The Case for Hillary

Dear Hillary,

At next week's debate, open with this. It will elevate you, flummox the entire political class and make it so that the conversation with Bernie doesn't do harm.

"I do not know of any single detail where Bernie's values and mine diverge. I am determined that women are free and equal. So does he. I am determined to protect the environment. So is he. I believe that economic inequality has gone way too far. So does he. Gun control. Labor. Health care. If there is a place where his goals and mine are not the same. If he wins the nomination, I will support him with all my heart and be glad for the country when he wins.

"But, we have an election and we need to provide a way for you to decided who to vote for and that means that we both need to explain the places were we differ. It's not our goals. It's our tactics. The things we think need to be done to achieve our goals.

"I have worked a lot of jobs in national government. Starting with First Lady - and yes, I promise, that was a job and a hard one, through the Senate and Secretary of State. Along the way, I have participated in the Clinton Global Initiative and run an effective presidential campaign. Yes, I lost but not because I have no idea how to organize people and get things done.

"I explain this not because I believe I am 'all that and a bag of chips'. I just want to establish the fact that I am well experienced and that, as those of you who don't agree with me hear this, I hope to help you understand that I'm not stupid or evil. I am sincerely on your side and I know a lot about how to accomplish things on a national scale.

"The difference in our strategy comes down to this: I do not think that one can win in today's divided country by taking strong, unilateral positions. I know many of you think that's how the Republicans have behaved but I have to remind you, they are not winning. Starting with Obamacare, they have suffered a string of defeats and have literally accomplished nothing except keeping the Benghazi investigation alive.

"So, it's true that I'm more supportive of international involvement than he is. I think that active engagement is essential to representing our interests and encouraging better outcomes. There are risks to both treaties and military action but, I believe the risks of allowing events to unfold while watching from the distance are greater. I think it is crucial to support friendships and develop allies. I understand that there is often a price to be paid and risks to be faced but the benefits of international engagement leave us, overall, better off.

"While it's not true, as has been said, that I am a friend of Wall Street (and I have to say - and I know this doesn't come from Bernie - that the idea, at this late date in my life, that I could be bought for campaign donations is, well, it's not even insulting. It's silly.), it is true that I have a healthy respect for the role that corporations play in our economic system.

"It is probably true that some people committed crimes that were unjustly ignored, but it is also true that reality demands that we have banks and trading institutions and all the other functions executed on Wall Street. I agree with Bernie that Dodd Frank should be just the start but, I also think that the goal we share of having a more equitable distribution of wealth will never be achieved without the cooperation, hopefully voluntary, perhaps forced, of those companies. We can't just call them bad and shut them down.

"There are many other examples. The Senator and I come from different backgrounds and have different attitudes about life and conflict and getting things done. I am confident that, if he wins, he will do a lot of good things. But, I do not think he will be able to do so without adopting the, I'll call it, my attitude of realpolitik, my understanding that half of this country is fairly conservative and that Congress is probably still going to be under the thumb of the corporations and that we don't have infinite money or a broadly peaceful world, that we cannot say to our opponents, 'My way or the highway.'

"So, the case I make to earn your vote is this: I have a good strategy for getting things done. I have demonstrated my skills over the last twenty some years in many ways. I am tough and determined. Try to think of anyone in public life who has taken a beating more times but still came back to accomplish good things and keep moving forward. I have unparalleled experience and a good plan. 

"But, I also understand that those plans that I have placed all over my website, that I have worked very hard to make as realistic and sincerely possible as I can, are going to be crushed in the face of events and the opposition of the Republicans. I believe that this perspective, which Bernie's partisans have tried to say makes me almost a Republican, is the best way to accomplish the goals that I share with Bernie. It's not that I am incapable of the determined passion that Bernie presents, it's that I think my approach is more likely to be effective.

"I think that Bernie Sanders will make a great president. If he is elected, he will uphold the highest values of our country and of American liberalism. But, I emphasize: So will I.

"If I am elected, you can be 100% certain that I will fight for women's rights, for labor rights, for economic parity, for the environment, for our position in the world including that of a decent leader of world events. We will, because I think I have the experience to do so, optimize our accomplishments in the battle against the Republicans and I think that I can do a good job of bringing people who are more conservative than me closer to seeing my view.

"We are lucky this season as Democrats to have no bad choices. You will not go wrong choosing Bernie but I believe choosing me will be better.

"One other thing. There are three other people in this race and, I apologize for my focus on Senator Sanders. The truth is that everyone who talks to me compares me to him, so I have become a little single-minded in thinking of him as 'the' competition. I know that's not true and I mean no disrespect. I know that you are good people with good values who would do a good job. As I said, we are very lucky this election season to have nobody taking the role of Trump or Cruz, people who are unqualified and have bad, even dangerous, opinions.

"But, I think you would do best to choose me. I believe that I am the most qualified person in this race because of my experience, understanding of how to get things done and my heart. I love this country and I love the people - including my opponents here. 

"If you elect me, I will do a very good job. I will pursue good, liberal goals in a practical way that will, I think, optimize our opportunities.

"I guess some might say that it's a faint promise, but it's what I believe is the biggest responsibility of a president, fulfill the good goals of the American people in a way that optimizes our opportunities. If I am elected, I will do everything I can to improve the lot of the American people and to make America great."

Not Only is the Political Center moving Toward Fox News; Respect for Truth is, too

This story false and I am not happy to see the liberal websites publishing it. Pope Francis, via the Vatican spokesperson, made an assertion about the meeting that differs from that of Kim Davis. He did not say anything about her lying or not and it is simply wrong to say he did. He could be thinking that she misinterpreted, or was deluded, or any of a number of things.

He did not say he didn't support her bigotry. He said he didn't want his actions to be used for political ends. He met with gay people. He also said that conscientious objection is a human right. He made no comment whatever about her, her cause or her actions. None.

In the article is says that he did not tell her to "stay strong" but he has not said anything about that either. Not a single word. He, in fact, might have said it in the context of the non-specific experience they said that she had with him.

I'm under no illusions that the right wing media make stuff up all the time. When I see an assertion published by Fox or Townhall or Mediaite or MichelleMalkin, I do not consider the 'facts' they assert to be any more than expressions of their opinions and wishes.

I am increasingly feeling the same way about media on the left and this is an example. People who see this article are now walking around repeating 'facts' that are specifically, 100% untrue. They are wishful inferences drawn from much less specific stuff.

The Recent Rash of "I declare Facebook can't..." Postings

I am no big fan of Facebook corporation. Like Google, they are here to exploit our data and I don't love that. However, Facebook's claim to intellectual property that you put on this site is not that weird, extreme or unreasonable.

We all post stuff here so that people can see it. The law says that you own the copyright when you type stuff, post pictures, etc. If Facebook shows that information to your friends, Facebook has violated your copyright and you could sue them.

The reason their terms of service include a license to your posts is so that they are not at legal risk when they show your posts. It's necessary and reasonable.

Some people get upset that the license language allows them to create derivative works. This is also necessary. Eg, any of us can request a copy of our Facebook page/history. This is a derivative work and anything that is in it would be a copyright violation without that provision.

Privacy is a weird issue in the modern age. One big shot I pay attention (Bill Joy) to said, in the nineties, "Get over it. There is no such thing as privacy any more." I think he was probably right.

However, I retain a certain amount by not posting things I feel private about. Facebook will never be able to reveal my important secrets because I don't post them. What I do post, I want known. Honestly, I think that's true of us all.

Which is to say, don't worry about Facebook. Worry about what you say. Facebook is a wonderful thing that provides us with the ability to have conversations with each other though we are separate in time and space. Honestly, I rejoice in it. I think you should, too.

The Second Republican Debate

I know everyone is dying to know...

I'm calling this one for The Donald, Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio. 

The Donald kept his aggression but lost his bellicosity. He was a tiny bit more thoughtful and seemed less like a gigantic asshole. He showed some humor and, almost, a little self-deprecation.

Carly Fiorina is incredibly articulate. She is focused, knowledgable and smart but, even more, she is able to express herself with amazing clarity.

Marco Rubio deserves a mention. He seemed relatively solid and composed. His presence on a national stage didn't seem like a bizarre non-sequitor this time.

Most of the rest showed some improvement, as one would expect. They have experience now. Still, none of them seemed to deserve to have a boost in the polls.

Ben Carson's prominence continues to amaze me. He just doesn't seem smart. He doesn't have any ideas. He is conciliatory and kind of dumb. Scott Walker was much better this time. Still an empty suit, but last time he really seemed like an idiot. 

Chris Christie is said to have had a stronger performance but, I don't really see it. He was fine, but who cares. Jeb! was still without inspiration and, to me, seemed a little desperate to be taken seriously.

Huckabee and Cruz continue their role as the cruel, evil ones. Rand Paul is, imho, a cipher.

Two other things struck me.

First is the amount of increased weaseling. Again and again these people repudiated their previous positions. There was no one, except, sort of, The Donald, who stuck to their guns.

The other thing came to me in the final segment. The question asked how the world would "look different" after their presidency. Only The Donald answered the question. The rest talked about themselves or criticized Obama. The Donald said something to the effect, "It will be great. America will be great. More jobs. More money. More everything. We will be respected. It will be great."

Now, I know that's entirely bullshit but, it does show, ironically, that he has the confidence and vision to talk about something other than himself. Based on those answers, for the rest of them, the most important thing about their potential presidency is them. For Donald Trump, the most important thing is that "It's going to be great."

I think that's why he's doing so well and it's a lesson I hope that Hillary can learn. It's odd that this weird egomaniac can offer a lesson in selflessness and it's benefits as a campaign tactic.

People of the Amygdala

The conservatives bedeviling our society do not have wrong ideas. They do not disagree with you. They are not influenced by logic or fact. They live in a world of fearful emotion. When confronted by these contradictions, their huge amygdalas perceive contradictions with normal expectations and cause them to have alarming ideation and fight or flight hormones are secreted.

When you hear a weird noise at night and have a feeling of dread, that's your amygdala speaking. You have no facts to support dread. You live in a world with no zombies or serial killers. Still, your amygdala generates the worst possible ideas and emotions.

Because your amygdala is the right size, the rest of your brain (something called the 'anterior cingulate cortex' is responsible for dealing with complications like a weird noise or ideas that don't fit your previous expectations) quickly dominates your thinking with rational explanations, essentially generating a new faith system based on its rationalization of the event.

For amygdala people, the fear doesn't go away. The mental process that rationalizes is weak and cannot secrete enough hormones and neurotransmitters to compete with the alarm.

The only thing that calms is faith. Ideas with their intrinsic back and forth of conflicting thoughts always stimulate fear. Only the certainty of faith, of previously known and accepted ideas, avoids stimulating the amygdala and reduces the alarm.

For these people, gay marriage (abortion, black people, etc) are like weird sounds in the night. These things violate their expectations and their amygdalas react with alarming ideation.

Opposing these people with facts and argument does nothing. Pointing out biblical contradictions simply stimulate these overgrown amygdalas to more alarming ideas, to more fear.

I haven't figured out the way to communicate to the People of the Amygdala but, it's not with facts. We need to find a way to talk to their fear in a way that subverts and lessens it. We need a way to introduce new articles of faith without stimulating the gigantic amygdala.

Tough goal but, it's the only way we will survive as a society.

Update 11/29/18: Researchers examined the role of fear and security. Slightly different angle. Consistent. Very interesting. Washington Post

The Drum Beats

I have long thought that this country was heading toward violence. The change in partisanship. The viciousness and intolerance of the religious right. Economic polarization. Traumatic feelings of fear about climate change. Destruction of the unions and condemnation of the very idea of social action among labor. The use of "liberal" as a deep and effective slur. The list of intractable influences causing desperation among the working and under class people in our country is long.

When Trayvon Martin was killed and the right celebrated. I felt that the fuse was being lit. When Black Lives Matter was ridiculed and then subverted, I thought that arrogance on the right had become truly dangerous and inflammable. In another thread here on Facebook, I read a guy saying that this is the first time in his life that someone has declared "open season" on police. I have no doubt that he sneered when someone said it was open season on black boys.

After the abusive police response in Fergusson when Michael Brown was murdered, I began to feel even more uneasy. Each step along the way. The tick tock of black boys being killed, now that we bother to notice.

But none of that set me as far on edge as the completely unrepentant attitude of the police, the gun nuts, and the right wing politicians. Instead of seeking to assuage the fear that all of us who are not rich now feel when we see a cop in the mirror, they proudly claim that the kid didn't raise his hands far enough, that the woman wasn't sufficiently respectful. They aren't distressed about police brutality, they celebrate it.

That leaves the oppressed with nowhere to turn. We know that Congress will do nothing. We know that the local authorities are in favor of this police behavior. When the demonstrators in the aftermath of the abuse of Sarah Bland were openly carrying assault rifles and the police were, for a change, not abusive and authoritarian, I thought, "it's begun."

Anyone who failed to notice that the police respect violence more than peace is a fool. Now, you watch, the slippery slope has been engaged. Police are dying. The authorities are going to show their stripes by loudly condemning those deaths where they are silent about black boys.

I don't (necessarily) recommend it, but I hear the drumbeat. The cries of sorrow about Trayvon and Michael and Sarah and the rest are starting to sound like cries of another sort and I think we all have reason to be afraid.

A New Social Paradigm

As technology progresses, we are going to need fewer and fewer workers. There are always going to be substantial numbers of people who cannot get jobs.

At the same time, there are people who do not desire to fit into the capitalist paradigm and those who don't. Call them lazy if you like, but there are people who detest the idea of 9-5, working to someone else's priorities, or something else about a job. 

Lots of these people are have jobs because they can't survive without them and are doing a lousy, or at least uninspired, job. They are taking work opportunities away from those who feel differently.

Because there are lots of people who like to work. They like being on a team. They like participating in something big. They want more stuff. There are a million reasons. That's where capitalism comes from. And lots of them do not have jobs because some less motivated person was forced to take it.

This disproportionately affects young people because old people, who often lose their motivation as time goes on, are entrenched.

It's my opinion that we should change the idea of welfare to the idea of 'base support' and make it available to everyone. The goal would be to help people who are unmotivated from taking jobs away from those who want them.

Base support would provide a decent life but to avoid civil unrest and other problems, we need to provide activities to avoid boredom and to provide ways for people to gain some luxuries. (Have and have not is a dangerous thing.)

One of the ways I would deal with this is by vastly increasing the amount of educational opportunities and then changing the general concept of society to consider failing to attend university to be a sign of weakness.

Nobody would be able to flunk out (we don't need to ration school seats because we can create infinite amounts of them; they are not connected to market cycles) and for most people it would mainly be entertainment. But, this would also make it so that nobody was excluded. There would be some people who would never have had any education otherwise that would be geniuses and accomplish huge things.

And, in the workforce, people who don't like it would not be taking up space, doing a crappy job, demotivating others, etc. Everyone who was working would be there because they want to accomplish stuff. Productivity and profits would skyrocket. Overall happiness would increase. People would be able to live life in a way that suits their personality and skills.

Hillary v Bernie: I love them both. I just don't know who I want to see in the White House.

Let me help you out. One of them has already spent eight years in the White House, six years as a Senator and four as Secretary of State. One of them built and ran a solid national organization (her 2008 campaign).

Both of them are hated by Republicans. Both of them are much more liberal than either the Congress or the American people. Both of them will face an oppositional Congress that will severely constrain their ability to achieve liberal goals. Consequently, though I think Bernie is more liberal than Hillary, their views will not be the controlling factor, Congress will.

One, if he is enabled to seriously affect this race, might be able to push Hillary far enough to the left that she becomes unacceptable to the independents who she needs to win. Those same independents, however, will never, ever vote for Bernie. 

In fact, neither will most Democrats. Bernie is a socialist. You and I and people like us are the tea party of the Democrats. We are the lunatic left that will, if we insist on pushing our agenda, discredit the Democratic party by convincing the general public that the Republicans are right, Obama and the Democrats are radical leftists.

Right now, people generally don't believe it. Everyone knows that the R's are lying idiots but, when Joe Sixpack finds out that an avowed socialist is a serious Democratic candidate, he will.

So, my conclusion is this: Because of Congress, it doesn't matter much which of them is in the White House. But, deciding that your prefer Bernie be in the White House (instead of an incredibly accomplished, prepared, experienced woman) presents the real possibility of getting a president of the kind that can make a real difference, a Republican.

Wells Fargo Bill Pay Unreliable

Once again, my wife has had to jump through hoops to deal with the Wells Fargo Bank's failure.

In this case, she triggered an important payment on the 16th of the month. The money was immediately removed from her account. As it promised, on the 23rd of the month it said the payment was "delivered".

On the 30th, she got a notice that her payment was late.

On the 31st, the payment actually got there.

On another occasion, a payment was lost for months because, we eventually learned, of their paperwork problems. In that case, we had to argue with the cable tv company every month to prevent them from turning off our internet, etc. Their computer had no way of dealing with the fact that the banks records had a clear (but mislabeled) record of them receiving the money.

Wells Fargo is, of course, a huge, horrible company. But, I'm accustomed to these sorts of companies being at least marginally competent. I am wrong. Wells Fargo lost the cable tv money for several months. Just lost it and caused a huge amount of hassle. Their Bill Pay service is unreliable. It takes your money. Says it's made the payment but doesn't.

I suggest you avoid Wells Fargo like the plague.

Police Want Everything. We Get Nothing.

For hundreds of years until just less slightly recently than this, crimes were solved even though cell phones did not exist. Somehow society managed to survive. 

The change in police capacity that we experience is not that they cannot get into cellphone data. It is that they can use it to violate our privacy to an unprecedented extent, even without being able to overcome encryption.

"Until very recently, this situation would not have occurred."