Tuesday, August 29, 2017

When it Comes to Disaster Aid, be a Good Person

As the Houston, Texas area  continues to be inundated with what may surpass 50 inches of rainfall, tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of people are being forced from their homes with nowhere to turn. The devastation will be tremendous. Hurricane Harvey may be the costliest natural disaster in US history. And in response, if you're a policymaker, you should be a good person.

We're not a bunch of libertarians, there's a role for the government to play in rebuilding, and it should. And although it wasn't budgeted for, there's no reason to hurt someone else in order to provide the relief that people will need.

Would people actually do that? It's hard to believe, and assuredly they're few and far between, but I heard some would be inclined to do so. Obviously such shitty people are lost to the footnotes of history, but at one time they commanded enough power to prevent assistance to other people in need. Like I heard a story about some asshole who held relief funds for Katrina victims hostage because he said that they would become a "catastrophe of debt for our children and grandchildren." One of his solutions was to cut Social Security and Medicare to fund assistance. He was actually willing to accept zero assistance package if it wasn't tied to cuts to Social Security benefits! Now, obviously someone this inane is so obscure I couldn't figure out the bastard's name, but I found a photo:


Or take for example a more recent natural disaster that was a little closer to me in Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The second most devastating hurricane in US history, it caused $71.4 billion in property damage. 50 people died in New York, in addition to the loss of life in other states on the Atlantic seaboard. Over ten percent of the State was without power, and over 100,000 residences were destroyed.

Once again, only a very minute minority of politicians (errr, the majority of Republicans in the House) opposed direct assistance without strings. They did exist, however. Rumor is that a different asshole voted for flood insurance program relief in 2008 when his area of the country was hit, but defended his no vote in 2013 by saying the flood insurance program didn't work (one works for geese, not ganders). Couldn't find this man's name either, but also dug up his photo:


I'd also like to note that not everyone who voted against the Hurricane Sandy was being an asshole. For instance, one man voted against it because he thought 66% of the package was for unrelated spending. It was recently clarified that this was not the case - 2/3 of the spending was not in the form of immediate assistance but rather long-term rebuilding. His office recently clarified that he simply didn't understand how the bill works. See, he's not asshole, he's just a fucking idiot! Once again, wasn't able to find his name:


My point isn't to point out the rank hypocrisy. It's really not. We understand. These men are hypocrites. They're not good people. Need proof? Track the moral courage they've displayed over the last year playing sycophants to their leader. Just be better than them. Help the people of Houston. Don't muddy the aid package. 

Ok, my point is a little bit about pointing out hypocrisy. But see how they're treated now!? Don't be a Mike Pence, nobody wants to be that guy!

Friday, June 16, 2017

How A Small Man Got His Way With Cuba

It was announced this morning that Trump will be revisiting the new approach to Cuba that was rolled out at the end of the Obama administration. While complicated, the new rules governing the relationship between U.S. and Cuba boil down to this: expanded markets and belief in development theory.

At least they did. Everything is about to blow up because a small man named Marco Rubio who needs to placate a constituency stroked the ego of a man who couldn't give two shits about Cuban relations, but the small man said that the man with small hands had hands that weren't so small after all, so everything is ok.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

How News Becomes Bad (It's All About Clicks)

A dumb headline was introduced to the internet today, but because it's clickbait, every whore of a media outlet ran it. It involves false accusations, politics, and quotes taken out of context. And surprise, it's about Trump.

The Washington Post headline proclaimed that "Trump says Obama is helping to organize protests against his presidency." So did Fox, CNN, et. al. And of course he did. That's the narrative, so I believe it. Trump whines, lies, blames, and obfuscates - he doesn't fix. Of course he blamed Obama for the protests. 

Except, he didn't. And no one cared to point out that Trump didn't go on tv intending to blame Obama for inciting protests. Even though he didn't.

Trump isn't without blame here, but it was clearly Fox New's fault. Trump went on Fox and Friends this morning (AKA, the network's morning trio of hackery), and one of the hacks (I'm not going to bother learning the guy's name) floated that Obama's organization (and thus, the former President) was behind the large crowds at Congressional town halls. Hack #3 then goes on to talk about how it's not fair because all Presidents agree not to attack their replacements once they leave office.

At this point a reasonable person just shuts down the hack by saying they haven't heard that, but we need to squelch these rumors unless we have evidence; saying things for the sake of blaming our problems on the other side only hurts our democracy. Of course Trump doesn't - he just nods his head and agrees because he's incapable of resisting the power of suggestion. And that's a major failing on his part. But the headline there is "Trump Fails to Correct Accusations that Hacks at Fox Made Against Obama." Problem is, that doesn't have the same ring as "Trump Blames Obama." So rather than point to the source of the initial problem (Fox and Friends), CNN gins up a different but more intriguing problem guaranteed to get more clicks. And that's how the media loses credibility among a disenchanted independent.

I don't blame a guy for trying to make a buck. But that doesn't mean I won't judge him for how that buck is made. 

Edit: also in the news today: mass hysteria because KellyAnne Conway sat on a couch. I'm not even joking. This actually happened. Jon Stewart used to call Fox the fake outrage machine - I think Salon.com is trying to claim that mantle now.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Lesson of Donald Trump that Art Briles Failed to Heed

Art Briles is a jackass who shouldn't be allowed to coach football again, and any school that hires him should receive the death penalty, or at minimum a loss of scholarships and ban from postseason competition. His transgressions were at best turning a blind eye, and more than likely shielding players from sexual misconduct allegations at Baylor in order to keep them on the field (lawsuits against the school detail instances of victims being told to keep quiet by coaches and possibly being threatened to prevent them from going to the authorities). As such, a scarlet letter should be branded on the members of his coaching staff that were aware/participated in this as well. But the damnedest thing that happened when Briles was released from his position; turned around and filed suit against Baylor.


There's a lot of gumption involved here, and it went even higher. Ken Starr (yes, the same asshole you're thinking of) was Baylor's chancellor and eventually forced to step down due to his complicity. But back to Briles. A Philadelphia law firm hired by the school's Board of Regents concluded that Briles was responsible for creating essentially a black hole of accountability in which "reports of misconduct such as drug use, physical assault, domestic violence, brandishing of guns, indecent exposure and academic fraud disappeared." Delightful. Briles apparently didn't think this was fair, and sued the school for over $1 million because libel because his feelings got a sad.

Funny thing about suing someone for libel, and this is the lesson Trump (may have?) learned about a couple decades ago: your claims become open to investigation and that which you don't want to come out in discovery, comes out. For Trump, he sued an author who claimed Trump wasn't worth much money. Lo and behold, Trump was asked to prove the claim was false, and during discovery it was revealed Trump had grossly inflated his wealth. And this information became public as a matter of court record. (And Trump lost. Because lying.) The lesson: if you're suing someone for contradicting your version of the truth, make sure your version is right. And if your lies will be embarrassing when contradictory evidence comes out, you should probably just stop filing frivolous lawsuits.


Once again, back to Briles. So this fucktard sues Baylor because the school said they couldn't keep a coach that was shielding his rapist players. (And if the media accounts are to be believed, we're talking over 30 rapists in the program, with Briles having personal knowledge of at least one gang rape.) And guess what happens next: the man who sued the school for claiming he shielded rapists has to prove that the school's claim amount to libel, only to have the school provide the evidence that he shielded rapists. Briles dropped his lawsuit today after a small number of text messages and e-mails were released to the public that demonstrated his complicity. Good job: you got what you asked for by having the Regents defend themselves. So once more: if your lies will be embarrassing when contradictory evidence comes out, you should probably just stop filing frivolous lawsuits.


This rambling diatribe is mostly about calling people names to make me feel better about myself, but it also underlines a non-germane point: you're either part of the solution or part of the problem. After one of the gang rapes, Briles commented, "those are some bad dudes. Why was she around those guys?" This is the type of victim-blaming comment that fosters a rape culture, and you've fucked up on so many levels:

1. This completely deflects from the problem at hand. We've all put ourselves in dumb situations that, in hindsight, we shouldn't have. Lock your car doors, don't walk down that dark alley, keep your wits about you, etc. This is advice that should be dispensed. It shouldn't be considered a lesson learned. It's not 1900, and you don't get to blame the woman for being raped. You blame the rapist for being a rapist, and then you put him in jail. It really is that black and white.

2. The rape culture you've now fostered. Collegiate football players already have a certain expectation of leniency, begging the question, "how much can I actually get away with?" You protected rapists from being punished. Which sends a signal to those rapists, as well as their teammates, that you will protect rapists in the future. Unfortunately, legal repercussions are required to deter shitty behavior in some people, and you've removed such deterrence. You've now created an environment that allows rape. You may (acknowledge, may) be directly responsible for any future sexual assault that your players perpetrate. 





In sum, I'm glad this additional information just came out, I'm saddened that the news means victims must continue to relive the trauma they incurred, and I consider Briles lucky that there's no father with a shotgun pissed off enough to eliminate the life of someone who has no further value to provide society. That's not something I'm advocating. Just making the observation.

Also, the Board of Regents considered reinstating Briles last summer before the lawsuit. Those on the reinstatement side are also shitty people.