Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday Posts Dump, 3/23/18:: On Bolton, Guns, Guns, Katsuko Saruhashi and Angry Birds

1.  When will I ever learn to unthinkingly put the month before the day in giving the date?  Early childhood education imprints our brains very very deeply.  I still cross my sevens, too.  The point could be that fighting beliefs we accrue at an early age might be extremely difficult in politics, too.

2.  So the Mustache of Death,  John Bolton, is back in power.  He loves war.  He is a warmonger who sells war the same way an ironmonger sells iron. Which means that you should fasten your seat belts.  We are in for some turbulence, which Trump, of course, will love.  It will make him the most powerful of all warlords.

3.   Jaelynn Willey, the sixteen-year-old girl who was wounded in a school shooting in Maryland, was taken off life support and has died.   Time Magazine tells us that the seventeen-year-old boy who killed her was motivated by  — wait for it! — lovesickness:

Tuesday’s school shooting in southern Maryland that left the shooter dead and two students wounded increasingly appears to be the action of a lovesick teenager.

So lovesickness can kill.  That would be the message.  The other message is that if a guy really loves you then he just might kill you!

Normalizing something of that sort is extremely dangerous and extremely stupid.  If we are to search for the causes of school killings, carried out by young white men in the US, then entitlement might be  the one cause to focus on:  The belief that they are entitled to love, respect, and all the goodies others have not been taught to expect as almost-automatic rewards.  Though the abundance of weapons is the true proximal cause, check out 4chan and 8chan and similar sites to see how disappointed faith in automatic entitlement really operates.

4.  In Sacramento, an unarmed black man, Stephon Clark, was shot dead by the police in his grandmother's backyard.  The police state that they took the cell phone in his hand for a gun and shot in self-defense.  So it goes.

This is yet another example of an unarmed black man being killed by the armed police. 

But it is extremely unlikely that the Trump administration will do anything about this or its root causes:  that being black means much higher odds of getting killed by the police while unarmed, other things being the same,  and that the police is now as militarized as the mass killers in school shootings.

5.  Katsuko Saruhashi would have turned 98 yesterday.  She was the first woman in Japan to receive a PhD in chemistry, in 1957. She developed more sensitive methods for measuring radioactive fallout.

I had never heard of her.

6.  These pictures of Finnish birds are wonderful.  One example, reflecting how I feel after having been under the weather (a mild flu?) for the last week:

I think the bird is Regulus Regulus.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Godbotherers Who Love Trump

That eighty percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, the adulterous foul-mouthed bigot,  is one of those wonderful phenomena about religions: 

Faith is defined by those who hold it (people), saints in the Catholic Church are created by people, second-guessing whom their god might view as saintly.  Holy books are interpreted by people based on what they want god to declare.  That those books were collected over centuries, that their messages were filtered through many people with particular views and values, and that their messages are very clearly based on the time and place and the social mores of that time and place; all that is largely ignored.  That's because the insiders determine the answer to these questions, even when outsiders are forced to abide with their interpretations, and respect them.

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.