Category: Politics

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.

No hidden message

The first lady’s staff says there was no hidden message to the “I really don’t care. Do u?” jacket Trump wore whilst embarking for Texas to see the children separated from their parents and housed in former WalMart stores and tent cities. Apart from the literal “yeah, I’ll concede the message wasn’t hidden as it was emblazoned in large letters across the back of the jacket”, I assume the spokesperson meant there was no meaning to the message quite visibly displayed. That is a TERRIBLE defense. The claim is a staggering level of incompetent ignorance – for both the first lady and her staff – meant no one considered the sartorial choices made for the visit.

Flood heels I could accept — I used to wear high heeled shoes all.the.bloody.time! Your calf muscle adapts, after years of this mistreatment, and not wearing heels is uncomfortable. Walking on your feet stretches the calf muscle. Now I didn’t wear 5″ stilettos, so I can only imagine the muscle strain one might induce with such contraptions. Honestly the glowing white sneakers bothered me more — blazing white shoes don’t scream “I am going to slog through some mud here”.

But in electing to wear this jacket, and attributing no meaning to the message literally printed on the thing, they claim that a former model — someone whose profession is cultivating a “look” for profit — does not consider the WORDS that appear on her clothing?! That a political staff — whose profession is cultivating an “image” for profit — do not consider the WORDS that appear on the politician’s clothing?!

The truth is there wasn’t a hidden message, nor was the plainly visible message the message. But there was intent to wearing the jacket — trolling liberals.  Her husband’s method of garnering popularity. “OMG, look at all these crazy liberals freaking out that the First Lady doesn’t care about suffering children! What a bunch of crazy idiots!”. And it works – I’m sure there are entire threads about how wacky libtards are freaking out about a jacket. Because he isn’t president of slightly less than half of the voters who agree with his policy positions, or trust him, or think he’s going to do a good job. He’s president of people who want him to be angry at the people which whom they are angry. He’s president of the 4chan set who want to upset people just to prove people are too sensitive.

Crystal Balls

Because no one could foresee tragedy when dumping thousands of young kids in tents across a part of the country that gets more than a little warm. The forecast for Fort Bliss (oh, the irony!) on Saturday is 105 degrees Farenheit.

I’ll concede that’s cherry picked data – today’s high is 99, tomorrow it’s 100. Thurs 101, Fri 104, and Sun – Tue are 101. But I’m not sure “it wasn’t 105 F *every* day” is going to be a lot of comfort to kids suffering from heat stroke in some overcrowded tent.

But he MADE me do it

I wondered if this was the logic when he first started in about how it was the Democrat’s that were forcing the separation. Not that the Dem’s passed some laws forcing kids to be separated from parents but that the Dem’s refusal to just go along with asinine policies that don’t even do much to reduce illegal entries mean the trump administration “has” to do all of this terrible stuff. Good to see the master negotiator at work here. 

Curious, too, that *immigration* laws are going to deter ‘criminals’ whereas gun laws won’t. I’d almost give on immigration policies for the analogous gun control policy: a wall (longer waiting periods), merit based immigration (more background checks and reasons for denying ownership), ending lottery/chain (no gun or ownership is grandfathered)

 

Better than a dog kennel

Looks like reporters have been allowed in to the detention facilities for kids separated from their families for immigration violations —  and some Twitter commentary from one of the NBC correspondents
 
Like the Russian sanctions that were enacted exceptionally slowly (allowing targets ample time to transfer assets around to minimize impact), it’s been over a week since Senator Merkley attempted to visit. That’s a lot of time to make the place look nice. And beyond the crazy murals (pretty sure the one on Twitter says “sometimes, in losing a battle, you find a new way to win the war” which … just doesn’t seem like a sentiment you want to convey to *kids ripped from their families and dumped into prison-like detainment facilities*), reporters think ‘prison’ when they tour the place. A step up from “dog kennel”, I guess, but remember these are the photos *approved* for release by HHS!
 
This report makes the recent initiative to house the kids in tent camps (on military bases & possibly other federal properties) more frightening. The current centers are licensed and operated by people who at least theoretically have some experience dealing with kids. Those tent camps – one of the things that makes them a quick solution is Trump & co don’t want to require licensed operators. What reporters see is the cleaned up version of what licensed professionals managed to do with an influx of kids. What do you think some random grifter looking to make a few bucks off the feds will manage? The whole thing reminds me of the ‘assembly centers’ for Japanese internment back in the 1940’s (WW2).
 
And if you’re not familiar with Japanese interment — started with Executive Order 9066 and more or less ended with a Supreme Court ruling, Endo v. United States (1944) (a ruling terrifying in and of itself — like the recent bigot baker case where the Court skips over the Constitutionality of the actual law to focus on comments made during the adjudicating process, the Endo case did not address the propriety of the underlying action — that is, they didn’t say the government was wrong to exclude people of a specific ancestry from parts of the country {an act which Korematsu v. United States (1944) upheld} but rather that the country could not continue to detain individuals who had been conceded to be loyal to the US). Which is all a very long way of saying we’ve been down this path before. It was repugnant to take American citizens and throw them into temporary encampments to “help” them relocate after they were excluded from the area where their home happened to be. The implementation ensured suffering — food shortages, overcrowded conditions, isolation from family.
 
A few years ago, EO 9066 was displayed next to Reagan’s act which officially acknowledged just how shitty the EO was and officially apologized for the evacuation, relocation, and internment undertaken in the EO. The juxtaposition of the two documents was a powerful reminder, in post-9/11 America, that actions which seem justified by ensuring the nation’s security are egregious violations of human rights and civil liberties.

On Denuclearization

They value tribalism over actual plans with specifics, objective reality, or independent thought too. The logic currently being peddled seems to be that any diplomatic overture is vastly better than nuclear holocaust. Now I’m not one to make the argument that there’s a scenario where nuclear annihilation is preferable but it’s disingenuous to call this development a stunning success.

Don’t forget that there was progress in the late 90’s — until GW took over and sought to end the Agreed Framework. The US cut back diplomatic contacts in 2001 while the new administration’s policy was under review. By 2002, NK was asking IAEA inspectors to leave. In 2005, an agreement that might have allowed IAEA inspection was considered progress. Maybe GW was justified in distrusting NK’s concessions (or *not* trusting NK with light-water reactors) — although NK may have violated more the ‘spirit’ of the agreement than the actual substance. But, historically speaking, we’ve been lowering the bar for NK for over a decade. We’re no longer seeking access for IAEA inspectors, now we’re almost looking for agreement that nuclear weapons are a heap-o bad news.

Ignoring decades of history in Korea, Trump was still complicit in the brinkmanship – taunting someone into nuking you then celebrating your negotiating skills when tensions are reduced is a bit like “hero fireman” setting blazes and then saving people from the inferno. And somehow it’s a major bonus that Trump didn’t give un-freeze 150 billion in Iran’s assets for NK? (Republican marketing is winning in the Iran discussion, and Obama unfreezing billions in Iranian assets has been conflated with the US government forking over billions of taxpayer dollars … but what that has to do with North Korea I cannot imagine)

Destroying missile engine testing sites after you’ve got one that works? Not such a concession. Hell, promising not to test any more nukes isn’t a significant concession – once you’ve got the thing working, tests become a way of reminding everyone you’ve got the bloody things. The US has been adhering to terms of the CTBT since, what, 1996. Doesn’t mean we’ve denuclearized. Last year, NK detonated a 200+ kiloton bomb and launched the Hwasong-15 missile which gives them theoretical delivery to the US. Sure they might need more testing to get a functional re-entry vehicle. Worst case, launch with an untested re-entry vehicle. And their current design isn’t as apt to be obliterated on re-entry — it merely lacks accuracy. Well, as someone who lives in the “oops, we missed” zone for a few high probability targets … low accuracy nuclear strikes are still REALLY REALLY BAD.

The WSJ report a year and a half ago about Trump conceiving a brilliant strategy for dealing with NK … after Trump spoke with Putin. The strategy? Cease joint military exercises with SK. Because damaging US / SK relations doesn’t help Putin in any way? For a guy who pulled out of the Paris Accords ostensibly because it was such a bad deal for the US (which, I guess, has plans to jettison everyone with more than nine hundred thirty seven million dollars in net worth to some secret space colony where they’ll be able to fly around extracting resources from planets throughout the solar system), this move hardly seems in line with the “America First” doctrine. Stopping the ‘war games’ is something NK wanted – they offered to stop nuclear testing back in 2015 if we stopped the military exercises. And it’s only *saving* money if you don’t spend it elsewhere. Anyone think the US military budget will decrease by a few mill if we can “save” that by avoiding US/SK joint military exercises?

So we’ve seen destruction at some missile and nuclear test facilities (journalists were invited to watch the destruction at Punggye-ri. Journalists and IAEA reps watched the explosion at Yongbyon in 2008 – the destruction of a cooling tower. After which it was discovered that NK was building a new facility to continue production of fissionable material. And they used another method to cool the reactor at Yongbyon after the cooling tower was destroyed. So destruction at a facility isn’t {a} new or {b} terribly meaningful), agreed to suspend military exercises, and gained NK’s commitment to complete denuclearization. Sounds good on it’s face, once you add complete denuclearization in there.

But there *is* history in the relationship with North Korea. Objectively – “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” is what NK was pushing for as it involves eliminating American military presence on the peninsula too. It’s not the same as unilateral denuclearization. And if they want to consider delivery capabilities – complete denuclearization means eliminating all American nukes. Not like anyone included a three page appendix detailing what “complete denuclearization of the Korean Penninsula” means to both parties. There’s also the larger context of American military policy — even if we completely withdraw troops from the Korean peninsula, how does Trump’s desire to expand America’s nuclear capacity reassure, well, anyone?

But SCIENCE!

Trump’s press conference in Singapore where he tells us about the scientific fifteen year time period it takes to denuclearize — WTF? I’ve got all the respect in the world for PoliSci studies, but it’s not *scientifically* required that “you have to wait certain periods of time, and a lot of things happen”. Unless we’re talking about complete decay of the fissionable material – in which case fifteen years is WAAAAAY short. The half-life of U-235 is like 700 million years.

Blending it down to reactor-grade, though – NNSA contracts have down-blended well over a tonne of HEU a year. The problem is 1 tonne of HEU becomes 16 tonnes of LEU. And how many reactors, submarines, and space vehicles do we need to fuel? Doubtful NK’s got facilities for down-blending weapon-grade material, but “de-enrich my stuff at your facility for free and I won’t have nukes” would be a really strong negotiating position — and as much as Trump may decry billions Clinton spent to denuclearize NK … it would be billions well spent if there were no enriched material in the country. And NK has maybe half a tonne of HEU – the logistics of shipping the shit would take longer than down-blending it.

But we’ve got a president looking at what may be a reasonable political estimate of how long it would take the country to denuclearize and calling it a scientific requirement. Which is ironic given the number of *actual* scientific things the administration feels free to ignore.

Fake Wars!

Last week in fake history: just days before the Bowling Green Massacre, Canada invaded Washington DC and razed our federal buildings.

Historical ignorance (and sure it’s scary that Trump is both so ignorant of history AND unwilling to accept counsel), aside — so what if Canada *did* burn down the White House in 1814. Say Canada *were* a country aligned with England, and they participated in the war of 1812 by invading the US and burning DC. How does that make Canada a national security threat TODAY?

Bigoted Bakers

The Supreme Court decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case clarifies exactly nothing — maybe the ruling would have stood if the review had not disparaged the baker’s religious beliefs. I’m not sure I’d want a baker who hates me (or something I do) to bake me a cake — too many ways to accidentially ruin a cake. Same with the photographer — why risk accidental overexposure or data loss destroying your wedding photos?

But I can see being offended when someone refuses you service based on your sexual orientation (or religion, or ethnicity, or …). I had a whole host of medical problems — eventually learned that my body does not process sugars/carbohydrates well and simply limiting sugars and simple carbohydrates eliminated most of these problems. But a decade before that discovery, the only thing that sorted amenorrhea and fibromyalgia-like symptoms was hormonal birth control pills. My insurance copay was the same amount regardless of where I purchased medication, so I used a small, privately owned pharmacy in a boutique part of town. Until my state passed a law that permitted pharmacists to refuse to distribute anything that contravened their religious beliefs. Shortly thereafter, I got lectured about my sinful promiscuity instead of picking up my prescription. I’m sure there was some way to get the pills from that pharmacy, but frankly I was insulted and more than a little embarrassed. Not that it was the least bit of their business, but I was absolutely celibate. Just didn’t enjoy being chronically exhausted and in pain. Wasn’t worth arguing about, I transferred my prescription to a chain that wasn’t staffed by people who want to pass judgement on my medical prescriptions.

Thinking back to that embarrassment, I hope these anti-discrimination laws get tested by a case where the local officials don’t editorialize — just state the action violates the law and be done with it.