Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Bullying Trump Administration

The Trump administration reminds me of a truly nasty gang:  bullying, sadism, humiliations and the use of adolescent and demeaning humor against its presumed internal enemies.  And just as in a gang (or so I imagine), the only upheld value is obedience and fidelity to the leader of the gang.  Everything else is negotiable, except the adoration of the Trump.

A lack of expertise about the field one is supposed to govern seems to be a basic requirement for a job in the administration.  Think of Betsy deVos. Think of Trump's pick to run Indian Health Service.   Think of Larry Kudlow, Trump's  new top economic advisor, who does not have a degree in economics,* but who is a media personality.

One might say that incompetence has been a prerequisite for a position in this administration, whether it is combined with malevolence or not.  Now it's beginning to look as if malevolence is also required.

* I am not ruling out the possibility that someone might make a good economics advisor without a PhD in economics, but an academic background at least guarantees that the person has had to learn all the alternative theories and the critiques aimed at each.  Someone who believes in unregulated markets in every fuckin thing probably has not had that exposure.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Gender-Integration At Work Decreases Gender Stereotypes

Familiarity may not breed contempt.

This is the take-home message from a Norwegian study, at least based on* the summary of the working-paper about the study:

We examine whether exposure of men to women in a traditionally male-dominated environment can change attitudes about mixed-gender productivity, gender roles and gender identity. Our context is the military in Norway, where we randomly assigned female recruits to some squads but not others during boot camp. We find that living and working with women for 8 weeks causes men to adopt more egalitarian attitudes. There is a 14 percentage point increase in the fraction of men who think mixed-gender teams perform as well or better than same-gender teams, an 8 percentage point increase in men who think household work should be shared equally and a 14 percentage point increase in men who do not completely disavow feminine traits. Contrary to the predictions of many policymakers, we find no evidence that integrating women into squads hurt male recruits' satisfaction with boot camp or their plans to continue in the military. These findings provide evidence that even in a highly gender-skewed environment, gender stereotypes are malleable and can be altered by integrating members of the opposite sex. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Meet You At The Wall

Thus ended Trump's answers to questions about the firing of Rex Tillerson as the Secretary of State and the hiring of Mike Pompeo as his replacement.

Trump's wall comment was about his fabulous wall against Mexico, but it reminded me of being placed against the wall, of firing squads, of reaching a dead-end.

As someone wisely said, it's a new season of the Reality Show "The President," and to keep the interest of the audience some administration members  must be fired.

I hope that's all this is.  I do fear that the dogs of war will be let loose* in some place where they are currently sleeping, and that this will be done for purely selfish and short-term reasons, without anyone being allowed to consider the longer-term consequences to the world, and, yes, to the United States and its citizens.

But let us hope that saner minds prevail.  And let's keep the resistance going!

*  I fervently pray (to myself?) that this is because of my inherent gloominess.  But Trump's statements about nuclear weapons during his campaign (that is the campaign before he became our Dear Leader, not the campaign he is running now) were not reassuring.  And starting another war could keep him in power, American voters apparently believing that a war president shouldn't be replaced.

Monday, March 12, 2018

What's Bad For The Goose Is Not Bad For The Gander: Gendered Coverage of US Politicians' Sins.

Gendered politics are such fun to figure out. 

Consider this:  Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is asked to take a DNA test to determine if she indeed has Native American ancestry.  Trump calls her "Pocahontas" in a recent speech.  That she may not have Native American ancestry is a Crime.  That this is the only thing opposition research has been able to dig up about her is ignored.

Consider this:   Donald Trump (P-USA) has for  years claimed false ancestry:

It seems the Trump family has been lying about their ancestry for a couple of generations. Donald Trump himself claimed in his book Trump: The Art of the Deal from 1987 that his father came to America as a boy, having emigrated from Sweden.
But it's not true. At least not according to the biographies The Trumps: Three Generations That Built An Empire by Gwenda Blair, and The lost tycoon by Henry Hurt.
In their research into the Trump family, both author's have come to the conclusion that the Swedish origins was just a story invented by Trump's father. During the middle of the 19th century, Trump's true decent - German - was simply bad for business.

This false claim is not a Crime, and Warren doesn't call Trump "Crooked Viking" or anything similar.

Consider thisHillary Clinton (private person now) might get her past e-mail scandal scrutinized, once again.

Consider this:  Colin Powell seems to have used private e-mail during his time at the Secretary of State, too, and several Trump aides have done the same.  But we have no  Colin Powell e-mail scandal, and no Trump administration e-mail scandal.

What can we conclude from all those considerations?  That Republican male politicians can get away with most anything*, while Democratic female politicians  can get away with nothing.  Had those women spent all their prior lives in a convent, the headlines would tell us that one day hair was showing from under their veils**.

I see this difference in the treatment of politicians' past sins and mistakes correlate with both the gender of the politician and his or her party, though the latter relationship might simply reflect the scarcity of women among Republican politicians.

The icing on this unequal treatment cake is naturally the leeway our current charlatan-in-charge receives.  His campaign rally speech in Pennsylvania once again proved that the president of this country has finally given the really stupid part of the populace their representative, and that the truly vicious ones also have their leader now:

Trump also railed against top Democrats rumored to be considering a presidential bid in 2020. He suggested that the media would be disappointed with a Democratic victory, as Trump's presidency has been a boon for television ratings.
"Could you imagine covering Bernie? Or Pocahontas?" he said, using a derogatory nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. "How about that? Can you imagine having to cover Elizabeth Warren for four years?"
Trump also slammed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and attacked Rep. Maxine Waters as "a very low-IQ individual," but said he'd be delighted if Oprah Winfrey ran against him so he could defeat her.

Within that speech Trump singled out women out of proportion to their presence in the top political tiers, and the insulting of Rep. Maxine Waters is truly nasty.  That tells something about Trump.  And the people who voted for him.


*  David Vitter is naturally one of the main examples of this Teflon-like surface male Republican politicians have benefited from before Trump.  Trump is naturally the finest, greatest example of that.  It matters not at all what sins he might be guilty of; the right-wing white Christians adore him.

** Consider the story about Kamala Harris sleeping her way to the top as one example.  It's not based on facts, but that has not stopped it from being distributed in the right-wing information bubble.  When it gets enough coverage there, the NYT and the WaPo will feel obligated to cover it.  Probably.


Trump On Guns

What the Trump administration plans to do about school killings:

The White House on Sunday vowed to help provide “rigorous firearms training” to some schoolteachers and formally endorsed a bill to tighten the federal background checks system, but it backed off President Trump’s earlier call to raise the minimum age to purchase some guns to 21 years old from 18 years old.
Responding directly to last month’s gun massacre at a Florida high school, the administration rolled out several policy proposals that focus largely on mental health and school safety initiatives. The idea of arming some teachers has been controversial and has drawn sharp opposition from the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers lobby, among other groups. Many of the student survivors have urged Washington to toughen restrictions on gun purchases, but such measures are fiercely opposed by the National Rifle Association, and the Trump plan does not include substantial changes to gun laws.
The first bout in this debate goes to the gun manufacturers*.  Indeed, arming teachers will make the scene of any mass shooting more chaotic, making it impossible for the police to know which of the several people with guns is the killer. 

Then there's the possibility that armed teachers might themselves start shooting, and the enormously underestimated difficulty of teachers actually hitting only the correct target(s) when responding to someone opening fire on the premises. 

Finally, I very much doubt that armed teachers would be any kind of deterrent.  Most school killers are planning to go out in glory, and an armed guard at the latest school shooting did not interfere at all.

But none of this matters, because arming teachers is not expected to achieve anything.  What is important is that gun sales are not restricted, and that seems to have been accomplished.  Indeed, those teachers are an extra market! 

Mission accomplished.

*  I fervently hope that this is not the end, because it would resemble the aftermaths of all earlier massacres where nothing was achieved, except the guaranteed availability of weapons to those who plan similar butchery in the future. 

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Some Fun On The International Woman's Day

In an alternate reality:

The United States elected a female president in 2016, one Donna Trump (on the left in the above picture), the scioness of a wealthy family.  She has been married three times and often boasts about her extramarital sexual conquests.  When her third husband was having a vasectomy operation in the mid-2000s, president Trump used the opportunity to have a fling with a famous male porn star.  She later had to pay him so that he wouldn't tell about the fling.

President Trump has had children by three different baby daddies, and has a custom of ranking men by their butts and how their front bulges look.  When she used to run the Male Hunk Of The Universe pageants, she would sometimes enter the men's dressing rooms to ogle, because, as she stated, she could do it.

She has also ridiculed physical handicaps in her campaign speeches and advocated physical violence against hecklers present at them.

In that alternate reality, Ms. Trump won 80% of the votes of white Evangelical Protestants. 


My apologies for not saving the source for this old newspaper article, which you may already have seen elsewhere:

It's a hilarious example in lots of ways, though clearly times have improved for women who dabble in works of art.  They are taken a little bit more seriously as artists. At least the "wife" job would be entered later in the article.

The International Women's Day, 3/8/2018

Because I'm an ancient blogger, I have written about the International Women's Day far too many times.  Today's posts are therefore not going to be terribly serious, after this one:

The majority of world's women are still born into societies where their births have less value simply because they are daughters and not sons, are still kept away from better jobs and education,  and are still absent from any positions of social and political power.

Most large religions, especially in their traditional branches, as well as most traditional cultures,  openly and explicitly regard women as lower in value than men, dictate their allowable social roles on that basis, and contribute to the inculcation of these beliefs into girls.

Two thirds of the world's adult illiterate are women.

Many girls are still forced into arranged marriages at a young age, many girls are kept out of school, and many girls are made to give birth before their bodies are ready.  Female genital mutilation is still common, though on the decrease.

When you read articles debating flexi-time or child-care in the west, remember the above.  When you hear that our favorite conservative numbskull, Tucker Carlson, argues it's men who really are oppressed in this world, remember this.  When you hear that all need for feminist activism is over, remember that Saudi women might be allowed to drive this year or the next year, though they are still subject to male custodianship in all aspects of their lives.

But we need not become despondent about the state of the world:  All those differences can be changed, and changing them will also provide general benefits for everyone.   For instance, educating girls creates more competent parents and more productive workers, thus raising the general health and wealth of the communities they belong to.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

I Missed the Saga of Sam Nunberg!

This always happens to me, missing out on fun stuff.  For the last four days I've been deep down in the well of deadlines, scribbling away like a madwoman in the attic.  And yesterday I missed this.

It's a wonderful parable of the leadership we have now, a wonderful parable of the changes in acceptable social interactions Donald Trump's ascent to power has created.  Today almost anything goes, almost anything is presidential, tariffs can be suddenly raised by someone who would have failed Econ101, repeatedly.

And the media just writes it all down!

More popcorn, please.  Now, that does NOT mean that I'm having a good time, but gallows humor is sometimes the only type of humor which helps while we wait for the hangman.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Short Posts 3/1/18: On Authoritarianism, Elections, Anti-Semitism, And Pay Differentials Between Men And Women

1.  Authoritarianism is the new-old fashion in politics:

The surprise disclosure on Sunday that the Communist Party was abolishing constitutional limits on presidential terms — effectively allowing President Xi Jinping to lead China indefinitely — was the latest and arguably most significant sign of the world’s decisive tilt toward authoritarian governance, often built on the highly personalized exercise of power.
The list includes Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, all of whom have abandoned most pretenses that they rule according to the people’s will. Authoritarianism is also reappearing in places like Hungary and Poland that barely a quarter-century ago shook loose the shackles of Soviet oppression.
There are many reasons for such moves by Mr. Xi and others — including protecting their power and perks in an age of unrest, terrorism and war amplified by new technologies — but a significant one is that few countries have the standing or authority, morally or otherwise, to speak out — least of all, critics say, the United States.

Warlords everywhere.  And the current president of the United States no longer supports those universal human values Eleanor Roosevelt helped to create in 1948.  He wants to be the Greatest, Biggest Warlord ever.  With the prettiest ponies.

This is not quite as depressing as it sounds, because it's possible to fight the disease once it is diagnosed.  The alternative is to take the lead of the Taoist thinkers and spend the rest of our lives watching fishes make circles on water or goddessing.

2.  Because the rise in authoritarianism means a decline in democracy, fighting for democracy everywhere is imperative.  In the United States this includes paying a liiitle bit of attention to fair and transparent elections:

Nearly 16 months after the presidential election, and more than eight months before the critical midterms, many state and federal officials are convinced the Russians will be back. They're concerned that 2016 was laying the groundwork for a possible future attack.
These first two dismal points highlight the importance of wresting the control of the government away from those who don't like democracy.  We can do it!

3.  Louis Farrakhan has re-emerged.  He gave a very long speech, available on YouTube, and in it he still expressed his great hatred of the Jewish people*. 

It's not just the far right which today expresses anti-Semitism, in other words.  We should condemn such statements wherever they come from, just as we should condemn sexism and racism, say,  even when they are expressed by demographic groups otherwise severely oppressed, and just as we should criticize all religions for their possible misogyny, not just, say, American fundamentalist sects. 

4.  The Brits are talking about the gender wage gap because now information on the gap inside large firms is available.   While the reasons for the gap in earnings between men and women are many, lack of information about what others earn certainly makes it hard to do anything about the gap.  A culture of silence about earnings benefits the firms who can continue paying some groups less.

So finding that the guy in the next cubicle makes a lot more even though he has a lot less experience and education can, indeed, be rage-inducing, as the article states.

I found the differences in bonus payments especially interesting.  How are bonuses determined?  Are the grounds subjective or objective?  Does an employee have to negotiate for a bonus, specifically?  And if so, how does that work out for women when we know from studies that negotiating might backfire for them?

5.  After scanning through my post I depress myself!  My apologies for that.  I have edamame beans.  What is the best way of eating them?


*  He also expressed religious reservations about LGBT rights, suggested that someone is altering marijuana to make men of African ancestry "soft," and gave a nod to one of the founders of the Women's Marches (who was present at the speech), while also telling women to cook healthier meals for their husbands so that obesity is avoided.