18 October 2018

Progress and the Marketplace of Ideas (or, how our love of villains and heroes is an obstacle to understanding systems)

There is a marketplace for ideas. It doesn't necessarily reward more effective ideas. It does seem to reward ideas that are easy to explain. Often, simple explanations that are wrong will triumph over more complicated explanations that are right.

One thing that is easy to understand it villainy. Bad guys and good guys, heroes and chumps. We love the movies that show the lone guy against the system, Bruce Willis taking on bad guys, bad officials and an entire skyscraper.

As it turns out, systems do more to define people than people do to define systems. I speak English. I never chose that. I was born into it and even the question of whether I would learn another language came to me in English. So much of who we are is not even our choice.

Much of what happens is the consequence of systems, not the people within them. Stories lend themselves to blame or credit to the people in these systems, though, and so those are the explanations we offer.

***********

Progress doesn't really impress people. We make about 6 to 8 times what people made a century ago and can buy things that they couldn't even imagine. The thing is, nobody is really impressed with that. We don't compare ourselves with our great grandparents. We know that they didn't have smart phones. What matters is whether our smart phone is two years older than our friends. We compare ourselves with our peers. We have this tendency to care less about progress than status.

How we are doing relative to our grandparents is a variable sum game. It is possible for all of us to do better than all of them.

How we are doing relative to our peers is a zero sum game. It is impossible for all of us to do better than all of us.

The more we teach kids to focus on relative status the more unhappy and disengaged they will be. Not only is that a lousy way to walk through life in terms of happiness but even in terms of progress it is bad: unhappy, disengaged people will be less effective at making life better relative to their grandparents.

The politics of status will be fear-driven and angry. It promises villains, heroes and quick change.

The politics of progress is slow. It actually works across generations. It is less concerned with villains and heroes than the systems that throw people into such a role. It is a less engaging, less simple story. That doesn't mean that it'll always be rejected, though.


***********

Progress is boring. I suspect that people are ready for that now.

08 October 2018

How Systems Thinking Will Define the Evolution of Democracy Within Your Lifetime

There is still a popular myth that our founding fathers fought a revolution in the late 18th century that - by the time they'd ratified a constitution in 1789 - culminated in democracy for all.

It was a much slower process than that. And understanding this process can give us a sense of how democracy will evolve.

Aristocracy were landowners. They inherited land and with it titles, privileges and power. Land was the basis of wealth during the emergence of nation-states and given that nation-states had borders it made sense that you'd look to the owners of the land within those borders (the king was often the chief landholder) and give political power to them.

In 1776 Adam Smith wrote Wealth of Nations and James Watt perfected the steam engine for use outside of mines. This birth of capitalism coincided with the birth of democracy across the Atlantic and what they represented was a shift in the basis of wealth from land to capital. The British had already seen a broadening of political power from landholders to capitalists even before the Americans designed a government that did away with royalty (the ultimate aristocrats) altogether.

At first, the vote in the United States was limited to landowning, Protestant, white men. It took nearly 200 years to guarantee the vote to minority, atheist, 18-year old women who rented. (A timeline for how democracy progressed from KQED is here.)

Commoners were allowed into the legislature throughout the West by about 1850. This dimension of democracy had to do not just with who could vote but who could craft legislation. About a century later, California gave voters even more power when the proposition allowed voters to completely bypass the legislature with a popular vote. By the time of Roosevelt's New Deal, voters weren't just able to vote for the folks who would craft their legislation but could actually craft their own legislation and put it before their fellow citizens for a vote.

Just like your car or computer, democracy has continued to evolve. And just like your car or computer, it has not yet reached its ultimate state. It will continue to evolve and I think that systems thinking will be a big part of what happens next.

Thomas Jefferson and our founding fathers understood how important education was to democracy. (Jefferson was apparently about as (more?) proud of founding the University of Virginia as he was in helping to found the United States.) Education still matters enormously to a functioning democracy but now it needs a new dimension.

Our lives are wildly dependent on systems. Ecosystems, financial systems, economies, healthcare systems, information systems, education systems, etc. If we get these wrong we get terrible outcomes; if we get these systems right we get wonderful outcomes. The most important political policy defines variables within systems and even the creation or change of systems. We can't make intelligent decisions about how to change or impact these systems without understanding their dynamics.

Systems often have lags and some causes explode to become a big deal and some causes dissipate into little or no consequence. Cause and effect in systems is complicated to understand and our systems thinking can be enhanced with the right kinds of simulations.

Cocaine makes you feel great but apparently isn't that good for your health longer term. Right now the American economy is phenomenal; 96 months in a row of uninterrupted job creation has doubled the old record (since records were kept in the late 1930s), unemployment at 3.7% is its lowest since 1969. Oh, and Republicans have doubled the deficit to one trillion dollars, its highest since the worst year of the Great Recession. We have a huge stimulus with unemployment under 4%. That makes for an interesting experiment but it also could be like cocaine binges that Trump's Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow was famous for in the 1980s. We may end up in rehab once the longer term consequences of this play out.

Even folks who study economies cannot say with certainty whether we're now creating a bad bubble (one like the bubble leading up to 2008 that raised home prices but didn't really create more economic capacity) or a good bubble (like one leading up to 2000 that actually created lots of new internet knowledge and capacity that would change what was possible). But we expect the average voter to make a judgement on policies and the politicians who support them without any real chance to play with simulations that would help them to understand dynamics.

Simulations can help to create new understanding. I think smart communities will tap into this.

Democracy will evolve to include massive online participatory simulations of the systems we depend on. One of the reasons I love history is that it lets us quickly - in the course of a book, chapter or even turn of the page - see how dominoes fall, even if those dominoes took a generation or two to fall. Like history, simulations don't require us to actually spend years or lifetimes to learn outcomes.

Simulations are not perfect but they do let you learn about dynamics in ways that you would not from prose. You can set up a model to capture what data and / or common sense tell you about cause and effect (e.g., raising interest rates will lower borrowing but increase the value of your currency on foreign exchange markets) for lots of variables and then run simulations to see what range of effects are possible as you tweak the knob on those variables. You're obviously hoping for a good model for predicting the future but almost as important as prediction (which is always hard and is at best probable, not precise), is learning more about dynamics that none of us are smart enough to keep track of ourselves. Simulations can sensitize us to cause and effect that isn't instantaneous and can be mitigated or exacerbated by other variables.

As democracy evolves to include simulations we participate in, it will make us smarter. Very few of us can calculate mortgage rate changes to reflect 20 vs. 30 year mortgages or a 3.2% vs. 4.1% rate but with a computer we can all easily discern that ourselves without reliance on an expert. Very few people can get across town in 15 minutes by running but with a car most of us can. Tools enhance our capabilities. Systems simulations seem like the most important tool one can imagine for any democracy that needs to navigate and manage the systems that so define our lives.

Whether it be tax rates or emission levels or research funding, in the future such important decisions will be accompanied by systems models that simulate these phenomenon. Will these simulations be perfect or even great? Definitely not and probably not. Will they be immeasurably better than reliance on prose and statistics to make the same determinations? Undoubtedly. And will future generations wonder how we could pretend to vote on such issues in the past without the aid of simulations, in the same way that we wonder at how people got around without cars? Definitely.

Progress isn't done yet. Democracy will continue to evolve, just as it has for centuries. The popularization of systems thinking will be a big part of that.


04 October 2018

The Most Important - and Largely Uncovered - Lesson from the New York Times' Article About How Trump Got His Wealth

This New York Times story about tax schemes used by the Trumps is a story of 3 things, only 2 covered by the media.
link:
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/02/us/politics/donald-trump-tax-schemes-fred-trump.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur

1. It clarifies how dependent Trump is on his father for his wealth. His father gave him over $400 million in various ways (Trump was a millionaire before he was out of grade school.) Trump is definitely not self-made and his net worth is not much different than what it would have been had he simply invested his life time of gifts into a stock index fund.

2. It itemizes the various ways the Trumps cheated to avoid taxes. A massive amount of tax. In one instance, they turned about $900 million worth of real estate into an estimated value of $40 million in order to avoid millions and millions and millions in tax.

All that the media covered. What they don't cover is item 3.

3. This is really a story about origins. Trump became who he is because he hasn't known normal consequences. The most succinct way to illustrate how his father covered his bet is this: Trump owed a bond payment on his failing casino in 1990. He did not have the money. Fred Trump - his dad - sent a trusted employee down to the casino to buy $3.5 million worth of chips simply to infuse Trump's business with enough cash to enable him to make the bond payment. (And even that was not enough; he also wrote a check that day to Donald for another $150,000.) Donald could take risks knowing that his father would cover that risk, do what he could to protect his favorite son. A pundit once quipped of George W. Bush that he was born on third base thinking that he hit a triple; Trump, by contrast, stands triumphant at the plate simply because his dad owns the stadium.

We teach our kids consequences. They learn that if they are rude to someone, they could lose them as a friend. They learn that if they spend all their money for the week by Wednesday they are penniless until Friday. We do things and sometimes good things follow and sometimes bad. We use that feedback to adjust who we are, to learn how to survive or even prosper within our world.

Trump never had to do that. His father protected him from normal feedback and thus normal learning. Trump never had to adapt to the world; he had money enough that it adapted to him. Here, from the story, is how Donald was raised:
By age 3, Mr. Trump was earning $200,000 a year in today’s dollars from his father’s empire. He was a millionaire by age 8. By the time he was 17, his father had given him part ownership of a 52-unit apartment building. Soon after Mr. Trump graduated from college, he was receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year from his father. The money increased with the years, to more than $5 million annually in his 40s and 50s.
For our purposes, the biggest problem with this is that it insulated Trump from normal consequences. He could be rude. He could be crude. He could spend money lavishly or invest it recklessly. And in the morning he would still have more income than 99% of the adults around him.

Fred Trump is now dead and gone. He's not around to cover his son's bad bets. Who now does? I think it is us, the American people. Donald has yet to suffer any negative consequences for anything he has said or done. We already do and we're not even done with the payments.

28 September 2018

The Simple Reason Kavanaugh Does Not Deserve to Be on the Supreme Court

If you wondered what people mean when they talk about white male privilege, you have to look no further than Kavanugh's testimony yesterday.

I was sick yesterday and was sleeping all but a few hours of the day, so my impression of Kavanaugh was gleaned from just twenty minutes or so of his testimony. (I saw nothing of Dr. Ford.) He made me think of Navy Seals who train here in San Diego. 

There are 2,500 Seals. It's a real honor and it is incredibly tough to become one. They are (rightfully) so proud when they make it and nobody thinks they deserve it. You have to earn that and the program is designed to weed out people. Designed to. And when they've made it they feel this combination of pride and honor when they realize what they've achieved. A friend of mine broke a bone in the training / audition process and was thrown out. Nobody owes you a place in the Seals. It's like making it into the NBA. It's not enough to be athletic, tall, calm in the face of adversity, fit, driven, a team player, competitive, a great shooter, etc. You have to be all of those to varying combinations. And there is no inside track; Michael Jordan's sons did not make it to the NBA and nor did his best friends from college.

The Supreme Court is so much more elite than the Navy Seals. Only 9 members, not 2,500. And it is an appointment for life, not just a few years. It makes sense to me that qualifying for the Supreme Court would be an incredibly demanding process. Any little thing should be enough to throw one's nomination into question in the same way that someone would be thrown off a list of top 10 NBA players for being a great player except not able to consistently hit a 3-point shot. It doesn't take much to keep you off the starting team and even less - far, far less - to be kept off the top 10 list.

So people questioned whether Kavanaugh really deserved to be there. They threw in one extra round of questioning. For a lifetime appointment.

Kavanaugh couldn't make it through one extra round of questioning without becoming rude (to senators?), angry, and crying? Really? This is how tough he is? And he was obviously outraged that anyone would dare to question whether he deserved to be on the court. Really? Not honored to be included but outraged to be questioned as to whether he should be included. That sense of entitlement baffles me. White male privilege, if it is anything, is this sense that I deserve this and you have to convince me why I don't. It's the opposite of, "I'll do everything I can and it still may not be enough. Oh, and if I do make it I'll feel so incredibly honored." Maybe it is a product of having never gone to public school. Maybe it's the product of being connected his whole life. He demonstrated none of the wisdom, the self awareness, or ability to remove his emotions from his judgement that one would expect of the most powerful judge in the country. If this was a tryout for a team, he missed all the 20-footers after making his layups the week before. We should expect more of someone supposed to be in the top 10.

Bill Clinton and George W. Bush put up with 8 years of steady criticism. Some of it highly personal. Some of it unfair. Attacks on character, their past, their intentions, their judgement, their intelligence, morals, etc. 8 years and I never saw an emotional outburst like this. Kavanaugh did not make it through 8 minutes of being challenged without expressing a real outrage that anyone would question whether he was qualified to hold one of the most powerful positions in this country. For life.

I felt like he should be eliminated for his obvious contempt for being questioned as to whether he deserved this incredible honor of a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.  He doesn't have the emotional intelligence to deserve that much power. I was aghast.

And then I went back to sleep.

------------
After posting the above, I saw this from my Senator.

https://twitter.com/SenFeinstein/status/1045708646527782915


22 September 2018

From Gates to Bezos - What the Change in World's Richest Man Tells us About a Shift From an Information to Entrepreneurial Economy


On America’s west coast there are examples of what the popularization of entrepreneurship could look like at the regional and company-level.

Silicon Valley continues to attract more venture capital and to create more wealth than any country in the world. The folks in the Bay Area have created an entrepreneurial economy.

Further north in Seattle, Jeff Bezos has created an entrepreneurial company.

Jeff Bezos recently emerged as the world’s richest man and is the world’s only triple-digit billionaire. Bezos is an entrepreneur. He has also created a platform that has popularized entrepreneurship. Not only does Amazon have more than 500,000 employees, it has "2 million sellers, hundreds of thousands of authors, [and] millions of Amazon Web Services developers.”  And, Bezos reports, "In 2017, for the first time in history, more than half of units sold on Amazon worldwide were from third-party sellers."[1] 

Bezos isn’t doing all the entrepreneurial lifting at Amazon; he’s got millions of co-entrepreneurs and the result is that as they struggle to become rich they inevitably increase his net worth. People who create, make or ship products hope to get rich by selling through Amazon. Jeff Bezos is just one of the millions of entrepreneurs who use the platform that his team has built.

Knowledge workers turn raw data into knowledge in the same way that factories turn raw materials into products. A computer makes knowledge work far easier and during the 1980s and 1990s, the personal computer became ubiquitous as knowledge work evolved and became more common. Microsoft provided the PC’s operating system and software like Word, Outlook, and Excel and for Microsoft it was like having a patent on forks and spoons when people stopped eating with their hands.

In 1995, Bill Gates became the world’s richest man by creating tools that enabled knowledge workers to do their work. In 2018, Jeff Bezos became the world’s richest man by creating tools that enabled entrepreneurs to do their work. From the last couple of decades in the 20th century to the first couple of the 21st century, the source of new wealth was shifting from making knowledge work easier to making entrepreneurship easier.

Sometimes what is most obvious deserves the closest scrutiny. A region that has created record amounts of wealth. The world’s richest men? Those might just hold clues as to how the economy is changing. Successful economic policies in this century will popularize entrepreneurship.

Three categories of successful 21st century economic policies will be “follow the lead of Silicon Valley,” create an entrepreneurial track in education, and make it easier for employees to act - and be rewarded - like entrepreneurs


[1] https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1018724/000119312518121161/d456916dex991.htm

18 September 2018

Trump Hikes Taxes - How Tariffs Really Work and Why They Rarely Do (work, that is)

Here in mid-September, Trump just announced tariffs on $200 billion in goods from China.

This is a tax on American consumers that works out to about $60 per American. Americans will pay that much more for items.

Who gets that money? American companies that have already proven themselves incapable of competing. American companies who need protection in the form of tariffs.

There are times when it makes sense to have trade protection in the form of tariffs. If your national policy is working to move from an agricultural to an industrial economy, or from an industrial to information economy it makes sense that you may want to protect some sectors or companies from foreign competition as they establish themselves against global competition. For awhile.

Companies that benefit from trade protection have a few options about what to do with the added revenue. They can increase the wages of hard-hit employees who have been competing against cheaper foreign labor. They can use the extra revenue to invest in new capacity or technology so that they are more competitive. Or they can payout the profit to stockholders and executives in the form of bonuses, using this subsidy from American consumers as a reward for having the political clout to do what they could not do through the market.

Tariffs are essentially a tax but not a tax that go to the government. Government spending can actually help displaced workers by funding unemployment and retraining. Government spending can finance infrastructure building that makes regions more competitive because of better rails or roads or cheaper energy or water. Government spending can go into the basic research that companies can develop into products.

Apple is now the most valuable company in the world, worth more than a trillion. It's most profitable product is the iPhone. The iPhone represents product development that incorporates research advances like touchscreen, satellite, and small chip technology originally funded by government research. (This is well documented in Mariana Mazzucato's The Entrepreneurial State.) Government research can lead to breakthroughs that not only help citizens but that can be the basis for new products that companies develop into highly profitable markets. A few billion in research spending can help to create trillions in value.

Tariffs don't help to finance basic research, infrastructure, education, or the creation of new industries and companies. Tariffs often subsidize companies that have not kept up, doing more to reward executives who have made campaign contributions than executives who have invested in the future. Within the last year, the GOP passed a tax cut that makes it harder to do any of these things. With Trump's new tariffs, it has just reversed that tax cut for the typical American and will now give that tax or tariff revenue to uncompetitive companies instead. 

16 September 2018

When Trial by Jury Costs Too Much

I had jury duty the other day. Along with 40 others, I was called into a courtroom to be considered to serve on a trial. Simply put, an individual felt that a car dealership had misrepresented a car to him and he was suing. I wasn't chosen. (Juror 22 of our 40 ended up on the jury; I was juror 23.) Given that, I never learned what he paid for the car but the average price paid for a used car is about $15,000. Taking such a case to jury strikes me as absurd.

Median income in San Diego is about $50,000 a year, which works out to $1,000 a week or $200 a day.

40 of us jurors spent a day on that trial. (Most of that time was spent waiting before being called into the courtroom to be screened.) So, day one of that trial cost us or our employers about $8,000. (40 people at $200 a day.)

The judge and attorneys chose 14 people (jury of 12 plus 2 alternates). The judge had estimated that the trial would be done the following Monday, which meant 5 more days for those 14 jurors. That's another $14,000. Combined with the $8,000 for the 40 jurors on day one, that means $22,000 for jurors.

That does not include the salary for the judge, bailiff, court clerk and various administrative folks we briefly dealt with. Let's say that collectively those folks make the same $200 a day and that there are only 4 of them (assuming that all the administrative folks behind the scene average out to one per courtroom). So this trial costs another $4,800 (let's call it $5,000) in salaries for them, for a total of $27,000 for actual or lost wages / productivity of the folks needed to support this one trial.

$27,000 in salaries for the folks involved in litigating a case that probably had to do with what portion of a $15,000 car purchase a buyer should be reimbursed. As a society, we're spending at least twice as much to settle a grievance as the grievance is worth.

I completely support the right of individuals to sue companies and for companies to sue individuals. Bad things happen and injustices deserve their day in court. It's a great thing that we have our court system and that we're free to sue anyone (within reason). I simply think it's absurd to treat so many of these civil cases as deserving of a jury trial given the labor costs involved.

During a football game, there are set rules and there are referees who penalize teams for breaking the rules. Within the NFL it is about 14 penalties a game, (given the ball is in play only about 11 minutes a game (and no, I'm not joking: you can read the explanation behind that stat here )), that works out to more than one penalty per minute. We do this because we want games to be fair. I think that the world of everyday business and employment is at least as important and while I don't think that we should have penalties levied every minute, I do think that such penalties should be standardized, cheap and common. If you rough the kicker, the penalty is 15 yards and an automatic first down. If you fail to tell a buyer that a car has been in an accident, the penalty is $5,000 or 20% of the purchase price, whichever is more. (Or whatever we decide as a society.) As with referees who know the game and can quickly adjudicate the penalty, these business issues that fall under the bailiwick of a civil suit should have default penalties that expedite the process. Many such incidents should be judged within an hour or at worst half a day and then levied a penalty (or thrown out) by an individual expert or two. It should not cost $30,000 to litigate a case on a $15,000 purchase; at most it should cost a couple of thousand dollars.

If trials were cheaper, we could have more of them, in the same way that cheaper computers or cars have meant that more people can have them. More of a good thing is better and cheaper trials would make life more fair. 

Our court system is too expensive and this notion that every petty case deserves a jury trial is one reason. As with so much in life, experts can do a better job for less and should.  We should have justice. It should not cost society more than it is worth.

14 September 2018

The Recovery is Real And Yet We Still Have Poor People. That's How Economies Have Always Worked

I'm seeing a fair bit about how the recovery isn't real or isn't really done because people are still poor. That's nonsense. We have had and always will have poor people. Markets simply don't lift up everyone. Markets are marvelous but they've never taken care of everyone.

The philosopher Karl Jaspers (who died in 1969) argued for an Axial Age. Within a few centuries the foundations for religions we still have today were laid. 

Confucius and Lao-Tse were living in China, all the schools of Chinese philosophy came into being, including those of Mo Ti, Chuang Tse, Lieh Tzu and a host of others; India produced the Upanishads and Buddha and, like China, ran the whole gamut of philosophical possibilities down to materialism, scepticism and nihilism; in Iran Zarathustra taught a challenging view of the world as a struggle between good and evil; in Palestine the prophets made their appearance from Elijah by way of Isaiah and Jeremiah to Deutero-Isaiah; Greece witnessed the appearance of Homer, of the philosophers – Parmenides, Heraclitus and Plato, – of the tragedians, of Thucydides and Archimedes. Everything implied by these names developed during these few centuries almost simultaneously in China, India and the West.
— Karl Jaspers, Origin and Goal of History, p. 2

One theory (I don't think it is Jaspers') is that this happened at this point in history because of the emergence of the city which lead to wealth. Oh, and disparities in wealth. If you are living as a hunter gatherer, you can't accumulate much. If you settle down in a city, you can. And as more people live in proximity there is more opportunity for trade (of goods, ideas and services) and the prosperity that comes with it. This emergence of wealth raised the question of who we should be towards the poor; the major religions emerged - in part - as answers to that question.

There are certainly things we can do to make the poor more self-sufficient, to create opportunities for them and their children. I think that's hugely important. But once we've done that, we will still have poor people. And at that point how we treat them is not a question of economic policy; it's a question of morality, something humans were clear about roughly 3,000 years ago.


08 September 2018

Kaepernick, Nike, Police, and a Protest of a Protest of a Protest

I have this thing about institutions. When they use people, they're oppressive. When people use them, they're enabling.  Free people get to use their institutions - from church and state to bank and corporation - rather than be used by them. In oppressive communities, people are tools of their institutions; in free societies, institutions are the tools of people.

I say all that to opine about Kaepernick, Nike, and the The National Association of Police Organizations.

In response to Nike's new ad featuring Kaepernick, the National Association of Police Organizations has protested Nike's campaign and any NFL player who takes a knee during the national anthem. They argue that Kaepernick's protest suggest that the police are systematically racist and so they are protesting his protest.

I'm protesting their protest of his protest.

A police organization ought to focus on the work of making police better, in the same way that NFL teams should focus on making their teams better. Period. That is the purpose of the organization and that should be their focus.

Meanwhile, we live in a country with a first amendment. I know that some of you will say that an employer has the right to dictate what its employees - whether police or football players - should do. I think you're wrong.

If all of the football players want to protest, let them. If only two do, let them. If all of the police officers want to protest that protest, let them. If only two do, let them. Be clear that they are exercising these first amendment rights as individuals though. At the moment of protesting police brutality or protesting people who protest in front of the flag, the people protesting are doing this as citizens, not football players or police officers. No matter what percentage of them do it, they do it as individuals, not as that institution. At that moment they are not a 49er or a police officer. They are Americans.

First amendment rights are not subject to democratic vote or group norms. You have the right to believe whatever religion you want, express whatever opinion you have, assemble freely with whoever you want. The institutions you're a part of don't have the right to dictate any of that - or co-opt your first amendment rights to express those on your behalf.

That concludes my protest of a protest of a protest.

What a great country.

07 September 2018

In Other News, Trump Still Has a Penis

This week Bob Woodward's new book Fear and an anonymous New York Times op-ed from a Trump administration official describes a president who is inexperienced but confident, stupid, impulsive, and amoral.

We knew all this before the 2016 election. This was treated as news this week but there is nothing new in these reports. It merely confirms what we've known since Trump came down the escalator to announce his campaign and to accuse Mexicans of being rapists and murderers. In spite of the hoopla surrounding this news, Trump's poll numbers barely moved. Americans know who he is.

What remains so absurdly sad is that given the choice between that and a woman who believed in public service, was incredibly intelligent, disciplined, and experienced .... we chose that. Clinton carefully thought through the consequences of choices; Trump doesn't even have the attention span to think through the choices, much less their consequence. And speaking of choices, given the choice of someone as qualified for the presidency as anyone in our lifetimes, we chose someone who is not qualified to be a mayor.

Hillary Clinton was unable to close the deal that so many thought was done. She won the popular vote by 3 million and came within 100,000 votes in the three states that would have put her over the top in the electoral vote. I can't help but think it is because she was lacking one simple thing that every previous president had: a penis. It was a close race. She lost by inches.

Trump is so many things but maybe the saddest thing is that he is a reminder that even 96 years after women were finally given the right to vote, even the worst man as candidate wins against a woman. Some time ago my son came home from class reporting that one of the students actually said, "I think that women should be treated equal to men. I just don't think that they should be in positions of authority over men."

In Clinton's book What Happened she has a chapter on being a woman in politics. That chapter alone should be required reading. At one point Clinton quotes Frances Perkins, the first woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet, under FDR, who said, "The accusation that I'm a woman is incontrovertible." But women in politics is only slowly becoming normal. Clinton also writes, "Even the simple act of a woman standing up and speaking to a crowd is relatively new. Think about it: we know of only a handful of speeches by women before the latter half of the twentieth century, and those tend to be by women in extreme and desperate situations. Joan of Arc said a lot of interesting things before they burned her at the stake."

Social change seems to lie somewhere between the glacial pace of evolution and the still leisurely pace of personal development. We have so very far to go before the best kind of woman is able to beat the worst kind of man. We still weren't there in 2016.

Trump will be taught in future classes for so many reasons: the most pathetic may be to illustrate how resistant this country still was early in the 21st century to giving women power.