Monday, November 28, 2016

A Logic Puzzle

Remember logic puzzles from elementary school? I loved those things. Here's a fun one that is, sadly, a work of non-fiction. Answer all 4 questions with well-reasoned, fact based arguments, and I will mail you a bottle of the Bourbon of your choice, up to $100 value. Seriously.

In 2012, Donnie said "He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election, We should have a revolution in this country!," regarding early results from the Romney/Obama contest. He further called the electoral college a "disaster for Democracy."

Donnie ran for President himself in 2016. Just before the election, he said that, if he loses, the election is somehow rigged. He offers no evidence for why this is the case, or in what way he believes it's rigged, but promises NOT to accept the result if he suspects fraud. If he wins the election, Donnie says there is no fraud.

1) Explain how it is possible for an election to be fraudulent if one person wins, and totally legit if the other person wins, when a dozen national polls show nearly a dead heat for months leading up to the election.

In November 2016, Donnie won the electoral college but lost the popular vote (by 2,000,000 and counting). His opponent conceded the election. Several US states are considering a recount of votes; none of these has been requested by his opponent. Donnie now says that A) millions of votes were fraudulently cast and B) all of those fraudulent votes were cast for his opponent. Again, he has offered no evidence for either A or B. He has called his opponent a crybaby for agreeing to monitor the recounts. Also, Donnie now claims that "the electoral collage is actually genius."

2) Explain how it's possible for Donnie to preemptively whine about the outcome and promise to contest the result if he loses and then call his opponent a crybaby for merely participating in a recount (requested by a 3rd party) without being obscenely hypocritical?

3) If Donnie truly believes there are millions of fraudulent votes in Hillary's favor, why is he not supporting the recount efforts himself, as this is the exact scenario he threatened to contest if it lost him the election?

4) What has changed about the electoral college from 2012 to 2016 that has changed it from a "disaster for democracy" to "actually genius?"

Basically, I'm looking for some explanation other than "Donnie is a petulant ass." Thank you.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Time for Reflection

Trump won. I was definitely surprised by this, but the time has come to reflect, and to seek to understand. As I posted before the election, I don't think this is the end of the world, or the end of America. Unlike the anti-Obama crowd who said "he's going to ruin our country" and were counting down the days until he was out of office, I will hope that Mr. Trump is successful and can deliver on some of his promises. Certainly I disagree with many of his policy positions, but there are others I think are good ideas - simplifying our tax code, term limits for congress, a ban on congressmen becoming lobbyists, foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections to name a few.

I also want to understand America better. I've been living in a bit of a bubble, apparently. Lexington is a well educated city. Most of my friends are good people who are open minded - not bigots, if you will. There is simply no denying that hate was a key part of Trump's platform. He was open about it, and he was consistent about it (at least during the campaign): build a wall, ban the Muslims, and monitor the black polling places for fraud were all FREQUENTLY part of his stump speeches, and his crowds went wild for it. If you don't see how those are bigoted statements, you need to look yourself in the mirror and admit that you're ignorant. There are a lot of Trump's fans who heard those things, completely agreed with him and, for example, urged him to start the deportations immediately. This is sad, but not surprising. America has a race problem. Some people here don't like foreigners, don't trust non-Christians, and in some cases still openly hate blacks. Hell, Kennedy had trouble getting elected as a Catholic.

There is another category of Trump supporter which is even more interesting to me: the group who heard those things, knows full well that they are hateful, and voted for the guy anyway. To me, that means that a president who's kinda racist and xenophobic is alright with them, even if they don't harbor those sentiments themselves. Is that because Hillary was so unappealing? Definitely a possibility. But if you're smart enough to have some highly nuanced position on Trump, you're also smart enough to know that Hillary is far more qualified and far more stable. We're talking about control of the world's largest nuclear arsenal here. Our standing in the world matters. The role we play or don't play in the international community matters. If you're going to make compromises, and we all agree both candidates sucked, but they sucked in very different ways. So I'm curious to understand more about the educated Trump voter, because only a small portion of those who voted for him are truly hateful, ignorant people. Right? 

Sunday, November 06, 2016

What will happen?!

A couple friends have asked me this week what will happen if Trump wins. The fact that we're even considering this possibility is still a shock to me, but Nate Silver has upped Trump's chances to 33%, so I suppose we'd better prepare ourselves for it.

My short answer is "not much." As I've said before, and anyone who paid attention in US Government class will tell you, the presidency is an intentionally impotent position. We were trying to NOT create a king, remember? This is why the people who were scared Obama was going to turn us into a socialist state and take away everyone's guns were being ridiculous. "Well he did make us socialist - what about Obamacare?!" is all I need to hear from someone to confirm it's not worth my time to try and explain socialism to them.

Our standing in the world is already lowered, thanks to picking the two least like-able people in the US and putting them on a Presidential ballot. Yes, I've made fun of Trump a lot. And the comedians have had a field day with him, but that's because it's soooooo easy! The truth is, I can't say that I'm really supportive of Hillary. She lacks the charisma that her husband has. She's definitely one of the most qualified people to run for the office, but that's never mattered. Harry Truman was a tailor and he ended up being the guy who had to "push the button" to nuke Japan and end the war.

We know Trump is a bigot because he has told us this. It's not hidden, it's not veiled, it's not open to interpretation. Ban Muslims, build a wall, and of course his great relationship with "the blacks," whose interests concern him so much, he's encouraged his supporters to be extra vigilant by going to black neighborhoods to look for fraud at the polling places. What a nice guy. Trump is a con man who is highlighting the worst of America - xenophobia, bigotry, misogyny - and showing just how much of that stuff exists. It should be a lesson to us all to take a second look at our family, friends, and neighbors and ask which ones are truly in 2016 versus longing for 1956. Trump's numbers are real, and while a lot of people are supporting him because they hate Hillary, most of his supporters are also well aware of what Trump stands for, AND IT DOESN'T BOTHER THEM.

I don't think the stock market will crash, I don't think he'll start WWIII (though his temper suggests the risk there is greater than zero). I do think there is a >50% chance he won't last 4 years due to impeachment. He has 75 lawsuits pending against him, so that would be a new record for a President entering office. Most of those are civil suits, but at least two of them are criminal matters. And while the GOP head of the FBI has been a regular chatty Kathy about investigations that may or may not involve Mrs. Clinton, he's been oddly silent on the two open investigations we know about involving Trump (Trump University and his ties to Russia).

Sadly, I'm also not sure Mrs. Clinton will change much here in the US if she wins. Obamacare is a mess, largely due to half-assed implementation by some states and others not participating at all. I suspect many states will still be out to protect their county clerks and bakers from those crazy gay couples that most bakers just call "customers." The banks will still be corrupt, workers will have near zero rights, the wealth gap will continue to accelerate and I doubt she'll tackle any serious issues like entitlements, reeling in spending, or closing Guantanamo. I'm sure if she does try to tackle any of that stuff, the GOP will do its best to continue its obstructionist tradition. That's worked so well for them, it will have lost them 3 presidencies if she wins. At least we can count on one point of stability: Mitch McConnell will still be a fat cat DC power broker who screws KY coal miners to help out the mine owners.  

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Adam Savage

I loved Mythbusters. It was one of the best shows on TV, ever. In one of the original intro sequences, Adam had a sound byte where he'd say "I reject your reality and substitute my own." That's what blows me away about my Trump friends. Of my friends who support Trump, I would not characterize any of them as dumb. I tend to not hang out with dumb people. And yet, so many of them actively reject any fact that would require them to re-evaluate their support for Donald Trump. This is far beyond confirmation bias; it's the active, conscious embrace of manufactured data points that these people know are inaccurate, along with the rejection of any fact that paints Trump in a negative light. Some examples of Trump-fan logic:

  1. All 12 of the women claiming he sexually assaulted them are lying. Even though he's on tape saying he likes to sexually assault women in the exact manner these women are claiming he did it to them. 
  2. Hillary Clinton has rigged the FBI. She was never charged with a crime, but [blah blah emails blah blah] so she should be in jail even though she's never been charged with, let alone convicted of, an actual crime.
  3. We don't know the results yet and we have no evidence to prove it, but this election is totally rigged. Unless Trump wins. If he wins, it's completely legit. If she wins, totally rigged.
  4. Nothing says family values like a 3rd wife.
  5. He's a bigot who has made derogatory comments about black people, Hispanics, the disabled, fat women, flat chested women, POWs, veterans with PTSD, but what's important are the issues, and please don't list tolerance and character among those issues.  
  6. I know nothing about business, but his name is on a building, therefore he is a good business man. Please stop pointing out to me that he has all these bankruptcies and debts to foreign governments and that he somehow lost money running FOUR DIFFERENT Atlantic City casinos, I told you, I don't understand business but he's a total genius at it. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

keeping up with Donnie

Today, more women came forward and accused Donald Trump of sexual assault. His record of degrading comments about women, and objectifying women, is a mile long, and a video recently surfaced where he bragged about assaulting them, including details of how he does it. But Donnie responded in his typical way: deny everything, attack the accusers, then paint himself as the victim.

In this case, he's gone a step further, threatening to sue the New York Times for libel. Donnie threatens newspapers a lot when they write unflattering stories, but he rarely follows through. He hasn't actually sued a publication since 1984. Even the threat though, should be alarming from a presidential candidate.

  • Freedom of the press is at the core of who we are as a nation. This is not the first time he has threatened the media and tried to manipulate it in his favor 
  • Law school 101: the truth is the ultimate defense. It's not libel if it's true.
  • Libel also requires that it defame his character. Trump has already defamed his own character on this issue, in his own words and actions, countless times
Also, people who hate the media and don't trust it (as if it's one organization) don't create reality shows about themselves. They don't seek out television and radio appearances like a heroin addict looking for his next hit. They don't negotiate deals with NBC to sell the TV rights for a beauty pageant for $50,000,000. Donnie loves the media as long as he can control it. 

Friday, October 07, 2016

Trump Card

As painful as it is to watch all of the non-substantive coverage in this election cycle, I'm still doing it. I figure someone has to, because I know so many friends and family and colleagues who have, understandably, tuned out at this point. I get it. But I want you to know, I am making the sacrifice to see this debacle through to the finish.

Image result for ugly trump image

For the record, I gave up on talking sense to the Trump fans long ago. The people who are still supporting him at this point fall into one of two categories. They are either truly ignorant lemmings who are following a pied piper because they don't know any better, or they are smart enough to know that he is a racist, sexist, bigoted ego maniac and that doesn't bother them. Either way, they're a lost cause.

What does concern me is election day logistics. This November, half the states have new voting laws on the books. Many require new or different forms of ID. Many of these laws blatantly target black voters (not because they're black, your racist friends will tell you, but really just because black people happen to vote for Democrats), as the North Carolina legislature thoughtfully documented for us in its e-mails before writing such laws. "Can we get a breakdown, by race, of which voters don't have drivers licenses?" Yep, totally trying to target voter fraud with that one.

We also have Donald Trump saying repeatedly that the election is rigged if he loses, but totally legit if he wins. Even his own supporters can't explain this one. He's also called for his supporters to go to the polls as "observers." This is easily the most dangerous part of his campaign, well, next to the part where he might win and get access to our nuclear weapons. Statistically, we have no voter fraud in this country. George W. Bush had his Justice Department investigate it for years, desperately hoping to find evidence that blacks and Hispanics are cheating at the ballot box. There is none. Even Faux News agrees. So there is no need for amateur "observers" to be at polling places. These people will be there to intimidate, make no mistake about it. That's illegal, but they'll do it anyway.

All this talk of rigged elections, the new voter ID laws, the ludicrous notion that Trump's "observers" can somehow validate the election result by watching people vote, is scary stuff. Combine that with ass hat's like Kentucky's governor who are calling for revolution and saying that conservatives may need to shed some blood to survive a Clinton Presidency. Yes, he actually said that. If you don't think ultra conservative wackos are mad enough to take up arms, you're wrong.

These people are angry enough to come out of their prepper bunkers and rally together sufficiently to make Donald Trump an actual nominee for the Republican party. That's no small feat, because most reasonable Republicans know Trump is an ass and a snake oil salesman. And we know the die hard Trumpies are well armed, these are the people who like to wear machine guns to their rallies. These are the idiots who believed the NRA when it told them that Obama had a secret plan to take their guns in 2008. Then when that didn't happen they believed the NRA when it said he had a double super secret plan to do it in 2012. And they will absolutely believe the NRA this time when it says that Obama's triple super secret plan was to stall for time until Hillary could get elected and take their guns. These people are not rational, they are paranoid. They don't understand why America is different today than it was on the Andy Griffith show. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The importance of dialog

Today, an interfaith service will be held for the 5 Dallas law enforcement officers who were tragically killed last week. Sadly, there is also news this morning about what may be the first "copy-cat" ambush of police subsequent to the Dallas incident - 5 men were arrested in Washington D.C. this morning after shooting at law enforcement who were responding to a report of shots fired. These incidents, combined with the citizens who are peacefully protesting nation-wide about extra-judicial killings, represent an extremely disturbing state of affairs. I truly do not feel it's an exaggeration to say that our police and our citizens are at war with each other. 

What's equally tragic is that this scenario is being reported on and discussed by so many people using the same dichotomous lens of false alternatives that America applies to so many issues we face today. It's A or B. You either blindly support everything the cops do, or if not then you clearly hate cops. You either understand the plight of the African American community in this, or you're a racist. We must reject this framework, and anyone who adopts it. 

Some people are already doing that, and we must celebrate them. I've seen David Brown, the Dallas police chief, articulate the complexities of this issue extremely well (here's just one example). He knows first hand - his son died after initiating a shoot out with police. I saw Congressman Elijah Cummings spell out the importance of dialog, compassion, and understanding very well in an interview with CBS. Congressman Cummings lives in downtown Baltimore, which has seen its own share of unrest related to this issue. Senator Marco Rubio has made some very articulate points about the valid concerns on both sides of this issue. We have to reject the urge view this as one side being right and the other side being wrong. Both sides are right in some respects and wrong in others, and there is a continuum of perspectives between the two sides that must also be part of the dialog. 

This issue is far more complicated than just police procedures, cop demographics, how to engage with citizens, how to de-escalate, but, in 2015, police killed 1146 people in the US. 50% of those had a gun. 20% were unarmed. 50 of those deaths occurred when the person was already in custody. 45 of the deaths were by Taser, 31 of them were run over by a cop car (1019 were killed when shot by police). These numbers are tracked by individuals and news organizations because, nationally "killed as a result of interaction with police" isn't something that police departments or the FBI tracks in any kind of consistent, reliable way. Some police departments do self-report statistics, others don't. There's a damn wiki-style site where you can submit a news article about a "killed by police" incident in your town and, once it's verified, it gets added to a public database. We're a country that tracks the number of people who died in car crashes, with and without their seat belts on, but we don't track the number of citizens whose lives were taken, rightly or wrongly, as a result of interaction with the cops. 

This is also about education, poverty, race, the war on drugs, the demands we place on our police officers, the gun culture, the "f- the police" culture, human biases, and I'm sure a dozen other things that I don't even know about. 

Progress on this issue will only come from dialog. If you're a police officer, or know one, now is the time to reach to someone who feels threatened by police, who feels he/she can't trust the police, and try to understand why. If you don't trust the police, or you think they're all racist and out to kill black people, you need to talk to a cop, because they're not. We have to stop painting all police officers and all African Americans as if they're uniform groups, because neither one is, at all. And we have to keep talking.