Yearly Archives: 2019

Blowing the Whistle

It’s late one early summer evening, and I’m sitting on my porch, minding my own with a glass of iced tea. The traditional summer sounds are in the air – crickets, birds, children playing… are those gunshots? I live right on the suburban/rural split, so it’s not like I’ve never heard gunshots before, but they are very rare. The town I used to live in, we had a game called “Gunshots or Fireworks,” so I know they can sound very much alike. But no, those are definitely gunshots. And screams. Coming from the synagogue around the corner from me.

I grab my phone and call 911. “I’m hearing shots fired at Beth Or, you need to get officers over there immediately!” I tell the operator. I’m barely done saying that when I hear sirens. Police in these parts have some good response times.

I turn on the news and hope it’s not bad. When all is said and done, it turns out, it isn’t. Some racist asshole shot the place up and only managed to wound one person, who has already been released from the hospital. The local custodian, who barricaded a study group into a supply closet quickly before being forced to run himself. The shooter tried blasting his way through the door, but it was reinforced. There’s damage to the building, but that will heal. Of course, the shooter, being a heavily armed white guy, is taken peacefully into custody.

Mine turns out to be the first 911 call. Luckily for the DA, Beth Or has a pretty good surveillance system, so the shooter is clearly seen in the act. He didn’t even cover his face. The DA offers a ridiculously good plea deal, despite the suspect’s many ties to White Nationalist groups and racist comments they have made online, but the shooter and his crack legal team don’t take it – they want a trial. Their defense? He’s not guilty of a hate crime or 15 counts of attempted murder, because he didn’t actually kill anyone. He was just redecorating. He is actually a great friend of Jews and was helping with a Holocaust remembrance, and how dare you suggest otherwise? He can’t be guilty, because he’s such a bad shot that it’s inconceivable that he could even hit anyone. And even if he did, he has the right to keep and bear arms. What he did wasn’t even illegal. This whole process is a sham.

Moreover, the first witness they want to call is the person who very anonymously tried to get him in trouble by blowing the proverbial police whistle. Very malicious of that caller, who they hear is terribly biased against white people. They want me to testify, publicly. The shooter has the right to face his accusers, you know.

Except, that’s not even remotely the case. I am not “an accuser.” I am a third-hand witness who alerted proper authorities to what I perceived as a possible crime. Actual witnesses are willing and able to testify. Actual evidence shows the crime in progress. No only is there no legal basis to compel me to testify, there is no need. The evidence speaks for itself.

This scenario is, of course, fiction. Any even mildly competent DA would get a conviction in front of any jury, and the shooter would spend (not nearly enough) time in prison. More importantly, any judge in the country would take the suggestion that a 911 caller reporting shots fired could be compelled to testify as an accuser as complete idiocy and dismiss the motion out of hand.

The entire notion seems rather stupid, doesn’t it? Almost like all of the people involved with the shooter have no concept of or respect for the Constitution or the rule of law?

Free Market Democracy

Among a subset of the various and sundry candidates for the 2020 Democratic nomination that I have already discussed, there’s an opinion that filing FEC paperwork entitles one to direct, unfettered access to the marketplace of ideas.

Michael Bennet, one of the useless Joe Biden clones with no actual ideas who does not belong in this race, said “The DNC process is stifling debate at a time when we need it most … rewarding celebrity candidates with Twitter followers.’’ No, asshole, they’re not doing that. They let you and 19 other people on the stage at one point, which is more candidates who have been taken seriously enough to be invited to a sanctioned debate than ever before.

The DNC’s criteria for the September debate were pretty basic: have 130,000 individual donors – that is, separate people who have pitched at least $1 into your campaign – and show 2% in four approved polls. Most of those polls are state-level polls that focus on the early states like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. That’s it. Of the 23 candidates still in the mix at the deadline, 10 of them qualified. 10. 10 candidates is still a largely unprecedented number. In 2016, there were five. Yes, Republicans had 16 at one point, but that was an outlier. And of this crop of 10, only three have cracked double digits.

Now, the margin of error on these polls is ~+/-2%. That means that a number of the qualified candidates could actually be polling closer to zero. And candidates like Bennet, who are actually polling at zero, well, the might be negative. That’s probably not how polls work, but if I’m answering one and Bennet’s name comes up, I’m not just registering my lack of support, I’m registering my antipathy for him.

Then we get Tom Steyer, who is under the impression that the presidency is for sale (probably because it is). This guy jumped into the race halfway through the September polling period, spent literally millions of dollars to get 130,000 donors who all gave a dollar, and then had the nerve to complain that he didn’t make the stage because he couldn’t buy polling.

But then he did. He made the thresholds for the October debate, which are, for some reason, exactly the same as September but with a longer polling period. So this buffon who has no idea other than “Impeach Trump” is going to get on the stage. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, but at this point it’s basically like running on the “Hawai’ian Pizza Is Good, Fight Me” platform. Just because you’re right about one thing does not mean you have anything to add to the discussion.

Steyer managed 2% in four polls, and I’d really like to know who those people are. They saw 25 other people running, and picked a random jar of warm mayonnaise from the warm mayonnaise shelf. These are where the margins of error happen. I can’t believe that anyone legitimately supports Tom Steyer, because he has no discernable platform. He says nothing of value. He adds nothing to the debate. He is simply a walking pile of cash.

We have a DNC that is willing to let pretty much anyone on stage, and a crop of useless idiots who are complaining bitterly that they couldn’t walk over a bar that was effectively on the floor. And then we have a small subset of people who can’t even answer a poll correctly allowing some of those idiots to trip over the bar and onto the stage.

Back in the dawn of the nation, calling someone a small-d democrat was a duel-worthy slur, because small-d democracy was roundly derided as akin to mob-rule anarchy. They weren’t too far off base. There’s a mob, alright, but most of them couldn’t find their own asses with both hands, let alone actually rule anything.

The 2020 Democratic Candidates

A few people decided to run for the Democratic nomination for President. Here are my thoughts on them.

1. Hillary Clinton, but played by Abe Simpson – Joe Biden. It’s his turn. If he wins the nomination, Trump gets re-elected, Republicans hold the Senate, and probably take the House back.

2. Your Friend’s Grampa who is Really Cool and Woke, Unlike Other Boomers – Bernie Sanders is crotchety and seems a bit angry, but he’s angry about shit you’re angry about and chills with Cardi B, which quite honestly, you’re not sure about. I mean… is it possible that he’s cooler than you?

3. Lady Bernie Sanders – Jane Foster was a better Thor than Thor Odinson, and yet, was still called “Lady Thor” like “Wow it’s Thor but she’s got tits!” was what defined her. Similarly, Elizabeth Warren is everything good about Bernie Sanders, and she’s also better. Here’s hoping that they have an epic battle before Sanders realizes she’s better suited to wield them hammer and gives his blessing.

4. Store Brand Michelle Obama – Kamala Harris is the strong black woman in the race. However, she’s like Go-Bots instead of Transformers. Face it, you really wish she was Michelle Obama, because Best FLOTUS never locked anyone up for rolling a joint.

5. 2008 Barack Obama, But He’s White. And Gay. Pete Buttigieg is the only one in the race with Kennedy Swagger, but like 2008 Barack Obama, the only reason he’s polling so well is due to the fact that everyone wants to fuck him. He supports whatever policy position that best gets your pants off.

6. Eligible Bachelor Barack Obama, Who is Somehow Unpopular. Please explain to me how Cory Booker, a relatively charismatic black man – who is fair game for all of your fantasies – is not polling well?

7. Woman Selling Pies at a County Fair. Amy Klobuchar has a saying where she comes from, and I’m fairly certain it’s “Aw shucks.” That’s it.

8. Rich Guy Who Is Obviously Dying and Needs To Make Up For His Sins Quickly Lest He Burn In Hell. Andrew Yang is trying to give away money, and I can only assume it is to soothe his conscience after a life of shameless wealth-hoarding and probably more than a few murders.

9 and 10. Once Upon A Time In Old Mexico (Texas). Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro seem to be fighting over who is the least and/or most Texas, and neither of them is going to win. Also they’re both Latino, right? Beto sounds Latino, so I’m assuming. He has to be, otherwise why on Earth would he think he has any reason to be in the race?

11. Candidate Barbie. Like Barbie, Kirsten Gillibrand’s message gets lost due to the fact that people think she’s just a pretty face, which is sad, because it is a decent message that should resonate.

12. The Baroness from G.I. Joe. Tulsi Gabbard is strangely evil, even if you sometimes want to root for her because she’s calling out someone else’s evil. Just remember, her whole motivation is that she wants money and power and to fuck Destro.

13. Kind of Sexy Aging Captain Planet. Jay Inslee knew when he was licked, but he had a point and fought to get it center stage. Also with those glasses on… kind of a hunk.

14. Extra From a Seinfeld Episode Who Somehow Makes The Main Cast Look Sympathetic and Not Horrible. No one likes Bill DiBlasio. Even when he says things that make sense. He’s just clinically unlikable. He won New York City by being the least liked candidate, because that’s how New Yorkers vote. It has to be the way they vote, because Bloomberg and Giuliani.

15. Ms. Frizzle from Magic Schoolbus, Hopped Up On Peyote. Marianne Williamson is 100% bat-fucking crazy, but hot damn she’s actually made more than a few salient points, which makes perfect sense considering the reality we live in.

16-22. Escaped Rejects from the Joe Biden Clone Factory. Bennet, Hickenlooper, Bullock, Ryan, Moulton, Sestak, and Swalwell. Aside from the fact that I saw more than one on stage at the same time, I have no reason to believe they are different people . I assume all of them are named John. No, I’m not going to look it up. They are all identical, grotesque clones left to run free in Iowa. Every so often the authorities catch one. I don’t know which of them are still running.

I don’t care.

23. Another Biden Clone But Like One of The Failed Ripley Clones They Found in a Tank in Alien 4. Like that movie, John Delaney is just awful.

24. Florida Man, World’s Worst Superhero, Runs for President. Did you know that Wayne Messam was running for President? Do you know who Wayne Messam is? I guarantee you that there are people in Wayne Messam’s immediate family who can truthfully answer ‘no’ to both questions.

25. Montgomery Burns, Trying To Buy The Presidency. Tom Steyer literally spent millions of dollars in order to raise $130,000 just to get on the debate stage. I feel like having an idiot businessman purchase his way to power has worked out poorly before. Recently.

26. Whistling Abe Simpson, Walking Into a Restaurant, Putting His Hat On The Rack, Circling, Grabbing His Hat, and Walking Back Out. Mike Gravel actually did not realize he was running until someone told him, because a few high school kids filed for him.

27. Man, Momentarily Possessed by Demons, Breaks Free And Defeats Them. Richard Ojeda was running for exactly 69 days (starting on November 11, 2018) before he realized that was a completely stupid idea, and went back to being a normal person again. Number of candidates who entered the race after him: 15.

My Political Compass: 15 Years

I first took the Political Compass test in 2004, shortly after I became politically aware. Those were my heady days of idealism, with the zealot’s fervor of the converted. The test has remained unchanged in the intervening 15 years, and so has my general score on it.

Economic Left/Right: -9.0
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.56

Basically, I’ve remained a pinko. Age has not mellowed my beliefs, it’s just jaded my view of the process. I was young and idealistic in 2004, now I’m just old and fatalistic.

Social Media Oblivion Retrospective


On March 1st of 2018, I decided to do an experiment: see if I could go an entire month without checking my various social media outlets*. I was heavily active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and instead of taking a day off, I decided I was going to go for an entire month. Go big or go home, right? I had a few reasons:

  1. Quite simply, the companies behind these platforms are awful. I really shouldn’t have to go into detail about just how poorly these companies behave, about how badly they treat their users, and just what terrible corporate citizens they are.
  2. Social media was really negatively impacting my headspace. It’s no secret that use of social media makes us lonelier and more depressed, and that’s exactly what was happening. We typically only see our contacts’ best lives or worst drama, and we judge ourselves against that – I was completely guilty of this and it was dragging me to bad places.
  3. It was pretty much an obsession. Multiple updates per day, constantly checking for updates, needing it like a fix. In addition to not doing me any favors mentally, it was keeping me hooked.

So I decided to turn off for a bit and see if I could do it. Turns out, I could. On April 1st, after completing the month-long challenge, I deleted my Twitter and Instagram completely. I had to keep Facebook around due to connections and related apps, but I stopped logging in, and that went away in a few months.

A bit of clarification – I was very strict about how I used my various social media platforms, at least with Twitter and Facebook. Twitter was largely “interest” stuff, and the people I communicated with there were almost all people I’d never met, or maybe shared space with once. Facebook, on the other hand, was reserved solely for people I had met in person and was friends with. People I was likely to invite to a party.

Now it’s been over a year, and I’ve been “clean” the entire time. So, what has that been like?

To be honest, I don’t miss the constant deluge of information. I used to get all of my news from social media, and with plentiful commentary, but now I get it from other sources. I don’t get dragged into ridiculous arguments online. I don’t feel the need for instant validation.

On the other hand, I miss my community. I’m an introvert, so I don’t reach out to people, which means that I effectively lost my larger friend group when I disconnected from social media. That’s a function of how we operate now, for better or worse – I could rail against it and condemn it here, but I won’t, because it is what it is.

Last month I unexpectedly and suddenly lost the bulk of my in-person community, that is, my job. Not having the fallback of a larger friend community, one not built on the structure of showing up to work every day, was a much bigger deal than I realized. As I said, I’m an introvert – I don’t generally reach out, it’s just not how I operate (although I am working on that). Likewise, I don’t expect other people to reach out to me. It’s a two way street, why should I expect it from others if I don’t? So it’s not as if I’ve been sitting here wondering why few people have called over the last year. I haven’t called them, either.

Facebook made that communication easy. I could drop a quick note as a comment, basically a tap on the shoulder letting someone know I was there, and that was enough for me. People also organize via Facebook. Parties, simple get-togethers, etc. I know I did. Recently, I heard second-hand about a gathering I would have loved to have attended, with people I miss dearly and have thought about a lot over the past year. I thought about throwing my annual St. Patrick’s Day party, but didn’t want to send out a hundred text messages, and realized I didn’t even have all the numbers for people I wanted to invite. I felt entirely cut off from the world, and damned if that isn’t depressing and isolating.

Damned if I do, damned if I don’t, I guess.

So I suppose I’m going to get back on Facebook. The last year has taught me a lot of things about my interaction with social media, so I go back with eyes open and a set of rules.

  1. Stay off the damn thing. I don’t need it, I know I don’t need it, so I’m not going to be checking it every five minutes. Once every few days, just to see what’s up.
  2. Screw the “Like” button. I’m going to actually use words.
  3. Make a point to actually communicate with the people I’m friends with, not just collect them like Pokémon.
  4. With all of that in mind, try my best to deny Facebook the entirety of my existence.

So yeah, I’m back.

*LinkedIn is not a social media platform, regardless of what they would have you believe, and aside from job hunting, I don’t check the damn thing all that much because IT IS NOT A SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM.

Amendment Proposals

Constitution writing is a thought experiment I engage in from time to time. While I’ve never written out an entire theoretical constitution of my own, I do have a number of ideas about how ours works/doesn’t work, and how it could be improved. Thankfully, it has a built-in mechanism for upgrades, in the form of Amendments, that can clarify or outright change sections of the original document. Here are a few Amendment ideas I’ve kicked around, knowing full well that they would almost likely never get so much as a laughing dismissal by any of the avenues to make them reality.

Presidential Fitness Amendment

I. No person shall be eligible to the Office of President who shall have attained to the age of seventy years at the time of their inauguration.

II. No person shall be eligible to stand for general election to or assume the Office of President or Vice President who has not released to the public their personal and business tax records for the past seven years.

III. No person shall be eligible to stand for general election to or assume the Office of President or Vice President who has not released to the public a full medical evaluation from a panel of no less than six and no more than twelve qualified and accredited medical doctors in good professional standing.

IV. The House of Representatives shall have the sole authority to determine the members of this panel.

On its face, this seems like a complete rebuke of Trump, the oldest person ever sworn in as a first-term President. However, it would also exclude a number of Democratic candidates for 2020, notably Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as making Joe Biden’s decision easy. Yes, Trump’s refusal to disclose his financial reports and the sham of having a quack doctor sign off on his health are in there as well, but I can also cite FDR and JFK in the “medical history maybe voters would have liked to have known about” files, as well as Nixon’s tax woes. Having a panel of reputable doctors make a full assessment means we get fair and impartial medical data, not the say-so of some family friend, and having open tax records would give us some sense if a Presidential hopeful is, in fact, a crook (spoiler alert: probably).

Presidenting is a difficult job, or, at least, it should be. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama aged 20 years during their 8-year residencies at 1600 Pennsylvania, so maybe electing a guy who’s 78 isn’t the best idea. We haven’t developed a cure for aging yet, and Sanders, assuming he doesn’t try to stay limber on the golf course for most of his first term, could be reasonably expected to age another 10 years by the end of his first term. The average life expectancy for an American man is… 78 years. Sanders, if elected, will already be beating the curve on Day 1, and taking on a job that is going to age him more than twice as fast.

The effect is that if you’re 70 at the point you’d be sworn in, you can’t be President (or Vice President). 69 years, 364 days? Go for it. Same if you don’t release your tax returns. And you have to have a medical evaluation by the nation’s top doctors. The carved-out exception here is that someone who is 70+ could run and be elected to be Vice President, but they would be passed over in the line of succession, as would a foreign-born Speaker of the House or a 34-year-old Secretary of State.

Excluding the VP from Section 1 is the recognition that Vice President is not simply a John Adams-style emergency successor, but more of a Dick Cheney/Joe Biden senior advisor to the President. Of course, it probably wouldn’t take long for Old White Men to run for “Vice President” at the top of the ticket, but hey, it’s a start.

Further, this would push the realistic age for Presidential hopefuls down to 65 – if you turn 66 before you take office for your first term, you don’t get to run for a second term because you’d be over 70 prior to being sworn in. Presidential terms are only four years, which means winning a second term requires another inauguration.

This would work well with a repeal of the 22nd Amendment. Get rid of term limits – Someone being elected to their first term the year they turn 35 would only be able to serve a maximum of 9 terms under this plan. Yes, that is a long time, but with an average age of just over 55 years when taking office, we’re talking about an average eligibility for 4 terms. And that still requires winning every four years.

Like Reagan, I am deeply opposed to term limits. We already have them, we just call them elections. That line of thinking supposes transparent and unmarred elections, but in theory, at least, giving someone the opportunity to run for and win the Presidency 9 times should only be constrained by the electorate. One could make the argument that I’m imposing a term limit here, and that’s fair, but I see it more as enforcing a retirement age, not so much a term limit. You don’t get to hold the launch codes when you should be holding a Bingo stamp.

So yeah, it may seem like my Amendment is a direct response to Trump, but I’m also proposing allowing Don Jr. to serve six terms.

Congressional Representation Equality Amendment

I. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states by population, using half the population of the least populous state as the maximum size of a Congressional district.

Yes, this would increase the House of Representatives to (currently) 1,118 (1,155+ by 2020) members. But each would be representing only ~209,000 – ~289,000 people each, instead of the current ~578,000 – ~994,000. Yes, that’s right, Montana’s one Representative represents nearly twice as many people as Wyoming’s one Representative. By way of comparison, when the Constitution was ratified, Pennsylvania’s eight Representatives each represented roughly 54,000 people. Having fewer people per Representative means that Representative is more beholden to the people.

Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution and subsequent Supreme Court rulings in the 1960s puts a floor on the number of people a district can contain, that being 30,000. This would add a ceiling, affording the state with the smallest population two Representatives and using that as the maximum size. Currently, that would mean Wyoming’s ~578,000 people would have two Reps, each representing ~289,000 people. There would still be some disparity in district sizes, because the next smallest state, Vermont, has ~626,000 people, meaning it would get three seats each comprised of ~209,000 people.

Anti-Gerrymandering Amendment

I. All representative districting plans shall consist of: districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population.

This one dovetails neatly into the previous one. Smaller, more competitive districts nationwide. This Amendment would also not simply concern itself with House representation, this would affect any representative (small r) districting plan – state assemblies and senates. The text is lifted almost verbatim from League of Women Voters, et al. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the PA Supreme Court case that completely redrew the Congressional map in PA to eliminate the 2nd most gerrymandered map in the country.