Dreamers

Sep. 4th, 2017 04:48 pm
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Comes news today that President Trump plans to repeal Obama's protection of illegal aliens brought here as children, AKA "dreamers." Also comes news is that Trump will delay action on this for six months. I find this the most nakedly political, albeit heartless, action of the Trump presidency.

I start with the assumption that Trump really couldn't care less if these people stay or go. He's just not empathetic enough to get worked over people not likely to give him money. His whole tough on illegals stance was a pander to a section of the Republican base and an applause line at his rallies, not an actual policy desire.

By this point in his presidency, even an idiot could see that whatever action Trump took on the dreamers would be criticized by Congress. Kick 'em out, Trump's heartless. Let the stay, Trump is usurping authority. But my taking action and starting a countdown clock, Trump forces Congress to put up or shut up.

Even better, from Trump's point of view, he's set up a "Xanatos Gambit" (warning - link leads to TvTropes) in which no matter what Congress does, Trump wins. Congress does nothing - Trump pleases his base and Congress can't criticize. Congress acts - any bad consequences are on them and Trump gets to campaign against Congress.

Now, in truth, it's much easier to set up a Xanatos Gambit if you really don't give a damn what the outcome of an event is. Since Trump cares little about outcomes and much about being seen to win, expect more of these.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Thoughts on a Monday:

The Pardoning of Joe Arpaio

Sad, immoral, but not unexpected. Trump rewards personal loyalty above all else, and Arpaio has been nothing but loyal. The fact that 99% of the tin-pot dictators of the world also reward loyalty above all else is left for the consideration of the reader.

Houston

Two thoughts:

1) I'm sure Houston could have done something better to allow for floodwaters to drain. Having said that, I doubt anybody could have engineered their way out of the four or five feet of rainwater the city's going to get.

2) It's easy for people like me to pick up and evacuate if need be. Simply put, I have spare cash and a reliable vehicle. But if you don't have a several hundred dollars immediately to hand (Motel 6 costs $50+ per night) then you maybe can't leave.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I've been away from this blog for a while. Once you get out of the habit of posting, you're out of the habit. Herewith, various thoughts.

1) Writing: I have committed writing again, adding nearly 4,000 words to the mystery novel. Based on the comments at my critique session, they were generally good words. More (hopefully) to follow.

2) Marching Morons, Gun Division: Comes news that a Minneapolis cop shot a crime victim through the car door of his squad car. Moreover, the cop was in the passenger side and the victim was talking to his partner through the driver's side window. It seems like the cop had his gun out and finger on the trigger way too soon. Unfortunately, that's called "involuntary manslaughter."

3) Marching Morons, Politics Division: After months of assurances by Donald Trump that nobody from his campaign met with the Russians, we hear that his son, son-in-law and then campaign manager took a meeting with the Russians. Words fail me.

4) Marching Morons, health care division: the wealthy comedian Scott Adams has, in the wake of the failure of the Republican party to repeal Obamacare, been pedaling various solutions to American health care. Conspicuously they all seem to have been conceived in a vacuum, and are completely unaware of the fact that the rest of the world cracked this code a long time ago.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Posted elsewhere, in response to a question on how America can "fix healthcare."

This really isn't rocket science. Most of the rest of the world has figured it out years ago. The solution, in broad strokes, is:

1) Get everybody to pay into the healthcare system, whether via taxes or private insurance. Actually, taxes are cheaper because private insurance has marketing and profit overheads. But everybody is important, in that you don't want some freeloader rolling into an emergency room, especially for something that could have been managed cheaply had they been able to see a doctor sooner.

1a) Everybody in is also important in that, just like auto insurance or homeowner insurance, those that don't file a claim subsidize those that do.

2) Allow the large payers (in our case Medicare / Medicaid) to negotiate pricing. In every other country, they do so, and get meds and equipment at a fraction of the cost. For example, in Belgium, if you need an artificial hip joint, you get the same one you do in the US (both made in a factory in Indiana) but the Belgium one cost $800 and the US one costs $20,000.

3) Pay doctors on performance, not activity. Right now, my doc has every financial incentive to order every test I'll take. Penalize hospitals for things like hospital-based infections. Again, the financial incentive of a hospital is to keep you in. These changes will force the health-care system to get more efficient.

Most of the rest of the world accomplishes this by having a government paid-for (Canada) or government-ran (UK) system that relies on private insurance for supplementary things, like private rooms or other upgrades. In fact, in Canada, they call it Medicare and it works like US medicare except you buy in at birth. I'll say it because somebody will comment on it, but even when Canada has to ship somebody to the US (which they do, at government cost, because it's cheaper than having Canadian specialists) they deliver quality health care at a fraction of the cost.

Politics

Jun. 22nd, 2017 08:41 pm
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Two political thoughts:

1) Trump lied. (Yeah, I know, and water's wet.) Those jobs he "saved" at Carrier before his inauguration? They are leaving.

2) John Scalzi is wise on the lack of benefits of tax cuts to rich people.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Ben Carson, current HUD Secretary, opened his mouth recently and said that poverty is a "state of mind." To be fair to Carson, he was born poor and got himself out of poverty. John Scalzi, another guy born poor who's no longer financially challenged, had thoughts on Carson's comments.

John rather correctly noted that being poor means not having money, which results in a lack of margin of error. To shorter his post, poor people drive old beater cars which, when they break down, they may not have money to get fixed. All the positive mental vibes in the world won't replace a busted timer belt.

I would like to focus on why Carson said what he did. It is a truism that you will find no one more demonstratively against smoking as somebody who quit smoking after developing the habit. I would submit that the act of successfully quitting smoking requires a certain mental attitude.

The same can be said for getting out of poverty, especially in one generation. It's hard work, and requires a certain mental attitude. Unlike quitting smoking, getting out of poverty also requires luck. Good luck in terms of getting opportunities and in avoiding pitfalls.

Unfortunately, recognizing that "there but for the grace of God go I" requires self-reflection and humility. Ben Carson is not noted for possessing either of these traits. It's the very lack of those traits that led him to his current position.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I was flying back from a business trip to Orlando today, so I didn't see much news. I did note that the GOP, in a squeaker of a vote, repealed Obamacare. I'll just note the hypocrisy of "read the bill" (which they didn't) and "jam through without debate" (ditto) and the complete lack of bipartisan support for this bill (which supposedly made Obamacare bad). I will note that I think the Republicans have shot themselves in the foot, much like the Sad Puppies did with the Hugo affair.

So, in the Sad Puppies affair, a bunch of maximalists jammed through a slate of nominees. Many people (including Yours Truly) came out of the woodwork to put the kibosh on this. Trump and the GOP have jammed through something that will prove to be unpopular and unworkable. People have been coming out of the woodwork against Trump since the day he won the election, and this will continue.

In general, when maximalists gain control of a situation, anti-maximalists come out of the woodwork to oppose them. In the Civil War, when Southerners, upset that the North wouldn't allow them to expand slavery (see South Carolina's declaration of secession), left the Union and tried to take the Navy and coastal forts on the way out, people came out of the woodwork in opposition.

Being a maximalist generates maximal resistance.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
With apologies to the very good movie of the same name.

The Good

My Rotary club's annual fundraiser is in the bag bank. It appears like we made significantly more money than last year. I hesitate to say more as we're still waiting for final numbers.

The Bad

On CNN in the lobby this morning, I see that Trump had the entire US Senate over to the White House for a briefing on North Korea. One presumes they were told that the Norks were This Close to building atomic bombs. Interested parties should read this well-written piece on that other budding nuclear power, Iraq: Operation Desert Snipe Hunt.

The Ugly

Also on CNN and various other sources, the GOP is taking another stab at repealing Obamacare. Notable is that they exempt themselves from some of the deleterious side effects.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Hackers are the new pirates, in more ways than one. First, a history lesson.

From the European discovery of the New World until 1713 (when a treaty was signed) all Spanish-held territories could only trade with Spain on Spanish ships. The other European powers weren't happy about it, but for the most part they lacked the firepower to go toe-to-toe with the Spanish. Even Britain's vaunted Royal Navy wasn't up to the task until the early 1700s, when Spain's military had weakened.

Lacking the ability to directly attack Spain, the other European powers landed on pirates. They allowed criminals (pirates) the ability to operate in their ports, sometimes with a legal fig leaf of a "Letter of Marque" making them privateers, sometimes not, as long as they attacked Spain. This was even more beneficial to the host country in that pirates were self-funding and successful pirates were an economic stimulus. (Somebody had to drink all that rum.)

Now, we see nations such as Russia allowing hackers to operate inside their borders as long as the target of the activity is directed at foreigners. Not only does Russia allow these hackers to operate, but if and when said hacker gets politically or militarily useful information, Russian intelligence will grab it and run with it. This may include monkeying with US elections.

There is nothing new under the sun.
chris_gerrib: (Default)

Various thoughts, saved up throughout the week, and regurgitated here.


Syria


I have long been able to hold two thoughts of Syria, namely that Assad is a wart on the ass of prosperity and that US involvement in Syria, especially military involvement, would be counterproductive at best.  So I’m not fond of Trump’s cruise missile attack on the country.  It appears to be knee-jerk and ineffective, never a good combination.  As Camestros Felapton says, even if one argues that Assad is a cancer, surgically excising him requires a skilled surgeon.  Trump does not appear to be that surgeon.


Trump and the Alt-Right


I’ve not said much about Trump as of late.  There’s only so many ways I can say he’s a complete idiot leading a party of semi-complete idiots without becoming tiresome.  I will say it’s become amusing (for “walking to the gallows” values of amusing) to watch his alt-right fans do contortions about his latest action.  The alt-right, including noted military expert Scott Adams, had decided that Tuesday’s chemical attack was either a false flag or a total fake.


Seeing Trump respond as if it were real threw them for a loop.  I note that Adams has deduced that this is yet another example of Trump’s playing 4-D chess while us mere mortals are playing checkers.  Color me unconvinced.


Dreams


From serious to trivial: last night, I dreamed I was sleeping, or rather trying to sleep, in all sorts of odd places.  In my dream, when my 80+ year-old great aunt asked me what I was doing, that was the thing that woke me up.


Dreamhost


I did not read the new LiveJournal terms of service that was forced upon me.  Having been told that it makes clear LiveJournal is under Russian law, I shall be moving with deliberate speed Dreamhost.

Yawn

Mar. 16th, 2017 08:00 am
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
On Monday, President Trump released an Executive Order entitled COMPREHENSIVE PLAN FOR REORGANIZING THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH. Wily E. Coyote, SuperGenius (tm), at his site, is touting how "the grand offensive" against the "Deep State" is back on.

The Executive Order tells the Cabinet to spend 180 days coming up with a plan to reduce their agencies, including a public comment period.

If that sounds rather mild for an offensive, that's because it is. If followed to the letter, the end result is a report. Unless Congress acts on the report, nothing further will happen. Given the snail-like speed of Congress so far, I think even the most questionable of agencies is safe. Anybody who was really serious about reducing government would have at least the outlines of a plan already to hand.

To shorter myself - making proclamations is easy, governing is hard.

Russia

Mar. 7th, 2017 11:27 am
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
As I mentioned yesterday, I watched a 60 Minutes interview of French nationalist politician Marine Le Pen. In it, she was asked if she was upset at or worried about Russia. She said no, and said that being hostile to Russia would "drive them into the arms of China." This surprising love of Russia (a love not shared by her closer neighbors - Sweden brought back the draft) is a feature of the "alt-right."

Here's the thing - in the long run, Le Pen is right. Russia will want / need allies against China and possibly India, the two emerging powers that share a continent with Russia.

In the short term, she's wrong. Putin is an autocrat, playing a short-term game to make himself look good. He's doing this by bullying his European neighbors. Putin is the Napoleon III of Russia - a man attempting to reclaim a fraction of the old regime's greatness. Any deal with Putin will backfire, at least in Europe.

Le Pen's nationalism is also short-minded. The European Union is desperately undemocratic, but if Europe wants to play on the world stage, they will need greater unification, not less.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
It's a Monday. My website www.privatemarsrocket.net WAS up over the weekend, but Hostgator seems to have broken it again. Yippee Kay Ay, and time to move. I hear GoDaddy does a better job.

In other news, I went to Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Friday to watch Love's Labor's Lost. In this version, the creative staff went out of their way to highlight how immature men can be versus women. Since the play was written 400+ years ago, I guess things never change.

I also attended the 50th birthday party for one of my high school classmates. She has a large group of friends, most of which aren't known to me, so I ended up hanging with another classmate and her husband. It was a good time.

In political news, I watched 60 Minutes and noticed how Mariane Le Pen is another fan of Russia. I have thoughts about this (not all bad, mind you) which I shall expound upon anon.

Protests

Feb. 16th, 2017 11:32 am
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
So I remember all the way back to 2009 and the Tea Party movement. They held all sorts of protests, none of which convinced me of anything other then that the movement was seriously clueless. Remembering that, I am reflexively leery of anti-Trump protests. On the other hand, the lack of clues I see is in Trump, not (generally) the protesters.

I think the lesson from the Tea Party is that protest needs to convert to candidates and votes. If that happens, good, if not, they are sound and fury signifying nothing.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Because they go bad:

1) Some historical perspective on our current run of peace in Europe: And yet, when the U.S. was debating entrance into World War I, one state representative rose in his legislature and gave an impassioned speech that, “I was old enough to fight for this Union at 15, and I am young enough to fight again.”

2) Here's an idea - beer caused civilization. I think I'll have a drink.

3) Food for thought: This dog has a guaranteed basic income, and look how eager he is to teach a yoga class anyway.

4) Want to “Take the Oil”? Crunch the Numbers First. Money quote: "In an absolute best-case scenario, where the costs of occupation are minimal and the revenues produced from Iraqi oil exports are maximized, we might break even. In any other, more realistic scenario, the United States loses money."

5) Falklands and Second World War veteran John Vickerson dies, aged 95.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Update

I now have a fully-operational Death Star garage door opener. Go me! (No traps, I promise.)

Links

A) Evangelical Experts Oppose Trump’s Plan to Ban Refugees.

B) Paranoia is not just for poor people any more: Doomsday prepping for the super rich.

C) Peter Nowak: Why you will enjoy the open road more in self-driving cars.

Thought

I wouldn't swear these numbers are 100% accurate, but they are in the ballpark.
You know what...
Take my $1.37... I want my PBS.
Take my $.46... I am all for federal funding of art programs.
Take my $.46... I love my museums, colleges, and libraries.
Take my $.11... I support developing minority businesses.
Take my $.66... I am for entrepreneurship and innovation.
Take my $1.60... I want us to export more goods overseas.
Take my $0.43... I would like to see more American manufacturing.
Take my $0.88... I think community policing needs vast improvement.
Take my $1.48... I support programs for women.
Take my $1.55... I believe in due process for all.
Take my $0.48... We need a civil rights division in the justice department.
Take my $0.38... I think we need to defend our Mother Earth.
Take my $0.03... I know more work needs to be done for climate change.
Take my $8.95... because we need more sustainable energy.
Take my $2.71... we should reduce our carbon footprint.
If saving these programs means I'm out $22.36 a year, I'm good with contributing my $.07 a day to save these federal programs.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Because it has been on my mind, herewith are some thoughts on the election. I intend to go from facts to theories about the facts to recommendations.

Facts

Looking at the voting data, it appears that Clinton lost the election because in many states, rural areas that had voted Republican in 2008 and 2012 60/40 went Republican in 2016 70/30 or 80/20. What did not happen was:

1) minority turnout being significantly repressed. Minorities came out in typical numbers.
2) New voters were not generated. Voter registration was not radically higher nationwide. Where it was higher was in a few states like Texas and that helped Democrats.

This is borderline between a fact and a theory, but it sure looks like about 20% of the rural (white, working-class) electorate, after voting twice for a black man, voted against a white woman.

Theories

There are undoubtedly various sexist and racist people out there who refused to vote for Clinton. However, it appears that they didn't vote for Obama. It also appears that there is a significant bloc of voters that are persuadable. It's my contention that's the group to focus on. Call them the "Obama 20%."

More Theories and Recommendations

Based as somebody who grew up in a small town, with a grandfather and two uncles who were coal miners, I have a theory as to why the Obama 20% went Trump. It's two-pronged.

First is economics. Again from experience, in a small town, when the factory closes, the impact is worse than a tornado. At least after a tornado, the National Guard is sent to clean up. I think I have a better chance of building a starship than Trump has of fixing the small-town job problem, but I know Clinton's plan of educating workers won't fly. When small-town voters hear "educating workers" they think of me - somebody who got a college degree and moved the hell out of Dodge. That might be what has to happen, but it means even more hollowed-out towns.

Second is foreign policy. Clinton called for a no-fly zone in Syria. As somebody who spent five years in the Navy to get out of a small town, small towns have borne a disproportionate share of America's recent wars. Clinton's foreign policy of injecting ourselves into another war did not sell well. Here Obama's (and Trump's) idea of staying out of Syria sold much better.

Recommendations

On economics, free trade is dead. The sooner everybody buries it the better. I do think coal is not coming back, but we need to talk about softening that blow. On foreign policy, a little less war would be nice.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Servers

I note that LiveJournal's servers (and thus the host for this) have moved to Mother Russia. I see several people migrating off as a result. When I get a Roun Toit, I'll probably set up my Wordpress site and use this as a mirror. I find that I'm in no rush to accomplish that.

Travel

I attended the inaugural Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat (on a boat). This year's edition involves a cruise in the Baltics, which is by far the easiest way to see St. Petersburg Russia. It is also shockingly handy to Worldcon 75 in Finland and my dad's family Old Soil, Lithuania.

Over the past few days, I've booked the Writer's Workshop cruise, the hotel in Helsinki and flights to Hamburg for cruise and from Helsinki to Chicago. It hurt me right in the wallet but I booked business class for both flights. Yeah, it's three times the money but damn do economy seats hurt my ass for 7 to 9 hours. I have never been able to sleep on a plane, so this is an experiment.

I've set up travel insurance, so I can recover what I can't cancel if I have to. I've not yet booked the Hamburg to Lithuania leg. I'm having problems finding a flight that doesn't dump me in Lithuania at midnight or later. This is in part due to me not getting off of the ship until after 10 AM.

Due to Lithuania being on Russian-gauge rail, trains are a problem. I looked into driving, but it's 844 miles or 13 hours to drive. Also, German car rental places won't let me drive their car into Poland or Lithuania, so that means renting a car in Poland plus cross-border fees.

I'm going to double-check Air Baltic, but it looks like the most viable alternative is to walk on a ferry in Kiel (cruise ship port) and walk off in Lithuania. I'm also reading that due to the rail network in country, renting a car is preferred.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Elkhart Indiana, a city economically saved by Obama, doesn't like him. The majority of voters think their sub-4% unemployment rate is despite Obama, not because of him.

Now, it's damn tempting to say "racist" and move on. We can't and shouldn't. We (liberals, progressives, whatever label you want) can't write off Elkhart. We can, however, keep hitting them with the facts, and we can and should work to make the race as close as possible. A 40/60 vote in Elkhart means Dems can win in Indiana. A 20/80 vote means they can't.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Article in reference

chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Have a couple of links:

1) My book The Mars Run is getting some press.

2) An evacuated island - The story of St. Kildas

3) The minimum wage is not just for kids:

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