Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Hornberger vs. Fake Incrementalism

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


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

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

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

I'm Thinking of Buying a Shotgun ...

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

My reasons:

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Spoiler Alert!

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

I hope he's wrong.

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

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

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

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

A Day Which Will Live in Infamy

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

Thursday, September 24, 2020

What if They Threw a Scandal and Nobody Came?

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

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

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

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

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

About Those "Experts" ...

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

So Much for "Anti-Castro" Trump

The Miami Herald headline on a piece by Fabiola Santiago:

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

I Recently Ordered 51 Items ...

 ... of which 50 have arrived:

The 51st should arrive tomorrow:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florida Looks Like Trump Country

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

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

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

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

And then there's the Latino vote factor.

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Most Boring Week of Theatrics Ever

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

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

And yet:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decisions, Decisions

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

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

Happy 50th Birthday ...

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

Friday, September 18, 2020

Then and Now

Mitch McConnell, February 2016:

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


Mitch McConnell, September 2020:

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Alan Dershowitz May Have a Case Here

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

OK, So Here's What I Think About Cuties

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

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

Two Things ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 14, 2020

They're All Center-Right "Conservatives"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Biden cave?

If he does cave, will he do so convincingly?

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

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Who Shouldn't Carry a Gun?

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

But should you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yesterday, I Resolved ...

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

Mission accomplished.

Friday, September 11, 2020

A Note to Pollsters

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas is a Battleground State This November

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

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

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

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

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

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

But here's the thing:

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

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

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

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

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

For the Republicans, Texas is the ballgame.

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

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

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

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

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

Political governments ARE street gangs or organized crime families.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 10, 2020

There's an Odd Claim ...

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

The claim, summarized:

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

Interesting ...

One of these things is not like the other four:

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

Can you spot the difference?

It's Coming ...

... on, Wikipedia says, December 18.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Happy 30th Birthday ...

 ... to my daughter Caitlin.

We should talk some time.

Binge Recommendation: Longmire

Not everyone likes westerns. I do.

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

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

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

It's good.

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

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

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

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

Interesting Presidential Poll

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was recently in Greene County, Missouri.

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

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

 But here's where I'm at right now:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 07, 2020

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The second item hasn't arrived yet:

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Why I Don't Particularly Care What Trump Said (or Maybe Didn't Say)

 The initial story is by Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic, but of course it has spread far afield:

When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 .... [he] said, "Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers." In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as "suckers" for getting killed.

Anonymous sources, so huge grain of salt.

Whether Trump said that stuff or not, it's not like he hasn't said the same kind of stuff before. The only military personnel he's ever not been publicly disrespectful toward or about have been the war criminals he's pardoned and the veterans in his administration who haven't stopped kissing his ass (and quit or been fired) just yet.

That attitude was evident before he was elected -- see "McCain, John" -- and he got elected anyway, so he has good reason to believe continuing with it won't alienate his base.

Do I care? Not at all, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, as a veteran myself, I can't honestly say that those of us who signed up for military service weren't "suckers."  US foreign policy, and especially US military policy, is a gigantic scam. Its main purpose seems to be shoveling money at "defense" contractors, and if some body bags have to be purchased and filled to keep that gravy train running, that's a price American politicians have proven all too willing to have their military servants pay. Just sayin' ...

Secondly, look who's talking. I wouldn't trust God Emperor Halfwit Bonespurs XLV to clean the head at a Marine Corps barracks or crack eggs in a Marine Corps chow hall without adult supervision, so why on earth would I place any importance on his opinions concerning what the Marines at Belleau Wood did?

Thoughts on "Tenet"

No spoilers. Promise. One thing that could conceivably be a semi-spoiler, but I think it's one you'll thank me for and I've put it at the very end with a label so you can avoid it if you want to.

My three-word review of the movie, as posted on Facebook:

Dude ... wait ... what?

Not a spoiler, you'll figure this out from the trailer: The premise of the film is all tied up with "time travel" of a sort. Director Christopher Nolan likes to make films that explore the nature of reality in general (Inception), the nature of time (Interstellar), the nature of perception/memory (Memento), etc., so that shouldn't be surprising in any case.

On a first viewing (there will be more, although likely on a smaller screen), it feels to me like Nolan bit off more than than viewers could possibly chew, swallow, and digest in 2 1/2 hours. Certain aspects of what people were doing, and why, were left, unresolved or at least not resolved to my satisfaction either as to the details or to the (imagine this) timing.

Tenet is beautifully filmed (and on film, not digital).

The action scenes are top-notch.

It's well-acted. Most of the character pairings' chemistries work well, except (in my opinion, of course) for the major one you'd expect to (the one between the protagonist and the female lead), and it may just be that I was expecting "the usual" and that that's not what Nolan was going for.

I wasn't unhappy with the film. I didn't wish I could get back the time spent watching it. It kept my attention, it constantly had me asking questions even if it didn't answer all those questions to my satisfaction, and it left me thinking about it afterward.

So no complaints other than dude ... wait ... what? Maybe there will be a sequel that wraps up the stuff I still find confusing.

Mostly, I was overjoyed to be able to go sit down in a movie theater and watch a movie. I only do that a couple of times a year, but it was a little overdue and this time it had the added benefit of a "return to normalcy" feeling after all the shutdowns (although the theater was "socially distanced" and such, I didn't notice much, since I usually go to movies well into their runs and the theaters aren't crowded at that point anyway).


In the first scene, watch for a red tag on a backpack. I missed it in that first scene, which made me slower on the uptake later.

Friday, September 04, 2020

A Place I Plan to Visit When Live Music Cranks Back Up in Florida

In 1964, Bob Parsons opened the Derry Down in Winter Haven, Florida, so that his stepson, Gram, would have a place to perform with his band, the Shilos.

Nine years later, Gram Parsons was dead at the age of 26, having radically transformed the Byrds -- and heavily influenced both the rock and country music genres. He'd played the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 21 and Altamont at the age of 22.

If Parsons was still alive, he'd be on my "must see" list of musicians.

In 2016, the Derry Down re-opened, after restoration by a non-profit project, as  a place for performanve venue for "local schools, young musicians shows, open mic nights and national touring artist[s]."

Thursday, September 03, 2020

A Mask Idea

 I've seen several articles lately about how the masks everyone has to wear have an up side: They frustrate facial recognition algorithms. Here's one of the better pieces on that, by JD Tuccille at Reason. And that gets me thinking ...

A mask made of two layers of (thin, so it doesn't impede breathing too much) cloth.

In between those layers, several little plastic pouches of different sizes and shapes, with tubes of different diameters leading to a small finger operated air pump and a leaky one-way valve.

When you're ready to go out, you squeeze the little pump bubble a few times. The pouches expand, creating new shapes (and an asymmetric overall shape) underneath the mask. While you're out and about, the pouches slowly (and at different rates due to the varied pouch sizes and tube diameters) leak air.

That way, not only is the mask frustrating to the facial recognition algorithms in and of itself, but whatever the mask is telling those algorithms is constantly changing. The "you" a camera sees at 10:15am isn't the same "you" another camera sees at 10:30am.

I don't support the idea of patents, nor do I have the time, money, or inclination to fully design such a mask, have it manufactured, and market it. But I hope someone starts offering something along those lines.

In a Game of Inches ...

 ... even small mistakes can change the outcome.

In my opinion, a party/campaign/candidate that sues for the express purpose of making it more difficult for people to vote is going to lose at least a little mojo with people who notice that's what they're doing.

Trump isn't going to lose votes from his hardcore base over this. But I doubt that it's going to be a big or necessary motivator for that base, either.

On the other hand he's pumping some extra gas into the Democrats' Get Out The Vote tank. On the scale that ranges from "why bother, might as well sit at home and binge-watch Big Bang Theory for the eighth time" to "damn right I'm casting a ballot," he's helping Democrats push their voters away from the former end, and toward the latter end, of that scale.

And "THAT guy wants to stop me from voting" also probably pushes a few undecided voters off the fence both with respect to whether they vote and who they vote for.

In 2016, I predicted that Trump would win the election in May, and issued my 50 state-by-state predictions in September (I got 48 of 50 states right -- I missed Wisconsin and Iowa).

This year, it's already September and I frankly have no idea who's going to win the election. But I strongly suspect it's going to come down (again) to tiny margins in a handful of states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and probably Florida).

I don't know that his crusade against voting by mail will change the outcome. But I believe it's hurting, not helping, him.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

My Latest Self-Improvement Idea

Anyone who reads this blog or follows me on social media knows that I don't always agree with Tom Woods. But nobody, including me, can say with a straight face that the guy isn't interesting and engaging.

I'd like to enroll in his Liberty Classroom program. It's a set of courses on "the history and economics they didn't teach you." I figure I'm likely to learn some stuff there. Heck, even if all I learn is that there's even more stuff I don't agree with him on, it just sounds fun.

Of course, it costs money.

But hey, there is an affiliate program (and that link above is an affiliate link) ... which means that if some of the friends I tell about it are interested too (interested enough to fork over, of course), I can pay for my access with the commissions I earn on their purchases.

Neat trick, huh? If I can pull it off, anyway. Can I? Well, that's up to you.

Death and the Causes Thereof

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 6% of US deaths of patients with COVID-19 have occurred in the absence of known "co-morbidities" -- other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.

Naturally, some persons have interpreted this to mean that COVID-19 is only the "cause of death" for that 6%, and not for the other 94%.

I have diabetes and high blood pressure. If an anvil falls out of the sky and lands on me, was my death caused by diabetes, by high blood pressure, or by falling anvil syndrome?

Obviously there's some room for interpretation on this CDC data. It's certainly possible that some deaths that have occurred in the presence of COVID-19 were actually not primarily caused by COVID-19.

For example, if a guy who's had three heart attacks and still weighs 400 pounds keels over dead while eating a triple cheeseburger after a brisk walk, with no COVID-19 type symptoms (at least yet) but a positive post-mortem test, I think we can agree that it probably wasn't the COVID-19 that killed him. 

Ditto the COVID-19-positive but asymptomatic drunk driver who wraps her Maserati around an oak tree at 110 miles per hour.

On the other hand, isn't it reasonable to assert that if a person has been be-bopping along in reasonably good form, even with "co-morbidities," then gets COVID-19, then gets severe COVID-19 symptoms, then dies in a manner consistent with those symptoms (i.e. pneumonia rather than falling anvils), COVID-19 was at least partially the cause of death?

My mother was 87 years old. She had high blood pressure, and she'd had heart surgery in the past. That's three "co-morbidities" right there.  I expected that at some point in the not terribly distant future, she would die, quite possibly from a stroke or heart attack.

But she didn't. Instead, she contracted COVID-19, went through severe respiratory distress of a type not evident before she contracted COVID-19, and died with -- and, in my opinion, by any rational definition of -- COVID-19.

Are various governments (and entities that report to governments) playing various games with COVID-19 statistics, possibly including questionable "cause of death" calls? Almost certainly. There are incentives to do so, in various directions based on regime attitudes.

The Chinese regime finds the whole pandemic embarrassing, and I'd bet money (if there was any way to find out for sure and settle the bet) that China's 4,634 officially reported deaths are a single-digit percentage of the true figure.

The US regime -- at least the "deep state bureaucratic end of that regime -- on the other hand,  has been working overtime to scare the bejabbers out of us with "DO WHAT WE SAY OR COVID-19 WILL GETTTTTTTT YEEWWWWWWWWW!" talk, and the federal and state regimes are supposedly handing out more Medicare/Medicaid money for COVID-19 diagnoses/death certificates than for others. So there's probably some over-counting going on. But, I suspect, probably not a 19-to-1 differential between fact and claim.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

A Couple of Old Family Photos ...

 ... because I was looking through them and these two were what struck me.

First, the Lyon family, circa 1925:

The man on the left is my grandfather, Leonard Lyon, with his mother, father and brothers.

Second, Grandpa Lyon with his wife, Zelpha, on their 40th anniversary (I think they were married in 1927 or 1928, so late '60s):

I only recall seeing Grandpa in anything other than overalls and a long-sleeved shirt three times: At his 50th wedding anniversary celebration, in the hospital after his stroke, and in his casket.

By the time I came along, he wore a railroad engineer cap instead of that "workman's cap" in the first picture. And he always had his pipe, matches, pouch of Our Advertiser tobaccco, and a handkerchief in his pockets (as a kid, I bought him tobacco and handkerchiefs for his birthdays).

He presumably grew up working on his family's farm. After getting married, he worked as a share-cropper. My mom (the third of 12 kids -- so we know how he liked to spend his spare time) was born in 1933 in the log cabin where they were tenants. The cabin had originally been built by the land-owner he farmed on shares for, who was a former slave. My guess is that working for a former slave in southern Missouri in the 1930s was a long way of saying "poor."

If I'm not mistaken, my mom was three when Grandma and Grandpa were finally able to buy their own farm. The well on the farm was no good, and it was several years before they could afford to have a new well dug. My mom remembered her and her two older sisters carrying buckets to and from the creek (probably half a mile each way -- I walked that walk many a time myself, at play rather than at work) every day to keep the family in water.

They didn't get a truck until after World War Two. Until then, transportation meant walking into Stoutland (about three miles), or hitching mules to a wagon, or hiking to the nearest highway (not much less distance) and flagging a Greyhound into Lebanon. My brother tells me he thinks it was the 1950s before grandpa got a tractor, which means that until then, plowing involved a lot of staring at the ass end of the aforementioned mules.

When I was a kid in the 1970s, what was left of that old mule-drawn wagon was still on the farm -- four iron wheels on axles, and the center board running from front to rear. My cousins and I would climb on board and get it rolling downhill, toward an old apple orchard and a ditch. The last one to jump off "won." I don't know how fast it went, but when that wagon hit the ditch, it would fly end over end in the air. Then we'd roll it up the hill for another go. I may be misremembering, but as I remember it I tended to do well in the "wait until the last second and hope you don't break anything" game.

Also some time in the 1970s, the kids and their spouses showed up one weekend and the men installed an indoor bathroom. I remember that day well -- it was a BIG deal. They had running water for sinks, but until then, doing your business was a matter of trekking to an outhouse.

I don't know how big the farm was when Grandpa and Grandma bought it, but by the time they retired in the late 1970s, my recollection is that they had around 400 acres. Some in corn, some in soybeans, quite a bit in pasture for cattle (also a chicken coop and IIRC a hog wallow), and not a little of it wooded. When we would visit and there didn't happen to be cousins around to play with, I wandered all over that farm, including down to Bear Creek and to Jordan Creek (pronounced, for some reason, "Jurdan"), a usually dry wash. If I got lost -- and I sometimes did -- I knew I just had to find and follow one of the two creeks back to the road and I'd get home.

It seems to me that my ancestors (on, in this case, the Lyon/Burke side of my lineage) were some pretty tough people. And I know my parents gave me a much easier childhood than either of them enjoyed.

Thanks For Asking! -- 09/01/20

 Refresher course:

  1. Ask Me Anything (yes, anything) in the comment section below this post
  2. I'll answer in comments (or in some other format and point to that format in comments)
Mood setter: