Saturday, July 08, 2017

And Trump Speaks in Warsaw. From A Draft Prepared By Putin?

Trump's Warsaw speech is a very interesting one, perhaps from the pen of Stephen Miller, Trump's young Alt Right (white male) nationalist speech writer who made the leap from the extremist fringes to major global influence.  It's interesting in being fluent (for Trump), in appealing to the pride, history and emotion of the Poles and in the fascinating hidden messages it contains.

It's also pretty odd when read carefully, but out of the wider political context.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Lightning Posts 7/5/17: Declaration of Independence, Earnings Gender Gap in the Trump Administration and Sex Robots.

1.  You may have read how the National Public Radio (NPR) tweeted the Declaration of Independence yesterday, and how some on Twitter thought that NPR was tweeting criticism about Donald Trump (and not about George III)  and calling for a revolution now (rather than then).  Fun and games followed, by Trump supporters.

Despite my personal enjoyment of such misinterpretations, it's always good to remember that a handful of voices on Twitter is just that:  A handful.  Whether that handful stands for thousands, for tens of thousands or just a handful is something that can't be determined from the actual number of angry tweets.  Neither should we generalize those tweeters to all people who voted for Trump, however fun that would be. --  As you may have noticed, I detest the false generalizations* fashion which never seems to get old.

2.  The gender gap in earnings in the Trump administration is larger than in any since 2003.  That is a feature and not a bug and a central part of the Alt Right platform which Trump stands on.

3.  This is a fun lesson in the use of numbers for political purposes.  It has to do with a proposal to raise the Illinois income tax.  Here's one statement about the events:

llinois lawmakers are one crucial step away from ending the record state budget impasse following a flurry of activity on Independence Day that saw the Senate override Gov. Bruce Rauner's vetoes of a tax hike and spending plan.
The measures now await action in the House, where 15 Republicans broke ranks with the governor over the weekend to approve the budget package and stave off further destruction to universities, social services and possibly the state's credit rating.


Rauner did not appear in public Tuesday and has not taken journalists' questions for weeks. He announced his veto via Facebook.
"I just vetoed Speaker Madigan's 32% permanent income tax (rate) increase,'" the governor said on his Facebook page, with an accompanying image showing him using his veto stamp on a large pile of paperwork.
Bolds are mine.  Another statement:

The Illinois Senate overrode the governor's veto of a new budget package on Tuesday, bringing the state closer to resolving the crisis it's currently in.

The Senate had approved several bills on Tuesday morning but they were promptly vetoed by Governor Bruce Rauner.
After overriding the vetoes, the bills now return to the House where lawmakers will also need to override them.
On Sunday, the budget package passed in the Illinois House with bipartisan support.
The package includes an increase to the state's individual income tax rate from 3.75% to 4.95%. It would also increase the rate for corporations to 7%, up from 5.25%.

Bolds are mine, again.

Both statements are correct, as far as I know.  But note how they elicit very different feelings.  A 32% increase in the income tax sounds gigantic, while an increase in the rate from 3.75% to 4.95% does not, especially when we learn that the rate used to be 5% as recently as 2014.

4.  This story about sex robots begins in an extremely odd manner.  The sex robots are treated both as gender-less and as female:

Sex robots have the potential to provide a valuable service for people who are elderly, disabled or who find intercourse traumatic, but they also carry ethical risks, experts say.


The authors behind the Foundation for Responsible Robotics’ (FRR) report, published on Wednesday, believe they could herald a “revolution” in sex, helping people who would otherwise find it hard to have intimate relationships.

But they also raise concerns that sex robots could increase the objectification of women, alter perceptions of consent and be used to satisfy desires that would otherwise be illegal.

The first two paragraphs I have quoted treat sex robots as gender-less, while the third one assumes that they will be assigned a pretend female sex.  If that was not the case, concerns about the objectification of women would not crop up.  Objectification of humans, yes, but not objectification of women.

Thus, despite the nod to women's needs the article includes,  it looks like the sex robots are really intended for elderly or disabled men or men who would otherwise find intimate relationships difficult.


*  An example from the other side of the political aisle would be blaming all Muslims for any terror event.


Tuesday, July 04, 2017

My Warmest Thanks

To all you wonderful, kind and erudite people who read here and especially to all of you who donated money which keeps this blog alive.  You were so generous that I can get a new computer and a new ergonomic keyboard (which I need if I want to have elbows in the future, too).

I am touched by your kindness.  Well, I am touched, anyway, but I am truly awed by the generosity I have experienced.

My custom has always been to send individual "receipts."*  This year, however, PayPal has made it so difficult that this general thank-you note must suffice.  Mwah

Here's a cat picture, to make it quite clear that I know all Internet traditions.   Besides, the cats look the way I feel right now (I'm the red one!)

And happy fourth of July to all in the US.

* That has always been problematic for those who subscribe, so I want to thank you here, too.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Deep Echidne Thoughts, July 3, 2017: Men's History Month, Excuses for Misogyny, Online Mobs etc.

1.  Those who get angry at there being no Men's History Month or why we only have a Black Lives Matter movement are a bit like people who ask why there's no End Hunger Month for very well-nourished people.

2.  Excuses for misogyny which do not work: For example, that Donald Trump
has had a mother, or three wives or two daughters does not disprove his misogyny.  Neither does Mollie Hemingway's argument that a misogynist is often just a nasty asshat to everyone, because women tend to get two helpings for every helping men get from that asshat's venom kettle.

3.  Even if you are on the side of angels, you should not join an online mob to destroy the life of someone minor and unimportant, as a punishment  for some stupid or vile comment that person made.  The punishment in those cases is out of proportion to the crime, there has been no judge or jury, and we know from the past that such mob actions are not good.  If you feel drawn to take part in such mobs, think about The Scarlet Letter.  

4.  Never go food shopping very very hungry*.  I did, and came back with ice-cream, an almond croissant, a chocolate bar**, a pear frangipane tart, two potted plants and one head of lettuce. 

5.  It's not worth making a pear frangipane tart.  I made one a few months ago and the ingredients cost more than the price of a ready-made one.  The work also took most of a Saturday.

On the other hand, my tarts were a lot yummier.

*  I had not eaten for 24 hours.
** Lake Champlain's hazelnut bar.  It's delicious.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

To Be Presidential...

Our Dear Leader has something to say about that requirement!

"Modern day presidential" means that a mentally eleven-year old sits down and tweets about television pundits who have hurt his feelings.  Stuff like this:

It's as if "presidential" now means to be a celebrity fighting for better media ratings.  Digby wrote:

But one thing is sure. Trump is not doing the job of president. He's a celebrity managing his personal PR. He doesn't seem to know that this is not the job of president. 
So what is the meaning of "presidential?"

Suppose that an imaginary president goes on a state visit to another country. While his fancy limousine slowly drives past cheering crowds of the country he is visiting, he suddenly winds down a window, bares his bottom and then moons the people watching the cavalcade.

Now, Donald has not done that yet, but he has come pretty close.  The problem with such behavior is, of course, that those watching a visiting president view that person as the embodiment of his or her country.

Therefore, as Donald behaves, so -- assume people in other countries -- does the United States.  One part of the job of being "presidential" is never to forget that one represents the whole people.

That part of "presidential" Trump fails sorely.  People elsewhere are laughing at his clown show.  But he fails being "presidential" in most other aspects, too:

The job demands a certain dignity and maturity, one where the private person who has the job must stay secondary to the public person.  Thus, neither Barack nor Michelle Obama ever aimed angry tweets in some kind of a media war against Rush Limbaugh, say, despite the fact that Limbaugh (a political pundit) employed a whole artillery of racism and sexism to attack Michelle Obama.

That's because ignoring such whining mosquitoes as Limbaugh IS "presidential." Trump lacks that ability.  He either literally doesn't know how a president should behave, or if he does, he chooses to place his own selfish and petty concerns first, far ahead of the country.

The real travesty is not even that one Donald Trump is now the president of the United States of America.  It is that around sixty million voters (perhaps with a little bit of help from Putin) decided that it was perfectly fine to vote for a president who knows very little, cares to learn nothing more and largely focuses on imaginary and real slights against his own person, rather than the actual job of presidenting.

And the man appears to have a pretty serious anger problem, too.

Never mind.  He only has his finger on the nuclear button.   But aren't you glad that we no longer have to worry about the possible use of a private e-mail server by someone in public office and that we no longer need to read about that almost every day?