Questions on Democracy & Ballots

  1. What’s the point of having a ballot with only one option and no write-in? Maybe offer abstain as the option?
  2. Why am I voting on judges and retaining judges?
  3. If you are going to make someone vote whether it is yes/no or no option, can we have a meta vote option where we select no for all judicial candidates and abstain in races where there is no choice?

These questions occurred to me while filling out my ballot today. Problem for No. 3 is the most likely meta option will be a straight-ticket option for partisans.

US Approves Google Plan To Let Political Emails Bypass Gmail Spam Filter

“The US Federal Election Commission approved a Google plan on Thursday to let campaign emails bypass Gmail spam filters. The FEC’s advisory opinion adopted in a 4-1 vote said Gmail’s pilot program is permissible under the Federal Election Campaign Act and FEC regulations “and would not result in the making of a prohibited in-kind contribution.”

The FEC said Google’s approved plan is for “a pilot program to test new Gmail design features at no cost on a nonpartisan basis to authorized candidate committees, political party committees, and leadership PACs.” On July 1, Google asked the FEC for the green light to implement the pilot after Republicans accused the company of giving Democrats an advantage in its algorithms.

-Jon Brodkin, “US approves Google plan to let political emails bypass Gmail spam filter.” ArsTechnica. August 12, 2022

Who does this serve? Does it serve the person using Gmail or does it serve someone else?

My suggestion: Don’t use Gmail. Protonmail is probably the easiest alternative to set-up and use.

Life Lesson: Notice & Exit Interviews

“After 14 years at Microsoft I turned in my resignation with 3.5 weeks of notice. No big deal. I was taught when I was younger it was classy. That it allows for a smooth transition and it’s the last thing people remember. I had some key turnovers I wanted to take care of. Again trying to do the right thing

I’m going to Amazon on Aug 1.

My manager naturally said here is your walking papers and out. I said that there are a few loose ends I should tie up. Nope. Ok. What I didn’t expect is that she changed my exit date without me knowing to two weeks earlier.

Why? Because she is sore. But what it did to me was mess up my healthcare coverage for two lousy weeks.

Can I do cobra. Yes. Is it a pain. Yes. Will I be fine? Yes. But it’s the last thing I remember now about what was a really good run.

Anyway here is a lesson I learned. For a brief moment I forgot that you do not matter to the company. Your achievements do not matter. What you did for your team did not matter and being classy with a handshake and well wishes is dead.

If you get a new job. Do what is right for you. Quit 1 day before your new role because it’s the safest thing for you. Especially today. I wish it wasn’t.”

-maddoc07, “Life lesson: give notice to your current employer at your own peril.teamblind.com. July 6, 2022.

I think the real life lesson here is to expect to be fired on the day you give notice. For healthcare, you want to make sure that it extends through the month, so you can have your benefits and not have a gap in coverage. Quitting with one day’s notice is a jackass move. Perfectly reasonable to give two weeks notice at the beginning of the month and keep your healthcare coverage.

Also, the exit interview is all about covering your employer from legal liability. There’s no reason for an employee to participate. If they wanted your opinion, they should have asked you before you gave notice.

America’s Modern Character: Paranoid Loser

“[Columbia professor Adam Tooze, writer of the definitive forensic analysis of the 2008 financial crisis in Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World,] does not buy the line that America is roaring back at the head of a resurgent West, even if the autocracies have suffered a crushing reverse over recent months. ‘I see America as the huge weak link,’ he said.

He broadly subscribes to the Fukuyama thesis that the American body politic is by now so rotten within, so riddled with the cancer of identity politics that it is developing a paranoid loser’s view of the world. The storming of Congress was not so much an aberration under this schema, but rather the character of modern America.”

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, “The world’s financial system is entering dangerous waters again, warns guru of the Lehman crisis.” The Telegraph. May 23, 2022.

Open question: Is the current populism and “paranoid style” of the American character an sign of decline or a trait that becomes more prevalent with populist resurgence?

The paranoid character of U.S. politics is not a new claim, see the Richard J. Hofstadter essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” The online version is Harper’s Magazine is currently behind a paywall. But, I’d imagine most city public libraries have a copy of it.

The paranoid style is a recurring feature of populist movements, right and left, evident from so-called militia/patriot movements to the “woke” left of our time. Nothing is really new about either. But, is there something new in this wave? Is it significantly different than movements that led to prohibition of alcohol and marijuana?

I’m inclined to see the current environment as a variation on a consistent pattern, like the Great Awakenings. Ultimately, these kinds of heated discussions are the strength of democracies, even when they lead to things like the U.S. Civil War. You get your say. If you feel strongly enough, you fight about it. But, in the end, a decision is made and you see how it goes. It’s not dictated by some clown at the top. It’s messy. But, it’s better than the alternative.

The Stealth Erosion of Dollar Dominance

“We document a decline in the dollar share of international reserves since the turn of the century. This decline reflects active portfolio diversification by central bank reserve managers; it is not a byproduct of changes in exchange rates and interest rates, of reserve accumulation by a small handful of central banks with large and distinctive balance sheets, or of changes in coverage of surveys of reserve composition. Strikingly, the decline in the dollar’s share has not been accompanied by an increase in the shares of the pound sterling, yen and euro, other long-standing reserve currencies and units that, along with the dollar, have historically comprised the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights. Rather, the shift out of dollars has been in two directions: a quarter into the Chinese renminbi, and three quarters into the currencies of smaller countries that have played a more limited role as reserve currencies. A characterization of the evolution of the international reserve system in the last 20 years is thus as ongoing movement away from the dollar, a recent if still modest rise in the role of the renminbi, and changes in market liquidity, relative returns and reserve management enhancing the attractions of nontraditional reserve currencies. These observations provide hints of how the international system may evolve going forward.”


Serkan Arslanalp, Barry J. Eichengreen and Chima Simpson-Bell. “The Stealth Erosion of Dollar Dominance: Active Diversifiers and the Rise of Nontraditional Reserve Currencies.” IMF Working Papers. March 24, 2022.

Perhaps central bank managers have heard of the concept of diversification?

What Would Americans Do? (Invasion Edition)

“As the world witnesses what is happening to Ukraine, Americans were asked what they would do if they were in the same position as Ukrainians are now: stay and fight or leave the country? A majority (55 percent) say they would stay and fight, while 38 percent say they would leave the country. Republicans say 68 – 25 percent and independents say 57 – 36 percent they would stay and fight, while Democrats say 52 – 40 percent they would leave the country.”

-“Vast Majority Of Americans Say Ban Russian Oil, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Nearly 8 In 10 Support U.S. Military Response If Putin Attacks A NATO Country.” Quinnipiac Poll. March 7, 2022.

Perhaps related:

“There are differences in gun ownership rates by political party affiliation, gender, geography and other factors. For instance, 44% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they personally own a gun, compared with 20% of Democrats and Democratic leaners.”

-Katherine Schaeffer, “Key facts about Americans and guns.” Pew Research Center. September 13, 2021

What I think is interesting is the 22(D) – 24(R)% who don’t personally own a gun. When they imagine fighting, what are they fighting with? Also, a question for liberal politics: if you have to worry about an invasion, does your position on “gun control” change?

MasterClass: Black History, Black Freedom and Black Love

“As part of the $2 million commitment at MasterClass to make content that inspires and educates on social justice and against systemic racism, for the first-time ever an entire class will be available to stream for free. The three-part class, Black History, Black Freedom and Black Love will be freely available on MasterClass.com during Black History Month. MasterClass has also teamed up with Amazon to make the class available to stream for free on IMDb TV and available for all U.S. Prime Members on Prime Video.”

https://learn.masterclass.com/blackhistorymonth

Recommended by a friend of mine, which would be enough by itself. Also, the class is taught by Jelani Cobb, Angela Davis, John McWhorter, Cornel West and Kimberle Williams Crenshaw. I’ll pretty much watch anything with Cornel West in it. I thought I’d add it here before watching it myself to give you more time to check it out.

The Pandemic Cyclone

“This chart shows the daily number of new Covid-19 infections in each state over time. The y-axis is the population-normalized number of new infections per day; the x-axis is the rate of transmission (Rt). Each dot is a state or territory of the US, colored by region, and the area of the dot is proportional to the estimated number of new Covid-19 infections on that day.

https://observablehq.com/@chrisjkuch/covid-hotspots

I thought this was an interesting way to visualize the time series data.