Saturday, May 06, 2017

Is Ivanka The New Hillary?

Nina Burleigh argues so in a recent Newsweek article:  Both Ivanka and Hillary grabbed power in the White House that was not theirs, both protected sexist male relatives, both got to power via nepotism,  both solicited foreign donations to their foundations (evil!), both want poor women to make baskets (start firms), both are cyphers, and both are ethically challenged.

It's not exactly a fun read, that piece, but it's a great example to take apart for the purposes of feminist analysis.

To begin with, the author does not mention the role that Jared Kushner,  Ivanka's husband,  plays in the Trump administration or the role her brothers may play in letting Donald still have his business ventures.  The difference, of course, is that Hillary and Ivanka bear the stain of Eve.

Today's Deep Thought: Class Warfare.

We don't call it a class war when the rich are winning, and that is what's happening right now.

Our Dear Leader and his administration have been busy moving money upward in the income distribution, both with explicit tax cuts tailored to benefit the top one percent the most,  and by the killing of the Affordable Care Act which was funded by an extra tax on the top earning classes.  That tax money now returns to its rightful home pockets.

Keep an eye on what the Republicans in the Congress prioritize, too.  You are going to find that almost everything, with the exception of gifts given to the fundamentalist patriarchs in exchange for their votes, is about moving money up the distribution, either directly or through the killing of those regulations which make such shifts harder in the marketplace.

The Republicans always move money up the distribution, true.  But the current income inequality levels in the United States are already deemed unacceptably high by most Americans.  Yet the progress toward a Banana Republic continues...

Friday, May 05, 2017

The New Republican Health Plan and Pre-Existing Medical Conditions

Does the House Republicans' health insurance plan let people with pre-existing conditions buy health insurance that they can afford AND that covers their actual medical needs, without forcing those individuals to choose between medicines and food?  That's what our dear Leader has promised us.

The answer to that question is most likely NO.  All the noise around it is created to hide that very fact.

To see why, note, first that under this new plan states can ask for three different types of waivers from the ACA regulations, if they can prove that

doing so will reduce average premiums, increase enrollment, stabilize the health insurance coverage market or increase the choice of health plans in the state. One of those waivers applies to pre-existing conditions, allowing insurers to use "health status" -- that is, current health, health history and other risk factors -- to set insurance premiums.
Note how easy it would be to argue for such a waiver!  If you get rid of those people who cost more, of course the average premia of those who remain will go down!  And see how easy it is then for insurers to set premia according to one's existing state of health, a.k.a. based on pre-existing health conditions.

This could result in extreme charges for a very basic health insurance policy, perhaps as much as 

$71,880 extra for a patient with lung cancer, and $17,060 extra for a pregnant woman, forcing many to be priced out of coverage and wind up uninsured. 
The plan proposes that states then create pools for those unfortunate high-risk cases.  Such pools have fared poorly in the past, offering limited coverage at exorbitant prices, and it's unlikely they would fare any better now:

In addition to its poor design, the funding for the invisible risk pool is a drop in the bucket compared to the massive increase in enrollee health care costs as a result of the ACHA. Spread over nine years and across millions of enrollees, we estimate that the $15 billion fund could lower annual premiums by about 1 to 2 percent each year, or roughly $100 per enrollee annually. Because the AHCA substantially reduces subsidies and shifts costs onto consumers, even without stripping protections for pre-existing conditions the average enrollee would still see their total costs rise by more than $3,000 by 2020.

To return to the first sentence in this post:  It doesn't matter that people with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage, if they can be charged almost anything for that coverage and/or if what coverage they can buy does not apply to their actual medical needs.

It's unlikely that the Republican House bill ends up used as the real blueprint, but if that happens the most likely outcome would be that many individuals with pre-existing conditions would be priced out of the insurance markets altogether, and a certain number of them would die earlier than would have been the case under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  Those early deaths are a bizarre way of saving money, and so is a plan aiming at insuring only the healthy against the expenses of illness.

Pre-Existing Moral Conditions. My Political Lament.

Moe Brooks, representing Alabama's fifth Congressional district, is a man with firm moral principles.  Those principles keep him cozy, the way the shell of an escargot does.  A mobile little home of moral self-administration, that's what our Moe carries with him:

In a CNN interview, Representative Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican, makes the case for Trumpcare in much starker terms: It will free healthy people from having to pay the cost of the sick. “It will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool that helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy,” explained Brooks.
An example of someone who has failed to lead a good life, someone who has failed to do the things that keep bodies healthy might be the newborn son of Jimmy Kimmel:

Kimmel noted that before the ACA, also known as Obamacare, was introduced, “if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition. You were born with a pre-existing condition and if your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not live long enough to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition. If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.”

Other people have clearly not led good lives because they have aged, and so deserve to pay for their own health care expenses.  Why should young people have to subsidize such recklessness as aging?

Joe Walsh, the politician who cannot even be bothered to financially care for his own children had this to say about Kimmel's son:

As Joe Walsh, a former congressman, tweeted on Tuesday afternoon: “Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care.” Walsh, by the way, doesn’t even want to pay for his own kids’ healthcare – at one point, he owed $117,000 in child support. Now there’s a guy who truly understands the American values of individual freedom and choice.
Messrs Brooks and Walsh express common conservative values in this context: individuals have the power and the duty to lead "moral" lives and  individuals have the right not to care about or for others in the same society.

To have those values is a pre-existing condition, one which interprets the very concept of "morals" narrowly and selfishly and with a focus on individual rights and responsibilities, one which from the outside looks like an escargot shell or the shield of a turtle:  Something to keep the world out.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

How Big Should the Democratic Party Tent Be?

Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi have both suggested that it's not absolutely imperative for Democratic politicians to support reproductive choice, that others should come in from the rain, that the tent of the Democrats is big enough to allow different opinions, including forced-birth ones.

Sanders noted that he is willing to fight for the pro-choice agenda but thinks that when it comes to politicians, "... you can't just exclude people who disagree with us on one issue," and Pelosi said,  while speaking about her own roots, “Most of those people—my family, extended family—are not pro-choice. You think I’m kicking them out of the Democratic Party?”

What a messy paragraph I created there!  That is because the topic is a messy one.
For instance, do you see how the question Sanders answers is about Democratic politicians, but Pelosi talks about the ordinary members of the party?  Those are two different issues. 

Or does the paragraph make you wonder if  disagreeing with the Democratic Party's platform on one issue would still be perfectly fine if that issue was rejecting any kind of legally mandated minimum wage?*

And note how  unclear the meaning of a forced-birth Democratic politician remains:  Would that person vote with the fundamentalists on most women's reproductive rights or would that person just express personal forced-birth views while voting for reproductive choice?

Then there are at least two important underpinnings to that whole debate:

First, if the Democratic Party decides to decrease its focus on reproductive choice, in order to attract various groups of possibly mythical unicorn voters**, it will have to come to grips with the essential truth that reproductive rights and full economic participation are linked for women in ways that they are not linked for men, that economic policies might not benefit women to the same extent as they might benefit men if women are not allowed to have control over their own fertility.***

Second, a policy change that might attract new voters to the party might also make other members of the party decide to leave it behind.  I'm not sure if anyone inside the Democratic Party has made any calculations on this fascinating (to me) topic!  It just could be that there would be a Women's March out of the party if anti-women views are welcomed.


*  Katha Pollitt asks that very question on her careful analysis of the big tent question.  She concludes by asking if pro-choice women, the base of the party as it currently stands, are expected to stand outside the tent, in the rain.

**  They are unicorn voters, because the fundamentalists don't just want a ban on abortions and in some cases even on birth control, but also Biblical laws and almost absolute power to their religions, and the Democratic Party will always offer less than the rabid extremists who now rule the Republican Party.  The racists and sexists won't be satisfied with such stale crumbs, either, because they get press passes to the White House from this Republican administration.

***  To plan one's education and work career requires the ability to control one's fertility.  If women cannot have that control, those in fertile age groups will be the last ones hired or promoted and will be less likely to be given on-the-job training.  That is because under such conditions women, on average,  are statistically less likely to stay employed as long as otherwise equally qualified men, and women, on average, are also more likely to take repeated maternity leaves which are costly to the firms, especially given the traditional norms concerning who it is that is viewed responsible for children.

Children are expensive. Being forced to have many more children than a couple ideally would like will drive poor families into even greater poverty.  That is both because of the expenses of feeding, housing and educating the children, but also because large families cannot as easily afford daycare.  The solution is often for the woman to drop out of the labor force to care for the children.  Ultimately this will affect her retirement income and her lifetime earnings.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Why I Critique the Weirder Kind of Evolutionary Psychology

(This post is about misogyny, contempt toward women. sexual violence and Evolutionary Psychology.  It may not be what you need to read today.)

If you have read this blog for some time you know that I often write about the pseudoscience of the weirder type of evolutionary psychology, the kind I mark with capital letters EP, the kind which is personified by one Satoshi Kanazawa* and his sexist brethren and a few sistren.

There are times when I ask myself if I'm spending too much time wading in those marshes.

But today is not one of those times, because I recently found two references to the kind of EP stuff I so often critique, and both of them came from pretty nasty people.

The first example is Mike Cernovich who has recently been given a White House press pass:

Mike Cernovich is an internet troll, conspiracy theorist, and leading figure in the “alt-right’s” assemblage of modern-day white nationalists and misogynists who has drawn praise and support from President Donald Trump’s closest confidantes. Today, he used a White House press pass to berate reporters at the daily briefing for not sufficiently covering “the violence against Trump supporters.”
Cernovich used to write a sex blog which gave advice to would-be alpha males.  One post advocates choking women, in the bedroom and outside it,  because women really really want to be choked**, and this is because women really really want to be raped, but not just by any guy:

Of course no girl wants to be wolf packed on the D.C. Metro or beaten up. Yet nearly ever romance novels consider healthy dose of a woman being taken against her will. The key is that she is taken against her will by a high value, dominant man who could satisfy her genetic desire for healthy and fit offspring.

Bolds are mine.  Typos are his.

Can you see the slimy footprints of EP in Cernovich's tiny brain?  I can.

The second example concerns a white supremacist who wants white men to harass and ridicule white women in public.  When someone in the comments to the original filth asked if showering ridicule and contempt on women would make it harder for a man to get a girlfriend or wife, the white supremacists stated:

Men who engage in the type of behavior I have outlined here are the kind of men that women desire more than anything. In fact, they are the only type of men they desire. This is evolutionary biology, it is a scientific fact …
Women have exactly zero desire to be “respected” by men who view them as “equals” – women desire to be dominated by men who view them as property.

Bolds are mine.

These examples are vile, but the point they make is important:

If you Google any recently popularized EP article on the perfidy of women or similar topics, the first two pages Google gives you are full of links to misogynistic sites.  EP feeds misogyny, in other words.


*  I have written so much on Kanazawa that it's not possible to link to everything in this footnote.  You might begin with this summary post.   Or this one.  Or the most recent impact Kanazawa has had on making wife beating acceptable in Russia.

** Yes, this is the man who now has a White House press pass. 

As an aside, see more about erotic asphyxiation, an extremely dangerous practice:

Various methods are used to achieve the level of oxygen depletion needed, such as a hanging, suffocation with a plastic bag over the head, self-strangulation such as with a ligature, gas or volatile solvents, chest compression, or some combination of these.[6] Sometimes, complicated devices are used to produce the desired effects.[7] The practice can be dangerous even if performed with care and has resulted in a significant number of accidental deaths. Uva (1995) writes “Estimates of the mortality rate of autoerotic asphyxia range from 250 to 1000 deaths per year in the United States.”[8] Cases have also been reported in Scandinavia[9] and Germany.[10][11] Autoerotic asphyxiation may often be mistaken for suicide, which is a major cause of death in teenagers.[12] 

And, if anything, it appears to be more common among men than women:

The great majority of known erotic asphyxial deaths are male; among all known cases in Ontario and Alberta from 1974 to 1987, only one out of 117 cases was female.[6] Some individual cases of women with erotic asphyxia have been reported.[16][17][18][19] The main age of accidental death is mid-20s,[6][20] but deaths have been reported in adolescents[21][22][23] and in men in their 70s.[10][20]

Monday, May 01, 2017

Even More Trump Pressies to Women: Teresa Manning

Meet Teresa Manning, the new deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services:

Donald Trump has reportedly appointed to a position overseeing the US’s family planning safety net a law professor who once stated that “contraception doesn’t work” and “family planning is something that occurs between a husband and a wife and God, and it doesn’t really involve the federal government.”

This is a gift to the fundamentalists who voted for a serial adulterer who talks about pussy-grabbing, not exactly the kind of man who follows in Jesus's foot steps, right?  And not much of a Christian, altogether.

But the fundamentalists want to control women, and Trump is willing to let Pence's little Christianist sheep have at it.  The way to get women under control is to deprive them of any real chance of controlling their own fertility.

But from another angle Manning's appointment is nothing new:  The tradition, at least since Ronald Reagan, is to set the foxes to guard the hen houses by appointing those who detest the job of some department to run it. 

Hence Manning, someone who doesn't believe in family planning, doesn't believe that contraceptives work and doesn't believe that the federal government should have any function in influencing the number of unplanned pregnancies.

Manning doesn't mention which god she wants to be present at our bedrooms.  If Zeus turned up to advise me on sex I'd tear him to pieces and feed the pieces to swans and cows. 

And Trump's Gifts to the Girls Of The World Keep Piling Up

Added later:  Shortly after I published this post, CNN reported that the program will not be killed, after all.  Probably the power of my critical post?  Nah.

 Original post begins here:

Our Dear Leader in his great wisdom is canceling the program Michelle Obama championed: "Let Girls Learn," aimed at facilitating the education and empowerment of adolescent girls in the poorest countries.  Though some aspects of that program might continue (not betting on that happening), the program itself is now dead.

To cancel all those programs which I see as absolutely necessary for future peace, economic sufficiency in the poorer countries, the prevention of vast migrant floods into the wealthier countries and the reduction of future terrorism* is so short-sighted as to make us blind.

But that's what Trump's white supremacist base desires, I guess.


* The norms about marriage in some countries where extreme Islamic terrorism finds fertile ground stipulate that a man must earn enough to marry, because a woman should stay at home and should not be educated.  When you combine that with a very real lack of any well-paying jobs for young men, well, they are expected not to have a love partner for sex until they are ancient old men, and alternatives such as terrorism will begin to look more alluring, especially with terrorist organizations such as ISIS who promise those young men as much sex as raping the women of the vanquished or buying sex slaves can give them.

I grant you that this is not the major way in which terrorism is created, but surely women's empowerment and equal partnership in those countries will both reduce the pressures for terrorism and increase economic well-being.

Yet the Trump administration seems adamant to contribute to a situation most likely to result in wars.

Unequal Pay for Equal Work: When Is It Legal To Pay Women Less Than Men For Doing The Same Job?

This is what the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th circuit has recently addressed, in a case about possible sex discrimination in how earnings are set: 

Fresno County, California, schools used a policy of paying its new employees what they were paid in their previous (education?) jobs plus five percent.  That five percent was intended to make changing jobs worthwhile.  One employee, Aileen Rizo, learned in 2012 that she was paid less than her male colleagues doing the same work, and she sued the school district for sex discrimination, based on the Equal Pay Act of 1963.  A lower court ruled for her, but the Court of Appeals overturned that ruling.

And this is where things get interesting:  Can a school district base its salaries on the workers' past salary history?  What does that past history reflect?  And why would the district use that history as almost the only determinant of how much to pay someone?