Saturday, April 1, 2023

March 31

 Last day of March which is the end of the first quarter of 2023. The year is continuing the chaotic pattern of the last several years.

Well, we have seen another unprecedented move: The New York Grand Jury has issued indictments (still under seal until the arraignment) against TFG. I have been listening all morning to snippets from his Republican sycophants bemoaning the "witch hunt." Robert Reich distills the arguments and rebuts them succinctly. About 130 years passed before a President (Andrew Johnson) was impeached (but not convicted.) Another 130 years passed before a second President (Bill Clinton) was impeached (but, again, not convicted). Barely 30 years passed before a President (TFG) was impeached twice (but not convicted either time.) Only one President (U.S. Grant) has ever been arrested--for speeding in a horse-drawn carriage. Although several Presidents (I won't list them) had been associated with scandals they were never brought into court over them. I am amazed that we have gone so long before this kind of thing happened. 

I am constantly amazed at the inane comments politicians make. One state representative commented on the demand for gun safety laws by insisting that "you can't legislate away evil." Well, maybe not--but you can legislate against evil actions. Or, that what ever measure is proposed won't stop X, Y, or Z incident. Well, perhaps not but it might make the incident more difficult, mitigate the casualties, or might prevent incident A. Or, the measure will not prevent all gun deaths. Well, what they are really saying is that because they can't prevent all deaths they can't prevent any deaths. And it is interesting that they claim they can't legislate gun safety but they sure can legislate a woman's options for health care.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

March 30

 We actually had snow yesterday. Not for long, not much and the temperature was too high for it to stick around. There is some frost on the roofs but the high today should be in the mid 50s. April is only a day and the gardening itch is getting stronger.

Well, Robert Reich is finally saying out loud what I saw and said during The Former Guy's first unfortunate year as President. TFG conflated himself to the government and to the country. They were, in his tiny mind, one and the same. His is a very long winded translation of what Louis XIV said: L'etat se moi. That worked for Louis' life but fell apart in 1789 under his grandson. TFG hasn't been able to convince enough Americans that his vision is valid.

News Flash: The New York Grand Jury has voted indictments for The Former Guy. I wonder how many lawyers he will go through during the process of a trial.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

March 29

 Good Morning. Cloudy today with the temperature now (9:15am) at about 50F. Yesterday it got up to nearly 70. April is only a couple of days away. Damn--how fast the time is going by.

Ugo Bardi has an interesting examination of bell curve models on his Seneca Effect site. I was somewhat skeptical of the "flattening of the curve" message our experts put out but for a couple of other reasons. I wasn't all that convinced of the wisdom of prolonging the epidemic which is exactly what the flattening argument meant. As it turns out we didn't have one peak but several. I also wasn't all that convinced of the wisdom of trying to almost totally shut down an economy but we followed Italy in this strategy as did most other European countries. All models are based on assumptions and if the assumptions are wrong the model is useless. As the old saying goes "assume makes an ass our of u and me."

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

March 28

 Well, we started off this week with another school shooting--the 129th mass shooting this year which is less than 90days old. Three 9-year-olds and three school employees at a Christian school. I saw a snippet from a debate in the Tennessee legislature where the speaker told the rest of the members that no one wanted to take away anyone's hand gun, shotgun, or hunting rifle; that they didn't need more assault rifles endangering the police, the children or anyone else. He also told them to not tell him they were "pro-life" if they couldn't get up the courage to ban assault rifles. The speaker of the house called him out of order and insisted he had to continue under their "welcoming and honoring" standard of the body. I wonder what the hell that means. And why voting to restrict dangerous weapons requires "courage."

In his post this morning Robert Reich suggests that we "follow the money." He lays out why I suspected but hadn't yet researched: it isn't the NRA, which is merely a ghost of its former self, but the gun makers who have been busily selling military weapons to a civilian citizenry. They did so especially in the post 9/11 period and used extensive pictures of our "warriors" in Iraq and Afghanistan fully fitted out in body armor with those sexy guns.

An interesting point was made this morning that guns result in more children's deaths than car crashes and the drop in auto related deaths can be directly attributed to increased auto safety. The implication is that all we have to do is insist on laws to mandate gun safety. Well, I am not convinced. When auto safety was under debate it was mainly the Federal government against auto makers who feared a loss of revenue as customers wouldn't pay for the safety measures. But customers did pay. However, what change in individual behavior was really required? Absolutely none. Drunks still drive. People still speed. Drivers still cut each other off. They still roll through stop signs and run red lights. All the measures for gun safety require responsibility from gun owners: trigger locks, gun safes, sometimes classes to learn how to handle guns safely and maintain them. The problem is there is no way to make the guns themselves safe. You can't protect from stupid or egotistical or irresponsible.

I found this piece interesting. I hadn't considered that the Russian Federation might break up over the Ukraine war. But that is always a possibility in any complex society. Most such societies soon or later do break up because of the tensions inherent in such complexity. Some time last year after the first Russian assault failed and Putin wanted to mobilize a few hundred thousand more sort of soldiers he had a bit of difficulty with one of the ethnic peoples who felt they had already contributed more to the effort than they liked. I don't remember which group but they stopped sending "recruiters" into that area. And there are, as the article says, almost 200 such groups and many have little love for ethnic Russians. Take a look through history and see how often empires break apart. And regime change has been a very old tactic and one the U.S. has used frequently in the past with sometimes very adverse results.

Often, more often of late, the stupidity I hear and see makes me think I ought to add a bit of whiskey to my morning coffee as a bit of an anesthetic. One of the Tennessee state legislators said that we can't do anything about gun violence because criminals will commit crimes and often with guns. We, according to him, can't cure all of our problems with laws. You can't solve all problems with laws buy you can solve some of them and maybe make it a bit more difficult for malicious people to act out their malevolence. Just a bit more difficult. And when asked about how he feels about the safety of his own children in school he smugly notes that they are homeschooled.

This year is likely continue what came last year with much of Europe in drought and with reservoirs and rivers going dry and with glaciers melting.

March 26, 27

 Partly cloudy but warmer--up near 60 today. And a bit of rain.


So far cloudy. We had a real downpour yesterday evening--with thunder and lightning as well. It has dried up a bit overnight. The temperature at the fence reads about 50F.

William Hartung posted a depressing piece on yesterday.  The Pentagon budget is already almost $900billion, and the House and Senate keep pushing the bill further into the fiscal stratosphere. Hartung covers most of the problems: expensive weapons "systems" which underperform, and a military which has an underperforming record since the last great victory (WWII) over 75 years ago. I would add another: we use the military instead of diplomacy. The threat of military action always underlies any "negotiation" which treats the "partners" in the negotiations as though they were errant children. Daddy is there with the paddle so you better do what you are told.

I heard an amusing bit of Morning Joe just now which summed up a problem with the religious right, the Evangelist Mujahideen. They have an "idolatry" problem. I can agree. They don't have a golden calf. The hair is no longer gold. The tan is not any more convincing than it was back in 2016. Their idol is pure fools gold.

Another segment on Morning Joe amused me but for a different reason: the fact that our political leaders have no historical knowledge. They showed a part of an interview where the Republican politician insisted that the New York investigation should actually be conducted by the Department of Justice even though the case concerns the possible violation of STATE laws. The summation is beautiful: Republicans say no one could  indict The Former Guy when he was President and no one should indict him as a former President and no one should indict him because he is running again to be President. That's a Catch 22 squared.  So why do I say that the politicians don't have any good knowledge of American history? Because the State-Federal divide existed from the beginning. The tension between the two has only grown as the country grew both in territory and population, and has been exacerbated by technology. Almost nothing occurs without crossing state lines and therefore has a national component. If Company A dumps toxic wastes into a nearby stream it will eventually have an impact in another state down stream. So which jurisdiction prevails. Right now people are "States' Rights" supporters until they aren't and it depends on how much they want to control the lives of people who don't live in their state.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

March 25, 26

 Wet and cloudy today but at least we don't have the weather that has hit Mississippi with tornadoes (knock on wood). I remarked (for the hundredth time over the last few years ) that we don't have a tornado season any more. Nor do we have a fire season. And the winters aren't really winter any more. I don't think we have had more than two or three days with enough to shovel and I only shoveled the patio path to the gate once. Otherwise I let the divine intervention theory take care of it--God(s) put it there, they could make it go away. In a couple of days they did.

Odd thoughts that came to me as I read various stories over the week:

1) In one of the article the author claimed that banking is "the most subsidized industry" in the economy. Since the 1930s the banks pay into the FDIC which ensures deposits below the (now) $250K per individual account. The savings and loan crisis of the 1980s the federal government stepped in to soften the blow for depositors in those institutions many of which were not covered by the FDIC. I worked with a woman who had her money in a savings and loan, and she was in a constant state of anxiety trying to make rent, utilities and other basic expenses until she did get some of her money back as the industry was reorganized. She is the kind of person I think of when the experts start talking about bailouts and other banking supports. Some industries are and should be regulated as public utilities but most are hybrids with the government backstopping them against fiscal mismanagement. After the savings and loan debacle I decided that I would only use banks that were insured by FDIC. Over the last 20 years events world wide (the meltdown of banks on Crete, the collapse of Lehman and that bailout of other at risk banks) has made me realize that the FDIC might not be enough to really protect the little guys from the "mistakes" of the people who run our financial system. A lot of retirees and small depositors were crippled when the banks on Crete melted down but the Russian oligarchs and the wealthy managed to get most of their holdings out before the crisis system shut down. But then you have to ask: what in our society and economy isn't subsidized? A recent study claimed that far more government largess goes to the upper tiers of the economy than to the lower levels. I would guess that if the subsidies ever stop the economy will stop.

2) Another series of pieces covered the nauseous ad the Michigan Republican Party put out comparing the gun safety laws the legislature voted in were simply a prelude to (and equivalent to) the Holocaust. Lovely bit of advertising that. But that is a trend over the last 150 years or so. The perennial ads that used to be ubiquitous every Christmas but haven't appeared as much for the last few urging us to "put Christ back into Xmas" used to make me laugh. The argument was lost when Christmas became a commercial holiday. Social historians writing about the counter culture of the late 1960s and 1970s claimed that once the movement was commercialized and you could buy love beads and Nehru jackets in every store the movement died. Christmas was severed from its roots; the counter culture was also neutered as a criticism of the larger society. The process of erasing the historical meaning of "Holocaust" is progressing. Now it has become a trope which can be dusted off and applied to any thing someone or some group wants to vilify whether there is any real parallel or not. 

3) There was a lot of "pearl clutching" over the possibility (I would say certainty) that China is mining TikTok for information on Americans. I am not on TikTok (or on Snapchat or most other social media). I am on Facebook but only because it is the easiest way to keep up with some friends and family. Even so I get all kinds of adds for things I have looked up on Google. If I buy an e-book from Barnes&Noble or Amazon, I suddenly find my Facebook feed inundated or my e-mail loaded with ads for more books. I don't mind those so much as some of the other ads for items (often of a sexual nature) that clog my in box. I am quite sure China (and Russia, Iran, India, England, and....) are mining our internet for information but so is every company/service provider world wide.

4) A couple of shows featured a new book tracing how the John Birch Society ideology, which I remember from the 1950s, has infiltrated the modern Republican Party. I am not going to buy or read it. My first thought was "what was old is new again." I have read enough history to realize that each generation puts new lipstick on old ideological pigs.

5) Evidently England is having difficulty getting the "salad vegetables" (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers etc.) which they normally import at this time of the year from Southern Spain and Morocco. Spain suffered devastating hail storms and Morocco had an early heat wave. And Southern California cropland is so inundated by the repeated atmospheric rivers that they don't expect to be able to put in crops til the fall and guess where a large percentage of our vegetables are grown? One of the major stories on the news right now is another cycle of tornadoes that have devastated parts of Mississippi. Looking at the pictures I remembered pictures I saw of the aftermath of the 1908 Tunguska event or of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I remarked that the old notions of "seasons" (fire seasons, thunderstorm season, tornado season, hurricane season) is no longer meaningful.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

March 23

Overcast, cool, and wet today. I noticed that the leaf buds are rapidly getting bigger on more trees ad bushes.

I turned off the news sooner than usual this morning. After getting my fill of the "Indictment Watch," and the rest of the smidge of news with a large dose of speculation I tried to watch BBC but left it when it started covering the Congressional hearings on TikTok. I 'm very skeptical about the demands that the Chinese company that owns a significant part of TikTok or be banned. I think the concern on Chinese spying is reaching hysterical levels and even if they can't go in with TikTok they will do so in another way. Also it is likely to cost us more than it will China. But beyond that I am totally skeptical of any attempt to ban or even control a technology. In all the history I have read, technologies are discarded in only two ways: it is superseded by another (whale oil by kerosene by electricity) or because social/political/economic changes makes the technology too expensive (in money, manpower, or resources) to maintain. We aren't anywhere near such a condition with respect to social media.