Category: Politics

All and all, it’s just another brick in the wall

Good news — at this rate, they’ll have collected enough money for “the wall” sometime before the fourth millennium.


The wall costs 5 bill (ha!). They raised 6 mil between 16 Dec and 3PM today — which I’m calling three and a half days because today isn’t over & maybe he created it at 23:58 on the 16th. A five billion dollar wall would be fully funded in a mere 8 years — or the year 2026. But there’s also the half billion a year to maintain the wall — failing to maintain the thing creates a dilapidated monument to Trump’s … oh, wait, that’s fitting. Their daily contribution rate exceeds the estimated operating run rate, so they’ll need to keep raising funds until they’ve got a trust to cover the wall’s expenses. 

And the whole thing is pointless since there’s a GoFundMe to buy ladders too 🙂 

In all seriousness, *this* is the only way I’d be OK building the wall. In fact, I think government services should move into a new non-profit category where donations are exempted from AMT and offset tax dollars owed. I could give 10k to the EPA (provided they’re actually enforcing regulations to, ya know, protect the environment) and owe nothing else in taxes. Otherwise I’ll fund arts, broadcasting, WIC, civil rights … I’ll find some agency Trump doesn’t know exists to ruin.

Heads I win, tails you lose

From one way of looking at it, legislative moves to limit the power of incoming administrations are brilliant (I mean, it sucks beyond the telling of things but still). I’m losing the majority, dump money into local races and gain the power to reorganize voting districts so I still win. I *still* manage to lose even in my gerrymandered districts, redefine what the elected government can actually do while I’m still in power. You can find yourself screwed over by your own rules — see: Scott Walker but if you’re losing voters … it’s a decent gambit.


It also, short term, addresses a concern I see because compromise is no longer a thing. If we cannot agree on some middle ground, regulations are going to vacillate between extremes as the side in power flips. So we get 4 years of fuck the environment, who needs to publicize accounting nonsense we know your books are right, drill baby drill, hey food producers – inspect yourselves and fill out this form if you find a violation otherwise we’ll assume it’s all good man. Followed by four years of umm, I wanted to breathe that air, remember Enron. How about Deep Water Horizon? Upton Sinclair? How was that hospital visit after your last bowl of romaine? It’s expensive for companies to change processes and re-engineer to meet the new laws on short time-frames like that. So I get rid of all of those pesky regulations, then legislatively change it so the next dude cannot change those regulations without a 2/3 majority vote during a full solar eclipse. Boon to business, since they can actually change their processes/products without fearing a complete rework two years out.


Problem I see, though, is that these moves are predicated on the a priori assumption that Americans will keep playing the game no matter how many dirty moves each team makes. My daughter likes to play games I call “Anya wins” — where the rules of the game change during play to ensure whatever she did beats me. Even knowing that she’s a five year old kid and having fun … it’s not a lot of fun to play Anya wins unless you get to be the Anya. How long can we sustain a peaceful transfer of power when those leaving play ‘we win, you lose’?

Fact-free discourse

The migrant caravan illegally invading the United States has been a gigantic heap of “alternative facts” — or, for the old fashioned, inaccuracies and lies. Is there anything to gain from proving individual tenants of Trump’s argument to be the abject falsehoods that they are? People walking from Southern Mexico are not at the US border. 5,800 US military personnel, *they* are at the border in what I am sure is a fairly expensive political stunt. But people hiking across Mexico have a few weeks of walking ahead of them.

And what exactly are they doing that is wrong?? How many people know step #1 of the asylum process? Here it is — from the US Department of Homeland Security website. To apply for asylum, you need to be physically present in the US or seeking entry into the US at a port of entry. So … people who want to request asylum in the US that head to a port of entry are, wait, following the legal process.

But while there are a bevy of proximal arguments being made, the distal complaint is essentially “we don’t like other, keep them out”. So I wonder about the efficacy of of providing actual facts to counter the litany of alternative ones. Are there people rooting for militarization of the border who will change their mind when they realize asylum seekers showing up at a port of entry are following the proper process? Or will they come up with some new “fact” to heap on the pile.

Like Drinking Poison

I remember watching the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings broadcast back in 1996. It was my first exposure to the idea of restorative justice, and an incredible lesson in forgiveness. Do I consider the slight against me more heinous than murder and rape that withholding forgiveness might be justified? The weekly broadcast was a reminder of how powerful forgiveness can be.

Juxtaposing those hearings with the Ford/Kavanaugh debacle yesterday highlights a failing in the guilt/punishment driven “justice” system.  There are certain crimes where it makes sense to ascribe guilt and mete out punishment — financial reparations when someone has caused monetary loss, removing a person from society when they are apt to continue harming others. I doubt that is the case here. I know what I wanted from the guy who assaulted me — for him to own it and to learn from it. Had Kavanaugh admitted to terrible behavior as a young man, said that there were occasions when he was so drunk he does not recall his actions (thus cannot confidently recall or deny assaulting Ford), been truly remorseful for both his behavior and how his behavior impacted other people, and acknowledged that he is aware of his faults and has stopped drinking (or ceased drinking to excess) and acting in a domineering/privileged way … but, no. We get a belligerent assertion that he is not, well, belligerent. And never drank to excess.

I’d still object to a SCoTUS nominee who thinks it’s debatable whether a president can be indicted while in office. Or that criminal investigations into a president should be deferred until he is out of office. Or that George W approach to torture, extrajudicial detention, and war was a bit of all right. But I would at least get the desire to forgive someone for their decades-old actions if they owned those actions, regretted those actions, and changed.

Why *I* Didn’t Report

I tried to report, but I could not get anyone to TAKE my report. When I was in University, I had an undergrad assistant-ship. One of my responsibilities was overseeing work-study students who helped out in a computer lab. General management stuff – scheduling, sorting out coverage when someone couldn’t make their shift, determining when the lab was available to students, approving time cards. One kid falsified his time card — he’d clock in, leave, and come back a few hours later to clock out. Not making a shift wouldn’t be a problem, I dealt with that quite regularly and generally covered shifts myself if I couldn’t find someone looking to pick up a few extra hours. But asking to get paid for not working was unreasonable (also a crime. It wasn’t just defrauding the University, it was defrauding the Federal Work Study Program). My mental parade of horrors went something like this: chap gets charged with fraud, loses work-study funding, has to leave school, entire life is ruined over a stupid thing he’s done as a 19 year old kid. I wanted to help the guy, so I decided to be in my office before he clocked in. Check the lab every fifteen minutes or so and confirm that he didn’t just step out for a minute. Leave a note on his time card to see me in my office. And TALK to him about it — I know what you’re doing, it’s not right nor is it legal, and there are real ramifications if you persist and I have to report you. The kid was a big guy. Over six foot tall, built like a footballer. I asked a friend of mine to hang out in my office with me.

A few hours later, and I had evidence the dude was falsifying his time card: he came back to punch out. And came into my office as requested — all innocent-like with no idea what I could possibly have wanted to discuss. My friend, unfortunately, had gotten bored and decided to ring her sister about ten minutes before his shift was over.

My office had been a dark room — an important thing, when developing negatives, is to avoid exposure to light. Darkrooms have two rooms — open the first door, enter into the antechamber, kick on the red lights, close the outer door, then open the door to the processing room. I used the antechamber as a storage area, but there were tables and chairs out there too. The inner room was my actual office – desk, chairs, coffee maker. My friend took her call out to the antechamber because my discussion with the work-study student was going to interrupt her call. And closed the door.

So here I am, in a closed room, alone with the guy (a) that intimidated me and (b) with whom I had to have an unpleasant conversation. I explain that we’ve been checking the lab every few minutes and know that he never actually worked his shift. He could call it an emergency and say he came back to cross out the “in” time now that the emergency was sorted. Or he could clock out, and I’d have to report the fraud to administration.

He proceeded to sit on me and kiss me. I could not get up. I was stuck in a rolling office chair, where attempts to push with my feet just scooted the chair around the tile floor. I wasn’t a terribly weak girl, I could bench about 30 kg which was about average for my size. But there was no shoving this guy off of the chair. I was terrified, and in my mind a little angry that my friend — who really only needed to be there for like the last half hour of the guy’s shift — had decided to stay for the full three hours and didn’t care enough to actually help me during the period of time I actually wanted help. I was kissed and groped at for minutes before I was able to injure the guy enough that he fell off the chair. And I ran out to the antechamber. The guy was furious, but he wasn’t going to do anything with my friend standing right there, or with the antechamber door opened to the hallway. He stormed off.

But I was still terrified. I rang the police — even leaving aside sexual component of the assault, false imprisonment is a crime. Assault is a crime. I reported. And was directed to campus security because, for the price of a few new police cruisers and other “support” … evidently the city police do not respond to on campus crimes. Noise complaint, ring campus security. A flaming sofa out in the public street, ring campus security (although the fire department will eventually respond). Some kid assaults you and prevents you from leaving a room, ring campus security.

Well, you know what campus security has to say about sexual assault? There’s no evidence, I have no witness, it’s he said/she said. And it’s important that we be able to tell prospective freshman about the low level of on-campus crime. Including the zero rate of sexual crimes. So in addition to abject terror, humiliation, and eeeeewwwwww that I felt, I got to add in a heap of betrayal because, about a year ago, I was one of those prospective freshman getting the sales pitch. I remember hearing about the zero on-campus sex crime stat and wondering how that was possible. The students were still kids. You could find a keg party any night of the week. And whilst neither youth nor inebriation exonerate criminal action … they are certainly factors that contribute to it.

I told several friends — primarily because I did not ever want to be left alone with the guy, and I needed them to understand why. I’m telling the Internet 23 years later because of Trump’s comments about Dr. Ford not reporting. There are millions of different reasons assault victims haven’t reported the crime. None of those reasons mean the attack didn’t happen. None of those reasons mean the attack was anything other than horrifying. And sure I managed to move on. But I will never forget how the guy looked, or smelled, or the feeling of being restrained and assaulted.

So, Trump, #WhyIDidn’tReport … why I don’t have a police report to back up my assault is that the University paid off local law enforcement to ignore on-campus crime, and campus security had a vested interest in maintaining low crime stats. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, just means that the so-called justice system fails a lot of people. And, hey, isn’t that the sort of thing a the head of the Executive branch should be fixing?

 

Red Herrings

To everyone discussing whether a 17 year old kid who sexually assaults someone at a party (whilst high/drunk/whatever) should have said event preclude them from [promotions, government service, appointment to the Supreme Court] … that’s a red herring. The question is if someone who lies to Congress under oath (possibly repeatedly) should be confirmed to the Court. And that would be a resounding NO regardless of the individual’s politics.

There’s a big difference between elusive “I do not recall X” testimony where you’re not denying the action itself but rather recollection of said action and “I did not do X”. When someone pretty convincingly testifies that you did do X. Be X receiving stolen e-mails or sexually assaulting a woman … well, there are *lots* of things I’ve done but do not recall (although I’m not sure what kind of life you lead when stolen e-mails to advance judicial nominations are so every day that they simply slip your mind). But outright denying it happened?!?

Search engines as bias algorithms

Sigh! Once again, Trump is the most lamentable victim of any persecution in history (including actual people who were bloody well burned alive as witches). Anyone remember people google-bombing Bush2 to link moron and “miserable failure” over to him? Algorithms can be used against themselves.
 
Singling out a specific feedback cycle that is damaging *to you* is a whole heap of hypocrisy (and thus neo-presidential). But Google’s “personalized” news seems to be just as much a victim of commercialization as cable news. I don’t get many articles that are complimentary of Trump. My husband does. Seeing information that substantiates your point of view is not a good thing for personal growth and awareness, but this is not a conspiracy. Just Google’s profile of us — we’re getting news that Google thinks we’ll like. I know search results are personalized in an attempt to deliver what *you* want … so it’s quite possible my search results will skew toward Trump-negative content (although as a matter of business, I would expect my husband’s to skew toward Trump-positive content). I guess we all know what Trump clicks on and what he doesn’t if *his* results aren’t just a summary of the Fox News homepage.
And thinking about search engines logically — the “secret sauce” is a bias algorithm. Back in 1994, there was an “Internet Directory” — a alphabetized listing (maybe categorized by subject … don’t recall) of web sites. It missed some. More importantly, though, there were not millions of web sites with new ones popping up every day, so I’m thinking the phone book approach to web sites might not work. If search engines crawled the Internet and returned a newest to oldest list of everything that contains the word … or a list alphabetized by author, page title, etc, … would you use a search engine??? Someone would have to write a bias search algorithm to work against search engine results. Oh, wait.

Too soon

Why is it always too soon to discuss how gun control (or precluding those with mental illnesses from possessing guns) might have averted a mass shooting but it isn’t too soon to discuss how rounding up foreigners for mass deportation might have saved Mollie Tibbetts life?

The Spoils System

How a company, political organization, or non-profit spends their money doesn’t bother me that much — it’s a factor I consider when donating to “the cause” or purchasing from a company. I can appreciate that one feels betrayed when, say, some of your University tuition is used to pay off women and pizza delivery people who have been attacked by the school’s hockey team, thus suppressing reporting and criminal charges (then bragging to prospective students about the ZERO on-campus crime rate). Or the quasi-celebrity fronted charity uses donations to settle legal disputes involving the quasi-celebrity. Or your political party offers a decent salary to someone they simultaneously claim is a terrible employee who needed to be fired. *But* those were all choices you made. And you’re free to make new choices next time around based on new information. I can even see how it would really suck to believe the Republican party has the right way of things, and you *want* to provide financial support, but you also have to accept that some percent of your contributions are going to salary for unqualified individuals who they want to keep quiet.

What bothers *me* is that Trump has essentially admitted he handed a 179,700$ per year job to an utterly unqualified individual because of their personal relationship.

*I* didn’t chose the grifter-in-chief, but it’s still my tax money going to his friends (at that, to his “racist dude’s obligatory non-white, I cannot be a racist because Bob’s my friend” friend … although there are *whole binders full* of unqualified old white dudes grifting in Trump’s administration too.)

Our tax money going to political supporters who are unqualified for the job? That’s why we’ve got the Pendleton Act and the subsequent civil service system — every politician could find somewhere for their friends and supporters to suck up taxpayer money for a few years. And the inverse: a politician could garner key supporters by offering them cushy government positions. And an unlucky politician could garner a supporter who considered himself key, anger the chap by not giving him one of those cushy jobs, and get shot. Maybe it’s time to eliminate the remaining “at the pleasure of the president” job appointments.