Category: Politics and Government

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.

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.

Facts Develop

Back when John Kerry was running for President, the “flip flopper” charge was a epitomized by his Marshall University statement “I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it” regarding the Iraq war. Which quickly became “I was for the war before I was against it” — a charge that implies one’s beliefs have changed as a matter of political expediency.

It amazed me that no one ever responded to such criticism with “yes, given the information we were presented in 2003, I supported the war. With the new information that has come to light in the past year (or fifteen)? I believe the pretense was false, and as such have reconsidered my support. As president here’s what I would do to ensure intelligence is not tainted by politics.” Which (a) admits to being a person who is capable of analyzing new evidence and changing their opinion when new information invalidates previous “knowledge” and (b) focuses the question on something most people agree is a bad thing.

In the intervening decade, I’ve almost gotten to the point I’d be willing to vote for an individual who would just admit that they’ve changed their mind when new information was discovered over someone with whom I share ideological beliefs. Aaaaand then there’s Trump. Whose former lawyer, Jay Sekulow, announced that facts develop.

It’s an ironic turn of phrase, given my mental association with the innocent party (i.e. person who had no way to know otherwise) being able to discover new facts and changing their mind. Facts don’t develop when you are the person with the facts. What you tell everyone is developing … and somehow you are hoping we fear being labeled a flip-flopper enough to avoid changing our opinion as these new facts are revealed. You hope cognitive bias keeps our beliefs entrenched when hundreds of little revisions are made to “facts”.

Alternative Fact: The Darknet Market

Alternative Fact: From Trump @ one of this continual campaign rallies, this time in Florida: “You know, if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card, you need ID.”

“The only time you don’t need it, in many cases, is when you want to vote for a president, when you want to vote for a senator, when you want to vote for a governor or a congressman. It’s crazy.”
Real Fact: Unless the grocery stores, home improvement centers, general merchandise retailers, and coffee shops around me have joined up to create a dark non-web to protest this crazy requirement to show ID before purchasing anything, there are limited situations in which one needs to present ID to make a purchase (hell, they don’t even require a signature for a 200$ grocery purchase anymore). And groceries are not one of those cases (barring, possibly, those using government support to make said purchase … but that’s fraud prevention {i.e. making sure SNAP recipient Fred is the one purchasing this stuff} and not an attempt to check out your awesome drivers license photo before you can purchase green beans. Maybe beer (verifying age restriction). Maybe smokes (again, age restriction). Guns, probably. Maybe even ammo. Occasionally for a high-value purchase. Frequently if you are asking for a discount — senior, student, military.
The worst part about his argument is that the same example could have been presented factually to support his desired outcome. Who cares who you are if you want to fork over some cash to purchase some oranges. Go right ahead. If you want the military discount, we need to see some ID that proves you are were in the military. If you want to use Fred’s SNAP benefits to purchase those oranges, you need to prove you are Fred. ID is required to ensure honesty. To prevent fraud. And shouldn’t we demand honesty in our elections? Shouldn’t we try to eliminate fraudulent voting?
Now I think the argument is a bunch of rubbish – unless the dude with an ID printing machine is going to set up shop at local employers and print out free IDs on people’s lunch breaks, unless the ID office is going to be open 24×7 so people don’t have to take a day off work to renew their free ID, unless they’re going to cruise around rural America printing IDs on farms … requiring an ID seems more like disqualifying eager voters than ensuring the sanctity of the election process.

Today In Hyperbole

Overuse of hyperbole is an ineffective method of communicating. Our relationship with Russia is currently worse than, say, the Cuban Missile Crisis?!? Kids are not being run through fallout drills because they’re out of school for the summer, and duck-and-cover drills will resume in August?

Additionally “U.S. foolishness and stupidity” was, what, objecting to the occupation in the Crimea? Objecting to Russia supporting the gassing of Syrians? Oh, maybe imposing economic penalties on a bunch of what I assume to be old, rich, white dudes for Magnitsky’s death.

Fixing The Problems You Create

I’ve thought of Trump’s EO on child separation like a fireman torching buildings and “saving” people from the inferno. But his actions are more like throwing the person a dodgy life preserver he knows was recalled a few years back and calling himself a hero as soon as the person touches the thing. Anyone bother dragging the dude to safety? Anyone care that the preserver takes on water and sinks ten seconds later? Nope – I threw the thing, so I saved the guy.

The Obama admin took the “family detention center” approach to the issue. Flores v Lynch 212 F.Supp.3d 907 (2015) found that this violated the 1997 Flores Agreement *and* ordered the release of (I’m too lazy to look up how many) both detained children and their parents. Flores v. Lynch, 828 F.3d 898 (2016) determined that the *parents* did not have an affirmative right of release under the agreement … and what do you do if you are legally barred from holding the kids but *could* hold the parents. You either separate families or release both parents and children.

So Trump signs an EO saying to take measures consistent with the law to avoid separating families. What’s that fix? Either they do what they are doing today (and cite Flores v. Lynch as REQUIRING they separate families because the kids are not actually being detained but rather waiting for accommodations whilst their parents are detained during their transit of the legal system) or they go the family detention center route & pretend like they’re trying to convince some judge how this is materially different than when Obama did it.

Restaurants and Bakers

If you firmly believe a baker should be able to refuse to bake for same-sex weddings, how can you think a restaurant owner us wrong to eject the face of the Trump White House?

It’s not discrimination if you object to the specific actions of an individual – that’s an opinion. Were restaurants to wholesale refuse to provide service to anyone who works under the Executive Branch (hard to ascertain that subset of people, but pretend) that might be discrimination based on political affiliation. But if a baker’s free speech / religion rights permit refusing service to individuals who wish to marry someone of the same gender … how do free speech / religion rights not permit refusing service to Republicans as a whole?

The problem seems to be, again, people conflate the freedom from government enacted punishment with freedom from consequences. You have the right to assemble and spew whatever white supremacist rubbish you want. But you may find yourself fired. Or court marshaled. Or ostracized in your neighborhood.