Tag: random

I’ve seen the future …

This will go totally meta — he’s going to deny having denied that he denied denying collusion. At some point, dude is going to deny having been Trump’s attorney / spokesperson / lacky. Then we’ll meander our way into a whole “je pense, donc je suis” discussion because maybe we don’t even exist at all. Bad debate tactic, but I’m coming to see Trump’s approach to public discourse like the guerilla warfare American Revolution approach to European combat tactics. Considered terrible form at the time, but effective as anything. Which, sadly, dictates that we’ll *all* be debating substantive topics by throwing baseless attacks, making shit up, and derailing the conversation with a heap of crazy.

Maths: The Wall

I think the wall is a completely stupid idea — based on emotion rather than statistics about the source of immigration violations, not an effective solution even if the problem were people sneaking across the border. But I am seeing a way to get this whole debacle sorted within the Executive branch (which may not be legal, because government budgeting isn’t quite the same as corporate budgeting). When we’ve got projects that are under-budget, the extra money can get moved over to some other purpose. Well, if we can shut down the government for no good reason during budget negotiations … what if the Executive branch shut down all those “non-essential” services for a while to free up money that can be transferred over to DHS? How long would the government need to be shut down?

 

For a five billion dollar wall (again, HA!) … since the FY2019 budget is like 4.4 trillion dollars, we spend 12 billion a day. Say 90% of that is essential. Five days of shutdown would fund the wall. Which doesn’t make the wall a good idea. Or mean Congress should just approve it to get the whole debacle over with. But it certainly says something about government spending that the wall is half of a day worth of spending. And it certainly says something about our government that it gets shut down over half a day worth of spending.

 

 $         5,000,000,000.00 The wall
 $ 4,407,000,000,000.00 FY2019 budget
 $       12,073,972,602.74 Daily spending
 $         1,207,397,260.27 10%
4.141139097 shutdown days

The Military Industrial Complex

Will withdrawing from Syria and Afghanistan be move that swings Senate Republicans against Trump? Matt Taibbi speculates exactly this. I’ve wondered why Republicans stand by Trump so relentlessly — it’s not like Pence *wouldn’t* deregulate environmental and financial industries, create refugee crises at the border, and cut taxes without a care to deficit spending. Figure it’s got to be the 30 percent (or whatever) of the voters who actually think Trump is doing the right thing. Say the country is split pretty evenly between the two parties — and that the 50% on the Democratic side aren’t likely to be talked into voting Republican … that means Trump’s deplorables *are* the majority of the Republican voters. Now a historically successful (not to mention reasonable) ploy is to adjust your platform to appeal to more voters … but evidently no one wants to walk that path. Motivate your voters or put the other guy’s voters off works too — but the circus act that is the Trump campaign is about the pinnacle of motivating voters, and no one is sure who is running next cycle to dissuade people from fully supporting the individual. So they’re sticking by Trump … unless. Could the military industrial complex — and all of that money — be the thing that turns them?

The question makes me think of Trent Lott. Who had all sorts of faults, but public opinion turned on him when he said “I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years, either.” Which … anyone who bothered to find out could have known Lott liked Thurmond. It’s like Capone going down on tax evasion — yeah, I’m glad the dude got put in prison (or resigned from office, or thrown out) but over that?!?

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.

There is a difference

Today it is Jr’s “harassment” note, decades ago it was the assertion that “harassment is an ugly guy trying to get some”, but the fact remains that *harassment* there is a whole spectrum of harassment. Some dude whipping it out on the lunch queue, that’s blatantly obvious harassment without me specifically asking the individual to keep their genitalia covered. But harassment can be subtler too. The harassment I experienced frequently at work (twenty years ago) was the kind that became harassment when the guy refused to stop. A coworker asking me on a date is not harassment; a fellow student asking me to go to a dance is not harassment. Asking a dozen times *IS* harassment. Grabbing at my person and telling me how much I’ll enjoy the date *IS* harassment. And throwing them down on a bed, and attempting to disrobe them whilst covering their mouth … that’s not just harassment, that’s assault. And battery. And likely false imprisonment.

History Without Context

There’s a challenge in teaching history to young people — whilst it is not good to proceed through life ignorant of what has come before you, there are facets of history that are simply incomprehensible to a five year old kid. Explaining why some people are afraid of the police, describing the point of the military … it is a snarl of sociological and political facts, individual experiences … there’s a good and a bad side, but it is difficult to understand points of view without the entire history that created that point of view (a bit like coupling Zinn’s People’s History with Johnson’s History of the American People and calling that a balanced history lesson). I used to advocate for the inclusion of fictional works in University history classes — while the story itself may not be true, fictional works provide a picture into the reality of the time. History provides a context for books, and books provide a context for history. Arthur Miller was not randomly enamored with the Salem witch hunts.

Sadly, Anya’s teacher has begun down the path of history without context. Today (why not yesterday!?!) she taught the kids that “bad people” crashed planes into buildings in DC and NYC, as well as PA. Which left me to try explaining that it’s not like half a dozen people woke up one morning and thought it might be a lark to try flying an aeroplane … only to find it wasn’t as easy as it looks on TV. It was an organized group executing a plan. It was also a group organized partially because of terrible things done across the globe. A cause can be just without justifying any action taken in support of the cause. The validity of a cause doesn’t make the action right any more than “he hit me first” makes slugging your brother right.

A lot of nation-states, countries, and people have done a lot of terrible things to one another in the name of just causes … the events of which the teacher spoke is an egregious example.

Just say the word

It worries me — the did he / didn’t he “say the n word” question once again surrounding Trump. Not because I think he did or did not use the term, but because the discussion is meaningless. Trump will deny saying it — hell, he denies writing things that are archived in his Twitter account. He denies saying things that even when told there is a publicly available recording of him saying it. The racists among his supporters will see a wink with that denial. Some willfully blind supports will believe the denial. Opponents will assume the tape exists. Whatever.

Words are powerful, but not in the way this debate seems to imply. Not saying a specific word does not magically cure the social, political, and economic problems in this country any more than having a president say radical Islamic terrorism magically solved the real social, political, and economic problems that lead to terrorist attacks.

But what makes a single word the arbiter of racism? I had a physical education instructor who was sexist. The fact he called every girl in his class “chick” didn’t make him sexist. His belief that we were less capable because of our gender, that our time in physical education would best be spent sitting on the bleachers fixing up our nails, that we did not have the mental capacity to be taught. That made him racist. Had the man respectfully called me by my proper name every single time … he would still have been a sexist asshole who had no business teaching school children.

Someone who made his political name demanding a president show him some ID, who knowingly called Mexican emigrants a bunch of rapists, who thinks shutting down Mosques bears consideration, who refers to hut-dwellers from shit-hole countries … words are powerful, but refraining from uttering a specific word does not negate his racism. Maybe the dude was not a racist (discrimination against tenants and such says otherwise, but just pretend). Maybe Trump’s political persona is a role he’s playing. Willing injuring others by inciting racist violence. Scapegoating others for serious economic problems. Fomenting a social environment where racist actions are acceptable. Maybe that’s not racist. It’s still horrendous behavior.

Seeing Crime Everywhere

There have been a few stories recently about white people ringing up the police because someone with darker skin exists. This most recent story is a grad student who fell asleep while writing a paper in a common room. Not unheard of, there were kids dozing off in the library and residential common areas all.the.time. Kids fell asleep in my computer lab too. Sometimes even the work study kids who were meant to be supervising the area and assisting with computer problems. Almost a decade ago, it was a Harvard professor and his driver forcing a stuck door at his house. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve encountered a police officer while I was breaking into a car in a car park. It wasn’t just a police officer who happened across me. Dozens of people in the plaza didn’t look twice at the white chick forcing her way into a car.

It isn’t the police response that strikes me as much as the person making the report — it’s like we need a beer summit on a national scale. Why not approach the sleeping person, wake them, and suggest their room is going to be a comfier place for a nap. Or if they wake up and want to hang in the commons area, strike up a conversation. Ask their program, tell them about your program. And if you still think the person isn’t a student (doesn’t know the names of teachers in their department or knows totally made up profs, whatever) then call campus security or the police.