Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Cool ...

My copy of The Chocolate Watchband's recent release, This Is My Voice, arrived this morning on very pretty "Coloured/Splatter Vinyl." And inside, a card with a Bandcamp link and code so that I can stream, download, etc. as well. There's even an embed function, which presumably only allows partial streaming for people who haven't purchased the album:

The Double Standard in a Nutshell

Peter Beinart at The Atlantic:

What the Ukraine scandal reveals about Donald Trump is by now well known: He elevated his political interest above the national interest and demanded foreign interference in an American election. What’s received less attention is what the scandal reveals about Joe Biden: He showed poor judgment because his staff shielded him from hard truths. If that sounds faintly familiar, it’s because that same tendency underlay Hillary Clinton’s email woes in 2016. Clinton and Biden differ in many ways. But beneath each candidate’s marquee scandal lies the same core defect: insularity.


"When Republicans act criminally and/or corruptly, it's because they're criminal and/or corrupt.

"When Democrats act criminally and/or corruptly, it's because they're just poor, temperamental, out-of-their-element naifs who of course had no criminal or corrupt intent, but whose staffers -- whether negligently, or out of concern for feelings or fear of offending -- didn't button their winter jackets for them, take them by their little mittened hands, and walk them across all those busy, dangerous legal/ethical streets."

There are a couple of obvious problems with that narrative.

One is that in the case of Trump vs. Biden and/or Clinton, the latter two are the two with decades of experience in government behind them, while Trump is the one who never held appointed or elected political office until 2017. If there's an argument from lack of experience/knowledge of the rules, it favors Trump, not Biden and/or Clinton.

The other is that the "just a poor, temperamental, out-of-my-element naif who wouldn't remember that it's wrong to murder a kindergartener with an ax unless a staffer got in my face about it" descriptor is an argument against, not for, entrusting considerable power and authority to the person it describes.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

I Know I'm Getting Old, But ...

... I just don't get this special categorization of "senior citizens" or "the elderly" when it comes to legal matters.

I understand "senior discounts." Americans over 65 have lower mean and median incomes than Americans between 35 and 65, but presumably more of those incomes are "disposable." Hopefully their homes are paid off (they have higher net worth than other age demographics due to home equity), they're no longer raising kids, putting lots of miles on a car is optional instead of a matter of getting to work, etc. Businesses want that money, so 10% off at the buffet or whatever makes sense (especially since people eat less as they get older).

But I occasionally come across stories like "Houston-area woman arrested for allegedly using pepper spray on 80-year-old man," in which an alleged assailant is charged with e.g. "injury to an elderly person."

Why on earth would aggression against an 80-year-old be considered worse than aggression against, say, a 53-year-old? The couple who reported the attack were presumably not disabled. They were out and about in a car, anyway.

I can understand the "particularly vulnerable" category as an "aggravating factor" in aggression. That is, I can see why people would find it more morally repugnant to attack a baby in a stroller or a stroke victim paralyzed in a hospital bed than to attack an able-bodied adult. But that doesn't seem to have been the case here. Just being old doesn't mean being "particularly vulnerable." All it means is that the guy managed to avoid coronary arrests and off days at the World Trade Center for 80 years.

Political Sexism?

Geoffrey Skelley writes at FiveThirtyEight:

So what do we know about [Tulsi] Gabbard’s base? For one thing, it’s overwhelmingly male -- in The Economist’s national polling average, her support among men is in the mid-single digits, while her support among women is practically nonexistent. This trend is evident in other recent polls as well. Last week’s Quinnipiac poll of Iowa found Gabbard at 5 percent among men and 1 percent among women, and Quinnipiac’s new survey of New Hampshire found her at 9 percent among men and 4 percent among women. A late October national poll from Suffolk University found her at 6 percent among men and 2 percent among women.

While all the numbers are fairly low, it looks like men are anywhere from twice as likely to five or six times as likely to support a woman -- a particular woman, anyway -- as women are. Even with small samples, the divide seems stark and has occurred repeatedly across polls, so it's presumably real.

My question: Is the sexism at the high end of that divide, or the low end, or both? That is:

  • Are men supporting Gabbard because of her sex -- in particular, perhaps because she's a reasonably physically attractive woman by conventional standards, and they like to look at her -- rather than for policy reasons?
  • Are women not supporting Gabbard because of her sex rather than for policy reasons? If so, does her physical attractiveness by conventional standards have anything to do with it (e.g. jealousy, or assuming an attractive woman is just eye candy instead of a serious candidate)?
Or could it be something else -- for example, contra the conventional wisdom, perhaps women are more supportive of US military adventurism than men are and don't like Gabbard's anti-war positioning?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday, November 08, 2019

"... to be confronted with the witnesses against him ..."

One of the more pathetic arguments I keep seeing among Republicans' attempts to pull Donald J. Trump's ass out of the crack he's got it in goes something like this (it's Ron Paul's site, trying to justify his son's Senate histrionics):

[Y]es, whistleblowers should have better protection whether government employees or contractors, but, he said, legislation and statutes cannot supersede the US Constitution, which gives everyone the right to face their accuser.

OK, so what does the Constitution actually say?

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Emphases mine.

The obvious first problem with the Republican argument here is that an impeachment probe is not a criminal prosecution. It's the first, investigative stage of an employee disciplinary process. The maximum penalty here is that Trump gets fired, and that would only happen at a different, later stage involving upper management and, in some workplaces, the accused employee's union steward.

But sure, let's set that aside, frame impeachment as if it was a criminal prosecution, and see where that takes us.

Suppose a passerby notices three men, wearing ski masks and carrying Uzis, walking into a bank. The passerby dials 911 on a disposable phone, not publicly linked to her identity, to report a possible armed robbery.

The police respond.  Upon their arrival at the bank, they find three men, wearing ski masks and waving Uzis around, filling bags with cash while the bank employees and customers lie on the floor with their hands visible, quietly crying.

After a brief standoff, the suspects are taken into custody.

The matter is referred to a grand jury, which will decide whether or not to indict the suspects for armed robbery, etc.

The prosecutor plays the 911 call for the grand jury. He brings the responding police officers, the bank manager, the tellers, and several customers in to tell the grand jury what they know. He shows the grand jury security camera footage of the events, including footage of the suspects removing their ski masks and looking directly at the cameras after placing their Uzis on the floor. And so on and so forth.

At some point during this process, the suspects' attorneys object:

Unless the prosecutor publicly identifies the 911 caller and brings that caller in to testify, and releases the 9/11 caller's testimony to the public, they say, the suspects are being denied their right to be confronted with the witnesses against them.

Presumably the prosecutor would respond as follows:

  1. The point at which defendants are entitled to be confronted with the witnesses against them is during the trial, if they are indicted. It's not a prosecution until and unless the grand jury tells the prosecutor "go forth and prosecute." Right now, it's a different thing entirely -- an investigation. It could conceivably end without ever becoming a prosecution.
  2. It is, at this point, by no means obvious that the prosecution will use the 911 caller as a witness against the suspects at trial, if there even is a trial, and there's nothing requiring the prosecution to use the 911 caller in the grand jury process. The prosecution's case may start with the bank manager seeing the suspects enter the bank and pressing the bank's silent alarm button.
  3. If there is a trial, the suspects will be entitled to compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in their favor, which means their attorneys will be able to compel the 911 caller to testify and be examined and cross-examined, if they believe the caller's testimony will benefit the suspects.
Sorry, Republicans: Even if impeachment was a criminal prosecution, there's just no constitutional "there" there for the claim that the prosecutor and the grand jury must talk to the "whistleblower" at all, let alone publicly.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Inconvenient, Maybe, But I Do Love to See the State Behind The Times

My copy of my DD-214 is a horrible-looking rush job that I paid money for so that I could get the damn thing quickly pursuant to getting government ID that I urgently "needed" (according to the US government, because I needed to fly and couldn't get on a plane without their permission, a few years ago).

I want a better copy for my files in case of future situations where it might prove useful, so I decided to go through the official government service -- the National Personnel Records Center.

They accept applications by:

  • US Snail; and
  • Fax
Email? Guess they never heard of it. Although they do have a web site. That looks like it was designed circa 1993.

I printed the form as a PDF, signed it online using Hellosign, and found a "free" online fax service to send it.

No, I'm not complaining. If it was up to me, all US government agencies would be strictly limited no technology more powerful than old 8-bit computers, pulse-operating dial telephones, and horse-drawn transport.

I Don't Take Advantage of "Veteran Discounts" Very Often ...

... both because they're usually a pain in the ass to claim, and because I don't buy the idea that I'm "owed" anything for having been a well-paid government employee for 10 years.

But I noticed some news stories this morning:

Amazon is offering veterans one year of their Prime service for $79. That's good for new Prime members, or for a one-year extension for existing Prime members.

I've been a Prime member for several years, and I pay monthly ($12.99). Even at that price instead of the regular annual rate ($119), Prime is a great deal for my household. It probably pays for itself with the free shipping alone, which makes the large streaming video and music catalogs pure gravy.

But hey, if Amazon wants to give me $76.88 off a year's worth of Prime, yeah, I'm going to take it and I don't particularly care why they're doing it.

Disclosure: I Just Doubled Down (More or Less) on Impeachment

When I make a "political" bet in a prediction market (PredictIt being my chosen venue), I disclose it here so that you can judge whether that bet is influencing my judgment (or causing me to become a megalomaniac who believes his small blog can influence the prediction market).

In September, I bought 29 shares of "yes" to the question "Will Donald Trump be impeached by year-end 2019?" at 33 cents per share. The market has never closed as low as that price since. It's gone up and down, closing at as high as 59 cents and as low as 35 cents.

Today I bought 24 more shares at 42 cents per share.

Both of those amounts represent a $10 deposit divided by the current share price (this time including a small remainder from the first $10 deposit as well). I have 36 cents left in my PredictIt account now.

I am at least as convinced now as I was in September that the House will vote to impeach Trump before the end of the year.

In fact, if I was betting on exact dates, I'd probably put a little money on a theatrical "get this done just as it's time to leave for Thanksgiving break" production. As of last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seemed to agree, and expected to wrap up the post-impeachment trial by Christmas.

Am I going to talk up impeachment for purposes of turning my ~$20 bet into a ~$50 payoff? You be the judge, but I don't think it will skew my analysis.

As brief an explanation as possible as to why I'm confident in this bet comes from Anton Chekhov:

"If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there."

Politicians are playwrights of sort. Nancy Pelosi wouldn't have hung the impeachment rifle on the wall of the House chamber if it wasn't going to be fired.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Thanks For Asking! -- 11/05/19

Another month, another AMA thread sponsored by Free Pony Express ...

So, ask me something (anything) in the comments below this post, and I'll answer in those comments, in a stand-alone post, or in some novel way that I haven't thought of yet.

Monday, November 04, 2019

My Liver Really Seems to Confuse Medical Researchers

Last year, I was contacted and asked to join a study and drug trial. The criteria had to do with "fatty liver" in Type 2 Diabetes patients.

I ended up being rejected from the study for several reasons, one being the amount of scarring on my liver. I was referred to a hepatologist who did an ultrasound and found nothing amiss except some asymptomatic gallstones, but still wanted to do an ultrasound "just in case." Never have got around to that.

So last week, I was contacted by another researcher in the same group for another, similar study/trial. This time I got rejected after some blood work, before we even got to the point of scanning my liver.

It seems my ALT score is just too ... normal. They wanted at least a 30, I only got a 26 (both are well within normal range but apparently lower is better).

My personal theory about the scarring on my liver is that it occurred during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I was exposed to a number of weird things:

  • An anthrax vaccine from tubes marked EXPERIMENTAL! DO NOT USE ON HUMANS (I had to be threatened with a court-martial before I let them stick me with it). 
  • Smoke from thousands of burning oil wells in the Burgan Field (I spent about two months within sight of the flames and within a constant soot cloud).
  • Some weird yellow powder that locally sourced contractors spread all over the place to keep flies down.
  • Probably sarin.
  • Probably PCBs from used motor oil that was poured on in-camp roads to keep the dust down.
But I could be wrong about that. Apparently the damn thing is still ticking within normal human function range, so there's that, anyway.

And Yet More Wordpress Woes

I'm rebuilding Rational Review News Digest from scratch at another URL. Everything has been going swimmingly until ... this.

RRND consists of excerpts/blurbs for various news, commentary, and audio/video items each day. The post format, both on-site and in the email editions, looks like this:

Trevor Timm on The Scott Horton Show
Source: Libertarian Institute

"Trevor Timm talks about the inhumane and potentially life-threatening conditions Julian Assange is being held in as he awaits trial for violations of the Espionage Act." [various formats] (11/03/19)

The new Wordpress installation is publishing this:

Trevor Timm on The Scott Horton Show
Source: Libertarian Institute

"Trevor Timm talks about the inhumane and potentially life-threatening conditions Julian Assange is being held in as he awaits trial for violations of the Espionage Act." [various formats] (11/03/19)

11/1/19 Trevor Timm on Julian Assange and the Threat to Press Freedom Everywhere

That doesn't work for me. At all. I generate my email newsletter from the web site content, and I need the URLS, not the titles of the pages the URLs lead to, to display.

I can't seem to find any setting to make it knock that shit off, nor are web searches for similar problems turning up anything useful.

My assumption is that Wordpress has recently (very recently, within the last 48 hours) updated, and that the update includes another horror show feature similar to, but not exactly like, one I've already disabled with a plug-in -- a "preview feature" that embeds actual videos instead of links to videos, etc.

Anyone got any ideas?

I'm near the point of looking for a more stable content management system to run my sites on. It feels like Wordpress issues updates every week and a half, and each one includes some new feature to fix stuff that isn't broken. In addition to a "disable embeds" plug-in, I also have to run one to let me use the "classic" editor instead of that idiotic new "block editor" that came in with the Gutenberg release.

UPDATE: Fixed. I think what happened is that when I enabled the "don't show previews" plug-in, it stopped doing that stuff, but that it did not automatically stop doing it for the first couple of posts that had already published. When I re-created the posts, they displayed correctly.

And People in Hell Want Ice Water, Trump v. House Edition

Camera One:

Camera Two:

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings ... -- US Constitution, Article I, Section 5

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Sometimes Wordpress (or Something) Just Pisses Me Off

So we had some problems at Rational Review last week.

After creating a Wordpress post, when creating a SUBSEQUENT Wordpress post, the new post would overwrite the previous post as an revision.

I spent all week trying different things both obvious and suggested in seemingly related search results -- turning off plug-ins, turning off Cloudflare caching, etc., adding something to .htaccess, etc. with no luck.

Then, just as I was about to burn the site to the ground and rebuild it entirely from scratch, the problems disappeared. Over the weekend, we got most of Monday's edition entered.

Then this afternoon, the problems came back, with new twists.

First it started doing the overwrite thing.

Then it just switched to telling me "The link you followed has expired. Please try again" when I tried to save a draft, or publish or schedule a post.

Which is where it is now.

Better if it hadn't started working right again in the first place, since it worked right again right through the period when I would have been dicking around nuking a Wordpress installation and creating a new site where the old one once stood.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Conflicted ...

I've been saying for some time that I want to record a song or three. And guitar-wise, I've got at least one ready to go.

I want drums. But I don't play drums. I hate the idea of using a drum machine, but I have a little guitar effects processor coming that has one built in, so I guess I can live with using a canned rhythm.

If I want harmonica (probably) and mandolin (maybe), I'm capable of overdubbing those.

But now I'm at the point of making decisions about bass. I haven't played bass since I was a teenager, but I don't think it will be a giant problem. Not planning anything fancy.

Except that it means buying or building a bass.

I have a great suitcase I bought for the specific purpose of using as the body of a stand-up bass with a 2x4 for neck, but I still haven't started on that build.

A "real" bass fiddle is expensive, and my experience is playing electric bass guitar. So that's what I'm thinking of buying.

I'd prefer acoustic/electric, and I'd prefer fretless. But that drives the price up.

So I'm looking at el cheapo electric basses in the $60-90 range, which sounds cheap, and is cheap, but I've watched a number of YouTube reviews of a particular make (Glarry) that indicate it's a good deal for the price.

So now I'm trying to decide between a standard P-Bass (i.e. a clone of the Fender Precision, which is to generic basses what the stratocaster is to generic guitars and is what I played on as a young'un) or the jazz model. I'm leaning toward the jazz ax, as you can do some interesting things based on where you hit the strings in relation to the two widely spaced pickups.

I considered just trying to find an "octave down" pedal and playing bass line on a regular guitar, but it looks like most cheap octave pedals go up, not down. I'd have to spend more money simulating a bass than I would spend buying an actual bass.

Fortunately, I have time to think (and to wait for the value of my cryptocurrency to take another upward spike -- in the last week I've spent about $50 at Amazon using Purse, but have a balance of about $30 more than I started with). I'll be recording the guitar/drum line first in any case. Once I start recording that first song, I expect to spend a week getting it as right as I can get it.

Anyway, opinions on cheap bassitude welcome.

Update: I found a REALLY good deal on the Glarry Jazz ($80 with a 20 watt amp included), so that's on the way. I also got over big-time on a vinyl copy of Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl Ballads. I put in an offer of $5 on it and was refused, so I just bid on the auction and got it for $3. I guess the guy should have accepted my offer.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Trump to Receive Award for Acting Like Kamala Harris

And Kamala Harris is boycotting a South Carolina criminal justice forum over it.

Because only Kamala Harris gets to posture as favoring "criminal justice reform" after "decades of celebrating mass incarceration, pushing the death penalty for innocent black Americans, rolling back police accountability measures and racist behavior that puts people’s lives at risk ..."

Something I've Been Meaning to Get Around to and Finally Just Started

I'm going to listen to each and every one of what Rolling Stone considers to be the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time  (here's a convenient list format versus RS's broken up article/review format).

Of course, some of them I've listened to straight through before a bazillion times, and some of those (including their #1, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band -- a ranking I disagree with) I won't be listening to straight through again as part of this "listening tour" (I'll just check them off).

I'm on #3 (Revolver) at the moment. I had never done a straight play-through of  #2 (the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds) before, did that one last night and it was definitely worth the listening time.

I do find the list generally defective. The Beatles have four of the top 10, Bob Dylan has two. Then again, Dylan has the most albums on the full list (11), to the Beatles' 10. So it's not like he got short shrift in general.

I think I'd have spread the top 10 across 10 different artists (and the top 10 Beatles pick would have been The White Album).

The top 10 choices (one per artist) I agree unreservedly agree with with are that one (it comes it at #10) and the Stones' Exile on Main Street (#7). I think Pet Sounds probably deserves its top 10 placement.

The top two Dylan picks are Highway 61 Revisited (#4) and Blonde on Blonde(#9). I could see one of those making the cut, but I probably would have gone with either The Freewheeling Bob Dylan or Bringing it All Back Home or maybe even Blood on the Tracks. But I can't complain.

Some bands' top showings boggle the mind. You're out of the top 25 before you see any Who, Zeppelin, Doors, or Pink Floyd; and out of the top 50 before any Simon and Garfunkel or Paul Simon solo stuff shows up.

Now that I have that record player I mentioned in an earlier post, I'll be keeping an eye out for vinyl of records on the list. Might even have to print the list out for use at e.g. garage sales, etc.

Friday, October 25, 2019

About Those "Secret" Impeachment Hearings

OK, so far the House "impeachment probe" hearings are "closed." They take place behind closed doors, and only members of the committees conducting them are allowed in.

I prefer complete transparency, and would thus prefer to see each and every hearing held in public and televised on C-SPAN.

Republican politicians pretend that that's what they're all about too.  For example, on Wednesday, a bunch of them tried to achieve "desegregating the Woolworth's lunch counter" optics by crashing a House Intelligence Committe deposition of DoD official Laura Cooper.

I can sympathize, but only so far. They aren't really after transparency, they're after a circus. If the hearings were open, their tune would change to public yawning and urging everyone to move on -- "nothing to see here."

If I had to pick the biggest reason why the initial hearings are closed, it would be this:

If they're closed, the committee chairs and Nancy Pelosi maintain a certain amount of initial control over the narrative instead of handing it over to lunatics like, say, Maxine Waters. That lets them dial down expectations to a certain degree, and also increase suspense.

A secondary reason (one that Democrats have offered up) is that closed hearings make it a smidgen harder for the people being subpoenaed to coordinate their testimonies in advance. Just a smidgen (there's nothing to stop these people from talking to each other), but at least they can't hear what was actually said and prepare their own answers to match.

I Wish I May, I Wish I Might ...

... recommend Wish. If you use the code kvlvtwx at checkout, you get a discount (and I get some store credit).

What is Wish? I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but the short description is "all kinds of stuff, cheap, but it does take a little while to get to you."

It's cheap because the stuff is sold and delivered directly from Asia (usually, but not always, China).

It takes a little while to get to you for the same reason.

I've never bought anything very expensive from Wish, and I'd advise taking a skeptical approach to supposed name brand electronics and so forth with significant price tags.

If you're hung up on "intellectual property," be advised that brand name products might be "counterfeits." I bought some guitar straps for $1 a pop via Wish once. They had a brand name on them indicating a price tag more in the $15-20 range. They were fine straps, and I bought them because I needed guitar straps, not because I cared about the brand, but I'd be lying if I said I was sure they were made by the company whose name appears on them.

Just this morning, I ordered 100 guitar picks. Total price, including shipping (after a coupon code, one of which is almost always available), $1.50.

Actually, $1.00, because 50 cents was a "first person to buy this shirt gets it for 50 cents" deal (if it turns out I wasn't first, I get 50 cents refunded to a Wish account balance to spend on other things.).

I've ordered guitar strings, guitar picks, guitar tools, posters, bicycle lights, etc. from Wish. The products are of varying quality, but I can't say I've ever felt cheated. Tamara's bought earrings, necklaces, knick-knacks, and even a piece of clothing or two, and seems to be satisfied with the quality and price of her purchases.

Tamara uses her phone, I use my desktop computer. One feature of the phone (I'm guessing, since she gets the option and I don't, but I suppose it could be based on purchase history) is that you can save on shipping by having all the stuff in an order sent to a local business and pick it up there, instead of receiving separate packages in your mailbox.

When I want something inexpensive and don't need it this week, I always check Wish before hitting Amazon or whatever. Even paying shipping (as opposed to using my "free" Amazon Prime shipping), I often pay a dollar or two for something that would have cost me ten bucks or more elsewhere.

And while I'm sure there are things you can't find on Wish, I don't know what those things might be. Just about anything I search for, I find (or find something very close to).

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The New McCarthyism ...

... is at least as deranged as, and even less supported by evidence than, the mid-century Red Scare. Or, for that matter, the Salem witch panic.

It's also, as I wrote almost exactly three years ago, dangerous. Not just to the existing system, which I'm fine with, but to the lives and liberty of just about everyone.

There's a degree to which I don't "get out much," and that's when it comes to the comment sections of "mainstream left" news sites.

Over the last couple of days, I've been "getting out more," reading reactions to Hillary Clinton's unhinged attack on Tulsi Gabbard, Jill Stein, and third party candidates in general.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I am.

If those comment sections are accurate, a whole lot of people really seem to really believe that !THEM RUSSIANS! were behind the election of Donald Trump, that Hillary Clinton was "really" the winner ... and that anyone and anyone who disagrees with those two assertions is a Russian bot, a Russian asset, or a Russian troll.

I'm beginning to suspect I may have been overly optimistic in predicting a few years ago that the United States of America might groan on for as long as three more decades before collapsing into something probably even worse.

It's all banana Republicans to the putative "right" and all bananas Democrats to the putative "left." And it's starting to look pretty scary.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

When Buying Something Cheap Leads to Buying Something More Expensive ...

... it's not always a bad thing.

Gainesville is renowned for its annual "Friends of the Library" sale. Lots and lots of books. Lots of other media, too. Tamara wanted to get there early this morning hoping to beat the crowds. No dice. I'd be surprised if there were fewer than a thousand people in the building by the time we got there. The "express lane" for 20 items or less snaked around the building and my guesstimate of wait time is 20 minutes or so.

I bought a couple of cheap paperback mysteries (I don't have the reading time I used to and like something I can get through in the rare "nothing to do" day, e.g. a power outage) ... and then went to look for Tamara in the CD section.

Which meant going through the record section.

Which meant I ended up spending $3: 25 cents on a 78 rpm of Louis Armstrong's "Blueberry Hill," 25 cents on a Joe Jackson 45 (mostly because I knew Tamara would dig the sleeve), and $2.50 on this:

Four LPs. The Weavers. Flatt and Scruggs. Odetta. Doc Watson. Joan Baez.

All of which I can easily find on YouTube, I'm sure.

But I've been thinking about buying a turntable for a couple of years now. Whenever I hear vinyl being played, it brings back a feeling from my youth that I miss.

My vinyl collection went missing in a divorce 25 years ago. About 400 records, mostly LPs but some select 45s. The original "film can" issue of Public Image Ltd's "Metal Box." A first pressing of the 13th Floor Elevators' "You're Gonna Miss Me." An early pressing of the Stones' "Paint It Black" in the original sleeve. The original "School's Out" by Alice Cooper (the sleeve opened like a school desk and the inner sleeve was a paper pair of panties). Lots of albums by bands no one seems to have heard of in years (for example, three of Divine Horsemen's four albums).

I love vinyl.

Now I have some.

Which means I'm buying a record player.

I've got a bid in at Purse (affiliate link!) to get a substantial discount on a $40 job that, as a bonus, will output the vinyl sound to MP3 on a flash drive. If someone doesn't bite in a timely manner I'll either pay full price (minus the default Purse discount of 5%) or start keeping an eye out at local garage sales.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Concerning "Third Rate Politicians"

That's supposedly what President Trump called Nancy Pelosi during a meeting today.

Trump has been elected to office a grand total of one time, by a margin of about 80,000 votes in three states, getting fewer votes than his Democratic opponent nationwide from a population of about 320 million.

Pelosi has been elected to Congress 17 times. She beat her last Republican opponent by more than 230,000 votes -- not in three states, not nationwide, but in one of 435 US House districts with a population, according to the 2010 census, of approximately 700,000. She's also managed to remain at the head of her party's congressional delegation for more than a decade and a half.

Whatever else she may be, Pelosi is a successful politician. If she's "third rate" as a politician, Trump is at best sixth or seventh rate. Just sayin' ...

Monday, October 14, 2019

Polling: "Generic" Doesn't Tell Us Much

A new poll (h/t Taegan Goddard) has Donald Trump running behind a generic Democrat 48%-47%  -- and 51%-37% among independent voters -- for re-election in Ohio.

But after a certain point, Trump won't be running against a generic Democrat, he'll be running against a particular Democrat.

That's important.

Of the voters who are thinking "don't like Trump much, a Democrat might be better next time," some of them already have "as long as that Democrat is or isn't [insert name here]" floating around in the backs of their minds.

Also, once there's a nominee apparent, Trump and Co. will be able to focus their campaign strategy on that particular Democrat. They're already doing that to a degree (Biden is their main bugaboo of choice at the moment), but whichever Democrat they're attacking at any given moment is really more of a proxy for Democrats in general -- a "generic" target, one might say.

Finally there's the question of just how motivated the voters being polled are. It's one thing to say you prefer a generic Democrat when asked. It's another thing entirely to get off your ass cast a vote for a specific Democrat. It's gonna be a little while before we see how good the two major party campaigns' Get Out The Vote games are.

Trump won Ohio by 8.13% in 2016 after a cycle of zig-zagging poll numbers. Third party, independent, and write-in candidates grabbed 4.75% of the vote. As of this moment, it looks to me like he's reasonably well-positioned to win it again, albeit likely by a lower margin.

Is Alan Dershowitz on Trump's Impeachment Response Team?

Dershowitz's supposed version of an old saw:

If the facts are your side, pound the facts into the table. If the law is on your side, pound the law into the table. If neither the facts nor the law are on your side, pound the table.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Golden Age of Streaming is Over

I didn't wake up this morning with a powerful urge to watch A Fistful of Dollars, but I did arrive at such an urge via a rambling route that began with news of Robert Forster's death.

I'm sure that I watched it no longer than two years ago on one of the streaming services (I'm pretty sure it was Amazon Prime Video). Wherever it was that I watched it, I know that I didn't pay a premium above and beyond my subscription fee at whatever service I watched it on.

Now if I want to watch it, I have to pay out extra -- rent it, buy it, or add a subscription to STARZ on top of my Amazon Prime. Ditto The Magnificent Seven (the original, not the recent remake), which I last watched "free" a few years ago as well.

That seems to be happening a lot lately.

"That" being: Content formerly available via single-subscription-payment "all you can eat" streaming services moving back behind various "additional payment" walls.

I have some notions as to why that's happening.

Back when Netflix started their streaming service, it was speculative. The owners of older intellectual "property" were happy to license their stuff for peanuts. It's not like VHS/DVD sales of older westerns were bringing in fat stacks. This streaming fad was found money.

Then streaming got popular, as did "no added cost" on-demand video via cable networks.

And since each streaming service (two new big ones now out or coming soon -- Disney and Apple) and cable network wants to be able to offer stuff that can't be found anywhere else, they're bidding up the prices to license all that old stuff and moving it either onto their own services as "exclusives" or completely behind "additional payment" walls.

The same thing happened with cable. First there was basic cable. Then here came HBO for a little more per month. Then "want to watch X? Only on Showtime. Or Cinemax. Etc." With every new entrant, one of two things happened -- you forked over a little more, or you got a little less.

Looks like we're getting back to that way of doing things.

Netflix and Amazon saw it coming. That's why they started producing their own content and working out the "add channels" deals. The value proposition for subscription-based streaming is changing from "bazillions of movies and TV shows you remember and would like to see again for one flat price" to "you can only see Bill Burr's latest stand-up special on Netflix, and Bosch is just for Amazon Prime subscribers."

Personally, I have no intention of adding any more streaming services, or buying any premium channel add-ons to the ones I have. I've got Netflix and Amazon Prime, and occasionally consider dropping the former (Prime has the advantage of offering other benefits). My household also has Hulu, which I'm not interested in and which my wife pays for because I won't.

I suppose I might change out one of those services for another if one of the old ones starts sucking and a new one looks better. But I never really fell for the cable TV version of this trend, and don't plan to fall for the streaming version either. The few times over the last few decades when I've taken an "add HBO free or for only $X/month for Y months" (basically when I've moved and changed cable providers), I canceled when the free or cheap deal ended because the added value seemed like a fraction of the added price.

I guess I'll either go back to not watching as many different things on a whim, or buy a DVD player (my last one died years ago) and let my whims be driven by 50 cent garage sale / thrift store finds.

Friday, October 11, 2019

My 2020 Presidential Election Projection as of October 11, 2019

Not that anything's changed lately. I'm waiting to see what the impeachment show does to the polling over time before making any major changes. Here's the electoral map as I see it at this moment:

And here's Taegan Goddard's current projection (see the original page for the sources he's relying on):

One reason for this post is to remind myself to use that interactive map function from now on.

The differences between Goddard's projection and mine:

  • He has Arizona, Iowa, and North Carolina as toss-ups. I still have them going to Trump as they did in 2016.
  • He has Wisconsin and Michigan as toss-ups. I have them going to the Democratic candidate rather than to Trump as they did in 2016, and my confidence in that prediction is in excess of 99% for Wisconsin and in excess of 90% for Michigan.
As to where I think I might just be wrong:

  • Arizona made my initial "watch this state" cut several months ago as a prime state for change on both of two criteria: Trump won the state by less than 5% and third party/independent candidates polled more than 5% in 2016. Also (not among my "watch this state" criteria), in the 2018 midterms Democrat Kyrsten Sinema beat Republican Martha McSally to replace Republican Jeff Flake in the US Senate, and Democrats picked up a US House seat as well. My gut feeling is that Arizona still goes for Trump again, but I might move it into toss-up territory soon.
  • North Carolina only met one of my two "watch this state" criteria -- Trump won by less than 5% (3.66%), but third party/independent candidates only hit about 4%. That more than covered "the balance of power" but  there's a "base" third party vote that isn't up for grabs. Net in-migration (mostly from from "bluer" states -- advantage Democrats) also seems to be decreasing and I suspect that culture war considerations (advantage Trump) will keep the state red.
  • I'm not married to the idea of Iowa staying red. It might make the "toss-up" list next time around, especially if Trump keeps screwing the farmers with his trade wars.

Monday, October 07, 2019

File Under "It Can't Be Both"

From the dust-up over Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's Hong Kong tweet ...

"Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland. This issue is non-negotiable," [Brooklyn Nets owner and Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai] said as he outlined the problem with supporting what he described as a "separatist movement" in Hong Kong.

If Chinese citizens stand united on territorial integrity/sovereignty (if that's defined as including Hong Kong), there's not a separatist movement.

If there's a separatist movement, Chinese citizens don't stand united on territorial integrity/sovereignty (if that's defined as including Hong Kong).

Pick one, Joe.

Oh, Come ON

After one story popped up in my RSS feed this morning, I went to do a search and take a count. No fewer than 12 stories total.

Everyone's outraged. Everyone's upset.

OK, well, not everyone. Just everyone without, you know, a life or anything like that.

What are they upset about?

A song. In a movie.

The song's been used in movies before. And in video games. And to rile crowds at large sporting events.

But now the guy's in prison in Vietnam for raping kids, so a song of his from nearly half a century ago must go down the memory hole.

It's only Monday, but that's an instant front-runner for Dumbest Thing KN@PPSTER Will Read This Week.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

A Couple of Brief Notes on the "Why Hasn't There Been a Vote Yet? Gotcha!" Impeachment Stuff

I'm seeing, in various places, a claim (implicit or explicit) and a supposed "gotcha" question about impeachment.

The claim: The House has to vote to "open an impeachment inquiry" in order to have one.

That claim is incorrect.

Article I, Section 5 of the US Constitution specifies that "Each House [of Congress] may determine the rules of its proceedings."

There's neither any constitutional provision, nor any statute, nor any House rule requiring a vote of the House to "open an impeachment inquiry." It's been done before, but as a practical matter if the Speaker of the House announces an impeachment inquiry and the relevant committees (all of them controlled by, and chaired by, the Speaker's party) start, um, inquiring,  the inquiry is a fact.

The only way I can see around that is if a majority of the House supported some kind of parliamentary appeal to require a vote to make it official.

The supposed "gotcha" question relates to congressional votes either of the "open an inquiry" sort or of the "the SOB is hereby impeached" sort, and amounts to "well, if Pelosi has the votes, why haven't the votes been taken yet?

Pelosi announced the "inquiry" on September 24.  Congress has only been in session for three days since then, and won't be back until October 15. There are committees doing stuff, but the House as a whole has "district work periods" (i.e. "go home and campaign") until October 12, plus weekends and a federal holiday on October 14.

They aren't voting on anything right now because they're not there to vote on anything. And presumably there's at least some lag time between announcement of an "inquiry" and the production of actual articles of impeachment to vote on.

And Then There Was One

Ginger Baker has died.


I Just Don't Get the Value Proposition

Herewith, an anonymized and truncated version of a recent conversation:

FRIEND: My computer is f*cking up again.


FRIEND: Yeah, after years of you saying that, I think I may just go that way.

ME: Here's a link to one for like $65 on NewEgg that's probably the same one I'm using as my laptop. My two work computers together, both Chromebooks (I rigged up a Chromebook the screen went out on to use as my desktop machine) came to, I think, less than $200 altogether.

FRIEND: I'm going to buy mine from Best Buy. That way it's covered under my Geek Squad subscription. [Note: My read is that a Geek Squad subscription covers machines not bought from Best Buy]

Yes, I've heard of Geek Squad, seen their vehicles driving around town, had a vague idea of what they do, etc. But this made me go have a look at what they offer.

Basically, they charge, every year, about the price of a budget Windows PC (or a pretty good Chromebook) to talk you through un-f*cking your machine, or remotely unf*ck your machine, when Windows/MacOS and/or proprietary Windows/MacOS software f*cks your machine up.

I guess they would do the same thing for Chromebooks/Chromeboxes if Chromebooks/Chromeboxes had such problems, but I've never experienced such problems with a Chromebook/Chromebox.

Non-remote stuff, where they have to come out to your house and get on the machine, costs extra (and ain't cheap). Hardware repairs/replacements not included so far as I can tell (and that makes sense -- you're paying for time/expertise, not physical stuff).

I don't see how that kind of offering makes any financial sense for the average consumer who's even remotely computer-literate.

I also don't see how a Windows or MacOS machine makes any sense versus a Chromebook/Chromebox for the average consumer, computer-literate or not.

In fact, I'd say that Windows/MacOS = injury, and Geek Squad = added insult.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Good TV Times ...

My 18-year-old has never been much for parking in front of a screen he doesn't have control over for any period of time. It's not an attention deficit disorder. He's quite capable of focusing intently and for hours at a time on a coding problem or a game. But as for TV, his life-long engagement level has mostly been walking through the room, pausing for a minute or two, coming up with a creative insult regarding the writers/actors/cinematographers, and going back to something else.

Which, overall, doesn't strike me as entirely unhealthy.

But recently he got sucked in to Tamara and I binge-watching House, MD. One, two, or three episodes nearly every night.

We watched the series finale last week, then Tamara traveled and we did some emailing back and forth on what we might offer him next. It's not TV as such, but the idea of him actually spending an hour or two a day hanging with us, that's the goal.

But TV it is: Breaking Bad. After the quality of insults he came up with the first time we watched the series, I was doubtful that it would capture his interest. But we watched the first two episodes last night and he would have watched a third if I hadn't needed to go to bed.


What if Trump WANTS to be Removed?

If Donald Trump is impeached, he will be the 13th president subjected to US House impeachment probes and/or the introduction of articles of impeachment in the House, and the third to actually be impeached. If he resigns before the House votes on impeachment, he'll be the second president to have done that.

My impression is that Trump doesn't like being second, third, or 13th at anything. He likes to be -- or at least appear to be -- first at everything.

In this situation, the only thing he could possibly place first in is "convicted by the US Senate after impeachment by the US House."

What if that's what he's angling for?

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Thanks For Asking! -- 10/01/19

I'm really, really, really trying to get in the habit of posting an AMA thread once a month, and the first day of the month seems like the best day to do that. So, thanks to our sponsor, Free Pony Express ...

... ask me anything. I'll answer either in the comment thread below this post or somewhere else (if somewhere else, I'll point you to the answer via comment).

Let'er rip.

A Modest Proposal for Reform of Post-Impeachment Trials

On one hand, the impeachment process is not a "criminal prosecution."

On the other hand, it shares certain features with the US "justice" system. When considering impeachment, the House of Representatives acts, pretty much, as a grand jury. And after impeachment, a "trial" is held with the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court presiding and the Senate acting as a "jury."

If I hear that a grand jury is considering indicting someone for (for example) murder, and I run around yelling (or even just telling my friends) that the guy is guilty or innocent and should or shouldn't be indicted, I think it's reasonable to not seat me on the jury if he is indicted.

So I think the Constitution should be amended to add two features to the Senate "trial" --

  1. Conviction on a 2/3 vote of Senators actually voting, not of the whole Senate; and
  2. A "voir dire" process in which any Senator who can be shown to have expressed an opinion in favor of or against the impeachment is excused/excluded from the "jury duty."

Platform Committe: There's an App for That

You heard it here first:

On January 14, I announced my candidacy for the Libertarian Party's 2020 platform committee.

This morning, I received an email informing me that the Libertarian National Committee is seeking applicants for that committee. My application as filed (with one typo correction -- I left an "s" out of "accessible" and feel really bad about it) appears at the very bottom of this post.

How You Can Help:
  • If you believe I belong on the committee, contact your LNC officers, at-large representatives, and regional representatives to recommend me.
  • If I'm selected, I'll be back to ask for your help getting to the in-person meetings and the national convention ... and regardless of what amount or form (I've slept on couches before and am willing to again), I'll do what I have to do to show up for those things.

And now, the aforementioned application ...

How long have you been a dues paying member of National?
I don't remember -- since at least 2015, but also at times for 20 years before that
Are you involved with your state or local party? How so?

When I lived in Missouri (until 2012), I served as a local party committee member (and sometimes officer, up to and including county chair), served on the state committee, and on the state executive committee, and ran for city council, school board, state legislature, and Congress as a Libertarian, and was appointed to a federal position (draft board) as a Missouri Libertarian.

These days, living in Florida, I am older, fatter, poorer, busier, and not as physically outgoing. I served on the Libertarian Party of Florida's rules committee in 2016, but since then haven't done much in terms of activism (I am also a dues-paying member of the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania).
Have you ever served on a similar committee before? Do you have any reports or finished products you can refer the LNC to? What are your specific qualifications to serve on this particular committee?
I served on the national platform committee (as appointed by the Libertarian Party of Florida) in 2018, so I'll refer the LNC to that committee's report.

I'll also boast that I initially drafted, proposed, helped hone, and advocated for the first amendment to the platform that the 2018 national convention considered and passed (to section 3.4, Free Trade and Migration).

As for specific qualifications, there's that past committee service, a term on the Judicial Committee in the early 2000s, and more than 20 years of party activism including seven national conventions as a delegate. I'm also, by occupation, immersed in the political news cycle with an ear toward issues that are trending such that they deserve attention in the party's biennial reconsideration of its platform.
What changes, if any, are you interested in proposing (please submit a sample proposed change).
2.11 Labor Markets

Delete the phrase "and these contracts should not be encumbered by government-mandated benefits or social engineering" in the first sentence of the plank.

As a platform committee member, my emphasis has been and will continue to be on making the platform continually more clear, understandable and concise rather than proposing substantive changes. This does not mean I OPPOSE substantive changes as such (I don't), just that I mostly look for ways to make the platform more readable/understandable/accessible to the voting public.
Have you read the Statement of Principles? Do you agree with it?
Yes, I've read it many times and I agree with it completely.
Will you commit to show up and actively participate in committee email discussions and any in-person meetings?
Yes (I attended all online meetings and in-person meetings of the 2018 platform committee).
Which national conventions have you attended?
2000, 2002, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2016, 2018
Please give a brief (a few sentences) summary of your understanding of Libertarian philosophy.
I understand Libertarian philosophy as rooted in the constraint of non-aggression. That is, no one (including government actors) has a right to initiate the use of force against another, and those against whom force is initiated are entitled by right to defend themselves. Society and politics, under libertarian philosophy, must be governed by consensual relations and personal responsibility in every area.
(optional) What is your position on committee transparency (should all meetings and emails be open to observation by Party members or should there be limitations)?
I support 100% transparency. Committee email lists should be archived in viewable form online, and committee meetings (online or in person) should be open for viewing/attendance by party members.
(optional) What are some of your most important accomplishments?
My most important personal accomplishments are my kids :)

Occupationally, I'm inordinately proud of things I accomplished in the Marine Corps, of the fact that mainstream newspapers and non-libertarian political publications publish my libertarian op-eds more than 1,000 times per year, and that I'm the publisher of the oldest daily libertarian news/commentary roundup on the Internet (founded in 1991).

Vis a vis the Libertarian Party, I am proud of my own campaigns for public office and my appointment by President George W. Bush to the Selective Service System in 2004, but more so of the party work I've done at all levels and of the campaigns I've worked on (to name two, the WINNING campaign of my wife, Tamara Millay, for local office in 2004 and serving as media coordinator for Michael Badnarik's post-nomination 2004 presidential campaign).
(optional) What kind of people annoy you the most, and how do you deal with them?
Parliamentarians. I fight them when I think they're wrong and work within the strictures of their rulings when I lose.

Also, Yankees fans.

Facebook: Is it Just Me, or ...

... could it be my machine or my browser?

For the last couple of weeks, Facebook has loaded/operated like a snail with a stomach ache. The time from pointing my browser at it to the page being fully loaded (including whatever "dynamic content" it pulls up) has gone from a few seconds to more than half a minute on a good day.

It's not my connection (other sites load fine and I've messed with e.g. DNS, switching from my usual Cloudflare to Google servers and "automatic" to see if anything changes).

So far as I can tell, that leaves three possibilities.

One is my machine. I switched from an aging Chromebox to a newer Chromebook as my desktop machine a few weeks ago. But the Chromebook should be, and so far as I can tell is, faster than the old Chromebox, and the problems did not start at the same time as the switch.

Another is my browser. There have been at least a couple of recent ChromeOS updates. But if that's the problem, it doesn't seem to be affecting anything but Facebook. I haven't added any new browser extensions recently either.

The final one is Facebook itself. I don't watch the site closely enough to have noticed if they'pre adding a bunch of crap to it that might slow down site loading.

Anyone else having (recently discovered) problems with Facebook? Anyone else have a clue as to what's causing them?

I've resisted giving up Facebook because I happen to like a lot of its features and since my privacy went in the shitter as soon as I joined the Google ecosystem anyway. But I'm at the point of giving up on it because it's getting hard to use.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Is it Cheating ...

... to devote a blog post to statistics showing that I'm behind my goal for number of blog posts (average one per day)?

Not for the month (this will be post #33 for September), but for the year to date (this will be post #243). I should be at about 270 for the year right now.

I'll try to get caught up. And I'll try to do so with mostly substantive posts rather than too many bon mot things.

Let's Talk About "Context"

I'm driving down a county road at 35 miles per hour.

The speed limit is 25 miles per hour.

The county sheriff pulls me over. We discuss it.

I admit that I was driving 35 miles per hour.

I also hand over surveillance footage, complete with known-distance markers in view and timer watermarks on the footage, from a camera I set up to film myself.

He tells me he plans to write me a speeding ticket.

I object!

First of all, the place is a speed trap where the sheriff or a deputy is always waiting to catch someone speeding. He's been after me for years, that guy.

Secondly, I have it on good authority that he's sped through there himself. Hypocrite!

Thirdly, I used to be a deputy sheriff and I've announced that I plan to run against him for the position of sheriff in the next election. What a witch hunt!

Question: Did I or did I not drive 35 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour speed zone?

Your Honor, I Object

To the use of the term "Baker Act" as a verb.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Thirty Years is More Than Long Enough

It's time for Commissioner Rob Manfred to remove Pete Rose from Major League Baseball's ineligible list.

The Commissioner who declared him ineligible in 1989, A. Bartlett Giamatti, referred to Rose's actions as a "stain" on baseball. They weren't a stain on baseball. They were a stain on Rose.

The stain on baseball is his continued exclusion from consideration for the Hall of Fame after all this time.

That he belongs there simply beyond doubt. A non-monstrous baseball establishment would put him there while he's still alive, so that he can know it and so that his fans can hear from him about it.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

I Think People are Misunderstanding Pelosi's Motives

I see quite a few people acting like they think that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has just been waiting to pounce with impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump ever since he was elected, and that her announcement of a formal impeachment probe is her finally acting on her true wishes.

I don't think that's true at all. For the last two years and change, Pelosi has worked as hard as she can to fend off the prospect of impeachment. That hasn't been an act. It's been her genuine intent.

Why? Well, certainly not because she likes Donald Trump, or even because she believes the evidence isn't there to justify impeachment proceedings.

What Nancy Pelosi likes is being the leader of the Democratic Party's contingent in the US House of Representatives, as she has been since 2003.

Pelosi likes that position better when it comes with the title "Speaker of the House" than when the title is "House Minority Leader."

Pelosi didn't, and probably still doesn't, believe that impeachment serves the twin goals of

  1. Maximizing the number of Democrats in the House; and
  2. Keeping her in the top position among Democrats in the House.
So, why did she change her position, if not her mind?

Because she knows how to count votes in the House, that's why.

She calculates that impeachment is going to happen now, whether she likes it or not and despite her previous efforts to stop it.

Impeachment may be The Charge of the Light Brigade, politically speaking, but into the valley of death the 235 shall ride --  whether she's out front leading or in her headquarters tent pouting about it.

Impeachment may hurt the Democrats.

Not being the leader of whatever the Democrats decide to do hurts Pelosi.

So she's saddling up.

Woke Up This Morning ...

... and found that my 33 cent "yes" shares of "Will Donald Trump be impeached by year-end 2019?" are up by 50% to 51 cents on PredictIt.

"Yes" shares of "Will Donald Trump be impeached in his first term?" are at 65 cents, up from 31 cents a week ago.

Personally I think that "yes" on "Will the Senate convict Donald Trump on impeachment in his first term?" is over-priced at its current 22 cents, though.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Is Cognitive Dissonance an Inherent Characteristic of Youth?

Looking back to my late teens and early 20s, I realize that I simultaneously:

  • Couldn't believe I would live to see 30; and
  • Couldn't believe I wouldn't live forever
Is that how it is for most people, or is it specific to Gen X?

Thursday, September 26, 2019

An Interesting Point on the Ukraine Call "Transcript"

It's not a verbatim transcript. It's a memorandum "developed with assistance from voice recognition software along with experts and note takers listening."

I agree with FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver, who assumes a non-verbatim memorandum crafted by the White House "represents the best-case scenario for Trump."

On the other hand, I doubt even a verbatim transcript would include a direct "nice military ya got there, be a shame if it didn't get those Javelin anti-tank missiles it was expecting ..." from Trump.

And on the third hand, I also agree with Silver that the Trump spin machine may be incorrect in presuming "that the public actually cares about the quid pro quo, rather than viewing Trump telling a foreign leader to investigate a political rival as a prima facie abuse of presidential powers."

For the last two years and then some, Trump and Company have (with, in my opinion, quite a bit of justification) argued that the Obama administration, on behalf of Hillary Clinton, did pretty much exactly the same thing to him that he openly admits to doing to Biden, only using domestic government resources (DOJ, FBI) rather than outsourcing the work to a foreign power. Whether the foreign power angle makes it worse is an interesting question, but I don't see how it isn't at least as bad.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

I Don't Bet Money in the Prediction Markets Very Often ...

But I just bought 29 shares of "yes" to the question "Will Donald Trump be impeached by year-end 2019?" at 33 cents per share on PredictIt.

The shares will pay $1 each if:

By 11:59:59 p.m. (ET) on December 31, 2019, the full U.S. House of Representatives shall, by simple majority vote, approve or pass one or more articles of impeachment of President Donald Trump. Neither trial nor conviction by the U.S. Senate, nor removal from office, is necessary to cause this market to resolve as Yes.

The shares are actually down from a high of 42 cents on September 23. But I'm convinced they'll go up over the next few days. I might even sell out before the market resolves, depending on the circumstances.

The market for impeachment by the end of Trump's first term is up to 59 cents from a close of 50 cents yesterday. The question is when the impeachment vote passes the House.

As I mention in a previous post, I expect the House to fast-track impeachment and get it done before the end of the year. I then expect the Senate to slow-walk the actual trial.

A Theological Question

If the God of the Bible is really all-powerful, why did he need to rest on the seventh day?

Two Opinions on Trump

Opinion One: "No more abusive of power than his predecessors, just less slick about it." -- Steve Trinward, from an editor's note on an upcoming link in the newsletter we put out together each morning

Opinion Two: "A little more abusive of power than his predecessors, but that's natural -- the disease of the imperial presidency is systemic and progressive ." -- me, op. cit.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

A Few Thoughts on Impeachment and the 2020 Democratic Ticket

  1. OK, impeachment is probably unstoppable at this point. The question is time frame. The House and Senate will both "slow-walk" or "fast-track" proceedings based on factors they believe help them more or hurt them less next November.
  2. My guess is that the House will fast-track, because Joe Biden is done. The more quickly that's made clear and the more quickly he drops out, the less damage to the eventual Democratic ticket. He's a scab that has to be torn off in time for the wound to heal over some. And the Republicans are only going to turn up the volume of their "but your guy did it too, and first" howling when impeachment gets real.
  3. My guess is that the Senate will slow-walk because their nomination is a coronation and they think having Trump in the dock toward the peak of the Democrats' primary race (or heck, even as late as their national convention) will benefit him, not them.
  4. It will take more than what's already out there to shame the Republican Senate into convicting. It may not be possible for that to happen under any circumstances. Then again, it may.
Up to now, my (very tentative) prediction for the Democratic nomination has been "Biden, or Warren, or a Biden/Warren ticket."

Now that (still tentative, but less so than before) prediction is "Warren."

Running mate? Probably male. Probably midwestern or southern. Probably a person of color. Buttigieg and Booker each punch two of those categories on the scorecard; Castro hits on all three. But it could be someone who isn't even running for president.

Pretty Miserable Year for Baseball ...

Not that I usually pay much attention to it. I'm a team loyalist. I get interested when the Royals are doing well, and occasionally when the Cardinals or Cubs are looking good for post-season play.

I'm watching Ken Burns's documentary on the sport, and figured I'd go have a look at the standings.

In the American League, there are only two teams (the Baltimore Orioles and the Detroit Tigers) doing worse than the Royals this year.  The only bright spot is that the Boston Red Sox are in a distant third place in the Eastern Division (behind the damn Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays, a team I may go watch play next year and maybe even fall in love with) and seventh league-wide. So hopefully I won't have to avoid watching them in October.

The Cards are in better position -- first in the National League's Central Division, third league-wide, so it could happen.

But yeah, it looks like we're probably going to get a damn Yankees / friggin' Dodgers World Series. Boooooorrrrrrring.

My baseball loyalties are informed by my childhood. My first live game was in the nosebleed seats at Busch Stadium. My second was behind first base for the Royals. Then I bet a crap ton of money (some of which I didn't actually have) on the Royals in the 1985 series, and despite the umpires being completely in the tank for the Cards, won. I'll root for the Cards against anyone except the Royals or, when I'm feeling rebellious, the Cubs. I'll root for the Royals against anyone, period, and for anyone against the damn Yankees.

I've got a mild -- very mild -- weakness for the Mets, because that was my Little League team my second year, the year I made the "majors" (entirely from work ethic and not a bit from ability -- I showed up for every practice, several better players didn't; I played as competently as I could, but my best outing was a "bounce over the fence" double and I can't say I was a great asset to the team).

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