Nov. 18th, 2016

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Donald Trump has recently claimed that very soon after he takes office—“immediately” being the exact word—he will deport between 2 and 3 million undocumented immigrants, focusing on the ones with criminal records.

As he told 60 Minutes:

“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, where a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate. But we’re getting them out of our country. They’re here illegally.”

As for the rest?

“After the border is secure and after everything gets normalized, we’re going to make a determination on the people that they’re talking about… who are terrific people. They’re terrific people, but we are gonna make a determination…”

Whatever else this move would be, it would be a remarkable feat, as it would be about equal to the number of deportations that have been processed under outgoing President Barack Obama. And despite what Trump’s stump speeches and years of right-wing talking points may have led you to believe, President Obama has overseen an awful lot of deportations; more, in fact, than any other president in history.

This ongoing crackdown has destroyed lives, shattered families, sown suspicion throughout communities, legitimized discrimination, and damaged the economy. It has also come at great logistical difficulty and expense, being the sort of monumental undertaking that requires concerted political will to pull off over months and years. The deportation apparatus stretches across state lines and multiple branches of the government.

Whatever else it may be, it was not in a practical sense, easy.

And to try to back up what some assumed was just campaign bluster, Donald Trump is purporting he will meet or exceed this dubious feat “immediately”. Doing so would exact a high human cost as well as a massive price tag in dollars, cents, and political capital. There’s just no way to do what the current deportation apparatus has done in eight years “immediately” without utilizing even more brutal, even more indiscriminate tactics, without openly turning immigrant communities into militaristic police states, and without inflicting a lot of collateral damage on people, properties, and public trust.

Now, Mr. Trump has assured us that he knows all the best words, and that one word “immediately”, it is just, to use another of his words, “tremendous”. What does it really mean? I know what it means in the simple, common sense: right away. Right off the bat. Not later, now!

But Trump doesn’t have two million people ready to deport, or even that many people ready to round up for deportation, or the resources and workforce in place to do so.

So we have to read “immediately” to mean “as soon as possible”, and even then, are we talking about immediate action, or immediate results? Does “immediately” mean he’s going to start working towards this end right away? Does it mean he signs an order? Does it mean he just sort of vaguely signals to the relevant agencies that this is his intention on Day 1, and then leaves them to deal with it?

To his fired-up army of Red Hat Regulars, I have a feeling that “immediately” will just mean “immediately”. It means pronto, scoot, git’er done. It means exactly the kind of dystopian, authoritarian scenario I alluded to above will play out, play out immediately, and somehow do no harm to anyone or anything that affects them.

To the Red Hats, it means from the time that Donald Trump grudgingly moves from his golden palace in the sky to that shabby little place in D.C., anyone who looks “illegal” to them is living here on borrowed time. The president says they’ve got to go, and if they stick around, it’s on them what happens. Expect to hear more than a few low-information partisans bragging about it on January 21st as if it has already happened. We might even get a fake news story crowing about the number of day 1 deportations.

To what I suppose we must call his more moderate supporters, “immediately” just means “expect vigorous action soon, it’s a top priority”. They don’t honestly expect him to deport millions of people on day one, no reasonable person would, so it’s silly to think that anyone would take it any other way, and any suggestion that he meant anything so unthinkable is just a bunch of disingenuous liberals trying to scaremonger. Obviously!

Isn’t that marvelous? Two very different groups of people can look at this one word and both will see exactly what they want to see.

And that’s just one word. Trump had a lot more of them. Let’s look again at the most widely-cited part of his statements on immigration, the first chunk I excerpted:

“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, where a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate. But we’re getting them out of our country. They’re here illegally.

Do you notice the rhetorical pivot he does there? He starts out by saying they’ll be going after criminals, people with criminal records, invoking the heavily racial coded criminal categories of “gang member” and “drug dealer”. These are the people it’s most palatable to go after for immigration enforcement. Who’s going to put up a fight over deporting them? But then he states his reason for deporting them: they’re here illegally. 

And just like that, everybody who nodded along thinking, “sounds reasonable enough,” when he’s talking about gang members and drug dealers has agreed with the foundational premise to mass deportations in general: if they’re here illegally, they have to go. Questions of humanitarianism don’t apply. Questions of economic reality don’t matter. Human empathy, compassion, Christian charity, even the actual points of the law whose spirit is being invoked… all of the things don’t matter once you’ve agreed it’s as simple as “here illegally == gone”.

As for the not-drug-dealers, the “terrific people”? Presumably, these are the same not-rapists and not-murderers he referenced on the campaign trail as “some, I assume, are good people,” about them, he says that we’ll “make a determination” once the real riff-raff has been cleared out and the border is secured.

If you’re not a hard-liner on immigration, you’re thinking that because he said they were terrific people, that determination will be that they should have some path to staying on legitimately. If you are a hard-liner, what you’re hearing is: priorities… get the most dangerous ones out first, then we can deal with the rest.

The really pernicious thing about this statement is that it has been received as both Trump keeping a campaign promise and as him walking back on it. You can see him talking about how he will deport 2 or 3 million people immediately and take that as his ultimate goal (more modest, for want of a better word, than his initial promise) or as a good start towards making good on his promise to deport every undocumented immigrant from our shores.

After all, even if the “immediate” action takes him a year to complete, 2.5-ish million deportations a year would clear out the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States within is first term.

Now, the biggest problem with him actually making good on his claim in any sense is that, according to best estimates, there aren’t 2 or 3 million people living in the country undocumented and with criminal records. There isn’t even 1 million.

If Trump’s number has any relation to reality, he might have been inflating a commonly-cited figure of 1.9 million total non-citizen immigrants who have a criminal record. The term of art bandied about for this group is “removable aliens”, and it is a category that includes people who are here legally on a current visa or holding a green card and who have been convicted of even petty, non-violent crimes and misdemeanors, not just violent or sensational felonies.

The reality of existence for the people in this category is that their continued presence here is in danger, but they’re not the “illegal aliens” Trump has been talking about. So if we take Donald Trump’s claims at face value, then no matter how we parse things like “immediately” or “we’ll make a determination”, we still must conclude that he has either lied about how many people he will deport, or who he will deport.

So, which is it?

If you’re asking this question, you haven’t yet caught on to the way that Trump operates, because the answer is: “Neither. Both. Whatever. You tell me.” You can believe whatever you want to believe out of his statement. If you need to believe that his immigration policy will be in some way fair and judicious, you can believe that the number was an off-the-cuff estimate and of course he’s going to be sticking to the group he said he would. If you’re in favor of indiscriminate mass deportations, you can believe he singled out specific groups of offenders to sell people on the number.

And if you honestly don’t care about anything except the fact that Donald Trump is president and he’s going to kick some behind and make America great again, you’ll believe whatever part of the statement it’s convenient to believe, when it’s convenient to believe it.

Donald Trump said he’ll deport 2 to 3 million people, and that they’ll be bad people, drug dealers and gang members. What will happen is he’ll deport as many people as he can, as he can get away with, and as he thinks he needs to in order to maintain (or better yet, grow) his power.

He’ll do so guided by confidantes who have the explicit goal of making America whiter.

Every obstacle in his path, from simple logistics to the actual rule of law and requirements of due process, will be blamed for his failures and used to generate grassroots support and political capital for removing such obstacles to his rule.

And as doors are kicked in and kids ripped from parents arms and people are shoved in the backs of vans, as civil liberties are curtailed and human rights are abused and due process denied, people will be saying, “like it or not, he did what he said he was going to do, and that’s something” and “well, they’re all drug dealers and gang members and rapists, right?”

And while he does this, he will continue to lie the way that he has: not making the rookie error of trying to shape a single, consistent narrative, but saying things that allow different crowds of listeners to take the message they want, the message they need to hear.

It’s the same tactic, fundamentally, as his choice of appointing a steady establishment Republican like Reince Priebus to be his symbolically important Chief of Staff but picking white supremacist Steve Bannon to be his less official but more influential Chief Strategist. Those who want to shore up the institutions of democracy or the interests of the Republican Party can see the Priebus pick as a solid commitment to continuity and tradition, while those who want to see a real power grab or burn it all down see Bannon as their man in the right place at the right time. And those who are most concerned with the idea that everybody can get along and the nation can heal see the two picks collectively as an attempt at unity.

A sentiment commonly attributed to another American president is that you can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Well, in the “post-truth” era he’s helped to usher in, Donald Trump is sure giving it the old college try.

Even if he fails, he’s found his “some of the people” and he’s making considerable hay out of fooling them all of the time.


Author’s Note: Crowdfunditry is crowd-funded punditry. I am an independent voice without a corporate editorial filter, giving you analysis on what’s happening in the country as it’s happening. If you find it insightful or helpful, please help support my work and spread the link. When I get $200 in a week, I’ll keep publishing. If not, I’ll have to turn my energy elsewhere to make a living in Trump’s America.

Please direct media queries to blueauthor@alexandraerin.com.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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The Daily Report

I just posted what I call my “crowdfunditry” piece for the week to this blog. I’ve done one the previous few weeks, too, but I posted them on Medium. After looking at the fact that my biggest Medium hits have been fiction and satire and the fact that my op-ed pieces get fewer hits there than my blog posts here typically do (despite the fact that people have been paying me to write them in the first place), I’ve decided to shift my serious opinion writing over here. I’ll be crossposting (and post-dating) the previous bits of crowdfunditry later in the day, so the blog category shows you all the entry.

Speaking of satire: my satirical political horror story Crooked Hillary: A Trumped-Up Tale of Terror is now available in the Kindle Store. I hit a snag with the Nook formatting, but hopefully it will be available there before long. You can still buy it directly from me in a multiformat bundle that allows you to read it on any device, including directly in your web browser. If you read the story in any format, I’d appreciate it if you leave a review on the Amazon page. That helps me a lot.

The State of the Me

I’ve resumed fiction writing, but it’s a slow slog. Lot of cobwebs to blow out.

Plans For Today

We’ve got to make a grocery run at some point later in the day. If anyone wants to kick into that, it would be helpful. All tips count towards the crowdfunditry goal.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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An attempt at a breath of normalcy in abnormal times.

I’ve been picking apart Dungeon World lately, a game that has been recommended to me many times (mostly by snide D&D players who, hearing that I care about character and story, cry, “Why don’t you just go play Dungeon World, then?”) but which I’ve never played. The SRD for the game was not a very intuitive introduction, though, so it took me finding some podcasts of actual play to get a handle on it. I think it’s a solid game

Like Fate (another frequent recommendation), it does approach to some of my goals without actually quite fulfilling them. I do enjoy the dice mechanics, and the way they’re integrated with the narrative negotiation… a concept my mind initially rebelled against at the level in which it’s present in Dungeon World, but in which I’ve come to be a believer.

So for my latest iteration of A Wilder World, I started with a dice mechanic very similar to Dungeon World, then walked it back to be closer to the last version of AWW’s. Here’s where it stands right now.

A check is made using 3d6. For a very simple, low complexity, low stakes pass/fail, you can treat a 9 or lower as a failure and a 10 or higher as a success. This gives a 62.5% chance of success; anec-datally, around 60-66% success/reward seems to be the tipping point where “random” things are more fun than frustrating.

Any modifier to difficulty is applied to the roll itself (as in the optional rule in Dungeon World). If you have an attribute to apply to the check, it is also a straight mathematical modifier. The scale is: 0 is broadly average, any deviation is meant to be notable, a typical heroic PCs have positive scores of up to +3 at the start of their career.

The game uses an advantage mechanic (similar to the concept in D&D 5E) to represent both significant situational modifier and the main effect of Heroic Qualities. If you have a quality like “Acrobat”, you have advantage on any check an acrobat would have advantage; the current version of the game, being light on mechanics and heavy on narrative negotiation eschews detailed nuts and bolts for qualities and instead offers broad-strokes descriptions of the sorts of things they might cover, with the idea that the player and the Storyweaver will work out exactly what it means.

The basic rule is “If you would expect that a character possessing this quality in the sort of story you’re telling might be able to do it, you might be able to do it.” And if it’s something that anyone could try but your quality would make you better at, you have advantage when doing it.

The exact effect of advantage is to add one die to the pool for the roll, with you still taking the top 3. Advantage shifts the odds without shifting the spread, in other words. And while you can stack multiple advantages, there are diminishing returns.

Benefits of this system over Dungeon World: the dice are less swingy with another one in the mix, but there’s a wider range of possible results, and outright failure stays on the table longer even as it becomes less and less likely.

The simple pass/fail check can be given more gradation, either informally by simply saying “higher success is better, lower failure is worse” or using a “color table” where 9 or lower is red, 10 to 12 is orange, 13 to 15 is yellow, and 16 on up is green. If you’ve seen Dungeon World’s success table, the idea behind the colors is similar: red means outright failure or very costly success, orange means tenuous/partial success, or success with a complication or cost, yellow means simple success or the possibility of greater success with a cost/complication, and green means unqualified success with some unexpected benefit.

The whole thing is very interpretive, with the idea being that in situations where they apply, the Storyweaver might offer the player who makes the roll a choice between the two interpretations for the color they rolled (except for green, which has a single meaning) and possibly soliciting a suggestion for what the cost/complication/boon is, if applicable. Tables/groups that prefer a more straightforward game where the game-runner controls the narrative of the world (apart from player character actions) can run it that way, with the Storyweaver making the decisions.

There are some <BLATANT LIE>fascinating</BLATANT LIE> statistical minutiae regarding the exact odds of different color results and how they shake out when you have various combinations of attributes and advantage, but I won’t spell them all out here.

 

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

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