Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Short Posts 7/27/16: On Nuns, D. Trump and H. Clinton

1.  Pope Francis has issued 
an “apostolic constitution,” a binding document with new rules. And to whom is the document addressed? Contemplative nuns!
These are the sisters we generally don’t see. They live in cloistered monasteries, away from daily contact with the world, focused on work and prayer. (We call them monasteries, not convents, because that’s the accurate term when referring to the residences of either nuns or priests who lead contemplative lives.)
You would think that the Pope would not have the time to worry about roughly 40,000 nuns whose main occupation is to pray for the rest of us.
What's worth our attention about this new apostolic constitution is this:

Interestingly, these directives to [sic] not apply to monks. Changes for the men, a Vatican official said, aren’t even being - uh - contemplated.

Nunz Gone Wild?  Or more control applied to nuns than monks?  You decide.

2.  Donald Trump's utterances have made sarcasm and irony impossible forms of political writing, because he makes reality more bizarre than anything mere writers could make up.

His recent quip is a good example of that:

The billionaire businessman then went even further, in remarks that left open the possibility that he would be open to Moscow staging a new hack against the United States to find the emails.
"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press," Trump said during a news conference in Florida.
Trump's comments marked an unprecedented appeal to a foreign country to essentially launch an espionage operation against a political opponent. They come as Democrats gathering for their convention in Philadelphia are already grappling with a hack of emails at the Democratic National Committee, which were later posted on WikiLeaks.

Let's play the devil's advocate and assume that all this was just a joke*.  But what would that tell us about Trump's ability to carry out diplomatic conversations with foreign presidents, prime ministers and other dignitaries?  What kind of "jokes" might pass his apparently uncontrollable lips?

3. Suppose that Hillary Clinton had five children with three different husbands:

 Imagine the furor, and not only from the American right, if that indeed was the case.  Yet Donald Trump has five children with three different wives.  This is an interesting example of the (probably subconscious) way we judge women and men with several sexual partners differently.


*  Should you wish to get really worried about possible Russian intervention in US elections, consider the vulnerability of electronic voting machines!  A nice by-product of securing them against tampering would be a greater general trust in the validity of election results. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

On Identity Politics. George Lakoff and Sean Duffy Opine. Echidne Responds.

Serendipity often plays a large role in what I end up writing.

As one example, I just read George Lakoff's  linguistic piece about how the Democrats should respond to Trump and other  right-wingers, and then, in that oddly serendipitous way, I read the identity politics opinion of one right-winger, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI).

The two gentlemen are light years apart in most of their politics, but what they have to say about identity politics* is weirdly similar.  Maybe that's because they belong to the same identity group (white guys)?

Let's start by looking at Rep. Duffy's statement:

During a CNN interview this morning, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) acknowledged the Trump phenomenon for what it is — identity politics for white men.
While opining about Trump’s RNC-closing speech, Duffy said, “There’s a viewpoint that says, ‘I can fight for minorities, and I can fight for women,’ and if you get that, you make up a vast majority of the voting block and you win. And white males have been left aside a little bit in the politics of who speaks to them.”
Duffy’s implication is that in Trump, white guys have finally found a candidate who speaks to their concerns.

Whether or not they’re effectively communicating to white male voters, white men are certainly still well represented in Congress. When the 114th Congress was sworn in in January 2015, 80 percent of members were white males. By contrast, white guys only make up roughly 31 percent of the American population.

Bolds, they are mine.

White guys make up the American society's top layers in almost everything one can think of: politics, business, arts and literature, entertainment,  journalism, science, medicine, religious and sports organizations etc. etc.  White guys earn more, on average, than almost all other racial and gender groups.**

Being a white guy in the US doesn't automatically mean that one will be powerful, of course.  There are very poor white men, there are homeless white men, there are white men with horrible problems to cope with, and to the extent the problems of these individuals are amenable to political solutions politicians should try to solve them.

But the crucial point is that it's not being white-and-male which causes problems such as poverty.  Indeed, out of the many gender-race combinations the one that results in the least amount of unfair treatment is the combination of white and male.***

So much for Rep. Duffy's opinions.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Putin and Trump, Sitting In The Tree. K-i-s-s-i-n-g?

That's from a children's song.  It's a very clever headline, even if I say so myself, for a post which is about the possible debt Donald Trump owes Vladimir Putin.

Josh Marshall writes about evidence which just might suggest that Trump gets a lot of his funding from Russia in general and a few Russian oligarchs close to Putin in particular.  You should read Josh's post to judge for yourself, but here's where I get concerned:

That Trump owes a lot of money to Russian interests could be the reason why he has not released information on his taxes:

After his bankruptcy and business failures roughly a decade ago Trump has had an increasingly difficult time finding sources of capital for new investments. As I noted above, Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks with the exception of Deutschebank, which is of course a foreign bank with a major US presence. He has steadied and rebuilt his financial empire with a heavy reliance on capital from Russia. At a minimum the Trump organization is receiving lots of investment capital from people close to Vladimir Putin.
Trump's tax returns would likely clarify the depth of his connections to and dependence on Russian capital aligned with Putin. And in case you're keeping score at home: no, that's not reassuring.

It's a possible explanation for Trump's refusal to disclose his tax returns, and it could also explain why Trump hemmed and hawed about NATO coming to the aid of the Baltic states should Putin decide to re-annex them to Russia.

Maybe none of this is correct?  The real problem is, naturally, that the other Republican presidential candidates failed to start their smear machines against Trump early enough in the process, what with vastly over-estimating the smarts of American right-tilting voters.

Thus, it's only now in the general election stage that more facts and speculation surfaces about Trump, including the question whether he might, in fact, be kissing in a tree with the other wannabe rightist dictator of the somewhat modern world.

As Charlie Pearce writes:

This should be the only story about the Trump campaign until he comes clean. It should be the only question anybody asks him. Frankly, even beyond the threat to this election, it's a measure of the pure arrogance of He, Trump. And if Trump thinks his ability to game the American real-estate market, and his success at swindling the rubes who signed up for Trump University, makes him ready to deal with a guy who managed to survive a career at the top-level of the KGB only to make himself the presiding autocrat of the world's leading kleptocracy, I'd like to be there when he finds out how wrong he is.

Bolds are mine.

I'm not going to sleep well...