Tag: random

Bad Sales Strategy

Shortly after exacerbating tensions between Qatar and its neighboring countries, the US is selling twelve billion dollars worth of F15’s to Qatar and a hundred ten billion dollars in weapons to Saudi Arabia?!? Please tell me that provoking tense geopolitical relationships is not going to be a sales strategy. Great, you keep Boeing’s assembly line open … but this is too much like privatized prisons needing a constant increase in incarcerations to increase their profits.

The Great Negotiator

Hopefully the mythos of Trump as some superior negotiator will be dispelled by, well … let’s just say he reminds me of an employee with a grotesquely inflated resume. Sure, they get the job. At some point they show up for work and display their real qualifications.

A halfway decent negotiator understands the other party’s motivations – that would take some study and some awareness of something outside of yourself. More importantly, though, a good negotiator understands the strengths and weaknesses of their position. Knows what leverage they have – which isn’t to say you cannot negotiate a good deal when you lack leverage. That’s the point of bluffing. But if you are completely unaware of your standing, you don’t have the good sense to bluff.

Let’s be honest here — someone who didn’t think health care would be so complicated, who didn’t realize China didn’t have a whole bunch of sway over North Korea (nor the impetus to use their influence to benefit the US) certainly doesn’t understand what leverage he’s got in negotiating either. And someone whose big experience with taxes is managing to lose an incredible amount of money (probably park the debt somewhere that it won’t be collected) and turn that into a tax-free decade probably isn’t going to enter into the tax reform negotiating with a whole heap of power either.

The Peril Of Hosting Your Own Services

I love hosting my own services — home automation, file shares, backups, e-mail, web servers, DNS … bit of paranoia, a bit of control freak, and a bit of pride. But every now and again, hosting my own services causes problems because, well, vendors don’t develop processes around someone with servers in their house.

We got a new cable modem. Scott went to a web page (happened to be Google) and got redirected to the TWC activation page. Went through whatever, ended up calling into support, and finally our account was sorted. Woohoo! Everything works … umm, except I cannot search Google.

Turns out TWC manages their activation redirection by serving up bogus DNS info — their server IP instead of the real one. Which then got cached on our DNS server. No idea what TTL TWC set on their bogus data, but it was more than a minute or two. Had to clear the DNS server cache before we were able to hit Google sites again.

Irony, Thy Name Is Trump

Yesterday, Trump bemoaned how terribly he is treated as President. From a man who has never encountered a superlative he didn’t incorporate into everyday speech … not surprising. But I keep thinking about how Trump is treated in comparison to Obama. Fundamentally different stories, and one narrative has yet to be proven true or false. But even if Trump’s campaign literally had nothing to do with Russian influence in the election – simply had overly-trusting people trying to do the “right thing” and ended up speaking with the wrong people (I had eight calls from the dude, the last one ten minutes long because I was telling them to STOP CALLING ME). Even if we ignore abuses of power relating to the investigation into the nothing that really happened (you get charged with a crime you didn’t commit, try intimidating witnesses because the charges scare you or the bad publicity scares you … the intimidation itself IS a crime). The basic premise behind how Republicans treated Obama is that policies he advocates are so terrible that we’d rather literally accomplish nothing in the next four years. And any cycle you spend hosting a beer summit after making a completely fair assessment of public bias and police actions (seriously, would some old white professor have the cops called if he got locked out of his fancy brownstone?) or discussing birth certificates (hey, Trump, that would be yours) is a cycle not spent advancing odious positions. Agree or disagree with the positions, it’s a decent strategy that the Republicans cultivated there. Positions switch, and beyond play acting … are you really surprised to see the opposition using the same strategy?

Difference is that Obama had a halfway decent approach to dissent — Trump makes a dramatic reality show with a cliffhanger each week (and a bit like “how did you not expect to be red herring’d out of effectiveness” … voters, how did you not expect the reality show star to create, well, THIS!?).

Russia Returns

Russia has a decent play at undermining the American government without actually colluding with Trump’s campaign. Do something that benefits any part and there is suspicion. Do something that benefits someone who has been suspected of shady dealings with your country (money laundering, loans to someone American banks consider too risky) and the suspicion is even deeper. Someone who has used obstruction and intimidation routinely in business using the same tactics in their political misadventure … not exactly shocking.

Trump’s administration seems hopelessly unable to do anything but help the Russians undermine our government. Firing Comey looks bad no matter what happened during the election. Sharing code-word classified information with the same country suspected of interfering with the election … outright silly.

An “independent” investigation or one run by the House / Senate / FBI led by whomever Trump puts in charge – there’s no good outcome.

The investigation finds nothing illegal – half the country things the investigation was tainted, but we continue down this path. Allies withhold intel because they cannot trust Trump not to use the latest intercepts to brag about how great his intel briefings are. Reasonable policies are overturned along with the unreasonable because the Executive branch leadership doesn’t understand the “benefit” part of cost/benefit analysis. Taxes are lowered and deficits explode.

The investigation finds something – half the country thinks it’s fake evidence to go along with their fake news. But something has to be done. It isn’t like there’s a do-over election clause in the Constitution (even if there were, half of the country objects to the do-over election). Trump is impeached and Pence takes over – Democrats object – we’d have almost been better off with the ignorant guy who didn’t heap religious fundamentalism on top of his deregulation, tax cuts, and environmental destruction. Trump voters who are not traditional Republicans object — they didn’t vote for Pence’s policies either. Trump is impeached and Pence goes down too — Ryan takes over. See previous.

 

Hack The Vote

There is a component to the ongoing story of Russian involvement in the 2016 election that seems to have gone missing from public discourse. The RNC was hacked too. Information from DNC hacks were released – embarrassing information that questioned the legitimacy of Clinton’s primary victory and that substantiated the worst view people have of her (and politicians in general). What was released from the RNC hack? Zilch.

One possibility is that the RNC hack yielded nothing embarrassing or subversive to release. But do you really think the RNC wasn’t trying to undermine Trump the same way the DNC undermined Sanders? Do you really think the entirety of the RNC is completely upfront about every facet of political discourse?

Immediately after the election, Russians were said to have a kompromat dossier on Trump. Whatever was gathered from the RNC hack is good insurance should Russia’s choice of American leaders backfire on them in some way. Personally damaging information on Trump and RNC information that compromises the integrity of the party.

Middle East Peace And Avoiding The Civil War

Donald Trump thinks the Civil War could have been avoided — well, yeah it could have been. If slave owners had voluntarily ceeded their economic advantage (i.e. capitulated to the abolitionists position)  or if the nation had continue granting individual states the “right” to allow their citizens to enslave other humans … voila, no war. But there’s no middle ground between “I can subjugate and exploit other people based on some aesthetic aspect” and “humans are humans”. His ignorant musings worry me – if for no other reason than a great deal of study has been done into the proximal and distal causes of the Civil War (i.e. the exact opposite of “People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War?”).

It is simply terrifying when the same individual is willing to “do anything” to broker a peace deal in the Middle East. I guess he’ll be learning that (just like health care, free trade, and South East Asian affairs) Middle Eastern discord is harder than he thought.

Why Some Jobs Matter

A week or two ago, Paul Krugman published an article titled “Why Don’t All Jobs Matter?” in which he explored the different narratives behind the decline of mining and manufacturing jobs and the decline of retail jobs. He tried very hard to avoid focusing on the sexist and classist snobbery behind the difference. To some degree, losing low paying jobs that frequently lack benefits is not as bad as losing decently paying jobs that include health benefits and pensions (although court ruling that allow companies to raid pension plans for operating cash basically rendered pension plans an empty promise).

All jobs don’t matter in public discourse because people lack respect for the retail, cell center, hospitality, etc staffs with which they directly interact. Mining and manufacturing jobs were afforded this mythos because the majority of people never interact with these employees. A sentiment echoed today in a newsletter from Sherrod Brown’s office:

“I heard from those miners and their families in Steubenville. I talked with them, and heard their stories – stories of years of backbreaking, dangerous work, but work that had dignity. They put in their time to earn better lives for their families, and they deserve the full health care and pensions they were promised.”

“Work that had dignity”!? And calling out that they “put in their time to earn better lives for their families”!? I hope he didn’t intend to imply that all of these other sectors lack dignity and working in them are not actually attempts to earn better lives for a family too. I wish they would at least pretend to care about all of the non-white non-male people who are losing their jobs too (hey, politicians … white dudes are probably losing non-mining and non-manufacturing jobs too … if that helps you care).

Fifty years ago, a high school graduate knew he could show up at the GE Locomotive plant in Erie, PA and have a job for life. And the downfall of American manufacturing has eliminated that path. But women in the same city knew they could show up at the GTE office on the other side of town, get hired on in operator services, and have a job for life too. They, too, no longer have such certainty (nor can they be positive that either GE or Verizon are even hiring).

Not a lot of people grow up dreaming of being a sales clerk or fast food counter worker – but I doubt people dream of being an entry level manufacturing line worker either. People enter into the field and work their way up — and, yeah, “working you way up” in the steel plant involved a lot of physical work whereas becoming a low level manager at a store or a call center team lead involved a lot of time and mental effort.

It’s not a job – it’s a period in time associated with the job. When coal powered industrial revolutions, white men had power and everyone else knew their place. Sadly, failure to bring back the “good” manufacturing and mining jobs may not doom Trump to perceived failure so long as his policies punish non-white non-male people.

Government as a Business

We’re getting another attempt to remodel the government as a business. If I had to run the federal government like a business, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to run it like one of Trump’s businesses! But lets ignore whose business.

The problem with the swat team Trump’s announced is that it seems to presuppose that the problem with government is a top-level management issue that could be sorted by sound business practices. What corporation has their top level leadership appointed by its customers? Or even its owners – sure, corporate boards are voted by shareholders … but not the C-level positions. Additionally, what business would almost guarantee multi-year positions to their high level leadership team? Regardless of performance?!

There is something to be said for bringing private sector innovation into government operations — especially at a lower level. Match up individual functions of government agencies with private sector businesses or even non-profits that have similar functionalities. Several government agencies have large logistical operations (FEMA, military) that a logistics company could help. Maybe Habitat for Humanity has ideas that would farther HUD’s goals. University teams may have interesting input too. And marketing — corporate experience would certainly be beneficial in selling legislation and initiatives.

But the fundamental problem I have with the principal that government should run like a business is that few businesses are monopolies. If you don’t like how a business operates, what values they support, the product they create … you shop around and select another one.

There was a whole thing a year or two ago with a baker who didn’t want to make a cake for a homosexual couple’s wedding. But as a customer, I can chose not to contract with a bigoted pastry chef for my events either. It is possible enough people don’t care and she remains in business. Or her choices mean her business goes under. Either way, you are not forced to support her beliefs because there are other bakeries.

Government provides services that cannot be privatized – for reasons of efficiency, non-profitability, or sensibility (privatizing the military security and prisons are a good counter-example of why government should provide these services). As such, I cannot just pick another military if I think the federal one is engaged in too many offensive operations. I cannot select a new environmental protection agency if I think the federal one fails to actually protect the environment.

If we’re going to operate the government like a monopoly (see: industries generally subject to a LOT of regulation), we are not just the customers! The government is a customer owned co-op. One that operates in hundreds of different verticals.

 

 

The Story Within The Story

There have been a lot of instances in the past few months where a story about Trump contains a throw-away line that seems more important than the story being conveyed. Not reading EOs in a NYTimes piece not long after the inauguration, for instance.

Today’s reporting on Paul Manafort seems to be following this trend. The guy had a multi-million dollar contract with Oleg Deripaska … who is, in turn, a friend/ally of Putin. There’s a lot of focus on the money involved, the farther involvement of Trump associates with Russians, and the speeches and policy changes that were made pre-convention last year. But the scope of the work seems to be overlooked. He provided strategies on how to advance Russian interests around the world and undermine Putin’s political rivals. Which sounds a lot like advancing Russia’s interests by undermining rivals … or hacking the DNC and releasing information that negatively reflects on Clinton. And releasing more when she still looked to be leading in the weeks prior to the election.

The campaign chair potentially came up with the strategy that may or may not have involved collusion from Trump’s team. Even if they’re a bunch of stooges … the fact that the chap who consulted on the policy in the first place then took a high-level position with the campaign looks REALLY bad.