Wednesday, January 22, 2020

And There Was No Violence

     Monday's Lobby Day at Virginia's state capitol came and went without anything more untoward than one attendee who managed to get herself arrested for wearing a mask.  Upwards of twenty thousand people showed up, people of every hue and a wide assortment of political beliefs, and a lot of the people outside the official no-gun perimeter were visibly armed with big ol' evil-looking rifles, and nobody fired a shot.  Nobody so much as got into a fistfight.

     It would have taken just one malign fool -- and nobody wanted to be That Guy bad enough, while many people had already decided they weren't going to let anyone be That Guy.  It worked.  The Press seemed a little let down.

     Did the effort help?  Maybe.  Some.  If you live in Virginia and gun rights matter to you, vote carefully and keep writing your elected officials.  It's going to take a lot of convincing.

*  *  *

     Tuesday's Post-Impeachment Senate Trial in our nation's Capitol got underway without anything more untoward than some Senators struggling to stay awake and a rare opportunity for members of the House and Senate to snipe at one another.  They are inherently at odds -- the senior body slow, deliberative and resistant to change while the junior one is scrappy, (relatively) quick to act and responsive to the electorate.  The spectacle of the House lecturing the Senate, and the Senate getting its back up over it, is rare indeed.  Mr. McConnell and Mr. Schiff were bowed up like tomcats.

     High points included a network news analyst quoting another pundit, "Never underestimate the amount of hard work the U. S. Senate won't do," and the delicious realization that the trial was proceeding under rules from the Andrew Johnson impeachment trial: the Senators (and everyone else) are "commanded to keep silent, on pain of imprisonment."  For a modern touch, no personal electronic devices were allowed in.  The entire Senate had to sit down, shut up, and at least pretend to pay attention.

     Low points?  I'm not too keen on this rule where they start in the afternoon and run for at least twelve hours.  It was criticized by Senate Democrats and they've got a point; it makes for long days and may tend to keep any real dramatic points a little less visible in live coverage.  The flip side is, we can't have the circus in town for a month or more.  The Senate does have other things to do.  Another downer: this isn't as neat and tidy as the courtroom scenes in an episode of Perry Mason.  It's a real trial, run by people with law degrees or at least a keen personal interest in rules and procedure.  A lot of the trial will be as dull as ditchwater.

     Politics is what we do instead of fighting in the streets, and if takes some dull stretches to keep it that way, I'm in favor of of them.  The underlying fight is no less intense for all that it is cloaked in high-sounding language and procedures first formulated in the late 18th Century.  Don't kid yourself -- Madison and the other Framers knew this day would come.  You don't add a utility to the firmware if you don't think it will ever be needed.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Impeachment Trial-Watching

     This afternoon, the U. S. Senate will do something they rarely do: put the President on trial.  The process is written in out Constitution, in broad brush-strokes that assume much about the common sense and good will of the participants -- possibly more than most of us might credit some or all of the participants with possessing.  But they've done it before and they'll get  through it this time, too.

     Don't watch in anger.  Everyone involved is going to play up the drama. They all want your emotions involved.  We're in an election year and nothing gets people into voting booths like strong feelings!

     They're not wrong.  But this is history on the hoof and how you feel about it as it is happening will not change the outcome.  That's in the hands of the United States Senate.

     This is an uncommon event and none of the players are in their usual, comfortable roles.  How they behave can be revealing.

     You can watch and learn or you can watch and fume -- fume about the President, fume about the Senate and it's leadership, fume about partisanship or grandstanding, and before it's all over, you may even find a reason to be annoyed at the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  Watch angry and when it's over, you'll be working on an ulcer while all or nearly all of the participants in the Senate Trial will get their nice, fat paychecks, same as every payday. 

     Most of us will be working, at least for the first few innings; but I plan to watch what I can as coldly as a hawk.  It's a rare opportunity and I don't want to waste it.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Oh, Come On

     Apparently, a pretty thorough debunking of a far-Left historian has recently been published.    Good stuff, hey?  Demolishing invidiousness with truth, right?

     Well--

     Increasingly, pundits are trying to counter prejudice and jingoism, slanted takes on history, by pushing just as hard in the other direction.

     It works in physics, right?

     The problem is, history in all its forms, from today's TV news to the morning paper all the way to weighty multi-volume, small-print works, does not work that way.  Handedness doesn't count for much.  The real divide is different: you've got material that is true and real -- source documents, eyewitness accounts, good-faith objective writing and frankly-labeled subjective analysis -- on one side, and on the other, there's nothing but varying flavors of specious BS.  The vectors of slanted reporting don't cancel and no matter how hard you try to titrate the acid of one political leaning with the powerful alkali of the other, the result isn't salt water, it's just more BS.

     So when you read this stuff, do so with a skeptical eye; do so with a search engine handy, and check the claims.

     What I have read so far (yes, I have named neither the book nor the historian it debunks) is not what I had hoped.  There are no pages of footnotes listing authoritative sources or serious refutations of his allegations.  There's quite a lot of talk about other bad-faith historians, and about the man's own politics and habit of lifting material from other, often slanted, writers instead of going closer to the source.

     But there's no direct refutation.

     It's useful to point out propaganda, to hang a sign on bad information.  It's more useful to supply accurate information.  And yes, lies and misleading claims often have a delicious candy coating that is much more difficult to apply to the truth.  That doesn't mean it is not worth the effort to try.

     I'm going to do some more reading before I decide about buying the book, but it's not looking good.  Dammit, we're drowning in horsecrap.  It can't be remedied by adding to the pile.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

9:30 a.m., 11°F And A Raging Headache

     ...But at least it isn't raining, right?

     We did get a dusting of snow last night.  It wasn't enough to cover anything taller than an ant, just a hint of powdery white crystals scattered where the wind left them, leaving the impression that even the snow decided it was too cold and gave up on the job until things warmed a bit.

     The temperature and pressure changes left me fighting headaches yesterday and today's been more of the same; I slept in as late as I could, with Rannie the cat dozing by my side.  Finally had to give in, get out of bed and make some breakfast.  As soon as I get outside of half of it, I'll take some analgesics and think about what to do next.
*  *  *
     In the wider world, there's a sense of ticking anticipation.  Richmond, Virginia will see some kind of organized protest of the Legislature's planned new gun laws, a grab-bag that runs from the expected (reintroduction of that state's previous "one gun a month" purchase limit) to provoking (a ban on indoor gun ranges, written in such a way that the only range in the state that would be affected just happens to be the one at National Rifle Association headquarters).

     It's supposed to be a day of intense lobbying/personal contact with State legislators in their offices: "Hi, there, Mr./Ms. Elected Lawmaker, we're voters and this is an issue we care about deeply."  There's an hour or so set aside for speeches outside.

     Pretty much everybody affected is worried things will get out of hand (aside from a rotten few who hope for it).  The state-level gun-rights group Virginia Citizens Defense League has issued guidelines for attire, deportment and what not to carry (confederate flags, for instance); the Governor -- who appears to have firm plans to be elsewhere -- banned firearms from the entire area around the state government buildings, with only one entrance and, presumably, screening of everyone who passes through.  Police agencies will be limiting street traffic and even a self-described "antifa" group has spoken up -- interestingly enough, in opposition to the planned gun laws and urging restraint and avoidance of confrontation.

     What will happen?  I don't know.  Nobody knows.  Any decent person hopes that everyone involve will refrain from initiating force, and that the worst we'll see will be some heated speeches and small, quickly-resolved shouting matches over trivia.

     It's not helping my headache any.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

A New Chair

     It looks like an old chair, the classic old-time wooden office chair on a caster base.  It closely resembles the chair it has replaced.  But my much-repaired office chair -- last worked on four years ago -- has reached a point of needing to retire to service elsewhere, where it won't be used as much.  It it likely twenty-five years old by now, so I think I have got my money's worth.

     The new one is a little more lightly built, but seems pretty solid.  Warned by reviews, I bought a better set of casters at the same time,  Put it together this afternoon and I'll see how it does.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Pushing Buttons

     Yesterday's post got a link from Instapundit.  The predictable Instalanche followed, and wow, the glory days of blogging were back!  Thanks to Insty and everyone who read.

     Many people commented on my two examples, on Facebook, at Instapundit and in comments submitted here.  I didn't publish any of the ones that came in here, because in order to make the point, I played a bit of a trick on readers: neither example was factually accurate.

     Oh, they're close, and what's more, they're commonly treated as if they were true by some people, some of the time -- and they push buttons.  So far, no one refuting or correcting them has done so on the cold basis of the historical record; no one has cited any actual sources.  But everybody commenting about them had a little heat behind what they had to say and a few were downright angry.

     Many commenters went immediately to extreme cases -- communists vs. (or in cahoots with) nazis, people being marched off to gulags or lined up against walls and shot.  That's not how politics works in this country, at least not in my lifetime, and that's not what I was writing about; I stated the parameters quite clearly early in the essay.

     There were a few "see, this is how women are, it's all emotion, they can't be objective" reactions,* and one saying I was blaming everyone for not being creatures of cold logic.  There was even one ticked-off "Speak for yourself!" (And for who else would I be speaking?)

     Your emotions are involved in your political behaviors.  Pride, fear, love, loathing, anger and happiness are in play -- and they will bite you where you sit down if you're not aware of them.  Likewise, the other ordinary people in your world have their emotions all bound up in their politics.  Each of them has one vote, which limits the actual electoral villainy they (and you) can get up to.  You are not going to reason them out of their dearly-held political beliefs, nor can they do the same with you. 

     You want to change people's ideas?  Be a good example.  Be someone they look up to and want to emulate.  Involve their hearts as well as their heads.
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* Yes, the male of the species is the sole repository of reason and rationality; for a good example of this, observe them watching a hotly-contested sporting event.  Ahem.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

"When Will They Admit They're Wrong?"

     If your question amounts to the headline of this posting, and it's about politics, then the answer is "never."

     It shows up over and over on social media, from Democrats and Republicans, from conservatives and liberals,  If it's a longer version and they've laid out their reasoning, it's often quite logical, frequently plausible; sometimes it takes a highly partisan slant to see things the same way and sometimes it doesn't -- and it matters not one whit.

     Politics isn't about logic.  It's not about common sense and very rarely is "the greater good" at the forefront of the minds of legislators when they draft laws or the Executive branch when they implement them.  It's not even the first concern of judges or juries, and as for your neighbors, when he or she goes to vote or stick a campaign sign in the front yard, they're probably not either.

     Oh, we and the politicians we vote in like to invoke the idea; we all like to think we are sensible, rational beings and that if those partisan halfwits on the other side would just shut up and listen, the scales would fall from their eyes and they, too, would see the pellucid wisdom of the policies and ideas we hold dear.

     But that's not how it works.  It's not how it works for "them" (whoever they might be) and it's not how it works for "us" either.

     It's a bitter pill but here's the truth, the real deal: it's about emotion. It's about rationalization, and wow, are humans talented at rationalizing whatever we have chosen to commit to.  Once we have, it seems perfectly sensible to us and divergent views look wrong.

     There may, in fact, be a clear right and wrong side to a political issue, one that would be obvious to a disinterested observer; but you and I are not disinterested observers.  We're inside the social machinery and it's well-nigh impossible to take a colorful pill and step out.

     There are people who went to their graves convinced poor Dick Nixon was unfairly railroaded out of office; people sitting right there next to you who are certain that lying to Congress about sexual horseplay in the Oval Office with an intern does not constitute an impeachable offense.  Maybe you agree with one or the other or both; maybe there's a red flag in there for you.  --Your reaction, whatever it is, is emotional, not logical.

     Bear that in mind as the present political drama plays out across TV screens and social media.  It's engrossing; you have strong feelings about it and so do a lot of other people.  It's not worth getting in fights over.  It's not worth puzzling over why those wretchedly obtuse people who disagree with you can't just wise up and see things your way.  They're not going to.  Even if you're right.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Wednesday And Foggy

     Foggy as all get-out out doors.  Foggier still on my TV.  National politics used to be easy to comment on; now I just want to point at it and shrug.

     At the state level, our Governor gave the yearly State of the State speech last evening.  It looks like we're doing better than the neighboring states in terms of unemployment (three percent-ish), job growth, solvency of the state government and other metrics -- but when two of the neighboring states are Illinois and Michigan, looking better by comparison is kind of playing on the "easy" setting.  Still, the state's doing well and more people are moving here than moving away, so that's good news.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

It's Warm

     Or warm for January, at least.  Today's high will be in the upper fifties, possibly even sixty or more. 

     I am taking as much comfort in this as I can, because it has also resulted in remarkably intense earaches and sinus discomfort.  --And bad as it is, it's still better than having to deal with bitter cold.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Monday Again

     Didn't we have a Monday just  last week?  Really, we've had enough of these, and yet--

     Some days, it's like crawling inside a Klein bottle: no matter how hard you try, you're stuck on the outside.  Which is also the inside.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Gun Show

     After a delicious breakfast at Northside Kitchenette, The Data Viking, Tam and I went to the Indy 1500 Gun (and Knife) Show yesterday.  The State Fairgrounds were busy with multiple events including a huge RV Show.  It was a miserably rainy day and between the three of us, there's a badly broken (and badly rehealed) ankle, a pair of shins rebuilt with titanium and stainless, and a once-broken knee that is slowly unwinding the cartilage from the upper hearing surfaces of the joint.

     So of course we were directed to park halfway across the sprawling fairgrounds from the event venue, despite having a blue-spaces placard borrowed from one of our vehicles* and pointing it out.  There were no shuttle buses running through the race-track infield where they put us, and there was puddle between us and the pedestrian underpass, a wide, long and in places deep pool of water.  We limped our way to the best place to cross, and wended down and through the low-ceilinged, dank tunnel under the track before walking a couple of blocks to the show.

     The show was...crowded.  The firearms selection was pretty good but had nothing really outstanding; the prices for things I'm interested in (an S&W Bekeart .22 target revolver or one of the models that followed right after) were pretty high.

     The main booksellers vanished several shows ago; they'd been struggling with a bad vehicle and worse health and we figure they set up shop wherever they were or wherever they could get to when life on the road became too much.  Their main foes -- literal foes, the show had to keep them at opposite ends of the very large building and there were still occasional arguments -- had dropped out even earlier.  There are a few other booksellers who show up at every second or third show, and they weren't at this one.  The usual tool guys were nowhere in evidence.  One has been headed that way, selling off what appeared to be the lighter contents of Grandpa's machine shop, four table-loads at a time, an endeavor with a definite end point.  The other one is a perennial, with a decent mixture of industrial surplus, sorted garage-sale finds and Chinsesium; I don't know why he wasn't there, but his usual tables, backed up to a guy who sells chemistry glassware and related items, were empty.  There was one guy doing knife sharpening and he was pretty busy, so I skipped it; time to get out the coarse stone and diamond hones and sharpen my pocketknife myself.

     Yes, I do realize that I go to gun shows and look for things other than guns.  There were a lot of knife sellers at this one, including some very high-end stuff, both "big name" makes and craftspeople selling their own wares.

     Some of our Usual Suspects were there, too -- the guy selling Cold War surplus and offering free anti-semitism with every sale and the fireworks guy with "cute" (not at all) names for his products that harken back to the worst crimes of the WW II Axis powers.  It's convenient of 'em to hang it right out there; the First Amendment protects them but I wouldn't buy gold bars from either one even if they were selling them twelve for a dime.

     On the other hand, the local chapter of the National African-American Gun  Association had well-staffed table with a nice display behind it and were running a raffle.  The local chapter is the Indy Red Tails Gun Club, named after the distinctive paint job of the Mustangs flown by the Tuskegee Airmen.  It was good to see them there; there's always a contingent of serious African-American hunters at the show and the usual young men one sees at the 1500 includes young men of color in demographic proportion, but this level of organization is relatively new and I'm happy to see wider Second Amendment support.

     I don't know if it's the Fairgrounds or the 1500, but increasingly, they set up very narrow aisles between the rows of tables in both sides of the building (with one wide aisle in the center of the larger side), and then leave a big empty space at the far end.  For me, this resulted in skipping a couple of aisles altogether: the crowd was at a standstill and there was no way through.  They need to either institute one-way aisles (good luck with that!) or make them wider.

     At the end, the Data Viking and I both bought nothing.  Tam picked up some ammo and we headed back to Roseholme Cottage, where DV and I watched a couple of episodes of The Expanse while Tam went to the range.  Later, her friend Shootin' Buddy stopped by and we all had a nice early supper at Marco's.

     Not a bad way to spend a gray, rainy day.
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* I'm not saying whose it was, but all three of us qualify.  Usually, we'd rather leave those spots for people having a much harder time of it, but the Fairgrounds are huge and the parking staff is always overworked; they need to get you to a spot ASAP, so they can get the five hundred or more people behind you into parking spots, too.  If it's a long way away from the event you're attending, oh well.  There are usually shuttles but they were so busy we only saw one the entire time we were outside the show -- and the posted route didn't include the infield parking area.  It's not badly run but really busy days tend to almost overwhelm the staff; they're always friendly but they have no time to sort anyone out.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Browser Computer Frustrations

     Another morning of frustration with my browser -- but it's not just the browser, it's everything.  My "refurbished" desktop computer has never been entirely happy and is becoming less so.  Time, I suppose, to be looking for another.

     In the meanwhile, the Raspberry Pi booted up fine and other than screen size, a couple of pieces of software and issues with saving files on Dropbox, it's an adequate machine.