Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tam Falls At SHOT

     She's finally owned up to it on her blog: a few days ago, Tam took a fall at SHOT and hurt her knee.  How hurt, she doesn't know yet; a day of keeping off it followed by using a wheelchair consistently has produced remarkable relief, and she's covering SHOT Show, albeit from a lower perspective than she'd like: there's work to be done!

     If you are reading my blog and if you're at SHOT -- an unlikely but not impossible combination -- please keep an eye open for her.  Tamara Keel is about as happy to be in a wheelchair as a barn cat dressed up in doll clothes is to be at a child's tea party, and she's not too fond of relying on crutches or a cane, either.  Having been in that position myself, I sympathize.  So please, lend her hand, try to reduce the amount of derp she encounters, clear a path and be advised: an injured knee can only increase her level of snark.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Muddlocracy

     The older I get, the more I put my faith in the gear-jamming, contentious nature of political institutions and the less I like any notion of "efficiency" in government.

     Governments are inherently inefficient, and the ones that make the greatest claims to "efficiency" are also the ones the most likely to squander the resources, fortunes and lives of their own citizens.

     We're better off with small governments; given that all governments are wasteful at approximately the same rate, a small one costs less than a large one.  And a small, inefficient government is a lot less likely to infringe on your liberty than a large one: they can't afford it, and besides, they've misplaced the paperwork.

     All this musing comes from a quick morning's study of the 20th Century's great experiment in multilayered governmental screw-ups, the Soviet Union.  I was looking into autocrats, trying to find even one that lacked an overarching political philosophy, and I'm not finding it.  From Mussolini to Stalin, they all had some damnable Idea that drove their thoughts and actions, and generally wrote of it, often at significant length  and depth, quite frequently in the blood of innocents.  If you want to find a Great Leader lacking in a Great Plan, you've got to dig way, way back, and even then you end up with the likes of Julius Caesar, who certainly knew his way to the end of a paragraph.

     The muddy legislative waters of Washington, D.C. and the sound-bite culture that infests it, wafting its way into the nightly news and onto front pages, may be more of a bulwark than we realize: our would-be leaders never quite manage to get their flapping jaws around a really Big Idea, the kind that kills people wholesale for the supposed greater good.  And I'm happy about that; we're better off stuck with penny-ante pissants than genuine Men On Horseback.  Sure, it's kind of embarrassing, but it beats the alternative.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Because You Don't Have Nightmares Enough

     Here's a golden oldie from 2003, in which the Brookings Institute hypothetically nukes D.C. on Inauguration Day and then examines the consequences and alternatives.  It makes for chilling reading

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Good Morning?

    I'm up.  I have a world-class headache.  I've been up since 4:00 a.m., which I do not recommend.

     Meanwhile, ijits are still yapping about "disqualifying" Donald Trump from holding the Presidency.  Look, kids, unless he's secretly under 35, hasn't lived in this country for at least 14 years or is a furriner (why does that one seem so familiar?  Oh, yeah) or served two terms in the office already,  all you've got is impeachement, which starts in the House of Representatives.  Good luck with that!

     This is not to say I think the man is totally wonderful or unimpeachable (no President is immune!), but there's five days left: he will be sworn in.

     At least one yammerhead has suggested that, once they push him out, there will be a "special rerun election."  Yeah, not finding that in my copy of the Constitution.  No, what you get is former Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who Trump opponents seem to hate more, for all that he is a quiet-spoken, non-grabby fellow: RIFRA was a Mark of Cain for the Left, and they don't care at all that he felt very bad about it afterwards.  Understandable, really. But the order of succession is quite clear; after Pence you get the Speaker of the House (Paul Ryan), the President Pro Tem of the Senate (Orrin Hatch) and then it's the Cabinet, in order of creation of the position.  Not too sure where the party-line critics of Mr. Trump would like to stop on that list; I'm not seeing anyone of whom they would approve.

     Golly, the fun never stops.  Nor the headaches.  I'm just getting a head start.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

How To Loathe Politicians

     There's something that really gets up my nose: people don't appear to have the least idea how to loathe politicians properly.  In my lifetime, it got a good head of steam up under President Nixon; there was a bit of a respite with Presidents Ford and Carter (Billy was great distraction!), then modern President-hating really got underway with Mr. Clinton and it hasn't stopped since; it only switches sides as the office does.

     So it's not that the public is lovin' 'em, oh, far from it; Americans have a long and marvelous history of deep disgust for the public officials we elect.  Most of them only have to be found acceptable by 51% of the voters, and even with, say, 80% turnout, that leaves a tick over 60% of the possible voters who didn't vote for the winner.

     If, then, you don't like J. Random Wheelhorse, whattaya do?  Do you snatch eagerly at every scurrilous rumor and every fantastical projection of what he or she might do, or you do you identify those of her or his policies, attitudes or elements of personal style that irk or offend you?

     Online evidence suggests most people pick the first option and that, pardon my language, is just lazy bullshit.

     Look, it's perfectly fine to dislike politicians over anything from published official policy to trivia of personal behavior.  Birch Bayh had a smirk that many voters could not stand (though rarely enough of them to keep him out of office).  It's not okay to imagine things (or borrow other people's imaginings) and fret, rage or recoil over that.  I didn't like Mr. Obama's attitude towards law-abiding gun-owners, which was patronizing at best and the laws he favored anent firearms struck me as dreadful; I was not at all in favor of the Affordable Care Act he helped usher into law -- that doesn't mean I thought he was foreign-born, or a secret Muslim.  I'm not a fan of Mr. Trump's vague and handwaving style, either, nor his careless approach to public policy -- but I don't think he's out to bring back Jim Crow laws.

     Sort out the reality from the nonsense.  Hate them, if you will, but hate them for who they are, what they propose and what they do, not for something some troller at an online forum or third-string tabloid news site made up.  Hate them for the bills they put forward and the laws they enact, not because some halfwit in Hollywood urged them to impose martial law, or you heard from your third cousin's ex-boyfriend that they once ran over a baby squirrel and laughed about it.

     Most of them (possibly all, who'd'a thunk?) are regular, fallible, flawed human beings with plenty of stupid, crazy or downright mean ideas; there are lots of real things to dislike them over.  Don't buy into the hype and panic, don't pick up cheap. ugly second-hand loathing at retail prices when you can easily look up the facts and hate the weasels-in-office accurately, in the cold clear light of day.  Watch them like hawks on a limping gopher!  Suspect them of all manner of gracelessness, malfeasance and misbehavior!  --But act only on what you can prove.  There's plenty of it, always.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Busy, Busy

    I must scurry off for an early meeting at work.  So, no big thoughts this morning. Maybe later.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Pot, Meet Kettle -- Wait, Have You Two Met?

     I guess not.  A writer in (at?) Vox muses plaintively, "The problem here is that the Republican Party [...] somehow ram through a quickly-crafted replacement that would massively restructure the health care sector with hardly any deliberation, with potentially catastrophic consequences."

     Gosh, do you suppose he was this upset the last time one party held the Presidency, dominated both houses of Congress, and "massively restructre[d] the health care sector" via legislation they hadn't even read?  Was he worried about a bill Congress was told they had to pass in order to find out what was in it?

     Or was it okay-fine as long as the Right People were in charge?

     Me, I'm still wondering what in the name of Hippocrates the Fed.Gov is doing in the health care business at all, other than Congressthings and Presidents showing up at charity efforts to raise money for those unable to care for themselves. 

     Somebody's going to call me out on that, huffing that I'm suggesting Big Business ought to be running healthcare.  (Like they're not?  Who do you think my Congressbeings are most likely to take calls from, me or Eli Lilly?  Me, or United Healthcare?)  Nope; there was a time when healthcare was mostly run by doctors and it worked pretty well.  In part, that was because they couldn't do a whole lot to keep you alive, for $$$$$ levels of "keeping."  But it was also because administrative overhead was low and medical decisions were made by (hang on, this is far-out stuff) working physicians.  Health insurance, in the form of "catastrophic" coverage, mostly for hospitalization, didn't start showing up as a workplace perk until wage-frozen WW II: if an employer couldn't pay more than the competing blivet works, they could offer other incentives, and employers did so.  It has grown from there. especially with the 1990s realization that there were a number of aliments for which prevention was much cheaper than treatment, and thus we came to where we were before the Affordable Care Act.

     At the time, Congressional Democrats chortled that ACA was "unrepealable."  Now, maybe not so much.

     We have a mess now.  Maybe there's a bigger mess coming.  Maybe it will be a huge, terrific* improvement.  Whatever happens, don't expect there to be any less paperwork or any shortage of spatting in the press and in Washington, D.C. -- and how, exactly, does the filling out of forms or spirited debate set your broken leg, treat your infection or get you on a program of exercise to squeeze a few more years from your ill-treated heart?  --And why can't I get an appointment with my doctor any sooner than the middle of next month?
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* "Terrific" and "Terrible" share the same root, of course.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"Leaving A Loaded Gun In The White House"

     Reason magazine, on the growth in Presidential power during Mr. Obama's two terms.  Remember when the media was telling us what a crime it was, the way the most recent President Bush had expanded the powers of his office?  Well, surprise, the reporting might've slackened but the trend never did.

     Thus, this article.

     I dislike the extent to which both sides bend discussion about the Presidency toward discussion of the man holding the office.  On the big things ("Am I gonna be able to afford lunch, or will my money be worthless by noon?" "Will WW III break out this year?" "Can I call our Congressman a ninny?" "Is my place of worship going to be shut down?"  "Hey, is that a drone, and is it shooting at me?"), it really shouldn't ever be about the man; the President's power is supposed to be strictly limited.

     Supposed to be -- ask the Cherokees how well that worked out under Andrew Jackson, look at Woodrow Wilson's re-segregation of a merit-based Federal civil service, and those are just the easy examples.  But even at that, even while the worrying edge cases were canaries in our national coal mine, Joe and Jane Average were safe from Presidential whim.  I'm doubting that's true any more. 

     And it's not the man, it's the office; each president picks up what his predecessor has left in the way of power and authority and, being human, looks to find new ways to wield it, clever ways to expand it, to do the things he truly thinks will be Right and Good, or at least Expedient.  If you don't want a chimp with a hammer roaming the halls, they only way to prevent it is to keep hammers and chimps strictly separated, with a system of checks and balances to ensure they remain so, and we didn't.  Our Federal government didn't.  War Powers Act, Patriot Act -- remember them?  These are the kind of bricks that build a king.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Oh, How They Hates Him

     I'm enjoying the amount of outrage, narrow scrutiny, foaming at the mouth and sheer, often addled, boggling on the part of not only the Press but the bulk of people famous for being famous over the Trump Presidency -- and before it has even begun!

     Mr. Trump is not one of my favoritest of people, no more than his predecessor, and while many of the reasons for looking askance at the two are different, one is the same -- and it's a big one: the ever-increasing scope and depth of Presidential power.  All of them grab for more, if only because it is convenient; see the venerated George Washington on the matter of "Executive Orders," for instance. But when a Republican is in the White House (or about to be), oversight is easy: everyone from the Nightly News to washed-up Hollywood stars scry out the slightest misstep and shout the dire news from the rooftops, leaving pinpointing the tiny fire under the towering column of smoke as my only effort.

     Consider an example Tam pointed out: Mr. Trump wants his son-in-law as an advisor and there's no end of cries of nepotism, but when Ms. Clinton's husband put her in charge of an effort to nationalize healthcare, the press hailed it as the very best medicine for this county's ills.  (Congress disagreed and the push was, for a while, deader'n Elvis.  Like zombie Elvis, it lurched back to life later and made a mess.)

     All modern Presidents have been a bit like a butcher who tends to lay his thumb on the scales if you're not watching closely.  With a Republican in the office, there is no shortage of watchers, and no shortage of megaphones.  My centrist-to-liberal friends and co-workers ask, "Aren't you worried about (dunh dunh DAH!) Trump?"  I don't have to worry; the Press will do that for me and the €ntertainment media will cheer them on while booing him, with an occasional sidebar from fretting, condescending high-tech metrosexuals in Manhattan and the California megalopoli.

     There is something in humanity, or perhaps in our politics in the widest sense, that presses Caesarwards.  Opposition to it, even of the the most partisan and befuddled sort, is not at all bad -- and often entertaining.  I believe the die has already been cast, the rollercoaster released to gravity's rule decades back.

     Nothing much left for me to do except to pop popcorn -- and load magazines.  You always load magazines when Congress is in session, or about to be, and stock up on stamps and envelopes.  "Dear Senator, I am writing from my secure redoubt under the front porch...."  Ah, politics.  It was never really safe to ignore it completely, darn it.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Shh! We're 'Nauguratin'!

     Indiana's Gubernatorial Inauguration will be held today, along with the swearing-in of other statewide office-holders -- but not in the usual place, which is on the steps of the Statehouse.

     Mind you, the steps-of-the-Statehouse thing is a fine old 19th-Century ceremony in front of a beautifully-restored fine old 19th-Century capitol building, but you need a fine old 19th-Century attitude and a fine old 19th-Century overcoat, hat, gloves and boots to fully appreciate it from the standing-room-only space in front of the steps.  Last time, Mike Pence drew two thousand shivering spectators and this year, in the wake of a cold snap that saw single-digit temperatures in the city, incoming Governor Eric Holcomb moved it to Indiana Farmer's Coliseum at the State Fairgrounds.

     I admit, my initial reaction was to wonder if we were inaugurating a State Cow and State Chickens as a part of the festivities, but on reflection, it's not a bad idea: among other things, the present outside temperature is 17°F and it will barely break freezing today.  The Coliseum --  a beautifully-restored fine old 20th-Century Art Deco building -- has a 21st-Century heating system, a readily-secured perimeter, a first-rate PA system and comfortably seats over six thousand, including, I hope, a fair number of schoolchildren for this event. There are even camera platforms for media coverage.

     Eric Holcomb seems to have a smattering of common sense; at least, saying "No" to communal frostbite strikes me as a good sign.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Bad And/Or Crazy People With Guns

     Had another one the other day, apparently both a madman and a would-be jihadi, and as usual, everyone retreated to their favorite corners and they're still in them: you've got the nervous-Nellie gun banners, who are horrified he had a gun at all, and even more horrified that it's okay to carry a (declared and unloaded*) gun in (checked, locked, hard-sided) aircraft luggage; you've got the guy who grumps there were too few guns at the scene and hey, if I ran the world, people who attempt such violence would indeed be stopped rapidly by those around them, but I don't and the State of Florida takes a dim (for chargeable values of dim) view of carrying loaded firearms anywhere in an airport; there's the crazed-veteran-with-PTSD narrative and it may even be true, but the Pentagon is more worried about it than we are (can you say "stop-loss?" It doesn't work if soldiers are broken), and has been for longer; and so on and on.

     There's a lot of heat and a lot of posturing, but no more light than we ever had, and then--

     Then some clever type expressed the wistful hope that an impulsive President Trump wouldn't have to deal with something like this, or, worse, a Sandy Hook-type incident.

     He almost certainly will.  While it's still a rare kind of crime on a per-unit-time or per-capita basis, they keep happening and unlike nearly every other category of violent crime, the trend is not downward.  Granting a certain steady rate of murderous, reality-deficient losers who aren't detected, deflected or stopped before their first hit, civilization also has an ongoing problem with Islamoid mass-killers† -- and an even bigger problem with a flavor of Islam that keys only too well into the thoughts of aggrieved men in the "MRA" mold, aggrieved men of color feeling locked out, would-be barbarians and those who long for a "return to traditional values."  --A little something for every loser, and the price of admission is just religious conversion, if they don't happen to have been raised in the faith already.  It's showing a definite growth rate and as it grows, so do the mostly-amateur killings.  I don't think Mr. Trump has a magic wand to stop it before it happens; I doubt anyone does.

     So, what next?  I don't know.  Over the long term, I do know that Western Civilization does, eventually, turn very ugly when threatened.  I think we may have a chance to see that, up close and at full steam.  We may not like it much.
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* Yes, "unloaded."  The FAA and airlines aren't much minded to debate the Four Rules: they want the chamber and  magazine, if in place, e-m-p-t-y and the cartridges securely stored.

† We lack an in-between word, and so mass killings in the Holocaust, Gulags and the fields of Pol Pot's Cambodia, firebombing cities and dropping H-bombs get the same tag as some horrible loser shooting a half-dozen innocents at a mall.  The death of the undeserving is indeed not scalar: it is as evil to kill one as a thousand, but we really need terms to distinguish between nation-state-sized activity and small numbers of murderers with small-arms or petty-ante death-dealing machinery.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Is Hibernation An Option?

     It was two below this morning, -2°F.  For my metric friends, that's like -40°C or -408 millidarcys or -768 kiloKatal or something.*  Too cold!

     I stayed in bed as long as I could, then got up briefly -- and went right back to bed.  Hunger finally drove me out, to a plate of sausage hash with an egg cooked atop it and some nice Manchego cheese as a buffer. I tried a trick this time that worked out well: sprinkled a generous pinch or two of flour in the skillet before adding the hash.  It browns up nicely in the grease left after my blotting-up of as much as I could from the decanned block of hash and it moderates the slightly-harsh spiciness.

     Trying to decide what next.  "Back to bed" has a certain appeal but it lacks panache.
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* Oh, all right, okay, it's -19°C as near as matters, actually -18.888888888... until you run out of eights.  So, you're so clever, what's the special thing about forty below that got it included in my bogus list of conversions?