Can Biden increase his electoral stock value?

The issue: Can Biden raise his electoral stock value in face of a Warren advance?

Predictit.org is reporting that the lowest price traders are being offered for purchasing a “yes” contract on Joe Biden‘s chances of winning the Democratic nomination is $.26.  This means that if the elections were held today and a trader purchases a yes contract and wins, they have a maximum gain of $.74 on the contract since a winning payout is one dollar.  With twenty-three other candidates in the hunt for the nomination, Mr. Biden’s chances and “yes” contract price should climb as more candidates drop out of the running.

One candidate who may not be on that drop out list is U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts.  Ms. Warren has been climbing in the polls within the past couple months, with a Predictit “yes” contract now selling at $.20 at the time of this writing.  She has passed Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, for second place in the political prediction markets.  Mr. Sanders’ “yes” contract is currently selling at $.17.

Can Mr. Biden increase his electoral capital enough to ward off the challenges, particularly those offered by populists like Mrs. Warren and Mr. Sanders?

What Biden faces and what he has to do ….

Writing for Yahoo! News, Sahil Kapur and Emma Kinery cite data from a Economist/YouGov poll of South Carolina voters showing Joe Biden ahead of Elizabeth Warren by ten percentage points (26% to 16%), while Mr. Sanders comes in at 12%.  Among black voters, Kapur and Kinery note that Mr. Biden is polling at 50% while Mr. Sanders comes in second at 10%.  Mrs. Warren is back in a cloud of dust at 4%.

Nationally, Mr. Biden shouldn’t rest on his laurels.  In the political market place, Mr. Biden still has to make the argument why the electorate should release their vote in exchange for his narrative.  Political narrative becomes sound currency if backed up by solid policy or an argument for solid policy.  Writing for The New Yorker, John Cassidy argues that Mr. Biden has to dispel the notion that the former vice-president is an out-of-touch centrist riding the nostalgia of first black American and a very popular president’s coattail.  Mr. Biden also has to offer more detailed economic packages notes Mr. Cassidy, and explain how he would address underlying problems with American democracy.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren is driving up her electoral stock value with a personal narrative that seeks to connect with middle America while attempting to present complex policy prescriptions in a clear manner.  Mrs. Warren, according to Mike Allen and Jim Vandelte, provides specific liberal ideas.  They note that she has the ability to unite the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and should she lose the Democratic Party nomination to either Mr. Sanders or U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California, she would still be in play to be king or queen maker given her increased populist clout.

Mr. Biden has to protect the nostalgia element of his candidacy.  So far, according to Politico’s Holly Otterbein, the rest of the Democratic field have been pretty much hands-off when it comes to the Obama-Biden years, fearing that any attack on policy or failure to enact policy during those years will bring the ballot booth wrath of Obama fans.

But, according to Ms. Otterbein, Mr. Biden’s many years in Washington also give his Democratic opponents a target rich environment at which to take aim.  Taking Mr. Biden back to his past policy mistakes may put him in a least progressive or worse, mildly conservative light.

Conclusion …

It is tough to predict so early in the race for the Democratic nomination whether attacks on Mr. Biden’s political performances prior to becoming vice-president will cause him to lose the nomination. At a minimum, he will have to take ownership of the negative optics of any less than progressive behavior prior to becoming Mr. Obama’s vice-president while providing a clarity of action plans equal to those being offered by Mrs. Warren.

 

 

 

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For access to opportunities in augmented reality development, underserved neighborhoods need broadband deployment

The news …

The Internet Innovation Alliance released the following about the increasing importance in the markets of augmented reality:

“Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) technology makes use of sensory devices to modify a user’s surroundings, creating an immersive, simulated environment. In 2019, it’s forecasted that the market size worldwide for AR/VR will be $16.8 billion, with forecasts for 2023 reaching $160 billion. Given the anticipated growth in the market, companies have begun to allocate significant R&D budgets to AR/VR, including big tech companies like Facebook, Sony, and Microsoft.”

So four short years from now, the augmented and virtual reality world’s market will grow almost ten-fold. Bit what does this AR/VR world promise to bring to consumers?

Of smartphones and tri-corders …

Back in July 2016 in Dallas during a conference, I was persuaded by two college-aged young ladies to check out one of those virtual reality visors that promise to take you to a popular vacation spot without having to leave your room.  It took me awhile to get my bearings, reconciling what I believed to be real (the conference hall lobby I knew I was standing in) versus the vacation spot projected to me as reality.  That was three years ago and that demonstration seems primitive to what appears available today.

The website, HowStuffWorks.com, presents an insightful mega-analysis of the current and forecasted uses of AR/VR. Augmented reality with the use of digital technology is able to overlay digital elements on what we call the real world.  If you have a smartphone, there are AR/VR apps out there that allow you, for example, to point your phone at a building or landmark and obtain information about them.

“The basic idea of augmented reality is to superimpose graphics, audio and other sensory enhancements over a real-world environment in real time. Sounds pretty simple. Besides, haven’t television networks been doing that with graphics for decades? However, augmented reality is more advanced than any technology you’ve seen in television broadcasts, although some new TV effects come close, such as RACEf/x and the super-imposed first down line on televised U.S. football games, both created by Sportvision. But these systems display graphics for only one point of view. Next-generation augmented-reality systems will display graphics for each viewer’s perspective. ” — Kevin Bonsor and Nathan Chandler, How Stuff Works

The imposition of these graphics and other sensory enhancements can take place on your smartphone.  It seems that depending on your VR/AR consumption needs, one need not go out and buy or use the visor I tried on in Dallas.  From a producer perspective, there are a number of platforms that leverage Android or iOS operating systems to create the VR/AR technology and applications that merge “real” and “virtual” worlds.  Among these platforms are Maxst, Vuforia, ARCore, ARKit, and Wikitude, to name a few.

Again, these platforms are supported by mobile operating systems that need need broadband networks to run on.  But as elected and appointed government officials talk about economic growth, are they putting their money where their mouths are?

Policy makers need to encourage broadband deployment…

If neighborhoods are going to attract entrepreneurs capable of leveraging mobile platforms to create employment and income, then policy makers on local, state, and federal levels should remain vigilant in making sure that the rights-of-ways that they manage are being made available for the deployment of mobile networks.

If policy makers are serious about closing income gaps between affluent and less affluent neighborhoods, then purposeful policy must be used to encourage the broadband facility investment necessary for deploying advanced networks in less affluent neighborhoods.  If not, then the ten-fold growth in the VR/AR market will by-pass these neighborhoods.

Resolving the privacy issue regarding personal data.

The news …

The U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing today on privacy of data collected by data brokers.  Gartner defines data brokers as the following:

“[A] business that aggregates information from a variety of sources; processes it to enrich, cleanse or analyze it; and licenses it to other organizations. Data brokers can also license another company’s data directly, or process another organization’s data to provide them with enhanced results. Data is typically accessed via an application programming interface (API), and frequently involves subscription type contracts. Data typically is not “sold” (i.e., its ownership transferred), but rather it is licensed for particular or limited uses. (A data broker is also sometimes known as an information brokersyndicated data broker, or information product company.)”

The Committee and the hearing witnesses discussed the lack of knowledge most consumers have regarding the amount of personal data collected on them and how the data is used or disposed of.  Not only is sensitive data in the hands of third-parties not known by the consumer but there is the risk that data collected could be incorrect and create a negative impression of the consumer particularly as it concerns decisions regarding employment, access to colleges, or access to credit.

At least one senator is on to something …

One line of questioning I found insightful came from Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana.  He wanted to know the thoughts of the witnesses on licensing of data by the consumer herself.  What disclosure requirements would both sides have to meet in order to allow the consumer to license her data?

It wasn’t clear whether Senator Kennedy discussed disclosure requirements in anticipation of a transaction model where parties need as much transparency as possible in order to negotiate licensing agreements for the exchange of personal data.  If that is the case, then licensing could help build a platform for a market solution to the privacy issue.

An autonomous market approach would keep government out of negotiating a data exchange between consumer and broker.  The parties could choose to have courts settle any contract disputes or issues arising out of tort where misuse of data resulted in some civil harm. Or, parties could choose arbitration, further minimizing government involvement in settling disputes.

Right now, the political power belongs with Congress …

But we are ahead of ourselves.  We still need to identify where the political power is sitting in this privacy debate.  So far the greatest ability to shape and control the political behavior of stakeholders appears to lie with the government.  Data broker LiveRamp Holdings, Inc., formerly known as Acxiom, acknowledges that the fallout from Cambridge Analytica’s treatment of data it received from Facebook has resulted in increased scrutiny of the “shadow industry.”

Congress may feel further emboldened to implement America’s own version of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation as more members of the electorate become familiar with data broker business models and the perception as to how data broker use of private data could negatively impact consumer lives.

 

 

What to do with Atlanta’s city jail

The news …

Late last May, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed legislation allowing her to close the Atlanta City Detention Center and establish a task force to study how best to re-purpose including establishing a “center of equity” in place of a public safety policy based on incarceration.

Mrs. Lance Bottoms has received push back over the initiative from political rival and two-time former mayoral candidate Mary Norwood.  Mrs. Norwood, who serves as chairman of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, argues that the better public safety policy would be for the city to sell the facility to Fulton County.  Such a move would help Fulton County increase its capacity for housing inmates while ensuring the city keeps offenders off the streets.

The politics of the positions ….

Mayor Lance Bottom’s office has been selling their decision to close the facility as a move toward a better policy for addressing incarceration and recidivism. Mrs. Lance Bottoms would like to see a center of equity that provides services aimed toward the incarcerated, including programs that help the formerly incarcerated find work.

In response to Mrs. Norwood’s opposition to Mrs. Lance Bottom’s plan, the Mayor’s office may be looking at Mrs. Norwood stance as posturing for another mayoral showdown in 2021 or the continuing licking of wounds from the tight November 2017 race.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution quoted the Mayor’s spokesman, Michael Smith, saying that, “There is one mayor at a time.  The people of Atlanta elected and entrusted the one they chose in 2017 to make meaningful decisions that will change the trajectory of our communities.”

Could the 2021 election change community trajectory?

What I found interesting in this spat between two potential 2021 rivals was a lack of discussion on the economic and aesthetic component surrounding the Atlanta City Detention Center.  The city jail and the immediate surrounding areas are eyesores.  Jail bondsman offices and a homeless population are mainstays around the jail.  Given the proximity of the city jail to two economic initiatives designed to boost the attractiveness of downtown, a discussion as to how this facility or even a “center of equity” would be in keeping with the schemes is surprisingly lacking.

One initiative is on the way.  The Centennial Yards project, formerly known as “The Gulch”, is expected to ramp up in 2020.  The project is expected to provide a mini-city within Atlanta comprised of offices, residences, and retail space.

On the drawing boards but highly likely given its track record is Georgia State University’s vision for its downtown campus. Looking like something out of Star Trek‘s space station Yorktown, (Kelvin timeline), GSU’s plan calls for more green space, an enhanced student center, as well as more administrative office and student resident space for a growing student body population.

I just can’t see any of this taking place within an eighth of a mile of a grubby city half block that has a jail located on it.

Mrs. Norwood may be taking the middle road by advocating a mere sale of the facility to Fulton County.  As she represents an affluent investor community in Buckhead, she would probably get on board with a proposal to just remove the entire facility as a way to entice movement into a new “Gulch” community that will bring in city revenue.

And, in my opinion, to ensure that a shift in the trajectory occurs, a Buckhead community flexing its muscle may be able to pull it off.  Atlanta’s demographics are changing.  Neighborhoods like mine in the West End are gentrifying.  Any references to Atlanta as the “Chocolate City of the South” are part of an increasingly distant and cloudy memory.  The Black Slate was able to amplify support for Mayor Bottoms in 2017, but as the population continues to shrink in the face of less affordable housing, will the Black Slate be able to replicate 2017 in 2021?  If not, we may be seeing what remains of Mayor Bottoms’ social agenda being pushed further away from the city core.

Conclusion …

If Atlanta keeps in mind the economic development changes occurring downtown, I don’t see why it would keep any remnants of an incarceration policy that it finds distasteful.  If the city wants to retrain former inmates in job skills, Georgia State’s main or satellite campuses may be more than equipped with teaching and clinical expertise and classroom facilities to handle that job.  The real cost may be the political costs of implementing recommendations the Mayor’s task force comes up with for re-purposing the city’s jail.

John Lewis sponsors a bill providing low income taxpayers some relief

The news …

U.S. Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, appears to have some bipartisan support for a tax bill he announced earlier today.  The chairman of the House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee along with the ranking member, U.S. Representative Mike Kelly, introduced the Taxpayer First Act.   Mr. Lewis and Mr. Kelly appear to have done a good job of putting together bipartisan sponsorship getting 26 other Democrats and Republicans to give their support.

The bill seeks to do or improve the following:

  • Improve the independent appeals process;
  • Limit the capacity of private debt collectors to target low income citizens by not allowing collection activity by private debt collectors against taxpayers whose income does not exceed 200% of the poverty level;
  • Prohibits collection of fees associated with the filing of an offer-in-compromise on taxpayers whose income does not exceed 250% of the poverty level;
  • Excludes from collection under qualified collection contracts taxpayers whose income consists substantially of disability insurance benefits; and
  • lengthens the time to pay taxes under an installment agreement from the current five years to seven years.

My initial thoughts …

I’ve visited the Internal Revenue Service office on West Peachtree Street in Atlanta a number of times.  Mostly the non-affluent are there trying to work out our tax issues.  Life happens and when you have to make decisions between paying rent and caring for a family or sending the IRS a check, family and rent will take precedent.

Under all the glitter of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”, the movie and music production scene, and the high-end cars you may see whizzing around the city is a population under stress.  By one account the poverty level in Atlanta is approximately 22.4% meaning that almost 100,000 people in Atlanta live under the burden of poverty. You can hear the stress on the buses and trains as poor people head to work.  You can hear the financial stress in consumers’ voices as they express their concerns about food prices and the choices between one item and the other.

I don’t believe the bill goes far enough.  If Mr. Lewis is really concerned about the stresses of tax payment on the poor, he would add language that gets rid of the interest that accumulates on tax bills.  Poor people will never get from under the stress of late tax payments of they have onerous interest being added to their tax bills.  This only compounds the stress from owing student loans, taking care of sick family members, or trying to put children through college.

What’s next …

This is the second go-round for the bill. An original version of the bill (H.R. 1957) was passed by the House last April but issues regarding whether the IRS could dismantle a Free File Program caused an impasse in the Senate and a decision was made to remove the bill from Senate consideration and re-introduce a bill without the Free File Program.

 

The philosophy of ADOS

ADOS. A growing movement …

There is a steadily growing movement within the Black American branch of the African Diaspora referred to as ADOS; American Descendants of Slavery.  The movement was started by Yvette Carnell, editor and creator of the internet site, Breaking Brown; and Antonio Moore, an attorney and creator of the online site, ToneTalks.  The movement’s primary goal is to obtain reparations for the descendants of slaves brought to what is now called the United States and for the federal government to streamline existing economic and civil rights policies as well as implement new policy aimed specifically at Americans who can claim a lineage from slavery.

The specific philosophy …

ADOS was established to make a public policy case for reparations.  As Attorney Moore points out, from a legal perspective, reparations requires a victim and the victim in this case would be the descendants of slaves brought to present day United States.  Blacks brought to present day America from Africa as slaves built the United States economy, argue Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore, and for this reason, ADOS excludes from its narrative blacks from the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa.

Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore are purposefully narrow in their view of America’s relationship with Black America. They see other ethnic groups benefiting from public policy that, in their opinion, was designed for the benefit of Black Americans, i.e. civil rights legislation, affirmative action programs, etc., where blacks are pushed down lower and lower on the benefits ladder while other groups, i.e. women, immigrants, the LGBTQ community garner more attention and resources.  “ADOS is about having a specific conversation about ourselves”, says Mr. Moore.

The first hurdle to establishing ADOS’ philosophy as policy: black people …

Blacks are still learning about ADOS and the ones that have gained some familiarity with the initials if not the founders or the underlying concept of reparations are taking offense to the notion that blacks should view their lineage as having started in slavery.  A number of my friends have expressed this sentiment, disturbed that ADOS does not appear to take into account the history of blacks in Africa prior to being brought to the western hemisphere as slaves.

But how this position regarding the term “American Descendants of Slavery” impacts the endgame of reparations is not clear.  For the last three decades my take on reparations was mostly that of a pipe dream driven primarily by emotions and no foundation in law.  Chattel slavery was legal as far as colonizing European nations were concerned and I didn’t see how moral arguments or emotional outcries regarding the treatment of our African ancestors would gain traction in the late 20th century with people of European descent who either benefited from the capital slavery helped their ancestors generate or whose ancestors arrived after slavery was abolished.

Blacks who occupy the conservative end of the political spectrum may argue that the push for reparations only gives whites an empowered status they do not deserve while relegating blacks to a lower “seeking a handout” status.  Rather, they may argue, blacks should follow the example of enterprising blacks and carve out their own niche via hard work, using the resources currently made available by America. In short, forget reparations.

I expect a significant number of white Americans will be opposed to reparations and that they will likely parrot the conservative argument mentioned above. As they comprise a majority of the electorate, I surmise that their position will weigh the heaviest on any decision made by Congress to pass legislation on reparations.  Congress may not be able to come up with a social policy rationale strong enough to survive the legal scrutiny that is likely to occur should some type of reparations legislation gets passed.

But it’s too early to say reparations won’t happen …

The likelihood of reparations legislation passing in the Congress is near non-existent at this point in time and the most that can be said right now is that black descendants of African slaves advocate for reparations through a lens carved out of the inequity of building a plantation economy without compensation; pain and suffering from rapes, beatings, and lynchings; and 150 years of discrimination and civil rights violations.

What is being seen through this lens, this philosophy of reparations, must be inserted into a clear narrative or policy-based argument.  Right now, without further research, I don’t see an analogical or rules-based argument being used either in support of legislation or in crafting a rule in court that would protect reparations from being challenged.

 

A philosophy of “political” engagement for the individual anarchist

Navigating the path to a good life in the realm of politics …

The good life is one where the individual pursues her self-awareness without the encumbrance of mass tyranny.  An individual anarchist that places personal liberty above all else will have as a goal near non-existent contact with government.  She will do what is practical to keep government off of her back.  She will, for example, file her tax returns and pay her taxes, taking advantage, of course, of any means of reducing her tax obligation that keeps her at the same time off of the government’s radar.  She should keep herself in a position to keep government at bay.

Does this mean that the individual anarchist must involve herself in politics?  That may depend on how you define politics.

The politics of human interaction …

I am a realist.  I acknowledge that 245 years ago, a bunch of well-financed strong men wrestled control of this jurisdiction from a strong man sitting in England.  I acknowledge that these strong men created a government for the day-to-day exercise of administration of this jurisdiction’s resources, and that if I am to navigate this environment in order to maintain myself and my family, then there will be some minimal exchange of information or currency between me and this government and the people who exercise non-thinking obedience to its policies.

Does this mean that I have to engage in the institutional practice of the administration of public affairs?  Does this mean that I have to vote in an election or run for public office?  Does this mean that I have to fund political campaigns and take bets on a better candidate?

The answer to the above is no.  Acknowledging the State’s existence creates no requirement that you feed the Beast.  Rather you should call the Beast out through constant critique.  To borrow from Emile Armand, “the work of the anarchist is above all a work of critique.”  The individual-anarchist, in order to enhance her chances of optimizing individual liberty, must live and need be agitate from the outside.  What “political” mechanism, then, should she use?

Political ‘string theory’ ….

The relationship between elected officials and the electorate is based on an exchange of a politician’s position and and a voter’s perception.  This exchange creates an equilibrium that is maintained where a politician conveys to a voter necessary and sufficient information that meets or guides a voter’s perception as to how well the environment of the political economy is doing.  For example, Donald Trump conveys to his constituency that his policies are leading to job growth.  His base, after consuming available data, continue to perceive that things are going well.

But the individual-anarchist may see Mr Trump’s policies as impeding her ability to, say, develop and use her own private energy resources.  At this point she may have two alternatives. She can be silent and allow Mr Trump’s policies and the electorate’s erroneous perception to crush her, or she can engage in a temporary strategic partnership with like-minded individuals to critique Mr Trump’s policies.  This is where the political string theory comes in.

Under this theory, the equilibrium between elected official position and voter perception lies on a fabric of data flow between both parties.  Warp the fabric by introducing surprise; by introducing information, and this relationship changes.  The goal of the temporary, strategic partnership of individual anarchists should be to publish accurate, data rich “surprise” that disrupts the inertia in the political system.

This type of agitation cannot occur from inside the system for two reasons.  First, the system’s core has in place editorial roadblocks that will dilute, eviscerate, eliminate the messaging.  Instead, the messaging should aim to pick off elements of the mass electorate who may be more susceptible to independent thought, those who may be sitting on the fence. Those who doubt the efficacy of the political elite.

The second reason for agitating from the outside is to ensure that the messengers are not co-opted.  Take for example the Libertarian Party.  Their policies or positions have yet to take hold with a significant amount of the American population. By operating within the mechanics of the electoral system, they have morphed into nothing but closet Republicans.

Conclusion …

“Political” engagement for the individual anarchist must be temporary and purposeful.  Prolonged engagement runs the risk of creating organizations that eventually exist for the sole purpose of maintaining existence.  Prolonged engagement means diluting your individuality. To be the effective critic, the new data introduced must be a surprise, truly new information that makes disruption all the more effective.