Category Archives: Elsewhere

For the first time in a long time, I am a Netflix customer. I did the Netflix thing for a year or so (?) when we lived in Estacado, but then we hit a financial rough patch and things had to be cut and Netflix was one of them. It was not an amicable separation as they made the claim that I hadn’t returned DVDs I had returned, and then charged me $30 a piece. (I could have purchased them on Amazon for less than half that.)

But, bygones!

I mostly got it because their children’s programming is supposed to be pretty good. I haven’t poked around too much, but it… doesn’t seem bad, at least. So maybe we’ll have it for a while and then we won’t. Lain has learned to load up and watch videos on the tablet, which is a mixed blessing. The idea of Netflix occurred to me when we were watching an Amazon Prime video on phonics. YouTube also has a good app for kids.

It’s just amazing how much stuff there is out there.

Despite the above-mentioned bad experience, I am genuinely impressed by Netflix the corporation. One thing in particular jumps out at me, which is that they pivoted really quickly to streaming video and did so before they had to. A lot of the time when a company gets the sort of market position that Netflix does, the tendency is to sit on it until someone innovates around you. In this case, they made the determination pretty early that streaming was the future and basically retired their own business model.

Anyway, with football season over I was able to scale back on our satellite service and still come out way ahead.

Category: Elsewhere, Market

Some people did a thing, and some folks are not pleased:

The perception of the London commuter as an unfriendly curmudgeon has been bolstered by the mixed reaction to a mystery campaign to encourage tube passengers to chat.

Badges emblazoned with the question “Tube chat?” have been distributed on the London Underground network, to the horror of some regular users.

Transport for London (TfL) said it was not behind the badges, which are identical in font and design to the official “Baby on board” pins given to expectant mothers.

Commuters were quick to express their disdain for the idea, for which no individual or group has claimed responsibility.

I… sort of like the idea? As an introvert, maybe I should hate it. Or maybe I should love it, since I can decline to wear one if I’m tapped out and people will not bother me? It seems to actually cut across the introvert/extrovert divide, with both sides seeing problems. “Why should someone need a button for me to talk to them?” The extrovert asks.

But those who are not especially socially attuned don’t always pick up on the cues that make the distinction between being friendly and being a bother. This comes up in gender discussions a lot because women often both (a) don’t want to be bothered by strangers unless (b) they are the right strangers. And guys have little or no idea whether they are the right stranger or not. When women complain, men often hear that they’re going to get their heads ripped off if they get it wrong. When men complain, women often hear that men just want license to trap women in conversations that it would be rude to escape. It’s not reasonable to expect women to take all comers, nor is it reasonable to expect men to be mindreaders.

As it applies to that, it also applies to just talking to people. Social dolt that I am, I am not good at picking up on the cues. The only real exception are smoking habitats. You can sort of tell if someone on the smoking deck doesn’t want to talk by their body language and location. If they’re off to the side, or tilted slightly away, you need a reason to talk to them (“Do you have a light?”

For the most part, though, smokers tend to be a really social bunch and if you’re in the communal area, the threshold for starting a conversation can be really low. Which was, really, one of the coolest things about smoking for me. It kind of put me into low-pressure socializations. My social skills improved a lot because of smoking. It provided me an environment where I could understand the rules, and where not wanting to talk to people had to be a conscious decision. One that I would sometimes make, and sometimes not make.

So any sort of opt-in or opt-out mechanism for sociability seems to be in the best interest of everybody. It doesn’t solve the gender problem before (because it’s as likely to be person-specific, not situation-specific), but it’s a start.

Category: Elsewhere

I plan to write more Over There about the Electoral College (I think), but I did want to touch on a Washington Post piece arguing that two arguments in favor of it are bunk. I believe he’s wrong on the second one:

Some critics say that allowing voters to directly elect the president would splinter the two-party system. It would encourage many candidates to contest the general election, thus producing a winner with only a small share of the vote.

This is also wrong. In a system of direct election, potential candidates risk their political futures by running against the official party nominees. And there is no compensation. You win nothing by coming in third. So there is little incentive to run.

By contrast, the electoral college encourages third parties, especially those with regional bases, because by winning a few states they may deny either major-party candidate a majority of the electoral vote. You can come in third and still win a prize. Such a result was certainly the goal of Strom Thurmond in 1948 and George Wallace in 1968. Imagine giving these racist candidates leverage to negotiate with the leading candidates before the electoral votes were officially cast.

Now, I would favor replacing the electoral college with a national popular vote (and yes, did so prior to this election). But a plurality-based national popular vote really is a problem, and precisely for the reason being “debunked.”

There are two kinds of third-party candidates. First, there is the regional third-party candidate and the national. He points out Strom Thurmond and George Wallace, but those are somewhat outdated exceptions. The closest we’ve had since is Evan McMullin, and he never got as much attention as Gary Johnson this cycle. McMullin did make the argument that if the election can be thrown to the House then he can win it in the House, but that was never a viable argument. Rather, winning Utah was mostly seen as a benchmark of success. There are other benchmarks for the other kind of candidate.

The second kind of candidate is the more common kind: The national third-party candidate. Gary Johnson, Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, John Anderson, and more. All of these people are more recent than Edwards’s example. None of them had all that much success, but a part of that is attributable to the electoral college itself. At some point, though, it becomes apparent that the bar for winning is so high for them so as to be impossible. They could win the popular vote but still lose the election because how do they get to 270? Contrast this with governor races, where candidates can and do get a plurality and often get much larger chunks of the vote when they don’t. It’s easier to run for governor than president, of course, but the complete absence of a path to the White House scares off potential investorscontributors and volunteers that would make a national campaign possible.

A long time ago, conservatives and anti-Trump Republicans were looking for a candidate to run a third party candidate. None was found. I don’t know if it would have been any different under a national popular vote, but I do think it might have been. There would have been a clearer path to the White House that wouldn’t have relied on renegade electors. But as my mind drifted I thought of the potential challenges for a third party, and one of the biggest by far was the Electoral College. As Edwards points out, it’s not responsible for the two-party system, but it does provide yet another firewall.

Which is, incidentally, a reason not to like the Electoral College. I support a two-party system but want the parties to be able to challenge it. The Electoral College makes that so daunting that it’s unlikely any serious effort will be made (at least at the presidential level. A First-Past-The-Post system makes it easier. Which is good! Except that it would encourage outcome distortions, which is bad!

So, contra Edwards, we actually do need some manner of dealing the plurality problem. That can be done with a separate runoff or ordered ballots or something else. Maine, which elects its governor the same way Edwards wants to elect our president, just voted to implement ordered ballots (IRV) precisely to deal with the problem he says plurality victors don’t cause.

Category: Elsewhere

This is rough.  Very rough, kinda stream of consciousness, so keep that in mind.

I was looking at this map, and I had something of an epiphany regarding how so many voters could be OK with Trumps pretty naked racism & sexism.  I’m sure some percentage of his voters just blew it off as un-serious, but the evidence of his attitudes was stark enough I figure a person would have to be working that lie pretty hard.  So why did so many find it OK enough to vote for him?  I think the answer lies in the demographics.

I grew up in the late 70’s/80’s, in very rural WI.  While I did witness some hardcore racism & sexism, for the most part, everyone was pretty tolerant.  But there was a lot of low level racism & sexism; call it ‘-ism-light’.  Enough that I was steeped in that undercurrent as I grew up.  It’s surprising how deeply it embeds, and sticks with you.

I left rural WI, joined the Navy, got educated in Madison, and live near Seattle, so I’ve had time & experience to work past the -isms, but even now, seeing ‘-ism-light’ doesn’t cause a reaction.  I have to parse it, process it, and then I recognize it and decide it’s not OK.  That filter I grew up with isn’t gone, I’ve just got a second filter on top of it, courtesy of diverse exposure & experience.

But if you never left those places, even if the environment is not so steeped in -isms anymore, people my age, who don’t have that second filter, they will have a strong tolerance for such things.  They probably wouldn’t accept it in themselves, or their immediate family and friends, but the more removed an offensive person is, the better the ability to tolerate it to a degree.

So Uncle Ned who can’t stop making racist & sexist jokes, he doesn’t get invited to family gatherings very often.  But Trump?  He’s so far removed…

Category: Elsewhere

I had been spending quite a bit of time arguing that Trumpism could win, but completely regarded that Trump himself would.

I’ve been wrong about him time and time again as a candidate. I hope that I am shown to be wrong about him as president.

Category: Elsewhere

greatpresidentialpuzzleEverybody has a theory on where the Republican Party goes from here, but all of the theories are based on incomplete information. Not just because predicting the future is hard, but also because we still don’t know what precisely propelled Trump to the nomination. We know the combination of things, but not how important each aspect of it was. Would a disciplined nationalist have been able to accomplish it? Would a True Conservative with an aggressive middle finger have accomplished it? Would Mark Cuban have been able to do it? Hulk Hogan? This is important because nobody will be able to bring the exact same set of ingredients to the table, and we don’t know how transferable Trumpism is to people who are not Donald J Trump.

In addition to what has brought the Republican Party here, there is also the question of how its leaders respond. A lot of them are clearly uncomfortable with Trump, but not to the point that they are willing to break party protocol. It is unlikely that Trump’s priorities are shared by a majority of elected officials, but they are also unlikely to stand in the way of an oncoming truck. It’s also not clear which aspect of Trump they are uncomfortable with (or most uncomfortable with). Some could align with Trump Nationalism (defined here as a white ethnocentric opposition to immigration, trade, and a globalist system that is believed to be disadvantageous to the US) without the vulgarity. Some don’t care about the vulgarity as long as it gets votes and they can sneak in some tax cuts and/or goodies for their supporters.

So the machine contains many moving parts, some at odds with others. There is no central brain to it all and nobody to decide where things go from here, save perhaps the voters. We don’t know exactly what the voters want, we don’t know what the electeds will tolerate, or what the donors will contribute to. Trump has no obvious successor or united organization, nor does his opposition have a singular spokesperson or organization. There is no obvious path forward, only potential paths with reasons that they may occur or may not. So rather than predicting the future, we should evaluate potential futures. (more…)

Category: Elsewhere

For me it’s Johnson vs. Clinton. I know Johnson isn’t going to win and I believe Clinton will probably win.

The advantage with voting for Johnson is that the more votes he gets, the more some of the issues I like will be highlighted, like decriminalizing drugs, ratcheting down police militarization, promoting civil liberties more robustly, and evincing skepticism about policies that might lead the US into another land war in Asia. It will also remind Clinton (assuming she wins anyway) that she needs to fight for our votes.

The disadvantages. Aspects of Johnson’s message I don’t agree with might be highlighted even more. I’m not too keen on decreasing the size of the federal government in the way that he’d probably do it. I don’t know of any explicit statement he’s given on Obamacare this election cycle, but I assume he’s hostile to it and is likely to want something much different from me.

More important, this election requires me to take a stand against Trump in a way that I haven’t really had to take a stand against a major party presidential candidate before. While in general Johnson may take away more votes from Trump than from Clinton, in my case a vote for Johnson takes away a vote I would have cast for Clinton. A vote for Clinton is a repudiation of Mr. Trump in a way that a vote for Johnson isn’t.

Category: Elsewhere

Since this came on on account of Hillary Clinton’s comments about Trump supporters, I suppose I need to tackle my views on that first:

She shouldn’t have said “half.” That was at once specific and ambiguous. It was not good politics, as evidenced by everything that has happened since. Clinton supporters are blaming the reaction, but there was no memo that went out. This was a predictable reaction, and it turned a hard-to-deny statement – that Trump has a lot of supporters that are pretty bad – and turned it into something else. Some of the reaction would have been there regardless, but the margins matter here. And we’d be spending more time talking about Trump supporters – however many or however few – talking about African-Americans needing to go back to Africa. Instead we’re having a situation where even #NeverTrump conservatives shuffled in their seats.

That said, apart from the response, I wasn’t as alarmed or agitated as many people are. I believe Trump is uniquely troublesome and believed this back when BSDI-whiners Yglesias-Chait-Krugman were saying he was better than Rubio. So to a degree, all’s fair. But more than that, I saw past the words she used to the point she was making (which is something I do for Trump as well). Those who have signed on to Trump have signed on to a lot of ugliness. Clinton’s job is to make people want to be as far away from that as possible. By separating it into two groups, she was motioning that some of the light supporters can be differentiated from some of the heavy supporters. It was actually something of a generous point, that got lost with the word “half.”

In any event, my view of this is largely instrumental. The biggest question I have is not whether it was a fair or accurate approach, but whether it was an effective one. But it’s hard to separate the two, because the ambiguous inaccuracy helped the statement (apparently) backfire. And at least on Twitter, it’s putting Clinton supporters in a position where rather than uniting the anti-Trump right, center, and left, it’s dividing between those who hate Trump but not enough, and those who hate Trump sufficiently. It’s not a good dynamic.

Which is where things have been lately. I’m seeing more and more references to the notion that any criticism of Clinton should be taken as pro-Trump. That opposing Trump is not enough, but opposing Trump for the right reasons is key. Which reminds those of us in the anti-Trump center-right that the anti-Trump left are not really our friends. That, as the Trumpers say, the things used against Trump today will be used against us tomorrow. That makes me a little less enthusiastic.

By way of example, here is a tweet that caught my attention:

And it’s tweets like this which leave me in a place not of agreement, but of defending Trump supporters. Which is not my preferred thing to do. But if the weapon used against him today will be used against us tomorrow, it has to be confronted.

The argument of the tweet is that the “half” figure is correct because, hey, half of Trump supporters view black folks as more violent than whites. Now, for the sake of this discussion let’s stipulate that this is the bar by which we determine that people are deplorable and irredeemably racist. With that stipulated, BOOM!

But wait, what about a third of Hillary Clinton’s supporters? A quarter of Bernie Sanders’s supporters. All deplorable and irredeemable? Maybe they should be kicked out of the Democratic Party. No, wait, that’s not a good idea, because if they were the Democrats would never win a national election. Which would be silly.

Here’s the thing. There is no magic number wherein above that number demonstrates that a movement is half or fully racist in nature. We can’t look at Hillary Clinton’s supporters and say that the 31% proves nothing, but Trump’s 48% proves everything. That’s just not how it works. But it’s something I see again and again. The marginal differences statistically define the coalitions. I remember a while back a poll suggesting that something like 38% of Democrats wanted to live around other Democrats and 53% of Republicans wanted to live around other Republicans. People pointed this to proof that the Big Sorting was “A Republican” problem and that suggesting otherwise was “Both Sides Do It.”

Because the magical threshold just happens to be in the margins of those two numbers. As with that, with everything. In the case of racism and Trump support vs Clinton support, if you’re using that chart to delineate you’re essentially picking sides on basically 1-in-5 supporters. That’s not exactly overwhelming.

“But wait, they’re not just racist for answering this particular question this particular way! They’re different because Trump supporters are voting on their racism and Clinton supporters aren’t!”

Well, maybe, but that makes the chart useless as evidence. As does speculation that Actually The (52% of) Trump Supporters Are Lying. If they are, then the data is invalid. And there’s not much reason to believe that Trump supporters would more likely lie about this than Clinton supporters, and reason to believe that if we could read minds it would actually be closer. I mean, imagine a Clinton supporter and imagine a Trump supporter and imagine who is self-conscious about holding views widely considered to be racist?

And so here I am, offering marginal support to supporters of a candidate I loathe. In part because if I don’t, I’m buying into the validity of the chart. And after this election, the weapon used against Trump’s coalition will be used against mine.

Category: Elsewhere


{Ed note: This is a precursor to a more complete – and nuanced – post on immigration that’s coming up} (more…)

Category: Elsewhere

Texas and Kansas both have fairy forests, and Michigan and Arkansas both have waterfall campgrounds.

The whole site is replete with various sites in nooks and crannies without our great, expansive country. I’ve never been to a fairy forest, but I bet Lain would have a blast.

I have been to waterfall campgrounds, and they are amazing. When I was younger we used to go on cruises. I remember my first one and how excited I was to be able to go snorkling. I’d never been. The cruises tended to involve the Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Cozumel. You’d do one thing on each island. I can’t remember which we did where, but on the first cruise we did the waterfall before the snorkling. Which turned out to be a bad thing, because the waterfall was way more fun. It was like a pool, but with water coming down.

That’s not too uncommon with elaborate pools having fake waterfalls, but with chlorinated water and all that. I’m not a naturalist and so that’s cool, too. I’d just never been to one of those places except at a water park. And at waterparks, there are so many other things to do you barely notice. In the real waterfalls, you’re kind of forced to appreciate The Thing instead of thinking about The Other Thing you could be doing.

The next island was the snorkling, and it was a real let down. I mean, you had to put on all of this equipment. You got to see some nice fish, but it was all (understandably) more controlled.

Photo by ChrisHaysPhotography

Category: Elsewhere


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