Friday, March 31, 2023

Problem With Trump Indictment Is That It Took So Long To Happen

Yesterday, history was made.  Donald Trump became the first ex-President to be charged criminally.  A Manhattan grand jury issued an indictment which reportedly contain 30 plus counts of criminal activity by the ex-President.  We don't know yet the details.  No doubt there will be surprises.

I am a lifelong Republican.  I remain a Republican today, despite my

profound disappointment with the GOP leaving its honor and integrity behind as it latched its fortunes to a failed businessman, reality show host.  Donald Trump doesn't get to define what the GOP stands for.  Political parties are defined by the collective, not by any individual.  In that regard, while I am still disappointed, I will not disassociate myself with the only political party which (sometimes only on paper) still stands for the conservative ideals espoused by Ronald Reagan.  

As news of Trump's indictment came out yesterday, I was appalled, albeit not surprised, by the number of Republican elected officials who immediately ran to his defense.  Many of these are the same people who cheered Trump in 2016 as he led chants of "Lock Her Up" when it came to Hillary Clinton's email server problem.  While Hillary was clearly in the wrong and there was grounds to prosecute her, Trump's criminal conduct over the years makes Hillary's offense look like jaywalking.  Yet Trump apologists consistently insist that the former President should be given a pass, that Donald Trump is above the law that everyone else is expected to follow.

Balderdash.  The problem is not that Trump was charged criminally.  The problem is that it took so long.  I am so tired of the rubbish that prosecutors at the Department of Justice and Fulton County, Georgia, need more time to put together their cases.  By delaying the prosecutions so long, they gave time for Trump to announce he is a candidate in 2024, thus making any prosecutions look political in nature.  

As far as the prosecution out of Manhattan, let's not forget that the Trump Justice Department prosecuted Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, for a campaign contribution violation by paying hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels at the behest of "Individual 1."  Individual 1, aka Donald Trump, was not prosecuted at the time almost certainly because he was then President and the Department of Justice had a policy against bringing criminal charges against a sitting President.  But as of January 21, 2021 that policy no longer protected Donald Trump yet the Biden Justice Department, led by former federal judge Merrick Garland, has failed to act.  Don't get me started on Garland.  I had doubts about his ability to lead the Justice Department from Day 1 and I think I've been proven to be spectacularly correct.  Garland's failure to act more expeditiously has hamstrung any future federal prosecution of Trump.

Additional indictments of Trump, on much more serious matters, are no doubt coming. By the time the final chapter regarding Donald Trump is written, no doubt this first indictment will be merely a footnote.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Myth that Gender Wage Gap is Rooted in Discrimination Lives On

You may have missed it.  Equal Pay Day was celebrated ("celebrated" may not be the right word) earlier earlier this month, on March 14th.  That day "represents how far into the year women had to work to catch up to what their male colleagues earned the previous year."  In other words, women have to work 14 1/2 months to earn what a man makes in a year.  According to NPR, women make 82 cents on the dollar that men make.  Sometimes that figure is cited at 83 cents.

The reason for the discrepancy?  Discrimination!  Women are paid less than men doing the same jobsbecause of discrimination!  

That would be an outrage...if it were true.

In 1963, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act which says that all employees, regardless of sex,
must be paid equally for the same work.  An employer, however, is able to pay employees more if they have more education and experience than other employees doing the same job.  

Time Magazine debunked the myth of the pay gap as evidence of discrimination several years ago:
No matter how many times this wage gap claim is decisively refuted by economists, it always comes back. The bottom line: the 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure or hours worked per week. When such relevant factors are considered, the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing

Wage gap activists say women with identical backgrounds and jobs as men still earn less. But they always fail to take into account critical variables. Activist groups like the National Organization for Women have a fallback position: that women’s education and career choices are not truly free—they are driven by powerful sexist stereotypes. In this view, women’s tendency to retreat from the workplace to raise children or to enter fields like early childhood education and psychology, rather than better paying professions like petroleum engineering, is evidence of continued social coercion. Here is the problem: American women are among the best informed and most self-determining human beings in the world. To say that they are manipulated into their life choices by forces beyond their control is divorced from reality and demeaning, to boot.

Women are paid less than men on average because they tend to work jobs in lower paid fields and have less experience than their male counterparts in those jobs, chiefly because they take time out of their careers to raise families.   Some reports say that once career choice and experience on the job are considered the wage gap shrinks to a couple cents or so.   There are reasons to have discussions about whether policy changes - such as government assistance for child care - might help even the workplace playing field that, slightly, favors men.  But let's not lie to ourselves that the gender wage differences are chiefly about discrimination.  It just isn't.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

My Growing Hatred of Daylight Savings Time and Why We Should Eliminate Time Zones Altogether

As I write this at 7:30 in the morning,  I'm gulping coffee, trying to get awake.  I woke up a half hour ago, when it was still pitch dark outside.  My body was screaming at me to stay in bed, but I couldn't sleep any longer.  I had to get up to go to work.

Thank you daylight savings saving time.

Last Sunday at 2 am, we Hoosiers had to set our clock forward an hour so that, as Spring approaches, we will have an extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day.  Of course that means one less hour of sunlight at the start of the day.  You can't magically create an extra hour of sunlight by adjusting the clock.

Several years ago when then Governor Mitch Daniels pushed for Indiana to observe daylight saving time, I never bought the claimed financial benefits of DST that he suggested.  Still, I was agnostic about the concept.  But in the years since the adoption of DST, I have grown to hate it.  My internal clock very much does not like it.  I am so tired of these groggy late winter, early spring mornings.  And I think it's a bit weird that the sun doesn't go down until 9:30 pm in the middle of the summer.   Seems unnatural.

I also question why Indiana is in the eastern time zone instead of the central.  Chicago is in the central time zone, while New York City is in the eastern.  Last time I consulted a map, Indiana is closer to Chicago than New York.

But I will go one step further.  Why do we need to have time zones at all?  The idea of time zones is that at noon, everyone, regardless of where they live, will have the sun (approximately) directly overhead.  Why is that important? 

Sir Sanford Fleming, a Canadian engineer, came up with the idea of time zones back in 1878.  His idea was to divide the world into 24 time zones, each 15 degrees of longitude apart.  That's because the Earth rotates 15 degrees every hour, or 360 degrees in 24 hours.

Fleming was trying to address the problem of "local time."  Communities were setting their time based on the sunlight, again with noon being the time when the sun was directly overhead.  Fleming noticed the problem of train passengers continually having to reset their watches as they traveled.

Well, you know what...155 years later, we are still having to reset our watches when we travel across time zones.  Fleming's innovation didn't change that.

Given our modern world, an era of instant communication and rapid travel, there is no longer any reason for the antiquated concept of time zones.  In fact, in an era of worldwide commerce, we'd be much better off with a universal clock, and in fact many professions use one - Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

When I bring the notion of everyone in the world being on the same time, people are baffled.  If under universal time, it is 8 a.m., then they'd have to go to work even if it's the middle of the night, right?  No, of course not.  Instead of adjusting the clock for the sunlight, let local businesses, schools, etc., adjust the hours they are open for the daylight hours in their area.

Of course, acceptance of this concept would be made easier by discarding a.m., p.m. in favor a of a 24 hour clock.

Andrew Kluth, writing for Bloomberg, seems to get what I'm talking about:

The whole notion of time zones rests on a fundamental delusion. It suggests that a number — seven, 12 or 21 — should tell us when to get up, eat lunch or go to bed. We should instead be taking our orders from the interplay of planetary rotation and circadian rhythm.

Hence the idea of transitioning to a simpler but superior system. It would combine one global time with several billion individual — and biological — times.

The single global time is necessary because the railways and telegraphs of the 19th century represented only the beta version of globalization, whereas our Zoom-and-Slack era is the real deal. That’s why pilots, who’d rather not crash in the multinational airspace, already use Coordinated Universal Time. It’s the successor to Greenwich Mean Time, but abbreviated UTC rather than CUT, to appease (whom else?) speakers of French.

We should all use UTC. Initially, this would be weird, even hilarious. New Yorkers would have to get used to having breakfast when the clock seems to say noon, Shanghainese when it shows midnight. But we’d quickly sort it out.

Tell me: At 70 degrees temperature, would you be comfortable, boiling or frozen dead? That rather depends on whether we’ve chosen Fahrenheit, Celsius or Kelvin, wouldn’t you agree? But the temperature hasn’t changed, and we know the one that feels right.

In the same way, after adopting UTC everywhere, we might also reconnect with natural time. We’d start listening to our bodies again, and associate different numbers with dawn, noon, night and so forth.

Better yet, almost all of us (except those along the longitude of London) would have to revisit our conventions — when school should start, when work should end, and so forth. This would force even bureaucracies to become temporarily flexible. School might start later to accommodate the patterns of teenage brains. Work should finish before dark, lest the blue light of our computers wake us and ruin our subsequent sleep.

Making time in one sense absolute — setting the clocks to the same number worldwide — would be efficient in our global economy. Leaving the interpretation of that number up to us could help re-synchronize us with natural light, aiding everything from digestion to sleep. Albert Einstein meant it differently, but in that most important sense, time really is relative. 

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Is Donald Trump Surging in the Polls?

I heard a couple commentators talk about support for Donald Trump "surging" among Republicans   I took a look at the polls to see if that is true.  Spoiler alert:  It's not.

In analyzing polls you have to be careful to compare apples to apples, oranges to oranges.  Because every pollster employs a different methodology, that means looking at the same polls to see whether
there has been movement over time.  There have only been three polling outfits which have conducted multiple national polls in 2023 and early 2022.  Here is Trump's support as reported by those pollsters.

Harvard Harris
2/22/23  46%
1/19/23  48%
12/15/23  48%
11/17/23  46%

2/7/23  42%
1/17/23  44%

2/25/23   55%
1/21/23  55%
11/19/22  55%
6/29/22   55%

No "surge" is detected in those national polls.   Now let's look at the first primary state - New Hampshire.  Only the University of New Hampshire has been polling in the Granite State on a somewhat regular basis.    This is Trump's support in that state according to that pollster:

University of New Hampshire
1/23/23  30%
6/20/22  37%
10/18/21  43%
7/19/21  47%   

While Trump maintains control over a sizable portion of the GOP electorate in 2022, there is no evidence, at least yet, that percentage is growing.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Evidence Reveals Fox Hosts and its Chairman Perpetuated Stolen Election Lie to Keep Trump Viewers Tuned In

When I first heard about the Dominion lawsuit against Fox News, I applauded the company for fighting back against the lies about its election machinery helping Biden steal the 2020 presidential election.  However, I didn't give Dominion a chance of winning.  After all, in judging defamation cases, the United States employs an actual malice standard, a very high hurdle for plaintiffs.  Basically it requires that the defendant actually knows he or she is telling a harmful lie, but does it anyway.  Finding evidence of actual malice during discovery - the equivalent of a smoking gun - is virtually impossible.  Thus, I figured the Dominion defamation lawsuit was more about protecting the company's reputation in the court of public opinion, not winning the case in court.  

I may have been wrong.  Fox News' chairman Rupert Murdoch and the networks' hosts have provided plenty of evidence of actual malice, both in emails and during deposition testimony.   The New York Times reports:

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the conservative media empire that owns Fox News, acknowledged in a deposition that several hosts for his networks promoted the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald J. Trump, and that he could have stopped them but didn’t, court documents released on Monday showed.

“They endorsed,” Mr. Murdoch said under oath in response to direct questions about the Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo, according to a legal filing by Dominion Voting Systems. “I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight,” he added, while also disclosing that he was always dubious of Mr. Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud.

Asked whether he doubted Mr. Trump, Mr. Murdoch responded: “Yes. I mean, we thought everything was on the up-and-up.” At the same time, he rejected the accusation that Fox News as a whole had endorsed the stolen election narrative. “Not Fox,” he said. “No. Not Fox.”

Mr. Murdoch’s remarks, which he made last month as part of Dominion’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox, added to the evidence that Dominion has accumulated as it tries to prove its central allegation: The people running the country’s most popular news network knew Mr. Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election were false but broadcast them anyway in a reckless pursuit of ratings and profit.


The new documents and a similar batch released this month provide a dramatic account from inside the network, depicting a frantic scramble as Fox tried to woo back its large conservative audience after ratings collapsed in the wake of Mr. Trump’s loss. Fox had been the first network to call Arizona for Joseph R. Biden on election night — essentially declaring him the next president. When Mr. Trump refused to concede and started attacking Fox as disloyal and dishonest, viewers began to change the channel.

The filings also revealed that top executives and on-air hosts had reacted with incredulity bordering on contempt to various fictitious allegations about Dominion. These included unsubstantiated rumors — repeatedly uttered by guests and hosts of Fox programs — that its voting machines could run a secret algorithm that switched votes from one candidate to another, and that the company was founded in Venezuela to help that country’s longtime leader, Hugo Chávez, fix elections.

Fox's legal response to the evidence is that its on-air hosts were not endorsing the views of those who they put on air following the election.   But it appears that Fox's hosts were pushing the stolen election myth because they were afraid its Trump supporting viewers would turn the channel if Fox didn't perpetuate the lie of the stolen election.  These Fox lies are still going on.  Just a few days ago, the number one Fox host, Tucker Carlson lashed out against President Biden for "lecturing" Americans about democracy when he "took power in an election so sketchy that many Americans don't believe it was even real."  And why do those Americans, wrongly, believe the election was sketchy?  Because Fox hosts like Tucker Carlson spent months airing information they knew was false.

Republicans actually had a very good election in 2020.  One Republican, however, did not.  That was Donald Trump who ran behind virtually every GOP candidate in the country.  Rather than election fraud, a review of the results indicates Trump lost because a significant number of Republican voters in the swing states crossed over to vote for Biden. Were it not for those GOP cross-over voters, Trump would have won.

Of course, the real reason Trump lost, i.e. Republicans voted against him - won't be shown on Fox News.