The site uses cookies that you may not want. Continued use means acceptance. For more information see our privacy policy.

18-ish Weeks Until the 2018 Midterms

https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote

Handicapping the 2018 Midterms comes down to Mr. Trump, not messaging. The president who makes everything about himself inevitably makes the 2018 elections a referendum on his policies and his abuses.

That’s a bad sign for Republicans. Depending on how the announcement of a replacement for Justice Kennedy goes, and whether confirmation proceeds apace, the wind may be entirely let out of the Muralist voters’ sails. Nobody expects another justice beyond Kennedy to retire, so that’s one fewer reason for Muralists to turn out in 18 weeks.

The party in power does better in midterm elections when voters feel like they’re making an adjustment to their representation rather than having to weigh the overall direction of the country. People don’t like to make weighty decisions, and so when they feel like they’re forced to do, they tend to be irritated that the incumbents have put them in the position.

Mr. Trump has spent his entire time in office sticking his thumb in the eye of over half the voters, including his own. The notion that they’ll reward him for it is a bad misreading of America. And the voters will not reward all of the Republicans who have failed in their duty to conduct oversight of the tyrannical instincts of not just Mr. Trump but his cabinet as well.

Add to that the fact that there are so many Democratic women running, which can fuel female turnout (and to a lesser extent youth turnout). You have whatever spoils the hard work of things like the March for Our Lives and March for Science may offer. There will be people turning out to support public schools and health care.

Democrats also have a message: good governance. Social programs that work. Environmental policies, labor policies, and financial policies that build the middle class.


The man is an abuser. He abuses his office, his employees, his rivals, his friends, his family, his foundation and company, his country. America has no quarter for abuse. We split from an abuser before, and we will split from this one.

But just as there were Loyalists then, there are those who do not see the abuse for what it is. There are evangelicals, by some bad combination of drugs, who support Mr. Trump. Others, Republicans coddled by tax cuts, fetch him Diet Cokes (Mr. Nunes famously took a ride share under cover of night to deliver one to him). They lie for him. They hawk his cheap resorts and cheaper merch. They iron his clothes while he wears them. They arrange backchannels to hostile foreign governments on his behalf.

For that lot, there will be no second act. They will exeunt from public life. We will only be reminded they exist when future documentaries pan across their picture while recounting how foolish humans can be when they don’t bother to self-reflect.

For those worrying over who will wear black robes in the years to come, the only decision you directly have is to vote. Vote, raise your voice. For even though courts can undermine unions, harm women’s rights, and all the other things, they cannot fix the problems they create. The legislators alone can fix the messes left by bad judges. Your voice is more important at the midterms than it is at the general. On average your vote is worth 1.7 votes in the general election (to account for those who don’t vote). It’s worth 2.5 votes in the midterms. That’s nearly a whole other citizen that a midterm voter is counting for.

https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote

To Combat Fake News, Give People More Media Control

Whether it’s Sinclair’s five minutes of hate, Alex Jones’ rants, Russian Federation bots’ tweets, Assange’s leaks, or Fox News’ commentators’ lies, one of the biggest problems today is bad information, media pollution.

And there’s an open question of how to deal with it all. Well, to deal with some of it. Really, it depends whom you ask.

But the best solution is to empower people by giving them greater control over what they read and watch, how they read and watch it, and how they share content with others. That’s a heavy lift, as the same lack of control that empowers the bad actors helps the media conglomerates to exert influences that pad their own pockets.

Copyright law badly needs an update for the modern world, where it’s easy and useful to share content beyond what the strictures of existing law allow. Having greater control over hardware and software that enables media access would shake up the marketplace while letting users spend their finite time more wisely. There is much work needed here, and there is little impetus for the incumbents to roll up their sleeves.

This past week on at least one cable provider The View and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert had their listing data screwed up. That meant that at least some users’ DVRs failed to record James Comey’s book promotions. It’s almost certain to be a screw up in the listing distribution chain, but it is an example of media pollution that people who have paid for the privilege may have missed content they wanted to see. They could jump through hoops to see the interviews, but it’s not in their preferred format or at their preferred time.

The technology industry could have a hand in empowering viewers, but the FCC blocked a proposal to force cable companies to grant access to third party hardware. For whatever reason, the Apples and Googles of the world did not lobby hard enough to make it happen. Missed opportunity. These talking-listening hubs they sell for homes would be much more useful if they allowed for interaction with the real main home hub: the television.

On websites like Twitter and Facebook, the limited access they give their users to filter and augment the feed means that people are forced to dig, scrounge, or put up with so many bad behaviors. Every single time I search on Twitter, I’m bound to find at least one tweet with every hashtag under the sun trying to advertise some stupid thing (or porn).

Now, you say, back when newspapers were the thing, people didn’t have control. But newspapers, I say, weren’t endless streams of data. Paracelsus says the dose makes the poison, and high-volume media vehicles like Twitter increase the dose considerably.


The media companies that aren’t thrilled about the likes of Trump, Fascism, and the Anti-American Way should give more power to the viewer. Make it happen. It’ll make you more money in the long run, and it will help to thwart bad actors like Sinclair in the meantime.

A Spam Filter for America?

How unusable would your email be if you didn’t have a spam filter? Would you even bother with email? Like spam, Russian attacks don’t have to be that successful if they are high-volume. Facebook estimated that Russia’s attacks reached over 100 million accounts. That would mean a lot of money if it were spam instead of influence campaigns.

The main impediment to spam filtration on these platforms is the control held by the operators, especially in the context of mobile apps, which are not readily extended or modified by third-parties to filter out nefarious posts. You cannot directly insert a Bayesian filter into the Facebook app, for example, even while you could probably whip something up in a webextension for the Facebook desktop website.

Another issue is that Russian attacks are not the only notable sources of spam in the American media diet. Television and radio platforms are not amenable to spam filtering, and overall the prospects for cutting down on those sources of spam are slim. You have something we haven’t seen with email: an entire class of media consumer dedicated to eating spam.

One important part of the spam filter model is that it is voluntary and transparent. You can always look at the crud filling up your spam folder. You can shape the filter to include items of annoyance or exclude items that you wish. It’s a tool to be used to improve your life and save you the aggravation of unwanted email.

Browser vendors and the W3C should work on implementing changes to the web that make filtration of unwanted content easier. This may include the introduction of an ad HTML element, with the design including a way to easily remove or block it from view. Vendors should block-by-default ads from sites that continue to display ads through other HTML elements. The ad element should include properties that make it easier to identify who paid for the ad, whether it tracked the user, and any keywords associated with the advertising that might become associated with the user.

Overall, it’s time for the online ad industry to step up its game in policing itself, or like many industries before it, it will face regulation that it does not like.

But while we’re at it, maybe we need to install a spam filter on the doors of the capital. A lot of lobbying goes on, and currently our nation is being sold a lot of boner pills and bad advice.