It’s Not Hubris, It’s a Conviction that Dems aren’t Legitimate

Point of clarification: When I refer to Republicans in this article I’m referring to Republican leadership

Yesterday a friend linked an article which talked about the approach that Mitch McConnell is taking for the appointment of cabinet members, where he won’t wait for until ethics reviews are completed before holding confirmation hearings. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the same standard he held the Democratic party to under Obama, where he specifically wrote a letter outlining the requirements before holding hearings. While he believe that these standards are required for the Democrats he doesn’t believe the Democrats should be able to hold the Republicans to the same set of standards, because they lost the election.

I don’t believe that this is arrogance, or even that “Do as I say not as I do” approach. I believe that this comes down to the basic fact that Republican leadership doesn’t believe that have a legitimate right to ever govern, no matter how many people vote for them. To be fair, I don’t believe that this is only applies to Democrats, I believe that it applies to all other political parties.

If we start with this framework, which really began to be applied in the ’90’s with Clinton in office, we can begin to see a behavior, that successfully, stripped authority from the Democratic party. They continually attacked and continued to come up with new ways to attack the Democratic party and ideas until they were gradually pulled more and more right. They used an approach like OODA loop to continually keep the left on their heels. It worked.

However, they truly felt that they didn’t have the right the govern, which is why the Republicans were in the “right” to do this. Moving forward, we can see continually pressuring the right of predominately Democratic leaning voters. Where many organizations like Think Progress and the ACLU believe that the Republican party successfully suppressed voting.

There is something of a virtuous cycle going on for the Republican party when it comes to sidelining and suppressing votes, the more they suppress votes, the more then can sideline strong blue areas, which allows them to continue suppressing votes. They have been able to do this through the repeal of portions of the voter’s rights act which reduced Judicial oversight of state ‘s that had historically racist voting practices, like much of the south. This combine with Gerrymandering which, as the link shows, can be used to take a predominately Democratic district and string them all together so that even if it was 60% Democrat and there were 5 districts Republicans could still win 60% of the votes. This is happening and has happened in the past. In fact, during 2012, there were definitely cases where more Democrats voted in the house elections, but still lost a more seats than Republicans.

With such a concerted effort to continually win more and more power, the only reason why it’s a MUST do, is that the Republicans do not think that the Democrats have the legitimate right to govern the country. They continually undercut their right to govern, in fact, going so far to curb the authority of the Democrat governing coming into power in NC.

Using this perspective, I believe that this further supports the agenda to impeach Trump. However, this will not stop the Republicans as they definitely seem themselves as the only party with the right to govern. This has to change if the US is going to have an effective government for all the people in the near future.

“Infighting” in the Democratic Party or Who represents the future of the Dems?

Today, I’ve been seeing a lot of people saying that Bernie supports need to just give up the “Bernie would have won” attitude. I find this exceedingly problematic. First, it’s an opinion and like assholes everyone has one. Second, there is some evidence, based on the polling that Bernie would have crushed Trump. Third, there’s anecdotal evidence of people switching from Bernie to Trump or just stayed home from voting. Finally, this implicitly means that these folks need to just shut up and get back in line with everyone else.

This last point simply pisses me off. I’ve always had something of a chip on my shoulder when it comes to authority or the status quo. I get really pissed off when people talk about how these giant cities are god’s gift to man, when the smaller cities i’ve lived in are amazing places in their own right. Places that have a lot of character and the difference of perspective is important. I wrote about this irritation in my article right after the election.

The Democratic party needs this discussion, this in fighting. There can and should be general alignment over general resistance to Trump. The policies that are proposed to counter their proposals can and should have serious discussion about what the future should be. The reason why people bring up the primary and that Bernie would have won, is that they support his policy positions and believes that these positions should be the dominant theme when challenging the Republican run Government. The idea being that Clinton’s ideas are a continuation of the status quo, the status quo that lost and lost badly in the electoral college – which is the only vote that matters right now.

Bernie and Clinton represent two different potential futures for the Democratic party, we need to look at it that way. I believe under the Bush years, the Democratic party essentially was the Party of Clinton, which really was a centrist party that was easily pulled to the right. During the Obama administration this held true as well, where the Democrats tried to pull the country a little left, but stayed towards the center in hopes of getting something through. Which resulted in a great deal of center right policies simply through obstructionism.

Now, if the Democratic party wants to learn from the Republican party, rather than working to meet with them half way, which will ultimately pull them to the right, again. They need to start with a stated position which is significantly farther left than what they might be when they are in power. This would mean that when the policy finally gets approved, that it’ll be much more centrist. Furthermore, most of those policies would help the people that need it the most, that ended up voting for Trump, because they believed he would help him.

The fight over Bernie v. Clinton is a battle over the heart and soul of the Democratic party. If you aren’t willing to talk with the people that are saying that Bernie and thus his ideals could have beaten Trump, then you aren’t willing to listen at all and should not be in a position of power in the Democratic party. The party needs to be inclusive of radically different views, take advantage of that diversity and use it as a way to drive change in Washington to help everyone.

Effective Tools for Managing Trump

I’m reading the book Messy The Power of Disorder to Transform our Lives right now. The author is a economist that looks at some pretty interesting topics, I enjoyed his book about failure and how failing typically leads to better results later in life for people that have tired a venture and failed, compared to those ventures that kind of limp along as zombies.

In this book, which to some extent is a natural extension of the failing book, Tim Harford discusses how a lack of a fully formed plan can actually result in significantly better results. However, this isn’t universal and cannot be applied in every circumstance. It’s important to note that, but he outlines some pretty clear ways that this approach works extremely successfully. Ultimately, I think he shows that strong planning that meshes with flexibility and allows for both improvisation and innovation works the best.

He describes Rommel’s campaign in Africa during WWII as one of the best examples of how this can be successful. Rommel, basically went from battle to battle continually pressing in using controlled chaos to dominate the British.

This is something called the OODA loop, Observe, Orient, Decide, Act – which is a rapid response approach to dealing with a chaotic situation. You have to observe to understand what’s happening, orient your plan to take advantage of the situation, decide your course of action, and then act on that. The faster and shorter you can make this loop the more you can keep your opponents on their heels.

Trump’s campaign, the book is rather new, is another case in point where continually pressing attacks and not looking back can be effective. He was very successful in attacking Rubio for his robotic responses, attacking Jeb Bush for just about anything while using these attacks as a way to keep himself front and center on the news. The media had no idea how to deal with him, because it requires a lot of people to produce content and planning from senior leadership to manage what should be included in a given segment.

The groups that were able to handle Trump the best were smaller organizations with more flexibility like The Intercept and contributing writers like the Young Turks, and Shaun King. These people were able to be much more nimble and respond because they either had editorial freedom, or could push out an article on a daily basis without much need of oversight.

These are the same people that draw the most criticism from the central planners, similar to Rommel, in the DNC and Establishment Democrats. DNC wants to manage the resistance and plan how they are to address the Trump issue complete. This is doomed for failure the same reason the Jeb failed. It’s too reactionary and cares too much about it’s own “Optics.”

To truly combat Trump, you must use similar tactics, continually pressing attacks. Continually keeping him on his heels, force him to jump from one thing to another, without really being able to focus on anything of actual import. The next step is to completely tie the republican establishment to Trump in every article and work to ensure that they are also back on their heels reacting to Trumps reaction.

These attacks must, of course, be factual and use a policy informed with stories of people to counteract Trump. The Repeal of Obamacare is the best place to use this tactic as there’s a lot of misinformation about it and there’s a lot success stories. However, playing the victim card won’t work here, because Trump loves victims and he thrives when people feel victimized.

So, I’m going to start blogging more about these sorts of topics and trying to use this approach to engage the other side to see what happens. Could be terrifying, but it’s something that must be done.

Lauren Duca shows that Journalism is an old-boys club

Every morning my wife wakes up and reads the Daily Mail, she calls it her smut. She loves to read the latest celebrity news about relationships. One of her favorite shows when we first dating was Real Housewives of wherever. My wife is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. She has a PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas-Austin, switched roles from being a process engineer working on semiconductors, where she earned her PhD, to work on energy after taking only a pair of classes on energy policy. She does a huge amount of minority out reach, works to educate young under-privileged kids through volunteering and on the board of a non-profit. In short she’s amazing, brilliant, a unicorn, and humbles me all the time.

In an exchange between Lauren Duca, a Teen Vogue journalist, and Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson an amazing conversation took place. Once Carlson realized that he could not pressure Lauren through talking over her, trying to confuse her by asking similar questions in multiple different ways, he attempted to just discredit her by attacking her as a “non-serious thinker” because of some of the other articles she wrote. I suggest you stop reading and watch the exchange here.

No serious, click the link.

Ok, now that you’ve watched it, I’m assuming you’ve gotten to the part where Carlson attempts to discredit her for the thigh-high boots article. I think we need to take a step back and look at this in two different ways. First, let’s look at men who write about  similar disparate topics that we consider fully acceptable without a second thought. Second, I’ll talk about how this behavior is hurting anyone that consumes news.

First, it’s clear that Fox news thinks that only people that write about serious topics all the time can ever write about them. This really only applies to women or maybe more specifically things that interest mostly women. Let’s take a look at Michael Lewis as an author. One of his biggest books, which got turned into a movie, is Moneyball. An in depth look at the way the Oakland A’s used statistics in a novel way, with a unique way of finding value in players, to create a low cost team that was absurdly successful compared to teams like the Yankees. His book turned into a movie was the Big Short, which really does a fantastic job showing the culture that allowed the housing crash to happen. No one bats an eye that he writes about these two topics nor uses the former to denigrate his writing on the latter.

An even more extreme case is the news group at 538.com. These guys came out of the sports writing world, focusing, again, on the statistics of the game. They leveraged this data analytics approach to become the darling of the political world during Obama’s reelection campaign. Again now one batted an eye at this transition from sports into politics.

Furthermore, there are a plethora of writers on both ESPN and Sports Illustrated (I’d argue a magazine boys start reading around when girls read Teen Vogue), like Peter King and Greg Easterbrook, that will add a great deal of political thoughts into their weekly columns (Monday Morning QB (SI) and Tuesday Morning QB (ESPN) respectfully). Sure, these don’t often go viral through twitter, but they likely don’t need to. They are splashed on the top their respective websites, which gets huge amount of daily views. These guys have a huge sounding board for their political ideas. No one treats them with an iota of disrespect over it.

I find it unlikely that ESPN or SI would put up with a woman doing something similar. The fans would cry out, she should just stick to reporting sports, or the worst would say, she should just be a pretty face on the sideline not dong any real sports reporting.

This leads me to my second point. This behavior leads us to a much poorer news room and set of perspectives available for young girls and boys as well as women and men. Simply discounting someone’s opinions because they also care about something as seemingly unimportant as thigh-high boots, to me, indicates a small world view as there’s nothing inherently less important about those topics. In fact, there’s a huge amount of politics and agency in the clothes we wear, especially women. The same Tucker Carlson would, no doubt, cast aspersions on practitioners of Islam over the Hijab.

Thinking about clothes, celebrities, and similar topics doesn’t make you a smaller thinker or someone that cares about small things, it simply means you are about different things. There’s no reason to think that someone obsessed with sports things about bigger issues or that sports is inherently more important than fashion.

In fact, companies like Intel and Google are struggling to break into women dominated markets, because they simply don’t understand what they like, care about, or truly need. By disparaging up and coming writers like Lauren Duca for the topics they choose to write about at their job as a way to undercut their credibility, beggars us all.

I love what Lauren has to say in that exchange and I hope she continues to use her voice. She had some great things to say about Ivanka that matter to women, that only a woman’s voice can help men understand the role that Ivanka will play in the administration.

 

H/t to @FakeGhostPirate for the link

Universal Basic Income Won’t Solve All of Automation’s Woes

In my last blog where I looked back at the election, I included a short discussion about universal basic income being part of the solution to the continued automation of jobs. While, I think that Universal Basic Income will really help address a large number of the issues we’re seeing due to automation, it will not solve all of them. This is multifaceted, but partially it’s because the people that need it the most in rural areas won’t accept it.

No, it’s not because they are dumb, but it’s because they don’t want hand outs. The right has been demonizing “entitlement” programs and the taxes needed to pay for them for decades now. Universal basic Income will be the largest such program ever. So, the first step would be to get them to accept the program. Which will be difficult. Jobs every where hold a measure of self worth and a way to define who you are. If there are no jobs, because all the long distance trucking jobs were automated, then these folks are going to have serious reservations taking money because they can’t find jobs. In some rural communities your job defines you in ways that don’t happen in large cities, mostly because everyone knows you in these small towns. In a large city, you can more than one completely different group of friends that have no connection to your professional career. You an have hobbies that are 30 minutes away from your house or your job and still be in the same city. In rural towns, a 30 minute drive may take you to three different towns without relatively closed communities.

So, let’s say we get all these folks to accept taking this government money, then what? How are these people going to be spending their time? We’re already having something of an epidemic of small town drug over doses that are heart wrenching. Children are in the car while their mother is passed out in the front seat from a drug over dose in the Wal-mart parking lot. In other cases they passed out in the aisle at Dollar Store.

In a large city, it’s easy for you to find hobbies to spend your time. You can volunteer, go to classes at one of the many local colleges or training centers to learn new skills or keep yourself occupied. Rural areas have a significantly smaller amount of opportunities like that. Even if people in rural areas decide to learn new skills, many of those skills may not lead to jobs in the same area. The jobs for those skills may be in a city which a lot of people that live outside of cities wouldn’t like. There is a reason why they still live outside of cities, they have no desire to live in one. They enjoy being able to go out to the woods, not to see anyone else. Love hunting and fishing or simply do not enjoy being around people that much.

Finally, even if every accepted universal basic income, it doesn’t mean that the sense of hopelessness will go away. It may make it worse because there is a dependence on someone else for everything. Furthermore, it’s not like universal basic income will be enough to allow you to buy a home or buy a space that’s yours. It will help you live and live above poverty, but not truly comfortably.

In the long run we will have to figure out how to make life meaningful when people are living on basic income.

An Election Reflection

I’ve been pretty disappointed with the entire election process this go around. I haven’t blogged at all during it because I’ve been so disheartened by all the candidates excepting Bernie Sanders. I felt betrayed by the Democratic party, which I even decided to join, shedding my proud independent classification to actually vote in the primary. He struck a cord with me that I think a lot of people that have lost their jobs and had hard times could relate to. Apparently, some people felt that with him out of the race the next logical person was Trump. He was speaking to the same people.

One thing that we have to keep in mind about this, and if you travel around the US you’ll see this, is that most of America is really suffering. I used to drive between Austin and Santa Fe, New Mexico on a really regular basis. This was a super depressing drive. There were entire towns that were essentially abandoned. Boarded up homes, empty shops with shattered windows, and rusted out cars on the side of the road. It was depressing. With my current job, I frequently travel to other cities for work. Most of these cities have a lot of money, but every time I’ve had to go near the part of the town that’s really depressed. That is hurting, that needs saving.

These are the people that voted for Trump. The people that have no hope. My home town most certainly went to Trump, the county did as well. Except for a few areas that part of the country is pretty depressed. In a small town like Grove City, there are only one or two major suppliers of jobs and if one of them closes down due to a loss of contract or moving a plant somewhere else, the entire town and surrounding area will suffer. Trump’s goal is to make it more difficult for that to happen.

States like PA were hit super hard by the shifting of economics away from manufacturing in the United States. Yes we’re still one of the largest manufactures in the world, but at most of those facilities, they are heavily automated and the jobs that require more and more skills are fewer and fewer. For example, in a semiconductor fab, there are two types, fully autonomous where the only labor are engineers or equipment maintenance people or manually loaded fabs, where you toss in a handful of operators to load the tools. The goal of every fab out there is to drive down the cost of the operators loading the tools but using systems that will do their thinking for them.

This is just business. This is only going to get worse over the next 5-10 years. In fact, news outlets are already calling that automation is going to prevent Trump from meeting his job goals, even if he pulls back large amounts of manufacturing to the US. Elon Musk is calling for a Universal Income because automation is going to take our jobs. It’s not just going to be low paying jobs, this is going to move up the food chain and will probably take out jobs like Paralegals, reduce the number of doctors, etc.

This is why Trump won. The folks that voted for him voted for him in spite of everything else he stood for. They were able to look past that because he was promising them something that Clinton couldn’t. He selling them the idea of real job creation. He was telling them that his business experience would translate to getting the best deal for US workers, because he’d done it before. This is what they heard. Even when presented with (faked) behavior worse than “Grab them by the Pussy” his supporters looked past it (Clinton supports did the same).

What we need to do now is to organize. Create long lasting groups that will change the way the US does politics. This needs to start at the local level and move up to the larger stages. It will take time. The first step to righting many issues within the country is to get rid of various forms of Gerrymandering and eliminate corruption through campaign finance reform. I believe this has to be the first place to start, because as Trump says, you can buy access to any politician if you give them money.

Gawker v Hogan is it really a first Amendment Issue?

Gawker just lost a wopper of a case today. They have lost their case related to reporting on the Hulk Hogan sex tape. It’s unclear how the sex tape was leaked to Gawker, or if there was any money exchanged, according to Wikipedia. Before we can determine if this massive damages of $115 million and potentially more as punitive damages.

Let’s take a step back and figure out what lines were crossed here. First, the Hulkster was not in his house. He as having sex with someone of his own volition. He was having sex with a married woman whose husband was known for filming his wife with other men. These all indicate that his privacy is going to be somewhat compromised, especially if the woman he was sleeping with had no idea if there were cameras running or in the bedroom at that time. So his privacy was already somewhat diminished because there was a likelihood of a camera in the house.

Gawker didn’t film this themselves. They did not set up Hulk Hogan to have sex and be filmed. There was no intent to create a situation where Hulk Hogan would be duped into having sex on camera for Gawker. The person violating Hulk’s privacy was the husband who’s bed he was having sex in.

Let’s take a step back and figure out where the boundary for privacy is in many of these cases. First we know that, due to the Streisand Effect, that suing over pictures of a celebrity’s house isn’t grounds for invasion of privacy. We also know that embarrassing images like Beyonce’s can’t be removed because people are talking about them and have moved into public discourse.

As much as media consumers have a love/hate relationship with the paparazzi, there’s some pretty clear lines for what’s an invasion of privacy and what is not – breaking into a home and taking the pictures themselves. If someone is in public they can be photographed. This may not be fair or really ethical in the manner they strive to get their pictures. But in public our expectation of privacy is greatly diminished.

So what about reporting on other sex tapes? Kim Kardashian sued several years ago over her sex tape that someone actually bought, rather than being leaked to them in the way Gawker had their tape leaked to them. Rather than following through with the law suit, she actually turned it into a business deal and likely made close to $4.5million, which really was the smart thing to do. She didn’t sue any of the many new sites that reported on this deal and the site she sued likely didn’t have the first amendment protections of a new outlet since it was a porn website. Tommy and Pamela Lee did win some money when suing over their sex tape, but that was over copyright infringement, because it was a porn company they sued, not a news site. So, most of the people that have won money in sex suits cases have been due to copy right infringement and, in fact, the women that were victimized during the so called “Fappening” threatened to sue Google using this approach.

In all these cases news sites reported on this and showed, in many cases doctored, images of the people that were involved in these cases. Kardashian’s sex tape was everywhere and snippets were shown on sites like Gawker. The argument here is that these are topics people care about and are news worthy. Which is why the paparazzi get away with the things they do, because people eat it up. The issue at hand is ultimately if this is actually newsworthy or in the topic of conversation. Which it was first talked about on Howard Stern and then stayed somewhat in public discourse afterwards. Ironically, similar to the Streisand Effect, the topic probably became even more interesting to the public as a result of the law suit. If Hogan had done nothing people wouldn’t have cared and I would never have written an article about this.

The goal here was to prevent other new agencies from distributing similar material, according to Hulk Hogan’s attorney. The goal is specifically to chill media activities in regard to celebrities. Which will be unsuccessful in the long run. History is on Gawker’s side and the president indicates that this will likely be overturned in appeal.

So, to answer the question, it’s likely a first amendment issue and because of the personality, it’s “news worthy.” The goal of the suit is to chill discussion and that’s unacceptable.