Sunday, July 29, 2018

Quod Erat Demonstrandum

I judge people based on their capability, honesty, and merit.
-- Donald Trump

Give me what I want, or I'll punish the whole country!


I would be willing to 'shut down' government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall! Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT! We need great people coming into our Country!

That’s what Trump said this morning. We need great people coming into our country.

Great people.

And you get those people, apparently, with a "merit" based immigration system.

Immigration based on merit.

And not just immigration.

Merit is important to Republicans, to Trump. He says it quite a bit. Merit. In all caps, so apparently he means it this time.

Merit. This is a common theme with Trump, judging people based on “merit.”

What merit? And who decides?

Who decides which immigrants have merit?

No, I mean it. Tell me, who decides which immigrants have merit?

Who decides which people have merit, which human beings have merit and which ones don’t. Who decides that?

See, it’s one thing for an individual, a private businessman, to apply some personal, arbitrary measure of merit to others in his personal interactions. Perhaps we all do this to some degree.

It’s another thing entirely for the government to decide the merits of a human being.

And Trump is no longer a private individual, for the moment, for better or worse, he is the government.

Who decides which immigrants have merit?

Hell, before we even get to that, you'll have to define what "merit" means in this context.

What is human merit? Is there a standard set of criteria? An agreed upon list of traits which constitute merit? Is merit measured in degree, with precision, a scale perhaps from 0 to 100? What is the minimum amount of merit to allow entry? How do you measure it? Who measures it? When do you measure it – i.e. when a person is an infant? A child? A teen? An adult? When? After they’ve had some education. After they’ve made a fortune? After they’ve gained some proven worth? Or is it raw potential?

The inherent merit you’re either born with or not. Is that it? Is it?

People change, they grow, and they sometimes diminish with time – you have only to look at those we once though had great merit until they suddenly didn’t. Bill Cosby comes to mind, along with myriad other entertainers, politicians, and wealthy entrepreneurs who’ve fallen from grace in recent memory.


How do you measure that? Because we’ve never been able to do so in any quantifiable manner.

Instead we use vague subjective terms and questionable metrics: Happy. Well adjusted. High IQ. Studious. Smart. Above average. Well educated. Talented.

Take this guy, does he have merit?  The smartest kid in class. 167 IQ. Skipped ahead in high school, National Merit Finalist, graduated at 15, accepted into Harvard at 16, full scholarship for advanced mathematics. PhD by 25. A genius by every measure. His potential for greatness and merit? Unlimited. Trump says, "We need great people coming into our Country!" Great people. Great. Well, then what are the things that make a person "great?" Does that guy, the one just I described have merit? Is he the kind of 25-year-old we’d want helping us make America great? If you met him at the border, would he be the type you’d let in?


That’s Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber.

So, who defines human merit in the context of greatness?

Trump's own mother was an immigrant.

When she immigrated here at the start of the Great Depression. She was a teenager, 18 years old. Her first language was Gaelic, her English nearly incomprehensible to Americans. She had no education, no trade, no special skills, no unique abilities, no money. She was a dirt-poor economic immigrant, one of tens of thousands from Scotland during the depression. She ended up a domestic servant in New York, scrubbing the toilets of the more well-to-do.

Now, what "merit" did she have?

It's not as if America needed another dirt poor non-skilled toilet-scrubber during the Depression. We had plenty of natural born Americans of our own who needed jobs and would have done anything to get them, including scrubbing toilets. What merit did Mary Ann MacLeod have? Why should she have been allowed to come here and take a job, money, a desperately needed livelihood, from an American?

What greatness did she have?

Other than being young, and pretty, and white, and eventually married to a rich guy, I mean?

Much the same could be said of the President's current wife. What greatness did Melanija Knavs have? What merit? Her father was an Eastern Bloc communist. There's nothing special about her education or her experience, she has no unique abilities, no special skills. She did have a trade when she came here, true, but "model" is hardly something great that America needs and can't produce for itself. Her looks got her here, true, but they're fading now and she'll never walk a runway again -- so what merit does she have? Other than being attractive and white and married to a rich guy?

Who decides which immigrants have merit?

How do you define "great people."

What is it that makes an immigrant great?

Who decides what greatness is?

It matters. Very much.

For example: Trump and numerous Republicans have said, or implied, more than once, that immigrants – and in particular, Latinos – tend to vote for Democrats, or at least this is the assumption. And thus, many outspoken Republicans seem to suggest that alone should be enough to bar them from the country. And you don't have to look very far or very hard to find them saying so.

So does that mean we let people into this country, and eventually grant citizenship, to only those who have the "merit" of voting for the political party we like?

Who decides that?

Those currently in power? The same way we decide gerrymandering and voting districts? Yeah?

Or do we compromise? Balance it out? Sure, like before the Civil War when the Union granted statehood only in pairs, one Slave State and one Non-Slave State had to be admitted together in order to maintain balance in Congress.

Like that?

Is that a template for immigrants? We only grant citizenship in pairs, one liberal and one conservative at a time, so as to maintain the balance and assuage Republican fears?



But we've made many such ridiculous compromises in the past, or worse.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
-- Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus

Who decides what human merit actually is?

No, seriously, who decides?

Is skill with a scalpel more valuable to America than the skills of a warrior? No, I'm not being facetious here. We have holidays to honor the military, Trump himself wants to see soldiers parade through the Capital. We have no national holidays to honor doctors and nurses, Trump hasn’t ordered a parade for those who save lives rather than those who take them. So, which has more merit, the doctor? or the warrior?

Is ability with complex math more meritorious than, say, facility with music? And we’re back to Ted Kaczynski again, aren’t we?

Some kid, say, hyperactive, no education, no experience, behavioral problems, only skill is screwing around on skateboards. He shows up at the border, you gonna let him in?


No merit. No special skills. No useful education. Just another punk kid, just another troublemaker on wheels. No merit.

That’s Tony Hawk. Pro-skateboarder at 14. World Champion twelve years in a row. Today he’s a 50-year-old man, who still does little more than screw around on skateboards – and he’s recognized the world over, a hero to tens of thousands, a star, a leader in a billion dollar industry, and business is lined up twenty deep for his endorsement.

What merit to America’s supposed greatness does skateboarding have?

Well, that depends on how you define merit, doesn’t it?

How many Tony Hawks didn’t have the luxury of being born here? How many future sports stars are right now six years old and locked in cages on our southern border? And what if those skills, that merit, develops only after someone immigrates to America? What if it's America itself, the opportunities here, that create greatness in a person and not the other way around? What if it's both? I mean, how do you know? How can you know? How can you predict human nature, human potential with any degree of fidelity?

How do you tell the Ted Kaczynskis from the Tony Hawks?


Who decides what merit is?

Isn't merit subjective?

Dependent on the moment? Subject to change?

Merit. Human merit. I came from the military. From the Navy to be specific. I spent most of my adult life there. I joined up, at least in some part, because I didn’t know what merit I might have. I had some education, a bit. But I wasn’t a warrior. I wasn’t an egghead. I didn’t fit in much of anywhere. I didn’t have a lot of direction, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself.  The military gave me that, direction, purpose, education, perspective.  I learned something about human worth. You see, turns out I was selected for something special. Intelligence work. And back in the day, back during the Cold War, my specialty was pretty damned important. And the prestige of my profession was very high in the military. No one knew what we did. We were special, important, and we were regarded – at least we thought so – with more than a bit of mysticism and respect, and maybe a little awe. It made you feel a cut above the average sailor. Unique. Imbued with special merit, perhaps, greatness even.

But, see, here’s the thing.

Out there, on the pointy end, far from home, onboard a warship, you learn a little something about merit – and maybe something about your own relative worth.

Us? We spooks, those of us who worked behind locked steel doors, well, out there we were no more special – and lot less so – than the rest of the crew. Merit? Let me tell you about merit. Out there, far, far from home, the unnamed and unknown sailors who carried the mailbags to the helicopter in some distant port, the men who flew those machines over the sea and landed them on a pitching deck, the clerk who sorted that mail and handed it out at mail call, well, let me tell you those son of bitches had merit. Because a letter from home, back then before email and satellite network connections at sea, that guy was your lifeline to home. The ship’s servicemen, who washed your laundry every day, down in the bowels of the ship, who sweated their asses off in steam-filled compartments so that you could have clean skivvies, those men had merit.  If you crossed them, you might spend the next three months of your deployment free-balling it. The mess specialists, the ones who cooked your breakfast and served your lunch and made your dinner, those guys had merit, and one hell of a lot more than some codebreaker like me up in the spook-shack, because the quality of navy chow determines in very, very large part the morale of a ship. Bad cooks are a special misery at sea. Merit? There was no glory in sorting mail, in washing clothes, in cooking up dinner, or in the hundred other jobs done by the unnamed and unknown sailors out there everyday, but the ships won’t move without them and it sure doesn’t take you long to learn just how important they are to your quality of life.

That’s America.

Merit? What has more merit? A dentist when you need a cavity filled or the garbage man when your cans are overflowing? The person who waits on your table when you’re hungry or the one who cuts your hair? Those people, the ones who turn up whenever you need help, the ones who stop alongside the road to help you with a flat, the ones who always turn up to help look for a missing child, the ones who fill the sandbags when the water is rising and the winds start to howl, what merit do they have?

Who decides the merit of a human being?

Is merit education? Experience? Skill? Intellect? Able bodied? Ability? Something you’re born with or something you learn?

Or is merit your Race? Religion? Language? Wealth? Health? Politics? Age? Attractiveness? Breeding potential? Skull shape? Eye color?

Who decides what constitutes human merit? What makes a human being great or not?

You know, there have been nations throughout history who have attempted to define exactly that, define greatness, define merit. Measure it. And set human beings on a scale, their worth measured against each other.

Universally, history regards those societies as monsters and we hold them up as examples of horror and the ultimate villainy.

Who decides which people have merit and which ones do not?



Donald Trump?

Congress? Voters? The mob? Some faceless bureaucrat? A secret committee? Do we contract it out? Outsource the decision to a company in Bangladesh? Who decides?

And how long, once we begin assessing immigrants on their supposed merit, their unmeasurable and unknowable potential contribution to our alleged national greatness, how long before we likewise begin dividing up natural born Americans into categories of relative worth? How long before we begin separating those with merit from those judged to have less, or none?

And what do we do with those who have no merit to our society? What happens to them?

When the state grants itself the power to decide which humans are worthy and which ones are not, then slavery, genocide, absolutism, war, and horror follow almost immediately. Every time.

Every. Time.

Every. Single. Time.

Power corrupts.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

And there is no power more absolute, or more corrupting, than a government who declares itself the arbiter of human worth.

Since I have difficulty defining merit and what merit alone means – and in any context, whether it's judicial or otherwise – I accept that different experiences in and of itself, bring merit to the system.
-- Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Folly, Vice, and Madness

There is just so much hurt, disappointment, and oppression one can take… The line between reason and madness grows thinner.
-- Rosa Parks

Let's begin here:


Now that Harley-Davidson is moving part of its operation out of the U.S., my Administration is working with other Motor Cycle companies who want to move into the U.S. Harley customers are not happy with their move - sales are down 7% in 2017. The U.S. is where the Action is!

Did you read that?

Do you see what it says? What it implies?

Trump is working with "other" motorcycle (or "Motor Cycle") companies who want to move to the U.S.

Other motorcycle companies.

Who want to move to the U.S.

Meaning they're not in the U.S. now.

Meaning they're not American.

You see this, right?

Leaving aside the part where he offers up some statistic from 2017, you know, before Harley-Davidson announced their decision to move some of their manufacturing overseas in response to Trump’s 2018 trade war, Donald Trump would rather work with foreign companies, instead of changing the wrong-headed policies that forced an American company into this situation in the first place.

I mean, you do see it, right?


Maybe it's just me.


Just out that the Obama Administration granted citizenship, during the terrible Iran Deal negotiation, to 2,500 Iranians - including to government officials. How big (and bad) is that?

How big and bad is that, asks Trump.

How big?

How bad?

Well, I don't know.

How could I?

You see, it's impossible to say one way or the other, because Trump deliberately offers no proof and no context.

How bad? Well, what if those Iranians were ... persecuted Christians?

What if they were Iranian Jews?

What if Obama allowed 2500 persecuted Iranian Christians fleeing Muslim persecution into this country? Made them Americans? Would that be big and bad? Or small and good?

I mean, would that information influence your perception of this situation?

Would it?

Is that what happened?

How do you know? If Trump never gives supporting facts or context or sources?

It’s not actually. What happened. Because, in fact, there were no 2500 Iranians granted US citizenship as part of the Iranian nuclear deal. None. Zero. Not one. No, Trump based his accusation on a Fox News story which was in turn based on a comment by Iranian Islamic Revolutionary hardliner Hojjat al-Islam Mojtaba Zolnour. And there is no evidence whatsoever to support Zolnour's claim. The guy just made it up in order to accuse his own more moderate countrymen of striking some secret deal with The Great Satan, i.e. us. See, Zolnour and other Iranian extremists don't want any deal restricting their nuclear ambitions. And they are trying to take down their own, increasingly moderate government who wants to reach an agreement with the West.

Ironic, isn’t it? That Trump should then be parroting this lie, eh? Not to mention Fox News.

Ironic indeed.

Speaking of nuclear war:


Many good conversations with North Korea-it is going well! In the meantime, no Rocket Launches or Nuclear Testing in 8 months. All of Asia is thrilled. Only the Opposition Party, which includes the Fake News, is complaining. If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!

Many good conversations.

What conversations? Who's doing the conversing? What are they talking about? Are our allies involved? Is Congress? These are matters of national interest, matters of state, matters of the public record. And yet, there's no proof of this assertion. None.

"If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!"


That's the president saying we would be at war with North Korea. It’s not ambiguous. There’s no room for flexible interpretation. We would be at war with North Korea.

Was North Korea preparing for war? I mean, this is a hell of a statement: If not for me, we would be at war with North Korea.

Trump is claiming he personally stopped a war. A war that we would be in right now.

But there’s no evidence that North Korea was preparing for war.

So who then does that leave as the aggressor?


On what grounds? At what provocation? Because it sounds an awful lot like the United States was secretly gearing up for a preemptive war -- which would be illegal by both our own and international law – not to mention the very thing Trump spent years castigating George Bush over.

Again, maybe it's just me.


How can the Democrats, who are weak on the Border and weak on Crime, do well in November. The people of our Country want and demand Safety and Security, while the Democrats are more interested in ripping apart and demeaning (and not properly funding) our great Law Enforcement!


A loss of dignity of and respect for. Degrading. Humiliating. Shameful. Debase. Degrade. That’s what demeaning means.

Trump says democrats are “demeaning” our “great law enforcement.”


You see it, right?

The implication?

You should respect authority simply because it is authority, because it wears a uniform. Not because it is worthy of respect.

Speaking out against abuse of power is unpatriotic. Militancy is necessary, authoritarianism is necessary, oppression is necessary, for safety, for security, for the public good.

I mean you see it, don’t you?

You hear the echoes of all the worst regimes from history in that rhetoric, do you not? You can hear the tromp of jackboots and the screams from the concentration camps, can’t you? For the public good. For safety. For security.


Maybe you’re just not listening.


When we have an 'infestation' of MS-13 GANGS in certain parts of our country, who do we send to get them out? ICE! They are tougher and smarter than these rough criminal elelments [sic] that bad immigration laws allow into our country. Dems do not appreciate the great job they do! Nov.

...these rough criminal elements that bad immigration laws allow into our country...

There is no proof of this. None.

And in fact existing data shows exactly the opposite. Trump ignores his own experts for a politically driven false worldview, because it pushes the narrative of fear. And because that fear drives the conservative agenda: We must do this because "the people of our country want and demand safety and security."

The people of our country want and demand safety and security.

You see it, right?

You hear it, right?

These are the very same words from your history books. These are the very same ideas our grandfathers stormed the beaches of Normandy to fight.

The very same.


The economy is doing perhaps better than ever before, and that’s prior to fixing some of the worst and most unfair Trade Deals ever made by any country. In any event, they are coming along very well. Most countries agree that they must be changed, but nobody ever asked!


See the weasel words?

Perhaps. He caveats every statement like this, giving himself a way out, showing that he himself doesn't really believe what he's saying. That he knows his own words are untrue.

He doesn't believe it.

He doesn’t, but the howling mob does.

"most countries"

Note again that he doesn't provide any proof of this, no list of countries, no world leaders to back him up. In fact, the response from world leaders and our erstwhile trading partners says exactly the opposite. Again.

And we are now for all practical purposes in a trade war.


Crazy Maxine Waters, said by some to be one of the most corrupt people in politics, is rapidly becoming, together with Nancy Pelosi, the FACE of the Democrat Party. Her ranting and raving, even referring to herself as a wounded animal, will make people flee the Democrats!

"said by some"

Again, who? Who said that? When did they say it? What was the context? What proof do they offer of this "most corrupt people in politics?"

Trump repeats the murmuring of sycophants and agents provocateur, the paranoid unhinged voices in his head, but offers no actual proof.

But, of course, the howling mob requires no proof. No critical thought. No reason. No objective thought.

They only require a target for their hate.


Many Democrats are deeply concerned about the fact that their ‘leadership’ wants to denounce and abandon the great men and women of ICE, thereby declaring war on Law & Order. These people will be voting for Republicans in November and, in many cases, joining the Republican Party!

"many Democrats"



What democrats? Who are these people? What democrats are joining the Republican party? If there are “many” then it shouldn’t be hard to come up with a list of names. Where is it?

Instead, it's prominent republicans who are publicly abandoning Trump, abandoning their party. So who are these democrats Trump is talking about, the ones joining the republican party? Who are they? Let's see the voter registration rolls. Let’s see the headlines.


It never even occurs to his supporters to demand such proof. He tells them what they want to hear. He makes their unfocused rage and their impotent fury legitimate. They don't need proof.

They just need a target for their hate.


Wow! The NSA has deleted 685 million phone calls and text messages. Privacy violations? They blame technical irregularities. Such a disgrace. The Witch Hunt continues!

Wow, indeed.

And now we’re down to it.

You see, once upon a time, the idea of spying on Americans was utterly abhorrent to the civilian analysts and the military electronic warfare specialists and the signals intelligence experts of the Nationals Security Agency. I know, I used to be one of those people. Our job was to protect Americans, not spy on them. We were proud of that. It was important. How we did our job mattered as much as why. We were patriots, not the fucking Gestapo.


Now, the National Security Agency spies on Americans.

Now, NSA spends more time and more resources and more effort spying on Americans with the willing assistance of American business than they do on our enemies.

Because they were ordered to do so.

Because our leaders tell them that we are the enemy.

Because Congress changed the law and provided limitless funding.

Because the president, this one and the previous one and the one before that gave the order.

And apparently Trump didn't even read the Defense Authorization bill he signed last month.

And why?

Why was the National Security Agency ordered to spy on Americans?

Why was the US intelligence apparatus turned loose on Americans?

Why was its mission expanded to domestic surveillance and its budget massively enlarged to support spying on its own citizens?

Why did Congress change the law and the President give the order?


Because "the people of our Country want and demand safety and security."

That’s why.

Because the generals and the spies and the angry white men who run this country, those fearful old Cold Warriors, they told us that the only way to make ourselves safe, the only way to gain security, was to let the FBI and the CIA and the NSA and the local cops listen to our phone calls,

read our emails,

monitor our texts,

plumb our hard drives,

audit our library records,

access our medical history,

search our houses,

all without a warrant, without probable cause, without oversight.

That's what they all told us when they passed the Patriot Act and the Protect America Act and when they renew those secret laws every year.

That’s what they tell us when they strip-search little kids and old ladies in the airports. When they kidnap citizens right off the street and spirit them away for "enhanced interrogation" at some CIA black site in some undisclosed foreign country. When they detained Americans without warrant or trial.

That’s what conservatives told us.

That's what Republicans like Trump tell us now.

Ironic, no? That out of fear we demand impossible safety and security, and thus grant unlimited powers to government, and that government then makes us into the enemy in the name our own safety and security.

And when people like me – someone who used to work for these sons of bitches and who knows the terrible power of the intelligence community from the inside – when we told you that was madness, well, we were shouted down as "weak on the Border and weak on Crime" and weak on terror and weak on national security.

We were called unamerican and unpatriotic.

We were called traitors.

And we still are, every day. Including today by the president himself who is right now ironically bemoaning the very authoritarianism he himself, and his own party, helped to create.

Donald Trump is insane.

He's a raving madman. A very, very dangerous madman, who's surrounded himself with toadies and fops and fascists and evil lieutenants and is cheered by the brainless mob like some goddamned megalomaniac from an Ian Fleming novel.

He demonstrates this every single day and you have only to look at his own words up above to see it.

And yet, right now, right here, on this blog, in my social media timelines, liberals will shortly arrive and admonish me to "just ignore him."

Just ignore him.

That’s what they'll say. Just ignore him.


Fucking wrong.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Ignoring madness is how you wake up one morning in a country gone utterly mad.

Ignoring madness is how we all ended up here. Now. In this place. Living under this insanity.

Trump's insanity, his duplicity, his dangerous disingenuous bullshit, must be called out every single time.

Every. Single. Time.

Trump and his supporters must be held to account.

If congress wouldn't do it, then congress too must be held to account.

Because, sooner or later, Citizens, one way or the other, we're all going to be held to account for this madness.

But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.
Edmund Burke