On many sides

Spartacus, Gaspar Yanga, Ali bin Muhammad – unruly insurrectionists the lot of them. And don’t get me started on those bigots in Syria who hate Bashar just because he wants to murder civilians en mass. Is decrying violence against violent oppressors the pinnacle of moral relativism? Can Trump find new levels of depravity? Tune in next week for the exciting continuation of … oh, bugger, real life?

I told my mom a few days ago that an author — not a no-name author who had never been published, I mean one of those people who could get a chicken to peck at a typewriter and sell the novel famous author types — who wrote the past year as fiction would have been laughed out of the publisher’s office a decade ago. Somehow, Trump seems determined to outdo all of his previous antics anew each week. Which I blame on his reality TV fame — you’ve got to do something more outlandish each week or you’ll lose viewers!

The whole making America great again slogan always struck me as uber white male. Because, really, “again” implies that there was some greatness in the past to which we are returning. Is that back when women couldn’t vote? When your skin color determined if you were allowed to sit on the bus? Or, hell, if you were a person or possession.  Couldn’t imagine a Republican candidate calling back to the Clinton years, so unless he meant the halcyon days of 1985, that slogan is treading well into “make America great for white dudes” territory. And if you’re talking about the mid 80’s … with out of control interest rates and fairly overt racism, you’re in “great for rich white dudes” territory. Then again, Making America Great for Neo-Nazi’s Again or Making America Great for the Klan Again doesn’t have a catchy abbreviation you can slap on hats and t-shirts to make a buck.

But this new low is down in the Marianas Trench and still digging. A bunch of bigots are holding a rally out in Virginia, and there are counter protesters. Bigot runs a car into the counter protesters. What’s the president say? “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. On many sides.”

Unless “many sides” means the Klan guys, the Neo Nazis, and the White Pride folks, the denotative sentiment doesn’t help the current situation. But words have connotative meanings as well — the emotions invoked by the words, the history associated with the words, the word in conjunction with other words being used, even the educational level and class associated with the words.

I won’t disagree with the violence on many sides — don’t know if it is true in this case, but my experience with counter-protests at Klan rallies in the 80’s is that, yeah, there’s violence on both sides.

Is it OK to hate racists and neo-nazis? I know there’s the whole judge not lest ye be judged idea, but civil is about the best I can do. But in conjunction with bigotry … to me, ‘hatred’ implies irrational hatred based on bigotry. Deciding a single facet of an individual’s personality can be so heinous that there is literally nothing else they could be/do/think which would make you say “yeah, he’s a racist pig … but he is XYZ too so it’s all OK” is your prerogative.

To the literal definition, that’s bigotry: intolerance toward an individual because their beliefs differ from yours. But by the strict definition, a lot of people are bigots when considering serial killers. Just because you think randomly murdering dozens of people is bad and wrong … the emotional definition of bigotry isn’t just hating someone because they have different beliefs but also that their beliefs are perfectly reasonable and don’t hurt anyone.

Messaging fail.

Official Withdrawl

Well, the non-suspense is over. The US has been withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement. My concern is not environmental. Companies want to make money, and will need to keep producing more efficient and less polluting products to attract customers. Customers don’t want to ‘waste’ their money on fossil fuels, so will demand more efficiency. And, climate change aside, anyone who tried to breathe in LA or London in the 80s (or has seen Beijing today) will push for emissions regs.

My concern is the precedent we’ve established regarding military invasion when a country contravenes a treat obligation (be that just neglecting enforcement or withdrawal). An argument can be made that spewing toxic pollutants into the air endangers the lives of your civilian population. And the rest of the world population too. That’s a fairly long-standing American criterion for invading a foreign country.

Reality TV Presidency

LeBron James left the Cleveland Caveliers in 2010. Players change teams all the time. Even star players change teams occasionally – salary caps, better chance at a championship, whatever. Sucks, but it happens. Making the announcement on a live ESPN broadcast – no matter how much money he managed to generate for a charity – was a terrible way to handle the announcement. From a reality-TV perspective, sure it’s great. Guaranteed viewers, suspense, drama, heartbreak. But as a person it lacks tact, lacks compassion … and as a highly paid athlete who is revered by many, it’s an offensive way to treat fans who bought your merchandise and watched you play. The guy was a kid at the time, and his move back to Cleveland seemed to be handled in a more mature fashion.

I cannot help but think of being in Cleveland during the James announcement (complete with LebronFire events burning jerseys) when the White House declares Trump will be announcing his decision on the Paris Climate Agreement on Thursday. Oh, the drama. The suspense. The heartbreak – because, really, does anyone think he’s going to remain in the agreement? Even if he allows the country to remain in the agreement (an agreement, remember, that was limited greatly by a desire to achieve something that might be acceptable to US Republicans) … does he have any intention of enforcing the agreement? Honestly, the world is better off with America out – re-write the agreement with stricter goals. US companies will need to continue increasing energy efficiency and decreasing emissions or they’ll be unable to sell products outside of the country. Hell, US cities will create their own clean air and water regulations. One impetus behind the clean air act was the cloud of toxic chemicals around Pittsburgh that literally killed people. Practically needed a respirator to walk around LA. London – not a US city, but I remember getting back from a day walking around London to spend an hour blowing black snot out of my nose (and how much of that crud remained in my lungs??). I cannot imagine NYC was any better. And if customers refuse to buy the products — what use is your coal plant if no one will purchase your electricity? Some foreign company’s super-efficient SUV is more attractive even if it costs more up front — pay 100$ a week to fill the tank v/s 100$ a month and you’re looking at a fuel savings of 18k over five years.

Trump campaigned on abandoning the treaty. Look at who he appointed to lead the EPA. Seriously, the only suspense was if we’d officially withdraw or if we’d just neglect enforcement. By indicating that there’s an announcement … I already know we’re withdrawing. But why try to recreate LeBron’s The Decision spectacular?

The ISIL Plan

One facet of the campaign that I found fascinating was Trump’s touted secret plan to defeat ISIL. Now, I’ve encountered a lot of situations in politics and business where there really is no good answer, and when pressed repeatedly to come up with *something* … well, if I had figured out the answer to world peace, I’d have already rung up the UN Sec Gen. Solved malnutrition and starvation, I’d have published it on slash-dot. Hell, even if I had solved the P v/s NP problem … I would have TOLD SOMEBODY.

Had I been sitting around my bling’ed out parlor lulled into a zen-like state by the sunlight dancing on the gold, well, everything when the thing that’s been missing all along in our fight against terrorism popped into my mind … what kind of asshole keeps it super-secret hidden and offers to reveal the solution if you’ll vote for him. So, yeah, either a liar or an asshole. (Also, not mutually exclusive).

Well, enough electors voted for him and where’s this super awesome solution? Did Trump think Putin’s praise meant Russia would pressure Syria to get the whole terrorism thing sorted? Implying Trump thinks Syria could do something to stop ISIL if only they tried … which is almost more frightening than many of the other points of ignorance the man has shown in the last few years. Did Trump think there was actually a good plan on the Chairman of the Joint Chief’s desk but Obama refused to implement this plan — so Trump’s plan was to say “OK, General, do it”?

Doesn’t bother me that the dude doesn’t have a plan (lets be honest, I assumed he didn’t have a plan as soon as he started spouting off about it), but why doesn’t anyone call him on yet another broken campaign promise?


Donald Trump has two premises behind his ‘make american great again’ initiative — (1) the solution to outsourcing and automation is to ask [a.k.a. use presidential power to bully] companies into manufacturing products domestically and (2) that no one has tried this because they just aren’t as clever as he and never thought of it.

Reality is that most people have a much firmer grasp of the long-term and wide-scale repercussions of their actions. His approach may work as a one-off — a single company or industry certainly doesn’t want the bad publicity associated with the president of the United States denigrating their reputation (see broccoli & Pres Bush #1 in 1990). Specifically mentioning Carrier during the debate was notable. A president specifically singling out one company for offshoring manufacturing jobs will be national news. There’s a cost/benefit analysis. Shifting manufacturing overseas saves a million, but bad publicity costs five mil in sales … OK, we’ll ship a quarter of the jobs overseas and keep more than the 0 we initially planned on leaving here.

This approach has diminishing returns. Who is going to read the White House Press Office’s list of today’s “companies that suck because they want to offshore production”?! Individually calling out one company is news partially because it is so outside the norm. If his plan was to select the three largest potential employers and strong-arm them into keeping jobs in the country … OK, it’s a strategy. I doubt, though, that Carrier is one of the largest potential employers in America.

The other reality that Trump ignores is that manufacturing automation negates wage differences — we’re all going to be unemployed while robots make everything, AI engines diagnose illness and negotiate legal proceedings, workflows process mortgages. We have the opportunity now to retrain people for the post-robotic world – hypothesize what jobs will look like and fund training programs to ready people for those opportunities. Bullying companies might work in the short term – even keep jobs around long enough for re-election. But this is the same ideology that wrote NINA mortgages a decade ago — *I* am making money *now*, who cares about next year. Eventually the conjecture of lost sales will be insignificant compared to the savings offered by automation.