December, 2018

Dec 18

Why Trump wants to spend 21 Billion Dollars For Something that Cannot Work

Trump now claims his border wall might cost as much as 12 billion dollars (he initially said 4 billion).  Bernstein Research puts it at  15 to 25 billion. Estimates from Democrats go as high as 70 billion. The Department of Homeland Security puts it at 21 Billion. Let’s go with 21 Billion for now.

Even some Republicans in Congress are reluctant to fund the wall because it may end up costing far more than estimated and likely would not actually prevent illegal entry. There’s always a way around a wall. Think of the seagoing refugees in Europe. Think of tunnels. Think of the fact that he’s not actually going to build wall along every last inch of border. Intact existing fences will be retained, and he plans to continue to use rivers, alone, as barriers in some places. The wall would perhaps reduce illegal immigration somewhat but it wouldn’t stop it, which means not only a big cost–but also a wasted cost.

Trump may well use executive authority to move money around in the budget and pay for the wall–or at least part of the wall, if it turns out it costs far more than estimated. So look for it to be at least partly built. Even if funded the wall may not  be completed, given historical variances–political changes,  or emergency circumstances–or simply a more mature sense of priorities.

While he’s doubtless xenophobic and some variety of racist, Trump’s real reason for this gigantic boondoggle is simply political. It’s the calculation of a demagogue. Yes, 62% of Americans are opposed to the border wall project–but those people aren’t Trump’s base. He’s gambling that his base, both the MAGA hat wearing supporters and the anti-regulatory far-right, can be turned out in sufficient numbers to keep him in office in 2020–if he gives them his symbolic wall. Their own racist xenophobia will recharge their enthusiasm for him. His symbolic construction project, gerrymandering, and just plain voter suppression, would together give him a chance of re-election despite the fact that most Americans now despise him. Remember, too, the vagaries of the Electoral College.

Trump doesn’t care about protecting the American people–he doesn’t care about anything but himself. He’s demonstrated that fact again and again. He is a pathological narcissist who can’t think beyond his own small-fingered grasp. The only thing he does care about is his own safety and comfort. He’s afraid that his money-laundering and the true extent of his Russia connections will come out. He’s afraid of going to jail. If he’s re-elected President, he’s unlikely to be indicted and he’ll have four more years to work on a cover up.

He’s only insisting on the wall for political purposes. Only that, nothing else. And the curious thing is, we all know that. I’m just saying what you already suspect. What really matters here, is that we as a people seem to be okay with a multibillion dollar boondoggle taking place simply for the sake of an election–for barenaked political reasons alone. No one seems to be pointing this out.  There should be millions of us standing up and shouting, “This is just wasting at least 21 billion dollars of US taxpayer money purely for one man’s vote-getting!”

Dec 18

Hate is Intoxicating

Hate is intoxicating. You may say, “no it’s just toxic”. But that isn’t all there is to hatred. People genuinely get a powerful tension release from outbursts of hatred. They ride a gush of hormones and other stimulating neurological chemicals, and they feel good for awhile. As with being very drunk or very stoned, the IQ drops for a time. Cognition becomes truncated, it becomes constricted by the tunnel vision of a desire to perpetuate the release, the excitement.

It’s a kind of structured rage; the structure requires fuel, which is provided by rhetoric, cherry-picked factoids, outright fabrications, a Rube Goldberg machine of rationales that requires the hater to narrow focus, to filter out what doesn’t feed the fire of bigotry and conspiracy-theory induced rage. That requirement includes not just the exclusion of facts, but also the exclusion of certain feelings. How else do people–who love their own children–feel empowered to say, over and over, “Those children were separated from their parents because their parents broke the law.” Within the framework of structured rage, they’re able to filter out empathy for those particular children; they can block away the obvious realization that these children are being punished for a crime they themselves did not commit.

We’ve always known this, just not quite consciously. It’s the theme of endless movies and plays and tv episodes. “I was blinded by my feelings,” Roger says. …”You, Helen, can’t see what your anger has done to you–to you and to your family…”… “Jim, put down that rope, this town won’t be ruled by mob mentality…” The warnings are there, all through our culture. We do know, on some level. We need to see it on a more conscious level. If we could look at our basest feelings squarely we could get some kind of leverage to control them. We could push back against that inner sumo wrestler that keeps shoving us out of the ring. That pushback starts with philosophy’s most ancient maxim: Know thyself. And that requires a level of self honesty that has to be worked at.

It’s tough to see your own emotional intoxication, especially considering the feedback loop. If you’re seething inside and need a release, need a scapegoat to target–immigrants, for example, or just “liberals”–and you go to a rally, or simply talk to other people with the same addiction to this intoxication, perhaps in a bar or at a football game,  you and they will unconsciously conspire to sustain the flow of intoxication provided by structured rage. You bounce it off one another, faster and faster, more and more narrowly, each confirming the other, in an intoxicating feedback loop. The more people who surround you, repeating the same biases, the more firmly self-serving lies take root inside you.

Demagogues like our current President and the new, neo-fascist leader of Brazil, instinctively know how to foment this feedback loop of bias and rage. So do schoolyard bullies. They all know instinctively how to feed the fire. Why is that? Trump isn’t smart enough to have analyzed the process. It seems to be in his nature to know. The word instinct might be more than just an expression, when it comes back to stoking structured rage. Ancient proto-humans might have had to work up their own feedback loop of anger to survive predation from other tribes. Some obsolete primeval wiring could have gotten Trump elected president; it might be making Alex Jones and his ilk wealthy. Some of our ugliest impulses might well be instinctive.

The core meaning of civilization could the imperative to separate from “lizard-brain” guidance; to recenter ourselves in something higher: in  conscious wisdom, restraint, empathy, and a drive to real justice…