Don’t be a sheep

I’ve currently got my son reading Influence.  One of the most influential books on me I’ve ever read.  The part that made the biggest impact is the section on social proof.  Short version– we are sheep.  We look to see what everybody else is doing and do the same.  And usually in a situation that requires action, the result ends up being no action because we all see a bunch of other people standing around doing nothing.

So, my understanding of this book changed my life as I have since made a conscientious effort to not be a sheep where most people are one.  It pays off.  Two recent examples come to mind (though they may stretch the concept just a bit).

They are currently renovating the locker rooms at NCSU.  For long time locker room users, e.g., me, the situation is a giant pain in the ass.  Among other issues, you had to walk through active showers just to get to your locker and there was water everywhere.  I emailed the folks in charge of the renovation and within a few days, the troublesome showers had been closed and there were additional mats put down to deal with the excess water issue (the whole thing still sucks, but it’s not as bad now).  Hundreds of locker room uses, but apparently nobody bothered to bring this up until I did. And the people in charge of the renovation probably don’t use the locker room.  Or if they do, they aren’t thinking too hard about how to improve the experience.

Example number 2.  I drop my oldest off at  high school every other day (I take turns with my wife– we do it so he can get more sleep– you know how I feel about HS start times).  Anyway, upon the return home there’s a left turn that can back up a bit.  This year, the backup has gotten crazy and is potentially very problematic as it is in a middle turn lane that– if the backup is too great– can effect a different set of cars wanting to make left turns 1/4 away.  So, how many hundreds of cars where waiting in this horrible line every day and just taking it?  I don’t know, but the Town of Cary had no idea about this problem until I contacted the head Traffic Engineer.  Since the Town of Cary is awesome, he called me up and we spoke on the phone about the problem.  The light timing has already been adjusted (though, the situation is still not so great– I think due to knock-on effects from nearby construction).  Anyway, it’s better, because I spoke up.

This post is not meant to be self-congratulatory.  And heck, plenty of times I speak up and nothing happens.  But a lot of times something does happen.  And changes are made.  But that never happens if we all stand around like sheep.  So, break the cycle.

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Chart of the day

I’m sure I’ve mentioned on multiple occasions that violence against police is actually at historic lows, despite the overblown claims from many.  So, why do so many people think we’ve got an epidemic of violence against police?  Great piece in Pacific Standard that says we can pretty clearly blame the media for this one.  Here’s the key chart:

And, just to refresh on the reality:

Photo of the day

I was so jealous to be on Facebook last night and see all the great photos of the supermoon eclipse while we were buried under miles and miles of clouds in North Carolina.  At least I could check out the Telegraph’s gallery today.

The supermoon rises behind Glastonbury Tor

The supermoon rises behind Glastonbury TorPicture: Matt Cardy/Getty

Trump in historical context

Love this piece from Jamelle Bouie.  Just going to quote at length:

the truth is that Trump comes out of a long tradition of American illiberalism, from the 19th-century “Know-Nothings” who raged against the influx of Irish and Catholic immigrants, to the Reconstruction-era vigilantes and “redeemers” who terrorized black and white voters and overturned elected governments in the postwar South.

These authoritarian currents are always strongest at times of disadvantage, tremendous social change, or both. The America of the 1920s, marked by incredible inequality and a new influx of truly “foreign” immigrants, produced a proto-fascist mass movement of alienated whites, in the form of a new Ku Klux Klan, which claimed 2 million members (including a U.S. senator) at its height in 1924. Trump isn’t a herald for a new nativist fraternity, but his xenophobia, racism, nationalism, and clear disdain for democratic cooperation mark him as a fascistic figure.

But even more than that, he is a classic American scaremonger tapping into recurrent white American anxieties. And while Trump has borrowed his “silent majority” rhetoric from Richard Nixon, the man he most resembles is that era’s id, a demagogue who fed on the fear and anxiety of the 1960s and ’70s—George Wallace.

[great extended analogy between Wallace and Trump]

Which brings us back to Donald Trump. Everyone’s assumption, including my own, is that Trump will fade before voting begins. It’s a strong case. Trump’s popularity rests on his novelty as much as anything. He plays to the cameras, aware that politics loves a sideshow. But if the media goes away—if Trump can no longer titillate—then his appeal goes too, and he’ll leave the presidential race like every other vanity candidate.

The Wallace analogy, however, suggests a different path. What if Trump is more than just a clown? What if he’s unleashed a real constituency for nativist, authoritarian politics? Then it’s not hard to imagine how Trump, riding on his own wealth, keeps the show going into Iowa, New Hampshire, and beyond. And while our political system is fractured enough to deny him an ultimate victory, that doesn’t mean this wouldn’t matter. For the GOP—much like the Democratic Party in the 1960s—a successful Trump would force a reckoning. Either Republicans cut him out of the party, even at the risk of losing in a three-way race, or they follow Nixon’s example and co-opt his basic message for the party’s use, shrinking his base enough to win if he runs an independent campaign.

In which case, by leaving the mark of white nationalism on the Republican Party, Trump wins regardless of his ultimate fate.

Either way, we can’t just dismiss Trump as entertainment. Like Wallace, he is an eruption of the ugliest forces in American life, at turns authoritarian, like the Louisiana populist Huey Long, or outright fascistic, like the Second Ku Klux Klan. And like all of the above, he’s brought the background prejudice of American life to the forefront of our politics, and opened the door to even worse rhetoric and action.

Everybody is always looking for historical analogies for Trump.  While Wallace isn’t perfect, of course, I think Bouie’s case for Wallace is the best I have read so far.

Hilary reality

The media has long loved hating on Hilary.  Additionally, could there be a more boring story for a journalist than a super-heavy favorite cruising to victory.  Nope.  Add those two things together and the “Hilary is in trouble” narrative is just too hard for many to resist.  Joe Trippi (Howard Dean’s former campaign manager) has a nice Op-Ed pushing back on the nonsense.

In a year in which every other supposed front-runner and establishment candidate has collapsed to single digits or has already withdrawn from the race — yes, I am talking about you, Jeb Bush, and you, Scott Walker — Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field with more than 40% of the vote. Can Bernie Sanders, who is 15 points behind her in recent polling, represent a real threat to her nomination? No. Hell no. Not a chance. But pundits keep asking the question without pointing out the obvious answer.

And given the fact that no vice president who has sought his party’s nomination has ever been denied it, you would think Clinton’s 20-point lead over Joe Biden would be seen as a remarkable sign of strength. Instead, when pundits mention Clinton’s lead over the vice president, they always follow up with the fact that Biden has yet to enter officially — and rarely caution that he may never enter it and that even if he does, he’ll start 20 points behind.

When has anyone been so strong that he or she led a sitting vice president by 20 points? Does the punditry really think it’s because he hasn’t announced yet?

Was the private server a mistake? Yes. Have questions about Clinton’s emails hurt her? Of course. Has her campaign been clumsy and mishandled the situation? No doubt about it. But there should also be no doubt that Clinton remains a formidable front-runner who will be tough to beat even if Biden enters the race. And she’ll be formidable in the general election too. [emphasis mine]

Yup, yup, yup.  I’m no huge fan of Hilary.  Nor a hater.  I love that she is such a genuine policy wonk.  I love that she cares about the same issues I do.  I’m frustrated by her need for secrecy and her self-inflicted wounds.  But the whole “Hilary is in trouble!” is really little more than a media and pundits who just can’t handle what is a fundamentally pretty boring story.  Look for Hilary to cruise to the nomination and look for her to be a skilled and competitive general election candidate.

A little more Boehner

Nice post from Mischiefs of Faction rounding up their PS commentary on Boehner.  I especially liked Greg Koger’s take:

Gregory Koger:

The longstanding tension within Congressional parties is that legislators need to cooperate with their parties to accomplish their shared goals, but to do so they must overcome the inherent diversity of American parties.

Since 2010, the House GOP has provided a brilliant demonstration of this tension. The rules of the House, and the Republican conference, provided Boehner with a great deal of power. But his “majority” included a sizable number of legislators who would not or could not cooperate with their party. They had campaigned against the party status quo. They promised not to vote for compromises. They promised outcomes they could not realistically achieve with a majority in one chamber (e.g. repealing Obamacare). They feared a primary challenge from the right more than losing to a Democrat.

It is likely that the next Speaker will suffer from the same challenge because the challenge is systemic. The best chance to end the cycle, however, would be for the House GOP to select someone who is trusted by the Tea Party faction both inside and outside of Congress, so that when s/he says, “That’s a stupid strategy that will fail, resulting in a drop in the polls and a humiliating acceptance of the Democrats’ demands” they will actually trust the Speaker.

Of course, what Koger fails to mention is that I’m not sure such a person even exists and if he did, that GOP leaders would recognize the fact.  Not exactly reason for optimism.

Also, Boehner himself today:

“We have got groups here in town, members of the House and Senate here in town, who whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they know, they know are never going to happen,” Mr. Boehner said in a live interview broadcast on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The speaker described these conservative members of his party as “false prophets,” who promise policy victories they cannot deliver. “The Bible says, beware of false prophets,” he said. “And there are people out there spreading noise about how much can get done.”

Asked if he thought his conservative colleagues had been unrealistic, Mr. Boehner offered a resolute “absolutely.”

Yep.  And all America suffers the consequences of these nuts.

Photo of the day

Must say, I get quite a kick out of this photo from a gallery of Pope Francis photos:

Picture of Pope Francis

Among His Countrymen

Inside a Vatican auditorium, Francis, who was once the archbishop of Buenos Aires, meets with United Nations troops from his native Argentina at a general audience.
PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVE YODER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

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