Saturday, December 24, 2016
Superb Solstice (in hindsight)!
Was that so hard? The War Against Christmas conspiracy theorists think so, even though that war is an invention of the Fox News (the Robber Baron television company which teaches the masses what to believe).
The problem in wishing ruling conservatives a Merry Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Solstice is that far too many of them can't hear us because they are stuck in the late nineteenth century, or yearn to go there, to the beautiful era when the robber barons ruled, women didn't have the vote, minorities knew their place and poor children starved to death or died of easily preventable diseases in the urban ghettos.
When America Was Great, in the way our Dear Leader-Elect wishes to make it great, except for that nuclear upgrade.
But that was a wonderful era if you happened to be a robber baron. I once read a book about the Newport summers of the super-rich of that era. Dinner parties sometimes had sand spread on the table, between the dishes, and the sand hid pearls, diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires. Each dinner guest was provided with a small sterling silver spade, to dig in the sand. Any treasures that guest found she or he could take home. And also the spade.
Doesn't that sound like the Trump administration, but only to the friends and family of our Dear Leader-Elect?
But I digress. I wish you a peaceful and hopeful holiday season, the company of your loved ones, time in nature and with pets, time to rest and recuperate, so that you are ready and fit for the coming battles. I hope you join me in the necessary resistance and in speaking truth to power.
My love and appreciation to you all.
The song in the video is a Christmas song and a religious one, but its message is more general: I don't desire power or gold but the heavenly light and peace on earth.
This is hilarious, tell me all the observers on distant planets who are resting their transportation parts while imbibing their equivalent of beer and pop corn. Because it's always fun to watch another planet fall apart:
So our Dear Leader-Elect decided to tweet on international politics, by commenting on the utterances of his Best Friend Forever (BFF), one Vladimir Putin:
Oh, that's just Trump being Trump, some might mutter, especially the ones who came here by Googling "snake sex." But replace Trump with any past or present US politician, and notice what the reaction would have been. People would have gone haywire.
And that is the calm, collected and rational reaction: To go haywire.
Here is our Dear President-Elect, praising a foreign ruler for bashing another American politician! And doing it in public. And using only the first name for that American politician (she is a chick, after all, and neither Trump nor Putin care for chicks or their rights).
But much more importantly, the contents of the tweet are a bare-faced lie when it comes to Hillary Clinton. Her behavior after the election is so dignified that for it to be any more dignified she would have had to be lifted to heaven as a saint.
So what are the deep, deep political chess moves in this exchange?
Putin wants to hamstrung NATO, of course, he wants destabilize the EU and the USA, for all sorts of reasons, some fair (to protect Russia), some extremely unfair (to possibly re-annex Ukraine and the Baltic states, in the first round of expansion politics), and he sees Trump as his Useful Idiot in all that.
The closer, tactical, move Putin is arranging here is to get the internal American opposition to Trump labeled as us just being sore losers, to hint at lost dignity! As if Trump isn't quickly using up all dignity this country ever had? (I bet Putin is secretly laughing over the escapades of one Donald Trump.)
Trump also has his international politics! They vary day by day, naturally, because of his volatility. One day it's all about re-launching the nuclear arms race, then the next day it is about appeasing Vladimir by finding something they can both agree on: Girls have cooties and are of value only because of their vaginas. The manly autocrats holding hands across vast distances.
The norms and decency violations are flabbergasting: Internal politics shared with a foreign power? Check. Badmouthing an ex-rival who has given zero cause for such badmouthing? Check. Not letting the elections be in the past? Check (remember the victory laps). Acting like a petulant child who didn't get that second dish of ice-cream? Check. Making the US into a laughing stock all over the world? Check.
Now Trump's own motivations for doing all he is doing are fairly obvious. He is a narcissist, so anything negative said about him (and there's a lot) makes him want to lash back, and he doesn't care what weapons he uses for that, because he knows nothing about how politicians are supposed to act and cares even less. It's All About Trump.
And he currently likes Vladimir so Vladimir can do nothing wrong. Still, narcissistic persons switch such assessments overnight, so the first time Vladimir scolds Donald he will be cast overboard. Then the nuclear race can continue.
Added later: Yet another norm Trump has violated is the old-and-boring idea that the president of the United States speaks for the country in foreign affairs, not for himself or only about himself, that international politics are not about whom the president would like to have a beer with and whether they like the president's bouffant hairdo.
I guess I no longer need to have the courtesy of writing "himself or herself" in this particular context...
Thursday, December 22, 2016
While writing my previous post about Trump transitioning team turning their nasty little eyes at those State Department programs which just might make the lives of poor women and girls in other countries better, I also spotted this wonderfully erudite comment by our Dear Leader-Elect:
On equal pay for women, Trump implied there was no need for promoting it. “You’re going to make the same if you do as good of a job,” he said.His solution to labor market discrimination is to decide that it doesn't exist.*
Now that would be a failing answer at a college level test, but not to worry, because our Dear Leader-Elect is not in college.
But I do predict that us wimminz are not going to be any kind of priority for the Trump administration, except in the sense of getting scored on our fuckability.
It would be interesting, if excruciating, to learn what those women had in mind who voted for Trump.
* For same basics about this topic Trump assumes away, see this post.
This is probably scary:
The Trump transition team instructed the State Department to turn over all information Wednesday about “gender-related staffing, programming, and funding,” setting off alarm bells among those who fear that the new administration is going to purge programs that promote women’s equality along with the people who work on them.
I guess it could be the reverse: Trump might wish to work to promote women's equality all over the globe? Well, a goddess can always dream.
What are these gender-related issues in the State Department?
Advocating for women and girls abroad was a major focus of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. Clinton raised the priority of women’s and gender issues at the State Department, for example, by making the Office of Global Women’s Issues part of her personal staff. That office spearheaded several programs to promote and protect women in oppressive countries, such as the Women, Peace and Security initiative, which was based on the argument that increased security for women can contribute to overall peace and security, and vice versa.
The U.S. government’s attention to the plight of women and girls abroad continued after Clinton left office. The House voted unanimously to pass the Women, Peace and Security Act just last month, which was meant to make the State Department’s initiative permanent.
In March, Kerry announced a national strategy to promote the protection of adolescent girls around the world from things such as forced marriage, genital cutting, sexual violence and denial of access to education.
“We are here, all of us, every single one of us, because we believe … that equitable treatment of women and girls is and always must be a core tenet of America’s global leadership,” he said.
Why on earth would grab-the-pussies-Trump or forced-birth-Pence be opposed to fighting against forced marriage, genital cutting, sexual violence and denial of access to the education? Perhaps I shall be pleasantly surprised and the programs described above will be continued?
On the other hand, the Trump administration may think that each country should be allowed to oppress women as the rulers of those countries wish. Or forced-birth Pence may be trying to sniff out any baby-killing initiatives.
Trump's transitioning team is not making these lists for the purpose of Christmas gifting, nope. What are they for, then?
Most likely for the demolition of those programs, and as the linked article states, that will hurt a lot of women and girl around the world.
Added later: The New York Times offers yet another guess for why Trump's team wants this list:
Some officials said they feared that the incoming Trump administration was trying to determine what programs were focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, though the memo did not refer to them.
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Because if they have to weigh the out-of-pocket costs of taking a sick child to the ER against the potential an ER visit might have, well, they might delay that visit and save us all loads of money:
A Republican congressman outlined the way he would like to see the health care system operate if Obamacare is repealed, as GOP lawmakers are promising. It is a brave new world in which parents would wait and think about it before bringing in their sick or injured kids for costly treatments.
The example Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) gave in an interview with MLive.com was from his own experience when he waited until the morning after to take his youngest son to the doctor with an injured arm, because he did not want to waste money on an expensive emergency room visit. The arm, it turned out, was broken.
"We weren't sure what was going on. It was in the evening, so I splinted it up and we wrapped it up, and the decision was, okay, do we go to the ER? We thought it was a sprain, but weren't sure," Huizenga said, adding that he and his wife "took every precaution and decided to go in the next morning."
"When it [comes to] those type of things, do you keep your child home from school and take him the next morning to the doctor because of a cold or a flu, versus take him into the emergency room? If you don't have a cost difference, you'll make different decisions," he said.
Isn't that just precious?
Let me respond by giving you my own experience about something where Rep. Huizenga probably would have recommended waiting:
One Sunday, when my sister was still a baby, she began crying and would not stop. She was also feverish, but her fever wasn't terribly high. My parents thought that she might have caught a cold and took terms carrying her to soothe her.
But her crying would not stop, so very late that night my father took her to the ER. She was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, and the doctors told my parents that had they waited until Monday to see the family doctor, my sister would have died. Even as things were, she almost didn't make it.
Now Rep. Huizenga would have recommended that my parents wait, because ER care is expensive? That they are good enough diagnosticians to know when a fever is caused by, say, teething and when it is a sign of something very serious?
The basic problem in his recommendations is this:
When we consume health care we don't always know what treatments, exactly, we might require. That's why physician visits are called consultations: It's not only the treatment we wish to buy, but also the diagnosis.
When out-of-pocket health care costs are raised, poorer families are going to delay the seeking of care for financial reasons. And some people will die because of that choice to make us all into medical diagnosticians.
This doesn't mean that unnecessary care shouldn't be curtailed, to save money overall*. What it does mean is that it's not the initial consultation we wish to curtail, because that's where we learn if care is necessary or unnecessary.
*There are many ways of doing that, including urgent care centers as an alternative to emergency rooms during weekends, weekend 24/7 phone services which attempt to tell the caller if an ER visit is necessary and so on. But to argue that bigger monetary costs is the answer totally ignores the basic aspect of medical care: It is a form of consumption where we learn what we should consume.
Monday, December 19, 2016
Politico tells us that Our Dear Leader-Elect is using a private security force, and -- in a breach with presidential tradition -- plans to continue keeping at least some of it after he is in office.
Apropos of nothing, another Dear Leader also used a private security force:
The antecedent of Himmler's "Black Corps," or SS, is to be found in Hitler's private bodyguard, formed before the 1923 Putsch from a small clique of desperados known as the Assault Squad. The Assault Squad's few men, demobilized NCOs, freebooters, laborers, and adventurers, shared utter loyalty to the person of Hitler, whom they had sworn to protect at all costs.So I went there! I'm not arguing that Trump is like Hitler, but that there are excellent reasons for the presidential tradition of handing over all protection to the Secret Service. We shouldn't allow Trump to break from those traditions or from general democratic rules the president is expected to follow.
Paul Krugman is still full of righteous anger:
Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the ancient world. Initially, I have to admit, I was doing it for entertainment and as a refuge from news that gets worse with each passing day. But I couldn’t help noticing the contemporary resonances of some Roman history — specifically, the tale of how the Roman Republic fell.
Here’s what I learned: Republican institutions don’t protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade.
On the first point: Roman politics involved fierce competition among ambitious men. But for centuries that competition was constrained by some seemingly unbreakable rules. Here’s what Adrian Goldsworthy’s “In the Name of Rome” says: “However important it was for an individual to win fame and add to his and his family’s reputation, this should always be subordinated to the good of the Republic … no disappointed Roman politician sought the aid of a foreign power.”
America used to be like that, with prominent senators declaring that we must stop “partisan politics at the water’s edge.” But now we have a president-elect who openly asked Russia to help smear his opponent, and all indications are that the bulk of his party was and is just fine with that. (A new poll shows that Republican approval of Vladimir Putin has surged even though — or, more likely, precisely because — it has become clear that Russian intervention played an important role in the U.S. election.) Winning domestic political struggles is all that matters, the good of the republic be damned.
Bolds are mine.
Think of a different example: Baseball or soccer or football or basketball teams which are full of the competitive spirit, but however assertive or aggressive the players get, they still accept the decisions of the umpires or referees, they still follow the rules of the game.
Now think of the same game, but change only one thing: Take baseball. Suppose that a team threatens to kill an umpire's family if he makes a decision they don't like. What are the consequences of that?
The team will get punished, you say. But what if the team is somehow in power? What if the team can decide to ignore common courtesy, established traditions and the rules of the game? What then?
Would an umpire stick his neck out under those circumstances, or his children's necks?
The collapse of democratic institutions and rules, as is happening in North Carolina, is a serious political crisis. It's as if one baseball team has decided to simply ignore all rules about strikes and balls, and it's as if that baseball team chooses victory over those rules in every single game. The fans simply cheer, not caring about the rules, because victory is all, being able to thumb one's nose at the opposing team is all.
I've been told by Trump aficionados that the Democrats are simply bad losers, that the elections are over and they won. But what if they won because they disregarded the rules of the game, and those rules, my friends, are the rules of democracy?
I am very troubled by the idea of "president Trump" because I don't think he has the skills, personality or knowledge to govern this country. But in a deeper way I am more troubled with the widespread disrespect of those rules which democracies and republics are based on. Once it's acceptable to kill the umpire, anything will be legal in baseball.