All posts tagged politics

In early January, Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway defended President Trump’s mocking of a disabled reporter by acting amazed that the American public takes elected leaders at their word. “Look into his heart,” she said. Just a day later, during the Senate confirmation hearings for Trump’s proposed Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, one of my senators–John Cornyn–broke out the same line. “We know your heart,” he comforted the pick.

And that would be possible if we were Deanna Troi or the Martian Manhunter. But us humans generally only have two ways to know what’s in someone’s heart; what they say and what they do.

Now you can’t always judge a person by what they say. Liars lie to convince others to help them or not to oppose them because if they told the truth, those other people would oppose or abandon them. They are afraid of people realizing what they’re really up to.

Breezing over the fact that President Trump is an established liar and the supporting evidence that his own advisor has said not to listen to anything he says, Trump has called for not allowing American Muslims into the country. He has encouraged our enemies to hack into his political opponents. He has called for the shooting of his political opponents. He claimed without evidence that the election was rigged when it looked like he was going to lose. Then he claimed without evidence that the election was rigged when he got fewer votes than his opponent. Then he claimed in defiance of plain facts that he had a historic electoral college victory when his margin of victory was in the lower half of all presidential contests.

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You’ve heard about Flint, MI, a city of 100,000 people. In 2012 the city was placed under emergency management by the state of Michigan due to its excessive debt. A series of unelected city managers were installed to run it and those managers changed Flint’s water suppliers to save about $5 million. During the gap in coverage between the two suppliers–around April of 2014–the city was switched to its backup water source, the Flint River.

The Flint River is polluted with factory runoff and contains high chlorides from road salt runoff. Residents immediately noticed a change in water quality and in late April, coliform bacteria were detected in the city water as a result of testing. Later, high levels of trihalomethane were detected, a result of the water plant’s overuse of chlorine to stop the bacteria.

The plant also neglected to use orthophosphates to remove lead from the water. When the chlorides in the water leached lead out of Flint’s old piping, the doubled source of lead in the city’s water created a lead crisis. As an aside–the city also suffered the largest outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease–a water-borne illness–in the past ten years.

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So a Missouri school district has announced a policy to treat all fights as felonies

Arrest of children by officers correlates with worse academic performance, non-graduation, and a continued criminal history throughout life. Charging kids with crimes isn’t an answer. Prisons do remove harmful folks from society, but too many times they’re used as retribution instead of rehabilitation. A way to take people we call bad and to make them vaguely suffer, out of sight and out of mind.

Kids or no, incarceration is a blow to someone’s future and if that blow is the intent of the criminal justice system, the jail doesn’t seem necessary; the conviction should be enough punishment on its own. But it’s not; people should be locked up in order to allow for the development of skills which allow them to succeed in society according to the social and legal rules we have collectively created. Imprisonment should not then come with the weight of conviction which weighs down a criminal’s job prospects and civil rights.

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I just wanna riff on that thing I said earlier. When Trump got elected–a subject I am not going into here–I read an article about all of the world leaders who called to congratulate him and there are a lot of dicks running things right now.

Theresa May, who emerged from the chaos of post-Brexit British politics the same way Mr. Rogers emerged from The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny. The left hates her, which isn’t surprising because she’s on the right, but she proposed a minimum £35,000/year income for any immigrants wanting to settle in the United Kingdom. When Snowden’s revelations about the illegal surveillance activities of UK’s actions of Government Communications Headquarter’s came to light, she moved to make them legal. Best of all, she’s a huge supporter of the “Snooper’s Charter,” which would require ISPs to keep all of their customers’ internet records–including texts, emails, and files–for a year. Worse, it would allow police to search those records at any time without a warrant, and no specific information to be found. She thinks it’s great if police can audit everyone’s web activity for generall suspicious activity.

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, was Chief Minister during the 2002 Gujarat riots where over a 1,000 Indian Muslims were killed–figures range from 790 to 2,500 and hundreds of Hindus died. At best, his government was negligent in stopping the violence, but the worst accusations are that they directed mobs towards Muslim citizens (the federal investigation found little because of police obfuscation). He’s a right-wing Hindu nationalist whose campaign slogan was “India First!,” but much of the money from his pro-business reforms have made their way back into much needed infrastructure reforms. The effects of his currency ban–removing some of India’s most common currencies from circulation–still remain to be seen. Doesn’t like immigrants, which I guess is an issue for India.

Shinzo Abe came returned to his role as Prime Minister of Japan on a wave of nationalist pride. He has consistently worked to roll back the Japanese constitution to broaden the role of Japan’s defense forces under a policy of “collective self-defense.” He continued to downplay the severity of Japanese atrocities in World War II and visited the Yasukuni Shrine commemorating past soldiers of Japan–which is a whole…thing. Props to the guy, he did eventually iron out the complicated history between Japan and South Korea related to comfort women in World War II, so there is that. Also not a fan of immigrants.

Vladimir Putin…enough said.

Rodrigo Duterte is the Filipino president who backs vigilante gangs hunting down folks on suspicion of being drug dealers. He called the US president the son of a whore and promises to rescind human rights protections if the Islamic State ever acts on Filipino soil. When asked of the unusually high rates of death of journalists in the Philippines, he said many of those killed had it coming. Charming fella, but no outstanding policies on immigration which makes sense because The Philippines–no offense–is a place where people generally immigrate from.

But hey, there’s still Merkel, Trudeau, um, Hollande–oh he wants to extend the French state of emergency for another six months. Sure okay. So Merkel, Trudeau, and uh, whatever is happening in Australia I guess.

The altercation was media fodder for a few days as the Trump campaign at first alleged Lewandowski wasn’t even there, and then that he’d never touched Fields, and then that the reporter had initiated a physical altercation by grabbing Trump. Meanwhile, Fields, with bruises on her arm, filed charges for misdemeanor assault.

Trump and his organization are horrible and lying and their supporters don’t care if he’s horrible and lying, so it’s fortunate that I’m not here to make that point.

Let’s discuss instead the disconnect between expectations and the law, between the law and enforcement, and who’s breaking the rules and who’s benefiting. 

The definitions of assault cited in the charges include so much as touching people against their will. That’s assault, legally. That’s not intuitively what should be happening, but you don’t want homeless people pawing all over you for change. If striking is assault, then is shoving not? Grabbing? Grabbing clothing? “Touch” is broad but comprehensive. 

There is obviously a disconnect between what we intuitively think of when discussing crime. Some of that is because laws have varying degrees of forethought in their design, but it’s also because we sometimes have very narrow perceptions of what those crimes are. A popular conception of rape is a stranger dragging a woman down a dark alley. More likely it’s a long-time acquaintance forcing himself of a women in a familiar setting. Crime isn’t always what we think about it and what we reflexively define as crime doesn’t always translate into the words used to make laws. 

Grabbing a person hard enough to leave bruises is a crime. Also, in the bizarre fantasy world in which the Trump campaign’s claims are true and Fields was touching Trump without his consent, that’s also a crime. 

But you know no one would give a shit if these weren’t members of an influential news organization and a political campaign. Two folks of moderate power can file charges over a minor altercation, but I don’t see the police rolling up for this.

I don’t like damning folks for a hypothetical, but I find it hard to believe cops would subpoena shit if she wanted to press charges. Some people just aren’t important and allocating resources to investigating and prosecuting touching and grabbing is not a priority for police. 

Unless you’re already aligned with someone important. Powerful folks like Fields (and the Trump haters who support her) get charges pressed. Powerful folks like Lewandowski have to show up in court on a particular day instead of being arrested and having to post a bail they can’t afford. Then it’s just prick-waggling over the cost of a fine that’s pocket change to them. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if Lewandowski is bragging about this come August. 

More important than any of that is…why approach Donald Trump when he’s not interested and leaving an event? Why grab a person and yank them around? Why did this altercation even happen? Because Fields needed to get a comment from Trump to do her job. She didn’t start sticking to celebrities to get a few juicy quotes on March 8th and she certainly didn’t stop on that day. That was how she got results. That’s how she got her career. That’s how she got on that floor with Trump. 

Her bosses don’t care how she gets those quotes until it gets them in trouble, then they do a cost-benefit analysis and see if it’s worth keeping her (spoiler: it wasn’t). They wash their hands and get someone with a fresh record to do the same thing until they push the rules and get caught. Rinse, repeat. 

Same for Lewandowski. He’s hired to make Trump a bubble. He’s Trump’s deniable, dispensable projected will. Every day he does Trump’s bidding is another day pulling a check and another chance at greater opportunities in the future. When that duty is challenged, he’s got to make the choice between breaking the law and doing his job. Just like Fields, when he gets caught there’s a CBA and he’s either kept or replaced (spoiler: he’s being kept). 

Both of these individuals are doing the bidding of a higher power who want results and want to insulate themselves from the consequences of getting them. Fields and Lewandowski are human ablative armor just rolling the dice while they get enough money to enjoy life until their number comes up.

And Trump and Breitbart keep on rollin’.