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Frum is right again

25 March[ —]

David Frum is right again. This is from a blog post he wrote in 2010. 

When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say—but what is equally true—is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed—if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office—Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

That's not just true of Limbaugh, but of all the press. It's the distortion of getting our news from businesses who rep their own interests first. Their interests are not ours. For all the evidence you need, consider who sleeps in the White House. 

The chickens have come home to roost. Loops have closed. Sowing happened ten years ago, reaping now. It's time to step back from the failed theory that Repubs would know what to do if they won it all.

Yesterday I wrote this in a tweet:

Repubs, our form of govt requires compromise. Lots of Dems don't get this too. Make a diff, dismiss Gorsuch, nominate Garland. Govern.

This is consistent in Frum's theme, as expressed in a post he wrote yesterday. Anyone trying to govern from the extremes of either party is doing it wrong. It can't work, and it's not good for the country, or for them. Our journalism will never tell that story, so we must find ways to tell it to each other. It's the only way we can win.

I listened to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, and I am sure they would welcome a chance to work with the Republicans in Congress, in the role of the minority party, to make our government work in a more routine and functional way. That means we have to have a real Supreme Court, not one that does what the billionaire class wants, but what the country needs. And real elections without Russian interference or voter suppression. It starts with a real Congress that works in a bipartisan way to do the work of the people. And the people have to get and remain involved, to make sure we are not being herded by journalism with its own ax to grind. 

Mitch McConnell quietly said something very true after the surprising election results. But as is often the case with wisdom it applies even more to the person with the idea. McConnell overreached in not playing an advise-and-consent role with the Garland nomination. That was a step too far, one of many in the last eight years. But this was an attempt to cement a victory in the Supreme Court. So instead of taking a decade to undo the damage of the Tea Party, we'd have to wait generations. 

Pelosi, Schumer, Ryan, McConnell should get together in an offsite, quietly and privately retreat and talk, as adults, how to get our country back on course. You four people have the power to do it. You should. And you should now be ready to do it.


The emergency room is not health care

24 March[ —]

One of the favorite talking points of Repubs re health care is that people can still go to the emergency room, so no one will be allowed to die in the streets. That is so totally wrong. For more than one reason. 

  1. You still have to pay for it even if you don't have insurance. The hospital will bill you. And if you have a job, or assets, they will get paid. And it's a lot of money. So guess what, sick people don't go to the emergency room if they don't have insurance if it's at all avoidable. 
  2. Going to the emergency room is not health care, it's treatment. Health care is where the doctor does tests, and if there's a problem does more tests, and sends you to see a specialist. An emergency room handles emergencies. 
  3. There's also preventative care. Getting a colonoscopy (ugh) every so often. Or learning how to do self-examination. Or working with a doctor on losing weight, or stopping smoking, or getting off drugs, or getting birth control. 
  4. We should aspire to being a nation of healthy people. It's in the Declaration of Independence. We're here for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it doesn't say anything about "not dying in the streets."
Bottom line, going to the emergency room isn't even treatment, and treatment isn't health care. That's the amazing thing about the ACA, it used the experience of the medical system to make the economics of health care work better. If the Dems hadn't tried to get some Repub votes it would have matched reality even more closely. It's a lot like climate change. The Repubs confuse weather for climate. And confuse treatment for health care. 

If I were in charge of Medium

23 March[ —]

Here are the stories on Medium's new business model announced yesterday. Now here are my two cents...

What would I do if I were the owner of Medium and were free to be creative with new business models?

I'd merge with or acquire an ongoing news organization, or maybe two. Both well-known for excellent editorial, with fantastic writers and the ability to draw more. Medium would inherit their business model. And it would become the editorial system for the publication and it would also be the Letters to the Editor software. 

I'd raise more money from the VC community to hire new editors, whose sole job it is to read what's posted on the service looking for people who are either talented writers, or people with extraordinary intelligence, insight or experience, who are writing about what they love, know and see. When such a writer is spotted their stories are promoted to the readers alongside the stories written by the pros. They are compensated either with stock or money (they would be encouraged to take stock). 

In other words Medium becomes the farm system that drives, over time, a rapid expansion of news coverage, with much more first-person writing of news. News by the newsmakers. Sources go direct. 

Now instead of facing the same hurdles that existing pubs face, without any of the advantages (Medium has no editorial voice, as far as I can tell none of the execs or devs are NBBs) they can tap into the natural way news is growing in the post-print news world. If you think about it, this is why Facebook and Twitter became the phenomenons that they are, without the advantages that Medium has (a real CMS with the ability to link and style). 

Evan Williams says they have new reading technology coming. That's great but I'd insist that these tools work with open formats, so they can benefit the web at large. It would help spread the idea that Medium is not just standing behind writers, it's also an enthusiastic proponent of the open web. Right now it's a silo, everyone can see that, and it has to be limiting growth. 

PS: I didn't realize that the new Medium has a paywall. So you can't read the story that Williams wrote. I was able to read it earlier. Not sure why I can't read it now. 


What's new in Electric Pork 0.61

22 March[ —]

Two main changes in v0.61.

  1. There's a Linux version. You can get it on the download page. It seems to work exactly like the Mac version. I also plan to create a Windows release, but have a few other things I need to get to first. 
  2. There was a setting that allowed you to tweet in reverse order. Now that threading works properly it's just not a good way to do it. 
I've enabled comments for this post. The previous posts in this thread may also have useful info.

An idea for the acoustics of restaurants

22 March[ —]

I went to a group dinner last night in NYC, it was great, but it was hard to make out what people were saying. Some people have booming voices and move their lips visibly. Those are relatively easy to follow. Others have high pitched voices or cover their mouths. My ears and brain have a lot of trouble processing that. 

And then people, having trouble being heard, raise their voices until everyone is screaming, and the problem gets worse and hearing never gets easier. 

I recorded a few seconds of random conversation around the dinner table last night. See if you can make out what anyone was saying. 

I wonder why no one has designed a restaurant that solves this problem. I used to do sound work for music when I was a kid, in a strictly amateur way, but I learned the basics. The acoustics of a room is determined by its surfaces. If the walls are hard, like brick or stone, sound reflects, and the room is loud. If you put soft stuff on the walls, they absorb the sound, and the room feels quiet. This is why recording studios have thick sound-absorbing foam on the walls. They want just the sound coming from the instruments and the amps, nothing reflective. If they want that effect, they can add it. They don't want the room to add any sound of its own. 

So why not design a restaurant so that the walls absorb sound? It would be the place people go to have a quiet evening of conversation. Or just to not go insane trying to be heard! :balloon:


How do journalists read news?

21 March[ —]

I'm going to a journalism conference in Italy in a couple of weeks. 

I wondered how news people get their news. Is it systematic, or do they rely on whatever comes their way on Twitter or through email?

Do they use a news aggregator like Yahoo or Memeorandum? Or an RSS reader?

Are they happy with what they use? Do they think their system could be improved? 

Then, how do they share links with others? Post to Twitter, Facebook, email or?

As a person who develops news reading and publishing systems, I'm embarrassed to say I have very little idea today how people do that, or if the systems they use are good, adequate, great or whatever.


House Repubs stand for America

21 March[ —]

I've asked many times over the last few months when the Repubs in Congress would show some spine and help the country dig out of the mess we're in with Russia and Trump. Basically our country has been invaded, there's a pretender in the Oval Office, and we have to get him out before he can do more damage to the country. That's the problem.

Now the Repubs have done something, and we should be showing appreciation, not condemning them, though they probably don't mind the condemnation because it's the air cover they need with their constituents.

Here are some (imho) irrefutable facts.

  1. The hearing that was held yesterday couldn't have happened if the Repubs hadn't scheduled it. They are the majority party in Congress. If they don't want hearings, then there are no hearings. 
  2. They knew the Democrats would do what they did. It made the Democrats look good with their constituents. In normal times that alone would be a non-starter for the Repubs (and for the Dems if they were the majority party). But these are not normal times. They have acknowledged that by scheduling the hearings and providing a stage for the Dems and the directors of the FBI and NSA.
  3. Before you give them too much credit, however, if Trump's approval rating weren't low and going lower, none of this would be happening.
  4. They come from districts that, for the most, voted for Trump. Their constituents need to see them defending him. Even though it's a charade, because as I said in #2, they knew the Democrats would ask the questions they couldn't. 
  5. The only thing they could do that's better is start a select committee, or call on the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor. With yesterday's testimony, that seems more likely than it did before. I suspect this is the goal of Nunes and the other Repubs in the House (and of course the Democrats as well).
  6. Reading tea leaves, but it's not much of a leap, the Repubs in Congress have decided, correctly, that Trump must go. They are doing what they have to do to both make that happen and to not commit career suicide if at all possible. The Repubs are taking a risk that they will be discovered, or that Trump's approval rating could suddenly go up, which could happen, if for example if there were a 9/11 level terrorist attack on American soil. So there is some courage involved. Trump knows he's being crossed, and in order for it to work he must stay weak. Whether he will is an unknown. 

There's more to Electric Pork

20 March[ —]

Electric Pork is the UI but underneath it, it's running inside an app called electronRunner, which is nodeRunner, running in Electron.

I think I'm figuring out how to build something like what we had in Frontier in JavaScript.

The big new idea is that Electron is the right environment to do it in, because that's where Frontier ran too. On a graphic platform with a powerful OS.

That's already in there. You can enable the nodeRunner features by flipping a switch, and that will be configurable in an upcoming release.


The president lies

19 March[ —]

The president lies.

Example: He said during the campaign that Hillary Clinton was the founder of ISIS. We knew then and now that she is in no sense the founder of ISIS. 

He lied saying that she started the birther lie. And many many more lies

I have a relative who lies the way Trump lies. He knows he's lying. He knows I know he's lying. He knows I know it isn't worth the trouble to engage him on the lie. I have no idea why he does this, and I don't care.

The things that Trump lied about during the campaign weren't consequential. Everyone knew that Hillary Clinton wasn't the founder of ISIS. He kept saying it. Shrug. 

He lies about things that are consequential now. And they are escalating. It's as if he's testing the water, to see what happens. If nothing happens, he will keep escalating until he hits some kind of limit.

His staff, while they haven't exactly said he's lying, they call it joking, or they explain that you can't take him literally, or that he has alternate facts. These are all ways of avoiding saying the words. But the net-net is they are telling us that he lies. 

So we know that he lies. Pretty much everything he says is a lie. I can't recall him saying anything that wasn't a lie. 

We are always deciding if this is acceptable. You can say that the Republicans in Congress will never do anything, but the fact remains that given our form of government, which is well-specified, the fact is that we accept, up till now, that our leader lies.

At some point presumably we will decide this is not acceptable. 


Dems must not be thinking

19 March[ —]

I don't know what the Democrats are thinking. Every day the Repubs dish up new disasters, and the Dems aren't channeling that info to the people who they're screwing over. If they don't do that, what do they do? It's not clear they have figured out that they too can go direct, that they don't have to go through journalism. They can do what Trump does, only more responsibly, in more adult-like ways. The new publishing technologies are not limited to trolls and emotional infants.


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