Category Archives: Technology

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.



Filed under Corporate America, Ethics, Technology

Whose World Is It Anyway?

This morning I read an interesting article on OZY titled “Don’t Let Old People Vote!” I won’t go into great detail, but it did raise an interesting question for me: Whose world is it anyway?

One of my independent opponents, Rick Tyler, longs for a return to the way the U.S. was in the 1950s and 1960s, when white Christian Conservatives were in control. Tyler is extreme, certainly, but parts of his attitude are reflected in many older Americans. Opposition to gay marriage and equality, environmental protection, improved funding for education are all much greater among older Americans than younger, while older Americans are more likely to vote than younger Americans.

This is due at least in part due to the fact that voter registration isn’t automatic. The seventy-five-year-old who has lived in the same house for forty years hasn’t had to re-register, while the twenty-five-year-old recent college graduate likely had to re-register when moving from home to college, then when switching apartments, then when moving from college to the new job–possibly six or seven moves since turning eighteen. If the twenty-five-year-old is in Tennessee, that requires mailing in a new registration form for each move at least thirty days before an election, since there is no electronic voter registration. Thus, part of the reason for lower voter turnout among young Americans is systemic, rather than simply being voter apathy.

This is problematic, because older Americans are, effectively, voting to force younger Americans to live in the world they want, rather than in the world older Americans would like to return. Unfortunately, the world they want cannot return, because America is unlikely to return to a manufacturing economy, not due to moving jobs out of the country but due to increased automation–and that automation is only going to continue to allow workers to improve productivity, which will continue to decrease the number of workers needed. We need trade laws that protect intellectual property rights (although not to the extreme duration that the Trans-Pacific Partnership mandates), because these are areas where the U.S. still excels. Protecting the environment is also less important to older Americans, because they are unlikely to suffer the consequences. Their college wasn’t free, so why should it be for younger Americans–ignoring the fact that a college student in their day could pay for school, room, and board with a part-time job plus a full-time job in the summer? And, of course, many older Americans don’t think that racism and homophobia was really that bad–because LGBT people stayed closeted and minorities “knew their place.”

As anyone who has read more than one post on this blog knows, I’m not a normal politician. I don’t look forward to tomorrow, next week, or next year: I look ten, twenty, and fifty years into the future. I think we need to be planning an online voting infrastructure now, and it should be trivial for someone to change their address in the system. I think we need to continue to improve our environmental standards–but we need to make sure that while improving standards we don’t also increase the regulatory burden on American businesses. If we add a new reporting requirement, we need to remove an existing one. Civil rights protections need to cover any group subject to discrimination on any basis besides their ability to do a job–with appropriate accommodations, where needed–or to pay for the goods and services provided. I have said before that we need to move toward a single-payer health care system, both to allow U.S. manufacturers to compete on a level playing field internationally and to make part-time employment affordable for Americans and small businesses.


(from Pinterest. Original artist unknown.)

I have argued before that we need to consider raising the age for Social Security, but given current population trends, this may not be the best route. The world population growth rate is currently about half that of the 1960s–1.13% compared to 2.2%–and falling. Depending on the rate of improvement in automation, we may have to tweak the workforce by manipulating the retirement age upward or downward. If we find that we have too many workers, it may be useful to drop the retirement age to free up those slots. We may even get to the point where a universal basic income becomes viable and desirable, in the case of automation greatly reducing the need for labor. It isn’t something that we can afford today, and much more research needs to be done, but it is something that we should consider as an option later.

I don’t fear the future. I don’t think you should either–and you shouldn’t vote for anyone who does. We need to manage the world so that we don’t irreparably damage it while we are getting there, but the world can be an incredible place. We just need politicians who won’t sabotage us on our way there.

The election is in four days. Do your research, then get out and vote. Thanks for reading!

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Filed under Education, Environment, Gay Marriage and Gender Issues, Health Care, Listening, Racism, Social Security, Technology

To Meme or not to Meme…

I like a good meme as much as anyone, but commenting on other people’s memes seems to get me into more trouble on social media than anything else.

I can’t help myself. I feel a need to comment when someone posts a meme that is obviously misleading, lying, or taking things out of context. I’ll give you three examples:

From the Democrats


The first sign that this is a bad meme is that it is quoting a fictional character from a television show. The real problem, though, is that the meme is terribly inaccurate. The meme names six bills that benefited Americans and claims that liberals supported all six and conservatives opposed all of them:

  1. Social Security
  2. The Civil Rights Act
  3. The Voting Rights Act
  4. Medicare
  5. The Clean Air Act
  6. The Clean Water Act

Had the meme stopped with Social Security and Medicare, it would have done just fine. The Civil Rights Act of 1964–the first one with teeth–was a bipartisan bill, with more Democratic opposition than Republican. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was jointly sponsored by the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, and, like the Civil Rights Act, it had more opponents among Democrats than Republicans.

The environmental bills are much more problematic. The Clean Air Act of 1970 was passed unanimously by the Senate and had one no vote in the House. It gave teeth to the original Clean Air Act of 1963 and led to Richard Nixon establishing the Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Water Act of 1972 passed unanimously. It was vetoed by Nixon–because he was opposed to the pork in the bill: His budget request had already quadrupled funding for clean water, and the bill was passed over his veto. Environmental legislation used to be bipartisan, and it can be argued that the two best environmental presidents were Nixon, for founding the EPA, and Theodore Roosevelt, for pushing the Antiquities Act of 1906, which effectively started the National Park System.

On the other two items, there wasn’t as much disagreement as the meme would suggest. The Social Security Act of 1935 passed the House 372-33, and the Social Security Act of 1965, which established Medicare, did have significant Republican support, even though slightly more Republicans voted against it than for it. Neither of these bills passed with the standard party-line votes we most often see in today’s Congress.

Yes, the GOP usually opposes environmental, civil rights, and social welfare legislation today, but it wasn’t always that way, despite what this meme suggests.

From the Republicans


I have no argument with the claim that, by allowing classified materials to be sent on a private email server, Hillary Clinton broke the law. (Whether she should be jailed or not is another issue entirely. Historically, imprisonment on this is based on two things: Whether the material was leaked intentionally and the rank of the person who made the leak. It may not be right, but high-ranking government or military officials who inadvertently leak classified information are rarely punished with more than a slap on the wrist.)

The law quoted in the meme, however, has absolutely nothing to do with this case. Clinton had the emails destroyed after the State Department requested all emails relating to State Department business. The law quoted in the meme has to do with documents held by courts, judicial officers, or public officers. The deleted emails were never held or requested by the courts, as the FBI declined to recommend charging Secretary Clinton with a crime.

There are other laws that Clinton broke or may have broke that would have been appropriate for a meme. In my opinion, when you post inaccurate or misleading information in a meme to show your opposition to a candidate, you hurt your case. It would have been so easy to create an accurate version of this meme that properly made their case.

From the Greens


This is a picture of the Packard Plant in Detroit. Yes, this factory made Packards and Studebakers, and was closed in 1958. NAFTA came into force in January, 1994.

Was it Marty McFly, Doctor Who, or Bill and Ted who went back in time to make sure that NAFTA caused the demise of Packard thirty-seven years earlier?

There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of NAFTA, and it would not have been difficult to find an image of a closed factory that could be partially blamed on NAFTA. This picture looked better, so the meme author used it to misinform voters.

It is five days until Election Day and the last day of early voting here in Chattanooga. Keep reading and thinking and questioning, and make an informed decision–if you haven’t already.

Thanks again for your support. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, let me know.

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Filed under Listening, Technology, The Media

Back to Work…

I have had a very busy couple of weeks, with having a sick kid, taking same kid back and forth to Louisville, and catching a bit of her bug myself. I did vote on Thursday, but, as is normal, I did not vote for candidates who actually won.

I did learn that 70.35% of the primary voters in the 3rd District voted for Republican candidates, and that the Democratic nominee, Melody Shekari, ended up with under 2% of the potential voters in the district (8,651 votes of an estimated 541,000 residents over 18–I dropped foreign-born people from the Census number, figuring that while many of them became U.S. citizens and were registered to vote, we probably lose a roughly equal number of felons). The level of voter apathy is disheartening, to be certain.

So now we are down to five candidates in the 3rd District:

  1. Chuck Fleischmann – Republican Incumbent
  2. Melody Shekari – Democrat
  3. Rick Tyler – Independent “Make America White Again”
  4. Cassandra Mitchell – Independent (Green Party/Jill Stein supporter)
  5. Me

If we were to create a continuum from right to left views, we get something like this:


Obviously, this is my opinion, based on their positions on their websites. Fleischmann votes with the GOP almost all of the time and the GOP is trending right. Shekari is a Clinton Democrat, not a Sanders Democrat, so she’s more moderate. I had a long Skype conversation with Cassandra Mitchell, so I feel pretty confident in that analysis. Tyler had a very positive reaction from the Roane County Tea Party, so I feel that he is to the right of Fleischmann. I put myself in the middle because I’m all over the spectrum, depending on the issue. On most social issues, I’m pretty liberal, but on many fiscal issues I am pretty conservative. And I didn’t give myself a logo because I’m not part of any group. I have had a few groups try to get me to join them, but I think I would better serve as a true independent.

I have had a few people on Twitter ask for my support on various bills, and how I handled those should be an indication of how I would handle things if elected:

  • Read – Read the proposed legislation and related documents
  • Listen – Listen to people on all sides of the issue
  • Think – Does this bill adequately address the problem without creating more problems? How much does this bill cost? Does this bill benefit one class of people at the expense of another?
  • Vote

Currently, because of the abysmally low voter turnout, the tone coming from both sides in the presidential race, and the general level of fear in society overall, I am not in the most optimistic mood regarding the future of our country and the world. The problem, of course, is that I am having a hard time balancing the concerns I hear from people with the actual facts, which suggest that we are on the verge of an incredible future.

There are two interesting trends that most people don’t get. I remember growing up and seeing the world population graphs that suggested we were having a population explosion–and we were. But now the story is quite different. The rate of world population growth has been declining since 1970. There are varying estimates of the continuing rate of decline, but if we have a constant rate of decrease based on what has happened the past thirty years, the population will stop increasing around 2065. There are good and bad reasons for the decrease in birth rate: Improved education for women–women have fewer children if they know what causes pregnancy, improved accessibility to birth control, and population management methods (most notably the draconian measures taken in China).

While this is happening we are seeing a simultaneous dramatic growth in the Gross World Product. Since 1950 the GWP has grown by a factor of eight, while the world population has grown by a factor of three. Here’s what things look like from 2010 to 2100:


Right now the per capita GWP is around $10,500 per year. So if we went pure communist and divided the world’s production evenly, each person would have $10,500 on which to live. This is just below the U.S. federal poverty line for individuals ($11,800), but above the line for couples ($16,020 vs. $21,000) and families. Of course, if we went pure communist we would also kill the GWP growth rate.

Where things get interesting is around 2060, where if we tax at 30%–which is about what the average person pays now in combined income, sales, and property taxes–we end up with enough money to put everyone above the poverty line. By 2100, the amount is enough to provide almost $40,000 in benefits to everyone. The bottom line is pretty simple:

For the first time in human history, resource scarcity won’t be important.

As such, we really need to think about public policy differently. I think we need to focus on three areas:

  1. We need to act so that we do not screw up the world population trend. Keep increasing educational opportunities for women in poorer countries and make sure that birth control is accessible and affordable.
  2. We need to make sure we don’t screw up the world economy. We need to continue to promote trade–which includes trading labor via immigration–and avoid isolationism. We need government investment in basic scientific research so that private industry can apply that research to new products. We need government investment in infrastructure to encourage commerce.
  3. We need to make sure we don’t screw up the planet in the next hundred years while we wait for technology to catch up with human needs.

If we stay the course, we are going to end up with a pretty incredible world. If we are smart about our course corrections, we can make this happen decades earlier. If we are stupid and greedy–if people interpret “Make America Great Again” as “Make America Great and Screw Everyone Else”–we can make the trendlines we saw in the 1950s and 1960s true again.

As such, I will work to steer policy in that direction. I will look to steer foreign aid toward projects that educate women. I will vote for legislation that increases funding for basic scientific research–as the return on investment tends to be at or near break even for the government anyway, and I will vote for intelligent infrastructure investment. I will vote for good environmental legislation: legislation that protects the environment while improving reporting and record-keeping requirements to lessen the burden on businesses. None of this is a zero-sum game: We can help people, business, and the environment at the same time. If we steer a smart course, we will all end up winners.

I will get back to my review of the GOP platform tomorrow. Thanks for reading–and feel free to tell me how horrible my new website header graphic is.


Filed under Environment, Stuff About Me, Technology, Tennessee 3rd District

Republican Party Platform (Part 2 of ?)


Building the Future


There’s not much controversial here. The key here seems to be private-public partnerships, which are fine–if they work. Unfortunately, when it comes to broadband internet, the private players, pardon my language, suck. EPB here want to expand to the rural areas around Chattanooga, but Republican state legislators are blocking the move while Comcast and AT&T do nothing. Similarly, I agree that we are improving private launch capabilities for space research, but NASA needs adequate funding, which the GOP is unwilling to give.

America’s Electric Grid

“We support expedited siting processes and the thoughtful expansion of the grid so that consumers and businesses continue to have access to affordable and reliable electricity.”

I am pretty sure “expedited siting processes” is doublespeak for “weakened environmental regulations.” I don’t have a problem with streamlining the approval processes, as long as appropriate safeguards are in place. But the party of Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon–our two best environmental presidents–doesn’t particularly care about the environment.

Small Business and Entrepreneurship: Toward a Start-up Century

Once again we see talk of reducing regulatory burden when what we really need is to reduce the paperwork burden. The GOP wants to “consider the effect of capital gains rates,” but we all know that the GOP ideal would be to eliminate capital gains taxes.

What gets me here though is the mention of “National Labs, the National Institutes of Health, NASA, and elements of the Defense Department” as “incubators of unconventional thinking.” So fund them. Democrats won’t argue.

The Federal Reserve



More transparency in the Federal Reserve System is probably a good thing. I’m not sure that annual audits are necessary, but some regular audits would not be horrible. I cannot help but get a little twitchy when someone talks about going back to the gold standard, as this is typically conspiracy theorist fodder.

Workplace Freedom for a Twenty-First Century Workforce

Often, “workplace freedom” is doublespeak for “giving employers the freedom to treat employees like commodities instead of like people.” Having said that, there are things in U.S. labor law that need reform. The Project Labor Agreements the GOP opposes often require union workers on government construction contracts–but minority construction workers tend to be non-union, leaving them out in the cold.

I have notice a disturbing trend in U.S. business regarding employees, and it is filled with irony. The group responsible for employees within organizations was rebranded from “Personnel” to “Human Resources” and is currently undergoing a second rebranding from “Human Resources” to “Workforce Management.” In the literature, HR-types justify the change by saying personnel departments treated employees like tools and HR treats employees as assets, but I disagree. I think personnel departments treated employees like people. (I think workforce management is a shift from assets to commodities, reflecting the disposable nature of employees.)

Transparency in unions is important, but I can’t help thinking that the objective here is to further weaken unions. Donald Trump is anti-union in his own businesses, and the party platform reflects that. I think many technology workers, for example, need union protection, as often their working conditions are borderline abusive, and they are under the constant threat of being replaced by imported H-1B workers.

If Republicans wanted true workplace freedom, they would move away from employer-provided health care and toward a single-payer system. One immediate benefit of this is that it would give parents to work part-time schedules while raising their children without fear of losing benefits or seniority–which should help reduce the wage gap. For many families, a forty-hour work week doesn’t make sense, and there is evidence that shorter work weeks make employees healthier, happier, and more productive. As pro-family as the Republicans claim to be, giving people the freedom to spend more time with their children would go a long way.

Having said all this, the actual policy recommendations in this section are pretty reasonable. As with anything, the devil is in the details.

The Federal Workforce

(There’s that word!)

“Federal employees receive extraordinary pension benefits and vacation time wildly out of line with those of the private sector.”

The United States is the only developed country in the world without a single legally required paid vacation day or holiday. The average U.S. private sector worker gets 16 paid days off–vacation days and holidays–per year. Every EU country has a legal minimum of four weeks paid vacation, not including holidays, which is what full-time federal employees get after three years of service. So, on vacation time, the federal government is in line with the rest of the world. To me, that indicates that we should pass legislation to bring the private sector into line with the federal government, and not the other way around.

As far as pension benefits go, I wouldn’t have any problem with transitioning federal pension plans toward 401(k)-type retirement plans, provided they included matching similar to what good private employers offer.

The big picture, though, is that I think much of this section is just spiteful. Most federal employees tend to vote Democratic, so slapping them around would make Republicans feel good.

We The People: A Restoration of Constitutional Government

This is largely a propaganda section. I’m sure I’ll address most of the problems with this as the specific issues arise further in the document.

The Judiciary

The GOP wants a Supreme Court that will overturn decisions like Roe v. Wade (abortion), Obergefell v. Hodges (same-sex marriage), and the various decisions that kept Obamacare in place. Of course they do.

Administrative Law

The platform sees a problem with executive branch workers creating rules instead of Congress. Raise your hand if you think Donald Trump wouldn’t rule by decree. George W. Bush wrote more executive orders than Obama has (Obama will probably end with slightly fewer at the end of his term), but Republicans weren’t complaining then.

The First Amendment

Religious Liberty

This section is mostly baseless fear mongering and a twisted interpretation of Amendment I’s religious liberty clause:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

The Supreme Court has, on numerous occasions, interpreted this as meaning that government and government employees cannot endorse one set of religious beliefs over another. A religious school can require a teacher to belong to that school’s religion and to live according to its tenets, but it can’t require the same from the custodian, as teaching religion has nothing to do with the custodian’s job and thus would violate anti-discrimination laws. Public school teachers, coaches, and administrators cannot lead public prayers or allow school equipment, such as amplifiers, to be used for that purpose, but there is nothing that prevents students from doing this on their own–and there is no danger of any law passing that would prohibit this, and even if it did, it would be unconstitutional. 

I have no desire to restrict anyone’s ability to practice their religion, but I do think many people–like certain megachurch leaders–abuse the tax-free status of their institutions. Likewise, when a business like the new Ark Encounter discriminates in their hiring practices, they should not receive government tax credits.

The platform also condemns those who would boycott businesses that “support traditional marriage.” I strongly oppose anyone who threatens violence against said businesses, but a for-profit business is not a church, and as such is subject to state and federal civil rights legislation. Even if the business is not violating the law, there is no reason to compel someone to support business owners who disagree with their views or lifestyle. Frankly, if you’re going to conduct your business according to your perceived Christian values, post those values so people don’t waste their time and yours.

The platform supports the display of the Ten Commandments–which version?–in public places. There is nothing wrong with that, provided that members of all religions are allowed to equally display texts from their religions. The Constitution does not give Christianity a privileged place in American society.

The bottom line is this: You are free to practice your religion in any way that you want, but you are not allowed to do this while representing the government or with the use of government resources. The Constitution was written to guarantee equal treatment of beliefs, without interference from the government. The Republicans believe that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation, despite John Adams’ explicit words to the contrary, and want to make it into one.

A Personal Note

As you may have guessed from the above, I am not a Christian. Depending on your definition, I am agnostic or atheist, based on where you choose to draw the line. I was baptized Catholic, but for various reasons–mostly my inability to believe in miracles–I don’t think I ever believed in the Christian God. I believe that Christianity can make some people much better, but I have seen warped versions of Christianity turn people into monsters. Most of my friends are Christian, including one preacher, and I respect–and sometimes envy–their faith. It would be better for me politically to either hide my lack of religion or pretend to be Christian, but I would rather be honest and true to myself than dishonest and loved.

The candidate in this race who emphasizes his Christianity the most is Rick Tyler. If you think that all Christians are better than all atheists, you really need to take a long look in the mirror.

Constitutionally Protected Speech

“Limits on political speech serve only to protect the powerful and insulate incumbent officeholders.”


Charles Dharapak/AP/Corbis

OK…I’m back.

The GOP is opposed to overturning Citizens United because they benefit tremendously from it. Likewise, they would like churches to be able to engage in political activities, currently prohibited by their status as 501(c)(3) non-profits. Congress has repeatedly passed legislation–which courts have upheld–that prohibits campaigning by organizations that operate on a tax-free basis. If this restriction were not in place, it would certainly be abused by candidates and political parties.

That brings me to page 13 of the 58-page platform.

Tomorrow night I will be speaking to the Roane County Tea Party. I hope this meeting is better than the last one I attended.

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Filed under Corporate America, Environment, Religion, Republicans, Taxation, Technology

Change happens. Can you handle it? Should you?

Recently, I was discussing North Carolina’s HB 2, the “bathroom” bill, with a conservative friend of mine. His position, like that of many conservatives, is that people should use the facilities for their biological sex and that no other criteria matters. This is the way it has always been and there’s no need to change it. I argued that what conservatives were doing was changing it, since before the law people could usually use whichever bathroom they wanted, as long as they went into a stall and kept to themselves–which is what people should be doing anyway.

This is really a “small picture” issue. During the conversation my friend suggested that I see Future Shock. I have seen the documentary and read the book upon which it was based, although it has been about thirty years. The premise is that technology is causing society to change so quickly that many people suffer from “future shock” because they are unable to keep up and cope with the rapid rate of change.

I first got online in late 1982 or early 1983, so I was far ahead of the curve as far as the information revolution goes. What we are seeing today is a communications revolution. Marginalized people can now go online and find people with similar characteristics. A transgender person in a small town in the 1960s, if they went public, would be treated like a freak, so they most likely remained closeted. Even if they knew another transgender person, the likelihood was that they didn’t actually know they were transgender, since the default position was to keep that hidden. Today, that person can go online and instantly find hundreds of people who can relate to their life, and chances are pretty good that they can find someone else locally. Similarly, Red Dwarf fans can find other Red Dwarf fans, atheists can find other atheists, English football fans can find other English football fans, and, unfortunately, white supremacists can find other white supremacists. Almost any tiny minority can find other people with similar interests and problems–and they can organize to help each other.

For a California-based English football fan, that may be getting a group together to convince a pub to open at 7 a.m. on Saturdays so they can watch a match together. For other minorities this gives them the means to organize politically. Atheists now have easily accessible legal resources to help them keep religion out of public schools and government. Transgender people can share information about which employers are accepting. Information has empowered them. The problem with this, of course, is that people who already had and used power don’t normally like it when others figure out that they have power to use as well.

Of course, I am pretty sure my friend and I had two very different conclusions on how to address the issue. The conservative view, as it has always been, is to slow societal change: The old system worked just fine, so we don’t need to change it. The liberal view is that change is inevitable, so everyone should accept it and adapt to the new norms.

As with just about everything else, I fall somewhere in the middle. I don’t think that trying to slow change works very well. In general, I like to see a two-pronged approach:

  • Manage change
  • Help people adapt

Well-managed change can usually be identified by the outpouring of anger from both sides. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a good example of this. LGB members of the military didn’t want to stay in the closet to serve, and conservative members of the military didn’t want LGB people serving at all. It was a solid middle ground that gave time for the conservatives in the military to adapt–or retire–while not denying military careers to LGB people. You can argue that President Clinton could have gone straight to giving LGBT people full freedom of gender identity in the military, but it might have severely disrupted an organization that is conservative by nature. The military took a generation to adapt, but it did adapt.

We had a similar transition with gay marriage, from civil unions to a few states legalizing it to the Supreme Court making it legal everywhere. I am never happy with one group being denied the same rights as the majority, but some people need shock absorbers. Racial integration in the military was slow, as was racial integration in schools. We are still moving–too slowly, in my opinion–toward gender equality in the workplace and in politics, because the people who have power don’t like relinquishing it.

One of the biggest problems is the media. I infuriated my nine-year-old daughter last night by describing the Bechdel test to her, and pointing out how few movies passed it. I don’t think every movie should pass the Bechdel test, but I also don’t see any reason why a kid’s movie like Kung Fu Panda 3 should fail. More women go to the movies than men, so, from a business standpoint, studios should cater to that. Yes, there will always be “chick flicks” and testosterone-fueled action movies, but there’s really no good reason that the 80% of the movies in the middle shouldn’t have roughly equal numbers of male and female leading roles. If we see more equality in entertainment, society will more readily adapt to equality in the real world.

Where we get problems are when people try to manage change by blocking change completely, such as conservatives wanting to stop the immigration of Muslim refugees until we can better screen them–but neglecting to fund improved screening tools or adding additional investigators. Similarly, wanting to deport immigrants and build walls to keep new immigrants out won’t work, unless you also work to reduce the demand for cheap labor here while helping our neighbors improve their economies to reduce the supply of cheap labor there.

There are many areas where Congress could help facilitate change. Taking gender pay inequality as an example:

  • Universal single-payer health care would allow women with small children to stay in the workforce part-time so they don’t lose ground to their male counterparts.
  • Paid maternity and paternity leave would allow parents to better share child rearing responsibilities.
  • Better child care tax credits or publicly-funded child care would also help keep women in the workforce.
  • Corporate tax credits for companies that can show equality in pay and benefits for female staff–and tax penalties for those who can’t.

I would be interested to research how the increased tax revenue from higher income for female workers would offset some of the additional costs for the first three bullets. My hope is that increased job satisfaction would also lead to increased productivity and profits for additional tax revenues. It wouldn’t be difficult to test some of these on a smaller scale on the state and local level, and I’m sure we could study how well similar programs work in Europe and Canada.

Most people have a hard time with change. It’s often tough to understand that, especially when the change they oppose is a change other people so desperately want or need. Forcing change down someone’s throat almost always triggers the gag reflex, so, if you can, cut it into smaller pieces for them.

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Filed under Listening, Technology, The Media

What’s on my phone?

For years I didn’t want a cellphone at all, then I didn’t want a smartphone. I was on my computer all day long and had a landline within a few feet of me at all times. I had a Kindle 1.0–which I could use to surf the web in a rudimentary manner–and a Garmin GPS, so the main two non-phone smartphone apps were something I already had covered. I also had a bias against multifunction devices: The printer/scanner/fax was one of my biggest foes, because it did none of those functions well.

Of course, this was many years ago, and the technology has improved dramatically. My Nexus 4 is starting to show its age, but it still does most of what I need it to do, except for the dead spot where the letter “T” is on the keyboard. It does have a little less memory than I would like, so I end up uninstalling and reinstalling apps when I switch from work mode to road trip mode. Just like I posted about what’s in my pocket, I thought it would be interesting to share what’s on my phone as well.

Social Media

I have the basics: Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and Google+. I use TweetCaster Pro for Twitter. I normally use Instagram to post photos to Facebook, which tends to be my default social media platform. I tend to be a bit too verbose for Twitter and I don’t always have photos for Tumblr or Instagram. I do have Foodspotting and Goodreads installed, but I don’t contribute to them very often. Most of my messaging is via Google Hangouts or Facebook Messenger.


I do have a few apps for emergencies. One of my favorites is iTriage, a nice medical app that does two things: shows me where the nearest medical center is and tells me how to treat almost any condition. In the event of a zombie apocalypse, I also have Army Survival Guide and SAS Survival Guide. I have both of those books at home, but I like having them on my person as well.

Road Trips

Obviously, Google Maps and Street View are extremely useful on road trips. GasBuddy is great for finding the closest gas station when I’m in the middle of nowhere, or finding the cheapest gas when everything seems a bit too pricey. I love Field Trip for finding random things to see and do. For trails, I like AllTrails, since it can find a decent hiking trail quickly and for any skill level. I like using a combination of Google Maps and Roadtrippers for planning road trips. Google Maps does a better job of plotting routes, but Roadtrippers is better at finding interesting things to do along the route. Zari and I like exploring National Parks, and I have three apps for that. Passport is from Eastern National, who runs many of the National Park Service stores. They have a mostly complete list of NPS sites, but their app is mostly a front end with links to NPS websites. Oh, Ranger! is great for finding local, state, and national parks near my location, but, again, it is mostly a very useful front end with links to park websites. REI’s National Park Guide is amazing for the parks they have finished, but is still very much a work in progress.

Once we are in the wild, I love Google Sky Map for identifying stars and planets, and I have ISS Detector Pro to notify me when interesting things are about to appear in the night sky, like the International Space Station or Iridium satellite flashes. Audubon has a great series of apps for identifying plants and animals in the wild. I do tend to offload these when I am not traveling, as the full databases are quite extensive.


Feedly is my newsreader, and might be the one app I cannot live without. Key Ring keeps all of my store membership cards out of my wallet and on my phone. Out of Milk is a decent shopping list app, for when I don’t just feel like being random.


ASTRO File Manager is my go-to app for reorganizing the files on my phone, while I use ZDbox to monitor battery life and other system cleanup. For weather, I use eWeather HD, which I love mostly for the 12-hour clock/weather widget on my home screen. Screebl Pro is a stupid little app that I find incredibly useful: It keeps my phone from sleeping, once unlocked, unless it is flat on a table. Wolfram Alpha is a cross between a calculator and a search engine. Need to know the dimensions of a penny? Or the demographics of Hamilton County? Wolfram Alpha has it.


I don’t play many games on my phone. I have Carcassonne and Progress Quest. I played Clash of Clans for a long time, but I got bored with it. Zari keeps Minecraft on my phone for when she doesn’t have hers with her. (Yeah, I know Zari is only eight and that’s a bit young to have a smartphone, but her mother works for T-Mobile, so phones around here are cheap and ubiquitous.)


On a side note, Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein have released a draft bill called the “Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016.”  Short version: This is what happens when we have technically illiterate people writing legislation on technical matters. Want a reason to vote for me? I’m pretty sure I’m the most technical of all of the 3rd District candidates. I have the patent to prove it.

Have any apps that you use that you think I might find useful? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Filed under Stuff About Me, Technology