That’s some payoff

Why is Paul Ryan smiling? Because he got paid.

House Speaker Paul Ryan collected nearly $500,000 in campaign contributions from Charles Koch and his wife after helping usher through a massive tax reform law. According to a recent campaign finance report filed Thursday, Koch and his wife Elizabeth each donated $247,7000 to Ryan’s joint fundraising committee… The Republican tax overhaul plan passed in December benefited Koch Industries, as it cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, among other cuts. The legislation then got a boost from the Kochs’ multimillion-dollar public relations campaign to highlight its benefits. And 13 days after it passed, Charles and Elizabeth Koch made the near $500,000 donation to Team Ryan, which raises money for the congressman, the National Republican Congressional Committee and a political action committee run by Ryan. On the same day, Charles and Elizabeth Koch also each donated $237,000 to the NRCC.

There’s a word for this: corruption. Ryan is a bought and paid for stooge for billionaires, and he has received his quid pro quo. It’s gotten so bad they don’t even try to hide it any more.

Hiding behind Pepe isn’t very effective

There was a guy wandering around the edges of the Iowa City women’s march, putting up white supremacist stickers, and looking like this:

Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. — photo by Zak Neumann

He was pursued, non-violently, and people were taking photos of him to document his activities. He hid in a building and started making phone calls. None of this was illegal, nor were any of the marchers doing anything illegal — he was just being obnoxious, and his sweat shirt was provocative, obviously intentionally so.

What struck me, though, was this bit of the story.

“I was standing outside MERGE looking through the photos I’d taken, when a young woman in a blue hoodie came up to me,” Sarsfield said. “She asked if I’d taken photos of her boyfriend. I asked her if her boyfriend was the one putting up the white supremacist stickers.”

“She said, ‘Yes,’ and that he’d called her saying he was in MERGE. She said she wanted me to delete the photos, because this whole thing was traumatic for them,” Sarsfield recalled. “She said he’s not a racist, he just likes to do these things to get a rise out of people.”

Really? REALLY? I know the 4chan crowd likes to maintain a pretense of ironic mockery, but there are limits. Dress like a racist, act like a racist, spread racist slogans, you are a racist. I don’t care if you’re hiding behind your cloak of anonymity, you are still a bad person.

It’s kind of peak 4chan, though, when a trolling white guy claims he’s traumatized because people take photos that might identify him. He’s boo-hoo-hooing because his words and actions might just catch up with him. And that’s not all he has to worry about — he has been identified, and he was previously found guilty of possessing child porn. He’s deplorable. It just gets me how badly these people try to deny their actions.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

There is a culture of corruption in too many police departments. Case in point: New York police (and who knows who else) hands out ‘get out of jail free’ cards to their officers. Pulled over for a speeding ticket? Wave one of these and the policeman is likely to just wave you on.

The city’s police-officers union is cracking down on the number of “get out of jail free” courtesy cards distributed to cops to give to family and friends.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association boss Pat Lynch slashed the maximum number of cards that could be issued to current cops from 30 to 20, and to retirees from 20 to 10, sources told The Post.

The cards are often used to wiggle out of minor trouble such as speeding tickets, the theory being that presenting one suggests you know someone in the NYPD.

The rank and file is livid.

“They are treating active members like s–t, and retired members even worse than s–t,” griped an NYPD cop who retired on disability. “All the cops I spoke to were . . . very disappointed they couldn’t hand them out as Christmas gifts.”

“Cracking down” means reducing the number by a third, not getting rid of this unethical practice altogether. And clearly the cops are treating these as a privilege to be taken for granted — they deserve these special exemptions. I guess there’s one law for the friends and family of the police, and a different, harsher law for the rest of us.

Mary’s Monday Metazoan: A horror story

This is not a pleasant story. Sometime in the 1960s, a hunting dog shimmied up a hollow space inside a tree, presumably after some smaller animal, and when the hollow narrowed, got stuck. There was no rescue. The poor dog died of thirst, alone in the dark, and then its body was mummified by tannins in the wood, and remained there for decades until the tree was cut down. And there he was.

Now its on display in a museum, which is rather grim. I hope none of you are claustrophobes, because this would give me the heebie-jeebies.

Cadet Bone Spurs gets burned

Tammy Duckworth addresses the Republicans.

I will not be lectured about what our military needs by a five-deferment draft-dodger. And I have a message for Cadet Bone Spurs: If you cared about our military, you’d stop baiting Kim Jong Un into a war that could put 85,000 American troops and millions of innocent civilians in danger.

It’s a good speech. I do have concerns that it takes praising the military, rather than the lives of children or ordinary working people, to rouse some rudimentary sense of shame in the electorate.

What being a man means to Andrew Sullivan

It’s all about the testosterone. Testosterone is magic.

…in the years of being HIV-positive, my testosterone levels had sunk, and I decided, given my lassitude, depression, and lack of sexual desire, to go on hormone replacement therapy to get me back in a healthy range for a 30-something male. It was a fascinating experience to witness maleness literally being injected into me, giving me in a sudden jump what had been there all along, and what I now saw and felt more vividly. You get a real sense of what being a man is from an experience like that, as the rush of energy, strength, clarity, ambition, drive, impatience and, above all, horniness overcame me every two weeks in the wake of my shot. It was intoxicating. I wrote about this a couple of decades ago, in an essay I called “The He Hormone.”

Gosh, I’m glad he’s feeling well. But wait — all those things he describes are normal healthy human traits. Why is saying they are what being a man is all about? That’s weird. He’s not going to…he’s not saying…oh, crap, he is saying it.

The visceral experience opened my eyes to the sheer and immense natural difference between being a man and being a woman, and helped me understand better how nature is far more in control of us than we ever want to believe.

So Andrew Sullivan now knows what it’s like to be a woman: it’s when your testosterone is low, and you feel lassitude, depression, and lack of sexual desire. That experience qualifies him to identify the difference between men and women. Men have “energy, strength, clarity, ambition, drive, impatience and, above all, horniness”. Women lack those things. I guess you ladies just swan about limply, not knowing what to do with your lives, passively accepting whatever penis comes your way. I did not know this. I had to read the musings of a gay Catholic man to learn about the true nature of women.

I do at least agree that nature, i.e. your endocrine system, has a great deal of control over your state. This is no surprise. The problem in his ignorance is that he’s assigning positive, healthy feelings that men and women can and do experience to masculinity.

Maybe I need to explain that hormone replacement therapy is not just for macho men. Women also get HRT — only they get estrogen, not testosterone. And it can have the same kind of energizing effects on libido and activity. Both estrogen and testosterone decline with age, so getting a boost in those hormones sends a physiological signal that you’re a younger you. The mistake is to assign the advantages of youth to just one gender. Well, one mistake — Sullivan doesn’t seem to be at all concerned about side-effects of testosterone, like increased heart disease and potential effects on prostate disease. I might also worry that, given the example of his writing, testosterone shots might make you stupider.

And, oh, man, his article does get stupider. It evolves into the usual ill-informed whine about #metoo.

I mention this because in our increasingly heated debate about gender relations and the #MeToo movement, this natural reality — reflected in chromosomes and hormones no scientist disputes — is rarely discussed. It’s almost become taboo. You can spend a lifetime in gender studies and the subject will never come up. All differences between the sexes, we are now informed, are a function of the age-old oppression of women by men, of the “patriarchy” that enforces this subjugation, and of the power structures that mandate misogyny. All differences between the genders, we are told, are a function not of nature but of sexism. In fact, we are now informed by the latest generation of feminists, following the theories of Michel Foucault, that nature itself is a “social construction” designed by men to oppress women. It doesn’t actually exist. It’s merely another tool of male power and must be resisted.

In addition to now understanding the natural differences between men and women because he experience lassitude and depression, like a woman, he has now also spent a lifetime in gender studies classes to know that they never ever consider taboo subjects like chromosomes and hormones and all those biological thingies like genitals and breasts and Man’s Natural Energy and Strength. All the differences between men and women are non-existent, you see, imposed on women by the Patriarchy.

This is amazing bullshit. We seem to be oscillating between two ridiculous interpretations of feminism from people who despise the whole concept.

On the one hand, feminists are all man-haters who are all about the power of the Sisterhood, working to overthrow male dominion and turn all men into sex-slaves or eunuchs. They go on and on about the feminine power of their vulvas and put on non-stop propaganda like the Vagina Monologues. They all voted for Hillary because they know in their hearts that women are the superior sex.

On the other hand, feminists don’t believe in chromosomes or hormones, think all people are exactly alike, and consider their human ideal to be an androgynous hermaphrodite — which is what we’d all be, if it weren’t for that damned Patriarchy forcing people with a certain arrangement of chromosomes (which don’t exist) to wear pink frilly clothes and hate math.

As someone who supports feminism, and who has feminist friends who have never expressed anything even close to those caricatures, I’d appreciate a little consistency, clarity, and intelligence from critics of the movement. They seem to alternate between those two views while never recognizing that they’re mutually contradictory.

Here’s what I understand. Feminists think men and women have a range of biological differences, and they aren’t just matters of chromosomes or gonads; there are differences in behavior, sexual interests, and social interactions. All of these differences are real and should be respected, just as differences between individual men or individual women are real. There are also imaginary differences forced on people by culture; those are not “real” in the sense that they are not intrinsic to male or female bodies.

Feminists are not in the business of denying reality, like conservatives. Most women have breasts, some don’t; most men do not have breasts, others do. These are totally undisturbing facts. The problem is that some people like to insist that all women must have breasts, and no real man is allowed to, ignoring the reality and trying to force compliance against nature. That strict binary division is an example of a social construct.

Similarly, the imposition of certain expectations that must correlate with biological roles is also a social construct. Women should have long hair, but men with long hair are weak hippies. Math is masculine, sociology is feminine. Women are depressed and uninterested in sex, men are energetic and horny. Sullivan’s essay is a textbook example of this kind of reification of social constructs, equating them falsely with intrinsic biological forces. When women like sex or are good at math, they are violating Sullivan’s imaginary boundaries, and they must therefore be destroying all differences between the sexes. It’s a bizarre absolutist insistence on strict dichotomies and fixed social roles.

It’s also really stupid. Maybe Sullivan should lay off the magic hormone shots, it’s turning him into an even worse meathead.

We are all Florida now

Over at the Miami Herald, there is an article about “Twenty life lessons to be learned from the Stormy Daniels/Donald Trump affair, as illuminated by the Wall Street Journal, and, fittingly, InTouch Weekly magazine”. The author is…Carl Hiaasen. I read it, and it suddenly sunk in that this situation is exactly what would happen in a Hiaasen novel: bumbling, incompetent crooks, corruption at all levels of government, and now I expect a resolution that does not involve the wheels of justice grinding towards certainty, but chance and chaos terminating a series of coincidences.

I also think that maybe there is something to that “whole universe is a simulation” nonsense, if we’re willing to admit that it is coded as a tragic comic-opera spiced with absurdity.