Thursday, January 31, 2019


The point is that you just can’t be too greedy.
-- Donald J. Trump

Howard Schultz is running for President.

Former CEO of Starbucks. Self-described “self-made” billionaire.

Everything I've seen from this guy, every word he's spoken, every interview he's given, every poll he's bought, every article he paid someone to write, everything over the last few days tells me just how utterly horrible he'd be as President.

But this, this right here, this is the linchpin of it:

This is exactly what's wrong with Howard Schultz.

And it's the same thing that's wrong with Donald Trump.

Look at this. Look at what Schultz tweeted this morning.

Lots of opinions this week. Here’s another: 'They’re trying to bully Mr. Schultz out of running, but along the way they’re making the case for why he should.'


He thinks he's being bullied.

He thinks he’s a victim. Of bullying. This guy.

He's quoting the conservative press, who thinks he's being bullied.


Howard Schultz, billionaire straight white guy running for president – the very epitome of power and privilege in America – thinks he’s the victim.

He thinks he is being bullied because the press asked him some questions.

He thinks he’s being bullied because social media asked him some questions.

He thinks he’s being bullied because his past is being scrutinized.

Most of all he thinks he being bullied because suddenly he's facing criticism that he can’t ignore for the first time in his life.

Pity him, Howard Schultz, poor little rich man put upon so unfairly.

Great. Another rich white straight male martyr, just what America needs.

These sons of bitches should be bullied. Maybe they'd understand what it actually means. How it actually feels. The damage that it actually does. The lives it destroys.

Listen to me: bullying is what happens when those who have power use that power to brutalize those who do not.

That is not what’s happening to Howard Schultz.

Howard Schultz isn't being bullied.

No one is bullying Howard Schultz, I doubt he’s ever been bullied.

He has all the power and now he wants more. And he’s trying to use that power to silence any questions, to bully his critics and his questioners into silence.

Just as rich privileged assholes like Howard Schultz always do.

He wants to be president. President. And so he's getting the scrutiny and the questions every candidate gets. No more, no less. But just like Trump, he thinks he's special and he shouldn't have to face it.

And that's it, right there.

That's the thing.

That is what makes Howard Schultz, and his ilk, ultimately unqualified to lead this nation.

It is not just that he doesn't know how to handle that scrutiny, it's that he doesn’t think he should have to handle it at all.  

He thinks his privilege, his wealth and power, put him above question, above examination, above criticism, above having to be better.

White, male, straight, wealthy beyond the reach of 99% of Americans, that’s who Howard Schultz is. The rules the rest of us labor under don't apply to Howard Schultz – he’s the guy who makes the rules. He doesn't think he has to answer questions. He doesn't think his qualifications are open to debate. He doesn't think that he has to face any criticism or produce any details. He’s got people for that.

No, he has all the power, all the money, he lives in the big house on the hill and owns every street corner and how dare the peons question him?

To Howard Schultz, that’s bullying.

He actually thinks he's being bullied because for the first time he has to answer, not the shareholders, but to those he wants to rule over.

Imagine a guy like that in charge.

A guy like that would never understand the powerless who actually are bullied by the powerful, from the weird awkward kid in grade school to those abused by business and government in this country every single goddamned day.

Imagine it?

You don’t have to imagine it, you already have that guy in office now.

That’s what makes Howard Schultz unqualified to be president. That right there.

Guys like this, Schultz, Trump, they think their wealth and power makes them infallible, makes them witty, intelligent, attractive, perfect. They do. Trump was right, when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything, Grab 'em by the pussy. Shoot a guy on 5th Avenue. Hell, they'll tell you they like it, that you're funny, brilliant, so clever, ha hah, Mr. Rich Powerful Guy, you're amazing. So tall, so handsome, so smart, so funny – all while hiding their revulsion behind a fake plastic smile. If you think I’m kidding, just look at Evangelicals in this country, the ones trying to convince themselves that Trump is actually some sort of moral Christian. They know exactly how shitty Trump is. They know. Yes, they do. They pretend to hold the moral high ground, but they are every bit the greedy immoral money-worshiping pussy-grabbing hypocrites that Trump is. Because they enable him. Because they’ll put up with anything, so long as they get close to the levers of power. And so they tell Trump what he wants to hear, you’re so smart, you’re so handsome, you’re so sexy. And Trump is so morally bankrupt, so vain, so petty and small, that he believes them.

It’s no different with Howard Schultz, he’s the same thing in a slicker package – no different than the shitty burned coffee his company serves, whored up in slick packaging.

These guys, like Trump, like Schultz, their egos won't let them admit that it's their money other people admire. That's why everybody puts up with their idiotic comb-overs and bad breath, their ignorant clueless stupidity and their pussy grabbing boorish behavior.

We create these assholes.

Yes we do.

Rich guys like Trump, like Schultz? Sure, the fops and the hanger-ons, the toadies and the suck-ups, those who crave power, convince them that they're infallible and they believe it.

That's part of it. A big part of it.

But it's us too.

It is. We watch their horrible, idiotic TV shows. We buy their horrible shitty coffee. We elect leaders who enable their avarice and greed and selfish booger-eating stupidity at our own expense. We do.

It's our nature to do so.

That’s not an excuse, but maybe it’s an explanation of how we keep ending up here.

I, I, I, I, that's all these guys ever talk about. I. Me. Because that's all they ever think about. Themselves. You don't get to be Donald Trump, you don't get to be Howard Schultz, without first being a self-centered self-involved self-aggrandizing prick. If you do anything for anybody else, it's only because there's something in it for you.

Schultz isn’t a decent employer because he’s a decent guy, QED. He was a decent employer because it made him rich, because treating his employees with a bare modicum of respect was a whole lot cheaper than treating them like Trump treats his employees. That’s all. Is that terrible? Yes. No. Maybe. It’s good business. At least it was good for Schultz’s business. It made him rich.

But is that how you want America run?

Here's the thing: These people tell you that they'll run America just like they run their business.

And that is the one and only truth they will ever speak.

That's exactly what they do.

Howard Schultz will run government exactly the same way he runs Starbucks.

If you elect a businessman, they will run government exactly like they run their business. If they do anything for you, for the average American, it's only because there's something in it for them.

Hell, listen to Schultz, he's already talking about more trickle-down Reaganomics.

He thinks Reagan was a great President because he (supposedly) never took his suit jacket off in the Oval Office.

He doesn’t think rich people should have to pay for the privilege of being rich, instead he thinks they are entitled to it. Because they are better. Because they deserve it.

Folks, Government isn't a business.

Government should never be run like a business.

Good government is designed to protect you from business.

The business of business is business.

The business of government, our government anyway, is to protect its citizens specifically from businessmen just like Trump, just like Schultz.

You elect one of these greedy self centered sons of bitches and what do you get?

Look around, you're living it.

If you elect a businessman to run your government like a business, then you're gonna get the business.

And you're going to get it good and hard.

Every. Single. Time.

America isn't Congress. America isn't Washington. America is the striving immigrant who starts a business, or the mom who works two low-wage jobs to give her kid a better life. America is the union leader and the CEO who put aside their differences to make the economy stronger.
-- Barack Obama

Sunday, January 27, 2019


People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.
Blaise Pascal, De l'art de persuader

I admit to some amusement.

It’s not funny, of course, but still…

I’ve listened to the press and the pundits and the politicians arguing these last few days over “who won the shutdown.”

Who won the shutdown.

Nancy Pelosi won! Huzzah! Huzzah! Cry the liberals.

No. No. It was Donald Trump! MAGA! MAGA! Shout the conservatives.

As if we had just spent thirty-five days watching a sporting match of some sort. With no consequences. Nobody cares about the war, it’s the victor! That’s what matters. Sure. Like in Man of Steel, when Superman and General Zod battle in the final climatic scene … and utterly destroyed an entire city. The fight between these two killed tens of thousands, wreaking destruction on the scale of a nuclear bomb. And the audience was cheering Supe’s victory. Cheering. Because the destruction didn’t matter. The people who died were nameless extras, irrelevant to the supposed righteousness of the battle, irrelevant to the morality of it.

Deaths off camera don’t count.

And I’m thinking, yeah, congratulations oh Son of Krypton, but a few more wins like that …

I dunno, maybe it’s just me.

I can’t say with any certainty who won this shutdown battle. I can, however, tell you who lost.

We did.

America did.

This failure of government has become the norm.

That’s where we are. Legislation by deadlock. Government by failure. As if we’re stockholders judging the productivity of a company we’re invested in by how often the workforce goes out on strike. And when it’s over and the factory starts clunking along, we don’t care how much business we lost or how much further into debt the battle drove the company, we don’t care about the loss of experience that got sick of it and walked away to find employment with our competitors. No. We only care that Management or Labor (depending on which one is your team) won. Huzzah!

But that’s not what amuses me.

No, the part that makes me laugh are those who seem to think this battle is over. That they “won” and that’s it and that’s all.

The government is starting back up, my team won, and now it’s business as usual.

It’s not the conflict that matters, only the victor.

Until the next battle.

But, of course, it’s not really over.

Is it?

Trump this morning:

Look at that.
"58,000 non-citizens voted in Texas, with 95,000 non-citizens registered to vote. These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. All over the country, especially in California, voter fraud is rampant. Must be stopped. Strong voter ID! @Fox&Friends."

58,000 non-citizens, he says.

58,000 thousand fraudulent voters, just in Texas.

That's what he said. And according to Trump, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s all over the country, non-citizens voting in our elections. And most especially in, of course, California.

A few minutes later, Trump tweeted this:

"We are not even into February and the cost of illegal immigration so far this year is $18,959,495,168. Cost Friday was $603,331,392. There are at least 25,772,342 illegal aliens, not the 11,000,000 that have been reported for years, in our Country. So ridiculous! DHS"


That's a VERY specific number.

I mean, he's got it down to the dollar.

The exact dollar. $18,959,495,168. We can't even calculate how much the Pentagon has spent this year to within several orders of magnitude of that precision. But he's got the cost of illegal aliens in America down to the last dollar.

And not just that, he knows the exact number of illegal aliens currently resident in America.

25,772,342 illegal aliens.

Not only does Trump have the cost down to the very last dollar, he got the number of illegal aliens down to very the last individual.


I mean, that's what he said. He gave those very, very specific numbers.

That’s astounding.

No. No, it’s not the values themselves that are astonishing, but rather the precision.

How is that possible?

No, really, how is that even possible? Like at all?

Where the hell did the President of the United States get this information? That’s incredible. Do you see it? Do you understand the implications of this precision? I mean, where did this information come from? How would you even compile such data with such accuracy? No, don't look away, answer the question: HOW? WHO? WHERE? What even is the methodology for such calculations? I mean, in order to count legal – cooperative – citizens we have to do a census of the entire nation, top to bottom. And that is such a massive undertaking that we only do it every ten years. It takes tens of thousands of census collectors called Enumerators, divided among six geographic regions, and thousands of permanent employees at the Census Bureau (more than 4000 alone at the Bureau's Headquarters in Maryland at the Department of Commerce's Suitland complex). It takes months of knocking on doors and asking questions. And then it takes many more months, years, to compile and process and interpret the data. The last Census was in 2010 and cost nearly $15 billion dollars and we're still processing the data nine years later. Hell, that processing this year alone, 2019, will cost over $4 billion. And with all that money and effort there is a significant margin of error. The US Census Bureau's standard of acceptable accuracy is a 90% confidence level. That's right. 90%. I mean all the assets and effort of the Census bureau can’t get us down to any better than 90%.

Ninety percent.

And Trump has the number of illegal aliens in America down to the very last individual?

The cost of illegal immigration down to the very last dollar?

How did he do that?

Who gathered the information?

How did they collect it?

When did they collect it?

Who paid for it? Because there's no entry in the federal budget, I looked.

What agency processed this information with zero margin of error? Because that's a degree of information precision beyond even the best analytical methods currently available.

That’s astounding. Forget illegal immigrants, let’s talk about that precision.

This reminds me of that episode of JAG, "Shadow," where a contractor launches an experimental torpedo from a US submarine during an exercise. Only the torpedo is actually equipped with a live warhead and the contractor threatens to blow up a cruise ship unless the US government pays him some paltry ransom, a couple million dollars, maybe a billion, whatever. And I'm watching this thing, right? And the torpedo is a) controlled via a laptop with no visible means of communication through the steel hull of the submarine and then through miles of water (radio waves of any reasonable frequency can't travel through water, certainly not in any wavelength broadcast via an antenna small enough to fit into a 1990’s laptop. Holy shit! This guy has discovered a whole new principle of physics!) and b) the torpedo is capable of cruising submerged for days following a cruise ship (which averages around 20 knots. Meaning this torpedo must have a power plant capable of sustained endurance at high speed that all fits into a package no bigger than a standard sized US Navy torpedo. That's an energy density beyond ANYTHING I've ever heard of. Even theoretically. Again, holy shit! This contractor has discovered an entirely new principle of physics, chemistry, energy, and a dozen other sciences).

Governments, companies, investors would throw bales of money the size of aircraft carriers at him for that technology.

What the hell is this guy doing with petty extortion? He could go into business and make many millions of times anything he could get blowing up a cruise ship.

Where am I going with this? Beyond a digression into idiotic TV shows about SEAL lawyers who are also Top Gun fighter jocks?

Well, see, this precision Trump displays up above, is this a government capability? Or is it contracted work?

Because if we actually are capable of this kind of precision in the measuring of human populations and the specific costs of the particulars of those same populations, then ... well, GODDAMN! EUREKA! POP OPEN THE CHAMPAGNE! I mean the implications of being able to count and sort people to that degree – especially ones that trying to hide from you – well, you’ll have governments, business, investors, universities lined up twenty deep for access to that kind of data. Because whoever controls that capability could make trillions, far beyond what Trump says illegals cost us every year.

So, where did this information come from? This precision.

Show your work.

And when I say, "show your work" I don't mean a link to Fox & Friends or One America News. I mean show me the raw data from this amazing accredited source, validated by at least one other independent data line.

Well, where is it?

Let's see it.

Oh, but it gets better.

Trump says 58,000 people voted illegally in Texas alone and he says that's just the tip of the iceberg.


I mean, really?

The president said it so it must be true. Right?

I mean he wouldn’t lie, would he? Would put out bad data, would he?

Never mind that Trump's own Presidential Commission on Election Integrity, run by xenophobic rightwing hardliners Mike Pence and Kris Kobach, couldn't find evidence of even a single case of voter fraud. It must be true. Trump believes it.

And really, Texas? Fucking Texas. Of all states, Texas, right? 58,000 illegal voters voted in Texas elections?

If you say so, Hoss.

And they voted for who?

Illegals vote for Democrats.

In Texas.

58,000 of them. Right?

Okay. Sure. Fair enough. I'm willing to be persuaded. Show me the evidence. Show me 1) proof that illegal immigrants vote, 2) in significant numbers, and 3) that they vote all vote democrat.

Show me validated Texas voting records.

Show me. Let's see the evidence.


But let's say this was true.

Sure, let's take Trump at his word and say this was actually true and he can prove it.

It’s true and he can prove it to the degree of precision specified in his Tweet this morning.

It's not, but let's say it was.

Well, then the election is invalid.

That's right.

The election is invalid. At least in Texas.

The election must be declared invalid. And thus, the 38 Electoral College votes that went to Trump from Texas are likewise invalid.

Yes, they must be. Even the Texas Attorney General agrees:

Ken Paxton is the Texas Attorney General.

He is personally and constitutionally responsible for voting integrity in Texas.

He says “VOTER FRAUD.” 58,000 illegal voters.

That’s what he said.

That makes any election in Texas, particularly 2016’s General Election invalid.

So, let’s invalidate it. Let’s throw out the votes from Texas. I mean both Texas and Donald Trump agree the vote is tainted. Can’t be trusted.

Invalidate the vote. Throw it out. Along with Texas’s 38 Electoral College votes.

Which would give Trump 268 Electoral College votes instead of 306.

You need 270 Electoral votes to win the Presidency.

Trump himself just said that his own electoral victory is a fraud.

Yes he did.

That is precisely what he just said. And he was quoting the Texas Attorney General, who likewise says his state's election integrity can't be trusted.

That's what they said.

So, throw out the election and let's start over.

I'm hip. Let's take him at his word.

The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or to spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it.
D.L. Moody

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Walls, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Even paradise could become a prison if one had enough time to take notice of the walls.
Morgan Rhodes, Falling Kingdoms

And so, here we are.

Thirty-four days, as I type this.

Thirty-four days since our government failed, shut down, deadlocked. Whatever you want to call it.

Thirty-four days, two full paychecks for 800,000 American citizens who are growing increasingly desperate.

Thirty-four days since our government has functioned to even its normal minimum levels of competency and service.

Thirty-four days, more than a month now with no end in sight, since your food was fully inspected for safety, since your taxes were processed or there was somebody available at the IRS helplines to provide advice and support (you, however, will still be required to file on time or suffer the consequences for your failure).  Thirty-four days since your national parks and national museums were staffed and patrolled and cleaned. It’s now been more than a month since those who guide more than a hundred thousand commercial airline flights safely through the skies every day have been paid, since those who guard your airports and seaports and transportation systems have been paid.

What’s that?

Don’t worry, don’t cry, when this shut down is over, they’ll get paid?

Sure. Maybe. Probably. But that eventual paycheck won’t pay the overdraft fees on bounced checks or the penalties from overdrawn accounts or the fines for late rent or the interest on short term loans or make up for the things families had to do without.

You want to know how bad it is?

Do you?

Yesterday I saw something I’ve never seen before.

I saw the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, Admiral Karl Schultz, publicly apologize to the men and women, uniformed and civilian, of his service for the failure and inaction of America’s elected leaders. For betrayal of trust and the abject failure of the nation they are sworn to defend.

Those men and women put their lives on the line every single day for America. There is no service that more directly risks their lives in protection of America than these guardsmen. And they do it every day, every night, calm and storm, peace and war, from search and rescue in the frigid arctic waters of Alaska, to counter-terrorism in our ports, to border patrol and drug interdiction along our Southern coast, to war in the Arabian Gulf. They’re out there, every single day, right now this very minute, no matter what, no matter the risk. And today, their commander had to apologize to them and direct them to food banks and mutual aid societies in order to feed their families.

This is a disgrace we will never live down.

Tens of thousands of government contractors have been sent home. A lot of them won’t get paid. There won’t be any back pay for them. And don’t tell me they will get paid, because I know better. See, I used to be one of them. After the second government shutdown in a year and losing more than a month’s pay, I quit. I walked away from government contracting and America got the short end of the deal on that one. I had 30 years of experience, first as career military, then as a government employee. Much of my training and knowledge came from that service – just like the vast majority of government contractors. The United States gets a pretty damned good Return on Investment by hiring us. I took that and walked away. Became a writer. Put my fate into my own hands, for good or ill. Because I was sick of working for free, sick of working for faithless selfish sons of bitches, sick of not knowing from month to month or contract to contract if the projects I started, the effort I invested, would be thrown away because a bunch of goddamned children in Washington could not, or would not, do their jobs. In the end, I walked away because I was sick and goddamned tired of being treated like trash by my own government. It’ll be the same here. Irreplaceable talent will go out the door, lost forever. And your government will become even more inefficient, more unskilled, more inexperienced and will have to pay to find and train new people, those desperate enough – or stupid enough – to put up with being treated like shit.

It’s happening right now.

And it’s going to get worse.

The Federal Judiciary ran out of money last week and will have to start shutting down services. That’s right, the federal court system. You’ll want to think about the implications of that.

The situation at our Airports is growing critical. These systems, security, traffic control, airspace management, are almost unimaginably complex and are all interlinked. One portion fails, and there are ripple effects, harmonics, across the entire structure. The system is already overloaded, pushed to capacity and beyond. It doesn’t take much. You see this every time there’s a snowstorm at a major hub. It doesn’t have to be the entire system that goes down, just a part, a critical piece, a crisis, a snowstorm, a walkout, a slowdown by disgruntled workers who haven’t been paid in a month, and air transportation in the US will collapse into chaos. That’s not just passengers, you know. It’s business. It’s mail service, cargo, shipping, UPS and FEDEX – including critical prescription shipments to the elderly and to veterans. It’s live organ transfers. It’s all the people who aren’t government workers but depend on this industry for a living, from the janitors to the food court service workers to the baggage handlers. It’s a thousand other things you never thought of. The second order effects can’t even be calculated, particularly if major airlines go into default because this sector of our economy is thrown into chaos.

The Commerce Department is mostly offline. The division that compiles critical economic data, the Economic Analysis and Census Bureau, is shuttered and that information isn’t being gathered or published. This information is used to adjust the economy and to manage other government departments from Agriculture to the Treasury, to determine lending rates, to determine Gross Domestic Product, personal income, INFLATION, spending, trade, and new home sales.

This morning, as Secretary of Commerce billionaire businessman Wilbur Ross wondered out loud why his furloughed employees are resorting to food banks to feed their families, President Trump tweeted this:

The economy is doing great, says Trump.

Great. Just great. The economy is doing great. Better than any time in our history.

That’s what Trump said.

But how would he actually know?

No really, how would he know? With Commerce shut down, how does Trump really know? How? Fox And Friends? Is that it? Is that where Trump got his information?


So, how do they know?

Ask yourself, where did Fox News get this information? Who compiled it? Using what methods? What sources? Where did the raw data come from? What's the margin of error? How current is the information? How do you really know what the economy is doing when the agency most directly responsible for monitoring it has been shuttered for over a month?

Trump is gleefully whistling along with the jaunty music played by the Fox News dance band as the Titanic steams full speed at the iceberg.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), food stamps, runs out of funding in six days. So what, say conservatives. They hate that program to the very depths of their flinty Christian souls. But that’s also the same funding line that pays for subsidized school lunches. People, kids, are going to be hungry by and by and you have to wonder what their precious prophet would think of that?

New applicants for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will have to wait. Those already enrolled will continue to receive their benefits, but new applications can’t be processed until the government comes back on line – and this is the point where I remind you that your president said he is willing to keep the government shut down for “years.”

But, hey, billionaires got a tax break and the economy is doing great, Folks. Just great. Probably.

Thirty-four days now and no end in sight.

A new record for Trump.

A new record for governmental failure in America.

I guess huzzahs are in order.


Why are we here, in this moment of failure?

Why are certain Americans acting as if this failure of government is something to celebrate?

Why is the President and his party acting as if this failure of their own administration is some sort of victory?


Well it’s simple really. It’s about slogans.

Build a wall and crime will fall.

Now, there’s a slogan for the same MAGA hat wearing mouth-breathers who hear Trump say, “The economy is doing great!” and nod their heads without a single question.

Build a wall and crime will fall.

There’s a slogan that perfectly sums up an administration that daily boils down xenophobia, jingoism, racism, not to mention complex matters of economics, commerce, demographics, foreign policy, climate change, war, into a tweet.

Build a wall and crime will fall.

The perfect slogan for attention deficit disorder America.

Build a wall and crime will fall.

Catchy. Mindless. Empty bombast masquerading as pithy intellect. Yes, indeed, there’s a slogan that is the perfect summation of Donald Trump.

Build a wall and crime will fall.

Except … what crime?

I’m not saying there’s no crime in America because obviously there is, but what crime are we talking about here?

Build a wall and crime will fall? What crime? What kind of crime? Murder? Rape? Shoplifting? Speeding? Tax evasion by billionaires? Political corruption? Treason? What crimes are we talking about?

And when Trump says “crime will fall,” what does that mean? Fall? That’s a pretty vague measure. Fall by what? Feet? Meters? The number of barleycorns that will fit on Trump’s tiny thumb? Furlongs per fortnight? Are we talking eighty percent or some fraction of a percentage point?

I mean, slogans are great and all, but what are we really talking about here?

Trump gleefully seizes on every violent crime committed by an illegal alien…

… but never seems to mention the hundreds, thousands, of similar crimes committed every week by those Americans who were born and raised right here in the good old United States of America.

What percentage of crimes are committed by illegal immigrants?

Is this really the most significant problem we face? Crime wise?

What are the statistics? What percentage of crime, and what kind of crimes? It matters, you know.

Show me the equation.

No. No. Don’t shake your head and try to move the goalpost. Trump said: “BUILD THE WALL AND CRIME WILL FALL.”

Build a wall and crime will fall.

How do you know?

Look here, you want to spend billions of dollars that we do not have to build a wall, and you tell me that wall will cause crime to fall by some amount. Okay. Fair enough. Prove it. Or if not prove it, at least show me the numbers which support your argument.

Build a wall and crime will fall.

All right, let’s start by looking at crime in total.

That’s right, crime in total. Trump said, build a wall and crime will fall. He didn’t say build a wall and there will be less of some certain crimes. He said crime. As in crime in general. So, we need to know the amount of total crime in America.

Then we need to know the percentage of the total crime which is committed by illegal aliens vs the percentage committed by legal residents of this country.

Then we need to look at the percentage of the crime committed by illegal aliens who specifically enter the United States via our southern border – not the ones who come in via the sea, or by air, or from Canada, and not those who come in legally and overstay their visa or those who come here via normal ports of entry using fraudulent identification, only those who illegally enter the United States via the southern border (note that we essentially  just ruled out any wall stopping the kind of crime committed by, oh say for example, the 9-11 hijackers. But I digress).

And then you need to factor in the theoretical percentage of that number who would be stopped by a wall.

And finally, you need to show how that final number would impact the original number, i.e. total crime, and by how much, because that’s what Trump is saying. Crime will fall. Will it? By how much? Enough to offset the enormous cost of this wall and its maintenance in perpetuity? That’s what I’m asking you to show. That number.

That one, right there.

For example: A car theft outfit in San Diego uses illegal aliens to steal cars. Now first we need to know what percentage of overall crime car theft is – which means you’ll need to have a process for determining overall “crime” as a quantitative number. You don’t have that. You don’t have any way to define or calculate that to any useful degree. But for the sake of argument, lets just say that we do. Next you need to know what percentage of overall crime is made up of car theft, and for the sake of simplicity we’ll assume there is only one kind of car theft. Then you need to figure out how much car theft is committed by illegal aliens and of that number, how many of those illegal aliens come across the US/Mexico border illegally (as opposed, for example, to car theft committed by illegal aliens who came from, say, Asia via container ship. Again, for example). Which would indicate that for precision sake, you’d need to have illegal alien crime broken down not only by crime category, but also by illegal alien country of origin AND methodology of illegal entry. Then you need to calculate the theoretical efficiency of a wall in stopping those particular illegal immigrants who enter via that one particular avenue (and ideally, you’d want to further break that number down into specific geographic corridors along the southern border so you could tell if the wall was equally effective along its entire length in stopping crime and if not which areas might require additional measures). And then finally, you’ll need to determine the actual impact on the car theft business or in other words, will that crime “fall” for lack of illegal immigrants who specifically entered the United States via our southern border OR will that particular criminal enterprise simply find somebody else to steal cars?

In this example, the odds are fairly high that a wall will have no impact on this particular crime in any fashion to any statistically significant degree whatsoever.

Now, do the same for murder. For assault. For sexual assault. For theft. For larceny. For bank fraud. For campaign finance violations. For treason.

No. Don’t roll your eyes. It matters. When Trump says “crime will fall” what kind of crime? Because, again for example, credit card fraud in the US costs merchants more than $190 BILLION each year. Now, is that more or less than the amount they lose to shoplifting by illegal immigrants? Well? How much of that credit card fraud is committed by illegal aliens? And how much of that would a wall stop?

That’s what we’re talking about, that number right there.

How do you calculate that number?

According the FBI, white collar crimes, crimes committed by business and government professionals, cost the US $300 billion annually. Trump’s wall wouldn’t affect that statistic in any fashion whatsoever.

So, you see, the type of crime we’re talking about matters.

Build the wall, crime will fall. So what type of crime are we talking about?

Murder? Okay. The homicide rate in the US last year was 4.9 murders per 100,000 people. What’s that? 0.0049 percent, a number so small that it’s statistically zero (unless, of course, you’re one of the people who fall into that fraction of percentage. I’m not trying to be flip here). Now, how many of those 0.0049% murders were committed by illegal aliens that crossed our southern border in a place where a wall would have stopped them?

How many?

Ten percent of 0.0049%?



Even if every one of those murders, every single one, was committed by an illegal alien that would have been stopped by a wall, the statistics for murder would only fall by what?

Yeah. That’s right.


Now, to be fair to Trump, you can sort of see why the slogan isn’t “Build a wall and crime will maybe decrease in some cases by some tiny fraction of a percentage that is statistically insignificant and isn’t actually being measured by any valid agency to any useful degree while the crimes that actually cost America many billions every year and destroy thousands of American lives won’t be affected in any fashion whatsoever.”

What’s that?

Oh, you noticed, did you?

That’s right, nobody gathers this information.

Unlike the Department of Commerce, this isn’t data that’s going uncalculated because of this government shutdown.

It’s going uncalculated because nobody calculates it.

Nobody gathers this information. Not in total. Not to compile the kind of supporting data Trump would need to prove his slogan to any useful degree.

Back in June of 2018, Trump told the nation that illegal immigrants as a population commit violent crimes at a rate far above that of legal residents (native born and naturalized citizens, resident aliens, visitors, etc). He didn’t put an actual number on it, but he implied that it was a lot.

A day later Senator Bernie Sanders contradicted Trump’s statement and declared, “I understand that the crime rate among undocumented people is actually lower than the general population.”

Who’s right?

How do you know?

Well, that’s the thing. There is no single entity in the US tasked with specifically gathering, compiling, analyzing, and disseminating that data for the nation as a whole. Instead, each state maintains crime statistics broken down by whatever categories they each find useful, there’s no standard. The federal government maintains certain statistics on crimes for which federal law enforcement is responsible, such as forgery or kidnapping. Various agencies gather and maintain various statistics. There’s some overlap, but there’s no single uniform clearinghouse for this information. Any numbers, like those presented by Trump and Sanders above, are, at best, guesses, and you can find thinktanks and research to support literally any position you like.

So when Trump says “Build a wall and crime will fall” it means literally ... nothing.

Like nearly everything else Trump says, it has no basis in provable reality – either for or against. It’s simply a slogan, a soundbite which appeals to the dimwits and the intellectually incurious, those who think “common sense” and “gut instinct” are a good basis to spend billions of dollars on.

Of course, these are the same people who think their “gut” feelings about climate change are equal to actual science, so if nothing else they are consistent.

As is Trump.

A week ago he tweeted this:

So, another caravan is heading towards our border. It's a 1000 miles away, traveling on foot, but OMG! Mexico isn't stopping it, even though this caravan, if it even exists, isn’t actually in Mexico. So we’ll have to stop it like the last two caravans with our wall (which, based on previous tweets, is sort of like a wheel). But this takes a lot of border patrol agents who are not getting paid right now specifically because there is no wall and we want a wall to stop the caravan which is forming but if Mexico stopped the caravan we wouldn't even need a wall probably and everybody could get paid!

Have a headache yet?

I know I sure do.

It’s gibberish. Trump contradicts himself over and over and doesn’t seem to be bothered by it.

The more you try to make sense of what he says, the worse the headache gets. I mean, look at it:

1. Mexico should somehow stop people from migrating to the United States. Right? Doesn't matter how, it's Mexico's responsibility to stop migration of people from outside of Mexico and from within Mexico to the United States. That's Mexico's job, or it should be.

2. Border Patrol is currently doing Mexico’s job. Since Mexico isn't stopping migration. And we don't have a wall to stop them (and yet this non-existent wall stopped the last two caravans and never mind, he’s rollin’), so, US border patrol is doing it.

3. But it takes a lot of border patrol agents.
That's what he said, if I'm parsing his gibberish correctly.

So, if we take that as a given, or at least an indicator of Trump's thought process on this matter, then the preferred barriers to immigration from Central America to North America are (A) Mexico, (B) Wall, and/or (C) Border Patrol.

Now Trump wants Option (B), 30 feet tall and 2000 miles long, because (A) isn't doing its job and (C) actually is but we apparently need a lot of them and we’d like to have less.

But just hang on a minute here.

Estimates to construct a border wall of the kind Trump wants range from (DHS) $21.6 billion to (GAO) $70 billion. Now, I’d say based on my own experience in military and government work over the last 30 years, you can double the high end and you’ll still come out short, but let’s be charitable and split the different. $55 billion.

For reference, the annual budget for the entire Department of Homeland Security for 2017 was $40.6 billion.

Wait, what?

Yep, that’s right, $40.6 billion.

Oh, and you need, conservatively, $120 million per year to maintain this wall once it’s built.

I know, math. But bear with me here, you’ll enjoy the punchline.

Now, the average border patrol agent makes about $56K per year, or about $21.50 an hour.

You know how many border patrol agents you could hire for $120 million?

Do you?

Two thousand, one hundred, and forty-two.

See? I told you you’d enjoy the punchline.

For the wall’s maintenance fee alone, you could add two thousand new border patrol agents. For a fraction of that $55 billion, hell for a fraction of the $5.7 billion Trump is demanding now, you could fully train them and equip that force with everything they need, and then some.

So, I’ve got to question the priorities here. Because it seems increasing the number of border patrol agents would be a whole lot cheaper than building a wall – and this is a method that Trump himself says works. Is working. Right now.

Moreover – because you just knew there’d be a moreover -- if Mexico is your preferred primary defense, why would you hamstring that country via this new USMCA trade deal? Wouldn’t you want them to have the assets necessary to stop these caravans of immigrants permanently? Say by, oh, I don’t know, offering immigrants good jobs in American factories based in Mexico? I mean, wouldn’t you want Mexico to be more attractive a destination than America? Same language, similar culture, lower cost of living, good jobs? Seems like everybody would win here.

And while we’re on the subject, if border patrol agents are currently the most cost effective method of securing the border, why in the hell would you keep the government shut down?

I mean, don’t you think they’d be even more effective if they were actually getting paid?

The US/Mexico border is 1954 miles long. Currently, about 700 miles is fenced in some fashion.

Meaning a bit more than 1200 miles isn't.

And the parts that aren’t are in remote territory, far from urban development on either side of the border.

So, if you build this wall, 30 feet high, 2000 miles long, 1200+ miles of it would STILL traverse remote territory.

Now, people being people, it won't matter how high the wall is, or how thick, or whatever passive systems (such as spikes or concertina wire, etc) you include. Given enough time and resources, human ingenuity will find a way over, under, or through your wall in short order. And that is particularly true in remote areas, outside of full time observation.

In our case, that's about 1200 miles worth of remote territory.

You don't need to take my word for this, you can research the effectiveness of such barriers from the Great Wall of China to the Berlin Wall, from Hadrian's Wall to the West Bank Barrier.


What's that?

Oh, right. The West Bank Barrier, the wall which divides Israel from Palestine.


It works, my critics say.

And it does. In the areas where it’s patrolled and fortified. Because in those areas it's not just a wall, it's a multi-layered defense system. Barbed wire, anti-sniper concrete wall over part of its length, vehicle ditches, electronic systems, patrols. In areas of high priority, it’s monitored 24 hours a day, every day. It is patrolled 24 hours a day, every day. The cost to Israel (and Palestine) is high. It works. Yes it does. It keeps people penned up, keeps them apart, keeps people out, maybe keeps them from killing each other. Just as it was designed to do and a number of American conservatives look to that Israeli model as an example. But even Israel didn’t fortify that barrier over its entire length. It’s too expensive. Too impossible.

The American version would have to be vastly longer and vastly more expensive.

In Israel, that barrier was designed, rightly or wrongly, to separate nations and people at war.

And the only way a such a barrier works is with constant monitoring, constant patrolling. Because otherwise, as I mentioned up above, all you need to defeat it is a ladder and some quiet time. This is true of the West Bank Barrier. And it was true of Hadrian's Wall. And the Great Wall of China. The Maginot Line, the Berlin Wall, Saddam's line. Etc. They all had to be monitored and patrolled. Or they were no more an impediment to movement than any natural barrier, any river, or hill.

And as Trump himself said, or implied rather, it’s not the wall that is the barrier, it’s the border patrol.

Up above, I mentioned the Maginot Line.

The French spent enormous resources to fortify their borders with the well known Maginot Line in the northeast of France and the lesser known (and somewhat more successful) Alpine Line (sometimes called the Little Maginot Line) in the south. But once in place, those resources were fixed. They could not move or be used elsewhere.

When the Nazis did a rapid end run around the fortifications through the Ardennes Forest, all the enormous resources of the Line were immediately rendered moot, left behind in their fixed, immobile positions. The Line is still there today, its walls rotting, rusting, and useless, a tourist attraction and a monument to fatal folly.

That’s the lesson of the Maginot Line: a wall is fixed in position, and thus the defenses and resources of a wall are only useful at the wall.

And as we’ve already noted, as Trump himself has noted, a mobile force on our southern border is far more effective. Is currently effective. And could be made even more effective for a fraction of what a physical barrier would cost. Flexible. Adaptable. Mobile. Not anchored to a single physical installation. Able to relocate rapidly to areas of threat, and then move again with the threat changes.

Walls are good for small, limited, controlled areas where the wall is part of a larger defensive system, and continuously monitored, protected, and maintained. Where those manning the wall have a significant advantage over those the wall is designed to control.

Like a border in a high population area, such as the high density regions around crossing points in Southern California, Arizona, and Texas.

Areas where we already have a wall.

For Trump's wall, a barrier 2000 miles long, to work, you will have to monitor it in real-time along every inch. You will have to install cameras and sensors, fly drones and aircraft, and put out daily patrols. The wall will be constantly probed. Constantly tested. Constantly watched by those we're trying to keep out. There isn't any way to hide it. 2000 miles long, 30 feet high, and visible in orbit. We become anchored to our wall, constantly trying to find any weakness before the adversary does. Any moment of inattention, any blind spot, any weakness, will be found – and exploited. The odds are with the attacker, not the defender, especially over that distance.

Because that is human nature. Ask any prison guard.

Of course, the people of the US and Central America are not at war.

Those seeking refuge in the US are unlikely to storm the border with a Blitzkrieg of tanks and dive bombers – and if they were, we wouldn’t build a wall anyway because the US military doesn't fight from fixed positions.

Those who build walls in the desert often die on them. As Saddam's army learned – or didn't actually, given how the second war with the US went.

Again, walls are useful for certain limited applications. But they are utterly impractical over thousands of miles. Your assets become fixed, inflexible, unable to adapt, and if bypassed they're useless.

You will never get a return on your investment.

The only way to make a wall effective over that distance to monitor and man it over every inch every minute of every day.

If you have to have eyes on the border an anyway, if you have to patrol the entire length in real time anyway, if you have to monitor the cameras and sensors and drones anyway, if you have to counter any breach anywhere anytime anyway, THEN YOU DON'T NEED A PHYSICAL WALL.

For a wall to work, to do what Trump promises, it can’t be a simple barrier, no matter how long, no matter how high.

Like the West Bank Barrier, or the Great Wall of China, it would have to be a complex system of technology and human beings where the physical wall itself is the very least part, its defenses fixed and inflexible, unable to adapt to changing circumstance.

And that’s the joker, right there.

See, once you implement the supporting systems and personnel you need to secure the wall, you no longer need the wall outside of a few small areas.

And without a wall, those security systems become much more flexible, mobile, unpredictable, and adaptable. They then have the advantage.

And it is cheaper. Vastly cheaper.

History, our own military strategy, and our national security policies learned over two painful centuries, demonstrate just how useless and ill advised a fixed defense is.

This isn’t about crime.

It’s not about terrorism.

It’s not about immigration.

It’s not about sovereignty.

It’s not about some humanitarian crisis on the border.

Because we could do something about all of those things, more effectively, more quickly, more cheaply, right now, and without shutting down our government.

No. It’s about fear.

Whenever I write about this wall on social media, the overwhelming response is that illegal immigrants will just go around a wall.

And that is likely true.

They’ll go around the wall. They’ll go over it or under it or come in via a different route. They’ll come in legally and overstay their visas. They come in using fraudulent papers. They’ll arrive hidden in cargo at our seaports or Canadian ones and come across the unwatched northern border.

They’ll find a way, because people always do.

And those in power, those telling you that you should be afraid, those who profit from fear? The sloganeers? They’ll want these illegal immigrants to come. They’ll need them. Oh, not to pick the fruit or mow the grass or watch the kids for cheap – though they’ll want that too.

No, those who profit from fear need something to fear.

Those who profit from fear need somebody to blame.

Those who are afraid, they must have somebody, some threat, some nameless shapeless dread, to fear.

It's the easiest form of power, the simplest way to manipulate the rudest of minds. Them. They’re getting in. They’re taking your jobs. They’re committing the crimes, raping, murdering, stealing your democracy. Them. Did you hear about them? They are here, oh you bet they are. Be afraid.

And so, we’ve got to do more.

We’ve got to be safe, dammit.

You built the walls, you patrol the beaches and the skies. But it's not enough, those in power tell you. It can't be enough. It can never be enough. It won’t end with the wall. We have to have somebody to fear. They are still getting in. They are here. Oh yes they are. Who else would be causing these problems? Committing these crimes?

We’ve got to do more. We’ve got to be safe. Don't you want to be safe? Don't you want your kids to be safe? Don't you want your country to be safe?

Of course you do.

We've done everything to keep them out, walls, wire, soldiers, guns, dogs, but they're still here, it’s not enough.

So, we need some way to identify who belongs and who doesn't. We have to know. To be safe. To be sure.

You need proper identification.

That's right. Proper ID. And control over who gets that ID. And then, well, then we'll need some sort of secret police force to check that identification to make sure they’re not sneaking about. Right?

I mean, we have to be safe, don't we?

We have to be sure.

Papers, please. Papers.

That's how this goes.

It's never enough. You can never be sure. You can never be safe. You have to keep doing more. More walls. More barbed wire. More guards. More dogs. More identification.

More slogans.

More of everything, except for … proof.

That's how this goes every goddamned time.

This is how republics die, right here. Through ignorance and stupidity and fear.

Those who thrive on this kind of power, the power of fear, they need you to be afraid.

And so it will never be enough. Ever.

A society that starts building walls out of fear will one day end by building its own prison.

“They want us to be afraid.
They want us to be afraid of leaving our homes.
They want us to barricade our doors
and hide our children.
Their aim is to make us fear life itself!

They want us to hate.
They want us to hate 'the other'.
They want us to practice aggression
and perfect antagonism.
Their aim is to divide us all!

They want us to be inhuman.
They want us to throw out our kindness.
They want us to bury our love
and burn our hope.
Their aim is to take all our light!

They think their bricked walls
will separate us.
They think their damned bombs
will defeat us.
They are so ignorant they don’t understand
that my soul and your soul are old friends.
They are so ignorant they don’t understand
that when they cut you I bleed.
They are so ignorant they don’t understand
that we will never be afraid,
we will never hate
and we will never be silent
Let life be ours!”

They Want Us To Be Afraid
      Kamand Kojouri, poet, novelist