April 11, 2017 in 2,831 words

Are you a Trump man or a decent man? Time to choose

Studies suggest a rise in aggression towards women since the US election. You don’t have to wear an ugly pink hat to protest.

If women can’t win, everyone loses. That, at least, is the conclusion of several new studies into how gender attitudes are changing. One team of academics from Wharton, looking into how men and women negotiate, observed that since Donald Trump’s election there had been a marked “increase in men acting more aggressively toward women”. In lab sessions, young men were more inclined than previously to fight young women for a small amount of money that had to be split between them – and the net result was that everyone went home poorer.

This sounds like a neat modern morality tale, as do most psychological studies into sex and behaviour – at least the ones that get press attention. We tend to interpret such studies as we want to see them, which makes this sort of research only slightly more useful than reading palms or animal entrails – albeit a lot less fun, because after generations of painstaking psychological research, the one thing academics have conclusively proven is that students are endlessly willing to humiliate themselves for beer money.

What is clear, however, is that people are seeing changes in the way some men are behaving, changes that are intimate and hard to quantify and go far beyond the frightening crackdowns on reproductive rights and migrant safety. A backlash is on against the few gains that women and girls have made, slowly, painfully and with unnumbered sacrifices down the decades, as men and boys are encouraged to see women as their competitors in an unfriendly world. Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence, are the Mulder and Scully of modern misogyny: one messy, boorish bully and one priggish religious fanatic united by the belief that rich old white men should be in charge. Their victory is a reassurance that male mediocrity will still be rewarded – no matter who gets hurt.

Trump’s Action in Syria Is ‘Just the Latest Blip on a Deeper Story’

The American public is always ready to pay attention to military strikes. But what does the president’s decision mean for the humanitarian crisis?

Syrian refugee children watch TV at a camp in Lebanon.

The Trump administration sees no hypocrisy in bombing Syria while closing America’s borders to Syrian refugees.

“From a humanitarian standpoint, [we are] ensuring that we create an environment that provides a safe place for them to ultimately remain,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer in press conference on Monday. The administration is “ensuring that there are places that are free from violence and places free to gather safely … Everyone would agree the last thing they want to do is leave.”

For the American aid organizations working with Syrian refugees in the U.S. and overseas, though, this tension is very real. Leaders of some of these groups, especially those who are Syrian American, feel grateful that the United States government struck a military base in Syria last week after a chemical-weapons attack killed more than 80 Syrian civilians. But they’re worried that Trump’s refugee policy will simultaneously aggravate the humanitarian crisis in Syria—and fear what will happen when the world’s attention once again turns away from the country.

Zaher Sahloul, a Syrian American doctor who came to the United States in 1989, has spent a lot of time in the last few months protesting Trump. “I demonstrated against the Muslim ban, against the breaking up of immigrant families, about the wall,” he told me. He opposed the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and disliked Trump’s recent executive order on the environment.

But the administration’s Syria strikes stand apart. “In this particular decision,” he said, “I felt President Trump was right.”

What Is Trump’s Syria Policy?

From political solutions to regime change, U.S. officials have offered a dizzying variety of ideas about the goals and methods of American posture toward Bashar al-Assad.

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson landed in Moscow Tuesday, a fire blazed on the margins of Vnukovo Airport. This provided at least a couple useful metaphors, depending on one’s view of the situation. Russian officials said the fire was at a garbage dump, meaning it was a literal manifestation of that most versatile of epithets, the dumpster fire, which could be applied to the state of Russo-American relations at the moment.

For a more value-neutral analogy, the fire was a smoke screen, obscuring what exactly U.S. policy toward Syria is. It’s hard to tell not only what the policy is but what the reasons for it are, a problem exacerbated, or rather caused, by the fact the administration does not speak with one voice. President Trump himself has been uncharacteristically quiet about why and how he decided to order airstrikes against a target in Syria, and for what they indicate about U.S. policy toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad going forward. Is it a one-off because of a chemical-weapons attack, or the start of a broader offensive against Assad? Has Trump established a new red line that, if crossed, will trigger American action? In the absence of clear articulations from the Oval Office, here are some of the voices driving Syria policy.

Rex Tillerson

Typically the secretary of state might be a leading voice on a pressing diplomatic matter, but Tillerson has been strangely sidelined throughout his short tenure in Foggy Bottom, and he has hardly offered more clarity or reassurance on Syria. Tillerson’s trip to Russia underscores his strange position: Although he has known Vladimir Putin for years, he is being shut out of a meeting with the president.

Universal healthcare supporters see their chance: ‘There’s never been more support’

After Republicans’ failed attempt to replace Obamacare, activists across the country rally on behalf of a single-payer system: ‘It’s a right, not a privilege’

Minerva Solla, far left, an organizer with the New York State Nurses Association, works a crowd of healthcare demonstrators in Albany, New York.

It was a cold, misty, gray, early spring day in Albany, New York – the kind of bone-chilling, turn-up-the-heat weather that encourages residents to flee to Florida.

But 500 New Yorkers were still out on the sidewalk lobbying for healthcare reform that has long seemed like a pipe dream: government-provided universal health insurance.

“I wanna make sure my children get healthcare,” said Minerva Solla, a 66-year-old organizer with the New York State Nurses Association. “It’s a right, not a privilege.” Moments earlier she riled the crowd with call-backs: “If they don’t pass it? Vote them out!”

Americans might know the liberal dream as “Medicare for all”. If it ever passed, it could be as comprehensive as the UK’s National Health Service.

Universal healthcare not a new idea, but one with fresh energy since Republicans’ disastrous attempt to reform the American health system. In Albany, a record number of people turned out to a rally for universal healthcare in New York, several activists and one lawmaker said.

Lessons From the ‘Red Line’ Crisis

I was chief of staff at the State Department the last time a president considered punishing Assad for using chemical weapons. The complexities we faced then are worth considering as Trump contemplates what’s next in Syria.

For many of us who were in the United States government in 2013, when the images of women and children writhing in pain in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta first brought the United States to the brink of airstrikes against the Syrian government, watching as 59 Tomahawk missiles were fired into a regime airbase in Homs was at once cathartic and not entirely satisfying.

I’m glad it happened. I’m supportive. But where do we go from here?

The aftermath of the strikes underscores what we knew in 2013 would be true even if Congress had acted quickly to give President Obama the authorization he’d asked for: No single military act could ever solve Syria. The brushback pitch of missile strikes may deter Assad from using chemical weapons again anytime soon, but the rapidity with which the airfield in Homs was reused to kill innocent people by conventional means was a real-time reminder of something the Obama administration both conceded and argued at the time: just how ephemeral the results of kinetic action can be.

None of this is surprising to those of us who wrestled with the same issues four years ago. At the time, I was chief of staff at the State Department, with a front row seat to deliberations on both policy—calibrating a response, considering its impact on military and diplomatic strategy—and practical matters, from consulting Congress to finding the right words to communicate the immediate horrors and to assure Americans we weren’t about to embark on another Iraq-style quagmire.

Lax gun policies may be linked to stolen firearms in US, study finds

Several cities have seen sharp jumps in gun theft reports and many resurface in connection with a crime, as states push to ease rules for carrying guns

Gun owners who carry guns outside their homes, stash them in their cars – or simply own lots of them – are more likely to have their guns stolen, according to a study published Monday in the journal Injury Epidemiology.

The study, by leading public health researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities, is the first to delve into how different characteristics among gun owners can increase their risk of theft. The findings come as several cities have seen sharp jumps in gun theft reports, and as states push to ease rules for carrying guns.

Many stolen guns are never recovered, but when they do resurface, it’s often in connection with a crime or in the hands of someone legally barred from possessing one. In February, a man in Leesburg, Florida, was arrested on allegations he shot his wife and daughter with a stolen gun during a family argument. Last month in Sarasota, Florida, five teenagers were charged after a revolver stolen from an apartment days earlier was found on their middle school bus.

People who own guns for protection or had carried a gun on their person in the previous month were more than three times as likely to have experienced a theft in the past five years, the report concludes. People who owned six or more guns, stored their guns loaded or unlocked, or kept guns in their cars were more than twice as likely to have had their weapons stolen.

Religious Discrimination in the Trump Era


Along religious lines, Americans see discrimination very differently. About two-thirds of Americans say Muslims face a lot of discrimination, but white Evangelical Christians have a different opinion. They are much more likely to say that Christians face more discrimination. In this video, Atlantic staff writer Emma Green explores the changing levels of anxiety among Americans after the 2016 election. This is the latest episode of “Unpresidented,” a weekly series from The Atlantic exploring the new era of American Politics.

5 Tiny Groups That Secretly Control The World

Conspiracy theorists drone on and on about the secret groups who really control the world — the Illuminati, the Jews, the Skull and Bones, the Rothschilds, the Jews, the Vatican, the shapeshifting reptile people, the Jews, etc. Well, it turns out that there actually are hidden groups that surreptitiously control aspects of your daily life. It’s just that you haven’t heard about them. Generally, the folks secretly manipulating the world are big on that “secret” part. Spoiler alert: It’s not the Jews. Jews are not a secret.

#5. The U.S. Medical Industry Is Controlled By 31 People

If you live in the U.S., you know healthcare is wildly expensive. Or maybe you don’t. Because you’re dead. From not being able to afford healthcare. Supposedly, this is all a natural consequence of the free market doing its job. Who can control that market? It is so wild. So free. Like a majestic Palomino prancing in a glade.

In reality, the price of medical procedures is almost entirely decided by 31 people, all sitting in a room together and throwing darts at a bingo card.

Above: an artist’s impression of the room.

The American Medical Association Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (nicknamed RUC, because AMASSRVSUC is an abominable Elder God summoned to our plane by successfully pronouncing his unwieldy name) consists of a mere 31 physicians, each representing one of the different medical specialties, but all tasked with deciding what literally everything they do should cost. You might have heard of this practice before, but using different words — in basically any other industry, it’s known as “price fixing,” the culprits are called “cartels,” and the whole thing is incredibly illegal. In the case of American medicine, it’s standard government-approved practice.

Here’s how it works (or rather, “works”): The committee assigns every medical procedure a number of relative value units (RVU), which account for the amount of work a doctor performs, the costs to the practice, and malpractice liability.

The ARM (arbitrary random markup) is built into each value automatically.

A $500 House in Detroit: rebuilding a home and the city that we’d all want

At 23 Drew Philip won an auction, inadvertently stepped into a community, learned to look out for his neighbors and found Detroit as a mirror of America

I was just finishing what was likely the final mowing of my lawn, just before the winter came. As I looked up, I noticed my neighbor was sitting in his truck across the road, watching me as he smoked a cigarette.

Just a few years earlier, at age 23, I had purchased an abandoned house in Detroit from a live auction for $500, less than the price of a decent television. It had been empty for more than a decade and was still a shell, its bones exposed, anything of value stolen long ago.

The structure was filled with trash and had lived a hard life: two monstrous stories of no doors or windows, plumbing, or electricity – nothing. The backyard was a literal jungle, the porch needed to be ripped off and done again, the front yard looked like it wanted to be cut with a scythe.

When I bought it in 2009, a white kid in Detroit was strange. Most people, white and black, were moving out. By this time I’d been working on the house for five years.

I’d removed the trash – nearly ten thousand pounds of it – added windows and electricity and all the other accoutrements, and had begun to carefully insert myself into the chorus of Detroit among my neighbors. Both my house, and the neighborhood, were starting to feel like home. But during those eight years I’d lived in the city, a massive change had begun, Detroit was growing, shifting, molting. Old grudges clashed with new ideas and nowhere was America’s fight for its soul more clear than in what was the Motor City.

Millennials are open to an age-old idea about marriage: that it should be temporary

‘Til Whenever

In Nov. 1891, the British sexologist Havelock Ellis married the writer and lesbian Edith Lees. He was 32 and a virgin. And since he was impotent, they never consummated their union. After their honeymoon, the two lived separately in what he called an open marriage. The union lasted until Lees’ death in 1916.

This is not what most would consider a model marriage. But perhaps because of its unusualness, Ellis was able to introduce an idea that remains as radical and tantalizing today as it was in his time: trial marriages, in which he envisioned couples exploring a temporary union of varying levels of commitment that allowed them to have sex, access birth control, and have an easy divorce if desired, as long as no children were involved. The idea captured the minds of many progressives, including the British philosopher Bertrand Russell and the Denver judge and social reformer Ben B. Lindsey, who embraced the new economic and cultural freedoms in the post-Victorian era.

While Ellis gave this type of temporary marriage a name, others had been talking about similar unions years before, including the German poet Johann von Goethe, who entertained the idea in his Elective Affinities (1809), and the American paleontologist E. D. Cope, who wrote in his book The Marriage Problem (1888) that marriages should start with a five-year contract that either spouse could end or renew with a further 10- or 15-year contract and, if all still went well after that, a permanent contract.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

The missile strike did nothing except teach Trump how to generate applause.

White House feuding and fake news makers were exposed, Sigourney Weaver took a break from Trump news, O’Reilly settled, and Louis C.K. proved wiser than ever on this ‘phenomenal’ week at The Late Show.

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

You WON’T BELIEVE what is going on in North Korea right now.

THANKS to Comedy Network and The Beaverton for making this program available on YouTube.

Ed. More tomorrow, probably.