Monday, October 31, 2016

Terrifying either way

I try to ignore Halloween. I don’t have kids. I avoid sugar. There isn’t much else. But today there weren’t any good movies in theaters – except maybe Rocky Horror Picture Show, which I’ve never seen. But it was sold out. I even tried to go to the church to do some cataloging of music (desperate, I know), but it was closed. So I turned off the front room lights and had my supper in the kitchen and read my current book (I’ll tell you about it when I’ve finished it). After 8:00 I went down the street to visit a neighbor who had a metal fire pit in his driveway and kept it well stocked. A few neighbors (and dogs) had gathered. Not many kids came by. Those that did came up to the fire and were offered treats. I stayed about 45 minutes, until the party broke up.

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville shares her fears about November 9th and after:
If Trump wins, his supporters are going to be terrifying because they have been empowered. If Trump loses, his supporters are going to be terrifying because they feel disempowered.

And that has been precisely his goal. It's no wonder he feels like he's winning no matter what the polls say.

I wrote yesterday about the (empty) can of worms FBI Director James Comey opened to put Hillary Clinton back on defense about her emails. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said what Comey released, which might hurt Clinton's chances, is bad enough. But what Comey is intentionally hiding, and thus protecting Trump, is worse. Reid alleges he has seen information that shows coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian gov’t.

It seems Comey knows something about the Russians and their meddling. But he doesn’t want to say what it is because that would be too political this close to an election. But making vague and unprovable allegations against Clinton isn’t?

Recently Senator John McCain was spouting off that the GOP won’t confirm any of Clinton's Supreme Court nominees. But it isn’t just McCain. Senator Ted Cruz is saying something similar, as is Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute and Michael Paulson of the National Review. Wrote Paulson, “The the Supreme Court should be smaller so that it can do less harm.” To which I reply: Less harm to whom? So, yeah, never confirming any of Clinton's Supreme Court nominees is a real GOP policy.

If Clinton becomes president and Dems take the senate (and revoke the filibuster on Supreme nominees like they did for federal judges) I suspect a few of the old justices may retire in the next two years, giving Clinton a chance to replace them.

I voted

I’m now at the age where Michigan says I may always vote by absentee ballot. My city makes that very easy by simply mailing the ballot to me. It has been sitting on my desk for a couple weeks now. Today I filled in the little ovals.

Doing it at home offers a big advantage: I’ve got Google and the internet ready to go. I also have all the races right here – I’m not surprised by a county clerk or school board race. Some of the resources I used:

The Michigan Progressive Voter Guide is published by Between the Lines, Michigan’s LGBT newspaper, with input and endorsements from Equality Michigan (LGBT advocacy), National Organization of Women, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, AFL-CIO, and United Auto Workers. It also shows endorsements from American Conservative Union and Michigan Right to Life as reasons to reject a candidate.

The main page will ask for your zip code. It then presents endorsements for national and state-wide races, then a chart of US House and State House races that are in that zip code. On the left side of those charts you can click on a PDF file which has endorsements for the entire state, with a page per congressional district.

Their endorsements begin, of course, with Clinton/Kaine for president and VP.

Another state-wide race of importance: This guide endorses Ish Ahmed and John Austin for State Board of Education. This one is critical because it was Austin who championed recommendations for how school districts are to treat transgender students. Austin did a good job of making sure everyone was heard, both through a comment website and public testimony. And he heard a lot. He and the rest of the state board approved the guidelines over strong GOP objections. Austin should keep his job for this effort.

The state-wide races include trustees for three public universities and justices for the state supreme court. For all of these races this guide chose the Democrat. The GOP is still not our friends. I was tempted to vote straight party, but I specifically wanted to mark my ballot for Clinton and Austin.

I am disappointed in one aspect of this progressive vote guide. It doesn’t explain its endorsements. I suppose for 14 House seats and the huge number of legislature seats the explanations could have made the guide unwieldy.

I also used endorsements by the Detroit Free Press. They strongly endorsed Clinton and are sharply critical of Donald Trump. I’m glad they agree with me, though my reason for linking to this endorsement is because it links to their other endorsements. And I needed someone’s view of various judges and county races.

I took the paper’s advice for most things, though not for a Trustee for Michigan State University. They endorsed a Republican, even through the candidate “does not fully appreciate the importance of diversity in a school’s student body.” But the paper doesn’t explain why the other candidates are worse.

The county-wide races were easy – for each of the offices of Sheriff, Clerk, Treasurer, Register of Deeds, and Commissioner the Democrat is running unopposed.

The races for local school board and trustees for the local community college were harder. I found a suburban paper with stories about these races, but the stories quoted the candidates spouting platitudes (We must keep our schools strong!) and very little to distinguish the candidates.

I also looked at ballotopedia, but that site had nothing useful. There is a Michigan Voters Guide that allows comparing the views of two candidates – if they bothered to reply. I decided not replying to such sites was a reason to cross a candidate off the list.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fostering confusion

Texas and Wisconsin Voter ID laws were overturned (or at least made a lot less strict) by courts. But officials in both states are still not complying. Some of that is intentionally fostering confusion (a friend of suppression). Some of it is outright lying. Other suppression tactics:

* Refusing to open polling sites on reservations in Nevada. In some cases voting requires a 275 mile round trip.

* Refusing to open an early voting site at the university in Green Bay, Wisconsin. A clerk actually said it is because students lean towards Democrats.

* Also in Wisconsin, switching the deadline for absentee ballots – not postmarked by 8:00 on election day, but received by the clerk by that time on election day.

* In North Carolina, sending mailers to bad addresses and, when returned as undeliverable, challenging the voter’s registration. They made a mistake of doing that to 100-year-old Grace Bell, who raised a ruckus.

Rigged election you say?

Six hundred days

Mark Sumner, writing for Daily Kos, notes that when FBI Director James Comey opened that latest can of worms on Hillary Clinton’s emails…
He had literally no idea what was in the emails, no reason to think they’re related in any way to his investigation. What he did know was: The emails were not on Hillary Clinton’s server, the emails were not from Hillary Clinton, the emails were not to Hillary Clinton, and the content of the emails is completely unknown because Comey didn’t even both to secure a search warrant before he dashed off his hugely ill-advised letter to Congress.

Peter Daou of Shareblue adds this whole email thing was manufactured by the GOP. To take down Hillary they needed a scandal, any scandal, and Hillary’s emails was it. At this point that “scandal” has now been in the news, as in the big media outlets, for six hundred days. It is to the point that Donald Trump can’t talk about her emails for more than five minutes at his rallies because his audience loses interest. We’re tired of hearing about it.
The American people have a sense of proportionality. 600 days on emails to the exclusion of issues that affect their daily lives makes them more inclined to support Hillary Clinton, not less.
Trump and the GOP are sure to overreach. The jolt of a new round of unhinged attacks against her will further energize her supporters to go to the polls. And if 600 days of relentless email coverage didn’t derail her, 10 more days won’t do it either.

A guess here… The next prez. will appoint a new FBI Director. If he hasn’t been fired before then.

Friday, October 28, 2016

A bit early for this kind of talk?

It is well known that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg loves opera. She used to attend regularly with colleague Antonin Scalia. And next month she will be in an opera!. For one night she’ll play royalty in “The Daughter of the Regiment” by Donizetti at Washington National Opera. In her role she will speak though not sing.

I’m not surprised, but isn’t this a bit early? The GOP will be extending all their investigations of Hillary Clinton into her presidency. Yeah, all those supposed “scandals” that have come up dry. Trying to wring more drops from these stones isn’t the “early” part. This is: There is already talk of impeachment. If the GOP maintains a constant state of investigation with talk of impeachment the corporate media will cover it, no matter how empty the claims. That will lead people to think maybe there is a fire under all that smoke.

Pardon me while I allow myself a moment of schadenfreud. It looks like a run for the presidency may finish off Donald Trump financially, even though he has used the campaign to put dollars in his pocket. (1) A big part of his income was the Trump brand, which he licensed. But that brand is now associated with horrendous bigotry. (2) He has repeatedly shown he’s in it only for himself, refusing to pay contractors and employees. Who will want to be his partner or lend him money? (3) His social status is gone. High society people now see him as a joke – and a creepy sexual predator. Inviting him to a party would kill the event. (4) He faces legal battles over Trump University and Trump Foundation. Jilted contractors may have more courage to challenge a wounded Trump.

His finances would be doing just fine (as would his assault on women) if he hadn’t run for prez. and exposed his life to scrutiny.

Very few states have laws about having guns in polling places. So Prince William County, Virginia is considering a one-day ban on weapons at polling places on private property. Poll workers in Colorado are being trained in how to respond to a mass shooting. All this while Trump suggests his followers “watch” (read: intimidate) voters in minority precincts.

We’ve been hearing how much Trump hates NAFTA and Clinton thinks the TPP didn’t come out right, so is worth opposing. If the TPP doesn’t pass, what might a progressive vision on trade deals look like? Mike Konczal of The Nation has some ideas.

* Trade deals should not interfere with a country’s ability to regulate international corporations.

* Strengthen the global labor movement to avoid a race to the bottom on how workers are treated.

* Prevent currency manipulation.

* US trade deficits will remain and not a big deal. That debt allows foreigners to invest in America. We can guide that investment into green infrastructure.

And a bit of fun. Stephen Colbert as Randy the Office Manager sits down with Prez. Obama to discuss how he might present himself when interviewing for the next job. I think Obama was a really good sport with a great sense of humor.

We pause for this update

One piece of my music composition program wasn’t installing properly after my system crash a month ago. The company said I needed to install a couple updates to Windows 7. But each attempt hung. I went to Microsoft. Of course, MS doesn’t provide such help; they’ve turned that over to a community forum and rely on nerdy people who love to help. Well, OK. I asked my question.

The answer was a link to a previous problem-resolution page. The Microsoft Windows Updater utility has a bug in it. And yes, when the updater has a bug it can’t fix itself and all updates stop happening. So the instructions were to manually download a particular couple of updates and run the Updater on them. Then I could run the Updater and let it find the updates I don’t have – all 241 of them. That took a few hours out of my day.

I reinstalled the reluctant bit of my music program and tried it. It started! Now to figure out where the various files are to be put so the rest of my music program recognizes them.

Those forum instructions say MS is steering Windows 7 to gather data for the mothership, just like Windows 10 reportedly does. The instructions say to never do automatic updates and when specifically asking for updates only install the ones having to do with security.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Struggle, stand firm, advocate, agitate, pray, coexist, and persevere

At the General Conference of the United Methodist Church that was held last May the delegates asked the Council of Bishops to Do Something to avoid a possible split. The result was a Commission on the Way Forward. The membership of that body was just announced. I have details and thoughts on my brother blog.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Given much, much will be demanded

A few days ago I wrote about likely low GOP turnout. I had mentioned two possible reasons. One is if the election is rigged (as Donald Trump says repeatedly) why bother to vote? The other is if the choice is a candidate they’re taught to despise and one they find appalling, why vote?

Now I’ve heard a third reason. Trump has shown himself to be highly sexist and the rest of the party hasn’t repudiated him. Many women see that as betrayal.

The first two reasons directly affect votes for president. The third directly affects votes for Senate and House. To Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: Keep talking, gentlemen.

Yesterday I wrote that one part of the GOP playbook is to manufacture fear. Mark Anderson of Daily Kos has a few details on the kinds of fear Trump and the GOP are selling. Anderson says that’s because the GOP doesn’t have any other ideas. I’d amend that – the GOP doesn’t have any ideas that are palatable to the general public, and especially not to their base. That includes such things as dismantling Social Security.

From the Bible, Luke 12:48:
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
This seems to be a fitting context to a post by David Akadjian on Daily Kos. He sees a central question in this election. Should greater success come with greater responsibility?

Hillary Clinton has said she favors higher taxes on the rich, to make sure the next generation has the resources and education with low barriers for their own success. Responsibility comes with success.

Donald Trump has proposed tax ideas that show he believes that success has nothing to do with responsibility beyond oneself and one’s business.

Which candidate is being supported by the fundamentalists? Which one is more fully living biblical ideas?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The recipe that created Donald

Melissa McEwen of Shareblue explains how Donald Trump is not an anomaly in the GOP but is the culmination of decades of party politics. I’m sure I’ve written about many features of what McEwen says, though it is good to see such a thorough description of how this happened.

She starts with this:
There are challenges for both parties in bringing together disparate groups who share enough in common to work in concert to elect a majority. But the biggest challenge facing Republican elites has always been how you convince people who are not obscenely wealthy to vote for a platform designed to exploit them.

Over decades, they developed and fine-tuned a strategy based on appealing to bigotry, to othering and scapegoating and victim-blaming. And then they dressed it up in cynical language about morality, patriotism, and nostalgia.

The starting point: Portray America of the 1950s as an ideal time and promise to bring it back – the “Again” in Trump’s slogan. But the perfection of that age is an illusion. It is no better than any other and had its own horrors: LGBT people in the closet, segregation, no women’s rights, no legal abortions, McCarthy hunting for Commies, and that little war in Korea.
Thus, the real promise is this: Vote for us — and we will restore your waning privilege, so you will maintain the luxury of never having to care about that stuff. About those people who are not like you.

This promise, however, ran headlong into the reality that when you promise an illusion, eventually people are going to notice that you have not delivered.
That brought cries from the GOP leadership of “Bootstraps!” It is your own fault if you haven’t achieved the dream we sold to you. That achievement is hard to do when official policy is a plan to redistribute wealth upwards.

I hear echoes of religious fundamentalism in their claim that the reason why their religion hasn’t solved all the world’s problems is there aren’t enough people (as in not everybody) who also believe it.

The GOP promise also depended on the oppression of marginalized people – the ones “not like you” – for the maintenance of privilege. These people weren’t inclined to cooperate and they fled the GOP. The remaining base was overwhelmingly white, straight, and increasingly male.

And increasingly seeing their dream impossible to reach. Which brought out the GOP blame:
If it were not for progressives… If it were not for feminists and gays and undocumented immigrants… If it were not for that dark-skinned president…
And with the blame came the offer to protect their base from *those people* who want to take away your rights! That was an intentional confusion between rights and privileges. Adding rights to a minority group does not take away the rights of others. But privilege is a zero-sum game. As we move towards equality you don’t get to keep privileges.
And the Republicans have had an enormous amount of success convincing their base that the insecurities they feel as the result of horrendous Republican policy-making — and the discomfort of losing their undeserved privilege — is really the result of marginalized people trying to take away their rights.
But the disproportionately white, straight, cis, male Republican base is not, actually, losing their rights. They are just being cynically told that they are.

Privileged men don’t know sustained fear. That’s the purpose of privilege. But women live with fear management, dealing with being victimized or exploited unexpectedly and at any moment. In another post one woman told of repeatedly being groped on public transportation. That’s a central difference between women and privileged men. Men structure their world so they don’t need to learn fear management, even though fear is normal of human experience.

So these privileged men believe they have a right to feel safe, though there is no such right. Thus they are the target for manufactured fear. Those at the bottom of such privilege – the white working-class males – now have actual fear about such things as paying the mortgage. For these people the Fear Industry happily provides scapegoats.

When these people haven’t been taught fear management what do they do? Many buy guns. Many turn to an authoritarian who validates their fear and hatred and promises protection. Thus Donald Trump.

Yet GOP leaders say they are mystified by who their base has rallied around. They also show no intentions of learning from their mistakes or holding themselves accountable.

Offer an unattainable dream. Blame others when that dream isn’t reached. Confuse rights and privileges. Offer scapegoats. Manufacture fear. Refuse being accountable. Shake and stir that long enough and we get this year’s GOP nominee.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Energizing the opponent

Donald Trump has been blustering about rigged elections and saying he’ll respect the outcome … if he wins. But the effect of Trump’s comments aren’t what the GOP establishment would like. I had commented earlier that party officials want Trump to shut up because talk of rigged elections messes up their narrative of voter fraud requiring voter ID laws. Here are some more consequences of Trump’s flapping lips:

He could be convincing GOP voters to not vote: “If your vote doesn’t matter because the system is rigged against you, why bother turning out?”

Confidence in the accuracy of the election has increased – among Democrats.

And that call to go watch (intimidate) polling places where those people vote? No surge of Trump supporters seeking to be certified poll watchers.

And in North Carolina, where the GOP tried to limit early voting, they have both energized their opponents and demoralized their base. Compared to this time four years ago, Dem ballots are up 3%, unaffiliated up 9% and GOP ballots are down 41%.
Faced with a choice between one candidate they have been taught to despise and another they find appalling it appears that over 40% of Republican voters are just tuning out.

Oh, the grapes!

I didn’t watch the third prez. debate (I’m proudly 0 for 3), though I did get enough (and I don’t need much to have enough) news from various blogs and news headlines.

Donald Trump’s performance in the debate prompted a tweet from Antonio French
Trump’s foreign policy answers sound like a book report from a teenager who hasn’t read the book. “Oh, the grapes! They had so much wrath!”
That prompted the tag #TrumpBookReport with other summaries of books that Trump doesn’t have time to read. A few:

The bridges, nobody builds a bridge like me. I’ll build one and make Madison County pay for it.
– The Real B Ham

It was the best of times. Absolutely phenomenal. It was the worst of times. Total disaster.
– Ben

We’re gonna catch so much rye, you won’t believe it. We’re bringing those rye catching jobs to America.
– Steve McPherson

Monday, October 17, 2016

Obama in February

President Obama has announced at least one thing he will do when he leaves office. He will work with the new National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is to be chaired by Obama’s previous Attorney General Eric Holder. The committee’s job will be to fight gerrymandering ahead of the 2020 census and following redistricting.

This is fantastic news!

Stephen Wolf of Daily Kos gives an idea of why this group was formed and what they will be doing. Currently about 55% of House seats are drawn to favor the GOP with another 10% drawn to favor Dems. That is why Dems lost the house in 2012 and winning it back this year is a tossup. There is also rampant gerrymandering in many state legislatures, including Michigan. The tasks ahead:

* Target key state legislatures and governors to block bad 2020 maps.

* Win crucial state judicial elections to have the right people overseeing the maps.

* Fund gerrymandering lawsuits to take the case to the Supremes. Hmm… might we see Obama presenting the case before the Justices?

* Support ballot initiatives for 2018 and 2020 to put redistricting in the hands of non-partisan commissions.

The effort could cost over $100 million.

Commenter MissouriDemKC responded:
This. This is why preventing Obama or Clinton from appointing a majority to the Supreme Court is the thing that Republicans are willing to lay down of the railroad tracks for.

Because it is through their use of a Supreme Court majority that the Republicans have been able to control ALL of the government against the will of the majority.

THEIR Supreme Court allows gerrymandering, so that the Republicans have a 30-seat majority in the House even when more people voted for Democrats overall.

THEIR Supreme Court allows unlimited and secret campaign contributions from huge, monied interests.

THEIR Supreme Court allows voter draconian ID laws, to suppress the vote of minorities and the elderly.

THEIR Supreme Court actually selected a President of the United States one year, if I’m not mistaken.
They know that without control of that Court, they’re facing a permanent minority status. That’s why they’ll do anything to prevent a change in the makeup of the Supreme Court.

Which leads me to…

It has been 246 days since Justice Antonin Scalia died and 215 days since Merrick Garland was nominated for that seat. The Senate, under GOP leadership and control, has done nothing in the process to confirm or reject Garland.

Senator John McCain announced that the GOP in the Senate will be united in refusing to confirm any Supreme Court nominee nominated by Hillary Clinton. Since it is likely there will be three more vacancies by the end of a Clinton first term McCain is promising that by 2020 the Court will have only five Justices, and three of them will be Roberts, Thomas, and Alito.

A McCain spokesperson later said he and other GOP senators will “vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications.” It is easy to see that in the GOP view a nomination by Clinton equals unqualified. They may hold hearings (which they haven’t done for Garland), and still refuse to approve all of Clinton’s nominees.

I’m pleased to see that Dems are outspending the GOP in crucial battleground states and, so far, the Koch brothers aren’t refilling GOP coffers. This helps our chances of getting a Dem majority and Chuck Schumer, likely Dem Majority Leader, can change the rules to prevent filibustering Supreme nominees.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Free speech requires compassion

When Donald Trump started campaigning for prez. The Arizona Republic newspaper began running stories saying Trump was not a true conservative. The editors should know – in the 125 years of the paper they’ve never endorsed a Democrat – until this year.

They got responses that included death threats and threats to burn the building down.

Mi-Ai Parrish, president of the paper, offers a response to those threats. She describes some of the people who work for the paper.

A response to those who threaten death is Kimberly. After answering the phone and hearing those threats she talked to police, then went to her church and prayed for patience and forgiveness. Free speech requires compassion.

A response to those who demanded the paper be shut down is Nicole. She is part of the news staff. She attended a Trump rally and heard him encourage his supporters to boo and bully journalists. Free speech requires an open debate.

A response to those why say the editors are un-American is Dennis. He is a reporter who revealed the deplorable conditions in VA hospitals and thus hailed as a hero by veterans. Free speech holds the powerful accountable.

A response to those who say the endorsement choice is un-Christian is Parrish’s grandfather. He was a pastor who was imprisoned and tortured for being a Christian. Freedom of religion is fragile and precious.

A response to those who say the paper had no right to endorse anyone is Parrish’s mother. She grew up under a dictator with no right to an education, a free press, freedom of religion, freedom of peaceful assembly, nor to vote. Parrish will not take those rights for granted.

Longer life at half the cost

The blog Our World in Data compares life expectancy to health expenditure for about 20 wealthy countries. America has a spot on the chart all by itself. We spend over $9000 per person per year for a life expectancy of 79. The closest to us is Switzerland with a cost of $6800 and life expectancy of 83. The best is Japan with a cost of $4200 and life expectancy of 83.5. Why does Japan get an extra four years at half the cost?


Though the article doesn’t mention it, I’m sure part of the difference is diet – the Japanese diet is much more healthy than the American diet. On to things the article does say: Administrative costs in America are much higher – we have to pay a profit to all those insurance companies. In America there is a large inequality in spending. Some people have a great deal of access to medical services and some have limited access, which affects costs when these people finally seek treatment and affects life expectancy.

The current tax game

Donald Trump’s tax avoidance was big news before the way he treats women was big news. His supporters say something like, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” This is even though Trump’s tax proposals skew the game even more for those already rich.

So let’s take a look at the game as currently played.

I think this chart was created by Daily Kos based on data from the Congressional Budget Office.

The poor get to benefit from employer-based health insurance, Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and a little bit of other tax exclusions. The cost to the government is about $65 billion.

The rich get to benefit from employer-based health insurance, state and local tax deductions, mortgage interest deductions, charitable deductions, reduced rates on capital gains and dividends, and a whole lot of various other exclusions. The cost to the government is about $435 billion.

Yup, the tax law game is skewed towards the rich. And Trump’s proposed changes benefit … himself.

A few of the ideas in Hillary Clinton’s plan:

* Cap itemized deductions.

* Add the Warren Buffet rule: Anyone making more than $1 million a year pays at least 30%.

* Add an additional 4% tax on those with incomes over $5 million.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Living in Trump country

A week ago I wrote of three categories of Trump supporters and said all three are about desires of power, of being able to say I’m better than you are. Here’s another viewpoint to consider, not because I agree with their choice, but because I need to understand.

David Wong, writing for Cracked, explores How Half of American Lost its F**king Mind. The issue in this election isn’t red and blue states, it is Country v. City. Wong claims expertise on the topic because he used to live in the country and now lives in a city. He is sure that if he hadn’t moved he would now be a Trump supporter. Let’s take a look at the election from the country point of view.

Instead of the red/blue state maps look at the red/blue county maps. Across the country, even in solid blue states, most counties are red. Illinois is one of those reliably blue states – all because of Chicago. Across the nation cities are less than 4% of the land, but are 62% of the population. And the cities, controllers of most of the popular culture, portray residents of the country as bumpkins or murderous mutants – when they’re not ignored.

But aren’t rural people a bunch of racists? Isn’t that a reason to dismiss them? Maybe not. White rural people are friendly enough of their black neighbors – the ones who act like they do. What they’re afraid of is going to the city and ending up in the “wrong neighborhood” where your life is likely in danger. Popular culture magnifies that danger.

Rural people say city people don’t share their values. And they mean a whole lot more than homophobia.
Church was where you made friends, met girls, networked for jobs, got social support. The poor could get food and clothes there, couples could get advice on their marriages, addicts could try to get clean.
But cities are becoming less religious, turning away from god. From the country point of view that can only lead to chaos – which they see every night on TV in both the news and entertainment.
Blacks riot, Muslims set bombs, gays spread AIDS, Mexican cartels behead children, atheists tear down Christmas trees.
And fundamentalist Christians are the problem? Sure.
Basic, obvious truths that have gone unquestioned for thousands of years now get laughed at and shouted down -- the fact that hard work is better than dependence on government, that children do better with both parents in the picture, that peace is better than rioting, that a strict moral code is better than blithe hedonism, that humans tend to value things they've earned more than what they get for free, that not getting exploded by a bomb is better than getting exploded by a bomb.

The foundation upon which America was undeniably built -- family, faith, and hard work -- had been deemed unfashionable and small-minded. Those snooty elites up in their ivory tower laughed as they kicked away that foundation, and then wrote 10,000-word thinkpieces blaming the builders for the ensuing collapse.

I know the Good Old Days of the past were built on slavery and segregation, I know that entire categories of humanity experienced religion only as a boot on their neck. I know that those "traditional families" involved millions of women trapped in kitchens and bad marriages. I know gays lived in fear and abortions were back-alley affairs.

I know the changes were for the best.

Try telling that to anybody who lives in Trump country.
The rural economy has been blown to bits. Many rural towns had one industry, which is now gone. Most of the rural stores closed, turning many main streets into ghost towns, because of Walmart. And don’t say to move to a city where minimum wage doesn’t cover housing.

Where does federal recovery help go? Cities. Rural folk say we get all the ravages of poverty and none of the sympathy.

And along comes Trump who promises to put things back the way they were and to stick a finger in the eye of the people who live in the blue islands in our national sea of red. He insults people? Objectifies women? Constantly cheats? Is a billionaire? At least he is speaking to the needs of country people and insulting their enemies. He’ll get things done because he doesn’t care about the rules. Trump is an asshole? That’s fine. Assholes swinging bats to smash enemies is a good thing.

That’s the end of Wong’s article. What isn’t in this discussion (and I won’t add) is which party’s policies are responsible for the hopeless state of rural people and which party’s policies have a better chance of helping them.

The kind of president they will be

Donald Trump is pushing hard the idea that if he loses it is because the election was rigged. His ardent supporters (the only ones left) are also turning to violent rhetoric and actual violence against protesters. Others are ready to be poll watchers, which translates into poll intimidaters. The Secret Service is is beefing up security – apparently to protect the press.

Senator Jeff Sessions of New Hampshire is adding his voice to the claim of a rigged election. As is Trump’s VP Mike Pence. The GOP has been trying to tell Trump to stop it already with that rigged election nonsense – it hurts their lie about voter fraud and the need for tightened voter ID laws. But the GOP is losing court cases in their efforts to suppress the vote and are now defying these court orders.

One hashtag being used a lot on Twitter is #Repealthe19th. That’s the 19th Amendment of the Constitution, the one that gives women the right to vote. Which means lots of people want to go backwards on women’s rights and Trump has thus made women’s rights a central theme of his campaign. We aren’t in a post-feminist world anymore than we’re in a post-racial world.

This has prompted First Lady Michelle Obama to give a rousing speech. What we see as a candidate may be what we get as mayor, governor, or president. Sometimes the person in office is worse than what we saw in the candidate. Rare is the case that an office holder is much better that what we saw in the candidate. And candidates who are troublesome often are agonizingly awful once in office.
So, if a candidate is erratic and threatening, if a candidate traffics in prejudice, fears, and lies on the trail, if a candidate has no clear plans to implement their goals, if they disrespect their fellow citizens, including folks who make extraordinary sacrifices for our country—let me tell you, that is who they are. That is the kind of president they will be.

A night out

Last evening I saw the musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2014 and I saw an enjoyable excerpt of the show when the award was given – a scene in which the bedroom door faces the parlor door and the fiancee is in one room and the mistress is in the other.

The basic story is straightforward. Monty Navarro’s mother Isabel has just died and one of her friends tells him he is part of the D’Ysquith family, one of which is the Earl of Highhurst. When the family found out who she wanted to marry they disowned her. Now that Monty knows he is furious that his mother had to struggle financially after his father died. After a while he decides the best revenge is to become the Earl of Highhurst, though that means murdering the eight family members who are in line ahead of him. And yes, it is a comedy.

Part of the fun of the show is that one actor plays nine members of the family, including all eight who die. Many of them are quite eccentric – the current Earl sings “I don’t understand the poor,” – and this actor has a great deal of fun shamelessly overacting in all nine roles.

I had a big smile on my face during most of the show and laughed along with the rest of the audience. It was only on the drive home that I thought about why I was in Seattle recently and what my family has gone through in the last year. A musical treating eight deaths as comedy didn’t seem so funny.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I’ll protect you

Donald Trump has a new ad out. The tag line is, “Donald Trump will protect you. He is the only one who can.”

My reaction: Seriously, dude? You can make sure terrorists don’t strike anything American? You can make those black neighborhoods, the ones you say are awful, into safe places for all? You can solve the issue of police violence against black people? And you can do all that with your intimidation and Clinton can’t with her diplomacy? Sure, you can. You’re nothing but a braggart with a huge podium.

Of course, I’m a guy and this is likely a typical guy reaction.

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville says the reaction from women is quite different:
Literally every time a man has promised to protect me, in my entire life, the person from whom I needed protection was him.
She adds:
Any man who has put himself in the role of my "protector" (which has always been unsolicited) has inevitably distorted that "protection" into the exertion of control. Because, ultimately, I had to be "protected" from myself. As much as, if not more than, anyone else.

"I'm the only one who can protect you" is not an offer of safety. It's a threat of control.
A response from the commenters:
“Combination cult leader and abusive male partner in a relationship.”

This offer of “protection” is only one aspect of Trump’s misogyny that have turned women against him. Another is last weekend’s tapes in which Trump glories in sexual assault. And there are many more.

These kinds of stories prompted Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight to create a pair of maps. One projects the outcome of this election if only men were allowed to vote. Trump wins the Electoral College 350/188. The other shows the outcome if only women were allowed to vote. In this one Clinton wins 458/80. Even Texas is in Hillary’s column. There are a few people who quibble over Silver’s methodology. Even if somewhat inaccurate, the two images are striking and show it is women who will defeat Trump.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The flavor of support

Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream has a long history of social activism. The company has declared its support for Black Lives Matter through a tweet. They said, “Choosing to be silent in the face of such injustice is not an option,” and asked readers “to join us in not being complicit” in devaluing black people.

Since B&J is known for puns in the flavors of their product – they honored Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead with Cherry Garcia – a few tweets in support of B&J proposed new flavors: Cherry-it Tubman, Underground Rocky Railroad, Rainbow Coalition, Thurgood Marshmellow, Rum & Raisin Awareness, EmpowerMint, and No Justice – No Peach.

Back in 2008 Hillary Clinton did an interview with Philadelphia Gay News in which she promised to include global LGBT rights as an active part of foreign policy. She kept that promise, though as Secretary of State instead of President. She also promised to speak with the paper again if she became the Democratic nominee.

Eight years later she kept that promise too, though writing an op-ed rather than doing an interview. Clinton calls for the passage of the Equality Act and says we must address the ongoing violence against LGBT people.

Donald Trump was offered space to write an op-ed. He declined.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

She is a woman

I’m back from Seattle. Karen’s service was all it needed to be. Dan had to deal with various bits of paperwork and do training for his job. His daughters had a variety of tasks that needed attention. Because of that I had several days on my own, returning to family in the evenings. During those days I explored Seattle. That included exploring Pikes Place Market, driving around neighborhoods of West Seattle, Beacon Hill, and Mt. Baker (and trying to get onto a highway using a 30 year old street map), visiting the Chihouly Museum at Seattle Center, and roaming through the Seattle Art Museum.

I’m not watching the debate tonight. No need to gnash my teeth over Trump’s antics. Besides, tomorrow I can get a sufficiently detailed summary through the various progressive blogs I read – and that will take a lot less time than 90 minutes. Safer on the teeth too.

With the debate ignored and Trump’s abusive remarks from a couple days ago reverberating in the air, now is a good time to ask why is this race as close as it is?

I’m aware that Clinton is comfortably in the lead (Daily Kos gives her a 93% chance of winning and polls have always shown her ahead of Trump). But with Trump’s record of nasty comments this is should be an Electoral College blowout (such as McGovern getting only 17 electoral votes in 1972 or Mondale getting only 13 in 1984) and it isn’t. Why? I’ve been thinking about that over the last couple days.

I see three categories of support for Trump.

One group is just as much into white supremacy and male dominance as Trump is. They support Trump because they want him to impose their racist, misogynistic, and homophobic views on the rest of the nation.

Another group puts up with Trump’s antics because they agree with his policies or the GOP platform Trump supposedly supports and believe Clinton’s policies will bring ruin to the nation. I heard a conservative on NPR respond to why she will vote for Trump. She firmly replied that the answer is only “I agree with his policies.”

And a third group is voting for Trump because Clinton is a woman.

I’ve heard repeatedly over this campaign season that both Clinton and Trump have historically high disapproval ratings. What is rarely said is that the disapproval comes from two different places. It is not true that both of them have policies that benefit only the rich, not true that both are mean bullies, not true that both are unfit for the presidency. Trump’s disapproval is because he is a mean bully, has vague policies that benefit only the rich (or himself), and is clearly unfit for the job.

Clinton’s disapproval rating comes from two places. (1) She is a woman and (2) conservatives have pushing a smear campaign for 25 years.

Soraya Chemaly, writing for Huffington Post, delves into that first point. Many people, including many who don’t see themselves as sexist, have strong opinions about what men should do and what women should do. Violating those gender roles prompts a strong response described as “moral outrage.” This is bright anger and disgust rooted in moral values. Those who violate moral transgressions are more likely seen as guilty and deserving of brutal punishment (such as the chants of “Lock her up!”).

Chemaly got into her discussion because she noted many news sources are enhancing their fact-checking, a task that is meaningless for many Trump supporters. They have no interest in the veracity of Trump’s facts. There is something more important to them.

It is because Clinton is a woman that Trump’s bullying, lying, and general unfitness are given a pass.

Back to those three groups mentioned above.

Those who are voting for white supremacy and male dominance are doing so out of a desire of power, which is a need of saying I’m better than you are and so I’m for policies that prevent you from challenging my dominance.

Those who are voting for conservative policies are doing so for such things as banning abortion (which prevents women from making decisions for themselves), limited taxation or government (which prevents gov’t from helping certain categories of citizens), or benefiting the rich (which sucks the money out of the rest of us and prevents us from challenging their high position). All of these are a desire for power, a need of saying I’m better than you are.

Those who are voting for Trump because Clinton is a woman are doing so because they believe men should have the power, a need of saying I’m better than you are.

Again, I see that this need for dominance is a potent force in what huge numbers of people say and do.