Byzantine Solutions to Trivial Problems

I’m sure this is true in many fields, but in software engineering, you’ll often see an engineer or team become very attached to an inferior implementation of some feature. As the problems with this implementation pile up, their attempts to solve them become increasingly bizarre in their desperation to keep their darling. You can only hope that somebody eventually notices during code review.

What made me think of this? Fearing Hackers, D.N.C. Plans to Block Iowa’s ‘Virtual’ Caucuses (NYT):

WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee is preparing to block Iowa Democrats’ plans to allow some caucusgoers to vote by phone next year, bowing to security concerns about the process being hacked, according to four people with knowledge of the decision.

[…] The Iowa Democrats’ plan would have allowed voters not attending a traditional caucus to register their preference during one of six “virtual caucuses” over the phone. But D.N.C. security officials told the rules committee at a closed-door session in San Francisco last week that they had “no confidence” such a system could remain safe from hostile hackers.

[…] In August 2018, D.N.C. members adopted new rules for the 2020 presidential primary that encouraged states that held caucuses to switch to primaries and required caucus states to allow for a form of participation that did not require attending a caucus event.

Even when they made my preferred candidate’s victory possible (Obama 2008), caucuses rubbed me the wrong way. They’re unrepresentative nonsense, a throwback to an extremely bygone era. There is a tried-and-true method of making it easy for people to vote that’s fairly difficult to hack–it’s called a primary–but these yahoos are so in love with their inferior implementation of democracy that they’re coming up with increasingly desperate “solutions” to keep it in place.

Sure, you could do it correctly, but it just feels better to do it your special way. This is how systems fail.

Open thread!

Hey Democrats – How About Some Polling?

I would like to see more opinion polling on the issues the country faces. There are, of course, the inevitable polls on the horse race, but they tell us (and the politicians) little about the issues that are important to people and how they want their government to deal with them.

Our President continues to damage the country in a multitude of ways. The Republican Party stands by with its program of appointing conservative judges and passing tax cuts for the rich.

Impeachment – the bringing of charges against the President – must originate in the House. Hearings to support a vote of impeachment will take time, and it appears that there is not yet majority support in the House for impeachment. Nancy Pelosi has publicly favored waiting for the 2020 election rather than impeachment. There is some sense to that stand, but Donald Trump is damaging the country right now.

What can be done to stop or slow down the damage? And what needs to be done to build votes to remove Trump from office?

Nancy Pelosi seems to be trying to triangulate between “the Squad” –  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley – and the conservative wing of the House Democratic caucus, some of whom were elected in 2018 in districts that went for Trump in 2016.  Criticizing the Squad to an unfriendly interviewer, however, leaned too far in the direction of protecting the conservative wing from what they might consider radical thought.

Understanding why those districts flipped, however, and how broad support for the ideas of the Squad may be, would seem to be a good idea. My impression – largely from social media, which may not be indicative of the country at large – is that people want to see the corruption and incompetence of the Trump administration called out and policies advanced to turn back from the extreme inequalities Republican policies have inflicted on the country.

I’m not seeing much in the way of polling on those questions.

Should Democrats explicitly call out racists and demand healthcare for everyone? Are people okay with tax increases, particularly on the rich? How many see women of color as the future of the party? How many support the strategy of the House passing bills to make a point, even if the Senate won’t pass them? How many think we should impeach the President? Is there any point in trying to win those Trump voters so frequently interviewed in Midwest diners? Who are the voters who voted for Obama and then Trump, and why? Why did those districts turn around to elect conservative Democrats? Should Democrats call out the crimes Trump has been accused of?

There are a great many more questions. How they are phrased is important. Joe Biden, and perhaps Nancy Pelosi, seem to believe that bipartisan action is what people want. If you ask people whether they think bipartisan action is desirable, they’re likely to say yes. You might get a different answer if you ask whether they think that the current Republican Party is willing to work with Democrats to pass particular legislation.

How many think that the Republican Party needs to be rebuilt from the ground up? Fair is fair, after all the Republicans who are telling Democrats how to run their campaign.

It seems to me that there is a movement away from Trump. On Twitter, the responses to Trump’s tweets are becoming more and more negative. Polls immediately after his racist remarks about the Squad showed large majorities opposed to that racism. Here’s some polling that seems to say that more Americans support the Squad than support Trump.

And here’s a Twitter thread that draws on actual experience in defeating David Duke. The advice is to run explicitly against the racist. Policies are secondary. The whole thread is worth reading. It starts off with a description of the campaign against Duke and the conventional advice from the conventional consultants, which is very like what Pelosi seems to be guided by.

Don’t try to flip those folks in MAGA hats in the diners so beloved of interviewers. Drive up turnout among folks who stayed home in 2016.

Looks to me like this is the way forward. The presidential candidates, particularly Elizabeth Warren, are coming up with a great stock of policies. They’re essential, but not what the party should lead withdemoc

Pelosi could help by, say, one needling statement (NOT tweet) every day pointing out Trump’s racism, dishonesty, incompetence, pettiness – there’s a lot of material there that polling could supply and reinforce. That would have the added advantage of upsetting Trump. Not to fight with him, just to let people know she’s on the job and to keep Trump off balance.

I know I’d feel a lot better if we heard more of this from her.


For the Love of Anyone’s Deity, Would Someone Please Donate a Strategist to the House Democratic Caucus!!!!

I’m traveling this week, with lots of 0300 starts and wasn’t planning to post, but I just got into the gym at the airport hotel I’m staying at ahead of tomorrow’s pre dawn flight, and MSNBC is on the TV. And the Democrats are actually voting to table (put it to the side and not take up impeachment) an impeachment resolution of the President. This is happening despite only 89 members of the House Democratic caucus publicly stating they support starting an impeachment inquiry!

I have no idea whose idea this is, but I cannot state loudly or strongly enough how galactically stupid this is. Strategic and political malpractice at the highest levels! When this passes, meaning the House will not move to take up impeachment at this time, and it will pass, the President will spend the next week crowing about how he’s been cleared. He’ll use it to chew up the information space that should be devoted to the spillover onto him from the Epstein case, from his publicly going full in on blood and soil herrenvolkism where racism and anti-Semitism in defense of Judaism and Jews equated with Israel and Israelis is no vice, and the upcoming Mueller hearings in the House.

The motion to table just passed: 136 Democrats for, 93 against, and 1 present (abstaining). 194 Republicans and the 1 Independent (Amash?) voted to table it as well. So for now, the House, with overwhelming bipartisan support, isn’t going to do anything more on impeachment and I expect the President will start screaming about being cleared any time now.

Completely irresponsible political theater!

Open thread!

PS: Before anyone asks, I think the House should have a special select committee on impeachment focusing all the investigations through one point leading to either impeachment or exoneration. That’s not what happened with today’s strategic stupidity.

Not a Good Look for Anyone Involved

There’s a big pointless pissing match going on between Pelosi and “The Squad” (AOC, Omar, Tlaib and Pressley). Here’s their side of the story and here’s Pelosi’s. You’ll have to read the whole thing to get the full flavor of what’s going on, but the short story is that Pelosi seems miffed that these four did not support the border deal, and they’re upset about how tough Pelosi is sounding towards them. Also, there doesn’t seem to be much of a personal relationship between these four and Pelosi, but I doubt that there’s much of a relationship between Pelosi and other first-year members.

Nobody wins a mudfight like this, and everyone gets dirty. Why this is happening while the House is dragging its feet on impeachment–or even any deep, ongoing investigation of Trump–is beyond me. The Judiciary Committee just issued subpoenas for Kushner, Sessions and a bunch of other unindicted co-conspirators, as part of an investigation of obstruction of justice, months after it’s obvious that justice was obstructed and Jared and the littlest KKK gnome knew about it. The Intelligence Committee, in its own sweet time, will probably issue a few more for some other aspect of the massive number of crimes and misdemeanors committed by the Trump Administration. Our investigative effort is slow and piecemeal, it appears weak, and it is being thwarted.

If I want to make an excuse for Pelosi in general, it is that she is smart enough to count votes, and the weaklings in her caucus don’t know how to do anything but run away from difficult votes and man the phones to raise money. Perhaps they are justified by being in tough districts, but perhaps they’re also used to dodging anything tough and getting away with it. But what I don’t understand is why there’s no House Select Committee on Criminal Activity in the Executive Branch, led by some hard hitter (sorry, not Jerry Nadler), staffed with some of the smartest attorneys in the US, and containing members who can ask tough, incisive questions (AOC would be on my list, if not on Pelosi’s). The Senate Watergate Committee was where the action was when Nixon was dragged under, not the House Judiciary Committee. We need another, similar committee today.

Warren Says NOPE to Fox News Town Hall

Good for her:

I get why Democratic presidential primary candidates appear on Fox: It burnishes their bipartisan bona fides and can generate a lot of positive press from a Beltway media that is determined to uphold Fox News’ legitimacy as a “sister organization,” as Jake Tapper once called it.

But while preening hacks like Tapper may coo over the alleged bravery of Dems who appear on the TrumpCo propaganda outlet, in my book, Warren’s is the more courageous approach. She’s standing up for something more important than a momentary bump in the polls or both-sidesy hack approval; she’s standing up for the truth, which is that Fox News is a white grievance/racism distribution network that has done incalculable damage to America. Warren, quoted in HuffPo:

“A Democratic town hall gives the Fox News sales team a way to tell potential sponsors it’s safe to buy ads on Fox ― no harm to their brand or reputation (spoiler: it’s not),” she said. “I won’t ask millions of Democratic primary voters to tune into an outlet that profits from racism and hate in order to see our candidates ― especially when Fox will make even more money adding our valuable audience to their ratings numbers.”

So far, Sanders and Klobuchar have done a Fox News town hall, and Gillibrand and Buttigieg have scheduled one. Castro is said to be “in the process of scheduling one,” and Booker, O’Rourke and Harris are considering it.

Again, it might work out for those individual candidates as a campaign strategy, but appearing on Fox News undermines the larger and ongoing project of documenting the network’s relentless bias and discrediting it as a legitimate news source outside wingnut circles. People like Jane Mayer have done great work to that end, and when Democratic presidential candidates appear on Fox News, they undermine that work. That’s not brave. It’s selfish.