Much Ado About Legs and “Leggings”


Christmas_Present_Leggings 2

Photo by AllenRaySmith (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Americans are today up in arms about legs. Specifically, whether or not it is appropriate for girls/women to wear tight-fitting “leggings” or yoga pants when flying on airplanes. Until now this has not been a major issue on the national scene because so far the Trump administration has not issued any travel bans against legging-wearing women, unless of course the woman is a Muslim from certain countries in which case it doesn’t matter what she wears. Fortunately, U.S. courts have banned the Trump bans for now. But maybe the ACLU will take up the case of the leggings ban.

This story goes like this: a female United Airlines gate agent would not allow two teenage girls to board a flight in Denver because the family of the girls were traveling with a United employee pass and wearing leggings under such conditions is forbidden. (What about men? My running pants are rather tight.) It does not appear as though the teens in question are United employees but according to the Washington Post the girls apparently were aware of the employee pass rule.

Airlines can prohibit any passengers from boarding who are not “properly clothed” for safety reasons, though except for the case of not wearing anything on one’s feet at all (which would make getting through the security line a little easier), it is not clear how improper clothing is defined. A third teen girl was able to place a skirt over her leggings and was then allowed to board.

On second thought, the ACLU won’t likely take this case because a corporation (a private entity) is within its rights to enforce a dress code, however arbitrary and sexist it may be. Shall we soon see no very short shorts on women in airports, no mini-skirts, no bare female legs at all? What about men in tank-tops? (Most private establishments require some sort of shirt and shoes.) Are bikinis for either gender taboo on an airplane? How does baring skin or wearing skin-tight pants on a flight compromise safety?

Perhaps United Airlines will eventually explain why employees traveling with a special pass cannot be as casually dressed as everyone else. Is it simply a matter of public relations? But how will anyone know who is an airline employee since formal uniforms are not required? Or perhaps I and we are spending too much time thinking about this issue. Personally, I am not offended by any girl or woman wearing leggings or yoga pants in any public setting. And if we wait awhile, the next fad in women’s wear may be long skirts which, for all I know, may be even more comfortable.


“War is the Health of the State”–But Not People



Photo of Randolph Bourne by Unknown. Public Domain.

How’s this for a grand generalization? The United States is not great at providing health care and really good at waging war. And by “good” I do not mean effectively. We wage war a lot because we can afford to and very few Americans ever personally feel its considerable terrible effects. And we don’t do health care very effectively because it requires a belief that all Americans have an inalienable right to be cared for with the help of benevolent government assistance. In short, we have not for a while now generally believed in the prospect of benevolent, enlightened government. To prove it, we managed to elect Mr. Trump, and so far he has not disappointed our sense of the limits and limitations of government.


In the same week that the Republican Party offered and failed to vote on a draconian, nay, downright cruel health care plan to replace the flawed but humane ACA, it was reported that the U.S.-led Coalition under the Trump Administration was dropping more bombs in Iraq and had reportedly killed some 200 innocent people in Mosul. 

Fortunately, the “American Health Care Act” (known more informally to us liberals as Wedon’tcare) failed to come to a vote in the House of Representatives largely because the Freedom (to perish) Caucus did not think the bill was brutal enough for the dictates of the free market. So, thank God for the Tea Party and the petulant impatience of Mr. Trump who has better things to do than negotiate with politicians. Golf and Twitter may yet save the Republic and the planet by distracting Mr. Trump from actually doing any governing.

It’s a pity though that those responsible for waging war on behalf of the U.S. are not similarly preoccupied. Fighting terrorists by terrorizing and killing civilians in distant lands is the flip side of providing better access to health care with a plan that makes having and affording decent health care pretty much impossible for millions of Americans.

American bankruptcy and ill-health on the one hand and increasing violence against foreign civilians on the other: when Randolph Bourne said “war is the health of the state” he did not mean the physical health of individual Americans. Although the U.S. spends just a bit more on health care entitlements than it does on defense, the much more genuine threat to Americans is illness and poverty rather than terrorists.

What would a truly benevolent and peaceable government look like? One that placed the health of all the world’s people, including Americans, first.

Reality: Airstrikes are killing civilians

What price war? In Syria and Iraq, U.S. coalition airstrikes will inevitability kill some innocent people, including children. This fact is apparently not enough to prevent democracies from dropping bombs and missiles from aircraft.

A U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52D-35-BW Stratofortress (s/n 52-669) dropping bombs over Vietnam. This aircraft was hit by SA-2 surface-to-air missile over North Vietnam during the "Linebacker II" offensive on 31 December 1972 and crashed in in Laos. The crew of six ejected, but only five were rescued. By USAF [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52D-35-BW Stratofortress (s/n 52-669) dropping bombs over Vietnam. This aircraft was hit by SA-2 surface-to-air missile over North Vietnam during the “Linebacker II” offensive on 31 December 1972 and crashed in in Laos. The crew of six ejected, but only five were rescued. By USAF [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We have known since the glory days of aerial bombardment during World War II that the killing of civilians in war has been justified for the sake of military success. Intentionally targeting large civilian populations with many squadrons of bombers was then known as “strategic bombing” and some of the most deadly bombing events were the work of American and British bombers. More than 200,000 civilians, many of them children, of course, were slaughtered in Dresden and Tokyo combined. At least 170,000 innocent Japanese were killed in the atomic bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

During the Vietnam War the tactic of “carpet bombing” Cambodia , Laos and Vietnam, causing massive civilian casualties, was again justified by the U.S. government as military necessity. War, it seems, justifies almost anything.

Since the Protocol 1 Additions of the Geneva Conventions in 1977, nations launching airstrikes (which seem to be proliferating quickly) have agreed to limit whom and what they drop their bombs on to “military objectives.” In other words, “indiscrimate bombing” was outlawed. This included

  1. an attack by bombardment by any methods or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects; and

  2. an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

    So to keep war legal, air forces are now required to bomb accurately so as not to cause “excessive” civilian casualties. But if you or someone you know happen to be a noncombatant who is killed or injured by a combatant’s bomb, that loss of life or limb is likely to feel excessive, no matter how “concrete” and “direct” the military advantage.

    Would the incidental death of one child in a bombing raid be legally “excessive”? Would two children killed by dropping bombs be excessive? How many children can be killed in a single bombing event (or a war) before we reach the “excessive” level? The answer is “excessive” is now in the eye of the bomb-dropping beholder. In September of 2014 the Obama administration decided to loosen the restrictions on civilian casualties by coalition airstrikes in Syria that still apply, not always successfully, to drones.

    There are credible reports that airstrikes by the U.S. coalition targeting ISIS in Syria on Monday incidentally killed 36 Syrian civilians in a single village, 20 of whom are reported to be children. U.S. Central Command is “reviewing” the incident. Because the airstrikes occurred in a village, they seem to violate the first part of the Protocol above. And, in my opinion, the killing or harming of any civilian for any reason is excessive and just plain wrong.

    But children, women and innocent men are always killed in war, intentionally or incidentally. This fact alone ought to be enough to demonstrate that war (massive violent force) is not the humane, democratic answer.

    Update– The website of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that another U.S coalition airstrike with civilian casualties has been reported in al-Hasakah province in Syria. 26 civilians are reported dead, including 7 children and 4 women.


Rumple Oxbridge: “Playing the Trump Card”



By Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

By Rumple Oxbridge (imaginary imaginer at The Pacific)

House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke Donald Trump
“is not conservatism.” Thus many Repubs are chumps

because they think the Donald is the purest
for of all the raving ranters he’s the surest.
(When it comes to bigotry Trump’s a purist.)

Trump wins the most conservatively-correct
according to the polls, the best bet

to be the ace of all the other jokers.
Face it, Paul: Trump’s the Republican broker
precisely because conservatism is broken.

House Speaker Ryan offers no “alternative” except a worse one


By Office of Speaker Paul D. Ryan (https://www.facebook.com/speakerryan/?sk=photos) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin did some major speaking out yesterday, saying he wants to offer “a complete alternative to the left’s agenda.” Exactly which “left” agenda he was referring to he didn’t say, but his initial remarks on this subject suggest that Ryan’s alternative would look pretty much like the political vision of the current leading Republican presidential candidates: raise the wages of the wealthy, oppress the poor, ruin what’s left of nature while waging even more war abroad. Ryan, however, is nicer about it, saying it is wrong to “demonize” in order to win elections. Was Speaker Ryan perhaps referring to the demagoguery of GOP presidential candidates?  Or did he mean  those demonizing lefties, as The Washington Times suggests?

Top of the list of Ryan’s conservative alternatives is to dismantle the ACA, which, if it does nothing else, ended the draconian insurance industry practice of not covering “pre-existing conditions” and has helped insure nearly 17 million more Americans.  Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson is not fond of the ACA either, apparently because some in the insurance industry have decided that the ACA is not profitable enough. If the ACA has a flaw, it is that it places too much trust and power in the insurance corporations and the “free market” to set “affordable” prices.

The best alternative to the ACA is, of course, free national health insurance for all. But Ryan and Johnson and the Republican Party want to return us all to the generosity of unchecked “competition” which, as Sen. Johnson believes, “leads to lower prices and higher quality in every other field.” No wonder Republicans don’t want to raise the minimum wage: according to this alternative idea, the less you pay people (lowering the costs), the higher the quality of their work! Perhaps we should pay doctors a lot less and see what happens. And since Sen. Johnson has already turned down his own ACA-mandated health insurance, the quality of his legislative work might improve, according to his economic theory, if he lowered our costs and refused his salary as well.

But I digress. Back to Speaker Ryan’s vision for the nation. It seems the nation’s self-esteem needs to be improved. Ryan seeks a more “confident America” and a “bold, pro-growth agenda.” He wants to cut taxes and spending, of course, and, of course, he also wants a bigger, better military because “too many people think a warning from the United States is the hollow protest of a has-been.” I’m not sure where it’s written that the United States should be an issuer of warnings (“Do as we say, or we will bomb and invade you”) but that is apparently what a confident superpower is supposed to do.

And when it comes to sane, reasonable gun control, the best Speaker Ryan can offer us is to address our mental health system. But given the utter failure of our Congressional representatives to do a single thing to limit access to extremely dangerous, even military-style weapons, it does seem that the mental health of many of our representatives is pretty poor.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Editorial Page Editor David Haynes writes that Speaker Ryan is “a thoughtful politician and a reasonable man.” Well, yes, if we compare Ryan to, say, Trump or Cruz or Carson or Rubio, etc. But so far Ryan’s thoughts and reasoning have not evolved much beyond Tea Party rhetoric, though as House Speaker he may have to temper that potted tempest a bit. Ryan did take a libertarian swipe at “big business” but whether or not he intended to include defense contractors in this populist protest, he didn’t say.

But at this point Speaker Ryan’s alternative is none worth having.  A confident democracy leads by example and strives to honor and promote human rights by not adding to the sum of violence and injustice around the world. A genuine alternative to the political status quo would be a nation that always acts on democratic and humane, even broadly religious, principle– do unto others as you would have them do unto you, even if the others don’t agree. A confident democracy would not bow to demonizing fear, would not close its borders and up its military might and try to curtail social programs that help the needy and refuse to accept the science of ecology that tells us human-caused climate change is real and a real threat.

House Speaker Ryan is still placing Ayn Rand’s “morality of capitalism” above the morality of both democracy and the social teaching of his own Catholicism. From now on there may be a larger audience for Ryan’s speeches and legislative actions, but his dreary conservatism of pro-wealth/pro-war/pandering to white males will be championed by far more flamboyant and thoughtless speakers.


P.S.–  The Journal Sentinel approves of “Ryan the Wonk”, for Speaker Ryan is right, the Editorial Board says, about some things: “He’s right about the need to expand trade agreements. And he has a point about Obama’s handling of, in particular, Middle East policy. Yes, the president was handed a mess but Obama could have taken stronger action to prevent the humanitarian disaster in Syria.”

Ok, Ryan is right about trade because the JS says so (without reasons) and Ryan is right about foreign policy because Obama could have done something “stronger” to help Syrians. What, drop more bombs? It was Ryan the Wonk who joined the demonizing Republican call to “pause” the welcoming of Syrians fleeing the war.   Ryan’s conservative agenda merely conserves all the worst ideas of the Republican Party. For all his wonkish demeanor, House Speaker Ryan remains Ryan the Wrong.