A White House that Practices Harm Production

We recognize the harms and risks in the world. Whether it’s the dangers of automobiles or pollution or living in flood plains, the general goal is to manage risk. To reduce it, to hedge against it.

But this administration does the opposite. It orders child-separation and full intolerance policies. It welcomes trade wars and healthcare premium hikes. It invites worry and doubt among allies while praising the brutal.

Repeatedly, the administration has lied without compunction. Baldly lied to allies and to the public alike. Has made indefensible and unmerited statements. Even some before the courts.

Abuse. The administration has made statements that serve absolutely no other purpose beyond petty abuse of public employees, of political foes and allies, of public figures.

This administration has failed to act on crises. From Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, to opioids, to the mental health of farmers, to protecting the country against the Russian Federation’s interference, this presidency has been asleep at the switch.

There has been an utter joke on ethics practices. Scandal after scandal in cabinet-level positions. Repeated refiling of financial disclosures from the president’s own advisors. The president himself double-dipping like it’s the early 18th century, paying his inaugural largesse to friends and God knows whom. Making the Secret Service rent his golf carts. Having foreign countries stay at his hotels to ingratiate themselves.

Immigration, which needs to be made orderly and regular by changes to the law, has become even more chaotic thanks to poor planning and lack of any attempt to compromise or improve on the status quo. The White House’s rhetoric only serves to inflame and to whip into a frenzy those who believe immigration is a sin.

Leadership means guiding the nation forward, avoiding or minimizing risks in the process. Instead, this failure of a leader sends the nation toward folly on a number of fronts simultaneously. And no attempt is made to explain. No questions are taken at his rallies. The questions taken from the press are regarded with scorn.

Good government means reducing harm, not accruing it. Whatever the intentions of this president may be, he is making the nation worse.

18-ish Weeks Until the 2018 Midterms


Handicapping the 2018 Midterms comes down to Mr. Trump, not messaging. The president who makes everything about himself inevitably makes the 2018 elections a referendum on his policies and his abuses.

That’s a bad sign for Republicans. Depending on how the announcement of a replacement for Justice Kennedy goes, and whether confirmation proceeds apace, the wind may be entirely let out of the Muralist voters’ sails. Nobody expects another justice beyond Kennedy to retire, so that’s one fewer reason for Muralists to turn out in 18 weeks.

The party in power does better in midterm elections when voters feel like they’re making an adjustment to their representation rather than having to weigh the overall direction of the country. People don’t like to make weighty decisions, and so when they feel like they’re forced to do, they tend to be irritated that the incumbents have put them in the position.

Mr. Trump has spent his entire time in office sticking his thumb in the eye of over half the voters, including his own. The notion that they’ll reward him for it is a bad misreading of America. And the voters will not reward all of the Republicans who have failed in their duty to conduct oversight of the tyrannical instincts of not just Mr. Trump but his cabinet as well.

Add to that the fact that there are so many Democratic women running, which can fuel female turnout (and to a lesser extent youth turnout). You have whatever spoils the hard work of things like the March for Our Lives and March for Science may offer. There will be people turning out to support public schools and health care.

Democrats also have a message: good governance. Social programs that work. Environmental policies, labor policies, and financial policies that build the middle class.

The man is an abuser. He abuses his office, his employees, his rivals, his friends, his family, his foundation and company, his country. America has no quarter for abuse. We split from an abuser before, and we will split from this one.

But just as there were Loyalists then, there are those who do not see the abuse for what it is. There are evangelicals, by some bad combination of drugs, who support Mr. Trump. Others, Republicans coddled by tax cuts, fetch him Diet Cokes (Mr. Nunes famously took a ride share under cover of night to deliver one to him). They lie for him. They hawk his cheap resorts and cheaper merch. They iron his clothes while he wears them. They arrange backchannels to hostile foreign governments on his behalf.

For that lot, there will be no second act. They will exeunt from public life. We will only be reminded they exist when future documentaries pan across their picture while recounting how foolish humans can be when they don’t bother to self-reflect.

For those worrying over who will wear black robes in the years to come, the only decision you directly have is to vote. Vote, raise your voice. For even though courts can undermine unions, harm women’s rights, and all the other things, they cannot fix the problems they create. The legislators alone can fix the messes left by bad judges. Your voice is more important at the midterms than it is at the general. On average your vote is worth 1.7 votes in the general election (to account for those who don’t vote). It’s worth 2.5 votes in the midterms. That’s nearly a whole other citizen that a midterm voter is counting for.


Employment Immigration Needs

The bulk of unauthorized immigration is for work. The immigration laws allow for lots of family to come in, either family of permanent residents or of citizens. There are allowances for diversity and asylum and refugees. There are slots for employer preference, but only on some categories.

Unauthorized immigrant employment:

  • 1/3 Service
  • 1/6 Construction
  • 1/6 Production
  • 1/8 Sales, Support
  • 1/8 Professional, Management
  • 1/12 Transportation
  • 1/24 Farming, fishing

The fact of their employment shows the need for these workers. Employers don’t hire people unless they need them. Thus, the immigration law needs to be changed to recognize these workers.

One of the principles of immigration and border security is that an orderly system is preferable to one that criminalizes labor. We are more secure when we recognize the economic fact of workers and don’t lie to ourselves about how they broke the law to:

  • Cook food
  • Build a house
  • Make a table

Those are the sorts of service, construction, and production jobs that about two-thirds of unauthorized immigrants do.

Are unauthorized workers more attractive to employers because they are unauthorized? In some cases. But to be clear, these employers must break the law and undertake other steps to employ these workers, so there is a logical middle-ground to making them authorized workers.

The question of amnesty comes up. But the law failing to contemplate workers it knew would exist is unpunished negligence. The law that was broken was a broken law. But from an economic standpoint, the immutable laws of demand held firm and overcame the obvious fault of the law.

So, sure. Give amnesty. But fix the law. Recognize that the table, the house, and the meal were all made of valuable labor. That the law should have recognized that labor all along.

Do the Republicans Need a Message?

Oft-repeated wisdom going into the 2018 midterms: “Democrats need to run on something other than opposition to Trump.” Unstated assumption of the 2018 midterms: “Republicans must run on Trump and only Trump.”

The message that the Republicans are sending by not having a message is: “We don’t really believe in our cause. We fear losing our seats if we speak out against a rotten president that we privately decry. We repeatedly cave to policies that are in diametric opposition to our preferences. We reject the idea that our political philosophy has any ounce of merit that will inevitably be evolutionarily selected for its merits and virtues. Also, please send clean pants.”

Speaking as a fairly moderate leaning-liberal type, I lament many of the horrible policies of Muralism, as I have the bad policies of Republicans, of George W. Bush’s administration, and so on. But I still believe, deep down, that the sun will come out tomorrow, that sanity and reason do triumph over tyranny, corruption, racism, sexism, and stupidity in general.

The Republicans don’t seem to believe that about their policies. Well, to be fair, they have hard evidence in the form of their cuckoo standard bearer. But surely, they must believe in the long term, that their small-government plans would be useful? That they could achieve a safety net without taxes, instead based on responsibility and all that? Apparently not, because they are not standing up to someone that represents none of those interests as he takes a giant dump on their whole tradition.

The RNC still employs Michael Cohen. The head of the RNC still holds tight to the president. In the Senate, nobody wants to “poke the bear” to use Corker’s language. In the House, the Republicans want to feed the bear.

Republicans have long been split on immigration, but until Trump, nobody knew they could support taking children away without cause. Even those opposing the separation have taken no real legislative or political action.

The same goes for trade. There has long been a wing of the Republican party skeptical of trade, but even as a trade war heats up, the believers (excepting a few like Corker) have not sought to protect trade.

On any issue that Republicans largely believe, you can guess what they will do when Trump acts against it.

Republicans don’t need a message. They need an exorcist.

To paraphrase Robert De Niro, fuck family separation. The fact that the Republicans are not speaking out about this practice is asinine. All of their family values go right out the window when they don’t care about actually reuniting children with their parents, when they’re down with usurping the parental rights under color of law.

MSWL as WP 1: “Professor Profligate Grades Papers”

Having sent my queries on a novel, I’m currently working on some other writing projects. But I added the agents I queried to a Twitter list to try to better understand both Twitter and literary agents. One of the things you’ll see if you read any agent’s feed is “#MSWL” which stands for “manuscript wishlist.” There’s even a site dedicated to letting agents maintain their MSWL: the expectedly-named manuscriptwishlist.com.

WP is “writing prompt,” a seed, however developed, to write something, however developed.

So I figured I might cross the two, taking a #MSWL idea and writing a short piece based on the idea. For fun and science and all that jazz.

Saw this one from a reply to a reply:

Twitter: Nivia Evans: 6 June 2018 says:

An inventive, female-led magic school story, but from the teacher’s POV.

Manifestation, not infestation!” Pamela Profligate shouted at the essay. She sat on her grading stool trying to manifest a paper-eating inkbug to save her from toiling through eight more flubworks on Basic Magic Theory.

Year by year, the predictable mistakes of spelling, of syntax, of confusing concentration for willpower. Enough to drive a witch to flight. She drew a red C on Vincent’s paper and added: “It’s not enough to make magic. You must understand it.”

Eyeing a copy of Leslie von Sport’s 101 New Ways to Play Kickball, Pamela knew if she made haste, a chapter could be had before bed. She grabbed the next essay from the stack and started reading.

Enchantment is the fundamental problem of magic. Though identified as the elementary basis of all things magical by Sally M. Witchford in her treatise “How Does a Spell?” we still have not advanced the science of magic to understand what makes an enchanted thing. There are theories about. . .

An interesting start, thought Pamela, peeking at the name: Jaunkrast Gravelley. No doubt named after that atrocious writer from one of the mountain worlds.

. . . energy beings, your dryads and such, inhabiting magic objects and living symbiotically inside the souls of magical beings. There are the beliefs in a supreme will that channels itself based on lay lines and bloodlines and star charts. But for every theory there are examples that contradict. Ordinary objects that, by processes unknown, came into possession of magical properties.

Take the very pages you now hold, dear teacher. . . .

Pamela tried to let go of the pages, but her fingers held firm. Binding—what a rascal to even try it! She spun on her grading stool to the waiting flame of cleansing and set the essay afire. As the flame bit at her fingertips, she was already composing in her mind: “You should know better, Ms. Gravelley, than to bother with trickery. I am failing you, but I would still like to read your essay. Please provide me with a clean—” The spell had broken, and she reached for a page to write on.

As she finished, she turned back to the cleaning candle to dust up the ashes. In the unwavering flamelight the curls and flakes of ash fluttered and hopped about. The flecks puffed and breathed and spread into one another, forming strands that grew into a pool. The pool formed ridges along its edge and lightened and darkened until the essay had mended itself.

Out came Pamela’s testing blade. She removed the cork tip, and pressed the blade against the seal on the back of the cork. It glowed light red: the blade was working. She placed the sharp at the center of the topsheet, depressing slightly. The blade did not glow.

She used it to turn the page and continued reading:

. . . dear teacher, they are no longer magical. Where did the enchantment go? Some, like Witchford, would claim that the flame took it away. But the ashes still held the enchantment of assembly, so that cannot be right. And enchantment cannot be exhausted by mere repetition, as Ruther Arglave showed by spending 30 years trying to use the magic up from a single box of toastmaking, from which he turned over ten million single slices of bread into as many slices of toast. The process of remaking the pages could not devour the magic. And yet your blade proves it is gone!

Pamela Profligate went to her shelf and pulled Spellbreaks. She flipped through to “Flames” and read the passage on flames of cleansing. The power rule required multiple passes through flame for multiple spells. The timing rule required the flames to engulf an active object for at least a tenth as long as its activity. But there was nothing about the ashes.

She set the gradesheet aside, along with Ms. Gravelley’s missive, and moved on to the next essay.

Magic works because you have to want it. If you do, magic works. You want the water to stay in the cup when you turn the cup over and the water says in the cup. That is the basics of magic. . . .

Maybe a start. I’m sure the intention behind the #MSWL was more about the class interactions with a magic teacher, from her perspective (“Timothy, we do not stick orbs of remembering in our noses!” and “Who knows the first witch to circumnavigate the globe?” “Was it the Harlem Broomtrotters?”).

But I like the idea of a magic teacher grading papers and having to deal with that side of things. Because, fun fact, teaching is about a lot of stuff beyond just standing in front of magical children and teaching them not to open portals to dimensions full of cottage cheese. There’s a lot of bureaucracy and paperwork (not to mention class sizes, budgets, and all that).

The other concept here, of a teacher not knowing everything and being confused by her own student’s magic, reminds that even experts are not omniscient. It also would make me figure out how Jaunkrast managed it. Leaving hurdles to either knock down (Jaunkrast merely included a blank page that would recreate the essay from its ashes and was protected from the flame of cleansing by the other pages) or leap over (Jaunkrast discovering a new property of enchantment, possibly setting up a trip to a magic fair (comp: science fair) where students present their magical inventions).