciled in a joint committee.
The true definition is something very different, because the first $5.49 million left are exempt from any tax.  The tax is only collected on the dollars in excess of that exemption in the estate:

For 2017, the estate and gift tax exemption is $5.49 million per individual, up from $5.45 million in 2016. That means an individual can leave $5.49 million to heirs and pay no federal estate or gift tax. A married couple will be able to shield just shy of $11 million ($10.98 million) from federal estate and gift taxes. 




Saturday, December 02, 2017

The Senate Tax Vote: A Farce in Both Competence And Democracy.



Tonight's Senate vote (51-49 for passing) on the tax plan is the most hilarious thing ever.  It is also one of the most cruel, heartless and greedy acts by the US Republican Party, ever.

Note, first, that the tax bill is almost 500 pages, and that it seems to be a first draft.  Note, second, that Democrats were not allowed to read what they were supposed to vote on.  That is perhaps not the best way to do the business of the American people, right?

But because the real goal of the tax plans is to benefit the rich Republican donors, the new oligarchy in this country, it doesn't matter that few people seem to have been able to read the enormous stack of papers:






The above tweets demonstrate sheer incompetence.

But the next two tweets demonstrate something far worse:


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Today's Mulvaney Quote


Mick Mulvaney is now the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  This is what he said about his plans when it comes to protecting consumers*:

"We're going to try and limit as much as we can what the CFPB does to sort of interfere with capitalism and with the financial services market."

It's nice that he has taken off his carnival mask so that we can all see he is on the side against which the CFPB was created.

The front page of the CFPB website tells us how the bureau is trying to stop payday loan debt traps.  It also gives you tips about what to do after the Equifax data breach.

Are those the types of things which interfere with capitalism?

That depends on the definition of capitalism.  If klepto-capitalism is included, sure.  But we really shouldn't include the exploitation of consumers under the definition of capitalism.

Mick Mulvaney's role at the CFPB is the by-now familiar one of the fox guarding the chicken coops.  That's because the corporate donors which rule the Republican Party want consumer protections to disappear.  Business is better for them that way.

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*  Wish to know Mr. Mulvaney better?  Here's an earlier post on his budgetary views.  In this post he talks about private responsibility for diabetes.  And in this one he suspects that able-bodied people are taking advantage of disability insurance.  It's remarkable how Mulvaney can see ethical problems among the poor but cannot seem to spot any in klepto-capitalism.

The Blog Anniversary. Third Take. On The Angle of Our Inquiries. And Free Lunch, Which Does Not Exist.


The planned series of post about the blogiversary has been delayed by my exhaustion and existential ennui.  A year of Trump is exhausting, as all of you probably know, and life's ordinary punches will not help.  So I have been taking time off, reading fun books about history, physics and astronomy, and eating a lot of chocolate.

Still, I want to extend this series into December, so that I can address a long-term issue that I have wrestled with:  The meaning of feminism.  I finally got a few workable models of what differentiates and unites various current feminist streams.  Those who share my predilection for analytical thought over other types of equally valuable thought forms might like my planned posts on that topic.

For today, I want to talk about something different:  The angle we adopt when trying to understand some political or economic event.  The choice of that angle is crucial, and because of that, the powers-that-be try to force one particular angle on us.*

Take the Republican tax reform plans.  They can be evaluated by choosing the angle of calendar time and income levels.  Thus, the results on various income groups' tax liabilities can be calculated for the near future and for later years, and if we do so we find the results to vary, with the lower income groups seeing their taxes rise earlier.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Three Topics For Tuesday, 11/28/2017: US As An Oligarchy, the Hillarization of Elizabeth Warren and Fake Information As Warfare


1.  I still can't fathom if the Republicans truly see what their tax plans are going to do to this country.  Income and wealth is already very concentrated in the hands of the richest, a situation which last prevailed right before the Great Depression, but the Republicans think it's a good idea to make it even worse.

A very unequal country will look like a banana republic.  The more money the small group of the super-wealthy will hold on the top of the distribution, the more political power they will have.

It's a vicious cycle.  The rich donors have bought the Republican Party (and to some extent the Democratic Party), and as part of what they have bought they get the tax reform!  That, in turn, will give them even more money, even more power.  The rest of us are given the promises of many more similar tax "reforms" in the future, much less government spending (on anything but on defense and on those parts of the legal system which protect the wealth of the rich), less health care, less old-age security and more suffering*.

Ultimately all this will create the kind of a country where even the rich don't really want to live, because they need personal police forces to guard their private enclaves against the hordes of have-nots.

2.  Trump is the gift that keeps on giving.  Most recently, this: