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Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Bathroom Panic of 2016

by John MacBeath Watkins

In the immortal words of Bruce Eric Kaplan, who does New Yorker cartoons as BEK:

"I used to be innocent. Then I was naive. Now I'm just dumb."

That's how I feel now that I've seen more stories on the Bathroom Panic of 2016. On April 20, I wrote what I thought was a satire on what enforcement of the North Carolina bathroom laws would look like. Now I learn that people are already facing enforcement that is far beyond a joke.

A woman was forcibly removed from a women's room by three police officers before I even wrote that piece. They kept demanding identification to prove that she was a woman. Having watched the vid, I don't see why there was any question about her being a woman. Her feathers are feminine, even if her clothing on this occasion was not.

Another woman was confronted by a man who followed her into the women's room because he mistook her for a man. And no, he did not apologize when he found out he was wrong.

A security guard at a Washington, D.C. grocery store faces assault charges after physically expelling a transgender woman from the store's women's room.

Ebony Belcher, the transgender woman in the incident, said the female security guard followed her into the women's room, laid hands on her, called her derogatory names, then said, "You guys cannot keep coming in here and using our women's restroom. They did not pass the law yet."

The guard apparently felt that she had an obligation to enforce the fact that there was no law regarding which bathroom a transgender woman should use.

Most of the time, if there is no law, there is no way to break it.

But apparently, for the 700,000 transgender people in the U.S., there are those who think the law doesn't work that way.  There are about 320 million Americans, give or take. That's a little over two transgender people per 1,000 Americans. So, who should feel threatened? The two, or the 998?

The transgender people I've met seem more vulnerable than threatening. But maybe that's the point. If they were powerful, they would not be suitable targets for the sort of bullying we're seeing.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Donald' Trump, hated loser

by John MacBeath Watkins

Most liberal punditry about Donald Trump could exist under the headline, "Donald Trump, threat or menace?" But the fact that he's captured the nomination of a major political party shows that his candidacy must mean something.

Trump will be the most disliked candidate for president since polling on the issue started (yes, even more disliked than Hillary Clinton.) He is hated not just by people outside his party, but by people within it as well. The National Review online produced an entire issue on the theme "Against Trump."

Trump has channeled the anger of people who feel their place in the world has been diminished, anger against immigrants, racial minorities, professional women, and -- this is the strange part -- the Republican establishment.

And those are the groups that dislike him most. It's obvious why Hispanics wouldn't like him. He opened his campaign with an attack on Mexican immigrants, and as anyone who's been around bigots knows, there are people who confuse American Hispanics with immigrants. In fact, some have been deported to Mexico despite their American citizenship. In some ways, this is less about immigration than about who is a :real American."

So, it's not hard to see why these groups would disapprove of Donald Trump. The disapproval of the Republican elite is a little more subtle, but is also related to the way he's campaigned.

For about the past half century, the Republican Party has relied upon the "southern strategy" that Nixon employed to become president, but which in many ways preceded his 1968 campaign. Republicans gained power by exploiting the discontent stirred up when Lyndon Johnson pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. To put it bluntly, they absorbed the bigots who left the Democratic Party over its support for civil rights. By the 1990s, they were actively trying to rid themselves of the sort of Republicans who voted for the landmark civil rights legislation, dubbing them RINOs, or, Republicans in Name Only.

It was in the 1970s that a political movement to increase economic inequality sprang up. It exploited racial divisions by appealing to the racial resentment of some whites, while espousing a doctrine of conservatism and pushing through an economic agenda that served the class of people who financed the party.

This bait-and-switch political scam worked for a couple generations. At this point, it has become increasingly obvious that the prolefeed -- what the party tells the rank and file to stir them up and get them to vote in support of the party -- bears little resemblance to either reality or to the economic interests of party's blue-collar base.

Do those voters want Social Security cut or privatized? Of course not, their companies are no longer providing traditional pensions, and they may be more reliant than ever before on Social Security checks in retirement.

Do they want taxes on the very rich cut even more? Hell, no, they're fine with hedge fund managers paying their fair share.

Do they believe they should be held personally responsible for the fact that they don't have the security and status their parents did? Of course not, that's why they've embraced Trump's claim that they've been suckered. Which, by the way, has the virtue of being true.

Is it any surprise that the people doing the suckering are not comfortable with this? Of course not, comments on the emperor's attire are entirely inappropriate, in their view.

Unfortunately, Trump's trumpery does not address the blue-collar whites' problems, only their resentments. His tax plan, for all his posturing, is yet another giveaway to rich people like himself. He's blaming minorities for taking whites' piece of the pie, when the real problem is that the rich are taking more and more of the pie.

The absurdity of the situation is that he is essentially telling voters that the poor -- immigrants and working-class minorities -- are taking the money, not the rich. If the poor were taking the money, they wouldn't be poor.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_GDP_per_capita_vs_median_household_income.png

If income were being redistributed within the working class, we would expect median family income to track real domestic product pretty nearly. What this chart shows is that the median family is getting a smaller and smaller slice of the pie generally. Where has the extra money gone? To those at the top of the income range (if the share of those below the median income were where the money was going, the red line would be above the blue line and income inequality in general would be declining rather than increasing.)

Trump's message -- you've been losing because you're led by losers, I'm a winner who can lead you to winning -- has everything to do with salesmanship and nothing to do with solving problems. His version of what the problems are is based on the resentments of his followers, not on any deep analysis of the problems themselves. He's advanced "solutions" that would destroy American credibility financially, diplomatically, and militarily. Salesmanship is easy, policy is hard.

He's just another loser masquerading as a savior.