Friday, February 26, 2016

Bullying. The Republican Political Tactic Which Backfired.

It backfired in the form of one Donald Trump.  He is a master bully, fun and vicious, getting all the others to root for him against the victims, making all the others too frightened to stand up to him.

The school bullies can be controlled by the teachers, but what happens when nobody will or can control a political bully?

The answer:  Last night's Republican primary debate, that's what happens. 

And get this:  The other Republican candidates appear not have started their opposition research on Trump early enough to have bags of dirt ready to toss back at his face when he throws his dirt.

But how weak is even that new research?  I found in five minutes of Googling that Trump is currently sued for financial fraud.  Why isn't that on all the political pages of all US newspapers?  It is pretty relevant for voters to know about.

But then nobody inside the establishment believed that Trump would go this far in the process, nobody ever thought that the Republican presidential candidate might, indeed, be the outsider, the multi-billionaire, the man who turned his bankruptcies into victories inside his own mind, the Donald (who doesn't know how the US Constitution works).

Does that remind you of Berlusconi and his Italy?

But back to the topic of this post:  Bullying has been a Republican political tactic for a long time, so long, that the media simply accepts bullying as politics, but only when it comes from the political right.

To see how political bullying works, consider these examples*:

A Republican married family values politician who is caught visiting prostitutes for sex in diapers?  A public apology suffices.

A Democratic politician whose spouse has been guilty of sexual philandering and possibly worse?  Probably her fault (dieuppitybitchdie)

A Republican Supreme Court Justice who spends time with powerful people whose cases are likely to come up in the Supreme Court, and those powerful people belong to an ancient religious men-only organizations?  Well, he perhaps wasn't a member himself.

A Democratic Supreme Court Justice who suggests that Latinas can be wise?  Must keep ethnicity and gender considerations off the court!  (dieracistbitchdie)

We are used to Republican bullying.  We don't see it as anything but an acceptable political tactic, but only for the Republicans.  When Democrats bully they get attacked for it.

Trump went one better than the system, successfully bullying the bully-boys themselves.  That would be hilarious if we were watching a reality television show, not a Republican presidential primary debate.

* Comments in the parentheses are my shorthand interpretations and do not necessarily reflect anyone else's reactions.  It's nevertheless true that Democratic women get extra doses of bullying from the Republicans.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Mars Hill: The Church of Misogyny and Homophobia Which Will Not Die.

Ten years ago I wrote* about Mark Driscoll, a Christian preacher with a new cool thing:  To combine the subjugation of women and the hatred of gays and Lesbians with tattoos and popular music and stuff while going otherwise all Christian.  I then revisited the Mars Hill church two years ago, and wrote:

I sometimes suspect (fairly often, actually) that one big draw of extremist literal interpretations of Islam, Christianity and Judaism is the very literal permissions the holy books give to hate on women and to control women and to state that gods want women subjugated.  That is, I think some people, especially misogynists, are drawn to those interpretations because they sanctify their unpleasant bundles of feelings about women and sex and give permission to hate on women.  All this could work in the reverse direction, naturally, so that someone who finds the literal God or Allah then just realizes that now he or she must hate on women and build them tiny little corrals in which they can breed for the purposes of one sire.  The reverse direction seems more likely to me. 
Well, time moves on and with it Driscoll's fortunes.  His old megachurch is now history, but he is starting again in Arizona:

But as Driscoll’s star rose, he was dogged by allegations from church members and pastors as well as from outsiders—of bullying and spiritual abuse, misogyny and homophobia, plagiarism, and misuse of church funds, just to name a few. In 2014, after being asked to submit to a reconciliation plan proposed by the church board he organized, Driscoll quit.
Now, barely a year later and 1,000 miles away, Driscoll is back.
That reminds me of the old Finnish saw:  What would kill an evil one?  God doesn't want him/her** and the Devil is in no hurry.

Mmm.  So I went there. It seems quite likely to me that the devil would appear in preacher's garb.  If you believe in gods and devils and such.  And the Devil would have good laugh after reading about yet another megachurch of that type.


*  My direct quotes indeed are too long.  I shall repent and try to do better from now on.

**  Finnish doesn't distinguish gender in the third person singular, so I have to add that clunky bit in my translation.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

I Wanna Punch You In The Face. The Semiotics of Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is a Republican candidate for the presidency of the most powerful country on earth.  And he wants to punch protesters in the face:

Donald Trump said he wanted to punch a protester “in the face” after the man disrupted a campaign rally in Las Vegas on Monday night.
“Here’s a guy, throwing punches, nasty as hell, screaming at everything else, when we’re talking,” Trump told the crowd, although CNN reported the man did not appear to be fighting with security officers.
“The guards are very gentle with him. He’s walking out, like, big high-fives, smiling, laughing,” Trump continued, before saying to loud cheers: “I’d like to punch him in the face, I tell ya.”
The incident was the latest in a string of controversial comments by Trump regarding protesters at his rallies. In November, after a Black Lives Matter protester was beaten and choked after disrupting a rally, Trump appeared to condone the rough treatment.
“Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing,” he said on Fox News at the time.

He also wants to meet fire with fire when it comes to ISIS/Daesh:

“It brings up something,” Trump said. “Two debates ago, they hit Ted Cruz with a question. … They hit him with a question on waterboarding. They said: ‘What do you think of waterboarding? Is it good?’ And he got all messed up. He couldn’t answer the question. He was a mess, because he didn’t want to say waterboarding was good.
“Now, waterboarding — nothing is pretty –but they are chopping off heads, they are drowning people in steel cages … and they are saying to themselves, ‘Can you believe how weak, how weak and pathetic the Americans are?'” Trump said in a reference to the Islamic State, which has released videos showing the group’s beheading and drowning of prisoners.

The Trump phenomenon is going to be fascinating for some future historians to study, assuming that there will be a future.  A textbook case of the way people vote with their emotions*, and another textbook case of the way celebrities are manufactured and created through the media.

Many Americans believe that they know Donald Trump, because of "The Apprentice," his reality television show.  Many Americans are accustomed to his rude comments, arrogance and lack of manners, because of that same reality television show.  And many in the media simply give him the space to be an arrogant a***ole, "because that's just how Trump is."

Can you imagine what would happen if, say, Hillary Clinton had expressed the desire to punch someone in the face?  Indeed, can you think of any other presidential contestant who would be taken seriously after saying something like that?

Here is a man who recycles his wives (no, it doesn't make him an environmentalist), who brags how good he is at bankrupting firms, and who is currently accused of financial fraud.  It is not that these aspects of his life aren't covered at all; it is just that they would be covered at a very different intensity if the candidate was anyone else but Trump.

What drives all that?  Probably Trump's bombastic demeanor.  He's good for the media, produces lots of clicks and some still hope that he might fade away as a serious contender or perhaps just grow tired of the game. 

And he IS good television!  Almost like a reality show...  He seems to be "a man of the people," despite being nothing of the sort, he seems to be "a plain speaker," uttering all those things that the ordinary guy in the street (well, the kind which votes for Republicans)  emotionally feels (nuke them to the stone age, make America great again) and thinks (that politicking can't be very hard, just kick all those furriners in the butt and close the borders).**

Then the blustering!  Once again, imagine another politician, say,  Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders acting like Trump acts.  We would hear a lot about the female hormones if it was Clinton***, a lot about communism and grumpy grandpa if it was Sanders.   But in the case of Trump?  Well, he is just Trump.  

*  For his actual policies, check this site.

**  And, to be fair to Trump, some of his comments have truth in them.  Globalization has not been good for the American working class, as opposed to the top one percent of the wealthy. It has killed many previously well-paying industries and jobs and in return offered lots of cheap crap from China.  But Trump is on the very top of the one percent, not a man of the people, and what he proposes to do about all this sounds impractical and/or vague.

***  What would the reversal for female hysteria be?  Male testiness? There's no good term for how Trump behaves, but it usually amounts to that fist-waving and belligerence and arrogance.

Monday, February 22, 2016

On John Kasich, Kitchens And Frying Pans

Did I ever write here that John Kasich stood out among the Republican Beauty Contest (aka presidential primaries) participants by actually showing some knowledge in a few areas?  The kind of knowledge that presidential candidates are supposed to have.  Where Iran might be found on the map and other super-important high-level foreign policy knowledge.

That might have made him more dangerous in some alternative reality where people don't vote with their gonads, but it's a real negative for Kasich in our reality.  On the other hand, he scores lots of points with the religious extremists of his party by standing firm for forced-birth everywhere.

That is not new, of course.  In 2014 governor Kasich signed a bill which prohibits rape counselors from telling rape victims in Ohio that abortion is available for them. And now he has signed a bill which defunds Planned Parenthood in Ohio:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill Sunday prohibiting the state from contracting for health services with any organization that performs or promotes abortions, blocking government funds to Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood isn't explicitly named in the legislation, but the law will prevent more than $1 million in funding from the state health department from going to the nonprofit to fund programs such as HIV testing, health screenings and prevention of violence against women.

That's our John. 

And this, too, is our John:

The guy who signed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood this weekend was full of himself today.
Speaking at a town hall in Fairfax, VA about his first election at age 26, Kasich said, "We just got an army of people, and many women who left their kitchens to go out and go door to door and to put yard signs up for me all over."

That was in 1978, of course.  The Kasich campaign has responded (link via Wonkette) to those who see Kasich hopping about with one well-shod foot in his mouth by pointing out that in those days the world was different:

So. It was the stay-at-home mothers or wives Kasich talks about in that quote, and, indeed, the labor market participation rate for women aged 25-54 was lower in 1978, somewhere between 55% (1975)  and 64% (1980), probably closer to the latter figure, while the 2014 figure for the same age group of women is 73.9%.

Draw your own conclusions from that.  I concluded that Kasich's 1978 campaign didn't seem to appeal to the majority of women who were then already in the labor market.  And then I point out that Kasich said "women," not "stay-at-home-mothers" or "stay-at-home-wives".  And he said "their kitchens."  Mr. Kasich's foot remains sternly lodged behind his snappers.

Because he is as tone-deaf as almost all Republican politicians.

That took care of the kitchens-part in the title of this post.  What about the frying pans?  Well, this post is a gentle tap from an imaginary frying pan, and Kasich just jumped out of his political frying pan into the fire.