Slimey turned towards me, eyes pleading. “What should I do?” he exclaimed.
Slimey, as you may know, is a 9′ tall reptile with typical claws and sharp teeth as you might expect from a creature of the swamp around DC. Yet somehow he is capable of blending in with others, and indeed, had served in lobbying firms dealing with this past administration, now in exile.
I let him in through my door and he ducked his head as he entered. “Slimey, I wasn’t expecting you. Last time I saw you, you were working for QAnon. What happened with that?”
Slimey carefully maneuvered his tail around so as to not knock over anything found on low surfaces in the room. “Q? The market for that kinda petered out after the election. I could see the writing on the wall. So I had a good offer, one that I really would like to accept. I’ve been offered a position with the Secret Service!”
“Why, that’s great,” I said. “I figure you would snap up an opportunity like that quickly” You know, it’s amazing how many times my words around Slimey focused on one of his overwhelming physical characteristics.
“It is great. It would involve working security for an ex-President. But it is contingent on something.” Slimey swung his ponderous head from side to side, seemingly indicating his conflict concerning this offer.
“What’s the contingency?” I asked.
Slimey set his bulk down upon a sofa before replying. “It’s contingent upon my being willing to relocate to the town of Ossining, NY. And it is contingent upon the New York court system acting first so that there will be someone to guard there.”
Slowly I realized the central part of Slimey’s dilemma. “You’ve been offered the job to guard President Trump in Sing-Sing.”
Slimey looked up at me. I could see a tear forming in one of his eyes. I thought about crocodile tears, but quickly put that thought away before it escaped my mouth. “Yeah, that’s it. I could be one of the guards who would keep him safe while he’s in prison. You just don’t know what that would be like. I’d have to be kept there myself in order to prevent someone from taking him out.”
I thought for a minute, then I said “I’ll bet there’s some times when you wished you never left the swamp.”
“You don’t know the half of it. The problem is I’ve gotten addicted to having this stuff called money around. I can exchange it for things I never knew existed when I was down there. But the more I keep trying to get it, the worse it is for me. I mean, I have my standards. I just don’t know if trying to keep the ex-President from being shived is worth it. I mean, if the word got out, nobody respectable will want to talk to me.”
Part of learning how to relate to all kinds was knowing when it was best to just listen, and not offer any guidance. So I sat down myself, and just made a little noise of affirmation.
Slimey thought for a long moment, which seemed like a really long time when you are dealing with something as large as he is. You hope that the reptile portion of his brain wouldn’t grow active and take over, and slash out with his deadly claws and massive tail. Even if I didn’t lie in a pool of blood with my entrails scattered, he could make a real mess of the upholstery if he tried.
Finally, he stirred, and gathered his limbs to stand. “I know what I have to do. I have to go back to the swamp. I just can’t deal with this human world any more.”
I realized that our time together was near an end. Not just this meeting, but probably any meeting in the future. Once Slimey had re-acclimated himself into the murky waters, I couldn’t see any chance of him re-emerging and trying another round at taking part in human society. And I certainly had learned my lesson, and would steer clear of the Tidal Basin so as to avoid any accidental contact. I counted myself fortunate that I had managed my relationship with Slimey and still had all of my organs intact.
Slimey went towards the door. “Friend, I don’t know if I’ll see you again. Thanks for listening to me and helping me decide what to do.”
I held the door open as he once again ducked his head on the way out. I said to him “I’ll miss you.” And then he was gone.
There is an illness stalking the inhabitants of this nation. No, it is not the illness caused by the corona virus, although that is still running rampant among our population. Instead, it is the illness of selfishness and ignorance that is causing so many who consider themselves Republicans to refuse to distance themselves from this President. Indeed, there is a hard-core constituency who still refuses to believe in the recent election, and cling to their fever dream of having Donald Trump remain in power as President.
The illness has taken hold over decades. It goes back to the belief that Senator McCarthy was correct, and members of the deep state (he never enunciated that phrase) were undermining the US by covertly inserting communistic beliefs into this nation’s consciousness. The stereotype was so engrained that a character in a 1964 movie, Dr. Strangelove, was a parody of the supporters of McCarthy and the John Birch society. General Jack D. Ripper spoke the beliefs that we were being undermined by fluoridation (amongst other things). So the belief system resulting in this illness began before 1960. It has taken this long for it to gain power in the nation.
I sincerely hope that the brazen display of those infected with this disease that took place on January 6, 2021, shows the rest of the nation the folly they would inflict upon us all. We needed something to burst the bubble of infection, and allow the pus of this disease to be excised from the body politic. Seeing the so-called patriots who believed they were defending the virtues of this nation, seeing them swinging the US flag and its attached pole against the skulls of those outmanned officers should disabuse anyone who is not fully infected with this disease from ever believing in the purity of their cause.
Now there is a great hue and cry among the fevered victims of this disease about having their constitutional rights violated by the banning of their chief from social media. They claim a tyranny of the left is being waged against those who espouse “conservative” views. If only they stuck to true conservative values. No, those who are missing their on-line forums were the ones that would institute true tyranny, and their leader was showing them how it is done. January 6, 2021 serves as an exemplary case study in how their leader used his voice to inflame a crowd already dripping with sweat from induced fever, into taking action on his behalf. And of course, he would be with them. Except, of course, he wasn’t. He was acting as his own executive producer, and watched the reality show he produced unfold on TV. His only regret was that the forces he unleashed did not achieve their objectives of capturing and executing those he had decried as enemies.
Now we are cleaning up the aftermath of the Capitol invasion of January 6. Chief among these aisle clean-ups is the action to impeach and remove this President. Know that this effort will never result in the removal of this President, because the majority leader of the Senate will not allow it to happen while he retains his powers. It still is a worthy action to take, although I am myself of the opinion that impeachment in the House should take place before the end of the presidential term, but the trial in the Senate would be better if we allow a couple of months for passions to die down before it proceeds. Then the full results of the invasion will be known, and some of those who were infected victims of the cult disease might have broken their fever, and realized the folly of their ways. The facts won’t change.
Indeed, one of the most severe symptoms of the disease afflicting so many in this nation is the inability to discern fact from fiction. They insist their fictional accounts of events is real. They believe that the doctored videos offered as conclusive proof by the President’s Keystone Cop lawyers showed a vast conspiracy aimed at silencing their views forever. It will take a long time for these fevered victims of the cult to realize the error of their ways. If we are fortunate, the cult victims will regain their senses by ones and twos, and realize how close they came to unraveling the fabric of this nation. If we are not fortunate, then we will have future fever outbreaks across this country, and the death toll of these outbreaks may exceed the toll of January 6 by orders of magnitude.
Be prepared for the fever to not subside with the change in administrations. The disease is deeply entrenched in the soul of this nation, and will resist control as violently as the corona virus is resisting our so-far futile efforts to contain it.
Way back in March 2017, when this blog was barely a month old, I penned a post titled Experimental Decay Curve In Politics. That post was intended to show that the effectiveness of Donald Trump’s tweets was likely to follow an exponential decay curve. In May of 2019, I wrote an update of that post that showed the frequency of retweets of his posts, seemed as if it were following an exponential decay curve. In order to keep the same impact from his account, he had to post more tweets to counteract the lessened effectiveness of any individual tweet.
Even though I had tried to update my original post with new data, it is the older post that keeps getting read across the globe. Many of my “hits” on this blog go back to the first post. Well, as of January 8 2021, it will no longer be possible to measure the “effectiveness” of Trump’s tweets, since he has been banned from the platform. In some ways this is the logical conclusion of this administration, with its pledge to bypass the media and speak directly to his followers through his social media platform. After much deliberation, and perhaps the threat of removal of the safeguards of Section 230, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have all banned posts from Donald Trump as long as he remains in power. It has become clear that since the election, where he was effectively repudiated, his own posts had increasingly become reflections of the violent fringe of the internet rather than any sort of meaningful posting.
So there will not be another post discussing the further decay of the effectiveness of Donald Trump’s tweets. It is obvious that the ones that he had been posting were adequate to inflame the fires of passion of his most ardent supporters, and provided the fuel that energized the crowd that overwhelmed the outmatched security forces at the Capitol. I for one am hoping that the interim time till Joe Biden’s inauguration passes without further violence, either aimed at domestic enemies, or directed at foreign adversaries in misguided attempts to justify his own sense of power. Then I do hope that the much-maligned justice system in this nation does hold Donald Trump accountable for his actions of this week, and by extension, for his actions since he was inaugurated on that dark day in 2017.
Here again is the text of my original post.
Today’s topic concerns exponential decay curves. This is what happens when “something” declines over time. A classic exponential decay curve is shown here:
Exponential decay curves are often found in nature. The classic one that is taught in classrooms concerns radioactive decay. For a given radioactive isotope of an element, the half-life of the isotope determines the shape of its decay curve. A half-life is defined as the amount of time for 1/2 of the radioactive decay for an isotope to have occurred. This can vary among isotopes from fractions of a second, up to 4 billion years in the case of Uranium 238. Half-lives are very important when calculating the potential radiation exposure to a radioactive isotope. Isotopes like Cobalt 60 are powerful radiation sources that are used industrially to examine welds and metals for defects. They provide plentiful gamma rays since the half life of this isotope is only 5.3 years. That is why there is concern about the use of this isotope in a dirty bomb, since the radiation from an explosive dispersal of Cobalt 60 would cause significant exposure to high powered gamma radiation.
Exponential decay curves may be found in other natural and also artificial systems. A new example of an artificial system that appears to be following an exponential decay curve is the Presidential tweet. The response to a Presidential tweet appears to be following a typical decay curve function. It is too early to get an accurate measurement of the half-life of tweet effectiveness, but a preliminary estimate is that the half-life of the response to a Presidential tweet is about two months.
Since this system of Presidential tweets is an artificial system (one not normally found in nature), it is uncertain as to what the response of the originator of the Presidential tweets will be to an ongoing decrease in tweet effectiveness. Most observers believe that the originator will greatly increase both the frequency and objects of tweets so as to continue to receive a total response to the tweets that approximates the effect of the first tweets.
However, it is nearly certain that since the effectiveness of any individual tweet will continue to decline, eventually the response to all Presidential tweeting may approach zero. There is a school of thought though, that maintains the belief that we may begin to see an inverse function develop for the tweet response. That is, instead of receiving a positive response to tweets, each subsequent tweet may result in a negative response. It is possible that the magnitude of the negative response may increase with additional tweets, so that Newton’s third law may be given a test in the political arena. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Observers of politics will be watching this process with rapt attention.
Donald’s sad, very very sad. What a sad day Donny had.
This was a verse I used to sing to my children when they were pouting or crying for what I perceived to be inappropriate reasons. It seems appropriate now to sing it to our pouter-in-chief as he concludes his tantrum against the foundations of democracy. How is it that he could deceive as many people as he has into believing it was impossible for him to lose, because he had all of the visible energy of his fraction of the electorate. How could he lose when he got more votes than all of the previous successful candidates?
Easy. The energy that was stored in those who voted for his opposition was potential energy, waiting for the opportunity to be released through the ballot. And thus, an even greater number of citizens voted for Joe Biden, and the primary reason why they supported him was because he was not Donald Trump.
We’ve run our little experiment on what it would be like to withdraw into our own borders, and not interact with anyone else. What have we learned? We’ve learned that the vacuum that develops from our withdrawal gets filled. The Chinese in particular have stretched their legs and made inroads across the globe, especially in what used to be considered the non-aligned world. But in Europe, a recognition has grown that the US is not to be depended upon, since it is capable of electing such an imbecile as has graced the White House for the last four years. The enduring image from this administration will be Trump sitting at a table, arms crossed in the body language of rejection and defiance, while Angela Merkel leaned across the table as if lecturing the wayward boy while the rest of the western leaders stood by in support of Merkel.
But now we see the last stages of the four year long temper tantrum, and the desperation in Donald’s demeanor is coming out in droves. “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.” Begging, pleading, threatening. All of the behaviors we have expected from this excuse for a President coming to the fore in a single perfect phone call. Well, after the final card is played on January 6 with the official declaration of the Electoral College vote, and no miracle is forthcoming to overturn the will of the people of the US, then Donny can go off and sulk in the corner. Just so he doesn’t do further damage to the fabric and substance of this nation on his way out.
I hope this is the last post I have to write denouncing this abysmal President, but I fear he is capable of much mischief not only while he is still officially in power, but in the political wilderness he will descend into after January 20. There are still tens of millions who believe he is the rightful winner of the election, and who will not recognize the legitimacy of the Biden administration. There are still tens of millions who believe that the ultimate evil has been unleashed upon this nation, and we can expect another batch of child abductions and dismemberments at the hands of the satanic Democrats. There are still tens of millions whose image of Trump is as a ripped man holding the automatic weapon of vengeance ready to pounce on those who object to his manifest greatness. It is obvious that all the facts in the world will not change the mind of a single one of these true believers. What we must be ready to do is make progress while we step around those who are screaming and holding their breath as they denounce the unfairness of the world.
The real problems we face as a species have not gone away over the past four years. In cases like climate change, they are now worse, and we have squandered a significant chunk of time in a futile attempt to recapture our past fossil fuel greatness. In others like pandemic preparedness, we’ve seen only too vividly how important it is to have early warning systems in place, and respond appropriately when a true signal is sounded. There are many other problems that can cause our intricately constructed house of economic cards to collapse. Supply chain issues come to mind as demonstrated by the pandemic, but it is our electric infrastructure that is most vulnerable to attack, either from nature, or from cyber threat. We must make it feasible for these problems to be addressed. The four years we spent on a circus sideshow now appear as a wasted opportunity.
When I used to sing this verse to my children, I would repeat the first line.
Donald’s sad, very very sad. What a sad day Donny had.
The second time through, it was slightly lower in pitch. Then I’d break into the following final line, raising the pitch:
But then he got happy! He really got happy!
When I sang that, usually it caused the boy who was pouting or crying to forget what he was mad about, and get mad at me for making fun of him. In Donny’s case, I’m afraid he is congenitally unable to become happy. If four years of near absolute power cannot make him happy, then there is not a thing in the world that will work to make him happy. That is undoubtedly the curse he will take with him to his grave.
One of the advantages of having had a blog for several years, it allows you to revisit past posts. Here is one originally put up in September 2018 that has maintained its relevance in the world today. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.
Donald lay in bed, waiting for the gastric discomfort caused by the double cheeseburger and fries to settle down a bit. He had his comforter in his hand, and was just about to send out a tweet denouncing all NFL players who ever spoke out about any social issue ever, when his comforter buzzed. On the screen popped up an image of Richard Nixon, and his words were spelled out in the form of a text.
“Donald, I have come to warn you of the path you are on.”
“Donald, if you do not change, you will wear the chains of disgrace that I bear.” With this text, the image on the comforter drew back to show the entire body of Richard Nixon, shrouded in chains binding his arms and legs.
“Donald, I am sending you three messengers, to show you how you have come to this point in life, and to offer you a chance to repent. If you ignore these, your fate is sealed.” And with this last text, the image of Richard Nixon faded from the screen and only the unsent tweet remained.
“That was strange,” thought Donald. He looked up and Hannity was still on the television. Nothing around him seemed to show that he had just had a virtual visitor on his comforter. He put it down and reached for the television remote control. Better to try to sleep than to have to think about what had just happened.
Sleep was hard to come by, but eventually his mind calmed, and he was able to doze off. That is, until about midnight when his comforter suddenly began buzzing uncontrollably. Donald shuddered, then groggily reached over to the nightstand to pick it up. When he did, the visage of his old mentor, Roy Cohn, appeared on the screen. Donald sat up and looked dumbfounded at the screen, and as he looked, Roy began to speak. He was clad in his trademark robe, seated in his old apartment, and he said “Donald. Remember those days we spent together in the ’70’s? What is it that I taught you then?”
Donald replied to the image. “You taught me to never settle, never surrender. To counter-attack and counter-sue immediately. And no matter what happens, claim victory and never admit defeat. I’ve tried to follow your advice. Look where it’s got me!”
Roy’s cadaverous face nodded in agreement. The image was of Roy just before he died of AIDS, and he was hollowing out what was already a slender body. “Let me show you what you missed while we were together.” Roy’s face dissolved, and a pier on the waterfront appeared. A huge car was parked on the pier, and two men were approaching the trunk, which they opened. They hauled out a bundle shaped like a human, totally concealed by cloth wrapped tightly around it. They took chains and wrapped them around the bundle, securing the chains with a padlock. Then they lifted the bundle up and tossed it into the dark water. After the loud splash, the bundle sank beneath the surface without hesitation. The scene dissolved again, and Roy’s face appeared once more. “You see what happened there? I got Fat Tony off on that charge. We used my technique and it worked. It’ll work for you too. Keep that in mind. These times are tough and you need to be strong.” And Roy’s face disappeared from the screen, and the comforter went silent.
Donald turned the light on, then pulled up twitter. He wiped out the post he had intended to send about the NFL, and instead wrote yet another condemnation of his attorney general. He ended it with “Where’s my Roy Cohn!” and sent. Many would wonder about the tweet sent at 12:45 in the morning.
Donald turned the light back off, and tried to resume his sleep. He was just entering REM sleep when …. his comforter began buzzing uncontrollably again. He picked it up, and this time he was face to face with one of his nemesis MSNBC commentators, Rachel Maddow. She spoke not a word, but pointed with her long fingers at a monitor to her side, and his attention was drawn to it. He recognized the Oval Office, and saw himself seated at the desk, with papers cluttering the surface. He got up, and left the office for a state function, the meeting with the Emir of Losewhatchakan. Not five minutes after he left, he saw a hooded figure enter the room, and that figure crept over to the desk and pilfered two pieces of paper. Looking around to see if he had been observed, he crept cautiously away. When Donald saw himself returning to the office, he never noticed that the papers were missing. Rachel’s face reappeared as the scene dissolved, only this time he heard her say in that annoying way she had, “And to think that all of your staff is laughing at you behind your back. Never has a President been treated with so little respect that his own staff would sabotage him – and never has there been a President who would not notice that he was being thwarted. Now, watch this.”
She indicated the monitor beside her. On the screen appeared an image of an immigrant detention center. The chain link partitions indicated this was a serious place. He saw his agents approach one woman who was surrounded by three children. The agents took possession of the children, actually pulling one from the mother’s arms. Though there was no sound, the anguish of the mother and the children were apparent as unheard wails could be seen coming from each of the family members. The mother was escorted away to yet another place of confinement as her children disappeared down a corridor. The scene dissolved again, and Rachel pointed up once more with her long, long fingers. Longer than Donald’s, that’s for sure. Rachel said, “Your program was more successful than you could have imagined. But there were people who didn’t like what they saw in this scene. They actually thought this was cruel to separate the family in this way. But you know better, don’t you?”
Donald was confused. He could not force a coherent word out of his mouth, but did manage to shake his head in assent. His mop of comb-over flopped back and forth, deprived as it were of its binding chemicals.
Rachel had one more thing to say. “If you don’t crack down harder on those who disagree with you, your reign is in peril. Remember what Roy said,” and then her visage faded away.
Unable to truly focus, the only thing he could think of tweeting was “The FAILING NBC network keeps showing FAKE NEWS.” The tweet appeared at 2:30 on the time stream. Soon Donald was back snoring peacefully amidst the soft pillows.
But there was one more interruption on this endless night. His comforter began buzzing louder than ever, and he again reached over to grab it. When he did, what appeared was a stylish blonde covered totally in white fabric. Her body appeared to be similar to his daughter’s, but he could not tell because only her eyes and a wisp of hair protruded from the eye slot that showed flesh. She spoke not a word, but held her finger up to where her mouth would have been, and extended her other arm in an open invitation to follow. Donald did watch as the scene changed to that of a crowd of white-clad people marching along a street. Slowly the camera panned back to reveal that the crowd of people extended as far as the eye could see, an endless mass of pilgrims walking, walking, walking. The crowd was even bigger than at his inaugural. Who were these people? Then the camera pulled back further, and he realized there were tall spires around the crowd, and that all of these people were MUSLIMS! So! Many! MUSLIMS! If he didn’t act soon, they would be all over our country, flooding our streets, turning our daughters into abaya-clad disciples of Allah! Something must be done! But as he felt resolve entering his limbs, the scene dissolved into yet another scene. Now he could see a camp of some sort, with thousands and thousands of tents, and even more people milling about, aimless, idle. He recognized that this was some sort of refugee camp, the people looked like they were Asian, and there were just so many of them. He could see them storming our border as an unending horde. He must do something to prevent these hordes from overrunning our civilization. Then the scene changed once more, and he saw a dreadful looking ship, in danger of foundering on the ocean, crammed to the brim with dark-skinned people. He saw the ship list, and saw people fall or jump off into the ocean without any survival gear, hundreds and hundreds of people. He knew then that this was a vision of the future, that all of these people were intent on invading our shores. He tried to stir himself, but found his muscles frozen.
He awoke from this last vision at his normal hour. He was determined to share his lessons from the visits of the evening. He would be ruthless in his pursuit of those who denigrate him. He would be unceasing in the efforts to keep the nation pure by banning all immigrants other than those who had enough money to buy citizenship. He would keep the faith of Roy by striking out through the legal system at all who had wronged him. He turned to his comforter to begin to share his lessons of the night with his many followers.
What? You believed that the visits of the spirits to Donald would result in a transformation? That he would grow a conscience and his heart would grow three sizes? That he would show charity towards all, and malice towards none? You don’t know him very well, do you?
So the drama keeps on keeping on. The narcissist-in-chief refuses to give up that title as he vainly attempts to influence state legislatures to do something totally outside of their powers – mainly, to overcome the will of their state’s electorates and declare the narcissist as the winner in the Presidential election. Many of the narcissist’s followers have latched onto this quixotic quest and have begun a new pasttime of harassing state electoral officials. Doesn’t matter whether they are democrats or republicans, these officials have run afoul of the narcissist’s need for official affirmation.
I had hoped by this time in the election cycle, we could diverge from the path of the last five years, and begin to discuss the issues we face as a nation. Unfortunately, the most recent election will not recede into the past. We are given the images of the narcissist’s lawyer conducting press conferences in a gritty north Philadelphia neighborhood, accompanied by images of a porn shop and a crematorium adjacent to the Vivaldi concerto (The Four Seasons). We were treated to the unforgettable image of the narcissistian bimbo addressing the Michigan state senators with a performance seldom seen before this year. For once Saturday Night Live didn’t have to exaggerate their impersonation in order to lay bare the total ludicrousity of the testimony of this woman.
Still, this monstrosity of an administration is ending the only way it could – dissolving into an utterly chaotic pool of recriminations flavored with the virus de jour. Now let me say that I don’t know absolutely that a different approach could have engendered less death and misery upon this country. What I do know is that due to the propensity of the narcissist-in-chief to minimize the impact of the virus upon this nation and its economy, we squandered the time we had available to mobilize an effective plan to produce and distribute protective equipment and testing supplies. By relegating all responsibility for virus response to the states, we were treated to the spectacle of states bidding against each other for scarce resources. And of course, the price for these supplies escalated significantly, causing wasteful spending to fall upon the states. We had the image of a republican governor essentially negotiating an international trade deal with Korea, and bringing in testing supplies on a charter flight that was unloaded within the sovereign territory of his state, rather than risk it being seized by Federal forces if it were to fly to the normal international airport of Dulles.
It is seldom that you can see evolution happening in real time, but if the behavior of republicans and democrats were to be perpetuated over several generations, it seems that the human population within the US would tend to be more educated and more likely to support science. Because the population that pooh-pooed science and its response to the virus will be more likely to diminish, since so many of them will die. But their freedom will be maintained.
Once more we see how the US Constitution that we have relied upon for over 200 years as the model for our behavior, is incapable of guiding appropriate responses in our modern world. The need to maintain the common welfare comes into direct conflict with the desires to maintain the freedom to conduct all manner of activities, whether it be to crowd the stage at a narcissist’s rally, or get sloshed at a neighborhood bar, or sing to the Lord a new song in an unmasked sanctuary. At the same time, long-festering wounds within the social structure had their scabs ripped off, and the nation had to address the reality that life has never been equal for those who are in the minority within our states. For many of the narcissist’s followers, since they do not live in cities where the grievances are strongest, those grievances are by definition not real. Any voice raised in support of those who expressed outrage was castigated as being un-American, and traitorous.
If this nation is to remain whole, and not splinter into irreconcilable geographic factions, we must come up with a new social contract. This social contract must define our responsibilities towards each other, recognizing that the shrinking of the globe that has happened over the past few decades must be taken into account. The existing Constitution served us well during the time when there was always a frontier that we could move to if life got too constrained within the cities. Well, now it is the cities that are constrained by the stultification they find outside of their borders. We no longer have the ability to declare unconstrained freedom to pursue our own desires, if in by so doing, we cause damage to the well being of many others. The unfettered ability to use one’s own property as you desire, or pursue unrestrained commercial activity, or exercise religious freedom, has now run up against the limitations that flow from having a much larger population. How do we reconcile these seemingly contradictory human needs?
I’m not sure, but I don’t believe that armed mob intimidation attempts, at state capitols, or at the residences of state officials, is a useful way to resolve these issues. Shouting past each other does not, and will not ever work. What will work? My hope is that efforts like the Problem Solver’s Caucus will turn out to be more successful than such entities as the Freedom Caucus, who seem intent on fanning the flames already turning this nation into a firestorm of hatred and vitriol.
Ok, it is time to talk polls. For the second Presidential election in a row, the lack of accuracy from major polling services has been an issue. Before the election, there was skepticism expressed by many, since the predictions of a blue wave as detected by the polls did not match the gut feelings of people on the ground, especially in those states declared to be battleground states. It is always difficult to determine the slope of a line with less than three data points, but in this case, since presidential polling only gets tested every four years, it is appropriate to declare a trend and try to understand why it is occurring. In this regard, I have no knowledge about the internals that polling firms have seen. I am only looking at trends in society in general, and extrapolating them to the polling results.
First, polls are very valuable in estimating the characteristics of a large population, if three criteria are met. Those criteria are:
Those polled are a representative sample of the population
Those who respond to polls are honest in their answers
The technology used to reach those who are sampled matches the technology used by those who are sampled.
The first and third criteria are closely interrelated. Since most polling still depends upon land line responses, the audience for polling is becoming further and further divorced from the population as a whole. That is because fewer and fewer people use a land line, but instead are totally dependent upon their cell phones. If you look over the past decade, the growth of cell phone penetration has been explosive. And another factor that comes into play is that many people automatically disregard phone calls from an unknown number. So if you attempt to contact people on cell phones, you are likely to be ignored by an increasing percentage of the population. Finally, once you have answered the phone, you have the opportunity to opt in to being polled. I normally will opt in unless I am in the midst of doing something else and can’t split my attention. But I would be interested to see if there is a difference in behavior between those who lean left and those who lean right in terms of voluntary opt in percentages. Since so many of those on the right politically now distrust the government and the established elites, my sense is that more people on the right will decline to participate in a survey.
The second criteria, being honest in their answers, is the most subtle factor in determining whether a poll is accurate. Sometimes folks just want to throw a monkey wrench into the works, and so they will deliberately answer inaccurately in order to influence the results. The number who choose this option may be small, but when you are trying to assess a smaller population (like a state), the smaller sample size means each response is proportionally more important. So it can appeal to those who feel powerless in society to try to exert more influence on polls than normal by screwing with the results. For this to affect polling accuracy, it would mean that more people on one side of the electoral continuum would use this than those on the other side. Sounds like a good project for a social scientist to take on over the upcoming years.
Why has polling been so heavily used over the past few decades? Because it worked. When the US was a more homogenous nation, and we all shared a common communications technology (the telephone), it was possible to ensure that you could select a random slice of the population. Call someone up, have them answer a few questions regarding age, sex, and race, and you could slot them into one of the acceptable demographic categories for a poll. In case you haven’t noticed, we no longer fit neatly into categories as we used to. And the longer we go with alternative communications technologies, the further we stray from the easy-to-sample population we had from the 50’s through the 90’s.
Now, as to how the polls are used, you have to stray into the world of mathematics. One of the most common terms you hear is “Margin of Error”. That phrase is bandied about by the Steve Kornacki’s of the cable world along with many others of the pundit class. The formula for margin of error is this:
The margin of error in a sample = 1 divided by the square root of the number of people in the sample
This is what is amazing to understand. It doesn’t matter what is the size of the population being sampled, it only matters what is the size of the sample. That is why having a representative, but random sample of the population is so important. Incidentally, for a +3% margin of error, the sample size would need to be 1090. For a +5% margin of error, the sample size would need to be 400. Usually national samples are larger in order to ascertain valid statistics for subgroups (male, female, white, black, age groupings). But if just the top result is desired with a +3% margin of error, it is possible to sample the entire population of the US with a sample size of slightly over 1000 individuals. This is the magic of polling.
When someone speaks about the margin of error being +3%, what that means is that you would expect the true value for the population to be equal to the sampled value, +3% for 95% of the time. The 95% is a standard confidence limit in statistics, used often to determine if an effect is real or may be just a chance result. So if someone shows a poll support of 45% with a margin of error of +3%, then we would expect the real value to be within 42% to 48% for 95% of the time. If two candidates are being sampled, you look to see if there is any overlap between the 95% confidence intervals for the two. In this case, if candidate A had 45%, and candidate B had 49%, there would be some overlap between the 95% confidence intervals for the two. The range from 46% to 48% would fit both of these candidates. Now, if there is only slight overlap between the two, it is more likely that the one who samples higher is truly ahead, but it is not outside of the standard of 95%.
The 95% confidence interval is used many times in science. It is used in testing of drugs and medical treatments. I used it in production trials in a chemical plant, when we were attempting to determine whether one set of conditions was better than another. Once you are familiar with the math behind sampling, you can use that math in many different ways.
But once again, it all depends upon whether the population that responds to a survey is truly a representative sample of the population as a whole. It seems obvious that at least in the US, there is something wrong with the methodology used to select a random, representative sample. It remains to be seen whether these problems can be diagnosed and fixed before the next huge use of polling coming up in 2024.
The tick withdraws his mouth from the host, where he has been siphoning life blood. As his head disengages, dollars drip from his extended drill bit serving as a mouth. The tick moves on, slowly waddling down a slightly sloped ramp, until he comes to his next victim. There he engages with that next victim, another seeker of favors, and snuggles down to begin the extraction process.
The victims keep coming, willingly, as long as the favors they can procure keep coming as well. It is worth a bit of their lifeblood to enable them to carve out larger cavities in the body of the US government as their favors are translated into new contracts or new rulings in their interest. Sometimes the result of the parasitic infection is a purulent discharge coming from the body of the government, as the host rejects the outlandish demands of its parasitic free rider. But often, the burrowing of the new parasite is hidden, out of sight from those who try to decipher the acts of the government we all pay for. All of us, that is, except for the tick in chief, who pays nothing for his benefits, yet keeps feasting upon those who would request just one favor, just one contract, or just one tweet.
The tick in chief leads his progeny in learning just how to drill into a willing victim. By siphoning off a portion of the victim’s life blood, the family of the tick in chief can keep its engorged status intact. The rest of the world looks on in horror as the images of the tick in chief permeate the airwaves. No more can they revere the country the tick has invaded. Instead, they ridicule it, though the tick in chief keeps insisting that they are laughing with him, not laughing at him.
The tick in chief believes that only through displays of brute force can the rest of the population be brought into submission. Amazingly, there are many who believe that having a parasite at the top of government is just fine, they’d all like to be there sucking the lifeblood if they were ever given a chance, and the more that the parasite can do to weaken its host, the better off they will be.
The tweezers of government have proven to be ineffective at removing the tick from its host body. Though quite credible allegations were provided on multiple occasions, the tick in chief got the report on the allegations quashed by those whom the tick had appointed. And of course, his enablers glommed onto the statements about the allegations being quashed, and they never examined the findings of fact in the original reports. Thus the enablers feel gleeful as they announce complete vindication. In fact, the tick in chief truly believes he has done a good job for his host.
Unfortunately for the tick in chief, a new validation is coming soon. The host has a chance to throw off the parasite that has dominated it for nearly four years. It remains to be seen whether the tick and its many other enabled parasites have infected the host body with an illness that survives beyond the lifespan of the tick in chief. A nation infected with spotted fever or lyme disease would be preferable to one that is infected with the ongoing illness of lack of trust and belief in illogical and silly conspiracy theories. But first, we have to throw off the shackles of the tick in chief. Sometime in early November, we will see if the head of the tick in chief has been extricated from the body of the government. May it be so.
In the past week, events ran at such a pace that a poor blogger was not able to keep up. I initially wrote this piece a week ago, after the “debate”, and the story about taxes from the NYT, when I believed that just maybe, a sense of reflection would have come across this President. Then came the news of the positive result for COVID, and the subsequent hospitalization. While tempting, I will not resort to cheap expressions that I feel karma has overtaken events. Still, it may be that the President has actually had the chance for reflection over the past few days, so my offering here is provided with that in mind.
My apologies to the Beatles.
Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they’re here to stay. Oh, I believe in yesterday.
Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be. There’s a shadow hanging over me. Oh, yesterday came suddenly.
I sat down on the ledge near the metro station just a couple of blocks away from Ben’s Chili Bowl. I was deep into the pleasure of a spicy half-smoke when I noticed someone (or something) plopping down beside me. Once more, my old friend Slimey appeared out of nowhere. For a 7′ tall reptile, he was able to move unbelievably silently and without drawing the attention you normally would expect from someone of his size.
“Greetings, friend” he hissed through his snout.
“Slimey, it has been far too long. What have you been doing with yourself?” The last time I had seen Slimey, he had taken a position with a lobbying firm where he was trying to promote a fully-automated abattoir, aimed at eliminating the human interaction with the meat supply. I marveled to myself at how prescient that proposal was in light of the coronavirus outbreaks at meat packing facilities. I asked Slimey, “Are you still with your lobbying firm?”
Slimey slowly shook his ponderous head. “No, I was unable to sell the idea about an automated slaughterhouse to the agencies. Imagine. The deep state actually thought humans were needed.” He closed his eyes for a moment. “But in my new position, this idea has become really valuable”.
I took a bite of my half-smoke, then asked. “What is your new position?”
Slimey’s face assumed an air of supreme satisfaction. “I’m working for Q now. I’m in charge of their next big assault into the public sphere.”
I shuddered. Q-Anon had grown in popularity by leaps and bounds, especially during the pandemic when so many folks had far too much time and far too good access to the internet where they could descend into innumerable rabbit holes. Finally, I could avoid the question no further and I asked, “What is the new Q theory?”
Slimey smacked his mouth a couple of times, then began. “There’s a new thing that Q will be reporting on. That thing with abducting the children and the elite distilling their blood to come up with their youth elixir? It just wasn’t revolting enough to draw in enough people. But this one, this one is a doozy.” Slimey settled back onto the ledge, one enormous paw holding up his prodigious girth.
As often happened in my encounters with Slimey, I became aware of how vulnerable I was to a sudden swipe of his razor-sharp claws. Still, I summoned the courage to not be a species-intolerant person and continued the conversation. “What could you imagine that is worse than child abduction and harvesting?”
Slimey chuckled for a good half-minute before replying. Finally, he said “Imagine this. Instead of children being abducted, it is those who are wearing MAGA hats that are swept off of the streets. Once they disappeared, they are transported to one of my automated slaughterhouses, where they are stripped down to the bone. The meat? It goes to make certain sausage products.” He nodded towards the remains of my own half-smoke. “I’m not gonna say one way or another, but you may be surprised by where we will claim this meat is going.”
I took one more look at my half-smoke, shuddered a bit, then laid it down on the ledge between us. I had to satisfy my curiosity, though. “Why do this? Why go onto such ridiculous extremes in order to keep the Q thing going?”
Slimey was glad to fill me in. “Of course, it’s the money. Do you know how much we are raking in with the social media posts? And then there’s the merchandise. Those Q posters and foam Q’s are just money plants, plants we keep on harvesting. None of this has to be true, it just has to be plausible enough to keep the clicks coming.”
For the first time in my encounters with Slimey, I found my anger and revulsion rising. “Do you mean to tell me that this entire Q thing is nothing more than an effort to make those at the top rich?”
“Why certainly. What else would it be? You don’t think any of us believe any of this crap, do you?” Slimey looked offended, tensed his limbs, and once again I took stock of the vulnerability of my position.
“I had hoped that was the case. I can’t believe that anyone with a lick of rationality would believe any of the stuff being posted in Q’s name, but after the events of the last few years, I have come to doubt my own sense of right and wrong.”
Slimey looked satisfied with my answer. He seemed to relax back into leaning against the concrete ledge. He said, “It’s only been a few years since I moved out of the swamp, but it is amazing how much of a swamp I still find around me.
All I could do was nod in agreement.
He looked over at the remains of my half-smoke. “Are you going to eat that?” he asked.
“No. It’s yours if you want it.”
The remains of the half smoke were inhaled in that enormous snout with the reptilian teeth, paper wrapper and all.
The last episode with Slimey may be found here: evenabrokenclock.blog/2019/04/08/if-you-cant-beat-the-swamp-join-the-swamp/