Shame as a limiting constraint

It is always worthwhile to read through the back archives of the now defunct Kung Fu Monkey.

Today’s relevant post is on shame as a constraint. It was written in 2007 responding to the US Attorney firing scandal as they weren’t willing to railroad people for non-existent voter fraud. I think it is a relevant structural analysis today as well:

This just hammers home my realization of what the Cheney Administration — and yes, damn you this is the first time I’ve indulged in that neologism, and the first time I think it perfectly appropriate — what the Cheney Administration has discovered. They have found the “exploit” within the United States Government. As I watched Congressmen and Senators stumble and fumble and thrash, unable to bring to heel men and women who were plainly lying to them under oath, unable to eject from public office toadies of a boot-licking expertise unseen since Versailles, it struck me. The sheer, simple elegance of it. The “exploit”.

The exploit is shame.

Our representatives — and to a great degree we as a culture — are completely buffaloed by shamelessness. You reveal a man’s corrupt, or lying, or incompetent, and what does he do? He resigns. He attempts to escape attention, often to aid in his escape of legal pursuit. Public shame has up to now been the silver bullet of American political life. But people who are willing to just do the wrong thing and wait you out, to be publicly guilty … dammmnnnn.

We are faced with utterly shameless men. Cheney and the rest are looking our representatives right in the eye and saying “You don’t have the balls to take down a government. You don’t have the sheer testicular fortitude to call us lying sonuvabitches when we lie, to stop us from kicking the rule of law and the Constitution in the ass. You just don’t. What’s beyond that abyss — what that would do to our government and our identity as a nation — terrifies you too much. So get the fuck out of our way.”

Over there in France

I’ve grown to dislike the data-driven life, and I agree with some of the criticisms of Robby Mook for falling too in love with some big data hocus pocus plan for the Hillary campaign. But the criticisms of the people (Nate Silver, Sam Wang, their UK counterparts) who who were wrong about Brexit and the 2016 presidential election have just gone too far. The vote on the Brexit was quite close, less than four points, and Hillary not only won the popular vote by 2 points but lost three states (which together would have given her the election) by less than one point. So I don’t see how any of this proves the data elite in their Accela corridor bubble are completely wrong about the power of right-wing populism.

There’s a lot of Le Pen can win stuff going around (I’m not surprised that Chris Arnade and Megan McArdle are rooting for her). Meanwhile, Macron’s lead is growing, to nearly 25 points in some recent polls.

After the 2016 election, there was a lot of talk that Sam Wang and Nate Silver had to shut up forever because they were wrong by a few points. Will the people claiming Le Pen can win shut up forever if Macron wins by 20+ points?


Now that the important introduction is out of the way, I thought I’d say a few words about myself and what I see as my role here. First, thanks for all the warm welcomes!

I’m a chemist, retired from the Los Alamos National Laboratory after 35 years there. I’ve been realizing lately that the projects I worked on all had significant policy ramifications. Laser isotope separation, chemical warfare agents, environmental cleanup, and a bunch of other things. I’ve worked on environmental issues in Estonia and Kazakhstan and, maybe best of all, learned strategy both within a bureaucratic environment and more generally from people who are very good at it. So I write about a lot of things. Read more

I wanna be your dog

Finally, a story that combines my love of pets with my hatred of Mark Halperin:

So it was the 10:45 red eye on delta. in first class the seating arrangement was A-BC-D seating. I had purchased 6A and 6B and Halperin was in 6C. The dog and I fly back and forth from California to NY 2–3 times a month. I am always aware to make sure to get the dog her own seat (she lays on the floor and sleeps) to ensure she doesn’t encroach anyone’s personal space. So I put Charlie (the dog) in 6A where she was great. She was in arms reach and everything was cool. Right before we took off the dog came and sat in between my legs for take off so she was secured. At this point halperin (I had no idea who he was) calls for a flight attendant and tells her that he refuses to sit next to a dog. Those were his exact words. At that point I noticed he took a picture of the dog which I just ignored. Next thing you know the lead flight attendant asked if I minded giving halperin 6A. It was so strange he wouldn’t even look or speak to me about it. If he would have asked me I would have obliged, no big deal. I couldn’t believe how rude this guy was carrying on as I sat right next to him. So I obliged, he moved into 6A and left his shoes and a mess in his little first class cubicle area. I politely brought him his shoes and belongings to which he literally looked the other way and that was that. I then woke up this morning to a friend sending me the article and was in shock reading his tweets. Mind you Delta did absolutely nothing wrong, the flight attendant were extremely accommodating to his wishes all while trying to make sure I wasn’t upset in any way. They handled the situation kindly and professionally.

Our town is turning into shit

I just finished listening to the Shit Town podcast. Has anyone else listened to it? After the first episode, my wife said “That guy (John B.) sounds a lot like someone from Balloon Juice.”

Overall, I liked it a lot but I thought it dragged a lot after the first three or four episodes. I could listen to people from Woodstock, Alabama all day, but there’s only so much of that totebagger narrator I could take. It was like going from the voice of Gregg Allman to the voice of the guy from Death Cab For Cutie. I also thought the handling of sexuality and relationships was a bit tone deaf. But, all in all, it was fascinating, and not at all what I was expecting.

What did other people think of it?