Thursday, December 31, 2020

I Did Something I Pretty Much Swore I'd Never Do


I subscribed to the Disney+ streaming service.

The immediate reason: Some time back, Tamara and I were called away on an emergency right in the middle of Avengers: Infinity War. I had already seen the movie. She hadn't. I've also seen Endgame, but she hadn't, and she also thought she had missed the Winter Soldier and Civil War installments of the Captain America storyline (when I started those two, she immediately realized she'd seen both of them after all).

All that stuff moved behind the Disney+ paywall a little while back, and renting those four movies, or even two of them, would have cost as much as or more than a month of the full service.

So, the weekend before Christmas, I was over at my mechanic's house doing unskilled things in facilitation of his repairs to our family car, and he was re-watching the season finale of The Mandalorian. I tried to make myself not notice, because I didn't want to get hooked on a show I'd have to pay extra to watch.

I don't know if I'll bother watching that show, but it got me thinking: A Disney+ subscription would let me re-watch all the Star Wars movies, and all the X-Men movies, and all the Avengers movies. And I could watch all that stuff in a couple of months, which would be $13.98 in subscription fees.

So that's what I'm doing. We watched the end of Infinity War. Then we watched Endgame. Now we've watched the first three (in story order) Star Wars flicks and will likely watch the other six in the next couple of weeks. And so on, and so forth.

Heck, I even watched the latest version of Mulan just because I could and because they were charging non-Disney+-subscribers something like $20 for it last time I noticed. Not my kind of thing, really, but not terrible.


Sunday, December 27, 2020

I Was Just Looking ...


 ... at my Microsoft Rewards redemption history (not an affiliate link).

By using Bing as my default search engine (works fairly well for most quick searches -- I go elsewhere if necessary), I rack up points that I can redeem for Amazon gift cards (or other things).

On a quick glance, it looks like I've cashed in to the tune of about $200 over the last few years.

If you do a lot of casual searching (e.g. just typing something you're thinking about into the browser's URL bar), it's a way to treat yourself to some extras.

You're welcome.


Saturday, December 26, 2020

What Endures?


Kevin D. Williamson at National Review:

Can you recite 20 consecutive lines of poetry written by an American in the past 20 years, or name 20 living American poets of any consequence? There is a reason for that. Messiah, composed in 1741, is going on 300 years old. Is there a single musical work by a North American in our time that we expect to be so nearly universally recognizable in the year 2299?

I guess that's an interesting question, but another interesting question is "how could we possibly know -- did anyone expect or predict Messiah to be popular, or considered important, for 300 years?" It apparently got a cool reception in London early on.

While I suspect that Williamson is correct in his specific prediction -- that shoehorning current "identity politics" fads  into old musical/theatrical forms isn't likely to produce much new art of lasting impact -- I also suspect that there will be composers and poets from our era who are as well-remembered 300 years from now as George Frideric Handel (and, say, William Blake) are today.

If I had to pick two such, I guess I'd go with Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg.


Friday, December 25, 2020

My Top Two "First Reaction" Guesses About the Nashville Bombing


First "first reaction" guess: The bombers were trying to send an anti-COVID-lockdown message.

Second "first reaction" guess: The bombers want people to think they were trying to send an anti-COVID-lockdown message, but are actually hoping to provoke/justify a crackdown on anti-COVID-lockdown protests.

Of course, I could be wrong. But if I was guessing, I'd guess that within 24 hours "anti-lockdown" people will be getting the blame whether we deserve it or not.


Book Recommendation: Bleachers


If you're not a fan of John Grisham or legal thrillers or football, read Bleachers anyway (that's not an affiliate link).

I happen to be a fan of John Grisham and of legal thrillers (his legal thrillers, anyway, even though over the years they've become more formulaic). Not so much a fan of football, although the Chiefs are finally giving me a reason to be so again.

It's just a fantastic little novel.

I resisted reading it for years, then picked it up yesterday at the "little free library" a couple of miles from my house (I've got a program going of dropping off two or three books and picking up one, in the forlorn hope of keeping our book collection from running us out of the house).

It's not Christmas-y in any way, shape, manner, or form -- it's a book about a dying high school football coach and generations of players who aren't really sure whether they love or hate him -- but I thought it made a pretty good Christmas story.


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

2000 = 2024?


I don't really care whether the next round of "stimulus" checks are for $600 or $2,000.

For one thing, I don't get those checks (at least I didn't the first time around, and don't expect to the second time).

For another, it's not really free magic money. It's just money the government is borrowing, on a promise to beat it out of taxpayers' hides, with interest, later.

But I do find it interesting that Donald Trump is publicly posturing as if he may veto the $600 per person "stimulus" and try to force a $2,000 per person payout.

My assumption is that he's doing so as a faux-populist play for votes in 2024, in the event he decides to run for president again, and if that's the case it's a win-win proposition for him.

If Congress says uncle, voters will remember that Trump got them "an extra $1,400."

If Congress says no, voters will remember that Trump tried to get them "an extra $1,400."

Since the money's not coming out of his pocket, it's no skin off his nose either way, and some people will remember him fondly for it whether he runs again or not.

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

But the next time the folks in the White House and on Capitol Hill don't care who gets credit for anything will be the first time.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Can There Really Be Any Such Thing As ...


Responsible Statecraft?

I do enjoy some of the publication's articles and like some of the arguments it entertains, but "responsible statecraft" sounds a lot like "corrective rape" or "benevolent murder." That is, meaningless in a somewhat offensive way.

States are organized crime syndicates with a quasi-religious component. The idea that they could be "responsible" for anything except maximizing their own power at everyone else's expense is, well, dumb.


Monday, December 21, 2020

The Other Race Issue


Congress races to clinch coronavirus deal as shutdown looms ... Congress Races to Approve Virus-Relief Package ... Congress Races to Pass Stimulus Deal as Leaders Reach Agreement, Face Another Funding Deadline ...

A bunch of guys sitting around arguing about the details of something they 1) don't have to do at all, let alone 2) have to do in some pre-set period of time, rather than merely facing deadlines they imposed on themselves and can change at will, are not "racing." They're just sitting around arguing about the details of something they 1) don't have to do at all, let alone 2) have to do in some pre-set period of time, rather than merely facing deadlines they imposed on themselves and can change at will.

Yet the media consistently cooperate in the pretense that this is high drama of some kind, rather than just a bunch of guys yammering at each other and at us.


Sunday, December 20, 2020

Well, I EXPECTED to Blog a Lot This Month ...


... but so far I haven't.

Why?

It's not writer's block. I'm writing well when something strikes me as worth writing about It's ... well ... boredom with what there is to write about.

I tend to write about matters that are in the news, and really the news has become so repetitive and predictable lately that there's not much worth writing about, and what little there is ends up at the Garrison Center because producing three columns a week there is my top writing priority.

I haven't forgotten y'all. I just don't think it would be nice to inflict my boredom on you by writing boring blog posts.

Frankly, what I'm doing this month is mostly 1) futzing with musical instruments and 2) watching TV.

My banjo ukulele arrived the other day. I'm not that impressed with it -- the action is higher than I'd like, etc. -- yet, but I'm still in the "getting strings stretched so it stays in tune" phase, so maybe it will end up being one of my favorite instruments.

On the TV front, we finished the first three seasons of Game of Thrones that I found on Blu-Ray for five bucks at a garage sale, and I'm waiting for the remaining seasons to show up at a good sale price. I bought the first two seasons of American Gods on sale for $5 each or something like that, and am mostly through the first season. And we're doing a family re-watch of the Lord of the Rings films.

Oh, and Tamara's car is being troublesome. Just had to have the heater core replaced and there's still a misfire issue that seems to have to do with the computer in the vehicle. I long for the days when cars weren't controlled by computers and you could adjust the carburetor with a screwdriver, etc. These days, pretty much everything requires a professional mechanic's skills, and I'm not a professional mechanic. But I have a friend who is, and who works for very reasonable rates, especially if I'm willing to be his go-fer while he's doing it. So yesterday was 11 hours of that.

See what I mean? Boring. I'm boring you. So I'll stop that now and be back when I have something interesting to say.


Thursday, December 17, 2020

A Special Counsel for the "Hunter Biden Affair?" Sure, Why Not?


When the "Hunter Biden laptop" story broke, the only thing I found interesting about it was that the "mainstream media" soft-peddled it and that social media companies tried to suppress it.

See here and here for why I otherwise considered it a nothingburger.

My opinion hasn't changed.

Are the Bidens corrupt influence peddlers, or at the very least a father/son pair in which the son is more than happy to leverage his dad's name for "job opportunities" that he wouldn't get, and wouldn't get paid as much for, and in which the father either 1) doesn't care, or 2) can't bring himself to put his foot down over, or 3) actively encourages? Yep.

Did anyone who cared not already know that long before "the story broke?" Nope.

So Donald Trump wants a special counsel on the Hunter Biden job, and the usual suspects are lining up behind him on the idea.*

Well, OK. Sure. Why not?

But let's be clear that the purpose of a special counsel investigation of Hunter Biden's finances, etc., would be just like the "Russiagate" probe. That is, its purpose would not be to accomplish "justice," but rather to energize one party's base against another party's president. Which is fine, if you like bad dinner theater.

*That Fox News headline says that media are "downplaying" and "ignoring" the whole thing.  Apparently the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, MSNBC, USA Today, US News & World Report, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, CBS News, Newsweek, the Chicago Tribune, The Hill, et al. aren't "media."


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

This is Something That Can't Be Had Both Ways


Camera One: Donald Trump still insists he won the 2020 presidential election.

Camera Two: In fundraising emails, the Trump campaign asks "Should President Trump run in 2024?"

If he's correct on the former point, he's ineligible pursue the latter course:

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice -- 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution

 If Camera One is his story, he doesn't seem to be sticking to it.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Finally Found a Brass Slide I Like ...


I have a Dunlop brass slide. Don't like the fit, don't like the sound. Not sure why. I seem to get a deadened sound instead of the tone I expected from brass.

Thanks to Shane Speal's StubbySlide.com (not an affiliate link) and New Orleans artist Ron Hall for coming up with The Preacher.

Including shipping it cost about $5 more than the Dunlop, but there's a world of difference in the comfort of the fit and the brightness of the tone. Here's Shane demonstrating it:




From now on I'll spend the extra couple of bucks to buy a quality slide from Shane (and the slide guitar lovers who make them for him) instead of grabbing whatever I see cheap at Amazon or Guitar Center.


Monday, December 14, 2020

Word PSA


Radical, a. 1. Of or pertaining to the root; proceeding directly from the root. [1913 Webster] 2. Hence: Of or pertaining to the root or origin; reaching to the center, to the foundation, to the ultimate sources, to the principles, or the like; original; fundamental; thorough-going; unsparing; extreme; as, radical evils; radical reform; a radical party. [1913 Webster]

I often see the word "radical" mis-used to mean "extreme" or even "knee-jerk contrarian," including by libertarians who complain that this or or that person or organization in the libertarian movement isn't "radical" enough.

For example, this morning at the Libertarian Institute, Peter Quinones argues that libertarians should be against not just mask mandates, but against mask-wearing as such.

His argument is not that masks are ineffective (which is not a question libertarianism could be expected to address), but rather that anything "the enemy" is for, libertarians should be against. Otherwise we're just playing respectability politics. After all, "the ideology of libertarianism you promote is radical to the normie to say the least. Or it should be! Do you want to be democrat or republican lite?"

Libertarianism is inherently radical insofar as it addresses all issues from one root holding: The unacceptability of aggression. Everything else is irrelevant to, or at most orthogonal to, libertarianism. 

"The libertarian position" on masks is that unless wearing one or not wearing one would constitute an initiation of force, it's impermissible to either require or forbid wearing one.

Any problem vis a vis libertarianism with "the enemy's" position on mask mandates has nothing to do with masks and everything to do with mandates. Being against masks because "the enemy" is for them isn't "radical," it's just dumb.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Haiku


I often wonder
why so many haiku are
about the weather


Thursday, December 03, 2020

Assuming the Correctness of the Simulation Hypothesis and the Truth of the Bible ...


... that there YHVH is one heck of a programmer. Six days to code an entire open-world game, complete with either astonishingly complex non-player characters, or one heck of a pair of autonomously self-reproducing-by-pairing AIs, or both.


Always with the Masks, These Guys ...


"On the first day I’m inaugurated, I’m going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask -- not forever, just 100 days." -- Joe Biden

How many days of mask-wearing, in how many places, have we had? I've yet to see (and I've ASKED, and looked at people's answers) a published, peer-reviewed study that finds a significant reduction in transmission of COVID-19 or any other virus from masking. One study in St. Louis asserted a reduction in case numbers versus nearby cities after a mask mandate, but it didn't seem to control for other measures or spread factors in either St. Louis or those other cities.

Yes, I wear a mask because it feels like "common sense," because I don't want to discomfit the people around me, and because some businesses require it (theoretically my county does, but some businesses make it very clear that it's not their job to enforce county orders), but I don't see any reason to believe that it does much beyond what Dr. Anthony Fauci said in March: Make some people feel better.


Spending My Inheritance


I recently received a check for a few hundred dollars -- my share of what was left in my mom's bank account after she died and the bills were settled. Instead of just blowing it or paying bills with it, I wanted to purchase something durable to remember her by with it.

When I purchase something durable for leisure or sentimental purposes, the word "guitar" is usually involved. In this particular case, I deem that even more appropriate: Mom didn't play, but she did love music. And my inheritance from my dad was his guitar -- an Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II in cherry sunburst.

I had something somewhat similar, but not identical, in mind. And something that could be modified/personalized. I thought about building a cigar box guitar, but frankly I'm just not that great at it. I thought about having a cigar box guitar custom-built, but that didn't seem right either since I'm kind of matching it with the Epiphone.

After a lot of deliberation, I settled on an Ibanez Artcore AS53 (a nice "vintage look" riff  on the old Gibson ES-335), in flat tobacco finish:


My plan is to select an old black and white photo or two from mom's side of the family and reproduce them as "dry transfers" that can be rubbed onto the body of the guitar.

Unfortunately, the guitar was on back order at my preferred vendor (Musician's Friend), and at Sweetwater (I've never bought from them but have heard great things about them) as well.

I found one at at New Jersey music store via Reverb (that's a referral link -- $10 off your first purchase, and when you've spent $50 or more I get $10). I also ordered a hard-shell case for it from Musician's Friend -- for most of my guitars a soft "gig bag" is sufficient, but for Dad's and "Mom's" I want good storage/protection.

On the way, total cost under $400 (Probably another $20 or so for the graphics I have in mind). Which is a lot more than I usually spend on a guitar, but this is special and didn't break the inheritance "bank."


Wednesday, December 02, 2020

A Quick Swing Back to the Election Results


I only meant to wait a few days (for Politico's election "calls") to finalize updates on my "Election Night Open Thread w/Prediction vs. Reality Goodness" post. Then I decided to wait on some of the recount/litigation stuff. Then I got distracted. So I just wrapped that up.

Result: For the third presidential election in a row, I correctly predicted the outcomes in 48 states. That's 48 of 50 in 2016 and this year, 48 of 48 in 2012 (I didn't try to predict Florida or North Carolina that year).

Which states did I get wrong? Florida and Georgia.

Why? Well, if I knew for sure, I wouldn't have called them incorrectly, would I? But I do have some thoughts.

First, let's look at Florida on the "legit" side.

Based on my (admittedly limited) travels around rural Alachua and Levy Counties, I thought I detected less enthusiasm for Trump than in 2016. That did change as the election got very close, but I still guessed that Trump wouldn't do as well this year.

I guessed wrong.

In Alachua County in 2016, Trump racked up 46,584 votes (he lost the county to Clinton due to the Gainesville vote). In 2020, 50,972 votes. Biden did beat him by a bigger percentage than Clinton in 2016, but he did get his own turnout up.

In Levy County (no big towns there), Trump whipped Clinton 71% to 26.3%, 13,758 votes to 5,091. This year, he beat Biden 72.4% to 26.8% -- 16,749 votes to 6,205.

In Pasco County, which the political odds-makers seem to consider a good proxy for "suburban/rural GOP-leaning Florida" in general, Trump went from 58.9% in 2016 to 59.5% in 2020.

Now let's look at the "illegitimate" side -- rigging and cheating -- in both Florida and Georgia.

In the absence of good reasons to suspect otherwise, I model that stuff as a wash in each state. That is, the Republicans will get up to their usual games of making it hard for black people to vote, etc., and the Democrats will get up to their usual games of manufacturing votes that weren't actually cast, and that both things will have the same effects they usually do.

So, I assumed that in Georgia the Republicans would continue to do well at making it hard for Democrats to vote, and that the Democrats would continue to not be able to overcome that with urban vote-stuffing. My guess is that I assumed wrong. I don't think that the usual Republican efforts went any worse than expected. I think that the continuing population shift into the urban Atlanta core caused the Democratic efforts to go better than expected (and it was pretty close in 2018).

In Florida, I thought I did have good reasons to expect a change in the rigging/cheating picture.

In 2018, Florida's voters amended the state constitution to allow former felons to vote. The GOP legislature and governor did all they could to reverse the voters' will by e.g. re-defining what "completion of sentence" means, but while they had some success in the courts, I expected that former felons would succeed in registering in the six-figure range anyway, and that their votes would lean Democrat.

I also expected Democratic vote-stuffing in e.g. Miami-Dade County to go on steroids after the 2016 debacle.

I think I got both of those wrong.

In addition, I suspect that the GOP may have turned to Democrat-style vote-stuffing tactics in Cuban-American communities in e.g. Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

On the "illegitimate" side, I think expected the situation to change in Florida and it didn't; while in Georgia, I expected the usual situation to continue and it changed.

But I'm not sure that the "illegitimate" stuff changed the outcome in either state, and if it did so it more likely did so in Georgia than in Florida.

Either way, I got those two states wrong, and will be looking for ways to not get them wrong next time.


Thanks For Asking! -- 12/02/20


OK, so I slacked off toward the end of November. No excuses -- I just didn't find anything that excited me enough to blog about, and wasn't willing to resort to "filler" material to up the post count. I'm still past the 200-post mark for the year. I'm not going to make my "average at least one post per day" goal, but I'll see if I can't up the content pace some for December ...

... starting with the monthly AMA thread. Ask me anything (in the comment section below this post) and I'll answer (in comments, in a stand-alone post, or elsewhere).



Sunday, November 22, 2020

Perhaps the Libertarian Party Needs a Truth and Reconciliation Commission


Per Wikipedia, "A truth commission, also known as a truth and reconciliation commission or truth and justice commission, is an official body tasked with discovering and revealing past wrongdoing by a government (or, depending on the circumstances, non-state actors also), in the hope of resolving conflict left over from the past."

I think that the Libertarian Party may require such a body at this time.

Over the past few years, I've tried to adopt a "let bygones be bygones" attitude toward past party controversies. And over the last four months, I've attempted to apply that attitude to the fuckery characterizing the first day of the second sitting of the 2020 Libertarian National Convention. I've declined to bring said fuckery up, and have tried to respond with brevity when those involved in perpetrating it felt a need to "rectify" its history, Orwell-style.

But a couple of events over the last couple of weeks make me think that it's going to remain a festering boil on the party's body politic until and unless we find a way to lance and drain it.

Event One: One of the ring-leaders of the day one coup, Angela McArdle, has declared her 2022 candidacy for chair of the Libertarian National Committee. I've listened to a couple of podcast interviews featuring Ms. McArdle. Nowhere in those interviews have I heard anything resembling an apology for her participation in a mutiny against the party and all of its affiliates, which shut down the national convention for most of a day with several negative results, including but not limited to the convention adjourning without considering its platform committee's report and recommendations.

Event Two: The secretary of the LNC, Caryn Ann Harlos, has submitted a set of draft minutes for the second sitting in which the mutiny is treated as legitimate convention business rather than as what it was: A day-long shutdown of the Libertarian National Convention during which a rump rebel minority debated the question of Whether It Pleaseth the Crown to Graciously Allow the Convention to Continue.

I do not support purges. I do not propose that Ms. McArdle should be deprived of membership, even if the party's bylaws provided for doing so, and I trust the delegates to judge her candidacy on its own merits. But I do intend to be among those who act to ensure that the 2022 delegates can't claim ignorance of her history of levying war on them.

But when it comes to the draft minutes, adopting them as written would itself be an additional rebellion against the party -- a malicious re-writing of history for the purpose of concealing a rump minority's initiation of force against the party, its affiliates, its members, and its delegates.

If the LNC acquiesces in that malicious re-writing, its affiliates should consider 1) disavowing both the malicious re-writing and the body which attempts to put it over, 2) constituting a new governing body to facilitate their mutual relations, and 3) setting up a mechanism (i.e. a "truth and reconciliation commission") for exposure of the mutiny's ring-leaders and exclusion of those ring-leaders from positions of trust and authority in the national party both for some minimum period of time and absent some open and honest testimony establishing acceptance of responsibility for their crimes.

Friday, November 20, 2020

What Good is a "Transition" for an Unprepared President-Elect-Apparent?


I keep hearing complaints about how the Trump regime is slow-walking the "transition" to the Biden regime.

Even setting aside the fact that the actual presidential election is nearly a month away (electors meet in their states and cast their votes on December 14), I'm not sure I see what the complaint is.

After all, I'm also seeing stories about how Joe Biden is "mulling" the possibility of appointing Merrick Garland to the position of Attorney General, "expected" to select Michele Flournoy for Secretary of Defense, etc.

Joe Biden has been running for president on and off for more than 30 years -- for more than a year-and-a-half this time -- and served for eight years as vice-president in the last Democratic regime, and he still hasn't picked his fucking cabinet. If he hasn't got his shit in one bag by now, how would a "transition" ritual help?


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Why Presidents Prefer Not to Investigate Former Presidents


"President-elect Joe Biden has privately told advisers that he doesn't want his presidency to be consumed by investigations of his predecessor," NBC News reports (claiming five unnamed sources). Supposed reasons:

  1. "concerns that investigations would further divide a country he is trying to unite and risk making every day of his presidency about Trump"
  2. "he 'just wants to move on.'"
  3. He "wants his Justice Department to function independently from the White House."
Well, maybe those are among his reasons. But there are other good reasons for any president to not want to persecute his or her predecessor.

One is fear of your successor doing unto you as you have done unto your predecessor. Political rivalries being what they are, if sitting presidents start investigating past presidents, they'll find themselves investigated in turn.

Another is fear of finding one's own power constrained while in office. If Trump is successfully prosecuted for something he did while in office, Biden and other future presidents will be less likely to get away with doing similar things while in office. And presidents hate any limits on doing whatever they damn well please.


Concerning Legal Representation


If I found myself charged with a crime, requested a public defender, and arrived at court to find Rudy Giuliani waiting to represent me, I'd probably jump at whatever deal the prosecutor offered, or else just plead guilty and beg mercy from the judge. Just sayin' ...


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

In What Universe do Curfews Make Sense ...


... for preventing the spread of disease?

If preventing spread involves "social distancing" and not crowding as many people into a given place at a time, forcing businesses to close e.g. from 10pm to 6am daily achieves exactly the opposite of the desired effect.

Let's say a gym has 100 active members wanting to work out each day, and each member spends, on average, an hour at the gym (including clothing changes, showers, etc.). That means an average occupancy, at any given time, of about 4.2 members. 

If the gym is open 24 hours a day, at least some of those members will work out in the overnight hours -- meaning there will be fewer people, and a lower average density of people, in the gym at any given time.

Cut the operating hours to 16 and that average occupancy goes up to 6.25 members (ceteris paribus -- some people will presumably give up working out if the hours they want aren't available, and the real occupancy is probably higher during those other 16 hours anyway, but there will be some occupancy increase effect).

Ditto bars and restaurants.

Sure, there probably won't be as many people working out, drinking out, or dining out at 3am as at, say, 7pm, but not allowing people to work out, drink out, or dine out at 3am will just result in at least some of those people making those facilities more crowded at those other times.


Friday, November 13, 2020

If We Can't Even Accurately Test for COVID-19 Yet ...


... how can we possibly know whether a treatment or a vaccine actually works?



Could the "Have the Legislatures Choose the Electors" Dodge Work?


One suggestion in the fight to decide who gets to serve the next presidential term is that state legislatures could defy (actual or alleged) election results in states where Donald Trump seems to be behind Joe Biden but is claiming fraud, and just directly appoint Republican presidential electors.

On one hand, there's nothing in the US Constitution to prevent the state legislatures from choosing presidential electors as such:

Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress ...

On the other hand, that doesn't mean there aren't problems with, and obstacles to, the idea.

Let's take Pennsylvania as an example.

The first thing to remember is that in all of the states, the legislature has already "directed," via the passage of election laws, that the voters shall choose the presidential electors. It would take a change in law for the legislature to directly assume that power.

And there are two HUGE  problems with any attempt to implement such a change in law.

One is that Pennsylvania has a Democratic governor who could veto any such legislation. The Republicans do not control 2/3 of either house of the legislature such that they could override the veto.

The other is that Pennsylvania's constitution prohibits the passage of ex post facto laws. Any change in the way that electors are chosen would apply only to future elections, not to the 2020 presidential election, which has already happened.

Georgia has a Republican governor, House, and Senate, but its constitution also prohibits the passage of ex post facto laws and its election laws also assign the choosing of presidential electors to the voters.

Michigan has a Democratic governor and a Republican House and Senate without veto-proof majorities. Its laws also assign the choosing of presidential electors to the voters, not the legislature, and its constitution also forbids the passage of ex post facto laws.

Wisconsin likewise has a Democratic governor, a Republican House and Senate without veto-proof majorities, election laws assigning the choosing of presidential electors, and a constitutional prohibition on ex post facto laws.

Absent possession and use of a time machine, it doesn't look to me like that's a plausible route to a second Trump term.


Thursday, November 12, 2020

I'm Thinking It's Time to Change Direction vis a vis the Libertarian Party


There was a time in my life when it wasn't unusual for me to put in 20-40 hours a week, year-round, on Libertarian Party stuff.

These days, I just can't carry that kind of work load in addition to the other things I do. So I try to do a little work for candidates, and also the last two convention cycles I've sought and received appointment to the national platform committee as my "party work" commitment.

I think I did good work in my two terms, and I hope you think so too (unfortunately, the 2020 convention, which was a dumpster fire in many other ways as well, decided to adjourn rather than even consider the platform committee's recommendations; but some good stuff got done in 2018).

I do not plan to seek appointment to the 2022 platform committee. At the moment, especially after a phone call with a friend in the Florida party earlier today, my plan is to spend the next election cycle or two getting involved with my state and local party affiliates again and finding out what I can do to help them be successful.

Friday, November 06, 2020

How Fraud/Cheating Affects My Presidential Election Models


One comment I've had from several people when I point out that e.g. Michigan, Wisconsin (and likely Pennsylvania) went as I predicted is that that's because of cheating/fraud.

They're not necessarily wrong -- but the fact that they're not necessarily wrong tends to support my models, not contradict them.

First, a disclaimer: My "models" for predicting elections are not notebooks full of mathematical calculations. The only real math is "here are the results from last time." Everything else is looking at the trends in play and making educated guesses as to how those trends will affect future results.

When it comes to cheating/fraud in statewide votes for presidential elections in battleground states, I assume it's a wash -- that is, that Republicans will be about as successful at suppressing Democratic votes as Democrats will be at manufacturing Democratic votes -- unless I see clear evidence that there's some kind of change in motion.

I don't assume that in "safe" states. The reason those states are "safe" is that the party in power has the clear upper hand and either doesn't need to cheat or could easily out-cheat the opposition party. It's only when a state looks competitive that I see any need to really consider cheating/fraud as a factor.

My predictions this year missed at least one state, probably two. And they probably missed precisely because I mis-underestimated the cheating success of the party in power.

In Florida, I assumed that the GOP would have, at best, only partial success in suppressing the Democratic vote by defying the will of the voters on restoring former felons' voting rights, ensuring fewer polling places in likely Democratic areas, etc. I also assumed that the "anti-Castro Cuban" (aka "save our sugar subsidies and CIA money") lobby would only have limited success in either getting its vote out, or just plain manufacturing that vote, for Trump. I was clearly wrong.

In Georgia, I assumed that the GOP would be very successful in stealing the 2020 election just like it stole the 2018 midterm, through mass de-registration of likely Democratic voters and such. It looks like I was wrong about that, too.

In both Georgia and Florida, I assumed that the Democratic vote-manufacturing scams would function about as well as usual. I've not seen any reason to believe I was wrong on that count.


Oh When Will They Ever Learn?


In 2012, some of my Republican friends (including some readers of this blog) confidently predicted a Mitt Romney landslide and told me my state by state predictions were nuts. I correctly predicted the main outcome, and the outcomes in 48 of 50 states.

In 2012, some of my Democratic friends  (including some readers of this blog) told me I was completely nuts to predict that Trump would win the election, or that he would carry ANY of the following states: Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Michigan. He carried all four. Once again, I correctly predicted the main outcome, and the outcomes in 48 of 50 states.

This year, some of my Republican friends (including some readers of this blog) confidently predicted a Trump re-election landslide. They had him holding every state he took in 2016 and adding some to the column, and told me I was nuts when I said he'd lose Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Here's my latest update to my election night "how right or wrong was Tom?" post:

If things hold per current counts, I will have predicted 47 of 50 states correctly. I've already blown Florida. Current counts say that Pennsylvania and Georgia are going the opposite of my predictions. But I expect Pennsylvania to end up going for Biden, and Georgia may still pull it out for Trump. If one of those two things happen, I'll be 48 for 50, just like the last two elections. If both things happen, I'll be 49 for 50.

Absent some kind of bizarre litigation outcome, this will be the third presidential election in a row in which I have correctly predicted both the overall outcome and the outcomes in at least 47 of the 50 states (I'm almost certain I'll hit 48 again, 50/50 on hitting 49).

So, is anyone interested in a friendly advance wager on the nuttiness or accuracy of my 2024 predictions?

Update, 9am EST Friday: 30 minutes ago,  I wrote "I expect Pennsylvania to end up going for Biden." And then ... Biden overtakes Trump in Pennsylvania vote count. For why, see my Wednesday "bellwether" post.


Thursday, November 05, 2020

Vibe Check


Hopefully the real truth (whatever it is) will out, but I'm getting a strong "convoys to Syria made Saddam's WMD disappear" vibe out of the Trump campaign's legal challenges at this point.

That is, they feel like they're geared more toward setting up a narrative for four years of pretending Trump got robbed than toward actually explaining/changing the results.


Wednesday, November 04, 2020

One Thing It's Hard for Election Models to Account For ...


... is the conflicting strategies of the Democrats and Republicans.

The Democratic strategy is to GET OUT THE VOTE -- even if it that means getting it out of graveyards, etc. In a close race, if the Democrat is behind, count on more ballots to magically appear.

The Republican strategy is to make it as difficult as possible for poor people, black people, etc., to vote. Then, in a close race, if the Republican is behind, sue left and right to stop votes from being counted.

Here's how my model accounts for that:

Nationally and in competitive areas, I consider it a wash. The Republicans are probably going to subtract as many votes as the Democrats add.

Locally, i.e. in state by state prediction, I look at which party is in power, where the political machines are and how powerful they are, etc. close the state looks, and assume  a 1% edge in addition to what polling might indicate on the part of the party with better fuckery machinery (unless one of their schemes is visibly kiboshed, in which case I deduct that advantage).


Well, SOMEONE Has Already Won the Election


I've seen a bunch of articles, tweets, and Facebook posts this morning along the lines of "no, Trump has not already won the election, the votes aren't counted yet."

I don't know whether Trump has won the election or not, but someone has. The votes have been cast. Counting them doesn't decide who wins the election. It just tells us who already did.

Now, the caveat: Winning the election and winning the presidency aren't the same thing.

There are various ways in which the process of selecting the president by election might be thwarted.

For example, stuffing ballot boxes with fake votes.

Or getting the courts to stop the counting while one candidate is ahead, when the other candidate actually has more votes in the remaining pile

But that doesn't change the actual outcome of the election. It just steals the office which was supposed to be decided by the election.


Checking My Pennsylvania Bellwether


 In a comment about a year and a half ago, I wrote:

Take Erie County, which Trump won by about 2,000 votes in 2016 with the Democrats only getting 58,000 votes. Trump got the same number of votes there in 2016 as Romney got in 2012. It was the Democrats who were missing in 2016. In 2012, there were 177,000 votes cast and 93,000 instead of 58,000 of them were Democratic. That county alone would add 35,000 votes to the Democratic total in the state if the Democrats get their voters to the polls.

So, what's Erie County looking like right now (source link)?

Trump: 56,471
Biden: 41,888
Jorgensen: 1,472

Not looking good for Biden, right?


AND! In the mail balloting so far, Biden's beating Trump by nearly 5 to 1.

If that ratio holds constant, Biden will get more than 29,000 more votes, and Trump will only get fewer than 6,000.

And if the rest of Pennsylvania looks similar vis a vis numbers of uncounted mail ballots and Biden advantage in mail voting, Biden will carry the state.

"Top Two" Fails in Florida


I was hoping it would, and it did.

The purposes of the proposed amendment were to 1) protect gerrymandered districts in perpetuity by making sure that ONLY the gerrymander party's candidates appeared on the November ballot, and 2) to kill third parties by ensuring that in competitive districts, only the duopoly parties appeared on the November ballot.

There was one big weakness in that second purpose -- in a competitive district with big Republican and Democrat primary fields, a single third party candidate with some money and a real campaign might be able to make the "top two," and I was already doodling a strategy paper on how to exploit that if it passed  -- but overall it was a bad, bad thing and I'm glad it went down.


Well, That Ought to Wrap Things Up for Tom Cotton's Presidential Aspirations


With 90% of precincts reporting, Libertarian Ricky Lee Harrington has just over 1/3 of the vote for US Senate from Arkansas and is carrying three counties.

Tom Cotton's been too busy running for president (come 2024) to bother campaigning for his own US Senate seat, and the result is that he wasn't quite able to get twice as many votes as a Libertarian. The GOP should laugh him out of the debate room if he takes a shot at its presidential nomination.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Election Night Open Thread w/Prediction vs. Reality Goodness


So, here's my prediction from October 11:


I'll try to keep up with states (as "called" by some medium or network I haven't picked yet), for as long as I stay awake, and as they come in ... which means this post may actually be updated for several days if there's recount/lawsuit fuckery.

"Open thread" means I'd love to see ongoing discussion in comments as the night proceeds. 

A legend for the accounting below -- Green means I called the state correctly. Red means I blew it. I'm using Politico's results page as my source.

Alabama MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Alaska MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Arizona MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Arkansas MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
California MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Colorado MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Connecticut MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Delaware MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
District of Columbia MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Florida MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Georgia MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Hawaii MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Idaho MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Illinois MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Indiana MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Iowa MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Kansas MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Kentucky MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Louisiana MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Maine MY CALL: Biden Statewide, Trump District 2  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN STATEWIDE, TRUMP DISTRICT 2
Maryland MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Massachusetts MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Michigan MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Minnesota MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Mississippi MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Missouri MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Montana MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Nebraska MY CALL: Trump Statewide, Biden District 2  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP STATEWIDE, BIDEN DISTRICT 2
Nevada MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
New Hampshire MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
New Jersey MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
New Mexico MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
New York MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
North Carolina MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
North Dakota MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Ohio MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Oklahoma MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Oregon MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Pennsylvania MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Rhode Island MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
South Carolina MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
South Dakota MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Tennessee MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Texas MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Utah MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Vermont MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Virginia MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Washington MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
West Virginia MY CALL: Trump  | ACTUAL RESULT: TRUMP
Wisconsin MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: BIDEN
Wyoming MY CALL: Biden  | ACTUAL RESULT: Biden

Update, 8:27pm EST: Fifteen states in, but none of the "battleground" states that weren't easily predictable (I got all 15 right). Florida's running tight, and I may have blown that call.

Update, 10:30pm EST:  So far, I'm 25 for 25, based on states that Politico has called -- but at least one of those states, Virginia, seems at the moment to be going against the call. And the real "battlegrounds" still aren't in. I'm going to bed. And frankly, I don't think we'll be very sure who won when I get up in about seven hours. See you then!

Update, 5:50am EST: With 44 states called, I'm 43 for 44. But of course the one I blew is a big one (Florida), and the ones that haven't been called yet (Alaska, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) will be decisive.

Update, 2:35pm EST: Associated Press has called Wisconsin for Biden, but Politico isn't showing that yet, so I'll wait to mark it up.

Update, 4:50pm EST: CNN and NBC have called Michigan for Biden, but Politico isn't showing that result yet, so I'll wait to mark it up. If those last two calls are correct, it's all over but the litigation. I'm still interested in how Pennslyvania and Georgia go, though, because I've got a PredictIt bet on Biden winning by 100-149 electoral votes.

Update, 8:30am EST Friday: If things hold per current counts, I will have predicted 47 of 50 states correctly. I've already blown Florida. Current counts say that Pennsylvania and Georgia are going the opposite of my predictions. But I expect Pennsylvania to end up going for Biden, and Georgia may still pull it out for Trump. If one of those two things happen, I'll be 48 for 50, just like the last two elections. If both things happen, I'll be 49 for 50.

Update, 9am EST Friday: 30 minutes ago,  I wrote "I expect Pennsylvania to end up going for Biden." And then ... Biden overtakes Trump in Pennsylvania vote count. For why, see my Wednesday "bellwether" post.

Update, 1:05pm EST Saturday: The last three uncalled states are Alaska, Georgia, and North Carolina. So far, my predictions have proven accurate in 46 of 47 states called. I expect to also be proven correct in Alaska and North Carolina, for 48 of 50.

Update, 10:41am EST December 2: I waited out most of the litigation/recount stuff before "calling" the last few states. Final result, 48 out of 50 for the third time in a row.

Old Chromebox, New Life


I got my first Chromebox in 2012 -- the OG model, Samsung Series 3.

Later, I upgraded to an Asus (CN62, I think), and handed the Samsung over to my son. He used it until this week, even though its service updates ended a couple of years ago.

Yesterday and today (with some assistance from me on the hardware), he flashed its BIOS, installed a new solid state drive, and installed Debian Linux (with xfce GUI) on it.

So now an obsolete, eight-year-old Chromebox is probably going to be a pretty decent Linux box.

But, scandalously, he intends to install Chicago95, a Windoze 95 styled theme. Even though he constantly uses ChromeOS, Linux, etc., he likes to pretend that Windoze is a real OS, even a good one. And when I mock him, he calls me a Boomer.


Monday, November 02, 2020

If I Could Get One Thing Out of the Election Tomorrow ...


... it would be the end of Tom Cotton's presidential prospects.

Cotton's been campaigning hard, but not to retain his Senate seat. He's been barnstorming around the country, in theory as a Trump proxy, but mostly to position himself for a 2024 presidential campaign.

The reason he doesn't think he needs to campaign for his Senate seat is that his Democratic opponent withdrew from the race, after the filing deadline, when Cotton's campaign dumped a bunch of embarrassing oppo research.

That means the Senate race in Arkansas is Tom Cotton (R) vs. Ricky Harrington (L). And while most polls show Cotton winning easily, at least one has him only 11 points up on Harrington, 49-38, with 13 percent undecided.

If Harrington wins, Cotton's finished.

If Cotton can't knock down at least 2/3 of the vote in a race against an under-funded Libertarian candidate, he should be finished vis a vis  the presidency. His opponents for the GOP's presidential nomination will make hay with it -- "the guy can't even get double the Libertarian vote in his own state, how can he beat a Democrat nationally?"

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether Cotton really is batshit insane or whether he's just an opportunistic snake. I strongly suspect he's equal measures of both -- whackjob and sociopath. Getting his grubby little rat claws off of and far, far away from the levers of power would be a real win for freedom and America. Ricky Harrington is a hero for his efforts to accomplish that.


Sunday, November 01, 2020

My Amazon Review of the Nakto Camel F Electric Bicycle ...


 ... is available here. (Note: Our family Amazon account is in my wife's name)

Given previous bad experiences, I waited until I had put more than 100 miles on the bike to write a full review. That doesn't mean something couldn't go wrong at 150 miles, or a thousand miles ... but I figure 100 miles is a reasonable marker for "obvious defects" judgment. If something was going to go wrong because of defective parts, poor quality control, etc., it probably would have by now.

Put another 15 miles or so on it last night, riding to the gym and back. No problems.

Some time in the next 30-60 days, I want to see if I can get 50 miles out of a battery charge with a little muscle and judicious use of pedal assist.

If I can get 50 miles out of a battery charge, I may consider buying a second battery. That would give me 100-mile range (round trip or one-way with the ability to charge at the other end). That would get me to Jacksonville, or even the Georgia state line, one way, or round trip to Fort White, Cedar Key, Ocala, etc.


Thanks For Asking! -- 11/01/20


Ah, the first of the month ... time for the monthly "Ask Me Anything" thread!

Ask me anything in comments.

Yes, anything.

I'll answer in comments, or possibly in a stand-alone post or other format that I'll link from comments.

OK, let's do this.



Is the 2020 Presidential Election Already Over?


Americans cast 136,669,276 votes in the 2016 presidential election.

As of yesterday, according to the US Elections Project, Americans had already cast 92,038,417 votes in the 2020 presidential election.

Assuming similar or even higher turnout, it looks like there are still a lot of votes to be cast.

BUT!

The US Elections Project also asserts the existence of 32,303,784 mail ballots "outstanding," i.e. "yet to be returned." Some of those probably weren't cast (the voters forgot, or just decided screw it and threw them in the trash), others may still be in (or be lost in) the mail, still others may be sitting in mail bags at election authority offices waiting to be processed as "received."

Let's look at some battleground states (same source):

In 2016, Arizonans cast 2,604,657 total presidential ballots. This year, Arizonans requested 3,383,433 mail ballots and have already returned 2,302,756 of them.

In 2016, Floridians cast 9,420,039 presidential votes. This year, they've already cast 8,294,115.

Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are all way behind Florida and Arizona in terms of "actual votes so far in 2020" versus "votes cast in 2016." Actual turnout on Tuesday in those states will be depressed. They're up north where the weather isn't as nice. They're more "lockdown-oriented" vis a vis COVID-19. Their urban areas seem more inclined to "civil unrest." All three of those factors make standing in line with a bunch of strangers for hours unattractive.

I suspect that in all of the "battleground" states, the die is cast. Whoever was winning in each state this morning will still be winning in that state come Tuesday night.


Friday, October 30, 2020

Why I'm Still Confident Biden Will Carry Arizona


Arizona is all tied up in the RealClearPolitics average. Trump at +4 in the latest Rasmussen poll, but my model, the history, and the details on that Rasmussen poll all leave me still fairly confident that Biden will take the state.

Close polls are bad news for the incumbent party. The incumbent has had three years longer to campaign as his party's nominee-apparent than the challenger. If he hasn't closed the deal by now, there's no particular reason to believe he's going to.

Lower expectations of third party votes are also bad news for the incumbent. Third party candidates knocked down about 5.5% of the Arizona vote in 2016; I'll be surprised to see them hit 3% this year, and whatever third party voters disagree on, they tend to agree that the party in power sucks. More of them are going to desert their third party of choice for Biden than for Trump.

People who have already voted are Biden +7 in the Rasmussen numbers -- and those who have already voted are by definition FAR more likely TO vote. The people who haven't voted yet may get around to it, or they may not.

Finally Rasmussen, while not terrible pollsters, have an historical polling bias that tends to favor Republican candidates versus actual outcomes.

I don't expect a Biden blow-out in Arizona, but I still expect a Biden victory in Arizona.


A Prediction


If 1) Donald Trump is elected to and serves a second term as president, and 2) the Democrats take control of the Senate, the Democrats will pass, and Trump will sign, a "Medicare For All" or other "single-payer" healthcare law.


Thursday, October 29, 2020

"Soviet-Style Suppression of Information"


Tucker Carlson version:

WAAAAAAAH! Some media outlets ignored a story I thought would help my preferred presidential candidate, others didn't reach the conclusions about the story I wanted them to reach, and only a few shouted the line I wanted toed from the rooftops! WAAAAAAAAAH!

Real version:

In February 1945, while serving in East Prussia, [Aleksandr] Solzhenitsyn was arrested by SMERSH for writing derogatory comments in private letters to a friend, Nikolai Vitkevich, about the conduct of the war by Joseph Stalin .... On 7 July 1945, he was sentenced in his absence by Special Council of the NKVD to an eight-year term in a labour camp. ... In March 1953, after his sentence ended, Solzhenitsyn was sent to internal exile for life at Birlik .... Solzhenitsyn made an unsuccessful attempt, with the help of Tvardovsky, to have his novel Cancer Ward legally published in the Soviet Union. This required the approval of the Union of Writers. Though some there appreciated it, the work was ultimately denied publication unless it was to be revised and cleaned of suspect statements and anti-Soviet insinuations. ... as a writer, he became a non-person, and, by 1965, the KGB had seized some of his papers, including the manuscript of The First Circle. Meanwhile, Solzhenitsyn continued to secretly and feverishly work upon the most well-known of all his writings, The Gulag Archipelago. ... On 8 August 1971, the KGB allegedly attempted to assassinate Solzhenitsyn using an unknown chemical agent (most likely ricin) with an experimental gel-based delivery method. ... In a discussion of its options in dealing with Solzhenitsyn the members of the Politburo considered his arrest and imprisonment and his expulsion to a capitalist country willing to take him. ... On 12 February 1974, Solzhenitsyn was arrested and deported the next day from the Soviet Union to Frankfurt, West Germany and stripped of his Soviet citizenship.

Any questions? 


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Who the Hell Elected Ted Cruz?


Ted Cruz: "Mr. Dorsey, who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear?"

Interesting question.

Mr. Dorsey (or at least Mr. Dorsey's business, Twitter) has been voluntarily elected by its 321 million users, any or all of whom are free to walk away at any time; by its thousands or millions of stockholders, any or all of whom are free to divest themselves of their shares at any time; and by its thousands or millions of advertisers, any or all of whom are free to place their ads elsewhere at any time; to do whatever the hell he think best serves and is most likely to please those customers, stockholders, and advertisers.

Mr Cruz was elected by 4.2 million people in Texas. 4.045 million people preferred Democrat Beto O'Rourke, 65,000 preferred Libertarian Neal Dikeman, and more than 20 million either weren't asked or expressed no preference at all.

I doubt that even the 4.2 million people who elected Ted Cruz meant to put him in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear. But he sure seems to be assuming that he is. And we're not even able to fire the motherfucker, or turn down his products/services.


Monday, October 26, 2020

They're Asking the Wrong Questions


Associated Press: Vision 2020: How soon will we know the US election outcome?

Wall Street JournalWhen Will We Know the 2020 Presidential Election Results?

FiveThirtyEight: Will We Know The Winner On Election Night?

Wrong questions.

Lots of people will know who won by the time the polls close. Heck, even before the polls close.

And many of those people will be wrong.

And some of those who are wrong will never believe they're wrong.

More if it's close, fewer if it isn't, but some, no matter how big the gap between winner and losers, will know, to absolute certainty and beyond a shadow of doubt, that their preferred candidate actually won and was somehow cheated.

Quote, apocryphally attributed to Will Rogers, Mark Twain, and others, but probably a paraphrase of Josh Billings: "It's not what we don't know that hurts. It's what we know that ain't so."


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!)

MATCHING FUNDS!

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!):

YOU CAN DO THAT HERE

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 Minds.com 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).


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