History is not kind to Bill Clinton

Im a progressive. When I look back at Bill Clinton’s presidency, all I see is bad policy and embarrassment. He was not a liberal and no friend to progressives. Here is a run down of his “accomplishments”:

  1. Defense of Marriage Act: Clearly on the wrong side of history. He legislated against gay marriage instead of standing up for their rights. Within 15 years, this law is overturned.
  2. Repealed the Glass-Steagall Act: This one action sowed the seeds for the 2007 financial collapse. It is one of the worst decisions in presidential history and still stands as the law of the land putting our entire economy at continued risk.
  3. Telecommunications Act of 1996 – The internet was brand new and Clinton signs this law which starts the mega mergers of telecommunications companies leading to the crisis of net neutrality. He didn’t forsee that these mergers would cause the eventual threat to the internet. This law did not help the internet, but rather sowed the seeds of its eventual takeover by corporate interests.
  4. Monica Lewinsky scandal: One of the most embarrassing episodes of the presidency. America has a flaw: We love drama. Bill Clinton sexually harassed a woman in the workplace and then lied about it under oath. Right now, we are going through a reckoning about sexual harassment. We can not judge the past with today’s morality. However, it was embarrassing then and remains so to this day. The shaming of Lewinsky only adds to the unfortunate actions.
  5. Healthcare Reform/Failure: Healthcare is a serious issue. Clinton had a chance to implement the ACA almost 20 years earlier. It failed in part because he put his wife Hillary in charge of it. Hillary is a capable administrator, but he should have known that it LOOKS bad to appoint your wife to a post like that. Additionally, Hillary was (and IS) a lightning rod for the right. She doomed the initiative from the first day, regardless of how good a plan it was. You could have appointed a women, but not your wife and not Hillary Clinton. You needed someone who could bring consensus and inspire action. That is not her. So healthcare languished for decades and cost Americans dearly.
  6. Israel/Palestine Fail: Lots of presidents have tried, but Clinton failed too.
  7. Renewable Energy/Climate Change: No Action
  8. NAFTA: Debatable.

The point here is that Clinton was no progressive. He screwed up alot. I give him zero credit for the internet boom. That would have happened no matter who was in office.

Sorry Bill. You sucked.

Facts, Fakes and Fox

English is funny. Spelled different, pronounced the same, spelled the same, pronounced different. It’s like English doesn’t want to be “understood”. It’s like the language itself it trying to obfuscate the truth. Why is phonetic not spelled phonetically? Language is behind this whole issue.

Whether you are in the world of product development or politics, the facts are a tricky thing. I remember someone in a meeting once said loudly, “People don’t like it, that’s a fact!” As if speaking loudly and forcefully made them more correct.

Example: Stephen Miller raising his voice to try to mask that he is wrong.

I believe Stephen Miller (and the person referenced earlier) are actually incorrect in their assessment of the facts. But how does one prove facts when there are so many fakes? You can just say something and pretend it’s a fact when in fact, it’s a fake!

Donald Trump said recently that he won the electoral college by the largest margin since Reagan. When confronted with the actual numbers, he said, “I meant Republicans.” In fact, there are 5 elections since Reagan that had a larger majority of the electoral college. Finally, Trump said, “I was given that information.” As if being given false information absolves you from the responsibility of what you say. Trump is very prone to hearing a fake news story (often on Fox News) and then assuming it’s true. He says Fact when he means Fake. When he says “You are Fake News” to CNN, he really means, “You are Fact News”. Not to be confused with Fox News, which is mostly Fakes.

According to AdWeek, Fox News has the highest ratings of any cable news channel. I also believe that their truthfulness is lower than the other networks. Is there a correlation between fake news and popularity? When you are not bound by the truth, you can literally say anything you want. That’s liberating and people will believe you if you say it in a loud voice.

The problem, as I see it, is that the Press is not understanding the game and they are asking questions the wrong way. First, they need to establish common ground in the question and then treat the interviewee as a “hostile witness” asking purely fact questions. Here is a guide:

Reporter: “It is crucial to me to always be honest and state facts, not opinions. So I want to make sure that my sources are accurate. Are the FBI crime statistics accurate and truthful?”

OK, at this point, Trump needs to decide if he wants to make an enemy of the FBI. Either way he answers this question is fine. If he says no, then you ask who is the most reputable source of nationwide crime stats? Who has the facts? If he says Yes, then you get the following:

Reporter: The FBI stats that you agree are factual and accurate show violent crime decreasing steadily since 1990. Look at this chart I have. Do you agree that these stats from the FBI show violent crime is at an all time low?

Journalists need to treat the witness as hostile. Learn from lawyers on TV.

The one thing I don’t want is a world where the loudest voice wins. Fakes and Fox will always have the loudest voices. I want a world of quiet voices that seek truth and facts.

Food for thought.

Obamacare is Terrible Branding

Medicare has a name. Medicaid has a name. Even unemployment insurance and Social Security benefits can be referred to with non-partisan labels. Names matter.

The Affordable Care Act is a bill but if you have that health insurance, what do you have? You have ObamaCare. This is the stupidest branding move I can remember and it will affect tens of millions of people.

Republicans originally started calling it ObamaCare because they wanted to make it partisan, but democrats started calling it the same thing shortly after. Why didn’t they give it a name like, “Medisure” or pretty much anything other than ObamaCare? The reason it is bad is because Obama is a democrat and there are people who will never ever support something with his name on it.

The reason it is bad is because Obama is a democrat and there are people who will never ever support something with his name on it. They made a huge mistake by not branding it with a neutral word. Now, it’s a political football when it should be a non-negotiable government benefit.

So what should we do?

Trump Option #1
If Trump is smart (which I doubt), he would replace ObamaCare with a single payer system (great article) and call it some neutral word like Medisure. This would be a huge boon for the US, saving 300 billion dollars per year, plus increase choice and coverage for all Americans. Plus, progressives would be forced to vote for it cementing Trump is a guy who gets shit done.

Trump Option #2
Fiddle with the existing ACA law and rebrand it from ObamaCare to be TrumpCare. This is pure stupidity, but a highly plausible scenario.

Trump Option #3
Destroy the ACA and let all those people who lose their healthcare pound sand. No more ObamaCare. Good luck. This is possible, but geez it sucks.

Trump Option #4
Let congress pass a repeal law and then refuse to sign it. Veto it, which would keep the ACA in existence. This would be the craziest thing to do. I think Trump will choose this option because, “Why not?!” Everyone will go bananas.

Am I missing an option?

Disturbing Trends

Not all trends are bad, but some really scare me. For example:

Congress is supposed to pass laws. It’s kind of their job. I suppose I would rather no laws than terrible laws, but still, this is a disturbing trend.

How about this one?

The top 1% is earning more and more of the pie that is supposed to be shared. This trend got it’s first huge boost under Bill Clinton. Look at how the disparity is increasing below.

Also, the wealth is being centralized in white hands. This is not because white people are “smarter”. This is systemic bias of the economy.

But look who carries the most student loan debt…African Americans.

These trends are disturbing. We are also putting more people in jail than ever. Again, it started in the 80’s and got a huge boost under Bill Clinton.

There are so many more charts that show our society getting worse, not better. This isn’t a question of who is president. The Congress has lots of responsibility here as well.

How can we hope to reverse these trends without also reverting back to a time of racism and xenophobia? I’m not saying it’s hopeless, but it isn’t telling a very positive story so far.

The Electoral College is Bad

I’ve complained about the Electoral College before, 12 years ago. This thing doesn’t make any sense in today’s world.

From Wikipedia:

Some delegates, including James Wilson and James Madison, preferred popular election of the executive. Madison acknowledged that while a popular vote would be ideal, it would be difficult to get consensus on the proposal given the prevalence of slavery in the South:

There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections. – James Madison

The Convention approved the Committee’s Electoral College proposal, with minor modifications, on September 6, 1787. Delegates from the small states generally favored the Electoral College out of concern large states would otherwise control presidential elections.

So clearly, the original intent of the electoral college had alot to do with slavery. It also helped small states have extra power. Small states have incredible power compared to their bigger neighbors. They have the same number of senators, despite representing far fewer people.  Additionally, they have more than their share of congressmen and electoral college delegates.

There are tons of videos about how the electoral college sucks. Here is one:

We don’t have slavery anymore. There is no need to spend weeks to travel with your votes to a central location. We don’t need this archaic institution anymore. The popular vote is fair. People who live in small states shouldn’t have more power to elect a president than I do. We should have equal voting rights.

It’s hard to change things. Occupy Wall Street didn’t really change anything because they didn’t have concrete goals. I think it’s important to pin down specific goals and unite behind them.

7% of all presidential elections have failed the majority of voters. Al Gore and Hillary Clinton won the popular vote only to lose the electoral college. This is unacceptable. People can make a change when they are united behind a specific goal. Here is one: Abolish the Electoral College. Sign the petition below.

Election 2016

The election is over and the next President of the United States will be Donald Trump. To many people like myself, we imagine someone voting for Trump and it fills us with rage and frustration. However, with my empathy hat on, I know that the people who voted for him feel the same way about me. There is a huge gap between us.

Its tempting to imagine our electorate as a normal bell curve. Left is liberal and right is conservative.

However, the truth is that 50% of the voting public did not even vote, so this is just the top part of the curve. Also, the curve doesn’t actually look like this. It looks more like this:

There are not that many people in the middle. At least it seems that way when you watch television. You are either an ultra-liberal hippie who just wants to tax everyone and steal the money or an ultra-right wing racist nutcase who just wants to fire guns at brown people. It’s hard to tell the truth. Where does reality start and entertainment end?

It fills me with despair that I predicted this outcome in March. (Based on my Presidential Election Charisma Rule). I love Hillary, but I voted for Bernie in the primaries because I thought he had a better chance of winning. I think he would have beat Trump. I also believe Joe Biden (whom I voted for in 2012) could have beat Trump.

The problem with Hillary primarily was that she was not charismatic. She was competent and smart and would actually do a good job. Unfortunately, that is not what wins elections. We are not that bright of a people. She won the primary because of the super-delegates. This was a mistake on the democratic party. One that we will pay for dearly in the coming decades. Yes, decades because of supreme court nominations.

On the subject of polls, they were clearly way off. I don’t think I will trust a polls for a very long time. Here is my hypothesis of what happened. “Likely voters” are determined by poll data from previous elections. In this election, Trump energized a previously dormant constituency, white uneducated males. They typically don’t vote.

Remember the charts above. 50% of the chart is missing. It’s the iceberg under the water. This time, a significant portion of those people voted. They weren’t counted in the polls because they typically don’t vote. It is a real lesson in how you can change the formula by tapping into the untapped.

In the end, I am disappointed, but I understand what happened. It’s like when I design something that people find “difficult to use”. There is no use in fighting it and saying, “They are just dumb!”. I have to go back to the drawing board and make it better.

I hope the Democrats take this lesson to heart and start working on their presentation skills. If you (Democratic leadership) need some UX help, please don’t hesitate to ask.

One last thing: President Trump…please try not to start a nuclear war. It would be bad.


How are we so evenly split?

One of the strangest things in American politics is how evenly we are split between the two major parties. Look at the last few months of the popular vote between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Here is the same chart with % chance of winning

The second chart at times looks like a landslide. However, the first chart is neck and neck. This is a poll for voting for two very different candidates. Whatever your politics are, I think you could agree that they are wildly different people with huge chasms in their policy objectives.

How are we as a society so closely matched between democrats and republicans? One possibility is that the system has a market dynamic that forces parity. In other words, imagine two political groups Alpha and Beta. They have no specific policies. Then they start to develop their positions.  Each one of the parties chooses policy points and gets some people to love them and some to hate them.

Over time, each party moves only slightly and accrues some voters while shedding others. However, if a party ever gets wiped out in an election, they immediately change their tune to get the votes back. In fact, what it means to be a republican or democrat or federalist or even Whig has changed dramatically over the years. The democrats in the early 20th century were the racists and the republicans were the party of stopping slavery. Then in 1948, everything was turned on its head. (Look it up)

This is my only explanation, but it feels wrong to me. The market of ideas doesn’t seem so flexible. Here is a list of my policy objectives in general order of importance:

  1. Progressive Supreme Court (Highest priority!)
  2. Energy Grid Upgrade
  3. Cut Defense Spending by 50%
  4. End Gerrymandering
  5. Continue/Tweak Affordable Care Act
  6. Allow government to study gun violence (duh!)
  7. Research and combat climate change
  8. Fund Arts / schools / basic research (like we used to!)
  9. Support women’s reproductive rights
  10. Tax corporations/billionaires more

Not everyone has a top 10 list, but they should. They should have a list of policies and decide who supports their agenda the best. However, 99.9% of people do not have this. They vote the way they would vote for American Idol based on who like the “like” and who they want to have a beer with. We are mostly uninformed, uneducated people who are asked to vote on questions we are ill equipped to answer.

It’s like deciding which sports team to be a fan of. You usually choose the team your parents supported, simple as that. I am still stumped as to how each election is nearly 50/50. It seems that with all of the challenges facing the world that one sides (democrat) policies would become more acceptable. However, this is not the case.

Some economist should make a podcast about this. (If it already exists, please point me in the right direction)