Gingrich on Trump

Some of what I heard on Trump and Trumpism from Newt Gingrich has subsequently become a lot more interesting. On January 17, I visited the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC for one of a series of presentations on Trump and Trumpism, given by Newt Gingrich. This post captures some of the notes and recollections that have become more interesting in the intervening nine or so weeks. I’ll include at the end an overview of the presentation.

Many of the things that now strike me as I now look at my notes were about specific individuals. This was in mid-January, remember.

Gingrich can forgive Trump virtually anything for at least the next two years, because he is not Hilary Clinton. I am not on a Newt-watch to determine the limits of Gingrich’s forgiveness.

Trump’s “team of winners”… yes that’s a quote. Continue reading “Gingrich on Trump”

Future Countries in Favorite Fiction

The world currently consists of about two hundred countries: sovereign states, most of which are members of the United Nations (UN). They tend to be durable entities with rather stable borders.

The world of the future isn’t divided up in this way. At least not according to a couple of recent novels I enjoyed very much. I refer to:

Continue reading “Future Countries in Favorite Fiction”

If I Were a Patriot, Invited to the White House

If I were a Patriot, I’d be proud, but uncertain about how to reply to the invitation to the White House. The word Patriot here refers to the Superbowl-winning New England Patriots. I’m not a Patriot in that sense.

So, if I were a Patriot, what would I be thinking? I believe Tom Brady’s statement: Everybody has their own choice. I’d respect each teammates’ individual decision, whether it be Brady’s decision to go this time, or the decision of several others not to enter the Trump White House.

I’d go. I’d take a gift for the 45th President: a book on the constitution. Given the recipient, it shouldn’t be a tome. I’d go with The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution. The pages are neither large nor numerous (a little over 200 of them). The type is not small.

Constitutional scholar Richard Beeman adds annotations and a few short chapters to:

  • The Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson’s second paragraph describes governments as “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”.
  • The Constitution itself.
  • The Amendments. I might highlight the first amendment, which of course is about freedom: of religion, of speech, of the press, of assembly, and of petition.
  • Three of The Federalist Papers: 10, 51, and 78. The last of these is Alexander Hamilton’s essay on the importance of protecting “the weakest of the three departments” of government: the judiciary. I think that the judiciary will prove less weak than Hamilton feared, or than Trump seems to hope.

What would you do, if you were a Patriot, invited to the White House?

Understanding Trump and Trumpism

Understanding Trump and Trumpism is:

  • Something I find hard.
  • The title of a series of six presentations by Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the US House of Representatives.
  • A series of events hosted by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

I have registered to attend the third of the six presentations next Tuesday, January 17, at 11:00am at Heritage in DC. Online registration at the Heritage website was simple, and a welcome email arrived immediately after I registered. Thank you, Heritage!

I plan to:

  • Dress respectably. I think I’ll wear the red tie with the dinosaurs on it. (Yes, I will wear other clothes as well as the tie.) I’ll be clean-shaven; I may even break out a fresh razorblade that day.
  • Avoid trouble. I won’t even ask a question, even if questions are invited.
  • Post here after the presentation.

More from me soon. More from you in comments below?

Electing to Start Blogging Again

I didn’t give up blogging, I just didn’t post for almost four months. I last posted just after the big summer storm, when we lost power, and got it back on the 4th of July. So I hardly blogged at all between Independence Day and Election Day.

Today’s election was the first in which I was eligible to vote as a US citizen. I did so accompanied by my kids.

Voting is good, and blogging is good. Will the outcome of the election be good? Or rather, for whom will it be good?

UK Has New PM

So, the United Kingdom has a new Prime Minister: David Cameron of the Conservative Party. The government is a coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. I wrote just after the election that:

The Conservatives could form a government, with a majority, with the support of the Liberal Democrats. I think, and hope, that they won’t get that support without commitment to reform the electoral system toward proportional representation.

We still don’t have the details of the deal. When we do, I’ll post about them. If they include a firm step toward PR, then I for one will forgive Nick Clegg and the rest of the LibDem leadership.

I do have some regret that the LibDems couldn’t do a deal with Labour instead. But I think that the operative word is couldn’t. Such a deal would have required the support of all Labour MPs and of some of the other, smaller, parties, and that support just didn’t seem to be there.

UK Election From Afar

Yesterday saw a General Election in the land of my birth: the United Kingdom. Here’s a snapshot, based on the Guardian‘s election coverage.

Britain’s parliament has 649 seats, each representing a geographic constituency. Here, for each party, is the share of the seats and the share of the vote (the 10 missing seats are those for which we don’t yet have a result).

  • Conservative: 300, 36%.
  • Labour: 255, 29%
  • Liberal Democrat: 56, 23%
  • Other: 28, 12%.

So, the Conservatives have more seats than any other party, but they don’t have a majority of seats, and they were nowhere near a majority of the popular vote. The Liberal Democrats have a far greater share of the popular vote (more than a fifth) than of the seats (less than a tenth). That’s because of the UK system, in which there is a winner-take-all race for each seat.

The electoral system is bad at representing the popular vote. It’s usually “good” at making it clear who’s in power, in that usually either Labour or the Conservatives has a majority of seats. That hasn’t worked this time.

The Conservatives could form a government, with a majority, with the support of the Liberal Democrats. I think, and hope, that they won’t get that support without commitment to reform the electoral system toward proportional representation.

The Liberal Democrats did hope that this would be the election in which they gained a significant number of seats even without electoral reform. Now they hope that it will be the election after which they can bargain for electoral reform. In subsequent elections, their popular vote would be reflected in seats – and produce more “hung parliaments,” alliances, and so on.

Proportional representation is my hope also. For that, and for other reasons, I’ll be particularly interested in UK politics over the next few days.

Corporations are people too

If corporations have rights, such as free speech, where do these rights stop? Can a corporation, for example, run for congress? My fellow Silver Spring resident Murray Hill wants to find out. Murray Hill is a PR firm, rather than a person. Or is a firm a person?

So, Murray Hill Inc. for Congress, as we say on Facebook: and Reddit, and NPR. And Youtube as well, but I’ll embed the video here to save you the trip.

Stream of Keyboardness: UK

Has there ever been a better name for a political party than the Official Monster Raving Loony Party? Or a better name for a candidate than Screaming Lord Sutch?

Maybe the above is rather too British for most of my readers. But, dear readers, if you ever see a candidate named Loud Viscount Watson, it will probably be me. That is the only name under which I will ever run for political office.

I was reminded of the Loonies by Moody. Glyn of that ilk posted about the UK Pirate Party. Said pirates hold the radical notion that “when creative works are sold, it’s the artists who [should] benefit.”

Brits Investigate Politicians

It seems that some Members of (the UK) Parliament have been rather… irregular in their expense claims. In order to investigate the expense claims thoroughly, it is necessary to trawl through hundreds of thousands of documents.

The Guardian decided to crowdsource the trawling, by setting up a web site with copies of expense documents and an interface allowing visitors to classify each document. Michael Andersen at Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab presented four crowdsourcing lessons, based on an interview with Simon Willison, who developed the web application.

Two of the lessons are psychological:

  • your workers are unpaid, so make it fun
  • attention is fickle, so launch immediately.

The other two are technical:

  • speed is mandatory, so use a framework
  • participation will come in one big burst, so have servers ready.

Note that the technical reasons follow on from “attention is fickle.” The framework was Django, and the servers were in the cloud, at Amazon’s EC2. Glyn Moody remarked that open source made this crowdsourcing project feasible. I’ll be more explicit (or perhaps more glib) and remark that this is an example of open source serving the cause of open government.

Is this an example of citizen journalism? It’s certainly an example of investigative journalism, with much of the investigation done by citizens.