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


  1. Well said again, Jim. As a furloughed IRS employee, thank you for putting this together.

    1. Lee Gunby, to you, and to your fellow employees, I send my support from Canada, and hope this ends soon.

  2. From where I sit outside the USA, there is something fundamentally wrong with the design of the US government system, which has allowed this to happen.

    First, having the Chief Exec and President roles in a single individual is a recipe for disaster. That's leaving aside the barriers against and disincentives for people to act on their obligation to elect representatives. (And the seeming absconding of this obligation as a matter of cultural pride in parts of the population.)

    What might have worked when the US was much smaller (mainly by accident), doesn't work today with a much larger, more complex society. The founders maybe couldn't have been expected to foresee the consequences of growth (and greed), but could have looked to older democracies and learnt lessons from them.

    I don't think this situation could arise in another democracy. All have their flaws but the USA system design seems to be more flawed than most. The USA is a wonderful nation, with a lot of talent and much compassion. Lets hope that it can find a will and a way to fix things and get back on its feet.

    1. Part of me agrees with this, but any system is broken when the humans acting in it act out of selfishness and greed. If Congress never abdicated it's duty to be a coequal branch, if they stopped deferring to the executive, and if they truly acted as representatives of the people, the system would actually still work. But there have to be changes now. Things we Americans took as "settled norms" to the point we thought they were laws, we are now finding out arent laws at all and just believers in our system respecting precedents and traditions. Biggest example being FDR not bowing out after his 2 terms. Up until that point, Presidents were following Washington's example out of precedent. After FDR, it became a constitutional amendment to limit the POTUS terms to 2.

    2. US republic is modeled on Roman republic. For urgent decision making (i.e. warfare) where legislative bodies were too slow, Rome had 2 consuls, but they had to agree on something before it was enacted. he Founding Fathers went with 1 president instead, not sure why. At best, this moves presidency towards cult of personality, and autocracy. At worst, well...

    3. The president and vp were supposed to be the equivalent of the two consuls. That is why the vp is head of the senate.

    4. Look at sports to understand this. Sports constantly have to adjust the rules because people will always find a way to bend the rules to get an individual advantage, often to the detriment of the sport as a whole. What is unique about the American system is its age, and how static it is. It sort of breaks me up that there are "originalists" who are proud of restoring the constitution to the way it was 250 years ago (in the age of slavery). I think constitutions need to be rewritten from scratch roughly once every lifetime. As a constructive non-partisen effort - which would be a hell of a lot easier without the two party system, which is also the source of many of your ills in the USA.

    5. @Eliphion - I agree with a lot of what you're saying, but I think you're underestimating the role of the electorate. They have the power to punish the violation of "settled norms" but if they don't play the role of cat, the mice will play.

    6. Sou,
      You have to read the founding fathers to get an understanding of what they were trying to make. They did model it after other forms of government and they did not want to be ruled by a King with no representation. They setup the co-equal branches of government to counter the power of the president. What they did not for-see was the corruption of the Republican party by big business and the corruption of the President of the United States. The Congress was suppose to counter the President, and the Courts. Now that the House is controlled by the Democrats, and Robert Mueller, he will have to face the consequences if the Republicans ease off. If they are too greedy and power hungry, then America will face the same things that happen with all civilizations after hundreds of years. America is facing the same Corruption and Rot that all civilizations face as the Wealthy manipulate the system. The Founding fathers put in mechanism's to counter this and keep the system honest more or less. We are now finding out how rotten the core is by the total disregard of the middle class and poor. "Let Them Eat Cake". Yet 30-40% of the population has been brainwashed for the last 30-40 years. So long as they get to die with their hands on their rifles, you can starve them, bomb them, kill them. They will vote Republican, and complain the Government doesn't work. If they had half a brain they could see their representatives block aid to them, give to the Billionaires, destroy health coverage, Infrastructure, Education, Welfare for average Americans. Vote for Military, Homeland Security, Police, FBI,(unless investigating president). Now they are placing corrupt judges in positions to cement their power. Look at what Germany did and the Kangaroo courts. WE have to stand fast and fight the corruption or it's going to get a lot worse.

  3. That's a powerful piece, and pretty much lays it out there regarding the boondoggle that is hurting real, hardworking Americans. That Kamand Kojouri poem at the end took my breath away. Damn, you can write.

  4. as a fellow veteran, this sickens me to my core.

  5. Jim, this is a great piece, may I share it?

  6. Well done, Jim. Thanks for putting the hard work in on this. Tragic
    that works needs to be done.

  7. You don't need to post this, but about 6 lines above the ending poem youg have a typo... "expect" when you mean "except".

    1. There is also another typo where you use the word "It" for the word is," in the sentence "It" that where he got it..."

    2. Seriously? You can't spell the word "you," and you are calling him out for a handful of typos in a 6,000 word essay?

    3. I encourage readers to point out mistakes so they can be corrected. Free proofreading, where's the downside? // Jim

    4. Now that Trump has given us 3 weeks of funding. Will the Republicans continue to use these tactics to make Government ineffective, so they can turn everything over to the corporate private sector? To defund the Democratic party, the unions, that still fight against the Monolithic corporate funded Republican right? Are they using the Democratic House to further their agenda, ruining the economy as Putin wants to lessen the strangle hold on Russia? If the Republicans go two years with no legislation passing, Executive Orders, Lobbyist as Cabinet Members or in positions of power in government to make them ineffective. Then continue to cry to their base how government doesn't work? Hollowing out government institutions, getting rid of senior people. Just like they do in corporations, by cutting costs firing the most senior people to bring in fresh talent just above minimum wage with no pension due. Too bad the 20 yr guy lost his job just before he got a pension. That money will have to go to the execs. By breaking down the middle class, they cause fear, and apathy and gerrymandering they maintain control. Open your eyes and vote people.

    5. In that case Jim, in the sentence, "They come in using fraudulent papers." I think you meant "They'll come in using fraudulent papers."

  8. Sigh. Scream. Arggh. Supporter from Canada here. Of all the repugnant things Trump and the Republicans have done - thus far - would it be fair to say that the shutdown is the worst. How is this legal. There's no amount of well wishes I can send you all, but to you government employees, I hope this ends soon. Arggh.

  9. Thank you for this article, for the reasoned response to an unreasonable situation.

  10. Jim when your on a roll ,your on a roll,. I went to the local VA hospital and got issues address and and chatted with workers. Gist of it was thank God I worked in the VA,but they are looking at private sector because they think they are next.

  11. I have researched the feasibility of Trump's wall and though I'm no expert on wall building there is no doubt the concept is a pipedream. You've pointed out even more reasons why it's pointless. As always Jim thank you for a very well written piece.

    1. About as pointless as his vaunted Space Force, eh? ;) Trump himself is pretty pointless. He barely registers as a human being.

    2. If we launched Trump into Orbit and then let him re-enter to strike the planet, say North Korea. That Head hitting the ground with that Ego, would do a lot of damage. It would be Huge and Bigly! I'm just not sure we have a rocket big enough?

  12. Great post! One typo: So when Trump says “Build a way and crime will fall” it means literally ... nothing.

    Like nearly everything else Trump says, it has no

    No need to post this comment.

  13. Honest, no-sarcasm question.

    What can we, as individuals, do to counteract this madness? How can we actively push back against it? What can we do about it?

    That's not a despairing wail, I'm honestly asking what you think we, as individuals should do about all of... this. In addition to voting, I mean.

    Because if ANYTHING can be done, I'll do it. I just don't know what that actually is.

    1. I think we need to march - literally - on the WH. By the millions. That is what MLK Jr. did - nonviolent mass demonstrations. That is what we need to do.

    2. Vote. Get involved. We're in this mess because a metric shit ton of people chose hyperbole over substance while the rest stared at their phones and liked cat videos.


  14. I believe a bunch of people are in favor of the shutdown, not because they want the wall, but because they think government is bad. They want to make government fail, because they want proof that it fails. And they don't care who they hurt in the process.

    1. Exactly. I feel this is all by design by Bannon, Miller, etc. And the complicit Republicans. It’s as if they’re trying to prove their point about how bad government is and how good privatization is. There will be *white knights* charging in to rescue us all from this and save us by privatizing the failing services. We already know how good *that* will be for our Country.
      Re the wall: interesting that his price keeps escalating. From $4B to $5B and now to $7B. That last increase has been *since* the shutdown! Another Russian oligarch much have called in a loan! I think he’s hellbent on actual construction of the wall because it will cover actual monetary paybacks to his benefactors. *That’s* why he’s not budging on this. It’s his vehicle to make himself whole with a lot of people. It all makes me so very sick.

  15. I’m not really sure what more needs to be said. They’ve been telling us for years that we needed to run the government like a business and needed to elect a businessman, and we’ve got one who is running the country like a liquidator stripping it for parts.

    1. Bush II was the first "businessman". We've had our toes in this water before. It's now rignt under our noses.

  16. Once again thanks for saying what I lack the skill to compose.

  17. Yes, thank y o u. Outstandingly layed out. This i s worthy...equal 2 the best pamphleteering o f o u r ablest writers when t h e n a t i o n 's f a t e hung by a thread

  18. Powerful article. Thank you. Migraines suck. Found 1.typo: "man it over ever inch every minute of every day." Insignificant but you asked.

  19. Jim, your essay has left me with a knot in my gut. I fear that the folks that need to read this will never understand a single word of it, no matter how plainly it is spelled out. Thank you for telling it as it is.

  20. I didn't see anyone else mention these typos, so here goes (in the order I noticed them):

    how does Trump really now? ('know')
    How current is the information How (needs ? mark)
    the economy is doing great, Folks. (capitalization)
    you tell me that wall cause crime (that THE wall WILL cause)
    looking at at crime in total. (Too many 'at' words)
    That’s right crime in total. (That's right, crime in total.)
    that for precision sake (precision's sake)
    Border patrol, border patrol, Border Patrol … (consistency in capitals?)
    split the different (split the difference)

    Other than that, looks good to me. U R gud writter.

    Cheers, Renee.

  21. Suspected typographical error stopped near the end. 'More of everything,...expect for proof'

    Beyond that, bang on sir!

  22. Damn.No wonder You have an migraine. I think this is one of Your best essays that I've read. Thank You for using Your experience and writing talent to make some sense out of this mess.

  23. Great essay. While I know the Democrats don't want to consider the wall at all during the shutdown, I think at some point, the House should have hearings on the wall. Let Trump's department heads testfy about how it will work. Then talk to some outside experts, including military experts on defense. Do it all in public hearings. Let the head of the Border Patrol testfy about how drugs and people actually get into this country.

  24. 45 seems to be taking entire chapters out of Mussolini's playbook, which should alarm if not outright scare the shit out of everyone that still loves this country. I just wish there was some way to open his supporter's eyes to the fascism that seems evident to me.

  25. This is a hard fucking read that everyone resident in the United States should be required to read.

  26. When I noted that building a wall is akin to constructing your own prison, the reply I got was 'but we have our guns/2A to protect us against the government'.


    Like lambs to the slaughter.

    I also echo what Cerebus and the unknown poster above him(?) said and add:

    Knowing a few hardcore Libertarian types, you have the endgame of that particular cult pegged perfectly.

  27. As one of your faithful minions, I have been wondering, watching and waiting for your "next" essay. As usual, you do not disappoint. Indeed, you could win an internet Pulitzer, if there was such a thing.
    I will be referring back to this many times (as I have "Antipodes") to use as cannon ammo against the red hoards of my (now) residence in S. Dakota.
    Take a FL sunset photo for me, Jim!

  28. I'm sure that was painful to write.

    It was painful to read.

    The simultaneous wish to gut-punch you and thank you for the clarity is causing an unpleasant level of cognitive dissonance. I fear for our country. I want to believe this is respiratory distress, a warning that will lead us to clean up our act and do better, but the longer it goes on the more it begins to sound like a death rattle.

  29. https://www.newsandguts.com/ng-follower-how-much-crime-is-actually-due-to-illegal-immigrants/

    Just for reference.

  30. Insightful as always. Thank you sir.

  31. Thank you Chief, for the full breakdown of this madness.

    I personally am out $1,500 this month alone due to the shut down, and I'm not employed by the Government. It's all from people who either are working for the Government (one client works for DHS) or peripherally, as with another client who works for a University where they get Government grants, and yet another client who works for a company that is a contractor for the government. All of my bills are behind and the rent is due on the 1st.

    All of this because we have a moron in the White House, who has a mental capacity smaller than he was born with, and a pack of beyond greedy, narcissistic, megalomaniacs aiding him in this utter ridiculousness.

    Chief, I do believe it's time to vent the ship. The Motie miniatures have taken over.

    1. Thanks for the reference for one of my ATF sci-fi novel, one that does not get it's due.. Would love to see a high budget movie of it one day!

    2. Crazy Eddie point was reach 9 Nov 2017.
      As an aside re. Trump's management of the government; is it malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance or a malignant combination of all 3?

    3. On the one hand, we have the outmoded and ineffective Electoral College system. On the other hand, we have yhe24 hr news cycle, unfettered by any accountability for truth or accuracy. On The Gripping Hand, we are faced with a debilitating voter apathy, and until this nation finds itself a way to once again field a well-informed and engaged electorate, we are heading for a true Crazy Eddie event. Like most here I fear for the future of this country.

  32. That was fantastic! My pet peeve right now is using Israels wall as a comparison. People coming from the south are only looking for a better life in America. Palestinians on the other hand, want to kill all the Jews and wipe Israel completely off the map.

    1. I have a different opinion on Jim's using Israel's wall as a comparison--I think it's quite apt. Netanyahu and the Israeli Likkud Party are like a miniature version of the Trump cabal and Republican Party. They use fear of the other--and sell a misplaced fear of an existential threat against them as a people--to support hardline, inhumane policies against their neighbors, just like our right-wing government "leaders" are doing here. Further, they tar *all* Palestinians with the same Hamas brush, saying that *all* Palestinians want to wipe Israel off the map and kill all of the Jewish people.

      Meanwhile, similar to the Central Americans and Mexicans who seek asylum at our southern border, most Palestinians just want the same things everyone else on the planet wants: security, peace, good jobs and a good life for their families, and freedom from hunger, violence (state-sanctioned or otherwise), and starvation/homelessness. What's worse is that Netanyahu and the right wing in Israel are able to horribly manipulate and deceive their people by playing on their very legitimate fears of genocide in a not-so-distant past. The Jewish people were horribly wronged--the *entire world* (including the U.S. at the time) wronged them by denying them safe harbor during the Holocaust--and Netanyahu & Co. misuse the memories of that history to justify oppressing the Palestinian people. Absolutely, the Hamas outfit is a bunch of criminal thugs that should be punished to the fullest extent of international law--but the Palestinians as an entire people should NOT continue to suffer at the hands of their neighbors. Just as the people in the Americas of the Global South should not continue to suffer at our hands--their U.S. neighbors--for simply wanting a better life.

      The wall, in both cases, is simply a symbol of the fear that continues to tear us apart as a people and bring about our and Israel's downfalls from within, sadly. :(

  33. charitable and split the different. Shouldn't this be difference?

  34. So eloquently said, Jim. Thanks for this clear and cogent analysis of the dumpster fire that is currently our government. The daily outrage is exhausting, and resisting - no matter how weakly one individual can - is the only way I will be able to look my grandchildren in the eye.

  35. I love your logical, deductive writing. Many times your posts are the only beacon reminding me logic still exists. Thank you!

  36. Superb analysis. Thank you so much for naming the beast in the room.

  37. If this was just about a damned wall we could (probably) figure it out . . . but I don't believe it is. I believe it goes much deeper to that scrap yard in history where all empires seem to end up. No righteous argument, or movement, or left minded intellect has as yet saved their victim and I doubt our finger pointing will either. . . We cry for change, we die for a better world, we deny, and we lie, and it all goes bye bye, anyway. . . . Trump, Nancy,and their cast of clowns are nothing but actors in that Oscar winning film called . . . The rise and the fall of the American Empire. We all have played our bit part in this movie as well . . . and now the gig is up and it's time to be payed . . . but the check is NOT in the mail.. .

  38. My feeling on this is let your voice be heard. Call your senators and representatives and weigh in on the issues that concern you. You may be just one voice but together they add up.

  39. A leader totally lacking in empathy surrounds himself with people of same caliber. What did we think would happen?!

  40. Sir Jim. You are brilliant. That's all.

    Well, not quite all. A few typos not already mentioned:
    - Paragraph starting "Thirty-four days, more than a month now ... more than hundred thousand ..." - *a* hundred thousand.
    - Paragraph starting "No really, how would he know? ... It that where Trump got his information?" - *Is* that where Trump, etc.
    - Paragraph starting "Ask yourself, where did Fox News ... How current is the information - *missing the question mark*
    - Paragraph starting "... but never seems to mention ... right in here in the good old - *delete extra "in"*
    - Paragraph beginning, "Look here, you want to spend billions ... you tell me that wall cause crime - *will cause crime*
    - Paragraph beginning "All right, lets start by looking at at crime in total." - *let's* and *delete extra "at"*
    - Paragraph starting "For example, a care theft outfit ... specifically entered the United State via ..." - *missing "s" on States*
    - Paragraph beginning "Estimates to construct a border ... and split the different. - *difference*
    - Paragraph beginning "And as we've already noted, ... move again with the threat changes - *when the threat changes*
    - Paragraph beginning "The only way to make a wall effective over that distance to monitor ..." *is to monitor*
    - Paragraph beginning "If you have to have eyes on the border an anyway ..." *delete "an"*
    - Paragraph beginning "They'll go around the wall. They'll go ... They come in using fraudulent ..." - *They'll come in using fraudulent*

  41. And even with a wall, and patrols, those thousands of immigrants arriving at the border to apply for entry and asylum will still be there, waiting, to legally apply for entry and asylum - you know, the ones we are supposed to be afraid of? They will still be there, and the only thing that would change is ... nothing except for their wait will be longer due to the shutdown. So Trump has even fucked up the process of sending back immigrants whose requests for asylum are denied.

  42. This was fantastic, thank you for your POV. I love your work.

  43. Okay, a couple of quibbles. You state:
    "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.


    Actually, if all murders were committed by illegal aliens coming through an area that could be stopped by a wall, then the murder rate would drop to 0 in 100,000, or by 100%, not .0049%.

    Also, I suspect that in Trumplandia the only "crime" he's talking about would be Illegal Entry into the Country AKA illegal immigration. In his perfect world everyone would come face to face with the biggly wall, stare in awe and despair at it's magnificence, and turn around and go home, shoulders drooped in despair. In THAT scenario, then yes, Crime Would Fall! Cutting off the flow of Illegal Immigrants/Aliens is the issue the wall is supposed to address, and it would have an affect, but it would never be cost effective, the damage to the environment and our image would be irreversible, and people would find a way to go under/over/around or through it eventually.

    I fully agree with you that shutting down a portion of the Government over this issue is morally reprehensible and foolish. Thank you for your words.

    1. I follow your point, and as technically phrased, that's a logical way of interpreting Jim's words.

      What I believe was meant - and accurate - is that an individual's average risk of being murdered will fall from .0049% to zero. That statistic would indeed be reduced by only .0049%. (It seems to me to be the most meaningful one. If you tell me the murder rate has fallen by 100%, I'm likely to feel - incorrectly - as though that is a significant change, even though my previous risk would have been overstated if described as "negligible.")

    2. Seconded, as worded it should have been "murder rates would drop by 100%..." but there is other math news. The actual rate of .049% not .0049 percent. The math is 49/100,000 x 100.

      Having said that, I full agree with all the sentiments in Jim's, essay, typos and all.- and that's the real point.

  44. Mankind's suicidal ideation appears to be in full flower with this administration. Thank you for keeping a light on the pack of them.

  45. This comment has been removed by the author.

  46. This comment has been removed by the author.

  47. It's more than just civil servants and government contractors. For instance: A couple years ago, we enacted legislation to help prevent total deforestation of rare hardwoods like rosewood. That legislation requires guitars that include such wood to get permits from the Fish & Wildlife Service before exporting them.

    I don't know how this is affecting the big manufacturers, but here in Maryland, Paul Reed Smith sells half their guitars as exports. How long can they continue with half their business shut down?

  48. If tRump knew how to read I'd send him a copy of this.
    Well Done Sir.

  49. The only thing missing from the section on Israel's wall is that we paid for that as well, since we give that country a hefty sum of money every goddamn day, for reasons I cannot fathom. And what ROI are we getting from that? If Americans Knew is the best resource for understanding just what we're paying out.

  50. Jim:
    Sadly, most of the people who most need to read this post would dismiss it with the phrase that causes homicidal ideation in every writer I know: "TL;DR". I want to throat-punch those people (I, too, am a writer, though not nearly as amazing as you).

    The analysis section alone, where you pick apart the "math" (or lack thereof) behind his statement, should be required reading--preferably with eyes propped open with toothpicks, "Clockwork Orange"-style--for every MAGA-hat wearing tRumpeter in the nation.

  51. Love your writing. Thank you for the work that you do.

    I have one small nitpick. Math errors bother me in a Rain Man like manner. I know what you are trying to say regarding murder rates, but if the murder rate went from 0.0049% to 0%, then that would be a 100% reduction of the murder rate (not a 0.0049% change). A more accurate statement that gets to what you are aiming for would be something like "The murder rate would drop by only 0.0049 percentage points."

  52. Sorry you had to write this because of the sickening madness your country is going through, but thank you so much for writing it so brilliantly.It is a recurrent syndrome in human history - the blindness, the bigotry, the cowardice and cruelty caused by vague fears as well as the exploitation of ignorance. We are confronting similar difficulties in Europe as well. And here we know for sure "qui prodest" if the continent’s greatest peace project might be brought to fail. You are a great voice with a smooth feather, thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts!

  53. Very well written. I do completely agree with you. Fear is the problem and the republican party and trumpalumpa are playing the fear card. When my neighbor sell's his house, I don't care if a black family buy's it, or a lesbian family, or a muslim family buys it...I only care that they are going to be good neighbors, mind their children, and return mutual respect. That is all that matters. Be kind to each other, smile, laugh, and love, for life is far too harsh, and short.

  54. This.

    This, right here, is why I'm retiring from service.

    That our people allowed themselves to be duped by this rhetoric . . . I do not fault them.

    That Americans huddle in their social media bubbles and refuse to learn . . . I pity them but I do not blame them.

    No, it falls to our leaders. They supported Trump, when they had every indication that it would go this way. They are the cowards and the bullies and the opportunists, the ones who have sold their souls and their country for a fleeting deal with the devil.

    If we're to fear "them," we should at least direct it to those responsible.

  55. Public schools in NC are already paring down their menus as a direct result of the shutdown. Naturally, they've started with the more expensive items, which also happens to be among the healthiest - fresh vegetables.

  56. Thanks for another great essay.

    Your point about the ripple effects of the shutdown (actually of all of the actions of the Trumpist/GOP crowd) is something that concerns me most of all. The system effects will continue to make themselves felt long after the current "crisis" is over (much as a crowed freeway becomes gridlocked by virtue of someone tapping their brakes hours earlier). The resultant failure(s) in society and of government will not be ascribed to the initial actions but to the scapegoats fingered by Trump and his minions. While they are focused on non-white immigrants and non Evangelical Christians today, they will move on to Democrats, liberals, intellectuals, union members, "collige perfessers" (sic), et al. ad infinitum under the "Yer wit' us or agin us and hate 'Murica you [targeted group pejoritve] bastid" ethos of the Trumpist mob.

    Some of that mob might argue that Trump is just what the US needed to knock a corrupt, inefficient political system off of its axis so that "real Americans" would be uplifted. The problem with such a rapid and violent perturbation from equilibrium is that you don't have any way to know what the new equilibrium state will be (and to who's service). Will the new state represent a new, and more just, society (and for whom) or a further erosion to a totalitarian state? No one can know.

    I was fortunate to tour a section of Hadrian's wall a couple of years back. We traveled to the site of a Roman fort along the wall over paved-over Roman roads from centuries before that were straight as an arrow. Even in ruin, the engineering at the site was marvelous to behold. The outlines of barracks, the arrangement of sanitation systems, the remains of paved walkways were phenomenal but also told a cautionary tale of the rapidity at which a functioning society can collapse.

    A community that functioned at the site for about 300 years was reduced to ruin in about three generations as a consequence of system effects long before and far away in Rome. From >300 years of stability to anarchy in <100 years as a consequence of a system knocked out of equilibrium. A community that functioned for longer than the US has been in existence reduced to non-functionality in less than a century. I hope that we (rather our children and grandchildren) are not on a similar, inexorable road.

    Once again Chief, thanks for an interesting and thought-provoking essay.

  57. Jim, I have nothing I can add to yet another well written piece, and I wish your writings would get the media coverage they deserve, so I'll just say this:

    If you're a furloughed gov't employee in central florida, and you're having trouble making ends meet, my door is open. Come over, I'll feed you and your family. My daughter and I don't have much, with me being disabled, but we're used to stretching things out. If you and your family are hungry, we'll feed you. If you can't make your rent, you can sleep here (You might have to share a blanket on the floor or couch with the rabbit, but....). It ain't much, but this old veteran will help you out. C'mon over.

    That's all I got.

  58. We also have a "them" situation in the UK - our lovely European nationals which our god-awful Brexit is trying to deny us.
    It was fear of immigrants that voted in 2016 to Leave the EU; it is still fear of immigrants, which a large percentage of the UK are holding on to, which has led our Government to become split, and antagonistic to one another; and it also makes us look ridiculously stupid.
    At the moment, both the US and the UK are floundering in a mess of their making. I hope we survive.
    Thank you, Jim, for setting it out for us :)

  59. To these people noting the typos, how could you? This man has put together a very impressive item and you want to impress us by pointing it out? (Check for typos)

    1. Dave,

      I encourage readers to point out mistakes so they can be corrected. Free proofreading, where's the downside?

      // Jim

  60. So, is it okay to share the link of this article on social media?

    1. Yes, you may mostly link to this article on social media, and thank you.

      // Jim

  61. Welcome back. I was thinking you might have gone 'back inside' to help take care of the problems you describe so eloquently. Glad to read you again. Enjoy reading the Stone indictment.

    1. I needed to take a break from-long form for a bit. My hands needed to heal. The break turned out to be a little longer than I planned on.

      // Jim

    2. Jim, been checking your site almost daily for a new essay these last months, and as per usual, you did not disappoint. Glad to see you back in long form again, since I don't do the social media thing, as important as it is to you. But, can you explain the healing comment?

      Maybe too personal a question, but today's my birfday, man! Throw this old man another bone.


  62. How does this foofaraw affect pending and ongoing House investigations? I agree with everything your wrote, Jim, but I can't escape feeling the motives for the shutdown have little or nothing to do with illegal immigration. And that "state of emergency" will quickly become martial law. There is nothing Trump won't to retain and increase power. Look at what's already been done.

  63. Brilliant.... should be required reading for all.

  64. Trump is so motivated by money I have to assume that in addition to the party-line fear-mongering and sleight of hand, he has a scheme for rerouting the wall funds into his own pocket.

  65. Is it any wonder that what passes for most religion in the U.S. these days is a philosophy based on making people afraid. When people are afraid, whether it be of "God" or people, they can be controlled. As far as Christianity goes, Constantine knew what he was doing.

  66. I agree. From the beginning of his campaign, the wall has been symbolic. Claiming it works is just window dressing. Curtains to hide fear and racism and failure behind.

    Just line the border with billboards every hundred feet that read simply: "Fuck off, brown people not welcome!" It'll be cheeper, but still send the same message.

  67. Enjoyed the read! I fear that this is an obvious, if tiny-handed, attempt to distract from the crimes of a president. What I don't fear is that the inexorable progress justice.

  68. Once again, you have hit that ball out of the park and to the far side of the parking lot. You’d think that there would be MAGA hat wearers old enough to have heard their fathers/uncles/grandfathers/etc. talk about the Maginot Line and how the Nazis went through the Ardennes Forest. Hell, I’m pretty sure it’s in the history books, but they’re still chanting for their damned wall. It boggles the mind.

    I was glad to hear this afternoon that 45 actually caved and is reopening the government. He was carrying on about the furloughed federal workers being “patriots” and “they were telling him to be strong to get the wall”, but you know damn well that they were actually telling him to fuck off. His delusions are incredible. Any of the rest of us would have been locked up and heavily medicated by now if we were babbling and ranting the way he does.

  69. Thank you for this. Thoughtful, closely reasoned, ethically founded, and passionate: in my considered opinion, just what we need.

    (At this rate, we may start feeling a need to drag you into elected office...)

  70. Thanks for another very thoughtful essay. My husband has travelled to Israel for work, one thing that he remarked upon that was unnerving to him was the high number of military personnel walking around with weaponry. Coming from the US that is not a typical sight, but it does bolster your statement about why the wall in the West Bank is effective. Like you, I fear the day when we will be stopped and searched for papers. What are they really so afraid of?

    I would like to make these people show me how, with real evidence, a wall is the most effective way to solve our immigration problems. But the current Republican party in control appears to have no use for science or research evidence. The disdain this administration and their followers have for experts is ridiculous. It makes me fear for our future.

    The callous disregard for the plight of the federal workers and contractors affected by the shutdown is breathtaking. One man on Twitter wouldn't stop reiterating that "What's the big deal? They will eventually get paid." When called out on it, his stance was that there is no reason anyone should be living paycheck to paycheck, that with careful budgeting anyone should be able to make it through a shutdown with no problems. How do you reason with people who have this worldview?

  71. Um. Fine writing, but for one math error.

    If *every* murder was committed by illegal alien AND IF a wall would stop every possible murderer from committing his/her murder, then even though murders are only .0049% of the total crime rate --- murders would fall, unless I am very much mistaken -- **100%**, because there now wouldn't be *any* murders. Murders would be 0.0% of the overall crime rate.

    The overall crime rate would only fall .0049%, but the murder rate would be a big fat goose egg.

  72. Even now, though the shutdown has ended, it's still time:http://idlehandsdept.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-occasional-mid-week-molly-time-to.html

  73. You know who loves them some walls? Manufacturers of tunneling equipment. Also ladders.

  74. I found this... https://twitter.com/Kristin_Hook/status/1088833209687777280 which talks about immigrants and crime (with sources) from a furloughed scientist who loves research. Thought you'd be interested.

  75. Note of hope: A Trump supporting friend of mine finally saw the light. And I didn't have to say a thing. He's a Texan. And a veteran. Maybe now that Trump has trashed every state in the union with his shutdown more people will figure it out.

  76. This is a brilliant piece but obviously much too intellectual for the Trump 'core base'.

  77. It gets even better (which is to say, worse).

    You forgot benefits. The rule of thumb in private industry is that you double the salary for benefits and overhead. So we should cost the agents out at about $100,000/year.

    We currently have 20,000. But let's think big. Let's go for FIVE THOUSAND new agents, and devote them to protecting just the 1,300 miles of border Trump wants to add a wall on. That's better than one per mile in three shifts. Annual cost: $500 million.

    The current 10-year T-bill rate is about 2.7% - and you know it's going to go up, given the GOP's $1 trillion a year deficits. (I know you are as shocked as I that the tax cuts did not pay for themselves.) But even if it stays the same, the annual interest on the increase in the national debt for building the wall Trump wants would be: $567 million per year. Dead minimum, using the most optimistic price tag from DHS. Savings: $67 million per year. And they could be ready to go in a couple of years at most. I mean, if this is such a big freaking emergency, don't we need to do something NOW?

    Nancy Pelosi hit the nail on the head: this is a manhood thing for Trump.

  78. "Build a Wall and crime will fall"
    Maybe that's his new offer? He will give up his life of crime if he gets his wall? That could have a statistical impact!

  79. Thanks for the time, thoughtful reasoned approach, and opportunity to share. Perhaps if more people had the time to read they might also find some time to think crically about the world around them and the events that inform their personal view and actions.

  80. It is astounding that a single one of the unpaid workers had to experience anything but complete forthcoming generosity of the many banks the american people bailed out in 2008. Appalling that they did not immediately rally to provide interest free advances to all of them.
    Donna S please do NOT correct my grammar or spelling.

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

    Missing an "is" between "distance" and "to".

    "If you have to have eyes on the border an anyway."

    Yeah, the "an" isn't needed.

  82. What do we have that they should want?
    We have a wall to work upon
    We have work and they have none
    And our work is never done
    My children, my children
    And the war is never won
    The enemy is poverty
    And the wall keeps out the enemy
    And we build the wall to keep us free
    That’s why we build the wall
    We build the wall to keep us free
    -- Anaïs Mitchell


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