Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter All

Been a busy week for me. The next Android launch that I've been building for work over the last three months is slightly behind schedule, but is close to release. It will be the largest single Android release we've done since I started at PlanGrid. That's been burning me out the last month, but am nearly there, and shall celebrate upon its completion.

Had a relaxing early escape from work this weekend, as I went down to Arizona for the wedding of two close friends from college days. Congrats to Anneli and Erich! Was a wonderful wedding, and great to see all the friends collected in one place. As another plus, got to meet all of my girlfriend's family, as they happen to live in Phoenix. Learned how to make some wonderful Puerto Rican food for Easter.

Outside of the work and social gatherings, haven't had too much time to think of things to write. Politics and the economy are trundling along. World news is about what it has been, perhaps with an unfortunate uptick in terrorist attacks the last few days. Sigh. Beyond that, perhaps I can write about the latest books I've been reading. You should all read The Expanse series, by the way.

For now though, sleep. To write later. Be well, all.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Continuing Last Post's Thoughts

When I started writing this post two weeks ago, I had hoped it would be my last political post for a while. Then after getting buried under work and not writing for two weeks, I feel I've regained my ability to rant about politics. Still a long campaign season to go, and hopefully some room to write about other things, but for now, damn. America.

Two weeks ago I was thinking about potential realignment in US political parties, and how I should first evaluate what it is that I would like to see out of our political system. I have seen some related articles in the last few weeks, asking what might come out of such a potential realignment that seems to be staring down America. If Trump wins the Republican nomination, and the more establishment Republicans flee in horror, what is it that the Democratic party would attempt to do in the general election? Appeal to the establishment Republicans, or follow through with Bernie's appeal to the working class?

Trump supporters, not that I particularly understand them, but most of what I have read describes them as primarily working class people who are pissed off that the economic system has deserted them. Of course, there is a good share of bigotry, xenophobia, and anti-intellectualism walking hand-in-hand with that economic insecurity, and that puts them in a rather different camp than Bernie supporters. Still, there are at least a few similarities, in so much as "the system is broken" is a similarity.

Personally, I would hope we do not have to make that choice. Why you can't both support the cosmopolitan intellectuals and the poor? Are these really the wedges that are opening in the American political parties?

That question might be too open ended. If I can dream of a political system, I can dream of all humans being intelligent, foresighted, empathetic, etc. Sadly, that's not that likely to occur. If I were instead to imagine what I want out of a political party, that is perhaps more productive, but immediately concedes to cynicism. Politics is tribal. As much as we would like it to simply be about the best way to organize the government and associated economics and so forth, it is as much about dividing into camps, and fighting the other side.

To get back to my earlier question, what exactly is it that I want?

As Ray Smuckles said  about his political stance, "People want to eat some fuckin' dinner and have some fuckin' money! What the fuck do you think gettin' up in the morning is about?!"

I can empathize, despite being lucky to be well off, a tech worker in 2016 San Francisco. Hard to complain, but, still, things seem askew. For many of my friends, 20 and 30 somethings, with no kids, making well into six figure salaries, the idea of owning property is laughable. That, in large part, can be blamed on local politics. In the grand scheme of things it is hard to complain, but still, far from ideal.

Speaking of wanting a narrative, what might it be? Blanket libertarianism is a horribly broken approach to the economy, but of course there are a number of economic or business laws and regulations that are awful for the public. Democrats pay some service to this idea, but I have yet to see a cohesive plan or argument made with it. Republicans are much louder in making this argument, but to no significant effect that I have ever seen. Mostly they bankrupt whatever state they gain control of. Both sides support the regulations that benefit their side of the aisle and attack the other's.

The political system is corrupt, in that it is often encouraging these inefficient laws. When writing the laws, legislators pay more attention to the lobbyists surrounding them then to the people. So, yes. I want electoral reform, campaign finance reform. All the stuff Lawrence Lessig is campaigning for.

Where is the leftist critique of bureaucracy?

So, what do I want?

I want a functional, fair, and non-corrupt political system.

I want acknowledgement of, and attempt to fix, the lack of fairness in our economy and our culture. We benefit the wealthy, the white, the male, and have been exploiting those not in that group since the founding of America. I would like at the very least an equality of opportunity, which should be a self-evident goal, but seems laughably distant at the moment.

I want a support of intellectualism, a willingness to support testing ideas and to defend them with evidence.

I would like to not worry that we are plunging towards future disaster, brought about by the shortsighted, greedy, and willfully ignorant. My main concerns with regard to this are climate change, resource depletion, and over population.

So, yes. Find me a political that supports the above and I'll be for it.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Political Realignment in the US

The election continues to grind on, and the number of thoughts in my head dedicated to politics continues to tick upwards.

Given the continuing influence of Trump, and the increasing bashing of him from the Republican establishment, there have been a number of articles coming out about how it seems like we may see a party realignment in the US, along the lines of LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act and Nixon pursuing the southern strategy. For example; by FiveThirtyEight, by Vox, and by miscellaneous academics.

The immediate reason people are talking about the potential for a realignment is Trump's unorthodox views combined with the Republican establishment's hatred of him, reaching a point where former Republican presidential candidates are pleading that people not vote for him. More generally, I and many others have been frustrated with the political process in this country over the last decade, and there are many still suffering economically after the Great Recession. The potential for realignment can be seen to some extent on the left with Bernie Sanders putting up a significant challenge to Hillary Clinton.

So, what might come of this? I have a combination of hope, excitement, and dread. Yes, I do think our currently political system is horribly corrupt and broken, and do want to see it shaken up and made functional. For the excitement, living in interesting times is at least interesting. With the dread, I do not exactly trust a good share of America. Still, if I want change, a time of upheaval might be my best hope.

With asking for political change, and seeking to take advantage of a potential party realignment. I should first figure out what it is I want out of the political system. I do not perfectly agree with any of the current candidates. Bernie Sanders might be the closest, but is certainly not perfect. I do know that I'll never find a candidate that agrees perfectly with me on every issue, unless I am one day so foolish as to run myself, but I at least want a narrative I agree with. I in part think we are ripe for a realignment, because there is no gripping, agreeable narrative, other than a terrifying fear of the other side.

As a software developer, first step is to define what you want. Write out a spec. So, what do I want with our political system? What should that narrative be?

And yes, yes, that is a broad open-ended question, but I should keep it somewhat contained, otherwise I'll be dreaming of a post-national anarchist utopia out of the dreams of David Graeber. To keep things at least somewhat in line with America, what might I hope for?

To be continued later as I flesh out these half finished thoughts.