Saturday, January 28, 2017

Some Fun After Week One of Das Trump Reich

1.  The Dutch have made a video for Trump.  It says:  "We know America will be first, but, please, can the Netherlands be second?"

2.   This reversal of the signing of the global gag rule is fun in that warped world I sometimes inhabit.  Fun to imagine the reactions to the signing of the global bill against Sperm Waste:

3.  More fun stuff here.

4.  The new soul of America is embodied in this man, Stephen Bannon of the Alt Right*, the Rasputin behind Trump's throne

5.  Finally, two political cats discuss Trump:

Orange cat: "Trump has destroyed the reputation of us orange critters by breaking the world.  How can I ever hold my head up again?"

Grey cat: "Don't worry, mate.  #notallorangecritters."

Orange cat: "And I do have nine lives, unlike those poor humans."

Grey cat:  "Four.  Four lives left."

Orange cat: "Four?  I count at least five left."

Grey cat: "Remember how you jumped from the neighbor's roof to attack his van and missed?"

Orange cat: "That was Trump attacking Mexico."


* Alt Right is politically correct speech for white male anti-Jewish supremacist

Friday, January 27, 2017

Today's Simple Question

If Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court wouldn't get a hearing, why should Trump's nominee get one?

Stephen Bannon's Real Enemy: The Media

Stephen Bannon's explosion in this NYT interview is worth noting.  He tells us that the media is the real enemy, that the media is the opposition party, that the media should, and I quote:

Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s chief White House strategist, laced into the American press during an interview on Wednesday evening, arguing that news organizations had been “humiliated” by an election outcome few anticipated, and repeatedly describing the media as “the opposition party” of the current administration.
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile,” Mr. Bannon said during a telephone call.
“I want you to quote this,” Mr. Bannon added. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

Emphasis is mine.

In this he of course agrees with Trump whose rally speeches repeated the words "crooked" and "corrupt" when he spoke about the American media.  Indeed, repetition of that kind is very effective, and Trump is nothing but a carnival barker, so he knows what works.

Add to this the way Trump has begun a war against the intelligence community.

Now, neither the media nor the spooks are necessary the defenders of truth, apple pie and the American Way (whatever that might mean).  But consider the alternative:

If we don't get our facts from the media and the intelligence agencies, who is going to tell us what to believe?  What other possible sources even exist?

The answer, of course, is our Dear Leader.  If he tells us that up is down we must believe him.  

And that is the slippery slope towards a dictatorship.

So what are we to think when we read that the Rasputin behind Trump's throne hates the media and is proud of the lies the president's press secretary, Sean Spicer uttered?

Well, we could multi-task.  We could notice that Bannon is speaking to the rabid base of Trump supporters, who already only believe in alternative facts.  Then we could notice that there's something more wrong with this man than just his sexism and racism:  He is unable to control himself, just as Trump is unable to let any slight go unanswered.

Then we could muse about the importance of free press in democracies, and how the attempts to smear all the myriad newspapers and media sites as equally horrible will affect the functioning of democracy in the United States.  And we could shed a tear for the democracy that was, however halting it may have been in the last few decades.

We could even ridicule Bannon's way of gaining influence and friends.  Yelling at people!  Calling them the enemy!  Calling the media the opposition party!  Imagining how red his face was, imagining how his eyes bulged out.

And finally, we could see what Theodore Roosevelt had to say about all this, almost a century ago:

“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, January 26, 2017

What Women Do Wrong. David Brooks And Others Explain Why The Women's Marches Failed.

That, my erudite and kind friends, could be a title for many of my blog posts, because the media does tend to keep us very informed about all the ways women fail.  But it's only a title for the criticisms of the Women's Marches last Saturday by conservatives.*

Those marches were a tremendous success.  The numbers marching might have reached 4.5 million worldwide!  Many who marched had never marched before, and they were marching against the ideologies of one Donald J. Trump and his Republican acolytes.

How to turn all that into a disaster?  Hmm.  Think, think!

I know!  Criticize the women for their looks.  Tell people that only ugly or fat or lonely or unhappy women would march,  and that only failed women would care about their rights!

Or make fun of the very idea that women might be equal.  You can do that by pretending that you are cracking jokes about your shirts needing ironing or about your sandwiches not getting made.  Because the only proper role for women is as servants to their menfolks.

If that doesn't work, criticize the women for not marching against the Right Thing, the thing which really matters, and carefully spell out the right thing you wanted them to march for.

It could be economic class.  It could be the horrible situation of women in Saudi Arabia.  It could be whatever the more informed and more expert guy who writes the criticism deems the correct object of the march.  And at no place, ever, make the assumption that someone else might organize those other marches.**  Just insist that American women must march against what you tell them is the relevant goal, while also spending the money, time and energy to organize that march.  For you.

David Brooks has written a whole column on those thoughts, (man-)explaining to us small-brained women what we should have marched for.  You are going to love his thoughts!

Let me begin with the end to his column:

If the anti-Trump forces are to have a chance, they have to offer a better nationalism, with diversity cohering around a central mission, building a nation that balances the dynamism of capitalism with biblical morality.

Bolds are mine.

Imagine the signs at that alternative march!

"One Dollar, One Vote!"  "The 0.1 Percent!  Job Creators!"
"Catholic Church Working To Keep Women From Priesthood!"
 "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

Oops!  Now that one seems to rule out a march by women altogether.

Brooks loved Mark Lilla's article about how identity politics is killing the Democratic Party!  

Finally, identity politics is too small for this moment. On Friday, Trump offered a version of unabashed populist nationalism. On Saturday, the anti-Trump forces could have offered a red, white and blue alternative patriotism, a modern, forward-looking patriotism based on pluralism, dynamism, growth, racial and gender equality and global engagement.
Instead, the marches offered the pink hats, an anti-Trump movement built, oddly, around Planned Parenthood, and lots of signs with the word “pussy” in them. The definition of America is up for grabs. Our fundamental institutions have been exposed as shockingly hollow. But the marches couldn’t escape the language and tropes of identity politics.

Actually, I'm very willing to march for David Brooks' right to have a safe abortion, to have access to birth control and to use Planned Parenthood clinics for his PAP-smears and for referrals to mammograms.  More than fifty percent of Americans need such services at some point in their lives, you know.  I wouldn't call anger at the killing of those services mere identity politics.

Then note Brooks deafness and blindness when it comes to Trumpian identity politics:  Trump's rallies were not just about white identity politics, they were also about male identity politics.  He preached about the building of the wall which would offer very few jobs for women.  He praised the veterans and the armed forces and the police, all occupations with many more men than women.  He never praised nurses or school teachers, or at least I never heard him praise those groups.

Then those references to pink hats and pussies in the marches!  I'm not cruel enough to write that David Brooks is utterly clueless (though I just wrote it and he is).  But surely he might vaguely recall how Trump boasted about grabbing pussies because he is a star?  How that is sexual harassment if the woman whose pussy is grabbed is not first asked for permission?  How Trump rates women based on their looks?  How all things pink are associated with women and thus made into something soggy and powerless and how turning the color pink into a rally symbol is therefore meaningful?

But nope.  None of that matters to our David, because women were supposed to invent a new patriotism, one that he could support, one that somehow would bind all Americans together (except for that fifty-plus percent who happen to be women), and that patriotism should be based on capitalism and the Bible.  Also, of course, on gender and racial equality, but, ladies, please, keep that in the background.

Brooks tells us that the central problem in the United States is not patriarchy or that "difference" is not adequately celebrated.  Instead:

The central challenge is to rebind a functioning polity and to modernize a binding American idea. 
I have no rutting*** idea what he means by that, to be honest, possibly because I have lady brainz.  But I would think that "rebinding a functioning polity" is a problem that largely belongs to the fanatics in his own party, the ones who put Trump on the throne and the white male supremacist Bannon as the Trump Whisperer behind the throne.  And the "binding American idea" of the past left an enormous number of people outside, or below it, as not real citizens.  That included African-Americans and also white women.  It's hard for me to see how that idea can be modernized without making sure that all Americans qualify for the full rights of citizens.

Finally, I must stress that all these attempts tell us how very successful the marches were, how they are worrying the right.  This is a Good Thing.  Yes, the resistance must continue, and, yes, we must find ways to keep the newly awakened marchers active and involved.  But the marches mattered.  Even their emotional impact mattered greatly, whatever David Brooks might mutter.


*  This post is not about the disagreements from other directions or inside the movement.  That deserves a separate post.

**  Have you ever noticed how men, whether feminist or not, are not expected to march for the oppressed women in Saudi Arabia?  Not even anti-feminist women are expected to march for those women.  Only feminist women are expected to do any work that might benefit women, one half of all humankind.

That suggests to me that the rest of the right-wing world is AOK with women not being able to do much anything in Saudi Arabia.  Those Saudi women are only used as a reminder or a threat that things here could be a lot worse and that American women should count their blessings.  If the concerns were real, then we would see the critics organizing marches to benefit women in Saudi Arabia.

***  Taken from the Firefly television series.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Document the Atrocities, 1/24/17: Extreme Forced Birth Policies, Extreme Government Opaqueness, and Having a Thin Skin

1.  The global gag rule on abortion has not only been renewed.  It has been madly enlarged:

In the past, the global gag rule meant that foreign NGOs must disavow any involvement with abortion in order to receive U.S. family planning funding. Trump’s version of the global gag rule expands the policy to all global health funding. According to Ehlers, the new rule means that rather than impacting $600 million in U.S. foreign aid, the global gag rule will affect $9.5 billion. Organizations working on AIDS, malaria, or maternal and child health will have to make sure that none of their programs involves so much as an abortion referral.
That just might be a punishment of the women who dared to march against Dear Leader.  Of course the people who will die (women, men and children) weren't in the US marching, but narcissists don't care about that distinction.

2.  Silence.  Silence is what we are going to get from the Trump administration.  That is the reverse of transparency:

President Trump has banned employees of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from giving social media updates and speaking with reporters, according to The Associated Press.
The EPA ban comes amid other reports of agency staff being restricted from interacting the members of the Congress or the general public. 
BuzzFeed reported Tuesday that the Department of Agriculture instituted a similar ban, telling its employees not to distribute information about research papers or to post on Twitter under the agency's name. A Tuesday report in the Huffington Post said agency employees under the Department of Health and Human Services were told not to speak to public officials.

The people who pay for all those departments, American tax-payers, are not allowed to know what might be taking place.  New research findings will be kept secret.  Even other public officials might be kept in the dark.

I don't know about you, but this does not smell like democracy to me.

3.  Our Dear Leader is upset.  Upset, do you hear me?  He needs adulation and a worshipful attitude from his people.  If he doesn't get those he will be cranky and punish us.

After relishing in Friday's inaugural festivities, the new president grew increasingly upset the next day by what he felt was "biased" media coverage of women's marches across the globe protesting his election, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Trump was particularly enraged with CNN, which he thought was "gloating" by continually running photos of the women's march alongside the smaller crowds that attended his inauguration the day before, according to this person, one of several White House aides and associates who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

Sad!  Bigly sad!  Unfortunately, being the president is not the same thing as being elected the most popular student in the class.  Equally unfortunately, the presidency is not about the feelings of the president, but about the good of the whole country.  But then, of course, dictatorships often tend to cater for the dictator's feelings, because Bad Things happen otherwise.

I wonder if it has ever occurred to Trump that he would be more popular if he pursued policies which the majority like or at least if he stuck to the traditional rules of democracy.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The First Monday of the Trump Reich: Fasten Your Seat Belts.

1.  It is the first Monday of the Trump Reich, and the global gag rule is back in place, because the fundies must be fed their customary chunk of women's flesh.

The global gag rule will kill poor women abroad.  It will also slow down any progress toward gender equality.

The killing of the ACA and other traditional conservative projects of stripping health care from all but the wealthiest will kill people here at home.*

Someone should document the corpses.

2.  Trump brought his own applause troops to his CIA speech:

Authorities are also pushing back against the perception that the CIA workforce was cheering for the president. They say the first three rows in front of the president were largely made up of supporters of Mr. Trump’s campaign. 
An official with knowledge of the make-up of the crowd says that there were about 40 people who’d been invited by the Trump, Mike Pence and Rep. Mike Pompeo teams. The Trump team expected Rep. Pompeo, R-Kansas, to be sworn in during the event as the next CIA director, but the vote to confirm him was delayed on Friday by Senate  Democrats. Also sitting in the first several rows in front of the president was the CIA’s senior leadership, which was not cheering the remarks.

Clapping keeps him happy, they say.

3.  Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer has taken a leaf of the Dictatorship for Dummies** book:  What Dear Leader believes is the truth, and that truth will be rammed down our throats. 

In case that bothers you, Trump's spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway tells us that lies are not lies but alternative facts.  For instance, it's an alternative fact that I'm really a brawny guy from Alabama who adores Budweiser's beer.

More seriously, the idea that facts are whatever you want them to be troubles me greatly.  The red light at the traffic junction is not green just because it would suit you better, and if you act on that "alternative fact" you are going to get someone killed.  But that's how the Trump administration seems to think.

I've heard that the idea of confusing everyone about what the truth might be is also a favorite weapon of Vlad the Impaler Putin, because it sows the seeds of discord which he expects later to harvest as the death of Western liberalism, human rights and the outdated idea of democracy.


*  The problem with the Trump Reich is that we are going to get all the usual conservative programs:  income redistribution towards the rich, attacks against women's rights, workers' rights and civil rights in general and attempts to speed up the killing of Mother Earth, and we are also going to get whatever a disgruntled and unhappy narcissist might dole out to us. The latter looks more and more like a dictatorship to me, though of course democracy has been under conservative attacks for at least a decade, as evidenced, say,  by the successful attempts to make it harder for African-Americans to vote.

Added later:  This article suggests that the deaths from abolishing the ACA might be as many as 43,000 per year.  But then of course the "tax burden" on the wealthier Americans will be less.

* Does such a book exist yet?  If not, I should write it, based on our current experiences.

And A Little More on the Women's Marches

The overall numbers for the Women's Marches just in the US are awe-inspiring and awesome:

A professor of political science in Connecticut has aggregated the data from public reports of crowd sizes at the women’s marches across America on Saturday and reached an astonishing conclusion: More than 1 in every 100 people in the U.S. turned out to march against Donald Trump and for women’s rights on the second day of his presidency.
Drawing on reports of 526 different marches in towns as disparate as Wichita Falls, Texas — reported turnout: 150 people — and Washington, D.C. — reported turnout: more than 500,000 — University of Connecticut professor Jeremy Pressman, working with international relations professor Erica Chenoweth from the University of Denver, estimated that 3,341,823 to 4,611,782 people turned out to march across the nation.
The Census Bureau estimated that the U.S. population as of mid-2016 was 323,127,513.
“The overall number is bigger than I expected,” Pressman told Yahoo News about his findings on the protest crowds. “With a low estimate it’s a little bit above 1 percent, and with a higher estimate, it’s probably closer to 1 1/2 percent.”

And that is a wonderful emotion for the resistance work!

Speaking of resistance, Media Matters summarizes a few quips from some conservative men about the marches.

Many of them are wonderful examples of the continuing need for feminism, because they suggest that the proper role for women is to serve and service men ("my shirts don't iron themselves." "the ham sandwiches don't make themselves") or that only really ugly women would want equality.  But Piers Morgan's tweet deserves closer theoretical analysis:

Morgan's idea of masculinity is a subtractive one*:  Any rights women gain must come from men's rights, because in his minds those rights always add up to some constant total.

Taken to the logical extremes, the only way men can be truly masculine is if women are doormats with zero rights. 

Poor Piers.  His world is full of frightening things, such as women walking or wearing pink hats.  Or speaking, I guess.

And this is so very weird:  A tweet by Michael Cohen, a Special Councel to Donald J. Trump, about those pink pussyhats many marchers wore:

As far as I know most of those hats were hand-knitted or hand-crocheted, many by the marchers themselves or by other women who wanted to contribute to the march. You know, self-reliance and other such -- um -- conservative values.


* Credit for this term goes here.