Complex legacy systems and the people who fix them

This is a good read: Hillary Clinton and the complex system.

I don’t expect it to change any minds, but I think it has some important insights into what it takes to change a large, complex, legacy system. The conclusions Jack Danger has come to about changing large legacy systems echo my own. I suppose those conclusions have influenced my political preferences in the same way they’ve influenced his.

…and would it kill you to call your poor Uncle Sam??

COOPER: This crisis in flint as you know, as everybody in the room knows was created by the government. Your policies are about expanding government. Why should people from flint trust that more government is the answer?

SANDERS: Listen, I suppose they can trust the corporations who have destroyed Flint by a disastrous trade policy which have allowed them to shut down plants in flint and move to China or Mexico. We could trust them I’m sure. Or maybe — you know, maybe, Anderson, tell you what — we should — maybe we should let Wall Street come in and run the city of Flint… because we know their honesty and integrity has done so much for the American people.

Source: Transcript of the Democratic Presidential Debate in Flint, Mich. –

It’s like Cooper asked him how he’s going to fix the porch swing, and he said “I tell you one thing Anderson, what I’m not going to do is call your good-for-nothing brother, after the job he did on the back steps!”

This may be the birth of a whole new kind of politics: government-by-guilt-trip!

It’s the charisma, stupid

I’ve been as surprised as anyone to watch Donald Trump ascend from sideshow to Republican primary steamroller. There have been a lot of narratives advanced about the unexpected Trump phenomenon: it’s because of his TV experience. It’s because he’s a fascist. It’s because he’s a demagogue. It’s because he doesn’t care about the results of what he says. It’s because he appeals to people’s pack-follower authoritarian streak. It’s because he appeals to racists.

This morning it occurred to me that it might be simpler than all that. Trump might be succeeding simply because he’s the only candidate in the entire field with even a tiny shred of charisma.

Sure, it’s a boorish, ugly charisma. But if you’ve ever rooted for Sylvester Stallone in literally any of his movies, then you can understand the appeal.

Consider the rest of the field:

  • Cruz is widely considered to be one of the least-likable people ever to walk the face of the earth.
  • Rubio is such a robotic empty suit that he sometimes gets stuck in a loop.
  • Kasich seems like a nice guy to have over for dinner, and that’s about as far as it goes.
  • Christie, Bush, Carson… none of them rolled better than a 2 on their CHR attribute.

Against this backdrop, a golden retriever holding a picture of a bald eagle would probably have fared just as well as Trump has.

Charisma explains a lot about the Democratic side of things as well. In 2008, Clinton should have had the nomination locked up. Especially compared to a relative unknown like Obama. But he had charisma coming out his ears, and Clinton… not so much.

Now it’s 2016, and she and Sanders are evenly matched in the Charisma department (because zero is equal to zero). It should be no surprise then that with her greater recognition, drive, and establishment support, she’s pulling ahead.

I doubt even Clinton supporters are going to argue with me about her lack in the charisma department. I do expect that Sanders fans will have a bone to pick with me about my assessment of him.

I’m sorry, but Sanders is simply not a charismatic man. He’s an angry scold. If you are angry about the same things, then his speeches will resonate with you. But resonance is not the same thing as charisma. Between a pragmatic-minded policy wonk like Clinton, and the uncle you wish would shut up and let you eat Thanksgiving dinner in peace, there is no charisma advantage in the Democratic race.

I don’t know what this means for the general. Trump still has some seemingly insurmountable demographic hurdles to get over in order to have a chance of winning. But he’s shown already that charisma pitted against the absence thereof can accomplish miraculous feats. It’s worrisome.

Dear Larry Lessig: Stop. Just stop.

The campaign finance reform activist, who’s exploring his own presidential bid, argues that Sanders is “running a campaign to win, not to govern.”

Source: Larry Lessig: Bernie Sanders has been “seduced” by consultants, is too focused on winning – Vox

I remember supporting Larry Lessig back when losing supreme court cases was his thing. I forked over cash for his complete failure of an anti-PAC—and urged others to do the same.

Larry has always loved to talk—and talk, and talk, and talk—about how he and his team are going to out-think the opposition. How they will cleverly use the system against itself. Now he has come right out and said he’s found a “hack” to fix what’s broken.

And finally, after all this time, I see the problem. Lessig is a law hacker. He has an undying belief that, like the protagonist in some cyberpunk novel, he’s going to find the hidden backdoor that lets him piggyback his own code onto society’s signal and “fix” the “bug” once and for all.

It’s an attractive narrative to any hacker. But it’s never going to work, and it shouldn’t work. Because the “bug” is people being people and allowing power to accumulate the way we always have. We’re not going to “hack” that out of the system with just some new laws. Reform is needed, yes, but only a candidate who intends to win (aka: be an attractive and relatable person, rather than a superior ivory-tower gadfly) will have the support to push those reforms through.

Just stop, Larry. Give it a rest.

Trump: The Republican’s Le Pen

An insightful analysis from the conservative side of things.

If the president is to be an autocrat, let him be our kind of autocrat, these supporters say. It’s our turn now, and we want a golden-headed billionaire with the restraint of the bar fly and the tastes of Caligula, gliding his helicopter down to the Iowa cornfields like a boss. He’ll show Putin what for.

Source: Are Republicans For Freedom or White Identity Politics?

The wrong lizard

Just in case anyone ever wonders why I file blog posts about politicians under “Lizards”:

“On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”

“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”

“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”

“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”

“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford.

“They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”

“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”

“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”

— Douglas Adams, So Long and Thanks for all the Fish