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|Friday, February 5th, 2016|
|Today's dollop of wisdom: Why Clinton Has So Much Trouble Closing The Deal.
One of the things I have learned from various formal media training over the years is something called the "circle of trust." We all have a close circle of people we trust more than anyone else (spouse, children, parents, childhood friend, whoever). We have a somewhat larger circle of people we trust geneally, but less than that. This continues t expand out in concentric circles until we reach whatever your average level of "trust" is.
[Yes, I know
the word "trust" is highly variable, that people have different circles depnding on what specific circumstances, etc. etc. PLEASE stay focused and don't over disect the construct. I'm going somewhere with this.)
If someone is a regular lsitener/viewer of a talk show, the host is somewhere in that circle of trust. Maybe not the inner circle, but it means they generally consider this person a reliable person for news and information. [Again, please don't tell me you personally never trust anybody in the media. Still setting up here. But I'm just about there.] The critical lesson is never directly attack the host
. Why? Because the listeners include the host in their circle of trust. When you attack the host, you make yourself less trustworthy. To be effective, you need to respond in a way -- paricularly if the host starts out on the attack against you -- that lets you into the circle of trust while still making your points.
I assure you, this is very, very, hard. Please do not ask me in the comments how you do this. I'll just say there is a reason that good media training is important.
Which brings me to this snippet from last night's Democratic Primary debate. Unfortunately, the clip does not include the question that preceded the clip.
Now lets all start with the fact that debates are tricky things. After all, you are trying to sell not merely undecideds to vote for you. You are making sure you (a) keep your supporters, and (b) peel away as many supporters as you can of your opponent. This last is particularly hard, because -- as with the aforementioned talk show host -- your opponent's supporters already trust the opponent more than they trust you.
Going into the NH debate, Sanders enjoys a substantial lead over Clinton. That means the majority of voters in the room likely have Bernie in their circle of trust rather than Hillary.But enough are open-minded about the question they can potentially be shifted. Now watch the clip below and note where the boo-ing starts.
Clinton starts out of the gate really strong on this. The boos start with the accusation that Sanders and his campaaign are deliberately engagged in an "artful smear." Sanders then picks up the cue t talk about the influence of money and politics. This, of course gets rousing applause. Sanders never directs a word against Clinton. But because Clinton has set this up as oppositional, Sanders now looks like the champion of campaign finance reform (and, by implication, Clinton is not). Clinton does come back somewhat stronger on the second time. But here again, she directly attacks Sanders for his vote in 2000 for a bill which also contributed to deregulation of derivatives. Sanders again does not attack Clinton. Instead, he focuses on another talking point, how much he resisted repealing Glass-Stegal.
Clinton's message undoubted resonated extremely well with her existing supporters. Existing supporters agree with everything she's saying and will no doubt be delighted that she "called Bernie out" on his "artful smear." They will also attribute any criticism of Clinton'sdelivery here to inherent sexism and the idea that men can be angry and strong and women can't.
Except it's not about strength and passion. It's about how to get inside the circle of trust of those listening to you. This delivery did a great job reenforcing the circle of trust for her existing supporters. But I doubt it did anything for the "leans Bernie but still gettable" crowd, which is the one she *must* capture to win (or come close) in NH.
Mind you, Clinton benefitted from exactly this phenomena in 2008. Obama was leading in the polls before the debate. Clinton handled a question about her "likeability" as compared to Obama perfectly (making a joke of it and saying about Obama "he's very likable". Obama responded with the now infamous "your likeable enough Hillary," which was widely considered condescending and demeaning. (Clip here
.) Clinton responded in a way whcih did not directly challenge Obama and put his supporters on the defensive, but she managed to suggest by her manner (without stating explicitly) that "likeability" is a rather shallow and silly criteria. Obama was perceived as putting Hillary down, thus gaining the ire of Hillary supporters and those leaning Hillary but gettable.
What's unfortunate is that Hillary actually had all the information in there for a perfect answer, but she undermined herself by making it a charcter attack on Bernie.How Do I Think Clinton Should Have Delivered This?
Clinton had it right when she was talking about a ridiculous standard that "anyone who ever took a campaign contribution or a speaking fee from Wall St has to be bought. She should have started with agreement with Sanders, trumpetng her hard work on campaign finance reform with McCain Finegold and noting that Citizens United
wa an attack on her. She could have made her point about billionaires attacking her and said "Clearly all the Billionaires people say own me because of these campaign contributions and speakers fees don't agree with you. They don't own me, they hate me!" (Bonus points for "and i welcme their hatred") She could then follow up with more about an "impossible standard that no one can measure up to. "Even you, Bernie Sanders, couldn't live up this ridiculous standard f purity. We all know how hard you worked to stop repeal of Glass-Stegal. But in the end you had to vote for a bill in 2000 to deregulate the very derivitives that contributed to the financial collapse, because you had to trade away some things to get other things that were worth supporting. But by your own standard, that kind of "pragmatism" makes you a fellow sellout like me. If even Bernie Sanders can't pass the Sanders standard for Wall St purity, than that can't be the right standard! We need to bring together all Democrats and even Republicans who feel the same way to get real campaign finance reform! Stop stting the standard so high that even you can't pass it."
That can be strong, and passionate. It gets in the circle of trust by agreeing with the goals of the Sanders supporters. The attack is not on Sanders personally, but on a "ridiculous standard" that actually would make Sanders also look like a sellout (again, avoiding a personal accusation of hypocricy, but rasing doubt among the gettable that maybe they are being too harsh on Clinton).
Again, this wouldn't matter to the solid Bernie supporters, who would bristle at the idea that they are proposing an "impossible standard." [So please, Sanders supporters, don't fill up my comment section with how substantively wrong my proposed Clinton attack was. This is about plating, not tast or originality with the star ingredient.] But the solid Bernie supporters ae not your target. They are inherently ungettable. Your target are the undecideds and the leans-Sanders voters.
To conclude, do not mistake direct insult for "strength" or "aggression." Don't talk to the ungettable opponents. Remember that there are ways to be strong and aggressive (needed leader qualities) while still being inspirational and undermining your opponent. Remember that yur target audience is the undecided and gettable supporters of your opponent. Show fire to keep your own supporters charged up and demonstrate you're nobody's punching bag. But don't use strong accusatory mode unless you have to.
|Monday, February 1st, 2016|
|Sunday, January 24th, 2016|
|Friday, January 22nd, 2016|
|Today's dollop of wisdom
I Sometimes it will be necessary to make a show of strength and utterly defeat an opponent. When you do, avoid inflicting gratuitous humiliation. Abve all, unless absolutely necessary, never require an individual to make a public delaration surrender. Utterly crushing an opponent will often earn you grudging respect, and a desite to avoid future confrontations. Needless humiliation will earn you an enemy for life, often willing to go out of their way to do you damage.
As often the case, Lois McMaster Bujold summed it up well, in this quote from Aral Vorkosigan: "Always allow a retreating enemy to carry off as much face as possible. Just don't allow them to carry off anything else.
|Tuesday, January 19th, 2016|
|Reflecting on the Sanders v. Clinton Question
As Sanders becomes a more real candidate, we see critique from a number of folks with progressive credentials. This is from Jonathan Chait.
I do not dismiss such critiques lightly. But I do think there is a serious question about what is the role of the President. Notably, are we looking for a movement leader or a problem solver.
There is no doubt that Sanders is a movement leader. He is trying to change the overall culture in the country, change the idea about the proper role of government in the economy, challenge many of the underlying assumptions of the last 40 years, and push for solutions usually dismissed as politically impossible.
Clinton positions herself as a problem solver. She will define issues as concrete problems within the overall culture. Her goal is not to radically change the culture, but to fix specific problems in implementation.
For example, Sanders wants Americans to view college education as a right the same way we view K-12. Clinton wants to make sure that people are adequately trained for the new economy.
Which is the better role for the President? We can point to examples of both styles in history, with various measures of success. For example, although Reagan ultimately did not succeed in repealing many of the New Deal provisions he campaigned against, he succeeded in creating a radically different culture of government. By contrast, (Bill) Clinton achieved a healthy, stable economy without altering the dominant framework of limited government.
And both styles have drawbacks. Those who support Bernie Sanders and his vision of reframing the role of government in our lives as something important and valuable rather than something inherently bad need to understand that electing Sanders is a prelude to a lengthy cultural and political campaign. Success will be measured in incremental stages and overall success in culture change rather than in dramatic policy victories.
On the flip side, the problem with a "problem solver" is that you don't change the culture that created the problems in the first place. The focus on narrow, incremental change for its own sake, without a broader goal in mind, tends to result in marginal improvements and changes at the edge, always subject to reversal with a change in the political winds, because the fundamental foundation that allowed the problems to develop in the first place. Pure pragmatism devoid of a guiding philosophy is therefore as ultimately empty as pure ideology devoid of pragmatism.
Whereas those who question Sanders wonder if he has the pragmatism and political smarts to make the right compromises that advance the culture change, the challenge for Clinton is to show that she is interested in doing more than solving the problem du jour. Sanders has captured those hungry for a movement. Clinton has captured those inherently suspicious of a movement.
For Sanders to win, he must satisfy those suspicious of passion and vision as antithetical to pragmatic achievement that he has the political skills and positive pragmatism to get things done even while building the broader movement to do what Obama did not -- make the case for the positive role of government. For Clinton to win, she must convince the portion of the electorate suspicious of "pragmatism" as a code for settling that she has the vision and passion necessary to transform a set of incremental wins into genuine cultural change that addresses racial and social justice at its core, not simply putting a band-aid on the symptoms.
If the President is purely a pragmatic problem solver, from where does vision come? If the President is the ideological standard bearer, who makes sure the revolution is actualized? It is a dismissive caricature to dismiss Sanders as the hopeless idealist that youth must set aside as a sign of maturity, or that Clinton is the empty pragmatist willing to cut any deal to claim a pyrrhic victory.
Sanders supporters need to ask themselves -- are willing to be part of a movement? Are we willing to accept that Sanders may not be able to deliver on his promises, but that the movement will continue to push to reshape the culture so that they become politically feasible? Likewise, Clinton supporters need to ask themselves, what is our vision and what are our red lines? Is this just about voting against Republicans and having a President we trust not to screw things up? Or is this about genuinely reshaping our vision of what we want America to be?
|Wednesday, January 13th, 2016|
|My Dollop of Wisdom for the Day -- When To Respond To Charges of Hypocrisy (And How).
It is always interesting to note that those who preach "regulatory humility," "first do no harm," and other homilies designed to delay action preach a different creed when it's a question of trying to overturn new regulations, or when some ox of their own is being gored. Point this out and you usually get a response along the lines of "well you always support regulation so you're the hypocrite." Attempting to demonstrate the falsity of this statement has about as much impact on this particular crowd as any other disagreeable set of facts.
This does not mean ignoring it in all cases. It simply means to remember you are dealing with an obnoxious precocious 9 year old. Explain once, pat them on the head, smile indulgently when they repeat it themselves, tell them someday when they grow up they will understand, and move on. When pressed by others, sigh and provide them with your pre-canned answer. If you've written it down, you can usually get this down to a "No" with a link.
As with all things, balancing between ignoring the comment, responding as I have described, or genuinely engaging depends on circumstances. You don't want to exhaust yourself, but you don't want to let things spread until it becomes a "Thing." A categorical decision never to lower yourself with a response leaves you vulnerable to manipulation. Engaging in a tit-for-tat runs the risk of creating a false equivalence. Find the sweet spot in between.
As with all things advocacy, remember your true audience is not the annoying troll. Your true audience in this case, are those new to the debate who have no idea of the history. They are easily confused by such arguments and are not going to research it themselves. You want to be condescendingly indulgent to your trolls, but genuine and patient with everyone else. Remember, people who don't follow this closely can be easily confused by surface similarities. That's why
|Thursday, January 7th, 2016|
|Irony Alert: Executive Orders Are Core Constitutional Responsibilities of the President.
For those who are complaining the President has exceeded his Constitutional authority by circumventing the legislature, irony alert: The Executive Order is the quintessential act of the President fulfilling his Constitutional responsibility under Article II to exercise the "executive power of the United States." An Executive Order is simply an instruction from the head of the Executive Branch to the relevant personel under the authority of the President pursuant to Article II on how to execute the laws passed by Congress or how to fulfill existing regulations authorized by Congress or how to implement some other Administrative function. Usually these are quite dull things, such as an Excutive Order directing the General Services Administration to establish an "Innovation Fellows Program." Sometimes these have broad policy implications, but are still just instructions on how the President wants the agencies under his authority to act, such as this Executive Order on Using Behavioral Science To Better Serve The American People.( Collapse )
Keeping this in mind, lets review what the President actually did as his Executive Action on gun control.
To conclude, I get that "Executive Order" has now become a trigger word that acts to most folks as a huge distraction -- especially non-lawyers who don't know what an Executive Order actually is and how it works. But Executive Orders are nothing new and are in no way "bypass" Congress -- at least not in a Cnstitutional sense. Executive Orders are directions from the President, the head of the Executive Branch under Article II of the Constitution, instructing the relevant agency heads and other relevant personnel subject to the President's authority under Article II to do something. It is roughly the equivalent of a memo from a company CEO/President to folks in the company on company policy.
The bottom line here is that the President Obama is limited in what he can do under existing law, so he has used his interpretation of existing law to do what he can. Far from a violation of the Constitution, it is the specific job that the Constitution requires him to do as his #1 priority as head of the Executive Branch. Existing constraints on executive action, as always, remain enforceable in the Judiciary, and Congress may, in turn, may perform its core Constitutional function -- legislation adn appropriation of funds -- to reverse the President's action. People should feel free to debate what they think of the policy, but it would be nice if they actually understood how our system of government works.
|Monday, January 4th, 2016|
|Thursday, December 31st, 2015|
|Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015|
|Thursday, December 10th, 2015|
|There is One Good Thing About Donald Trump's Candidacy
In all seriousness, there is potentially one good thing about Trump's candidacy and its support by so large a percentage of the Republican party.
It's time to admit there is a serious problem here in America with racism.( Collapse )
It really is a scary moment. It really is a moment when many of us need to ask ourselves "how did things get like this without our even noticing?" But like all such scary moments they bring a unique opportunity to force us, collectively, to take a hard look and chose what kind of people do we want to be. I'm hoping we collectively make the right choice, and I hope to help as many people make te right choice
|Friday, December 4th, 2015|
|Actual words to Wheeler's poem from last night.
'Twas the night before argument, and back at his home,
My poor general counsel sits, fretting alone;
The statute is hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that it gives him author’ty to spare;
While you all are here for FCBA,
Trying to find some new clients that pay,
The brave Mr. Sallet does not make a peep,
As he wonders if he’ll ever fall fast asleep-
Then out on Jon’s lawn there arose such a clatter,
He sprang from his desk to see what was the matter.
When, what to his skeptical eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight mighty rein-deer,
With a majestic driver, so lively and quick,
Jon knew at this moment that he was in slick.
The reindeer were called out by name:
On Markey! On Eshoo! And Etsy the same!
On Tumblr! Free Press and ACLU!
On Yelp, on Twitter and ALA too!
On Google and Facebook – oh what’s that you say?
Oh well, they must have been busy that day….
Down the chimney the driver came quick, as he yelled:
“I am the all-powerful force…Harold Feld!”
“I am an intervenor and I’ve come with amici,
We are here to keep the Net open and free,
A bundle of case law he flung off his back,
With passages ordered in line of attack.
He stroked the beard on his chin (which was not white as snow),
And set out how he thought the argument should go.
Then with a wink of his eye, a twist of his head,
Back to the roof, no more he said.
Friends, that is the story I brought you to share,
Of course, none of us know how tomorrow will fare,
But in keeping with the joyous spirit we see tonight,
Happy arguments to all, … but the left is in the right!
|I get majorly huge shout out in front of entire DC Communications Bar from the Chairman of the FCC
Every year, the Federal Communications Bar Association (FCBA) holds an annual banquet event as a fundraiser for the FCBA Foundation, which does good works like giving kids scholarships and so forth. The highlight of this is a humorous speech/video presentation by whoever is Chairman of the FCC, mocking himself, fellow commissioners and the members of the communications bar. It is similar to the White House Press Corps dinner, with the Chair giving a speech similar to that of the President. (The differences are (a) no one roasts the Chairman the way a professional comedian roasts the President, and (b) no one is interested in televising it.
As you might expect, it is considered a big deal to get mentioned, even as the butt of a joke, because it is a status thing. After all, for the Communications Bar to understand why it is funny, you have to be pretty well known.
This year, Tom Wheeler and the crew that helps him put it together did an excellent job, IMHO. First there was a running gag of whenever Wheeler would point out something annoying, he would wait a beat and say "X blames Title II." So, for example, "How many of you here are Uber users? Well you'll be pleased to know, Uber is here, and they have instituted surge pricing to begin after my speech ends." (Pause) "Michael Powell blames Title II."
Then there are jokes about the FCC. "So this year, Mets superfan Gigi B. Sohn and Royals superfan Commissioner Pai had a side wager. If the Royals won, Gigi would bring Pai a gift basket from Zabars. If the Mets won, Commissioner Pai would keep his statements down to 5 minutes." (pause) "Damn you, Mets!"
Then there is the self-depreciating humor. "Our spectrum auction made $41 billion dollars. I figured Congress wouldn't mind my keeping a little bit of that to fix things up around the FCC, so we had the furniture re-upholstered." Flash to picture of FCC furniture with the Ohio State logo (Wheeler is an alumn). "And I got myself a fancy new office chair." Flash to picture of Wheeler photoshopped onto Game of Thrones chair of swords.
There was a running gag about fantasy sports leagues, which culminated in a video for Wheeler's new VC investment, "Fantasy CBA." You create fantasy picks of telecom lobbyists and outcomes. Various notables appeared to give endorsements. Michael Powell, Chair of NCTA: "I bet on the FCC to win oral argument (on Net Neutrality) tomorrow. Now whatever happens, I'm a winner." Andrew Schwartzman: "I was resentful when Marvin Ammori announced he was working for Charter to get the Charter/TWC deal approved. But now that he's on my Fantasy CBA Team I say 'Make It Rain, Marvin! Make it rain!'" (There were others, but memory fails me.)
As the concluding monologue, Wheeler says: "We all have a big oral argument tomorrow, so I'd like to finish with a bedtime story." Folks whip out a classic leather drawing room chair, a fake fire place and antique looking globe, and wheeler puts on a smoking jacket to look like one of your classic videos. He opens large prop book, and begins:
"Twas the night before oral argument . . ."
I can't remember the rest from memory. But the plot is that FCC General Counsel, Jonathan Sallet, is anxious and can't fall asleep, worrying about the big argument. When suddenly, outside is a noise. Sallet looks out to see a sleigh with 8 mighty reindeer. The mysterious figure of the driver calls them out by name: On Markey, On Eshoo, on Free Press and Etsy! (I forget the names of the other reindeer).
"When down the chimney the sleigh driver fell.
That unstoppable force -- HAROLD FELD."
I drop my sack, stroke my beard (which Wheeler was gracious enough to say "was not white") and fling out the stacks of cases and cites. I lay out
the arguments all in a line. So Jon Sallet will know everything will be fine.
Then I climb back out the chimney. With Wheeler concluding with something like (from memory):
"So my friends on the Left, my friends on the Right.
I wish you good bye, and to all a good night.
Tomorrow we'll argue, we'll have a good fight.
And the Right will learn this time, the Left is in the right!"
And no, I did not know this was coming. I was told "make sure you stick around to the end," so I figured I would get a mention. But I had no idea I would get a starring role in the final monologue!
I told Wheeler afterwards: "I haven't been this simultaneously pleased and embarrassed in public since my Bar Mitzvah."
I was totally on Cloud 9. And I got a lot of congratulations from my friends, colleagues, frenemies and opposite numbers. (Some through gritted teeth, which is always a delightful flavor enhancer.) And, as I pointed out to one or two -- "It's always better to drive the sleigh than be the reindeer."
It was huge. My thanks to Chairman Wheeler and everyone on his team who wrote and approved the script.
No off to oral argument in Net Neutrality. Ho! Ho! Ho!
|Thursday, November 26th, 2015|
|The Promise of the First Thankgiving
It is fashionable now in some circles to snear at the First Thanksgiving (as the one-shot event in Plymoth is now called) based on what came after.
But the First Thanksgiving was really an alternate reality of what might have been, and what was a peaceful and mutually beneficial co-exstence between European settlers and First Nation for a lengthy period of early colonial history. The Massachusett Tribe lived in reasonable peace with the European settlers (one recorded battle in 1623 after a bad harvest and poor game prompted the Massachusett t attack Plymouth colony, but were ambushed by Miles Standish who had received warning from his friend Massasoit. Massasoit (himself a leader of the of one of the Massachusetts tribes), Standish and Governor William Bradeford went to great lengths to promote peace and mutual harmony.
This peace lasted about 30 years, until the continuing waves of European colonists drove expansion and brought in an ever larger population of Europeans uninterested in peaceful coexistence with the "native savages." The new generation took what it wanted and subjected local tribes to new treaties until Massasoit's son, Philip, united the local tribes to launch King Philip's War.
So do not snear at the First Thanksgiving. Mourn it's promise of a better world, and celebrate it as a better world that we can create.
|Wednesday, November 25th, 2015|
|In Memoriam: Wally Bowen
Last week, we lost a true leader in bringing broadband to rural America, and I lost a friend and personal hero. Wally Bowen died of ALS last week.
I wrote this appreciation for Wally on my blog, and why I am Thankful for Wally Bowen this Thanksgiving.
"So this Thanksgiving, I will raise a glass to my friend and inspiration Wally Bowen. I grieve that our time together was so short, but I am grateful to God for giving me, the people of Asheville, and everyone else Wally touched, the time he had. And even if you never heard of Wally Bowen or MAIN before this blog post, take a minute tomorrow to be Thankful for the Wally Bowens of the world — those who give of themselves with joy to build a better world."
|Tuesday, November 24th, 2015|
|I shall now brag about Aaron
But off FB, so as not to embarass him.
Last night I went to the last parent/teacher conference for Aaron. He is doing well this semester, including his A in computer programming. I spoke to his AP calculus teacher who related that Aaron asks "the best questions in class." This, of course, made me very happy. The teacher then related the following story.
"When I teach the class, I show three ways of solving the problem. One time Aaron raised his hand and asked 'Why didn't you solve it this way?' He came up to the board and wrote out his approach. I looked it over, turned to the class, and said: 'now you have a fourth way to solve the problem.'"
To understand the material enough to come up independently with his own solution, and to share it just because he's interested.
I shall now purr like a contented Jewish father: kvell, kvell, kvvvvvvelllllllllll!!!
|Monday, November 23rd, 2015|
|Does possible withdrawal of big insurers from Obamacare spell doom? History of USF suggests not.
News that United Health, the largest health insurer in the country, may pull out of
the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges has started the usual stampede of predictions that Obamacare is dying (this time for sure!). While I am not an expert in health insurance, telecom provides me with a little experience about government subsidy programs and how even something that looks like a big deal to us normal folks may not be tempting to the biggest providers.
In my case, it's the Universal Service Fund, which collects about $8 billion a year, but is increasingly uninteresting to major carriers like AT&T and Verizon. This has not, however, caused any appreciable collapse of the fund. I elaborate why big boys pulling out is not a particularly good indicator of the underlying economics of a government subsidy program below. ( Collapse )
So yeah, as Paul Krugman noted, we have come to the end of unmitigated good news on Obamacare and now we get the usual issues associated with a complex program. But those looking for signs of a "death spiral" are, I believe, still looking in vain.