Saturday Morning Open Thread: Strong At the Broken Places

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(Joel Pett via GoComics.com)
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What’s on the agenda for the weekend?

Annie Leibovitz’s latest exhibition, “Women: New Portraits,” has been traveling the globe since it debuted in London early this year. But the latest iteration of the show, which opens in New York City on Friday, has a fresh tweak: A photo of Hillary Clinton hangs in the middle of the exhibit’s central wall of portraits.

“Secretary Clinton was not on this wall until this show,” Leibovitz said during a Tuesday preview of the exhibition co-hosted by famed feminist activist Gloria Steinem, who collaborated with Leibovitz on the project. “It’s the first time I folded her into the sea—into the ocean of women who mean something to us today.”

Leibovitz, who also included some of the photos she shot during the campaign in the show, noted that in the portrait of Clinton, there’s a tile visible on her desk. “I asked my retoucher, ‘Would you please sharpen that tile?’” It says never, never, never give up.”…

Steinem, who helped select some of these subjects, fielded a press question about how she feels about the future of women’s rights in the wake of Donald Trump’s election to the U.S. presidency.

Steinem attributed Trump’s win, in part, to backlash against the progress of women and minorities. “I think that what has been revealed to us is a truth that we must now deal with,” she said. “Never again is anyone going to say ‘post-feminist’ or ‘post-racist’ because we [now] understand that there is something like a third of the country that is still locked into these old hierarchies.”

The activist compared the current state of the U.S. to a survivor of domestic violence. “The moment just before escaping or just after escaping [from a violent household] is the most dangerous time,” she said. “I think we are at a time of maximum danger in this country and we need to look out for each other.”

However, for supporters of women’s and minority rights, there’s value in learning where the country truly stands and how much further it has to go. “Just as we would not tell anyone to go back into a violent household, we would not tell each other to go back,” said Steinem. “And even though it’s a time of danger maybe we are about to be free.”



Why we can’t have success

The kids these days…

They’re more than alright… they, as a cohort, engage in far less dumb, risk seeking behavior than my cohort did at the same point in my life.

There are two major components of the decline. The first is that kids these days are far less stupid and idiotic and risk taking thrill seekers compared to twenty years ago. This would be Kevin Drum’s Lead hypothesis. As teenagers grow up with far lower exposures to known neurotoxins that impede judgement and encourage short term gratification, they use more judgement and think about the future a little more. They’re still teenagers but they are not stupid. Compared to my teen years, teens are having less sex. However over the past nine years, the amount of sex teens are having is fairly constant.

The other major component of the decline is far more frequent and effective contraception use. Guttmacher found that the entire decline in pregnancy rates among teens was the uptake in effective birth control utilization:

Sexual activity in the last 3 months did not change significantly from 2007 to 2012. Pregnancy risk declined among sexually active adolescent women (p = .046), with significant increases in the use of any method (78%–86%, p = .046) and multiple methods (26%–37%, p = .046). Use of highly effective methods increased significantly from 2007 to 2009 (38%–51%, p = .010). Overall, the PRI declined at an annual rate of 5.6% (p = .071) from 2007 to 2012 and correlated with birth and pregnancy rate declines. Decomposition estimated that this decline was entirely attributable to improvements in contraceptive use.

So the question going forward is whether or not we’ll see those trend lines break?

I think we will. The Federal government will go all in again on ineffective abstinence based misinformation. Essential health benefits will be redefined to exclude most highly effective birth control methods (oral hormones, IUDs, implants etc). Awareness of what works will decrease while access will decline. If we hold the amount of sex being had constant, that means more pregnancies.

I also predict that the older teens will see a lower bounce in their age adjusted pregnancy risk than younger teens. Older teens have some money, they have some knowledge of how to work the system and most importantly, the women who know that they are at high risk of unplanned pregnancy have had the ability to get long acting and reversible contraception (IUDs) to control their risk and maintain their autonomy. Younger teens in the Trump administration won’t have those advantages. I expect births to mothers under the age of 15 to increase at a higher rate than births to mothers at age 18.



White Before Black, Men Before Women

To get things out of the way: the way I feel right now is exactly the sensation — body and mind — I’ve only felt before when I got news that someone close to me died unexpectedly.  I’m basically paralyzed, and my brain is moving…not much, and not in any coherent sequence.

That said, I’ve only one thought to add to all those below.  I’m completely down with the core themes others have already written here:  la lucha continua, the struggle continues, and in days like these the kindness we show each other is paramount.  And I agree with the hints at a post-mortem below.

My sole notion is that whatever her formidable strengths and her evident vulnerabilities, Hillary Clinton ran right into an absolutely familiar trap.  American politics is hostile to women.  We saw it in Massachusetts recently enough.  Martha Coakley was all kinds of not-great (read, terrible, especially her first time out) as a candidate for senator and governor.  But in both cases she started up with a sixty pound rock on her back male candidates don’t have to carry.  Massachusetts had, until Elizabeth Warren came along, never elected a woman to the top offices.  (And it’s notable that Warren also seems to face a woman tax as measured in approval ratings, at least as compared with her perfectly solid but unspectacular male colleague, Ed Markey.)  Several tried, but it’s clear that while women can aspire to state treasurer or AG or a House seat, gunning for the top slots engaged the fear/loathing-for-powerful-women, leading to the results we see.

That’s true nationwide, I believe.  The old line goes white men before everyone else (got the vote in 1783); then other males (black men got the vote in 1665); then women (who got the vote in 1920), with, of course, white women gaining access to power and agency ahead of women of color.

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Whatever else we may conclude about the Clinton campaign and this terrible outcome, one thing it reveals is that racism still powerfully motivates the revanchist white right, to a depth I certainly didn’t forsee.  It also reminds us that misogyny strikes deep within our body politic.  One more thing to deal with, as best we can.

One afterthought.  Typing that sentence about racism above, I’m reminded of the ways privilege so subtly seeps into one’s bones.  Y’all know my politics, I think, and I’ve come by them through life-long engagement from a childhood in Berkeley in the 60s.  But I’m white, male, working in the elite, pretty secure, still pretty damn white-and-male setting that is an R 1 university.  I’ve got a good friend , a Latino writer who has some of the same cocoon now, but certainly didn’t come up within those comforts and protections.  He’d been freaking out about Trump’s rise, especially after the Comey ratfucking, and I kept reassuring him with the polling internals and the early vote stuff and all that.

I emailed him this morning to tell him the obvious: he’d been right and I wrong.  He wrote back saying he’d known that disaster was looming — and that is was time to fight.  On that last, of course, he’s right.  It was the first half of that response that pulled me up, because I realized in that moment what should have been obvious: a nice liberal white guy like myself, whatever my politics and however deep my convictions doesn’t have the deep knowledge my friend does of just how much pure racial hate and resentment is out there.  I can get glimpses, and through my friends can get to empathy (I certainly hope), but the truth remains: I don’t live in daily direct confrontation with that hate.  And that, I think, as much as anything else, led me to miss whatever signs there might have been that our disaster was upon us.

As noted, that’s a penetrating glimpse of the obvious, of course.  But it’s also key.  I have no idea at this moment how to climb out of the deep hole we’re in.  I hope its not a grave.  But whatever else we do, we have to out work and out number the reserves of awful that have proved so potent this year.

And that’s all I got, rambling away, on this grim morning.   To end mindful of Tim F.’s injunction, I’m deeply grateful for all who make Balloon Juice a community, from Blog Leader John (and animals) to all the rest of us. I’m going to try to duck away from the ‘net for a while, just to get my head clear. I’ve already deleted the Twitter app from my phone and iPad, and I’ll be trying not to surf anything more exciting than Sports Illustrated for a while.  But I’ll be checking here, even if I don’t plan to post much, if at all (what’s new w. that — ed.).  Jackals you/we may be.  But we’re our jackals, and I love you all.

Image:  John Singer Sargent, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit  1882.



Rest in Peace, Janet Reno

Per ABC:

Janet Reno, the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney general and the epicenter of several political storms during the Clinton administration, has died. She was 78.

Reno died early Monday from complications of Parkinson’s disease, her goddaughter Gabrielle D’Alemberte said. D’Alemberte said Reno spent her final days at home in Miami surrounded by family and friends.

Reno, a former Miami prosecutor who famously told reporters “I don’t do spin,” served nearly eight years as attorney general under President Bill Clinton, the longest stint in a century.

One of the administration’s most recognizable and polarizing figures, Reno faced criticism early in her tenure for the deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas, where sect leader David Koresh and some 80 followers perished.

She was known for deliberating slowly, publicly and in a typically blunt manner. Reno frequently told the public “the buck stops with me,” borrowing the mantra from President Harry S. Truman…

In the spring of 2000, Reno enraged her hometown’s Cuban-American community when she authorized the armed seizure of 5-year-old Elian. The boy was taken from the Little Havana home of his Miami relatives so he could be returned to his father in Cuba.

After leaving Washington, Reno returned to Florida and made an unsuccessful run for Florida governor in 2002 but lost in a Democratic primary marred by voting problems.

The campaign ended a public career that started amid humble beginnings. Born July 21, 1938, Janet Wood Reno was the daughter of two newspaper reporters and the eldest of four siblings. She grew up on the edge of the Everglades in a cypress and brick homestead built by her mother and returned there after leaving Washington. Her late brother Robert Reno was a longtime columnist for Newsday on Long Island.

After graduating from Cornell University with a degree in chemistry, Reno became one of 16 women in Harvard Law School’s Class of 1963. Reno, who stood over 6 feet tall, later said she wanted to become a lawyer “because I didn’t want people to tell me what to do.”…

In 1995 Reno was diagnosed with Parkinson’s after noticing a trembling in her left hand. She said from the beginning that the diagnosis, which she announced during a weekly news conference, would not impair her job performance. And critics — both Republicans and Democrats — did not give her a pass because of it.

“Did not give her a pass” is a very genteel phrasing for the way she was treated, by Democratic should-have-been-allies as well as the Disloyal Opposition. If anyone deserved to see the first woman elected President, it was Janet Reno — I only hope she got the chance to vote early, because from everything I’ve heard it would have been important to her.



Saturday Morning Open Thread: A Century of Progress

On the one hand, Hillary should be ahead by 23%. On the other hand, when I sealed my ballot this week, I realized I hadn’t actually been confident of seeing a woman President in my lifetime…

Apart from applauding overdue change, what’s on the agenda for the day?



There’s Never Just One…

This, via TPM:

A 41-year-old lawyer has accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of groping her in 1999 when she was a young foundation fellow in Washington, D.C., National Law Journal reported Thursday.

The lawyer, Moira Smith, said that Thomas repeatedly touched her rear multiple times as he pleaded for her to sit next to him at a dinner party hosted by the head of her scholarship program. The alleged incident occurred, Smith said, when just the two of them were alone near the table she was setting for the party.

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It’s been clear since her testimony (at least to me) that Anita Hill was a truthful and courageous witness to Clarence Thomas’s craptastitude, and hence his unfitness to be a Supreme Court justice.  There were rumors at the time that there were more women, with more stories.  But they never testified.  So Thomas survived on the “he-said; she-said; who knows?” defense.

But if there’s anything the intervening decades have taught us, it’s that powerful men who use their positions to impose their sexual demands on women don’t stop at just one.  See, of course, Mr. Donald Trump.

And now this.  Thomas is blanket denying, of course:

“This claim is preposterous and it never happened,” Thomas said in a statement to National Law Journal.

That’ll keep him securely in place, until and unless the next woman comes forward, and the next, and the next…

My bet?

Well, there’s never just one.  But keeping Thomas in his seat is so important to so many of the worst people in the country that I would be utterly unsurprised if (a) Moira Smith gets hit by a world of hurt and (b) anyone else who might have knowledge of any misdeeds by Trump receiving that message loud and clear.

We’ll see.

Image: Artemisia Gentileschi, Corisca and the Satyr, betw. 1630 and 1635.



Excellent Read: “Elizabeth Warren & Tracee Ellis Ross on the Road to Activism”

My favorite Senator has been rude to Trump again, in a Washington Post op-ed:

Cratering in the polls, besieged by sexual assault allegations and drowning in his own disgusting rhetoric, Donald Trump has been reduced to hollering that November’s election is “rigged” against him. His proof? It looks like he’s going to lose.

Senior Republican leaders are scrambling to distance themselves from this dangerous claim. But Trump’s argument didn’t spring from nowhere. It’s just one more symptom of a long-running effort by Republicans to delegitimize Democratic voters, appointees and leaders. For years, this disease has infected our politics. It cannot be cured until Republican leaders rethink their approach to modern politics…

For years, Republican leaders have pushed the lie that voter fraud is a huge issue. In such states as Kansas and North Carolina , and across the airwaves of right-wing talk radio and Fox News, Republican voters have been fed exaggerated and imagined stories about fraud. Interestingly, all that fraud seems to plague only urban neighborhoods, minority communities, college campuses and other places where large numbers of people might vote for Democrats. The purpose of this manufactured hysteria is obvious: to delegitimize Democratic voters and justify Republican efforts to suppress their votes…

… Which reminded me that I’ve been saving an NYTimes article, one of their Table for Three series, by Philip Galanes:

Tracee Ellis Ross may be working 14 hours a day in Los Angeles on her hit TV show, “black-ish.” “But when Elizabeth Warren says she’ll have dinner with you,” Ms. Ross said, walking into a suite at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington, “you get on a plane. I have a million questions for her.”

And from the moment Senator Warren entered the lobby, friendly to all but racewalking toward the elevator, she was happy to offer answers: breaking down complex problems into plain-spoken choices, engaging everyone in sight. When a woman on the elevator said, “You look familiar,” Ms. Warren introduced herself, shook her hand and asked how her evening was going…

Ms. Ross, 43, has also established herself as a powerful advocate, particularly for self-esteem among black girls in a series of TV specials, “Black Girls Rock,” and through social media. For eight seasons, beginning in 2000, she starred in the sitcom “Girlfriends,” for which she won two NAACP Image Awards.

But her greatest exposure and acclaim have come with her starring role on “black-ish,” about an extended African-American family… For her performance, Ms. Ross was nominated for an Emmy for lead actress in a comedy. She is the first African-American woman to be nominated in the category in 30 years, and only the fifth in Emmy history…

Philip Galanes: One reason you’re both such powerful advocates — for the middle class, for self-esteem — is that you’ve fused who you are with the issues you care about.

Elizabeth Warren: Well, I know who I am, and I know what I fight for. Whether we’re talking about making college a little more affordable — or health care or social security — I want to be as sharp as I can be because I know how tough things are. That’s my opportunity now.

PG: It reminds me of your great line: “I was brought up on the ragged edge of the middle class.” What made it “ragged”?

EW: Because it was so hard to hold on to. My mother clung to it — “We are middle class” — because our grasp was so tenuous. There were times we were and times we weren’t.

Tracee Ellis Ross: I feel like I’m on the inside for the first time. Inside the castle. I have an Emmy nomination! And I’ve been in this career a long time. I’m 43, not some ingénue who just stumbled into this. Much of my role has been as an advocate for self-esteem and humanity. The beauty of my work is that I get to unzip something that people are afraid to touch. To make them more comfortable in their own skin.
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