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

Category: Politics (Page 1 of 4)

Whatever politics, Puerto Rican, American. I might praise, but if you know politics, I’m probably more apt to complain. Beware!

Swing State Government Breakdowns

Just want to leave this here for my own education:

Pennsylvania’s political breakdown goes like this. Governor is a Democrat. State assembly is Republican. Secretary of State is an unelected position appointed by governor (so Democrat).

Arizona’s governor is a Republican. Their state assembly is Republican. Their Secretary of State is an elected position and is a Democrat.

Georgia’s governor is a Republican. Their state assembly is Republican. Their Secretary of State is a Republican.

I would like to know how the all powerful Democrats mustered the ability to affect the outcomes of these elections fraudulently, when every single state legislature is controlled firmly by Republicans and 2/3 of the executives are Republican.

Well, obviously it’s a rhetorical question, because it’s impossible, and if you still cling to the idea that the election was fraudulent, congratulations, you’ve successfully boarded the train to crazytown.

Other Things I Have Learned In Puerto Rico

During the 2000s, Laura and I were election functionaries. We verified the identities of the voters on the rolls, we observed the rule of law concerning the casting of ballots and prohibited electioneering (political slogans and merchandise within a certain distance of the polling place). Each of us inspected and signed the blank ballots for accountability (so that we know how many ballots there were and that some “extra” ballots don’t just show up someplace), helped people with technical problems, and secured the ballots before, during and after the election. We were unable to leave the voting room (except bathroom breaks). Lunch was provided for us. We then counted the ballots and reported the final tally to the election commission.

This was all done on paper, hand counting, hand reporting, signatures, observed by poll workers representing the three major parties here. There were times I fought for the intended will of a voter even when it didn’t agree with my party. A stray mark from a frail hand no where near a candidate should not invalidate an obvious selection. The other poll workers were equally committed to a fair and impartial outcome.

Once the final numbers are reported, the original ballots are sealed in a briefcase and affixed with the final tally. We are then able to watch the precincts report the count and observe ours entered in the total.

You would think, listening to Donald Trump, that elections are a new thing, that hell, trying to steal an election is a new thing, as if no one has ever thought of that. Elections have been going on in one form or another for thousands of years. We have developed very robust chains of trust based on transparency, redundancy, checks and double checks.

I have personally observed and participated in the process as a poll worker, and I can confirm that there is no possible way that there could be fraud in an election.

If someone fudged the vote tally reports, we would know it, because we know what we counted. Votes are not tracked by individuals (of course), but they are tracked by polling place or by precinct or district.

Could an individual with a hidden pen change votes or invalidate them surreptitiously? Yes, it’s possible, but more than likely that person would be caught, and at most they wouldn’t be able to affect more than a few 10s of votes. It could never arrive to the levels required to change the outcome.

I walked away from each election I participated in confident in the outcome, even when it didn’t go my way. I was assured that the process worked and that the will of the people was being heard.

So stop. Please stop. There is no fraud. There could be no fraud. Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States. Stop trying to undermine the will of the people and our democratic system.

The Only Explanation that Makes Sense

Look, Jim, you’re going about this all wrong. We know Donald Trump isn’t a great person. We know he’s intemperate. We know he’s a racist. We know he’s not competent. He’s no diplomat. He’s not empathetic.

None of that matters to us. What we want is someone who is going to tear down the federal government, globalism, and international diplomacy. We don’t give a flying fuck about other countries. Why would we? We don’t want to be beholden to their demands, their values. That’s why our ancestors came here, to get the fuck away from them.

We don’t give a flying fuck about federal agencies, either. They are uninvited guests. They bring nothing but sanctimonious regulations written in big cities among elite idiots that don’t care one whit of what our lives are like.

Leave. Us. Alone.

We don’t give a flying fuck about China. Why are we giving them business, when all they want to do is undermine us? Joe Biden and the rest of those globalists said for years it would be better, that we would have more prosperity, if we shipped manufacturing abroad. How did that turn out, Joe?

We don’t want any more Washington machinations, international gamesmanship, games of Risk involving our country where, we the people, are the pawns. We don’t want any of it. We like our states just fine, and we expect that other states will do what they like.

You do you, we say.

We think California is crazy, but fuck if we care what they do, as long as they don’t shove their shit down our throats.

Who is the best person to pull all this off? A uniter? A diplomat? Someone with 47 years of public service?

Pfft, you’ve got to be kidding.

We want that fucking federal level chess board to be flipped over and leave us the fuck alone to do what we want to do.

Donald Trump is the kind of bull in a china shop we need to tear it all down so the Federal government can get out of our lives after nearly 300 years of encroachment.

Liberals, your mistake is thinking we want Donald Trump to lead us, when in fact we have selected him solely for his incompetence and lack of reverence for tradition and norms.

The more nonsense and chaos he tweets, the better we feel.

A Conversation I Have Had

“Europe? What does Europe have? We have the best of everything. I wouldn’t change America for Europe. They have stupid policies – socialist idiots who are driving themselves into poverty with free stuff.”

After a bit, the talk turns to immigration.

“We should be able to police our borders. Just try to get into a European country. Remember how hard it was for you to get a work visa in Spain? And you had skills. They had policies that chose their own people first. We should be able to do the same. We’re idiots for letting all these immigrants into the country.”

“I thought Europeans didn’t have any policies you admired”

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!”

Atlas Is a Myth

This is a scene from the book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I have taken the liberty of inserting myself into it in order to argue with Francisco d’Anconia’s stupidity. I’m not sure yet if he’s meant to be an ironic character or what, but whatever. In the scene I am taller, more eloquent, and better looking than in real life. Hah! James Taggart is the brother of the main female protagonist Dagny Taggart, and a jealous moron. Not only does he seem to be stupid, but tries to sabotage his sister at every turn. He’s also a strawman for what Ayn Rand seems to think is the best of the socialist idealist. Francisco d’Anconia is from an Argentinian mining family and is a former lover of Dagny. In this scene he has returned from a disastrous mining venture in Mexico where the entirety of his and the Taggart’s operations have been seized by the state. We currently find James and Francisco mingling at a party thrown by the wife of another industrialist.

James Taggart had approached the group and was waiting to be noticed.

“Hello, Francisco.”

“Good evening, James.”

“What a wonderful coincidence, seeing you here! I’ve been very anxious to speak to you.”

“That’s new. You haven’t always been.”

“Now you’re joking, just like in the old days.” Taggart was moving slowly, as if casually, away from the group, hoping to draw Francisco after him. “You know that there’s not a person in this room who wouldn’t love to talk to you.”

“Really? I’d be inclined to suspect the opposite.” Francisco had followed obediently, but stopped within hearing distance of the others.

“I have tried in every possible way to get in touch with you,” said Taggart, “but . . . but circumstances didn’t permit me to succeed.”

“Are you trying to hide from me the fact that I refused to see you?”

“Well . . . that is … I mean, why did you refuse?”

“I couldn’t imagine what you wanted to speak to me about.”

“The San Sebastián Mines, of course!” Taggart’s voice rose a little.

“Why, what about them?”

One of the group edged closer to James and Francisco, drawn by Taggart’s rising agitation. He was tall and heavy and barrel chested. In contrast to the angular high cheekbones of the lot of them, his face was smooth, rounded, and punctuated by an ample chin. He looked more at home bailing hay than holding a drink.

“Pardon me,” he smiled reaching his hand out. “I couldn’t help but overhear this talk of the mines. Do go on, and pay no attention to me. Pretend I am but a fly on the wall. We can all hear you anyway, but I’d prefer to just be up front about it.”

James shot him a sideways glance and reluctantly returned the handshake. Francisco straightened up to match the height of the interloper, and greeted him. “Pleased to meet your acquaintance. Didn’t catch you name.”

“Oh, my name is unimportant. Fly on the wall an’ all that. I must hear about these mines.”

Taggart turned himself to Francisco giving the interloper his back the best he could. “But . . . Now, look, Francisco, this is serious. It’s a disaster, an unprecedented disaster—and nobody can make any sense out of it. I don’t know what to think. I don’t understand it at all. I have a right to know.”

“A right? Aren’t you being old-fashioned, James? But what is it you want to know?”

“Well, first of all, that nationalization—what are you going to do about it?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?!”

The interloper smiled and sipped his drink, his eyes twinkling.

“But surely you don’t want me to do anything about it. My mines and your railroad were seized by the will of the people. You wouldn’t want me to oppose the will of the people, would you?”

“Francisco, this is not a laughing matter!”

“I never thought it was.”

“I’m entitled to an explanation! You owe your stockholders an account of the whole disgraceful affair! Why did you pick a worthless mine? Why did you waste all those millions? What sort of rotten swindle was it?”

Francisco stood looking at him in polite astonishment. “Why, James,” he said, “I thought you would approve of it.”

“Approve?!”

The interloper spat his drink, unable to contain his laughter. “Sorry about that,” he said wiping liquid from his lips. “I didn’t get any on you, Mr. Taggart, did I?”

“No.”

“Sorry, I know I said I was going to be a fly on the wall, but I really must know, Francisco. Who would approve of a worthless mine? Comeon, my man, you mustn’t play so, toying with James like that. He’s asked a valid question, and he deserves an earnest response.”

Francisco smirked. So it was to be two on one, eh? He was the great Francisco d‘Anconia. This should get good.

“I thought you would consider the San Sebastián Mines as the practical realization of an ideal of the highest moral order. Remembering that you and I have disagreed so often in the past, I thought you would be gratified to see me acting in accordance with your principles.”

“What are you talking about?”

Francisco shook his head regretfully. “I don’t know why you should call my behavior rotten. I thought you would recognize it as an honest effort to practice what the whole world is preaching. Doesn’t everyone believe that it is evil to be selfish? I was totally selfless in regard to the San Sebastian project. Isn’t it evil to pursue a personal interest? I had no personal interest in it whatever. Isn’t it evil to work for profit? I did not work for profit—I took a loss. Doesn’t everyone agree that the purpose and justification of an industrial enterprise are not production, but the livelihood of its employees? The San Sebastián Mines were the most eminently successful venture in industrial history: they produced no copper, but they provided a livelihood for thousands of men who could not have achieved, in a lifetime, the equivalent of what they got for one day’s work, which they could not do.

Isn’t it generally agreed that an owner is a parasite and an exploiter, that it is the employees who do all the work and make the product possible? I did not exploit anyone. I did not burden the San Sebastián Mines with my useless presence; I left them in the hands of the men who count. I did not pass judgment on the value of that property. I turned it over to a mining specialist. He was not a very good specialist, but he needed the job very badly. Isn’t it generally conceded that when you hire a man for a job, it is his need that counts, not his ability? Doesn’t everyone believe that in order to get the goods, all you have to do is need them? I have carried out every moral precept of our age. I expected gratitude and a citation of honor. I do not understand why I am being damned.”

The interloper’s belly laugh filled the room. So loud, it was, that all turned to him. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” he said wiping a tear from his eye, “I sometimes forget myself. Francisco, you can’t possibly believe all that vomit that just came out of your mouth? Tell me, man, is your hyperbole meant to be ironic? If it is, bravo for painting the most deliciously ridiculous portrait of a Socialist that I have ever seen. If not, then -” and he chuckled loudly, “then may God have mercy on your soul.”

Francisco, turned toward the man, nudging Taggart from orbit. “Pray tell, sir, what do you mean? I was being honest. Sincere.”

“Oh. Well then. Then you have taken careful pains to depict your adversary’s argument in the worst possible light, haven’t you, Señor d‘Anconia? Perhaps Taggart is a charity case to your wit. I mean, we all know it’s his sister that’s the smart one in the family, but you can’t possibly ascribe to him and his ilk such a dreadfully idiotic and logically fallacious position. No offense, Mr. Taggart,” he said touching his shoulder.

If James Taggart had any inclination that the stranger would have been a sympathetic associate in the face of Francisco, that pretense had been destroyed.

In the silence of those who had listened, the sole comment was the shrill, sudden giggle of Betty Pope: she had understood nothing, but she saw the look of helpless fury on James Taggart’s face.

People were looking at Taggart, expecting an answer. They were indifferent to the issue, they were merely amused by the spectacle of someone’s embarrassment. Taggart achieved a patronizing smile and walked away.

“Hah!” bellowed the stranger. “I’ll give you your answer, Francisco. It’s down to you. And it is down to me. Let me first help you understand why your mines failed, my man. They failed because you didn’t give a lick of care to them or the workers, for the geological survey, for the operations, and for the investment. How could you even make such a statement as to having given to them all livelihoods? You and I both know that is ridiculous. It’s the kind of point that a college freshman makes after his first semester of microeconomics. Take for example the case of a state-mandated minimum wage – ”

“Yes, let’s.” said Francisco.

“Yes, minimum wage. So one would say in a free society that labor should seek its own value and that business should be free to pay for it what the market will bear. In our society we have established a minimum that one should be able to accept and what one should be able to pay. The buffoon, the ignorant, the ill-educated might ask, where does it all end? If such and such quantity is good, why not make the minimum a thousand dollars an hour or a million? Where will it end? You would say that it would end with the rumination of society, where everybody is converted into a moocher or a looter. You have educated us, Señor d‘Anconia, and thank you for it. Thank you for revealing our silly suppositions and saving us from ourselves.

“Let me give you a better scenario. Let me give some respect to the argument and introduce a key concept that seems to have gone missing in the mix.”

“And what would that be?”

“Sustainability, my friend. Sustainability. Your little educative adventure in San Sebastián was an exercise in useless motion, lots of sound and fury but signifying nothing. Keep the same altruism. Keep the same tenants of providing good jobs. Keep the same principles of happy well paid workers, but put a dash of sustainability into the batter. You’ve got to find some copper, don’t you? Without producing anything in the mine, you may as well have put your money in a pile and lit it on fire. You benefited no one, save  your immense ego.

“You cannot simply take the idea that an individual should be free to do exactly what he wants in the way he wants to do it and extend it to all things in all ways. If a drink of water is good for you, an ocean dumped upon your head must be better. Moderation, my man, moderation. You can’t simply take a little of something and double it, thinking that it will be all the better. Is the needle moving too far into government control? Perhaps. But that’s a discussion that good people can have. If government meddles too much perhaps it distorts markets, creating unintended outcomes. If the government meddles too little, the greedy will exploit – well everything and they too will distort the market. You know this is true, because history has shown it, or was the French Revolution a response to nothing? Were the kings and royals the only true makers? They had palaces and riches while the third estate had their famine and filth. Did they deserve it? Is the vast majority of humanity simply defective in some way, Señor d‘Anconia? Do they deserve the lot they were born into?

“Let me ask you a question. How much of what you have did you start with? You might have doubled it, because you’re a hard worker, impassioned, smart, driven – but there’s this trouble of being born on third base and believing you’ve hit a triple. You grew up with the best schools, global travel, opportunities for leisure, learning, all of it with the safety net of your family’s fortune and reputation.

“Are not those who toil in your mines and ventures worthy of human dignity, to not simply be some sort of social experiment for you to toy with? Should they have had the schools that you had? Should they have had the same opportunities that you’ve had? Are you inherently superior? Do you cry for their children whom you have crushed with your useless operation?

“Did you deserve those things you were born into, Francisco? Even if you were to tear it all asunder, as you seem to be doing, I am convinced that you could rebuild even from zero, because no one can take away your inheritance of self – your mind as it was expanded, nurtured, tested, and filled.” The stranger paused. Francisco had gone quiet, chewing his lip and looking restless.

“I have taken too much of your time, I’m afraid. Don’t worry, Francisco, I’ll leave you with one final thought. If you had been born to nothing, having only inherited the poverty of your father, and your father’s father, do you think you would be where you are today? You may be, but would it be likely? Today, with your immense wealth you would attempt to throw off the shackles of oppression by the looters and the moochers, but is not poverty itself the greatest ball and chain?” The stranger took a breath, downed his drink and placed the empty glass upon a passing tray. “Be better, Francisco. You must be better. I am reminded of an African proverb – if you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go with others. Do you want to go far, Francisco?”

His Domain is Chaos

I am terribly sorry that these entries continue to highlight our dear leader, President Trump. Uggh, even just typing those words gives me shudders. But whatever. It is what it is. I’m still trying to process how it came to be, how this bombastic spaz wormed his way into the White House. How did he pull the wool over so many eyes? How come so many didn’t see him for what he was?

And then it hit me. I think his domain is chaos. He thrives in chaos, where his certainty is an asset. Push and bully and throw down and insult and nickname and pick at insecurities and non-sequitur and lies and half truths and loudness and brashness. Rinse, lather, and repeat.

Trump’s skill seems to derive directly from his creation of chaos.

When I was a young engineer, I worked in construction management in Boston and California. In both places it was both super white and super racist, filled with big trash talking egos that seemed to not have the good of the project in their hearts. It was all about ego and what you could pull over on the other guy. Look for loop holes in the contract, lay blame for missed deadlines and failures at the feet of others, be aggressive, grandstand, bully, don’t back down. So many meetings ended in boisterous yelling matches, with the side wink in the car on the way back to the office. It was all an act and sickening in so many ways. I was an earnest engineer trying to follow the letter of the law, but I learned quickly that the letter was just the starting point. This is how we do things, Jimbo.

It makes sense to me that Trump’s biggest gun on his deck is his teams of lawyers. When what is written is only your starting point, your legal team is there to mash it up, twist it to your favor. Clinton’s famously small potatoes, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” seems laughably innocent at this point.

If Anne Frank believes at the end of the day, that most people are good, I am going to conclude that this is the default position for most people, that is, most people know most people are good, and they comport themselves in good faith, expecting the same from others.

When your super power is a lack of empathy and the ability to thrive in chaos, you know that most people will not call your bluff. Most people try to placate. Most people look at themselves and ask, “what did I do wrong?” And when confronted with a great angry beast, they try to pacify, acquiesce, and calm it. It knocks them off their game, and it is there that Trump seizes the upper hand.

It all boils down to the old adage, “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

More Unsolicited Advice for our Dear Leader

Yes, of course border crossings should be controlled and documented. I don’t think anyone is really saying that borders should just be open. I know the radical right likes to paint the left as “for open borders,” but that’s not really the case, and you know it.

What do you do when a mass of people arrive at the border and may perhaps just overrun agents tasked with processing and documenting their entries? What happens when people won’t respect the queue? It can happen, I know, but what do you do? Do you use force? I’d say that if you use force, you’ve already lost.

For starters, you begin by setting the conditions for orderly behavior. You see, once a crisis has arrived at your doorstep, if you have not established a plan, you’re going to fail. By whipping up the rhetoric, dehumanizing, demonizing, and terrorizing these migrants for weeks preceding their arrival, you’ve established the conditions conducive to chaos and fear.

What did you expect to happen?

I fully admit, perhaps this tough and horrifying scene, tear gas, desperate people trying to breach walls, etc, may have played directly into the strategy of our dear leader to further his aims with his base. Again, I know I am probably naive.

What should have been done, though? What would you do if you knew this large group of people was coming en masse, and you probably didn’t have the facilities to process them in a timely or orderly manner? Here is my three step plan:

First, you need to work with the Mexican government to coordinate healthcare, food, and housing for them on the Mexican side while they await processing. Receive them with compassion. Treat them as humanely as possible. These are human beings. I know it’s easy to forget, so I’m reminding you, dear leader.

Second, the US needed to have put out the word, through NGOs in contact with the migrants that their asylum petitions WILL be processed. Tamp down the rhetoric. Calm their fears. When they get to the border, they will be accommodated in their immediate needs (it would certainly be a LOT cheaper than deploying troops to the border, d’uh).

Third, augment capacity to process them fairly on the US side of the border. It’d still be cheaper than troops. Just make sure you ramp up the numbers of bureaucrats, judges, and lawyers taking petitions. Expedite the process. Keep it fair. If the Trump administration’s inclination is to deny deny deny, so be it. But keep it fair. Do not separate parents from children. Do not unnecessarily inflict cruelty upon them. If you’re going to deny their application, have a sound and fair reason for doing so.

So you admit a few asylum seekers, and leave the bulk on the Mexican side of the border. Now what?

The next step would be to provide assistance to the Mexican government for temporary placement. I’m not saying that you have to do it all, but work with the Mexican government to resolve the matter of these people without homes. Jobs programs? Education? Healthcare? Good neighbors care about what happens to each other. Good neighbors have productive dialog. If you really do not want Mexicans or other Latin American folks coming to the US, work harder to foment stable conditions in their home countries instead of CIA backed right wing coups.

You Have the House, Now What Do You Do?

My advice – pursue the business of the people of the United States and don’t waste your time parrying and counter punching with Trump. You do you.

Set an agenda and pursue it. If it doesn’t pass the Senate or if it does, isn’t signed by the President, don’t sweat it. Remember Newt’s “Contract with America?” Maybe you should propose something similar.

Whatever the case, just keep on. Be faithful, steady, consistent. You’ll win nothing, no dignity, no respect, no results, none by simply investigating and blocking anything Trump wants to do. And worse, you’ll lose legitimacy by simply being obstructionist. Nobody likes that.

Got it?

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