Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Voters have reason to worry.
· July 16, 2019
I’m struck at how many people have come up to me recently and said, “Trump’s going to get re-elected, isn’t he?” And in each case, when I drilled down to ask why, I bumped into the Democratic presidential debates in June. I think a lot of Americans were shocked by some of the things they heard there. I was.
I was shocked that so many candidates in the party whose nominee I was planning to support want to get rid of the Americans and have “Medicare for all” instead. I think we should strengthen Obamacare and eventually add a public option.
I was shocked that so many were ready to decriminalize illegal entry into our country. I think people should have to ring the doorbell before they enter my house or my country.
I was shocked at all those hands raised in support of providing comprehensive health coverage to undocumented immigrants. I think promises we’ve made to our fellow Americans should take priority, like to veterans in need of better health care.
And I was shocked by how feeble was front-runner Joe Biden’s response to the attack from Kamala Harris — and to the more extreme ideas promoted by those to his left.
So, I wasn’t surprised to hear so many people expressing fear that the racist, divisive, climate-change-denying, woman-abusing jerk who is our president was going to get re-elected, and was even seeing his poll numbers rise.
Dear Democrats: This is not complicated! Just nominate a decent, sane person, one committed to reunifying the country and creating more good jobs, a person who can gain the support of the independents, moderate Republicans and suburban women who abandoned Donald Trump in the midterms and thus swung the House of Representatives to the Democrats and could do the same for the presidency.
But please, spare me the revolution! It can wait. Win the presidency, hold the House and narrow the spread in the Senate, and a lot of good things still can be accomplished. “No,” you say, “the left wants a revolution now!” O.K., I’ll give the left a revolution now: four more years of Donald Trump.
Four years of Trump feeling validated in all the crazy stuff he’s done and saidFour years of Trump unburdened by the need to run for re-election and able to amplify his racism, make Ivanka secretary of state, appoint even more crackpots to his cabinet and likely get to name two right-wing Supreme Court justices under the age of 40.
Yes sir, that will be a revolution!
It will be an overthrow of all the norms, values, rules and institutions that we cherish, that made us who we are and that have united us in this common project called the United States of America.
If the fear of that doesn’t motivate the Democratic Party’s base, then shame on those people. Not all elections are equal. Some elections are a vote for great changes — like the Great Society. Others are a vote to save the country. This election is the latter.
That doesn’t mean a Democratic candidate should stand for nothing, just keep it simple: Focus on building national unity and good jobs.
I say national unity because many Americans are terrified and troubled by how bitterly divided, and therefore paralyzed, the country has become. There is an opening for a unifier.
And I say good jobs because when the wealth of the top 1 percent equals that of the bottom 90 percent, we do have to redivide the pie. I favor raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans to subsidize universal pre-K education and to reduce the burden of student loans. Let’s give kids a head start and college grads a fresh start.
But I’m disturbed that so few of the Democratic candidates don’t also talk about let alone celebrating American entrepreneurs and risk-takers. Where do they think jobs come from?
The winning message is to double down on redividing the pie in ways that give everyone an opportunity for a slice while also growing the pie sustainably.
Trump is growing the pie by cannibalizing the future. He is creating a growth spurt by building up enormous financial and carbon debts that our kids will pay for.
Democrats should focus on how we create sustainable wealth and good jobs, which is the American public-private partnership model: Government enriches the soil and entrepreneurs grow the companies.
It has always been what’s made us rich, and we’ve drifted away from it: investing in quality education and basic scientific research; promulgating the right laws and regulations to incentivize risk-taking and prevent recklessness and monopolies that can cripple free markets; encouraging legal immigration of both high-energy and high-I.Q. foreigners; and building the world’s best enabling infrastructure — ports, roads, bandwidth and basic social safety nets.
Ask Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island’s governor, and my kind of Democrat. She was just elected in 2018 for a second term. In both her elections she had to win a primary against a more-left Democrat.When Raimondo took office in 2015, Rhode Island had unemployment near 7 percent, and over 20 percent in some of the building trades.
“When I ran in 2014, there was a temptation to appeal to particular constituencies — gun safety, choice, all things that I believe in,” Raimondo recalled. “I resisted that temptation because I felt the single greatest issue was economic insecurity and people who were afraid, they were never going to get a job. So, I said there are not three or four issues, there’s one issue: jobs.” Unemployment in Rhode Island today is about 3.6 percent.
Raimondo has faced a constant refrain from critics on her left that she is too close to business. “I created an incentive program for companies to get a tax subsidy if they created jobs that pay above our state’s median income or jobs in advanced industries,” she noted. “I have cut small-business taxes two years in a row since 2015. I am not ashamed of any of that.”
Because, she continued, “I listen to people every day, and you hear what they are worried about. People say to me, ‘Governor, I just got a real job.’ And I’d ask them, ‘What is a real job?’ And they’d say, ‘It’s a job where I can support my family with real benefits.’ So I named our state job-training program ‘Real Jobs Rhode Island.’ “It will be impossible to “sustain a vibrant democracy with this level of inequality.”
The right answer is to reinvigorate the key elements of a healthy public-private partnership, said Raimondo: higher taxes on wealthier people, more investments in affordable housing, infrastructure and universal pre-K, and empowering the private sector to create more real jobs — “so that no one who is working full time at any job should have to collect Medicaid and need food stamps to make ends meet.”
Concluded Raimondo: “I am no apologist for a brand of capitalism that leads to unsustainable inequality. But I do believe a more responsible capitalism is necessary for growth.We need to redivide the pie and grow the pie. I am a ‘pro-growth Democrat.’ I am for growing the pie as long as everyone has a shot at getting their slice.”
That’s a simple message that can connect with enough Democrats — as well as independents, moderate Republicans and suburban women — to win the White House.
Labels: THOMAS FRIEDMAN
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Snap's Team Letter Shows How Clueless It Is
A missive from CEO Evan Spiegel reveals a struggling company that hasn't learned anything from its mistakes.
Executive director, Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, Illinois Institute of Technology
For a company founded and premised on the idea of ephemerality and thereafter sustained by a continual series of mea culpas claiming (as we so often hear these days) that "we were just too busy building" to pay attention to such mundane things as privacy, it doesn't seem to me that things have gotten much better over time for Snap. This outfit is still headed for history's dust bin. Maybe that's what they meant by ephemeral.
If you're a glutton for poor draftsmanship, calculated ignorance, gross redundancy and other self-serving dross, feel free to read the latest "leaked" team letter from Snap's CEO Evan Spiegel. In it, he attempts in vain (and vainly, as Carly Simon once sang) to catalogue the most recent sins of commission and omission, chart the latest version of the path forward, and wax eloquently about the amazing turnaround we're all soon to witness.
First, the sheer sloppiness of the letter, with typos on almost every page, fairly reflects the underlying lack of actual concern, commitment or attention to detail that this kind of offhand messaging to his team (and ultimately to the market) really represents. The desperation of the rushed and often incoherent writing shows what happens when there's no one with the power to edit, limit, control or even tell the two main inmates that they're continuing to run the asylum right into the ground.
Yes, Evan, we get that you want to make Snap the fastest way to communicate. But do we really need to see every possible variation of the word "fastest" more than 20 times in this muddled missive? You sure beat that pony to death.
And yes, Evan, we all know that, according to Warren Buffett, "economic moats" are good things to build and extend, but, little buddy, you've got bupkes in that department. You're screwed in all three of the departments you bragged about: brand, economies of scale and network effects.
As far as brand goes, you've done a great job of trashing it. Recode's Kara Swisher may think you're still cool and smart, but everyone else thinks the game is over. All the good hair, company planes, and supermodels won't feed the media beast much longer. Even the rats like the Kardashians are leaving the sinking ship.
As far as economies of scale go, your results to date show no such thing. You guys keep spending like sailors with next to nothing to show for the effort. And, it's pretty clear that when your whole premise is that any given Snap user tops out at engaging with his or her best 20 friends, there are no follow-on network effects because no one cares about the next zillion users. It's the same problem with incremental Uber drivers. Beyond a relatively small number of drivers in a given area, every added driver is bad news for everyone - more congestion, less money per driver, more pollution and no material or appreciated improvement in service or response time.
Your own letter says the same thing - your users got pissed because all the changes you made did nothing more than make it harder and slower for them to find and connect to the few people they cared about. As your own note notes, Snap today runs slower on an iPhone X than your earlier 5.0 version runs on an iPhone 4. One step forward, two steps back. Your engineering is no better than your English.
And your alleged "moat" reminds me of a paper sailboat floating further and further from the shore and getting soggier by the moment as it drifts toward an eventual demise. You're still the same old Snap. Mouthing the words and using the jargon isn't going to get you anywhere, because saying doesn't make it so. Facebook's the ocean of moats and you're basically a drip.
But the most frightening part of the Snap story, and the lesson for every entrepreneur to take away because even bad examples can be educational, is that these guys never learn from their mistakes. And because they're so arrogant, they keep doubling down on the most obvious errors. No one ever gets it right all the time. But the best entrepreneurs walk before they run, take what works from prior attempts, avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, and constantly move forward while - at the same time - listening carefully to their customers.
The guys running Snap know it all and don't listen to anyone. The consequences show up every time something new blows up in their faces. Facebook doesn't just test A/B, they constantly use small user segments to test everything from A to Z before they roll out anything major. And they tweak, iterate and improve all the time rather than dumping an untested, unrequested and unworkable set of changes on a massive and unsuspecting group of users as Snap did. Reading the team letter, it's clear that you can expect more of the same.
Snap's Android rewrite is called Mushroom, which is so very Freudian. To grow mushrooms, you cover them with dung and keep them in the dark. Just like Snap's users.
Monday, July 15, 2019
SCALING WOKEBACK MOUNTAIN
WASHINGTON — I was feeling on edge. Writing that among the highest-profile women in the Democratic Party is nerve wracking.
SCALING WOKEBACK MOUNTAIN
WASHINGTON — I was feeling on edge. Writing that among the highest-profile women in the Democratic Party is nerve wracking.
So I went to the gym. , the digital Peloton instructor inside the little screen on my spinning bike, had some wisdom for me — the kind of New Age bromide dispensed in spin classes everywhere:
You climb the mountain to see the world. You don’t climb the mountain so the world can see you.
I only wished A.O.C. was cycling alongside me to hear it as well.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from the start. the bartender-makes-good Cinderella story, the shake-up-the-capital idealistic dreams, the bravado about how the plutocrat president from Queens wouldn’t know how to deal with a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx.
And the most potent feminist partnership in American history: Nancy Pelosi as sensei, bringing her inside game, and A.O.C., the Karate Kid with a wicked Twitter game.
But instead, the 79-year-old speaker and the 29-year-old freshman are trapped in a generational and ideological tangle that poses a real threat to the Democrats’ ability to beat Donald Trump next year.
Pelosi told me, after the A.O.C. Squad voted against the House’s version of the border bill and trashed the moderates — the very people who provided the Democrats the majority — that the Squad was four people with four votes. She was talking about a legislative reality. If it was a knock, it was for abandoning the party.
A.O.C. should consider the possibility that people who disagree with her do not disagree with her color.
The young lawmaker went further, implying that the speaker was putting the Squad in danger, asking why Pelosi would criticize them, “knowing the amount of death threats” and attention they get. Huh?
A.O.C. pulled back and said she wasn’t calling Pelosi a racist. But once you start that ball rolling, it’s hard to stop. (You know how topsy-turvy the fight is when the biggest defenders of Pelosi, who has endured being a caricature of extreme liberalism for decades, are Trump and the Wall Street Journal editorial board.)
The A.O.C. crew threw down the gauntlet in a in The Washington Post by The Intercept’s Ryan Grim. He wrote that when Pelosi and other Democratic mandarins try to keep the image of the party centrist, they are crouching in “the defensive posture” they’ve been in since the Reagan revolution.
Corbin Trent, a spokesman for A.O.C. and co-founder of Justice Democrats, the progressive group that helped propel her, told Grim: “The greatest threat to mankind is the cowardice of the Democratic Party,” with the older generation “driven by fear” and “unable to lead.”
Message: Pelosi is past her prime.
Except she’s not.
And then there’s the real instigator, Saikat Chakrabarti, A.O.C.’s 33-year-old chief of staff, who co-founded Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress, both of which recruited progressives — including A.O.C. — to run against moderates in Democratic primaries. The former Silicon Valley Bernie Bro assumed he could apply Facebook’s mantra, “Move fast and break things,” to one of the oldest institutions in the country.
But Congress is not a place where you achieve radical progress — certainly not in divided government. It’s a place where you work at it and work at it and don’t get everything you want.
The progressives act as though anyone who dares disagree with them is bad. Not wrong, but bad, guilty of some human failing, some impurity that is a moral evil that justifies their venom.
Chakrabarti sent shock waves through the Democratic caucus when he posted a tweet about the border bill comparing moderate and Blue Dog Democrats — some of whom are black — to Southern segregationists in the ’40s.
Rahm Emanuel told me Chakrabarti is “a snot-nosed punk” who has no idea about the battle scars Pelosi bears from the liberal fights she has led.
“What votes did you get?” Emanuel said, rhetorically challenging A.O.C.’s chief of staff. “You should only be so lucky to learn from somebody like Nancy who has shown incredible courage and who has twice returned the Democratic Party to power.
“We fought for years to create the majorities to get a Democratic president elected and re-elected, and they’re going to dither it away. They have not decided what’s more important: Do they want to beat Trump or do they want to clear the moderate and centrists out of the party? You really think weakening the speaker is the right strategy to try to get rid of Donald Trump and everything he stands for?”
In the age of Trump, there is no more stupid proposition than that Nancy Pelosi is the problem. If A.O.C. and her Pygmalions and acolytes decide that burning down the House is more important than deposing Trump, they will be left with a racist backward president and the emotional satisfaction of their own purity.
Saturday, July 13, 2019
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