What’s wrong with a border wall anyway?

Donald Trump promised his supporters that he would build then a big beautiful wall on the Mexican border, and he promised us all, repeatedly, that the Mexican government would pay for it.

Now he’s shut down the government to make sure he gets $5 billion for his ridiculous wall. Oh, he was prepared to take less, but then Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter began squawking, and big, bad Donald Trump cannot stand up to these two.

What’s wrong with Trump’s border wall anyway? Why don’t the Dems just give him his $5 billion and be done with it?

Let us count the ways:

  1. The border wall would be completely ineffective. As several pundits have noted, in the 21st century it really is 20th century technology, and is most likely to be symbolic, and not practical.
  2. A majority of illegal immigrants who stay in this country do so by overstaying their visas after entering this country legally.
  3. Existing border fencing has been cut through, dug under, or even plowed over.
  4. A border wall is immensely more expensive than smart border technology.[1]
  5. A border wall could cause serious environmental damage to the region over which it would be built.
  6. Sealing off the border could have detrimental economic impact to the area by the border by discouraging Mexicans (who currently shop in the United States) from continuing to do so.
  7. Much of the border sits against natural land barriers, including enormous canyon walls and natural waterways, and a wall would do nothing to enhance security.
  8. The United States would have to expropriate some ranchers and other property owners from their land in order to build a wall.

What might smart border enforcement look like?

  1. Enhanced use of drones.
  2. Enhanced use of cameras.
  3. Enhanced use of sensor technology.
  4. Enhanced use of facial recognition technology to recognize immigrants who overstayed their visas.
  5. Enhanced support for the economies and governments of Honduras and El Salvador, where most of the migrants come from.
  6. Enhanced cooperation with the Mexican government to manage population of asylum seekers.

It’s not rocket science, really.  Somewhat unsurprisingly, it does not appear that the Trump administration is actually interested in what would be effective in stopping illegal immigrants from crossing the border. They are only interested in symbolic and pyrrhic victories, in which we get to point our collective fingers at immigrants and blame them for our lot.

A lot of people recognize that Trump’s border wall is mostly symbolic. It was Trump’s promise not only that he would keep immigrants out, but that he’s such a darn good negotiator that he could get the Mexicans to pay for it. Anybody with half a brain new the Mexicans would never pay for it.

There was also an interesting article in the New York Times just the other day suggesting that early on in Trump’s campaign, the border wall was primarily a way to focus his talking points on immigration.

As Mr. Trump began exploring a presidential run in 2014, his political advisers landed on the idea of a border wall as a mnemonic device of sorts, a way to make sure their candidate — who hated reading from a script but loved boasting about himself and his talents as a builder — would remember to talk about getting tough on immigration, which was to be a signature issue in his nascent campaign.

So here we are, people not getting paid, parts of government shut down again, just so that Trump’s mnemonic device can find physical form. That’s your government in 2019, citizens of America.

[1] Based on the Trump administration’s own estimates, each mile of physical border wall would cost $24.5 million. According to leading technology entrepreneurs, utilizing off-the-shelf technology to build a Smart Wall would bring the cost-per-mile down to less than $500,000 per mile.

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Right-wing bloggers thought a student video of Alexandria dancing would damage her credibility.

Right wing bloggers and social media types tried to embarrass new Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by unearthing a video in which she and a bunch of other Boston University students dance in an effort to reproduce a scene from the Breakfast Club.

Why right-wing bloggers thought that a video of a good-looking woman who can really dance would discredit her is a matter of speculation.

After all, if being a good-looking woman impacted a person’s credibility, than almost all the female newscasters on Fox News would be thoroughly discredited.

Many of them have been thoroughly discredited. But not because they’re good looking. Because they’re unreconstructed liars, just like almost everyone else on Fox News.

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Donald Trump really is not like any other President

There are, I’m sure, conservatives out there who don’t understand why we (liberals and progressives, etc.) make such a big deal out of Donald Trump. They had to “suffer” through Barack Obama’s eight years as President. So allow me to explain.

When we elected Barack Obama in 2018, I thought that maybe we were a different country now where a majority of us really were willing to elect a man because of the content of his character. When we re-elected Obama in 2012, I though may be something fundamental had changed in our country. So when we elected the Orange Conman in 2016, the unapologetic Obergropenführer, it was a body blow to me. It was worse much than realizing that even Massachusetts had voted for Reagan in 1980, even if by the slimmest of margins.

As I’ve said many times before, Trump wasn’t elected despite the fact that he’s an asshole. He was elected because he’s an asshole. Because his base thought (rightly so, it turns out) that he would smack us, the “liberal elite” in our collective faces. The self-proclaimed moral majority, it seems, was deeply offended by notions such as that they should stop being racist, that women should be paid the same as men, or that gays and lesbians should be free to marry.

They were incensed that their jobs were being exported to Mexico (notwithstanding that it was not us, the liberal “elite” that they so despise, but businessmen like Donald Trump sending their jobs to Mexico) or that immigrants were coming to take their jobs (notwithstanding that immigrants were mostly ending up on farms, in the backrooms of restaurants or in nursing homes, doing jobs that Americans didn’t want to do).

They hitched their wagon to Donald Trump’s chariot, but they may regret having done so in the future. Whatever moral authority they once had has been jettisoned at the alter of the Orange Conman. Consider:

  • Their President is a pathological liar
  • Their President is a malignant narcissist
  • Their President believes that he knows more than anyone else, especially the experts
  • Their President is literally divorced from reality (having once proclaimed himself the “least racist” person on the planet, for example)
  • Their President is the Dunning-Kruger president, without the self-awareness or metacognition to know how little he knows

We’re about to hit some real economic turbulence, and we’ll see if “businessman” Trump, the great negotiator, has any ability at all to steer us through the storm.

Conservatives who think that Trump is ballast for eight years of Obama have it all wrong. Obama was ballast for eight years of George W. Bush. Those years were bad enough, but George W. was not a malignant or mean-spirited dunce. He was just an ordinary dunce.

John Pavlovitz, a “liberal” Christian pastor had it right when he wrote that he doesn’t grieve over the cruelty of Donald Trump, he grieves over the cruelty of Trump supporters.

There is so much healing that is going to need to take place once Trump is no longer in the White House, but that healing cannot begin until conservatives are willing to admit to what they’ve done. And what they’ve done is unlike anything they’ve done before, and it’s going to have consequences for a long time.

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The God of Abraham had the chance to prove his existence to me

Last year I posted on Facebook that I would start to believe in the God of Abraham if he were to take out Sheldon Adelson, both Koch brothers, and one of the Mercers (Robert or Rebekah) in 2018. I’d be especially impressed if he took out the Orange Buffoon, but that wasn’t even part of my request.

At first blush this might seem cruel, but it’s not actually a big ask. First of all (except for the Mercers) these people are old. I mean really old. Sheldon Adelson is 85 and the Koch brothers aren’t far behind. Okay, Rebekah Mercer would have been the exception to the rule, the proverbial frosting on the cake, but God is known for his miracles, is he not?

Second, God has taken out people for a lot less than what the Kochs, the Mercers, and Sheldon Adelson have done. He turned Lot’s wife — she isn’t even honored with a name in the Bible — into a pillar of salt just for looking back at the destruction of Sodom. He took out Er, the firstborn of Judah, for being “wicked in the sight of the Lord” (whatever that means). He took out all of the firstborn of Egypt for being, well, first born. He took out thousands upon thousands of Phillistines just for being Phillistines.

So this isn’t a big ask, if you really think about it. I mean, I know that God doesn’t really need to prove his existence to me, he’s proven it to billions of believers already. But if he did care, this would have been how to go about it. And it didn’t happen.

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What does an Atheist celebrate on Christmas?

Some of you may be wondering, what does an atheist celebrate on Christmas? And the answer is: family, friends, and the winter solstice, just like the rest of you.

Most well-informed people know that no one knows when Jesus Christ was actually born, and there is no reason to believe it was in winter. The December 25th date for the birth of Jesus was most likely chosen because it arrives very close to the Winter Solstice. How we got to the 25th instead of the 21st isn’t actually known. Theories abound, including that it has to do with the ancient Roman festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invciti.

This isn’t an issue I’m going to weigh in on as it doesn’t really matter to me. And again, most well-informed people know that there are a lot of pagan traditions in Christmas, starting with the tradition of the Christmas tree.

Let’s be honest, for most Americans Christmas is not a particularly religious holiday. Oh, many Americans appear at church on Christmas, just like Jews appear in temple on their high holidays. But mostly it’s about family and gift-giving and celebrating the end of the another year that we managed to get through. (And let’s face it, this year there was a lot to get through, LOL!)

And so it is with atheists. I grew up in Germany, where Christmas is a much bigger deal than here in many ways. For one thing, Germany closes down for three days: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. For another, the holiday was actually celebrated on Christmas Eve. And we didn’t have Santa Clause delivering the presents but the “Christkind.”

So I do the same thing most of you do: I celebrate the end of the year with family and friends.

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Baby It’s Cold Outside

There has been controversy recently, as some of you may have heard, about the lyrics of the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” which was composed in 1944 and included in the 1949 film “Neptune’s Daughter.”

Now, in the days of the “#MeToo movement, there have been radio stations that have pulled the song because of its alleged sexism. That, in turn, has created it’s own backlash, with people complaining to radio stations about their having pulled the song.

Oh boy.

We, on the progressive side of the ledger sometimes wonder why conservatives hate us so much. They’ve been preaching to us about Jesus Christ and family values and abortion, and we’ve been preaching to them about racism and sexism and homophobia. Each side with its certain sense of moral superiority.

The version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” that I know best is the version that James Taylor did with Natalie Cole.

I think it’s clear, if you listen to the song, that this is a flirtation. First of all, it was written in 1944, well before the sexual revolution and third wave feminism and other social changes that we now take for granted. It was written in the days where it was still important for women to defend their “reputation.”

But also, one has to listen to more than just the lyrics. The mood of the song is flirtatious. The tone of the singers is flirtatious. It has a gentle swing beat, with a kind of clever chord structure. It’s “easy listening,” in the best sense of those words.

Clearly it’s a little pas de deux, a little duet, a bit of a cheeky game with both sides engaging in a bit of a put-on.

Will she stay? Who knows?

But not against her will.

Why do I believe that? Because everything in the song indicates that he wants to have an on-going romance with her. He’s trying to woo her, in the old-fashioned sense of that word.

If we don’t want to continue alienating the other side of the political spectrum, if we don’t want conservatives to look at us and think that we’re completely ridiculous, we really do have to lighten up a little bit. Context isn’t everything, but it’s almost everything.

Some time after Trump is gone, we are going to have to engage in a dialogue with each other. We’re going to have to find people on both sides who are capable of dialoging with each other, and again, knowing how to put things in context could provide a nice assist in that effort.

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Trump claims victory, tweets withdrawal from Syria

Leave it to President Drumpf to do kind of the right thing in the worst possible way.

So first of all, President Drumpf tweeted his intention to withdraw from Syria. Can this moron do anything without doing it through a tweet. How about a press conference, President Chickenshit?

Second, President Drumpf claims that we’ve “defeated” ISIS in Syria. Yeah, well, how about George W’s “Mission Accomplished” speech which really was anything but.

On the other hand, what are we doing in Syria? How much have we spent for the war there? What kind of results are we achieving? According to CNBC, we’ve already spent something like $1.5 trillion on the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria combined.

What if we spent that on infrastructure instead?

I’m not sure President Chickenshit is wrong about wanting to withdraw from Syria. Of course, many Republicans (Senators Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, for example) are already coming out in opposition. We can’t lose the war in Syria! Just like we couldn’t lose the war in Vietnam!

And on and on it goes. Where it will end, nobody knows.

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