Categories
society

Don Bigly and the Budget of Doom

Mathematically incoherent. Cruel and unusual. Just plain dumb. All apt descriptors of the new budget proposal by the Trump Administration.

The budget proposes to cut all sorts of things for no good reason. If this were the product of a federal contractor, they would be ripe for a suit under the False Claims Act for defrauding the government by providing a work that missed the mark so widely it could only be intentional.

Without going into detail (I like to keep this blog to a strictly R rating), this budget may qualify as obscenity. It certainly appeals to the prurient interest of certain partisans, and it does depict an excretory function in a patently offensive way (i.e., through numbers). It is unclear whether it holds any value.

But the Republican legislators largely acknowledge it’s another bad deal by the king of bad deals. Even the White House gave that fact a nod. So why put this forward? Under the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 (31 USC) they have to submit a budget.

This is another pro forma, half-assed attempt by this president. Instead of coming up with something that tries to strike a balance, tries to set the legislature on the path to a real deal, to real progress, he just has his under-equipped staff of loyalists throw together whatever they want, and then he will say it’s the greatest thing ever.

Every presidency has missed opportunities, but for an unlikely presidency such as this, there seem to be no real attempts to hit anything. The budget doesn’t define any real goal. It doesn’t say that some programs are priorities. It says they’re all liabilities and we should just cut everything. Republicans like to talk about tough choices, but in practice that seems to be saying no to everything.

No to weather models and no to cancer research. No to SNAP, but also no to trade assistance. The tough choice this president offers is “no” or “no.”

Categories
hyperweb

Inline Grading Politicians

In my effort to diversify my political news reading, I’ve been occasionally seeing articles from conservative sites. Some of them have a pretty neat feature: they tell you right after an elected politician’s name whether you should like or hate them via a site called “Conservative Review” with the feature being called the “Liberty Score.”

Now, political reporting has long included a tag of loyalty (“Jon Smith (R-America)”), but this new-fangled tag shows just how committed to everything conservative an individual is, in the form of a percentage. So you can see, reading an article on a site using this that, for example, Ted Cruz is 97% conservative. They don’t say what he’s 3%, but we’ll just assume it’s bad. Or, you can see that Bernie Sanders, at 17%… wait, 16% (did it just change while I was typing this?) is practically an unperson by conservative standards.

They give the letter grade, too, if you hover over it. Sanders gets an F, which is basically a participation trophy. Liberty-lovers are supposed to hate participation trophies, though. But there it is: Sanders <(Participation Trophy Recipient) right there by his name, when you hover.

All of this is a sophisticated method for avoiding phrasing like, “Bernie Sanders (pinko) said…” or “Hillary Clinton (infidel) …” That sort of stuff, outright saying what your side thinks of the other, happens, but there is a risk that people will have to read what you write. With the little fancy number tags, which will probably be replaced with signal-strength-style bars soon, they just have to look at that bit. Maybe happy-face, frowny-face. I’m sure they’re focus-grouping it.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: is this the forehead (or back-of-the-hand) stamp that we were warned about by that fancy book with the talk of dragons and God? The mark of the beast? Don’t worry! I am sure there’s some eschatological site that is currently using similar technology to markup their texts and the Liberty Score probably only rates about 10% as a sign of the end of days (they get a participation trophy for their participation trophies).

Point is, this is great for journalism. You’ll soon be able to log on, click a donkey or an elephant, and have all your news done with emoticons. You’ll be given either a rifle mouse cursor (for the conservatives) to shoot the enemy, or a picket mouse cursor (for the liberals) to protest the enemy long enough that they flee.

Maybe they could give the Clinton and Sanders supporters some validation-failed stamps for their latest circling on who isn’t qualified to be president.

On a more honest note, though, boiling the totality of a person down to a number is best left to the financial industry. It has no place in political reporting. So we shouldn’t be surprised to see it being done.

Categories
society

The Conservative Counter-Culture

Jade Helm 15 is a military training operation set to kick off later this year. But to the conservative counter-culture it is a threat to national security.

Back in the 1960s there was a counter-culture on the left of the political spectrum. These days, though, it seems the most diverging culture in the United States is found on the right. Every time a Democrat is in the White House, gun sales go up. Even healthy eating and pro-fitness programs are under suspicion. And, as time ticks down on Obama’s last term, it seems the counter-culture is beating the drum louder and faster than ever. If Obama is going to act to install whatever NWO Illuminati scheme he has planned, he’ll have to get to it pretty soon.

But why is there a counter-culture at all? The Republicans control both the House and Senate, plus a majority of state legislatures, and a majority of state governorships. You would think that, in the face of such overwhelming party dominance, the conservatives would feel pretty happy right now.

The fact that they don’t speaks more to their expectations of government, driven by media, than to the realities of government. Stump speeches and conservative media have promised them sweeping changes that are impractical.

For their party’s own inaction on immigration reform, they lack a giant, shiny border wall, while the country lacks a reasonable immigration system based on the actual needs of the country.

For all their compassionate promises to end choice for women, the results have been a long series of ever-more ridiculous measures that have been defeated in the courts. Their pyrrhic victories in passing these laws have been a slow, long erosion of access to healthcare for women.

For all their bitching about taxes, realigning the system so that the rich pay less, many state budgets are feeling the crunch of an impractical revenue burden without the needed revenue stream. Indeed, the fiscal drought in many red states is as self-inflicted as California’s real drought, in many ways.

The party’s own failure to evolve on a host of issues has resulted in distrust and pixelation.

Conservative politicians are scared of their own constituents, of failing to get reelected, so they simply lie and claim that they can do things they know they won’t. And when they don’t, the counter-culture gets mad. Things like the Tea Party blossom.

But such disarray cannot last. Neither can the professional party denial of certain basic principles of modern government, like social programs. No, at some point the GOP national and local has to tell the truth and come back toward the center. Only then will the counter-culture begin to normalize itself.

For what it’s worth, it’s not like the Democrats are capitalizing on this cultural crisis on the right. They aren’t running particularly innovative or experimental local campaigns to try to bring people from the far-right to the center.

And the conservative media, at least to my eye, is very insular. There is no good, clean, independent conservative voice I’m aware of. I guess because media requires access, everyone in the conservative tent has to toe the line, except on the far right outskirts where you stumble into things like Jade Helm 15.