One of my New Years resolutions was tending to my health. Most particularly the vaping, the weight, and soft drink consumption. These are all interrelated. The vaping is not a health problem in itself (I believe), but it coincides with my soft drink consumption because I do them both together, and with weight insofar as vaping provides relief to overeating. This post is about the weight thing.

I had tried to vaguely “eat less” and eat more of the high-fiber cereal in the morning, but it really wasn’t working. What I decided instead was simply to start counting calories and see where I stood. I never got an accurate measure, however, due to the Hawthorn Effect. Once I knew it was being counted, I modified my behavior almost immediately. According to the calculator I basically need to stay under 2500 calories a day, but every day but one (out of ten or so) I’ve come in under 2000. Despite the fact that my rules explicitly state I can eat whatever I want.

What I’ve learned most immediately is when I was mindlessly eating. Like I’d get a piece of cheese of Lain and then I’d get one for myself since I was right there. I also managed to, without much effort, figure out where I could scale back when preparing a sandwich for example. I also found out which foods are good at filling me up without taking up much in the way of calories. That last one could backfire because eggs are one of the good filler foods, but progress is progress.

What I find most noteworthy about this is how consistent I’ve been. In all but a couple of days, I’ve eaten between 1800 and 1900 calories. That’s a pretty range, made more interesting by the fact that I had no target in that range. To the extent that I had a goal, it was going to be 2500. Now I am for below 2000 – but no rules – and I not getting all the way up to 1990 or anything. My body apparently needs 1800-1900 to function and to stave off hunger.

It actually makes me wonder if my pre-monitoring calculations were similarly reliable. If I was eating between 2800-3000 calories, somewhat reliably, day-after-day.


Category: Kitchen

Dr. X, a friend of Hitcoffee, has warned against what some mental health professionals call the Dark Triad. This triad is, to quote Dr. X, a “personality organization that comprises three psychological traits: psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism.” People with that personality organization are dangerous. They are a problem that needs to be dealt with, especially if they are a coworker or in a position of responsibility.

What do we do with such people? In the comment thread to that post, Dr. X suggests that we fire them. To me, the obligation to fire implies that we shouldn’t hire in the first place. If the dark triadic person is not independently wealthy and yet can’t or shouldn’t be hired, how should he or she fend for themselves? Perhaps once properly identified–either through that person’s actions or through some sort of deep analysis–then we ought to consider civil commitment, or prison if justified. Or you can do the Philip K. Dick option: hunt down the androids and eliminate them. I reject that “solution” as does Dr. X and most (all?) others I”ve heard speak on it. But the terms of the discussion are consistent with certain conclusions.

Absent in the discussion on that thread and in the material Dr. X cites (or at least in the quoted portions of that material…I didn’t read the linked-to articles), is a discussion of whether this personality organization is just how or what someone is, or if it has a (personal) history. If people develop into that organization or develop out of it. Not to call this an illness–it’s not clear to me that the language of “personality organization” is a language about illness–but…is there a cure? Or are people just like that?

I’m obviously uncomfortable with the idea. Maybe it’s naivete or wishful thinking. If such people exist, then they exist whether I like it or not. If almost by definition such people don’t seek to change or improve or grow, then they don’t. Sometimes survival and defense of the common good are important. My wish that such people who would imperil either don’t exist doesn’t mean that they don’t.

These discussions remind me of the “mark of Cain” from Genesis. I thought it would be cool to incorporate an allusion to that story when talking about such people. But then I actually read the story, probably for the first time since I was a child. The story starts out as I remember. Cain kills Abel out of jealousy or envy or whatever. The Lord punishes him: “When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth

But it doesn’t end there. Cain complains that it “will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.” To that the Lord commands that “whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And he sets a “mark” on Cain to warn people not to harm him.

I’m no expert in Biblical interpretations, and I imagine that that passage has been interpreted and reinterpreted through the ages. There’s also a point of unclarity. The referent “him” on whom vengeance is to be meted sevenfold strikes me as amphibolous, at least in the version I’m quoting: I assume the vengeance is to be meted against the one who would harm Cain, but perhaps Cain is the recipient of the vengeance?

Still, the “mark” of Cain seems on my uninformed reading to be the opposite of what I had thought. It strikes me as a mark of mercy, or perhaps mercy tempered by a warning. People are not expressly forbidden to be wary of him or to stop him from further crimes, but they are forbidden to harm him.

Again, there may be other ways to interpret that story, and one might legitimately question whether that story ought to be a guide to anything. But that story exists and I can’t shake it, just like I can’t shake the possibility that dark triadic persons exist.


Rabbi Michael Lerner warns against psychoanalyzing/diagnosing Mr. Trump (or any political leader, for that matter), especially when such psychoanalysis is intended as a tool for opposition. He points out that it’s questionable to diagnose people without working with them for a long time in a therapeutic setting. Rather, he says, one should focus on actions instead of on the internal demons of one’s opponent. (Mr. Lerner lists other reasons as well. Read the whole thing.)

I’m inclined to agree. I get very uneasy when I read of a psychotherapist or other mental health professional diagnose a politician with a disorder.

Occam’s Razor can do some good here. If Mr. Trump is unstable, erratic, or unpredictable, his actions by themselves speak to how much we can trust him or how competent he is. Whether the diagnosis is right or wrong, we don’t need it.

Or mostly we don’t. Mr. Lerner’s warning is an “editorial note” to another piece, “Trump as Narcissist,” by Michael Brenner, also found at the above link.* Brenner makes several arguments that stand or fall on their own. But his key point is that Mr. Trump is a narcissist and we cannot expect the demands and incentives of the presidency to tame his narcissism.

That argument is marginally informed by whether Mr. Trump really and truly suffers from narcissism. If he does, there’s less hope that he’ll mature and grow into the presidency. If he doesn’t, there’s slightly more hope. And if a 25th amendment solution is at all in the offing, then maybe psychological unfitness is a way to invoke that process. (At the same time, I’m not sure we really want to invoke that process, and I am especially wary of admitting to that end testimony from mental health professionals who have not even met with Mr. Trump personally.) So…maybe diagnoses of the sort Mr. Brenner offers do some good after all.

But the argument that Mr. Trump will grow into the presidency doesn’t rely only on the proposition that he’ll become a better person. It also relies on the claim that our system of checks and balances might actually work and that the federal bureaucracy will do what bureaucracies do and somehow condition what Mr. Trump can accomplish. We may of course doubt whether any of this will happen or if it does, whether we’ll welcome what the country would look like afterward. (For example, I’m glad that Michael Flynn has quit the National Security Agency, but I also share Noah Millman’s concerns about the intelligence leaks that seem to have prompted his ouster.)

And for the record, I don’t believe there’s something epistemologically magical about the “months, or sometimes years” of working with a client that Mr. Lerner says is necessary to determine if a person suffers from a disorder. I acknowledge that the the diagnoser probably has to always base his or her decision on incomplete information. So maybe it’s not entirely fair for me to claim the public diagnoses lack sufficient information.

That acknowledgement, however, doesn’t change my mind that such health professionals are acting unprofessionally and to a certain extent dangerously in their public diagnoses. They’re contributing to a discourse in which mental illness is seen as something shameful or to be feared. To my mind they’re weaponizing techniques that originally were meant to help or at least understand people.

Such is not their intention, and it’s not everything that they’re doing. Some mental disorders and perhaps even “personality organizations” ought to disqualify a person from certain positions of responsibility, among them the presidency. When an apt case presents itself, then maybe these mental health professionals are doing a service in highlighting it. And as even Mr. Lerner notes, there is something to be said for noting certain “styles” of politics and cultural expression. He cites Christopher Lasch’s study of the American “culture of narcissism, and I could cite Richard Hofstadter’s essay on the “paranoid style” of American politics.

Maybe there’s no “pure” approach. Maybe some harm has to be done for a greater good. I will probably not convince these mental health professionals otherwise. But I urge them to at least acknowledge and more forthrightly address the dangers of what they’re doing.

*If you read Tikkun Olam a lot, you’ll find that Mr. Lerner often attaches editorial comments to essays he publishes but disagrees with.


Category: Hospital, Statehouse

For Linky Friday, I had an item about the c-section rate and whether it may promote evolution towards big heads. In the comments, Kristin Devine linked to this article, about c-section rates:

Experts say that even total C-section rates—which include cesareans for all births, not just the low-risk ones we focused on—should rarely be high. “Once cesarean rates get well above the 20s and into the 30s, there’s probably a lot of non-medically indicated cesareans being done,” says Aaron B. Caughey, M.D., chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine in Portland and a lead author of the new ACOG/SMFM recommendations. “That’s not good medicine,” he says.

When asked to explain their high C-section rates, hospitals offered several responses.

Mark Rabson, corporate director of public affairs at Jersey City Medical Center, described how his hospital, which serves “a diverse metropolitan area with many socio-economic issues,” was working to lower C-section rates by, for example, reviewing the care of all providers whose cesarean rates are above 30 percent and offering them assistance in how they manage patients during labor. In addition, he says the hospital is now using midwives, healthcare professionals trained to avoid intervening in childbirth unless medically necessary, and people fluent in multiple languages to educate patients about cesareans.

Patricia Villa, a spokeswoman for Hialeah Hospital, told us “while there are many factors that impact a woman’s decision to have a cesarean section, we are focused on driving improvement in this area.” She also noted that the hospital had been recognized by the March of Dimes for it’s efforts to prevent elective early deliveries before 39 weeks.

Most people know that hospitals and obstetricians have incentives towards c-sections, but it’s hard to fully appreciate just how many incentives there are unless you see it at work (or, like me, hear regular testimony). The fact that the hospitals get more money is only a part of the equation. The time physicians get back isn’t just for playing golf. When Clancy was in Arapaho, she was regularly faced with one of two options. She could hover over a mother all night, extracting all sorts of costly resources from the hospital along the way. She would be staying there, not seeing her daughter or her husband and not getting much goodsleep. She wouldn’t be generating any other revenue while there because she has to be on stand-by. If she delivered the baby before 6am, she would then finish her paperwork, get maybe an hour of rest, and spend the next day seeing clinic patients. If it is after 6am, then she gets the morning off. Which allows her to get some sleep, but forces patients to reschedule and means less revenue for the hospital/clinic. Alternately, she could reach for the scalpel at 8pm be done with everything before 9, come home, get rest, see all of her patients the next day. And, if she cares, make more money for the hospital and possibly herself (through bonus structures) or at least have better efficiency numbers when it came time for the performance review.

My wife is the type of person to hold the line. I’m frankly not sure that I wouldn’t find some sort of way to rationalize interventions.

But while people know about that aspect of it, and probably know that a lot of women pressure their obstetricians for c-sections, that’s really only a part of the equation. The other part involves decisions that the OB makes well prior to the c-section decision. Intervention begets intervention. If a woman gets an appointment for induced labor, a future c-section becomes more likely. If she gets an epidural, a c-section becomes more likely. If labor is sped along through other interventions, c-sections become more likely. Why? Well, as best as I can figure, the more that a hospital intervenes, the less control the body has over the process. So even if two physicians have the exact same philosophy towards c-sections specifically, their philosophy on earlier interventions may lead to different c-section rates. And a woman’s chances of getting a c-section may depend not just on the obstetrician or the hospital, but the specific anesthesiologist on duty and how aggressive their philosophy is.

In the map on Kristin’s article, you notice that a lot of rural states have lower c-section rates. That’s at least part of why. Clancy’s employer in Arapaho didn’t even offer epidurals. The less resources, the less earlier intervention. The less earlier intervention, the less likely a c-section is to become necessary in the first place. My wife’s c-section rate isn’t just low because she views it as the Option of Last Resort, but because she’s not an interventionist generally (in obstetrics and elsewhere).

So it’s not just a question of whether a c-section is medically necessary, but also whether it becomes medically necessary along the way. Both of these things are going to depend on a lot of things like obstetrician philosophy, hospital policy, resources, other personnel, and (as important as anything else) patient philosophy. Whether they want an epidural has a cultural context, and that’s going to vary from place to place. Whether a woman will be the only person she knows that had a c-section, or whether she’s been told that’s the way to go. Whether she lives in a place where people read Mother Jones, or Newsweek.

Right now we live in a culture where, in addition to all sorts of other incentives, c-sections are normal and giving birth on hands and knees or underwater is considered weird and unnatural. Because intervention begets intervention (both psychologically and medically), and our health care system is an interventionist one from top to bottom, I am skeptical that we’re going to see change any time soon.


Category: Hospital

20161107_091838

Last week I posted an Linkage Over There about a superbowl Audi ad:

Well, if you’ve been reading along, I think you’ve figured out what the real message of this Audi advertisement is, but just in case you’ve been napping I will spell it out for you: Money and breeding always beat poor white trash. Those other kids in the race, from the overweight boys to the hick who actually had an American flag helmet to the stripper-glitter girl? They never had a chance. They’re losers and they always will be, just like their loser parents. Audi is the choice of the winners in today’s economy, the smooth talkers who say all the right things in all the right meetings and are promoted up the chain because they are tall (yes, that makes a difference) and handsome without being overly masculine or threatening-looking.

At the end of this race, it’s left to the Morlocks to clean the place up and pack the derby cars into their trashy pickup trucks, while the beautiful people stride off into the California sun, the natural and carefree winners of life’s lottery. Audi is explicitly suggesting that choosing their product will identify you as one of the chosen few. I find it personally offensive. As an owner of one of the first 2009-model-year Audi S5s to set tire on American soil, yet also as an ugly, ill-favored child who endured a scrappy Midwestern upbringing, I find it much easier to identify with the angry-faced fat kids in their home-built specials or the boy with the Captain America helmet.

While some dismissed this characterization, I thought it was rather spot-on. If this were a Chevy or a Nissan ad, I might think that some of the characterizations are happenstance, but this is an Audi ad. That means class is not incidental, but rather core, to the product. So we can likely assume anything involving class in the ad is likely intentional. And in this case, it did so in a rather politically skewed direction.

This ad was clearly conceived when it looked like Hillary Clinton was going to be the first female president. And in the run-up to the ad, Audi did a publicity blitz about its commitment to gender equality (hehe, hehe). It was aimed squarely at a particular segment of its clientele. But before we get too much into that, let’s talk about wine and cheese. For a few months, my Twitter feed contained this ad:

There is some really intense social and class signaling going on in that ad. I mean, let’s count the ways: Name-checking the most exclusive university in the country, science!, whiteboard with code, Apple computer, elegant geek girl. It really has it all and it just screams New White Collar through and through. Which, if they’re selling a cultural service like wine, is a pretty good pitch! They know their likely audience. Being close to that audience myself, I actually think it’s pretty well done. Maybe a bit overkill, but I only have one foot in that pond.

Now, the Audi ad goes for a slightly different set. Older and wealthier. More likely for their to be a family involved. As the article says, the protagonist isn’t the girl so much as the dad. The dad with the girl to be proud of. The dad who is on the Right Side of History. The dad who doesn’t need an Audi to be good, but is good and Audi is good and let’s get together. The characterization of The Other is probably a necessary component to that because goodness needs something to be compared to. Something a little grubby and unclean. The ad, as a whole, makes its pitch by equating vanity for virtue. It’s not toxic to conservatives, but to the extent that it appeals to conservative it’s going to be the squishes, the #NeverTrump sort, and those whose sensibilities align with left at least in terms of cultural cues.

Now, lest anybody think I am wanting to pick on one side, it’s not hard to come up with an idea of something similar aimed at conservatives would look like. Even if we’re looking an ad seeking to confuse vanity and virtue – or is it vulgarity and virtue – for the well-to-do right. We don’t even need to leave the auto market. Or the luxury auto market. Or the Superbowl.

A visceral yell. A combination of individualism and group (patriotic so it’s okay) achievement. My accomplishments are mine, your accomplishments are ours. It speaks to some less savory impulses in the same way the Audi ad does. Get this because you’ve earned it. Hard work! While the Audi focuses on a degree of innate you-are-evolved goodness, this one focuses on work and achievement. Which sounds good, if you kind of glide past the part where his achievements are his and others’ achievements are ours. But go America! This struck a positive chord with the people it was meant to, and a negative chord for others.

But just as you know the dad in the Audi ad didn’t vote for Trump, you’re pretty sure this guy did. This guy is, more or less, what I think of when I pass by the house of the guy that had the Trump flag in his yard. Really nice house. Obviously, the person was well off. Given that they put a flag in their yard, along with a Gadsden, suggests that he probably supported Trump throughout. That house has (surprise surprise) a full-size pickup in the driveway. Which is kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum as the electric car this guy is pitching.

Which is actually sort of the point. If the Audi ad is telling a well-to-do liberal that it’s okay to have a car that only rich people can afford because you’re good, this ad was telling future Trumpers that it’s okay to have an electric car because it indicates hard work and you work hard because you’re an American.


Category: Market

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Category: Server Room

I didn’t know this media personality in Sangamon’s major media market went to my middle school. He did a feature for Good Morning Sangamon about going back to Rotterdam Middle School where he remembers being a sports legend but everybody there remembers something different. I had never heard of the guy, but it was an interesting outside look at my middle school. He did fly down to film the segment (or maybe he was in town anyway). It was obviously meant to be comedic, but I liked seeing my middle school in a TV segment, including pictures of him in the same football uniform I wore!

It was a little weird, though, in that it felt like a fictionalized version of the school. Other than the aforementioned uniform, almost nothing looked familiar. I did recognize one coach, but that was about it. He was talking about “the principal who had been there 20 years” and it was somebody I’d never heard of. There was Principal Warfield, who was there before I was. He was followed by Principal Snidely, who left my seventh great year to be replaced by Ms McDonald whom I don’t remember as particularly impressive but apparently impressed somebody because she was the Superintendent of the entire district by the time I graduated from college and now has a school named after her. Then Warfield came back shortly after I left when Mossman got promoted en route to fame and fortune. Who was this person they were interviewing?!

I had originally thought that they might have taken some liberties or something, then I realized “Holy crap, I’m old.” As in, someone could have been there for 20 years and would still be “after my time.” Indeed, the only teacher/coach I recognized was new my eighth grade year. I remember him as seeming old at the time, but that probably meant he was 25 or something. (Tangential, but another teacher/coach friended my brother on Facebook and it turned out that he was in his twenties despite my remembering him as old.

My friend Clint and I went back and visited the middle school towards the end of our junior year in college. It was… pretty anti-climactic. I thanked the first teacher I ever had that flunked me, which turned out to be a really good thing and turned my academic career around (I got a lot of just-passing grades in elementary school that I am pretty sure were sympathy grades). We had always planned to do an open house at the elementary school one of those years, but they actually discontinued it at some point and so we couldn’t. And since our schools are bunkers now, you can’t just stop by without people assuming you’re some pedo creep or something.

My elementary school isn’t my elementary school anymore. We were re-routed somewhere else. My high school isn’t my high school for the same reason, and also it doesn’t exist because they demolished and rebuilt it. My middle school, though, remains my middle school. Even if they replaced all of the cast.


Category: School

A less discussed feature of the Mr. Trump’s much discussed travel ban from January 27, 2017 (See full text here) [1] imposes a temporary (120 day) ban on the US Refugee Admissions Program [USRAP]. The suspension can be found in section 5 of that order. Section 5, subsection B contains the following language:

Upon the resumption of USRAP [US Refugee Admissions Program] admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality [emphasis added by GC]. Where necessary and appropriate, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation to the President that would assist with such prioritization.

Subsection E has this language,

Notwithstanding the temporary suspension imposed pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may jointly determine to admit individuals to the United States as refugees on a case-by-case basis, in their discretion, but only so long as they determine that the admission of such individuals as refugees is in the national interest — including when the person is a religious minority in his country of nationality facing religious persecution [emphasis added by GC], when admitting the person would enable the United States to conform its conduct to a preexisting international agreement, or when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship — and it would not pose a risk to the security or welfare of the United States.

These clauses seem to prioritize admitting Christian refugees in preference to Muslim refugees. As far as I know, the refugees the US is most likely to receive right now come from Muslim-majority countries. That fact (if it is a fact) suggests Christian refugees have one more tool to draw on than Muslims do when claiming asylum. These clauses also  reinforce Mr. Trump’s statement elsewhere, on the Christian Broadcasting Network that he intends to prioritize Christians over others when it comes to admitting refugees [2].

On balance I think this preference is probably a bad thing. But it’s a closer call than I believed at first.

Is this constitutional?

That question is more for the lawyers in the audience, although my lack of legal training won’t prevent me from answering. There’s a lot I’d need to know, that I don’t know, to answer that question. The practical function of these religious exemptions would be to prioritize Christian refugees over Muslim ones. Whatever one thinks of such prioritization as policy, I don’t think it’s a slam dunk to say that it’s unconstitutional. Here, by “unconstitutional” I mean a federal court will strike it down.

My layperson’s understanding is that the federal judiciary grants wide latitude to the executive and to Congress in determining who gets let into the country. My layperson’s understanding might be incorrect. But I can imagine a non-specious argument to support the above-referenced clauses from the EOse in court. That argument would run like this:

  1. Religious persecution is a legitimate reason to grant asylum.
  2. Religious persecution must be defined somehow.
  3. Limiting “religious persecution” to minority religions is a commonsense way to make that definition, inasmuch that a member of a majority religion is unlikely to be persecuted because he or she is a member of that religion.
  4. The language of this exemption would enable members of other religions, including Muslims, to request asylum for religious reasons presuming they are fleeing states in which Islam is a minority religion.

If it so happens that the “he religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality” language has been a standard test used by past administrations (and I don’t know if it is), then one can advance a point number 5 to the argument above that the EO is only following precedent.

Even if such language is standard practice and even if courts have generally deferred to the “political branches” on such matters, standard practice and deference can change. But I do think that speaking strictly in legal terms, it’s not at all clear to me that this portion of the EO is unconstitutional.

More things I don’t know

In a discussion Over There on this matter, I was notified of a few things I didn’t even realize I didn’t know. I had trouble finding the exact comment, but someone suggested that “refugee status” ans “asylum status” are different things. I didn’t know that.

In another thread, or subthread, some people argued that I misconceived of how asylum/refugee status gets assigned and suggested that pre-Trump, the standard practice and statutory/treaty obligations were to grant asylum for religious persecution because people are targeted for their religion, regardless of whether theirs is a minority religion. Those comments–right or wrong, probably neither wholly one or the other–are further reminders that I’m not an expert in the legalities or the history of the matter.

But it’s a bad idea anyway

While I’m not prepared to say those portions of the EO are unconstitutional (again, using my constricted definition of “unconstitutional” as “something a federal court will likely strike down”), I’m prepared to say those exemptions are bad ideas.

My first concern is practical. As some said in the above-mentioned Ordinary Times subthread, the “religious minority” standard seems to assign to immigration officials the duty to define what is and isn’t a minority religion. How much does a religious practice have to differ from that of the majority to constitute a new religion? Can someone who practices a non-standard form of Islam (say, e.g., Wahabbism) claim religious asylum because it’s a “minority religion”? Is there some sort of creed people have to profess? Do they have to know how to say “shibboleth” [probably safe for work, but it is a Youtube video]?

My other concern builds on the practicalities. Does this impose in practice a religious test? To me, a religious test for obtaining asylum strikes me as wrong. If we generally accept applications for asylum for religious persecution, perhaps those who apply ought to demonstrate they face persecution for their religion, but ought not to have to demonstrate they profess a certain religion as a precondition.

But still I hedge my bets

In the original draft of this post, I contemplated saying the “Christian preference” clauses appeal to Christians who believe the Golden Rule comes with an asterisk:

Do unto others* as you would have others do unto you.

*….unless those others aren’t Christian, then do whatever the hell you want.

But two concerns suggest my inclination to oppose those clauses of the EO is not quite as defensible as I thought.

First, my “ought’s” here conflict with each other. What if a non-Christian is persecuted because they are believed to be Christian? Ought that person be able to claim religious asylum even though they’re not persecuted for “their” religion?

Second, what if a religious group or ethno-religious group faces persecution directed specifically at it? In that case, it doesn’t strike me as beyond the pale bad for the US to adopt a policy to help members of that group and it doesn’t strike me as beyond the pale bad to define that policy in such a way as to make it easier for them to claim asylum.

Consider this comment from Phil Ebersole at Unqualified Offerings:

….I have no problem with prioritizing Christian refugees, if that is the intent [of the clauses I mentioned above, which I had introduced into discussion there–GC]. Christians are subject to horrible persecution in the countries named under the order, as a result of the jihadist wars instigated by the United States and Saudi Arabia. They are persecuted even in the refugee camps, which is why they are under-represented among refugees admitted to the United States. They are 10 percent of the population of Syria, for example, but only a tiny number of the Syrian refugees admitted to the United States.

While I don’t read Ebersole’s blog much, it’s worth looking at and I think if you do, you’ll agree with me that Ebersole is no fanatic, right-wing or otherwise. Combine that with the fact that I’m just mostly ignorant of the situation in Syria or most of what goes on in West Asia. Yeah, I know there’s a civil war, and I know that ISIS exists, and I know probably enough facts to earn me at least a B- on the final exam for a current affairs 101 class. But that’s about it. If Ebersole is right, then perhaps that preference should somehow be policy. And because Congress dithers, maybe it is appropriate for the president to use what authority he has to expedite the policy.

What to oppose and why….that’s an important question

I fall back on my criticisms against the religious exemption” clauses of the EO as bad policy. If things are as bad as Ebersole describes, Mr. Trump could do better than restrict most refugees but make special exemption that in practice seems designed to favor Christians. Why not a blanket religious exemption? Of course, I’m pro-admitting more refugees than the US has already and have no particular objection to them being Muslim or Christian. So my priors are very different from Mr. Trump’s.

I also fall back on what’s unstated in the EO but stated at such events as that reported on the Christian Broadcasting Network. Whatever effect the EO may have in practice, and whatever policy I might theoretically support would be consistent with the EO, the spirit animating it seems to be malicious in a way that similar policies implemented by Mr. Obama would not seem to me to be. I’m not sure citing that “spirit of malice” would or should be a viable strategy to contest the EO in court, but it is, in my opinion, to be opposed.

If I or we are going to criticize what Mr. Trump does, we need to focus on the particulars and why. Do we oppose the EO because it’s unconstitutional, or is it unconstitutional because we oppose it? Do we oppose the EO because it seems to carve out a specific religious exemption, or do we oppose it because the exempted profess Christianity? Do we oppose it because it’s bad policy, or because it’s Mr. Trump’s policy? Maybe these contrasts aren’t as stark and “rhetorical” as they probably sound. Maybe Mr. Trump is so bad that even on-balance good (but still questionable) policies ought to be opposed.

In the meantime, of course, I realize that other people’s lives and livelihoods are affected much more immediately than mine are. I’m in the cheap seats and am able to write these notes from my computer without really having to face (at least for now, knock on wood) the reality of what the US chooses to do.

[1] Executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” January 27, 2017, <https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/27/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states> [accessed February 4, 2017]

[2] David Brody, “Brody File Exclusive: President Trump Says Persecuted Christians Will Be Given Priority as Refugees,” The Brody File [blog], January 27, 2017  <http://www1.cbn.com/thebrodyfile/archive/2017/01/27/brody-file-exclusive-president-trump-says-persecuted-christians-will-be-given-priority-as-refugees> [accessed 1-30-2017]


Category: Statehouse

I am not one of those people that upgrade my computers and electronics at every opportunity. I tend to buy something and then use it until it becomes useless to me, either because it’s just that outdated or it breaks down. Just yesterday, I was using a ten year old computer. I can’t use it for much, but I set it up for my mother-in-law during her visit to check her email and yesterday it happened to be out when I wanted to check Twitter. That it can do.

This creates something of an electronic papal death watch, though, as I wait for certain things to die so that I can replace them. Sometimes I watch with excitement, though usually if it’s that bad it falls into the category of electronics to be replaced. So usually, it’s a pain. But at least when it’s dead, it’s dead. The worst is when a computer or device just lingers. It mostly works, except when it doesn’t, but it fails to work enough that it ceases to be useful in primary duty. So it needs to be demoted, if not replaced. Unless it starts working again.

I’ve had two such instances occur over the last couple of months. The first was my computer, which worked fine most of the time but five or ten seconds every two or three minutes when there would be some issue with hard drive data swapping. Which was not a big deal, except that I couldn’t use it for audio or video. Next to it is another computer that’s fine most of the time, except that it randomly reboots. The third computer at the console is from 2008 and is reaching the end of its lifecycle. This meant that, with the problems of the first machine most recently cropping up, I lost my only primary duty machine downstairs. So it was time to buy a new computer (put randomly reclycling computer on tertiary duty, and retire the oldest).

Kind of a bummer since, but for the aforementioned problem, I was satisfied with what I had.

But I started getting the parts in my online shopping cart. I was starting to get excited about finally having a new computer for the first time in five years. And then… suddenly the stuff started working again. I was doing some diagnostic stuff that I assumed would be fruitless. I don’t even know what fixed it. The diagnostic software couldn’t even find a problem with it. But when it was done, the problem was gone.

Now I feel cheated, almost, out of my new computer.

Then the same thing happened with the smartphone. I’ll spare you most of the details, but basically the battery life just collapsed to 2-3 hours. Worse, the battery monitor stopped working, so any time the battery was at less than 40% I had to worry about it going out at any minute. Further, it was chewing through batteries really quickly. I tried switching to my backup phone, but it kept trying to go into international roaming mode. So I went around shopping and finally decided on a brand and model to buy, was getting excited, and then as I was explaining the problem with the backup phone to my friend (who used to work with Verizon) the international roaming mode mysteriously went away. Meanwhile, the phone with the battery problems was fine as a backup (and as a backup was demonstrating much better battery life.

So no new phone. Meanwhile, every time I see an ad for an LG V20 I think to myself “I should have one of those!”

Dead electronics need to stay dead, in my opinion.


Category: Server Room

[UPDATE: 1-29-2017: I stated in the original post that the EO has no list of countries. That was incorrect. It names Syria, and it refers to “section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12).” Upon inspection of that statute/code, I find that it refers to a program for visas that makes certain people ineligible, namely those who have “been at any time on or after March 1, 2011″ in Iraq or Syria or “in a country that is designated by the Secretary of State under section 4605(j) of title 50 (as continued in effect under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.)), section 2780 of title 22, section 2371 of title 22, or any other provision of law, as a country, the government of which has repeatedly provided support of acts of international terrorism” or “in any other country or area of concern designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security.” In my quotes, I’ve left out references to certain paragraphs, etc.]

[UPDATE #2, 2-6-2017: Here’s the memo. Not sure when it was added, but I checked this morning.]

As you may have heard, there’s an uproar over Mr. Trump’s decision to issue a travel ban on Friday (Jan. 27, 2017) from selected countries and over that decision’s affect on people arriving within the last two days. See this WaPo article [paywall] [1] The why’s and wherefore’s of the ban and the impact it will have on immigrants and those who have been granted permanent resident status are being debated, and that’s where the key point of concern ought to lie.

But a question for Mr. Trump: Where is the order on your whitehouse.gov page? I couldn’t find it on the “presidential actions” tab that your press office uses to update citizens on what you’re doing. I had to hunt elsewhere for it and finally found the text of it at the New York Times. It’s probably listed somewhere at the Federal Register online, but I’m still a novice at navigating those pages.

Here’s the text the New York Times offers, saying it was supplied by the White House.[2] That text itself doesn’t list the banned countries. I presume that list is found in an order issued by, say, the Department of Homeland Security.

I’m obviously implying that the White House is less than eager to be transparent on this issue. However, it’s quite possible that it’s my own inexperience at monitoring executive orders that’s making me have to rely on media sources. At any rate, now you have a link to it in case you wanted to read it. (Disclosure: I haven’t read it yet.)

[1]  Brady Dennis, Jerry Markon, and Katherine Sahver, “Despite growing dissent, Trump gives no sign of backing down from travel ban,” Washington Post, January 29, 2017.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/trump-gives-no-sign-of-backing-down-from-travel-ban/2017/01/29/4ffe900a-e620-11e6-b82f-687d6e6a3e7c_story.html [Accessed 1-29-2017].

[2] “Full executive order text: Trump’s action limiting refugees into the US,” New York Times, January 27, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/us/politics/refugee-muslim-executive-order-trump.html [accessed 1-29-2017]


Category: Statehouse

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Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

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