Musings from George

What is going on with this election?
September 18, 2016, 12:57 am
Filed under: Politics

I hear the panic. Trump should be polling single digits, and should be as rebuked as David Duke is (remember when Trump could not remember why he should rebuke David Duke?) The press appears to finally be wetting their respective beds, since they have failed completely to focus the spotlight on the Donald’s absurd claims and defenses. How has a major party candidate managed to lie consistently without being questioned by reporters? How has a questionable business leader (see Trump University) been granted the freedom to withhold his income taxes? Why has a man who eats Burger King and KFC not been forced to have an independent health evaluation?

Donald Trump offends every single social norm about political candidates. He is a racist, with forty years of provable offenses and lawsuits to justify that statement — which might be libel to a real candidate, but is provable about Donald. He is a misogynist, perhaps the MOST offensive man to ever walk this planet (who says things like that about a conservative talk show host like Megyn Kelly? I may not like Megyn’s politics, but WTF?) He is completely out of touch with real people, asking blacks “What do you have to lose?” as if he is going to do *anything* to actually help a black person (read his plans. … oh sorry, he doesn’t have any). He is a fascist (“build a wall, charge the prisoners rent”) with no connection to reality. He built his early empire with illegally imported laborers (mostly from Poland) who pretends that he can find the 2 million criminal aliens in the US (overcounting by a factor of ten, and … guess what … Obama has been hunting those folks down and deporting them already).

I spoke with someone recently who said that he cold not vote for Hillary because he was a successful businessman, and he did not want to pay more taxes. I threw up in my mouth just a little (sorry, borrowed from the movie Dodgeball), and asked about the rest of the toxic package that he was willing to support. He accepts it. So … if someone thinks Donald Trump will help their business, they should go verify the employment status of all of their employees. It is likely that someone in their orbit (house cleaner, landscaper, nanny, janitor or receptionist) is going to be hurt by Trump’s policies. When Supercuts shuts down because every barber from Asia is deported, and mowing a lawn costs $50 rather than $20 (but you *will* get that lawn mowed by an angry white man), you will have gotten your just desserts.

My latest information is that Canada is more expensive than most of us have assumed. Have a backup plan after Election Day — Vancouver doesn’t want you.

I sincerely hope that every voter is thoughtful, and everyone shows up to vote. Vote your interest, not your heart. I read with horror that Hillary has less support among Hispanic voters in Florida than Obama did … WHAT? How could any self-respecting Hispanic vote for Trump, after his denigration of Mexicans and his repeated vow to punish Mexicans because they … work here in the US? have the gall to get educated here in the US? because they send so much money back to Mexico? Trump is a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) for our international relations, and I will be despondent if American voters cannot see it. Educate yourself, register to vote, and vote … your self-interest.

If you are worth $10 billion, and Trump’s promise to eliminate the estate tax is meaningful to you, vote for him.

If you are NOT worth $10 billion, recognize that Trump is proposing to keep $4 billion for himself rather than paying this tax. For the record, we have NO IDEA what he will save, since he is too cowardly to share his tax returns and prove how dependent he is on foreign investors in his properties (and to document how he has illegally avoided paying taxes). Trump is a criminal, and the crimes should not come out after the election (see Nixon, the only president ever to resign).

We are better than Trump. Democracy works. I trust that women, Hispanics, and blacks will elect Hillary. I just wish that she could also get the votes of every intelligent and articulate voter, since NONE should vote for Trump. Polls don’t lie, but they certainly under-count and mis-represent.

But I really didn’t think W could win a second term, and I lost money betting that Trump could not become the Republican candidate. Clearly I am not the median or average voter in our country today.

Looking back through my posts, I recognize that I have said “more soon” incorrectly many times. So I will not do that this morning … just thank you for reading, and remember that friends don’t let friends vote for Trump.


Random Walk
September 18, 2016, 12:21 am
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Random walk

I just commented on an article in the NY Times, and thought it was time to write more than 140 characters or 1500 words about important topics.

KPFA is a local NPR station that does amazing things on its own small budget. One of their most popular services is interviewing very smart people in town-hall settings in Berkeley, California. Berkeley is one of the most liberal communities in the world, and people who like to be interviewed by KPFA tend to be pretty liberal.

I donated to KPFA this year, as I find their appeals hard to resist (are you listening? have you paid? freeloader!!). One of the gifts for donating was a USB thumb drive with almost four hundred interviews with interesting people, a gift of serendipity for a person with no ability to seek out those interesting people or to read their books.

Two retired CIA employees were interviewed as one of these many informative talks. The man had spent years in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and he was fairly blunt about our (the US government’s) prospect of success there: zero. What we portray as a democratically elected government fighting a terrorist organization is better represented as our decision to support our puppet in power (a Tajik) against the majority of the population (Pashtuns). Together with some additional powerful tribes (Uzbeks, Hazaras), the mix in Afghanistan looks oddly familiar (think Iraq) and equally unsolvable.

We drop bombs, we write checks, and occasionally an American soldier dies doing something that he / she believes is important. In the grand scheme of things, we are NOT helping. We prop up a minority-led government, we kill at times indiscriminately, and we get nothing in return.

Status quo is attractive. Inertia is powerful. But we really should *stop* doing things that do not benefit us. Even one more dollar, one more death is too much. I understand the Pottery Barn rule (you break it, you bought it) but that is capitated at the cost of the item you broke. We clearly did not break $850 BILLION in assets in Afghanistan … let’s cut our losses, bring home the troops, and make friends with the Pashtuns. Let’s stop buying heroin, and see if they plant fewer poppies. Hunting down their leaders, who have no argument with the US, is a waste of time and money.

I’m just saying …

Politics, primaries, and the world
July 8, 2016, 10:45 am
Filed under: Charity, Politics, Uncategorized

It is somewhat surreal to follow our presidential election, which will offer us the choice between a very experienced and qualified candidate that many do not like and an inexperienced and spectacularly unqualified candidate that does not seem to like anyone except himself. When did experience become a liability, and when did nastiness become a qualification?

While some think it is inappropriate to talk politics with children (lest they go off to school and share your opinions), the Donald has given us some remarkable opportunities to talk about important topics. Racism, misogyny, religious discrimination, “pants on fire” lies and exaggerations … topics that ordinarily do not come up in our quiet daily lives. I joke that the Donald gives us a chance to broaden our vocabulary (see the definition of buffoon) while realizing how much hate there is out there today, and hopefully we will all recoil and reconsider when this election dust settles. Every day is another offense to the Donald, and generates another offensive from the Donald, perplexing friend and foe alike.

It is a pity that the world is on fire and we cannot give it our full attention because our focus is inward, proposing walls between friends and threatening treaties with friends rather than trying to address the emergencies that are so real in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. If Canada can accept and integrate 25,000 refugees why can’t the US do the same for 250,000? We cry about the 6,000 who have come here, and we pay other countries to turn back children fleeing war zones in Central America because we are afraid of foreigners … the very people who build America.

It is useful to have a broader perspective. Learn about the Great Potato Famine in Ireland, which reduced the population of that county by more than two million people in five years … a million of them moved to the US, which at the time had a population of only fourteen million. Those immigrants became our policemen, our firemen, our teachers and our ancestors. Newer immigrants are trying to do the same, and we would all be better off if the world’s best engineers came to the US and the world’s hardest-working people joined us here. Let’s open the door wide, and make an effort to integrate them rather than isolating them. Let’s meet them and welcome them, rather than persecuting them.

Vote. However you choose to vote, it is a cherished right that our forebears fought and died to give us. Exercise it and celebrate democracy. Even if we disagree, we should all support the democratic process — vote against someone if you have to, but vote nonetheless.

Give. One of the things that distinguishes the US from the rest of the world is personal giving, not government giving. Some countries give more per capita, but most of that is given by the state — the US government gives less, but US citizens give more (not just the real wealthy, but the average American too). Celebrate charity. Embrace a non-profit. Encourage your friends to do the same.

What path would you rather be on?
January 12, 2016, 9:50 am
Filed under: Politics, Random walk

At a large software company nearby, the Net Promoter Score (subtract the number of people with a negative view from the number with a very positive view) is used to measure the relative happiness of users for any given application or service. High net promoter score = successful product — predictable usage and renewals. Low score, expect churn.

In politics, this is consolidated in the simple question “Is the United States on the right path?” According to Time magazine, the last time a majority of the American population felt good about our path was shortly after 9/11, when we began bombing Afghanistan and were united in our outrage against a foreign enemy. Now, with low unemployment, relatively high stock market values, low energy prices and a growing economy … people are unhappy and critical. One is left to wonder, what path would you rather be on if not this one? Where would you prefer to live?

The United States remains the world’s most powerful economy, and the world’s most powerful military. The US continues to defend free speech, to enable true human rights, and remains the center of innovation for the world. Many focus on politics and the election; the beauty of the US is that we will survive both, regardless of the buffoons currently tearing each other apart in the primaries. The US has handed power back and forth between parties that hated each other for years, and that is part of the power of our divided government and the established role of the three branches of government.
Are we on the right path? The easiest measurement is immigration — many of the best, brightest, and hardest working in the world want to come to the US. THAT is the real indication that has always highlighted how great the US is, and it confirms that we are indeed on the right path. When a Russian scientist, an Israeli entrepreneur, a Canadian software developer and a young kid in Honduras all want to move to the US … we are doing something right.
It is not about Obama, and it is not about the Donald — it is about a country that is based on personal freedom, with an established legal system, that defends personal property and respects the rights of individuals. The US is ascendant for all the right reasons, and we should all recognize how lucky we were to be born here at this time.
The US is on the best path. Be glad to be a citizen of the US in this time and age. Leave if you can’t.

New World Order
September 18, 2015, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Russians are sending their best military weapons to Syria, on a new base that they are building. They support Assad, who clearly does not have the support of his country and is supported by terrorists. His military is dropping crude bombs on civilian populations — enough to REQUIRE humanitarian intervention.

Yet we do nothing. We have the most powerful military on the planet, without question. We could disable Syrian air defenses (as we disabled Iraq’s) and we could shoot up Russia’s most recent weapons — tanks, airplanes, and artillery. Let’s do it.

Should we do something? The shock and awe part of 1991 was real — we can kick anyone’s ass in the short term. We do NOT need to risk lives at Benghazi or Mogadishu, but we should consider when a concerted Air Force attack can level an opponent. As they could in Syria.

Sadly, our presidential candidates are not having that conversation. They are debating the size, cost, and composition of a wall with Mexico … our largest trading partner and key friend in rationalizing manufacturing expenses. I do not understand why we would alienate such a close friend when there are real problems to address. Reagan gave citizenship to 3 million; we accepted far more when Ireland was in trouble. Why does anyone have a problem accepting sixty-nine thousand kids who made it across the border?

More soon. George

Fear, law, and civil obedience
October 17, 2014, 4:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Today I had to question something that I had believed for a long time — that I would have done great things in the military. I am a pretty good leader, and I think I am a good person, and I have always felt that I would happily die to defend my family, my friends, or my country. But the more I learn about the men and women who actually do serve, I realize that I am not very good at blindly taking orders and I sometimes lack the discipline to do things as completely as I should. I know how to paint a house, and have painted literally dozens in my lifetime (college summers) … but I just paid someone else to paint my house. I know how to garden pretty well, but … the garden needs some work, and I just can’t seem to squeeze that into my very wide open schedule. So it is hard to imagine taking orders from someone simply because of rank, and that is a key underpinning to order in the armed forces. So I guess we are all better off that I chose to work designing missile guidance systems instead of actually carrying a rifle.

A friend mentioned The Book of Questions, which he had raised before. I went to Amazon and read a few pages for free (that is a great offering!), and one of the questions is basically “what’s the worst thing you have ever done that you rationalized for x, y, or z reason”. That led me to walk back through the less happy times in my life, which is not something I am prone to do (aside: what do men and three-legged dogs have in common? both are always running forward, not looking back). Rather than confessing to breaking the law here in print, I just encourage you to do the same exercise and to consider what would have happened if you had been caught.

There have been demonstrations in the news, from Hong Kong to St Louis to Ferguson. Cornel West flew out to get arrested, and the Chinese government is finally clearing the streets of Hong Kong. An article in Time quotes Rand Paul as questioning why no one is out in the streets chanting “War, War, What is it good for?” given the fact that we are dropping bombs in Iraq and Syria and training a new group of “friendly” soldiers in the Middle East. It does seem that we have just settled into accepting that the world is a dangerous place, and our soldiers will always be in danger somewhere (perhaps even fighting the “war” on Ebola). The draft gave us an opposition to the Vietnam War, and the Depression fed an isolationist majority back before Pearl Harbor. What would it take to get the average US citizen to care enough to express an opinion about the Islamic State? We focus on building walls and sealing borders and being suspicious of people who travel from Africa, but we don’t question the $750M in explosives that we have dropped in the past six weeks. Should we care? What would civil disobedience look like now?

More soon. The Giants are in the World Series, and we are about to observe a moment of silence for the 25th anniversary of the World Series earthquake in 1989 at 5:04pm.

October 17, 2014, 1:42 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Comcast … why isn’t there a better alternative? I have spent 27 minutes on the phone with customer support, and have gotten absolutely no help.

SaaS is similar — a customer cannot reboot a box or help themselves. Customers are at the whim or fancy of the proviiders.

Two separate people tell me that they can’t help me because they are not in the right department … and they transfer me to the X1 department, which just rings and rings … this is the definition of internet hell. I wish someone would introduce a reliable service that actually delivered what they sold.