🗯️ Tearing Down the Wall

userpic=divided-nationThere seems to be two worlds out there. In one world — let’s call it the red world — the only thing standing between us and death and destruction would be a physical wall on the Southern border. In the other world — let’s call it the blue world — the fear leading to the call for the wall isn’t there, and there is the belief that other mechanisms will suffice. The red world believes that the blue world want “open borders”, when that isn’t what they are saying. Neither side is listening to the other, and the government is (partially) shutdown. I’m a believer in risk management and risk reduction, and so I would like to offer some thoughts on the subject:

  • What is the threat? If the concern is true outside terrorists (as opposed to the homegrown ones who have been doing the mass shootings), they haven’t been sneaking through the unfenced areas of the Southern border. They have been coming through the airports, coming through normal border checkpoints, and overstaying visas. They are best addressed not through a wall, but through increased CBP mechanisms and personnel, technological observations, enforcement of visas. A wall does nothing to reduce this risk.
  • If the concern is “bad hombres” — i.e., gang members — again, there is no evidence that they are sneaking through the unfenced portions of the border. There is also scant evidence that the threat is there. Yes, there have been a single handful of police officers shot by undocumented immigrants. But what is the overall threat to the population at large? That’s negligible. We must deal with acceptable risk, not complete risk avoidance — and there is a level of risk in law enforcement. We are not seeing crimes throughout the country by this particular group, nor is the percentage of crimes by this group demonstrably rising. In short, there is no evidence that a physical wall would provide any reduction in anything related to “bad hombres”. It is fear and uncertainty, animated by racial hatred and a particular segment of the media who are using the issue to divide when there is no significant risk.
  • If the concern is the immigrant caravans on the border: they are not at unfenced areas of the border, nor is there any evidence that they are attempting to cross at those points. They are refugees, and the best way to address those individuals is to provide more personnel to process their requests fairly and expeditiously.
  • A physical wall is a band-aid on a wound: it addresses the symptom of the problem, not why the problem is happening in the first place. Although the red world is loath to consider spending money outside the US, the funds proposed for a wall would be better spent making the home nations of the immigrants better places. If conditions are better at home, there is no need to come to America for opportunity. Further, the cost of making those countries a better place is much less than building a physical wall, and has much less environmental impact or impact on the lands and properties of Americans living at the border.
  • Security must be looked at as a comprehensive picture. While we argue and shut down the government over a physical wall, we have furloughed significant work on improving and strengthening the Cybersecurity of our nation. NIST’s cybersecurity work is on hold. NSF’s cybersecurity research is furloughed. Increasing our cybersecurity is vital to our national security, and sacrificing that to the wall is idiotic. Our enemies have and will use our technology to subvert our systems and use them for their own aims — and they have done so in recent elections. They are perfectly happy to sit in their home countries and do it electronically, while laughing at our debate over a wall on a border they would never cross. The shutdown has also reduced the border security workforce at the airports (TSA) — again, weakening our security infrastructure.

Border security is important, and ensuring entry to the US is vetted and legal is significant. However, a physical wall is not the right way to do this, and it provides insignificant risk reduction. Fear has been created over a risk that just isn’t there, and the actual numbers don’t back up the claims. If there must be funding for a wall, let’s start the right way: determine the most impactful 100 miles that need new wall, and fund that now to provide risk reduction in conjunction with other security mechanisms, because the risk reduction of all wall segments is not equal, and not all require immediate funding. Most importantly, don’t let the focus on the wall battle distract from other border security, including securing our electronic borders.

P.S.: The answer to securing our electronic borders is NOT to declare a national emergency and shut off all electronic communications. Just imagine the impact of that on American business and commerce!

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📰 Politically Astute

userpic=trumpAnd what is the first box under the tree, Santa? Such sparkly red and blue wrapping, but the colors seem to want to stay away from each other? How odd. Oh, look, you got me some political news chum. Just what I … wanted …

 

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🗯️ Losing a Game of Nuclear War, With No Final Strike

Back when I was in college, one of the games we had in the UCLA Computer Club was Flying Buffalo’s Nuclear War. This is a card game where the players launch missiles at each other. If an opponent wipes you out with missiles, you can attempt to shoot off whatever is left in your arsenal to wipe them off the face off the map. Good times! But the game had a catch: If you lost your population due to a well played propaganda campaign, there was no chance of a final strike. You were wiped off the map, without retaliation.

Back when I was in college, we were in the middle of a cold war with Russia. They were our enemy. We had just come out of the era of Richard Nixon. The Russians were the bad guys, and there wasn’t any equivocation about that. After all, it was Khrushchev who said “We Will Bury You?” Even post college, politicians would distance themselves from Russian politics and Communism. Often, the strongest politicians to do so were the Republicans: “Better dead than Red”.

Then the Soviet Union fell. The wall came down in East Berlin. We established relations with Russia. We believed we had won the Cold War. But the Russians remembered. They still promised to bury us. Russians are patient.

Then came Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh. They figured out how to play the media game. Taking advantage of C-SPAN and the power of talk radio, they played up the tribalism and separation. They turned the ability to compromise and work together for the nation, despite differences, into partisan warfare. They turned it into a battle of Us vs. Them. This was a battle we saw during the Clinton presidency, during Bush 43, during Obama. The partisanship grew.

The Russians were also watching.

Then came the election of 2016: the first election where social media was significant (yes, it was there during Obama, but not like this). The Russians knew how to use propaganda. They manipulated social media to convince blacks not to vote — that neither Clinton nor Sanders were on their side. They launched a pro-Jill Stein blitz to siphon votes away from Clinton for the folks that couldn’t stand Trump. They whipped up Trump supporters with memes, and launched a specific campaign to elect Trump to office. They used every major (and even minor) social media platform to do this. They have continued to do this, spreading disinformation about the Mueller probe. They continue to run interference for Trump.

Was there collusion? The Russians are too smart to leave evidence of it, unless they specifically want to bring someone down. But that’s not their goal: their goal is to bury us — to destroy to US. They have already achieved their goal to do that: elect Trump, and destroy trust in the US. They didn’t need collusion, when people work towards the same goal without explicit cooperation.

Although we might have won that battle and outlasted the first USSR, that doesn’t mean that Russia didn’t remember. Russia and China are indeed burying us and destroying us by exploiting the very strengths of our political system — a free press and voting — to achieve their goals of electing a leadership too inexperienced and narcissistic to stop them, by electing a leader who cares only about himself. Essentially, by electing a Russian Oligarch, one of their own.

But what is most galling about this are those who are still Trump supporters, those who still espouse the Trump line, share the Trump memes, spread the same negative lies on social media from the same Russian-controlled and influenced sources. These are Conservatives — the party that hated the Reds, hated Russia, hated large deficits, believed in the power of the US military and working together with our allies against the Russians and Communist influence. These are the people that should be most up in arms about how they were manipulated. Instead, they roll over and say “Scratch my belly. More more.” As long as the Russians keep their party in power, they no longer care about the nation. It is tribe before country, party before patriotism.

It is insulting, and makes a mockery of their party.

It has also made me question my Conservative friends to continue to repeat these memes and these lies, who have not rebelled against the abduction of their once Grand Old Party. They have “drunk the kool-aide” and used it to wash their brains. I hate to say this — and I’ll still try hard to correct them — but we may need to write them off.

It is up to us — those who care about this nation, and those who see this propaganda attack for what it is — to fight back. We must say “enough”, and expose Russian involvement. We must investigate, investigate, investigate, and bring down those who are misusing and abusing the freedoms we have in this nation, or using power power for personal gain, or violating the laws. We need to figure out how to stop propaganda while still preserving a free press, to answer the question of when misinformation and leading information crosses the line.

Most importantly, in 2019 and beyond, we must not play into the propaganda games. We must spread truth, not disinformation. We must work for and elect candidates who will work for American interests, and not those of Russia  (especially when those Russian interests are hidden behind purported American patriotism). We must take our country back.

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🗯️ Pressure Relief Valves

Recently, we had to replace the fill valve in our toilet. We went to our local plumbing supply store and got the replacement part, but called a plumber to install it as neither of us have the mobility to get in the tight area required to install it. That plumber, after going outside to “examine” the pressure regulator, later proclaimed that the pressure regulator had failed and our water pressure was too high. That could result in all sorts of damage if we didn’t repair it. He, of course, could do so for around $500.

We suspected he had played with the regulator and broken it. But our pressure was too high. So we called the plumber we should have called in the first place. He examined it, and noted that once installed, if you adjust it you break it. It was broken, and he replaced it and the pressure relief valve as well. Out the door, just over $300. The pressure in our house is lower, damage averted (hopefully).

***

Recently, I went to the doctor because my legs were swelling. He took my blood pressure: 159/119. Although I had been fighting high blood pressure for years, this scared him. We adjusted meds, added walking, and I’m the winner of compression stockings. But the meds are working. For the last three weeks, my lower number hasn’t gone above 80; my higher number tops at around 140. This morning at work, I was 98/58. I’m now getting to deal with the impacts of lower blood pressure: a bit more fatigue, a bit less energy. I’m told my body will get used to it. More importantly, however, the lower blood pressure will reduce the stress on my systems. I’ve already seen a significant reduction in my migraine frequency.

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Lowering the pressure in your house, and in you, is a good thing. Society these days, however, is also showing signs of being under too much pressure. Systems are failing from the pressure, and the mechanisms we have in place to serve as pressure regulators also appear to be failing. And so the pressure keeps building and building, to what appears to be an inevitable explosion that won’t be pretty. In fact, just like your plumbing, it could leave shit everywhere.

Luckily, however, you have the power to fix that regulator, and it doesn’t cost all that much. All that it needs is: your vote. By mailing in your ballot, or going to your polling place and voting, you can fix the pressure regulator. You can ensure that our regulation mechanisms that are in the system can start working again. You can hold our leaders responsible, in the same way (and with the same scrutiny) that the previous administrations had been held accountable.

But accountability isn’t the only way voting brings pressure relief. Our government gains its authority by the acceptance of its authority by the people as a whole. When our leadership is elected by a mere 20% of those eligible to vote, can it really be called a government of the people? We need voting numbers in the 80% to 100% of legal, eligible voters. Show that this administration is accepted by the people, or demonstrate that it does not (and needs to be replaced). That alone is your power, and you gain it by understanding and studying everything on your ballot, and voting with your brain (and not doing what social media tells you).

You have the new pressure regulator and relief valve in your little hands. Tuesday, you can install it. Together, we can reduce the pressure in our nation, and make our systems healthy again.

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🗯️ Understanding My Liberal Political Views

A friend of mine recently posted a great summary of what being a liberal means, written by Larry Allen. It struck very close to home, as I was recently accused of being a socialist, just because I’m a registered Democrat. So I’d like to adapt Allen’s piece to detail my views. For the record, “Socialism” includes workers owning the means of production, and in general, an opposition to Capitalism. “Democratic Socialists” believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few.  That includes the traditional workers owning the means of production. Although both Socialists and Democratic Socialists might register and run as Democrats, that doesn’t mean that the Democratic Party as a whole — or even most Democrats — hold those views (just as White Nationalists and Antisemites might register as part of the Republican party, and even run for office as Republicans does not mean that all Republicans are White Nationalists or Antisemitic).* – See the bottom of the post for an even better discussion of this

So what do I believe. Here is Allen’s piece, adapted a bit:

  1. I believe a country should take care of its weakest members. A country cannot call itself civilized when its children, disabled, sick, and elderly are neglected. Period.
  2. I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Why? Because someone else’s inability to take care of their health can directly affect me and those I love, both in the diseases to which I am exposed, and the costs I pay for medical care. Somehow that’s interpreted as “I believe the Affordable Care Act is the end-all, be-all.” This is not the case. I’m fully aware that the ACA has problems, that a national healthcare system would require everyone to chip in, and that it’s impossible to create one that is devoid of flaws, but I have yet to hear an argument against it that makes “let people die because they can’t afford healthcare” a better alternative. I believe healthcare should be far cheaper than it is, and that everyone should have access to it. And no, I’m not opposed to paying higher taxes in the name of making that happen.
  3. I believe education should be affordable and accessible to everyone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be free (though it works in other countries so I’m mystified as to why it can’t work in the US), but at the end of the day, there is no excuse for students graduating college saddled with five- or six-figure debt, or to have debt service organizations that put money above the students. You want the future of America — you want to make America successful — it is through our students.
  4. I don’t believe your money should be taken from you and given to people who don’t want to work (which is a distinct group from those who can not work). I have literally never encountered anyone who believes this. Ever. However, I just have a massive moral problem with a society where a handful of people can possess the majority of the wealth while there are people literally starving to death, freezing to death, or dying because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. Further, I have a problem when those who have the ability to pay taxes go out of their way to avoid doing so through corporate structures, shell corporations, and other chicanery. The wealthy are a part of society, and they need to act that way. Fair wages, lower housing costs, universal healthcare, affordable education, and the wealthy actually paying their share would go a long way toward alleviating many of our problems. For those that believe this makes me a Socialist or Communist, I suggest you look up the definitions of those terms.
  5. I don’t throw around “I’m willing to pay higher taxes” lightly. If I’m suggesting something that involves paying more, well, it’s because I’m fine with paying my share as long as it’s actually going to something that I believe in. There are many things the government spends money on that I don’t agree with, such as giving tax breaks that increase corporate profits.
  6. I believe companies should be required to pay their employees a decent, livable wage. Somehow this is always interpreted as me wanting burger flippers to be able to afford a penthouse apartment and a Mercedes. What it actually means is that no one should have to work three full-time jobs just to keep their head above water. Restaurant servers should not have to rely on tips, multibillion-dollar companies should not have employees on food stamps, workers shouldn’t have to work themselves into the ground just to barely make ends meet, and minimum wage should be enough for someone to work 40 hours and live.
  7. I am not anti-Christian. I have no desire to stop Christians from being Christians, to close churches, to ban the Bible, to forbid prayer in school, etc. (BTW, prayer in school is NOT illegal; *compulsory* prayer in school is – and should be – illegal). All I ask is that Christians recognize *my* right to live according to *my* beliefs. When I get pissed off that a politician is trying to legislate Scripture into law, I’m not “offended by Christianity” — I’m offended that you’re trying to force me to live by your religion’s rules. You know how you get really upset at the thought of Muslims imposing Sharia law on you? That’s how I feel about Christians trying to impose biblical law on me. Be a Christian. Do your thing. Just don’t force it on me or mine.
  8. I don’t believe LGBT people should have more rights than you. I just believe they should have the *same* rights as you.
  9. I don’t believe illegal immigrants should come to America and have the world at their feet, especially since THIS ISN’T WHAT THEY DO (spoiler: undocumented immigrants are ineligible for all those programs they’re supposed to be abusing, and if they’re “stealing” your job it’s because your employer is hiring illegally). I’m not opposed to deporting people who are here illegally, but I believe there are far more humane ways to handle undocumented immigration than our current practices (i.e., detaining children, splitting up families, ending DACA, etc). I do believe there should be process of vetting immigrants and those claiming refugee status; I think there should be a path to citizenship for those that pass vetting. That’s different than an open door policy. Most importantly, I don’t fear the immigrant, because immigrants have brought so much to America.
  10. I don’t believe the government should regulate everything, but since greed is such a driving force in our country, we NEED regulations to prevent cut corners, environmental destruction, tainted food/water, unsafe materials in consumable goods or medical equipment, etc. It’s not that I want the government’s hands in everything — I just don’t trust people trying to make money to ensure that their products/practices/etc. are actually SAFE. Is the government devoid of shadiness? Of course not. But with those regulations in place, consumers have recourse if they’re harmed and companies are liable for medical bills, environmental cleanup, etc. Just kind of seems like common sense when the alternative to government regulation is letting companies bring their bottom line into the equation. Remember this: Every government regulation is there because some individual or company tried to play fast with what they could do, and someone or something got hurt or could be hurt. Regulations are in place because the people we trusted to not abuse the system abused the system.
  11. I believe there are some in our current administration that behave in a way that can be seen as fascist. This is because I have studied antisemitism, and the history of facism, and I see the similarities.
  12. I strongly believe in consistency: If a particular behavior is wrong, it is wrong no matter who is doing it, and no matter their party affiliation. If you would investigate Hillary for her use of a private server, investigate Trump for his use of private phones. If you would investigate a foreign government being involved in Hillary’s campaign, do it for Trump. Same level, same intensity. Wrong behavior is wrong.
  13. I believe the systemic racism and misogyny in our society is much worse than many people think, and desperately needs to be addressed. Which means those with privilege — white, straight, male, economic, etc. — need to start listening, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing, so we can start dismantling everything that’s causing people to be marginalized. We need to turn down the hate, and ensure everyone has equal advantage.
  14. I am not interested in coming after your blessed guns, nor is anyone serving in government. What I am interested in is sensible policies, including background checks, that just MIGHT save one person’s, perhaps a toddler’s, life by the hand of someone who should not have a gun. Think incremental risk reduction, as opposed to a complete solution.
  15. I believe in so-called political correctness. I prefer to think it’s social politeness. If I call you Chuck and you say you prefer to be called Charles I’ll call you Charles. It’s the polite thing to do. Not because everyone is a delicate snowflake, but because as Maya Angelou put it, when we know better, we do better. When someone tells you that a term or phrase is more accurate/less hurtful than the one you’re using, you now know better. So why not do better? How does it hurt you to NOT hurt another person? Further, how does it hurt you to examine your rhetoric — what you say and how you say it? Why do we need to speak in a way that intentionally hurts others, when we can be sensitive.
  16. I believe in funding sustainable energy, including offering education to people currently working in coal or oil so they can change jobs. Why? Simple. We know that coal and oil are limited resources, and some of the materials produced from them are critical to society, such as plastics. Therefore, it makes sense to conserve them for that use when sustainable fuels can be used for other purposes. Science also shows that the climate is changing (there’s no disputing that) — the only dispute is whether mankind is causing it. We need to prepare for that change, and even if there is the smallest chance we are accelerating it, we should do what we can to slow that down. Placing America first does no good if the Earth is uninhabitable.
  17. I believe that women should not be treated as a separate class of human. They should be paid the same as men who do the same work, should have the same rights as men and should be free from abuse. Why on earth shouldn’t they be?
  18. I believe that any living US citizen should be able to, encouraged to, and has the responsibility to vote. I have no problem with registration of voters to ensure that, with commensurate ID requirements, as long as the ability to get those IDs is not onerous for disadvantaged segments of society: the economically disadvantaged who have limited time off work, the single caregivers who can’t take significant time away from those they provide care to, the homeless and nomadic poor who might not have street addresses, the folks with limited mobility who do not have cars or easy transportation. Make it possible for those folks to get the required IDs if they are indeed US citizens, and I have no problems with IDs. Alas, the ID requirement these days is often being used instead of a poll tax to keep citizens from voting, just because segments feel those citizens might vote in a way they do not like.

This is a living document. Don’t be surprised if I add more, or clarify what is here.

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* Over in another FB discussion, Sam Manning described the political philosophies this way, which I really liked:

Most people are confused about political definitions as indicated in the above. Communism is defined two ways, politically and economically.  Don’t confuse Totalitarian Communist systems with softer systems that are democratic socialist systems and capitalistic. There are benign forms of socialism in Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. China is Totalitarian politically and Capitalistic simultaneously. 

Normally, anarchists and radicals are linked to the left. A Liberal isn’t any of the above, they simply believe in change and that government can improve our chances.

Nazis are racist and believe in a state-industrial alliance.  Fascism and Nazism are linked but Nazism is Hardline Fascism. Rigid Fascists states include Italy in WWII, Argentina under Peron, Paraguay under Stroesner, Spain under Franco, Chile under Pinochet. 

Reactionaries are linked to the right and believe in paternalism and a landed aristocracy classically.

Conservatives are linked to the right but are not any of the above. They tend to support the status quo and emphasize the status quo.

Moderates cherry pick from both conservatives and liberals.

Progressives in both the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States support workers, fair elections, and free enterprise.

Americans tend towards moderation, compromise, and civil discourse traditionally. We do have eras where our rhetoric becomes bizarre. Still, we progress when we use evidence and sensible compromises to adjust our nation, slowly or more quickly, contingent on circumstances.

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🗳️ Nov. 2018 California General Election Analysis (IV): Summary

My sample ballot has been received, indicating that (a) it is indeed Fall; (b) my TV will soon be inundated with political advertising; and (c) it is time for the General Election Ballot analysis. This election, it is being divided into three parts and a summary:

  1. Non-Judicial Offices: State, Federal, and Local
  2. Judicial Offices
  3. Propositions and Measures
  4. Summary

This is the summary:

🗳️ Nov. 2018 California General Election Analysis (I): Introduction and Non-Judicial Offices

🗳️ Nov. 2018 California General Election Analysis (II): Here Come ‘De Judges

  • California Supreme Court: Yes for all the judges.
  • Court of Appeals: Yes for all the judges.
  • Superior Court

🗳️ Nov. 2018 California General Election Analysis (III): Measure for Measure

 

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🗳️ Nov. 2018 California General Election Analysis (III): Measure for Measure

My sample ballot has been received, indicating that (a) it is indeed Fall; (b) my TV will soon be inundated with political advertising; and (c) it is time for the General Election Ballot analysis. This election, it is being divided into three parts and a summary:

  1. Non-Judicial Offices: State, Federal, and Local
  2. Judicial Offices
  3. Propositions and Measures
  4. Summary

This is Part III: the state and local measures. It covers the following measures:

The last part in this series will be the summary post.

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🗳️ Nov. 2018 California General Election Analysis (II): Here Come ‘De Judges

My sample ballot has been received, indicating that (a) it is indeed Fall; (b) my TV will soon be inundated with political advertising; and (c) it is time for the General Election Ballot analysis. This election, it is being divided into three parts and a summary:

  1. Non-Judicial Offices: State, Federal, and Local
  2. Judicial Offices
  3. Propositions and Measures
  4. Summary

This is Part II: the judicial choices. It covers the following races. Note that, for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, you only either confirm or reject the person appointed to the position:

For reference, here is the post that covered the Superior Court Justices in the Primary. The third post of the series, Measure for Measure, will explore the state and local measures on the ballot.

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