Stop using the phrase “GOP”

I never use the phrase “GOP” (except now, apparently). I don’t like it because it’s not true.

The “Grand Old Party” is supposed to be the party of Lincoln and Roosevelt. But as I’ve voraciously been consuming the definitive autobiographies and books on these and other Presidents, I can’t draw a line from Lincoln to Republicans today. I could maybe have an easier time with Democrats, but it would take a wild line through and around issues of slavery.

The best theory to explain this that I can come up with is partially due to Grover Norquist, who mused in Leave Us Alone that a lot of voters vote for one party or another because their father did and their grandfather and great-grandfather before that. In other words, a lot of people vote party-line like the way children often assume the religious beliefs of their parents.

This happens everywhere but has been particularly sticky in the south. This still explains Kentucky today. When you wonder how Kentucky votes for a Democratic governor in what should be a reliably red state up and down the board, it’s because people are still voting at least partially on their family’s civil-war era tradition when Democrats were the more like the “Republicans” (by a modern definition).

My theory is the country changes, the electorate changes, but the south is always the laggard by a wide margin. And there are enough of them, plus Texas and Oklahoma, maybe Indiana, that it puts a dent in the course of the country’s leadership.

Most people have a casual understanding of the “flip” in the parties’ beliefs and core voters, mostly around the Civil War and later Nixon’s election. But for years before Nixon, to put it bluntly, many southern voters were somewhat unaware that the Democrats weren’t really the bearer of their character and beliefs anymore. Eventually, they caught up. I suspect we may be another 75 or 100 years away from another flip like that. This is a generations-long process that is altered only by death and slow, steady, change.

So when I hear the phrase “GOP”, I hear the Republicans of today taking credit for things their forefathers did under the same label but with entirely different context and pretenses. That’s offensive to early Republicans. It’s like if the producers of the Jason Bourne films said they were proud of the work they did in early James Bond films. You don’t get to take credit for that. You weren’t even there, so sit down and shut up.

As one example, Theodore Roosevelt wouldn’t recognize either party today. He could arguably be considered an independent today, and some may consider him one of his time (George Washington was our only true independent President, as he never declared a party and has been the only unanimous vote-getter in the electoral college). Roosevelt wanted big government projects in Panama and around the US. He wanted to bust up large trusts and monopolies like railroads and banks. He also wanted a big, strong, and world-dominating military. Roosevelt wasn’t keen on racial discrimination either and was the first President to welcome a black man to the White House.

Roosevelt was most proud of his achievements in civil service reform, which stopped the practice of appointing people to lush government jobs without real qualifications. He weakened the parties by stomping on their machinery in races small and large.

Trump has Roosevelt’s portrait hanging in the Oval Office and he says he admires him and Andrew Theodore most. Theordore Roosevelt was a conservative, not a Republican. He conserved nature and limited resources, was a populist and true champion of miners, coal workers, and factory workers. He had no use for big corporations running afoul of laws both real and moral. If he were alive today he’d punch Trump in the face and call him a sissy for not being able to kill a moose with his bare hands.

There’s no comparing the Republicans of today to 1950, 1910, or 1864 or the Democrats of today to 1963 and 1944. Heck, Andrew Jackson was a “Democrat”.

Trump’s Brain in a Vat

There’s a philosophical argument dubbed “The Brain in a Vat”. If I can oversimplify it, the brain in a vat argument asks you to imagine the possibility that your brain is hooked up to a computer (like the Borg!). This computer can simulate all that we encounter in the world, including your body. The question goes: If you can’t be sure that you’re not hooked up to a computer, then you can’t rule out the possibility that all your beliefs are false, can you? In meme terms, “You can’t be a God-fearing Christian with a love of classical music if there is no God and music!”

That would all be very comforting to a lot of people right now. My Trump-supporting Facebook friends have gone dark over the last couple of weeks. Most have turned to non-issues like the removal of confederate monuments as a proxy for their character beliefs. My left-leaning Facebook friends are frothing at the mouth over this impeachment talk like it’s their first orgasm all over again.

It’s bad enough that I almost opened LinkedIn. It’s that bad.

The problem with impeachment is three-fold. First, it’s likely to take a very long time. People conveniently forget government works slow and the gears at the Bureau of Bureaucracy aren’t designed to work fast. The Nixon-era Watergate scandal took two years or more to fully play out. In that time the midterm elections happened and Republicans lost big and continued to do so. In 1974, Republicans lost 49 seats in the House 3 months into Gerald Ford’s term. I’m not sure what it would take for Republicans to move to impeach Trump and remove him from office, but I doubt they’re there yet. Remember, the Constitution only calls two items specifically and one broadly as impeachable offenses: “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors”. The last part is up to Congress to define.

The second impeachment problem is people think impeachment is removal from office. It isn’t. Impeachment is like indictments for mortals – it just means charges have been raised against you. Removal from office is a whole other process. Trump could be impeached and remain in office in the current environment.

The third issue is a Theseus paradox. If you replace all of the components of an object, is it still fundamentally the same object? In other words, if you replace Trump with Pence, is it still the same White House? With exception of a few close aides, it’s hard to imagine Pence replacing the entire cabinet. Jeff Sessions would still probably be sitting there. It’s not hard to argue that the current state of affairs is bad for the country, but it’s also bad for getting things done domestically. In some ways, we have a blissful moment of inaction because Trump is so mired in scandals all the time. Pence is much more adept at handling and deflecting that. He could move legislation.

How to sync your Downloads, Desktop, and other user folders via Dropbox or OneDrive on Windows 10

I have multiple Windows PCs and like a lot of people, I use my Desktop as a big temp folder. Downloads is also a disaster of miscellaneous files. Plus, it didn’t make sense to keep downloading and installing similar programs across multiple PCs.

There’s an easy way to fix this. You can use OneDrive, Dropbox, or any other cloud sync service of your choice that creates a sync folder on your PC.

  1. Take all the files currently on your Desktop and move them into a new folder in your OneDrive or Dropbox account called “Desktop”.
  2. Open an Explorer window and right-click on the Desktop folder.
  3. Select the “Location” tab and click “Move…”
  4. Select your new sync-located Desktop folder and hit OK.
  5. It’ll ask if you want to move files, but you already did that, so just hit “OK”.

That’s it. You can repeat with your Downloads folder, Pictures, Documents, etc. Windows 10 has options of where to store your Pictures and Documents, but favors OneDrive. This option lets you use your cloud service of choice.

Be careful to move the files first. It says it’ll do it for you, but if you have a folder with some files in one spot and a different set of files in the other, hitting “OK” on that initial “Move” option will delete files in one of the two locations. Best to just handle that manually in advance.

Trump’s budget proposal is a mean, necessary, first step.

On principle, I’m a fan of some of Trump’s budget proposals. I’ve long argued our funding is upside down. There’s no reason New Yorkers should pay for art projects that get displayed in Indianapolis. There’s no reason people in Alaska should pay for a highway in Fort Wayne. It’s safe to say almost no one could name one thing paid for by the National Endowment for the Arts in Indianapolis. I’m sure there are things, but it’s unlikely anyone knows what they are on a grand scale. Asking for money from the Feds is like asking the Mayor’s office to buy you lunch.

A discussion just the other night with someone working here in Indiana suggested the millions of dollars flowing in from the federal government to help Indiana’s HIV crisis has been responsible for a hiring spree of people who work in Indianapolis and never visit the impacted areas. That’s a situation where there’s a clear order of operations: give addicts needles, then detox beds, then send them on their way with some job training. The Federal money isn’t doing much of that if any. There’s no reason Indiana can’t handle this itself. We caused it, after all.

We’d all be better off if we kept money at the local and state level, with the most going to local governments. It’ll get stuff done faster, too because nothing cuts red tape like not having any red tape to cut through.

Trump’s proposal even cuts IRS funding by $293 million, which I guess most people won’t mind.

My biggest problem with the plan is it just shifts money around, mostly to defense. There are no true net cuts to spending. If we’re going to cut these programs nationally, let’s reduce expenditures. Move money to the debt in the short term so we can lower taxes at the federal level long-term.

If I have to spend 30% of my income on taxes, I’d rather 20% of it go to Indianapolis. I live here. I walk on these streets. I have to look at the art projects done here. Cutting taxes at the federal level means we can maintain the status quo of tax expenditures if states and cities want or can increase taxes. If they don’t, at least I have some ability to move. It’s a lot easier to move from Indianapolis to Chicago than it is to move from the US to Canada. Shifting money this way would maintain the balance to a person’s tax status quo, but now people can see what they’re paying for. That’s a big deal, and this plan doesn’t do that at all. It just throws money into an existing pile no one asked for.

If there’s a big political problem in this country, it’s the perceived or real failure of governments to provide for their residents competently and efficiently. This leads to division in spending a bunch of money on taxes because you can’t see what you’re paying for. A healthy market – even of ideas – can’t function in that system.

This just leads to the federal government taking on a disproportionate amount of work to support what were always local issues and feeds more resentment. There’s no reason Congress should fund street lights for Detroit and buses for Indianapolis. The only time the federal government should provide local funding is in the event of large-scale disasters, attacks, or catastrophes that approach a scale unforgiving to a local unit of government. I’d argue flint’s water disaster qualifies.

PBS is going to be another sore point for people. We had this same outcry when Mitch Daniels cut public radio funding in Indiana around 2009. That continued just fine, WFYI is still on the air, and life went on. Remember, too, that HBO owns the rights to Big Bird first now.

It’s nuts so many great, deserving services and programs, like nonprofits funded with federal money, is so reliant on random whims of legislators who don’t know who they are. States may be in a race to the bottom on tax rates, but that’s surely driven in part by this cycle of increasing federal taxes that take money away to put it somewhere else far away. Pressure from voters in this cycle has us moving upside down.

I get that this proposal sounds bad, and there are certainly some downright mean things in there, like cutting Meals on Wheels. But we have to be adults and recognize we’re in debt. We have to make some hard decisions. One example is The Legal Services Corp., which provides legal aid to the poor, is getting cut entirely in this proposal. Legal-help services have always been over-burdened to the point no one thinks they help. They just fulfill a constitutional requirement to the minimum level. What use is that? Can’t we do better? We’re going to have to do better. A good way might be looking to the legal help in one’s community. I’d rather pay for that here in Indiana than Florida because at least the money can stay here and it might promote a stronger sense of community and pride.

A lot of America could use that right now.

Eric Holcomb may be the second coming of Mitch Daniels

Mitch Daniels’ long shadow over Indiana politics doesn’t seem stunted by Mike Pence’s cloud of gloom. Now that Eric Holcomb seems to be firmly in the middle of his first legislative session, he’s hitting all the right notes to say that he’s nothing like his immediate predecessor.

Holcomb seems to be skating right around social issues that consumed Mike Pence in a flaming blaze best reserved for the most fabulous attendees at Indy Pride.

Today alone Holcomb has reversed Pence’s dumb decisions on a bunch of stuff. He issued a pardon for Keith Cooper; a man arrested nearly two decades ago for a crime everyone now recognizes he did not commit. It was also a campaign promise. Pence ignored that, along with every other duty of his office, while he was off pretending to look Vice Presidential.

Holcomb also announced a disaster declaration for East Chicago around their water-contaminated Superfund site, which by itself doesn’t do much yet. But he did ask the Mayor there for a report of what’s needed, and the disaster declaration frees up parts of the Bureau of Bureaucracy to make things happen faster. The order currently prioritizes moving people out the contaminated area.

Holcomb has also suspended a contract with Agile Networks and the Indiana Finance Authority, a move that Pence thought would bring a real boat full of money to the state to pay for his Bicentennial projects through leased wireless towers in state parks for rural Internet coverage. That, of course, didn’t happen, just like everyone said it wouldn’t. Some people operate in reality and not blind faith.

Holcomb has also expressed support for double-tracking the South Shore line in northern Indiana. Trains! I wouldn’t be surprised if Holcomb doesn’t fear buses either! And he’s clearly open to expanding needle exchanges in an attempt to do something, anything, more than what Pence’s “I’ll pray for you” approach was to drug abuse.

It’s almost like Holcomb’s not masquerading as Governor to someday become President.

If today is any indication, Eric Holcomb is going to be a conservative with a slight libertarian angle to him like Mitch Daniels. I know for a lot of people that brings a sense of dread, but there are Republicans, and there are Republicans and Daniels – and hopefully Holcomb – are the former.

I have not been shy about my support for Daniels over the years. Yeah, we got Daylight Saving Time out of it, but lest we forget Indiana was doing relatively well overall. We were reducing expenses, balancing budgets, got our first AAA bond rating (which saves state and local governments millions in financing costs), and we were most improved in state efficiency, environmental permits, job growth, and – come on people – do we remember what the BMV was like? Have you tried going to a motor vehicle department anywhere else?

A lot of low-hanging fruit was picked between 2004 and 2012. Maybe Holcomb can find the stuff that Pence missed – and he missed a lot.