All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

Category: Current Events (Page 1 of 8)

Stuff that’s pop-tastic, pop-o-licious, and currently playing on FoxNews

So Covid-19’s from a Chinese Lab, huh?

Ok, it’s possible. I’m open to anything. If it happened it happened. Certainly, it is in the realm of possibility. State actors have done lots of verifiably bad things throughout the centuries.

So, where’s your proof?

Do you have any evidence that’s not the circlejerk of right wing talk radio and crackpots quoting each other?

Do you have any actual proof?

Oh, you’ll tell us later? Just like Obama’s birth certificate?

I’ll wait.

Now you say it is classified and that you shouldn’t tell us, but trust you?

Why are you even talking about something so sensitive then?

Seriously, America; three-card monte is a sucker’s game. How come you have not learned your lesson yet?

The President of the US of A, Ladies and Gentlemen

I flipped to the daily shit show yesterday – you know, just to see what’s happening, and because I’ve got some extra time. Of course, I always see the news media’s commentary after the fact, but I really really have to see this stuff for myself.

Do they exaggerate, edit, select out of context sound bites, or generally misrepresent what the President is saying?

So I tune in to see for myself to see that, no, they do not. make. this. shit. up. This gem from yesterday:

“I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute,” he said. “One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?” he said. “So it’d be interesting to check that.”

He added: “I’m not a doctor. But I’m, like, a person that has a good you-know-what.”

What? At that moment I turned it off. I couldn’t. I couldn’t watch such a cringe-worthy moment. It’s like the comedy of Mr. Bean. It’s just so embarrassing, that it turns your innards in weird and unpleasant ways. I couldn’t. New record today. I made it 5 minutes.

Hey you know what else kills viruses in like a minute… or even less, Mr. Good you-know what?

Fire.

If only we could figure out a way to inject fire, or eat it or something. Surely that would kill the virus and SAVE US ALL!!!

Nobody Wants Radical Change

I like, Bernie. I think Bernie is pretty much absolutely correct in nearly everything he’s been promoting and fighting for for the past 50 years.

But he’s wrong about promoting radical change. Well, I mean, if he wants to get elected.

I think a lot of the current crop of Democrats have lost their way for the manner in which they address the people. People do not want to hear about how you’re going to change everything. They want to hear how you are going to make their lives better, easier.

Take healthcare, for example. Bernie wants Medicare for all. It is a noble aspiration. I don’t have a problem with it as an end goal, but to not talk about the intermediary steps is a mistake.

The level of push back from the insurance industry and Congress is going make it a non-starter. Look at how hard it was for Obama to get the ACA with a friendly Congress. It was a small change, just a way to make sure that the most vulnerable weren’t left behind, and the entire country went kicking and screaming like a toddler in a Walmart.

And Bernie thinks he can run on Medicare for all?

Idiot.

He should have run on the stories of those who fell through the cracks. He should have run on ways to amend, fix, extend the ACA to make sure that it was cheaper, more comprehensive, better.

Bernie should have acknowledged that the President doesn’t have the authority to make radical changes to the government. The President isn’t king. The President of the US works for the people. They respond to the people’s representatives in the Congress, and they do not wield unlimited power. He’s running like an inverse-Trump, same authoritarian style, different values.

Bernie is correct on so many things, but he got this thing very very wrong.

He needed to build bridges. He needed to work with others within the existing flawed system. He’s going nowhere if he’s going it alone.

So What Laws did the College Admissions Scandal Folks Break?

We’ve all been following the story of the college admissions bribery scheme. The reporters have continued to call it bribery and fraud without actually saying what laws were broken. It drives me nuts, because by themselves bribery and fraud or lying (except in specific contexts) are generally civil matters or not against the law at all. I can pass a waiter $20 to get a better table. Is that bribery? Yes, yes it is. Is it a crime? No.

There are other situations where bribery or lying are decidedly not crimes. Are they unethical? Sure, but criminal they are not. In many cases, things will get you fired. You violated a policy. You accepted a bribe for special treatment for a client. You get fired. The company may sue you for damages, but generally law enforcement doesn’t get involved.

So, I ask, what was the crime that Huffman and the rest committed? If people can donate directly to the school in a quid pro quo fashion to gain admittance for their children, how were these modest sums resulting in substantial federal charges for basically the same behavior?

Why are they throwing the book at these people?

Felicity Huffman, “pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud for paying $15,000 to have a proctor correct her eldest daughter’s SAT answers in 2017.

Because they used the mail.

If they had conducted these transactions in person only, they probably would have been okay, but because they mailed things and conducted the unethical behavior using the USPS, it’s now a Federal crime.

It really doesn’t seem fair to me honestly. Were they stupid? Yes. Are they terrible people? Yes. But these laws were meant to stop perpetrators of schemes to defraud retired Americans, stop multi-level marketing schemes, Nigerian prince, and other wholesale theft schemes. In my mind it’s a pretty big stretch to say these individuals deprived others of services. It’s an embarrassing episode, they should suffer repercussions, but I find the spectacle unnecessary and a waste of Federal resources.

9/11 Never Forget

It’s everywhere – all day long, “Never Forget.” I must admit it rubs me the wrong way and raises a question.

What are we never supposed to forget? Our anger? Who did it? The buildings? The lives lost? The endless war that followed? The thousands killed on that day and the millions more killed in the subsequent years? Is it a moment fixed in time that we are not supposed to forget, or is it the slow drag through time and in perpetuity of that thing called endless war?

Of all those things, I suppose the lives lost and the heroes rushing toward the disaster is the best “never forget” subject. I will remember the innocent people killed in a senseless attack, but we don’t really have to be so forceful with the “never forget” business. It sounds vengeful to me, which is why I suspect there’s an implicit “never forgive” there too.

If we need to heal and remembering is part of that healing, then I’m all for it, but I can’t help but think we are using the phrase to steel our resolve and appetite for endless war.

What I remember, and probably will never forget is how I felt in the days and weeks following the attack. Besides having my Reserve Army unit activated, I knew that we were going down the wrong path, that the US had thrown itself, foaming at the mouth, into a frenzy of bombs and troops and more young lives lost.

For what?

So we wouldn’t forget, stupid!

The Way Things Fail

Back in engineering school, we were taught all sorts of things, materials, statics, dynamics, math, factors of safety, design, even a little bit of public policy. We were taught to look for causes of failure, whether human (design, operation), fatigue, or even an act of nature. We walked through case studies of engineering disasters like detectives.

The takeaway: you can’t engineer away failure, and the cause of failure is rarely one thing.

In these case studies, there were usually small errors compounded by something unforeseen. Perhaps there was a bureaucratic process, a cost cutting measure, an edge case condition, and bam! you have achieved critical failure. How did it happen? Well, the pilot feel asleep. No that’s not it. The pilot fell asleep and there was a freak storm with tropical moisture at high altitude. No that’s not it, try again. The pilot fell asleep, there was a freak storm with high tropical moisture, which caused the air speed sensor to ice over and the junior pilot wasn’t able to deduce the problem with sufficient time to avert the tragedy of Air France Flight 447. We’ve got design flaws. We’ve got training flaws. We’ve got procedure flaws. We’ve got acts of God, all mixed up in a delicious failure soup.

The consistent commonality in these case studies was the fact that things go wrong. They will go wrong, and you should expect them to go wrong. See Murphy’s Law. Armed with this new knowledge, engineers must now ask themselves how they want fail. The engineer of the product or solution, must consider the modes of failure, how a thing may fail. It seems strange to plan for failure, doesn’t it? But you must, because you need to be able to control whether it will it fail gracefully or blow up in your face?

Take the design of cars, for example. In the mid 20th century, cars were built as steel behemoths. No seat belts. Limited crumple zones. No air bags. We built cars, and we expected them to be rigid and sturdy. Engineers, unfortunately, underrepresented the driver and passenger systems, and the systems of other cars and drivers in their designs. What happens to a car when comes into contact with another? Engineers should have taken a holistic approach to the automobile, considering it as part of a complex and unpredictable system. They should have considered that cars were going to crash and crash badly. Just because a car’s intended mode of operation is not impacting other cars, doesn’t mean you don’t design for it.

The result in 1972 was almost 55,000 traffic fatalities; 55,000 people dead because cars were under engineered for failure modes.

Fast forward to mass shootings in these recent years. “It’s mental illness!” “It’s family values!” “It’s right-wing extreme ideologies!” “It’s video games! It’s toxic masculinity!”

Many of the mass shootings touch on these characteristics, and it would be easy to blame one thing. Maybe all of them and things we hadn’t considered are to blame for the desperate and aberrant outcomes we have witnessed recently. You are not wrong, but you’re hand waving. Remember our friend Murphy? “But but, cars aren’t supposed to crash! The driver was drunk. The driver was inattentive, going too fast. The road was poorly designed. The car was unsafe.” All of those things may be true, and yet still you’re addressing the accident as preventable instead of probable. American drivers experience on average one accident per every 165,000 miles driven. It’s probable that a driver will experience one or more accidents in their lifetimes. We can work to mitigate risk factors, but like an ashtray in an airplane lavatory, we have to assume some people are going to do the wrong thing.

But back to mass shooters – Maybe we have areas of sickness in our society. Certain facets of personal liberty and individualism create easy targets of isolated individuals looking to belong to something.

Whatever it is, I ask the following question: If you can’t stop car accidents from happening, shouldn’t you still look to control how they happen?

If mental illness, distressed individuals, violent video games, social isolation, and childhood abuse can lead to desperate acts, don’t you want to control how they happen?

We know weapons are not the cause of these terrible tragedies, but they do increase the severity of the failure. When things go wrong, there are no crumple zones. There is no air bag. There is no seat belt. There is only an AR-15 style weapon with an extended magazine.

El Paso Shooting

From his manifesto:

“Even if other non-immigrant targets would have a greater impact, I can’t bring myself to kill my fellow Americans.” The manifesto writer said he supported the Christchurch shooting citing the “Great Replacement” anti-immigration theory postured there. The writer says that his hatred of immigrants predates Trump so “don’t blame” the president.

Would this guy really have had to disavow Trump’s influence if their values didn’t coincide?

Hey guys, I thought of violence against immigrants first, so don’t give credit to Trump [even though we’re pretty much in lockstep with what we’d like to achieve, an America devoid of brown people].

Absolves Trump? I think it indicts him as morally complicit.

One of these things is not like the others

Trump Tweet: “So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!”

Later in a round table discussion on the economy, Trump called Notre Dame “one of the great treasures of the world,” and said it “looks like it’s burning to the ground.”

Less than a month ago, 3 historically black churches in Louisiana were torched by a white nationalist terrorist, the 21 year old son of a local sheriff.

*crickets*

Trump initially expressed sorrow and solidarity for the victims of the massacre at a mosque in New Zealand. Recounting a conversation she held with him, New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern said, “He asked what support the U.S. could provide. My message was sympathy and love for all Muslim communities.”

*crickets*

Stop Treating Politicians Like Celebrities

Biden calls Pence a “decent guy.” The internet implodes. He’s not a decent guy, it says, he’s anti-LGBT, he’s a misogynist, he supports Trump’s agenda. BAN HIM! CENSURE HIM! And the pitch forks come out.

As it’s not an election year, you can’t really do any of those things. Pence is wrong, to be sure, but we the people as represented in the legislature are obligated to work with him and the current administration. We cannot simply disappear him ala R. Kelly or Kevin Spacey or any other celebrity who says or does the wrong thing. Haven’t you learned that by now?

We need to stop treating politicians like celebrities, because it leads us to dysfunction. They are elected representatives with millions of constituents, put there lawfully by a majority of the electorate (* well in most cases, but bear with me here for the sake of argument). We cannot just turn our backs on them, tune them out, or stop working with them, because barring some sort of impeachable offense (and most of the time even that’s not enough), we are stuck for better or for worse.

To call them decent, or to speak positively about them in the places where our values may coincide leads us to find consensus, to productivity, and to progress. Turning our backs, holding our breath until our faces turn blue, and stomping our feet like petulant children is not how a representative democracy works. Well, maybe it does, what do I know.

The old adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” holds true here, I think. And rather than as a nicety, concocted in the time of the Ward and June Cleaver status quo, it is a rather useful tool for not engaging in pointless battles. I think the old guard in Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden get this, but perhaps some of the newcomers may not. They were raised on the quickening pace of the rise and fall of celebrities and the power of the twitter take down. Politicians are not celebrities and I think they will learn soon enough that twitter rage isn’t enough to get what you want.

Somebody said it better, I think. “Uuuhhh, don’t boo. Vote!”

Walls Don’t Actually Work

Walls don’t actually work was the first lesson in my Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) class at my university many many years ago. I don’t remember why it was the first lesson, perhaps it was an easy to explain concept, disabusing us of poorly conceived defensive strategies, or trying to set a paradigm for future problem solving based not on defensive but rather offensive strategies. Gen. Patton’s pithy “Go forward” expresses the foundation of US Military strategy and tactics. In any case, our instructor launched into a brief and simplified explanation of why the Maginot Line was not an effective war strategy despite its costly and well engineered construction.

Simply put, undefended or underdefended obstacles aren’t effective. Walls aren’t substitutes for boots on the ground. The Marginot Line was insufficiently defended and provided a false sense of security. Although part of its purpose was to redirect any attacking forces, the mindset that a passive barrier could be effective undermined the goals and objectives of actually defeating the enemy. In short, a wall or obstacle whether of concrete, steel, mines, barbed wire, or whatever without an effective operational plan isn’t going to solve your problem.

You can slow down or redirect the advance of your opposition with obstacles, but you ain’t gonna stop them.

This was the point that was hammered home over and over again throughout my military education. You have to have a plan to win, and you must advance. Use obstacles to redirect your opposition and as part of your overall offensive plan, but don’t think they by themselves will stop the enemy or win you the day.

If you believe that a wall built along 2000 miles of undefended border with Mexico is sufficient to stop immigrants from crossing, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell  you. I’ll take it further; if you think it makes economic sense to first build a wall then place the military or Homeland Security along the entire border to stop a few thousand people who want to come work, something in the basic educational process has failed.

That’s why nobody wants the wall. As it’s being sold, it’s an expensive proposition that will do nothing. Exactly nothing. It would be nothing more than miles and miles of undefended ineffective wall no matter how big, no matter how tall, no matter how thick. If it were to be properly implemented with appropriate levels of vigilance, it’s now an even more expensive solution to a problem that doesn’t actually exist in the first place.

If Capt. Bone Spurs had spent any time in the military perhaps he would have learned this.

« Older posts

© 2020 El Gringoqueño

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑