Sunday, December 15, 2019

A Modest Suggest for Improving the Impeachment Process: Voir Dire

Quoth US Senator Lindsey Graham:

I am trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind. I'm not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.

Well, OK, then.

Conviction in the US Senate requires "the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present" (emphasis mine).

Assuming the House does vote to impeach, the presiding judge in the US Senate trial (Chief Justice John Roberts) should take note of Graham's unambiguous statement of prejudice in the case and excuse Graham from "jury duty" as one of the first orders of business in the trial.

In fact, Roberts should have all his clerks working hard right now to identify every US Senator, of either party, who has  publicly expressed any opinion on the president's guilt or innocence in the pending case. He should then excuse all of them.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Remarkable Agreement Between Comey, Horowitz, GOP on Definition of "Criminal Intent"

If you commit a crime and are investigated/arrested/prosecuted/impeached, the question of "criminal intent" will boil down to this:

Did you intend to commit the act which constitutes a crime?

That is, did you intend to shoplift that DVD? Did you intend to fraudulently write "office supplies" next to the petty cash withdrawal at work but to actually spend the money on heroin? Did you intend to plant that ax in the head of your wife who just told you she's filing for divorce?

If you're Hillary Clinton, or the FBI, or Donald Trump, however, James Comey, or Michael Horowitz, or [insert random Republican flack's name here] will confidently assert that you only can only be demonstrated to have had "criminal intent" if you are proven to have laughed maniacally and yelled "yes, yes, I intend to do this because it violates [insert applicable US Code section here]! Wheeeeeeee! I am acting criminally, hahahahahaha!" as you committed the act which constituted the crime.

I call this the Steve Martin defense:

Story of my life ...

So I ordered a lawn mower for delivery (I'd have bought one locally, but the deal was too good to pass up -- cheaper and I don't have to haul it home myself).

If it seems like a strange time to be doing that, well, I live in Florida and have some grass I'd like to get cut down before spring comes and it starts growing again. Also, this is the time of year when they're on sale.

Anyway, it was supposed to be here on Wednesday, and wasn't.

And then it was supposed to be here yesterday, and wasn't.

I see that it's actually on the truck for final delivery as of early this morning.

So, you guessed it -- we're getting rain today and all weekend.


File Under "Do As We Say, Not As We Do"

Camera One, December 11:

The U.S. ambassador also said the Trump administration seeks to make it "crystal clear" that continued tests of ballistic missiles [by North Korea] would be "deeply counterproductive to shared objectives" of the two countries.

Camera Two, December 12:

The U.S. Air Force tests a medium range ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base over the Pacific Ocean, Thursday, December 12, the second such test of the country's nuclear missile force in less than three months.

Not Quite There ...

Season 4 of The Expanse (not an affiliate link!) is out on Amazon Prime Video as of this morning.

But I'm not watching it. Yet.

I watched the original three seasons some time back, loved the show, and it took me a little while to get Tamara to re-binge it with me (I think noticing that Shohreh Aghdashloo is in it probably tipped the balance there). We're somewhere in the middle of Season 2 at the moment, and she's into it. So hopefully we'll get to Season 4 before the new year.

The first three seasons aired on Syfy. After they dropped it, Amazon picked it up.

My understanding is that this decision was personally made by Jeff Bezos, who announced it at the 2018 International Space Development Conference.

When the wealthiest man in the world, who in addition to Amazon also happens to have major financial interests in space travel enterprises and has been known to publicly muse about space colonization, personally intervenes to save a show about space travel and space colonization, my ears perk up.

And it's a good show. I wouldn't call it a "libertarian show," but there are definitely some things woven into its theme that libertarians will likely find appealing.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Well, I Knew It Would Happen Sooner or Later

I ordered a shake from a fast food place, and it came with a paper straw.

Idiotic. Of all the things I've ever been interested in trying just to see what they would be like, trying to suck liquefied ice cream through a paper straw has never made the list. It's exactly as unpleasant as it sounds like it would be.

A Public Note to a Sender of Confidential Email

At least twice now, I've received an email with the subject line:

"Confidential email from [pseudonym redacted]"

It's via a service called Tutanota (not an affiliate link). Included in the email is a link to view the message.

But when I get there, it asks me to "Please enter the password which you have agreed upon with the sender."

The problem is, I can't remember agreeing on a password with anyone for receiving messages via Tutanota.

I'm not saying I didn't do such a thing. Just that I can't remember doing such a thing -- or, more importantly, if I did do such a thing, can I remember the password in question.

So I can't read the message. Nor do I have any idea who the person is behind the Tutanota pseudonym.

If you're reading this, person who's sending me confidential messages, I guess we need to find a way to agree on a password if you really want to use that service to send me a message. Sorry for the inconvenience.

I'm Beginning to Think It's Not Meant to Be

A little while back, I ordered this ...

... from Amazon via Purse (affiliate link).

It's an Applecreek mountain dulcimer (not an affiliate link).

Price (before my Purse discount), $48.

It arrived. Damaged. Headstock completely broken off.

When you return items purchased through Purse, Amazon refunds the price directly to you in US dollars to your Amazon balance, rather than in cryptocurrency via Purse, so I actually made a buck or two on the transaction.

But what I really wanted was the dulcimer. So  when I saw this morning that my refund had been processed, I went to re-order it.

"This item is only available from third-party sellers."

From $119.

I want the dulcimer, but I don't want it $119 bad, just $48 bad.

I don't know if they're just temporarily out of stock or if they've decided to stop carrying it. I do see the same instrument elsewhere for about the same price, but my money isn't elsewhere, it's at Amazon.

I guess I'll wait and see if they get it back in at the regular price. If not, maybe I'll buy a decent ukulele or something with the money.

Word PSA: "Austerity"

Per Al Jazeera:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party have offered starkly different visions for resolving the impasse and rebuilding the UK after a decade of austerity.

austerity, n. Difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce public expenditure.

Between 2009 and 2018, annual UK government expenditures rose by more than 20%, from £671 billion to £842 billion, at no point in between ever falling as low as that 2009 figure (in fact, falling in only one year -- and the year after that rising to higher than before the one-year reduction).

UK government expenditures grew more slowly over the last decade than they grew the decade before that (in which they grew by about 45%) but slowing the rate of increase of something is not "reducing" that thing.

If I go from weighing 165 pounds to weighing 195 pounds over ten years, and then over the subsequent ten years go from 195 to 215 (falling from 210 to 208 during one annual period), an increase of "only" 20 pounds instead of 30 pounds, no, that second decade was not a decade of "losing weight."

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Android is Cancer

Not on smartphones, I guess (I don't have anything to compare it to -- never had an iPhone or Windoze phone).

But on the Lenovo Chromebook with 4Gb of RAM and a 2-core 1.6GHz Celeron CPU that I'm using as my desktop machine, it was slowing everything down.

You'd think it would only use resources when you were, you know, running Android apps. But nooooooooo, unless you uninstall the Google Play Store, there's always a bunch of Android crap running in the background.

Since I didn't have any Android apps installed that I couldn't live without, no biggie. But  a machine that isn't supposed to need a lot of CPU power or RAM for most stuff can't have a bunch of extra CPU/RAM-intensive crap running on it all the time without getting a stomach ache.

Well, Yes, of COURSE I want the SOB Impeached

Not because I dislike him in particular. I would retrospectively be happy to see any president of my lifetime impeached, with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter (and that's just because I've never dug into his record enough to find out what he did that merited impeachment).

Nor because I'm particularly interested in seeing  the system "work" by "serving justice." I don't like the system (the Westphalian nation-state), and in principle I consider anything that weakens it to be a good thing.

I believe that impeaching Trump but not removing him will weaken the system.

Senate acquittal will be more than just the increasingly common injection of congressional steroids into the arm of the imperial presidency. Given the format of a trial, coupled with the complete absence of reasonable doubt that he did what he's accused of doing and the fact that what he did was political in nature rather than along the lines of lying about a hummer from an intern, acquittal will amount to a formal declaration:

Ave Imperator!

The open and unabashed elevation of the office of president to the institution of Caesar,  god-emperor, above and immune to all law and custom, is a pretty big step down the path of political disintegration.

Which is also a bad thing in the short term. It's going to be ugly and it's going to be dangerous. But it's coming sooner or later in any case. Might as well enjoy the show as it approaches and hope we can build something better where the former United States once stood.


Matt Welch takes on "populism" at Reason. The piece's tag line: "Roughly five times as many people live under populist governments now compared to ten years ago."

But multiplying any number by zero returns a result of zero.

There's No Such Thing As A Populist State

Populism as a political theory, in all its variants, pits the righteous masses against the power elites.

And monopoly political government, aka the state, is always run by, and for the benefit of, a political class, aka a power elite.

Yes, a genuinely populist upsurge may unseat and replace the membership of the existing power elite, but the replacements will quickly constitute themselves as a new power elite (and/or be re-overthrown by, or infiltrated by, the previous power elite).

So no, there are not, as Welch quotes the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change asserting, 21 populist governments ruling 2.8 billion subjects. There are no populist governments. Those 2.8 billion subjects are ruled by power elites just like everyone else.

But Welch's piece is still interesting and worth a read.

Yes, Pete Buttigieg is Doing Better Than I Expected

In the RealClearPolitics polling averages, he's on top of the pile in Iowa and in second place in New Hampshire, behind Bernie Sanders but ahead of Joe Biden (and Elizabeth Warren, whose prospects seem to be fading slowly away, as I had not predicted).

The main thing I've been right on so far in this primary cycle has been predicting (from at least as early as her busing-based attack on Joe Biden) that Kamala Harris wouldn't be the nominee. She finally dropped out recently.

I've pretty much consistently predicted that it will be Biden, Warren, or Biden/Warren, and that's looking pretty dicey at the moment.

A commenter on this blog -- I think it was Thane Eichenauer, but I don't remember what post it was on and haven't found the comment -- suggested some time back that Buttigieg may well be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. I disagreed.

I still disagree.

He's in kind of a weird pocket. He has just enough of a political record to be both minimized and savaged, but not enough of one to run on.

In 2016, the US elected a president with precisely zero political experience.

Usually, the US elects a president with quite a bit of political experience, the main exception being successful generals like Grant and Eisenhower.

The last time I can think of offhand (I haven't carefully researched it) where a candidate quickly ascended from local office to the presidency was nearly 140 years ago when  Grover Cleveland went from mayor of Buffalo in January of 1882, to governor of New York in January of 1883, to president of the United States in March of 1885.

That governorship was an important step. The US elects governors, Senators, and generals. The last time someone was elected from the US House to the presidency was 1880, and the only time someone went from having held no elective office at all to the presidency and from not being a general was 2016.

Even Barack Obama took a short victory lap in the US Senate after his Big Speech before successfully running for president.

We're living in strange times, but I still don't think the mayor of a city of 300,000 is going to go directly to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue without passing a governor's mansion or Capitol Hill. And I don't think the Democratic Party will try to make that happen.

But as we've seen, I can be wrong, and when I am it's usually about nominations.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Here We Go Again With the Unconstitutional Fake "Trials"

Per US state media:

"[Genaro] Garcia Luna stands accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes from 'El Chapo' Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel while [Garcia Luna] controlled Mexico's Federal Police Force and was responsible for ensuring public safety in Mexico," U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue wrote in a statement. "Today's arrest demonstrates our resolve to bring to justice those who help cartels inflict devastating harm on the United States and Mexico, regardless of the positions they held while committing their crimes."

The article says that "The government wants Garcia Luna moved to New York to face the charges."

But the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution requires that "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed ..."

Which, with these allegations, would be some state, district or other political division of subdivision of the country of Mexico, not the US state of New York.

They did the same thing to "El Chapo" himself.

The Funniest Thing About Scott Adams's Meltdown Today ...

... is that after a couple of years of getting his supporters to yell "MIND-READING" to shut down any discussion of motive or intention or feeling vis a vis Trump, he spends the first several minutes of his podcast ... mind-reading the motives, intentions, and feelings of congressional Democrats and throwing a temper tantrum rivaling even me for vulgarity over what his psychic sixth sense tells him they really intend and feel.

He even calls Nancy Pelosi a See You Next Tuesday for saying she feels/believes one thing when he has read her mind and determined that she feels/believes otherwise.

The second funniest thing is that the ScottBot I know best was spitting about the evil of "mind-reading" vis a vis  Trump within MINUTES of extolling Adams's tour de force  today.

I'm ambivalent -- or at least apathetic -- about the impeachment circus in general, but I have to admit watching Trump's defenders fall completely to pieces as they realize they can't re-shape the fabric of reality through sheer force of denial is great fun.

One of the Few Times I'll Thank a Politician ...

... is when he or she keeps a promise to "self-term-limit."

"My" US Representative, Republican Ted Yoho, announced today that this is his final term in office, in keeping with a "no more than four terms" promise he made when he first ran for the seat.

I'm not as big on term limits as some libertarians. Nothing against them, but I also don't see them as a major solution to problems I care about.

But when a politician who claims to support term limits and promises to serve no more than X terms actually keeps the promise, I'm favorably impressed.

Thank you, Congressman Yoho.

"I would like you to do us a favor though"

I guess it's reasonable to argue over whether that's an offer of a bribe ("military aid and maybe a White House visit in return for investigating my political opponent") or an attempt at extortion a la the "encrypted your files and you have to send Bitcoin to me to get the key" cyber attack trend ("I've stolen your stuff, you only get it back if I get what I want").

But it's clearly one or the other, not to mention a separation of powers foul (Congress appropriated the aid -- the job of the executive, absent a successful veto, is to execute Congress's instructions, not to alter them for his own political benefit).

The evidence is airtight (including but not limited to a public confession from the president himself, corroborated by an official document he authorized the release of), so I'm puzzled to hear that House Democrats don't intend to include it in the articles of impeachment they'll be introducing later today.

From what I'm hearing, the articles will be two in number: "Abuse of power" and "obstruction of Congress." Which are fine, I guess, but they don't seem likely to be as compelling to voters as the personal corruption angle.

Do they think that not charging that part of the matter will reduce the heat on Joe Biden? If so, they've got another think coming. "But Democrats are corrupt tooooooooooooooo" is really the only card Senate Republicans have to play, and that's the card they'd play even if the charge was nuking Baton Rouge.

Monday, December 09, 2019

'Round Midnight ...

... the share price of "yes" "Will Donald Trump be impeached by year-end 2019?" hit 79 cents and my sell order went through. I deposited a little less than $20 at PredictIt to buy those shares; now I have a balance of $40.01 in my account.

I thought about rolling the whole amount over to "no" shares in "Will the Senate convict Donald Trump on impeachment in his first term?" but those are already selling at 88 cents so there's not much profit to be made.

I haven't found another bet to make yet.

I'm tempted to buy "no" on Pete Buttigieg for "Who will win the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses?" but it's at 64 cents and I'm not completely certain -- I expect something to come out about his NDA-covered consulting work that will crater his popularity between now and mid-January, but I could be wrong.

I'm also tempted to buy "yes" on Bernie Sanders, but I'm concerned he'll keel over with another coronary before February and not get up and keep going next time.

I'll probably go with "yes" on "Will the winner of the Iowa Democratic caucuses also win New Hampshire?" if the price doesn't jump before I make up my mind.

We'll see.

Shocked -- Shocked!, Afghanistan War Edition

Houston Chronicle version, since many people don't like having to mess with WaPo's paywall idiocy:

A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable. ... With most speaking on the assumption that their remarks would not become public, U.S. officials acknowledged that their warfighting strategies were fatally flawed and that Washington wasted enormous sums of money trying to remake Afghanistan into a modern nation.

Hmm ... the people running a $1 trillion (so far) project that furnished them with salaries, authority,  excuses for other things, etc., lied about the fact that that project showed no likelihood whatsoever of delivering on its publicly announced objectives?

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Lyrics: Five-Finger Discount on Love

I haven't recorded this yet, both because I'm awaiting some recording facilitation gear and because I'm still messing with it -- but since I put out everything I write under a Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication, feel free to do your own thing with it if you like (yes, pun intended). My conception of it is either 8-bar blues or vocal over a drone blues riff.

I'm putting it behind the "read more" wall because, as you might guess from the title, it's a bit racy and not intended for the children.

Words Mean Things, NAS Pensacola Edition

On Friday, a Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant shot and killed a US Navy ensign and two US Air Force airmen at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida.

On Saturday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that he "can’t say [the attack was] terrorism at this time."

Well, duh. In US law, "terrorism" means "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents."

This was an attack on military personnel, by military personnel, at a military base. The targets weren't noncombatants. QED, the attack was not "terrorism."

Harmonicas: Inexpensive versus Cheap

Recommendation: If you're looking for an inexpensive harmonica, go with the Fender Blues Deluxe line (not an affiliate link).

I don't play harmonica often enough or well enough to be willing to fork over for, say, a Hohner Special 20 or Marine Band (not affiliate links). I have a couple of (inherited/gifted) Marine Bands, but you know me -- until this last week, I hadn't paid more than $100 for a guitar in nearly 20 years. Unless I take the time to get a lot better, and start playing the harmonica in public, I'm just not going to pay $40 or so for a harp.

On the other hand, the sub-$10 harmonicas I've bought in the past have uniformly been complete wastes of money. If they're even in tune when they come out of the box, and that's a gamble right there, they require more forceful breathing to get an audible sound out of, aren't very accommodating to "bending" notes, and are likely to blow a reed in the first few minutes of playing.

I'm not just talking about off brands here. Hohner's Piedmont Blues line is just complete crap. A set of seven harps will only set you back $25 (I got mine on sale for $15 on Black Friday a few years ago), but the nice nylon zipper case they come in is the only thing of any real value in the collection. Two of them were unplayable (not in tune) when I pulled them out of the case, I had to huff and puff like the Big Bad Wolf to get them to make noise, and none of them lasted more than a few songs without blowing reeds.

I've purchased two of the Blues Deluxe harps (in G and B-flat). Metal cover plates, not plastic. They feel substantial and seem well built. They're in tune. I can easily bend notes when playing blues cross harp (which is pretty much all I use a harmonica for), and they produce a big sound without me leaving me gasping for air. I haven't blown a reed on one yet.

They'll set you back $12-15 each, or $60 for a set of seven (A, B-Flat, C, D, E, F, G) in a nice case. That's a little bit more than the cheapest harmonicas, but the difference isn't just big enough to matter, it's too big to ignore.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

It May Be Close ...

This is my 315th post of 2019.

That means 50 posts to go if I want to make my goal of averaging one post per day in 2019.

I promise that I won't just continue with "this is my nth post of 2019 ..." to make the goal. But I figured one update was reasonable if for no other reason than that maybe I'll get some encouragement from y'all over the next couple of weeks.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Update on my Impeachment "Investment"

I'm the proud owner of 53 shares of "yes" to the question "Will Donald Trump be impeached by year-end 2019?" on PredictIt.

I paid an average of 37 cents each for those shares. They're currently at 70 cents.

I've got a sell offer in at 79 cents per share.

Why am I not riding it out to the full dollar per share on a successful impeachment vote in the House before December 31?

Because there's still some hypothetical risk that the vote will fail, or for some reason won't occur at all, or will occur after December 31.

I think that risk is minimal -- the only event I can think of offhand that might stop or significantly delay the vote is a mass casualty attack on the US itself or on US military forces in areas of the world where they have no business being -- but I have to acknowledge that the risk exists.

That being the case, I figure that doubling my money or better is a reasonable outcome -- not too risky, not too greedy -- so I picked the first prime number above 74 (prime numbers are a thing with me) and set my shares to sell at that number.

Maybe I'll change my mind before it gets there. If it gets there. Or maybe not.

Enough with the "Racing" Talk

I don't think a week goes by that I don't see a headline telling me that Congress is "racing" to do this or that. Yesterday's version: "Congress races to beat deadline on shutdown."

They passed a continuing resolution two weeks ago, and have until December 20 to pass another one to prevent some stupid "shutdown" theatrics.

The Hill piece linked above calls this a "tight time frame."

On December 7, 1941 -- 78 years ago tomorrow -- the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

On December 8, 1941, Congress passed a declaration of war on Japan.

In what universe is a month to pass yet another "kick the budget can down the road" bill a "tight time frame?"

And how is sitting around arguing about it "racing?"

Platform Crowd-Sourcing Project: "Unreasonably"

Over at Facebook, Mike Shipley writes:

The immigration plank’s conditional language (“unreasonably”) is a loophole so big you can drive a wall through it. Who is on board with closing this loophole in Austin?

The Libertarian Party's 2020 platform committee is not yet fully assembled -- the Libertarian National Committee has filled its quota, but several states also get to send representatives -- but I don't see any reason why I shouldn't get to work listening to suggestions from, and discussing those suggestions with, party members (and non-party libertarians).

Here's the back story on the plank in question.

As of 2016:

3.4 Free Trade and Migration

We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property.

Current version, following amendment at the 2018 Libertarian National Convention:

3.4 Free Trade and Migration

We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property.

The platform committee, on the basis of strong arguments from several of its members, recommended that change to the convention, a delegate (Starchild) successfully moved on the convention floor to have it be the first recommendation considered from the committee's report, and the convention delegates overwhelmingly approved the change.

Obviously I didn't get it done all by myself, but I do like to think that I helped at least as much as any one other person. As friends and readers may remember, getting that change accomplished was the top item on my "campaign platform" when I sought selection to the 2018 platform committee, and it was the first (non-procedural/organizational) item I moved to consider on that committee.

So why did I not move, at the same time, to strike the word "unreasonably" from the plank? Two reasons:

  1. The more changes a proposal seeks in a plank, the less likely it is that any of those changes will be adopted. Each and every change presumptively puts more people on the "no" side. Each and every change adds to debate time (during a time-limited platform session). Each and every change invites further amendments from the floor to change that change. And so on and so forth.
  2. I wanted to leave "soft" non-open-borders supporters an out that would allow them to support the change we did make. The removal of that final clause took the positive general argument for government control of borders out of the platform, but left room for immigration restrictionists to argue that any specific restrictionist proposal was "reasonable." I don't know of any such proposal that would pass muster with the party's Statement of Principles in particular, or with libertarian thought in general, but hell, let them try, right?

Was my approach on the word "unreasonably" cowardly? I won't argue the point. I wanted to get the one thing done badly enough that I was willing to let the other thing go ... or at least leave it for another time.

Mr. Shipley appears to believe that that other time is now. So do others in the party whose opinions I share and/or respect, at least one of whom (Josh Barton) has already sent me some sample language for a complete re-write of the plank.

I'd like to hear other opinions.

By way of disclosure, let me make it clear up front that in my opinion "open borders" is the only libertarian position on the subject and ought to be the Libertarian Party's position on the subject. So I'm not looking for opinions on why the plank should be more restrictionist. I'm looking for opinions on whether I should pick this next fight and, if so, how to win it.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

I Seldom Do Two Nancy Pelosi Posts in One Day ...

... but when I do, one of them usually features this quote:

Reporter: "Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?"

Pelosi: "Are you serious? Are you serious?"

Which is pretty much a more brusque and dismissive congressional version of Nixon's "Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal."

Why does that moment come to mind today?

Well, all of a sudden, and quite possibly for the very first time, it seems to have occurred to Pelosi that Congress might have some kind of obligation to take the Constitution seriously: "The president's actions have seriously violated the Constitution. Our democracy is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act."

Translation: Pelosi-ese to English


“There are concerns in the House about enshrining the increasingly controversial ... liability shield in our trade agreements, particularly at a time when Congress is considering whether changes need to be made in U.S. law,” said a spokesman for [US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi], according to The Wall Street Journal. ... the inclusion of the immunity language in the trade-pact could make it more difficult for Congress to remove the current federal online protections for internet firms in the future, said some lawmakers, according to Wall Street Journal.


Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act makes it harder for us to censor the Internet and punish companies who let people say things we don't like. We're trying to get rid of that barrier to our exercise of  unbridled censorship powers here at home and certainly don't want it incorporated in trade agreements or treaties.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Rescued Facebook Comment About Trump and the GOP

Because it seems worthwhile:

If there's one good thing coming out of the Trump presidency, it's that he's re-made the GOP's political approach in a way that's going to be hard to un-re-make.

From the Reagan era (and to some degree since Goldwater) until recently, Republicans campaigned in drag as libertarians then contentedly governed like FDR/LBJ Democrats.

Now they're campaigning like Peronists or Gaullists (minus having a leader figure who's ever shown any personal courage or other redeeming personal characteristics) and governing like FDR/LBJ Democrats while they try to figure out a way to successfully implement North Korea's Juche or Albania's Hoxhaism in the US.

That should make it hard for them to pivot back to "we're libertarians at heart, but it's just never reached our balls"* after the Trump era ends.

* That's an apocryphal David Bergland reference. A Republican once told him "I'm a libertarian at heart." Bergland's reply: "Let me know when it reaches your balls."

Pardon Me, Trump, is That the Fool The Yokels Choo Choo?

All aboard the Trump Peace Train! Er ...

The Trump administration is looking into sending as many as 14,000 more troops, as well as dozens more ships and other equipment, to the Middle East in the face of a[n always supposedly imminent, but never actually eventuating] threat from Iran, The Wall Street Journal reported. ... The Pentagon’s No. 3 official, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood said Wednesday that the Pentagon [wants Americans to believe] that Tehran may soon attack U.S. targets or interests in the Middle East.

Larry Beinhart's novel American Hero (on which the film Wag The Dog is loosely based) should be required reading in every high school civics class (including homeschool equivalents -- suggested rather than required for unschoolers, I guess).

Why Kamala Harris Dropped Out

Ultimately, because she just wasn't a very good candidate. I've seen all kinds of excuses from the usual (racism and misogyny) to the weird (billionaires don't like her -- as if they like Bernie Sanders any better), but she had chance after chance to excel and bobbled them all.

She didn't perform well enough in debates, media appearances, and other activities to increase her initial base of support and keep those increases.

She enjoyed a short (and IMO undeserved) spike in her polling from kicking Joe Biden in the nuts in public over, of all things, busing in the early 1970s, but for the most part she just hemorrhaged support every time a camera got pointed her way.

She froze and/or stumbled any time she got a question that wasn't a softball. Anything more complicated than a smirking one-liner was just too much to ask of her.

She fell completely to pieces when Tulsi Gabbard pointed out that as Attorney General of California she WAS the law enforcement establishment that real advocates of criminal justice reform have been fighting for decades.

She looked like an idiot when she came back at Gabbard later with the Clintonite "being groomed by the Russians" nonsense.

When a US Senator and former Attorney General of the most populous state in the US enjoys a big campaign launch but then eventually falls behind the mayor of a midwest city of 300,000 in the polls, it's clearly time to pack it in.

Who knew that climbing the political ladder at the sub-gubernatorial level in a single state, through unthinking party loyalty/soldiery, wasn't nearly as difficult or complicated as trying to appeal to millions of primary voters nationwide?

Harris just wasn't ready for prime time, and kept proving it over and over.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Why Can't It Be Both?

"Will impeachment hurt Democrats or Trump?" Niall Stanage asks at The Hill.

The eternal third party hope is that large numbers from among both notional "independents" and the less dedicated partisans on both sides of the duopoly will pronounce a pox on both houses.

Maybe they will in 2020, but if so I expect the symptom to be depressed turnout, not a strong third party performance.

The kind of independent or third party candidate who could and would provide a rallying point for those who can't stomach either the "don't even bother to hide it" banana republicanism that the GOP under Trump has completely given itself to, or the barmy tinfoil-hat McCarthyist  "everyone we don't like is a Russian asset" mania coming from the Democratic side, would probably have had to start making his or her public moves by now to come anywhere close to matching the duopoly's vote totals next November.

That's if such a candidate exists, and I'm not certain one does -- especially if we exclude from consideration the rare sociopath who thinks the likelihood of the system's collapse justifies the risk of tearing into that system from the outside rather than taking the usual sociopathic route of working it from the inside.

Thanks For Asking! -- 12/03/19

Yes, it's monthly AMA thread time again, thanks to Free Pony Express ...

Ask (me anything), and ye shall receive an answer (in the comments below this post, or in a stand-alone post, or via some other as yet unspecified medium).

My Black Friday Online Spending was Below Average

Maybe just because I was out of town, camping in the woods away from such temptations, that day?

Shoppers spent $7.4 billion online during Black Friday sales.

That comes to about $22.75 per American.

I only spent $19.99 -- Inoreader had a "buy one year of upgrade, get six months extra free" sale and started running it a couple of days early. I was nearing the maximum number of feed subscriptions for their "free" tier, it's an essential work tool for me, and upgrading also means the ads go away without me having to use uBlock Origin to suppress them. I was waiting for a Black Friday or Christmas sale, and voila, one showed up.

Monday, December 02, 2019

The Other Case for a Four-Day Work Week

The usual case I see is that people "deserve" fewer hours and more time off, as with this column. But jobs aren't about what people "deserve." They're about supply, demand, cost, etc.

Back in the late '80s or early '90s, the factory I worked at had a suggestion box, and a program that offered the employee 20% of whatever he or she saved the company in the first year his or her suggestion was implemented.

I suggested a four-day work week, and made an economic case for it.

This plant built boat trailers, and one place that it could save money by going from five 8-hour days to four 10-hour days, two shifts was with the cost of running the giant oven that was used to dry the paint on the trailers.

Working two 8-hour shifts (17 hours total due to a half-hour lunch break), the oven was turned off for three hours at the end of the night shift and turned back on four hours before day shift started to get it heated back up, which used a lot of electricity. With only three hours between shifts, it could just be left on and stay hot. My back of the envelope calculation was that this saved the plant about $106,000 a year. That didn't count the costs that were saved by a full per week of not having to have every light in the plant on, etc.

Then there were the drivers who transported trailers to the boat plants. The distances to two of the three plants was such that in an eight-hour day, a driver could make two trips. In a ten-hour day, three trips. So 12 trips per four-day week (unless the management wanted to pay overtime) or 10 per five-day week.

And of course the workers got three-day weekends -- or, if an overtime shift was needed, it at least didn't cut into their two-day weekends.

My suggestion was adopted (a month after I made it, even though fellow employees had been grumbling for it for years, so yeah, it was my argument that made the case) ... but I was never paid the bounty for it, and when I asked, was told I wouldn't be. From what I understand, the plant manager sold the idea to the company owner as his own. And after six years of never getting caught in a lay-off, I suddenly did. So I went and found a different job.

There's probably a lesson there on how to go about making suggestions. I probably should have sent the entire argument to the company owner directly instead of putting it in the suggestion box.

Anyway, in many specific cases, a four-day work week makes business sense, and it seems to me that's a more likely sale to business owners than "workers deserve more time off."

Danksgiving was Dank and Giving

Best weekend in a long time.

Lots of great bands (and lots of picking around the fire when no one was on stage).

Lots of friendliness and mutual assistance, including in the area of entheogenic facilitation.

I gotta do this hippie music festival stuff more often.

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