"On Eve of Michael Cohen’s Testimony, Republican Threatens to Reveal Compromising Information" The New York Times, 26 February 2019 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/26/us/politics/michael-cohen-testimony.html [Journal Entry 16 - 26 February 2019]

An outline of what Michael Cohen planned to say in his testimony today. Shortly beforehand Mr. Gaetz sent out a tweet threatening Cohen with blackmail. Most of the testimony will likely revolve around the bribery of Ms. Stormy Daniels, and Trump's plan for a Trump Tower in Moscow. It is said to include some allegations of criminal activity while in office by Trump. The Republicans plan to question Cohen's moral character instead of any evidence.

So much of this seems to be utterly useless. The documents mean something. The actual allegations of criminal activity mean something (I include the need to clandestinely bribe someone as criminal, although I am unsure as to the technical legality of it all). All this kerfuffle about adultery, on the other hand, should have nothing to do with this. This whole thing feels more like a popularity pageant than a criminal investigation.

In addition, Mr. Gaetz's blackmailing/threat attempt is so suspicious! I honestly feel that it adds credibility to Cohen's story. Why is the first line of defense threats and character assassination if none of Cohen's story would check out anyway?

"The GOP is the party of Trump — but not for the reasons anti-Trump conservatives think" The Washington Post, 26 February 2019 https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/02/26/gop-is-party-trump-not-reasons-anti-trump-conservatives-think/?utm_term=.f11d3deed9d5 [Journal Entry 17 – 26 February 2019 at 22:35]

Trump's policies appeal to almost every republican faction in a way that none of his republican alternatives do. The only people who are unhappy with him are the moderates, who make up only around 20% of all republicans.

AHA! This is what I wanted to know when I asked what are Republicans willing to sacrifice the rule of law for!

Much of Trump's popularity stems from the fact that he appeals to all of the Republican subgroups (except the poor moderates), and from the fact that he has genuinely delivered on many of his promises. Those promises he hasn't delivered, he is using every means necessary to obtain.

Republicans are willing to abide by his extra-legal tactics because he gets results, and they feel that they are in serious danger if those results do not occur.

"House Passes Bill Blocking Trump Border Emergency" The Wallstreet Journal, 26 February 2019 https://www.wsj.com/articles/house-set-to-pass-measure-blocking-trumps-national-emergency-on-wall-11551185964 [Journal Entry 18 - 26 February 2019 at 23:00]

Various official's outlook on the Bill to deny Trump's Emergency Declaration. The Bill has passed in the House, and must now go through the Senate and it's anyone's game at this point.

"“While Democrats continue to put American and immigrant lives in danger by willfully ignoring the horrific crisis at our border,” Mr. Deere said in a statement…."

I would laugh at the notion that criminalizing people makes them safe, but it hurts too much when I remember how we died of AIDs, how we died by coat hangers, how we are killed by men who know that we won't be looked for, how we can find prisons by looking at nothing other than demographic data, and how they were torn from their families.

"[When] Asked where the funds would come from to backfill military funding, Mr. Shelby responded: “From money. Where do we fill everything else?”"

Please excuse me while I fling myself screaming into the loving embrace of the void.

"For some, emergency declaration pits conservatism against Trumpism" The Christian Science Monitor, 20 February 2019 https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2019/0220/For-some-emergency-declaration-pits-conservatism-against-Trumpism [Journal Entry 19 - 26 February 2019 at 23:28]

Many of the Republicans in the Senate are waffling on whether to support the Bill to deny Trump's emergency declaration. Their concerns are diverse, but one of the main ones is that it sets a precedent for Democrats to do the same.

They are absolutely right to be worried. The second I learned this was a possibility, I amended my fantasy of becoming president to include declaring hunger, homelessness, unaffordable healthcare, and poor infrastructure a national emergency. Free clinics run by military medics, homes for the homeless bought with military construction money, a hundred, thousand soup kitchens staffed by soldiers.

A glorious, yet hopelessly dangerous fantasy, which I have no inclination to pursue.

"Methodists Reject Plan to Open Door to Gay Marriage" The Wallstreet Journal, 26 February 2019 https://www.wsj.com/articles/methodists-reject-move-to-open-door-to-gay-marriage-11551222543?mod=trending_now_5 [Journal Entry 20 – 26 February 2019 at 23:39]

The United Methodist Church, the largest Christian denomination in the United states, and an international organization, has voted to uphold it's ban on ordaining LGBT+ people and officiating gay marriages. The outspoken LGBT+ activists, including an out lesbian Bishop, are now unsure as to what will happen to them. Most of those on the LGBT+ supportive side seek to rebel against this decision, or leave the denomination altogether. Those satisfied with the result call for peace and unity.

Calling for peace and unity seems to be a common theme among oppressive and violent actions against minorities. This call for unity from LGBT+ people, which came directly after it was decided that we would be discriminated against and excluded, strongly echoes similar calls for peace during the black civil rights movement.

Another common theme is citing strategic reasoning. The civil war was about state's rights, and this is about keeping the church together. I believe neither of those statements, but I also think it this is just as awful if it is true. I would be evil of me to protect a serial killer because he makes delicious sandwiches. It was evil of those Confederates to protect slavery because of State's rights. It is evil to enforce programs and attitudes which regularly drive LGBT+ people to suicide and homelessness because they would lose some followers.

The best bet for quelling rebellion is making oppression seem normal and peaceful. Rebellion requires significant motivation, and that motivation cannot be gathered if no one suspects that anything is wrong. Calling for peace both gives the illusion that the oppression is reasonable, and discredits the opponents as violent rabble.

I think that one of the main problems with modern activism is that there's too much civil and not enough disobedience. If a protest does not disturb anyone, then it isn't a protest; it's a parade.

Trygstad, Kyle. "When One Term Was Enough." National Journal Daily AM (USA), sec. News, 27 Feb. 2019. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&docref=news/171DB65E371954D8. [Journal Entry 21 - 27 February 2019 at 22:23]

Representative Cindy Axne is already being considered as a potential candidate for Senator, despite the fact that she's only been in office for a few months. Trygstad says that this isn't terribly surprising, as three other Senators have been elected in the past five years have also only served one term in the house.

I was not even aware that there was any sort of precedent requiring Senators to serve in the House beforehand. This is the kind of article that signals to me how out of the loop I am in regards to politics, and, furthermore, how easy it is to be out of that loop. Again, this is the consequence of optional politics.

"Prosecutors: 'Domestic Terrorist' Planned to Target Democrats." CQ News (USA), 20 Feb. 2019. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&docref=news/171D6186ABABEE80. [Journal Entry 22 - 27 February 2019 at 22:45]

Christopher Hasson, a US Coast Guard lieutenant has been accused of being a domestic terrorist. He was found to have numerous firearms and illegal drugs, and that he wrote out a list of democratic politicians after sending a letter to a known neo-Nazi leader saying that he was a white supremacist.

"…included names presumed to be the following Democratic lawmakers:…" This quote is interesting to me because at first it seems a bit ludicrous, I mean how many people share the name "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez," and have done something to gain the kind of attention necessary for assassination?

However, when thinking back to Snyder's chapters on maintaining institutions and occupational codes this kind of wording becomes vitally important. It maintains the innocent until proven guilty standard, and is very refreshing to see after wadding through the political pandaemonium surrounding Cohen's testimony.

I wonder if Hasson is a revolutionary in a small splinter group, or one of the sorts of paramilitaries that Snyder warns against?

"White House Breaks Off Vehicle Emissions Talks With California." CQ News (USA), 21 Feb. 2019. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&docref=news/171D943202F998C0. [Journal Entry 23 - 27 February 2019 at 23:23]

The White House is attempting in conjunction with the EPA to relax regulations on greenhouse gasses produced by cars. California is the only state to be allowed to set its own regulations, which are generally stricter than other states. California is also one of the largest automotive markets in the country. This poses a challenge to the Trump administration's plan to relax regulations.

The Californians seem to think that if they just keep repeating the sentence 'regulations are good for business' the major automotive companies will magically be persuaded. How I wish they were right.

The council of major automotive companies also seems like a direct violation of anti-trust laws, but those haven't been enforced in my lifetime anyways.

The fact that the EPA is negotiating with a state in the same way one expects it to negotiate with a foreign country is really worrying. If you scrubbed my memory clean of the idea that California is a part of the US, and then presented this article to me, I would have assumed that this was international politics.

"Congress Could Block Big Chunk of Trump's Emergency Wall Money." CQ News (USA), 21 Feb. 2019. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&docref=news/171D943200089738. [Journal Entry 24 - 27 February 2019 at 23:39]

One of the accounts Trump plans on siphoning money from in order to build the wall has about 2.4 billion dollars less than he expected. In order to move money in from other sources, the Pentagon would have to seek approval from Congress and gain both Democratic and Republican support. There is a possibility that Trump will simply ignore that step though.

Hooray! There are more blocks against Trump! However, he could, unfortunately, just ignore them.

The fact that the Pentagon would be the ones seeking approval is important though. There is an opportunity there for them to refuse to go along with him circumventing Congress. I have little hope that they shall take it.

"State Lawmakers Seek Ban on Amazon-Like Incentives." CQ News (USA), 19 Feb. 2019. NewsBank, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=WORLDNEWS&docref=news/171CE9EAAD22E6B0. [Journal Entry 25 - 28 February 2019 at 00:11]

In response to voter backlash against giving major corporations such as Amazon incentives to invest in specific cities and States, a small collection of States are drafting laws to prohibit offering incentives. Many are reluctant to do so without the backing of several other states, as they worry it will make them uncompetitive.

Corporations hold an immense amount of leverage over our government. There is a constant pressure on lawmakers to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. In reality, lawmakers have almost no real control over that. The entire point of Capitalism is to remove government control of the economy, and it has done a stellar job of it in America!

All of these bidding wars are stacked in the corporations' favor, because there will always be a State, country, or city more desperate than the last. The cost will always be high, and the chances of the payout being higher are quite poor. The attraction of these companies is an extremely expensive political symbol and nothing more.

"Judge Rules Male-Only Selective Service Is Unconstitutional" Texas Standard, 25 February 2019 http://www.texasstandard.org/stories/judge-rules-male-only-selective-service-is-unconstitutional/ [Journal Entry 26 – 28 February 2019 at 21:00]

A men's rights activist group has filled a lawsuit to change the current mandatory service requirements. They feel that it is grossly unfair that men at age 18 must sign up for the draft, but women don't. They think it unlikely that there will be another draft anytime soon, but the principle of the matter is still relevant.

Mercy me! I can't believe I'm actually in agreement with a Men's Rights group. I suppose there's hope for them being reasonable advocates yet.

I personally hate both the military and the idea of a draft. Using the term "conscientious objector" to describe me is seriously sugar coating it. I enjoy the fact that I can't be called to war because many consider me to be a woman, and I'm transgender. However, if we are going to have a draft, I think it should be absolutely equal.

I'll rip it to pieces if I ever get called, but I shouldn't be excluded just because of arbitrary and antiquated biases.

"Senate Republicans Back Secretary of State Despite ‘Ham-Handed’ Voter Purge" Texas Observer, No Date of Publication Listed https://www.texasobserver.org/senate-republicans-back-secretary-of-state-despite-ham-handed-voter-purge/ [Journal Entry 27 – 28 February 2019 at 21:26]

Secretary of State Whitley sent out a call for 95,000 Texan voters to prove their citizenship. County officials complied, and the letters sent out put many into difficult situations. The Secretary of State has since denied that he is responsible for any of this mess, and several civil rights activist groups are suing the state. Despite all this, Whitley was confirmed to the Senate.

We should just let undocumented immigrants vote. I personally think that anyone who will be living under the laws of this State should have a say in them. No taxation without representation; No criminalization without representation.

There is a worry that if we let criminals vote, they will make murder legal. However, those who love murder will always be a minority, and the disenfranchisement of those who comit crimes is the primary cause of Jim Crow's unnatural longevity. If criminals cannot vote, then unjust laws can only be repealed by illegal means.

There are practical reasons to allow this too. As this, and many other attempts have shown, in order to ferret out the tiny fraction of voters who are not legally allowed to vote, thousands of people are going to be hurt, or at the very least inconvenienced, large amounts of money (that we don't have to give) will be eaten up, and our already over taxed bureaucratic systems will be further burdened.

This makes sense neither morally, nor economically. It is purely an appeal to racist and nationalist ideals. Ideals, which Republicans now feel constitute the will of their voter base.

"The Border Wall Debate Emphasizes the Divide Between Rural and Urban Texans" Texas Mounthly, 28 February 2019 https://www.texasmonthly.com/politics/the-border-wall-debate-further-emphasizes-the-divide-between-rural-and-urban-texans/ [Journal Entry 28 – 28 February 2019 at 21:44]

Around 80% of Texans live in urban centers. Those living in rural areas are much more likely to support Trump, the wall, and conservative values in general. The republicans are quickly losing ground to democrats as demographics shift.

I understand that people from different walks of life will have different priorities, and there's not much wrong with that. However, it really worries me that these geographic lines also delineate racial and ethnic lines. The fact that these two groups have such radically different, and directly contradictory, priorities is very disheartening.

Race itself is an artificial construction of our society. Therefore, any major difference in the lives of different races must also be constructed. When both feel that the empowerment of the other spells disaster, something must be horribly wrong.

Blacks, whites, Asians, and other various races differ in their average outlooks. This is not proof that there is some sort of fundamental difference between them. It is proof that true equality, and a world without racism has not been achieved.

"Legislature Considering Changes To Fix Privatized Medicaid System" Texas Standard, 28 February 2019 http://www.texasstandard.org/stories/legislature-considering-changes-to-fix-privatized-medicaid-system/ [Journal Entry 29 – 28 February 2019 at 22:28]

After a series of testimony on ineffective privatized Medicaid that left them without crucial medical care, a bill with bipartisan support has been drafted by Texas legislature. One of the things it would do is completely overhaul the appeals system to run through a third party which would base decisions on medical necessity.

I think this is a brilliant idea as long as this third party never stands to gain from denying people care or overtaxing the system.

I also personally think that insurance as it stands is simply a bad way of protecting people. It is currently a gambling game; the company bets the cost of our medical bills that we won't get injured and we bet an amount that we will get hurt. In this system, the company has no incentive to cover people with chronic illnesses, disabilities, or things like cancer. It is simply a bad idea to bet that someone who is already sick won't need money for medical bills. So, it's no surprise to me that these new privatized Medicaid companies have cut corners.

What we need is a rainy-day fund. A pot we all pay to which provides help when any one of us is sick and needs medicine. Ideally this is a major part of what public healthcare would be. Of course, for that to work we also need to put limits on things like the price of pharmaceuticals, but that is a rant for another time.

"Third Year In A Row Of February Rackspace Layoffs" Texas Public Radio, 28 February 2019 https://www.tpr.org/post/third-year-row-february-rackspace-layoffs [Journal Entry 30 - 28 February 2019 at 22:41]

Rackspace is laying off around 200 workers soon. The reason given for this is that they are rebalancing their workforce, to invest more in under-invested areas of their company.

A lot of complaints surrounding this sort of headline seem to hinge around the legitimacy of the reasons given for the layoff. I personally believe that the reasons Rackspace has given for this layoff are reasonably truthful, and a valid reason for a company to fire or 'layoff' its employees.

Don't get me wrong, it's bad that people are getting laid off, but this is unfortunately just the way our American, nearly unfettered Capitalism works. If the company doesn't see a benefit in keeping its workers, then it can, and will, get rid of them.

What's good for the community and the people working for the company doesn't factor in.

"Nancy Pelosi details 'shocking' first meeting with President Trump" Houston Chronicle, 1 March 2019 https://www.chron.com/politics/article/Nancy-Pelosi-Donald-Trump-meeting-voter-fraud-13656208.php?cmpid=hpctp [Journal Entry 31 – 2 March 2019 at 14:31]

Nancy Pelosi gave an interview describing Congress's first meeting with Trump. It was unorganized and unorthodox arguing from the very beginning, according to her.

There is a degree to which we must be careful about trusting things like this. Pelosi does have a vested interest in making Trump look bad. I do, in fact, think that she likely embellished upon her role in refuting his claims. However, none of what she has said is at all out of character for him, and I'd like to think that there's at least one person in our government unwilling to spout complete lies.

There has been some wondering in my social circles about whether Trump is calmer and more reasonable behind closed doors. Either he doesn't consider Congress to be behind closed doors, or he's just like that. Using "You know I won the popular vote?" as an introductory line is… comedically suspicious. It's like watching a four-year-old trying to gaslight people; he's just repeated the lie over and over again.

This tactic really only works when the repeated lie is the only thing a person is exposed to. Unfortunately, it is somewhat easy nowadays to choose to hear only one side. So, if his base chooses to do so, they very well could believe him.

"Memo shows how Austin police cooperated with ICE last year" The Austin Statesman, 1 March 2019 https://www.statesman.com/news/20190301/memo-shows-how-austin-police-cooperated-with-ice-last-year [Journal Entry 32 - 2 March 2019 at 15:16]

A brief summary of a memo given to Austin City Council as the first report on how the Austin Police Department is working with ICE.

This was incredibly short, just the raw facts really. The fact that Austin police aren't regularly asking people their citizen status is good. The othering and labeling of undocumented immigrants is terrifyingly reminiscent of Snyder's passage about how the Jewish people were labeled. We are linking the concepts of Immigrant, criminal, and brown when we call these people "illegal immigrants," and this denies the fact that we are talking about living, breathing people.

I feel that there is some vague awareness that 'It could happen here too.' However, I see very little awareness that it is beginning to happen here, and that it will have happened here too sooner than we think if we don't stop it now.

The movement and isolation of a group within a larger population is one of the most reliable warning signs of impending genocide. We are moving people; we have a special task force created to find these people; we label them with paperwork and legal status; we tear gas them at our borders; we conduct raids on work places based on ethnic make up to root out these people; we speak of these unarmed, desperate, loving people like an invading army.

The oft repeated justification for not taking any sort of drastic action against these warning signs is that it isn't that bad. My reply would be that it's not that bad yet. These are not simply warning signs. They are definite steps being taken towards a tragic conclusion.

The family separation policy has already shown us that this administration is absolutely willing to hurt innocent people in horrible ways. The emergency declaration shows that they are willing to use extra-legal means to do it.

It is not enough to say "Never again", we must be willing, at this very moment, to disobey and disrespect the laws that are making this happen again.

Reflection 2 March 2019

The local journalism seems the most effected by the need to sell things via clickbait. I didn't attempt to get anything from the San Antonio Express because there were so many meaningless flashy headlines and photos that my laptop started making an alarming noise. I was half worried one of their links would give me a computer virus. None of the articles seemed to be about anything terribly important, and those that were about policy, were achingly short.

The National and opinion papers have a reasonably large reader base and therefore a steady source of income. So, they can afford to spend serious time on each article, whereas tiny local papers really can't.

"Climate Change Is Here—and It Looks Like Starvation But don’t expect to hear about it on the nightly news." The Nation, Published 1 March 2019. https://www.thenation.com/article/climate-change-media-humanitarian-crises/ [Journal entry 33 – 2 March 2019 at 16:12]

Climate change is not some far off threat. For many people in countries considered third world or undeveloped by us, climate change has already brought death, famine, and war. Americans are mostly blind to this, due in large part to gross underreporting on the subject.

Inequality is so vastly damaging precisely because of what it is. Government and economy are our systems for deciding who gets what, when, and why. Therefore, inequal control of governance and economics results in getting poor quality, less often, because you are thought of as lesser. It can be hard to see what the term "resources" really means: the ability not to die.

Rich countries like America have the resources to survive droughts. We have huge grain stores, and vast tracts of land with different weather patterns to fall back on when farming becomes difficult. Even within rich countries like ours, if war breaks out here Bill Gates will be just fine in a private bunker, while we die in the bombings.

'Rich' and 'wealthy' are not terms that mean one can afford luxuries. It means that one can afford to survive things that others would not. If my grandmother had not married a CEO geologist for the company that became Exon, we would never have been able to afford my mother's medical bills, even with insurance.