Why the Democrats lost the White House

Obamacare !

Now with an election that was so insanely close …
We’re talking tens of thousands of votes in an election of 120 million votes, so less than 1/10 of 1%. In other words, if 40,000 of the right people had voted for Hillary rather than Trump, she would have been president.
… there could be any number of reasons why Trump ended up winning rather than Hillary. But, most of them have been named by the media and those are obviously fairly well known. I am talking about a problem that has been continuing to this day.

The media obviously had a huge impact in this, and really any election since the invention of the newspaper. And the media obviously is also the reason Trump got past the very first primary in the first place. The media gave Trump an estimated $1.8 Billion in free coverage. More than three times what any other candidate received. It could even be argued than Bernie would now be president had he received the same kind of coverage.

It seems completely off-topic in this discussion, but a lot of people are making fun of the guys who voted for Trump, welcome the repeal of Obamacare and dread losing the Affordable Care Act.

And here is where all that comes together. The media, on several issues, is adopting the GOP’s wording of things. On the left it’s likely because Obamacare is an object of pride, an object of accomplishment. On the right the name Obama obviously doesn’t receive the same kind of reaction, and Obamacare is used to degrade the law. In the center, though, where it probably matters the most “Obamacare” is just more catchy than “Affordable Care Act”. And that’s where my problem is today.

If the media, even if we exclude the right wing, had called the law by the right and proper name, considering the insanely close election, and considering that some people didn’t know that there’s no difference, could have probably made a difference.

The media as a whole never really got around to explaining that Obamacare and the ACA are the exact same thing. Most people just assumed that the voter is reasonably educated on the choices that they’re making. Historically that is not the case. The right explains what their intentions are, the left explains what the right’s intentions are, but neither of them actually explain the implications, beyond a few buzz-words and numbers anyway. Yes they said that millions of people would lose their insurance, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those people are worse off. Which they are.

So even today you hear about the Obamacare repeal on all sides. And Obamacare is not a popular law. The ACA is hugely popular, though, and (just to make the point again) is Obamacare.

So please, if you’re covering the Obamacare repeal, or all the attempts on it that have been made, and are continuing to be made, call it the Affordable Care Act. It might make a difference. It might shift the public view in favor of keeping it. It might educate at least some voters on what the republicans are trying to do. And for the record, they’re trying to get rid of it mostly because of the name. The law, as it was passed, was over 90% similar to a plan proposed by republicans. The GOP wrote Obamacare. Now they want to replace it with their own plan.

Trump’s Travel Ban

and why it’s bullshit

I know I shouldn’t call it Trump’s travel ban, because it’s not a ban it’s obviously Bannon’s idea. And I do feel bad for people protesting Trump when he obviously doesn’t make many of the decisions.

As most of you know (sadly not many of the GOP supporters do) people can’t just decide to book a flight to the US and expect to be let into the country. There’s a visa waiver program, which itself was severely limited in the past years. So if you are a citizen of a small number of countries, and you let the US border patrol know at least 2 days in advance, you don’t need to apply for a visa to enter the US. Even then the border patrol can just decide to just send you back for any and no reason at all without letting you enter the country.

For the people in the countries affected by the ban, however, there is no visa waiver program.  To even get a visa they have to go through a visa application, they have to go to a consulate or embassy, they have to get their bio-metric data taken. To apply for a visa you have to always pay a visa application fee, which is non-refundable. To get any non-immigrant visa approved the applicant needs to provide sufficient proof that they will leave the country before the visa expires.

For student visas the process also includes having to pay tuition to the school that they’re going to attend. So the people that just had their visas revoked already had to make significant financial contributions which at least partly will not be returned. They already had to go through background checks and some scrutiny.

The green card holders that were initially included in the ban likely went through a process of more than a year. With some serious review of their applications.

In short: All of the people that were included in the ban came through a very rigorous process and were deemed to be safe to come to the US.

There was no risk coming from those people entering the US.

It was a ban born from hatred of Muslims, not from a desire to make America safer.

Working at Walmart

TL;DR: If you want a decent unskilled labor job, apply at Walmart (especially before the holidays, they’re hiring a lot right now). If you can get a highly skilled job, maybe don’t apply at Walmart (maybe corporate).

I work at Walmart. I have just had my first anniversary actually (which is something that they actually pay a lot of attention to). It’s something that I actually didn’t think would ever happen.

A few years ago I have actually said that I would never work in retail. But then, the job market not giving me a whole lot of options because I didn’t have a formally finished education or job training. So I ended up having to take a job in a small computer store to finish my job training as a programmer. Unfortunately for me, most employers in the United States don’t really care what kind of education you had or have received in a foreign country.

I came to the US just last year and Walmart was actually the first job I have had in this country. Before I applied for the job and over the past few years I have heard quite a few negative things about Walmart and so I was fairly reluctant to even apply. Obviously, though, I didn’t really have a whole lot of options.

It struck me as very odd that Walmart has such a huge hatred for unions, which is something that you don’t commonly see in Germany. When you start working at Volkswagen, for example, you get a union application with your work contract. There are very few people working in automotive companies that are not unionized and the same goes for many other sectors. I was told that Walmart makes a point of paying their workers as little as possible, to the point that people have to rely on food stamps and other government programs to even survive.

The truth is that Walmart actually improved upon a lot of things in recent years. The hatred of unions is still ever present but the need for unions isn’t really there anymore. The starting pay also went up to $9/h and there’s a mandatory raise to $10/h if you finish all your training. Walmart also has a decent set of benefits which include a 401k plan that matches up to 6% of your income after you’ve been with the company for over a year.

Now compare that with other unskilled labor jobs. Retail jobs, fast food jobs, restaurant jobs, etc. You won’t find a whole lot of jobs that start out at $9 an hour and even fewer that will throw some benefits in there as well. But even disregarding all of that, there’s a huge difference.

If you wanted to, you could make Walmart a career. In the store I work at, and many others I have seen, you just need to do a good job, have some ambition, and show up for work every day and you’ll likely be able to move up fairly quickly. I got promoted to be a supervisor after working for the company for less than 9 months. Technically there are options for even steeper increases in position, but that happens fairly rarely. I have seen people get promoted after less than 6 months, though.

So after all the jobs I’ve done where hard work was never commended, rarely even noticed. I have a job where I can see a path to success, where performance matters.

Trump knows nothing about Mexico

Hillary let Trump get away with an incredible display of ignorance in the debate that apparently no one has picked up on (Forbes did write a short article on it).

Trump said: “Let me give you the example of Mexico. They have a VAT tax. We’re on a different system. When we sell into Mexico, there’s a tax. When they sell in — automatic, 16 percent, approximately. When they sell into us, there’s no tax.”

Now here’s the thing, while what he is said is true, it’s not quite the whole picture. Like Germany, Mexico has a sales tax, which means all goods sold are taxed. So you buy something at the store in Mexico you pay 16% tax, regardless of whether or not it’s produced in Mexico or the U.S..

Trump apparently expects the Mexican government to give a subsidy on anything imported from the U.S. by exempting it from the tax that they charged on everything else. That’s like saying I shouldn’t pay the sales tax on my car because it was made in Mexico.

So did Trump distort the facts or does he not know the facts. I think he’s just stupid.

The hiring process

After moving to the US from Germany I have had some interesting thoughts on why the whole hiring process sucks, for anyone involved.

I’m mostly talking about hiring people who are currently not employed since most of the issues I’m talking about here don’t really apply to people working in the field they’re looking for work in.

For employers it seems like finding an ideal candidate for a job is amazingly hard. Even harder when the unemployment rate is fairly low. You’re spending probably hundreds of hours trying to find someone who would fit in with your company and do a job well. And even after all that you won’t find out if you made the right choice for another few thousands dollars spent. And then, even if it doesn’t seem to be the right candidate you need to wonder if it’s actually worth it to go through all the hassle of replacing them or if they’re doing almost well enough not to get fired.

For employees it doesn’t seem any less complicated. I have just spent close to 30 hours just preparing a résumé (that you can see here…. shameless plug intended), and with that I obviously haven’t even gotten to a cover letter, which obviously should be different for each application. Then you need to actually find a company that wants to hire the likes of you and for which you want to work. So far I have spent about 50 hours and the time of a few friends before even applying for the first job.

Now there are companies who are supposed to make the process easier for both sides. But do they really ? If I hire a company to do the hiring for me, will they really evaluate a candidate or will they just go through their résumé like I would ? If I hire a company that will go around and show off my résumé to companies, will they actually do a decent evaluation ?

Now I know this isn’t all that feasible, but there should be a company that hires and trains people and then actually knows what skills they have and what companies they would be useful for. Or even specifically trains people in the technologies that are in use at the company that wants to hire someone. And I know what you’re thinking: that’s what schools are for. But you would be wrong. There are so many people attending very good schools who really haven’t learned much of what the school wanted to teach. Being able to repeat things on a test isn’t quite the same as actually using that knowledge in practice.

Obviously I’m talking mostly about IT jobs here. And I’m really advocating against using standard programming tests to see who at least understands some fundamentals of programming. It’s fairly easy to memorize the fizzbuzz test and similar ones without really understanding them.

I don’t really have a solution to this whole problem right now (beyond people calling themselves experts in whatever technology the company uses, it’s fairly easy to test those people by making them actually write something useful), but it’s obviously something that’s on a lot of people’s minds.

Idiocracy and the reality it has turned into

Assuming you haven’t seen the movie, it’s about a future of more and more dumbed down children and a president straight out of an action movie.

The weird thing about it is that now people start actually seeing this future happen. We’re having a republican primary season that’s dominated by boasts of a retarded billionaire that has so many failed businesses that it’s hard to take him seriously as a businessman or more importantly a candidate. He’s an entertainer that has no substance and no plan.

And yet, somehow, in a national poll he would receive over 30% of the votes against either democratic candidate. Both of them being well qualified, both of them having plans, both of them talking about issues.

This whole thing obviously started a couple decades ago. When somehow the republicans convince a whole nation that we don’t want elitists in the white house. We somehow want a man of the people. We wanted George W. Bush ???? I’m still not sure how we got there. But from there it only got worse.

John McCain would have made a decent candidate. Obviously not a great one. Ever since Bill Clinton won the presidency with debates about plans, budgets, the future the republicans withdrew more and more from debates about issues and got drawn to debates of morals and ethics (while, unsurprisingly their morals and ethics are lacking). Debates about abortion, gay marriage, and religious beliefs took the place of issues, bills, economy.

After McCain we have Mitt Romney, another decent (and obviously not great) candidate. Himself a rich wall street guy who prides himself in abusing every tax loophole there is. Proudly paying far a far lower tax rate than someone making 10% of his income. Obviously way out of touch with most of the american population.

But then here we are in 2016. With a field that initially had 16 (qualified) candidates, with some candidates that were serious about their budgets, their plans, their issues. And we go with the candidates that has none of those.

The republican party apparently has decided against looking for a brighter future. Against having qualified candidates. Against elitism in all its forms.

We, as Americans, need to make sure we reverse this trend. Do we not want someone in the white house who’s smart ? Do we not want someone who has brilliant advisers ? Do we not want someone who thinks about the implications of the bills he signs into law ? Do we not want someone who takes a minute to think before acting ? Before making a choice that can alter the course of history for America ? Do we not want to be elitist when we choose our president ? Do we not want the best and the brightest for the job ?

I want the highest qualified candidate to be in the white house. I want the smartest person possible in the white house. I want someone who at least knows about the implications of their actions. I want someone that one of our closest allies doesn’t need to have a special session in both houses to figure out if they can, or need to, ban them from the country. I want someone that Americans can be sure doesn’t just nuke Iraq because there might be Isis there.

I want someone who thinks before acting.

The Bathroom debate

I can honestly not believe we’re having this discussion in the 21st century.

So as you may have not been able to escape heard about the debate on which bathrooms people should use…. here’s the deal: Republican state legislators in quite a few states are passing bills that would restrict the bathrooms to people matching the gender on their birth certificates. Have we had an issue before that would have been solved by these laws ? of course not.

So why would we make these laws now ? Fairly obviously to discriminate against transsexuals. Here’s why: As noted in the previous paragraph the laws go by the birth certificate. So even if you have legally changed your gender and are considered a woman you’re forced into the men’s bathroom. Why would that make sense to anyone ? No one is taking their birth certificate anywhere, so the law is extremely hard to enforce. Unless you want to just arrest people on suspicion of not being the gender they claim to be. So then you would have to arrest about 25 people for every one case where you’ll find someone whose gender doesn’t match their birth certificate. Obviously there isn’t one look that all transgender people share.

So with all these laws that are obviously well thought through…. They’re forcing people who went through all the therapy and possibly surgery to change their gender into the wrong bathroom. They’re making people with a beard, with a very male physique, with a penis go into the women’s bathroom. They’re making people with boobs, long hair, wearing dresses, with a vagina use the men’s bathroom.

Does that make sense ?

Why do we have a problem with a person in a dress going to the women’s bathroom ?

How many people have put on a dress, gone into a women’s bathroom, and raped someone ? Raped a minor ? Please tell me, because I haven’t heard of a single case.

So with all these issues that we haven’t had, we’re creating a law with a sole purpose of discriminating against people.

Should we discriminate ? Should we judge people ?

Now I’m a guy, with a beard and short hair, I have a 6 year old daughter. Can I take her to the bathroom ? Clearly now I’m violating the law if I go to the women’s bathroom with her. Clearly she’s violating the law if she goes into the men’s room with me. What really is the accepted behavior here ?

Amazon Mechanical Turk

So I was going to start my journey of using the mechanical turk (Basically a platform on Amazon that lets you complete small tasks for a tiny bit of money, usually under $1 each), and saving up the money to buy a new computer.

This was cut a bit short. Since my social security number is apparently not old enough, they somehow can’t verify the information I have provided…. which is pretty sad for a company of that size working in information technology.

The whole thing was to make a bit of money on the side before I could find a reasonably paying job, and they told me to try again in one year. At that point I obviously won’t need to do that anymore since my marketable skills are worth at least $50k/year.

I guess I will bid farewell to this idea and the mechanical turk as a whole. Amazon also took a big hit in the amount of respect I had for them.

My next big Adventure

As you may know (I have an about me page that you’ve certainly devoured….) I’m married, have 2 children, and am German (2 of those aren’t actually on said page….).

Now I have finally received permission to reenter the United States of America. A process that was started in 2013, which in the grand scheme of things and considering all the hurdles, wasn’t actually too long. I might write more about that whole process later, since it’s all fairly interesting and a lot of people (cough) conservatives (cough) clearly have no idea how any of it works. (No you can’t just decide to come to america. No they don’t let people with Ebola just walk across the border).

So now (or …. soon) comes the time to actually move to America (yes I’ll call it that regardless of it annoying people who know that America is actually a continent). Which means that besides the horrible difficulties of moving, the horrible difficulties of being poor (and broke) and the horrible difficulties of airlines now thinking 2 ounces is too much luggage for a family of four…. We somehow have to carefully decide what stuff is precious enough to take and then somehow try to move via airplane.

Obviously the children are thrilled to go (one hasn’t seen her biological father in years, both haven’t seen their mother’s side of the family in years), neither is thrilled about leaving essentially all of their stuff behind. They have a shitload of toys from 4 Christmas’s (what’s the plural of Christmas anyway ?) and birthdays and all the stuff in between. And the great majority of them is going to see the inside of a trash can. And we have no money to replace them…. It’s going great so far !

Obviously we’ll be taking most of the clothes we have…. also a good time to sort them and throw away a whole lot…. and maybe some electronic devices that are easier to take than to replace.

Unfortunately the medical problems of my wife make it near impossible for me to find work since it makes a lot of things far worse if I leave and she has to deal with everything by herself. She is on disability, but the american social security system really doesn’t have a lot of room for things past the basic necessities. Which is something that way too many Americans are way too comfortable with, but I digress.

So with both of our families never even making it into the middle class neither is really able to help any, we are struggling to even get enough money together to pay for the plane tickets, much less being able to send some stuff by mail rather than having to replace it at an unspecified later time.

We’re planning on making the trip in late April or early May. Currently we’re waiting on two documents that still need to be sent to the US consulate and I will be receiving my visa shortly after that. Probably around the middle of April, hopefully slightly sooner.

In case you’d like to help me, I have started a gofundme campaign.

Thank you for reading all this.

Gratis Mentalität

Heise hat gerade eine Newsmeldung veröffentlicht unter dem Titel Mit Sky, Netflix und Co. weg von der Gratismentalität, in dem aus den vorliegenden Daten völlig verkerte schlüsse gezogen werden. Eigentlich ist offensichtlich was passiert, aber man muss trotzdem alles negativ verkaufen.

(zitat) “Die Zahlungsbereitschaft bei den Zuschauern wird sogar noch größer werden, weil jetzt die Angebote da sind”, vermutete Medienforscher Klaus Goldhammer. (zitat ende)

Die Zahlungsbereitschaft war immer da. Die Angebote nicht. Ich hatte sogar schon mal darüber geschrieben…. Wenn uns jemand ende der 90er Jahre gesagt hätte “Du kannst Musik haben so viel du willst, für 10€ im Monat”, wir hätten alle gesagt “Ja bitte”. Nicht nur das, wir hätten nicht napster heruntergeladen um Musik kostenlos zu haben. Kazaa hätte es gar nicht gegeben, genause wie limewire und alle anderen.

Die Bereitschaft der Produzenten die Musik für den Preis anzubieten wir einfach nicht da. Die Bereitschaft ist teilweise immer noch nicht da. Wenn Taylor Swift ihre Musik nicht bei Spotify anbieten will (obwohl sie jedes Jahr millionen bekommt), dann liegt das nicht an der Gratismentalität.

Ja, die Mentalität ändert sich, langsam. Aber nicht bei den Konsumenten. Wir konnten uns CDs kaufen, aber nicht sehr lange. Die längste Zeit waren “CDs” auf dem Markt die sich eigentlich so nicht nennen durften, weil der Kopierschutz nicht standardkonform war. Also konnte man die “CDs” auch nicht überall abspielen.

Das muss man sich in der heutigen Zeit mal vorstellen. Man kauft sich eine CD, nicht nur weil man die Musik mag, nicht nur weil man von der Werbung eingeschüchtert wird das Raubkopierer in den Knast kommen, sondern weil man die Musiker unterstützen will. Und dann kann man die Musik nicht hören wegen dem Kopierschutz. Wenn man ne mp3 herunterläd kann man die fast überall hören. Aber wenn man bezahlt bekommt man etwas was, vom komfort her, deutlich schlechter ist.

Man stellt sich vor man will ein Regal bauen. Am Straßenrand findet man das perfekte Regalbrett. Aber man geht lieber 5km weiter in den Baumarkt und lässt sich eins zuschneiden. Und dann bezahlt man im Baumarkt für ein Regalbrett das völlig Krumm ist und für das Regal nur die hälfte nutzbar ist.

Die Mentalität war schon immer die gleiche. Wir hätten gerne auch damals für das gezahlt was wir jetzt angeboten bekommen. Auch den gleichen Preis den wir jetzt bezahlen. Es hat nur keiner angeboten.

Und jetzt….

Wir sehen noch immer eine Werbung dafür wie schlimm raubkopieren ist. Fast alle Filme die wir kaufen haben so etwas. Fast alle Filme die wir kaufen haben Intros oder Vorschauen die man nicht überspringen kann…. Raubkopierte Filme nicht.

Aber hier ist wenigstens Netflix zur Stelle. Raubkopieren ist mitlerweile (wenig….. sehr wenig) schwieriger als für Filme zu bezahlen. Allerdings sollten sich die Produzenten auch hier mal gedanken machen ob man nicht alles für alle lizensiert, also nicht einiges bei netflix sehen kann, anderes nur bei Amazon, anderes nur bei Watchever…. Weil es wird sich keiner finden der Abos für alle bezahlt. Es werden sich aber sehr viele Leute finden die ein Netflix Abo haben und sehr sauer sind, dass sie nicht alles sehen können was sie wollen.

Also !

Hört auf über die Gratismentalität zu meckern. So wie Ihr das dastellt ist es nie gewesen. Es war nur einfacher etwas gratis zu bekommen als dafür zu bezahlen. Und das sollte euch zu denken geben.