Thursday, March 2, 2017

2017 Oscars-Nominated Movies. All of them.

I came across an old Marketplace Story on how long it would take to see all of the movies that were nominated for an Academy Award.  Sure, this was 2013, but I assume the 2017 nominees would be in the same ballpark.  Back then, it was 99 hours.  So, less than a week, right?

I've heard it a number of times that nobody sees the movies that are nominated for Best Picture. They never play these films outside of New York and Los Angeles and a couple of film festivals.  I've never bought into this.  Sure, it helps to live near a major city, but even in small college towns, all you need is a cinema department with a projector, and you can find these films if you search beyond the 18 screen megaplex.

Before the Oscars, I managed to see 5 of the 9 Best Picture Nominees, all in the Washington suburbs. Moonlight and Hidden Figures were at the American Film Institute Silver Theater for an African-American film festival, La La Land at a 1930s renovated movie theater in Greenbelt (retro theater for retro musical), Fences was at the MegaPlex in the theater with the reclining seats - very nice, and Hell or High Water was a DVD I checked out of the local library.  I remember thinking for each film that rather than needing to go to impressive lengths to find them, that I had multiple options for watching them.  That same Greenbelt Theater also was showing Hidden Figures, but with talks by NASA scientists before the film since NASA has a space center in the town.  Moonlight was showing at a handful of art theaters in addition to the film festival.  And La La Land could be watched by anyone anywhere with a screen.  I assume.

So, I'm on my way to try to watch every movie that was nominated. Library DVDs have been a real help, but Amazon Prime and HBO have had some available at my leisure. Should be a fun couple of months to get me through the rest of our non-winter.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Introverting and Reading

I made two New Years Resolutions this year, and somehow, they seem to be reinforcing each other.  The first was to go to the gym 15 times a month.  The second was to read 2 books a month.  Since I read on the treadmill or elliptical, I've managed to read quite a bit more than that.  2 months in, and I've read 13 books so far.  And been to the gym 38 times. Feeling pretty good about this, and kind of psyched to see how these goals have reinforced each other.

Figured it might not be a bad idea to write up my impressions of these books, if not so much to have non-Trump things to write about, but also record my thoughts in case I want to recommend books to people. So, I'll be posting a bit in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Feeling broken

Turns out that Sally Yates openly defying the Trump Administration did not come out of nowhere.

The Washington Post reports that she and her office briefed the White House on Jan. 26 about the conversations between Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador. Why was nothing done?  Well:

The White House Counsel's Office conducted a “review” of the legal issues and determined that “there was not a legal issue but rather a trust issue,” Spicer said.
So, Donald Trump, having been briefed by the Acting Attorney General that Flynn had engaged in illegal activity, determined that this wasn't a legal issue.  It's a trust issue.  Can he really trust Flynn after misleading Mike Pence?  Oh, come now, we've all mislead Mike Pence at some point.  Why do women keep trying to tell me what I can and cannot do?

Four days later, Yates said that she could not defend the Muslim ban.  Openly.  Since her previous attempt to work the chain of command failed.  She was fired.

This story has broken me.  I think I hit my limit.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Thank the Resistance: Members of the New England Patriots

At least five members of the New England Patriots have decided to skip the celebratory White House visit because of Donald Trump:

  • Martellus Bennett
  • Devin McCourty
  • Dont'a Hightower
  • LeGarette Blount
  • Chris Long
Hell, if you win the Super Bowl, you can celebrate however the hell you want to.  I know I wouldn't want to celebrate professional achievement with Donald Trump.  

Gov. Hogan Doesn't Like Mean People on Facebook

As this is posting this morning, I am dropping copies of this letter in the mail to the Governor of Maryland and the Chair of the Maryland Republican Party, because, DAMN, this is the best way to kill the GOP in Maryland... piss off every educated woman in the state.

I am writing in response to the article published on the Washington Post website entitled “Gov. Hogan’s office has blocked 450 people from his Facebook page in two years”, that refers to your spokesman, Doug Mayer, trivializing the comments of women who criticized you for not speaking about the ban on Muslims because he believed they were “part of an organized campaign.” Whether or not they were organized, you (or your agents acting on your behalf) still refused to allow residents of the State of Maryland to voice their concern over your inaction.
                I am one of the estimated 925,000 women in Maryland who has at least one college degree. Between Mr. Mayer’s statement, and statements from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer that protesters are being paid, the message I am receiving from the Republican Party is that women are too stupid to formulate their own opinions and to take action on their own volition to make these opinions known.  Your silence appears to confirm that you agree that women lack, or should lack, the agency to make up their own minds, and cannot process information without being told what to do by outside actors.
                I attended the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st with 5 million Americans across the country to put politicians on notice that we would watch what you were doing with regards to civil rights, environmental protections, sexism, racism, ethics, and your willingness to uphold the Constitution and the separation of powers. [No one paid me. Between Metro fares and Starbucks purchases, it cost about $20 for me to attend.] As each Executive Order and Presidential Memo was signed that undermined these issues, you said nothing. Silence is consent. By not speaking out after three weeks, how can we not assume that you agree with President Trump’s agenda?
                The people of Maryland are noticing your silence. What you say, or do not say, in the next few weeks will be remembered at the ballot box in 2018, not just in the governor’s race, but in every race on the ballot that involves a Republican candidate. It is already late to speak up. You have a number of angry people in the state, and you owe us an explanation of your political priorities.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Thank the Resistance: Gov. Jay Inslee and Gov. Mark Dayton

Props to the governors of Minnesota and Washington.  Thanks for being behind the suit to stop the Muslim ban.

(Mad Midwestern love going out to Minnesota.)

Thank you notes being sent to Olympia and St. Paul.

Dumb Presidential Memo #1: STOP DOING GOVERNMENT!!!!!

First Presidential memo: Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, signed January 20th.

Just in case you missed it, or forgot it, or have blocked this from your mind, just three weeks ago (seriously, three weeks?), President Trump signed his first stupid Presidential Memo, the "Stop Doing Government" Memo.

Reince Priebus appears to have drafted it, telling everyone in government - no new regulations, no putting into effect any approved new regulation, and you know, maybe everyone in the White House just needs 60 days or so to figure out what we're doing before you guys all do stuff?  Cool?

This isn't so much of a demand, more like a request. And, of course, the language that walks this back in case the courts or the Congress is making you take action because we forgot to hire lawyers in the transition and dear God, what is that pain in my chest?

Screw it, OMB will tell you when you can do government again. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Feminism and Gender Stereotypes

Remember after the September 11th attacks when everyone wanted to drop everything and go off and do something, and President Bush told us all to go shopping?

President Trump is now telling us to boycott Nordstrom in a Tweet, because they shouldn't drop the clothing line of his daughter, who is a great person, and as you know, bad things never happen to good people in business.  Business always rewards people who are nice people, right?  (Coffee is for closers.)

So, if you want to be part of the feminist resistance to Trump, go shopping at Nordstrom.  Okay... but I'm a little ambivalent that my action of protest against a sexist man who tries to perpetuate outdated gender stereotypes is to do the most. stereotypical. activity. ever.

Thank the Resistance: Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski

Taking some time to write thank you letters to Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski:

These Republican Senators broke with their party to vote against Betsy DeVos, and I'm sure that's not sitting well with the rest of their party.  Even though they brought up a great point (that I wish I had thought of), that school choice can only work when there exists a choice in schools.  If you live in a rural area, and already have a one to two hour bus ride to get to school, are you really going to drive 3 hours to go to another school?

Plus, disability services generally are more expensive than a voucher will cover, and there's a conflict of interest with her student loan collection agencies, and the complete lack of qualifications to hold this position... and, seriously, grizzly bears is why a school in a major city needs to have guns?

So, writing thank you notes for all of their offices, because, face it, they've probably been fielding angry phone calls, and will be in the future.  My sincere thanks for trying.

The Invisible Hand Plays in Peoria

Well, Peoria, you had a good run.  Face it, there's really no reason that your city should exist.  Somehow, you managed to attract a major manufacturer, which led to a nice long streak of moderate success with a minor league affiliate, a mid-tier university, and a high school boys basketball powerhouse.  As Peorias go, Peoria, Illinois is a solid #2 in the country. But there's no organic reason for Peoria to exist in the 21st Century.

Sure, Peoria, back in the 19th Century, using water resources for milling grains was needed. Plus, being near the farms where grain was grown so it could be processed was also a good idea.  Not needed so much anymore.  And, if Wikipedia is accurate, then that high quality Illinois River water would be a boom to the distilling industry, until Chicago reversed the course of the Chicago River, dug a canal, and started shipping its sewage your way.

Really, you got lucky that farm equipment was expensive to ship when everything was transported to farms by horses.  It made sense to manufacture equipment close to where they would be used when the supply chain is so slow.  So, again, kudos!  Caterpillar got lucky, especially when they realized they could make money by modifying farm equipment into construction equipment to build roads, right when Federal funds for road construction became more widely available.  Peoria hit a boom!

But with the boom, there comes the bust.  Of course, the bust occurred much slower than the boom. When the roads were built, then replaced with Interstates, and the supply chain became faster and more global, then why build things in Peoria?  Especially when the demand for construction equipment is higher in developing countries than in a country that is already developed?  What makes you special?

Maybe if Cat had really invested in its people, things would be different. Maybe if executives started as front-line managers, worked their way through the the company, and then joined the C-Suite after 30-40 years of service, then maybe attracting executives wouldn't necessitate a move to Chicago.  And, I know, it's got to bother you that billionaires look at you and say, Nope, not Peoria. You could have tried to cultivate a business community that included more than one company, but you never really did, and no one was going to move to you, not with major universities in other cities - those same universities where the best and brightest of your high school grads went, and the then never came back. In this negative feedback loop where anyone who can leave leaves, how much longer was it before Caterpillar left for Chicago?  What makes you special?

This is a tough love post, I know, but if you can't answer that question of what makes you special, then the free market is not going to give out jobs and favors to you. You have to have an advantage. Chicago has these advantages, sure, in the number of other large companies nearby so Caterpillar can poach talent as needed, and executives can look at them and breathe a sign of relief that they aren't moving to Flint, Michigan (water still undrinkable). There's still a reason that Chicago exists - mostly through fresh water, world-class schools, research hospitals, and the logistics of having to move things around the Great Lakes means roads and railroads needing to hit the southern edge of Lake Michigan. Not you. Not Peoria.  As the economy moves into a new, global world, what makes you special?  And, your manufacturing jobs - the people who hold them - what makes them special?  What can they do that can't be done in any small city anywhere in the world.

No one is guaranteed the right to have a corporate HQ in your town. And, as Caterpillar continues its move out of Peoria, and property values fall as more people move out than move in, you better answer the question of what makes you special, or else there may be no Peoria left.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Mean People

So, that happened. How big does your ego have to be to believe that anything bad said about you can't be true?  Is the entire world supposed to be some kind of safe space for the President?

I heard that Mr. Trump did not really understand what the job of President was, even after he was elected.  If this had been an election centered around policy, then there is the ability to criticize the policies without criticizing the person. But that was never how Trump operated, so when people don't approve of the job he's doing, how else is he going to take this except as an attack on his person?

If you need me, I'll be drinking.

Dumb Executive Order #1: Repeal Obamacare

Tracking the executive orders and memos of Donald J. Trump, and how you know that no expert actually looked at them before he signed them, Part I:

Executive Order Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal, Signed January 20, 2017.

You know this one has to be good, because the title includes "Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection", which if you take out the "the", really gets at the heart of the order - protecting patients imposes an economic burden on somebody, but it's not the patients.

Section 1 - the confusing part here is that it really doesn't do anything.  The President can't just repeal a law that Congress passed.  It's like the Constitution is still a thing.  Instead, we want the healthcare markets to be more competitive!  Yeah!!!!  Free market!!!!  ...except for that pesky ethics problem and known market failure in the health care market.  There's no access to perfect information in setting a price, mostly because in order to do this, doctors and patients need to know how much someone is willing to pay for an operation that will save their life.  Is open heart surgery worth $5,000?  $10,000?  $100,000?  That's unfettered capitalism, and I doubt people really want to be thinking about their doctors as maximizing profits when they decide whether or not to treat their cancer.  So, yeah... rhetoric sounds great to the Austrian Economist, but that's just about it.

Section 2 - this asks the Sec. of Health and Human Services (who isn't confirmed yet) not to impose fiscal burdens on States, individuals, or families (aw...).  Or health insurance companies, or medical device companies, pharmaceutical companies (less aw...).  Except that there is that pesky law out there.

Sections 3-4 - Flexibility!  States Rights!  Except that this is in regards to a Federal tax dollar spending, so really?  It also encourages interstate insurance markets, which might be okay, except that the ACA guidelines for minimum coverage levels will be gone.  So, everyone can purchase the health care quality guaranteed by Mississippi!

Section 5 - Oh yeah.  There is that comment period on regulations.

Section 6 - Laws exist.

So what does this do?  Not a damned thing. Congress is trying to figure out a replacement, but yeah, changing the ACA is going to be a mess, mostly because people like some aspects of the law.  We'll see what the Republicans come up with. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Thank the Resistance: Beth Fukumoto

I was totally serious when I mentioned I'd be sending thank you notes to people, Democrats or Republicans, who speak out in favor of civil rights, the Constitution, and general non-douchecanoe behavior.

Today's example is Beth Fukumoto, R-HI, which in addition to being a Republican in Hawaii, is also noteworthy for speaking at a women's march against Trump's rhetoric of sexism and racism, in violation of Hawaiian Republican Party policy prohibiting saying anything bad against President Trump.  For this infraction, her leadership position as Hawaii State House Minority Leader (in leadership of 6) was taken away from her.  In fact, with only six Republicans in the Hawaii House, she's now the only one without a leadership position.

Speaking out against hateful speech has had a political cost for her within the Republican Party.  Thank you notes can be sent to:
Beth Fukumoto
415 S. Beretania St., Room 333
Honolulu, HI 96813

And, if you'd like to email the five Republicans who voted her out, their contact information in on the Hawaii State House website.

Bad Negotiation Tactics

As I'm writing this, the Muslim Ban (call a duck a duck) is currently not being enforced due to a court denial of a brief submitted by the Trump Administration to reinstate the ban immediately.

Now, I'm no lawyer (and no law school debt to go with it!), but I did study negotiation and conflict resolution in grad school, and the argument in the brief is befuddling. The brief states that "The injunction contravenes the separation of powers; harms the public by thwarting enforcement of an Executive Order issued by the nation's elected representative responsible for immigration matters and foreign affairs; and second-guesses the President's national security judgment..." Putting aside the elected representative issue, note how the argument is built - there is a separation of powers, so a judge telling the President what to due isn't fair.

And, this is submitted to a judge.

When constructing an argument, you need to think about the audience that you are presenting this to.  Noel Francisco is the acting solicitor general, who has a bio on the Federalist Society website, so I'll assume at some point he read Marbury v. Madison and heard that judicial review is a thing. Separation of powers is a great place to start, but not for Trump. Unilateral action by one branch is checked by the other two, including the United States Senate having a role to play in foreign affairs. Calling the injunction "second-guessing" of the executive by the judiciary negates the role of the separation of powers.  And what judge is going to agree with this?

Noel Francisco attended the University of Chicago Law School.  Strangely, he was attending school while Barack Obama was teaching Constitutional Law, but it appears that he didn't learn anything there.  It's especially embarrassing, since he seems to have written a brief that would make Trump happy, but without any knowledge of negotiation tactics.  Like, crafting an argument to appeal to the audience, not for one's master.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Letting A Lie Fester

I assumed that Trump's college transcript had been released at some point.  I assumed wrongly.  What I did find was a number of articles mentioning that when Trump was first starting out, he allowed the media to print that he graduated top in his class in Wharton without correcting them.  For some reason, he was not as interested in perceived media lies then as he is now.

It did make me wonder, if not Trump, then who did graduate at the top of the class at Wharton in 1968?  That program had to exist somewhere, right?  Of course it does!  We have the internet!

The program is really a rather interesting document in how far American education has come since the 1960s, when the Liberal Arts Colleges were segregated by gender, and it took longer than I thought to find a woman graduating from the engineering school.  But, starting on page 19, the graduates of Wharton are enumerated, and somewhere between Cecil Jay Olmstead III and William Frederick Uhlhorn Jr, you'll find Donald John Trump in the program receiving a BS in economics.  Prize recipients for Wharton begin on page 60, where you will not find his name listed.  You will also not find his name listed on page 66, where the academic honors are listed (including Cecil - seriously, I only picked it because it sounded SO Waspy, but he graduated cum laude).  What you will find are the two who graduated magna cum laude: Joel Martin Martel and Judith Ann Mike.

So, Trump lost to a girl.  Makes sense, right?  If you are that obsessed with being the best, this has to rub you the wrong way.

More than anything, I wonder what it must have been like for her.  One of a handful of women in the college, studying accounting. And not just keeping up with the men, but excelling beyond them.  I wonder what life had in store for her, and I'd be interested in knowing more about what I perceive to have been a struggle, without knowing for certain that it was.

And, what it was like to have someone co-opt the designation that you had worked for, without any respect for the struggle, hard work, and dedication it took to achieve it.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Rules for Political Engagement

I honestly have no idea if the White House has any cohesive plan for "Making America Great Again."  When you see them rolling back George W. Bush regulations, you kind of know that there is no overarching political philosophy on the purpose of government guiding decisions.  I also know that these actions are making me mad.  I'm not an angry person, generally, and being in a constant state of agitation is really starting to wear me down.

So, with this in mind, I'm trying to stay away from political labels, and look towards the actions and inactions of elected officials.  I also know that I need to find something to do that is more in keeping with my personality so that this action can be sustainable.  Doing nothing is not an option.

My assets are my big-ass Ivy-League educated brain and overwhelming Midwestern politeness.  Name calling as an argument is not a genuine option for me, so I can't play in the Trump / Spicer / Conway field.  What I can do is write researched and reasonable economic analysis of policy.  I can also write Thank You notes to those politicians who take public stands in favor of civil rights and upholding the Constitution. (Which has led to trying to find an address for Dick Cheney to write him a nice letter - that's how fucked up this whole situation is.)

The only limitation is that I need to distance my own personal opinions from those of my employer, so I really have limited hours to do these things. And, if my employer pays for my transit, can I draft a policy paper on the train even when I'm off the clock?  I'm going to have to err on the side of caution, but that still gives me about an hour each work day and the weekends to do things, and Blogger lets me choose a publication date so I can have these post automatically.

I have no idea if this will be effective, but if I lower my expectations to just making myself feel better about my own actions, then maybe this will work.  I'm not sure if I'm satisfied with this either, but it is better than doing nothing, and better than just shouting into Facebook that I'm angry all the time.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Bright Side

Hey!  I have a reason to revive my blog!

Seriously. It's your fault.

As President Trump dismantles democracy step by step and installs a kleptocracy, if you were one of the 62 million people who voted for him, I hold you personally responsible for what is happening.

You cannot hide from your responsibility.  YOU did this.