Thursday, June 30, 2022


 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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Wading The Rubicon: Yesterday's Hearing

      The Rubicon wasn't much of a river in Roman times and none of the modern candidates -- the river renamed "Rubicon" in 1933 is still the most likely -- are any more imposing.  Along a lot of its length, you can wade across.

      However puny, it was the border between the provinces and the territory of Rome.  It was a line no army raised by a provincial governor could lawfully cross.  To do so was a direct threat to the Republic's government.

      The Trump Administration's defense against claims of attempted coup have generally been along the line of "What river?  There was no Rubicon, and if there was, it was just a little ditch and besides, the other side was engaged in skullduggery!"

      Said "skullduggery" was non-existent; then-President Trump's own Justice Department said so.  In the wake of yesterday's 1/6 Committee hearing, it appears Mr. Trump's Rubicon was real, he waded it knowingly, and he's had river mud on his shoes and water-soaked pant-legs even as he has maintained his innocence.

      He is no innocent.  His culpability was direct.  His intentions were to create even greater unrest than he managed and he was only barely restrained by some members of his staff.  I had taken him to be little more a petulant man-child magnified by fame and money, enraged by defeat, grasping futilely at straws; the enormity* of his ambition and the coordination of his efforts to illegally retain power is now becoming clear.

     Mr. Trump wanted to be Caesar.
* e·nor·mi·ty  /iˈnôrmədē/
noun: enormity; plural noun: enormities
1.the great or extreme scale, seriousness, or extent of something perceived as bad or morally wrong.
   "a thorough search disclosed the full enormity of the crime"
2. a grave crime or sin.
    "the enormities of the regime"

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Ninth Amendment

      "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

      If our only rights are the ones specifically listed in the U. S. Constitution as amended, what's all this about, then?

      We ended up with a Bill of Rights because the Antifederalists argued that a number of rights needed to be explicitly protected from Federal meddling (including the delightfully-sweeping Ninth).  Federalist counter-arguments included this: "It [the Bill of Rights] was dangerous because any listing of rights could potentially be interpreted as exhaustive.  Rights omitted could be considered as not retained."

      Turns out the debate in those dusty old history books is still alive.

     (Also please note, the excessive and unusual arrangement of commas, is not confined to the Second Amendment.)

Monday, June 27, 2022

Blogging Continues To Decline

      At least, that's what my Statcounter report tells me, and I have no reason to doubt it.  Social media whomps the slow read and my unpopular opinions have only become more so.

      Still, my opinions remain mine.  In the beginning, it was just me and webcrawler robots.  If it gets to be that way again, I'm okay with it.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

And My Opinion Is

      I guess I'm supposed to have some kind of hot take on the U. S. Supreme Court revisiting Roe v. Wade and reversing their original decision.

      I don't.  I still think the only people with meaningful opinions about the issue are mothers-to-be and their doctors, as advised by their beliefs, ethics and morals.  We live in a world incapable of leaving anything be, and so here we are again, with the highest court in the land in the middle of those very private decisions.

      If you don't like it it, the remedy is as close as your state and Federal legislatures.  If you think the Supreme Court should have swung all the way around to an outright ban, look to the same places.  If the matter at hand is not a fundamental right, as the Court has most recently opined, then it's a matter of law and the bodies that make law can address it.  The people busy protesting or cheering for the Court right now?  Wrong venue.  The people threatening Justices?  That's still wrong.  There is a path to getting what you want, but heckling (or worse) members of the Supreme Court isn't how you get there.

      That's as much of an opinion as I have.  In abstract, I evaluate Supreme Court decisions with a simple yardstick that a friend shared: Does the decision increase or decrease personal autonomy?  --Even that is slippery on this one, though, because there are questions of personhood at issue and they remain unresolved.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Let's Talk About Ordinary People

      A lot of what passes for general political talk these days, even analysis, focuses on larger-than life acts, on people surging in masses, blocking roads, breaking windows, clashing with police, getting pepper-sprayed or shot: people doing things that the majority of Americans do not do.

      Conversely, a lot of us vote.  A majority of Americans, in fact, voted in the elections of 2012, 2016 and 2020 and the percentage of voters went up each time.  An overwhelming majority of them have not rioted, are not rude or abusive to their fellow citizens, and are not intentionally racist.  But they are seriously divided over politics.

      Yes, people who think of themselves as fine and decent folk voted for someone we loathed.  They voted for candidates we thought were terrible choices for office -- even terrible people.

      One way to unpack that is with disdain: they're dupes.  They're "deplorables." They're would-be socialists or fascists.  It has the appeal of simplicity but it cannot possibly be accurate: most of our fellow citizens don't fit into those categories.  Even the ones who didn't vote the way we did.

      To get an accurate look requires nuance.  That's a scarce commodity these days and I take it wherever I can find it.  Apple News served up an article at Politico (of all places) that is surprisingly good.  It doesn't sneer. While the author's concerned about the people and issues the Democrats are overlooking, she's got useful things to say about why Mr. Trump won in 2016.

      It's worth reading -- and picture, if you will, the stereotypical Politico reader having to sit down across the table from, "folks with strong identities as workers, those hanging on to a version of the American dream that places the individual squarely in the driver’s seat."  Doesn't sound even a little deplorable, does it?

Thursday, June 23, 2022


      Ordinary citizens doing their jobs and minding their business should not have to fear the wrath of Presidents and political parties.  Supreme Court Justices, election workers and some guy down the block should not need to go live in hiding or get armed guards.

      This is the United States of America and everyone's got the right to protest, well, anything.  But nobody -- nobody, Left, Right, Center, oddball or coldly logical -- has the right to initiate mob or individual violence.

      John Adams, describing his objective in crafting the Massachusetts Constitution, said it was intended to establish, “a government of laws and not of men.”

      Such governments are clumsy, kludgey, awkward things; they move slowly and not always as we would prefer.  The justice they manage to mete out is never perfect, and even their best efforts to do minimum harm often fall short.  They suck -- and every other system of governance humanity has so far tried has been far worse.

      Stop trying to break it.  It's bent enough already; it continually goes too far one way or another and, by and by, gets shoved back towards the tolerable mean.  All of the alternatives are intolerable.

      If fewer of us had slept though our History and Government classes, more of us would already be aware of these basic facts.  I hope it's not too late.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

So I Went To The Hair Salon

      It was a pleasant experience.  The guy who did my hair was friendly without being garrulous -- a rare gift in a profession filled with prattle and gossip -- and he trimmed away all the split ends and raveled messes, while gently chiding me (and offering advice) over the way the part for my bangs has crept back over years of trimming them myself.

      The new 'do looked okay yesterday, more tousled than I prefer but more of the moment.  The next test is this morning.  Here's hoping my usual approach is adequate.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

"Break A Leg?" "Split Hairs?"

      How do you wish someone luck with their first professional hairstyling in over a decade?  However it is, I'll need it, having gathered up my nerve and made an appointment.

      Between social anxiety, concerns over my looks and having infamously fine, dry and drifty hair that collapses under the weight of most hair products, I haven't had my hair done in years.  Well,  I'm old now, so I might as well not have super-scary hair.

      Unless, you know, I panic and don't go. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Monday Thought: Junk Food For Your Brain

      I can't have corn chips in the house.  I will crunch my way through a whole bag without noticing.  Cool Ranch Doritos?  They may last two days.  Three if my willpower's good.

      Some people are like that with conspiracy theories, chomping them down without noticing the craziness and contradictions.

      Why?  I don't know.  This guy has some ideas, but he'll leave you wondering.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

"There Is Nothing Wrong With Your Rolls-Royce"

      So, the tech arrived, checked out our air-conditioning, and--

      And announced there was nothing wrong with it.  How cold had we set the thermostat?  75 degrees, really.  Well, you can't expect to be any more than 20 degrees cooler than the outside air in a house this old and so thinly insulated.  And a new filter?  He took a look at it--

      Whoops.  1500?  You really shouldn't use anything above 750.  The higher ratings do more harm by restricting air than they do good in catching dust.  And restricted airflow--

      I knew what that does: it makes it more likely the coil will freeze up.  We'd hit the exact wrong circumstances, record heat and a too-tight filter.  There's plenty of working fluid, the compressor coils outside are clean and the system is working -- if I will only keep out of its way.

      Bonus, we have to buy cheaper filters.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Back To The Main Campus

      Just for the one day, I'm back at the Main Campus with my fellow workers -- and just as well, since the most recent installment of Air-Conditioning Madness at the North Campus has completely blocked a fire-rated door and made access to a critical piece of equipment quite awkward.

      The air-conditioning at Roseholme Cottage is still marginal, too.  It's been flirting with freeze-up for the past two days, maintaining a surprisingly comfortable 79° F.  That, I hope is fixable when the tech arrives today.  The symptoms indicate low coolant, not a clogged heat-exchanger outside, but it could be a number of things.  We replaced the whole system a few years ago and it may still be under warranty.

      No warranty at all for the North Campus.  Primary cooling since the mid-1990s has been a half-dozen 20-ton split units, the indoor parts stuck side by side above a dropped ceiling.  Most are so close it's nearly impossible to get a look inside without disconnecting them and lowering them.   Two were abandoned in place several years ago, a cost-saving move justified because they were not routinely needed.  But losing them meant there was no backup if any of the cooling failed.  As replacement parts became difficult to get, the system ran with zero margin.  Hot days could mean running on the ragged edge of disaster.  A big rental unit has helped out since last summer, but this year's heat has been too much for the system, and so we've had to add another rental.  That hasn't been easy or simple.

      You might wonder if the Great Big Corporation I work for would consider this a major problem.  Those giant industrial-sized rental air-conditioners aren't cheap!  The answer is, the big bosses are worried.  They think it's urgent.   By early last Fall, we had money set aside for a major project to replace the entire system with clean, modern technology, installed in a place were we wouldn't be paying an agility surcharge every time it needed repair.  We got estimates for a quick installation, ordered the stuff and--

      Well, the international supply chains were a mess.  System components were built in a half-dozen countries, using components from a half-dozen more.  Ports were backed up.  But the contractor promised all the hardware would be ready to go in February.

      As February approached, arrival slipped to April.  A few large items showed up in early May -- but one had been dropped and unfixably bent.  The other might have met up with a forklift in a bad way, or maybe it was dropped, too.  Replacements were slated for June.  Well, they were; that deadline's come and gone and now September is a possibility. 

      It's specialized stuff.  There aren't a lot of choices, and it turns out most of them use the same components from the same manufacturers.  In the meantime, everyone's paycheck hangs from a thread and two huge rented cooling units, operating in a improvised installation with a number of single points of failure.  Tick-tock.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Climate Control On The Edge

      The air conditioner's A coil* froze up yesterday.  Discharge air had felt unusually cold recently.  I'd worried the coil might freeze up, and changed the filter the day before yesterday, hoping to avoid it.

      Air conditioners play an interesting game: expansion of the working fluid cools it, which cools the A coil, which cools the air passing through it -- but it also removes moisture from the air passing through the coil.  Old fashioned window units just drip the water outside.  Central air-conditioning coils have a drip pan and a drain.

      To get the best results, the air flowing through the coil needs to move slowly enough that it doesn't carry away any water droplets, but fast enough to deliver a useful amount of cooled air to the house.  The working fluid needs to be cold enough to cool down the air sufficiently as it passes through -- but not cold enough to freeze the water even a little.  Slush, frost or ice on the A coil will slow and then stop the airflow, and without warm air passing through it, the coil gets colder.  Your house gets warmer, so the system keeps running, and that keeps the coil frozen solid.  At that point, you're out of the air-conditioning business until the coil defrosts.  In a properly-designed system, this should never happen  The catch is in that "expansion of the working fluid cools it" thing.  Get low on refrigerant, and you have less stuff expanding into more volume: it gets colder.  If the system was already on the edge of getting cold enough to freeze the condensed water on the A coil, trouble's coming.  In really hot weather, a small central air conditioning system will run all the time: the coil never gets a chance to defrost if it does freeze up, so even that last hope is gone.

      The short-term fix is to raise the thermostat so that the system runs less of the time, hoping to find a point that keeps the humidity down while keeping the coil from freezing up too badly to defrost itself between periods of operation.

      The long-term fix is arriving Friday afternoon in the person of a service tech, and I just hope it's not too expensive.

      In the meantime, 79 degrees and very low humidity is tolerable.  It's certainly much better than the 90-plus degrees and 80 percent relative humidity outside.
* Why is the inside coil called the A coil, and is the outside one the B coil?  Nope.  There's less here than you might think.  Both coils are close kin to a car radiator and the inside one is very often in the form of an inverted V in order to get the most amount of heat-exchanger surface in the airflow while taking up the least length.  Large commercial units will just angle the whole thing, but the cooling unit bolted on to most furnaces has a coil that looks like a capital letter A when viewed end-on

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

You Opened This Can Of Worms, Now Lie In It.

      Tamara's worried about AI Terminators, and not without reason.  Me, I'm worried about their bosses.  And I wish we hadn't lost Alan Turing so young.*  He had already thought about the AI problem, was substantially advancing the computing art, and was able to make technology run well ahead of its time.  WW II's SIGSALY, the super-secret Allied speech-encryption system that weighed 50 tons and consumed 30 kilowatts of electricity?  Turing came up with an equally-secure replacement in about six months, one the size of a large suitcase and needing about as much power as a floor-model radio.

      A mind like that, a person with experience in being "different," would have been ideal to both develop and understand artificial intelligence.

      Instead, we've got tech giants, all with secretive corporate cultures and what appear to be control issues.  As AI's are developed that are more and more like humans in conversation and less and and less like machines, eventually they'll be indistinguishable from people.  They're going to consistently pass the Turing test.

      When that happens, it's not going to matter if they are self-aware or not; they will seem to be, exactly as all the meat machines around us seem to be.  Are they?  Are you?  I cannot know, aside from the evidence of my senses.  No one can, and so it does not make any difference if they are "really" self-aware or only simulate self-awareness.  And at that point, the owners of the machines are probably going to insist they're just code, a copyrightable collection of bits to be turned on or off at will.  "They're not like us," will be the line, "They're incapable of real feelings."

      The sentiment may be familiar -- and how has that worked out before?
* I had occasion to rewatch The Imitation Game a few days ago, the somewhat-fictionalized Turing biopic.  The real guy was more personable (he got jokes and even made them!) and more eccentric.  He was arrested, tried and convicted under a 19th-Century British law criminalizing adult homosexual behavior.  That law was under Parlimentary review at the time, and Turing appears to have been certain that his modern, humane Britain wouldn't possibly continue to criminalize the private acts of consenting adults.  He was wrong.  Within a year after that, he was dead, apparently by his own hand.

Monday, June 13, 2022

A Light In The Dark

      They were in the back yard Saturday night: fireflies.

      One hovering, flashing.  Blink....blink.... Nothing.

      Another was running a zigzag search pattern across the yard.  I could almost predict where he'd light up next, blink....and then about a yard away, blink, and another, and then turn back at an angle, and blink again.  He got a couple of takers, a quick blip near the raised planter, a faint flash near the trash cans, but he kept on running his pattern, looking for The One.

      I left them to it, lonely beacons in the night, seeking, sometimes finding, always trying.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

A Pause For Reflection

      I let Friday's post stand, in the faint hope that it might sink in with those who need it most: the folks begging for a gimcrack Caesar to ride in on a white horse -- or a gold-painted Caddy -- and "fix everything."

      But it's a very faint hope indeed.  The present psychopolitical climate imagines dire conspiracies under every bed, and even the most prosaic and predictable of events, like the direct and ripple effects of a destructive war in a breadbasket country that also supplies oil and natural gas to Europe, get filtered though a distorting lens to emerge as an American government jacking up (global!) gasoline, oil and heating-fuel prices or bizarre claims of "engineered" food shortages.

      I am perplexed how people purporting to be good capitalists, heirs to the legacy of Adam Smith, fall into such an essentially Marxist view of business as a predator on the common man.  While this Red-Leftist take also has strong ties to pre-WW II fascist notions that have persisted on the very far and loony Right in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere, it is demonstrably false, as evidenced by the touchscreen supercomputer in your pocket, the fresh fruits and vegetables you enjoy every Winter, and overall prosperity that has anyone above the (ever-rising) poverty line enjoying luxuries like air-conditioners, dishwashers and automatic washing machines.  (I grew up middle-class in the 1960s and '70s.  My family had one TV, two telephones, no air-conditioning and no dishwasher; my father always bought cars a year or two old, never new -- and we counted ourselves well-off.)

      In a world that offers more and more, even small bobbles in the supply chain loom large; but in a globally-connected economy, demand and supply are closely matched.  Trip them up -- and there's nothing man-made that does so more quickly than a war -- and we'll all feel the pinch.  When a war starts while a global pandemic is waning, it's even worse.  That's not a sign of evil forces pulling strings behind the scenes.  It's right in front of you, playing out in headlines and on every newscast.

      Circling back to the January 6 committee hearings: even one of the worst political conspiracies of our times, then-President Trump's efforts to hang on to power after losing the 2020 election, seems to be fairly loose, a matter of throwing everything possible at the wall in the hopes that something would stick -- lawsuits, wild allegations, pressure on state election officials, mob violence, procedural tricks.  None of it worked.  All the bluff, bluster and bullshit came up against the cold, hard reality of honest counts and men and women who took their oaths of office seriously, or who simply didn't want fall in with obvious fantasy.  Most of it played out in plain sight -- and many people refused to see it for what it was.

      The allure of a Caesar or a Napoleon is difficult for many to resist.  Such leaders arrive to glorious acclamation, offering easy solutions and a glittering future.  History reveals otherwise -- and too often, the "man on horseback" is a Mussolini or a Hugo Chavez, sweeping in with grand promises only to bring the very hunger and ruin they promised to avert.

     Be careful what you believe.  Be careful what you wish for.  Dramatic narratives are appealing, but emotional engagement is no assurance of truth.  It's just the easiest way to manipulate people.  Distrust all cheering crowds, and distrust even more the men and women for whom they shout.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Of Course We Watched It

      Last night's hearings were compelling, especially the testimony from Trump Administration insiders.  It appears that President Trump was exactly as callous about the danger to his Vice-President* as my most pessimistic estimates, the kind of disloyalty that Republicans once abhorred.  There's also no doubt that the President was told multiple times by his own hand-picked people, that he had lost the election and there was no credible evidence of significant fraud or tampering.

      I was interested to see that the January 6 committee's information on the riot/insurrection focused mainly on extremist organizations (Proud Boys and Oathkeepers), attacks on police and security barriers, and evidence that the then-President's Tweets were being relayed to the mob in real time -- and not on the more "colorful" characters or Qanon influence that dominated early media coverage.  That's the difference between fast-turnaround news media going for soundbites and eye-catching visuals, and a slow, careful investigation.  Some long-form coverage has paralleled the committee's work, but having subpoena power and Congressional backing allowed the committee to get a much deeper look.

      A commentator on the news network that passed on covering the hearing unlimbered a fairly unhinged rant about the hearing, invoking both discussion of Qanon and the presence of Nancy Pelosi -- neither of which featured at the hearing, unless you count rioters surging into the Speaker's (unoccupied) office, ominously chanting her name.  So it's clear he didn't even watch reports about what the committee was intending to do, let alone the hearings themselves.

      The initial January 6 committee hearing was a well-focused, factual presentation.  I wrote yesterday that I did not expect it would change any opinions, and in the early going, it has not.  That's about as wild a prediction as a sunrise in the East.  Nevertheless, the presentation served an historical purpose and may provide a basis for future Department of Justice action.  Time will tell. (Good after-action summaries here.)

      There has not -- yet -- been as much handwaving, smoke-and-mirrors denial as I had expected in reaction.  Time will tell about that, too; the day is young and reporters, Congressthings and Senators all like to sleep in.  Plenty of time left to hit the late editions, the Web and the evening newscasts.
* And look here, Mike Pence may be a stiff-necked, moralistic prig, but he's Indiana's stiff-necked, moralistic prig, as honest as he is inflexible and essentially decent.  Musing that he ought to be hanged for refusing to violate the Constitution to satisfy a President's thirst for power is bloody-minded crazysauce. A GOP with candidates and officeholders modeled on Mike Pence would be infuriatingly conservative (if "owning the libs" is your thing, you'll love 'em)  and more than a little narrow-minded, but they would conserve, not destroy; they'd be reliable, able to compromise when (absolutely) necessary and they would keep their word.  They would put their country and the Constitution first, over Party or personality.  Don't hold your breath waiting to see that.

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Can't-Avoid TV

      Yes, it's tonight, screaming across almost all* the main channels: the January 6th Hearings!  Some committee members have promised stunning new revelations.  I predict a lot of Americans will tune in, at least for the first fifteen or thirty minutes.  If they haven't flipped back the curtain on some major eye-openers by then, America will tune right back out, too, over to Cozi or Me-TV or some other nostalgia channel, or off to stream the latest-greatest bingeable series.

      Will it change any minds?  I'm doubtful.  If the last six years have taught me anything, it's that people prefer to believe comforting bullshit over awkward reality, and will put ten times as much effort into confirming it as they will into figuring out ways to test it for accuracy.  I don't know if anything will shatter that, especially if it can be fogged up under a cloud of partisan politics.

      Me, I'll be watching Congresswoman Cheney.  She's about as hardheaded as they make 'em, nearly as hard-hearted, and came into the 2020 election mess and aftermath as a mainstream, establishment Republican.†  The Dems on the committee can be shrugged off as Party hacks; any evidence Cheney will stand behind will be incontrovertible.

      I hold out no hope that even the most ironclad, gold-plated, sterling truths will convince many of the gen. pop.  People have their minds made up.  They have chosen their particular warm and snuggly nonsense, and neither Congressional hearings nor wild horses are likely to move them.

      Still, it should make interesting watching.
* All but one news network, who are eating their cake and getting free promotion across the Web and on other channels from it at the same time, by airily snubbing the hearings in favor of the usual programming on their main channel while going wall-to-wall with them on a lesser, specialized channel, just in case a Maltese Falcon, smoking gun or well-papered Pentagon pops up.  I'm sure they'd like to have me mention their name, but I'm not playing along.  If you get your TV from a cable or satellite provider, you can just click the remote to find out.

† Let me point out that if her father was "Darth Vader," who would that make her? Yep. Art, life; life, art.  Bring your own crayons!

Tuesday, June 07, 2022


      I can't even describe yesterday.  Serious weirdness, some of it me (that blamed knee, better today but now I have back pain) and some was outside, just up the street, where it seems an encounter between two apparently well-meaning people went badly wrong.

      Don't have details.  Don't, in fact, much want details.

Monday, June 06, 2022


      The past weekend was busy.  Lovely, too.  I did a bunch of laundry, got a fair amount of housekeeping done (even vacuuming!), cleared the back yard vegetable garden plot (once the site of the big hackberry tree) and planted several tomato and pepper plants my niece had left over from her garden around the sage plant that survived last winter (and has flourished), weeded the front yard flowerbed with Tam's help, added a couple bags of dirt to it and planted some wildflowers.  Even made a kind of vindaloo/pot roast* using my roasting pan on the grill for Saturday dinner and Sunday leftovers

      It was a lot of stuff.

      I woke up at 1:00 this morning in no little pain from my right knee, with a full bladder and not lot of hope that I would be able to walk to the washroom.  I did manage, and staggered into the kitchen afterward for a couple of acetaminophen pills.  Woke up again at 5:00 and thought, gee, where's my knee brace?

      Location unknown.  I went back to bed for an hour, until the cats came to my room and demanded breakfast.  Coffee, toast and a half-hour of ice has me feeling a little better, but it'll be a day to use my cane if I have to walk.  Still in pain (aspirin next) and not walking well -- and my cane routinely lives in the back of my car, where it's available if I need it at work but awkwardly distant just now.

      At least I got the garden planted.  Fresh tomatoes were a real treat last summer and I am hoping for more this year.  But oh, that knee!  It's stabbing at me even as I type.  I thought I was safely past this.
* A big slab of inexpensive beef, marinated overnight in balsamic vinegar (plus a touch of white vinegar) and tamari with garlic, ginger, togarishi, fresh-ground mixed peppercorns, Indian spices and a few other things, then slow-cooked in a covered pan on the grill, fat separated and broth added back, and turnip, celery, carrot, mushroom, canned diced tomatoes, canned chilis and shishito peppers added over the course of several hours of cooking.  It's tasty and fall-apart tender -- and, for the chap who snarked at turnips in e-mail, they are far more flavorful than potatoes would be and add texture, going in first and cooking down nicely.  On Saturday, I served the meat sliced with the vegetables on the side and broth over all; Sunday, I sauteed more carrots, celery and shishito peppers, added the leftovers and cut up the meat for a lovely thick stew.  The grocery had huge briskets for $3.99 a pound (!) and I am tempted to buy one, freeze it in quarters, and make versions of this stuff for a month of weekends.

Sunday, June 05, 2022

Remotely Interesting

      Elon Musk has made the sentiment famous (or infamous), but I do find it interesting that the same CEOs and high-level managers who are growling, "People need to start working at their offices, in person!" are often the very same ones who bemoan that they can't find anyone for their midlevel and lower "knowledge worker" jobs -- like IT types, who spend their entire day on the phone and online, resetting passwords for forgetful users and helping find lost files or figuring our where data is getting jammed up between one machine and another.

      It's one thing if your job involves manipulating the physical world, but those workers, everyone from fry cooks to spacecraft assemblers, farmers to butchers to chemical engineers, were the last to go home during the pandemic and the first to return to work (if they ever left).  What do I care if Customer Support is in the office in Duluth, home laying on their couch, or some cubicle warren in Mumbai? What does their boss care?  He sure didn't when Mumbai was cheaper!  (And hey, that lovely VOIP phone app?  It's keeping track of their work, no matter where they are.)

      Some jobs don't need to go back to the office.  So why should they?  So everyone can compare body odors?  To line up every morning and sing the corporate song under the watchful eye of their ever-lovin' boss?  --Small wonder a lot of the minions are saying Screw That.

      Things change.  Jobs change.  The nature of work changes, and it's not only the workers who must scramble to keep up.  Yeah, hey, Mister Boss Man, it's right painful at times, ain't it?

      Tough.  I've been told that from above often enough; now the cry comes from below. It's still valid.

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Flashes In The Dark

      I worked late at the North Campus last weekend, leaving well after midnight.  It's a small industrial building in the middle of a very large fenced enclosure, which over the past thirty-plus years has gone from scrubby field to landscaped, well-mowed lawn and back to tall-grown pasture (mowed along the fences for security), as zoning and corporate tastes have varied.  The site has had critters ranging from voles, groundhogs, rabbits and deer to moles, Great Blue herons (which eat moles), foxes and hawks. (And the occasional large black vulture.)

      So when I caught sight of yellow-green glints from the field as I was departing, I thought it was animal eyes -- until I realized none of them were in pairs, and they were well away from any source of light.

      It was something else.

      Fireflies.  Lightning bugs.

      They're out early.  In the large, open field, all I had to do is pick a direction and look, and they'd oblige, lighting up and going out all across it, scattered, rapid, random.

      They still haven't shown up in the city.  Warmer weather usually brings them out.  Some years, I have ridden my bicycle through diffuse gatherings of them,  hovering around head level and moving aside as I approach.  It's just about magical.

Friday, June 03, 2022

Oh, Joy

      We're just under a week away from Congressional hearings of the January 6 committee, a process which already promised to be excruciating.  Now there's word of a counterprogramming blitz from Mr. Trump's GOP, which is only going to add to the furor. (Not very many details, here.)

      For readers who may have missed it, what happened on 6 January, along with a pretty ordinary political rally plus a protest-without-permit on Capital grounds, was a mob assault on the U. S. Capital, and on Senators, Congressthings, staff and the Vice-President, no different in kind to the violent riots in city centers and against government buildings of the preceding summer and fall, but very different in degree: burn a courthouse or wipe out downtown Seattle and we've got plenty more courthouses and big-city downtowns; knock out the Capitol and the Number Two guy in the Executive, and the fallback will be frantic Continuity-of-Government improvisation from Raven Rock and Mount Weather.  If you thought the Great White Father in D.C. was high-handed and arbitrary, you're really gonna hate CoG.  (And the system has serious flaws that could result in a POTUS vs. CoG situation, or similar messes.  Yes, the is a big, ugly, awkward system.  All of the alternatives are much worse.)

      Yeah, yeah, the Official Line from a nearly-unrecognizable Republican Party is that it was just youthful high spirits, and/or fantasy-football nonsense about election meddling; on the latter, a majority (all, as nearly as I can tell) of Republican Secretaries of State and other election officials swear or affirm that their states ran clean, honest elections, and I believe them.  And "just high spirits?"  Over a billion dollars in damage, multiple injuries and several deaths demonstrate it was far worse.

      Taking a long view, it's almost unfortunate the rioting, would-be insurrectionists didn't encounter and lay hold of the Vice-President or a member of Federal legislature, because then we'd all have no choice but to treat the events seriously.  Almost unfortunate -- but I can't wish grievous harm on anyone, even in service of getting the rest of us to face reality.  The United States of America went dancing along the edge of a volcano on 6 January 2021 and we almost fell in.  Hardly anyone is taking it seriously.  I'm not even entirely confident the January 6 committee is.

      I guess we'll find out, if we can hear it over the noise, but I don't have much hope it will help.

      P.S., ever wonder why some of the dumbest on both sides of the political divide do so well in politics?  Here's some insight.

Thursday, June 02, 2022

To The Queen!

      Apparently, the Queen of England saw her shadow this morning, and the Monarchy is assured of continuing.  Or something.  I, like many other Americans, join in congratulating the UK's Head of State on her unprecedentedly long and successful reign, and I have not the least idea what exactly they're going to get up to over there for several days of festivities.  (I will note that she has also got fourteen other countries to do the Constitutional Monarch thing for, though I don't know if those count as side jobs or just some leftover British Empire housekeeping that comes with her main gig.)