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).


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).




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