I Needed A Break

After several months of intensely watching and commenting on politics, I needed a break. I am still really happy that 2,489 people thought that voting for me wasn’t a waste, but screaming from the rooftops that voting for Trump was a mistake didn’t make much of a difference. Back in March I commented that we were already living in a corporate dystopia, and I commented a few times on social media that we were approaching a nexus where we had to choose between Neuromancer and Star Trek.

Ridley Scott's Blade Runner

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner

Trump’s cabinet selections have given an additional meaning to the Republican Three G’s of “God, Guns, and Gays” with “Goldman, Generals, and Gazillionaires,” as Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill called them. I was worried that Hillary Clinton was in too tightly with Goldman Sachs, but Trump has selected Goldman veterans Steven Mnuchin for Treasury, Gary Cohn for the White House National Economic Council, and Steve Bannon as Senior White House Adviser. Add to this the list of Trump’s billionaire friends

  • Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education,
  • ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as the leading Secretary of State Candidate,
  • Andy Puzder of Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s as Secretary of Labor, and
  • vulture capitalist Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce,

and we have the makings of a very strong corporatist executive branch. I can’t find anyone in the proposed cabinet who seems to have even the smallest concern for the economic issues facing low-income and middle class Americans.

I expect Trump’s government to be focused on the next quarter instead of the next quarter-century. I expect that they will get some significant short-term gains, while sacrificing long-term American interests. Given what I have read so far, I expect Trump to be the worst environmental president–even if he is saying he is open-minded on climate change–because I expect he will work to eliminate many environmental regulations without making sure that the environmental protections remain. (I agree that we need to streamline the regulatory and reporting requirements that often delay projects for a decade or more, but we can improve efficiency without sacrificing effectiveness.) Betsy DeVos will likely gut public school funding in favor of vouchers and semi-private charter schools, which will result in sacrificing a generation of students, likely crippling American innovation. Ben Carson’s disdain for the poor doesn’t mesh well with the Housing and Urban Development mission “to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.”

As you can tell, I’m not terribly optimistic about the next four years. I’ve had various plans streaming through my overactive brain:

  1. Watch the world burn.
  2. Move to Canada, because
    • Being farther north means we will be better able to handle climate change, and
    • Current policies seem to strike a balance between economic, social, and environmental concerns.
  3. Prepare my daughter to lead the rebellion.
  4. Work to form a shadow government, where concerned citizens work together to do what the government will not.
  5. Convince myself that there’s a way to successfully fight the kakocracy.

I don’t know which of these makes the most sense. I like the idea of a shadow government, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the person to lead it. I’ve been teaching Zari along my basic philosophy of “Expect the best, but prepare for the worst” since birth, so #3 is already well underway. I have been very unsuccessful at #5, and I don’t particularly enjoy #1. Moving to Canada is interesting, but I don’t enjoy winter that much, and I don’t really like the idea of abandoning the U.S. when it needs voices like mine more than ever.

So, if you were reading this today hoping that I had a plan, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Trump’s transition website does finally have a place to submit “stories,” but I am enough of a cynic to think that these aren’t really being read, but rather data-mined for things they can use. I don’t know what I can do today to make a difference. I’m a summer person, so winter always makes me a bit more negative than usual, but I’m having a really difficult time seeing the bright side to anything happening politically right now. I am thrilled that Colombia and FARC finally have a peace deal, ending a fifty-year civil war, but most of the rest of the news just saddens me.

At least Rogue One comes out Thursday.

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Filed under Corporate America, Ethics, Technology

So It Begins…

60893221

We have started getting the first rumblings about Trump’s Cabinet. I know some people want to demonize Trump, and perhaps some of that is justified, but his choice are not all horrible. He is apparently deciding between former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Senator Bob Corker for Secretary of State, which isn’t bad, because both have shown an ability to be diplomatic. The front runner for Secretary of Labor is Victoria Lipnic, who is neutral enough that Obama appointed her to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Finally, he’s looking at either former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as Attorney General. Both did well as U.S. Attorneys, so I would expect them to be competent in the lead role, despite their other failings.

Beyond that, things start getting ugly. His list for Secretary of the Interior consists of anti-environment oil executives and Western governors, including Sarah Palin, with many of the same names being on his list for Secretary of Energy. The one bright spot on that list is Robert Grady, a venture capitalist who was the lead architect of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s environmental policy as governor. He’s pro-business, but not anti-environment.

I was afraid to vote for Hillary Clinton because of her ties to Goldman Sachs, but Trump looks to be nominating Steven Mnuchin, a Goldman veteran, for Treasury Secretary. If there was any doubt that Trump favors the rich, large banks, and major corporations, an appointment of Mnuchin should dispel that.

The leading candidate for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator is Myron Ebell, who is a vocal climate skeptic and who thinks climate change is a European hoax. Just read this steaming pile of methane-releasing bovine excrement he wrote to see just how bad he would be. Joseph Aiello, an administrator in New Jersey’s Environmental Protection Department, would be a much better choice for the job.

Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke looks to be the leading contender for the Department of Homeland Security. Clarke has no interest in addressing the problems of systemic racism in some law enforcement departments and would be a hugely offensive choice for many minorities. Clarke is a registered Democrat, but he is absolutely a DINO, and a darling of the far right GOP.

Trump is considering Dr. Ben Carson for Secretary of Education. No. [EXPLETIVE] no. We don’t need a creationist leading our nation’s schools. The other leading contender, Williamson Evers, is a Hoover Institute K-12 education specialist, but he is very divisive. At least he is an education guy.

What is the proper response?

“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”

– Sun Tzu, The Art of War

I have a historian friend who criticizes Sun Tsu as “fortune cookie wisdom,” but sometimes I feel that concise advice is warranted.

The general anti-Trump protests are misguided at best. What we need is a targeted approach. On Trump’s Cabinet appointees, we need a two-pronged approach:

Contact the Transition Team

I am working on getting good email or mailing addresses for the transition team. Currently the only email addresses I could find were press addresses, but I imagine things will take a few more days to get rolling.

Once these addresses are in place, we need to send positive messages to the transition team. Where there are horrible candidates for a position, we need to send the team strong messages of support for the better candidates. Yeah, Evers may not be the perfect person for Secretary of Education, but he’s infinitely better qualified than Carson. Grady has acted in favor of the environment, unlike most of the rest of the Interior candidates.

I would recommend writing individual letters or emails for each post, and doing some research on the positive work the candidate has done to include in your recommendation. In my experience writing government officials, keeping things simple is always best.

Contact the Senate

Once Trump nominates, the Senate has to confirm. If the really bad candidates do get nominated, we need to persuade the Senate to block or vote down these nominations. In order, I think the worst of the worst are:

  1. Myron Ebell – EPA
  2. Sheriff David Clarke – Homeland Security
  3. Dr. Ben Carson – Education (He’s also being considered for Health and Human Services, which at least fits his expertise.)
  4. Steven Mnuchin – Treasury

With Clarke and Mnuchin, this may be the only way to stop them, as there aren’t currently any others being publicly considered.

Once these nominations head for the Senate, we need to write both our Senators, but also the Senators on the appropriate Senate Committees.


Last night, I received news that Canadian singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen died. For the past year or so, I have had “Everybody Knows” as the ringtone on my phone. The first verse–usually all I ever hear–goes like this:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Clinton would have appointed a Goldman Sachs alum to Treasury; Trump is about to do the same thing. In many ways, the system is broken, but it’s all we’ve got.


Finally, my brother reminded me last night of something that happened over twenty years ago, but I hope it gives you an idea of the type of person I am. It was in response to the following image:

need

He said:

jaywalking

If you need a friend, a listener, a bodyguard, or a voice, I will help you. I’ve never taken a John Lewis-level beating–thankfully–but I have an almost primal need for fairness. I have taken punches for friends and strangers, dishing out as few as necessary to end the fight, often helping my adversary up afterward. Fortunately, in recent years I have become better with my words than with my fists and have stopped most incidents peacefully.

I’ve got your back.

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So, What Now?

The Aftermath

I have many friends who are terrified at the results of this election, and I have a similar number who believe that this is just what our country needs. As for me, I just recall a Facebook post I made in 2009:

newboss

Now, as then, this is not to be taken literally. Obama was different from George W. Bush, and Trump is very different from Obama–but if you think the President is the country’s boss, you’re missing a big part of the picture. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but none of those men were independent. And if you think Trump is independent, I have two questions for you:

  1. Why did he have a Donate button on his campaign website from Day One?
  2. Who took away his Twitter access just before the election?

Almost no one is truly independent: Someone has some control over you, whether it’s your boss, your family, your parole officer, or your campaign donors. If you are independent, it usually means you are alone, which usually isn’t a good thing. Senator McConnell has already made it clear that he’s going to oppose Trump on his term limits pledge and likely on his infrastructure plans, and it’s pretty clear that Speaker Ryan has a pretty low opinion of the President-elect. So Trump is either going to give up some control, or he’s going to get next-to-nothing accomplished.

My point with this is that, if you are opposed to Trump, there are plenty of potential allies out there, and many of them are not people you would normally consider. However, being 100% opposed to Trump’s plan is also incredibly misguided, because, despite the source, there is some really good stuff there.

His proposed ban on former White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists makes sense, and the ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for campaigns is a no-brainer. I like the idea–for a while, anyway–requiring the elimination of two regulations to add a new one, because there are a ton of obsolete regulations out there and making Congress dig them up is a worthwhile use of their time. Democrats should support Trump’s proposals to increase infrastructure and veterans spending, because it’s similar to what they have been trying to do for years. His Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act doesn’t go as far as it should, but it’s a significant improvement on the status quo.

Having said that, some of it is really awful. His trade and environmental policies are nauseating. Much of his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is dangerous, school vouchers will only make public schools worse, and the Wall is a horrific waste of resources.

In a bit of irony, if you look at the big picture, you need to shatter it into pieces, because the allies needed for each issue differ wildly. Trump wants to “Make America Great Again,” and on some issues, we should help him, but on many others, we should oppose him.

Action Items

1. Annoy Your Senators and Representative

I’m joking: Every elected official I have ever met is extremely interested in hearing from constituents.

As we learn the order in which these bills will start coming before Congress, we need to write and call our Senators and Representatives to oppose or support each individual bill. Always write on a single issue so that staff can organize them efficiently. If you feel strongly about an issue, get your friends to write on the same issue. Try to learn about your Senators and Representative and target the message in a way that appeals to them. Don’t write a Pro-NAFTA message to a pro-business Senator that focuses on the impact on workers: sell him on NAFTA’s positive effect on small business exports to Canada and Mexico. If he’s strongly anti-immigration, point out that NAFTA helps the Mexican economy, giving workers there less reason to want to come here. And if you need help writing something, drop me a line.

2. Know What Election Is Next

In Chattanooga, the next election is for mayor and city council in March 2017, with a filing deadline in mid-December. I don’t consider myself an executive, so I am not interested in running for mayor–or president–and my personal interest is in national and international politics, so I do not think I would be a good choice for city council. Some of you might be interested in those races. Now that I have been through the process, if you need help getting started, let me know.

3. Learn Something Every Day

If you don’t understand an issue, research it. Figure out what other issues are connected to it. Find an expert and ask questions.

4. Teach Something Every Day

You know something that someone else doesn’t. Find a student and teach them. For me, it’s easy: I have my daughter. But the reason I say this is the same reason why I told my daughter’s teacher to use her as an assistant: You will get deeper knowledge of a subject through teaching it to someone else. Writing this blog forces me to break down my ideas into parts people can easily digest.

5. Do Something Positive For Yourself

And no, this isn’t about greed or consumption. Don’t go to Kay Jewelers and buy yourself a tennis bracelet. Get the checkup you’ve put off for two years, and get your flu shot while you are there. Exercise. Clean your bathroom. Organize your photos. Accomplish something.

6. Do Something Positive For Someone Else

Be a shoulder to cry on. Open a door for the mom with her stroller. Compliment someone. Help a friend with a project.

7. Do Something Positive For The World

Pick up the piece of litter instead of stepping around it. Figure out which products you use harm the environment and find alternatives and/or contact the producers and ask them what they are doing to improve things. Drive a more fuel-efficient vehicle, and walk or bike more often. Volunteer.

8. Be A Positive Voice

Try to focus on what is right with the world and talk about it. We are close to wiping out guinea worm and polio. The world population growth rate is about half what it was in the 1960s. Violent crime and property crime are down about half from what they were in the early 1990s. High school dropout rates have dropped by about a third across all age groups since 1990. Look for the good news, and look for positives in negative stories. Don’t let people get away with spreading negative misinformation.


I’m still here, and I’m not going anywhere. If you need a friend, call me (423.933.4855–if I don’t answer, leave me a voicemail or text me: I’m a nanny, and sometimes I can’t answer immediately).

Finally, if you have a job opening for a quirky, versatile, low-maintenance, genius problem solver, please drop me a line.

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President Donald Trump

Donald Trump won the election last night, which, unfortunately, didn’t surprise me as much as I wish it did. I don’t like Trump, and I have made no secret of it.

trump-acceptance

Trump giving his acceptance speech last night. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

However, President-elect Trump did give a great speech last night. For example:

“Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division, have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It is time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all of Americans, and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”

I was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in the Show-Me State. My request of Mr. Trump is simple:

“Show me.”

  • Show me that you will seek the guidance of those outside your coalition by appointing a Democrat or independent to your Cabinet. Obama kept Republican Robert Gates in his cabinet after his election, and they got along well enough that Obama gave Gates the Presidential Medal of Freedom on his retirement.
  • Show me that you won’t repeal Obamacare without having something in place so that people with existing conditions–I think “pre-existing conditions” is redundant–don’t get discarded by their insurers at the first opportunity.
  • Show me that you really didn’t mean it when you said you would “cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama,” but will instead review them and cancel the ones that truly need to be cancelled–and there are many, certainly.

Much of what Trump put in his “Contract with the American Voter” is good, necessary stuff. Improving our infrastructure will certainly create jobs–something that I have been wanting for a long time–but I question whether the Republican Congress will approve the spending. Properly funding and revitalizing the Veteran’s Administration is long overdue. Streamlining the business regulatory environment is also important. I don’t know how I feel about Trump’s desire to renegotiate NAFTA, but the treaty has been in effect for over twenty years, so it probably needs a tweak here and there. I think suspending immigration from ISIS zones is harsh, but if the suspension is for a very limited period while we quickly ramp up our ability to vet applicants, it might work.

There are certainly things I don’t like, such as school vouchers, the Wall, and ending defense sequestration–I think we can make due with our current budget if we detangle from Iraq and Afghanistan. If Trump can show that he’s willing to work with all sides to get things done, I think some of these can be managed to minimize collateral damage. I’m pessimistic, but hopeful. When I thought he should have tacked toward the center once he had wrapped up the nomination, he turned hard right with his pick of Mike Pence. I hope that now that he actually has the job he will mellow out his rhetoric.

Now, we wait, and give him a chance.

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Filed under Republicans, The Media

Campaign Postmortem

results

I spent ten dollars on this campaign: Gas money for a candidate forum in Polk County. So I spent just over 4/10 of a cent per vote, so I’m confident that I had the best return on investment.

I am truly humbled by the fact that so many people who I have never met voted for me. I have received many private messages and emails from strangers telling me they voted for me and thanking me for running, because I was a candidate they could actually support. I wish that I could represent these people in Congress, because they deserve better than what they are getting.

I sent Chuck Fleischmann a congratulatory email late last night. He did what he had to do to win. Many people are frustrated with him, and rightfully so, but I am certain that he is acting in what he feels is the best interests of the 3rd District, and a majority of the voters agree with him. I would be happier if he voted against the GOP platform every so often.

I was embarrassed last night that I had lost to Rick Tyler, but I am not now. I am embarrassed that 5,091 voters thought that his “Make America White Again” platform was acceptable in 2016, but I am relieved that he spent thousands of dollars on his campaign and probably killed his family business to get to that number.

I thought before the election that Fleischmann would get about 65% of the vote, and I had predicted that I would get between 2,000 and 2,500 votes–although I jokingly predicted that I would get 1,984–so I’m happy with my prognostication skills.

I never thought Melody Shekari was playing to win, but was rather playing to win far down the road, like in the 2022-2024 time frame. In any case, I think she ran a pretty awful campaign–but I don’t think she was really running it. I expect we will see her running again for a while, unless the local Democratic Party decides that 29% is too low to warrant giving her another chance.

I signed up for this election in the belief that there was a chance that Fleischmann’s support of Trump would result in a backlash. I told my potential donors to wait until that happened to send me money. I do not feel comfortable wasting people’s money, and fighting a battle that is doomed to fail because the opponent is too popular and too well-funded would be a waste of money. I could fight against a million-dollar war chest if his popularity had taken a hit, but it never did.

I don’t know if I will run again. I’ll stay informed and involved and see where the wind takes me.

Thank you so much for your support, your kind words, and your belief in me. I am truly honored to have been your choice for Congress.

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Filed under Stuff About Me, Tennessee 3rd District

My Senior Election Consultant

voting

The candidate with his Senior Election Consultant (Yeah, I’m talking about myself in the third person. Sorry, it won’t happen again.)

I said at the beginning of this campaign that I wouldn’t use my daughter for campaign purposes. I think it’s a bit slimy when a candidate puts underage kids in their advertisements, and I think it opens them to media criticism, or, even worse, people from the public poking fun at them. I decided to wait until the campaign was over before talking about her. (Yes, I know that technically I could be out campaigning trying to scrounge up some last minute votes by stalking a polling place, but that’s not happening. Traditionally, campaigning stops when voting starts, and I happen to think that’s a pretty good tradition.)

I’m not going to resort to the tired old trope and say that I ran for Congress because I wanted a better world for her, because, frankly, it isn’t true. There are many other things I could have done that would have been much better for that. I ran because I wanted to try to make people think, and if I can get them to think, then maybe the world will be a little better for everyone. Zari already thinks, so she has a pretty good head start.

I have discussed almost everything about my campaign and the presidential campaign with Zari. As I said in my November Election Analysis, I hadn’t decided whether to vote for Clinton, Johnson, or de la Fuente, and that it was likely going to be a situational vote depending on the polls. What I didn’t count on was that no one would conduct a public poll in Tennessee after October 4, so I didn’t have fresh data on the election. This morning, before I kept her out of school so she could join me at the polls, I broke down my arguments for and against each of them. Clinton: I agree with most of the Democratic Platform, but I hate her connections with Goldman Sachs, who were largely responsible for the 2008 meltdown; I don’t like the two-party system, and I feel that a vote for her is a vote for maintaining it; and I hate that she lies about having evolved on some of her positions. Johnson: I like the idea of small government, but his isolationism on trade and military issues really concerns me. de la Fuente: Seems like a pretty reasonable pro-business moderate Democrat running under the Reform banner, but his positions are all “what if?” questions.

She thought about it for a bit, then gave me the mildest suggestion ever, which I took. “[CANDIDATE] doesn’t seem so bad, I guess.” That’s almost exactly how I feel about all of them, so I took her advice. I’m not happy about my vote, and I don’t want anyone to take any of what I said as an endorsement, so I’m not making my choice public. (Don’t bother asking Zari: She won’t tell you either. My campaign is leakproof.)

My points with this post:

  1. I voted.
  2. I’m not happy about it.
  3. My daughter is great.
  4. I took my own advice and listened to people.
  5. If you haven’t, get out there and vote.

For everyone out there, thanks for reading, thanks for your comments, and thanks for your support. I’m going to keep this blog going for a while, because I’m sure I’ll have some postmortem comments. I don’t know if I will try this again in two years. I’ve had a few people ask me that, but I have said for a while that one thing this campaign gives me is something to say to the people who for years have asked me why I don’t run for office: “I did.”

Finally, I’m going to be at Buffalo Wild Wings on 153 tonight at 7:00 for my Defeat Party. Come out and say hi.

Thanks for everything. I appreciate all the support.

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Filed under Stuff About Me

“Good morning, Mr. Phelps. Your mission, Jim, should you choose to accept it…”

Read. Listen. Think. Vote. That’s what I think every voter should do in every election. By now you probably think you’ve read, heard, and seen enough–and you may be right–but I have one small mission for you today.

Find someone who disagrees with you politically and listen to them. Give them a chance to tell you why they are voting the way they are. Ask good questions, not “gotcha” questions, but questions that peel away the layers. Don’t get confrontational, but try to really understand why they feel the way they do. Why do they feel that one party or the other represents their views, and why do they feel that that party’s standard bearer represents the party or the country as a whole? Don’t get agitated, don’t raise your voice. Listen and ask. Repeat as necessary until you understand.

What I have found when I have done this is that we are often in agreement on the problems but disagree on the solutions and who is the best person to implement them. Yeah, sometimes the other person is willfully ignorant and even cold, hard, scientific truths are beyond them, but most people are capable of intelligent and polite discussion, if given the opportunity.

I don’t expect them to change your mind or you to change theirs. My hope is that you both realize that underneath it all, we are really on the same side. We want what’s best for ourselves, our families, our neighborhoods, our states, our country, and our world. We may disagree on some of what that is, but I don’t think anyone running for office is intentionally evil. There’s plenty of selfishness and selfcenteredness among our politicians, and plenty of myopia when it comes to specific issues.

We shouldn’t be enemies now, and we shouldn’t stay enemies after the election. Our world has serious problems that need cooperation if we are going to solve them.

If you haven’t voted already, make sure you know where to go tomorrow, and do your research before you go to the polls. If you have voted, pop some popcorn and watch the show.

Finally…

My best campaign donation.

My best campaign donation.

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