Until this week, nobody had pointed a gun at me in 52 years. That time didn’t end well, though we all walked away. That was one way Viet Nam conditioned me to realize that most of the things that scare you won’t hurt you. It’s the amygdala, Stupid!
Every experienced pilot gradually notices a funny phenomenon that nibbles around the hard edges of circumstance: slightly more things go right than ought to. This causes some to get religion and others to develop confidence that five strong young sphincter muscles acting in unison on seat cushions CAN keep a C-130 in the air one minute longer than it has a right to fly. Sometimes they just conclude it’s all too complex and grand to describe in detail.
1️⃣ The weight of the fuel dumped from the left wing lessened the tendency of the aircraft to roll left.
2️⃣ Tay Ninh’s runway was lined up with the course of flight, 200 degrees. Any maneuvering that late in the flight would have been impossible.
3️⃣ The left main gear free-fell into place. If instead we had only had the right gear, the left side of the fuselage would have struck the runway on landing at 120 knots, causing immediate break-up of the airplane and probably a cartwheel.
4️⃣ Tay Ninh was not further away. Level flight required full right aileron by touchdown — flight became uncontrollable as the airplane touched down.
On Tuesday, the guy who’s stealing the house next door pointed a revolver at me for documenting the theft.
Stealing a house? How does that work? If an expat homeowner dies intestate in México, many lawyers are happy to forge a deed, not always competently but apparently not an impediment. In this case the deed was to a house across the street and was dated July 1st, even though my neighbor Nick was found dead on April 4th.
In July, some locals showed up with the flawed deed, so some of my neighbors padlocked the gates, but then a locksmith showed up and started picking the padlocks. He looked to me like the locksmith who opened the house for the police the day Nick was found.
Some police showed up, led by an articulate uniformed officer with excellent idiomatic English, reassuring the 2–3 neighbors who took an interest in the fraud, that they should just “Let these people do what they have to do” (move in), and that the “Chapala Police Anti-corruption Unit” would straighten everything out in the morning.
On Tuesday, the house thieves rented the property to folks who probably have no idea the lease is illegal. As usual in a third world country, the lawyers are generating reams of paperwork rather than simply showing the deed to a judge, asking that he notice the wrong address, bearing the name of a seller who died 7 weeks earlier. They’re generating fees because the system encourages them to. It’s their franchise.
I was asked to photograph the move-in, so I just walked in and filmed it, since I had as much right to be there as anyone else. A few minutes later, the house thief showed up on my doorstep with his revolver. I couldn’t stifle a chuckle and asked him to wait until I could take a picture, but no luck.
Americans steal houses too.
Our sense of fair play is repelled by such outright “third world fraud”. But every country’s self-appointed oligarchs steal houses and peoples’ savings with impunity. Our current best example is Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, formerly Trump’s campaign finance chair. Between 2009–2015, he built OneWest Bank (formally IndyMac) into:
A major cog in America’s relentless foreclosure machine.
Even among the many bad actors in the national foreclosure crisis, OneWest stood out. It routinely jumped to foreclosure rather than pursue options to keep borrowers in their homes; used fabricated and “robo-signed” documents to secure the evictions; and had a particular talent for dispossessing the homes of senior citizens and people of color…
Protected by a federal backstop, OneWest turned $3 billion in profits from 2009 to 2014, off an initial investment of $1.65 billion. They spun $1.86 billion of that out to investors in dividend payments. Meanwhile, the FDIC wound up losing $13 billion on the IndyMac failure, and paid an estimated $2.4 billion to OneWest for its foreclosure costs…
Mnuchin received a $10.9 million severance package for less than one year’s work as vice chair.
The High Cost of Franchise-Centric Government
All politicians help their contributors, but America is the most aggressive distributor of largesse to businesses, rather than supporting government services who provably provide better service, for less. The efficiency of the rest of the free world’s health care is just one example.
The core tension between the “free-market” religion promulgated by the Chicago School of Economics, vs. human-centric policies is a core disagreement over who owns America. Our American oligarchs are convinced they own the country and we the people are getting a free ride. But most Americans, “We the Owners of these United States”, have been sick of it since President Dick Cheney & his dim-witted sidekick invaded Iraq in order to retain control of Congress in 2004.
Are we living in a plastic hour?
George Packer, The Atlantic, October 2020:
There are in history what you could call ‘plastic hours,’” the philosopher Gershom Scholem once said. “Namely, crucial moments when it is possible to act. If you move then, something happens.” In such moments, an ossified social order suddenly turns pliable, prolonged stasis gives way to motion, and people dare to hope. Plastic hours are rare. They require the right alignment of public opinion, political power, and events — usually a crisis. They depend on social mobilization and leadership. They can come and go unnoticed or wasted. Nothing happens unless you move.
Beneath the dreary furor of the partisan wars, most Americans agree on fundamental issues facing the country. Large majorities say that government should ensure some form of universal health care, that it should do more to mitigate global warming, that the rich should pay higher taxes, that racial inequality is a significant problem, that workers should have the right to join unions, that immigrants are a good thing for American life, that the federal government is plagued by corruption. These majorities have remained strong for years. The readiness, the demand for action, is new.
America’s Plastic Hour needs a Democracy Engineering Task Force
The answer to every nation’s voter-hostile policies is the same as the answer to every problem on the Internet: fix the code base. The Internet’s more complex than all the governments on earth but it’s managed straightforwardly by volunteers at the Internet Engineering Task Force. So this issue of people stealing houses in Ajijic, México and on Wall Street has the same answer: non-politicians proposing the best possible User Experience (UX) which steals as little from voters as possible. Once rough consensus is reached, push the fix to the Congress with enough voter clout to make it stick.
The NewGov Foundation and friends have figured out the architecture and moving parts in enough detail to fit our moment:
1️⃣ The right alignment of public opinion, political power, and events
2️⃣ A crisis
3️⃣ Social mobilization and leadership.
Nothing happens unless we move.