Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette

Last night we watched Hannah Gadsby’s ‘Nanette’, her Netflix special. This was our first time watching her ‘stand-up’. Apparently she relies on self-deprecating humor in her act. But this special, she literally disavowed her style and even went to the extent of retiring from comedy.

“I built a career out of self-deprecation, and I don’t want to do that anymore,” she says. “Because you do understand what self -deprecation means from somebody who already exists in the margins? It’s not humility. It’s humiliation.”

It was more of a narration of her personal journey as a lesbian growing up in Tasmania. Interspersed with humor, she delivered several gut punches with unapologetic expression of anger. It was more of a performance art than a routine standup act. The last time I saw something close was Neal Brennan’s ‘3 Mics’. I don’t want to reveal much lest I spoil the experience for you but I highly recommend that you all should watch ‘Nanette’ just so that you’re aware of the privilege that you and especially straight white men live with.

Spending Trends 2017

We use Mint to track our spending. We’ve been doing so since 2008 and so after 9 years, we’ve amassed a trove of data[1] that helps us analyze where and how often we spend our money. I usually tweet out certain tidbits but I thought I could share them on here for better perusal and sharing. Of course, I will not share exact dollar amounts we spent but only overall trends and at the most name merchants that we frequented more often than others. Previously, I blogged about exact dollar amounts we earned as part of our credit card cashback.

Overall, we ended up spending quite a bit more compared to 2016. We frequented 332 distinct merchants in 2017[2].

Big Increase Categories

But first, paying to replace the aging roof out of our own pocket[3] accounted for nearly half of that increase. Also, we did start remodeling our bathroom so the ‘Home Improvement’ category was much to blame. But it’s an investment in your home so money well spent. Second, we noticed we spent more on eating out especially at fine dining places. Here are the top ten places we ate out at ordered by the amount we spent:

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Footnotes:
  1. Admittedly, so has Mint []
  2. Think about that when you’re estimating the economic impact of one family on a region []
  3. AllState is known for evaluating very strictly and admittedly, we didn’t have much hail damage. The roof was just too old. []

Leaving Facebook

I deactivated my account on Facebook on New Years’ Eve [1]. There was no specific reason or motive for doing so. I’ve been living without the Facebook app on my phone for more than 6 months now [2] and have not missed it much. I used to access Facebook via the browser on the phone and laptop using the web view interface. It works just as well if not better in case you’re wondering.

So why did I quit a social networking site that I’ve been using for the last 12 years [3]? Continue reading

Footnotes:
  1. Why wait for the new year to begin your resolution, right? []
  2. Admittedly, after hearing about Facebook’s attempts at tracking our location even when we’re not using the app []
  3. Yes, I opened my account back in 2005 when Facebook was open to only college students in select universities. I used to enter the classes I was enrolled in to find my classmates to add as friends. I still had some of them as friends []

Maximizing Cashback

Before I recap my 2017 spending trends using Mint [1], like I do every year, I wanted to elaborate on my use of credit card cashback. I do not use actual dollar amounts on my spending trends post but I’ll make an exception for cashback trends. We made a total of $926.95 on cashback on our 3 credit cards – Bank of America CashRewards, Discover, and Citi Card DoubleCash[2]

The first reaction to mentioning this to anyone is – wow! you guys must’ve spent a lot. Although there’s a strong correlation but not always a linear one. Also, we earned nearly $200 more in cashback this year compared to last year and even if you assume a 1% cashback rate, we definitely didn’t spend $200,000 more. In fact, we DEFINITELY didn’t spend that much in total. Further, even if I tell you the exact cashback rate we get on our credit cards which I will shortly, it’s nearly impossible to extrapolate that to our total spending for the year. Finally, note that for big spending items for home repair and upkeep like changing your roof, we save up and use cash. You don’t get cashback on that spending although ironically you would make the most on that. I’ll explain why you shouldn’t even if the contractors accept credit cards.

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Footnotes:
  1. check back after Jan.1st []
  2. We’re not frequent travelers and have no interest, no pun intended, on airline miles []

Pet Peeve #452

One of my pet peeves is retail people assuming I don’t eat pork. I would hesitate to call it a micro-aggression because I’ve experienced this behavior from all kinds of people. Desi guys at Subway, the Asian guy at a Chinese restaurant, and white people at supermarkets. When I order a sandwich and order bacon on it, I get a concerned look and a warning that bacon is pork and if I’m ok with it. Fuck yeah! That’s why I ordered it. Or more infuriating is when I order pork belly and am warned that it’s pork. I almost want to snap back that I sure hope it is. The supermarket is especially galling at the samples table. I amble up to try a sample to the guy screaming at everyone to try the latest ham and get a warning that it’s pork. I’m like, yes that’s why I came over unlike the others who’re pretending to ignore you.

I’m not sure where this unwanted concern comes from. Maybe it’s the assumption that all brown guys are Muslims and Muslims don’t eat pork. It’s almost like if I manned the supermarket samples table and warned all white guys that the meat samples are not kosher and wonder what they’re doing out on the Sabbath.

Disconnecting

Whenever I’m done browsing Twitter, I always end up more angry and frustrated than when I opened it. I usually check Twitter first thing in the morning and sometimes only at the end of the work day to catch up on the news and am horrified at what has transpired in the past 8 hours. This doesn’t include the various notifications and alerts you get. Regardless of whatever good is happening in your life, you end up despondent. I want to break out of this cycle.

The drastic step is to delete your Twitter account. However, we do rely on Twitter for news. I first heard about Osama Bin Laden’s death on Twitter [1]. So what’s the tradeoff here? Is ignorance really bliss? I have always been the person who’s interested in keeping up-to-date on current affairs. I pride myself on knowing what’s going on at all levels of the world I exist in. But we often hear about news that often don’t pan out and we just end up freaking out early and often.

@sqrlta recommended not reading Twitter first thing in the morning and instead reading Washington Post. I agree. That would make a profound difference and it has. If we read news, we rather read it in depth instead of bite-sized takes by random people. But I decided to try something more. I tried the following steps:

  • Disable all types of notifications including mentions from all Twitter accounts on all devices. Yes, they can wait. Respond only if I’ve the app open at the time I get a mention.
  • Disable notifications from news apps. No news is breaking unless it’s happening in my immediate vicinity [2]. I can read about it later when the rumors have died down.
  • Delete NYT apps and evangelize unsubscribing it among those who will listen. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know why.
  • Mute prolific political accounts for a week and see if I miss anything[3].
  • (Eventually) create or subscribe to lists for political accounts and unfollow them from main timeline. Dip into those lists during major events that you hear about from elsewhere like the Alabama special election.
  • Engage more on my professional Twitter account especially given my new role and responsibilities at work.
  • Stay busy at work and home or read more long-form articles and books.
  • And yes, blog here more often. About anything. Even if no one reads it. Especially so.

I’ve done this for 3 days and my life already feels better. Anything you would add?

I have been already living without the Facebook app for the past couple of months. I haven’t missed much and don’t think people have missed me either. I’ve posted maybe couple of times in this time and mostly let A post and tag me. I access it once a day at the most using the web view. Listen to this Hidden Brain episode and you’ll see how even the oh-so-sacchirine Facebook can be toxic.

Footnotes:
  1. Turns out I wouldn’t have missed it if I wasn’t on Twitter []
  2. We get text alerts from UT in that case. It’s not like I am going to stop a terrorist attack as it’s happening. I’m no Jack Bauer []
  3. I already follow fewer than 70 people on my main Twitter account yet feel overwhelmed. Not sure how those who follow hundreds cope []

Being Mortal

I started reading Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal nearly a year ago and somehow never got around to finishing it. It’s admittedly a difficult read in the sense that it can be overwhelming at times. I finally finished it last night partly because my wife wanted to start it on the Kindle and also because my grandfather, or as everyone called him, Dada passed away on Sunday. He was the last of my immediate grandparents to pass away.

By all measures, he lead a good and charmed life. He was 95 and suffered from no major illness apart from heart disease that afflicts all Indian males. He lived couple of blocks from my parents and my dad regularly checked on him; so much so that my dad would refuse to come visit us for more than a few weeks because he didn’t want to leave Dada alone in case “something happened”. The “something” never happened. Dada was never limited in his movements and walked all around the town as far as I can remember. He passed away peacefully during his afternoon nap. It’s the kind of death that everyone wishes for but very few get. He outlived my grandmother who couldn’t recognize her own son by the time she passed away, by three and half years. Dada had a fractious relationship with his children and grandchildren. As they say, if you can’t say anything good about a person after he’s dead, you are better off not saying anything. So I’ll not say anything. All I’ll say is that I hope I don’t end up like him in spite of him leading a charmed life.

Going back to Gawande’s book, the premise focuses on the quality of life rather than the length of life and more specifically, the manner in which you choose to pass away. Medical science has advanced to such a degree that humans can be kept alive for a much longer time than you would imagine. But no one has stopped to ask the question of whether we should. Or as in Amitabh’s immortal (no pun intended) words, yeh jeena bhi koi jeena hai. Gawande cites several examples from his professional and personal life that focuses on the individual’s choice on care and ultimately, way to die. The Republicans’ favorite chant ‘death panels’ actually referred to the end of life counseling that doctors offered their patients. It’s the ultimate decision you can take for your life.

You do not choose to be born in this world and as of today, most laws even prevent you from actively choosing to die but at least you can choose the way you die when and only when you’re diagnosed to. The DNR is the most commonly known legal process in our pop culture and medical professionals are taught to honor it just as they’re taught to honor the first do no harm principle. Others like hospice care are fraught with emotions that you may not be fighting back hard enough. But after a while, it’s useless fighting nature.

Being Mortal will not only make you aware of your mortality but actually prepare you for it. I say that in the most humble and optimistic way. You aren’t immortal. You’re going to die. You’re born in perhaps one or two ways but you can die in umpteen different and uncharacteristic ways. The worst I believe, waiting to die which can be a long and painful process not only for the person but also for their loved ones. Modern medicine can perhaps keep you alive for as long as it is possible today but it’s entirely within your rights and choice to decide when enough is enough.

Even before I finished reading the book or even before hearing about Dada’s death, we had confirmed our appointment for signing our living wills and codifying end-of-life processes with an estate planning attorney. I have had the conversation with my brother about his role in the process. It reminded him to do the same as well. It’s the conversation we should feel comfortable having with our loved ones. It shouldn’t take a death to start having that conversation.

Vacationing at North Padre Island Seashore

The North Padre Island Seashore is one of the hidden treasures of Texas. Located on the Coastal Bend, it’s one of the national seashores protected by the National Park Service and as unspoiled as beaches can be. It’s located more than 20 miles from Port Aransas so doesn’t get the crowds. It’s also as opposite as it can be from its Southern counterpart which is a spring break destination. All you can hear is waves crashing, wind blowing thru the sand dunes, and the sea gulls squawking. The beach is much cleaner than the other Texas beaches.

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Small Town Values – Taking Cold Showers

Photo by @randyolson – Garden City, Kansas – Beef Empire Days – This photo is about small town values on parade but also about the railroad tracks under these children’s feet. Those railroad tracks used to take corn out for sale all over the world… now it’s bringing corn into Garden City for the feedlots that ring the area. Which means they are also importing water from other parts of the world in the form of feed corn. If America's appetite for beef waned or even switched to bison we would save water on the plains and enhance our own food security. Scarcity of water, fragile infrastructure, small dust bowls, the family farm crisis, Big Ag, and global urbanization leave some behind with few options. Small towns are disintegrating around their residents. There is rampant meth and opioid addiction in some of these places. If your hot water heater breaks, there isn’t anyone in your entire county that can fix it. I am from the Midwest, and the pain rural folks have gone through showed up this election. I saw this frustration first-hand working on the Ogallala aquifer story that ran in the August 2016 issue of National Geographic, but I never thought the level of frustration of these communities would manifest itself in this way. @natgeocreative @thephotosociety

A post shared by National Geographic (@natgeo) on

Small towns are disintegrating around their residents. There is rampant meth and opioid addiction in some of these places. If your hot water heater breaks, there isn’t anyone in your entire county that can fix it. I am from the Midwest, and the pain rural folks have gone through showed up this election.

I saw this photo and its caption just before the November election. I bookmarked it hoping to write about it someday. Today is that day. As 45 unveils his Executive Order on H1-Bs today, I bring your attention to the highlighted line in the above excerpt. Just imagine the potential of the market demand in the area of water heater repair. Why isn’t anyone in the entire county trained to fix it? It’s not a job that needs a graduate school education. In fact, it is one of those jobs that trade schools specialize in and these jobs cannot be outsourced. So why aren’t “native-born Americans” fixing water heaters? Is that the pain that the author refers to in the next line? People bathing in cold water turning up to the election booths to vote for Trump.

It’s easy to blame immigrants who often play an important role in the economy i.e. doing the jobs the native population isn’t willing to do much less qualified to do. There are job-training and re-training programs for citizens but the current administration is even slashing funding for those.

Ideally, native-born Americans would be setting up water heater repair businesses and competing to fix them in a county where no such repairperson currently exists. If the native-born aren’t interested in those jobs, maybe some immigrant from a neighboring poorer country will move there and do that job. But what you have now is reluctance to do that job yourself plus resentment for newcomers based on factors that few in the media will dare to speak out aloud. These folks in Garden City, Kansas with “small town values” finding joy in children’s parades while suffering from meth & opioid addiction and apparently cold showers. I wonder what those “small town values” really are about? *thinking face emoji*

Republican – I hate everything about him but he’s gonna appoint pro-life judges so I will vote for him.

Democrat – I like everything about Hillary but she gave a speech to Goldman Sachs so I’m not going to vote for her.

Given the margin, that’s the 2016 Election in a nutshell.

What Are Third Parties Doing?

I could be wrong here, but third parties in the US seem to show up exclusively for the presidential election. They put up candidates, they complain a lot about how there is no space for alternative voices and then they disappear for 4 years. This seems to me to be no way to build an alternative. If they really need to build a party, there’s a lot of organizational work that would be needed. I would expect them to focus on winning lower level elections first and then work their way upwards. They are either not doing this, which means that they are not serious; or they are trying to do this and failing, which supports my point that there is really no need for them [Source: The Examined Life]

Ravikiran is definitely not wrong here. These third parties show up exclusively for the presidential election because a) they actually have no plans or intentions for winning the elections and b) they never can. As he notes, if these parties really wanted to win, the logical thing to do is to first focus on local elections. There even is precedent for a random independent person to be Governor (e.g. Jesse Ventura in Minnesota). But further down ballot as constituencies get more & more insular, third parties can win races. Even beyond school board and city council elections, the Congressional Races are ideal for getting your foot in the door.

Why doesn’t the Green Party or the Libertarian Party target certain House seats that are closest to their ideology? Is it because they’ll soon find out that the two major parties are in fact big tent parties that have members with a diverse range of beliefs and help nominate people with ideologies in line with their constituency? If the excuse is that incumbents have an unfair advantage in networking and social capital within their constituency, then how do they expect to overcome that at a national level? But if the real intention is not to win anything but simply raise a stink and effectively be a spoiler then yes, third parties do just that during Presidential elections, as they’ve the right to. But only if their supporters would admit this reality at least.

Even at the federal level, currently, there are two independent Senators (Bernie Sanders & Angus King) who even though caucus with Democrats have leverage to further their progressive agenda. In the age of narrow majorities, even a couple of third-party elected officials in the Congress can yield tremendous influence just like in the Indian parliament. Currently, the Senate is controlled by the Republicans by a 52-46-2 majority. Imagine the leverage a couple more progressive Senators would’ve enjoyed instead of betting it all on an improbable Presidential election. Bernie Sanders understood the realities of a Presidential election and hence ran in the Democratic Primary. He could’ve easily run as a third-party candidate like Jill Stein & Gary Johnson but he would’ve peeled off Hillary Clinton’s votes instead giving Trump a even larger victory margin.

Or as Ravikiran suggests as an alternate reality that the country in fact doesn’t need a third party. Russ Feingold who had no private email servers issues or never gave speeches to Goldman Sachs and by any measure is considered a solid progressive and was an ex-Senator still lost his election in Wisconsin. He was endorsed by Bernie Sanders who even campaigned for him. Still he lost to an unpopular incumbent Republican by more than 3 points; more than the margin of Clinton’s loss in the state.

At the Congressional level, another beloved progressive and a campaign finance reformer Zephyr Teachout lost to a first-time-running-for-House Republican in a country that Obama won by more than 7 points in 2008 & 2012. She was also endorsed by Bernie Sanders and endorsed by progressives-favorite groups like Sierra Club & Emily’s List. She was a volunteer at Occupy Wall Street. You couldn’t get any more progressive unless you got Ed Begley Jr to run. Yet she lost by 9 points in a battleground district in New York.

On the libertarian front, as soon as marijuana is legal in all 50 states, there will no libertarian movement left; at least among white people.

Hope Strikes Back

Hillary Clinton lost the Electoral College and thereby the Presidency. There are no two ways about it. There are attempts currently underway by the third candidate to ask for a recount Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan [1] but that’s not going to change the result. However, on the popular vote front, votes are still being counted and 18 states are still pending to be certified including California, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, etc. On this measure, Hillary Clinton is leading right now by 2.7 million votes i.e. by 2 percentage points.

Some say that this is a useless exercise since the outcome may have been different due to changed strategies had popular vote been the measure [2] But I disagree.

I find solace in this measure not as a way to countermand the result but simply as a barometer of popular opinion. Days after the election, I was depressed primarily because I thought this country as a whole had decided that progressive policies of the past were no longer welcome including immigrants such as myself. This measure gives me hope that the majority of the country doesn’t think so. Even the margin in those three Rust Belt swing states has been steadily falling and at last count, is fewer than 80,000 votes out of more than 13 million votes. The margin in each of those states was fewer than 1 percentage point with the lowest in Michigan at 0.2 percentage point or just under 10,000 votes.

Just imagine, a marginal shift of those 80,000 votes and we would now be talking about how those racist bigoted working class whites were finally rebuked and cast into the darkness of history. Nearly 600,000 people in those states cast their votes for the third party so clearly they weren’t voting for Trump. So even in those woebegone Rust Belt states, most people did not vote for Trump and his racist bigoted policies. The ‘First Past the Post’ system simply helped him claim victory. That’s fine and we’ll have to live through the consequences of his victory this may be the extent of the GOP victory even while being blatant racist. If that’s the only way you can get those people to turn out and the margin was a measly 80K votes in states with a combined population of nearly 28 million people, there may still be hope. You just have to wait four more years and wish the world isn’t destroyed beyond repair by then.

As far as enthusiasm for Obama in 2012 vs. Clinton for 2016 goes:

Footnotes:
  1. I hope this blatant ruse to grift from grief-stricken and panicked Democrats doesn’t go far. []
  2. Critics claim that we don’t know what the outcome may have been but given the voter trends and regions where people live and the current margin of victory, chances are that Democrats would still get more votes. In the last seven presidential elections, Republicans have won the popular vote only once but the Presidency three times.

    People often don’t vote because they’re disillusioned that their vote doesn’t matter. They may be Democrats in deeply red states or Republicans in deeply blue states. In large red states with growing populations (TX, GA, and AZ), Democrats gained votes; even to the extent of 7 percentage points in Texas.

    Also, if popular vote was a measure then the concept of protest vote diminishes and third-party vote share would fall. You would effectively voting against a candidate. []

Betraying LBJ

I’ve lived in three cities in the U.S.; all three have been home to a Presidential Library. I still regret not visiting the Carter Center in Atlanta during my five-year-stay there but I did take plenty of visitors to the Bush (senior) Library in College Station. So finally after living in Austin for three years, I visited the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library on the University of Texas campus. It’s an impressive monolithic structure featuring a cavernous atrium within, adjacent to the Public Affairs school with its name. The library, like any other, features the work and life of Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States. LBJ, as he was known, was a Texan native and grew up not too far from Austin in Johnson City.

LBJ Pens for Legislation

As soon as you enter the Library, you see a row of pens corresponding to the legislation it was used to sign it into law. That sight sets the tone and impact of his presidency featured extensively in the displays at the library. The amount of progressive legislation signed into law in just 5 years was enormous and continues to shape our lives to this day. Check out the following legislation he moved through Congress:

LBJ Legislative Achievements

Look at that list and think about the impact it has had on your life. I can literally trace my presence in this country (and to be writing this post) all the way to the Immigration Act of 1965 and it wasn’t even his signature legislation. Other progressive landmarks included Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, Public Broadcasting (NPR & PBS), the Clean Air and Clean Water Act, and plenty others in highway safety (seat belts), urban housing (Fair Housing Act), criminal justice. Even as an Indian, I can thank the Johnson administration (& of course Norman Borlaugh) for saving over a billion lives by facilitating the Green Revolution.

So with that impressive list of achievements, you would imagine Johnson is still feted as the greatest President ever by the Democrats, right? Plus he would easily win a second term. Not so. Johnson got bogged down in the Vietnam War and didn’t even seek a second term. The anti-war progressives protested vociferously and eventually pinned the Vietnam War mess solely on Johnson’s shoulders and we ended up with a Nixon presidency who eventually expanded the war into Cambodia and Laos after having to withdraw ignominiously from Vietnam in 1974. The ‘secret plan’ to end the Vietnam War as promised (does that remind you of someone today?) was never revealed and in fact, it’s now known that the Nixon campaign treasonously sabotaged a peace plan in 1968 to prolong the war and deny the Johnson administration any credit.

So even with those solid progressive victories that liberals continue to cherish and enjoy even today, Johnson was relegated to the history books as a failed President and passed away without any fanfare. Given this precedent, why would any Democrat work for any progressive agenda if he or she knows that one error in judgment in a war-related decision would take you down (again, does this remind you of someone?) The progressive Left would never stand by you and would instead let a demagogue conservative win just coz their candidate wasn’t as perfect as they demanded. Eventually, all the liberal environmentalists from the 60s ended up driving SUVs in the suburbs that they fled en masse to get away from the minorities. If nothing else, the progressives love two things – protesting in perpetuity and acting in ways that eventually underscores the goals that they are protesting against. Wait, add one more thing – being goddamn hypocritical. Holier-than-thou progressives will always complain about not getting their perfect candidate and will blame the rest of us for nominating a flawed candidate but eventually it comes down to who gets the most votes. The other side turns up but progressives don’t.

If nothing, conservatives understand electoral politics. Remember the 2010 midterms after being nearly wiped out in 2008? You can achieve your goals but you have to first get elected to introduce and pass legislation. As a Democratic presidential nominee once famously said, you cannot change minds but you can change laws. That’s how we got desegregation, civil rights, and even gay marriage. You are not going to get everything at once but you can lose everything at once. Unfortunately her words fell on deaf ears.

Be it 1968 or 2016, the progressives love snatching defeat from the jaws of victory just because they didn’t have a perfect candidate. Even when they were shown that the conservatives have fielded the most imperfect candidate you could imagine. But will we learn? I hope so but I fear we will not.

Voting for a Racist is the New Normal

“America is already great because America is good”
– Hillary Clinton

Two weeks ago, that statement was dealt a severe blow as Donald Trump became President-Elect of the United States. Just like many others in my circle, it landed like a hard blow and made me question my beliefs and assumptions about this country. I’ve lived here for little over 16 years now or rather in two Bush terms and two Obama terms and never have I felt more despair in terms of this country’s future and ideals. To be honest, I’ve not yet completely recovered much less heed to any advice of being open to the “other side”. It’s almost like America woke up suddenly and said, it’s a white country and you just live in it.

The more I read about this election especially after a grueling and anger-inducing 16 months of campaigning, the more I believe that white America stood up and stamped its authority over this country of immigrants. We often ask each other that how could anyone vote for Trump after what he said and has done throughout the course of his campaign and his earlier life? He and his supporters offended Mexicans and other immigrants, African Americans and other minorities, Jews, disabled people, and even women. He was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women and a dozen women came forward confirming that he indeed had. He called Mexicans rapists and criminals and implied black neighborhoods have an infestation of crime. He mocked disabled reporters.

Well, maybe…just maybe they voted for him just because of those things and not in spite of them. Perhaps he was so generous in his hatred of various sections of the society that people focused on the things they hated too and ignored the rest. This may just be a form of cognitive deafness if you may. A Muslim woman who hates Mexicans, or a feminist who hates Muslim, or a Latino who is sexist, or, well, you get the picture.

Pundits are already spinning narratives on why Clinton lost but don’t pay heed to those. The race angle only makes sense. I don’t say this lightly since I do (still) believe America tries the most in attempting to address the scourge of supremacy of one race or religion over the other. Except in this election, Republicans actively sought to support the candidate who dispensed with the dog whistle and actively courted white supremacists and anti-Semites.

The Republican base had been clamoring for a more overtly radical and less politically-correct candidate since the GOP chose to nominate moderates like McCain and Romney. Instead this time when the base won out and they got the brash loud-mouthed lout, they came out in droves to support the nominee. Data shows Trump won a lot more Romney voters in red counties or at least enough to counter the increased Latino voters in Democratic counties. In my opinion, Clinton’s only electoral folly was that she appealed to the better angels of the GOP’s nature only to find out that there were none. The moderate and #NeverTrump-ers either went back to the Republican fold or simply were too few to matter. A majority of whites, whether they were college educated or not, voted for Trump.

The Rust Belt is not evolving as rapidly as the other parts of the country in coming to terms with the new economy. Resentment against declining job opportunities and resistance to training for the newer jobs [1] was redirected to the presence of immigrants. Fear in those parts worked much better than hope. People did not vote for Trump in spite of his despicable views but because of it. He forced them to dig up their primal fears and baser instincts of resentment and victimhood based on a false sense of racial superiority. Other moderates hadn’t made those fears explicit yet.

Subtle hints didn’t work, obvious hints didn’t work; ultimately you just had to say it out loud and repeatedly for those people to get it. No amount of talking to them about ‘economic anxieties’ is going to matter. I’ve lived for 8 years in one of the more conservative towns in the country where college-educated white conservatives consider a space space under a Republican administration and a Democrat administration. The fear is real. No one was talking about reaching across to the liberals once Obama got elected in a far bigger mandate. They just got down to work and decided to beat liberals and in 2010, they laid the groundwork of doing just that.

However, to end on a slightly positive note, it turns out that just over 100,000 voters in three Rust Belt states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) decided the election in which 130 million people voted in a country that has more than 320 million people. Of course, it was the Democrats much vaunted blue wall that cracked; however the signs have been there for a while now. So if there’s any reason to hope it’s that the majority of this country doesn’t subscribe to those views. As votes are still being counted, Clinton continues to increase her lead in the popular vote and may end up with at least 2 million votes or around a 2% margin. That’s a point and a half over Al Gore who also won the popular vote while losing the presidency. That’s progress; rest is just electoral college reality.

Footnotes:
  1. We see this as part of our professional jobs []

Innovation-Schmovation

It’s that time of the year when the major tech companies try to flex their “innovation” muscles. Samsung tried kicking off the season early but it literally blew up in their face so they’re kicked to the curb for now. Let’s hope they get their shit together.

Google put its Fiber plans on hold and laid off more than half of its team in addition to firing off its CEO (he wrote a nice blogpost full of MBA jargon but call that Google’s exit interview). We are slated to get Fiber installed in our home very soon now but my enthusiasm is somewhat muted because you want to be assured that your utilities company is going to stick around. It’s not like your every other photo storage startup that abruptly shuts down and offers a zip file of your uploads.

Apple announced its ‘same old’ iPhone and ‘nearly same as before’ Macs minus the ports [1]. But they added a ‘Touch Bar’ that added a smidgeon of touch interface to their vaunted Mac lineup. Everyone else has skipped straight to making their screens touch-based but Apple has (rightfully, in my opinion) so far resisted. Keep the touch controls where your hands always are, I say. In fact, many of the touchpad controls are located on the Touch Bar. E.g. no longer using the trackpad to select a menu item when it’s right there on your contextual touch bar. Apple is more likely to replace its hardware keyboard with a touch interface with oodles of haptic feedback before it makes the screen with touch interface. So if you want a touch screen laptop, you’re better off jumping ship right now but empirical evidence suggests no one is in a hurry.

Microsoft, on the other hand, egged on by its new young CEO is upping the ante on innovation. It launched the admittedly cool looking Microsoft Studio, a virtual drawing board with a hinge. The video looks great and it definitely seems great to use. But…you knew a ‘but’ was coming…it suffers from the Google Glass problem. Everyone you know says they are definitely not going to buy coz it’s not for them but they definitely see the use for ‘creative professionals’. Yup, that’s what they said about Google Glass and turns out only dorks ended up buying it.

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Footnotes:
  1. Removal of the ports always causes consternation but within a year no one even remembers their anger []

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