Sunday, July 24, 2016

This Year's Election Is Just a Pre-Impeachment Ceremony

I know you have all been there. You are at a wedding and as the bride heads down the aisle you think, this marriage will not last. At one of my friend's weddings, my friends and I were placing bets as to how long it was going to last. It is not a wedding but a pre-divorce ceremony. This year's presidential election is like that wedding, it is a pre-impeachment ceremony.

Negativity: Like most Americans I will not be voting for someone this November, but against someone. I will be voting against Trump, not for Hillary Clinton. Both candidates have the highest negativity numbers ever of any candidate running for president. Trump is the highest at 59.1 % of the electorate having a negative opinion of him, while Hillary has 55.9% which isn't much better. Passion for a candidate will not drive voters to the polls this fall, but dislike for their opponent. The election will be won by whomever gets the most people to show up. This means that it will be close, like in 2000, and it is going to be messy. Whoever wins will not have a mandate and will have difficulty leading.

Impeachment is difficult: It is not easy to impeach a president and that is as it should be. The US has only done it twice in our history, Andrew Johnson after our Civil War and Bill Clinton, who was impeached in the House of Representatives but acquitted in the Senate. Nixon would have been impeached if he hadn't resigned preemptively. At the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, it was Benjamin Franklin that first proposed the idea of impeachment. Usually, states removed "obnoxious" leaders by assassination. Since we were a country ruled by law, a legal way to remove such a leader was needed. Basically, the House is the jury and the Senate is the judge. A majority vote in the House is required to bring impeachment charges (Article I, Section 2, Clause 5), which are then tried before the Senate (Article I, Section 3, Clause 6). Two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict before a president can be removed. The current make-up of the 114th Congress has a Republican majority in both houses. Of the 435 Representatives, 234 are Republican and 211 are Democrats. The Senate has 54 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 1 Independent. This obviously will change. Every seat in the House is up for re-election along with one third of the Senate.  Again, this election will be about who shows up. If all those young people, who loved Bernie Sanders, decide to stay home and not vote against Trump, we'll not only have our first orange president but Congress will probably not change either.

Popularity: Impeachment is more a game of popularity, than logic or law. Regardless of how bad of a president you are, if you are popular, you are not going to get impeached. In 1834, the House considered impeaching our 7th president Andrew Jackson who basically said "fuck you" to the Supreme Court in relation to the native people of this continent. He had a banking crisis and the nullification crisis which were included in the charges in the attempts to impeach him. Jackson was extremely popular and so were his actions against the natives. Impeaching him would have been near impossible. Like Bill Clinton he was censured instead (aka a hand slap). The case of Andrew Johnson's impeachment, our 17th president, is obvious, regardless of how bad of a president he was, he was a Southern in charge of the federal government after the Civil War. He was the only southern Senator to maintain his loyalty to the North after his state seceded.  He was unpopular in the North and the South. Impeaching him was easy.

Both Trump and Hillary Clinton are extremely unpopular. Any screw-up they have, either perceived or real, will fuel the creep towards impeachment. Trump is even unpopular in his own party. Even a Republican majority could remove him from office. With this in mind, their Vice Presidential picks are key. When voting, think closely about who you'd like for not only our 45th President, but our 46th as well ...  President Pence or President Kaine.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Go Fever

I have Go Fever.  I get it often and I get it bad. Go Fever is an informal term that was created by NASA by the engineers involved in the Apollo I fire that resulted in the death of all three astronauts involved. It was also used after the Challenger disaster in 1984 and the Columbia disaster in 2003.  It is the frenzy that occurs by individuals and groups when involved in a big project. As go-live approaches, one's ability to see problems are diminished for fear of failure or of dragging your team down. No one wants to be the one to cause a project to miss its go-live date.  The money, the stress and the amount of time put into the project can contribute to the fever. One has a tendency to not see problems in this state of frenzy or to diminish their value.

This is not a failing in personality or character, it is just the residue of stress, just an aspect of being human. The big difference between me and the folks who work for NASA is that no one dies when I get the fever. There might be some money or good will lost , or inconvenienced doctors or patients, but no one is going to die because of my mistakes. I work in medical billing, I don't touch those machine that go beep. The Freakonomics podcast recently interviewed Allan McDonald, one of the engineers on the shuttle. He says that the more successful a person or organization, the worse the fever can get.  Prior to the Challenger disaster in 1984, NASA had never lost anyone is space. The Apollo I accident happened on the test pad and Apollo 13 failed but was ultimately saved due to their innovation and creativity. So you could say, they were going into the space shuttle project quite cockily. You can't learn from you mistakes if you haven't made a lot of them and you feel infallible.

I am blogging about this because I learned from my failures in the past. It is one of the reasons why someone with 20 years experience is better than someone with zero: we've already made our failures and have learned from them. A true failure is one that you haven't learned from. Freakonomics talks about a pre-mortem (as opposed to a post-mortem) on projects where they go over everything that can go wrong.  This is a lot like what I do with my team of testers. They test the code that I write and they get back to me about problems. We try to think of every way the software can be used and test the hell out of it.  I fix the problems reported and we start over again. As Go Fever sets in and gets stronger, my idea of what a problem is gets smaller and smaller. I tend to accept some problems later in a project that I may not have accepted it earlier.  This is why engineers don't test their own code. The testers are a fresh set of eyes that look at a project from a perspective that the coder could never. I have been working the same project for about a year now. My go-live date is the first week of August, a couple of weeks. My Go Fever is quite bad right now, not fatal, but I am looking forward to it being over.