Categories
analogies

Analogies: Better Pocket Protectors

This is a general analogy. It can apply to police reform, but it’s generally applicable.

The basic analogy is that people used to wear shirts with breast pockets and keep pens in them. Those pens would leak, and it would ruin the shirts. So some people took to wearing pocket protectors—small containers that would be inserted into the pocket and if a pen leaked, it would catch the ink and keep the shirt safe.

The analogy is is for a policy deficiency, where rather than fixing the problem of the leaky pens, there’s a call by some for better pocket protectors. That is, the source of the problem, leaky pens, is not addressed. What are the conditions that lead to leaks in pens? Shoddy manufacturing, poor storage conditions, whatever. But these things, prevention of the conditions that lead to ink being spilled, are left alone. The focus is placed on better pocket protectors.

So, for climate change, for example, the pocket protector might be things like doing geographic surveys to figure out what land will be inhabitable and arable in the future and relocating people, but otherwise not doing anything about carbon pollution.

Or, for police and justice reform, it’s calling for more police and police militarization, rather than redevelopment of distressed areas, better social policies, etc.

Or for wildfire policy, it’s moving mountains to fight fires rather than doing controlled burns and groundfuel management.

For immigration policy, the wall is a very expensive and mostly useless pocket protector. Lacking policies that both encourage orderly immigration and economic stability in other parts of the world is a good way to find out exactly how useless a pocket protector it is.

For pandemic policy, containment was supposed to be the strategy to get control over the caseload while alternatives became available, including testing and tracing. That’s right—sometimes, and usually for a limited time, a pocket protector does make sense. We put a hardcore pocket protector in place to give time to work on tracking leaky pens. But many of the governors and president never actually worked on tracking leaky pens. They removed the pocket protector anyway, and now we see ink running over much of the nation.

We’re also not too picky when it comes to pandemic pocket protectors—we would love to cease every case and be free of this plague, but honestly if a combinations of masks and scheduling and tracing, or a vaccine, or whatever reasonable and practicable policy combination can simply lower the rate of transmission so that it is stopped, that’s what any reasonable government should be working toward.

Or consider the problem of nuclear waste. It is currently stored in what was intended as temporary storage at the power facilities, and a permanent storage was planned, but has never opened. Given the nature and longevity of that particular sort of pen, a pocket protector might be the only viable solution for long-term protection.


The main purpose of this post is to highlight the connection between disparate policy areas. That the same patterns exist in various policies is worth understanding. When possible, common principles should be brought to bear in policy matters and therefore more consistency can be had in regulation and governance.

The particular choice of a pocket protector, instead of, say, tupperware or antimatter containment units, is not particularly important. Depending on the policy area, a different container might be more appropriate.

The characteristics of a containment policy are necessary for the application of the analogy. Taxes and spending policies are seldom meant to be outright containment, and so are ill suited to this analogy.


On an unrelated note, the term reopened early is incorrect. The timing of their opening is not at issue, but the condition in which they did so. Reopened unready would be more apt. The main point here is that these places delaying their opening wasn’t going to magically prepare them any more than they were, and their lack of preparation is the flaw, not how soon or late they took an unprepared action.

Categories
society

Trends in GOP Policy (or the Lack Thereof)

On healthcare: work against it. Criticize any Democratic efforts to enact sane policy. On the environment: work against it. Criticize any Democratic efforts to enact sane policy. On taxes and IRS funding. On immigration. On trade. On housing. On transportation.

The Party of No is alive and unwell. And in power.

It’s hard to understand how folks support a policy vacuum. It wouldn’t be hard to understand if they simply had an alternative, but they have no policy on areas that matter to everyone.

Healthcare

Their work to-date has been to undermine the ACA (failed repeals ad nauseum, cutting advertising, cutting the enrollment period, cutting navigator funding, zeroing the individual mandate penalty), block Medicaid expansion, add work requirements, and expand scam insurance.

While they have put out policy papers in the past, outlining plans for market-driven healthcare, they’ve never made any real effort to enact them.

Take two doses of stupid policy, then elect Democrats when you realize the Republicans screwed it all up.

Environment

Their work to-date has been rolling back regulations that make the air and water cleaner. They want to undo the already-late update to vehicle fuel efficiency (and one is sure that they’ll not take increased traffic accidents into account when they approve oil leases and seek to keep gas prices low). They have no plans for enacting carbon taxes. They have no plans for what to do when the oceans rise, the aquifers dry up, the storms grow, the crops die.

Best I can tell, they don’t even bother with policy papers here.

Taxes

Cut, cut cut, cut cut cut, cut × 4, × 5, …

Their revenue policy is something out of a drug den. “Just need one more tax cut to clear my head, then I’ll actually accomplish something,” says the drooling, stupified Republican congressional caucus.

Again, no real policy papers. Just enough wishful thinking to fill a thousand fountains with pennies.

Immigration

Get rid of it. Under Trump, this apparently includes trade and tourism, too.

Some Republicans still support some types of immigration, but they don’t agree on which, and the end result is complete paralysis.


Once upon a time, there was a conservative party that shared policy goals with the country. They differed in the way to get there, but that was okay. We can all agree that we want pizza, but disagree on toppings.

Over time, they splintered until some in their caucus outright denied that eating was even necessary. They denied that pizza was a food.

At some point, the people are hungry. They’ll vote for Democrats that will serve them pizza with anchovies and pineapple and gummi bears if it means they get fed. The GOP really needs to stop simply criticizing every Democratic policy goal as impractical and too expensive. They need to get back to arguing about toppings.

Categories
society

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.

Categories
society

Immigration Demands Negotiation

The president set forth his demands in the immigration hostage crisis, and the legislators may capitulate. But we’re supposed to have debates on these topics and then some loud-mouth just issues demands and good-bye public discourse.

What should the US immigration system look like? Should we go all Canada and ignore their population size and general geographic differences? Should we do away with borders altogether?

The first problem with this four pillar approach is that immigration isn’t a single thing as the simple-minded would like to see it. There are various goals, some conflicting but just as often parallel. Diversity, for example, should not be competing with labor needs, because diversity is important in its own right.

Why do we need diversity? The US being a globally active nation, needs to stay well-linked to every corner of the earth. Whether for employers that are seeking to do business or for intelligence community needs, it’s incredibly useful to have people here that are connected and familiar with other places we don’t have deep roots in.

But to hear critics of immigration tell it, we should just forget about the rest of the world. It’s a lost cause.

Any immigration policy that does not account for topics like diversity, not just in humanitarian or pastoral terms, but in terms of development and practicalities, is a policy that hasn’t been studied by anybody with any serious care for the issue.

The other biggest flaw in these hard-liner EZ-Bake immigration policies is that they conflate the broken existing law with some immutable rule and use that as their jumping-off point to set the new policy. This sort of adherence to the past does not serve the current needs in exactly the same way that the new tax landscape was based on 1980s thinking.

We cannot afford to continue to look at issues off of yellowing newsprint when we have computers that provide real-time views of the world. The Republican policy on immigration used to make some sense, if it was a bit authoritarian. But the policy under Trump and the T-as-in-Trump Party is cruel and wasteful.

As with 99% of this administration’s policies, the damage done, they will be wiped off the map. But it is a shame that the damage must be done at all, particularly when they could see electoral benefit from adopting a rational policy instead. Stupid is as stupid does.


Another massacre. Still no action, not even on mental health, by the government.

What creates a slaughter? There are the instigator with some motive, the weapon, and the victims. If you remove any of these, there is no carnage. Leadership, particularly Republicans, from the president to the House and the Senate, have not acted to remove any of them, and they therefore cannot expect this violence to end. Their thoughts and prayers are welcome, but action is still required.

You can move forward on mental health, which might help. The main problem is that if a person is motivated to attack, the treatment ineffective, there is no recourse to stop them without better laws that could result in them not acquiring the weapon. And Republicans can’t have that. Indeed, they weakened such laws as soon as Trump took office.

That said, we should have better mental healthcare for its own sake, to obliterate the suffering in the minds across this country, for the same reasons we need universal healthcare: it’s the right thing to do.

You can remove the weapon. But you can’t with Republicans in charge.

Or you can remove the victims. Without innocent people to shoot, there can be no attack. They can be hidden, or protected, or made difficult to hit. Schools can be transformed into prison fortresses. Jill can learn her ABCs during count and Jack can learn to count by counting the number of gates he passes through on his way to class.

The obvious solution is to remove the weapon from the equation. Republicans suck at math and call the weapon an invariant. In November, we should vote out as many of them as it takes to break this stalemate and protect our nation from this bullshit.

Categories
society

Immigration and Trade: Trump’s Iraq

President Donald Trump, our Markov-chain in Chief, had been an ill-weather critic of the Iraq war, and over time his criticism developed to the point where, in the face of intelligence that the Russian Federation acted to unlawfully tamper in the 2016 election, he claimed we cannot trust the intelligence community.

But Trump himself is cooking the books on immigration and trade. With respect to undocumented immigration and with respect to documented immigration from Muslim-majority nations, he is over-blowing the threats while ignoring the benefits. He pretends that the reality warrants his response, when it does not. And again on trade, where he sees an economic world very different from the one that exists. Taken together, this is Trump’s (first?) Iraq.

It will not be as bloody, and it may only be a fraction as expensive in direct costs, but it is still a major blunder supported only by faulty intelligence and an administration hell-bent on pursuing a policy while ignoring all the red flags.

Donald Trump would have (is having) the USA invade itself. In the wake of this invasion, there will be economic calamity. There will be huge disruption to the lives of many innocent people. It is an asinine vision from a cross-eyed administration that cannot seem to admit when it has made a mistake.

All the while, he is treating the budgeting process as a piggy bank ripe for the hammer. He is proposing a number of major spending initiatives and his only hope of paying for them is that the economy would grow so fast that the interstate highway system would develop stretch marks.

But that’s not going to happen. Worse, the opposite is sure to pass if we see the expected downturns in tourism, agriculture, construction, and other sectors that will be mauled by his anti-immigrant lunacy. The projections that this administration would have us believe excuse not paying for spending up-front will look like cruel jokes.

All the while, the debt grows, the politicians become more reluctant to spend correctly in the face of their past mistakes that were all caused by incorrect spending… This is not the path to a great America. They tried the austere path in Europe, and they’re still trying to figure out what’s what.

All the while, the likelihood of another recession grows. The inability to regulate industry properly makes recession worse. It makes the global threats of war worse. It increases the inevitable flow of economic refugees and helps guarantee a future of climate refugees.

We cannot afford to have an Iraq happen with every other president. Mistakes are one thing, but easily recognizable blunders need to stop. Trump’s immigration policy and trade policy are just that.