Wednesday, December 07, 2016

And The the Demolition Derby Administration Approaches Maturity


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be managed by a climate change denier,  Scott Pruitt:

Pruitt has been a vocal critic of what he called the EPA's " activist agenda" and has said he does not believe climate changed is caused by man-made carbon emissions, saying the debate over climate change is "far from settled."

And

Pruitt, among the nation’s most vehement critics of the EPA and Obama administration climate and environmental policies, has forcefully opposed federal mandates for power plant pollution controls and cutting carbon emissions to curb Americans’ impact on the climate.


Fasten your seat-belts and don your gas masks.  The ride ahead will be bumpy.  And possibly short...

I always find the use of "belief" in these contexts fascinating, just as I find the idea that the debate might be "far from settled."  I guess you could argue that there are still people who believe that earth is a flat pancake with maple syrup on it, so in that sense no debate is ever entirely settled.

Anyway, the point is that Pruitt will destroy the EPA.  That's his task in the demolition derby administration, where all the departments the conservatives don't like are assigned to those who wish to wreck them.

I'm sure that those who voted for Trump because of economic frustration will love Pruitt.  He's going to get rid of all those pesky environmental regulations which hamper business (but might also keep us breathing).  What's annoying is that the death of this earth won't affect only those of us who voted for Trump.

Here's another fun aspect of the demolition derby administration:  Remember how Trump ranted against the Washington elites?  Remember how he promised to drain the swamp?

Good times those were, good times.  But now the people Trump has actually picked are mostly from the elites and denizens of that swamp they are supposed to drain.  Almost all of his picks are extremely wealthy.  Now, before language became perverted that meant they belonged to the elite.  And it still refers to those who are going to be out of touch with the white working class people of the Rust Belt.




Gender and the 2016 Elections. Part II: Did Sexism Affect The Results?


1.  Why did Donald J. Trump win the Electoral College in the 2016 presidential elections?  Fierce battles have been waged, ferocious wars have been launched, all over the "real" reason why Trump triumphed (heh).

Was it white supremacy that motivated his base?  Was it pure racism?  Fear of the Mexicans invading?  Was it the economic despair among those white working class members who dwell without hope but with great bitterness in the Rust Belt ghost towns?

Or was it desire for change with a capital C, from the Tea Party Republican fringe to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party?  A fairer income redistribution?  An end to the dwindling of the American middle class?

Why the need to choose just one reason, I wonder.  The Trump voters (all voters, really) might well have over sixty million different stories, each with its own package of complicated, often poorly reasoned and poorly understood explanations.

Some may have voted their economic anxiety, some their racial resentment or xenophobia,  some may have voted for tax cuts, some for the end of all "baby-killing" and so on.  This isn't anything new.  As I have shown in my previous post, many Republican voters just decided to come back home to Daddy, even though Daddy this year is a pussy-grabbing racist narcissistic member of the international financial elite who cannot leave the slightest insult unanswered.

The intellectual games  to tease out the "main" reason for Trump-love are fun, but they are ultimately not very productive, because the real reasons why we vote for a certain candidate are all braided together.  They can even influence each other, and some of them are most likely subconscious and thus invisible, even to the voter herself or himself.

Take the economic resentment explanation:   How voters view the overall economic situation depends on the administration in power and other political events.  Here's an example, a few days after the elections:

After Trump won last week's election, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents now have a much more optimistic view of the U.S. economy's outlook than they did before the election. Just 16% of Republicans said the economy was getting better in the week before the election, while 81% said it was getting worse. Since the election, 49% say it is getting better and 44% worse.
Conversely, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents' confidence in the economy plummeted after the election. Before the election, 61% of Democrats said the economy was getting better and 35% worse. Now, Democrats are evenly divided, with 46% saying it is getting better and 47% saying it is getting worse.

My point is not that economic woes wouldn't have mattered in the 2016 elections, but that the voters' feelings about the state of the economy can be colored by those same voters' general feelings about the administration in power.  For some, even the race and/or gender of the sitting president affects that economic evaluation. (1)

This intertwined aspect of one's reasons for voting in a certain way complicates the answers to the question I posed in the title of this post:  Did sexism affect the results?

It is further complicated by the fact that very few voters are going to answer political surveys by saying that their vote for Trump was motivated by their hatred of all those bitches and sluts and manipulative whores and the desire to keep them from power, even if that is the true reason.  Rather, they will give some other, more acceptable reasons for their vote, and the same applies to those who vote their racism or anti-Semitism or other types of bigotry.

2.  Given all that, what was the role of sexism in the 2016 presidential election?

Surely it had some role to play, because despite the way Hillary Clinton was seen as the insider, as the elitist,  as the pursuer of the same-old-same-old Obama policies or neoliberal policies, as the most powerful political agent of the last thirty years, the fact remains that she has girl cooties.

And our inherited traditions warn us about those cooties.  The Bible tells us that the man is the head of the household and that women should be silent in the congregation.  The Quran tells us that men are placed above women in the divine hierarchy,  Confucianism expects obedience from women, and even Buddha taught that wives should be obedient to their husbands.  And Aristotle viewed men as more expert in leading than women.


Friday, December 02, 2016

Gender And the 2016 Elections. Part I: How Did Women And Men Say They Voted?


This is the first of three posts, a mini-series on sex differences in voting behavior, on the possible impact of sexism or misogyny as one of the motivating forces for some/many voters and, finally, my own views on how Hillary Clinton's run was framed in much of the media.

I'm beginning with the CNN exit poll data.*

Here is the table which shows how men and women in various ethnic and racial groups said they voted in the 2016 presidential elections:




And here is the corresponding exit polls table from the 2012 elections:





What would first strike you about those two tables?  Do you notice how similar the two sets of exit poll results are?  How it is the whites who constitute the vast majority of the Republican Party?  How it is the blacks who overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic Party?

How in every racial and ethnic category men are more likely to vote for the Republican candidate than women?**

And, of course, how close the various numbers are to each other.

There are differences, too.  Hillary Clinton got a lower percentage of votes than Barack Obama in every single sex-race-ethnicity category except that for white women, and third party candidates got more votes in 2016 than in 2012.

All that is a useful reminder, something to keep in mind while the media chews and chews and will not swallow the topic of angry white working class people in the swing states***:  The overall picture suggests that Americans voted fairly closely the same way in 2016 and in 2012, though Barack Obama was better liked than Hillary Clinton.

And that is the shock, of course, because whatever nasty things one might say about Mitt Romney, he is not a carnival barker like Donald J. Trump, who has already broken many of his campaign promises.  Neither was Mitt Romney famous for pussy-grabbing or for calling Mexicans rapists or for wanting to erect a wall against the Mexican border. ****

For what it is worth, here is the table on how much grabbing women by their pussies bothered voters in 2016:




I don't want to exaggerate the similarity of the 2012 and 2016 exit poll results.  As I already noted, Clinton was less popular than Obama, and third party candidates played a larger role in 2016.  The tables on voting by gender and marital status also show differences.

Here's the 2016 table:



And here's the 2012 table:



Note the very large drop among unmarried men from the Democratic column and also the fairly large increase in the number of married women in that same column.  The overall effect in 2016 exit polls is to leave the married men as the only group which shows a strong preference for Trump.

What caused these changes, assuming that the exit poll figures are a good measure of actual votes?

Your guesses are as good as mine, though it's interesting that the unmarried men's loss in the Democratic column didn't benefit only Trump but also third-party candidates.

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*  All the 2016 tables in this post are from this source, all the 2012 tables from this source.

Exit poll data should be treated with some caution, because it might not create a representative sample of all votes cast, for various reasons.  Note, also, that these polls are for the whole country, not just for the swing states.

** The same pattern can be found in this table which looks at party-membership and gender in voting (2016):




*** I get the focus on the swing states, but they are the swing states because of the overall patterns of voting in the country, so those overall patterns matter, too.

****  My impression is that those Trump utterances didn't matter very much, but I may be mistaken.  For example, that Latinos and Latinas in the two sets of exit polls stated that they voted for Trump roughly at the same percentages as they voted for Romney might not mean that they weren't bothered by Trump's nasty comments about Mexicans.  The alternative explanation is that they were troubled by that hostility, but that their demographic groups are becoming more conservative over time and thus more likely to vote for the Republican candidate.  From that angle Trump may have lost some of their votes.




Thursday, December 01, 2016

What Trump Is Giving To His Angry Working-Class Voters This Christmas



Several beautifully wrapped up huge packages, some of which I peeked at in an earlier post.  But Trump is the gift that keeps on giving.

Here is Steven Mnuchin (hold your nose and sneeze to get that said), a Wall Street insider, who is Trump's pick for the Treasury Secretary:

Mnuchin is a Wall Street veteran who spent nearly 20 years at Goldman Sachs before starting his own hedge fund, Dune Capital. He leapt into the banking industry when he led a group of investors in the purchase of lender, IndyMac, during the financial crisis. That bank was eventually bought by CIT.
His financial industry experience has heartened Wall Street insiders, but left some Democratic lawmakers and progressive groups crying foul. Mnuchin "made himself enormously wealthy by cashing in on the country's financial collapse," Take on Wall Street, a progressive group calling for Wall Street reform, said in a statement.
Mnuchin is planning to relax those awful regulations which keep the financial industry from happily gambling the world into another Great Recession!

You know gallows humor?  Well, that's what makes me giggle right now, because Trump repeatedly preached about crooked Hillary and her Wall Street connections in his rallies, and then there is this, from the donaldjtrump.com, posted before the elections, I presume:

Hillary Clinton talks a big game on lending a helping hand to regular Americans, but her revenue stream suggests that she’s actually holding her hands out to big banks on Wall Street. Over the years, the Democratic nominee has accepted $3 million in paid speeches and $17 million in campaign contributions. Collectively, it is estimated that the Clintons have pulled in around $69 million in political contributions from Wall Street.
But the Clinton corruption didn’t stop at wads of Wall Street cash and big bank-friendly policy. Individuals from Wall Street and Big Tech were also rewarded with positions in Bill Clinton’s White House. The Clinton cartel has been auctioning influence in Washington for decades, and the starting bid has only increased over the years.

Bolds are mine.

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PS This Fortune article points out that Mnuchin will be the 77th white man to run the Treasury.  Here is the list of the previous guys.  Fun stuff.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Demolition Derby Administration Keeps Shaping Up: Tom Price To Wreck Health Care.



Tom Price has been selected to get rid of Obamacare.  Getting rid of Obamacare will be a great victory for this angry Trump-voter:

“I went from the guy who smoked $50 cigars in his hot tub, to the guy who was doing everything he could just to stay afloat,” Chris said. Taxes alone on his new home were $20,000 a year. The lien against it was more than $1 million. He sold everything he could – his Lionel train collection, his vintage guitar collection, his restored cars.
His lawyers said he should declare bankruptcy, but he felt it was “like wearing a scarlet letter” and refused. Trying to save the house became his first priority, so he let other things lapse, and when his family health insurance reached $3,900 a month in 2012, from the $900 it had been three years earlier, “I had to do something I swore I would never do,” he says, and he dropped his coverage.
He put his children on New York state’s low-income program, a “handout” that “I used as a safety net — some people don’t, but I actually did.” He and his wife, in turn, refused to apply for Medicaid and just “sucked it up. And if we had to see a doctor, we paid cash.” And when he didn’t have the cash? Ultrasound to break up his kidney stones would have cost $8,000, he said, “so I pissed blood for weeks instead.”
Same when he broke his arm and ankle in a motorcycle accident. “I splinted and wrapped it and had a friend who is a vet X-ray it,” he said. “I took it easy, and it healed. I got through it with no government help.”
Eventually, he did become insured again — under an Obamacare policy.

Emphasis is mine.  But the whole story is an interesting one, from the rage at losing the gilded paradise to the rage at having to depend on "government handouts."   And do read the whole thing for his use of the term "cunt" in social media.

Well, now those who voted for Trump for other reasons can relax, because Obamacare indeed will be repealed and millions of Americans, once again, can try to figure out ways to save enough for their health care expenses.  A week in intensive care?  Set aside several hundred thousands, in case you might ever need that care, because the Trump alternative focuses on just that:  the old-time Health Savings Accounts.

Tom Price is a gift that keeps on giving, not only for the working poor of all races and ethnic groups, but also for women in general.  He is strictly opposed to abortion, he fought against the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act and he opposed the mandatory coverage of birth control in the ACA for religious reasons.  He is also opposed to same-sex marriage.

A Good Ole Boy, in short.  And just the kind of man we might expect if Trump was all lies about how he is an outsider who will drain the Washington swamp.

Watching this administration develop would be great fun (the popcorn and beer kind of fun) if we were sitting in comfortable chairs on some other planet, far far away.

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Chess Genius Or A Two-Year-Old Prone To Temper Tantrums?


Which best describes our Dear Leader-Elect?  You decide!  And you don't have to base that decision on any facts or observations, because our new era is one of emotions!

I know that sounds surprising, given that it's women who are prone to hysteria (as is widely known in the manosphere and white supremacist websites*).  Luckily we narrowly missed that frightening bullet of being ruled by the petticoats!  But nevertheless, this is the era of Emotions As Information.

This makes writing political satire an immensely tricky exercise.  While reading obituaries (sad to hear about the passing of Ron Glass), I noted an odd new feeling in me, one that I have never associated with obituaries, and that was envy.  At least those who have moved on cannot be harmed by the coming Trump Reich.

Sigh.

Onwards and upwards.  The Green Party recount efforts made Trump answer, in his typical two-year-old-who-wasn't-allowed-to-eat-his-toys manner, that Hillary Clinton's massive lead in popular votes was caused by millions of people voting illegally.

That there is no evidence of that doesn't matter at all.   Our Dear Leader-Elect has spoken.

Oh, but there IS evidence, you might mutter, if you live in that alternative reality where we lefties are all sock-puppets of George Soros (George, where is my check?), because the Pew Center published a study about errors in the voter registration lists.  You need to read that study to find out that it is not about illegal voting but about the state of the voter registration lists which often include deceased people or wrong addresses for people who have moved and so on.

But that study is the one the conservatives cite to support Trump's tweet (we have a president-elect who tweets everything that comes into his head so enemies can read it!) about all those illegal votes:






So was that tweet the masterly move of a chess champion who can predict the million moves his opponent might make in the future as a response to any one of his moves? Some Republicans believe so:

But the RNC member ― who like most in the RNC was not originally a fan of the New York City businessman ― said he has come to see that Trump is a master of reading the national landscape and manipulating it to his own ends.
“It’s clear to me, at this moment, that he understands the public, the media, and the left better than I ever imagined,” he said, adding that “the left’s” push for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania were designed to weaken Trump. “He is concerned that weeks will drag on with discussions about the legitimacy of his presidency. ... So once again he changes the discussion.”

Or was it just the reflexive response by someone who cannot stand the idea of losing in anything at all, someone who will lash out at every perceived insult?

I guess he could be both a chess genius and a two-year-old lying on the floor, screaming with a red face and kicking his heels against the carpet, if we define the former as someone who knows his reality show audience, someone who understands that now you can go as low as you wish and those who criticize the pussy-grabber-in-chief are just sore losers.

Somehow I prefer sore losers to a sore winner who is anything but presidential.

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For instance:

Spencer readily admits that women make up a small portion of the alt-right, but he has also said that most women secretly crave alt-right boyfriends because they want "alpha genes" and "alpha sperm." He also believes women are unsuited to some roles in government: "Women should never be allowed to make foreign policy," he tweeted during the first presidential debate. "It's not that they're 'weak.' To the contrary, their vindictiveness knows no bounds."

Vindictive bitches!  Compare that to how calmly Donald Trump takes insults.

And:

Gamergate and the broader anti-feminist crusade known as the men's rights movement have percolated throughout the alt-right. Yiannopoulos often denounces feminists and Black Lives Matter in the same breath. Cernovich, who made a name for himself as a Gamergate instigator, is a staunch defender of white-male identity politics: Political correctness prevents discussion of obvious truths, in his view, whether it's the innate "neuroticism" of women or the criminal proclivities of certain ethnic groups.



Friday, November 25, 2016

Some Friday Fun


Amazon sells a Make America Great Again (MAGA) Christmas ornament.  The comments reviewers have left on the site are a fun read.  So are the questions and answers section.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Most Worrisome Headline in the 2016 US Politics



Is this:

Clinton's popular vote lead surpasses 2 million

Trump's administration will be a minority government, with no mandate.  Yet his picks show an extremist taint, a desire to pull the country even further to the wobbly right edge of political thinking.  That's fascinating.  And worrisome.

 

 

 

The Demolition Derby Administration


It's fun, on this Thanksgiving Day, to think about the kind of administration Donald Trump plans to give us as a present for at least the next four years.

A few examples:

1.  The administration's Chief Strategist is the Breitbart News Chief Executive Stephen Bannon, who once called the Breitbart site "the platform of the Alt Right":

We're the platform for the alt-right," Bannon told me proudly when I interviewed him at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July. Though disavowed by every other major conservative news outlet, the alt-right has been Bannon's target audience ever since he took over Breitbart News from its late founder, Andrew Breitbart, four years ago. Under Bannon's leadership, the site has plunged into the fever swamps of conservatism, cheering white nationalist groups as an "eclectic mix of renegades," accusing President Barack Obama of importing "more hating Muslims," and waging an incessant war against the purveyors of "political correctness."
 The Alt Right is polite-speak for racists, misogynists and white supremacists.
Their representative is now the chief strategist of this country.  And sure, perhaps Bannon doesn't really believe in white supremacy, but he certainly exploited its dog whistles in designing Trump's presidential campaign.

2.  The man Trump picked to oversee the transition at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is Myron Ebell.  He doesn't believe that climate change is real.  He has no qualifications relevant for that job, and:

In an interview with Business Insider in August, Ebell repeatedly referred to climate scientists as "global warming alarmists" and suggested that climate research is in fact an arm of a coordinated political movement.
"I think that the global warming movement has three parts," he said. "One is to exaggerate the rate of warming, one is to exaggerate the potential impacts of warming and how soon they may occur, and the third is to underestimate wildly the costs of reducing our emissions by the magical amount that they have picked."

3.  Trump's choice for the head of the Department of Education is a billionaire who wants to gut public education:

Betsy DeVos is hardly a household name, but the Michigan billionaire and conservative activist has quietly helped change the education landscape in many states, spending millions of dollars in a successful push to expand voucher programs that give families taxpayer dollars to pay for private and religious schools.

What fun we will have if DeVos succeeds in that and taxpayer-funded madrasas sprout up all over the United States!  I very much doubt deVos thinks of any other religion than Christianity when she promotes religious education.

Anyway, public education is at risk.  There are good theoretical reasons why markets don't do very well in education, and there are extremely important reasons for worrying about the rise of sectarian religious education.

4.  Trump's Attorney General will be Jeff Sessions.  He is going to lead the agency in charge of protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans:

This is not the first time Sessions has earned a presidential nomination as an administrator of justice. In 1986, President Reagan tapped him to serve as a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, but at the time the Senate found him too racist for the post, and he became the second nominee in 50 years to be denied an appointment.
During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions was pressed on accusations that he had called a black prosecutor “boy” and a white civil rights attorney “a disgrace to his race.” He was called out on his comment that he thought the Ku Klux Klan “was OK until I found out they smoked pot” and that the NAACP and ACLU were “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people.”

Sessions has also been opposed to

the Violence Against Women Act, the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and the expansion of anti-hate legislation to include sexual orientation.
He fought the removal of the Confederate flag from public buildings, immigration reform, and criminal justice reform.

The White Supremacists love Sessions as the Attorney General!  They love him.







The rumor mill has also listed the fracking mogul Harold Hamm as one of the forerunners for the Secretary of Energy, which would be terrible news for alternative energy.  Though Hamm is not the only possible pick, all the picks look like energy insiders to me.  You know, the side which wants oil to remain the only feasible alternative.

And so it goes.  The basic principle Trump uses is demolition derby for the departments he hates*, which would be those departments not catering for the interests of the one percenters or the religionists.  The departments he loves get something different, of course, and that would be those departments which are needed to protect the one percenters:  the department of War (or whatever euphemism you wish to give it) and those arms of the law which must embrace nothing but the property rights of the one percent.

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* Or picking a wolf to mind the sheep, if you wish.  All Americans are invited to the feasts of the Trump administration, but some of us will be the main course, the appetizer or the dessert, while others should dress appropriately (white hoods?) to sit down and enjoy the meal.