Monday, August 08, 2022

Slow Roasted Corned Beef

      Sunday was a scorcher.  Miserably hot.  Air-conditioning struggled to keep up with the heat and humidity.*  I like making a nice Sunday dinner (that's supper in my house.  YMMV) but there was no way I was simmering something on the stove all day.

      And why should I?  I'd frozen a corned beef brisket back when our neighborhood grocer had them at a good price: bought two, cooked one and set the other aside for later.  I had put it in the fridge to what Saturday early and it was mostly thawed by mid-day Sunday.  After wasting a little time shopping for a larger graniteware roasting pan (there's a reason for that), I built a fire and while the charcoal was starting, I rinsed the meat several times and put it in the pan with the seasoning that comes with corned beef, a little pepper and some bay leaves.

      The trick to this is indirect heat.  Once the coals are going (I start them in a hollow fire, with kindling on the inside and charcoal on the outside), I collapse the "chimney" if it hasn't fallen already and push them into two rows, with a gap in the middle.  For a long roast like this, I add a fresh row of charcoal along the outside, too.  Then the grill goes on, and the covered roasting pan sits on the grill above the charcoal-free gap.  (I could have and possibly should have added a little water, but I didn't.)  I set a timer for an hour per pound -- about four hours and fifteen minutes.  I added staggered timers a bit over an hour apart to help keep track.  (A good job for a household robot.)

      Corned beef is salty.  You've got to moderate it.  After an hour, I added a large potato, cut up.  I should have added two.  The potatoes will take up the salt.  By that point, there was a fair amount of liquid in the pan.  Carrots and celery followed an hour later, coarsely-chopped red onion and purple cabbage a half-hour or so after that.

      When I was working on the carrot and celery, I decided to hedge.  The pan is a tight fit for everything I wanted to cook.  I have a small grill-friendly saucepan, about 7" across and as tall.  I put a dab of olive oil in the bottom and layered 1" sections of carrot and celery.  When I chopped the onion, half went in the saucepan and I filled the remainder with cabbage.  A couple of teaspoons of butter and a few shakes of smoked paprika and garam masala, an aluminum-foil lid, and it was ready.  I parked the pan on a corner of grill for the last couple of hours.

      The end result?  The meat very nearly fell apart when I lifted it out to slice.  Tam pronounced itr delicious and, modesty aside, I agree.  The potatoes were dark and flavorful and both the "sweet" vegetable mix from the saucepan and the saltier version from the roasting pan were delicious.  I ended up combining them and it worked out well.  The broth was too salty; it will get diluted when this comes back as corned beef stew, and I'll probably cook another potato in it.

      Purple cabbage cooked this way tends to stay purple -- and it keeps a little color in the red onions, too.
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* I mistyped that as "humidirty."  Okay, not a word, but it's how such weather can make you feel.

Sunday, August 07, 2022

"FIGHT PEACEFUL"

      That's the slogan on one of my favorite T-shirts: "Fight Peaceful," rendered in block capitals.  I like it for the ambiguity and the contradiction -- what's it supposed to mean, anyway?

      One of the things it means is how our political system is supposed to work.  We're supposed to fight one another peacefully, online, on the letters-to-the-Editor page, on the protest line, the debate stage, at the ballot box and in our legislatures.

       We're kind of sucking at it of late. 

      It's real easy to point at the other guys and blame them for starting it.  It's protestors high-sticking with the standards that were supposed to just carry their signs, it's mean cops or outside agitators, it's those guys throwing rocks or starting fires, it's that other guy shooting from cover--  It's those faceless s.o.b.s who run the government so wrongly, it's the surging, anonymous, wrong-headed mob....  Somehow it's never us.  It's never any of our friends.  It's never any elected or appointed official we approve of.

      Except maybe it is.  Maybe it's everybody: the people we like and the people we loathe.  Perhaps sometimes it's one and sometimes the other, occasionally both.

      And we should all knock it the hell off.  We're going to break something important, if we haven't already: the civil peace.  The way in which we have, mostly, fought one another peacefully since the country was founded.  We bled like hell and we made a hell on Earth the last time we forgot how to do it, and perhaps it's been so long that we've burnished and sanitized the carnage into legend.  It wasn't legendary to the dead and maimed at the time.  It wasn't legendary to grieving families back then -- and if we break the peace again, the heartbreak and tears, the pain and the suffering won't be a noble myth this time, either.

      Fight all you like; America is an ideal, an intention, an ongoing experiment in self-rule.  But fight peaceful.  Don't let grievance-mongering demagogues of any flavor lead you to try short-circuiting democratic processes with a brick.  You will bleed -- and they will laugh all the way to the bank.

Saturday, August 06, 2022

Batman Or Doc Savage?

      Possibly even Tom Swift: There's a huge electric barrier in the Chicago River, placed there to stop an alien invasion!

      And the superheroes who put it in would actually be the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Close enough to the others I listed!

Friday, August 05, 2022

Sick

      Apparently a visual migraine, with effects I hesitate to describe.  It's difficult to look at things and even harder to see them.  Zero stars.  Do Not Want.

Thursday, August 04, 2022

"Kansas Landslide?"

      Tea-leaf reading is widespread, but don't read too much.  In Kansas, a ballot initiative that would have made a sweeping abortion ban possible was voted down.  Some pundits are pointing to it as evidence of trouble for the conservatives, Kansas having a decidedly Rightward lean.

      I don't know.  Many red states have put very draconian restrictions on abortion now that Roe v. Wave has been swept away.  These laws leave very little room for individual choice.  Kansas voters have kept such restrictions as already existed in place -- and otherwise left prospective mothers to make up their own minds.  They didn't throw the door wide open.

      Abortion is a very personal matter.  It hinges on religion and moral beliefs, on personal and societal ethics, on when, precisely, you think a fetus is a person.  These are matters the law has difficulty addressing with nuance.  Kansas voters didn't necessarily vote in favor of abortion, they voted in favor of being allowed to make their own decisions -- and letting their fellow citizens do so, too.

      Readers may have strong feelings about this, and I expect to get a few serious comments on religion and philosophy.  The actual issue is how much right we have to impose our own beliefs on others.  And that's what people voted on in Kansas, and by a large margin. 

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Mixed Grill For Your Politics

      If anyone was looking to yesterday's primaries as a bellwether, good luck.  Sometimes crazy wins, sometimes it doesn't.  In some states, the Dems helped the crazier Republican, in the hopes that he or she will be easier to run against, while in some GOP-dominated states, the crazier candidate won the party primary on their own.

      What does this tell us about the general election?  Not much.  I don't expect surprises; I expect the usual parties to do as well as usual in their usual states.  I'm with the numbers people at fivethirtyeight in not expecting a huge change in the House or Senate balance and it still looks barely too close to call which party will have a narrow edge in which chamber.  Don't look for any sweeping mandates. And while there may be a message to the lawmakers in that, I don't think they'll bother to read it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

I'm Going To Have To Ask You To Start Making Sense

      Really, it's not such high bar to meet: the very same people who accuse the Biden Administration of being soft on China (or worse) are now condemning Speaker Pelosi's plans to irk the PRC by visiting Taiwan.   (In fairness, some serving GOP Congresspeople have cheered her efforts, on the general principle that anything that annoys Red China can't be bad.  I have a certain weakness for the idea myself.)

      You can't have it both ways.  Either the Dems are pawns of the Chinese government, or they're playing at brinksmanship, fine, those are both opinions someone might have -- but both at once?  No.  They cancel out.  It's preposterous.

      Yesterday's post was right on target.

Monday, August 01, 2022

Two Quotes

     Hanna Arendt:
    "The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist."

     Rudy Guliani:


     The first quote was found here; the second, I watched in real time, unbelieving. Worries about a fuel shortage are real enough, but the truth shortage is even more appalling.  I guess the good news is that it's seriously undervalued; the bad news is, we'll miss it very badly if it gets driven off the market by cheap synthetics.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Ugh

      That was disappointing.  Since the pandemic's effects on the supply chain began to ramp up -- who expected bread or paper toweling to get short? -- I have worked hard at being provident.  At stocking staples in depth.  The habit has persisted even as stores have returned to something near normal.  If it's not quickly perishable, I keep a couple of month's supply -- coffee beans, UHT milk, paper goods, sugar, canned vegetables, canned meat, dish soap, even butter (the good stuff will keep for about a year in the fridge -- check the expiration dates).

      When I used up the last of the powdered coffee creamer* this morning, I wasn't worried.  I knew I had more.  I'll just get the next one one and--  Pulled out the backup and it was hazelnut-flavored.  I'd bought two containers of the stuff some time ago when none of my usual sources had the normal kind.  I'd tried it back then and loathed it, but kept it around just in case.  I'd been glancing at the remaining plastic container and thinking it was plain.  Well, it was all I had.  I tried it again.  Still wretched; the hazelnut flavoring drowns out the coffee with cloying intensity.

      So there I was, a nice big mug of fresh-ground, freshly brewed Tanzanian Peaberry with Sugar In The Raw in my hand, ruined.  Looks like the next cup will be black with sugar.

      Almost.  Second item on the list of the things I keep around is "UHT milk."  It's shelf-stable, though it tastes better cold.  I normally have a pack of eight single-serving cartons on the top shelf of the fridge.  I don't like it as well as richer additives, but it's better than nothing -- and it's a lot better than excessive hazelnut.
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* If you take your coffee with cream, preferences can be weirdly specific and using different forms will seem "off" in taste or mouthfeel.  My Dad used Coffee Rich as far back as I can remember, and wasn't fond of other options.  I started using CoffeeMate not long after I started drinking coffee (after I moved out: my parents did not allow children to drink coffee other than as a very rare treat, 50/50 with milk, even at the age of 19.  Coffee was free or crazy cheap at most radio stations I worked for, which beat fifty-cent soft drinks by a considerable margin) and came to prefer it.  Liquid creamer, half'n'half or different powdered brands are okay but as a regular thing, I want my choice of stuff in my coffee.  (About that free coffee?  It was a big shock to go to work in television and discover we had to pay full vending-machine retail prices for coffee!  On the other hand, they paid considerably better than radio.  On the other other hand, the vending machine coffee was not very good.)

Saturday, July 30, 2022

I Hit My Goal

      I have not, however, quite finished the Hidden Frontier story I'm working on.  The story was always going to take a lot of words.  It's at over 14,000 words, over half of that in the last month.

      There are a few more scenes yet to be written.  I have sufficient notes and outline that I know where I am going with them.  Once that's done, it'll be time to step back and have a look at the structure, see what changes need to be made, and start on revision.

      Averaging a page a day is a pace I think I can maintain.  It doesn't sound like much, but it adds up.

Friday, July 29, 2022

A Legendary Beast, A Control That Doesn't Exist And A Do-si-do

      Recession!  It's the big new word at present -- but at any given time, you can always find some subset of economists, pundits and politicians who profess to see one on the road straight ahead -- or maybe it's here with us right now!  Oh, noooo!

      There's even an editing war over the word in progress at Wikipedia; people who want us to be in or entering a recession shading, slanting and blowing on the dice, while people who hope we're nowhere near slant, shade and put a thumb on the wheel; you can track it in the edit history and that's a bit of an education in and of itself.

      But a recession is a creature that only shows up in the rear-view mirror.*  They cannot be definitively identified until they are over.  By that time, you are either enjoying the recovery, too busy to bury economists up to their necks in anthills -- or enduring a depression, wondering what kind of second-hand socks make the best soup.

      Recession or not, boom or bust, inflation, stagflation or G-rated flation for the whole family, the blame lands on the President's plate, with a kid's table set for Congress.  Nope, sorry, "The Economy" is not actually a knob on the President's desk.  For most of my life, business was happier when there was a Republican in the White House and they had a majority in Congress, and that often (but not always, hey Mr. Ford?) meant the economy would be good (occasionally on borrowed money, irrational exuberance or the back of a nondeclared war).  The Democrats were not so friendly to business, though they varied widely (and business loathes unpredictability), so times might not be so good, especially for the top ten percent.  But it's all smoke signals and speechifying, occasionally tinkering with taxes.  The Federal Reserve has some control -- but it's crude and laggy at best, and the things they try rarely have the desired effect.

      Republicans were, mostly, pro-business.  Democrats were neutral at best, with strong lean to regulation and hostility.

      That's changing.  The GOP is taking aim at Big Tech, with an eye to breaking them up.  Big Tech is Big Business these days.  And the GOP's become a lot less predictable.  This isn't good news, especially for suits in boardrooms and major stockholders, and that pain trickles down to you, me and the kid stocking groceries every time.

      The Republicans used to be the party of sober men (and very occasionally, women) in office wearing sober suits, speaking soberly about sober issues to one another over five-martini lunches.  The Democrats used to be the "anything goes" party, welcoming shaggy-haired social experimenters with wild ideas and not much cohesion over anything but the lingering programs of FDR's New Deal.  This has changed; we've got more Establishment Dems these days, while the GOP happily embraces fringe thinkers with their own social experiments brewing.  Oh, there are still plenty of stiff-necked country-club Republican politicians, and no shortage of whackjob Democrats with zany notions in and running for office; but the handwriting's on the wall.  There's either a slow turning, or we're going to have loons-in-office on both sides, in numbers large enough to create a cacophony -- and to keep business fretting no matter which bunch is shouting the loudest.  You know who loses in that latter case?  Hint: it's nobody in Washington or on Wall Street.  It's nobody in corner offices or the Oval Office.  It's no one in Congress or the boardroom.  You, me, our neighbors: we get to carry that weight. 

      Saw news the other day that Andrew Yang and a few select friends are forming their very own political party, presumably with blackjack and hookers.  "RT" --the former Russia Today -- is pushing it pretty hard, which tells me everything I need to know about the possible beneficial effects of this development: there aren't any.

      Please vote for sane adults, if you can.  If you can't, picking the least crazy might help.
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* Right up there with hoop snakes, behinders and sidehill cattle.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Tower Work?

      Maybe tower work, maybe rain, maybe we get one done before the other washes it out -- or not.  I don't know.

      My part of the work is to be on the ground, refraining from smoking* and possibly running the elevator, since it's the kind that doesn't have any controls in the elevator car.  To this end, I have bought a new pair of work boots -- well, that and the realization that the too-narrow pair of boots I've been keeping in the car will be sheer torture if I have to wear them for a whole day.

      The "pink tax" on work boots is especially pronounced and the selection women are offered is lousy.  I found a pair of men's Wolverines that didn't look too awful and were under a hundred bucks.  Carolina Pole Climbers, they're not, but the lead time on those excellent boots was too long.

      So, off I go, tower workers being of the opinion that morning daylight is the best kind -- and if you had ever climbed steel that had spent hours baking in the sun, you'd agree.

      Our crew has been plugging away at the job of inspecting every single tower worthy of the name that my corporate employer owns, across all of the United States.  This is a number possibly pushing above five hundred and they're just over halfway through.  Met them yesterday and they look a bit tired.  Most of the people who actually inspect towers in detail are mechanical engineers (of the Certified Professional Engineer variety) and most of them do their own climbing.  It's a combination that can make for interesting personalities and they're usually worth listening to.
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* With a tip of the hat to the late Eric Frank Russell, who observed the importance of that task in his fiction.  And it's easy enough, since I haven't in decades.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Must Have Been The Right Words Yesterday

      I woke this morning to a storm thundering through Indianapolis, bringing heavy rain.  It's passed through now, but there's more rain behind it.

      Correlation is not causation, but I'm happy we got some rain. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Rain, Rain...Rain?

      One of the drawbacks and advantages to living in a large city is that the "heat island" effect creates an updraft that tends to deflect storms.

      Yes, it deflects most storms -- and a lot of rain.  So we stay a little dryer than surrounding countryside.  It's not strong enough to deflect the worst storms, though.  When a "storm of the century," or even a storm of the year hits, we feel it.

      No storms of the century so far, just a lot of rainy weather but not much actual rain.  At the very least, my potted plant on the porch will need help, and maybe the tomato and pepper-plant patch as well.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Recipe For Panic?

      Monkeypox is no joke.  Neither is using it as an excuse to impugn your favorite targets.  This is a disease that you actually can pick up via an unfortunate handshake.  It can be carried in a cough.  There's even some evidence that the present strains can go airborne.  It is carried in the scabs and ooze from the pustules on infected people.  You can get it by prolonged close contact -- and that includes sex.  Nevertheless, it's not a sexually transmitted disease: STDs do not easily transmit any other way but sex (or blood-to-blood contact).  This stuff gets carried from person to person with far less intimate contact.

      At present, a lot of the transmission in the U.S. is among gay men, and apparently by closer contact than a handshake.  But it spreads much too easily to stay there. 

      Illness spreads rapidly when it finds a favorable environment.  Anything that goes airborne or is carried in exhaled droplets, anything that can be spread by casual contact, will spread when it gets into a dense-enough population.  Schools, for instance.  A coughing stranger at the mall, a sneeze in church, and then an active week at school means it will spread, and among a young population it may spread very rapidly.

      So will a search for blame.  In today's fraught sociopolitical environment, what might follow from that could be very ugly.

      The last two-plus years have soured my optimism about the good nature of my fellow citizens.  I hope people don't get crazy, but a thin thread of hope is all I've got.

      We've already got the tools to deal with this -- handwashing, distance, masks, staying home when you are sick.  There's even a vaccine, and production is ramping up.  There's way less mystery about this bug than there was about coronavirus and we can stifle it.  "Can" is not "will."  I don't know if we've got the will.  Especially not when it makes such a convenient excuse to spin conspiracy theories and yell at people with whom we disagree, instead of actually doing anything.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Currywurst Eggs and Sausage-Gravy Stew

      Early last week, I decided currywurst would be a nice supper entree.  Litre House restaurant, in its pre-pandemic indoor incarnation, had an upscale version, sausage and fresh herbs with curry ketchup,* but the usual version is fast food, usually with French fries on the side.  I improvised: lengthwise-split bratwurst† on rye bread with curry ketchup, a kind of American-German take on choripán con chimichurri. (And, just to muddy the waters further, salchipapas are pretty much currywurst without the curry.)  It was good, too, but it we were left with three bratwursts that I didn't want to waste.

     If it's good for dinner, there's probably a way to make it good for breakfast.  The next morning, I sliced a bratwurst into "coins," sprinkled curry powder on them, fried them with a dab of olive oil and once they were cooked through, pushed them to the sides of the pan and scrambled an egg in with them.  A piparra pepper snipped into short segments and a little parsley finished it nicely.  (Bottled piparra peppers are delicious and our local grocer has them at a reasonable price.  Online prices are significantly higher.)  It was good enough that I did the same the next morning, which was when Tam remarked on how tasty it smelled and asked for a sample.  She liked it well enough that I made a larger batch for both of us this morning -- two sausages and three eggs.  Tam had red hatch chilies with hers; I added a little ketchup to mine.

     You could make this with fried rice, too -- the microwave-in-bag Spanish rice would be a good starting place.  Fried potatoes would work, too, but it calls for careful staging: the potatoes take longest to cook and should go first.  Get them slightly browned before making room for the sausage.

*  *  *

     Friday, I wanted to make something fairly simple but different.  The grocery had good prices on ground chuck and sausage, and I restocked the basic vegetables.  I had a can of potato soup and a can of mushroom soup, and I bought a container of whole white mushrooms.  One chorizo sausage squeezed out of its casing, one mild Italian sausage given the same treatment, and a pound of ground chuck with a little salt, pepper and smoked paprika: I browned them, drained them and cleared a space at the center of the pot in which I sauteed roughly two-thirds of a cup of diced carrots and two large stalks of celery, cut into short slices.  While that was cooking, I diced a medium red onion (vary to suit your preference) and added it, stirring occasionally until the onion was translucent.  While doing that, I washed and sliced four large mushrooms, adding them, too.  Then both cans of soup, stir and cover for ten minutes or more.  The result is a thick stew, at least six servings of it.  The aroma was enticing and the flavor lived up to it.

     I froze the remainder for a later supper.  (I used up the last of the multi-colored carrots for this.  I don't know if they're any better than the orange ones, but they taste at least as good and they're fun, purple, white, yellow and orange.)
*  *  *

     "Task nesting" is an important part of effective cooking. While I love those cooking shows and recipes that have you start with all the ingredients ready to go, each in its own little container -- and you should do that when learning a new dish, or if you're new to cooking -- it's usually a waste of time.  I like galley or apartment-style kitchens: everything is just a step or two away.  With the exception of gravy, scrambled eggs and stir-fry, there are very few cooking tasks that require all of your time and attention.  A cutting board on an unused stove burner or adjacent countertop lets you mind the pot while preparing for the next step; having the sink directly across from the stove means vegetables can be washed without ignoring whatever's already cooking.  Measuring cups and cooking utensils should be kept in cabinets within easy reach from the stove -- spices, too, if you can keep them away from excessive heat.  A kitchen is a specialized workshop and should be organized on that basis.  Make it as pretty as you like -- good appliances are already attractive and the rest is mostly elbow grease and careful shopping -- but make it functional.  Time spent cooking should be a pleasure, not a search for the tools and materials you need.

     This is link-heavy but not monetized.  Just things to look at.
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* Just ketchup -- I prefer the stuff Heinz and Red Gold sell as "chili sauce," a thick ketchup with some onion -- and curry powder.  Curry powders vary widely in heat and flavor; I have been using McCormick, which has plenty of coriannder, fenugreek and tumeric, but suits American palates.  Whatever you use, give it a sniff and a taste first, then (if you like it) stir enough into ketchup to suit yourself.  You'll be glad you did.
 
† Not actually the proper sausage for currywurst, but it's easy to find and it works.

I'm Not Cheering

      Received a comment the other day, in which the commenter was pleased one of the more visible would-be insurrectionists was (probably) headed for jail.

      While I understand the sentiment (and find the prospect appealing), I'm declining to publish it.  Nothing personal, Mr. Commenter!  I am happy to see the rule of law prevail.  But I'm not comfortable with the notion that a setback for bad guys is always and necessarily a triumph for good guys.

      Grown-up men and women leaned hard on our system of government, lawyers and political pundits and politicians who should have known better, and while it didn't break that time, it's badly bent.  Rebuilding it will be a long, slow process and there's no guarantee of success.  The process has already established precedent, defining the limits of executive privilege and finding that a Congressional subpoena has the force of law.

      A little haziness at the corners isn't a bad thing.  Those who take care to steer wide of illegality will never come close enough to test the edges.  And we are now losing more of that ambiguity.  It will make no difference to moral people -- but it will make it that much easier for slippery characters to come right up to the line without ever quite crossing over.  I suppose it's a kind of loss of innocence -- which is downright risible, applied to the freewheeling wheeling and dealing of Federal politics   Nonetheless, the United States of America will emerge from this stretch of history even less dewey-eyed than before, if our system of government makes it though at all.

      Caesar, Napoleon, Lenin* -- history tells us republics can fall, frequently to the cheers of the mob, and most often into autocracy.  History tells us that republics rely on respect for the traditions of their basic law, and on the expectation that law will be fairly and faithfully administered. Undermining that undermines the legitimacy of the republic.  If the men and women who hold and run for office do not support the constitution, if they sow doubt and fear, it does not bode well for the republic.

      If you love this country, stop hacking away at its roots.  And stop others from doing so.  Don't vote 'em in!  If they're already in, vote 'em out!

      I'm moderately pleased to read justice has, in a case or two, run its course with would-be insurrectionists.  I'm still not happy at the attempt to subvert the normal workings of our government.
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* What, Lenin?  Yes.  Russia's February Revolution in 1917 established the beginnings of a European-style democracy but was stifled when it was followed that same year by the October Revolution, open war between the Red Army of the soviets (workers and solders councils) against the White Army, amounting to everyone else.  Russia had possibly been on the verge of evolving a clunky, awkward two-chamber legislature, the conservative Duma and the hot-headed, extreme social-reformist Soviet; but the Communists wanted all the power, not open debate and compromise.  The country bled for six years; Lenin led to Stalin.  That history should stand as a dire warning of the dangers not only of communism but of eroding democratic norms, of political violence with no goal but absolute power and of the dangerous lure of personality over principle.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Still Writing

      Averaging about 260 words per day in Camp NaNo.  This is not a great pace, but the project I took on was a story that I'd roughly plotted, written the beginning and some of the middle, and had a pretty good idea about the ending.  The first draft was first person and I wasn't happy with it.  So I moved to close third person -- "looking over the protagonist's shoulder" -- and that's been better.

      But it was stalled.  I have been carrying around odds and ends of the manuscript for a couple of years.  Camp NaNo is a reason to do a more complete synopsis and outline, and start putting scenes on paper.

      Something over 12,000 words now, and plenty more to do.

Friday, July 22, 2022

All Over The TV

      And it doesn't look good for the former President.  If you're not watching the January 6 Committee hearings, you are missing more than just aspirational political speeches.

      Oh, they're fine speeches and not overlong, full of noble ideas.  But most of the hearings consist of sworn testimony from former members of the Trump Administration, the Trump 2020 campaign, Donald Trump's immediate family and various Federal employees, plus actual audio and video recorded on January 6, 2020: plain factual information and some first-hand reactions.  That stuff is difficult to spin.  It's unpolished.  It adds up to a very dark picture.

      I was never a fan of President Trump.  I thought he approached the Presidency with the tact and depth of a real-estate promoter and reality TV star.  But we've had less-than-stellar Presidents before, and they've done okay.  The office tends to mold the man, the support system can fill in his lacks.  I didn't see four years of crude trade protectionism (seriously, has the guy never heard, "When goods don't cross borders, soldiers will?"), clumsy diplomacy and bombast as a huge problem.  Presidents are usually more sizzle than steak and I rarely find them inspiring figures of greatness.  Barfing on diplomats or falling down stairs?  Yes, that's typical of Presidents during my adult life so far, and what the hell, we survive 'em.

      That was before he began to beat the "stolen election" drum, even in advance of the November election.  After it, he doubled down.  Scheming to hang on to power and exposing his own civilian political partners to imminent physical harm?  Launching an assault on Congress and the Capitol building?  Unprecedented.  The committee hearings show that it was deliberate.  A feature, not a bug.

      If you passed up watching, you have deprived yourself of factual information.  You might want to rectify that.  Hint: social media is not a source of facts.  Echo chambers are not a source of facts.  Glib talking-head commentators are not a source of facts.  The committee served up video and audio from the events themselves, along with eyewitness testimony and verifiable timelines of who did what, when.  One man did nothing to stop the violence at the Capitol for over three hours, while adding to the anger of the mob.  One man -- the then-President of the United States, Donald Trump.  His behavior was inexcusable.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Do I Have To?

      Getting up and going out to face a world of witlings, nitwits, jerks who want burn civilization down, jerks who just want to watch the flames and chortle, "Tolja! Hah! I told you!" while toasting weenies amid the rubble and all manner of glittering-eyed monomaniacs who know exactly what we need to fix it, be that a touch of the lash, one or another flavor of civil war or internal oppression, big ol' hit of Karl Marx (but I repeat myself) or a whacking great hammer of That Old-Time Religion (ibid)?  I've got no taste for it.  None of 'em are willing to get along with anyone else.  None of them will leave people be and they are all frothingly angry that folks won't line up behind them like they want 'em to.

      And I'm not willing to go wander among them, wondering which side's going to throw the first broken bottle today.

      You have fun now; I'm going back to bed.  Maybe if I wake up, I'll find out this has all been a long and strangely detailed nightmare.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Write, Write, Write

      I have been making good progress so far in "Camp NaNo."  Today may be a setback.  After two and  half days working around people, I'm exhausted.  I'm not used to it any more and I'm not sure I can get used to it again.  Having a large floater whipping around inside my right eye has not helped.  It's worse under office-bright lights.

     One step at a time.  Two and a half days around others is all I needed to do this week, and I did.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

An American Tradition

      It's not a crime to make fun of American Presidents, serving or former.  We don't recognize lèse-majesté as an offense, and not just because whoever's getting the White House junk mail marked "Occupant" isn't a king.  We vote 'em in, we vote 'em out, and in between, we have questions.  We make comments.  Oh, do we make comments.

      You'll sometimes hear, "It wasn't like that in the old days!  Presidents got respect!"  Oh yeah?  Here's a line from an historical op-ed; see if you can guess the President: "...mark the progressive steps which have led the way to the present public evils that afflict your country...the unerring voice of posterity will not fail to render the just sentence of condemnation on the man who has entailed his country deep and incurable public evil."

      Was it from a National Review piece criticizing Barack Obama?   An anti-reformist griping about Theodore Roosevelt?  Hippies unhappy with Lyndon Johnson?  A Jacksonian inveighing against an incumbent?

      Nope.  The President being lambasted is a Virginia farmer, one George Washington, well into his second term.  Father of his country -- and target of no little criticism.

      So don't come to me complaining that ol' Joe Biden can't get a break from the Right or his own far Left; don't bewail that the Press is too hard on Donald Trump.  It's par for the course.  It always has been.  The guy out front takes the blame.  It comes with the job.

Monday, July 18, 2022

"The phone, the TV and the news of the world...."

      It's back on the chain gang for me this week, down at the Main Campus with the remnant of the old gang.  The pandemic hit after a staff reduction, and between retirements and "the great resignation," many of the people I worked with for years have moved on.  The critical job vacancies were filled by new hires.

      The new folks are pleasant and, more importantly, skilled.  But between them, the repurposing of the entire second floor* and (long overdue) redecorating of the entire building (except, of course, for Engineering!), it's almost like working somewhere new.  The new decor includes a collection of well-meaning supergraphics that have the hallway walls yelling at passers-by, which takes some getting used to.

      A highly localized Omicron uptick has the place back under a mask mandate for the next week and a half, so I'll be packing a couple of spares.
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* It had become increasingly vacant ahead of the pandemic and something obscure and corporate-level has now filled the empty spaces.  Since this came with huge improvements to the second-floor break room and an upgrade to the snack supplies on both floors, nobody's complaining.  Sara Lee trumps William Burroughs, murmuring myrmidons nothwithstanding!

Sunday, July 17, 2022

PVD II

      Posterior vitreous detachment: the glob of vitreous humor that fills your eyeball contracts and detaches from the back of the eye.  It happened to my left eye in November of 2015.  It happened to my right eye last week, only uglier: late Wednesday night, a huge floater suddenly showed up my right eye, floating and flapping around as I scanned lines of text, blocking them.  It's a kind of smiley-shape with a dot just off one end, very shaggy.  Trying to track it got me white flashes at the periphery of my vision, which got me on the phone to my eye doctor the next morning.  They scheduled me for an appointment the next day.

      The eye doctor took some long looks at both eyes.  He wasn't happy, and told me I was going to see a specialist, immediately -- "If you have someone to drive you."

      "Why's that?"

      "If they need to put you under for surgery," he said.

      He was concerned the retina of my right eye might be torn.

      That was sobering enough that I almost wished I had been drinking.  I texted Tam to meet me at home, put on two sets of sunglasses (the doctor had dilated my eyes a lot) and drove home, where I handed over the keys to Tam and we set out for the eye surgeon, five miles away.

      That office was devastatingly efficient.  An assistant was calling my name before I had finished checking in.  He did a quick assessment, dilated my eyes even more, numbed them a little and handed me over to the specialist M.D..

      Dr. Moorthy is one of those people--  Did you ever meet a subject-matter expert who was so calmly confident that it was reassuring at first sight?  He was about three times as much that as I have encountered, and yet not at all overbearing.  Just entirely in control of the situation.  That was good, because I was starting to panic.  It had been building since hearing "...someone to drive you."  All that drained away: if something was wrong, this guy was going to fix it, all in a day's work.

      He looked more closely at my eyes than they have ever been looked at -- bright lights, lenses, a specialized camera.  The conclusion is that it's a huge floater (and a flock of smaller ones) as a result of PVD, and I will need to look for any signs of retina problems ("clouds" in my eye that don't move, loss of peripheral vision and so on) for the next several weeks.  He'll check again in four weeks and again a month later.

      This eventually happens to everyone.  Being nearsighted and female means it is most probably going to be sooner rather than later.

      That darned floater is still in my eye.  It's a little smaller and less shaggy, but it keeps flipping around, usually ending up right at the center of my eye.  It's like trying to read through decorative iron scrollwork.  The doctor tells me it will eventually subside.  I'm looking forward to that.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Fact vs. Emotion, Thinking vs. Feeling

      It's a little disappointing when I post a link to careful research based on verifiable fact, as I did the other day to the Lost, Not Stolen report on the 2020 Presidential election, only to receive heated, muddled comments repeating (without evidence or links) the exact claims the report refutes, comments insisting, "'proof' is a distraction. [...] Nothing has to be 'proved'. [...] The reporting Authority has to 'prove' what they report. A challenger doesn't have to 'prove' anything."

      This is a remarkable statement, particularly in light of an election system with a highly-tracable, closely-monitored counting process that provides its own proof and (in most states) includes audits and routine recounts of close contests.  The assertion that "challengers" don't need to provide proof does not in any way apply to the court system (unless you'd like your case thrown out, or proceed to an absolute drubbing by the side that does provide verifiable evidence), and the "reporting Authority" for elections has usually got proof baked right in.*

      Proof is an essential element in distinguishing truth from falsehood.  Truth -- and how to find it -- is at the heart of the Enlightenment and the Scientific Method.  Kick that over and what you are left with are barbarians, howling in the wilderness.  That's not anything I will cheer for -- and people who do will find their comments do not get published.

      I have published plenty of comments from people with political opinions different to my own.  I have done so within the last week and you can go read them.  I'm not publishing comments from people who have gone to war against reality.

     What I am after finding are facts, not feelings.  When I find facts, I share them.  I share my opinions and I try to label than as opinion.  I'm not in charge of whatever you're after, but I am in charge of my own blog.
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* One of the things that made such a screaming mess of the 2000 Presidential election was a technological failure and a ballot-design failure that introduced subjectivity to what should have been a cut-and-dried mechanical process.  And lo, it ended up in court, with arguments involving facts and the law.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Know Thy Enemy, Know Thyself

      How well do you know the political other side?  How well do you know your own side?  How well do the other guys know you?

      There's a clip bouncing around news sites and social media, in which an arch-conservative U. S. Senator and a hyper-woke college professor clash; a web search pulls up dozens of examples, with headlines variously claiming victory for either of them.  I've seen the video.  Nobody wins; it's a smug, smart-alec frat boy and a smug, condescending law professor, neither one looking for common ground and, unsurprisingly, not finding any.  Plenty of red meat for the base, though, so perhaps they both won.  Give 'em seats next to Pyrrhus; they'll have much to talk about.

      The thing is, those people aren't us -- not the Senator, not the professor, not even the Greek king.  Your friends and neighbors are more like you than any one of those three, even if they don't vote for the same people you do.  No, really: we regular citizens have a lot more in common with one another than not, and increasingly, we don't get to see it.

      How accurate are your perceptions?  There's a quiz, plus an article with plenty of survey results, in words, charts and graphs.  The tl;dr (but you should) is that we're a lot alike -- and we're being chivvied by an extreme fifteen percent at the political fringes.  Maybe we shouldn't ought to do that.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Lost, Not Stolen

      A number of conservative judges, attorneys and politicians took on the task of analyzing the Trump campaign's claims that the 2020 election was "stolen."  They dug through every court case, every legal claim, and wrote a report about what they found.

      Their conclusion?  "...[T]here is absolutely no evidence of fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election on the magnitude necessary to shift the result in any state, let alone the nation as a whole. In fact, there was no fraud that changed the outcome in even a single precinct. It is wrong, and bad for our country, for people to propagate baseless claims that President Biden’s election was not legitimate."

      You can read their report for yourself.

      Again, these are conservatives.  They're not delighted that Joe Biden is President.  They are concerned with maintaining the institutions of our system of government -- as I was always told one should expect of a conservative.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Watching The Hearings

      Yesterday's January 6 Committee hearing was, once again, damning.  If you were taking refuge in the notion of President Trump's having been misled by scheming lunatics, that excuse is gone.*  Crazy or calculating, he was in the thick of the planning.  If you still believe -- unlike Bill Barr, Pat Cipollone and a host of other Trump Administration insiders -- that the 2020 Presidential election was "stolen," then there's probably no hope for you.

     The only "steal" was President Trump's attempted theft, which devolved into an attempted strong-arm robbery before being repulsed.  

     I have long relied on there being two mostly-sane political parties in the country, one leaping into the unknown on scant guesses and the other holding onto tradition with both hands.  They tended to balance one another, especially over the long term.  That's gone.  With the U. S. Supreme Court solidly ultra-conservative, I don't see any reason to vote for another Republican until they've stopped being crazy.  (Or even to vote for Libertarians, most of whom have decided their way forward is to become even crazier.) The Court will rein in any far-out stuff, and though a lot of the conclusions the Democrat politicians reach or the laws they propose won't be what I would prefer, they will, mostly, have at least started in reality.

     I went into 2016 thinking Donald Trump was the archetypal bad boss writ large: loud, full of himself, unaware of the limits of his knowledge, arbitrary and rude.  2020 made it clear he was something much worse, a man contemptuous of our Federal republic, enamored of adulation and power, and willing to use any means to hang onto them.  And he's managed to infect most of a major political party with the same attitudes.
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* Posit, for a moment, that it is true: if a guy's that easily led, why would you ever want him to be President?  So it's disqualifying either way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

"Don't Know Much About History..."

      It says here that Peter Navarro is an economist and author.  That may explain his abysmal ignorance of history and law -- or is it a thirst for authoritarianism?

      Navarro is in the news now for accusing former Vice-President Mike Pence of treason during an interview on Newsmax: "I think Pence is guilty of treason to at least President Trump and perhaps to this country."  The problem with the accusation he's apparently sure of, "treason to...[the] President" is that it doesn't exist, period.  Don't believe me?  Try the U. S. Constitution, Article III, Section 3 on for size:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

      You cannot commit treason against any person, not even the President -- only the United States itself.  As for his second claim, since Mike Pence did not "levy war"* or give aid and comfort to this nation's enemies, he's not guilty of treason to the country, either.

      That's pretty crazy talk, but what caught my eye was a different interview, back in March, in which Navarro said: "It was a tragedy that Mike Pence decided to be a traitor to the American Caesar of Trump."

      "American Caesar."  Let that sink in.  Do we all remember exactly what it was Gaius Julius Casar did for the Roman Republic, did so thoroughly that his cognomen became a synonym for king or emperor and lingered for millennia as "Kaiser" and "Czar?"  He ended it.  The Roman experiment in representative government came to crashing halt with Caesar and never resumed.

      So tell me, is Peter Navarro that ignorant of history, or is he being nakedly honest about what he wants for the United States of America?  Neither one is good, but one is considerably worse than the other.

      The January 6 Committee has another hearing today.  I am planning to watch it, or at least listen on the radio.  This is not a "same old, same old" partisan snoozefest; the essential nature and future of the country is at stake.
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* The terms used in the definition derive from English legal tradition, specifically the Treason Act 1351. "Levying war" means the assembly of armed people to overthrow of the government or to resist its laws. H'mm, sounds a lot like something that did happen on 6 January 2021 but only involved Vice-President Pence as a prospective victim.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Yum! Soap Flavored

      It's a joke around Roseholme Cottage: there is exactly one brand of yogurt I like.  They have several flavors, and one of them is rose.  I was intrigued.  The first time I bought it, I told Tam, "It'll either be wonderful or it will taste like soap."

      It's wonderful -- it tastes the way a rose smells.  But from then on, Tam and I have called it "soap-flavored."

      When it comes to actual hand soap, I have a favorite, lightly lavender-scented.

      Can you tell where this is going?  Yes, it was inevitable: the yogurt company introduced a lavender flavored version.  The first time I looked for it, our local store was sold out.*  It was back in stock Sunday and I had it with breakfast today.  It's delicious.  And not at all like soap.
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* This brand of yogurt sells out more quickly than the others they stock.  So I'm not the only person who likes it.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Skipped

      Between writing and housework, I skipped posting Saturday.  Still plugging away at both today and hoping to add a motorscooter ride a little later.

      As the pandemic swept across the country (and back again, and...), I was in "survival mode," and a lot of things (books, empty Amazon boxes, housekeeping past the most basic) piled up.  Now I'm trying to get it unpiled, sorted out, trash thrown away and the good stuff better-stored.  It's an ongoing task.

Friday, July 08, 2022

NaNoWhat?

      The outfit that runs NaNoWriMo* every November also runs "Camp NaNo" every April and July.  Unlike November, the focus isn't on getting a novel on paper but on any writing project -- you pick it, set your own goals and try to meet them.  They don't charge anything, though they will happily sell you swag and they accept donations.

      This month, I'm participating.  I have been somewhat stalled on a couple of novellas or novelettes or novelobligattos or some such thing, so I picked the one I think is more plotted out and have been gnawing away at it.  Will Camp NaNo help me get it done?  I don't know.  But it's something.

      Both stories are set in the "I Work On A Starship" universe, one in 1961 - 65 or so and the other in the late 1970s, while the covert kinda-sorta war between the "Far Edgers" and Earth was still running.  It's an interesting stretch of time.
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* National Novel Writing Month, for those of us who chew our food instead of bolting it down.

Thursday, July 07, 2022

"An American Stonehe--" Oops, You Missed It

      Great going, nitwits.  You ruined it.  Since 1980, a quirky monument had stood in a field in the middle of nowhere, a few miles outside of a little Georgia town that's not quite in the middle of nowhere (but close enough the locals might give you directions).  The town is the kind of hard-working place found all across the country, but it had something none of the others did: the Georgia Guidestones.

      The Guidestones themselves, five tall, massive granite verticals with a partial stone cap, were covered in Cold War after-the-Bomb nonsense in a number of languages, purporting to offer guidance to humanity.  The whole thing was supposedly funded by a mysterious, pseudonymous donor, and by a remarkable coincidence, the nearby town is home to granite quarries and stone carvers.

      No sooner than the thing was up, it became a target for conspiracy theorists and other nutjobs.  Preachers thundered it was the Devil's work and demanded it be torn down.  New-Agers flocked to see it and do New-Agey things at the site.  The tinfoil-hat crowd declared it a manifesto of the New World Order (which apparently picked a small Southern town well off the freeway to post their stuff for...reasons?).  Tourists detoured to see it and take pictures.  It was spray-painted, had pieces chipped off, prayed to, prayed over and grazed around by cattle.*

      And yesterday, some idiot blew it up.  Oh, not all the way up.  But in quarrying country, it's not impossible to lay hands on a little kaboom material.  The blast did enough damage that what was left was unstable, that huge capstone hanging precariously over the heads of gawkers, so the county knocked the rest of thing over later in the day.

      Goodbye, silly monument!  Goodbye, American Stonehenge!  At 42 years, you never came close to the 5,000 year old monument in Britain; America is the land of the eternally-wiped slate, the everlasting tabula rasa, and some blank-minded fool has got this one razed.
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* The original landowner had been granted grazing rights in perpetuity by the unknown donor.

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

...And One More Thing

      In some ways, they are more annoying to me than anything I cited in my previous posts as reasons for banishment: a lack of attention to detail and an over-reliance on emotion.

      I am detail-oriented.  It's the reason I have the kind job that I do, and it's why I have held it for the last thirty-five years.  Few things grate on me more than going to look up something asserted as fact and discovering the person  making the assertion didn't bother about the "little things" like verifying the who-what-where-when was correct.  I usually dig in and try to winkle out what's real and what's inaccurate.  Lazy "everybody knows..." claims gnaw at me like summertime fleas.  It's a real time-sink.  I resent having to do your damned homework for you, but I am stuck in a world of slobs.

      Appeal to emotion is even worse -- "You must like (or dislike) So-and-so, to say that thing you said!" Nope, if I don't like 'em, I'll say I don't, and tell you why.  (I don't actually like any of them, when it comes to politicians and most other faces in the headlines.)  But I endeavor to judge public figures based on facts, or as close to facts as can be had.  YMMV, but that's how I roll.  Likewise, asking me to weep over the unborn, or over the women stuck bearing a child to term is pretty futile: all life is a tragedy and we could drown ourselves in tears without changing it, but that's a useless criteria for evaluating our laws.  I feel for 'em (and I'm voting in every election), but I'm not the courts or the legislature.

       Mr. Spock is a fictional character.  Human beings do make up our minds under the influence of emotions -- but there's no rule that says you cannot add as many facts as you can find and there's every reason to ensure those facts are correct, no matter how good or uncomfortable they may feel.  Suspect the comforting ones even more than the ones you dislike: distortions will sneak right in unless you do.

      (And to Mr. Unpublished Commenter, who wrote yesterday, "'it [the 1/6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building] resulted in five deaths" This is false, please correct." what I wrote is, in fact, true, according to press reports and the U.S. government. Go argue with them, not me.  I provided a link, one which leads to many more.  Perhaps you'd like to yell at the families of the dead?)

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Up With Which I Will Not Put

      I will tolerate -- or overlook -- quite a lot for the sake of getting along.

      Things I won't put up with?  Racism.  Religious intolerance.  Attempts to intimidate me.  And blatant lies.

      If you write it, own it.  Don't come back later, and with your previous comment hanging right there on the screen, maintain, "I wrote no such thing."  Don't claim purple is green. 

      Wrong?  Well, okay, everyone is sometimes.  Mistaken?  Sure, who hasn't made mistakes?  Overly-partisan?  Indeed, we all get so fond of or loathe so intensely some idea or person that we start shading facts to agree with our feelings -- and an honest person keeps watch for this and tries to correct it.*  But don't stand there in front of four lights, insist there are five of them and demand others agree with you.

      I will not tolerate it.

      (Also, show your work.  Cite sources.  Provide links.  I will check.)
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* This is one of the main reasons I stopped using nicknames for all living and most dead politicians.  It gets in the way of seeing clearly who they are and what they are doing, have done and are promising to do, for good or for ill.  Tiny-handed, dried-up, turtle-like, air-headed Instagrammer?  So what; let's hear about their policy positions, let's see what legislation or Executive actions they support; let's learn if they're lousy tippers, careful drivers, considerate or rude.  I don't care what they look like or what their fashion choices are.  I'll give them their proper name and title, if any.  It is no more than factual.

Monday, July 04, 2022

The Hit Dog Yelps

      As predicted, supporters of Mr. Trump's version of events from the 2020 Presidential election through the attempted coup on 6 January 2021 are sending in comments.  I may publish some of them as comments to yesterday's post, but lights as inflamed and throbbing as these should hardly be hidden under a bushel.

      The simplest complaint first.  Bruce writes:
5 deaths: a stroke that happened later, 2 heart attacks, and an overdose. Only one person died by violence at the hands of the Capitol police. Counting the other deaths is the same as counting every person that died during the pandemic as a covid death even if they fell off a ladder.[*]Threats should have no place here, but neither should lies.

      "Lies?"  All five deaths occurred -- as I wrote and provided a link with further links to sources -- as a result of the riot.  There's some room for argument that Rosanne Boyland, the woman who died of an overdose, apparently of her prescription medicine, would have made the same mistake had she stayed home, but the stress and excitement of involvement of events of the day most likely caused it.  Ashli Babbitt chose to commit "blue suicide:" when a law enforcement officer points a gun at you and shouts "Stop!" while you are making unlawful entry, not stopping is the same as pulling the trigger.  The coroner's report on USCP Officer Brian Sicknick's death concluded, "all that transpired played a role in his condition."  That leaves two other rioters, Kevin Greeson and Benjamin Philips, well-padded men in their 50s with histories of high blood pressure and/or heart disease.  While we cannot be certain they would not have suffered fatal heart attacks if they had stayed home watching television, the stress and exertion of participating in the assault on the U. S. Capitol building is the most probable cause.


      Mike SMO appears to have adopted Mr. Trump's habits of giving people demeaning nicknames and sneering at sworn testimony:
"We see you" is only a threat in so much as "someone" will be keeping an eye on what you publish, but you already knew that going into the blog "business". Big deal!

"Investigations" turn up all, kinds of "hear say". A real investigation would have balanced "Sweety" Hutchinson's fantasy against other evidence such as the sworn testimony of Secret Service agents, who were actually present at the incident, or photographs. Presenting a mass of "hear say", suppositions and fairy tales from a single perspective is known as a show trial. Stalin, Hitler and the East German Stasi were good at that. Congress and cameras is a show trial, assembling innuendo against a political opponent. An investigation would assemble verified and tested information about an incident or person.

Grow up!

     I was all growed up, last time I checked -- adult enough to look reality in the eye even when it was unpleasant.  "We see you" is a particular kind of threat with a particular kind of history, redolent of "Invisible Empires" and fools lighting up crosses in other people's front yards.  I'm not cowed by it.

      The Secret Service agents are quite likely to be subpoenaed and I look forward to hearing their testimony.  Many higher-ranking members of the former Trump Administration have resisted testifying under oath before the committee or taken the Fifth.  Odd behavior for men and women who might provide the "balance" you claim to desire!  Even more odd, those who have testified have confirmed a President enraged by defeat and determined to resist our Constitutional requirements and traditions.

      Congressional Investigative Committees, a long-established function of the House and Senate, are not "show trials;" among other things, they cannot hand down punishment.  Nobody's getting strangled with piano wire or hauled off to the gulag as a result of their deliberations. 

      As for "verifiable and tested information," if that's not exactly what sworn testimony and audio/video recordings constitute, what does?  Do tell; I'm all ears.

      Here's a funny historical coincidence: do you know what else Stalin's USSR, Hitler's Germany and Communist East Germany all had in common?  No provision for  the peaceful transfer of power!  Gosh, what other now-former world leader has recently opposed that silly little tradition?  


      Pigpen51 -- who I have always found to be a level-headed Trump supporter, as such people go -- has his own complaint to make:
My first comment is that any threat, even online, is never proper, and I have been on the receiving end of such, and I do not like it. So you should never have to put up with that from anyone, and a copy of said comment should be sent to local authorities, just to protect your interests.

The only other comment I will make is that is this investigation is similar to a grand jury hearing, it should not be run like a circus, complete with hiring a ringmaster, in this case a former television producer, to put together a smoother production package to not keep the hearing a secret as most grand juries are, but to have it run in prime time, to sway as much of America to their side as possible. The ones that they must convince is not Americans, but rather the DOJ and AG Garland, who I would think is the one to decide to bring charges against anyone being investigated.

      I don't know how old the commenter is, but at my age, I have seen a lot of House and Senate hearings and impeachments on TV, and they've been poorly-produced snoozefests even when the subject matter is compelling, with a lot of dead air, awkward silence and chair shuffling.  Commercial TV networks have a history of cutting away when the pace drags.

      Because of the extensive news coverage and security-camera video of the events at the U. S. Capitol on 6 January 2021, the committee sought expert assistance in presenting it.  I will point out that only the first hearing was scheduled during TV "prime time."  The remainder have been during the work day.  Other than matters of national security, committee meetings are necessarily public; making them more readily accessible serves the public interest.

      While a Congressional Investigative Committee is akin to a grand jury rather than a trial, it is not a grand jury and cannot compel the Department of Justice to act.

      The 2020 Presidential election is the first time a U. S. President has resisted the peaceful transfer of power and the first time the U. S. Capitol has been entered by force in an attempt to interfere.  If this doesn't rate a highly public Congressional investigation, what would?


      Guys, you can keep on chasing the ever-shifting fantasy football of a "stolen election" (newsflash: it wasn't) and a stainless, blameless Donald Trump, or you can rejoin reality, where Mr. Trump's egotism and manipulation has gutted the Republican Party and came perilously close to wrecking Constitutional government in the United States of America.  It's the Fourth of July.  Come back!  Come back to the light of reason, of fighting fair in the arena of ideas and policy, and leave the torch-lit parades, bluster, bombast, blunt instruments and threats in the dead past, where they belong.
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* That's not how COVID-19 deaths are or have been counted in the ongoing pandemic. It's been thoroughly debunked, and yet the buncombe lingers in the air like a ripe fart.

Sunday, July 03, 2022

I Receive A Threat

      What kind of man believes it is appropriate to threaten elderly women?  I'm not being rhetorical: would-be commenter "Chris Adams" was so incensed by Wading The Rubicon: Yesterday's Hearing that he sat down at his keyboard and banged out this missive:
The whole "hearings" thing is just a show trial designed to impugn a man without having to go the the trouble or proving actual facts. It's the sort of thing that Communist and Fascist dictatorships have traditionally done and anyone who supports it being done here in America needs to be watched with suspicion. We see you, Roberta.
      Ooooooh!  I'm skeered now, you betcha.

      Taking his points in reverse order, "We see you" is a classic veiled threat, and rather a thin veil at that.  In this context, it carries overtones of night-riding intimidation -- preposterous deployed against a sixty-four year old woman with a blog, and downright foolish when she has a good supply of pepper spray, is a fair shot, has a lodger who is even better, and lives in a state with a very strong Castle Doctrine.  But such is the emotionally-fragile nature of bullies.  I am not minded to coddle them.

      "...[J]ust a show trial...anyone who supports it (the 1/6 Committee hearings) being done here in America needs to be watched with suspicion," riiiight.  I have news for you, little man: The U. S. Congress has been conducting hearings for as long as there has been a Congress.  There are several types.  The very first Investigative Hearing was in 1792, after Native Americans commanded by Little Turtle and Blue Jacket handed the U.S. Army their worst defeat at the hands of Native Americans.  The Federal government was more than a little agitated at this, and the House of Representatives set up a committee to find out what went wrong.

      The insurrection and attempted coup of 6 January 2021 merits investigation, too.  Only the second time the U. S. Capitol building was broken into by a force of men,* it resulted in five deaths, multiple injuries, millions of dollars in damage and a lengthy interruption in the tally of electoral votes, a core function of the Federal government.  Was it merely spirited excess by overly-enthusiastic followers, or a serious effort?  That's the kind of thing Congress ought to find out about, and they set out to establish an independent, bipartisan commission to look into it.

     Senate Republicans voted it down.  So the House voted (222 to 190) to establish a select committee, to consist of eight members appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and five selected by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in consultation with her  This is pretty standard as such things go. The Speaker announced her intention to appoint one Republican in her picks, which would put the committee at seven Democrats and six Republicans.

      It would have.  Kevin McCarthy's picks included three Congressmen who had voted against certifying 2020 electoral results from Pennysylvania and Arizona.  Two of them (Jim Banks and Jim Jordan) had gone on to make intemperate public statements about the 2020 Presidential election and the events of 6 January.  Speaker Pelosi rejected those two, while approving the remaining three Republicans.  Rather than naming replacements, Minority Leader McCarthy then picked up all his marbles and went home, announcing he would not appoint anyone on the committee unless all five of his original choices were approved.  So much for "in consultation" as provided in the bill establishing the committee -- and so much for the Republicans getting to choose any of its members.  They preferred not to.  The Speaker did add Republican Adam Kinzinger of Illinois to the committee

      The GOP had the opportunity to name five members to the Select Committee and rejected it.

      But a Congressional committee hearing is not a trial.  It's got more in common with a Grand Jury or a Preliminary Hearing, which happen before a trial.  Those don't determine guilt or innocence, only if there is enough evidence of wrongdoing to merit a trial.  And a committee hearing simply hauls the evidence into the light, including sworn testimony.

      Which gets us to the hearing having been, "...designed to impugn a man without having to go the the trouble or proving actual facts."  "Or" is probably a typo for "of."  I suppose it's hard to hit the right key in a fit of partisan rage.  "Proving actual facts" is precisely the work of an Investigative Committee.  It's why they have subpoena power and why witnesses testify under oath.  Separation of Powers has created a certain tension between the Executive and Legislative Branches over this from the very first hearing, but a remarkable number of high-ranking former members of the Trump Administration have dodged the Committee, refused to appear (often citing Executive Privilege), or taken the Fifth Amendment, even over questions as innocuous as "Do you believe in the peaceful transfer of power?"

      If there's impugning going on, look to Mr. Trump's own Cabinet and staff, who are doing his reputation no favors by their behavior (including asking for Presidential pardons in the days after 6 January 2021).  The Committee is, after all, just asking questions.  I'm sure they'd welcome sworn testimony from Mr. Trump himself, who has yet to offer any.

      Going into the hearings, I had expected Donald Trump's role to have been no more than a demagogue, heedless of the damage his words might cause and largely indifferent to the riot and attempted insurrection once it was underway.  The facts -- sworn testimony, timeline, actual video and audio recordings -- are much darker, revealing a raging, emotionally-weak man unable to admit defeat despite honest counsel and willing to resort to violent, lawless means to retain power.

      It is no surprise to me that such a man has attracted to his defense blustering bullies who threaten old women.  Men like "Chris Adams," who I hereby invite to go piss up a rope.
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* The first time was in August, 1814, when the British took Washington, D.C. for their King.  They set Federal buildings on fire rather than try to keep it.

Saturday, July 02, 2022

Projects

      I have a set of bookshelves for the living room nearly done -- just a little planing and a lot of sanding left to do.  Hoping to put them in over the long weekend.  They'll replace a couple of narrow bookshelves that will go elsewhere, though just where is an open question.  These will hold reference books -- space travel, science, history, biographies -- plus some of the household collection of ancient laptops and interesting objects.

      Camp NaNo is running this month, a scaled-down version of NaNoWriMo: pick any writing project you need to work on, set a goal, and try to meet it.  My bar is pretty low: one page a day, on a novella that has been in progress for some time.  We'll see how it goes.

Friday, July 01, 2022

...Then The Dog Ate Congress's Homework....

      Prompted by a blog comment, I started looking into West Virginia vs. EPA.  The online headlines from major news services have all got a slant, one way or another.  At this writing, the account at Wikipedia is on the level and lo, one of the problems is Congress failed in a very basic way, over thirty years ago: "...an oversight during the reconciliation of the Clean Air Act amendment in 1990 that resulted in the House and Senate versions of § 7411(d) to never be reconciled, and both versions were codified into the signed law."

      That's my emphasis in the quote.  Given two different versions of the law, EPA picked the one they liked best, and promulgated regulations based on it.  Lawsuit hijinks ensued and dragged on.  Eventually the Obama Administration was replaced by the Trump Administration and EPA changed course.  On and on it went, 'round and 'round.  The primary issue at hand was the extent to which EPA gets to chivvy power providers into using cleaner ways to generate power, with a side order of dispute over the cost of scrubbing emissions from fuel-burning power plants.

      The majority opinion from the Supreme Court gets hand-wavy about the risks posed by carbon dioxide in the process of discussing whether EPA was given authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.  These are two separate things, but journalists followed the Court's lead in mixing them, with varying degrees of cheering or outrage.  This is almost as sloppy as failing to reconcile the House and Senate versions of a bill about to become law, and as inexcusable.

      The news story is being presented (often in inflammatory language) as an environmental issue.  And it is, but oil and even coal are more valuable as feedstocks for chemical synthesis than going up in smoke, while sunlight falls for free on half the globe and you often can't even tell a solar plant is there until you're nearly at the gates.*  So it's eventually a self-solving problem, driven by economics and public pressure.  To my eye, the bigger story is a bunch of lazy politicians and reporters who can't be bothered to do their jobs with sufficient diligence.  The first group left a mess; the second group keeps ignoring it.
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* Yes, yes, what do you do at night?  This is solved art; you charge batteries or pump water uphill when the sun shines.  It's inefficient but the sunlight is free.  There's always going to be some need for diverse sources; the current Western drought shows the problem with hydroelectric power without adequate backup.  Modern nuclear plants, located in seismically-stable areas, would be a good base source.  The French do it; the U.S. Navy does it.  So can commercial power in the U.S.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Rerun!

 Me, in 2020:

     It pains me to have to write this.  It's probably going to cost me some readers.

     But it's an important principle, one at the very heart of our country's strength, and it appears to me that we're in danger of losing it:  The First Amendment.

     Freedom of thought; freedom of belief.  Freedom of expression.  Freedom of the press.  These are very basic things, things that are supposed to be set outside the government's grasp.  They apply not only to ideas we like, or to ideas that most people agree with -- they also apply to unpopular ideas.  Repugnant ideas.  Wrong ideas.  The most effective way to fight bad ideas is to counter them with better ideas, not by attempting to suppress them.

     In West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the Supreme Court wrote, "There is no mysticism in the American concept of the state or of the nature or origin of its authority.  We set  up government by consent of the governed and the Bill of Rights denies those in power any legal opportunity to coerce that consent. [...]
     "Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. [...] Freedom to differ is not limited to things  that do not matter much.  That would be a mere shadow of freedom.  The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order."

     When I wrote about law enforcement apparently targeting journalists, in reports a Federal judge found so credible he granted a temporary restraining order, I received a few comments.  They were...heated.  Vitriolic.  The people who wrote them are free to hold such ideas, of course.  I'm not obliged to post them on my blog, but I will quote from them in order to address the significant concerns they raise.

     Let me be clear: to the extent that modern "cancel culture," largely a phenomenon originating in the Left, focuses on silencing unpopular opinions, it is a bad thing; and to the extent that that it turns government powers to that end, it is contrary to the Bill of Rights.  But the fact that one side of a conflict is bad does not necessarily mean the opposing side is good; they can both be bad, and to varying degrees.

     When a commenter writes, "I am so tired of watching Portland Antifa and their I'll [sic] get away with arson and battery etc that I want to see the mobs machine gunned into hamburger. I want to see Portlands [sic] gutters running with the blood of these idiots. If that includes a bunch of lefty so-called journalists, it's just collateral damage and no great loss," the course of action he endorses is completely contrary to American values.

     Individuals who commit arson and battery indeed ought to be arrested by police and charged with their crimes -- but the person standing next to them, waving a sign and jeering, is not equally culpable.  In any event "machine-gunning" is not how the government should or, Constitutionally, can respond -- and if they could, there would be nothing to keep a future, Left-leaning Administration from doing the very same to a rioting mob of Right-wing protestors.

     As for "lefty so-called journalists," there's nothing in the Bill of Rights that limits press freedom to one political leaning or another: John Stossel, Glenn Greenwald, Sean Hannity, Rachael Maddow and some nitwit with a blog are all protected from government interference, even when they're offering up nothing but opinion.  It is generally understood that the government is expected to not shoot them, especially when they have taken pains to make themselves identifiable as "press."

     Dreams of  "gutters running red with blood" are best left to authoritarians: fascists and communists, either of whom will kill you just as dead for saying the wrong thing.  That's not how it is supposed to work in the United States of America.  When you urge it, you are urging the overthrow of our system of government.

     Another commenter was irked at the press:
     "I duuno but I have not seen any evidence of a true independent reporter for some time."
     I'm not sure what this means, especially in a world of blogs, Twitter and YouTube videos open to anyone.  Most professional journalists do work for some entity, and they answer to some kind of an editor -- but they operate pretty independently: it's the only way you can cover a developing event.  And it is true that if we send reporters working for National Review and The Nation to cover the same event, they're going to deliver very different views of it -- not because they got their marching orders from above, but because they freely chose where they wanted to work, based in part on congruent outlooks.

     "Also the police know that if a protest is not broadcast in living color it can die out."
     That doesn't give the police the right to censor or deny coverage.  That would be the opposite of a free press.  Still, it seems nonsensical; I have seen everything from long-term "Occupy" camp-outs to Second Amendment rallies get lots of attendance despite receiving only cursory TV coverage.  It takes more than the chance to grace TV screens to get feet on the ground -- especially for more than one day.

     "We saw that with the Vietnam war. Put all the losses up and cover up the wins and before long you have a vibratent [sic] anti war faction."
     This is a distortion of history -- of something that was on TV screens every night of my childhood and teens.  Opposition to the war in Vietnam started in 1965 with opposition to the draft, especially in the age group subject to it.  Protests grew after that, still focused on the draft, escalating to the mass turning-in of draft cards in October, 1967.  The Tet offensive in early 1968 resulted in the first press coverage implying the U. S. military in Vietnam was weak -- with causality lists to support that impression.  The truth was closer to a strong U. S. military, fighting a war under conditions and with aims that were so misaligned with reality as to make the war unwinnable: they'd been a given a mission that left them stuck throwing men into a meatgrinder.  Under such circumstances, a "vibrant antiwar faction" was inevitable.  You're blaming the media for what should be laid on Congress and the Presidents who were running that "police action."

     "But sure, let's make a protected class that wants to tear down civilization. That will end well."
     The men who wrote the Bill of Rights, and who got the Amendment passed in the U. S. Congress and the legislatures of the States, were convinced that by protecting freedom of belief, freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of the press from government meddling and limitation, they were protecting the exchange of ideas fundamental to the United States of America.  I'm quite sure there are reporters, commentators and editors who would love to "tear down civilization," everything from radical Islamic fundamentalists to black-flag anarcho-communists to pipsqueak Nazis to some kinds of crazy I can't even conceive of.  Our best weapon to fight them is to address and counter their destructive nonsense with constructive sense, with better ideas -- ideas that include freedom of the press.

     You cannot improve a free society by making it less free.  That road only leads to one place, and it's not freedom.

     History is unmistakably clear about that.

Back to 2022: it's still true.  And I'm still opposed to authoritarianism in every form.  Trump-humping nitwits wallowing inside the hollowed-out elephant of the GOP are merely the latest nasty flavor of an always-bad dish.