Category: Politics

It’s a problem when it impacts me

Meghan McCain realizes the US needs paid maternity leave after she has a baby. That sums up my problem with a lot of Republicans: it’s only a problem that needs a solution if it impacts me (and, maybe, someone I love). Otherwise it’s something you did to yourself and you are a lazy bum for looking to the government for a solution. The Ayn Rand view of non-me people.

Net neutrality is awful … hey, why is this service provider treating my content differently? Private businesses should be free to refuse service to anyone based on the owner’s beliefs … hey, why is this company refusing to host my service? At-will employment is the ultimate free-market solution … wait, why am I being fired for trying to overthrow the government? The meme-ified version is “The Leopards Eating Faces” party decrying “why are these leopards eating my face”. And it’s why I think private charity is considered more acceptable than more efficient, coordinated social safety net programs … it’s someone “like me” being helped.

As much as I dislike approach, I’m thinking there are about to be some areas where conservatives are open to supporting liberal positions. The three already mentioned (net neutrality, businesses refusing service, at-will employment) and … I expect insurrectionists will discover the problem with felony disenfranchisement now that they are felons.

And, on a related note, they may want to read through [18 U.S.C. § 922]. Specifically:

(g) It is unlawful for any person —
(1) who has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year
to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.

On Secession, Part 2

Friends have been discussing a Cosmo article that views secession talk from the perspective of a liberal Southerner. I, for about a decade, was a liberal Southern. A vegetarian in a barbecue capital. I can’t say the article changed my mind. It seems to presume there’s a *good* solution. The existence of a good solution is often over-simplification or an idealization of the situation. I laud the people in Texas protecting others who simply want to use their rights. I feel awful for the people who live in a state that doesn’t care about the environment, loathes redistribution of wealth, think we’re wasting our money educating citizens. If the options were “everybody stop doing that” or “keep doing it but some states secede”, I would be on board with ending the secession talk. But that’s not reality. As it stands, the whole country suffers because of a minority’s opinion about what’s right and wrong. The choices are “stick together and keep doing it” and “split up; some of us, based on where we live, can stop doing it”.

It’s easy enough to say “step one is to reorganize yourselves based on political beliefs”. Doesn’t work well in practice. There aren’t a lot of people who can just move. They need to find a job, a place to live, pay to have their stuff moved (or buy new stuff). They may need to find childcare. Or a medical specialist. There are minors who don’t gt a choice in where they live regardless of their personal beliefs.
The only reason I see to stop talking about secession is that I don’t see it as logistically possible. I remember being intrigued by Lesotho — it’s a country completely surrounded by South Africa. How exactly does a country end up in the middle of a whole other country?! I knew the history behind the Vatican City State … kind of accepted that as normal because (1) I’d encountered it at an early enough age that I didn’t really question it (2) you could literally walk from Italy into Vatican City — no customs, no passports — so it didn’t seem like a different country, and (3) it’s so small {and this is before “online” was a place to see maps, thus ‘zoom’ didn’t exist} that you only saw it if you were looking at a street map of Rome. Lesotho? It’s large enough to see on a map of Africa. Secession seems like it would produce a *lot* of Lesotho’s — Memphis, Austin, Asheville, New Orleans. I want to focus on a viable solution to eliminate the oversized influence low population-density states have in the Federal government. Undo the gerrymandering that exacerbates this over-representation.

On Secession

I’ve seen talk of secession since SCOTUS reused to hear Texas v Pennsylvania et al. I’ve also heard liberals wish them a fond fairwell. Unlike the Civil War era were the nascent industrialized North had financial need for the agricultural production of the South … it’s a different financial picture today. Unfortunately, the net balance of payments to/from the federal government gets cited as a depiction of this economic reality. Deficit spending means *most* states get back more than they pay in — there were less than a dozen states with a negative balance of payment, and the federal outlay in Virginia alone exceeded the total excess intake from those states. But, yeah, I expect many liberal states would be economically viable. As would many conservative states. Liberal states that aren’t economically viable should be OK too — accepting redistribution of wealth is a tenant of liberalism. It’s the poorer conservative states that have a problem.
Of course the secessionists haven’t thought it through; they are throwing a tantrum. As a thought experiment, though, I tried to think through the creation of Trumptopia. I cannot conceptualize a fully functioning, unified nation. A common enemy is a great way to unite people. Get rid of that common enemy (so-called socialists), and I expect they’ll discover a lot of disagreement. More prosperous states won’t want to subsidize poorer states (a resentment I remember from German unification — glad to have the country reunited, but the economic hit for former West Germans really sucked). And, generalization aside, there are urban, liberal outposts like Memphis, Austin, etc. that won’t be keen on getting dragged along with the rest of the state. Unless secessionists are looking to go the route of Greek city-states, which brings its own set of challenges.
Even if Trumptopia managed to form somewhere, I expect Republicans have a libertarian/bear problem … letting industry self-regulate sounds good while we have a lot of federal regulation because we’re free to imagine industries as honest, pretend there’s enough competition for consumer choice to force acceptable behavior, and assume consumers are sufficiently well informed in their choices. Same with individual freedom — we’re making an a priori assumption that everyone else’s decision will line up with our rationalizations (see: above bears).

What’s Next – Prediction

My prediction for Trump’s next heap of crazy (or an episode of The Trump Show that runs in my head): Trump gets some foreign state – I’m thinking Erdoğan from Turkey – to admit to perpetrating massive vote fraud. Mailing millions of ballots to some states. Hacking electronic voting platforms. All of the above. Tries to invalidate the entire election on the basis of this “totally reliable” evidence. 

The Problem with Facts

The problem with concrete evidence (say, a list of voters whose ballots you claim are illegal) is that someone can check it:
“When Georgia state Rep. Bee Nguyen (D) reviewed a list of voters who President Trump’s campaign claimed cast illegal ballots in the state, three names caught her eye: two friends and a constituent. “

Texas v. Pennsylvania

Democracy isn’t letting people vote then invalidating the ones you don’t like, but here we are — Texas v. Pennsylvania and its accompanying amicus briefs. Republicans are the party of states rights — unless the state does something they don’t like. But, I suppose, disqualifying the votes of people who don’t vote the way you want is the logical extension of the “real American” mantra touted by Palin. And the tea party’s “no taxation without representation” … uhh, we all voted. You have representation. “Well, they don’t represent me” logic. Having lived through many years of minority rule, I get their point. Philosophically George W Bush didn’t represent me. Trump sure as hell doesn’t represent me. But — however much we may philosophically differ, they did represent me. Because that’s how American government works.

Could we use modern technology to have direct representation? Sure. Direct representation would eliminate gerrymandering and the oversized influence of low-population-density states. It would be rather inequitable — who has the time to read through every piece of proposed legislation, get online and vote their opinion, etc. But it could happen. Even then, though … 60% of the people vote for X, that’s what we get. And the 40% who voted not-X suck it up.

School’s out for winter

My local school district is moving to remote learning for what’s left of December and a few weeks in January. Not unexpected, and a part of the reason we chose a different learning option for Anya this year. The Superintendent’s message highlights the two big problems I expected with in-person learning. Firstly, 28 positive cases resulted in 467 quarantined individuals. That’s about 16 people in quarantine for every infected individual. The district had about 3,000 students before some percentage opted to use virtual learning this year. Add some 300 staff — they’ve had about 15% of the school out in quarantine in the past three weeks. And that’s before any increase in infections from Thanksgiving. Secondly, people who send their kids to school with COVID-like symptoms (I believe they have a special nurse’s office in each school for those kids to hang out in all day so people who have to swing by the nurse’s office to get medication or a scrape patched up aren’t exposed to a room full of sick kids) and even while awaiting test results.

Liberatarianism is great in theory … but, in practice, the entire point of the belief system is that you’re free to make whatever choice you decide to make. Even if you want to ignore the bears.

Musing on Pardons

Trump’s potentially got exposure in issuing pardons if he’s covering up crimes in which he was involved. Bit of a legal stretch (and proving corrupt intent would be difficult). No point *now* with the OLC policy against indicting a sitting president, and we’ll probably get another “for the sake of unity, put the past in the past” administration. But it seems feasible.
And I’m curious how pardons impact 5th amendment protection. If you’ve got a pardon for *your* part in the crime, you’re not being ‘compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself’ and I expect could be compelled to testify against others (including Trump) who were involved. Or be charged for failing to provide honest testimony.

Understanding Exponential Growth

Using the data from in the most recent seven day span (10-16 November), 1,056,346 people in the US have been infected with this coronavirus. The total number of cases yesterday was 11,047,064. That means 9.562% of the *total cases* in the US were new cases in the past week.


This is how exponential growth works — and why you heard a lot about ‘flattening the curve’ earlier in the year. If you put a penny on the first square of a chess board, double it and put two pennies on the second square, double it and put four pennies on the third square, and continue in that fashion … mathematically, you have 2^n pennies on each square, where n is the numeric sequence of the square, 0-63. On the last square in the first row, square #7, there are 2^7 pennies — 128 pennies, or a buck and twenty eight cents. Not a lot. And the end of the second row, you have 2^15 pennies — 32,768 pennies. That’s $327.68 — over three hundred bucks. A lot more than a buck, but not a huge amount of money. But you’re up to 2^23 at the end of the third row — 8,388,608 pennies or $83,886.08. Eighty three grand is a lot of money. By the time you get to the mid-point on the board, the end of the fourth row, you have 2^31 pennies on a square. 2,147,483,648 pennies for $21,474,836.48 — over twenty million dollars. A lot of money, but it’s possible. The second half of the chessboard is where exponential growth becomes unsustainable. The end of the fifth row is 2^39 — 549,755,813,888 pennies. The end of the sixth row is 2^47 — 140,737,488,355,328 pennies. The end of the seventh row is 2^55 —  On the final square, you have 2^63 … 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 pennies for $92,233,720,368,547,758.08 … 92 quadrillion dollars. If the going price of Earth is only five quadrillion dollars, you’re putting a marker for the entire solar system (and then some) on that last square.

And that ignores the accumulating total — while you have 92 quadrillion dollars on the final square, you have another 92 quadrillion dollars on the entire rest of the board. Now, obviously, we are not doubling our rate of infections every day. But we’re entering “second half of the board” territory just the same.