Precision and a Crooked Stick

by Jim Wright Stonekettle Station Jan 27, 2019


People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.
Blaise Pascal, De l’art de persuader

I admit to some amusement.

It’s not funny, of course, but still…

I’ve listened to the press and the pundits and the politicians arguing these last few days over “who won the shutdown.”

Who won the shutdown.

Nancy Pelosi won! Huzzah! Huzzah! Cry the liberals.

No. No. It was Donald Trump! MAGA! MAGA! Shout the conservatives.

As if we had just spent thirty-five days watching a sporting match of some sort. With no consequences. Nobody cares about the war, it’s the victor! That’s what matters. Sure.

Like in Man of Steel, when Superman and General Zod battle in the final climatic scene … and utterly destroyed an entire city. The fight between these two killed tens of thousands, wreaking destruction on the scale of a nuclear bomb. And the audience was cheering Supe’s victory. Cheering. Because the destruction didn’t matter. The people who died were nameless extras, irrelevant to the supposed righteousness of the battle, irrelevant to the morality of it.

Deaths off camera don’t count.

And I’m thinking, yeah, congratulations oh Son of Krypton, but a few more wins like that …

I dunno, maybe it’s just me.

I can’t say with any certainty who won this shutdown battle. I can, however, tell you who lost.

We did.

America did.

This failure of government has become the norm.

That’s where we are. Legislation by deadlock. Government by failure. As if we’re stockholders judging the productivity of a company we’re invested in by how often the workforce goes out on strike. And when it’s over and the factory starts clunking along, we don’t care how much business we lost or how much further into debt the battle drove the company, we don’t care about the loss of experience that got sick of it and walked away to find employment with our competitors. No. We only care that Management or Labor (depending on which one is your team) won. Huzzah!

But that’s not what amuses me.

No, the part that makes me laugh are those who seem to think this battle is over. That they “won” and that’s it and that’s all.

The government is starting back up, my team won, and now it’s business as usual.

It’s not the conflict that matters, only the victor.

Until the next battle.

But, of course, it’s not really over.

Is it?

Trump this morning:

Look at that.

“58,000 non-citizens voted in Texas, with 95,000 non-citizens registered to vote. These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. All over the country, especially in California, voter fraud is rampant. Must be stopped. Strong voter ID! @Fox&Friends.”

58,000 non-citizens, he says.

58,000 thousand fraudulent voters, just in Texas.

That’s what he said. And according to Trump, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s all over the country, non-citizens voting in our elections. And most especially in, of course, California.

A few minutes later, Trump tweeted this:

“We are not even into February and the cost of illegal immigration so far this year is $18,959,495,168. Cost Friday was $603,331,392. There are at least 25,772,342 illegal aliens, not the 11,000,000 that have been reported for years, in our Country. So ridiculous! DHS”


That’s a VERY specific number.

I mean, he’s got it down to the dollar.

The exact dollar. $18,959,495,168. We can’t even calculate how much the Pentagon has spent this year to within several orders of magnitude of that precision. But he’s got the cost of illegal aliens in America down to the last dollar.

And not just that, he knows the exact number of illegal aliens currently resident in America.

25,772,342 illegal aliens.

Not only does Trump have the cost down to the very last dollar, he got the number of illegal aliens down to very the last individual.

I mean, that’s what he said. He gave those very, very specific numbers.

That’s astounding.

No. No, it’s not the values themselves that are astonishing, but rather the precision.

How is that possible?

No, really, how is that even possible? Like at all?

Where the hell did the President of the United States get this information? That’s incredible. Do you see it? Do you understand the implications of this precision? I mean, where did this information come from? How would you even compile such data with such accuracy? No, don’t look away, answer the question: HOW? WHO? WHERE? What even is the methodology for such calculations?

I mean, in order to count legal – cooperative – citizens we have to do a census of the entire nation, top to bottom. And that is such a massive undertaking that we only do it every ten years. It takes tens of thousands of census collectors called Enumerators, divided among six geographic regions, and thousands of permanent employees at the Census Bureau more than 4000 alone at the Bureau’s Headquarters in Maryland at the Department of Commerce’s Suitland complex.

It takes months of knocking on doors and asking questions. And then it takes many more months, years, to compile and process and interpret the data. The last Census was in 2010 and cost nearly $15 billion dollars and we’re still processing the data nine years later. Hell, that processing this year alone, 2019, will cost over $4 billion. And with all that money and effort there is a significant margin of error. The US Census Bureau’s standard of acceptable accuracy is a 90% confidence level. That’s right. 90%. I mean all the assets and effort of the Census bureau can’t get us down to any better than 90%.

Ninety percent.

And Trump has the number of illegal aliens in America down to the very last individual?

The cost of illegal immigration down to the very last dollar?

How did he do that?

Who gathered the information?

How did they collect it?

When did they collect it?

Who paid for it? Because there’s no entry in the federal budget, I looked.

What agency processed this information with zero margin of error? How did they do that? Using what methodology — because that’s a degree of information precision beyond even the best analytical methods currently available.

That’s astounding. Forget illegal immigrants, let’s talk about that precision.

This reminds me of that episode of JAG, “Shadow,” where a contractor launches an experimental torpedo from a US submarine during an exercise. Only the torpedo is actually equipped with a live warhead and the contractor threatens to blow up a cruise ship unless the US government pays him some paltry ransom, a couple million dollars, maybe a billion, whatever.

And I’m watching this thing, right? And the torpedo is

a) controlled via a laptop with no visible means of communication through the steel hull of the submarine and then through miles of water (radio waves of any reasonable frequency can’t travel through water, certainly not in any wavelength broadcast via an antenna small enough to fit into a 1990s laptop. Holy shit! This guy has discovered a whole new principle of physics!)

and b) the torpedo is capable of cruising submerged for days following a cruise ship (which averages around 20 knots. Meaning this torpedo must have a power plant capable of sustained endurance at high speed that all fits into a package no bigger than a standard sized US Navy torpedo. That’s an energy density beyond ANYTHING I’ve ever heard of. Even theoretically. Again, holy shit! This contractor has discovered an entirely new principle of physics, chemistry, energy, and a dozen other sciences).

Governments, companies, investors would throw bales of money the size of aircraft carriers at him for that technology.

What the hell is this guy doing with petty extortion? He could go into business and make many millions of times anything he could get blowing up a cruise ship.

Where am I going with this? Beyond a digression into idiotic TV shows about SEAL lawyers who are also Top Gun fighter jocks?

Well, see, this precision Trump displays up above, is this a government capability? Or is it contracted work?

Because if we actually are capable of this kind of precision in the measuring of human populations and the specific costs of the particulars of those same populations, then … well, GODDAMN! EUREKA! POP OPEN THE CHAMPAGNE! I mean the implications of being able to count and sort people to that degree – especially ones who try to hide from you – well, you’ll have governments, business, investors, universities lined up twenty deep for access to that kind of data. Because whoever controls that capability could make trillions, far beyond what Trump says illegals cost us every year.
So, where did this information come from? This precision.

Show your work.

And when I say, “show your work” I don’t mean a link to Fox & Friends or One America News. I mean show me the raw data from this amazing accredited source, validated by at least one other independent data line.

Well, where is it?

Let’s see it.

Oh, but it gets better.

Trump says 58,000 people voted illegally in Texas alone and he says that’s just the tip of the iceberg.


I mean, really?

The president said it so it must be true. Right?

I mean he wouldn’t lie, would he? Would put out bad data, would he?

Never mind Trump’s own Presidential Commission on Election Integrity, run by xenophobic rightwing hardliners Mike Pence and Kris Kobach, couldn’t find evidence of even a single case of voter fraud. It must be true. Trump believes it.

And really, Texas? Fucking Texas. Of all states, Texas, right? 58,000 illegal voters voted in Texas elections?

If you say so, Hoss.

And they voted for who?

Illegals vote for Democrats.

In Texas.

58,000 of them. Right?

Okay. Sure. Fair enough. I’m willing to be persuaded. Show me the evidence. Show me 1) proof that illegal immigrants vote, 2) in significant numbers, and 3) that they vote all vote democrat.

Show me validated Texas voting records.

Show me. Let’s see the evidence.


But let’s say this was true.

Sure, let’s take Trump at his word and say this was actually true and he can prove it.

It’s true and he can prove it to the degree of precision specified in his Tweet this morning.

It’s not, but let’s say it was.

Well, then the election is invalid.

That’s right.

The election is invalid. At least in Texas.

The election must be declared invalid. And thus, the 38 Electoral College votes that went to Trump from Texas are likewise invalid.

Yes, they must be. Even the Texas Attorney General agrees:

Ken Paxton is the Texas Attorney General.

He is personally and constitutionally responsible for voting integrity in Texas.

He says “VOTER FRAUD.” 58,000 illegal voters.

That’s what he said.

That makes any election in Texas, particularly 2016’s General Election invalid.

So, let’s invalidate it. Let’s throw out the votes from Texas. I mean both Texas and Donald Trump agree the vote is tainted. Can’t be trusted.

Invalidate the vote. Throw it out. Along with Texas’s 38 Electoral College votes.

Which would give Trump 268 Electoral College votes instead of 306.

You need 270 Electoral votes to win the Presidency.

Trump himself just said his own electoral victory is a fraud.

Yes he did.

That is precisely what he just said. And he was quoting the Texas Attorney General, who likewise says his state’s election integrity can’t be trusted.

That’s what they said.

So, throw out the election and let’s start over.

I’m hip. Let’s take him at his word.

The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or to spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it.
D.L. Moody

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