Democrats vs. Republicans: “The Chicago Way”

When it comes to politics, as in other aspects of my life, I do my best to avoid being hypocritical. In particular, I try to follow the golden rule of political debate: Do not criticize your opponent for doing something that, if the situation were reversed, you would support.

For example, I was against the attempts to get Electoral College electors pledged to Trump to change their vote — primarily because I knew that, if the situation were reversed, I would consider it wrong for Clinton electors to switch. No matter how strongly I feel Trump is a terrible choice for President, he won the election — and that should be respected without resorting to gimmicks to attempt to reverse the outcome.

Still, it can be hard to live by this admonition consistently. I am not always successful. And even when I believe I am succeeding, my opponents sometimes interpret events to suggest I am not. A possibility here could be my criticism of the plethora of lies that emanate from Trump’s mouth. Opponents might argue that Democrats, especially Hillary Clinton, lie with equal frequency. I might counter that this is a false equivalence, that non-partisan evidence indicates that Trump is in a category by himself in this regard. In the end, my opponents may remain unconvinced. But at least I know I tried to follow the rule.

Unfortunately, in Washington, politicians too often ignore the golden rule cavalierly and with impunity. This is true for both Democrats and Republicans. But I believe Republicans do it far more often and more egregiously — almost contemptuously so.

And, in Washington, it’s not just a matter of debating points. Decisions often translate into actions. The recent example that most stands out for me here is the GOP’s refusal to allow any consideration of Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. This was an unprecedented action. And the GOP’s rationale for their action (that it was too close to the presidential election to have a vote) was not only without merit, it was clearly a violation of the golden rule. It’s 100% certain, that if the situation were reversed, the Republicans would be crying foul. Big time.

It gets worse. Back in October, when it looked almost certain that Clinton would win, Republicans began seriously floating the idea that they would block anyone and everyone that Clinton might nominate. As the linked article stated: Whenever “Republicans have run up against some norm that restricts them from doing what they’d like, {they say} to themselves, ‘Well, why don’t we just violate this norm? There’s no law against it.’ {In such cases,} Republicans calculated that the ultimate political effect of violating the norms would be negligible. That calculation has turned out to be largely correct.”

Indeed! It certainly worked out well for them with the Garland non-confirmation.

All of this has forced me to reconsider my adherence to the golden rule. The problem with trying to stick to the rule is that, if your opponents make absolutely no effort to do the same (as is the ongoing situation in Washington), you keep winding up on the losing end. It’s like taking your fists to a fight where “no weapons” had been the norm — and finding your opponent with a gun. You get killed. And if there is no cost for wielding a metaphorical “gun,” there is a clear incentive for politicians to continue to do so. At some point, for survival, you have to reconsider your reticence.

You can stick with the high ground (“When they go low, we go high,” as Michelle Obama said). But that assumes there is at least a chance for some ultimate reward by doing so. Such has not been the case in Washington in recent years. As most evident by Trump’s victory, the low ground has been having immense success.

That’s why I am now strongly considering supporting Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s stance to potentially block Trump’s Supreme Court nominees. And it’s also why, although I have been consistently against the Senate’s current filibuster rules, I will not object to their use here. {Lacking any sense of irony, Mitch McConnell has warned that Americans “will not tolerate” this blocking.}

It’s similarly why I support Obama’s advice that Democrats not work with Republicans to replace Obamacare with something that is distinctly worse.

I would not advocate doing anything illegal — nor employing outright deception or lying. But aside from that, my position will be that, once the GOP has “violated the norms” on some issue, it’s fair game for the Democrats to do so as well. Hypocrisy be damned!

I’m not enthusiastic about going in this direction. I know Democrats will get heavily criticized (just as the Republicans have been). And Republicans will do their best to portray themselves as the innocent aggrieved party. But, in the current uber-divisive environment, I don’t see a better alternative.

And I know this doesn’t offer much hope for a more positive, less obstructionist government going forward. But we haven’t been heading in that direction anyway. It will take both sides working together to change the direction of government. One side can’t do it flying solo. Maybe having both sides down in the muck will finally be the spark to ignite a turn-around. I can hope.

Beyond that, all I can do is work to oppose the Trump agenda via every legal avenue that is available.*

In the end, I am reminded of the classic scene from The Untouchables (see below) where Sean Connery gives advice to Kevin Costner (playing Elliot Ness) as to how to “get Capone.” Politically speaking, I’m thinking it’s time for me to adopt “the Chicago Way.”

* For those interested in how best to “resist the Trump agenda,” I highly recommend the guide available at Indivisble.

Posted in Media, Politics | 1 Comment

What do Trump supporters care about?

The one sentence that best encapsulates the entire 2016 election for me is when Donald Trump said: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

He may have meant it as hyperbole (at least I hope he did). But it isn’t far off the mark.

Over the months prior to Election Day, Trump’s popularity, as measured by polls, waxed and waned. But it remained impressively high throughout — with levels of enthusiasm unmatched by any other candidate. It survived the Access Hollywood video, tax return revelations, the Trump Foundation and Trump University scandals — and everything else. Trump not only survived all of these things but — as we now know — thrived well enough to claim victory in the end.

True, many of Trump’s supporters expressed disapproval and dismay at his words and actions throughout the campaign. But, in the end, they voted for him anyway, minimizing the seriousness of his transgressions. Part of the explanation for this may be attributed to weaknesses in Clinton as an opponent, but most of the credit goes to Trump himself.

Now it is post-election. Trump has won.

Post-election, Trump supporters are finding themselves tested by a different set of challenges. Trump has significantly modified — or outright reversed — many of his signature positions, ones that generated the most enthusiastic support. To cite a few key examples:

• Pre-election, Trump promised he would appoint a special prosecutor to look into Hillary Clinton’s “crimes.” Now he wants to leave her alone and not prosecute at all.

• Pre-election, Trump described Obamacare as a complete disaster — and vowed to repeal it on “Day 1.” Now, he wants to retain significant parts of it — and may not be in a hurry to repeal any of it.

• Pre-election, Trump declared that all 11 million illegal immigrants would be deported almost immediately. Now, he is talking about focusing only on the 2 million that are “criminal.”

• Pre-election, Trump asserted that climate change was a “hoax.’ Now he says he has an “open mind” about it.

Some of these reversals will no doubt be tolerated as typical of what every candidate does to some extent, pre- vs. post-election. Plus, with Trump, who knows, he may yet un-reverse himself in the days ahead. Still, if Trump continues in his current direction, you have to wonder if his supporters will stay with him — or will they instead come to feel betrayed by his wholesale abandonment of campaign promises?

I’m confident there will be no rebellion. His support will hold — at least for the next several months.

Assuming I’m right, you might reasonably ask: “So what do Trump supporters care about? What would it take for Trump’s supporters to abandon him?”

In my view, Trump’s support rests on three pillars (and only the first two are critical). Maintain these and Trump’s supporters will forgive everything and anything else.

First, and foremost, Trump’s campaign rhetoric resonated with “downtrodden” working and middle class whites who have long felt ignored by the “establishment.” He promised these people that he would bring back jobs and spark economic recovery in their regions of the country. If he ultimately delivers on this promise  (which I personally believe is very doubtful), he will be re-elected in a landslide.

Second, supporters of all economic stripes view Trump as an agent of change, someone who promised to shake up Washington (“drain the swamp”) and generally do things differently from the status quo. As long as Trump can convince the public that these perceptions are accurate, he will remain popular — even if he reverses an assortment of specific pre-election positions. Further, by generally aligning himself with a conservative agenda, he can hold on to the majority slice of traditional Republicans, even if their support is reluctantly given.

Last, and hopefully least, he appeals to the extreme “alt-right” and other bigoted segments of the population. He openly says things — about immigrants and Muslims and women and more — that had been kept covert in previous elections. This is enormously appealing to these extremists. As long as he does things such as appointing Steve Bannon to a position of power, these extremists will remain by his side. They are not a majority of the country, by any means. They are not even a majority of Trump’s supporters. But they are among his most enthusiastic supporters — and they are big enough to make a difference.

What then will happen if these pillars begin to crumble? Will it lead to election losses in the future? A lot depends on how well the Democrats are able to take advantage of such a development (something which is very much open to question). But it could indeed lead to a downfall. On the other hand, if Trump keeps these three pillars intact, nothing else will matter — perhaps not even his shooting someone on 5th Avenue. So don’t be surprised when Trump’s reversals and hypocrisies leave him unharmed. It’s likely to be Trump’s America for years to come.

Note: This is just the latest of several missives I’ve written recently about the 2016 election. You can view the rest of the them by scrolling through my Facebook page.

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Requiem for desktop Macs

I tend to be conservative in predicting Apple’s plans for the future. Without any inside knowledge, any predictions are, at best, educated guesses. It’s far too easy to guess wrong and wind up with a bowl of “claim chowder.” But today I take that risk…

Apple’s desktop Mac lineup is headed for the graveyard. Dead. Done. Over.

Why do I believe this? Because of the unstated implications of what Apple announced (and didn’t announce) at its media event yesterday.

Let’s start with the big one: No new or updated desktop Macs were announced yesterday. This means that no new Mac models have been or will be released for the entire year 2016. That’s a significant omen all by itself. But it gets worse.

iMac

I’ve read speculation suggesting that Apple might yet release new iMacs before the year is over. Don’t bet on it.

If a new iMac is ready to go (which it would pretty much have to be at this point), I see no reason to delay the announcement by a week or two. There was certainly room to include mention of it at the media event (which ran only 90 minutes and was hardly jam-packed). Alternatively, if they wanted to keep the focus on the new MacBook Pros, they could have announced iMacs via a press release following the event. Either way, it seems preferable to waiting a few more weeks. With the holiday shopping season looming, there’s scant room for further delays. Clearly, updating the iMac is not a top priority for Apple.

Granted, the current “Late-2015” iMac is still a great machine (it’s what I’m using right now). It remains an optimal choice for some home users and even more so for education and other institutional markets. That’s why, as others have predicted, I expect to see updated iMacs, with Thunderbolt 3, arrive in 2017. Beyond that, I am skeptical that we will ever again see a significant update to the iMac. It will linger on in Apple’s catalog for several more years, but will receive scant attention. Eventually it will disappear — as laptops take over the entire Mac lineup (as I detail more below).

Speaking of desktop Macs that receive scant attention, that’s a perfect segue into the remainder of Apple’s desktop Mac models.

Mac mini and Mac Pro

The Mac mini and the Mac Pro are Dead Macs Walking. Apple still sells them, but I find it hard to believe Apple expects anyone to buy one. I fully expect they will be gone by the end of 2017. Let’s dig into this a bit deeper.

The Mac mini was last updated in 2014. For most people, it was a poor choice even when it was new. Its tech specs were always inferior to the iMac (as one example, the mini still offers no quad-core models). This was especially disappointing to those who hoped for a Mac mini that could be a viable less expensive alternative to the Mac Pro. Instead, Apple marketed the Mac mini as a “starter Mac,” geared toward people switching from a PC. It is also well-suited to be a server Mac. Overall, it’s a decent machine but Apple appears to have abandoned it.

[As an aside, with possible implications for where Apple is headed, Apple doesn’t seem to be giving much attention to macOS Server. The Sierra update is 5.2, a relatively minor change to the El Capitan 5.0 version released last year.]

The current state of the Mac Pro is an even sadder story. It was released in 2013 and has never been updated! I see no sign that Apple ever intends to do so. Let me be blunt: There is no market for the Mac Pro today. When combined with a decent 4K 27-inch monitor, the cheapest Mac Pro you can buy costs around $4000 (and goes way up from there). For the minimum price, you get only 12GB of RAM, 256GB of storage and Thunderbolt 2. Buy one of these and you get 3-year old technology with no indication that Apple will ever improve it. You’d have to be a fool to go in this direction. A smart company (and Apple is a smart company) doesn’t let this happen to a product that they believe has a future.

The 2013 Mac Pro had the potential to be a greater success, a worthy follow-up to the popular “cheese-grater” Mac Pro. But Apple never invested the time and resources necessary to make it so. At some point, I assume Apple concluded that the market for a desktop pro-level Mac was either no longer there or no longer worth pursuing. Rather, Apple’s sees its future tied to portable and mobile devices. In other words, the future of the Mac is laptops — which doesn’t leave room for the Mac Pro.

Desktop Macs vs. the MacBook Pro

The major news at Apple’s media event was the unveiling of the new MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar. Once again, reading between the lines, this too hinted at the demise of desktop Macs.

In particular, Apple clearly tried to position the MacBook Pro as a viable workstation-like device, an alternative to a Mac Pro or high-end iMac set-up. For example, Phil Schiller showed off a MacBook Pro connected to two 27-inch 5K displays and a RAID enclosure. Clearly, Phil wasn’t pitching this as a machine intended for keeping up with your friends on Facebook. Similarly, when showing off applications that had been redesigned to take advantage of the new Touch Bar, by far the most attention went to “pro” apps — notably Final Cut and Photoshop.

The cost of a new MacBook Pro also suggests a more “pro-level” target audience. The price tags are significantly higher than for the models they replace. While you can buy a base model for $1800 (plus tax), you will more likely spend upwards of $2500 for a 13-inch model and significantly more for the 15-inch version. Phil Schiller defended the pricing, noting “we don’t design for price, we design for the experience and quality.” In any case, at these prices, the Touch Bar version of the MacBook Pro is no longer a practical option as a second computer, primarily for travel; it’s meant to be your only computer (which once again pushes desktop Macs out of the picture).

The Wall Street Journal suggested that the pricing indicates Apple will be pushing the iPad Pro (and I would add the 12-inch MacBook) as the alternatives for people who don’t want to pony up for a MacBook Pro. That’s already where I am. I have largely shifted to using my iPad Pro whenever I am not using my iMac. Meanwhile, my 2012 MacBook Pro languishes. That’s the main reason I don’t expect to buy a new MacBook Pro — despite the siren call of the Touch Bar.

Let’s step back to look at the bigger picture. If you’ve just done a major overhaul of your application to make it work well with the Touch Bar, you probably hope that your users will have a Mac that includes a Touch Bar. Apple presumably hopes so as well. So, if you’re in the market for a new Mac — Apple will likely be pushing the MacBook Pro over the iMac or Mac Pro. The only way this would change (other than the complete failure of the Touch Bar) is if the iMac eventually included a Touch Bar. This could happen, but it presents some challenges — especially getting a Touch Bar to work from a wireless keyboard. The other option is for Apple to gradually give up on the iMac going forward. That’s the more likely scenario to me.

Some assorted additional thoughts…

Given that Apple makes great Retina-quality displays for the iMac, and given Apple’s preference for hardware-software integration, I found it odd (and disappointing) that Apple appears to have abandoned the market for separate external displays. Still (and I know this is a stretch), it begins to make sense if Apple is planning an exit from the iMac market, greatly reducing the need for Apple to make large displays. In any case, for those wanting a larger screen to connect to their MacBook Pro, Apple touted new 4k and 5K displays from LG.

The MacBook Air is all but dead. Apple still sells the 13-inch model, but don’t expect that to last for long. I mean when Apple itself advises you not to buy one — as it just about did at the media event yesterday — how much longer can it survive?

Apple remains committed to not combine a touchscreen display with a Mac. The Touch Bar is Apple’s answer to how best to combine touch with a traditional computer. It’s a very different vision from Microsoft’s new Surface Studio. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next year or two. Although the Touch Bar is very appealing (and I can’t wait to try it out), I have doubts as to how much it would change my daily workflow. Beyond that, I reserve judgment for now.

One last thing…the most lingering feeling I have from Apple’s media event yesterday is one of sadness. I felt I was witnessing the passing of an era. I have owned a desktop Mac since 1984. They continue to be my preferred workhorse computer. Unfortunately, the way things are headed, they may not be around the next time I am in the market to buy a new Mac.

Afterthoughts [added after original posting]

When combining a MacBook with a large external display, it was common to close the MacBook lid and use an external keyboard. Clearly, this will not work with the new MacBook Pro — as this would eliminate the ability to use the Touch Bar.

While Apple is positioning the MacBook Pro to be able to function as a “workstation,” will pro users buy it? Is this the sort of setup such users desire? That remains to be seen.

To those who say that Apple did not update desktop Macs this week because it didn’t have the resources to do that and do the new MacBook Pro at same time, I give you 2013. In that year, Apple released/updated: MacBook Pro Retina display (updated in February and again in October), MacBook Air, Mac Pro, iMac, iPad Air, iPad mini 2, iPhone 5C and 5S, and AirPort Extreme.

Posted in Apple Inc, Mac, Technology | 24 Comments

How to get Screen Sharing in Mac OS X’s Messages to work again

Mac OS X’s Screen Sharing, by allowing me to view and control other people’s Macs from my machine at home, has long proven to be a near-essential tool for me to help my friends and relatives with their Mac problems. Screen sharing is much more effective than attempting to address such matters via a phone call. As a bonus, screen sharing serves as a live video tutorial for the recipient.

This all worked well until a few years ago when, inexplicably, Screen Sharing stopped functioning.

The break

Until the break, I had been accessing Screen Sharing via Messages (formerly iChat). Using AIM accounts, I selected my friend’s name in Messages’ Buddies list and clicked the Screen Sharing icon (two overlapping rectangles) at the bottom of the window. From here, an invitation would be issued and accepted — and we were good to go.

I’m not exactly certain when things went south, but I believe it was after Mavericks was released. The Screen Sharing icon was now typically grayed out and unselectable.

At first, I hoped this was due to a bug in Apple’s software and it would be fixed in the next OS X update. It was not.

The most likely alternative was that my Screen Sharing’s settings were not correct — possibly because Apple had changed the rules in an OS X update. I was getting warmer here — but initially I could find nothing wrong. Both at my end and the recipient end — all seemed well.

[Note: The Screen Sharing settings in the System Preferences Sharing pane have no bearing on Screen Sharing in Messages; they are independent of each other. The System Preferences method is for sharing outside of the Messages app, typically within a single network. I considered trying to get Screen Sharing to work via this alternative route, but it seemed too likely to fail — especially when dealing with persons on the other end that usually have very limited technical skills.]

In the end, I gave up without ever identifying the culprit. I periodically checked back to see if I could get Screen Sharing in Messages to work again, but never succeeded. Admittedly, I didn’t try very hard.

The fix

A few weeks ago, I renewed my interest in Messages’ Screen Sharing. This time, I was determined to find a solution. And, with some detective work and a few helpful Google searches, I had success.

What I discovered was quite a surprise: Screen Sharing in Messages’ Buddies window no longer works. Period! At least not in the latest versions of OS X. Maybe there is some combination of settings, software and hardware that can get it to function, but I couldn’t find it (although someone else apparently did; see the comment below). The reason for this, according to what I’ve read, is that Apple no longer supports the protocols necessary to get Screen Sharing to function from here.

This raises the question as to why Apple still retains the Screen Sharing icon in the Buddies window. If it no longer works, get rid of it. At the very least, provide a warning that you are likely wasting your time here.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that Screen Sharing in Messages still works — just not from the Buddies window. Rather, you access it from the Messages window. The methodology is a bit more obscure – but I can vouch that it does work. Here’s what you need to do:

1. From Messages app, open the Messages (not the Buddies) window. This is where you’ll find all your iMessage text conversations.

2. Locate and select the name of the person whose screen you want to access. If necessary, start a new message to this person so that their name appears in the left-hand column listing.

For this method to work in El Capitan or later, both users need to have iMessage accounts enabled. If necessary, check the Accounts section of Messages’ Preferences to determine if you have this set up.

[Note: An Apple support document covering Yosemite states: “You can share screens using AIM, Jabber, Google Talk, and Bonjour. You can’t share screens using Yahoo! or iMessage.” In contrast, the same article, updated for El Capitan, states: “You can share screens using iMessage. You must be logged into the same Apple ID in the iCloud pane of System Preferences and in Messages.“]

3. In the upper right corner of the Messages window, you’ll notice the word Details in blue. Click this and a mini-window pops up that contains the three icons for audio, video and screen sharing connections (as seen below).

4. Click on the Screen Sharing icon and select the “Ask to Share Screen” item that appears. This will initiate an invitation to the other person. Assuming the recipient has an iMessage account set up, she will see the invite. Once she agrees to the request, her screen will appear on your Mac!

[Note: This method opens a Screen Sharing application on your Mac, located in the System/Library folder at CoreServices/Applications. After a connection is established, the recipient’s Mac will display a Screen Sharing item in the menu bar, containing several options.]

5. Initially, you will likely be limited to viewing the person’s screen; you cannot control it. To change this, select the Control icon (rather than the binoculars “observe” icon) in the upper left of the window. After the person again gives their consent, you will have control of their Mac. At last!

There are third-party apps, such as TeamViewer, that can similarly enable screen sharing, bypassing Messages altogether. However, Messages has the advantage that all OS X users already have the app and almost all already have the needed iCloud/iMessage account set up.

As for me, I’m glad I didn’t give up on getting Messages’ Screen Sharing to work. I’m once again using it on a regular basis. It looks like the solution has been around for awhile. I might have found it sooner if I’d been more persistent earlier on. But, as they say, better late than never.

On the other hand, given the multiplicity and complexity of Screen Sharing options in Mac OS X, Apple could do a better job of making the distinctions clear. You shouldn’t have to work this hard to figure out what’s going on.

Posted in Apple Inc, Mac, Technology | 2 Comments