Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Consequences of Trump’s Victory Are All About Probability

             We elected a random policy generator president.
            Sure, it may seem to many of us that president-elect Trump has been intentionally ambiguous about many of his policies, in order to keep his foreign and domestic rivals guessing, so he can stay one step ahead of them. Others among us may believe that he is simply the ultimate flip-flopper, and that he only changes his views when it is politically expedient, and necessary to gain support.
Still others believe that he is genuinely indecisive, and that he lacks knowledge about many policy topics. Perhaps he is like many young people today; maybe he stopped taking things seriously a long time ago, so much so that now, he can't even tell when he's being sarcastic, and so he paints himself into a corner until he has no choice but to double-down on his often outrageous and dubious assertions. And maybe the fact that he repeatedly gets away with it, is the fault of a Fourth Estate that keeps giving him 72 hours to change his mind before he gives an interview that’s to be taken as his final say on the matter.
But one thing seems certain: Donald J. Trump is a walking illustration of particle physicist Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle; the less you know about his position, the more you know about his momentum, and vice-versa. As a comment on a political spectrum meme recently explained, “Trump is too high-energy and all-over-the-place to stay in one quadrant”. Politically speaking, Trump is an unpredictable particle; God only knows where he is going, but he is going there fast.

The meme

Another similar meme
After all, this is a man who simultaneously campaigned on the promises of achieving "universal health care" while also "getting rid of" the state lines that inhibit the freedom of interstate commerce in health insurance purchase. Therefore it should come as no surprise that he has backed off from his pledge to repeal the deceptively-named Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, vowing to keep in place the part of the law which requires plans and issuers that offer dependent child coverage to cover young adults until they turn 26 and qualify for open enrollment.
So too is he the man who, during his campaign, described himself as "100% pro-life", even going so far as to consider the possibility that women could be punished in the event that abortion were to be outlawed; whereas 17 years ago he told Tim Russert that he described himself as “very pro-choice” and “strongly for choice”, adding that he hates the concept of abortion, but did not wish to ban the arguably infanticidal procedure known as partial-birth abortion which he now supposedly wants outlawed. Recently, Trump has stated that Roe v. Wade can be overturned, and that he intends to nominate Supreme Court justices who would seek to do so.
Not only that; Trump has backed off of his pledge to appoint a special prosecutor to the Hillary Clinton e-mail case, and ensure that she go to prison. What’s more, he has also backed down from his promise to overturn the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges - in which the Supreme Court ruled that states be required to issue same-sex marriage licenses, and recognize same-sex marriages which are valid in other states – calling it “settled law”, and adding that he’s “fine” with gay marriage.
But we’re not finished: since early 2016, some have speculated that Trump’s proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border will not be a physical one, but merely a “symbolic” wall; among them Trump foreign policy and terrorism adviser Walid Phares, who in September told Paris-based news channel France24, “Trump’s wall is only symbolic, and the candidate only launched this extreme policy proposal to raise attention.”
This came the month after Trump asked an audience in Austin, Texas whether undocumented immigrants with otherwise clean criminal records, who have lived in the United States for several decades, should be deported. The spontaneous crowd-sourcing poll, which he conducted eight times in a row (in order to get a clear answer) revealed that that audience slightly favored allowing them to stay, but did not favor allowing them to become U.S. citizens. That night, Trump said he agreed with a man in the audience who favored deportation, adding “We’re going to come out with a decision very soon.”
Additionally, Trump’s support of the Fourth-Amendment-ignoring proposed “No Fly, No Buy” legislation (although he acknowledges that some people on no-fly lists and terror watch lists do not belong there), seems somewhat at-odds with his support for expanding the legality of concealed-carry permits.
Trump’s apparent inconsistency on abortion, Obamacare, same-sex marriage, deportation and the wall, and gun control, demonstrate a stark contrast to the principle behind his stated position on the taxation of businesses; that is, the principle of providing the kind of certainty that leads to safe and stable investments in domestic employment. On the other hand, these so-called “positions” seem to fit his foreign policy theme of intentional ambiguity.
So what are we to make of a president-elect who wants to privatize public infrastructure, and outlaw flag burning, while also keeping gay marriage legal and promising to turn the Republican Conference into a “workers’ party”? Is Trump indecisive, is he a moderate, or is he a shrewd negotiator determined not to let anyone read his poker face?
Perhaps he is simply Door Number Three from the game show “Let’s Make a Deal”. Maybe he is a pretty pink box covered with question marks, sitting on the desk of “Simpsons” billionaire C. Montgomery Burns, for which his supporters are willing to trade away not only Door Number One and Door Number Two, but also the freedom to make a decisive, informed choice between them.

"The box, the box!"

Speculation abounds regarding whether Trump’s difficulty getting along with the Republican and Democratic establishments will hinder his ability to get his policy objectives through. So too are many asking whether his supporters will let him get away with betraying them on the issues of health, abortion, marriage, immigration, and guns, if that is indeed what he even intends to do.
Donald’s Trump’s indecision and doubling-down – coupled with his disagreements with his often unruly supporters, and the division which his Austin audience revealed in August – demonstrate that he is a Schrödinger’s Candidate; that he has let the cat out of Pandora’s Bag, but is having trouble putting it back into the tube of toothpaste.
On the other hand, maybe Trump is the cesium atom, the American public is the cat, and we’re in a quantum superposition of states until Inauguration Day. Maybe we’re in the midst of a transition period, in which America – in a demonstration of faith, through a single capricious vote – has already been made the Great-Again which it never wasn’t, but we also just experienced the worst thing that has happened to this country since 9/11. And what are the odds that that is true? As a wise man once said, “Don’t ever tell me the odds.”
So the questions remains: “Random number generators have won wars, but can a random policy generator fix a broken country? Will Donald Trump, the Human Wonder-Waffle, unite what is arguably the most divided electorate this country has ever seen? Will he manage to forge even a tentative alliance with the quasi-nihilistic so-called ‘moderates’ of each major party’s establishment?” In this writer’s opinion, we find our answer in what yet another wise man once said: “Sticking together is what good waffles do.”

Two patriotic Americans of opposing political parties
break bread in a symbolic gesture of cooperation


            Readers interested in exploring this topic further may wish to look up the definition of the word "demarchy"; or visit this page, featuring an article about Trump's relationship to the aether):

Originally Written and Published on November 16th, 2016

Edited on November 17th, 2016

Addendum Written on January 19th, 2017

Expanded (second political spectrum added) on June 28th, 2018

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Case Against Circumcision

     Twelfth century rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (also known as Maimonides, or the Rambam) admitted that the purpose of circumcision is to reduce sexual sensitivity and pleasure. Contrary to the position which the American Medical Association (A.M.A.) took until 1999, circumcision has no medical benefits which are proven and undisputed.
     Fortunately, however, the A.M.A. no longer recommends circumcising boys at birth; in 1999 it decided that, while science demonstrates that some potential benefits of circumcision exist, that information is not sufficient to recommend routine circumcision at birth.

     Circumcision does not reduce the risk of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (S.T.D.s) as its proponents claim (to be precise, they only claim that it may).

     Common sense should tell us that cutting at the foreskin actually unnecessarily opens the body up to infection; by exposing unprotected areas to the elements (thus increasing the risk of contracting blood-borne illnesses). Evidence suggests that circumcision increases the risk of contracting syphilis, and that H.I.V. (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infection rates are lower in countries where males are not routinely circumcised.
     Claims that circumcision may reduce the risk of contracting H.P.V. (Human Papilloma Virus), however, are dubious, because those H.P.V. contraction rates cannot be fully known (because most heterosexual males are not considered eligible for H.P.V. testing).

      Too many parents make the mistake of believing that circumcision promotes sexual health; and that the benefits of not having to clean as much of their children's genitals, outweighs the detriments associated with risk of contracting diseases (that is, if they're even aware of that risk).
     While circumcision reduces sensitivity, it also leaves scars that can recur and cause pain long into adulthood, including pain during sexual intercourse. Reduced sensitivity, coupled with pain and scarring, can cause sex to become less frequent. This can lead to emotional detachment from one's sexual partner(s), which can lead to difficulty sustaining sexual relationships.
     The removal of the foreskin at birth, occurring before informed consent is even possible, can result in feelings of incompleteness, and sexual and personal inadequacy. These feelings can lead to, and exacerbate, D.I.D. (Dissociative Identity Disorder) and gender dysphoria. When part of one's genitals are removed, one may experience feelings of separation and dissociation from the person who underwent the operation; this causes the feeling that the disfigurement actually happened to someone else, and the sense that one's current persona is distinct from the person they were born as.

     Additionally, botched circumcisions can leave boys with mutilated genitalia; the resulting incompleteness of the genitals and loss of correct function can cause boys to cease identifying as male altogether. Botched circumcisions can also cause massive blood loss, and cause problems that cannot be fully corrected for years.
     The ensuing frustration, and hindered ability to build healthy emotional relationships with people on a social level, can motivate aggressive behaviors. These feelings can even motivate rape; a person who has been deprived of their natural rights of bodily self-ownership and physical integrity, may be more likely to commit rape as an act of sexual self-empowerment.

     Circumcision is a barbaric, archaic ritual which has no medical merit (unless the baby is suffering from a malformed penis, or appears likely to suffer from a malformed penis in the future). Moreover, circumcision creates more social and sexual health problems than it's claimed to solve.

     The practice should be shunned by anyone who understands that an individual human being has rights to his entire body. Furthermore, circumcision should be considered genital mutilation, and even child sexual abuse. Therefore, in my opinion, doctors who perform such procedures should have medical malpractice suits brought against them.
     Circumcision performed upon people who have not yet reached the age of consent, should be prohibited. However, it would behoove circumcision opponents (so-called "intactivists", a portmanteau of "intact" and "activists") to include a religious exemption to such a legal prohibition. I recommend this in order to protect the right to informed consent to circumcision, while avoiding trampling upon the rights of religious communities (namely, Jewish people).
     The Jewish tradition considers the practice of circumcision to be part of a sacred covenant (called brit milah) which unites the genitals of the "patient" with the head of the mohel and G-d, symbolizing a completion of the Jewish Tree of Life (Etz haChayim). This is why to prohibit circumcision among the Jews would, for all intents and purposes, prohibit the full practice of the Jewish religion. That's why any legalistic method aimed at reducing the incidence of circumcision, should consider the consequences upon First Amendment -protected freedom of religious expression.

     On a final note, claims that circumcision reduces the risk of contracting herpes, do not hold up well in light of the fact that a handful babies die each year after being infected with herpes by mohels performing the ritual metzitzah b'peh following circumcision.

Written on November 11th, 2016

Originally Published on November 11th, 2016
under the title "On Circumcision"

Edited on November 17th, 2016

Edited and Expanded on April 9th and December 14th, 2019