Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Burkini and the Problem with Headscarves

Violence broke out recently in France after several seaside towns banned the burkini - a swimming suit for Muslim women that covers the entire body except for the face, hands and feet. I've seen various columns and memes on the subject. They tend to deal in false equivalences.

A recent Facebook meme shows a woman in a burkini and a woman in a wet suit pointing out that only one is banned. This is a false equivalence for many reasons. The wet suit is used to protect a swimmer from cold water. It is not normally worn in a swimming pool or on a beach (unless the wearer is surfing in cold water). Men wear wetsuits at the same time, for the same reason as women. There is no cultural reason to wear one.

The burkini, in contrast, is worn instead of a western-style swimming suit. It has no utilitarian purpose. It is only worn by women and only because Muslim culture requires it.

Columnist Kathleen Parker wrote a column comparing the fight for Muslim women to cover themselves with the fight 100 years ago for Western women to bare themselves on the beach. This is another false equivalent since men were also fighting to show more skin 100 years ago. While concentrating on a patriarchal society telling women to uncover themselves, the burkini only exists because a patriarchal society demands that women hide themselves.

I'll make a few other points to put all of this in context. The burkini is a very recent invention. It is part of a general trend among Muslims to control women. While wearing headscarfs is the norm in Muslim countries today and enforced by law in many of them, that was not the case a couple of generations ago. Women in Muslim countries in the 1960s and 70s generally didn't cover their hair. That was something their grandmothers did (the great-great grandmothers of today's generation).

Similarly, when women from Muslim countries immigrated, they also assimilated and dressed like their Western neighbors.

All of that changed with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Even in Western countries, there is pressure on women to follow "traditional" dress.

In theory this is an individual choice but every time I see a woman in a headscarf (normally several times a day), I wonder about what other traditions the woman is being pressured to follow?

Is she allowed to drive a car or even go out by herself? Is she allowed to handle the family money or does her husband own everything and keep her on a small allowance? Did she choose her husband for love or was he chosen for her? Is she at risk for female genital mutilation? These are not idle questions. I live two miles from a radical mosque (two of it's members have gone to fight with Isis). Female genital mutilation is becoming more common in the US. Estimates are that it's been done to thousands of women living here. Arraigned marriages are also fairly common with the groom traveling to his homeland to meet his bride for the first time just before the wedding.

All of this should be troubling to anyone actually concerned about women's rights. Typically, though, concerns are dismissed as Islamiphobia by feminists as part of the theory of Intersectionality.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Return of the Spin Room

Back in 1992, voters were introduced to the concept of the spin artist and the spin room. Spin artists are political operatives who work with sympathetic media to put the best possible face on political events - or the worst for the candidate's opponent. The Clintons were masters at this.

Guess what? They're back.

Hints of the Clinton spin machine were seen during the Republican National Convention with the universal adjective for Trump's speech being "dark". It was far more obvious during the Democratic National Convention when Michelle Obama's speech was described as "a speech for the ages". This phrase is unusual enough and used so often that it has to have been fed to the press, possibly before she ever opened her mouth.

But all of that is nothing. The Democrats in general and Hillary in particular had a big problem: the release of thousands of emails and voice mails showing, among other things, that the supposedly neutral party was against Bernie Sanders. The Clinton spin artists attacked this problem in two stages. The first was to suggest that the emails had been obtained by the Russian government for the express purpose of helping Donald Trump. It was quickly floated that Trump would be Putin's puppet ruler.

While it is true that Trump and some of his staff have had dealings with Russian companies and Trump himself has been skeptical of NATO, it is also true that the Clintons also have deep ties to Russian businesses. Further, Hillary is a known quantity to them and they know how to deal with her.

The second phase started with a comment that Trump made. Trump called on the Russians, or anyone else who had hacked Clinton's private email server, to release the 30,000 emails she had deleted. Trump's jab was a stroke of genius because it reminded people that Hillary used a private email server that was so insecure that the FBI said that there was no way to tell if it had been hacked. It also reminded people of the thousands of "private" emails deleted from Hillary's server.

The spin machine quickly jumped into action insisting that Trump was calling on the Russians to hack Hillary's server. A storm of faux-outrage followed with some media outlets suggesting that Trump had crossed a line by inviting a foreign power to interfere in an American election. A few even called him a traitor.

This may backfire on the Clinton machine. Anyone who sees what Trump actually said knows that it was a lighthearted suggestion that assumed the Russians hacked Hillary's emails years ago. It makes no sense to suggest that Trump wants them to hack the servers now. They have been decommissioned and are in the possession of the FBI.

A good deal of the press is actively working against Trump and are willing to help the spin machine.

This particular spin might backfire, though. Any ordinary candidate would be sputtering and backtracking by now. Trump on the other hand said, "It was a joke" and moved on. Outrageous statements are nothing new from Trump.

The other problem is that the Clintons should want Trump's joke buried instead of given more attention. No matter how much it hurts him, it also reminds people of Hillary's own email mess. The Clinton spin machine shold be working to bury any mentions and put it behind them. Instead, they are being mentioned on the national news again and stealing time from the convention.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Michelle and the White House

On a few occasions including her address to the Democratic national Convention, Michelle Obama has talked about waking up every day in a house built by slaves. While various fact-checkers have rated this true, there are some facts they keep ignoring.

Research showed that the workforce that build the Capitol building was part-slave therefore the same proportions must hold for the White House. This is a bit of a stretch since the White House was quite a bit smaller and built as a house rather than a capitol.

Claims that slaves quarried the stone for the White House seem to be the strongest. Possibly slaves also worked under the direction of master stone carvers in building the structure.

What it usually skipped is that the current building is *not* the original White House. It has been rebuilt twice. The first time was after the British burned it during the War of 1812. It was reduced to a mere shell. None of the fact-checks I've seen talk about that rebuild.

More important is the rebuild that happened under President Truman. The original building had deteriorated by then and was in danger of collapse. Truman had the entire building gutted. The facade was saved but everything else was replaced with a modern steel-girder building. The White House was also enlarged significantly with wings and underground offices.

It would be much more accurate for Michelle to say that every day she wakes up in a house that has a facade built by slaves. But that doesn't have much ring to it.

Something she never mentions and might never have occurred to her - when she wakes up in a house built by slaves, she's sharing a bed with the descendant of slave-owners. Barack's white mother's family owned slaves. This came out in 2008 but was quickly forgotten after Oprah said that she'd be honored if Obama's ancestors had owned her ancestors.

The President's dark skin comes from his father who was from Africa where slavery is still practiced.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Obama supporters - now you know how we felt

Eight years ago Obama was treated a the savior of America. There were calls for him to suspend Congress and "just fix things". Over the last 7 1/2 years Obama has expanded the use of executive orders to unprecedented levels. Each time, he was applauded.

Enter Trump and the left is going crazy insisting that this is how fascism comes to America and that his acceptance speech was that of a strongman.

The truth is that the American system of government with its checks and balances and multiple levels resists a strong leader who tries to take personal power.

Also, as it turned out, Obama lacks the energy to try to subvert the American government.

Trump shows signs of having even less energy. By all indications, his campaign is still a vanity project and he has little interest in actually running the country. He's the salesman who loses interest in the deal after he makes the sale.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Black Lies Matter

Last week five police officers were killed and eight other people shot by a black man who wanted to kill white people, especially cops.

After that shocking incident, I hoped that the Black Lives Matter organizers would back off and reevaluate. I was disappointed but not really surprised instead they doubled down on their protests. There is no hint that their rhetoric incited the police shooting and others before this one.

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is built on lies and violence.

The movement got its start with the death of Travon Martin. The original story was that Martin was targeted by a large, white guy because he was wearing a hoodie. The white guy, George Zimmerman, could easily have overpowered Martin but instead shot him then got off by using the Stand Your Ground defense. The main pictures we saw of Martin was of him as a skinny 14 year old. NBC even edited the 911 tapes to make Zimmerman seem racist.

Instead, it turned out that Zimmerman was a short, pudgy Hispanic and Martin was a hair under six feet. Martin was out in the first place on a drug run - he got two cigars to make bunts (cigars stuffed with pot) and watermellon drink and skittles to mix with cough syrup to make "purple thang". It appears that Martin realized that he was being followed and decided to teach Zimmerman a lesson by beating his head against the ground. In fear for his life, Zimmerman shot Martin. Zimmerman was described by people who knew him as someone who didn't care about race.

The original prosecutor determined that it was self-defense and had to be replaced before charges were filed. Zimmerman was found not guilty and a Justice Department probe found that Zimmerman had not violated Martin's civil rights. Despite all this the BLM protestors maintain that Martin was murdered because of his race and the picture of him at 14 is still the most common one shown on news shows.

Then there is Erin Garner who died while struggling with the police. While it is true that one officer had Garner in a choke hold at the time, Garner died from a heart attack.

The big one is Michael Brown. The original story was that Brown was a gentle, college-bound giant who was hassled by the police for jay-walking and was shot in the back while he had his hands up, trying to surrender. "Hands up, don't shoot" became a battle cry, even being done on the floor of Congress by members of the House of Representatives.

This was a huge lie. Brown was stopped by a policeman because he had just robbed a cigar store. Brown attacked the cop, trying to get his gun. Failing that, Brown started to run then changed his mind and charged the cop who shot him. He never had his hands up and never tried to surrender and he was shot in the chest.

No one apologized for the Hand Up theatrics. BLM protestors still talk about Brown as being murdered.

BLM members have claimed that police are the biggest threat to black men. Actually, the biggest threat to black men is other black men. While it is true that a disproportionate number of black men are killed by police, it is also true that a disproportionate number of black men are invoivled in violent crime and in the same proportion.

While Black Lives Matters hasn't made outright calls for violence, neither has it made an effort to distance itself from these calls. Some marches have included such calls as: "What do we want? More dead cops. When do we want it? Now."

While I place direct blame on BLM for the Dallas shootings, 3rd wave feminists get a share, too. They believe in identity politics where your gender and race is more important than who you are individually. Therefore, all whites are responsible for the actions of white police officers and all police officers are equally guilty.



Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Because...

When FBI director James Comey announced that no reasonable prosecutor would bring charges against Hillary Clinton for egregious use of a private server for official business, he truncated his statement. We can only guess what the rest was going to be. Here are my contributions:

No reasonable prosecutor would file charges because:

  • It would mean a Trump presidency.
  • It would upset the highly partisan Obama administration.
  • It would incur the wrath of the Clintons, a family known for personal destruction.
  • It would start a nation-wide shit-storm.
  • It would be the end of that prosecutor's career.
  • All of the above.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Trump's Problems

A few weeks ago I wrote about the problems that Hillary Clinton faces in trying to win the presidency. Against nearly any other Republican, the election would be an uphill fight for Clinton. Donald Trump however has his own, unique problems.

First of all, he's an of-again, on-again Republican. He supported Carter and Mondale over Reagan. He was very vocal about not supporting George W. Bush, preferring Gore, Kerry and Obama. There's every reason to believe that he'd be supporting Hillary over the Republican nominee if it wasn't Trump himself.

He's not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination. Republicans have been against trade barriers since they caused the Great Depression. Trump is for them. On some issues, especially trade, Trump is to Hillary's left. The same is true for national defense. Trump is an isolationist, at odds with conservatives who are normally push for a strong national defense. As a Reagan Republican, it's galling to me that Hillary Clinton comes closer to the things that Reagan stood for than Trump.

Trump has no relevant experience. We suffered through 8 years of Obama thinking that he could substitute bumming around the world as a youth for actual world policy experience. We're likely to have a repeat of that with Trump.

Trump isn't really that good a businessman. Yes, he's made a lot of money - for himself. He's left a lot of wreckage in his wake. In investment after investment, Trump is the only person to come out ahead. We need a president who is looking out for the American people, not himself.

Trump has made a lot of promises he can't keep. The Wall is a big one. It won't be built. He's even said that it's just an applause line. So, where does that leave us if Trump doesn't mean his most famous promise?

Trump's vulgarity repulses a lot of voters. He seems shocked and offended by normal bodily functions of women. He stereotypes Mexicans and Muslims. He makes fun of people of the handicapped. All of this adds up and gives him the highest negatives of any candidate, ever.

Trump spent the primary alienating the Republican establishment but he needs them to be elected. So far there is little to suggest that he has made up with them.

Trump doesn't act like he's running to win. This is a big one. He ran his primary campaign on the cheap, relying on public polls instead of hiring his own pollster, and skipping many other standard expenses. He ran like a dilettante who was running a vanity campaign and didn't expect to get very far. Now that he is the presumptive nominee, he needs a national organization with joint fundraising with the Republican party. He hasn't even begun to assemble that. Pro-Hillary groups have been airing anti-Trump and pro-Hillary ads in swing states like Ohio for weeks. Trump has yet to make a significant media buy - or raise enough money to make one.

It is still possible that Trump could tap into a well-spring of resentment against the status quo or that Hillary could be indicted. Both of those are outside Trump's control.

Of the things he can control - fundraising, message, making up with former rivals and converting them into surrogates - Trump is way behind. He appears to be going through the motions reinforcing the impression that it's a vanity candidacy for him and he has no real desire to be president.

That's no way to win an election.