Sunday, November 1, 2015

Last Call For The Trumpkin Patch

WaPo's Marc Fisher profiles The Kind Of People Who Would Vote For Donald Trump and finds out that yes, they are exactly who you think they would be: mostly older white men who want multicultural Millennial "participation trophy" America off their goddamn lawn already (and more than a few white women too.)

The way Joe McCoy sees it, the last time America was great was when Ronald Reagan was president, when people played by the rules. No, it was in the ’70s, Holly Martin says, when you could depend on Americans to work hard. No, to find true American greatness, Steve Trivett contends, you need to go back to before the Vietnam War, “when you could still own a home and have a good job even if you didn’t have a college education.”

Even if they don’t have “Make America Great Again” campaign caps, Donald Trump’s supporters easily recite the signature slogan of the real estate developer’s insurgent presidential bid. And even if they don’t agree on exactly why the country lost its way, they do accept — give or take a few degrees of hyperbole — Trump’s contention that the United States has become, as he has put it, “an economic wasteland” that is “committing cultural suicide.”

The premise behind “Make America Great Again” is that the country is no longer great. It can be great again, and the campaign has a certain can-do billionaire in mind as the guy to make that happen, but at the moment, the leading contender for the nomination of the party that regularly touts the notion of American exceptionalism is arguing that the country ain’t what it used to be.

The Rise Of Trump makes perfect sense if you realize the dog whistle is on the third word of his slogan compared to who is in the White House now.  The Republicans who drove our economy into the ground from Reagan to Dubya somehow weren't the problem, it's the guy right now who's causing it.  There's something different about him, you see.

For some supporters, especially those in the second half of life, Trump’s slogan is a tribute to a simpler time. “He could have said, ‘Make America what it was before’ and I would have voted for him,” said Jane Cimbal, 69, who lives in Winchester and signed up to collect signatures to get Trump on the Virginia ballot. “The last time we had good jobs and respect for the military and law enforcement was, oh, probably during Eisenhower.”

Cimbal doesn’t view Trump as an optimist of the Reagan stripe, but she’s okay with voting for a harsh critic. “He speaks his mind,” she said. “So many of the others are wishy-washy. Mr. Trump isn’t a provocateur to annoy people but to get them thinking.”

Cimbal, a loyal Republican, wants people to think about how to curb illegal immigration and protect Second Amendment gun ownership rights, but she’s mainly drawn to Trump because she thinks his plain talk can get things done. Her goal is to restore a time “when there wasn’t as much animosity toward each other, when everything wasn’t about race and people just got along.”

A nearly 70-year old white woman in Virginia wanting "America what it was before" when "everything wasn't about race" could not be a clearer set of lines to read between, folks. Back to before America had a non-white President.  Back before we had an electorate that would elect a non-white President.

And younger white guys want a piece of that action too.

The crowds at Trump events tend to be older and whiter than the national population, but so is the party whose nomination he seeks, and so are frequent voters generally. If younger supporters don’t have firsthand experience of the Eisenhower, Kennedy or Reagan years, they nonetheless share the older generation’s sense of loss.

Joe McCoy, who is 31, says he started out this campaign season “laughing at this Trump guy like everyone else.”

Still, the more he heard Trump, the more the greatness slogan resonated. “He boasts a lot, he’s got trophy wives, he’s not exactly Mr. Clean, so I was skeptical,” said McCoy, who lives in Norwich, Conn., where he does tech support from home for a multinational company.

“Mitt Romney was more my kind of guy: practical, a nice guy. But you know, people don’t like a nice guy. They like this guy because he’s right about us losing our country. I really don’t think we should be letting kids go into whichever bathroom they want to in school. The Democrats are really reaching too far on the social issues. And there’s no retirement anymore, no pensions.”

McCoy laments the pervasive sense that it no longer pays to play by the rules. That’s where immigration enters the equation: “When my wife came here from the Philippines, she had to go through a health assessment, background checks and interviews to become a citizen. Now, these people come in from Mexico and Central America through some mule, just whoever comes.”

Never mind that illegal immigration is actually sharply down under Obama, and that Reagan, Poppy Bush, and Dubya were huge on looking the other way.  When Joe here was born, Reagan was happily offering amnesty to undocumented people in the country.  Trump's "deport all of those people" nonsense is what Joe wants.  It's time to punish the folks that made America "not great".

When Joe laments the rules, he's talking about the unspoken ones, where guys like Joe ran the country and reaped the benefits.  In 2015, not so much.  I bet Joe hates unions too and can't understand why there's "no retirement anymore, no pensions".  A guy at 31 complaining about no pensions is definitely a big, big clue.

“I’m not a rigid tea partyer,” he continued. “I’m in favor of government paying for roads and the fire department. Social Security is a great thing. But I don’t think Trump is really much of a conservative; he’s definitely more moderate than the others.”

McCoy recognizes that his sense of lost greatness is probably different from that of others who are drawn to Trump, but he says that’s all right. When Trump talks about losing the country, “it’s about whatever you want it to be,” McCoy said. “He lets you fill in the blanks.”

And that's the real draw, those blanks.  That's the definite signal of success of a 100% dog whistle campaign.  The people who like Trump are hearing precisely what they want to hear and nothing else. And in America, that works far more often than not.

Down And Out (Of The Pool) In Beverly Hills

The rich have enough money and power to break the rules, folks, and that certainly applies to Beverly Hills not giving a single damn about being fined for breaking mandatory California drought provisions.

The wealthy Los Angeles area municipality was fined $61,000 on Thursday, making it the only community not located in a desert to be assessed penalties, the California State Water Resources Board said.

"Some urban water suppliers simply have not met the requirements laid before them," said Cris Carrigan, director of the water board's Office of Enforcement. “For these four suppliers, it’s been too little too late."

"For those who aren't (conserving) and who are wasting water, you should be ashamed of yourselves," Carrigan said.

Californians are under orders from the water board and Democratic Governor Jerry Brown to cut usage by 25 percent over the levels used in 2013. As a whole, the state has met that goal for four months running, regulators said on Friday.

From June through August, California residents and businesses have saved 253 billion gallons of water, board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus told reporters.

But the cities of Beverly Hills, Indio and Redlands and the Coachella Valley Water District have not met the standard, and each were fined $61,000, the board said.

Beverly Hills, where some wealthy property owners continue to maintain lush green lawns despite orders to conserve, residents used about 169 gallons of water per person during September, compared with 68 gallons used by residents of Los Angeles.

Beverly Hills residents have wasted 175 million gallons of water since June, Carrigan said on the conference call.

And of course the fine itself is so low by Beverly Hills standards that it's utterly meaningless.

One former Beverly Hills resident, Richard Greene, said the fine was far too small for what he said was possibly the richest city in the country, if not the world.

"Wow, ouch ... It actually seems to minimize the importance of water conservation when you're fining the wealthiest municipality $61,000, which is pocket change for most of the people you see walking up and down this street," Greene said.

Beverly Hills spokeswoman Cheryl Friedling said in a statement that the city is very concerned about not meeting the conservation mandate, and that it has been working aggressively toward that goal, even setting up a program to impose financial penalties on customers who waste water.

But she said the program did not start until this month. The city also plans to hire additional staff to investigate violations of conservation rules and put individual customers on personalized conservation programs if necessary.

Somehow I'm thinking that these "personalized conservation programs" will only be...well...a drop in the bucket.  Wasting 175 million gallons in three months for a population of 35,000, well that's 5,000 gallons wasted per resident in 3 months, or a pretty decent-sized swimming pool's worth for a household of four for the summer (which is probably what it was to be honest.)

But hey, like I said, $61,000?  That's two bucks a person even if they passed every bit of that fine on to residents. Hey Cali, throw a few zeroes on the end of that number and maybe you'll get someone's attention.

Doing Right By Gamers

Looks like South By Southwest got the message and worked out a compromise after Gamergate goofballs threatened two panels on gamer culture and inclusivity and reinstated them after canceling them last week for safety reasons.

South by Southwest (SXSW), the popular Austin, Texas–based annual event for music, film and digital culture and technology, has reinstated the two panels on harassment in the gaming industry originally canceled over safety concerns.

The cancellation of the panels—titled “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community” and “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games”—prompted a backlash against SXSW, with digital media outlets BuzzFeed and Vox Media threatening to pull out of the conference for its giving in to cyberbullying.

SXSW Director Hugh Forrest wrote in a blog post on October 26 that, since announcing the panels, SXSW has received “multiple threats” of on-site violence.

Four days later, Forrest apologized for the decision in a different post, calling it a “mistake.”

“By canceling two sessions we sent an unintended message that SXSW not only tolerates online harassment but condones it, and for that we are truly sorry,” wrote Forrest in the company blog post.

In addition to the reinstatement of the panels, SXSW will host a daylong summit on March 12 to examine harassment. SXSW will live-stream the summit for free.

The backtracking by SXSW is the culmination of another chapter in the controversy-laden movement called Gamergate. Gamergate started last August as a movement against feminists and so-called social justice warriors, who adherents believe have undue influence on the video game industry.

I'm glad that's been settled, and I hope the industry can learn a couple things about harassment, silencing, and privilege in general.  Here's hoping.

Sunday Long Read: Clean Sweep

Just another reminder not everything works with the sharing economy, as home cleaning startup Homejoy found out the hard way. Sometimes being first on the scene in order to get to the customer before anyone else falls on its face when the customer finds out what the real cost of the service is.

When Homejoy folded, a slew of media articles pointed to worker classification lawsuits that plagued the company in its final months.

Like Uber, TaskRabbit and other well-known on-demand economy companies, Homejoy treated its cleaners as independent contractors, and not employees, despite how many hours they worked. Some litigators did not agree with this assessment, arguing that Homejoy and its ilk were depriving workers of reimbursements and overtime wages. At the time the company shut down, it was facing four employment suits challenging its workers’ status, and a judge had just handed class action status to a raft of suits brought against Uber by its drivers. The contract-for-hire system — key to the cost structure and profits of the on-demand model as currently conceived — was suddenly teetering.

But was that the reason for Homejoy’s collapse? At the time, Cheung told the technology blog Recode that the lawsuits were the “deciding factor” in Homejoy’s failure to raise additional funding. Others paint a different picture. In interviews with more than a half-dozen former employees who spoke with Backchannel for this story, a more complicated story emerges. The lawsuits were not the primary nor the proximate reason for the company’s demise, these people assert.

In fact, Homejoy was grappling with far more immediate problems that might have deterred potential investors equally or more: mounting losses, poor customer retention, a costly international expansion, run-of-the-mill execution problems, technical glitches and the steady leak of its best workers to direct employment arrangements with its own (now former) clients.

One of its biggest problems was the crippling cost of customer acquisition. By mid-2014, thousands of people were scooping up deeply discounted first time Homejoy cleanings for $19.99 on daily deal sites like Groupon. The company offered these aggressively even though its own internal data showed most of these people never used the service again, according to three ex-employees.

Former West Coast operations manager Anton Zietsman said that Homejoy was all-too aware of the challenges for startups and small businesses to attract repeat customers from Groupon. But he said they were forced to rely on it heavily because of intense competition with their chief rival, Handy, which employed a similar strategy.

A third-party analysis of the company’s financials viewed by Backchannel showed that only about a quarter of its customers continued to use the service after the first month, and less than 10 percent used it after six months. (The source of this report requested anonymity because the data is proprietary and not authorized for public release.)

“The key problem is that we weren’t making enough money on our customers,” recalled Daniel Hung, the second full-time engineer to join the company. “We were spending a lot of money to acquire them, but not really retaining them.”
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