Because They Can

There’s an old joke:

Q: Why do dogs lick their own genitals?
A: Because they can.

The modern Republicans function on the same principle. It sees no cost to hypocrisy, it says that it can do whatever it wants, and if you try to stop it, there’s always a 2nd Amendment Solution threat to toss around like a grenade with the pin removed.

Under Barack Obama, the deficit was a major threat to our future. It was stealing bread from future generations to prop up silly programs (like roads and bridges!) today. And then, the clock struck midnight, Trump entered, and lo! cutting taxes to create a massive deficit is what all the cool kids do.

What would happen if they defied illogic and stood up to dumbassery?

  1. They would be primaried, losing 30-60% of the challenges
  2. The alt-right boneheads that replaced them would also lose 30-60% of their races

So, the GOP would be in a temporary setback, until the voters realized that getting creamed in the legislative races doesn’t do them any good and would inevitably moderate.

What does happen, instead?

  1. They adopt alt-right dumbassery
  2. They remain viable enough to slip farther into the pit of doom they will soon call home (and if we’re not careful, we all will as well)

Even now, before the Democrats take the gavel in the House, parts of the news media are back to treating Trump as a normal president. They think, wrongly, that being bested at the polls might make him face the music. There are takes along these lines:

  • Dems should prioritize legislation over investigation
  • Trump seeks to cut deals with the Democrats

To the first, it’s a false dichotomy. There will be investigations. There will be legislation. Those are both jobs of the Congress when it’s operating properly. Moreover, they go hand-in-hand. You have to investigate in order to legislate properly.

As to making deals, that’s part of the job, too. Not just with the president, but with other legislators, with the minority. There are a thousand deals done in Washington per day (including Xmas!), but almost no good (and only a little evil) comes of most of them.

Why does the news media fall back to the same worn narratives at each stage of the disaster of Trump? Because that’s their reflex, their muscle memory. They are working off a parametric equation that says something like:

  Republican president
+ Republican Senate
+ Democratic House
——————————————————————
  Democratic cooperation

It’s the same reflex that was at work when they did a wholly-inadequate job questioning the intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq war. It’s the same reflex that couldn’t properly deal with Trump in 2015-6. This is an industry that had tape ready to roll as soon as President George Bush’s death was announced. It’s not the investigative journalists that are the failure in media, it’s the rank-and-file paper-pushers that are merely providing a nice Muzak-esque environment for advertisers.

Which is the same God damned thing that the rank-and-file Republicans (and plenty of Democrats, to be sure) are doing for all sorts of dubious organizations and industries.


There’s a reason that the odds of Paul Ryan coming out in favor of doing something about climate change jump from 0% to at least 50% as soon as he is out of office. It’s the same one, over again. He can’t say that in the House, he has to wait until he’s a civilian. It takes time to sober up from the years-long binge on campaign adrenaline. The scent of lobbyist cologne and perfume does wash off, but it lingers awhile.

How Climate Change Works

Most things in your life contain carbon. You contain carbon. Plastic contains carbon. Food contains carbon. Gasoline contains carbon. Air contains carbon.

We burn carbon fuels like gasoline, oil, natural gas, and coal to produce energy and heat. The combustion process causes the carbon molecules to break apart and combine with oxygen to form mostly carbon dioxide and some carbon monoxide.

We are a major force on the earth, building skyscrapers, a dizzying number of cars, a swarm of air travel, lots of trade and shipping. All these activities put carbon dioxide into the air.


If you’ve ever eaten peanuts or sunflower seeds in the shells, you know how much waste there is. That’s a lot like carbon pollution: we are getting the energy out from the carbon-chained molecules, and it leaves the carbon afterwards. Over the years, we have all these extra carbon gases around. Some of them get eaten by plants to grow, but the plants only eat so much every year. Others end up in the ocean, where they turn the ocean more acidic. If you have ever put an egg in a carbonated soda, you know it will slowly dissolve the shell of an egg!

Eggshells are made out of the same stuff as sea life like corals and clams and some types of plankton use to protect themselves. Having an acidic ocean is bad news for the ocean ecosystems.


The air filling with carbon dioxide makes it absorb and emit more infrared radiation. You can think of this like being in a dark-painted room or a light-painted room with the same lamp. The dark room is darker, because the dark walls will absorb more light. If we live in a world with more carbon in the air, it will mean we live in a hotter world.

But, just like you can read under the lamp in the dark-painted room, you can still find cold places and seasons on a hotter world.


What can we do to not add so much carbon in the air? We can make choices about what we buy, and we can tell the government we want them to work on the problem. We have had pollution problems before, and dealing with them did not destroy the economy. It has saved lives, and it makes us healthier. In the case of carbon pollution, the health impacts are not as direct as things like mercury and lead, but the long-term trends are clear.

Living in a world with too much carbon in the air will make the oceans less productive, which will make human life harder. It will make storms and droughts and forest fires worse. It will add to disease, famine, and social unrest that will bring war.

We have to choose to reduce the carbon in the air.

Economic Infrastructure

There are several sectors that constitute economic infrastructure. Some are real infrastructure like roads, the electric grid, but others are not typically seen as infrastructure. The housing market, for example, is not typically seen as infrastructure, but it is part of the economic infrastructure—a necessity to building economic prosperity.

Other examples of economic infrastructure are healthcare, education, and media. In order to build economy, people need health, they need a knowledge base, and they need to filter new information through that knowledge base to keep it healthy and current.

The importance of economic infrastructure is two-fold. First, it provides the same support role that traditional infrastructure provides: it girds the other social and economic activities of a society. It allows commerce to operate efficiently and with routine expectations that fade into the background of life, letting those engaged in other activities focus on their local problems and challenges. Second, just like traditional infrastructure, it creates a base of economic activity to itself. This base activity furnishes a minimum and continuous economy that can cushion the dynamic economy that sits atop it. Even when downturns occur, children continue to go to school, medical practices continue to operate, and housing is still needed for all inhabitants.

Those that argue, for example, for Medicaid expansion in the states, are arguing for improvements to the economic infrastructure. As with traditional infrastructure, more developed societies should expect and require advanced economic infrastructure. A modern society could not function without a network of paved roads, nor should it attempt to function without schools, universal healthcare, and other robust forms of economic infrastructure.

Even the Internet, while built of physical infrastructure, also includes volumes of economic infrastructure in the forms of protocols and software, much of it open source, which allows for interoperability that supports massive economies.

In seeking to shore up traditional infrastructure, it is important to do the same with these institutional, economic structures that are as important to the modern economy.

Media and Political Bias Isn’t Binary

Nor is it just news media bias. As we saw with the recent revelations in the New York Times story, it extends to (anti-)social media as well (see The New York Times: 14 November 2018: Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia Kang, Mathew Rosenberg, and Jack Nicas: “Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis”). It also happens in non-news programming.

There is a tendency to believe that if the media is biased against conservatives, it can’t also be biased against progressives. This is clearly false, as bias is anchored on difference, and the media has its own political culture to defend.

The media is biased against conservatives in some ways, and some of those biases are reasonable; for example, being pro-environment and therefore biased against those who are indifferent, at best, to the environment. But the media is also biased against progressives, seeming to believe that math works differently when it applies to money, and therefore that a universal healthcare system is rainbows on roses and whiskey-toting kittens.

The right-wing uses this effect as a handy political signal. They made hay of the IRS looking for political groups in social welfare clothing. They made hay of (anti-)social media having a bias. But we know in both cases that the IRS also targeted progressive groups and that Facebook has a bias against progressive criticism.

The constancy of the “Democrats in Disarray” narrative is such that you could set your watch, if you still wore one. The media dutifully revives the notion of the “fiscal conservative” like it’s a civilian costume on a superhero. Poof! Where did the tax-slashing big-spending party go? Nobody here but us arch-penny-pinching conservatives.

We saw the ultimate absurdity of this media tendency on several occasions in Trump’s first year or so. He would read a speech, and the media actually thought it was worth pretending he was presidential. They still give enough gravitas to him, merely for occupying the oval office, that they’ll print his lies as headlines.

Media bias is a thing. It comes in many forms. Not all of them are unreasonable, but every one of them is acknowledgable, and those that aren’t reasonable should be discarded.

A Good Election: Reflections on the 2018 Midterms

Not a great election, but a good election.

Was it a blue wave? The Democrats made sizable gains facing headwinds of gerrymandering and a strong economy. Whether it’s called a blue wave is immaterial.

More women in the House than ever before, which we can all hope will become a springboard to even more equal representation. They will be able to offer their own perspectives and help erase the blind spots in thinking that contribute to poor decisions when representation isn’t diverse enough.

Democrats with control of a chamber in Congress means we can have oversight of the executive. There will be surprises as their oversight unveils things the media either couldn’t find or just missed. The people will be informed moving forward and in 2020 can make better decisions based on better information about how our government is operating.

Ex-felons in Florida got their voting rights back, which should mean that state will be more representative and responsive to the people living there. When more people vote, good things happen. We need people to vote, and we need the government to let them share their voice. It’s what makes America work.

Several states voted to expand Medicaid in their states: Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah. This is a strong issue that allows more people to have access to vital health services, but it also creates jobs. It’s good for the economy and good for people.


While a few results are still outstanding, we know that the Democrats taking the gavel in the House of Representatives marks a turning point for our troubled nation. Without good information, we are left to the gaslighting of bad-faith actors in the Republican party who failed to provide oversight of this administration. If the full truth of the misdeeds had been known going into this election, it’s safe to say that the Republican party would have done worse for it.

But that’s why information is so important: we don’t know what we don’t know. We need journalism. We need checks and balances. Without them businesses make poor decisions and state and local governments miscalculate. The whole system suffers from bad information and from information droughts.

By opening this one spigot of information, the American people will empower themselves to make better decisions in the future. Businesses and communities rely on knowing that they get a fair hearing, that their concerns are heard by the executive branch. But under Trump there has been this lingering question about how much abuse, how much fraud, was happening. We’ll finally know, and businesses that were short-changed on bidding, or otherwise misrouted by a bad administration, will seek redress in the courts and other venues of appeal.