Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The New Abnormal

One bad outcome of the Trump era is its possible impact on future standards for US presidents:  There might be none. 

A president can now be openly racist and sexist, a president can now clearly demonstrate that he knows nothing about the job of being a president and that his general levels of knowledge are minuscule.

A president can now demonstrate signs of extreme narcissism, possess a vocabulary of no more than a few hundred words and explicitly show that he is going to use the presidential throne for personal grift, business profits and lots of time spent golfing. 

A president can refuse to show the American people his tax forms, a president can refuse to let the American people know what his actual state of health might be, and a president can have a proven history of corporate malfeasance.

A president can now appoint white male supremacists as his advisers and he can hand much governmental power to his daughter and son-in-law.  A president can simply refuse to separate his business interests from the job of running the country, and a president can create the opaqueness to keep us from knowing how much his firms benefit from his position.

A president can now give an interview like this one:

AP: Do you feel like you've been able to apply that kind of a relationship to your dealings with Congress as well?
TRUMP: I have great relationships with Congress. I think we're doing very well and I think we have a great foundation for future things. We're going to be applying, I shouldn't tell you this, but we're going to be announcing, probably on Wednesday, tax reform. And it's — we've worked on it long and hard. And you've got to understand, I've only been here now 93 days, 92 days. President Obama took 17 months to do Obamacare. I've been here 92 days but I've only been working on the health care, you know I had to get like a little bit of grounding right? Health care started after 30 day(s), so I've been working on health care for 60 days. ...You know, we're very close. And it's a great plan, you know, we have to get it approved.
AP: Is it this deal that's between the Tuesday Group and the Freedom Caucus, is that the deal you're looking at?
TRUMP: So the Republican Party has various groups, all great people. They're great people. But some are moderate, some are very conservative. The Democrats don't seem to have that nearly as much. You know the Democrats have, they don't have that. The Republicans do have that. And I think it's fine. But you know there's a pretty vast area in there. And I have a great relationship with all of them. Now, we have government not closing. I think we'll be in great shape on that. It's going very well. Obviously, that takes precedent.
AP: That takes precedent over health care? For next week?
TRUMP: Yeah, sure. Next week. Because the hundred days is just an artificial barrier. The press keeps talking about the hundred days. But we've done a lot. You have a list of things. I don't have to read it.

For some background on that health care plan:  Trump told us repeatedly during his rallies that he would abolish the ACA and replace it with some cloud-cuckoo-land perfect plan where everyone would have the highest quality health care for practically no money at all.

Later he told us that "nobody knew health care could be so complicated!"

You know all this, of course.  But that preface is useful when looking at the findings of a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll which aims at finding out what voters think of the president now.

Here's the gist of those findings*:  Even though Trump's approval ratings at this point of his presidency are the lowest of any president since 1945, the majority of Republican voters still like him:

Current politics, moreover, are marked by especially sharp partisanship, a central reason for Trump's comparatively poor rating. Seventy-nine percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents approve of his job performance; just 12 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents agree. Obama at 100 days did better in his base, with 93 percent approval from leaning Democrats, but also had 40 percent from leaning Republicans.
The tribal aspect of voting has never been clearer to me.  And, yes, the Democrats also vote on a tribal basis, but Trump is objectively different from all US presidents in the recent memory:  He is utterly unqualified for the job and something weird is happening under that hairdo of his.

But never mind any of that!  At least he belongs to the right party and wants tax cuts and person-hood rights for egg-Americans.

All this suggests to me that in the future a cheese sandwich would be a viable candidate for running the most powerful country on this earth, as long as the cheese is American cheese and the kind real guys like to eat.


*  Other findings show similar tribal patterns.  White Evangelical Protestants and white Catholics approve of Trump at rates of 73% and 58%, respectively, for example.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ross Douthat's Sermon on Religions for Liberals And Echidne's Counter-Sermon

(This post consists of a coleslaw of thoughts.  I'm trying to write myself out of my blogger's block.)

Did you read Ross Douthat's advice in his Easter Sunday column to all those secular liberals (1)?  That they should go back to church, back to their Protestant roots, so that the so-called Mainline churches could be saved?

Our Ross would prefer all of us to join his type of extreme Guy-Catholicism, of course, because that's the only narrow door to salvation, according to him.  But if secular lefties cannot go quite that far, then they should go back to their wishy-washy loving-kindness churches which are currently suffering  from graying and diminishing congregations.

Why Ross would want that I don't know.  I'm guessing that he had a deadline and had to write something appropriate for Easter, because he also states this:

As a conservative Catholic, I have theories about how this collapse reveals the weaknesses of liberalism in religion.
Let me guess:  Ross likes the war or thunder god of the Old Testament and the types of religious rules which ossified the social hierarchies prevalent in Middle Eastern nomadic cultures a thousand or two thousand years ago.  He likes the idea of a ready-made fixed set of divine rules which inconvenience others a lot more than they inconvenience him.  He likes to be told what god wants, by intermediaries who are almost totally old men, both now and through history.

In that he shares with many other fundamentalists.

Foxy Women, Again

 Fox&Friends anchor Heather Nauert has been named the spokesperson of the US State Department (I guess for when there is a State Department, with actual people in it).* 

This is a video compilation of some Fox discussions about the proper role of women in this world.  It is condensed, sure, but it also covers only a small fraction of these kinds of discussions on Fox (I know, because I have followed them!).  You know, the kinds where people earnestly debate the question:  "Are Women People?"

We know what the powers-that-be at Fox News thought about the proper answer to that question:  If those sluts aren't at home serving their children, then they are here to service us.  Or something slightly less nasty, but along the same lines.

I'm pretty sure that being the spokesperson of the State Department isn't the kind of job Fox News believes women should have, what with lacking ambition and having racks and so on.

It's good to keep in mind that Fox News was established in 1996.  We have had almost one generation's worth of arguments of this type, as a preparation for the Trump era where the president of the country can openly hold similar opinions about women, preferring to rank them by their looks and viewing their bodies as something automatically available to all powerful men who are "stars."

The invisible elephant in that history is the muted and scattered response from other media outlets to Fox News' racist and sexist views.  Initially they ignored Fox, the crazy uncle at the Thanksgiving dinner, then they normalized Fox as just one part of the overall media, and then we got the pussygrabber-in-chief.

But at least he is surrounded by pretty women now.

* This post is not about Nauert herself.  She may be competent for the job, for all I know.  But she comes from the Fox stables where certain views are privileged.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Signs From The Science Marches

Today is the day when people march for science and against Trump's unreality views of the world.

I picked some of my favorite signs:

I don't have the photographer's credit for the top three.  The last one is from here.  More fun placards here.

And one more, added later:

And added even later, because who can resist this one:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Alex Jones. The Conspiracy Theorist Who Has Trump's Ear.

Alex Jones is an American far-right radio pundit and conspiracy theorist.  His website, InfoWars.com, is one of the central factories producing fake news for the white male supremacist movement, politely called the Alt Right.

It's a sign of these unsettling times that the current president of the United States, one Donald Trump,  called Jones's reputation "amazing" in a 2015 interview, promising not to let Jones down.  It's another sign of these troublesome times that Trump appears to get some of his "news" from Jones's fake news factory.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Bill O'Reilly, Sexual Harassment and the Sound of Silence

Bill O'Reilly has been let go by the Fox News, not because he sexually harassed women and had to pay many millions in compensation, but because he got caught, all this became public, and advertisers started to withdraw their loot from Fox.

I'm joyous over the advertisers' boycott.  It shows that the times are changing for the better.  They are not changing fast enough, of course.  As evidence I point at the Pussygrabber-in-chief.

The O'Reilly case made me think of what it means that successful settlements of sexual harassment cases require the accusers to be silent about what has happened:
The end for O’Reilly was set in motion by a scathing New York Times investigation in early April that revealed that he and Fox had settled five allegations of harrassment brought by Fox employees over a 15-year period. The company and O’Reilly paid out $15 million in exchange for his accusers’ silence.
Because of that silence, every new post-settlements victim of O'Reilly could well believe that she was almost the only one, that if she came forward nobody would believe her but that her career would be over.  And because his tendency to sexually harass women was not something we were supposed to know*, new female employees at Fox News might not have been aware of the risks of, say, entering a room alone with Bill O'Reilly.

Indeed, requiring such silence as the price of compensation benefits the serial sexual harassers and hurts any future victims they may one day have.


*  I don't know if older employees warned newcomers about O'Reilly's penchant for violating women's private space, but even if those warnings existed, the whole scope of his activities may well have been unknown, with the exception of the one earlier case extensively covered in the media.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

More Pleasant Reading About Women

More pleasant than my usual topics, that is.  I am passionate in wanting to see a fairer world and that makes me focus on covering work that still needs to be done.  But sometimes it's good to sit back and enjoy the gains we have already won.  Yes, they can be lost, and vigilance in this context is as important as in the context of refusing to normalize Trumpistan.  Still, I hope you enjoy what follows:

1.  Kathrine Switzer participated in the Boston Marathon in 1967 and again this year:

Fifty years ago, a runner officially entered as K.V. Switzer participated in the Boston Marathon. On Monday, she did it again at age 70.
Kathrine Switzer’s marathon in 1967 became historic because she was the first woman to complete the all-male race as an official entrant — her registration as “K.V. Switzer” hid her gender. The race resonated far beyond a footnote in the record books when an official tried to force her from the course after a few miles.

2.  Mother Jones has put together a partial list of women's inventions or other deeds which history later erased or assigned to men.  I have not checked the validity of all of them, but it's a fun list to contemplate in these cold and dark days of the Trump-Putin-Erdogan-etc. era and among much religious fundamentalism.  Religious fundamentalism and dictatorships are not exactly conducive to independent female lives or general equality.

3.   The US women's national team (USWNT) has ratified a new five-year contract with US Soccer:

On Wednesday, U.S. Soccer announced that it had ratified a five-year collective bargaining with the U.S. women’s national team, ending a contract negotiation that’s been in overdrive for over a year, particularly since the USWNT filed a federal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging U.S. Soccer with wage discrimination last March.

The USWNT launched an “Equal Play, Equal Pay” campaign to highlight the pay discrepancy between the women’s and men’s national teams last summer, and while this new CBA doesn’t provide exact equality, it is a significant improvement over the previous deal.
The wage discrimination case that led to the new contract can be read in this Atlantic article.

4.   A 57-year old female astronaut made her eighth space walk last month. 

5.  Some interesting recent "firsts" for women: 

Parliament Square in London, England, will get its first female statue to go with the existing eleven statues of men.  It will be of Millicent Fawcett, a suffragette and a feminist, to celebrate the centenary of British women's right to vote.

Dr. Vera Songwe from Cameroon became the first woman to become the Executive Secretary for  the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

Becca Longo became the first woman to win an NCAA football scholarship to play for a Division II team or higher.

Second Lt. Lillian Polatchek:

became the first female graduate of the Army’s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course, and the first woman to lead a Marine tank platoon.

Cressida Dick will be the first woman to lead London's Metropolitan Police Force.

Trump and Erdogan, Sitting In A Tree

Our Dear Leader has congratulated the Dear Leader of Turkey on the latter's increased dictatorial powers:

Donald Trump has congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his victory in Sunday's referendum that gave him sweeping new powers.
The US president's phone call contrasts with concern by European leaders who have pointed our how the result - 51.4% in favour of the changes - has exposed deep splits in Turkish society.
Mr Erdogan has rejected criticism from international monitors who said he had been favoured by an "unequal campaign".
"Know your place," he told them.

"Tyrants of a feather flock together?"  Or is Trump doing realpolitik?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Weekend Reading 4/15/17: White House Easter Egg Roll, Trump as Horsefly And Other Topics

1.  The White House Easter Egg Roll event is really complicated.  Who knew it could be that complicated?

I disagree, however, on the person to be viewed as responsible for the success or failure of the event: the president's wife.  The "job" of the First Lady is a sticky relic from the traditional unequal marriage where the wife is expected to be her husband's employee, without any formal payment scheme, but still full responsibility for stuff like organizing an Easter Egg Roll.  Because it is for the children and children are the women's job?

It's Donald Trump's job.  If he can't do it, he can hire someone else to do it for him.

2.  An interesting take on the metamorphosis of one Donald Trump from a chubby pupa to something with wings.  Presidential wings now that he has dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever!  So presidential.  Though I suspect he is a horsefly. 

Anyway, Jonathan Chait argues that Trump has managed to shed everything that distinguished him from your usual Republican politician, except for his "ethnonationalist themes."*  That's courtesy-speech for white male supremacy, my friends, but with the adjustments it's that only for the top white guys.

3.  A few articles remind us of the relative dearth of women in literature and the cinema.  Worth pointing out when the usual conservative argument about women and the STEM fields is that women's interests and talents lie elsewhere.  In literature and the arts, for example.

The reasons for the under-representation of women are complicated and deserve a separate post**.

But the metaphor I think might apply here is that for some the trip to the top involves elevators all the way through the 200 floors, for others it means having to take the stairs between the fiftieth and the ninetieth floor, and yet for others it means having to use ladders on the outside of the building.  People learn about those differences in the relevant industries, so whether some are just not interested in making the climb to begin with is a moot point, because the climb is not the same for all equally talented folks.

4.  Our Dear Leader has privately signed

a bill on Thursday that allows states to withhold federal money from organizations that provide abortion services, including Planned Parenthood, a group frequently targeted by Republicans. 

Why a private signing?  President Trump adores public hullabaloo, after all.  Perhaps making it possible for red states to deprive poor women of reproductive health care isn't something that he wants to be remembered for.  But the Republicans-in-power love the idea of killing Planned Parenthood dead.  Dead as a doornail, even though Planned Parenthood says that only three percent of its services are abortion-related.  Still, who cares about poor women and their needs.


*  Rick Perlstein makes a somewhat different argument which is also worth reading.

**  A very long post, actually, but I'd like to say a few words here about the second link in part 3 which asks why women so rarely seem to have written the "big books" of popular history.

Clears throat.

You cannot write a famous book if your book doesn't become famous.  You cannot be a path-breaker if nobody follows your path.  So the first problem here is the fact that audiences and reviewers do not regard women writing some gloriously simple and thought-provoking book about, say,  wars as inherently equally credible as a man writing such a book.

Still, there are women who have succeeded in that task of making big books, and even more can be found if we acknowledge the fact that readers have certain pre-existing biases about which topics are important.  Deaths?  Very important, especially if violent.  Births?  Women's stuff, not terribly important.

I may have exaggerated a little there.  But not much.

Then there's the expected reactions.  Mary Beard found out about them when she joined the online conversations and when all the woman-hating trolls found her.  Because sweeping and simplifying arguments are much easier to attack than detailed and carefully documented and nuanced arguments, women, who by now expect harsher criticism, are probably more likely to settle with the latter ones.  But, alas, that's not what "big books" are all about.

Friday, April 14, 2017


Because they are an Internet tradition.  But before that, here's a message from Franz Kafka:

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.

His books are a useful lecture series about how to live in a world which doesn't make sense, such as Trumpomania-land.

Drat.  This is supposed to be a cheerful post, so here are the two gentlemen who truly are not bothered:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What Does Trump Know? And Other Rants.

Our Dear Leader knows nothing, and he is utterly unaware of his own ignorance, thinking that such ignorance is widespread among the powers that be. 

Vox gives us one example:

President Donald Trump recounted an absolutely astounding detail about one of his conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping in comments published by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday afternoon. Apparently, Trump came into his first meeting with the Chinese leader, in early April, convinced that China could simply eliminate the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program. Xi then patiently explained Chinese-Korean history to Trump — who then promptly changed his mind.
“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” the president told the Journal. “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power [over] North Korea. ... But it’s not what you would think.”

You may have missed Trump's earlier sudden realization that the US health care and insurance systems are exceedingly complex and intertwined:

If there’s one thing almost everybody across the political spectrum knows about health-care reform, it’s that it’s really hard. People who study the issue closely know it. People who don’t follow the issue know. (That’s why lots of smart people don’t follow the issue closely — it’s really hard!) But there is apparently a category of people who did not realize until very recently that the issue is hard, and that category consists of Donald J. Trump, who told reporters today, “It’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

Can I say the Dunning-Kruger effect, at last? 

Dear friends, may we raise a toast in its honor?  After all, there are few other options for knowing-yet-surviving a reality in which the ship of state is steered by someone who both knows nothing and doesn't care that he knows nothing.  Indeed, he doesn't know that he doesn't know.  Hence the arrogance...

Yet sixty million voters chose a know-nothing-and-proud-of-it president.  At least we didn't get a bitch steering that ship of state!  At least all we have to worry about now are possible Russian spies in the administration and the possible start of WWIII.  No email scandals!

What caused this rant?  I talked to a fervent Sanders-fan yesterday, and he argued that Hillary Clinton would have been every bit as evil and bad as Donald Trump has shown himself to be.

Only three possible theories can explain such opinions at this time, given the fact that Hillary Clinton was certainly extremely qualified for the job, intelligent and hard-working; all qualities Donald Trump lacks. 

The first of those theories is spelled misogyny, meaning the fear of any woman in a powerful position.  It may not be the explanation in this particular case, but I do regard the visceral hatred of Hillary-that-bitch-from-hell as fairly good evidence that the lizard brain has a role to play in that anger.

The second theory applies to those voters who are never going to need an abortion, who are never going to be discriminated against in the labor market because of their sex and/or race, who are never going to be delayed at the border or denied entry to the US, who are unlikely to ever need food stamps or public transportation. 

For them there's not that much of a difference between a somewhat centrist Democratic candidate who gave speeches to Wall Street people for money and a candidate whose administration consist of billionaires, alt right (white male supremacist) prophets and possibly even one real Nazi.  It doesn't matter that much to them if the Supreme Court changes its robes into the white robes of the Ku Klux Klan.

Until the date when Trump either starts a major war or Mother Nature calls it quits on us, the fleas in her fur-coat, and calls in the Exterminator.

But until that time certain voter groups have the privilege of ignoring the very real and awful differences between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The third and final theory, and the one I believe to be the correct in several cases, is that for some psychological reason I don't quite understand many Democrats or lefties are still re-living the primary battles, existing in 2016, unable to move on and accept what is happening today.  

That inability to move forward is not the same as wanting to change the Democratic Party from the inside.  The latter work is valuable, the former is harmful, and it's pretty easy to spot the difference.  Fighting the primary battles over and over again is pointless.  Trying to get better Democratic politicians is not.

Still, we must not stop trying to douse the fire in Washington, DC, while also planning how to build more fire-proof governments.  And we must NOT start to accept the behavior of this administration as the New Normal.  Remember Bannon's promise to dismantle the administrative government?

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Deaths of Despair. An Analysis of the Case-Deaton Conference Paper on the Mortality Rates of Middle-Aged Whites.


Anne Case and Sir Angus Deaton are two economists of high standing (both are professors at Princeton and Deaton won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2015).  They also happen to be married to each other.  They have recently been famous for statistical analyses of the stopped decline or even increase in the mortality rates for middle-age (and perhaps younger)  non-Hispanic white Americans when those rates are still declining for both non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics in the United States and for whites in European countries and Canada.  Their first article on the topic came out in 2015, and a Brookings Institute conference paper (or a conference draft) was released only a few weeks ago, in March of 2017.

The latter paper concludes that the increased mortality of middle-aged non-Hispanic whites applies to both men and women and that it is completely attributable to rising mortality among those non-Hispanic whites whose highest education level is a high school degree or less.

It's that 2017 working paper I want to talk about here, and especially the parts of it which cause me to ask questions.  Thus, this post is one of criticisms.(1)

Before I launch into it I want to stress that I admire the contribution Case and Deaton have made by both having the ability to get their message heard in the public conversations and by what they have contributed to the wider epidemiological and statistical literature on the topic of mortality rates and how they change over time.

On that count I have nothing but admiration for their work.  Still, presenting a working paper to the world at large is a little like Coco Chanel presenting a half-finished dress, cut, pasted and pinned together, to the woman who ordered it as the finished couture creation.  Working papers are not subjected to rigorous peer review, and that means that they rather resemble the pieces of the dress basted or pinned together at the first fitting, not the final dress.  In other words, there's work still to be done on the Case-Deaton conference paper and its presentation.

My questions or criticisms fall into three groups.  The first is about general methodological and presentation concerns, the second about the racial and ethnic comparisons as they appear in the Case-Deaton working paper, and the third about the way differences between male and female mortality rates are sometimes ignored, sometimes brought forward in inconsistent ways.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Oh Really, O'Reilly? On Fox, Women and The Demand For Foxy Women

One day's worth of Fox News is sufficient to teach anyone that the requirements to get a speaking head job at Fox differ for men and women:  Men can look like a very lonely sprouting and withered potato, as long as they know how to be a pundit, but women must also be eye-candy, as this 2015 compilation of many of the Fox television faces demonstrates:

And two witnesses have stated that the women Fox employs are not allowed to wear long pants while punditing, probably because they must show some leg to those Fox views watchers who tilt older, white and male.

A discrimination case could be built against Fox News from  just the above evidence, because it looks like no competent female pundit can hope to get a job at Fox News without having the required eye-candy quotient.  That is an extra requirement applied to only female pundits.

Still, there's more:  At least two powerful men at Fox News:  Bill O'Reilly of the O'Reilly Factor, and former Fox chair Roger Ailes seemed unable to understand that all those foxy ladies the network has hired are only to be ogled at and not to be groped:

Much has happened in the three days since the New York Times published revelations that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News had paid $13 million in settlements to five women who accused the network star of harassment. On Monday, another Fox contributor filed a lawsuit alleging that she’d been victimized by former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who she says was enabled and supported by current Co-President Bill Shine. Then, one of O’Reilly’s accusers, who never received and is not seeking a settlement, joined her lawyer in a call for a New York City or state investigation into patterns of sexual harassment, retaliation, and cover-up at Fox News.
The reason we have not heard about those thirteen million dollar settlements before is that they were private.  Now our Dear Leader has signed an executive order to make such secret settlements much more common in the future:

On March 27, Trump revoked the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order then-President Barack Obama put in place to ensure that companies with federal contracts comply with 14 labor and civil rights laws. The Fair Pay order was put in place after a 2010 Government Accountability Office investigation showed that companies with rampant violations were being awarded millions in federal contracts.
In an attempt to keep the worst violators from receiving taxpayer dollars, the Fair Pay order included two rules that impacted women workers: paycheck transparency and a ban on forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination claims.
 It's that last sentence (bolded by me) which matters in this context.  Forced arbitration clauses (which are now perfectly AOK again) mean that we might never learn about other places where rampant sexual harassment is part of the corporate culture, as it clearly is at Fox News.

Gretchen Carlson's original lawsuit ran around the arbitration clause in her contract by suing not Fox News but Roger Ailes directly.  Ailes's lawyers argued that Carlson had broken her contract and tried to make her go into secret arbitration.  Had they succeeded in that the many women at Fox News who had been sexually harassed might have all thought that they were the only ones.  And the culture of harassment would have been allowed to thrive.

Now Trump is contributing to that very future for all American women in the labor force.

But the news are not all negative:  The O'Reilly Factor is losing advertisers at a rapid clip.  Mercedes Benz, BMW, Hyundai and many other companies have pulled their advertising from being contaminated by close proximity to The O'Reilly Factor and its host's views about women.

Then a deeper question:  Doesn't even the most superficial watching of Fox News tell any prospective employee that the role of women in that network is not the same as the role of men? 

Women are meant to be decorative and sexually attractive, men are not (rather the reverse, in my honest opinion).  So what would make a prospective female employee believe that this difference wouldn't affect promotion chances, pay and perhaps even the odds of being expected to cater for the sexual needs of some of the powerful men at Fox News?

My intention is not to blame the victims here.  Rather, I wonder if all the television jobs share enough of that eye-candy demand for women so that the more extreme conditions at Fox News are less obvious to those in the industry than they are to me?

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Echidne The Seamstress/Tailor

I couldn't, after all, return the too large jeans I bought online.  So last night I decided to make them smaller. 

Seam rippers are wonderful:  They let you turn a pair of pants partly into bits which look like something from outer space (three-dimensional mental rotation abilities are a must, of course). 

Sewing machines are also wonderful, except the one I have.  It is very ancient, and its technology is a bit like the Model T Ford technology in cars compared to today's Mercedes Bentz. 

What's nice about that is my ability to fix everything in the machine, to clean it, to oil it, and to regulate all the various tensions etc on my very own.  What's not so nice about it is that it runs like a tractor over rocky ground, even when it is perfectly tuned, instead of the way a Maserati runs on a smooth highway (which would be the metaphor for modern machines) so that I have to physically restrain its operations by half-lying on the fabric, clinging on to it for dear life,  while vigorously stomping on the foot pedal.

Never mind.  I managed to put the jeans back together, considerably smaller, and all I lost in the operations was one belt loop (and one sewing machine needle which fell on the wood floor and disappeared in one of the cracks).  But the only thread I had in sufficient amounts was too light a color.  My hypothesis was that it would sink into the fabric so as not to be noticeable.

That hypothesis failed.  So I took a pen and colored all the stitches carefully darker!  We shall see if the ink is water-proof.  If it's not, I can just color the seams in again.

I am almost ready for the post-apocalypse life after Trump, where we make our own clothes and plant our own potatoes in our tiny window boxes.  And make our own shoes out of corrugated cardboard.

Speaking of cardboard, I finally went through all the cardboard boxes full of pieces of fabric.  They are my embroidery stash, saved over the years in case creativity suddenly strikes and makes it obligatory for me to finish that embroidery of the Happy Vampire Family (they all have red horns in the half-finished work).

Now most of the tiny pieces of cloth have been sent to recycling.  That is very sad, but ordinary goddesses don't have the guest room closet completely overtaken by bits of fabric from old clothes and flea market finds.

Here's one example of what I have done with those fabrics in the past:

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Patriarchy Strikes Back: The Trump Era

Picture from here.  The women are dressed as Margaret Atwood's handmaids, to protest the loss of women's reproductive rights.

1.  What Might Have Been.  Thomas Geoghegan's lament on the liberal Supreme Court he will never now see made my eyes misty.  It condenses all our future losses into one long jeremiad by telling us how a liberal Supreme Court would have overturned Citizens United, how money could no longer have determined who it is who will rule the politics of this country, how the death penalty might have disappeared and so on.

But Geoghegan says nothing about the future of reproductive choice.  Hmm.

2.  That may be part and parcel of this new era we live in:  Patriarchy Has Struck Back.  Jeet Heer suggests that the Trump era is the patriarchal counterrevolution:

Trump defeated the first woman who had a realistic chance of becoming the president of the United States, and he defeated her while using sexist tropes of the most obnoxious kinds. His administration has more white men in it than any administration has had since Ronald Reagan, and the four women he appointed hold lowly positions, suitable for their sex.

Heer points out that the gender imbalance in Trump's administration is the worst for thirty years.

Jill Filipovic also suggests that this is not some weird coincidence:

That’s why Mr. Trump’s infamous lewd comments about his conduct with women weren’t actually a liability. The people those comments offended weren’t going to vote for him in the first place, and the people most drawn to Mr. Trump liked him because he’s an unrepentant chauvinist, not in spite of it.
The Trump team is well aware of this dynamic, which is why it doesn’t spend much time worrying about even putting forward a facade of diversity. The great America it promised has white men at the top, and that’s the image they’re projecting, figuratively and literally. It’s not an error, it’s the game plan.
If it is a game plan, then the pair of Trump and Pence have both types of sexism covered:  Trump is the pussygrabber-in-chief while Pence tries to turn the Handmaid's Tale into reality through religious misogyny.*

But American women (and men) are not taking this lying down.  First there were the Women's Marches, three million strong.  Then:

Many women have kept up the pressure since then. The Huffington Post’s Ariel Edwards-Levy recently reported that the wave of popular opposition to Trump— as measured by citizen phone calls to their representatives, organized by activist group Daily Action—skews female. “The activists flooding congressional offices with those calls are overwhelmingly female, according to a survey conducted by Democratic pollsters Lake Research Partners and shared with HuffPost,” Edwards-Levy wrote. “Of the more than 28,000 of the group’s members who responded to a poll sent out by text message, 86 percent were women.”
3.  So did sexism and/or racism have nothing to do with the votes of those who picked the pussygrabber-in-chief to run this country?  Bernie Sanders doesn't believe so, but studies suggest that those who expressed racist or sexist views were more likely to  prefer Trump.

And then there is this odd opinion column, which seems to demand that Hillary Clinton never set foot outside her house again, lest people interpret that as the continuing reign of Clintonism.  The writer suffers from the Clinton derangement syndrome**. I cannot imagine similar stories written about male politicians, however hated they might be.

Neither am I quite sure if a male politician would get a long piece written about his bad polling numbers headlined like this:

Why Is Elizabeth Warren So Hard to Love?
That headline takes it for granted that she is not loved and only wonders about why that might be the case***.

Could this have anything to do with the dislike a sufficient number of voters feels towards ambitious and uppity and smart women?


Today's news are probably thanks to the fundamentalist Trumpians in the United States and their boy, Pence:

The Trump administration informed Congress on Monday that it had terminated United States funding for the United Nations Population Fund, the world’s leading provider of family planning services, including contraception, to women in at least 155 countries.
The United States is one of the top donor nations to the United Nations, and the denial of funding was one of President Trump’s biggest moves yet to reduce financing for family planning.
While the administration had signaled back in January that was adopting a tougher stance toward family planning services that provide abortion counseling, the move was nonetheless a stunning piece of news to advocates for women’s and children’s health, particularly in the developing world.
This is very dangerous, because unintended pregnancies make all of Africa's poverty problems worse.

**  The author, Timothy Stanley, writes

Of course, Hillary Clinton is back. I am convinced she will run for the presidency as many times as it takes to win -- even if she is still being wheeled through the streets of Iowa at 108, kept alive by robotics and a refusal to surrender.

Well, Bernie Sanders is still in politics.   Donald Trump ran for president three times.  Newt Gingrich is still mouthing on television.    And so on.  But there is something very different about presumed female ambition.   As an aside, there is no evidence at all that Hillary Clinton would consider running again.  She has simply given a few speeches, but that is too ghastly for words. 

The Clinton derangement syndrome is not a solely right-wing one, though it was initially created by the complete demonization of Hillary Clinton.  For another example, from the left, read this.

 *** Some time ago I read the opinion poll that the above article refers to.  Warren is approved by Democrats and by those who have college degrees  She is disapproved by Republicans and by those whose highest education level is high school.  Surely some of the disapproval is sexism or its rationalizations?

But Warren should attend more Patriot's games and advertise what she has achieved at home.  Smiling  more wouldn't hurt, either.  That last sentence was snark.

How the Health Insurance Game Can Be Played: On Who Can Afford Insurance

A New York Times article addresses a wonderful magic trick, proposed by some Republicans,  which might give birth to a health insurance system where people with pre-existing health conditions can buy insurance in theory, but not in practice.

The trick goes like this:  First, get rid of the community rating:  the requirement (in this context) that people of the same age must be offered the same health insurance policies at the same prices.  Second, do away with a required minimum list of health care goods and services which the insurance policy must cover.

These two, in combination, can easily equal denial of coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions:

The ability to opt out of the benefit requirements could substantially reduce the value of insurance on the market. A patient with cancer might, for example, still be allowed to buy a plan, but it wouldn’t do her much good if that plan was not required to cover chemotherapy drugs.
The second opt-out would make the insurance options for those with pre-existing conditions even more meaningless.
Technically, the deal would still prevent insurers from denying coverage to people with a history of illness. But without community rating, health plans would be free to charge those patients as much as they wanted. If both of the Obamacare provisions went away, the hypothetical cancer patient might be able to buy only a plan, without chemotherapy coverage, that costs many times more than a similar plan costs a healthy customer.

Don't you just love the ingenuity of this trick?  It would turn most health insurance into a market for virgins:  those who have never ever been ill.  That would mean low premia for the healthy and miserable care for the sick.

Given that almost all of us are one day going to belong to the groups "sick," even the healthy shouldn't be overjoyed by this way of getting cheap health insurance.

Sigh.  The fundamental theoretical problem is that the health care needs do not fit well into the insurance paradigm.  Few illnesses are like lightning from a blue sky, never to reappear in exactly the same form, and most individuals need more and more care as they age.

National health insurance systems do away with this problem (and several others*) by simply offering all citizens health insurance which is usually funded from progressive income taxes.  In such systems the healthy and the young do subsidize the sick and the old, but the healthy and the young will one day turn into the sick and the old and then they get their turn to be subsidized by the new generations.**

But, alas, Americans do not want single payer health coverage in sufficient numbers.
*  Other examples:  Good health coverage is not tied to one's work, so entrepreneurship is more likely because it is less risky, the severely ill do not have to try to recover from expensive care while simultaneously battling the myriads of bills insurance companies, doctors and hospitals send them,  and medical bankruptcy is pretty much unthinkable.

Such systems are not perfect.  But then no method of covering health care needs is without its problems.

** One could argue that the rich also subsidize the poor in those systems. But that depends on how we view the burden of taxation:  Because a dollar is worth less to a rich person than a poor person, progressive taxes, properly set, could equalize the actual felt burden of taxation. 

Monday, April 03, 2017

On "Legitimate" Rape. Examples from Canada, Finland, Mexico and the US.


I have the computer equivalent of scrap books for all the topics I might want to write on.  They contain many times the material that ultimately finds its way into my published writings:  Other references to verify what the ones I post say, news about all sorts of events that make that tiny click sound in my brain or turn on the creativity faucet/tap,  items that I feel I should write on but never will, because I don't have the expertise (climate change) or fear the responses (any intra-feminism fights).

Every once in a while I start a new scrap book and this is one of the times.  Before I put the old one in the attic, I quickly scan the newest pages to see if it covers anything that deserves more daylight.  The topic of this post comes from such gleanings.

That topic is one of the unintended consequences that might follow when a victim or an alleged victim of sexual violence decides to take the case to court.  It may not be suitable reading for all.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Do Millennial Men Want Stay-at-Home Wives?

That is the best clickbait the headline writer found to describe Stephanie Coontz' opinion piece in the New York Times.

Coontz writes about the findings of opinion surveys which suggest that the age group between 18 and 25 in the US might hold more patriarchal views about the family than older age group:

Using a survey that has monitored the attitudes of high school seniors for nearly 40 years, the sociologists Joanna Pepin and David Cotter find that the proportion of young people holding egalitarian views about gender relationships rose steadily from 1977 to the mid-1990s but has fallen since. In 1994, only 42 percent of high school seniors agreed that the best family was one where the man was the main income earner and the woman took care of the home. But in 2014, 58 percent of seniors said they preferred that arrangement. In 1994, fewer than 30 percent of high school seniors thought “the husband should make all the important decisions in the family.” By 2014, nearly 40 percent subscribed to that premise.
A different survey found a similar trend, in this case concentrated mainly among men. In 1994, 83 percent of young men rejected the superiority of the male-breadwinner family. By 2014 that had fallen to 55 percent. Women’s disagreement fell far less, from 85 percent in 1994 to 72 percent in 2014. Since 1994, young women’s confidence that employed women are just as good mothers as stay-at-home moms has continued to inch up, but young men’s has fallen. In fact, by 2014, men aged 18 to 25 were more traditional than their elders.

Weird stuff.  I read both the linked study summaries and noticed that the second one used a very small sample for the age group 18-25 (n=200) (1) so I'm not going to consider its findings any further, but instead concentrate on the Pepin-Cotter findings.

So what are those findings about high school seniors in general?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mike Pence and the Wimminz

Pence, our Dear Vice-President (in charge of controlling the Vices) is a radical Christianist.

Like radical Islamists, he believes that the values, politics and laws of countries (even where most people don't accept his interpretations) should be based on the sex roles that prevailed thousands of years ago in nomadic herding communities.  Perhaps coincidentally, it is in those types of ancient communities that we find women's rights to have been the very worst.

Never mind.  You knew all that, and so did those right-wing fundamentalists who voted for Trump at least partly because Pence is his wing-man.

A recent Washington Post article on Karen Pence, "the Second Lady," tells us that Karen is opposed to lesbian and gay rights, that he is the power behind Mike's throne or perhaps part of the melted unity that makes the couple with two faces: : Mike's clean, sunny and tight-lipped public face, and Karen's private face: deep in devout prayer trance, but behind closed doors.

I am mean today.  That's because the WaPo article is a complete summary of a certain kind of Christian patriarchal marriage where the husband is the head but the wife is the neck which turns the head, though always from behind the stage and with proper indirectness and submission and never in a way which would let her step out of her Old Testament role.

Anyway.  The article mentions that in 2002

Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.
And the social media exploded!  I detest that sentence because it just means that various people tweeted or wrote about that principle as a serious roadblock for women's advancement in the labor force, were it generally adopted.  It would serve to keep any top positions which are today held by men that way for almost forever.

This is true.  But those who believe that women are such impossible sexual sirens to resist, even when they are talking accounts or political projects, have brethren in other religions.  Indeed, the conservative Islam's arguments for sex segregation are based precisely on the same tenet:  That women and men cannot mix without immediately engaging in a giant mass orgy and then the society will collapse!

Pence's 2002 views are more moderate, because he sees the danger in only eating alone with other women than his wife*.  But the theoretical basis is identical, as you can see from this National Review column by David French on the religious principles the Pences uphold:

Everything is sex, women's bodies are about sex, people cannot meet as people, and what with the desired patriarchal power structures, it is women who must suffer from the necessary restrictions on men and women mingling.

French didn't write that last sentence.  I did, because it is an obvious corollary to the principles he describes.

But he does write that the chasm between his views and the views of the left are unbridgeable, and I agree.  He takes orders from Mr. Penis, it seems, and firmly believes that we are all similarly under the magical powers of our genitals.

I believe that he is wrong.  But if he is correct about himself and Mike Pence, then shouldn't that lead to a very different interpretation about who it is who should be kept out of the labor market and places of power and anywhere women might be?


* Perhaps not only while having lunch or dinner in a busy restaurant?  Would he mind going to a female physician?  A female dentist?  A female therapist?  And would he consider hiring a female aide who might have to travel with him or be in an office alone with him?  I doubt it.

These views logically tend towards the segregation of the sexes and the not-hiring of women by religious conservative men.

An ironic and hilarious aside:  The Independent Women's Forum, the gals' auxiliary to right-wingnuttery, has given Mike Pence an award:

“The award recognizes an individual who values free markets, works to create a more dynamic and innovative work world, and celebrates the valuable contributions women make to society,” the IWF said in a press release. Which just screams Mike Pence, right? Right.

This is what Mike Pence just did for all the poor women who depend on Planned Parenthood for their gynecological care.

The Next Move Trump Didn't Anticipate: Corn And Mexico

Trump does not understand the concept of next moves in political games, because he doesn't understand politics at all.  Now his chickens are coming home to roost, after learning all about the planned wall between Mexico and the US and Trump's hatred of NAFTA:

First domesticated here 10,000 years ago, corn is not only a staple of the Mexican diet, but also a symbol of Mexico itself.
Since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, it has also become a symbol of Mexico’s growing economic dependence on the United States.
Now, as President Trump threatens Mexico with drastic changes on trade, its leaders are wielding corn as a weapon. Mexico’s Senate is considering legislation calling for a boycott of U.S. corn, and the government has begun negotiating with Argentina and Brazil to import corn from those nations tax-free.

Analysts say that although the proposed boycott is unlikely to pass, it is a deft political move because its biggest effects would be felt in Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin and other states that voted for Trump in last year’s presidential election.

Kevin Drum notes that this move is already affecting Trump's promises to kill NAFTA dead. 

Drum also points out that Trump is chewing his own foot off by suddenly attacking the Freedom Caucus, the radical fringe of the Republican Party. (if there can be such a thing in a radical capitalist-Christianist party)   I'm pretty sure that the overlap between those who voted for Trump and those who like the Freedom Caucus is considerable.

This is yet another example of Trump's total inability to predict reactions to his weird statements.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Trump News Of The Day, 3/28/2017

1.  Our Dear Leader is the gift that keeps on giving to those working class white voters who saw in him their salvation.  Remember his promises to get rid of all those excessive regulations which are a yoke on the manly shoulders of US business?

Well, they are rapidly disappearing:

President Donald Trump signed a bill Monday repealing a regulation that had encouraged federal contractors to follow labor laws. Under the Obama-era rule, companies with an egregious record of violating wage and safety laws would lose their government contracts if they didn’t come into compliance.
The regulation that died by the stroke of Trump's pen was called the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Rule, and it cannot come back, even as a zombie, because:

By approving the legislation sent to him by the Senate, Trump has ensured not only that the regulation will die, but also that no similar regulation can be put forth by the Labor Department again.

It wasn't those white working class voters who clamored for the abolition of this regulation, but Trump's real base:  His business friends*.  Last week they got another present from Trump in the form of yet less regulation that used to benefit the workers and encumber the employers.

2.  The roles of Ivanka Trump, Our Dear First Daughter and Jared Kushner,  Our Dear First Son-In-Law in the Trump administration are fascinating.  Who are they accountable to?  What are their qualifications to be the president's advisers? 

It seems that the Federal nepotism rules allow Kushner to serve as a senior adviser in the administration, and as far as I can tell,  it's also acceptable for Ivanka Trump to have her own office and a security clearance, though some experts disagree with the ethics of it.

Still, I cannot stop seeing all this as yet another sign of our slow slide into a dictatorship**.  Dictators commonly award their own  family members administrative powers, to keep their control more absolute.

3.  Coal industry 1,  survival of human life on earth 0.***

Trump's policy stances with respect to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are so devastating that I mostly avoid writing about them.  The future the Trump faction desires ((starvation, epidemics, floods of millions of climate refugees resulting in wars and violence and true clashes of civilizations) is too horrible to contemplate, even for the gloomiest of goddesses. 

*  Given that it's apparently only a few "rotten apples" in the bin of companies with federal contracts that steal their workers' wages and expose the workers to occupational hazards, why do all businesses want those rotten apples kept and eaten?

**  You should read David Roberts' long piece on asymmetric polarization in American politics, tribalism,  the role of the press and the current serious illnesses of our democratic system, in particular this:

The “game” of politics is defined by explicit rules (e.g., the Constitution), enforced by various legally empowered referees (e.g., courts and the executive branch). But it is also defined by implicit norms, unwritten rules more informally enforced by the press, academia, and civil society. These latter institutions are referees as well, but their enforcement power operates not through law but through trust. Their transpartisan authority exists solely because participants in the game agree it does.
But the Trump administration simply refuses to honor the rules of that game.  As those roles are based on how democracies function, this is troubling.

***  That's meant to be ironic.  The coal industry will not be saved, but the speed of climate change will accelerate when the EPA is weakened and caged.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Where Have All The Women Gone? The US Politics Media After The Women's Marches.

I have an almost irresistible desire to headline this post "Go, Horsey, Go."  Why would this be the case (other than my usual unusual sense of humor)?

Thomas Groome, a professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, has written an opinion column for the New York Times on what the Democratic Party should do next.  The headline writers chose to label it "To Win Again, Democrats Must Stop Being the Abortion Party."

Groome himself argues that the Democrats could win if only they acknowledged the moral ambiguity of abortion, that wretched business, the complexity of the decision to abort a pregnancy and if they paid more attention to the feelings devout Catholics have about abortion, what with their church telling them to have those feelings, and, finally, if they began expressing greater support for adoption as an alternative to abortion.

That's not the same as the trumpeting in the headline, but of course calling the Democratic Party the abortion party will get many more readers for Groome's column.

Let's set aside that none of the moves Groome proposes will work as long as the Republican Party is for forced-birth in almost all circumstances.  Let's, instead, focus on a wider question which greatly interests me (heh) after the 2016 elections:

Why do certain opinions, certain stances and certain voters get such enormous attention when our media cover politics and others do not?  

Remember Mark Lilla's earlier NYT opinion piece which told us that the Democratic Party must drop its identity politics (= must stop promoting equal rights for women and/or minorities) if it ever wants to attract white men?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Weekend Reading, 3/25/2015

I was going to title this post "For the bookworms," but what I recommend in this post are not books.  So what would the online equivalent be?

In any case, you could do a lot worse than reading Masha Gessen's article on the normalization of the abnormal, on our everyday thoughts on the unthinkable, on how our minds are trying to cope with the new form of the American government where the incompetent rule, where family members (accountable to no-one) wield the kinds of powers they wield in dictatorships and where every new horror ultimately helps in getting us accustomed to this era of the end of democracy.

Gessen urges that we not follow in Trump's footsteps, that we not decide to fight fake with fake, that we not participate in the death of honest information, "infocide."

Sarah Posner writes about the fornication between Donald J. Trump and the American religious right.  She argues that the white supremacist flavor of the Trump administration does not bother some among the fundamentalists, as it's a return to their roots.  I would add that the religious right is also about the subjugation of women, and Trump's views align with that goal much better than the views of Hillary Clinton.  Still, I lost any remaining  respect I had for the beliefs of those American fundamentalists who voted for Trump.  Pharisees, they are.

 Those two are serious reads.  For something more outrageous and/or silly,  you can learn why the sexuality of women is like spaghetti and the sexuality of men is like waffles, as explained by a Christian sex educator at a school.  Munch, munch. 

Note, by the way, that those terms are justified elsewhere by a pseudo-scientific approach:  Men can compartmentalize sex, women's brains get all mushy like overboiled pasta, and that is not meant to be seen as delicious and appetizing.

Oklahoma Republican lawmaker George Faught, famous for his anti-abortion views,  gives us another frightening religious opinion about reproductive rights:

Asked by fellow state Representative Cory Williams about whether he considered rape to be the “will of God,” Faught boldly, if not necessarily unabashedly, answered in the affirmative.
“Well, you know, if you read the Bible, there’s actually a couple circumstances where that happened,” said Faught. “The Lord uses all circumstances. I mean, you can go down that path, but it’s a reality unfortunately.”
Williams then asked Faught whether he considered incest to be the “will of God” as well.
“Same answer,” said Faught. “Doesn’t deal with this bill.”

As far as I can tell, he has no religious training.

The Gazillion Dollar Question: Who Hated The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)?

The brave new world of Trumpcare must wait a while, because the master of the Art of the Deal failed to get a deal.  Sad!*

The reasons for that failure are many, but one of them surely was the large number of citizens who contacted their representatives in the US Congress and told them they don't like to lose their health insurance benefits.  Politicians worry about getting re-elected.

A recent poll, and an earlier one, tell us that the support for repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a minority position:  Only 17% of those surveyed in that last poll were all gung-ho about the wonderful future of Trumpcare:**

Disapproval of the Republican plan is 56 - 22 percent among men, 56 - 13 percent among women, 54 - 20 percent among white voters, 64 - 10 percent among non-white voters, 80 - 3 percent among Democrats, 58 - 14 percent among independent voters and by margins of 2-1 or more in every age group.
But but but, you might say:  Haven't the Republican politicians ranted and raved about "Obamacare" since it was established?

Indeed, and the support for repeal and replacements is still higher among Republicans.

Still, why would Trump insist that one of the first real moves of his reign would be the killing of the ACA?  Who are in that 17% or so who really want to see the ACA dead?

I couldn't immediately find data on that, but I suspect that it would be the moneyed folks whose taxes pay for some of the ACA.  Those people, of course, run much of the Republican propaganda by paying for it and also, thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, run much of the politics in this country.  Besides, they can afford to pay for their own health care costs out-of-pocket, if necessary, which means that they see the ACA as purely negative and harmful to their interests.

Finally, this clear failure to win by our Dear Leader (who promised that "we" would win so much we'd get tired of it) can also be attributed to earlier ignorance by far too many Americans*** and to that odd incompetence of the Republican Party:  Despite openly hating and criticizing the ACA they had no complete plan ready when the time would be right, but had to scribble up something in a few short weeks, and that something satisfied neither that part of their base which found the replacement not cruel enough nor those which found it too cruel.


*  The battle may have been won but the war is ongoing.  That means the next step for the Trump administration is to try to make the ACA implode.  Perhaps the website can be made impossible to navigate, perhaps bureaucracy can be increased, perhaps nobody will try to fix any problems.  Wait a few years, and then repeal!  Success and profit.

*  As an aside, have a look at this part of the poll results:

When it is explained that federal funding for Planned Parenthood is used only for non- abortion health issues, American voters oppose cutting federal funding to Planned Parenthood 80 - 14 percent, including 60 - 32 percent among Republicans. In a simple question, without the explanation, voters oppose cutting Planned Parenthood funding 61 - 33 percent.

Voters also oppose 74 - 22 percent, including 54 - 39 percent among Republicans, cutting federal funding for Medicaid

Wow and wow.  Most Americans don't want to de-fund Planned Parenthood  or starve Medicaid to death, assuming the poll is representative.  We would never know this if we got our information from Fox News, Breitbart.com and other sites in the conservative media buble.

**  From last month:

A sizable minority of Americans don’t understand that Obamacare is just another name for the Affordable Care Act.
This finding, from a poll by Morning Consult, illustrates the extent of public confusion over a health law that President Trump and Republicans in Congress hope to repeal.
In the survey, 35 percent of respondents said either they thought Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act were different policies (17 percent) or didn’t know if they were the same or different (18 percent). This confusion was more pronounced among people 18 to 29 and those who earn less than $50,000 — two groups that could be significantly affected by repeal.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Picture Worth A Thousand Words. Or Who Needs Mammograms.

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say*.  This one is about today's meeting between our Dear Leader and the so-called Freedom Caucus, an arch-conservative wing of the Republican Party which wants freedom for themselves only.  A central topic in the meeting:

Whether or not maternity care and mammograms should be considered "essential" treatments covered by all health insurance policies under the Republican proposal. ("I wouldn't want to lose my mammograms," quipped Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who supports scrapping the requirement. He apologized.)

The probability of breast cancer in that particular room is, of course, lower than the probability of prostate cancer.

It would be hard to find a better example why diversity in the corridors of power is important.

* We are so inured seeing men as the default humanity that a picture of a large demonstration or protest in the Middle East, say,  showing nothing but men is routinely captured as "people protesting/demonstrating."  And we are certainly extremely accustomed to seeing only men in most pictures depicting people in power, with a few exceptions (such as Angela Merkel) who stick out because of being exceptions.

In the US this homogeneity also has a racial and ethnic characteristic.  But women tend to be absent in most countries of the world when power is depicted.  A few examples:

From China:

And from Saudi Arabia (about the founding of an organization to help young girls be their best):

How The Conservatives View Childbirth And Its Costs: Lessons from the Trump Care Debacle

The approach conservatives of all stripes take when it comes to having children is extremely weird, and I do mean extremely.  They interpret childbirth from three utterly and completely different angles:

1.  The race and religious wars angle, which demands that white and/or Christian women maximize the number of children they can possibly have.  The Quiverfull movement is an example of that line of thinking in the religious context:  Children are arrows in the man's quiver, of course prepared by their women.  Women are part of the war artillery and must keep shooting out babies. 

2.  The forced-birth angle, which values the lives of people extremely highly before they are born but pretty much not at all after they are born.  Because of the immense value of fetuses, women, in general, have the value of containers for the fetuses.  Decisions about children, before birth, are socialized.  Decisions about children, after birth, are privatized, and even that is viewed narrowly as the obligation of only their mothers.

3.  The children as ice-cream cones angle.  This is the one which comes up whenever people debate whether firms should provide maternity leave for childbirth or paid parental leave.  It also crops up whenever there's discussion about how the reason why women earn less, on average, is related to their childbirth and child-rearing duties.

In those situations you will hear conservatives pipe up about "choice."  If women "choose" to have children, well, they must expect to bear the costs of that choice all alone, just as others are not expected to pay for their BMWs.  From this angle childbirth is something private,  like buying a new pair of shoes, something which has nothing to do with the reproduction of the next generation.  There's certainly no need for the employers to coddle women by providing them with maternity benefits!  What are they going to demand next?  BMW vacations?

From that third angle, children are conceived through parthenogenesis and all costs and burdens of childbearing should fall on only their mothers.

I may have exaggerated a little here, but not a lot.  The basic rule in all of them is an attempt to socialize the benefits of children (as the conservatives view them) but to privatize all costs of children.  The women giving birth are regarded as the only people truly responsible for the costs of children.

The most recent example of 3.  can be found in what White House secretary, Sean Spacer, said:

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday defended a newly promised provision in the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare by saying that older men "can generally say" they will not need coverage for maternity care.
Republican leaders on Thursday signaled to hardline conservatives that the Senate may add a provision to the bill gutting Obamacare's Essential Health Benefits (EHB) rule, which mandates that insurance plans cover a basic minimum of health care services, including maternity care.
"A lot of people buy insurance not knowing what they're going to need," RealClearPolitics reporter Alexis Simendinger noted to Spicer during his daily briefing.
"Well, I think if you're an older man you can generally say you're not going to need maternity care," Spicer replied.
Such fun.  Unless that older man in the example is one of us divines, he was once born and needed obstetric care.

P.S.  If you are interested in knowing the parts of health insurance that I am never going to use, check out my two earlier posts on this topic.