Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Election 2024: "Toss-Up" States and How They're Looking at the Moment

270 to Win currently shows six states as "toss-ups." Nine months is forever in an election cycle (technically, we don't even have party nominees yet), but we might as well get started thinking about those states.

Nevada (6 electoral votes) went for Biden in 2020, but only by about 2.4%. But every January poll listed at 538 has Trump up by anywhere from 2% to 8%, with RFK Jr. taking 5% in one poll and 12% in the other that list him. At the moment, I provisionally expect it to go Democratic again for  two reasons. First, the Democrats are very good at getting out the Clark County vote. Second, I'm assuming for the moment that RFK Jr.  gets on ballots, campaigns hard, and hurts Trump more than he hurts Biden.

Arizona (11 electoral votes) also went Democratic in 2020, but only by about 0.3%. The only January poll listed at 538 has Trump up by 3% with no RFK Jr. factored in. Late 2023 polling has him doing better (up 6% to 8%), with RFK Jr. knocking down 10%. That polling suggest that so far, RFK hurts Biden worse than he hurts Trump, at least in that state. I expect Arizona's US Senate race to hurt Trump, though. Kari Lake is not someone you want volubly on your side if you're interest in winning. On the other hand, if  Kyrsten Sinema does run for re-election as an independent, God only knows what the upward coattails will look like. At the moment, I'm not even going to hazard a guess what happens there.

Georgia (16 electoral votes) went for Biden by a sliver (0.23%) in 2020 and Trump is polling strongly there (up 7-9%), with RFK Jr. at 8% in the one poll that includes him. If I had to pick an outcome today, I'd say Trump wins it this time around. But I guess we'll see.

Pennsylvania (19 electoral votes) went for Biden by, again, a nose (1.17%) in 2020. January polling there is very mixed, ranging from Trump up by 3 to Biden up by 8, with RFK knocking down 7% to 11%. At the moment, I'd say this one looks favorable for Biden again, mainly due to turnout/organization. It's going to be interesting.

Michigan 15 electoral votes) was less of a squeaker for Biden in 2020 -- he carried the state by nearly 3%. The polls are, again, mixed, with Trump up by as much as 12 points and Biden up by 4 in one of them. The Trump +12 poll is an outlier -- it includes Liz Cheney polling the same 8% as RFK Jr. does in a different poll, and she clearly takes her bite right out of Biden's ass. Not even a tentative prediction on this one.

And, finally, Wisconsin (10 electoral votes). Another squeaker in 2020, with Biden carrying it by 0.63%. The GOP is holding its national convention in Milwaukee this year and I expect it to get more resources from the Trump campaign than it did in 2016 (when he won it because Hillary Clinton couldn't be bothered to really work the state) or 2020. The two polls taken in January show him with a 5% to 8% lead, and RFK Jr. taking 10% in one of them. No firm prediction -- in fact, let me be clear that I'm not predicting any states this early -- but it's not looking great for Biden there.

With 77 electoral votes obviously "in play," and really more, with a plausibly disruptive independent campaign, this year's going to be hard one to handicap.

I doubt we've seen RFK Jr.'s high point, it's too early to tell how far he'll fall from that high point once the knives really come out, and while I'm willing to provisionally assume he hurts Trump more than he hurts Biden, the polling data seems to disagree with that assumption.

If RFK Jr. runs a strong campaign and his votes tend toward the "Trump as second choice" demographic, there will be other states in play come November. I'm thinking specifically of North Carolina, but Texas and Florida could become at least competitive enough to eat up Republican money and attention that will become unavailable for Pennsylvania and Michigan.

See you in February, if nothing requiring a blog post happens in the next 6 1/2 hours or so!

Wordle 956 Hint

Hint: Like a package of unwieldy size/weight, or a quantity of junk mail sorted by ZIP code.

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First Letter: B

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Already a Pretty Big Day for Me ...

The Kansas City Star picked up my Garrison Center column today.

They're part of the McClatchy chain of newspapers, and all those papers make their op-eds available to each other. So I've already made the Miami Herald, too.

I suspect, given the topic, that those pickups will get some pretty big web numbers. And if both papers carry it in print, too, that's about 150k prospective readers (they're respectively the 29th and 27th largest newspapers in the US by circulation).

And there are other McClatchy papers that might grab it as well!

So, Can Florida Expel, Denaturalize, and Deport Ron DeSantis?

I promised to be the most pro-Somalia congresswoman in America and our bold agenda for my upcoming Business Development Mission to Somalia includes many historic firsts and strengthens Minnesota’s ties with Somalia ... -- US Representative Ilhan Omar, D-MN
Oh, wait, that's not US Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota talking about Somalia, it's governor Ron DeSantis of Florida talking about Israel.
We are going to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters and we are absolutely going to stand strong in support of the Minnesota-Somalia relationship. -- US Representative Ilhan Omar, D-MN
Nope. Florida's DeSantis on Israel, not Minnesota's Omar on Somalia.

Seems to me we've got ourselves a "sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander" situation here.

Wordle 955 Hint

Hint: When the principal or school board (rather than Alice Cooper) tells someone school's out forever.

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First Letter: E

Monday, January 29, 2024

Election 2024: Two States That Are Going to Deserve Attention

In 2020, Donald Trump carried North Carolina ... barely. He pulled 49.93% of the vote to Joe Biden's 48.59%.

The third party, independent, and write-in vote totaled 1.48% of the vote, more or less "covering the spread" between the two.

Trump over-performed versus his polling.  In fact, every poll listed at 538 that collected data into November had Biden up by anywhere from 1% to 6%.

So, what's it look like for 2024?

Well, almost every poll listed at 538 (the last one was in December) has Trump up on Biden by a substantial margin, even with RFK Jr.  included.


At the moment, it looks like RFK Jr. will be in the race -- North Carolina is one of the states where he's creating a "We the People" party for ballot access purposes (apparently it's easier to get on the ballot there with a party than as an independent).

Another of those states is Texas, which Trump carried by a larger margin than North Carolina, but a smaller margin than you might guess -- 5.58%, with the third party and write-in vote coming in at 1.46%, nowhere near "covering the spread."

If Kennedy does fairly well in those states -- even, say, 5% -- and if the polling indicating that more of his votes come from people who would support Trump than Biden in a two-way contest without Kennedy in the mix is correct, then Democrats have an excellent shot at North Carolina's 15 electoral votes and at least a plausible shot at Texas's 38 electoral votes.

This One Weird Trick For Axing Trump's Presidential Aspirations By Admitting He Was Right The Whole Time

While the "ineligible as an insurrectionist" claim for removing Donald Trump from ballots (and, if he wins in November, barring him from inauguration) are fun, interesting, and facially correct, it seems to me that there's an easier way to end his political career.

Whether he wins in November or not, the White House should (immediately after, not before, the Electoral College results are in):

  1. Announce a determination by e.g. the US Department of Justice that, in fact, Trump was right the whole time -- he did win the 2020 presidential election, and is the rightful president of the United States!;
  2. Invite him to immediately move into the White House and serve out the remainder of his rightful second term;
  3. Inform Congress that any electoral votes won by Trump are void since he is ineligible for election, having twice been elected.
If Biden won the election, he can spend the month and change while he's out of office and Trump's back in office planning inaugural balls and so forth to celebrate the beginning of his first term as president.

If Biden lost the election, Congress will have to choose the next president from among the three eligible candidates who received the most electoral votes. That will likely mean Biden, RFK Jr., or another third party candidate.

Wordle 954 Hint

Hint: Like Twiggy, from the waist down.

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First Letter: L

Sunday, January 28, 2024

A Chance to Flog a Podcast and Disagree With One of Its Guests

Some time back, reader DRJ (in, IIRC, a "Thanks For Asking!" thread) alerted me to the existence of Justin Robert Young and his Politics Politics Politics podcast.

Thank you, DRJ -- I've kept up with that particular podcast ever since and have enjoyed it bigly.

I'm not sure I've blogged about it at all, though.

To me, the best way to blog about pretty much anything is to grab something I disagree with, and explore the disagreement. So, let's talk about Friday's episode:

One of Young's guests, Michael Cohen (no, not that Michael Cohen) makes some assertions I disagree with concerning Nikki Haley's political future. I've actually blogged on that before here, in pretty much the opposite direction from Cohen, so let's talk about it a little more.

Cohen's take is that if Haley wants a "political future" -- which pretty much means the presidency, although I suppose an eventual US Senate seat or cabinet appointment could also qualify -- she needs to drop out of the Republican Party's presidential nomination contest before her home state's February 24 GOP presidential primary.

The only case he can really see for her staying in the race is to convince future corporate employers that she's not a quitter. Continuing to run and losing badly (as she looks set to do) in the state she served as governor of for two terms would kill any political aspirations.

I come at it from exactly the opposite direction.

If Haley wants to go back to the corporate board career she's been building (since leaving her post as Trump's UN ambassador), she's better off quitting right now and just going and doing it. She's already got the "was a politician, became a corporate shill" resume. Staying in the race lets that resume go stale. It also gives her less to offer benefactors who might be inclined to give her a second golden parachute if she jumps out of the plane now so that they can pivot to supporting Trump or Biden with less loss of face.

If she wants a political future, the remaining primary races are where she lays the groundwork for that future.

Four or eight years from now, after Trump either loses the general election or runs another complete shitshow of an administration, she needs to be the one who can go to Republicans who didn't believe her and credibly say "I told you so. I told you so over and over and over. I begged you not to make this mistake. I kept telling you even after the situation became hopeless, because you needed to hear it, while others took the easy out and just went with the flow. Are you ready to listen now? Are you ready to fix what you screwed up? Because I'm still here to help you do that."

And four years or eight years from now, she needs to be able to reactivate battle-hardened campaign organizations and offer herself again to currently supportive voters, in all those future primary states, which will be a lot harder to do next time if she abandons them before the fight is over this time.

I don't ever expect Nikki Haley to become president, and I'm glad she probably won't. But if she wants to become president, she needs to stay in this race until it's actually, officially over, not just until she realizes she isn't going to win it.

But, still a great podcast that you should listen to so you can hear the thoughts of Young, Cohen, and other guest Cate Martel.

Wordle 953 Hint

Hint: Maybe the fire is mostly out, but this piece is still aglow.

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First Letter: E

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Wordle 952 Hint

Hint: If that thing you were looking for was today's Wordle, it would have bit you.

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First Letter: S

Friday, January 26, 2024

I Said I Might, So I Did

In a recent post that I'm not going to bother looking up and linking to, I mentioned that I got one of those chest harnesses for putting a phone in so that I could take first-person video on the scooter.

Yes, that's as boring as it sounds, but I decided to do it. The only fun part is when someone yells "asshole" and it's neither me nor at me.

Wordle 951 Hint

Hint: Instead of giving you a real Wordle hint today, I'm just going to hang back, seemingly distant and unattentive.

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First Letter: A

Thursday, January 25, 2024

I Think It Might Actually Make Things Worse

Several times over the years, and once very recently, I saw a suggestion that has a feel-good element but that I just can't sign on to. It goes something like this:

  1. Amend the US Constitution to limit the president to a single (in some versions, six-year) term; and
  2. Legally provide for automatic, unappealable, mandatory public execution of each president upon expiration of his or her term.
The idea being that no one would run for president for personal profit or self-aggrandizement. Maybe if no one ran at all, one would be conscripted somehow, and the poor doomed soul probably wouldn't be as evil as those who would actually seek the job if it didn't entail the death penalty.

Problem is, I suspect there would still be people running for president -- people to whom that kind of power is so important that they're willing to die for the privilege of exercising it. And those people would likely turn out to be, on average, even worse than the human-shapped shambling bags of excrement we get now.

Wordle 950 Hint

Hint: Don't be fooled by the rocks J-Lo's got, you know where she's from.   

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First Letter: B

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Election 2024: Should Nikki Haley Drop Out or Stay In?

I'm seeing a lot of people with strong opinions on that question, and quite a few asking that question.

My answer: It depends on what she's trying to accomplish.

Unless all those hamberders finally clog Donald Trump's arteries up enough to cause a stroke or heart attack, she has almost no chance of winning the GOP's 2024 nomination for president, so if that's her only angle, she should probably drop out.

On the other hand, if she's thinking about the 2028 or 2032 nomination, or even just about rebuilding the Republican Party after 8-12 years of Trumpist carnage, staying in makes sense.

If Trump loses a fourth election in a row, she'll have been the last big name barnstorming from state to state telling Republican voters that's what's going to happen. The voters she's already convinced of that will likely still be on board with her four years from now, at least some of them who wasted their vote on Trump will have changed their minds about her, and the Trump-dominated GOP apparatus will be in disarray while she'll already have a campaign structure in place and waiting to be reactivated.

If Trump wins, she can go into political exile, spend time with her family, and probably write a poor poor pitiful me book and hit the speaker circuit. If Trump loses, she can try to be her party's savior next time around.

I suspect she will stay in, taking her lumps in virtually every state primary, so as to possibly keep her future ambitions alive.

Just to clarify things, I have no love for Trump and won't be voting for him under any circumstances ... but Haley scares me more. She's younger, more energetic, at least as authoritarian, and even more batshit unhinged (although less random) on foreign policy than Trump.

Sounds Like An Interesting Game. Sorry I Missed It.

Wordle 949 Hint

Hint: Two examples of today's Wordle would be a piece of the True Cross and the blood of St. Januarius.   

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First Letter: R

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The CyberGeek Nano J1 Linux Mini PC at Five Months

I might have waited until the six-month mark for an update, but it occurred to me today and I might not remember if I don't get to it. My first post from this machine was on August 14, so a little over five months ago.

The cheap but loaded (16Gb of RAM, 4-core Celeron at 2 Gz -- I think it's 128Gb of SSD storage, but it may be 256 ... I use so little storage that I don't bother thinking about it much) machine is still ticking right along. PSensor reports normal CPU temperatures, with the lowest amount of free memory in this session at 33% and the highest CPU usage at 90%.

One of my goals this past year has been to get away from Google.

I started by replacing Chrome with Firefox, but ended up settling on Microsoft Edge. Yes, it's built on Chromium. Yes, Microsoft probably spies on me at least as much as Google did. But I like the way it performs (other than sometimes giving me annoying "high memory usage" warnings when I have lots of tabs open, even though PSensor tells me I've got lots of RAM to spare). I've also got Falkon installed for a few side uses (such as keeping the RRND Twitter account open instead of having to log out of my personal account to log into that one on Edge).

My default search engine for some time has been Bing, but when I search using Bing in Edge, I get extra "rewards points," which means I'm up to somewhere around $10 a month in Amazon gift cards just for using Microsoft's browser and search engine.

Totally abandoning Gmail is a long-term process, since I got that address in (IIRC) 2004. Lots of people I don't correspond with often enough to notify of an address change have that address. Lots of list subscriptions, etc. that I'm moving over to my new provider (Proton Mail -- yes, that is an affiliate link) very slowly. If I check Gmail (as I do several times a day) and realize I just haven't missed something, it gets unsubscribed from rather than moved. I think I'll get there eventually.

Yes, this is an inexpensive "mini PC," but frankly it's even more computer than I need. I seldom open any applications other than Edge, Geany, and Falkon, and the latter two only for a little while each day. Running Lubuntu 22.xx, I hardly ever experience a slowdown severe enough to actually notice.

So, I'm happy. Maybe this year I'll revisit my browser choices, wean myself off Gmail even more, etc., but unless it actually lies down and dies, I doubt I'll be thinking "time for a new computer" in 2024.

Wordle 948 Hint

Hint: You could use one to purify water, or to turn a mash into a whiskey.   

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First Letter: S

Monday, January 22, 2024

This One Weird Trick for Draining Liquid ...

... from a more highly positioned container to a container at a lower level. Which is to say, siphoning it.

I had this idea, did some web searching to see if it was viable, and didn't find anything on it at all, so I decided to try it, and it worked.
  1. Place a rolled up chamois ("shammy" if you prefer MURICAN) in the liquid in the more highly placed container;
  2. Let it soak up plenty of liquid;
  3. Pick up one end of the chamois, while leaving the other end in the liquid, and place the end you picked up in the lower container;
  4. Squeeze the lower end of the chamois to start liquid draining into the lower container;
  5. Go away.
Seems to be a winner. I have a portable AC / dehumidifier / heater that leaks but otherwise works just fine, so it lives in a large plastic drawer (recycled from one of those cheap plastic dresser drawer units) atop a box.

Until recently, every day or so I had to physically lift the heavy unit out of the tray, go dump the tray, then replace the unit. Inconvenient and messy.

Now I just keep an eye on a bucket on the floor with the low end of the chamois in it, and empty that bucket if it's getting full (which takes a couple of days). The bottom of the container in which the unit sits remains dry, except for a little dampness right around the end of the chamois that's soaking up the leaking water.

I might have just used a spare piece of hose, either as a siphon or inserted in a hole I'd drill in the bottom of the holding tray, but I thought a chamois would be less unwieldy, less subject to a cat walking by and deciding to knock it loose, etc., and, most of all, wanted to see if an idea I had but didn't see recommended on the Intertubes worked. It did. You're welcome.

Wordle 947 Hint

Hint: One word can be used to describe two completely different Wordle methods. The first method is based on making small, carefully considered adjustments. The second method is based on shouting out wild guesses while under the influence of methamphetamine. I recommend the first method, but hey, you do you.

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First Letter: T

Sunday, January 21, 2024

New Hampshire Primary Musings

I don't really have any predictions.

The polling is pretty fuzzy and the stuff I see without digging deeply (which I don't care enough to do) doesn't really go much into the consequences of New Hampshire allowing "unaffiliated" voters to vote in whichever primary they feel like voting in.

So we may see a bunch of "unaffiliated" voters hitting the GOP primary. I would expect that voter bloc to weigh heavily against Trump.

But even if that happens, and even if it's enough to produce an upset victory for Nikki Haley, her campaign looks to be pretty much over (Ron DeSantis's campaign is over, and I expect he'll admit that soon). Next after New Hampshire comes South Carolina. Although she served two terms as governor there, Trump's polling way ahead and has the endorsement of the state's current governor and both of its US Senators. If she can't carry her own state in her own party's primary, it's hard to argue that she has any kind of "path to victory" nationally.

On the Democratic side, Joe Biden isn't on the primary ballot. Because New Hampshire ignored the Democratic National Committee's demand that it hold its primary later instead of sooner, he's boycotting that primary, so all of his votes will be write-ins. And as a consequence of violating the DNC edict, New Hampshire's delegates to the party's national convention won't be bound to any candidate regardless of who wins.

That may result in embarrassingly high vote totals for Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson. If an incumbent president can't knock down 80-90% of the vote in a primary, it strengthens the case for him stepping aside -- and with Biden, that's already a very strong case.

Both "major" parties seem to be trying as hard as they can to lose the general election in November. Unfortunately, only one of them is likely to succeed.

Smart Move

Per an email newsetter from the Forward Party:

The Forward Party will not run a presidential candidate in 2024, nor will the organization endorse a candidate running in either legacy party primary.

It's unlikely to be a good year for third party / independent candidacies, with the possible exception of RFK Jr.

A single-issue or strongly ideological party can poll below 1% and keep on trucking.

A "good government" party with limited ballot access (Forward has three states so far) and minus an incredibly well-known presidential candidate probably can't. If Forward ran a candidate and ended up getting 100,000 votes nationwide, that would be the end of their hope for being considered "serious" or ever getting much of a "seat at the table."

Not that I expect those hopes to pan out anyway, but for it to remain possible they need to spend the next few years electing local candidates, picking up defectors from among "major" party office-holders, and perhaps getting some wins as co-nominators in "fusion" states.

Wordle 946 Hint

Hint: If Santa Claus decides to pursue a second career as a stripper, here's where he'll practice his pole dancing.

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First Letter: N

Saturday, January 20, 2024

New Scooter Stuff ...

New mirrors (not an affiliate link) for the scooter arrived from Amazon on Thursday.

I wouldn't have bothered replacing the mirrors if not for the (described in another post) laying down of the bike that broke one off. But I think I'll like these wider-than-tall ones better than the round ones that came stock. Hopefully I can get the buried bolt shank out of the mount and put these on today.

The new helmet (not an affiliate link) also arrived from Walmart on Thursday:

I'm wearing it without the bill, and the goggles are too small to accommodate my eyeglasses (I've got other goggles. The yellow is a little yellower than it looks in the pic, and that's good, because I'm really leaning into yellow to be visible while riding. I've got a yellow Kill Bill / Bruce Lee style track suit, just got cheap yellow tennis shoes (about $4! -- and amazingly high quality for the price), and have a yellow turtleneck and yellow balaclava on the way. Still rocking black gloves, though ... haven't found cheap yellow ones that I like.

All that stuff is from Temu (not an affiliate link). And in keeping with the Kill Bill theme, I've also got a "Pussy Wagon" keychain on the way (89 cents, I think). I like my little Gibson Hummingbird keychain, but it's not little enough and rattles around loudly. No samurai sword yet, but I can borrow one from my daughter if I want to ride down the road with one slung across my back, I guess.

And finally, also from Temu and in the same shipment as the shoes, I got a chest harness that holds a smartphone in a little tilting bracket. So there may be riding videos on the way!

All  of the stuff above came to a total of about $75 including shipping. And other than the mirrors, all of it can be used for purposes not related to the scooter.

Update: Got the new mirrors on -- took about three minutes, as it turned out I didn't have to find a way to pull the broken bolt shank, the whole bit just came off with a 14mm wrench and the new mirrors screwed right into the existing base. Tried out the phone holder harness. I wasn't very happy with the video quality, but that's a phone thing, not a harness thing. The harness did its job.

Wordle 945 Hint

Hint: Today's Wordle is kind of a big deal.

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First Letter: L

Friday, January 19, 2024

Wordle 944 Hint

Hint: A wild one made Chip Taylor's heart sing, but Freddy Mercury couldn't handle a crazy little one called love.

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First Letter: T

Thursday, January 18, 2024

I'm Starting to Envision a Win/Win Here

Per my previous post, I'm considering whether to drop my subscription to Peacock.

As of today, I'm also considering dropping my subscription to Instacart's premium service. I've had more than one instance lately of the express refund/replace instructions in my orders being ignored. Which isn't to say that I won't ever use them again, but why maintain the $10 a month subscription to save on delivery fees, when ...

I have an offer  in my inbox which makes Walmart Plus, which is aready a little cheaper than Instacart premium, about half off for the first year. Like Instacart, Walmart Plus features free delivery for orders over $35. It doesn't feature the store variety, but we do a lot of our grocery shopping at Walmart anyway.

And Walmart Plus includes a subscription to the Paramount Plus streaming service, which does have some content I know I'd enjoy, as part of the price. There are no streaming service perks with Instacart.

The Walmart Plus decision is in Tamara's hands, but if she bites on it we will cut Instacart premium and I will probably cut Peacock.

Maybe I'm Pissing Into the Wind Here ...

... but I'm thinking of canceling my subscription to Peacock. In protest.

I subscribed to Peacock a little over a year ago, because I got offered a discounted rate ($1.99 per month for the first year), meaning I got a couple of movies I wanted to see, and all of Peacock's other content for that whole year, for less than the cost of renting or buying those movies a la carte.

The discounted rate recently expired, and now it's $5.99 a month. I decided to keep it for a little while longer, if for no other reason than that it hosts NFL Sunday Night Football and just opening the Peacock app on my Roku is easier than futzing with my antenna trying to get good reception of the area NBC affiliate, then revisit the matter.

But then NBC made the decision to have an NFL playoff game -- the wild card Kansas City Chiefs / Miami Dolphins contest -- only on Peacock. Not a paying subscriber? No game.

I wanted to see that game, and as a paying subscriber I got to see it. But I object to playoff games not being available to people who choose to futz with their TV antennas.

Could that change if Peacock gets a raft of cancellations with notes to the effect of "you made me pay to see NFL playoff games, so from now on I'll skip those games -- and drop your service altogether?" With those notes cced to the NFL?

I doubt it. But in evaluating whether to continue paying for Peacock, this outrage will be part of my calculus. It Just. Pisses. Me. Off.

Our streaming service bills come to a good deal less than we'd be paying for even "basic cable," but all of those services -- Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Peacock, which I pay for, and Hulu with the $2 a month Disney add-on, which Tamara pays for -- are always on the table for cancellation.

The least likely one to be canceled is Amazon, since there are benefits in addition to video; due to price increases, the most likely one was, until this thing with Peacock, Netflix. Now they're neck and neck.

Wordle 943 Hint

Hint: Today's Wordle doesn't belong to me, but I grabbed it and ran off with it anyway.

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First Letter: S

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Kinda weird

Marriage between first cousins is either entirely legal, or legal under some circumstances, in 27 US states, including most of the southeast, and three of the nation's five most populous states (California, Florida, and New York).

It's not legal in Kentucky, but it's odd that a politician would feel a need to rush to "fix" "sexual contact" between first cousins being accidentally excluded in a bill that raises that "offense" to a Class D Felony (it's not obvious whether the bill applies to adults or only to children)

I don't really see a problem with consenting adults, first cousins or not, doing whatever the hell they want to do with each other. Charles Darwin was married to his first cousin. So was Albert Einstein. And the Buddha. And Friedrich Hayek.

Disclaimer: I've never been married to, dated, or had sex with a first cousin, but there are a couple I wouldn't have minded being closer with, IYKWIMAITYD. In high school, I did once ask a gal out (she declined), and later found out that she was a second cousin.

An Error I Often See and Occasionally Feel the Need to Correct

"Official U.S. policy," Joseph Solis-Mullen writes at The Libertarian Institute, "recognizes that there is one China and its official government is in Beijing, and acknowledges Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is a part of China."


Ever since the 1972 "Joint Communique" between the US and the People's Republic, the former has "acknowledged" the latter's position that Taiwan's "official government" is in Beijing, without ever, at any point, "recognizing" that position as correct. It treats the matter as "unsettled."

And then there's reality:

Taiwan is not now, and never has been, ruled by the People's Republic of China. In fact, it hasn't been ruled from the mainland since 1895, prior to which that rule was occasional and temporary.

The US, Taiwan, and many other regimes play a silly little game. They don't say that Taiwan is an independent nation, lest Xi Jinping throw himself on the floor and roll around holding his breath until he turns blue, but everyone involved knows that it is in fact an independent nation.

If the PRC regime decides to invade, conquer, occupy, and annex Taiwan, it will be doing exactly that, not suppressing an "internal" rebellion.

I'm opposed to the US regime playing any part in attempting to prevent that, but I also don't think the US regime should coddle the PRC's temper tantrums on the matter.

Wordle 942 Hint

Hint: As a noun, a place in which to argue one's case for innocence; in verb form, the act of arguing one's case to a prospective mate.

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First Letter: C

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Probably No Garrison Column Today ...

... not because yesterday was a holiday, but because Tamara has a (minor but important) medical procedure this morning. I'll be driving her into town, hanging out during the procedure and then either dropping her off at work and picking her up later (if she feels up to that -- I'm agin it), or driving her home and futzing over her comfort, etc. At least three hours or so out of my usual work time either way.

The Important Part is Still a Possibility

My NFL playoff bracket has fallen completely apart. I incorrectly picked the Browns to beat the Texans, the Steelers to beat the Bills, the Cowboys to beat the Packers, and the Eagles to beat the Buccaneers in the wild card round.

BUT! The two games I picked correctly -- the Chiefs to beat the Dolphins and the Lions to beat the Rams -- preserve the possibility of a Chiefs-Lions Super Bowl, which is where my bracket culminates (in, of course, a Chiefs victory). The Chiefs will now need to beat the Bills, then either the Ravens or Texans, to get there. The Lions will need to beat the Buccaneers, then either the 49ers or Packers, for that to happen.

Wordle 941 Hint

Hint: Some people suspect today's Wordle isn't very bright, while others are convinced that it has more fun.

Not Enough? Get the first letter of today's Wordle after the ads below.

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First Letter: B

Monday, January 15, 2024

A Disclaimer In My Own Defense

I've already done some predictive blogging concerning Election 2024, including this from the other day: "Trump's going to win the [Iowa] caucus. Everyone knows Trump's going to win the caucus." And so on and so forth.

Since that caucus occurs today (with various state primaries to follow), it seems like a good time to remind you of something I've said before:

I'm terrible at predicting primary/nomination outcomes.

Three presidential elections in a row now, I've correctly predicted the outcomes in 48 of 50 states.

In 2016, I even publicly predicted that Donald Trump would win Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan (and with them the election) as early as May, and was nearly universally denounced as insane by my friends for predicting that he'd win any one of those four states, let alone the election (he won all four, and the election).

But prior to that, I was on record as saying there was no way in hell Trump was going to win the Republican nomination.

So, until the nominations are firmed up, take any predictions I make with a large grain of salt.

That said, Trump is going to win the Iowa caucus. Everyone knows Trump is going to win the Iowa caucus.

Scooter Episode: The One Where Tom is Fine Even After a Massive Wipeout

OK, not really so massive. Fortunately, my first (and so far only) scooter crash occurred while I was at a stop, with one foot on the ground, and no other vehicles in sight.

I stopped to look at a house number on a mailbox (which was, as I thought, the house number for my destination), didn't realize how soft and deep the sand was (yes, many rural Florida roads are mostly sand), and fell down when the sand gave and my foot shifted, taking the scooter with me and breaking its right rearview mirror off.

Other than that, yesterday's rides (about 35 miles each way) went just fine, other than being rather cold. If I had it to do all over again, I'd have included my merino wool union suit among the multiple layers of clothing for a ride that took place in temperatures ranging from the low 40s to the high 50s.

Not quite two hours going out (including a couple of short detours because I decided to follow the route I thought I knew instead of the one laid out by Google maps). That's because on the way out I resolved to try to average 25 miles per hour instead of pushing the scooter hard, both to reduce strain on the engine and to possibly reduce the effects of cold air on my body.

About an hour and a half coming back, including a stop at Hardee's to warm up and have a Mushroom and Swiss burger (one of my favorite's and we don't have a Hardee's in Gainesville anymore), because I kept the thing at max speed (35 to 40 mph) at every opportunity.

Between heading out and heading back, I had a great visit with reader Greg L, including a short (mile and a half or so each way) hike at O'Leno State Park to see the "river rise," where the Santa Fe resurfaces after disappearing underground for about five miles. The rise is the beginning of the "Lower Santa Fe," a portion of which Greg, myself, and a third friend kayaked last year.

This is not a trip I would choose to make every day on a 50cc scooter, even in warmer weather. But I wanted to test the vehicle's mettle, and it performed beautifully. The broken mirror was my fault, not the scooter's.

Update, 8am: The mirror broke off below the point where it screwed into the base, so I guess I'll have to do the whole removal thing (I'm sure my neighbor/friend/mechanic has the stuff for that) and replace it entirely, unless I want to do something weird like weld it back on. I'm making lemons into lemonade -- I ordered a new pair of mirrors (not an affiliate link) that I think will work better. These are wider ovals instead of the 4" circles that came on the scooter, and look like the stems are bendable instead of fixed. I expect them to give me better fields of rear vision due to both size and adjustability.

Wordle 940 Hint

Hint: There Ain't No Such Thing As a Free One.

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First Letter: L

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Oh Me Of Little Faith ...

On Friday, WaPo ran an analysis by Neil Greenberg of "the most and least likely Super Bowl LVIII matchups." Of all the possible matchups, those including the Kansas City Chiefs totaled 17.x%. That probability rose a bit after last night's victory over the Miami Dolphins (whose initial chances added up to 8.x%).

Personally, that pre-Super-Bowl playoff game was the one I was most worried about on behalf of the Chiefs, even though Miami's season went downhill toward the end. Glad I was wrong to be worried!

My ESPN playoff bracket has already gone south (literally!), though, as I had the Cleveland Browns picked to beat the Houston Texans last night, but the Texans plastered Cleveland. So Cleveland's chances, per Greenberg's analysis, went from 5.x% to 0, while Houston's went from 4.x% to ... well, somewhat higher than 4.x%.

The Buffalo Bills vs. Pittsburgh Steelers game got postponed because Buffalo got buried beneath lake effect snow. I have Pittsburgh picked for that one.

I'm still hoping for my projected Super Bowl matchup of the Chiefs vs. the Lions, with a Chiefs victory (the Lions walloped KC in the season's first game, though).

It's a Balmy 43 Degrees ...

... and dropping. It should be about 39 degrees when I climb on the scooter for a 40-mile (one way) ride here in a couple of hours.

I'm tempted to wear the union suit, but I have enough layers of other clothing laid out to probably make that unnecessarily, maybe even uncomfortably, warm. And I may leave earlier, both because it will be a couple of degrees warmer and because that will leave me more time for stops. There's a Hardee's along my route, so biscuits and gravy for breakfast isn't out of the question.

Speaking of biscuits, this whole "long winter scooter ride" thing may be evidence that mine ain't quite done in the middle ...

Wordle 939 Hint

Hint: _____ Wordle does not guarantee solving Wordle. Some days it's just "nothing _____."

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First Letter: D

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Wordle 938 Hint

Hint: You don't have to tell me that again. When you said it, I was listening.

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First Letter: H 

Friday, January 12, 2024

Election 2024: The First Big Test ...

... and probably not so much a test of the candidates as of the polls.

Next Tuesday's Iowa caucus (Republican version) is not really much like the stories you hear about Democrats getting together and standing in various corners, then shuffling around to form new groups as candidates are eliminated and all that kind of thing.

Think of it more as "a primary that one must be physically present to participate in." Republican voters will gather at caucus locations at a set time and cast secret ballots for their presidential nomination candidates of choice.

It's not quite a good fit to the "likely voter" methodology pollsters tend to use. There's at least a little more of a "highly motivated or not quite so motivated" factor at play than in a primary where the voters can vote early, or by mail, or at any time from morning to evening.

538's polling page has Donald Trump up on his nearest competitor (Nikki Haley in three polls, Ron DeSantis in one) by anywhere from 34 to 43 points in January polling. In none of the four polls does Trump knock down less than 52%. In none of them does his closest competitor top 20%.

I suspect the results will differ from the polling, to Trump's detriment, but not by a whole lot, and for the same reason that Trump won the 2016 election: Enthusiasm.

Trump's going to win the caucus. Everyone knows Trump's going to win the caucus. Therefore, a Trump voter who walks out of the house and sees a flat tire on his truck isn't going to feel that urgent a need to fix it and get his ass to the caucus ASAP.

But because Trump is going to win the caucus, and because everyone knows Trump is going to win the caucus, the other candidates' supporters are basically voting to "send a message" that there's a sizeable contingent of anti-Trump, or at least non-Trump, Republicans. And people who want to send a message, even in losing, are more motivated than people who know their guy is going to win whether they show up or not.

I think Trump will come out of the thing with a plurality, not a majority, and that Haley, DeSantis, and Ramaswamy will all three punch a little bit above their polling-indicated weight.

Of course, I could be completely wrong.

Wordle 937 Hint

Hint: Get hip to this kindly tip -- get your kicks on the 66th iteration of today's Wordle.

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First Letter: R

Thursday, January 11, 2024

An Even Better Test Than I Had Planned ...

... in preparation for that 80-mile round trip, which may occur this weekend.

I had planned to ride about 20 miles to see if things were really operating well, but ended up riding about 32. And I got to eat a Big Dick at the far end.

No problems with the scooter. I think it's all back to normal.

Combo Test / Reward ...

... for finally getting the scooter running:

I went out for an 8 miles or so ride late yesterday afternoon.

At the most distant point of the ride (i.e. 4 miles or so), I had a very nice IPA from a local brewery, and an order of battered, deep-fried mushrooms before returning home.

No problems. So I think it's back in business for real.

Wordle 936 Hint

Hint: Using today's Wordle, I could make the case that boxer is the plural of amicus.

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First Letter: B

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Scooter Diagnostics Are Definitely Not My Strong Suit ...

... but I think I've 1) diagnosed and 2) repaired my problem. And if so, it was so stupid it was simple and vice versa.

I had this idea yesterday, but inclement weather precluded following up on it, so I did so this morning (I still hadn't had an opportunity to work with my mechanic on it -- previously he was ill, and this week some members of my household are ill and I don't want to risk getting him ill again by hanging out over there).

The question that came to my mind yesterday was "what if a replacement part I recently ordered and installed is defective?"

To wit, this "racing" CDI box (yes, even 50cc scooters have "computer brains" these days -- and no, that's not an affiliate link) that I bought because it's supposedly not RPM-restricted and I thought I might get some extra power out of the machine with it (there was no such obvious result).

So this morning I unplugged it, plugged the old CDI back in, cranked it up (it did take a couple of tries to start, but then it's 40 degrees out and the scooter hasn't run in three weeks), let it warm up, and took it down the block and back. 

It seems to be performing within normal speed/power parameters instead of topping out at 20mph.

Was it the new CDI, or was it something else? I think the former, but there's been at least one other big change since the last time I messed with it: Yesterday, the high winds knocked the whole machine over. So I suppose some chunk of filth in the carburetor might have gotten knocked loose or whatever. But I doubt it.

Once the day gets a little warmer, I'll take the machine out for a more thorough test.

I can't believe that didn't occur to me before I e.g. drained the gas tank and so forth.

Update, 9:23am: On one hand, I would have preferred to wait until it was warmer to do a more extensive test. On the other, it's not going to get very warm today, and I like to do this kind of thing when other family members are around to pick me up if the scooter breaks down or pick up my body if I crash it. So I just went out and did a somewhat longer run. Ran perfectly, with a top speed of 38mph (which is about what I've come to expect on that particular sub-one-mile stretch). So I'm provisionally pronouncing the scooter cured of its illness.

Wordle 935 Hint

Hint: In the past, you might have done today's Wordle in the form of a ball, or of a tantrum.

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First Letter: T

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

One Dog That Does Not Hunt

Here's Section 3 of the 14th Amendment:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Among the arguments against the applicability of this section to one Donald J. Trump (there are others, including that he is not an "insurrectionist," of course) is that the president is not"an officer of/under the United States," and that therefore the clause is inapplicable (even if Trump is an "insurrectionist").

If we take that argument as correct, then one of two other things must be true:

1) The United States does not exist; or

2) Article II of the US Constitution has been repealed and the presidency does not exist.

Some selected snippets from Article II:

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office .... No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States. ... In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly .... Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." ... The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

If the United States exists, and if Article II has not been repealed, the president is an officer of/under the United States. Period.

Wordle 934 Hint

Hint: Varieties of today's Wordle include (but aren't limited to) air, eye, ocean, and panty.

Not Enough? Get the first letter of today's Wordle after the ads below.

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First Letter: L

Monday, January 08, 2024

I'll Take "Things I'm Not Really Seeing in the GOP Primaries for $500, Alex"

"Trump World is looking to squash this."

"Alex, what is Nikki Haley's 'momentum?'"

According to 538's latest polling information, Donald Trump is up on Haley by 54 points in North Carolina, 29 points in South Carolina (where Haley used to be governor), and anywhere from 49 points to 52 points nationally. One outlier poll does show her within four points in New Hampshire, but I'm not really buying it.

Now, here's a caveat:

Back in 2016, I assumed that one of several factors in polling inaccuracy was down had to some people not wanting to admit they supported Trump over Hillary Clinton (there were other factors, such as Trump enthusing rural voters who weren't showing up on pollsters' radar screens because 1) they were infrequent voters, and therefore not the "likely" voters pollsters target and 2) the pollsters were still too landline-oriented and not reaching cord-cutters).

This year, as in 2020, I suspect Trump's poll numbers may be slightly inflated by some Republicans not wanting a ration of shit for not supporting him and therefore saying they support him.

But that phenomenon is probably nowhere near the 50% range.

Something YUGE will have to happen for Trump to lose the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. I'm not sure what that YUGE thing might be, but whatever it is, even if it's going to happen it hasn't happened yet.

NFL Week 18 Outcomes and Post-Season Bracket

Well, folks, this is the end of the season, and of the ESPN Pigskin Pick'em game. My picks (posted here), with "Tom was right" picks in green and "Tom was wrong" picks in red:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers beat Baltimore Ravens
  • Indianapolis Colts beat Houston Texans*
  • Cleveland Browns beat Cincinnati Bengals
  • Detroit Lions beat Minnesota Vikings
  • Jacksonville Jaguars beat Tennessee Titans
  • New England Patriots beat New York Jets*
  • New Orleans Saints beat Atlanta Falcons
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat Carolina Panthers
  • Chicago Bears beat Green Bay Packers*
  • Denver Broncos beat Las Vegas Raiders*
  • Philadelphia Eagles beat New York Giants
  • Seattle Seahawks beat Arizona Cardinals
  • Kansas City Chiefs beat Los Angeles Chargers
  • San Francisco 49ers beat Los Angeles Rams
  • Dallas Cowboys beat Washington Commanders
  • Miami Dolphins beat Buffalo Bills*?

Seven right, nine wrong for the week. 159 right, 113 wrong for the season. 83.3rd percentile among ESPN Pigskin Pick'em players.

In case my bracket link doesn't work, here are my picks, with which almost no one is likely to agree:

In the AFC Wild Card round, the Browns will beat the Texans, the Chiefs will beat the Dolphins, and the Steelers will beat the Bills.

In the AFC Divisional round, the Steelers will beat the Ravens and the Chiefs will beat the Browns.

In the AFC Championship game, the Chiefs will beat the Steelers.

In the NFC Wild Card round, the Eagles will beat the Buccaneers, the Lions will beat the Rams, and the Cowboys will beat the Packers.

In the NFC Divisional Round, the 49ers will beat the Eagles and the Lions will beat the Cowboys.

In the NFC Championship game, the Lions will beat the 49ers.

In the Super Bowl, the Chiefs will beat the Lions.

This may or may not be my last NFL post for the season. Or ever. Who knows?

Wordle 933 Hint

Hint: Today's hint is a video!

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First Letter: F

Sunday, January 07, 2024

Wordle 932 Hint

Hint: Today's Wordle is to the word "street" as the word "rocky" is to the word "road."

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First Letter: S

Saturday, January 06, 2024

Wordle 931 Hint

Hint: A type of car, or a type of television.

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First Letter: C

Friday, January 05, 2024

Interesting Scooter Logic Video

And also kind of fun.

Hopefully the 50cc will be running some time tomorrow. I plan to get the battery on my friend's charger overnight and then go either clean or replace the carburetor tomorrow noonish. Then I can be back on the road.

But anyway, for the environmentally and budget minded, here's that video ...

Wordle 930 Hint

Hint: Don't take your time with today's Wordle -- lean into it and reach for it suddenly.

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First Letter: L

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Wordle 929 Hint

Hint: Today's Wordle doesn't quite measure up.

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First Letter: S

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

NFL Week 18 Picks

My NFL picks for this weekend, as posted at ESPN's Pigskin Pick'em site (straight picks, no spreads, etc., and I've created a group for those who would like to play along with me):

  • Pittsburgh Steelers beat Baltimore Ravens
  • Indianapolis Colts beat Houston Texans*
  • Cleveland Browns beat Cincinnati Bengals
  • Detroit Lions beat Minnesota Vikings
  • Jacksonville Jaguars beat Tennessee Titans
  • New England Patriots beat New York Jets*
  • New Orleans Saints beat Atlanta Falcons
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat Carolina Panthers
  • Chicago Bears beat Green Bay Packers*
  • Denver Broncos beat Las Vegas Raiders*
  • Philadelphia Eagles beat New York Giants
  • Seattle Seahawks beat Arizona Cardinals
  • Kansas City Chiefs beat Los Angeles Chargers
  • San Francisco 49ers beat Los Angeles Rams
  • Dallas Cowboys beat Washington Commanders
  • Miami Dolphins beat Buffalo Bills*?
"Upset" picks -- that is, where my pick disagrees with the majority of Pigskin Pick'em players (as of the time I make my picks, but if I notice a change I'll mark that) -- are marked with asterisks. I've got either four or five upsets picked. There's a question mark with the asterisks on the Dolphins/Bills game because as of the time I made my picks, the picking field was tied 50-50. I suspect that will tilt to the Dolphins before game time, but if I make any changes to my picks (including re-classifying upsets), they will be made before the game in question kicks off, and specifically noted in an update to this post.

Thursday Morning Update: The Bills/Dolphins game predictions are still close enough that I'm leaving the "upset/question mark" on there -- 48% Dolphins, 52% Bills. It's also worth noting that this weekend could get really weird, simply because some top-shelf teams will be resting their big names. For example, the Chiefs, who've already cinched the AFC West, won't be putting Patrick Mahomes on the field, and I suspect they'll be resting Travis Kelce once he picks up the low double-digit yards he needs to have a 1,000-yard season. They don't want those guys injured, ore even tired, going into the playoffs. On the other hand, some of the not-so-top-shelf teams may do the same thing, both to try out some new guys or keep some old hand safe for next season.