Saturday, October 24, 2020

Transitioning Away from the Oil Industry ...

... would be a "smaller-government" thing, if done correctly.

Of course, that's not how Joe Biden means it or frames it. He's thinking in terms of having the government pick energy winners and losers, through regulation and subsidy, with the environment as the excuse.

One need not pick a side in the climate change debate, though, to favor "transitioning away from the oil industry," because if it's done right, it's the right thing to do.

And the right way to do it is to quit subsidizing the oil industry.

Instead of the state spending hundreds of billions of dollars of American taxpayer money every year on military presences in oil-rich foreign countries to "secure" the supplies for the oil industry's use, and the state strong-arming those foreign governments to tamp down supply so that prices stay high, switch to a non-interventionist foreign policy. Let the oil companies pay for their own damn armies, etc.

Instead of the state entering into sweetheart deals with the oil companies domestically, under which the companies get cheap leases on drilling rights on "public" land, under which the state steals private property and hands it to the oil companies as pipeline easements using eminent domain, and under which the taxpayer picks up the costs of e.g. roads to make the drilling leases accessible, auction off that "public" land, in plausibly homestead-size plots, to natural persons only. If the oil companies want to drill there, let them work out leases, easements, etc. with real owners instead of with the squatter gang known as government.

Oil and other fossil fuels are probably the most heavily subsidized energy source on the planet, even more so than nuclear energy's massive insurance subsidies under Price-Anderson and so forth. I don't approve of subsidies for wind or solar, either, but their subsidies are a drop of water in the lake compared to the oil companies' welfare checks.

Cut ALL the subsidies off -- wind, solar, ethanol, nuclear, coal, oil, gas -- and let the market work things out. Do that, and oil will quickly get FAR less competitive.

The 30-Mile Test Ride ...

... went OK. I rode from my home to Bronson, Florida (15.x miles) and back.

I hate that ride. Hate it. And love it.

The "hate it" part:

The rolling terrain makes it feel like it's uphill both ways -- every long, slight, uphill grade is draining if you're rolling under human power, and the long, slight downhill grades aren't steep enough to build much momentum for the next upswing. The net change in elevation each way is about 20 feet, but I the cumulative change is several hundred. Ten feet down over a mile, 15 feet up over the next half mile, then 20 feet down ... tiring. One time I got a flat tire AND heat exhaustion on the ride back, which isn't a great memory. And until this ride, every ride has also involved hostile dogs chasing the bike.

The "love it" part:

It's pretty country (I'm planning, or at least hoping, to live out there eventually). It's a sin to not visit Bo Diddley's grave periodically, and this year I got to do so on Tom Petty's birthday. And whenever I get up that way, I also get one of the better burgers in this part of Florida at Shakers Drive-Thru.

The "how did the new bike do" part:

I think the new bike did quite well.

No flat tires or mechanical malfunctions on the way there or back. The derailleur does need some adjusting (it likes to slip around when being shifted into low gear), and I should probably spend a few minutes measuring and getting a more perfect seat to pedal distance, but those things don't go to the bike's quality.

I did't try to track how much human-powered pedaling versus assisted pedaling versus no-pedal-just-throttle I did. My guess is that I covered 1/3 to 1/2 the distance (probably toward the higher end of that) under purely human power, and all but maybe a quarter mile of the rest using pedal assist. I kept pedal assist going for almost all of the last five miles or so, with some throttle at the very end, to see if the battery was going to give up the ghost. It still had power when I reached the house.

So now I know the battery can handle a 30-mile trip. And I think it was a harder 30-mile trip than most. If I'd gone to Newberry instead of to Bronson (similar distances),  I'd have faced less than half the net elevation change, and probably FAR less than half the cumulative elevation change.

A thirty-mile ride, even one that was only fully-human-powered for half the distance, was probably more than I should have bitten off so quickly. My knees are hammered, so it will be a few days before I ride again and I'm going to take it easy for a while before the next test of the bike's range and performance. But now that I know 30 miles is doable on one battery charge even in my shape, at my weight, etc., I'm hopeful that 50 miles is also within reasonable reach.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Today's Presidential Campaign Update

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

This Feels Like the Most Boring Presidential Election Since 1996

In 1996, everyone knew Bill Clinton was going to be re-elected and no one thought for a minute that Bob Dole was going to beat him.

This election is just about as boring. I wouldn't say the outcome is as certain (I'm still prepared to be very wrong in my prediction of Biden racking up 319 electoral votes to Trump's 219), but the dynamic is just as tedious.

Trump's throwing every bit of shit he or his cronies can dig up at the wall and hoping something sticks, and failing.

Biden's trying not to say anything remotely controversial, which means not saying much at all, and succeeding.

It's like watching one kid repeatedly push on a door that has to be pulled on to open, while another kid sits nearby reading a book.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Biden Derangement Syndrome

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at how many people seem to genuinely believe that if center-right Democrat Joe Biden defeats center-right Democrat-in-all-but-name Donald Trump !!!TEH ANTIFAS!!! will burn down their houses right before !!!TEH WOKES!!! shove them on boxcars for transport to pomo intersectional trans-lesbian re-education camps.

In reality, the main effect will likely be demand for guns and ammo remaining strong for a few more months instead of dropping off by Inauguration Day.

Other than that and some possible unrest for a few weeks regardless of how the election goes, I expect pretty much business as usual.

Getting the Hang (and the Range) of the New Bike

Yesterday's ride was 17 miles, give or take -- to the gym via one route, home via another to get a good mix of "country bike trail," "county road," and "city street." My speedometer/odometer phone app kept freezing up, so I don't have average speed stats, etc. Probably fairly slow, as much of the ride was in traffic and on streets with traffic lights.

No problem with battery life for that range. I pedaled when the going was easy (probably 8-10 of the 17 miles), used "pedal assist" on uphill grades, and only hit the throttle for things like getting across intersections from a dead stop, or swooping across from a far-right bike lane to a turn lane. Basically anything where doing so seemed like it would reduce inconvenience to nearby motorists (and make collisions with same less likely). I did go full throttle the last 1/3 mile or so just to see if the battery was dying -- it didn't seem to be.

When I ordered the bike, I considered "pedal assist" an afterthought, but I can see now it will be the real workhorse, at least if I want to get much range out of the bike. It cranks up the motor just enough to make pedaling easy. So I expect to find out fairly soon whether my knee problems from pedaling have more to do with the motion, or more to do with the weight they're pushing.

I'm reasonably confident I have a 20-mile-plus range if I'm smart about minimizing throttle use and only using pedal assist when it makes sense to.

My next plan, probably for this Friday, is to take a 30-mile ride to Bronson and back. I've always hated that ride -- it feels like it's uphill both ways for some reason -- but it should be a good test of whether I can milk 30 miles out of a single battery charge. Besides, it's been at least a year since I visited Bo Diddley's grave or had a burger at Shakers.

If I can get 30 miles out of one battery charge, the next steps, in November or December, are visits to Fort White (40 miles) to visit one of my fine readers, and perhaps Cedar Key (48 miles), with a battery re-charges at the far ends.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Speaking of Biden Winning ...

... I've come across a few people opining that the Hunter Biden laptop story might cost him the election.

I don't think it will.

That's not to say he will necessarily win, just that whatever happens, that particular story doesn't seem likely, to me, to have much effect at all.

For one thing, a substantial number of Americans -- 20 million, give or take -- had already voted before the story broke.

For another, there are probably just not many truly undecided voters left, and the decided voters probably aren't going to change their decisions over this.

Even assuming that the Biden emails are real and weren't modified by Rudy Giuliani and Friends prior to being handed over to the post (not a safe assumption), they don't tell us anything truly new.

Everyone who cared already knew that Hunter Biden got his sweetheart job with Burisma because Daddy was vice-president of the United States.

Everyone who cared already knew that Daddy abused his office to get a troublesome Ukrainian prosecutor fired, since he bragged about it on video.

Everyone who cared had already figured out that influence peddling, direct or otherwise, was at play here.

And everyone who cared had already factored all that into their voting decisions before the New York Post ran its story.

If Biden's losing because of Hunter/Ukraine, he was losing because of Hunter/Ukraine before this particular October Non-Surprise. If he wasn't losing because of it, he's not going to suddenly start losing because of it now.

So, if Biden Wins ...

 ... will Democrats take it as a mandate to extend and increase the "!!!ERMAGERD COVID-19 EVERYONE HIDE UNDER YOUR BED OR IT WILL GET YEW!!!" approach to the pandemic, or will said pandemic suddenly magically end as a side effect of national renewal and progress, maybe even before Inauguration Day? Discuss.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

New Bike: Second Impressions

OK, I downloaded a speedometer app for my phone to test out the new bike's speed claims of 18-25 miles per hour. I'd say that's a solid claim -- the top speed I managed, running on motor only, on fairly level ground and on a smooth road, was 22 mph (riding downwind -- 18 mph riding into the wind).

As to range, that's going to be a little more complicated.

The bike claims a range of 22-28 miles on battery power, 28-35 miles using "pedal assist" mode.

The simple way of thinking about range is hey, I should be able to pull the throttle back and go 22-28 miles before the battery dies.

But that's not how it works. When the company talks about range, they're presumably talking about ideal conditions -- average rider weight (this is a Chinese women's bike, so about 126 pounds),  and the motor/battery always operating at maximum efficiency. I weight nearly twice as much as an average Chinese woman, and if the bike is ever operating at maximum efficiency, it's not doing so that often. Getting up to speed from a standing start, going uphill, etc. drains the battery faster than kicking the motor on when I'm already going 15 miles an hour and riding on level ground. Running the motor constantly is going to result in more energy lost as heat instead of going into driving the motor. And so on and so forth.

I put about 15 miles on the bike on its first battery charge. I think I probably pedaled 2-3 miles of that, coasted some of the downhill portions, etc. Probably 10 miles or so on throttle or pedal assist. And the battery wasn't dead when I finished, although it was, according to the indicator gauge, getting low.

I suspect I'd get 8-10 miles out of a battery charge if I just got on the bike, maxed out the throttle, and went until the bike stopped moving.

I also suspect I could get a hundred miles out of a battery charge if I didn't kick the motor in until I had the bike up to speed,  only used it intermittently, e.g. when going up long grades or when tired of pedaling, etc.

I'll figure out what the bike can do over time, but so far I'm reasonably happy with it.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The New Bike: Very Early Impressions

It arrived yesterday. I'm still under the weather, so it probably took longer than it otherwise would have to assemble, and since it was past dark before the battery got its initial charge, I waited until this morning to take it for a (short, about three miles) ride. so this is not going to be anything like a full review.

First impression (unboxing and assembly): The bike arrived in fine condition, with no visible shipping damage to the box, etc. Assembly was fairly easy -- it consisted of mounting the front wheel, handlebar set, and front fender, and adjusting the front brake (I still don't have that quite right, for some reason I always have problems with brake adjustments). I have not mounted the pretty little basket that fits on the front yet. I'm not sure I really need it. It's not big enough or solid enough to carry much of a load, nor would I want a gallon of milk or whatever on the front of the bike, screwing with steering and control. We'll see, though.

The only assembly problems I had that might have been the factory's fault rather than mine were that 1) the included wrench did not span the nuts for mounting the front wheel (I have my own multi-size wrench that features most needed sizes for bike stuff) and 2) one of the screws for holding the fender in place seemed to have been screwed down far too tight, so  that I had to use a socket to get it out. But nothing major. I always have a few little challenges with anything marked "some assembly required."

First impression of the bike as a thing: I'm used to a tall bike (700c wheel) and a large frame (57cm), so I expected this 26" bike to feel shorter, and it does. I didn't expect it to feel "small" because it's a "cargo" bike.

Shortly before it arrived, I was watching a video review I hadn't discovered before buying it, and it explained something that hadn't occurred to me. Normally when an American thinks of a "Chinese bicycle" it's a matter of the bike being manufactured in China but marketed/sold by an American company for American consumers.

That's not Nakto. Apparently this bike is a very popular commuter model in China itself, so the frame is built for an average rider height of about 3" shorter than in the US. And I'm almost 3" above average US male height. And it's theoretically a women's bike. So the frame is intended for a rider about 10-11" shorter than me. I haven't quite got the bike fitted to my size yet in terms of adjusting the seat and handlebars upward, but close. The bike is just going to feel kind of small to me until I get used to it.

First impression of the ride: Magnificent.

It rides smoothly when pedaling normally.  The bike frame is fairly heavy ("cargo," remember?) and has 1.75cm tires, so it does take a little more effort than, say, my Harper Critical 700c with its 25mm racing tires, but that's just to be expected.

In "pedal assist" mode, it seems to detect how aggressively I'm riding, and then pop up enough power to make the pedaling nearly, but not quite, effortless. More expensive e-bikes apparently have pedal assist modes that let you set the amount of assist it gives you, but this is not a more expensive e-bike. It works.

In full electric motor mode, with a turning throttle control on the right hand grip, it's still a smooth ride. The bike feels well under control even at top speed. That top speed is supposedly 20-25 miles per hour. I need to download a speedometer app for my phone. I doubt that it gets quite that fast with my fat ass holding it down, but it's certainly a nice clip.

And that's it. I don't have any comments on battery life yet because I've only been out for one short ride. The bike feels solid, but I won't know how solid it is until I've put a few hundred miles on it. I'll probably take it out for another spin today -- perhaps the 11-mile round trip to Archer and back -- and unless something goes horribly wrong I'll go ahead and buy a $20, 25-liter rear rack pannier bag so that I can fully utilize the "cargo" part of the description.

Friday, October 16, 2020

About That New York Post Story

You know the one.

On the one hand, yes, social media trying to thwart its dissemination is a bad thing. I don't need Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey deciding what's true and what's not true for me. I'll decide that for myself, thank you very much.

On the other hand, I'm skeptical. 

It's not that I think Joe Biden isn't corrupt or that his son didn't  peddle access to the then vice president of the United States. Daddy bragged about abusing his position to meddle in Ukraine's investigations of Burisma, and little Hunter got paid a lot of money that only his relationship to Daddy seems to explain very well.

On the other hand, the guy who provided the supposed email to the Post, Rudy Giuliani, is at least as slimy and dishonest as either of them, and the chain of evidence, so to speak, is sketchy. Was that laptop actually Hunter Biden's? Did the owner of the repair shop actually make a copy of the hard drive before giving it to Giuliani? Were those emails actually on the laptop, and were they given to the Post unaltered? How long will it take to find out those things?

I'm willing to assume the worst about any politician ... in general. When it comes to specifics of accusations levied, and supposed evidence provided, by other politicians, I'm also willing to assume the worst of those other politicians.

Especially when those other politicians hold on to the supposed evidence for nearly a year (if they didn't manufacture it themselves last week) and release it through the media at the most politically convenient moment rather than getting it out there with plenty of time for thorough investigation before the political event it's intended to influence the outcome of.

What's With All The Negativity Around Here?

It's a good kind of negative. A member of my household had occasion to be tested for COVID-19. I was very interested in the results, since I've been feeling like hammered shit myself for the last week or so.

Test results arrived yesterday. Whatever it is, it's apparently not COVID-19 (unless it was a false negative). And I started feeling a little better yesterday, to the point that I was able to stop considering whether to move my desk and computer into the bathroom  (my symptoms were somewhat different from the other person's, but all were consistent with the possibility of the dreaded SARS-COV-2 virus being involved), and even went to the store last night, since self-quarantine didn't seem called for anymore.

Since I got my flu vaccine a few days before I started feeling bad, I'm wondering if it might have been some kind of reaction. Or maybe a flu bug that the vaccine either didn't address or hadn't had time to become effective against.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

I Keep the RRND/FND Plugs on This Blog Minimal ...

 ... for a reason.

I produce "the freedom movement's daily newspaper" in concert with a partner, Steve Trinward (and formerly with other partners including Brad Spangler, Mary Lou Seymour, and the late, lamented R. Lee Wrights).

This blog is pretty much all me (over the last 16 years, I suspect I've published maybe five guest posts), and while I occasionally publish other authors (mostly Joel Schlosberg) at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism, it's kind of my baby -- I run it, I make the decisions, and I pay those other authors by the piece rather than per some revenue-sharing agreement.

Some of you support one of those two sets of efforts, some of you support both. And I try not to joggle elbows and obfuscate book-keeping by mixing them up.

But I do occasionally bring up Rational Review News Digest / Freedom News Daily here, and this is one of those times.

We're running our annual "year-end fundraiser" at RRND/FND. Through most of the year, I just lightly and occasionally tap the fundraising drum (and to be honest, that income generally covers my Internet bill, my web hosting bills, etc., with maybe enough left over for a meal out or two). But in the 4th quarter of each year, I set a fundraising goal -- $5,000 this last few years -- and hector our readers, daily or nearly so, to help us meet it.

We almost never make our 4th quarter fundraising goal. Sometimes we come close, but it's never easy. This year it suddenly got a lot easier when one of the wonderful people who supports me on both sides of the described divide -- GL -- pulled out all the stops and offered (large annoying red font alert!)


GL is matching all donations to RRND/FND's year-end fundraiser, up to a total of $2,500. Which makes my job half as hard, and our other supporters' job twice as easy.

If you kick in a buck, GL kicks in a buck. If you pony up $100, GL hits us with another $100.

So, if you read and enjoy the freedom movement's daily newspaper, now's a great time to support it (large annoying LINK alert!):


If you don't read the freedom movement's daily newspaper, I hope you'll give it a look. You can find us on the web, in two differently branded one-message-per-day email editions (here and here), on Facebook, on Twitter, or on my personal  timeline at or MeWe or Steemit.

Two Areas in Which I Guess I Remain an Unreformed Randian ...

Area #1:

Over the last three days, I've come across at least two commentaries -- here and here -- on the need for "faith in freedom."

Rand: "A dogma is a set of beliefs accepted on faith; that is, without rational justification or against rational evidence."

Area #2:

I'm in the early stages of a critical reading of Murray N. Rothbard's For a New Liberty, which proceeds from postulation of non-aggression as an axiom.

Rand: "An axiomatic concept is the identification of a primary fact of reality, which cannot be analyzed, i.e., reduced to other facts or broken into component parts. It is implicit in all facts and in all knowledge. It is the fundamentally given and directly perceived or experienced, which requires no proof or explanation, but on which all proofs and explanations rest."

If libertarian ideas are important -- and I agree that they are -- they're important enough to build on solid underpinnings instead of on dodges like faith and fake axioms.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

One Thing I Get Tired of Hearing ...

Is that the United States is "a constitutional republic, not a democracy." It's both.

North Korea and Cuba are "constitutional republics."

The United States is a "constitutional republic" which is specifically democratic in both character and practice.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Supreme Court's Job

According to Tucker Carlson:
The Supreme Court exists only to determine whether the laws that our politicians write are consistent with the Constitution of the United States. That’s why we have a Supreme Court. It’s the only reason we have it.

According to the US Constitution:
The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. ... The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority; -- to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls; -- to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction; -- to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party; -- to Controversies between two or more States; -- between a State and Citizens of another State [Modified by Amendment XI]; -- between Citizens of different States; -- between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

Not only is  "determin[ing] whether the laws that our politicians write are consistent with the Constitution of the United States" not the Supreme Court's only job, the claim that it's the Supreme Court's job at all has remained somewhat controversial ever since the framing of the Constitution, and long after Chief Justice John Marshall asserted the Court's power of judicial review in Madison v. Marbury.

Carlson might want to start keeping copies of the Constitution and relevant commentaries on his desk (or, more likely, on the table in his show's/column's writers' room).

Tom Cotton is a Man of Parts

Part stupid and part evil. And, as it turns out, part coward.

Monday, October 12, 2020

If "Intermittent" is Your Only Argument Against Solar and Wind Energy Generation ...

... you don't have an argument against solar and wind energy generation.

For some reason lately, writers at Heartland Institute have been playing the "intermittent" card a lot lately. Like this today from Ronald Stein:

The Northwest has spoken loudly as the Benton Public Utility District (BPUD) has documented their actual battleground experiences with intermittent electricity from wind farms .... Kudos to this Washington state public utility for speaking up after seeing the costs and dangers of California’s experience with an overreliance on intermittent electricity from wind and solar. ... The Benton PUD believes it is reasonable to question whether continuing to favor investments in intermittent wind electricity and putting up roadblocks to the development of dispatchable natural-gas power plants is more about environmental virtue signaling than it is about serving the best interests of the citizens of Washington State.
Emphases mine.

I'm unaware of any form of electricity generation that isn't intermittent. Coal, oil, and gas-fired power plants only generate electricity when they're being fed with coal, oil, or gas. If the river ain't running, neither is the hydro plant. The nuclear reactor isn't generating electricity when the control rods are inserted or the the turbine is off.

Now, it is true that solar panels and wind turbines aren't generating electricity when the sun isn't out and/or the wind isn't blowing.

But that doesn't mean that delivery of electricity to the end user need be "intermittent."

You see, there are these things called batteries where electricity can be stored until it's needed. And we're getting better and better at making those batteries.

If wind or solar costs too much per kilowatt hour generated to compete, that's an argument against them. 

If manufacturing the panels and turbines creates more pollution than is prevented by taking a fossil fuel plant offline in their favor, that's another.

If they require government subsidies -- especially larger subsidies than coal, oil, gas, nuclear, etc., which is unlikely -- that's a third.

But "intermittent" is just making shit up.

Heartland has gone waaaaaaay downhill in the last decade or so, and pretty much doesn't even bother  pretending to support free markets these days. The breaking point for me was when they bent over backward shilling for the land-theft-enabled corporate welfare boondoggle known as Keystone XL.

It's a Non-Issue -- Biden/Harris Couldn't "Pack" the Supreme Court Even if They Wanted to

Congress, not the president, decides how many seats there are on the Supreme Court.

The president can ask Congress to increase or decrease that number.

The president can sign legislation increasing or decreasing that number if Congress sends him or her such legislation.

Otherwise, the president is powerless.

As is the vice-president, other than the possibility of casting a tie-breaking vote on such legislation in the US Senate.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

My 2020 Presidential Election Prediction, State By State

The changing dynamics kept making me want to put this off, and I was planning to wait for October 15. But I don't think there are any predictable changes still in the offing, so it's time to pull the trigger and make a final presidential election prediction.

In 2012, I made predictions for 48 states, and got 48 states right. I did't even try to predict Florida or North Carolina (if I had done so, I would have been 49 for 50 if I'm recalling my intuitions correctly).

In 2016, I made predictions for 50 states and got 48 of them right. I blew Wisconsin and Iowa.

This year, I am once again predicting 50 states. I can't say I'm especially confident on all 50 (North Carolina, Arizona, and Florida most look they may still be up in the air to me), but I guess we'll see if I can maintain my 48-state streak for the third election in a row.

The prediction by numbers: 319 electoral votes for Joe Biden, 219 electoral votes for Donald Trump.

Could I be wrong? Absolutely. Could I be wildly wrong? You betcha. But this is how it looks to me and it's where I'm placing my "final bet" -- and if I'm wrong, I think I'm more likely to be wrong in Ohio, Iowa, Georgia, or North Carolina than I am to be wrong on any of the states I'm predicting a Biden win in.

Friday, October 09, 2020

In Which I Finally Pull the Trigger

Not on the new shotgun (that doesn't arrive until tomorrow), on one of the "major purchases" that I tend to agonize for weeks or months over:

Yesterday a combination of "Bitcoin Price" and "Amazon $50 off coupon" finally made up my mind for me.

It's a step-thru frame, and therefore theoretically a "women's" bike. I didn't find the deal (or the positive review percentage) I wanted on a men's bike of similar construction (it's a Nakto "Cargo" model), and I've never really understood why a "men's" bike should be defined by having a bar perfectly situated to crush one's nuts on a sudden stop.

The range, running on battery/motor alone, is supposed to be 22-28 miles -- 28-35 miles using "pedal assist" instead of motor only -- at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. This should be perfect for getting around town, and even out into the hinterlands for quite some distance.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

The Current Dynamic

The 2016 presidential election looked like the The Wild Bunch -- Donald Trump and his "deplorable" base -- versus Barney Fife.

At the moment, the 2020 presidential election looks like The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight -- Donald Trump, his administration, and a bold housefly -- versus Jon Burge.

IMO, this thing remains more of a nail-biter than the polls might indicate.

I Didn't Appreciate Eddie Van Halen Like I Should Have

That is, I didn't appreciate Van Halen as a band when they were The Big Deal, and I didn't grow to appreciate Eddie as a guitarist in particular until the last few years after listening to other guitarists I admired talk about his talent and his influence on them.

Circa the early 1980s -- my high school years -- I just didn't find Van Halen as fun as, say, AC/DC, or as enabling of geek music snobbery as Rush, and it bugged the hell out of me to hear Eddie included in discussions of "best guitarist EVAH" alongside Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page.

I didn't dislike them. I thought they were OK. But to the extent that I liked them, it was because of David Lee Roth's personality and stage antics, not Eddie Van Halen's guitar chops. WTF was this "tapping" stuff, anyway?

Over time I got to like them better and better, though I never took to their post-Roth incarnation. And decades later, their music remains enduringly popular and continues to grow on me, and when I actually listen to or watch Eddie in particular I'm blown away like I should have been back then. Maybe I'm just entering my "oldies" phase?

Sorry I never gave you your due in life, dude. If there's an afterlife and if it includes a Guitarist Valhalla, I'm sure your personal throne is among those on the raised dais at the front of the hall.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Probably an Own Goal for Trump

"There is no limit to the amount of good you can do," Ronald Reagan said, "if you don't care who gets the credit."

Replace "good" with "stuff," and you've got the current situation vis a vis "COVID-19 relief."

Politicians on both sides of the partisan aisle care a great deal about who gets credit for shoveling a bunch of money at a bunch of voters (and campaign contributors, and powerful special interests), right before an election in which the White House and control of the Senate look to be very much up in the air.

Neither side wants the other side to be able to use the issue to knock down those last few undecided votes.

After July or so, there was never likely to be a pre-election "COVID-19 relief" deal.

But by cutting off negotiations that were never going to get anywhere, instead of letting those talks continue, Trump just publicly positioned himself, and only himself, as responsible for the impasse.

He's using it as a rallying cry/Get Out The Vote pitch for his base -- "I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business" -- but his base was already as solid and enthused as it was going to get.

If there's any chance for him to win this race, that chance rests with whatever "undecided" voters are left.

And he just told those voters that he's the one holding their expected "COVID-19 relief" money hostage for the next month.

Blaming Trump for COVID-19 is Stupid. Especially for Joe Biden.

It's a disease. It's a "novel" disease in that it's very new and popped up relatively suddenly. Yes, it's bad. But guess what -- shit happens.

Naturally, Joe Biden blames Donald Trump for "not doing enough" to fight it.

Among other things, Biden says he would have imposed -- and if elected will impose -- a "national mask mandate." Leaving aside the fact that the president of the United States has no such legal power, let's look at the record.

Between 2010 and 2017 -- roughly the time covered by policies implemented by the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice-president -- seasonal flu killed nearly a quarter million Americans.

Did the Obama administration impose national mask mandates to hopefully reduce that death toll? No.

Has Joe Biden made any claim to have gone to President Obama asking for such mandates? No.

Year in and year out, seasonal influenza kills tens of thousands of Americans, as it has done for at least a century.

There's nothing new or novel about it. We know it's coming, every year. We know it kills tens of thousands, every year.

Neither regular Americans nor politicians lose their shit over it, and presidents don't get blamed for it. If businesses or schools or what have you shut down, they do so on a local basis as the situation seems to require, not on a large scale dictated by panic and political opportunism.

We do what we can, and we accept that in the real world we can't save every life from every disease.

If anything, Trump over-reacted to COVID-19 with his international travel bans, invocation of war communism (the "Defense Production Act"), etc.

Trump has been more proactive versus a novel disease than Joe Biden ever was toward a known annual threat to the public's health -- a threat usually at least ten times as deadly as the 9/11 attacks -- in nearly half a century as a national-level political decision maker.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

No, Mr. Bond, I Expect More Movie Theaters to Die

Regal Cinemas will (in theory, temporarily) close all 536 of its US movie theaters on Thursday.

There are four movie theaters in Gainesville. Three of them are Regal multi-screens, the fourth is the state-supported, campus-adjacent Hippodrome, which is also (in theory, temporarily) closed.

So, a city of a hundred thousand or so without any big-screen movie goodness for the foreseeable future.

The straw that broke the camel's back seems to be the delay (again) in releasing the latest James Bond movie, No Time to Die. It was supposed to come out in May. Then it was supposed to come out in November. Now the release date is next March.

I usually only catch a couple of big screen movies a year, including the annual Jerry's Birthday Grateful Dead concert flick.

Pandemic or no, this was looking like a bigger year. Jerry's Birthday was canceled, but I've already seen Tenet and No Time to Die and the upcoming remake of Dune were on my "gotta do that" calendar.

The theater owners seem to want to operate, but the film studios keep moving release dates back and/or trying to con viewers in to streaming new releases at home as rentals for half again the cost of a big-screen ticket.

Streaming was already hurting theaters badly. How many more months can they wait for some blockbusters to bring people in before they close their doors permanently?

Laugh of the Day

Marco Rubio thinks he's as essential as a firefighter.

Unless he wants to come mow my lawn, I'm having trouble thinking of anyone he, or his fellow US Senators, are more essential than.

Monday, October 05, 2020

The Conventional Wisdom ...

... is that COVID-19 pretty much wraps it up for Donald Trump's prospects of winning on November 3. He's hospitalized, many of his aides and campaign proxies are also infected, etc., dramatically reducing his ability to run a campaign with less than a month to go before the election. At least one poll has Joe Biden up eight points in Arizona, and although I haven't gone looking, I suspect Biden is opening up leads elsewhere as well.

But I'm not sure this thing is over yet. The thing about chaos is that it produces unpredictable results.

One thing the COVID-19 stuff does affect is my timeline for putting up a "final prediction" that I'm willing to stake my "correctly predicted 48 states out of 50, twice in a row" reputation on. I was planning on October 15, but now I want to see what happens when Trump comes out of quarantine (assuming he lives), so probably October 24 or so.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

COVID-19: Statistical Sauce for the Goose is Statistical Sauce for the Gander

Quoth Jay W. Richards at National Review:

If lockdowns really altered the course of this pandemic, then coronavirus case counts should have clearly dropped whenever and wherever lockdowns took place. The effect should have been obvious, though with a time lag. It takes time for new coronavirus infections to be officially counted, so we would expect the numbers to plummet as soon as the waiting time was over. ... To judge from the evidence, the answer is clear: Mandated lockdowns had little effect on the spread of the coronavirus.

I've been quick in recent months to point out a fairly obvious non sequitur among proponents of various "pandemic control" measures. This is the same fallacy, coming from the other side.

It does not necessarily follow from the fact that cases/hospitalizations/deaths go up or down, or remain the same, after a particular thing that that particular thing caused the increase/decrease/non-change.

Not long ago, I was arguing about mask mandates with a fellow who pointed to a general interest news article (not a peer-reviewed "scientific study," many but not all of which deserve those scare quotes anyway) asserting a correlation between areas with or without mask mandates and reductions or increases in cases/hospitalizations/deaths.

By way of pointing out that non sequitur, I noted that areas which had or did not have mask mandates tended to share other characteristics as well. Areas with mask mandates probably had more stringent, and more stringently enforced, "social distancing" regimes as well. Areas with mask mandates were more likely to be running aggressive "contact tracing"/quarantine programs. And so on and so forth. To attribute outcome X to measure Y is simply to assume too much.

Vis a vis Richards's claim, a couple of thoughts:

Areas with stricter "lockdown" rules tend to be areas that got hit earlier and harder in the first place, and that have higher population densities than areas without strict "lockdown" rules. COVID-19 was likely well into "community spread" in New York City before Blue Eye, Missouri saw its first case (if it's even seen a case yet). NYC has a fairly densely packed population of 8.4 million and is a major travel/trade nexus and port of entry to the United States. Blue Eye is a rural community with a population of 162 that probably doesn't see as many international travelers in a year as the JFK international terminal sees in a day.

Different diseases tend to prefer different climates. Coronaviruses apparently don't like warmth and humidity that much, so you're probably going to see different levels (and routes) of spread in Des Moines, Iowa than in Deland, Florida. Areas that got hit earlier might see reductions as some semblance of herd immunity emerges, while communities that got hit later might still be trending upward because they haven't hit that point yet. And there are also different strains of the SARS-COV-2 virus hitting different communities that might be more or less easily passed on to others.

I am NOT arguing FOR "lockdowns." In fact, I am very much against them, for reasons extending well beyond whether I think they're effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19. But a society of 320 million people living in various climates, at various densities, etc., is not a laboratory environment for which all plausible variables can be controlled, or even known. That's a fact that all sides of the debate over how to fight the thing need to remember.

Friday, October 02, 2020

I Don't Think It's Funny

Nor do I think it's "poetic justice" or anything of the sort.

But I woke up this morning to those kinds of reactions to the news that Donald and Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19.

In many cases, the infected remain asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. At 50, Melania Trump's survival prospects look great (995 out of 1,000).

But among those over 70 -- like President Trump -- one in 20 die, and their deaths do not seem to be easy or painless.

I sincerely wish both of them the best where this particular thing is concerned, and hope that neither of them experience severe symptoms.

Thanks For Asking! -- 10/02/20

Well, it's the beginning of the month (sort of), and that means Ask Me Anything time.

Ask away (in comments) and you'll get an answer (in comments, in a separate blog post, or by carrier pigeon).

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Hornberger vs. Fake Incrementalism

From Jacob Hornberger's blog at the Future of Freedom Foundation:


The modern-day libertarian movement is besieged by statist proposals to reform the welfare-warfare state way of life in which Americans live. Included among such reform proposals are things like Social Security 'privatization,' school vouchers, health-savings accounts, immigration 'reform,' and many more. ... To overcome objections by libertarians who insisted on adhering to principle, the disenchanted conservatives came up with the idea of 'incrementalism' as a way to convince libertarians to join up with them in support of reform measures. They said that all that libertarians had to do was to say that their reform measures were incrementally leading to freedom and, therefore, that such reform measures were consistent with libertarianism.

If Hornberger wants to argue against incrementalism, I'd be interested in seeing what he's got on the subject. But that's not what he's doing. Like the man who drops his keys in the darkness, then looks for them under a street light because the light is better there, what he's doing is re-defining incrementalism to mean something other than incrementalism, so that it's easier to argue against.

Interestingly, he's doing the same thing as his "reformer" opponents. Here. Maybe this will help.

I'm Thinking of Buying a Shotgun ...

 ... and would welcome any recommendations for an inexpensive (but not "cheap") 12-gauge. Pump preferred, but "breakdown"-style single shot or double barrel aren't out of the question.

My reasons:

  1. The raccoons in the area seem to be getting bold lately. I hadn't even seen one in several years (since they killed off all our chickens and I gave up on that project), but I've encountered two in the last two weeks. One was actually in my front yard. I didn't see it at first. It may have been under our car. I took the dogs out at night, heard the "ettt .... ettt" sound a coon makes when it's telling you to back the f*ck off, and the dogs came running for the door. A little later I saw its eyes back in the treeline near our road frontage. The other I saw bounding across a neighbor's yard after crossing the street in front of a vehicle.

    I don't mind the rabbits, possums, armadillos, etc. that frequent our property. I've only ever seen one coyote out back, and it took off when I hit it with a flashlight beam. I've heard a fox, but I'd go out of my way to avoid killing one of them. But raccoons can be downright dangerous, and if they're getting that brave now, I expect it might not be long before until they're trying to get in the garbage dumpster, etc. And that could lead to a dog or a human getting hurt. I want something that will put a raccoon down hard, at close range, without having to worry too much about shooting out a neighbor's window (or shooting a neighbor), so a rifle or pistol aren't ideal.

  2. I don't place a lot of stock in the "civil war" talk I've been hearing, and I doubt any post-election unrest will make its way as far out of town as I live. But we've been talking about a shotgun for home defense for years.

    Without discussing the family arsenal in detail, we don't have much for up close and personal permanent knockdown use. I think I could hit a black balaclava or a MAGA hat with one of our rifles at the maximum ranges we have a clear field of fire for (and I'd aim center mass rather than at such identifying garb anyway), and there are pistol options as well, but this is a wooded area and any encounters would more likely be at very short range, or even possibly inside the house if there was a break-in (not a lot of crime out here so far as I can tell, but ...).

    I've shot a 12-gauge. Tamara's a little thing, but she says she has too and can handle one if she needs to. The 19- and 22-year-old would need a familiarization and a few practice shots. It seems like the most reasonable pick for the two prospective uses.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Spoiler Alert!

"While establishmentarians continue to push two-party conformity," reads the tag line on Matt Welch's piece at Reason today, "there remains little evidence that other parties are having any sort of "spoiler" effect."

I hope he's wrong.

It's usually hard to tell, because there's not universal and rigorous exit polling to find out which candidates third party voters would have supported if they hadn't had third party candidates to vote for. When that kind of polling is done, it often indicates effects opposite of those assumed (for example, the complaint that Libertarian candidates always take their votes "from" Republican candidates).

In 2000, Libertarian Harry Browne racked up enough votes in New Mexico that, if he did "take" most of his votes from George W. Bush, cost Bush the state. And if Bush had carried New Mexico, Florida (where Browne knocked down, IIRC, 12,000 votes or so) wouldn't have mattered.

In my opinion, Libertarian candidates should EMBRACE the "spoiler" role, whether it's plausibly true in any given case or not.

But our asses to "cover the spread" by enough to seemingly matter, then let the Republicans and Democrats scream about it. It makes them look like whiners, it makes Libertarians look more powerful than perhaps we are, and it forces "major party" candidates to think about what they might offer Libertarian voters to reduce that "spoiler effect."

A Day Which Will Live in Infamy

"The Metropolitan Police Service was founded in 1829 by Robert Peel under the Metropolitan Police Act 1829 and on 29 September of that year, the first constables of the service appeared on the streets of London."

Thursday, September 24, 2020

What if They Threw a Scandal and Nobody Came?

Fox News's Greg Gutfeld has a column out today "on the growing scandal engulfing Hunter Biden." Interestingly, he closes with "No wonder it's not leading the news."

Per Wikipedia:
A scandal can be broadly defined as the strong social reactions of outrage, anger, or surprise, when accusations or rumours circulate or appear for some reason, regarding a person or persons who are perceived to have transgressed in some way.

If no one other than Greg Gutfeld gives a shit, it's not a "scandal."

And no one other than Greg Gutfeld seems to give a shit.

Maybe they should, but they don't. The Hunter Biden "scandal" never really got a lot of traction. Doesn't mean the allegations aren't true. Just means that no one gives a shit.

About Those "Experts" ...

"Nearly 500 national security experts -- both civilians and former senior uniformed officers -- have endorsed Joe Biden for president," US state media reports, "saying the 'current president' is not up to 'the enormous responsibilities of his office.'"

The US government hasn't convincingly won a major military conflict in 75 years, despite fielding the most expensive military on Earth. Its "defense" budget runs three quarters of a trillion dollars per year, and other "national security" expenditures easily drive that number up past a trillion. Off the cuff, call it $3,200 per American per year.

What did we get for our money? Hollywood "blacklists." Idiotic trade wars and even more idiotic military misadventures filling tens of thousands of body bags with American corpses (and millions with foreign ones, if we bothered to give them bags). Mandatory universal sexual assault at airports. And does anyone remember 9/11?

All of those things brought to us by -- or at least in spite of rigorously following the recommendations of -- these "national security experts" and their forebears.

I'm not running for president, but if I was I'd also be running to get as far away, as fast as possible, from this particular endorsement.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

So Much for "Anti-Castro" Trump

The Miami Herald headline on a piece by Fabiola Santiago:

Trump conned Miami’s Cuban-American supporters while chasing business opportunities in Cuba

He was talking tough on Cuba while simultaneously trying to skirt the US embargo on behalf of his own business interests at least as late as 2013.

The question is whether the Cuban-American voter bloc will take notice and act accordingly. My guess is that he's probably bribed the "anti-Castro" lobby bigly enough that they'd still push him at "their" voters even if he walked around Little Havana wearing a Che t-shirt.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

I Recently Ordered 51 Items ...

 ... of which 50 have arrived:

The 51st should arrive tomorrow:


I should probably get some earplugs so the complaints about the ungodly racket I plan to make don't get through.

Another Trump/Florida Anecdote That May Hint at a Data Point

I'm registered to vote as a Libertarian. My wife, however, is registered with "no party affiliation."

She gets LOTS of snail mail relating to the upcoming presidential election.

Without exception, that snail mail is from either the Trump campaign or pro-Trump/Republican PACs.

I'm talking probably an average of one letter or postcard a day for the last couple of months, all of them wanting her very badly to know that Trump is Making America Great Again and/or that Joe Biden has been captured by them thar radical lefters and wants to eliminate the police and turn un-approved furriners loose to corrupt virginal Florida wimmin with marijuana and jazz music. Or something like that.

The next pro-Biden piece of direct mail I see in our mailbox will be the first.

I got a direct mail piece from the Libertarian Party of Florida on behalf of Jo Jorgensen yesterday.

And a Democratic Party committee did call the house the other day wanting to talk to my son (who wasn't in), and we've seen some anti-Trump/pro-Biden advertising on the television (streaming media only -- we don't have cable and seldom watch the broadcast networks).

But there's no doubt which party/campaign is playing hardest for the attention of independent (theoretically "swing") voters in rural north central Florida.

Florida Looks Like Trump Country

I'm not updating my map just yet, but barring some massive sea change between now and November, I have to predict that Donald Trump will carry Florida again.

Biden is only up by 1.6% in the RealClearPolitics polling average, and the last two polls in that accounting have him up by 2% and tied respectively.

In my opinion, that spread is more than covered by a still-existing polling bias toward urban rather than rural voters (that bias, while diminished from 2016, is still a function of two things -- rural voters who aren't considered "likely voters" but will get out to vote for Trump specifically, and more rural folks cutting the land line cord in favor of cell phones).

Earlier this year, I wasn't seeing the same visible rural enthusiasm for Trump that I saw in 2016. I'm seeing it now. Trump signs, Trump bumper stickers, Trump sign waves on street corners in town, etc. Meanwhile, I've noticed a grand total of four Biden signs in the Gainesville area (two of them in the same yard), and maybe two or three Biden bumper stickers. Local Democrats apparently aren't that enthusiastic about the guy.

And then there's the Latino vote factor.

I'm far from the first to observe that the Latino vote in Florida is not like the Latino vote elsewhere. Here, it's heavily influenced by "anti-Castro" Cuban exile/exile-ancestry politicos whose goal is to keep US-Cuba relations chilly and rake in federal sugar subsidies, etc., until and unless they themselves are carried into Havana on the shoulders of US troops as "liberators" to constitute that country's new ruling class.

Trump undid Obama's tentative moves toward sanity in US-Cuba relations. And Biden is associated with Obama, and therefore with those moves, which threatened to slow or even halt the Cuban "exile" gravy train. So he's got the "anti-Castro" shills working to get out the Cuban exile/exile-ancestry vote for him.

He could really nail down that vote by appointing Barbara Lagoa -- a Floridian and daughter of Cuban exiles -- to fill the latest vacancy on the US Supreme Court. But he probably doesn't have to do that, and is getting at least a little boost just by appearing to consider it (I'm expecting Amy Coney Barrett to get the nod).

If I changed my map just now, my tentative, subject-to-change projection would have Biden at 243 electoral votes and Trump at 230, with Arizona, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin still up in the air.

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Most Boring Week of Theatrics Ever

The last decade has essentially been a 24/7 Ruth Bader Ginsburg death watch, and she had been ever-increasingly elderly and in ill health for more than 20 years (the first of her five run-ins with cancer began in 1999).

Donald Trump has been president for nearly four years. He's already appointed two Supreme Court justices and has been waiting impatiently the whole time for Ginsburg to give up her seat, or the ghost, or both.

And yet:

President Donald Trump said on Monday he would unveil his selection to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by the end of the week after spending the weekend fielding advice and floating potential nominees to a wide orbit of advisers.

If Trump had said something like "out of respect for the late Justice Ginsburg, I'll be waiting a week to nominate her replacement -- let's give this week to her memory, not to fighting about the composition of the court," that would have been polite.

But there are only two ways to translate the above into a notional public statement from Trump.

Notional Public Statement #1: "I've been fucking around for four years and just never got around until now to seriously thinking about replacing a Supreme Court justice who's been at death's door the whole time."

Kind of puts a dent in the whole "we really need Trump in office because he'll pick the best SCOTUS justices" argument, doesn't it? That's basically an admission that he's just winging it.

Notional Public Statement #2: "Yeah, I've known since the week after my inauguration that if Justice Ginsburg died or retired I'd be nominating Amy Coney Barrett to replace her, but I'm wasting a week to try and heighten your suspense."

In which case remind me never to hire him to direct a suspense film.

Decisions, Decisions

So, should I move to New York City, Seattle, or Portland?

I wouldn't necessarily have picked any of those places on my own. Thanks to Bill Barr for the recommendations!

Happy 50th Birthday ...

 ... to one of my favorite modern inventions (and my main "market" this last decade or so), the op-ed page.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Then and Now

Mitch McConnell, February 2016:

The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.


Mitch McConnell, September 2020:

[A bunch of bullshit excuses]; President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.

Hate "New Facebook" But Don't Want to Give Up Facebook?

Thanks to Margie Laupheimer for telling me about the Revert Site browser extension.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Alan Dershowitz May Have a Case Here

He's filed a "$300 Million Lawsuit Against CNN for Portraying Him as an 'Intellectual Who Had Lost His Mind.'"

The problem is that there's only one plausible alternative argument to him being batshit insane, and that alternative is that he's knowingly and irredeemably evil.

And I'm just guessing that even if a jury bought that alternative argument, they'd probably decide to award a dollar in "damages" rather than $300 million.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

OK, So Here's What I Think About Cuties

I don't usually flog my Garrison Center columns here on the blog because that just feels like artificially inflating the post count here.

But I did promise to tell you what I think about Cuties, and I ended up doing so over there: I Watched Cuties so You Wouldn't Have to (But You Should).

Two Things ...

 ... the second of which explains why we should be grateful for the first.

Thing One: Ted Cruz says he doesn’t want to be on the Supreme Court.

Thing Two: Ted Cruz can't be bothered to know what constitutes child pornography before abusing his position as a Senator to request a US DoJ investigation of supposed same.

I started watching Cuties yesterday, and plan to finish watching it today.

I'll let you know what I think about it as a film after I've seen the whole thing.

I don't need to finish watching it to know what I think about it as a cause celebre, though: It's just a convenient opportunity for virtue signaling by the "right" wing of the woke/outraged "cancel culture" mob.

Monday, September 14, 2020

They're All Center-Right "Conservatives"

The Future of Freedom Foundation's Jacob G. Hornberger loves to point out the similarities between Republicans/Democrats and "conservatives"/"progressives," and he's right to do so.

I think there's one thing he's missing about major party politicians, though: They're all conservatives.

There is no "left/right" divide between the two major parties, their most prominent political office-holders, and their front-running presidential candidates.

The divide between Donald Trump and Joe Biden (or, had things gone differently, Bernie Sanders), Mitch McConnell and Elizabeth Warren, Kevin McCarthy and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, et al. is a divide between center-rightists.

After three full generations of the New Deal and two of the Great Society, none of these politicians is talking about how to move away from those programs. The arguments are over how to "save" them and whether (or how much) to expand them.

All of the major parties' prominent politicians want to conserve nearly a century of establishment practice.

Yes, even (maybe especially) the ones who call themselves "socialists." Notice how quickly they piled on to force Uber drivers away from classic socialism -- worker ownership of the means of production -- and back onto the (traditional, long-standing, conservative) medallion cab plantation.

Will Biden Give Up on One Small Area of Being Ever So Slightly Better than Trump?

Back in April, Joe Biden said that as president he would go back to one of Barack Obama's few sane/sound foreign policy decisions and re-engage with Cuba, undoing Donald Trump's shitting of the bed on same (with the exception of sanctions levied on the Cuban regime pursuant to the idiotic Obama/Trump line on Venezuela). 

Now he's "struggling with Latino voters in Florida."

Actually, he seems to be struggling with Latino voters everywhere, but Florida in particular is different. 

Most Latino voters in the western United States hail from continental Central and South America.

In Florida, a higher percentage of Latinos are descended from Cubans who fled that country's revolution. 

That phenomenon has produced a now decades-old, US-government-subsidized "anti-Castro" industry that dominates the Cuban-American community in particular, and Florida politics in general, vis a vis US relations with Cuba.

The goal of that industry is to keep the Communist Party in power in Cuba so that it can harvest funding to supposedly remove the Communist Party from power in Cuba.

If the US ends its embargo and normalizes diplomatic relations, the fall of the Communists from power becomes inevitable, and with it the gravy train for these "anti-Castro Cuban exiles" stopping.

So that industry pours plenty of money into propaganda and lobbying.

And that industry has a problem with Joe Biden (he does coddle its recently launched "anti-Maduro Venezuelan exiles"  subsidiary, but that's not good enough).

Will Biden cave?

If he does cave, will he do so convincingly?

And even if he does so convincingly, will it be enough to get him over the hump in Florida?

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Who Shouldn't Carry a Gun?

Let me first clarify that question: I am not asking who should not be "allowed" to carry a gun. If you have a right to defend yourself from aggression (and you do), you also have a corollary right to (justly) acquire, and to possess/carry (on your property, on "public"/un-owned property, and on the property of those who have not forbidden it as a condition of using their property) the means of self-defense.

But should you?

If you're unwilling to invest the time and effort in acquiring a modicum of skill in the gun's use, you shouldn't run around town with the gun and a full magazine on your body. It's not necessarily asking for trouble, but it's asking for whatever trouble comes along to quickly get worse, not better.

I'm not saying you need to put a military career behind you, or invest hundreds or thousands of dollars in "tactical" courses at civilian schools, or anything like that. But neither should you treat the gun like most men (yes, this is a sexist stereotype, and mea culpa) seem to treat a piece of DIY assembly furniture -- pull it out of the box, throw away the instruction manual, and just wing it. RTFM. Do a little research (YouTube is your friend). Go to the range and spend some time using the weapon. Preferably a range where you know you'll find people who are willing and able to show you what to do and how to do it. And for God's sake, pay attention to the range safety rules.

As for carrying a weapon you're familiar with and know you can use correctly in a range/recreational setting, know thyself.

If you are prone to uncontrolled panic or uncontrollable rage, don't add a firearm to that mix. Your lack of self-control is not an excuse or defense for shooting someone you had no right to shoot.

If you don't know whether you can bring yourself to aim the weapon at a violent aggressor and pull the trigger, that's a problem too. You'll never really know until and unless you're in such a situation. But you need to work on the correct mindset. A weapon in the hands of someone who can't bring herself to use it is, at best, an expensive paperweight. At worst, it's you providing an aggressor with the tool he uses to kill you.

If you're on the right side of the above equations, let me be the first to thank you for carrying. You're not just making yourself safer, you're making the world around you safer.

But just as others owe it to you to respect your right to carry, you owe it to others to take the exercise of that right seriously. Don't half-ass it.

Yesterday, I Resolved ...

 ... to mostly ignore, and not get involved in maudlin or nostalgic conversations about, the 19th anniversary of 9/11.

Mission accomplished.

Friday, September 11, 2020

A Note to Pollsters

If you're not polling for every candidate on the ballot in a race, that thing you're doing that you're pretending is polling isn't. It's name recognition calling for the candidates you do name.

If you're doing on behalf of any other entity than the campaigns themselves, for pay, then whoever you're doing it for (including yourself) is making in-kind contributions to some candidates.

Do the values of those donations comply with (admittedly unconstitutional) state and federal campaign contribution limits?

Are those donations being reported to the FEC et al. as required by (admittedly bad) laws?

If not, please contact the relevant authorities to report yourselves for prosecution.

Or at least quit falsely advertising what you're doing as "polling."

Texas is a Battleground State This November

But that probably doesn't mean what you think it means.

As Galen Druke and Tony Chow point out in today's episode of FiveThirtyEight's Confidence Interval, the state's demographics, turnout, etc. are moving favorably for Democrats.

Mitt Romney won Texas by 16 points in 2012. Donald Trump only carried the state by 9 points in 2016. And in 2018, incumbent US Senator Ted Cruz only managed to edge out incredibly weak Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke by 2.5%.

Still, the FiveThirtyEight guys only give Joe Biden about a 30% chance of carrying Texas in November, and I'd put that chance at more like 5%.

Explaining why I rate Biden's prospects in Texas as so low also explains why Texas is an incredibly important battleground state.

In theory, the trends have Biden within spitting distance. I hadn't even bothered looking at Texas polling until this morning because that just sounds knee-jerk absurd, but the RealClearPolitics polling average (on a pretty small data set, granted) has Trump up by only 3.5% in the state. Yes, he should be worried.

But here's the thing:

The last time Texas went Democrat in a presidential election was 1976. It's a long-term known quantity in that respect.

Since then, the Democrats have found ways to win four presidential elections (Bill Clinton x 2 and Barack Obama x 2) without Texas.

On the other hand, of the six presidential elections won by Republicans from 1980 to 2016,  in three of them -- the last three of them, in fact -- the Republican winner garnered fewer than 308 electoral votes.

Or, to put it a different way, if Texas had gone Democrat in any of those three elections, the Republican would have lost that election.

For the Democrats, Texas would be a delicious RBI in the top of the 9th if they're already up by ten runs.

For the Republicans, Texas is the ballgame.

This means that the Republicans will do anything they have to do to keep Texas in their column. They'll spend as much money as it takes. They'll run as many TV and radio and YouTube ads as it takes. They'll put up as many billboards as it takes. Trump will visit as many times as it takes, and his proxies will stump there as often as it takes. If it looks like Texas is in play, they'll go all in to hold on to it.

The Democrats know that no matter how much they spend and no matter how hard they work, the Republicans will spend more and work harder.

The Democrats also know that every dollar and minute Republicans spend on Texas is a dollar and minute that Republicans can't spend in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Wisconsin (or Arizona or Nevada).

So the Democrats will spend some money and some time on Texas, just enough to keep it looking like it's in play, because they know that while they almost certainly can't win it, every dollar and every hour they spend there diverts multiple times as many dollars and hours from GOP efforts in states where they could win.

Political Governments Aren't Like Street Gangs or Organized Crime Families

Political governments ARE street gangs or organized crime families.

They claim turf and try to defend their turf lines (territory with "borders").

Within that turf, they operate various extortion/protection/monopoly rackets and viciously/violently suppress competition with those rackets (whether that competition is in the form of competing rackets, or in the form of voluntary market mechanisms offering similar but superior goods and services).

They rumble with other gangs for various reasons -- to expand their turf claims, to extort tribute, obedience, or affiliation from other gangs on other turf, etc.

They loudly deny being what they are. The government version of "it's not a gang, it's a club" or "it's a fraternal organization" or "it's community self-defense" or "our gang takes care of people on its turf, we support charities, we go to church, we're not like those REAL crooks" is "government is all of us, working together," or "we're legit because we govern with the consent of the governed."

That last claim is part of the problem: The big differences between the Crips, the Bloods, or MS-13 and a political government are:

1) that a higher percentage of the (government) gang's victims believe the gang's guff; and

2) that a higher percentage of the (government) gang's members do too -- as Frank puts it in "Scarface," they get high on their own supply.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

There's an Odd Claim ...

... that I've seen argued with respect to both the meaning of the phrase "natural born citizen" and to the concept of "birthright citizenship."

The claim, summarized:

"If a turn of phrase in the US Constitution partially and imperfectly matches the title of a book that some of the Constitution's framers owned, the entire content of that book is not only thereby incorporated into the Constitution itself, but supersedes any subsequent amendments to that Constitution."

Interesting ...

One of these things is not like the other four:

Judge Andrew Napolitano: Trump goes on the attack -- against the military
Nick Sandmann: I’m a pro-life conservative Republican college student who won’t let cancel culture silence me
James Carafano: Proposed Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany shouldn’t be built
Tim Graham: 'Fact-checkers' are pro-Biden, biased against Trump
Gutfeld on Trump's nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize

Can you spot the difference?

It's Coming ...

... on, Wikipedia says, December 18.


I often want to see a movie on its opening day.

I often plan to see a movie on its opening day.

I seldom end up seeing a movie on its opening day.

It will take something serious, probably something apocalyptic, to prevent me from seeing the first part of the new version of Dune on its opening day, if nothing else for sentimental reasons.

My recollection is that I defied my parents' "you may drive this far and no farther" rules perhaps three times as a high school student.

I got caught once -- told my parents I was "going to see a movie" (the implication being that I'd be at the one-screen, gets-em-weeks-later theater in town), then parked my car at that theater, hopped in a friend's car, and went to see Ghostbusters in Springfield, Missouri 60 miles away.

Another time, I went to visit a friend who had moved. Didn't find him.

The third time, I skipped school with that friend and one or two others to see the 1984 David Lynch version of Dune on release day. And I was glad I did. By the time it made it to my local theater a month later, it was closer to 90 than 137 minutes long, hacked to pieces and nearly unintelligible. Even at 137 minutes, it could really only barely hit the high points.

Unlike (seemingly) most people, I think Lynch did a hell of a job. Maybe a little too over the top in some respects, and casting Sting as Feyd Rautha was clearly a marquee cachet decision, not an artistic call, but the last time I watched it (a few years ago), I thought it stood the test of time pretty well.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Happy 30th Birthday ...

 ... to my daughter Caitlin.

We should talk some time.

Binge Recommendation: Longmire

Not everyone likes westerns. I do.

Not everyone likes cop shows. I don't like all cop shows (I especially hate the "reality TV" crap that paints cops shaking down crack smokers, hookers, etc., like heroes), but I do like a well-written, well-acted mystery or procedural.

Not everyone wants to wait until a series is over before watching it. That's my usual modus operandi. Unless something really grabs me at the right time, I'm not going to watch a season at a time (the recent release custom with streaming media), let alone hang on week to week for individual new episodes (network/cable style). I try to avoid noticing spoilers and watch a show from beginning to end at my own chosen pace.

Longmire is a westerm (rural Wyoming) cop (sheriff) show, and it wrapped up nearly three years ago.

It's good.

There's a mild suspension of disbelief problem: Absaroka County must enjoy an insanely high homicide rate to provide fodder for each episodic mystery. Based on geographical references in the show, I'm guessing it's loosely based on either Park County (population 28,000) or Sheridan County (population 29,000), but like clockwork, one or more bodies turn up every episode, and the episodes don't seem to be separated by long periods of time.

But other than that, each episodic mystery (and there's a long story arc with some mystery to it as well) does its job. There are real questions as to whodunit and why, reasonable plot twists to carry things along, moral ambiguities to tease the philosophical palate, etc.

Among the cast, I'm particularly fond of Katee Sackhoff (you may remember her from the Battlestar Galactica reboot) and Lou Diamond Phillips. Minor pet peeve: Phillips's character, a Cheyenne bar owner and the sheriff's long-time close friend, doesn't use contractions in his speech; the obvious assumption is that that's supposed to make him sound "more Indian").

Anyway, recommended if it sounds like your kind of thing.

Interesting Presidential Poll

In 2016, I asserted that Hillary Clinton had a polling credibility problem leading up to the election. Specifically, I asserted that in states where she didn't hold at least a 5-point lead, she was probably in trouble. In my last post, I explained why I think Joe Biden has a similar, but probably smaller, problem.

Could Donald Trump have the same problem? Could there be an anti-Trump fragment demographic that's bigger than the polls suggest?

My ears perked up this morning while listening to the latest episode of the FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast when one of the hosts mentioned a poll that has Trump only five points up in Missouri.

Trump's average lead in Missouri, per RealClearPolitics, is a fairly safe-looking 7.7 points, but if the race is tightening up there it's bad news for him.

In the ten presidential elections since 1980, Missouri has gone Republican eight times. The two exceptions were Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. The state has gone Republican every time since 2000. If it's truly in play this year, and I was a GOP flack, I'd be very worried.

I'm not sure it is truly in play, though. My guess would be that pollsters are over-sampling St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and Jackson County (Kansas City) versus the remaining, more rural 111 counties in the state. In 2016, those three counties, plus Boone County, were the only counties carried by Hillary Clinton.

I was recently in Greene County, Missouri.

The county seat, Springfield, is Missouri's third largest city. My recollection is that historically Democrats usually did well in the city, and occasionally even carried the county. In 2016, Trump whipped Clinton in Greene County by a margin of 60.6% to 33.2% (Gary Johnson knocked down 4.5%, Jill Stein 1.1%, Darrell Castle 0.5%).

As of late August, I saw pickup trucks flying Trump flags, Trump/Pence 2020 signs and bumper stickers galore, etc. In the city, not in outlying rural areas. So anecdotally, I have to say I don't think Trump's support is going soft in Missouri, either in terms of raw numbers or in terms of enthusiasm, i.e. Getting Out The Vote. I think it would take king-hell turnout in the two largest urbs to get Biden within striking distance.

I'm definitely keeping Missouri in the Trump column for now. It would take several close polls, by several different organizations, to get me to move it to "toss-up" territory.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

I Don't Have a 2020 Presidential Election Prediction Yet ...

 But here's where I'm at right now:

Created using the RealClearPolitics"Create Your Own Election Map" tool.

I'm not doing any "leans [insert party]" here, but I do have six "toss-up" states: Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Even a year ago, I wouldn't have given Trump better than 5% odds at taking Wisconsin again, or of losing Arizona this time around, or of being really competitive in Nevada. The map has gone way weird in my opinion.

What's the same, and what's changed, in my personal model between 2016 and now?

In 2016, I asserted that in any state where Clinton was polling at 5% or less out front, she was in trouble.

This year, I'm asserting the same thing about Biden ... but I don't think he's in as much trouble, for two reasons.

One reason is that the third party vote isn't going to be as much of a factor this year.  Jo Jorgensen is not as strong a candidate, running as strong a campaign, as Gary Johnson was. Howie Hawkins is, at best, neither a stronger candidate than, nor running a stronger campaign than, Jill Stein.

I'm not saying that because I dislike them, or over ideological considerations. Jorgensen is not a former governor with a huge (by Libertarian Party standards) war chest. Jorgensen and Hawkins both have tough fundraising and on-the-ground campaigning rows to hoe due to the COVID-19 panic. And after the 2016 outcome, the "wasted vote" myth is likely to be more effective at attracting one-time third party voters back to the party they hate least. It is what it is.

Another reason is that I think the polls are at least a little more accurate this time around. Pollsters have had four years to find ways to reach likely voters they couldn't reach (or didn't think were likely voters) in 2016. If there was an "embarrassed to admit I'm voting for Trump" factor in 2016, that factor has diminished in size. He's a four-year incumbent now. Any 2016 supporters who are still with him aren't as afraid to say so as they were then. So on polling, Biden's handicap just isn't as big as Clinton's.

If the election was going to be held tomorrow, and if I had to call it with no "toss-ups," I would probably predict Biden racking up 308 electoral votes to Trump's 230. At the moment, I see Arizona and Ohio as most likely to remain red, Nevada to remain blue, and Florida, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to flip from red to blue.

But the election isn't going to be held tomorrow, and I don't have to call it with no "toss-ups" today. This isn't my prediction. It's just a snapshot of what I'm thinking at the moment.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Discussion Initiation Mechanism Will Activate in 3, 2, 1 ...


A Couple of Recent Purchases (with a brief review of one of them)

So, I started smoking again. No apologies. I quit for more than six months and missed it every day. I always felt drowsy in the morning -- enough that I took a late-morning nap almost every day -- no matter how much sleep I got.

When I traveled for my mother's funeral, I was spending a lot of time around people who smoke, had a few, then quit for another week when I got home again while I consciously considered my course of action. I'm a smoker. Have been since I was 16. I enjoy smoking.

There will be a few differences this time. One of them is a binding agreement with the missus to not smoke in the house, so I'll probably never be smoking as much as I used to. Another is that I'm rolling my own. I've done that before, with one of those cheap hand-powered machines. It's a pain in the ass and always ends with me deciding to grab some store-bought cigarettes rather than screw with it. So:

That's the Powermatic 2 Plus Electric Cigarette Injector Machine (not an affiliate link). Yes, it's about $70. But it should (based on what I'm paying for tobacco and cigarette tubes) pay for itself after three cartons or so versus the prices of the Super El Cheapo brands I generally buy. Depending on what kind of tobacco I buy and where I find discounts on the tubes (the price can range from $3 to $5 a carton depending on brand and quantity purchased), I should be cutting the cost per pack by about 2/3.

So far, so good with the machine.  It's fast (I rolled my first few packs in 5-7 minutes per pack), it's easy, and so far I haven't torn and wasted a single tube (the hand-powered machines work sort of like those old KA-CHUNK credit card processing machines; they require some hand muscle and often the metal filler tube would tear/puncture the cigarette tube). My brother uses a similar machine and also has no complaints about it. So if you're thinking of rolling your own smokes, I highly recommend spending a little more on this and skipping the manual route.

The second item hasn't arrived yet:

It's a Rhino Valley bivvy tent (again, not an affiliate link). I've been looking for a decent and reasonably priced bivvy tent for years, and happened to come across this one last night. A waterproof (supposedly!) cover for rainy nights, or just good mosquito netting for clear ones.

I need a tent for upcoming events. In particular, I anticipate possibly attending a Desert Storm 30th anniversary reunion, complete with camping, late this year or early next. I'm also hoping that music festivals will be returning to north central Florida this fall. And heck, I just like sleeping outside -- in the yard, if nowhere else -- and no one else in my family does.

So I'm ending a decade and a half of buying cheap-ass multi-person tents that only get used by one person. The last one was a $25 three-person dome tent that no amount of Scotch-Guard and seam tape seems to be able to get very waterproof and that's just bulky enough to not be a good pick for backpacking or throwing on a bicycle rack.

If it turns out to be an especially good or bad buy, I'll probably post to that effect.

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