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Weighing the Benefits and Costs of Changing the Order of Democratic Primaries

A report says, and it seems accurate, that President Biden is pushing for a change in the order of Democratic presidential primaries, presumably starting with 2024. He wants South Carolina to have the first primary, then perhaps New Hampshire and Nevada going second on the same day. Where Iowa would go in order, is not stated.

Well, I have very mixed feelings about this, and am more against it than for it. My thinking is as follows:

I do not like the Iowa caucus at all. I do not like caucuses. They are undemocratic. They discriminate against older people, who do not want to stand for hours, as is the case in some caucuses. They punish people who have jobs, and cannot take most of the day off for a caucus. As we convincingly saw in 2008 and 2016, the caucuses were flooded with young people, some of whom went to seminars to learn how to play the caucus game, and were able to win victories for Obama in the first of those campaigns, and Sanders in the second, that were not at all reflective of the Democratic electorate in that state.

So I would be happy to see the Iowa caucus not be the six-month focus of the candidates and the media. But I am not in favor of South Carolina being the first primary. Why? Because Democrats do not win South Carolina in the general election. I don’t even think we won it in the landslide of 1964. We certainly haven’t won it for decades, and we may never win it. So why put a state where Democrats never win, at the top of the primary order?

I would be very sure that the reason for it would be an effort to encourage Black voters that they are very important to the party. And they are, but they should not have more impact on choosing the nominee than non-Black voters. Being first is obviously very important in determining the nominee, though it obviously is not dispositive. We know what an outsized role all-White New Hampshire has had, and that is not ideal, either.

I will note that New Hampshire is a crucial state for Democrats getting to 270 electoral votes, and has been very close in general elections. It is a state that we cannot afford to lose. All the people coming into the state for the primary, including media, has been an economic boon for New Hampshire. Take that away, and there will be blowback in the vote. We are not going to win South Carolina; putting it first is a symbolic gesture, not a strategical one. And we need less symbols, and more strategy, in trying to win elections.

How can we forget the 2008 primaries? Obama was able to win the Iowa caucus, helped by some tricky politics from Bill Richardson, who promised to stay neutral, but then told all of his delegates in the early voting to move to Obama. Then the media went wild over Obama’s caucus win, and they were almost literally salivating over what they hoped would be Hillary’s loss in New Hampshire, and the end of her campaign, just like that. with only two small states deciding for 100 million would-be Democratic primary voters

But Hillary won New Hampshire, which caused Chris Matthews to say that she was a witch. Then came South Carolina. I don’t recall how South Carolina, a deep Red state in the deep Red South, became third in line. South Carolina has the highest percentage of Black voters in Democratic primaries, of any state. And not coincidentally, the spectre of claims of racism showed up. Bill Clinton made a comment to the effect that it was a “fairy tale” to believe that Obama had been against the Iraq War from an early stage. And somehow that got turned into him saying that Obama was not a credible candidate; so it was a racist attack, which was not only a ludicrous charge, but racist in itself.

And then James Clyburn stepped up and made a statement about how he was very troubled by Clinton’s comment. That was a set-up, the whole thing was strategical on the part of the Obama campaign. This led to the obscene comment by Clinton-hater Keith Olbermann, that “The Clintons are running a campaign right out of the David Duke playbook.”

The end result of all of this was that Obama won a big victory in the South Carolina primary, and then went on to win every Deep Southern primary, with large delegate margins, as he pulled in 95% of the Black vote. Hilary won virtually every other state primary, and all the major states except Obama’s home state of Illinois, but she could not make up enough delegates to overcome the caucus states and the Black vote in the South. Or maybe she did, but the DNC managed to halve her Florida delegates, and then take some of her delegates away in Michigan, where Obama had taken his name off the ballot in a ploy between him and Donna Brazile, who ostensibly “punished” those two states for moving their primaries up, and upsetting the order which she wanted them to be in.

Those are very bad memories, and I will always believe that the nomination was literally stolen from Hillary. In 2016 , this primary order ended up helping Hillary against Sanders. In 2020, the Black vote in the South saved Biden’s efforts to be nominated. That was a good thing; Sanders would have been destroyed in a national election against Trump. But again, the South has been given a disproportionate effect on the Democratic nomination, particularly considering that most of those states never go to the Democrats in a national election.

Biden apparently wants to show his gratitude to South Carolina, by making their primary first. But how would that skew the nominating process? Granted, any order would skew the process. I would be in favor of three or four primary election days, “Super Tuesdays,’ where the media could not focus on any one state as overly important. But we don’t have that.

I think that making South Carolina’s primary first each four years, will make that state disproportionately important in determining who the nominee is. It could work the other way; that primary could be discounted by pundits, but that would create a schism between the Black and non-Black primary vote. And relegating New Hampshire to almost meaningless status, could cost Democrats that state and the presidency. That is an awfully high price to pay for gratitude and symbolism.

Just ask yourself, “Why, of all the possible states, would South Carolina be chosen to be the first Democratic primary state?” Why not Michigan, or California, or Pennsylvania? And the answer would be telling. And it might pose a great risk to Democrats’ ability to win a Presidential election.

Let’s skip to 2028; and of course we don’t know who will win in 2024 in what we can assume will be a race between Biden and DeSantis. Now, I am not the biggest Gavin Newsom fan, but he is growing in ability and stature. I like Gretchen Whitmer. But how would either of them do in a South Carolina ‘first in the nation” primary? Would, say, Wes Moore win that, and be vaulted to the top of the leader board? And if one of the White candidates beat him out near the end, would that infuriate some Black voters?

As I typed that sentence, it occurred to me that this might well have happened in 2008, had Hillary won the nomination. There is likely a price that is going to be paid for all of this at some point.

Watching the news about this story, I saw Basil Smikle, a highly respected Democratic consultant from New York, who is Black. He said that he liked the idea of South Carolina being the first primary. But he also said, with regard to the Georgia Senate runoff, that he was concerned, because Black voters had not turned out as hoped in other key states in the midterms.

Just a variety of things to consider. They may come under the heading of strategy, but politics must significantly be about strategy, not just wafting noble sentiments into the air, and feeling satisfied with that.

The Polling Disgrace of 2022

Before the last elections recede too far into the background, I think it is very important that there be a comprehensive analysis of why and how the polling was so far off the actual results. It was wrong in 2016, though after James Comey violated his responsibility of neutrality before an election, and pretended that there were “new emails,” Hillary Clinton dropped three points or so in the polls, so that right before election day, she was only a point or two ahead; and she did win the popular vote by 2.8%. Comey’s unconscionable actions will live in infamy, as he managed to get Trump elected; and virtually, and still possibly, destroy American democracy.’

In 2018, the polls somewhat underestimated the Democratic victory in House races In 2020, polls had shown Biden up around eight points, but his popular vote margin was about 4.3%. This caused some analysts to believe that the polls were systematically underrating the Trump vote; that a cohort of his supporters chose not to admit that they were going to vote for him. Another theory was that the models were wrong.

But that was far less glaring an error compared to what happened in 2022. Polls showed, or were interpreted to show, the coming ‘red wave,” which would overwhelmingly give control of Congress to Republicans. Various estimates had Republicans winning 30-40 House seats, and 3-4 Senate seats. Some predicted even greater margins, plus big Republican wins in key gubernatorial races such as Wisconsin and Arizona.

What actually happened, was that Republicans won eight Congressional seats; will lose one Senate seat; and lost virtually every important race for governor except Nevada. They even lost Kansas again.

Those results were gratifying, even if we greatly regret the loss of the House, which is essentially due to the fact that Republicans gerrymander their states relentlessly, while Democrats, always tying to do the virtuous thing, have essentially given over districting power to neutral commissions and state courts. I wrote extensively about that, and it has to stop if Democrats actually want to save the country. But even with that, the Congressional wins for Republicans mostly came from extreme gerrymandering in Florida, Texas, and Ohio; and then New York utterly botching the districting process, and forcing out a fairly popular governor to be replaced by a rather weak one, with no coattails. And then California’s neutral districting process actually helping Republicans I would greatly hope that Democratic leadership wakes up to this, and stops choosing “virtue” over winning elections and saving America and the planet.

Even with that, the extent to which the polling was wrong, was enormous. I tried to stay away from polls for a while, but then I found myself looking at them in the two weeks or so before the election; and they got worse, although they were consistently overstated by the media, and that is another big story which cannot be swept under the rug, though the media is trying to.

I did watch the news, specifically MSNBC, which is by far the least right-wing biased of the three cable news stations. And even they were almost consistently running stories which foretold disaster for Democrats. “Inflation is soaring, which is very bad news for Biden and Democrats.” “Abortion is receding as a major issue; crime is now second in importance for voters, after inflation.” “Democratic voters are not enthusiastic, while Republicans are.” Actually this last theme was mostly purveyed by the written media. Put together, there was virtually no place where anyone could get news, which did not have an overwhelming “news bias” in favor of a Republican big or even landslide victory.

There were a few people who were fighting against this tide. notably Simon Rosenberg, who has been a Democratic strategist, and Tom Bonier, who is more of a statistician. As soon as the early vote started, they would look at the statistics which showed a strong majority of early turnout favoring Democrats in key states. They believed that this portended better results for Democrats than the polls or the media forecast. This approach was discounted and even mocked by the likes of Nate Silver of “538,” and Dave Wasserman of “Redistrict” and The Cook Report, who said that early vote totals have no predictive value; and who along with others in written media, used the scornful term “hopium” to describe any argument which sought to suggest that there would not be the red wave.

Rosenberg started to decry some of the polls; he believed that Republicans were “flooding the zone” with polls, some very skewed toward them, in order to both distort the polling averages, and create despair among Democrats. We know that “Real Clear Politics,” which the eminent political writer Ronald Brownstein recently said was “a propaganda arm of the Republican Party, no more, no less,” always uses polling averages.If a sizable percentage of those polls are biased; that is, with skewed samples, those polls will affect the averages, which very unfortunately keep getting quoted by the television media.

As it turned out, Rosenberg and Bonier, and a computer person by the name of Christopher Bouzy, were far more accurate in their analysis than the vast majority of the “mainstream political sites,” and the mainstream media. This is to their immense credit, but it also calls for the very serious question as to whether Right-Wing Republican media bias is so entrenched in the media which they essentially own, that we cannot get an accurate sense not only of what is going on in the country, but how people are going to vote.

And of course it is very likely that we are looking at propaganda, the kind that totalitarian countries use to beat down the populace, and to brainwash them into believing their lies. We will not delve into the terrible power of endless propaganda, such as is seen on Fox News, but it is horrifying; and it is largely the result of Ronald Reagan carrying out the wishes of his very rich and very biased backers, and getting rid of the “Fairness Doctrine,”which essentially required news networks to provide balanced coverage. So Fox came up, and they were awful from the start, and are now even worse; a streaming faucet of lies and slanders, all intended to poison and control the minds of their slavish viewers.

I never, ever watch Fox, but it is there. And when CNN has turned hard Right, that only leaves MSNBC, which generally tries, but even they fell prey to the right-wing polling bias and propaganda. NPR, which I guess used to be good, is now apparently also a mouthpiece for a kind of pseudo-scholarly Republican narrative. One can turn off most of this, and watch selectively, but the effect of the propaganda is still there.

Still, the question remains: how were the polls so wrong, and what were the polling algorithms which led to such wrong predictions? We know that the science of poling is based on a statistically proven theory that effectively sampling a subset of a population can give a fairly accurate view of the entire population. The larger the subset, the less the “margin of error.” But of course this presumes that subset is accurately chosen in terms of demographics: age, ethnicity, gender, and other factors.

It was somewhat amusing, albeit upsetting, to look at the various pre-election polls, and see that Trafalgar, for example, systematically showed a Republican bias. All you had to do was to look at one of their daily polls showing a very low approval rating for Biden, or a Republican lead of four points or so on the generic Congressional poll, and know that this same sample would yield leads for the Republican in any race they polled. The sample was skewed, almost certainly deliberately. And there were several of these, and they were all inaccurate.

Polling cannot be expected to always be accurate. As is always said, a poll is an instant snapshot. But either some of these pollsters have an agenda intended to influence and dispirit voters, or they are simply bad at polling. The inaccuracy of these polls cannot be just tossed off with a shrug.

I would hope that there would be some very scholarly and in-depth pieces from those who are expert in statistical analysis, about what led to these consistent errors. Maybe some of it was due to not taking account of younger and even first-time voters. Maybe inaccurate demographic analysis. But it was not something to be ignored, because bad polling, deliberate or simply flawed, has consequences. Could Democrats have done even better, if some people had not been discouraged from standing in line for four hours, by thinking that their candidates would lose? Just because we did better than anticipated, does not mean that these polls did not have some of their intended effects.

Not too many people read statistical analyses. But I, not being an expert in this field, would want to see the following: 1) The media should stop quoting Real Clear Politics polling averages. 2) All polls but the most respected ones should be treated with skepticism. 3) The Republican control of the media should be explored by those few independent media sources,so that some people might at least become more aware of it. 4) Put people like Rosenberg and Bonie and Bouzy on television to give a different view of what the polls are saying. 5) Stop talking about polls so much. Biden’s “Unfavorable” numbers, reported on every single day, did not seem to predict the election results at all. And the “enthusiasm gap” seemed to disappear in the last week before the election, but only Rosenberg pointed it out, as far as I know.

Polls can be fun, but like everything else in our society, Republicans have shown that they can be used as a propaganda tool toward their fascist ends. Did you see that Elon Musk apparently ran a poll as to whether those who voted, which probably largely consisted of his group of followers, and bots, favored Donald Trump being reinstated to Twitter. After that, he said “The people have spoken!” That kind of poll, the kind they do in autocracies, is no more than a self-perpetuating device to rationalize anything that you want to pretend the general public favors. And far too many polls have become like that, as we have seen.

He knew he was a loooooser

Hi everyone, sorry I’ve been absent. I came down with Covid the day after Thanksgiving. It’s not serious at all. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I had it because it feels like a cold. But I got a test just to be sure and was shocked AF when the red line appeared. Yes! I was getting FOMO. Now I can say that it took me almost three years to get it. In the meantime, I’ve had the vaccine, boosters and the bivalent vaccine. I credit that for my mild symptoms. No fever, still tasting everything, no aches and pains. Just a cold. I’ve notified my contacts. Im isolating. I’ve got my DayQuil/NyQuil pack and Kleenex. Should be back at the gym by the end of the week.

Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving.

Now, back to the post:

George Conway tweeted this today. I’m assuming that KellyAnne was testifying before the Jan 6 committee or a grand jury or something:

What annoyed me about this quote is the idea that he lost to “Fucking Joe Biden”, as if the presidential election was some kind of popularity contest. This would be a misreading of history on Trump’s part.

We Democratic primary voters started to realize that we needed a candidate that everyone could get behind quickly and who wouldn’t cause any major divisions. We selected Joe Biden because we felt he would have the greatest appeal. But he was chosen not because we thought he would be dynamic or charismatic. He was chosen to be the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. He didn’t have to be wildly popular. He just had to be solid enough to hold back the sea.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Trump saw the election as who was liked more. It’s his personality disorder. He can’t see the world in any other way.

But what did surprise me was how good Biden turned out to be. He really was the right person at the right time. I think he will be very well reviewed by presidential historians. Apart from Afghanistan, he’s made excellent decisions and I’m grateful that he’s been in charge for the last two years.

Better yet, if anyone asks me what it is about Biden I like, I can list a bunch of accomplishments not least of which is calming the waters that were stirred up by Big Orange’s tempest. It’s pitiful that his approval rating is still low. He deserves better. But as I said, he will rank pretty highly in the most effective presidents list someday.

And Donald won’t.

Thanksgiving Week Wordles

I hope that everyone had a reasonably nice Thanksgiving!

I tried to stay away from listening to or reading the news. We just went through a grueling election process, and then of course there are all the consequences, plus more upsetting events. So I will just recount my week playing Wordle.

For anyone who is interested, I have played Wordle 315 times, according to the statistics. I have missed the answer only two times; one when I was just starting and did not play it with much of a plan, and I got down to jerky (like beef jerky) or perky, and I guessed jerky, and it was perky,

Then the rather infamous one which their stats showed was the least answered correctly of any they have had. That was parer, which I guess is a kitchen tool that pares potatoes and apples. I and all the other players were faced with pa – er, which gave one many choices, which one could not eliminate enough of by trying to use words which had two or three of them . There was pacer, pager, paler, paner, paper, parer, pater, paver, pawer, and payer. As Beata has noted, answers like that do not test vocabulary or skill, it is just a mater of trying to figure out what word they chose. My final guess was paver, which seems a better word than parer, but so was payer. Blah.

Now I also had the one I wrote about, where my fourth guess was shrub, and I saw the spaces light up green, and I thought they all had, so I turned it off, only to find the next day that the word was shrug, which I certainly would have gotten with shru- and two more guesses.

Then I have actually forgotten to do the game a few times lately. On election day, and on a few other occasions. Wordle does not count those as wrong guesses, but you lose your streak. My one big streak was 202, until the shrub incident.

Here is briefly how Thanksgiving Week Wordle went. It was mostly pretty easy, maybe they had sympathy during the holidays, or they are running out of words1

Monday was the hard one, at least for me. After three tries, I had o, a, and i, not in the right spots. I had eliminated a few consonants, but I had no idea where to go next. What letter started the word? One of the vowels? Something else? I thought of oi combinations, then io. Not radio, no r or d. I went through consonants in my head; b, f, g, h, on to x, z. I could think of nothing, but then I thought of m, and then suddenly I thought of Axiom, and that seemed right, and it was my fourth guess .I was proud of this one, I thought it was hard.

Tuesday was pretty easy I had i, e, and r, and then p, And the p was first. So it was pride or prime or price, but I had eliminated c, so either pride or prime, and I just thought that Prime was more likely, so I got it on my fourth guess.

Wednesday was about as easy. I had e, d, r, and i by the second guess, and d was not fourth, so it had to be first, d r i – e, and so Drive. I got it on the third guess, which is unusual for me, I most often get it in four, or then five, with three being less likely, and six less than that . I have only gotten it in two guesses twice, I think.

Thursday was Thanksgiving Day, and not one of my best guessing moments. After two guesses, I had a, e, t and s. The t was not first, so not tease. A was third. E was not last..So not state or stale or stave. I suddenly thought of yeast, and I thought that was the word! But it was not, though it showed – e a s t. So I thought, either least or beast! And rather than test out both letters in a word like blank or table, I just guessed least. NO. So I guessed beast. NO! That was five guesses! Fortunately, the only word left was the obvious one, Feast1 Sigh. At least it is a nice word,

Friday’s word was not as pleasant, but it was easy. By three tries, I had i, c, h,t,y. All the letters! And Itchy had to be the answer!

Saturday was also easy, as I had all the letters by three guesses again. e, a, c, l, n. Clean!

Sunday showed me the letters a p , h, and y, after three guesses. Happy! Thanksgiving! Feast!

Happy Birthday to Me, Bitches

I made it another year. Take that, you series of unfortunate events.

Let me count the ways:

  • Ridiculous unemployment issues post pharma patent cliff and Great Recession
  • HVAC (broken then replaced, cha-Ching) Retaining wall and driveway (unfixed. See HVAC above), kid still in college with expenses beyond my means to assist. (Hmmm… insoluble at present salary).
  • Illness, immediate family member
  • Mean family member
  • More Mean family members (it appears to be an autosomal dominant trait)
  • Chemo, radiation, surgery, surgery, surgery – self
  • An unreasonable number of untimely deaths this year. No one else is allowed to die for the rest of 2022.

But not all of it was bad and it’s looking up a little bit more these days. Thank you to all of you who helped me through the awful days. You don’t know how valuable that was to me.

The rest of you can go {#%^ #%**%€.

Hit it, Meredith!

Damn, I need a pair of Doc Martens.

Winging it at Twitter

I’ve been hanging out at Twitter occasionally since Elon took over. It hasn’t been pretty. I’m not just referring to platform instability. That was more noticeable on Friday but seems to have stabilized, at least temporarily. (I’ll touch on what I think is going on with that in a sec)

It’s not reinstating Trump that’s so awful, though I wouldn’t have done it, for obvious reasons. You can always block his account but you can’t always block the retweets of his feces flinging that show up in your timeline by people you follow. The endless retweets aren’t happening yet, maybe because people are leaving or because people got smart. The more obnoxious tweets are from Elon himself now.

No, the worst thing about being on Twitter right now is finding out how many guys think what Elon has done to Twitter is genius and we are watching it unfold. These guys (and they are always men) think they are witnessing some new Musk Magic that is going to turn Twitter into some unforeseen new invention and part of how Musk is going go do that is by removing the deadweight that is comprised of the vast majority of employees that work at Twitter. They really are obnoxious about it. Twitter is the new Tesla and as soon as Elon “ranks and yanks”all the slackers, that $44 Billion is going to look like the best investment ever.

Let me clear the smoke and mirrors and show you what complete nonsense this is.

Let’s imagine you have just bought a house that has been pretty well maintained. The owner spent some money on the upkeep but didn’t do any major renovations. It’s a bit dated, needs some new landscaping and could use a bigger kitchen. You’ve gotten a big mortgage because it’s in a great location.

Now, imagine that your neighbors are outside watching you when you rent some piece of heavy machinery and start tearing up the foundation. Your neighbors don’t know what you’re planning to build but there are always guys who are fascinated by heavy machinery. But within the first 15 minutes, you hit some crucial bit of plumbing inside the house and you spring a leak. But you don’t call a plumber because you don’t like paying plumbers. Plumbers look like lazy dudes with Dunlap disease and they show their coin slots every time they get under the sink and that’s not classy. It’s working class. And they cost too damn much. Why do working class dudes think they have any business charging $300 just to come out and look at your pipes? It’s outrageous.

Meanwhile, the basement is filling with water and the damage to the pipes is pretty significant. The damage to the foundation is getting worse by the minute. Only the guys who like heavy machinery are still outside waiting for the hat trick.

This is essentially what Elon did last week. Elon fired his plumbers.

I get paid for dabbling in the IT world (never mind where. I don’t speak for my employer). But what I’ve witnessed applies to any enterprise level IT system. There are many parts to the system that most people aren’t aware of. The average person who isn’t an IT geek may think that programmers, who we call developers these days, are the most important part of the operation. They’re probably thinking of the developers who work on the user experience part of the application. That is, the people who write code for the website or the features that make the app functional.

But an IT system is more like an iceberg. What you see on the surface is supported by a big thing underneath consisting of servers, databases and something called DevOps. DevOps is the part of the system that keeps track of changes to the rest of the system. There are also testers that check every change to the code to make sure there aren’t any serious defects that would cause the system to break or expose all the customers’ personal information. And there are security groups that make sure no one gets in without permission. There are other groups that check the system for vulnerabilities. That is, flaws in the 3rd party operating systems that would leave your application open to malware or defects.

If you are on one of the teams that keeps that part of the iceberg stable, your job might not seem very glamorous or useful. But the institutional knowledge and technical expertise needed to keep the system going is critical. Unfortunately, you don’t usually know how valuable these people are until there is a failure. There could be an earthquake that causes a fire in your server facility that automatically triggers a failover event. That’s a set of instructions and changes that transfers the operations of the iceberg to another set of servers. It’s then when you’ll know whether those engineers have set up your system correctly, maintained it and can follow a sequence of events to stabilize the system so that the user is barely aware of the problem.

What Elon did last week is he came into Twitter with the attitude that the employees who worked there weren’t really working. Or they weren’t productive. Or they were working remotely and that meant that management couldn’t make sure they were doing their jobs. Plus, they’re getting paid too damn much. And sure, there are always a few people who think they can get away with gaming all day and wait until the very last minute to do their assignments. I have s pretty good sense of who these people are. They’re in every department. They may be getting away with it because they are not mature in their work habits yet, or they have some physical or emotional issue or maybe they really are gaming all day and going fishing.

But my sense is they’re not as many as Elon and his bro community of investors think. What is really happening is most people who are working remotely have adjusted to a new work style where they get other life stuff done because they don’t have to commute and stress over moving their kids around during the day, etc. They’re still doing work. But they may schedule themselves a little differently because they are available when it’s most convenient to them. They can take a couple of hours off during the day to watch their kid’s track meet because they know that they don’t have to drive to the office later. Their offices are in spare bedrooms and they can pop in and knock off some code outside of core hours. Or they may be in one of those departments where there’s a lot of plugging the leaks and nothing exciting happens on a day to day basis. It only looks unnecessary because the system is stable.

But when you come in with the attitude that the peasants aren’t pulling their weight because you’ve borrowed too much money and you’ve got to make cuts and those coders are not sleeping in their offices at the corporate headquarters, it may actually be just an excuse to get rid of as much drag on the bottom line as possible. So, remote slacking as an excuse has a certain appeal to the investors and geewizz crowd that love to think they work harder than the rank and file because somehow people with gobs of money are just more virtuous people full of good ideas and the people in the iceberg are just pairs of hands who do what the king is ideating. Seriously. Twitter is full of these Musketeers who think Elon has all the ideas and these entities that require calories and shelter and do things in exchange for money are not very bright and are too many.

It’s the method of most narcissistic people. You must first destroy your targets’ reputations before you can get what you want from them.

Surely they aren’t worth the salaries Twitter pays them.

In the wake of Elon’s first round of layoffs, there were sometimes only 3 engineers left out of a group of 85. Each one of those laid off engineers knew what the system’s quirks were and knew who to contact when things started to go pear shaped. But Elon needed to make these people into overpaid villains so he got rid of them to the point where there were only 2 or 3 people in some of these groups spending all the hours of the day trying to keep the lights on with duct tape and no sleep. So when Elon gave them an ultimatum late last week to agree to come in and start living at their benches (very few IT people actually have dedicated offices or cubicles at the office buildings they used to commute to) or take a three month severance package, many took the package.

They took it because it became clear to them that Elon was going to expect the remaining staff to do the heavy lifting for hundreds of missing colleagues and to learn what some of those laid off colleagues did in record time and without mistakes. Not only that but the implication was that NOW they were going to do real work. They were just a bunch of lazy bums before but if they stayed at Twitter and signed their lives away to Elon, he would turn Twitter into a lean, mean, tweeting machine.

And what was his plan for making Twitter transcend its already vital role as a public forum? Elon never said. But there were hints and allegations that adult content would become a feature and that World Cup games would be offered live, as if there aren’t many other ways to get all the football you can eat. Oh, and free speech, baby! Everyone can say anything as long as Elon approved. So, all those pesky journalists and subject matter experts and first hand accounts and foreign news sources could just f{}% off as far as he was concerned if they said anything “negative”.

What Elon didn’t expect is that Twitter the system would start to unravel without all the maintenance people who took care of the servers and databases and DevOps. Those drags on the bottom line turned out to be useful after all. They weren’t overpaid automatons. They were actually smart, experienced people who could either find work elsewhere or could get a job with Kara Swisher’s friends building nextgen Twitter. In other words, they don’t need Elon nearly as much as he needs them.

So last Friday, he was already begging some of them to come back. He realized he needed the plumbers to fix the leak he created with the backhoe he had never used before.

I have no actual knowledge of what happened at that Friday meeting but Twitter seems to have stabilized a bit over the weekend. So I’m assuming that he got just enough plumbers and electricians to come back to work (maybe even remotely) to save his bacon.

And if I were one of those engineers, I would have only come back as a consultant at double my original salary in order to handle Elon’s self inflicted emergency.

I don’t know who gave Elon the money to buy Twitter. Maybe they hated Twitter and were sick of useful information escaping their control. Could be. Or maybe it was the financier/investment class bro boys who think Elon’s some kind of genius who is going to build a killer app, as if it wasn’t already a killer app.

Or maybe it was just someone who couldn’t stand Elon and knew how his mind worked and lent him the money for him to get in over his head.

Whoever it was probably didn’t expect that the plumbers would end up making more money than they started with. And that makes me wonder how many other enterprises they’re f{#%ing up.

It feels very 2008.

Thanksgiving

What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Most likely, it brings back memories of childhood, observing and celebrating the day with family, or visiting various relatives for a big dinner. I have always lived in Southern California, so there were no “over the river and through the woods, through the ice and drifted snow” memories. But Thanksgiving was a pleasant time, and of course it meant a four day weekend!

My mother would make a dinner, with of course a turkey, although occasionally game hens. (As I write this, I feel sorry for all the turkeys and game hens, but I don’t know what the alternative is to eating such things, unless one is a devoted vegan). Anyway, she also would make yorkshire pudding, which was delicious. Scooped out potatoes, some call them double scooped potatoes. Biscuits, not homemade, of course, who makes those? That was what I ate, while my mother, father. and brother also ate traditional things which I did not like, such as cranberry sauce, yams, and dressing. Then I would have picked up a pie for dessert.

Food is one of the nicest things about Thanksgiving. Everyone is scrambling to make or buy Thanksgiving dinner. There is a restaurant in Burbank which is somewhat famed for cooking turkey dinners and sandwiches. They actually sell hundreds of these a day, many more for Thanksgiving. A few years ago, I think it was during Covid, they apparently ran out of turkeys, and their entire pre-ordered turkey dinner special, including the trimmings. I heard about it afterwards, and read their rather incredible bulletins. First they said that they were running out of dinners (people had ordered and paid for them in advance); then that they only had white meat; then that they had no turkeys left, but you could still get some mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and dressing; then they sent out a message that all they had left was some celery. I don’t know why they were not besieged by infuriated customers, but apparently they got away with it. There is a moral in this story somewhere.

So I think of dinners with my family. A few times we went to my uncle’s and aunt’s house, with various cousins there.This seemed to be a lot of effort and driving, but it was nice enough to see them. There was never much to talk about with them, though. I mostly would watch a football game with one of my two uncles. Thanksgiving of course features football games. It seems to me that it was always the Lions and the Packers, but in the last few decades, it has turned into one game at Detroit, one at Dallas, and then another one. I am not much of a pro football fan, I much prefer college football, particularly when UCLA used to have a good program, but that is another story altogether.

Thanksgiving is also a time where where one is encouraged to give general thanks for things, which is certainly a touching concept, It is a secular holiday, at least as observed in America, so no one should feel left out. However, one does think about the people who do not have a nice Thanksgiving dinner, and I am glad that there are kind and thoughtful people who try to provide for them. Holidays are apt to bring loneliness to some people, which is the flip side of things.

I do remember something in a novel, maybe it was “Starting Over,” by Dan Wakefield, or “The Creep,” by Jeffrey Frank, where there was a depiction of people eating Thanksgiving dinner by themselves in a restaurant which advertised the meal. It is something that I have never forgotten, the melancholy came from the protagonist’s view of it, not necessarily the people eating the dinners.

But mostly, Thanksgiving is a nice holiday observance. Of course it anticipates the Christmas holidays, which I do find somewhat oppressive, for someone who is secular or just not Christian. I am not a fan of Christmas movies, but I do like “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol,” which if you have never seen, you really should try to find; it is an animated telling of the Dickens story, with great songs, and Jim Backus playing Mr. Magoo playing Scrooge. At the curtain call, the ghosts take a bow as well!

That is another holiday, though, albeit they sort of run together at this time of year. I hope that everyone here has at least a nice Thanksgiving ,if not even better than that. And there are some general things to be thankful for, more than there might have been expected to be.

Gerrymander Or Die!

With all the good election news, the fact that the Republicans will take over the House, puts at damper on it. Pragmatically it means that Democrats will not be able to pass any meaningful bills for the next two years, starting in January. People can fantasize about “working together,” “finding common ground,” but does anyone really think that what is an even further to the Right group of House Republicans than before, is going to work with Democrats on anything good? I certainly do not.

And the primary goal of these people will be to damage President Biden first, and then the entire Democratic Party. They will take as their template the endless Benghazi hearings, which Kevin McCarthy admitted were only to damage Hillary Clinton’s popularity ratings. You can be sure that whichever MAGA fanatic gets to chair the House Judiciary Committee, will create nonstop hearings on all sorts of their enemies. They have no constraints and boundaries, and they will go after everybody, And Fox and CNN will cover all of it.

Now, this will all be sound and fury; it will be inane, and disgraceful, and appalling. But that’s what they will do, because they can’t do anything else. They can’t get any bills through, the Senate won’t take them up. They could certainly threaten not to raise the debt ceiling, but with a House margin of no more than 221-214, they are unlikely to be able to do it.

Some might try to make the best of this, by saying that it will be entertaining to watch Republicans fight each other, but I am not of that opinion. It will keep us from having the opportunity to to do great things, such as perhaps getting a Voting Rights Bill through; maybe even limiting the terms of Supreme Court Justices, or adding seats to the Court. We cannot do any of that, since we need control of both the House and Senate to pass meaningful bills. Things certainly could have been much worse, and we are glad that they are not. But losing the House is still a big disappointment.

That brings me to the most crucial reason, in fact the “outcome determinative” reason, why Democrats lost the House. It is gerrymandering. Yes, there were some mistakes made by the DCCC, and in certain states’ leadership. But the fact is that had it not been for Republicans’ nonstop gerrymandering of districts in every single state where they have the power to do it, Democrats would have won enough seats to keep control. How many more? I would say 15-20, but statistical experts could be more precise about it.

The thing which absolutely infuriates me, is that Democrats have essentially let the Republicans do this to them, by virtually giving up the right to gerrymander in states where they have the power to do so. This has gone on for twenty years or so. Democrats used to gerrymander, and I was glad that they did, since Republicans did. But then Democrats began to cede this power to redistrict, and leave it to nonpartisan commissions to do it. That might seem noble, or a statement about how things should be done, but in the real world, it simply gives the Republicans more House seats.

This is really simple. The goal of the Democrats should be to win as many seats as possible. Not by cheating or suppressing the vote, as Republicans do. That is a scruple that the Democrats can hold on to. But giving up their right to gerrymander, is about the stupidest and self-destructive thing I have ever seen in the realm of politics.

I don’t watch Alex Wagner’s show on MSNBC, but I turned it on Tuesday night because Gretchen Whitmer was advertised as a guest. She was was impressive, as always. But Wagner, who I am sure means well, asked her if she was going to call for every state with a Democratic governor to have their districts drawn by an independent commission. I wanted to ask her if she ever took any mathematics courses. Maybe she and other people who think this way, would realize that if Republicans gerrymander their states to squeeze every possible seat out of them, no matter how ludicrous or racially biased the districts are drawn; and Democrats leave it to neutral commissions, Republicans will essentially steal crucial House seats. This should be absolutely obvious. But far too many Democrats would rather hold onto an inappropriate sense of virtue, than actually try to help the American people by doing everything legal to win and hold power.

I was trying to think of analogies. I like analogies, but it is hard to come up with one that captures this pathetic situation. What if two people played high-stakes poker, head to head, and one of the players let their opponent look at his hand, and then throw three cards away and draw three more; while the “virtuous” player could not do that and had to play the cards he was originally dealt? What if a boxer whose opponent was hitting below the belt, and after the bell, just let him do it, without retaliating?

The reason that these analogies are not sufficient, is that the poker player or boxer or golfer is choosing to let his opponent have an unfair advantage. It’s his career and his money; so that he is the one who suffers from this misplaced honor. But in politics, the Democratic Party represents the hopes and livelihoods of tens of million of people, who are the ones who suffer as the result of Democrats thinking that not gerrymandering is the “right” way to do it, even while they are handing political power to the evil fascists who inhabit the Republican Party.

There is no excuse for this, and yet it continues. Let it go on, and Republicans will gain an impregnable hold of the House, as well as state legislatures. The only way the Democrats will ever win the House, is if there is a rare wave election as in 2018. In more ordinary periods, Republicans will just win the House through gerrymandering I saw Steve Kornacki of MSNBC, going over possible changes in the makeup of the House, a week ago, and he pointed to five districts which were clearly gerrymandered for Republicans and he said that these will be five more seats for Republicans at the outset; You simply cannot give up seats like this. but collectively, Democrats do, while Republicans gerrymander even more appallingly.

The Supreme Court, an arm of the Republican Party, ruled that states could essentially draw their districts any way they chose, giving free rein (it is not “free reign,” AOC and others who keep writing that), to Republicans to drastically gerrymander their districts. Democrats essentially say, “This would not be right,” so they let the neutral commissions draw theirs, the end result being that Republicans get an extra 10-20 seats. In this election, it was enough for them to take over the House. Democrats will gain a Senate seat, and did wonderfully well in Governor elections, but they will lose at least seven House seats. In 2020, they won the Presidential election, and two Senate seats, but lost about a dozen House seats. How is that? You can’t gerrymander gubernatorial or Senate seats, is how.

Democrats should wake up, and stop this incredibly self-destructive course. Get rid of the nonpartisan commissions, and start gerrymandering in the way that Republican are doing, and will do. The fascists are still not far from taking over the country, and “The People’s House” cannot be distorted by one party’s machinations to game the system, while the other party scrupulously will not use the tactic.

It was the brilliant French epigrammist La Rochefoucald who said that, “Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.” That is all that virtue gets out of the deal, in that framing. Democrats have many things to be proud of. But desperately holding on to some idea of political virtue being more desirable than winning enough elections to be able to pass important legislation, and stop the fascists from holding power, is sheer willful foolishness and weakness. Purity on the political field gets you nowhere near enough to where you need to be. Democrats essentially handed the House to the most awful group this nation has ever seen, by not being willing to play the districting game the way they do. And it simply has to stop.

MEANwhile…

Skynews, a news cheese food product once owned entirely by Rupert Murdoch, has decided to single out Gisele Fetterman for its special attention. Gisele is John Fetterman’s Brazilian born wife but, most importantly, Gisele is John’s greatest asset. She’s photogenic, charismatic and very well spoken. (Check out this tour Gisele gave of the family home) She spoke for the campaign in the early days of his stroke.

When you want to destroy a politician, you target their strength. John and Gisele are a team sharing the same goals and complimentary activities. They’re powerful because they cracked the code for getting working class voters to vote for John. Political consultants are already looking for a way to replicate that but if they tried to clone John, they’d be missing the point. You can’t clone authenticity. He’s been working in Braddock since the mid 2000s.

Anyway, Skynews goes straight for the jugular with Gisele. Want to make her less of an asset? Make her less visible. How do you make her less visible? Criticize her visibility.

As I mentioned before, there are recurring themes in family photos of the Fettermans. The kids are on the edge of being a new set of sitcom siblings with their misspelled signs and impromptu dancing on the chamber floor at the Pennsylvania Capitol. Grace frequently distances herself in pictures with the rest of the family. But the best theme is the recurring joke that Gisele crops the top of John’s head so everyone can fit in the picture. Take this “date night” photo of the Fettermans and the Caseys the night before Senate orientation started:

Says Skynews Australia:

Claremont Institute Fellow David Reaboi shared the image, along with another one that depicts her and her husband hanging out with other Pennsylvania senators, which she captioned, “DC Date night. PA Senators in the house.”

In the latter photo, half of Mr. Fetterman’s head appeared cropped out of the image.

Reaboi remarked, “I’ve never seen passive aggressive/contemptuous photo crops like this before. It’s wild.”

Conservative user “Just Mindy” commented on the photos, saying, “Oh she’s the main character at all times. You should see her pics with her kids every Halloween.”

These people don’t understand humor and take themselves way too seriously. That’s one explanation. The other is that they are just beginning to pick apart a new power couple and the key to their success will be drawing attention to Gisele relentlessly to the point that Fetterman’s PR staff make her less visible.

This is just my observation but the pattern looks familiar because the “small evil group that runs things and to which no one we know belongs” does not like the image of a committed working class “left to center left”politician in the Senate and needs to find a way to neutralize his appeal.

I’m not particularly worried about John’s audio processing issue during his recovery. There are workarounds for that and his staff will help him. Gisele doesn’t have to be in any pictures. She’s not the Senator. But the solidity of their relationship is important to his constituents and the gratuitous bashing of a politician’s charismatic and quirky wife should have hit its expiration date in the 90s.

Let’s not let Rupert Murdoch types start that sh}# again.

What to wear

To your senate orientation (and separate orientation for spouses):

Jawn wears a suit like he does at the PA state capitol; Gisele wears her $12 thrifted dress. They wear it well.

I’m just so proud of them both.

By the way, Fetterman got 88% of the vote in the town of Braddock. Nice work.