Post-Election Blues

I drank too much hot chocolate tonight, so I can’t sleep. Therefore I’ll add a few post-election thoughts.

Even though it’s none of my business what Alabamians do with their Senate seats, I was relieved to see that Doug Jones won, because it’s really disheartening to think that an accused pedophile could still win a seat in the Senate. If a story about feeling up 14-year-old girls comes out a few days before an election in The Enquirer, it makes sense to be suspicious about it. But this story came out months before the election in The Washington Post. It’s disheartening to think that we live in a culture where an accused pedophile can simply call a Washington Post story fabricated out of whole cloth and get away with it.

So I was happy with the election results. But then I made the mistake of keeping Twitter open, and my relief quickly turned to dismay. The absolutely unbearable smugness that washed over Twitter in gloating about this upset victory was itself very upsetting. These are supposed to be the “good guys?” This vengeful, hateful mob is who we’re supposed to be rooting for to win elections? They were absolutely indistinguishable from the Republican mobs who gloated after Trump’s win, the same mobs who spent eight years trying to tear down the Obama administration.

I did not feel better about America after Doug Jones’s win tonight. America is more fractured than ever, and we revel in it, we wallow in it. We watch elections like they are blood sports, the candidates gladiators. Doug Jones held up the head of Roy Moore tonight and shouted, “Are you not entertained?” And Twitter roared back its approval, and demanded more. It was unsettling.

These elections that split 50/50 are really dangerous. Fully half of the population of Alabama is now seething, watching the victors dance in Bacchanalian glee, and plotting their revenge. From their perspective, a baby-killer stole the election with the help of false allegations.

Don’t get me wrong, I know full well that the gloating would have been exactly the same had Roy Moore won, except it would be Republicans gloating instead of Democrats. See: Election 2016.

It’s just very disappointing to see that the “good” side, where most of my Internet friends reside, is just as unashamedly, unapologetically blind and ignorant as the “bad” side.

There is also the troubling prospect that nearly 50% of Alabamians still voted for an accused pedophile, which hardly seems like “victory.”

Live Blog: Alabama Election Results

I’m going to write about election results from The Big Alabama Election. I’m starting about 7 PM EST, which is about an hour before the polls close.

Just for the record, I don’t live in Alabama so technically this election is none of my business. But it’s the only election tonight so it’s getting a lot of national coverage. It’s like a Monday Night Football game… it’s the only one on.

I’ve seen this tweet a number of times today:

I’ve seen reports like this in literally every election I’ve paid attention to since roughly 2006. People try to suppress votes, and people try to get out the vote. It happens in every single election. This should not be a surprise.

Incidentally I’ll be watching CNN because I love watching John King and his election data touch screen thingy. I also think Wolf Blitzer trying to make election results exciting with his deadpan monotone is just about the funniest thing on television.

I’m actually expecting that the results will come in at exactly one minute after the polls close. I will be surprised if Doug Jones wins.

Erin Burnett is obviously losing her voice but I guess she didn’t want to miss The Super Bowl of Alabama Senate Elections. 🙂

That tweet pretty much guarantees a Roy Moore win.

This news about North Korea is arguably more important than this election:

Surprise, surprise: Tillerson and Trump aren’t on the same page about North Korea.

7:32 PM – John King just said that both sides are claiming a high turnout.

7:43 PM – (On the North Korea thing, I suppose it’s possible they are doing a deliberate good cop/bad cop strategy.)

7:48 PM – Incidentally, it is snowing again. I had hoped it would all be gone by tomorrow.

7:51 PM – Unrelated, but:

7:52 PM – (I, obviously, don’t think The Rock is a good choice to be leader of the free world, but since Trump opened Pandora’s Box, I guess it’s pretty much open season now.)

7:56 PM – CNN is doing their last-minute suspense-building before the polls close. I’m still predicting they are going to project a winner at exactly 8:00 PM. 🙂

8:00 PM – Awwwwwww. What a letdown. “Too early to call.”

8:01 PM – Give me a break. “Overperforming by a few points.” “Underperforming by a few points.” That’s obviously within the margin of error on those exit polls.

8:13 PM – Lulz. CNN reported results with less than 1,000 votes counted.

8:20 PM – “It’s going to be an exciting night,” says Wolf Blitzer. Oh boy! Actually I enjoy watching John King working this map. You can really tell that he loves doing what he does.

8:25 PM – “This is the black belt.” Every time somebody says that, they immediately add, “It’s called that because of the top soil! Really, it’s the top soil!”

8:48 PM – CNN seems to be very excited about Doug Jones leading with only 2-3% of the precincts reporting (mostly absentee ballots). That is not just “too early to call,” that is “don’t even bother.” I am embarrassed to even be writing it here, but there is a definite sense of “Doug Jones is doing great!” from Wolf Blitzer and John King. (Which is, incidentally, the more dramatic result–the come-from-behind victory, so to speak.)

9:07 PM – CNN’s John King is starting to sound like Roy Moore is “pulling ahead.”

9:13 PM – Sheesh. That last tweet expanded to be like a thousand feet tall.

9:36 PM – CNN says 51% counted, 51.4 Moore 47.2 Jones.

9:40 PM – John King keeps saying “the math is possible” but he sure doesn’t make it sound like it’s very likely.

9:42 PM – But on the other hand, we have this:

9:45 PM – I have no knowledge of how it works in Alabama, but here in Virginia, it is typically rural areas who report first, and cities who report later. So it usually looks like the Republican does well early on, with the Democrat pulling even or ahead later.

10:00 PM – CNN says 72% counted, 50.5 Moore, 48.1 Jones.

10:09 PM – John King seems a little more confident about Jones’s chances. Wolf keeps reminding us that it’s a really dramatic race. 🙂

10:22 PM – Twitter momentum seems to be breaking for Doug Jones. That is, people seem like they’re starting to believe he can actually win.

 

Behind the Tweet: Cancer

Saw this retweeted:

This is an amusing analogy, but it breaks down because it’s not “modern capitalism” that defines a business’s success, it’s the modern investors, who vote with their dollars on a daily or hourly or even minute-by-minute basis.

The Duty of Citizenship

I want to elaborate a little bit on a random tweet-thought I expressed this morning.

…I think we are seeing recently that fame is actually more useful for changing the world than holding elected office

My basic point was that it seems to me that popular, famous people are able to motivate the citizenry into action a lot more than any innate sense of civic duty.

Recently (say, in the last 10-15 years, roughly the exact same time period of the rise of The Internet), I think we have seen a conflation of politics and popularity. What people remember about Obama is not his policies, but his likeableness. People presume he was a great president (especially now) because he was a cool guy with great comic timing, while completely forgetting that he authorized the bombing of hundreds of civilians with military drones.

Political consultants place a huge amount of emphasis on a candidate’s “electability,” which is, basically, how good does this man or woman look on television? How articulate are they? Is their hair thick and lustrous? Is their smile perfect and their teeth perfectly straight? It doesn’t matter nearly as much what they say, as long as they have a great smile while they’re saying it.

Trump, obviously, threw a bit of a wrench into that formula. He was like, “I’m me and you can just suck it.” It shouldn’t have worked, but somehow it did. Honestly I think it was a big part of his appeal. A lot of people in everyday life express the same sentiment.

But back to my point. This is just my personal opinion, but I believe most American citizens are extremely uneducated about the government they have been entrusted with protecting. Most people probably have absolutely no idea that they are completely responsible for its safety.

I used to be one of those people. I don’t think I ever voted before 2004, to be honest (well into my 30s). I would have had a very difficult time describing the difference between a Republican and a Democrat back then. I might have been one of those people you saw an Jay Leno’s Jaywalking bit where he asked people on the street to name the vice president, and I would have been like, “Uhhhh. Wait, wait, I know this!” (Actually I don’t think I’ve ever been that bad, but you get the idea.)

My point is that people literally don’t know or care they have a duty as citizens of a representative democracy to educate themselves about politics and government. It’s one of only three ways, by my count, that we can serve our country: By voting, by serving on jury duty, and by serving in the military. Well, I guess it would be four if you count running for office, but that’s just a waste of time these days if you don’t have thick hair and perfect teeth, isn’t it?

There are probably people in Alabama who don’t even know there’s a huge special election with massive political ramifications for their state today. You and I might boggle over that, considering it’s been the subject of almost every news cycle in every publication for the past month, but I have no doubt there are people who go about their lives without reading a single word of news.

Because I used to be one of them. I would get up, go about my computer programming work from home, and go to bed without ever seeing a single thing that happened outside my house all day. Maybe that’s understandable in the 90s, before we all lived on The Internet, but even in November 2016, I personally witnessed many of my coworkers express little or no interest in the election–before, during, or after. I’m quite sure many of them didn’t vote.

So very few people are going to vote in Alabama today because they knew there would be a special election to replace their senator Jeff Sessions, saw Roy Moore and Doug Jones speak, considered their platforms carefully, and made an informed decision based on the issues.

The vast majority are going to vote because a slew of famous people in mostly entertainment industries with very public platforms on television, radio, and the Internet have pleaded with them to vote one way or the other. (News counts as an entertainment industry, by the way.)

And that’s how America is going to die.

But that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.*

* Okay, I watched Dennis Miller Live every Friday on HBO in the 90s. That’s how I knew who the vice president was.

Patreon Kerfuffle

A large percentage of my gaming and writing Twitter timelines are abuzz with civil unrest over a change that Patreon will be making to their fee structure on December 18th.

I don’t use Patreon and I can’t really envision a scenario where I would use it prior to becoming famous, but a lot of people I follow do use it, and they aren’t happy.

If you don’t know what Patreon is, it’s a site where you can donate money to a “creator” (artist, musician, writer, etc.) every month to support their work, somewhat akin to pledging money to PBS.

As far as I know, Patreon donations are not tax deductible, which is just one of many reasons I haven’t rushed to patronize people. Another reason I don’t like Patreon is that it very quickly devolved from patronage to a “subscription,” for which subscribers very much expect to receive something tangible in return, as if they are making a consumer purchase. To me, that fundamentally differs from a patronage.

Regardless, I’ve considered starting a Patreon (who wouldn’t consider a vehicle to receive free money?), especially now that I’m on a work sabbatical, but it just doesn’t make sense for me. In order to make a “living wage” from Patreon, I’d need like a thousand patrons, and that’s pretty rare unless the creator is famous to begin with. Mary Robinette Kowal, for example, can make $2000/month from Patreon because she is already an established author and podcaster with a marketable brand. I’m not. If I were lucky, I might get five $1/month patrons, and while it might feel good to know there are five people out there who enjoy my work enough to support me, the amount of sustained effort I would have to put in to keep those five patrons happy would be cost prohibitive. I am very much of the opinion that my time costs a reasonably fixed amount of money. @AlternateChat is admirably transparent about her efforts with Patreon and I simply can’t afford to expend that much labor without enough compensation to pay my mortgage.

Also I’m not entirely convinced that pledging $1/month to someone is equivalent to “supporting” them. I could probably make a case that it’s more of an insult. But I’m weird about things like that.

But back to the Patreon-pocolypse.

There is apparently a very large economy of $1 patron subscriptions that is going to disappear because the cost to the patron will rise about 30 cents, which obviously is a significant percentage of a $1 donation, and has a huge psychological impact. Patrons are cancelling their $1 subscriptions in droves, and creators are left searching for other ways to make money. (At least, that’s the impression I’m getting on Twitter.)

The issue is that the new fee structure doesn’t affect the $10/month or more pledges so much as the $1/month pledges, which probably makes up a huge percentage of the total pledges on Patreon. The result is that users feel (quite rightly) that Patreon is trying to kill off smaller creators in favor of the bigger ones.

As with most issues, I can understand both sides on this one.

It’s really bad for small creators on Patreon, because most of their donors are going to (quite rightly) cancel their $1 subscriptions.

But from the business perspective, I have no doubt that $1/month pledges are a major hassle for Patreon to deal with. I am 100% sure that it costs them disproportionately more to process them, in time and money and computing resources and probably just about any measure you can think of. It’s just not cost effective to process a lot of small transactions of, say, $1.

I remember back in the 1990s, when I was involved in selling Amiga software to consumers, having to pay 4.5% of every credit card transaction to the merchant. That’s a big chunk of money to hand over for every transaction, and we had to eat that. (I doubt we would have even been allowed to process $1 transactions back then.) But it was the only way to receive enough money from consumers to justify the existence of the business. I don’t have any facts or figures, but I would guess there were roughly 100 credit card payments for every check received in the mail. Today I’m sure the ratio would be more like 1,000,000 to 1. It’s probably cost prohibitive to deal with cash and checks, to be honest. I know I hate getting paid with a check, and cash is like, “What the heck am I supposed to do with this weird paper?”

So it is not at all surprising to me that Patreon might start subtly discouraging $1/month subscriptions so they don’t have to process them. The simple fact is that they will make more money per transaction with $5/month or $10/month or $25/month subscriptions.

They also have to process two transactions for every one of those subscriptions. One transaction to take money from the patron, and another transaction to give money to the creator. If one patron pledges $1 to 25 creators, they can take $25 from the patron in one transaction, but they still have to give the money to the creators in twenty-five $1 transactions. Though I’m sure they optimize it more than that, so they only have to deliver one transaction to each creator for the sum total of their pledges. That’s probably the exact heart of their business: Streamlining those transactions as much as possible. The flashy web site and API is just a side-show.

I am seeing a lot of hand-wringing over the “unjustness” of Patreon’s obvious decision to try to make more money, as if they are somehow betraying their customers (ie. creators). Well, first of all, the creators and patrons aren’t their customers, they are just the machine which prints money for them. The investors are their customers. But that’s business 101.

Beyond that, I think people have a mistaken impression of what a “successful” business is, in the eyes of investors. One might think that any business which makes money is successful, but unfortunately that’s not true. Investors need a business to make more money every year. Not just more money, but more profit every year. A business which makes a profit is not a success–only a business which makes more profit every year is a success. And not just more profit every year, but geometrically more profit every year. If you have the same increase in profits as last year, you simply “met expectations” and bore everyone to death. But if you have more increase in profits this year over last year, you “exceeded expectations” and you’re a huge success and worthy of praise!

I’m not saying I like it, I’m just saying that’s the reality. It’s why many of the people who start companies try to get their money quick and get out, because most businesses are doomed to fail eventually, because it’s literally impossible to sustain a geometric growth indefinitely.

Patreon is not (yet?) a public company, but they have still received millions of dollars from investors, and those investors (quite rightly) want to see a return on their investment. They certainly didn’t invest 300 million dollars because they cared a whit about creators getting $1/month from patrons.

Behind the Tweet: Representation

Another person on the Internet who needs to go back to Civics class (or is a Russian operative sowing dissent):

Just because you don’t “feel like” you’re represented, doesn’t mean you’re not represented. “Representation” in this context has a very specific meaning that has nothing to do with your “feelings.”

Also, you’re suggesting it’s okay to stop paying taxes if one’s preferred candidate doesn’t win?

Yeah, again, that’s not how governments work. What you’re advocating is a system of government where you follow whoever you “feel” should lead, where elections have no consequences, which is basically anarchy, and a return to the tribal warfare of our prehistoric ancestors.

The correct course of action to take when your preferred candidate doesn’t win is to wait patiently until the next election. And if you feel really strongly about it, during the intervening time, you can try to persuade people to vote differently next time. Preferably without annoying anyone or breaking voter laws.

Bad Week For Media

It’s been a really bad week for the media, with at least three different significant mistakes having to be corrected. It really undermines their position as the Fourth Estate.

  • Brian Ross was suspended from ABC News for a *massive* error on the Trump investigation.
  • Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal misreported a subpoena of Deutche Bank.
  • CNN misreported on Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks.

Those who have been paying attention for the last ten or fifteen years, as opposed to only the last year, are not at all surprised.

See, there’s a reason why “fake news” established itself in the minds of so many people so quickly: It’s because mainstream news has a very consistent habit of getting things wrong in the name of pushing stories out first. This record of inaccuracy began roughly the same time Internet news supplanted print media.

While I’d love to think that news reporting today is an overall pillar of integrity, I just don’t. I think the White House press corps is a joke. Every time I see a news story about the Trump administration, I think to myself, “I wonder if they are being fed misinformation? Are they doing anything to protect themselves from misinformation? How do they know their ‘high-level contacts’ are telling the truth? It would be so easy for the Trump administration to get people in the White House to simply lie to the press and feed them whatever they wanted to hear, which would ultimately destroy the media’s credibility and hurt America in the long run by eroding the power of the first amendment.”

Every news organization isn’t terrible, but most of them are. It’s why you have to really work to find individual journalists that you trust, not a network or media outlet.

Anyway, while I don’t necessarily believe Trump is trying to “destroy America,” he is clearly hell-bent on destroying the status quo, and part of that status quo is the media monopoly. The worrying problem is that I don’t believe Trump does or can know what will happen afterward. Every day I am reminded of Michael Gorbachev and the Soviet Union in 1985. With great intentions, Gorbachev utterly destroyed the status quo in the U.S.S.R. and the consequences still resonate to this day. There came a point (less than 6 years later) where he could no longer control the changes to his country. Now there is no more U.S.S.R. and a lot of people died in protests and civil unrest. There was an entire Bosnian War, which killed some 100,000 people and displaced 2.2 million other people.

Personally, I’d prefer that stuff like that didn’t happen in the U.S.

So hey, media, get your stories right. Stop making it easy for Trump. In one single week you’ve completely erased whatever progress you might have made in the last year.

Behind The Tweet: Rage and Frustration

Saw this tweet today:

I like Al Franken, I’ve always liked Al Franken, I have a lot of respect for the work he did to transition from a comedian to a knowledgeable elected official (no small feat), and I think it’s a shame he has to resign.

But this is a political no-brainer.

Franken resigning is the Democratic side fighting. Fighting to at least bring back some shred of integrity to the current American government. They won’t have a moral leg, foot, or tiny pinky toe to stand on if they don’t clean house of anything and everything that even remotely hints of corruption right now. They simply cannot use integrity (“we are the Not-As-Bad-As-Trump Party”) as a voting issue in 2018, 2020, or ever, if they don’t deal with this quickly.

That is why Franken immediately decided to submit to an ethics committee (the right thing to do for many reasons). That showed the world that “Democrats take this stuff seriously, whereas Republicans, clearly, do not.”

Conyers blew that strategy out of the water, because most people know on some level that Democrats are just as corrupt as Republicans, and Conyers confirmed it. That made any attempts Franken could have made to transform Democrats into the Party of Integrity well nigh impossible. (Not to mention all the followup allegations against him.)

So Franken is probably resigning today, and it’s the right thing for him to do for the Democratic Party and America right now. It sucks that he got caught up in this storm, but life isn’t particularly fair.

I’m no expert, but I have also heard there is a good chance that the Minnesota governor (Mark Dayton, a Democrat) will appoint a Democrat to replace him, so there’s really no political down side for the Democratic Party.

And as I’m finishing up this post, Franken is resigning.

 

Behind the Tweet: Unwind It All

Grumpy post incoming.

Lulz. Oh look, somebody else on Twitter who would fail a basic civics class, and people retweeting it as if it’s wisdom.

No, random Internet person who apparently needs no intelligence to get a blue checkmark, there is still no “do over” because we don’t like the outcome. American government still isn’t a kid’s game. Doing the kinds of things you suggest usually leads to little things like civil unrest.

Just my two cents, but given today’s news about Mike Flynn, we are on track for the worst-case scenario of Mike Pence taking over as president for a full ten years.

Wait, what?? Presidents can only serve two terms!

Two *full* terms. If Mike Pence is installed in, say, 2018 or 2019, he can conceivably run in both 2020 and 2024. And given the complete lack of a Democratic field, and the number of dimwitted Americans who will say, “I don’t even know what a Republican is but at least he’s not gross like Donald Trump,” Pence will probably win both of those elections.

People really ought not to be celebrating the potential downfall of Donald Trump, but then Americans are so dimwitted that they elected him in the first place, so what else would you expect? Americans literally have no clue what is good for them.

Speaking generally, of course. I’m sure *you* are fine.

Ugh This Again?

Millennials are yelling about Nazis again this weekend, but I’m going to be brutally honest here: They’ve cried wolf so often and so loud about this that I just don’t care anymore. I’m not even going to investigate what they’re talking about. Something about a New York Times article I think? If fascists ever really do organize again, they’ll have such an easy road to power in the U.S. thanks to the left.

UPDATE

Okay, here’s the New York Times article: A Voice of Hate in America.

Everyone to NYT: “Don’t normalize Nazis!”

Me: I think people often confuse the words “normalize” and “recognize.” To observe or acknowledge a thing is not necessarily to mainstream it. The New York Times normalizing white supremacy would look like a weekly column called something like, “White Living Today.”