Friday, January 20, 2017

A Few Thoughts on Today's Inauguration


I mourn.

I mourn that what was once unacceptable
Now holds the highest office in our land.

I mourn.

I mourn an American course opposed to
Rational thought
Science
Truth
Justice
Human kindness

I mourn.

I mourn for elections so broken
That we voted for one thing
And got the opposite.

I mourn.

I mourn for the loss of good things
For new good things that will never be.

I mourn.

I mourn for all the people
Whose lives will be diminished
Or lost
When empty rhetoric
Takes the place of informed policy.

I mourn.

I mourn for air.
I mourn for water.
I mourn for earth.
I mourn for our globe.

I mourn.

I mourn for all of us:
Those who voted for this
Those who voted against this
Those who didn't bother to vote
Those too young to vote.

I mourn.

I mourn, but I will fight.
I will put my shoulder to the wheel.
I will join with my fellow Americans.
I will find my place.
I will find my voice.
I will keep trying to make
My home
My community
My country
A better place for all of us.

But today,

I mourn.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Keeping my social media sanity over the next four years...

I've started to make a bit of progress on the "making my life more manageable" pledge from my last post (Kvetching and resolutions.) Here are a couple of the first decisions and steps.

I intend to treat the Republican Congress and Donald Trump with every bit of the respect that they've shown for Barack Obama over the last eight years. So ... that probably means I'm going to say some pretty ugly things about them on a regular basis. But I'm going to try to keep partisan politics -- especially Trump bashing -- off my Facebook page and over on Twitter where it belongs. Longer thoughts will mostly go into this blog, and I will continue to link to it from FB when I post something I think people may want to read.

There are a few reasons for this:

1) I have yet to see anybody's mind changed by anything partisan on FB.
2) Mostly all I want out of FB is little updates from friends and family about their day-to-day life. I kind of assume that's what most of my FB amigos want from me, too.
3) I've often described Twitter as a place for awful people saying awful things. That makes it an excellent place for me to finally say awful things back to some of them.
    3A) In particular, look for me to tag things with #ThisIsALie whenever I happen to come across something from Trump that is egregiously untrue. It's shouting into the wind, but at least the shouting will help to keep my sanity while a compulsive liar is our president.
4) Twitter is Trump's preferred communication channel. That probably makes it the best place to communicate my opinion of what he tweets, says, and does.
5) Genuine politics are complicated. Every now and then I'm going to want to make a complex case and point. This blog is my platform for writing longer things. I originally thought I'd keep it relatively politics-free, but there's no reasonable way for me to do that when I have complex political things to say and this is my place to say complex things.

If you do want to follow me over on Twitter, my handle is @Patioboater. My feed there used to mostly consist of me making the occasional comment, but mostly retweeting cool sunsets, astronomy info and photos, random items that amused me -- especially from Drunk Hulk, Drunk Miggy, and Conan the Salaryman -- plus links to new posts on this blog. That stuff will still be there, but it's likely to be accompanied by a lot of reposted Trump bashing as well as a good deal more direct Trump bashing from me. You've been warned.

This also means that I'm likely to ask my FB algorithm to hide most of the partisan repostings that fill my feed, and this includes crap from both parties. My Democratic amigos whose posts mostly consist of reposting aggravating partisan stuff are going to be hidden, too. I'm not likely to unfriend anybody, but some of the things I see posted there on a regular basis make me think genuinely less of people that I otherwise like. I don't want to think less of any of you because you're addicted to thoughtless reposting on Facebook. And I don't want to have to spend every day fact-checking your feeds because crap that you've reposted. It's a waste of my time and a pointless aggravation, since you couldn't be bothered to fact-check things yourself.

As a particular point, most of my FB friends who are politicians who use FB to say political things aren't likely to get hidden. Why? Because they're saying these things for themselves. It's the endless reposting of crap that I can't take any more.

If I do see something genuinely errant, I may point it out or link somebody to Snopes, probably just before asking FB to hide more crap like that from me. But I just can't spend all my time and energy every day trying to refute everything in the crapfest.

Related item: it's time for another round of "unsubscribe" in my email. Mostly this'll be for a list of vendors that I like who insist on emailing me on a daily basis. But it'll likely also include a lot of political causes and organizations that I like. Y'all need to stop asking me for money all day every day.

That's it for now. More to come, I'm sure. It's a start towards making my life more manageable, but just a start.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Kvetching and resolutions

I am bone tired. It all probably just adds up to "middle age" but I need to find a way to live my life at a sustainable pace in 2017.

This was the Facebook status I posted Saturday morning: "I don't want to say it was a long, full week, but when I finally got home last night I was too tired to drink beer. #TheHorror"

Really, I was too tired to sit on my couch and drink beer on a Friday night.

If it was just one long week during the run up holidays that would be fine, but this has been a long time coming. I bore you with the kvetching details, gentle reader, but I've essentially been working what used to be 2-1/2 jobs at work for four years now. I like my job, but there's too much of it. I've also served as Village President (essentially the mayor) of our village for ten years. Plus, I served as treasurer on a state representative campaign this year.

It adds up.

I'm worn out. And as a result, I'm not doing a particularly good job of the things I should be doing. So it takes me longer to do them, so I get more worn out.

Rinse. Repeat.

I no longer seem to have long blocks of time for coherent thought. My daily existence is broken into a never-ending series of meetings crammed around dozens and dozens of emails. Worse yet I sometimes find myself multitasking during many of those meetings because I am awash in unread email and behind schedule on eight-thousand other fronts. Then I come home and impose multitasking on myself as I peruse the web while half-watching sporting events or routine TV shows. I have the attention span of a ... well, I was going to say "a five-year-old child," but frankly most five-year-olds can focus better than I can these days.

I need to re-establish my ability to focus and to sustain coherent thought for long periods of time. That used to be my thing, damn it.

I haven't been taking good care of myself. Not nearly enough exercise. Too much food. And then I get tired or stressed and overeat even more. It used to be that even when I overate I usually ate pretty decent food, but there's been an awful lot of junk going into me lately.

I have become a compendium of poor health habits. My doctor is not amused by the recent trend in my overall health the last few years. His advice to me at my physical this month went something like this, "Stop letting your job make you crazy and don't work yourself into an early grave."

Junk food into my belly, junk thought into my brain. I need to read more print and do less surfing of FB and Twitter. And good print. Books.

I can't maintain for the next four years the pace and intensity of my fury that Donald Trump was elected president. It's the most inconceivably awful decision democracy has made in my recollection or study of American history. I like to think that I stand for rational, reasonable, fact-based policy and decision-making in government with an emphasis on fairness to everybody and long-term solutions for problems. "Dull, efficient government," is my motto. Trumpism is pretty much the opposite, headed up by a sociopathic compulsive liar.

Just typing that last paragraph raised my blood pressure by 20 points. I need to find some way to not let the next four years drive me mad.

Because it could. It really could. We're six weeks past the election and I still find myself in a white-hot fury about it at some point every day. Unfortunately, I have enough empathy and imagination to see that the next four years are likely to be very bad for a lot of people who already have it pretty bad. The results of the next four years have a very good chance to be catastrophic for some parts of the world.

I don't know how to turn myself off from that knowledge. Empathy and imagination is what makes me tick. I don't know how to not care. I don't know how to pretend I don't see what I'm watching right now. I don't think I'm going to be able to ignore it or compartmentalize national politics for the next four years.

But there's also not much I can do about it, either. I can do my best to get my village ready to ride it out, I suppose. And when I do my job well I make it easier for people to find good, reliable information and I make it easier for people to learn. All of which makes it even more infuriating that so many people have chosen to wallow in crappy, inaccurate information and flat-out lies. I guess I can take a bit of solace in knowing that I'm on the right side of the information war that is being fought. It doesn't seem like enough, though.

I don't think there's anything truly wrong with me that six months on a quiet tropical beach wouldn't fix. (Well, maybe four years on that beach for the Trump thing....) But that ain't happening.

So, most of all I need to figure out how to get myself to a reasonable, sustainable, healthy pace and place in 2017. I'm not there right now. And I'm not sure what the path is to that place. But I need to find it.

I think I can.

I think I can.

I think I can.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Official Republican Party Platform Regarding Russian Foreign Intervention, 1945-Now, a Postwar Timeline

May 8, 1945 - VE Day

May 9, 1945 - We must use every tool at our disposal to contain Soviet foreign aggression.

October 6, 1976 - Gerald Ford: "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe."

October 7, 1976 - Gerald Ford: "I misspoke during the debate. What I meant to say was, 'We must use every tool at our disposal to contain Soviet foreign aggression."

June 12, 1987 - Ronald Reagan: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

November 9, 1989 - Berlin Wall torn down.

Nov. 10, 1989 through Nov. 8, 2016 - We must use every tool at our disposal to contain Russian foreign aggression.

Nov. 9, 2016 - Official start of the Trump Doctrine: "Kiss kiss, smooch smooch. Oh, Pooty-Poot, I get so tingly and giddy when you cybertouch my electoral process. Do it again!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Bonus Clinton Campaign Post-Mortem: the Politico article and the lack of a ground game

There was a really interesting article in Politico today:

How Clinton lost Michigan — and blew the election: Across battlegrounds, Democrats blame HQ’s stubborn commitment to a one-size-fits-all strategy.

After reading it I sent it along to a few friends who I thought would be interested. That email turned into a bit of a rant. Normally I wouldn't just post up an email rant here, but I thought it made a bit of a useful companion piece to my earlier Clinton campaign post-mortem. (Clinton 2016: A Fundamentally Flawed Campaign)

One thing is becoming clear as we enter the Trumpocalypse. I may need to change my online handle from the relaxed Patioboater to Ranty McRantface.

---------------------

Subject: Back to everybody's favorite topic: Clinton was a terrible campaigner....
Time: 11:24 am EST

Also on the bloviation front, there was a good article in Politico today on the Clinton campaign's much vaunted ground game, which turned out to be a lack of a genuine ground game, especially in Michigan:


This article matches up well with a lot of little things that I saw during the campaign. I had my hands full being treasurer of a state rep campaign, so this is the first year I wasn't really all that involved in the canvassing side of things.

The Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012 had prominent campaign office locations in strip malls. Those offices were fully staffed, bustling with volunteers, and the place to go for lawn signs, campaign lit, etc. I am an elected official, a Democratic precinct delegate, was treasurer of a Democratic state rep campaign, and have often served as a board member of our local and county Democratic Party organizations. But I literally had to do ten minutes of research to find the nearby Clinton campaign office, which was unmarked and located in an office complex. 

After the "grab 'em" video emerged my wife and mother-in-law very much wanted to put out lawn signs to counter the ocean of Trump signs in our neighborhood. So I said sure, no problem. But when I stopped by the Clinton office to get a lawn sign they would only give me one, and said the signs were being reserved for Clinton campaign volunteers. I had to come back again on another day to get somebody else to hand over another one. Hell, I probably would've ponied up five bucks for a sign, but it was one-per-person, no exceptions.

In 2008 and 2012 the coordinated campaign worked through the Obama campaign pretty much all year. Most of the coordinated canvassing we did on the state rep campaign this year was coordinated with our Congressional candidate because there wasn't a visible, organized Clinton door-to-door effort. 

I had the sense that something was amiss as we went down the stretch, but I dismissed it quite a bit based on the fact that I wasn't on the doors this time around -- I was doing the treasurer gig -- and that our area is very much a sweet spot for Trump. But things were indeed amiss. I had assumed that my sense that I felt that I wasn't seeing the Clinton ground game in Michigan was because I wasn't involved in that part of the campaign. But ... turns out that I wasn't seeing it BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T PLAN TO HAVE A GROUND GAME IN MICHIGAN!

Hindsight is always 20-20, and losing campaigns have a hundred fingers to point. But not planning to engage in retail politics in the state that is literally at the core of your electoral college plan is simply dumb campaigning. Michigan was never further than two or three states away from the "tipping point" of the Electoral College in 538.com's analysis all year long. And they took it for granted.

They got their asses handed to them in Michigan in February by Bernie despite what their big data was telling them, then they turned around and relied on their big data over retail data for the big show in November. They literally weren't entering their door-to-door responses back into their campaign and canvassing database. It's unfathomably stupid. 

I love data-driven campaigning more than most. But the absolute best possible use of data is to put people on the doors that matter. Clinton got her ass handed to her by Obama in 2008 because she didn't understand that. She nearly lost the 2016 primary to an elderly socialist Jew from Vermont because she didn't understand that. And now she has plunged us into what are likely to be four extremely dark years in our history because she didn't understand that.

This isn't complicated stuff. This is basic campaigning. These are training wheel decisions. You win elections by showing up and asking people for their vote.

How do you lose to the worst candidate in United States history? By running one of the worst campaigns in United States history.

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

Ugh.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Electors in the Electoral College Should Do Their Duty as Americans

If the Electoral College is going to subvert the choice of the majority of voters, its Electors might as well do their duty while they're at it. They probably won't do it, since Electors are generally chosen on the basis of proven party loyalty. But the members of the Electoral College should take a close look at what Donald Trump has done and said both prior to and following the election. And if they are not satisfied that he should be president, they should should their duty as Americans and not vote for him.

Given Trump's repeated defense of Russian government hacking on behalf of his campaign, the allegations that he owes tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to Russian oligarchs, and his oft-stated intentions to continue to remain in close control of his business interests while benefiting from his position as President, there are plenty of legal grounds for Electors to reject Trump as President under the Constitution's emoluments clause:

Article I, Section 9, Clause 8:

No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.

The notion that the Electoral College should perform its actual constitutional function -- electing a person fit to be President of the United States -- is probably a shock to a lot of folks. But this is already getting serious consideration from some of the Electors themselves. One Republican Elector -- Christopher Suprun from Texas -- has already declared his intention to not vote for Trump: Why I Will Not Cast My Electoral Vote for Donald Trump. (New York Times, Dec. 5, 2016.)

A group of 10 Electors have called for an intelligence briefing of Electors on the topic of Trump's ties to Russia before the Electoral College convenes, so that they can better assess his fitness for office: Electors demand intelligence briefing before Electoral College vote. (Politico, Dec. 12, 2016.)

The Electoral College's constitutional duty is clear, as outlined by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Paper No. 68 (Avalon Project, Yale University):


Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one querter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? 

...

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.


To sum up, the Electoral College was designed specifically to prevent a corrupt demagogue beholden to a foreign power from becoming president. This is its exact purpose.

If the Electoral College fails to elect a president by a majority, the election gets thrown to the US House of Representatives. The likely outcome there would be to ultimately install Mike Pence as President. If that happens I will undoubtedly hate every policy choice Pence makes.

But at least he's not a corrupt Russian stooge.

I consider the Electoral College to be a generally bad idea that should be replaced by a direct vote of the people. But if it manages to prevent Donald Trump from becoming our president I'll have to take back every bad thing I've ever said about it.

As I said at the top, I doubt it'll happen because the partisan backlash for Electors who don't vote for Trump would be severe if they don't manage to prevent Trump's election. And for some of them there would be legal consequences for failing to vote for Trump, even if the Republican Party kept the White House. But the constitutional and legal grounds for refusing to vote Trump are also clearly present.

If Republican Electors value their patriotism before their party, they will demand that intelligence briefing. And then they will vote their conscience.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

New Truck!

It finally happened. Just 16-1/2 years after I bought my old Dodge Dakota I stopped squandering the New Truck Fund on British sports cars and finally bought another pickup truck. Say hello to my new winter driver!



For those of you who care about the details, it's a Gem Green 2016 Ford F150 Lariat Supercrew with the 2.7L V6 turbocharged EcoBoost engine. My rationale is that it has four-wheel drive, remote start, and heated seats, my original criteria for my next winter driver.  But the truth is that it's really a luxury truck: double-paneled moonroof, heated and cooled leather seats, navigation system, SYNC3 entertainment and phone system, blind-spot information system, back-up camera with traffic and proximity alerts, trailer tow package, off-road upgrades, and a bunch of stuff that I'm probably forgetting. (For example: folding side mirrors, electric sliding rear window, side spotlights, LED lights in the bed, electronic locking differential, automated trailer backup system...)

Oh, and the greatest feature of all time: a fold-out tailgate step so that I don't have to crawl into the back whenever I want something in the bed.




The notion that I just bought a luxury pickup truck still seems ridiculous to me. So how did I get here?

Let's start with the old truck, our much beloved though elderly 2000 Dodge Dakota, nicknamed "Sprout." (When I bought it Monique said it was so big that it was like the Jolly Green Giant but I pointed out that it was only a mid-size truck, much more like the Jolly Green Giant's little buddy Sprout.)


Sprout was the first new vehicle I ever bought and the successor to my much beloved Mighty Plymouth Acclaim. I loved the general usefulness of having a pickup truck with four-wheel drive and I particularly liked a lot about the Dodge Dakota. It was a convenient size, it drove really well on the highway, it towed everything I'd need to tow, and it was great in the snow. On the other hand, even in its younger days it was prone to needing more expensive repairs than I liked. By the year 2014 rust had set in everywhere, and its thirst for frequent repairs had grown. So I built up the ol' New Truck Fund with the intention of replacing Sprout with a new SUV or a crew cab pickup ... something that would be good in the snow and that would also give us a bit more passenger room for the big road trip out to Wyoming that we had planned for that summer with a couple of my nephews.

And then I went and spent the New Truck Fund on this:


The astute reader will notice that this is not a truck.

No regrets. This is in fact our ridiculous 1999 Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas about which I have rattled on at length many times before. (In the post The New Road Trip Vehicle, for example.) I loooooove this car and we had a great time on that road trip, even though there wasn't really enough room for four people and all their camping gear. There were, however, fancy-shmancy walnut tea tables, so who cares, right?


Alas, blowing the New Truck Fund on a ridiculous Jaguar just because it drove like supercharged butter meant that poor old Sprout had to soldier on for a couple more winters.

Unfortunately, it turned out that the Jaguar was a more expensive purchase than I had realized at the time because it introduced me to the notion of heated seats. Sometimes I like to think that I'm a tough, grizzled old bird. But the first time I sat my butt on a heated seat on a sub-freezing morning the truth was finally out. I am old and soft. And my butt was done sitting on frozen seats. The next winter driver was going to have heated seats. And while I was at it, I was tired of going out every morning to start up the truck far enough in advance for the ice to melt off the windows. Heated seats would have to be joined by remote start.

Fast-forward to 2016. Sprout had indeed made it through two more winters, though repairs had continued to grow in frequency. By this summer repair costs were starting to add up to a pretty good chunk of a truck payment. The time had come. So, I set forth with my criteria:

--Four-wheel drive
--Heated seats
--Remote start

Fast-forward a bit more through a big pile of research that would bore you all. I looked at a ton of options, including just finding a slightly newer Dodge Dakota -- one with heated seats! -- since I liked my old one so much. But the time for a new truck had come.

Then in September my Dad blew up the transmission in his old pickup. (This is its own long story that I'm not going to tell here, but he needed another truck.)  And, since he was passing through town I handed off Sprout to him. My old truck lives on in the Adirondacks.

Ultimately, after all my research and waffling among the options I mostly just wanted another green pickup truck to replace my old green pickup truck. I like green pickup trucks. And while I was at it, I managed to rationalize myself into an awful lot of nice bells and whistles on the grounds that heated seats and remote start were most efficiently purchased when bundled with several other desirable options in the Lariat package.

In defense of my ludicrous decision to purchase a luxury pickup truck, there were much more expensive models with even more bells and whistles. I don't even have a heated steering wheel or adaptive cruise control. Sacrifices were made! But, yeah, I admit it. There is no defense for buying a pickup truck with heated and cooled leather seats. What can I say? I refer you to the part above where I point out that I'm old and soft.

Say hello to the new pickup truck:


It's name? Well, since we replaced a mid-size green pickup nicknamed Sprout, this is its bigger buddy, Jolly.

What do I think about it now that I've owned it for a couple of months? It's niiiiiiiiice. I'm really, really happy with my new truck. (Just ask Monique if it's easy to pry me away from it.)