My thoughts after watching an interview with Donald Trump

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I watched part of an interview with Donald Trump the other day on All In. He said, as he is wont to do, that the Mexican government is exiling criminals to the US, like what England did in olden days to Australia or something. People have tried to fact check this comment by saying that immigrants in the US don’t commit more crimes than citizens. However, that’s not exactly what he’s saying, and you can’t fact check crazy.

For Donald Trump’s next trick, he thinks a fence or wall should be built around the border. The interview asked him how it would be paid for, and he said Mexico will pay for it. Donald Trump will use his powers of persuasion to convince them to pay for and build a fence.

This is batcrap crazy.

Let’s assume that a. Mexico exiles its criminals in the US is true. If that is true, how can b. Mexico will pay for a border fence also be true? Assuming that they want to send all their criminals to the US, why would they PAY MONEY to stop doing that? Also, if Donald Trump has such powers of persuasion, then he can just get them to stop sending their criminals (since the fence implies that Mexico will stop sending us their criminals). So then why would we need the fence?

Donald Trump’s logic makes my head explode.

It’s official. I hate Ayn Rand.

Last night I went to go see a performance of an Ayn Rand play (Night of January 16th) by a youth theater. Now, I have never actually read anything by Ayn Rand because when I want to read crap, I read Twilight, and when I want to read ideological nonsense, I go to Fark’s politics tab. So this was my first real exposure to her outside of American politics, learning about her views of abortion, and Dirty Dancing. And let me just say, what the fuck?

First off, the production was well done. The actors were great. They all had cute little American accents, which I was not expecting. But the play was, well, it appears as though it was a courtroom drama by someone who had never set foot in a courtroom. I’m a lawyer, so maybe I’m a bit more picky than the average theater goer in terms of accuracy, but holy shit, Ayn! At least go to fucking court so your plot might make a bit of sense.

Below is a list of a fraction of my problems with the writing:

1. Objections are not code for “stop insulting the witness.” They were mostly used when a witness got upset about something and just no. There were dozens of times I wanted to stand up in the theater and shout “objection!” because some of the witness testimony made my ears bleed. For example, a lawyer cannot ordinarily lead his own witness, a witness cannot be asked to tell a story, and hearsay. Mother fucker! I swear, some of the testimony sounded like “My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with a girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it’s pretty serious.”

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2. The Rule. Enough with the emotional outbursts from witnesses in the gallery/theater. They did less to move the plot forward and more to shock people/annoy the crap out of me. There is a rule that can exclude witnesses from watching the trial. It’s aptly named “the rule” since it’s used so freaking much. Writing in dramatic outbursts just makes you look stupid. While the current version of the rule might only go back to the ’50s (at least, in federal court), it’s Biblical.

3. Surprise witnesses. Just stop.

4. No, I’m pretty sure it’s the defendant on trial, not the jury members. When they decide if a person did or didn’t do something, that doesn’t mean they agree with the playwright’s objectivist bullshit.

5. Felony murder. In this case, even if the defendant didn’t push the man off the balcony, she’s still guilty of murder. Let me explain: if, while you are committing a felony, someone is killed, you can be charged with murder. Even if you didn’t pull the trigger. In the play, basically, the defendant and the victim were in the process of embezzling or stealing $10 million. In the course of this felony, the victim was killed. Either by the defendant or the victim’s father-in-law. It doesn’t matter who did it. Since it happened in the course of the felony, if danger to life is foreseen, then she can be convicted for murder. This could be a case of Ayn trying to dumb down laws–throwing out felony murder to make it easier for the audience to understand. But, given Ayn’s objectivism/laws don’t apply and it only matter that you are strong enough to do attitude, it sounds more like she didn’t understand the law she scorns.

You can write a piece of fiction that involves a court scene and have it be entertaining and not horribly inaccurate. Law and Order is a decent example of that. So is Anatomy of a Murder and My Cousin Vinny*. Courtroom plots are best pulled off when they show an understanding of and respect for the law and procedure rather than just reflecting the playwright’s ideas of what the world should be like.

edited to add one more complaint: something else I just remembered that isn’t a “legal” complaint: the young woman who played the court stenographer. I felt so bad for her! Her whole role was to sit there and pretend to type. To me (because I am biased and hate Ayn Rand), this showed a complete disdain for the role of court stenographer because it just effectively made her part of the scenery. She could have actually used this actress. When things got too heated in the courtroom, the stenographer could have spoken up and reminded them that they need to talk one at a time (as stenographers do all the time in real life). She could have been asked to read something back. She could have asked actors not to nod their heads or say “uh huh” (as they have to do all the time). There were characters with other accents, she could have asked someone to repeat something (which would have been helpful to the audience or comedic). But no, in Ayn Rand’s perfect world, they are part of the scenery. They are not to speak up and are not worthy of our attention.

*Yes, I know there was a surprise witness there. Two of them. But it can happen in real life, and the writers at least addressed the problem by having Vinny object to it.

Talk to your kids about race

A friend of mine posted this quote from Denis Leary.

Of course, I know I shouldn’t take advice on psychology from comedians, no offense, but the quote did get me thinking. Not because it’s so profound but because it’s dangerously incomplete.

To be sure, I don’t believe that hatred and racism are innate traits. To that extent, Leary is correct. But it is innate to want to categorize our world and our observations and to believe that our group (and therefore oneself) is better than others and distrust or fear others. And if we’re in the habit of taking advice on psychology from pop culture, this seems more trustworthy to me:

This process that kids engage in is called in-group favoritism. Or bias.

When we don’t talk to our kids about race, they may categorize people based on race to try to understand people’s differences. If, in a diverse class, a kid of x race sees a children of y race act out, he may think all people with y-colored skin misbehave. Or, if a kid sees another kid of his own race correctly answer questions, he may think that all kids like him are smart. Race is obvious. We don’t do kids any favors by pretending they are blind.

So, back to Leary, yes, I believe we must be taught to hate. But bias leads to suffering, and it is both innate and insidious. Leary misses the point if he thinks he can absolve parents of responsibility strictly if they are not Klansmen. Hate killed nine people in Charleston, but bias kills one at a time (Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Renisha McBride, and John Crawford, to name a few). Bias threw kids on the ground during a pool party. Bias sentences African American men to prison for longer terms than similar white defendants. Bias drives down property values when an African American family moves in. Bias leads to African Americans being paid less to do the same work. We may need to be taught to hate, but in-group favoritism leads to suffering and deaths too. It’s not enough only to not hate.

Read more: http://www.newsweek.com/even-babies-discriminate-nurtureshock-excerpt-79233

England, you’re doing it wrong

I’ve been living in England for a little over a year now, and it was a hard adjustment at first. There were a lot of new things to get used to. Or not. Some English/British things I think are pretty awesome. Like the NHS and shortbread cookies. Other things I am indifferent to. Like driving on the other side of the road. Other things I don’t like, but that’s just a matter of taste. Like fish and chips. Other things I don’t understand enough about so I don’t have an opinion. Like monarchy, the lack of a written constitution, and Dr. Who. And finally, there are just some things that England does wrong.

Measuring weather in Celsius

This is wrong. I’m not saying that just because I’m used to Fahrenheit. I’m used to pounds (as weight) and dollars, but I can get behind stones or kilograms and pounds (as money). But measuring your weather in Celsius makes no sense. Here’s why.

The Celsius scale is based on water. Zero is freezing. One hundred is boiling. Ok, so if you are boiling water, it makes sense to use Celsius. We used it in science class in school, so I always associate it with science. So if you’re doing sciencey stuff (hell, even climate studies), use Celsius.

But if you are checking the weather to see if you need a coat or setting your thermostat, for the love of all that’s holy, use Fahrenheit. Fahrenheit is based on weather. Some guy in Germany said this is a really cold day. Let’s call is zero. And this is a really hot day. Let’s call it 100. (Ok, so this isn’t actually what he did, but it fits.) So you have 100 degrees in which to describe weather. In the Celsius scale, you only have about 40 degrees to describe the same thing. It makes the difference between a few degrees very noticeable, and thus a very unforgiving scale to get used to.

My husband scoffs at me and says, well, in Fahrenheit, there isn’t such a big difference between 70 and 72, so why do you need 100 increments to describe the weather? This is a feature, not a bug. During the winter and summer months, we’re told to try to save money we can adjust our thermostats one or two degrees colder or warmer (depending on the season). We won’t feel the difference, but we’ll save money. You can’t do this with a thermostat in Celsius.

I know the rest of the world uses Celsius for weather. They are wrong too.*

Separate taps for cold and hot water

This also is wrong. It’s like they have never heard of warm here. When you wash your hands, you can either get boiling hot water or freezing cold water. Or, if you want to change things up, you can scald one hand and freeze the other. Washing your face is a nightmare.

People say, well, why don’t you fill the basin with hot and cold water until you get the desired temperature then wash your face with that? Because that’s gross and uses too much water. That’s the basin in spit in after I wash my teeth. That’s where all the gross germs go when I wash my hands after using the toilet. I don’t want to wash my face in that. But if that is your chosen method of washing your face, which is fine, I won’t judge, why can’t you do that with a normal tap? There is no benefit to the separate taps.

Finally, I’ve also noticed that I see a lot of signs in public restrooms warning us to be careful because the hot water is very hot and could scald our hands. So even the English admit there is a problem. This problem would be remedied by using one tap for both hot and cold water and/or by measuring temperature in Fahrenheit. One tap for both hot and cold would allow users to adjust to a temperature they find comfortable. Measuring temperature in Fahrenheit would allow the owner of the facility to fine tune the water heater to find a temperature that is suitable.

*nb, measuring in Celsius is acceptable if you measure in half degrees. I have seen no where–not thermostats or weather reports–that does this.

Being ashamed of a hobby

During college, I went to some sort of group interview thing. I can’t even remember what the job was for. You can infer how career orientated I am from that. Many of the other students showed up in suits. I did not have a suit, so I came “business casual.” I didn’t get the job.

When the interviewer came to me, she asked me what I like to do for fun. I told her I liked to write. She asked me if I’ve ever been published. I hadn’t. I hadn’t even thought about it. I said no.

After that, I felt shame. Why haven’t I been published? Why haven’t I even tried to get published? Am I not good enough? Should I not even tell people that I write? Before, I had let some people read some of my works. But after this experience, I felt uncomfortable doing even that anymore. It took a long time to get over that, and the underlying feeling of shame stuck with me for even longer.

Only recently did I realize, what the fuck? Of all the people she interviewed, I was the only one whom was asked if I’m at a professional level with my hobbies. Other kids liked playing tennis or painting. She didn’t ask them if they had played in the US Open or had works in the Guggenheim. Is getting published easy? Is it just fait accompli that if you write, you will be published? Does anyone just write for fun? I think the answer is “of course.” Otherwise blogging wouldn’t be a thing.

Why British food sucks

There is an ad on the radio for…something. I can’t remember what it is, so I guess that should tell you how effective it is. It’s not for food. It might be for a loan service or something. Anyway, the voice on the radio bemoans that there are all sorts of complicated names for simple things. He says “Like like casserole, consommé” with a hoity-toity* accent. Then he says in an exasperated voice “you mean stew!”

If you are trying to appeal to an audience that cannot tell the difference between casserole, consommé, and stew, I have no hope for your cuisine.

*By “hoity-toity,” I don’t mean British. I mean fake French.