The Oink Factor

chill women

Congrats to Senator Bernie Sanders for his trio of yoooodge caucus victories yesterday! It’ll be interesting to see how the primary shakes out in places like Pennsylvania and New York, the latter of which Sanders and Clinton can both plausibly claim as home turf.

Interesting piece at TPM from Josh Marshall about the likelihood that women voters will hand Trump a crushing defeat if he’s the nominee. I think Marshall is onto something.

Nothing is certain in this wild and weird election year. But bone-deep misogyny is one of the few things Trump has been consistent about throughout his career. And if it turns out that a woman is all that stands between him and the ultimate power-grab, I don’t think he has the discipline to avoid going full-blown sexist pig. It’s his nature.

Anyhoo. Happy Easter to those who celebrate it. Did you get anything good in your baskets?

Open thread!



Election Confession

hrc shouting

You know how sometimes you’re faced with a really hard choice where the pros and cons seem even and you just can’t make up your mind? And then you flip a coin, and while your quarter is spinning in the air, you realize which outcome you’re rooting for, and that’s how you make your decision?

That’s how picking a candidate for tomorrow’s primary has been for me this year. I like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both a lot and would happily vote for either one in the general. I’ve donated small sums to both candidates, watched most of the debates and followed their campaigns closely. Both are great candidates, IMO. Read more



Significant Read: “She Wanted to Do Her Research. He Wanted to Talk ‘Feelings.’”

A lot of white people were stunned by the sheer viciousness of the racist revanchist assaults on President Obama. I believe a lot of men are going to be equally stunned by the crudity and volume of the assaults on future President Hillary. A. Hope Jahren, in the NYTimes:

OVER the past two decades as a professor, I’ve grown thousands of plants, studying how their biology shifts in response to our changing environment. Soon I’ll begin to design and build my fourth laboratory; I’ll teach classes and take on more staff members, as I do every year. Like all professors, I also do a lot of extra jobs for which I was never trained, such as advising former students as they navigate the wider world. Last year, after one of my most talented students left to start her next adventure, she would text me now and then: “This is such a great place,” “I am learning so much here” and “I know his is where I am supposed to be.”

Then, a month ago, she wrote and asked me what to do. She forwarded an email she had received from a senior colleague that opened, “Can I share something deeply personal with you?” Within the email, he detonates what he described as a “truth bomb”: “All I know is that from the first day I talked to you, there hadn’t been a single day or hour when you weren’t on my mind.” He tells her she is “incredibly attractive” and “adorably dorky.” He reminds her, in detail, of how he has helped her professionally: “I couldn’t believe the things I was compelled to do for you.” He describes being near her as “exhilarating and frustrating at the same time” and himself as “utterly unable to get a grip” as a result. He closes by assuring her, “That’s just the way things are and you’re gonna have to deal with me until one of us leaves.”

Women are no longer a minority within higher education. According to the most recent statistics released by Unesco, women’s enrollment in graduate education in the United States has been greater than men’s for each of the last 30 years; as of 2012, there were 13 women enrolled for every 10 men. Yet, every school year, science, technology, engineering and math programs — known as the STEM fields — shed women the way the trees on campus lose their leaves in the fall…

In the rare case when a female scientist becomes a faculty member, she finds herself invested in the very system that is doing the weeding, and soon recognizes that sexual harassment is one of the sharpest tools in the shed. My own experiences as a student, scientist and mentor lead me to believe that such harassment is widespread. Few studies exist, but in a survey of 191 female fellowship recipients published in 1995, 12 percent indicated that they had been sexually harassed as a student or early professional. My experiences have also convinced me that sexual harassment is very rarely publicly punished after it is reported, and then only after a pattern of relatively egregious offenses.

The evasion of justice within academia is all the more infuriating because the course of sexual harassment is so predictable. Since I started writing about women and science, my female colleagues have been moved to share their stories with me; my inbox is an inadvertent clearinghouse for unsolicited love notes. Sexual harassment in science generally starts like this: A woman (she is a student, a technician, a professor) gets an email and notices that the subject line is a bit off: “I need to tell you,” or “my feelings.” The opening lines refer to the altered physical and mental state of the author: “It’s late and I can’t sleep” is a favorite, though “Maybe it’s the three glasses of cognac” is popular as well…

The comments over there, of course, are a thesis on Margaret Atwood’s quote: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

And keep in mind — these male scientists are obviously not “stupid” or “ignorant” individuals — they’re just as unconscious of their own sexism as a fish is of the water through which it swims.



Hillary Clinton: “We Need to Make America Whole…

Been saving this article for the right time. Buzzfeed‘s Ruby Cramer, back at the end of January: “Hillary Clinton Wants to Talk With You… “

“I am talking about love and kindness,” she says.

As Clinton sees it, she’s really talking about a “shorthand” for her personal and political beliefs, for all the impulses that shape what she does and how she does it. She is talking about the core of “what I believe and who I am.” Even if no one views her that way. Even if she’s never been quite able to explain it. Even if she still isn’t known for the vision she’s been trying to share for decades, going back to the beginning. Even if her earnest efforts to connect with people are hampered not just by her image, but by the actual barriers of public life. After so many years, how do you convince a nation full of people who think they know everything about you that they don’t?
Read more



Tuesday Morning Open Thread: The (D) Column

… maybe that stands for (D)ueling (D)eities?

Also, a bloc of supporters that only the Dems would, uhhh, solicit (and good for Hillary, doing so!)

…[E]arly organizing in the state and a last-minute on-the-ground push by Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and its supporters paid off. And Mrs. Clinton, who is typically a reserved presence on the trail, seemed to embrace the quirkiness of campaigning in Las Vegas, posing for photographs with Britney Spears, who was in town for her show at Planet Hollywood, and even receiving the endorsement of 500 sex workers, mostly from Carson City brothels, who formed the “Hookers 4 Hillary” group…

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More excellent reporting on the Nevada organizing efforts, from Buzzfeed:

… Before Hillary Clinton took the stage to give her victory speech on Saturday, she was introduced not by one of the high-profile Latino surrogates the campaign sent to Nevada in the final days, but by Emmy Ruiz, the state director.

“From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all my field organizers who have worked so hard and our precinct captains who knocked on doors in 120-degree weather and when it was 15 degrees in Reno and everywhere in between,” she said, through tears.

Last April, Neri and Ruiz arrived in Nevada with a mission. In 2012, they had helped Barack Obama win Nevada with the highest margin of any battleground state that year and 70% Latino support. They wanted to deliver again…

There were a few challenges to begin with: They had to build a new voter list. This was a caucus in a primary, not a general election. Nevada is a transient state, and unlike Iowa and New Hampshire and their established history of early voting, the Nevada caucus is relatively new. Last time, Clinton won the popular vote in 2008, but Obama edged her in delegates — so “equal coverage among different geographical areas,” Neri said, was imperative.

And from the start, they wanted to go right at established narrative that Clinton had waffled on immigration in the past. They wanted to do something big and bold as her first event in Nevada to show that she was serious about making the issue a priority.

So they started the official campaign in Nevada in May at historic Rancho High School in North Las Vegas. Clinton went there. She committed to going further than Obama had on executive action, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, phasing out detention centers, and protecting the parents of DREAMers from deportation.

The event may actually be one of the most significant of the entire campaign — the Democratic frontrunner staking out a very liberal, expansive position on immigration at the very beginning — and one of the most overlooked…

Despite the strong early lead, things got a little messy at the end. Sanders showed he can compete in a state with a larger nonwhite population, and the campaign, citing an entrance poll of 213 Hispanics, insists that it won the Latino vote. The Clinton campaign disputes this, pointing to the Clark County data.

The entrance poll showed Sanders with 53% support among that group, within the 7% margin of error. Latinos made up 19% of the electorate of about 80,000 caucusgoers — meaning close to 16,000 Hispanics participated, a sign that both campaigns mobilized them. There is now real evidence that Latinos, who are much younger than other demographic groups, will continue to offer an opening to Sanders in getting wide swaths of their support…

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Apart from the Neverending Battle — not to mention, the GOP Nevada caucus — what’s on the agenda for the day?



The Supreme Court thoughts

Here are a few thoughts on the Supreme Court vacancy as my kids are slowly quieting down for the night.

First, a 4-4 court from a liberal perspective is no worse than the current situation.  Crappy decisions like the DACA decision out of the 5th Circuit will continue to be affirmed.  However the affirmation will be on because the court can not come to a majority decision therefore the appeals court ruling holds only for that circuit and not for the nation.  Questions coming out of liberal rulings in the appeals courts where the four liberal votes are voting to uphold and where there is a conservative swing vote (Kennedy or Roberts most likely) do not change in their outcome as the alignment would be a 5-3  or 6-2 ruling with a clear majority.  The cases where Scalia would have been a member of a five person majority are the cases that are now being tossed back to the appeals courts as unresolved.

As of this year, most of the Appeals circuits including the DC circuit have a Democratic appointed judge majority.  Cases which were granted cert from these circuits and would have been 5-4 reactionary judgments will be kicked back to the circuits.  Those circuits will either have ruled with fairly liberal judges on the initial ruling or if the case was important enough and the randomly selected appeals panel was significantly out of line with the circuit consensus, en banc hearings would have final say.

If there is a long stretch of an 8 member court that can’t decide anything controversial, I predict that there will be a significantly higher number of en banc hearings conducting mini-reversals.  The probability of a Supreme Court bench-slapping goes down dramatically.

Now onto healthcare.  There are only two major healthcare cases on the docket right now.  The first case is a technical discussion as to whether or not ERISA pre-emption regulations prohibit states from requiring self-insured companies from providing data to all payer claims databases.  I don’t know if this was lining up to be a 5-4 decision nor what the configuration would have been.  My preference is that the Supreme Court rules that all payer claims databases can require self-insured companies to submit data without running afoul of ERISA.

The other major healthcare case is the Little Sisters of the Poor et al.   This is a birth control cases for religiously affiliated non-profits that think the mere act of signing a piece paper that states birth control is icky and the damn sluts should have the risk of pregnancy every time they spread their legs is an infringement on their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  This is a continuation of the line of logic that powered Hobby Lobby but it attacks the work-around that a third party administrator pays for birth control instead of the employer sponsor of the plan.  This would have been a priori a 5-4 loss for PPACA and the notion that female reproductive autonomy is between a woman and her doctor.  Now it is most likely a 4-4 case where the appeals courts have been slapping down the argument that the Little Sisters and others are making: signing a piece of paper is too much effort on their part.

As far as nominations, the only scenario where a nominee to the right of Atilla the Hun goes through is if by mid-May early polling and indicators show that the Democrats will most likely hold onto the White House and pick up at least four if not five or six Senate seats in November.  At that point, the calculation could be that from a policy perspective, a Republican majority in the Senate could not get any better than having some say in a nominee instead of seeing a Democratic president nominate a choice constrained by Manchin instead of Grassley and a 51 or 53 vote Democratic Senate effectively say that if the Republicans want to run the Senate like Parliament, then by god they’ll get that.



A Grace Note To Ann Laurie’s Post Below

Reading Ann Laurie’s post reminded me of the obvious: being aware of the experience of others takes constant effort.  And, (as I wrote about one example here), the failure to do so amidst white male self-assumed universality leads to harm in just about any domain — more for those dismissed, but non-zero for the presumed pre-MOTUs as well.

With that as pre-amble, check out this from CNN Money:

All virtual assistants have to deal with inappropriate comments and questions. From seasoned vets like Siri and Google Now, to the rash of new specialists with names like Amy, Molly, Mia and Robin.

When Microsoft launched Cortana in 2014, a good chunk of early queries were about her sex life, according to Microsoft’s Deborah Harrison.

It turns out people feel very comfortable talking freely with text and voice assistants. Humanizing the bots with names, faked emotions, personalities and genders (mostly female) helps build trust with users.

Microsoft has its corporate head in the right place, at least on this one:

Cortana is clearly identified as a woman. She has a female avatar and is voiced by human woman Jen Taylor. But the writers are conscious about avoiding female-assistant stereotypes. Cortana isn’t self-deprecating and avoids saying sorry.

“We wanted to be very careful that she didn’t feel subservient in any way … or that we would set up a dynamic we didn’t want to perpetuate socially,” said Harrison.

But the ‘bros and any MRA/PUA trogs need not worry.  The market will make sure that their all too familiar sex/power fantasies will find their representation in our brave new era.

Not all assistants will take the same firm approach. Robin Labs, which makes a voice-assistant for drivers, thinks there might be a market customizing personalities. CEO Ilya Eckstein says there is a high demand for an assistant personality that’s “more intimate-slash-submissive with sexual undertones.”

Full title: The Arnolfini Portrait Artist: Jan van Eyck Date made: 1434 Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/ Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk Copyright © The National Gallery, London

All of which to say is that it’s easy to call out, say, Chris Christie, when he talks of beating Hilary Clinton’s rear end.  As all here know, it’s far harder to combat the influence of the jabs and gestures that pervade daily life, well below the level of explicit speech, up to and including the robot in your GPS.

How this post may be read in the context of Hilary Clinton’s candidacy and (some of) its discontents?  You make the call.

Image: Jan Van Eyck, The Arnolfini Wedding1434.