Category Archive: General Curmudgeonry

Never forget.


Why I like Donald Trump

This is kind of a difficult post to write, because I can recall a time when I was ardently in the NeverTrumper camp.  That ended after Cruz bailed out, but I’ve written about that before.  And my liking for Trump has grown and faded ever since.  But there are some fundamentals that speak to why I support him.

The thing I like about Trump is that he doesn’t pretend to be something he isn’t. He is no great exemplar of moral rectitude and doesn’t pretend to be. He’s a sinner like the rest of us.  He makes no bones about the fact that he’s been bankrupt in the past. He doesn’t apologize for past mistakes because when he can, he makes them right.

He seems honestly to want things to be better for everyone in America, and I’m willing to believe that he thinks a strong and secure America means a stronger and more secure world at large.  A rich America means a richer world.  A free America means a freer world.  He would not come out, as Reagan did, and call America a shining city on a hill, but he doesn’t have Reagan’s sense of poetry.  That said, he knows that American greatness doesn’t mean that America wants to run the world, but rather, wants to be the example for the rest of the world to follow.

More to the point, he doesn’t tend to bullshit. Yeah, every time he tweets, the world cringes. Even the WSJ has a fit because he has no filter for his tweets. But while I still cringe from time to time, I’ve learned that the tweets have a purpose — they almost always contain a kernel of truth that the opposition misses when they go off on him. Leading to the ability of people on the right to respond, “Well, actshually…..”  Which freaks the opposition out even more.

Even his threats of tariffs are just tools in his toolbox.  He threatens 25% tariffs on certain Chinese imports one minute, then the next minute he says he’s delaying some of those tariffs because he doesn’t want to see prices go up on items Americans will want to purchase for Christmas.  But the threat of the tariff being imposed remains.  And the Chinese economy gets a fresh infusion of FUD.  Make no mistake, this is not Trump being capricious — this is Trump being a businessman who understands the art of negotiation, and moreover the use of the iron fist hidden by the velvet glove.  He can hurt the Chinese a lot more than the Chinese can hurt us — and he already has.  Foreign companies are beginning to move production away from China.  Some of that production is merely moving to countries in Southeast Asia, but some of it is moving back to the United States.  China can massage its GDP numbers as much as it wants (and play games with its currency as well), but the numbers they have been reporting for years are impossibly high, and now they are dropping, if not like a rock, then significantly more than the Party is comfortable with.

Worse for China, production is leaving not only due to the tariff threat, but also because of ongoing intellectual property theft (to complaints of which the Chinese government barely pays lip service), shoddy workmanship if the foreign company doesn’t literally stand over its Chinese partner doing its own QC, rising prices as Chinese workers demand more compensation, and so forth.  A lot of companies have clearly had disengagement with China on the back burner for a while, because it’s not just something they’re talking about, it’s something that is really happening.  Hasbro has been moving production out of China to Vietnam.  Home Depot has reported that a lot of their products are no longer being made in China.  In 2013 the NYT ran an article about textile manufacturing returning to South Carolina:

Bayard Winthrop, the founder of the sweatshirt and clothing company American Giant, was at the mill one morning earlier this year to meet with his Parkdale sales representative. Just last year, Mr. Winthrop was buying fabric from a factory in India. Now, he says, it is cheaper to shop in the United States. Mr. Winthrop uses Parkdale yarn from one of its 25 American factories, and has that yarn spun into fabric about four miles from Parkdale’s Gaffney plant, at Carolina Cotton Works.

Mr. Winthrop says American manufacturing has several advantages over outsourcing. Transportation costs are a fraction of what they are overseas. Turnaround time is quicker. Most striking, labor costs — the reason all these companies fled in the first place — aren’t that much higher than overseas because the factories that survived the outsourcing wave have largely turned to automation and are employing far fewer workers.

And while Mr. Winthrop did not run into such problems, monitoring worker safety in places like Bangladesh, where hundreds of textile workers have died in recent years in fires and other disasters, has become a huge challenge. “When I framed the business, I wasn’t saying, ‘From the cotton in the ground to the finished product, this is going to be all American-made,’ ” he said. “It wasn’t some patriotic quest.”

Instead, he said, the road to Gaffney was all about protecting his bottom line.

That simple, if counterintuitive, example is changing both Gaffney and the American textile and apparel industries.

These companies are not alone, and the writing has indeed been on the wall for a while.

Of course not all of this is due directly to Donald Trump and his tariffs (and his general attitude about China — refreshing to see a president actually go to bat for American business vs. a Communist regime), because the relationship between China and Western manufacturers has been abusive for quite some time, but a lot of it happening right now probably is connected to Trump.  Corporations can see the writing on the wall, and they don’t like uncertainty.  So they’re taking the leap, and other countries in SE Asia who are afraid of China’s 500-pound gorilla in the South China Sea are benefiting from that.  And since it is expensive to move production around like that, China can pretty much kiss all that business goodbye forever.  So far, advantage Trump and advantage America.

Trump also has a great handle on Kim Jong Un, not to mention Vladimir Putin, and if he really does start talks with Iran over a rewritten nuclear “deal”, you can undoubtedly rest assured that it will be a Trump-style “deal” and not an Obama disaster.

The only thing Trump hasn’t done that I wish he had, was he should have popped Emmanuel Macron right in the fucking kisser for being an asshole at the G7 this week.  If he had, I’d have been all like

So anyway.  That’s why I like Donald Trump.

God help me.

“But bus ridership will catch on, we swear it will!”

Albuquerque is not the only place sooper-dooper bus systems are having issues. You’d think in LA, the bus would be a great way to avoid traffic. Not so much.

As Bus Ridership Plummets in Los Angeles, Efforts to Boost It Hit Speed Bumps

Arianna Williams spends 90 minutes each way riding the bus about 10 miles to her job in a hair salon.

The commute is particularly frustrating when she considers about how long it would take by car: about half an hour.

“It’s crazy, the number of times I’ve been on the bus and thought, ‘I could’ve been there three times by now,'” the 36-year-old said while inching along Wilshire Boulevard, one of Los Angeles’s largest thoroughfares, on a recent morning.

Bus ridership in America’s second-largest city is plummeting as more commuters, fed up with journeys that can be painfully slow due to frequent stops and indirect routes, use growing incomes from the healthy economy to buy a car. The switch saves them time but worsens the overall traffic that buses are caught in, making buses even less appealing to the remaining riders.

And don’t try to tell me that the Red Line is a direct route from the north side to downtown and won’t be affected this way. That’s BS of the highest order being flogged by IndyGo; buses will end up being stuck in traffic no matter what you do, and stealing lanes from automobile traffic for fancy stations isn’t going to solve any actual traffic problem.

Shoot, I lived in a town that had (at the time) a reasonably-working subway system that wasn’t affected by surface traffic, and my trip to work, which took half an hour in a car on the DC Beltway even when it was being repaved, took at least an hour on the DC Metro with a train change at Metro Center. Yes, I had to go all the way downtown from the northern Maryland suburbs to go all the way back out to the eastern Maryland suburbs. Needless to say, I rarely if ever took the Metro to work.

What this is really about, though, is not simply increasing ridership, but forcing the public to change its behavior against its will.

“It’s too easy to drive in this city,” said Phil Washington, the chief executive of LA Metro. “We want to reach the riders that left and get to the new ones as well. And part of that has to do with actually making driving harder.”


Those types of changes would require a shift in many Angelenos’ attitudes toward the road, which Mr. Washington said city leaders need to try to make happen.

“Sometimes you have to tell people what’s good for them,” he said.

With all due respect, Mr. Washington, you are an un-elected, rent-seeking fascist who badly needs to be run out of town on a rail.

(I’m not logged in and I could read the entire article, but if you get stuck at the paywall and have a chance to grab a WSJ on dead tree, it’s on page A3 of yesterday’s (Monday’s) edition.)

Look, I’m no Luddite, but…

Indeed I stand about as far from Luddism as one can do, but there are some aspects of “progress” that aren’t so much “progress” as “pains in the ass”.

This morning, I started looking for an electronic in-wall timer switch to replace the wind-up variety that’s currently running our front hall bathroom fan.  The old one (a 15-minute timer) is getting stuck at 4 minutes almost every time it gets used, suggesting that the spring is wearing out.  Of course there is no way to fix the old one short of replacing it, like any other electrical device you might find in a box in your walls.  So I thought, rather than putting in another spring-loaded one, I’d look to see if I could get one that works like the electronic dimmers and fan controls we have in other rooms, where you turn it on, choose a light level or fan speed that you prefer, and then ever afterward (unless you explicitly make a change) that’s where the light or fan comes on when you click the button.

I found such an animal for bathroom fans:  The Lutron MA-T51, a 60-minute timer with settings of 5-10-15-30-45-60 minutes.  A bit spendy but I expected that.  I have a few of their dimmers and fan controls already, they’re pretty good stuff.  So far, so good.

Now, in our house, we have mostly “ivory” colored switches and receptacles.  We have a few white ones in a couple of areas that were redecorated recently with dark panels and white-painted trim, but the house was built with ivory devices and that’s what we’ve generally replaced broken or worn-out ones with over the years.

It turns out that “ivory” isn’t cool anymore, even though when you walk into Home Depot or Lowe’s or just about any big-box hardware, your default choices tend to be ivory, white, and black.  No, the MA-T51 timer switch, same as the rest of Lutron’s Maestro line, is available in something like 25 different colors, for all y’all who are sensitive to minor interruptions in your taupe or plum or “greenbriar” or “palladium” living room color scheme.  And ivory is NOT the default, although it does appear to be one of the less-expensive variants.

Oh, did I mention?  The fancy colors are more expensive.  And certainly that forces the price of the “standard” color variants up, because instead of just manufacturing three colors and keeping the price point low, suddenly you’re manufacturing 25 colors and economies of scale get defenestrated.  And the “cheap” ivory or white or black model that most people are going to buy ends up carrying some of the load for the special color models that almost certainly lose money.

I will be the last person to say that rich fuckers who can afford over-priced interior decorators can’t have color-coordinated switches and receptacles and dimmers and timers.  But when I want a no-nonsense standard color device that I think in fairness ought to cost about $20, and I have to pay $34 for it because the company that makes it has decided to kowtow to a custom market that frankly barely exists outside of a certain cohort, that pisses me off.

And on top of that, do the local big box hardware stores carry this simple item, even in standard colors?  Fuck no.  “Ship to store”.  Because hardware stores don’t actually carry anything you really want in stock anymore.  They can’t afford to.  They stick this sort of thing in a big regional warehouse somewhere (with Home Depot it appears to be in Ohio, based on the one and only “ship to store” order I’ve placed with them) and then they take a week to 10 days to get it to you.  I’m sure this is in an attempt to compete with Amazon while still maintaining big local stores for “basic” items.*

The problem is, I can get the MA-T51-IV timer switch I want TOMORROW from Amazon if I order within the next hour.  Home Depot says it will take five to six days, so effectively, next week rather than soon enough that I can install it this weekend.  And I have to go to the store to pick it up ($34 doesn’t reach the $45 threshold for free delivery to my home, and I don’t need anything else from HD today.)

The price points being equal, which am I going to do?  Well, duh.

This does not seem to me to be how brick-and-mortar competes with Amazon.  And it’s annoying that every.fucking.time I look something up on Home Depot’s or Lowe’s’ websites, I get told “not in store, can ship to store or deliver to home”.  My needs are not that esoteric.  But the dirty little secret is that big box hardware stores have turned into glorified appliance and decorating stores.  Walk into one and look at how much space is devoted to kitchen and bathroom remodeling, not to mention floor tile and custom blinds and custom doors and windows you can order.  Consider how much actual hardware they could display in those spaces.  And then understand that the dirty little secret is, these stores can’t afford to keep merchandise that doesn’t move on the shelves.  We live in an era of “just in time” logistics.  It is no longer the era of the corner hardware store that had everything, and crammed it all into a double-wide strip center storefront, where you could walk in and find that left-handed whatzit you need (probably blowing the dust off of it when you found it, and finding a price tag from the 1960’s).  Or even the era of the corner hardware store that had everything and crammed it all into an even bigger space (ah, how I miss you, True Value Hardware at 86th and Ditch).

In those days, if you wanted a kitchen appliance, or custom blinds or cabinets, they’d tell you to go to someplace that sold those things.  But you knew that anyway, because places like HH Gregg and Sears and JC Penney still existed.  (Well, Penneys still exists, but who knows for how much longer, and I don’t think they sell appliances anymore.)

Today all that has shifted to “one stop shopping” as has so much else in our lives; and if we need something that is even slightly out of the ordinary, sorry, we don’t have it, but we can get it for you.

I remain unconvinced that we are better off for it.

LATER:  As it turns out, fuck ’em all.  I found the spare Intermatic mechanical timer I bought when the plastic knob on the one in the master bath broke and I couldn’t find a replacement part.  I knew it was around here somewhere but it got buried in my office.


* Wal-Mart, for what it’s worth, does the same thing with a variety of items, including grocery.  We prefer the Peter Pan brand of peanut butter, specifically the 1/3 less sugar “whipped” variety.  They used to carry it on the shelf, the only grocery in our area that did, and then one day, boom, it was off the shelf and in the warehouse.  So we order it six jars at a time now, for pickup at our local Wal-Mart, and it takes a week to get there.  As long as we keep track of our stock and order when we have a couple of jars left, we’re fine.  But I question whether this is truly good customer service.  (On the other hand, it’s Wal-Mart.)


She would have been 63 years old today.  And undoubtedly still beautiful.

For a change, her birthday fell on the weekend, so I was able to go visit her grave and leave a rock.  My very understanding wife went with me and did the same.

And then we had Shapiro’s for lunch.

Miss you, lady.  Miss you lots.

It’s not a gun-control debate.

I have to say that I’m really tired of the reaction to these mass shootings being framed as a gun control debate. For instance, today’s WSJ dead-tree headline, “Trump Visits Grieving Cities As Gun-Control Debate Boils.”

It’s not a gun control debate, damn it, it’s a mental health debate.  And it’s high time we recognized that.

Murder is already illegal, and has been in Western society for millennia. There are a billion (pardon my hyperbole) gun control laws already on the books. The problem is that laws are made for the law-abiding; someone who’s decided that the answer is to shoot up crowds of people doesn’t care about your gun control or homicide laws. For them, such laws are no deterrent, because they don’t think far enough ahead to the punishment for what they’re going to do. (They may indeed not care because they are really looking for suicide by cop.)

So far as I recall, every mass shooter in recent history has had mental issues that were well-known to those around them before they went root-toot-toot. The Parkland massacre (just to pick one) was the result of multiple failures of law enforcement (and, frankly, of the educational establishment) to prevent that kid from getting his hands on a gun and shooting up that school. They all knew he was a loose cannon, they just felt constrained by some idiotic set of rules and guidelines from doing anything proactively to stop him.

The real problem is that we don’t institutionalize the obviously mentally-ill in our society anymore. I blame Ronald Reagan for that, incidentally. We have a homeless crisis because the federal government in the 1980’s suddenly decided it was too expensive to pay for non-violent mental cases to be institutionalized. So what happened? They all got turned out into the streets, and states started taking a harder look at what it took to get someone put away for mental issues, even if they could be deemed a danger to themselves and others, because all of a sudden that was coming out of the states’ pockets.

You can (and by “you”, I mean, “Democrats”) sidetrack the discussion into gun control all you want, but let’s look at the facts:

  • Every one of these mass shooters broke the law before they ever pulled the trigger. Even the guy in California who bought his gun legally in Nevada when he was a resident there (he brought a gun into California that was illegal to possess in California).
  • Every one of these mass shooters was known to someone as being “off,” but nobody ever did anything about it, or if they tried, they were told there was really nothing that could be done. Go all the way back to Columbine and that’s the truth.  These people don’t come out from under rocks, they do not appear ex nihilo, they are known to other people around them who are already aware that there’s just something not right about them.
  • There’s considerable evidence that the massive publicity afforded mass shooters after the fact encourages other potential mass shooters who are looking for their 15 minutes of fame. For years, experts have been saying the media needs to stop giving these mental cases any sort of publicity — don’t run pictures or video of them, don’t identify them by name, focus on the victims and not the perpetrator, let the perpetrator rot without any sort of recognition at all. But the media won’t listen, because they know if it bleeds, it leads.

But as long as we allow the left-wing media and the Democrats to frame this as a gun-control debate, we’re not going to fix any of that. And the blood-letting will continue, unabated, regardless of whether or not you violate my 2nd Amendment rights more than you already are.  The shooters don’t give a damn about your gun control laws, and they just keep proving it. Meantime, you keep trying to limit my ability to shoot back and defend myself. And that’s not right.

There is no point in having law if we let the lawless reign.

For years now, people on the Right have been pummeled incessantly by the Left for daring to speak their minds, or even (heaven forfend) getting elected to high office under the United States.

You know what I mean.  Hollywood celebrities fantasizing about the gory and horrific death of the President, or of senators or congresscritters.  Antifa and its ilk threatening honest citizens who happen to have opinions that run counter to theirs (funny, I thought Antifa were supposed to be the ANTI-fascists).  The current left-wing hatred for ICE and its agents, specifically the shit that went down in Portland where the Antifaggots surrounded the local ICE office and the police (backed by the mayor) wouldn’t lift a finger to help.

And it’s not just the Trump administration that’s the target.  It’s just the current target.  The same sort of things went on during the Bush 43 years.  But it wasn’t as wound up back then, more subtle, but just as evil and nasty under the subtlety.

In many cases, what these people are doing is violating the law.

Cowardly Antifa wears masks, which often runs afoul of state and local anti-mask laws that have survived since the heyday of the KKK.  Such laws don’t exist everywhere, but more and more localities are considering adopting them.  Antifa stages marches that turn into armed riots, which are definitely illegal no matter where you live.

Actors like Kathy Griffin (who is probably just the most extreme of the bunch) give interviews and create videos in which the painful death of Donald Trump is clearly promoted.  (Shit, an entire movie was made back in the early aughts about the assassination of George W. Bush.)  While it may not necessarily be against the law to express such thoughts, when you are a public person with an audience who may take your suggestions as a call to action, that should warrant at the very least a visit by the Secret Service and a clear warning to stop behavior that could be viewed as incitement to assassinate the President.  (And if repeated, at the very least a federal grand jury ought to be impaneled and hand down indictments for conspiracy to assassinate the President.  While we don’t do lèse-majesté in this country, we do frown upon and take threats to our President seriously — or at least, we used to.)

Even Congrescritters and Senators lie about things they allege Donald Trump has said, and call him a racist for saying them, even when it turns out Donald Trump said nothing of the sort.  But everyone is a racist these days who doesn’t toe the Communist, er, Democratic Party line, right?

And when pressed, all of these people without exception resort to the free speech argument; “I can say what I want and you can’t stop me from doing so.  It’s just my opinion.”  Of course, purely political speech is not to be infringed in this country because we have, per the First Amendment, freedom of speech.  But the Left believes that it can stretch the definition of political free speech to suit itself, and then in turn deny the same right to its opponents on the Right.  And frankly, until the advent of Donald Trump, they’ve pretty much gotten away with it.

This needs to stop.

I don’t care about what anyone says about Donald Trump’s policies.  If you oppose him, you oppose him.  If you support him, you support him.  You do need to have the intellectual honesty to not lie about what he says or does, and that goes for both his detractors and his supporters.  But that’s all political speech and it’s protected; I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

When you go out and you make what could easily be considered threats to the life and welfare of the President and his family, you’ve crossed a line.  Your speech (or expression) is no longer protected, and you cannot claim freedom of speech as an excuse for such behavior.  Trying to skate past outrage by claiming carrying around a fake and bloody Donald Trump head after decapitating him is simply an expression of your feelings about Donald Trump and not any sort of intent to actually do that specific deed is not just intellectually dishonest, it’s stupid, it’s incitement to violence on the part of your fans, and you damn well know it is.

If I went running around on Monument Circle carrying a bloody decapitated Donald Trump head, I’d be arrested and probably sent for a mental health evaluation.  I don’t see why the same didn’t happen to Kathy Griffin.  Is she a citizen, like me, or is she some sort of elite who is above the law?  She’d better not be the latter, because that way lies revolution.

The best part of the Donald Trump presidency so far is what happened to the Inauguration Day rioters in DC.  None of those young jerks believed they’d be arrested, or if they were, they figured it would be a minor infraction, spend the night in jail, pay a fine, and go home.  Nope.  Federal District, federal felonies.  These grown children were crying in court.  Good.  Even though very few of them were actually convicted of felonies, just the scare it put into the rest was worth it.

The same thing needs to happen to Antifa rioters.  Civil rights violations by Antifaggots need to be prosecuted.  Holding ICE personnel captive in their offices and (separately) threatening to kill ICE agents who are just doing their jobs are civil rights violations.  Doxxing and rioting in front of politicians’ homes (as has lately been done to folks like Mitch McConnell) is a civil rights violation (not to mention trespassing and any other civil or criminal charges an inventive prosecutor might come up with).  Civil rights violations are federal crimes and grand juries ought to be considering indictments for all who would inflict them.

This also goes for the idiots who block interstate highways or otherwise cause violence to the innocent for no other reason than they thirst for power and intend to get it by any means necessary.  “Run them down,” said a famous blogger, and he was right; that’s exactly what drivers should do in cases like that.  It’s self-defense against those who would violate your civil right to travel peaceably about the country (regardless of your destination).

The bottom line is that bad behavior ought to be punished.  By not punishing it, these events continue to happen, and they escalate every time.

The question at this point should be, “If not now, when?”

We cannot continue as a democratic republic if this behavior continues to be condoned, or at the very least ignored.  Sooner or later, if something is not done about it, the silent majority is going to have had enough, and will finally stand up to be counted.

And that will be a very, very bloody day, I fear.

It may be a small world, but it’s still too huge to keep track of.

A friend shared this article on Facebook:

Now, admittedly, if you go to the article, that’s not the actual headline.  And that question is not actually answered, because the article is really a history of Pol Pot and what led up to and then transpired during the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia in the late 1970’s.  But it is an important question, because frankly, if you were to ask someone (like a millennial*) today who Hitler or Stalin were, you’d probably be able to get a reasonable answer on Hitler (“he killed the Jews in Germany”) and you might find a few who could tell you that Stalin was the great leader of the Soviet Union who killed millions of people in famines and wars and stuff yet is still loved and revered by the people he led** (and is not, in fact, your neighbor’s German Shepherd police dog).

But if you ask “Who was Pol Pot?”, my guess is that most people today, including a lot of people who were alive at the time, would give you the old puzzled look.

So why isn’t Pol Pot as reviled as Hitler or Stalin, as the teaser headline trenchantly asks, while the article it links to fails of that promise to tell us?

I think because at the time, the US had pretty much washed its hands of Southeast Asia. Nobody talked about it and nobody taught the history of the region, which was small and way off in the middle of nowhere in a place where we’d only recently been shown the door and Americans were to all intents and purposes persona non grata. And even once the whole Cambodian Genocide was over, again, nobody in the West other than hippies and commies (who blamed the whole thing on Americans, who of course had walked away before it even started) wanted to be bothered with it, or reminded again of American failures in Southeast Asia — particularly Vietnam, but sure, Cambodia, too.

But it’s hard to rouse the same amount of interest in bad stuff happening to people in parts of the world to which we have little or no personal connection.  The Shoah speaks to Jews and Christians alike, because it was Westerners going insane and killing other Westerners for no more reason than the religion they professed. We keep the memory alive because many of us lost family and friends in the camps, or lost family and friends fighting the war that put an end to the camps.  There is a very personal connection involved (at least for those Americans who don’t stupidly believe that the Shoah was a hoax).  So it gets remembered and talked about and is a part of our history.***

Yet the same kind of thing is happening today in Myanmar (the so-called Rohingya genocide; so-called because it’s questionable if it’s a true genocide or just a really nasty refugee crisis). For that matter, see what the Chinese are doing to the Muslim Uighur populations in Xinjiang Province. You read articles about these things from time to time (particularly if you read conservative or libertarian media and blogs), but like Vietnam and Cambodia, it’s so far outside of our daily grind that it doesn’t really impinge on our consciousness. We know it’s happening, we’ve just got too much on our plates that’s more immediate than whatever is happening over on the other side of the world.  So it hovers, if at all, at the back of our minds until the next article appears, raging at the unfairness of it all.  We read it, go “tsk tsk” about the horrors of the non-Western world, and we move on to the baseball scores.

In my opinion****, Pol Pot in his way certainly was as bad as Hitler or Stalin or Mao (and why doesn’t that headline mention Mao, who was probably the champion of genocide in the 20th Century — 15 to 55 million dead in the Great Leap Forward). The problem is, Pol Pot’s genocide was small potatoes (between 1.7-1.9 million killed) in a place nobody in the West gave a damn about. So unless you are an historian specializing in recent SE Asian history, it just doesn’t tend to come up.

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  But like I said in my headline, the world is a big fucking place and it’s damn hard to keep track of what 7 billion human beings are doing.  So I think we can be forgiven if we have generally forgotten about people like Pol Pot.

* I know I beat up on millennials a lot around here, but the fact is that they were the first generation to be truly and fully engulfed by the Gramscian Damage, and thus if they were taught any history at all, it was likely heavy on the Bad Things done by the Evil Americans and silent on the Bad Things that were done by the Commies in Southeast Asia, back in the ’70s.  This is really not their fault, but ferchrissake, you kids could pick up a book now and then instead of hanging out on social media all fucking day.

** Jeebus, talk about Stockholm Syndrome, the entire fucking Soviet Union and the Russian Federation that followed it had it bad for Stalin.  It’s no wonder they keep electing Putin.

*** My fellow Jews won’t like to hear this, but my guess is that the Shoah will be barely remembered in another 3-5 generations, other than as the reason for commemorating Yom Ha-Shoah and mentioning the 6 million martyrs during the Yiskor service on Yom Kippur.  The survivors’ generation will be gone (they are nearly all gone now) and the succeeding generations (like mine) who knew the survivors first-hand will be gone or nearly gone.  Face it, who remembers the details of the pogroms, or of the loss of the two Temples?  The former is dry history relegated to books and is rarely evoked unless you specialize in Russian or Eastern European history, the latter is legend in the Bible (First Temple) and stories in Roman and Christian chronicles (Second Temple).  None of it gets much play in a standard Western Civ. textbook or course.  As time goes by and memories fade, the Shoah, too, will be relegated to history, no matter how hard we try.

**** It’s an informed opinion; I remember the Vietnam era quite well (for someone who was in grade and middle school at the time, I happened to take an interest and the newspapers were loaded with stories about it), and I remember the Cambodian Genocide being reported when I was in high school, and after.  Then I went to college, where my area of historical specialization was — other than American Diplomatic and Military History — the History of East and Southeast Asia,

You know nothing, Facebook commenter

People who know nothing yet pontificating wisely, Part who the hell knows what.

The news article is from the San Francisco Chronicle, for what it’s worth.

So let’s get right into this comment, shall we?

“I also like the concept of having a regulated utility provide most of my fuel requirements rather than having to use commodity-priced fuel.”

So in other words, you are in favor of price controls.  Price controls don’t work.  I remember price controls from the Nixon Administration, when freezing gas prices (particularly after the Arab oil embargo) and other commodity prices simply worked to ensure that there were shortages.

Not so fast, you say; there are lots of government-imposed price controls on things today that don’t result in shortages.  How about milk, for instance?

Yeah, milk is cheap on the grocery store shelf, a lot cheaper than it should be, because a) the government provides dairy farmers with price supports that come out of our pockets through taxes, and b) dairy farmers still aren’t making enough even with the price supports, so they produce a fuckton more milk than we need (even for export) and the government obligingly pays (again out of our pockets) to make it into cheese and other dairy products than can be stored long-term, and then pays (again out of our pockets) to maintain huge refrigerated warehouses in which to store said long-term storage items.  Tell me again how milk is a bargain.

Generally, if you notice that something is cheap and its price is government-controlled, there is a taxpayer-funded price support going to the pockets of the producers.  This is not the case with electricity or gasoline.

And by the way, electricity is as much a commodity as anything else that’s sold.  For every megawatthour of electricity purchased off the national or regional grid (which is important for a state like California that does not produce enough electricity to cover its total demand), there are normal rates and peak rates.  When electricity demand is high and power from the external grid is scarce, it’s sold at a premium to utilities like PG&E.  You may think you have a fixed rate for electricity, leading you to believe that it is not commodity-priced, but believe me, the rate you pay takes those peak “wholesale” rates into account.  If it didn’t, PG&E would be in even more trouble than they’re already in.

Also, I think people who are not savvy about such things actually believe that as long as your lights are on, there’s always more electricity where that came from.  To me, that’s like believing that as long as you have checks in your checkbook, you’ve got money in the bank.  Unfortunately, neither electricity or bank accounts work that way.

In California’s case, where the state government loves electricity but hates traditional electricity producers, moving to more electric cars that require charging points (or apparently in the commenter’s case, buying a hybrid that he’d prefer to charge in his garage at night rather than run the motor to charge the battery, because for some reason he thinks the former would be cheaper) just means users will be making increasing demands on the grid.  And the decrepit California grid is already straining to meet demand.

Here’s another story from the 1970’s that may shed light (as it were) on what happens when utilities suddenly have to meet increased demand.  Before the 1970’s most middle-class homes did not have air conditioning.  (I realize that may come as a shock to millennials.)  Suddenly, in the very late 1960’s and early 1970’s, everyone and their brother was getting central air installed.*

And equally suddenly, neighborhoods started experiencing brownouts at peak air conditioning times, for instance, when people got home in the afternoon and turned the air either on or down.  Look, before the 1960’s, most middle-class homes had 60 amp service.**  And generally, the local power company sized its neighborhood power build-outs to handle x number of homes at no more than 60 amps each.  A small central air conditioner (2-1/2 to 3 tons, say, serving a home between 1,200 and 1,500 square feet) used to require a 240V branch circuit of 30 amps.  (They’re more efficient now, but this was then.)  And they used most of that 30 amps when they started up, then throttled back to maybe 15-20 running amps.

Now factor in house lighting, your electric range, electric water heater, and electric dryer.  (We had gas for the last three, but work with me; a lot of the homes in this subdivision had electric cooktops and electric ovens.  Dad insisted on gas.)

All of a sudden, your central-air-conditioned neighborhood is pulling a lot more power than it used to.  And that’s going to drop the line voltage (which is what causes brownouts), and on a really hot day when the air conditioning units are running full blast, you may even end up dropping out the circuit breakers down the street where your neighborhood service enters.  That means a power company truck roll to reset the breakers (they’re manual) and a lot of frantic engineering down at the power company to figure out how they can supply enough power to your neighborhood to prevent that in the future.

So back to California.  Let’s add a Level-2 charger to your garage for your Ford Fusion Energi.  Surprise!  According to this website, you need a 50 amp, 240 volt circuit to supply enough power to your new charger to charge your car.  And that circuit is going to run at 80% capacity, so you’ve just added 40 amps of load to your home electrical service.  For those playing along at home, that’s 9.6 kilowatts.  So how many homes are in your neighborhood?  If they all install a Level 2 charger, that’s nearly 10KW per house, and I will just about guarantee that your electric utility is going to have a conniption when everyone comes home and plugs in their cars.***

And you’re going to do that, because as previously noted, the electric utility is regulated and the state tells them how much they can charge you for a kilowatt hour of electricity.  So your cost is, again as previously noted, fixed, whereas the cost to the electric utility just went up because of upgrades and the fact that electric power is in fact a commodity that is purchased from the excess produced by other utilities on the grid.  But in California, you hate the kind of power plants that can actually produce, day after day, the kind of high power you need to maintain a high-technology civilization.  So because your solar plants and wind plants don’t produce enough consistent power to feed that civilization’s hungry maw, even though you still have a few coal and oil plants, and a couple of nukes, and a bunch of hydroelectric dams, you still have to buy a lot of power from out of state.  And that power often is sold to you at peak rates — because it’s a commodity, and a lot of times it’s less plentiful than at other times, so the price fluctuates.

So I think we’ve established that the Facebook commenter, above, hasn’t got a clue that his “regulated” electric power is actually a commodity for which he pays full price, whether he knows it or not.

Let’s turn now to his other blithe off-the-cuff question:

“I’d like to see what kind of motor carriers have this kind of efficiency.”

Proving, again, that he is clueless.  Motor carriers run diesel (mostly), as do locomotives.  They do so at reasonable efficiency for what they are, despite all the emission controls they’re forced to run that decrease horsepower.  But their actually mile-per-gallon efficiency is not nearly as important as what it actually costs to transport x tons of freight hundreds or thousands of miles.  I’ve seen articles (which I am not going to bother to go find, try Google) suggesting that a hundred-car rail consist with four locomotives pulling it is more efficient in terms of ton-miles per gallon of fuel than a corresponding number of trucks running the same amount of freight.  But even if that’s true, a big over-the-road truck pulling a tandem-axle trailer that can carry a maximum of 34,000 pounds (17 tons) is going to be far more efficient than a hybrid automobile that is not going to get anywhere near 40mpg if you load it down.  (And let’s see you put more than a couple of hundred pounds of stuff in a small hybrid.  Not going to happen.)  At that point, you’re arguing apples and oranges, and the comment doesn’t even make sense after you think about it for a few seconds.

Yeah, it would be great it a diesel semi-tractor could get 40MPG on diesel while pulling 17 tons of freight.  Shipping costs would plummet.  My friend who works at Cummins would be thrilled.  But that’s just not going to happen.  Diesel semi-tractors average between 4-8 MPG.  But that doesn’t matter when you’re pulling 17 tons to the MAYBE 1/10 ton you can jam into the back seat and trunk of your hybrid car.  Your hybrid may indeed average 5 to 10 times the MPG of a semi-tractor, but the semi-tractor can pull ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY TIMES as much stuff as your hybrid.  I’ll leave the ton/mile/gallon math as an exercise for the reader, but even without the math, it’s pretty clear that for its intended purpose, a semi-tractor is a buttload more efficient than a hybrid automobile.

So, Facebook commenter, your arguments are both invalid.  Try doing some basic research before you say stupid shit in the future.

As if that will happen.

* I can vouch personally for this because my father was in the business back then, and I was old enough to be a sort of apprentice.

** Again, you can trust me on that, in my lifetime I’ve upgraded more 60 amp services to 100 or 200 amps than I care to think about in my old age.

*** As a comparison, a well-insulated house in north-central Indiana requires about 45 BTUh per square foot.  A well-insulated 1500-square foot house thus requires about 67,500 BTUh for normal heating.  To get 68,000 BTUh requires 20KW of electric heat.  So your Level 2 charger requires enough electricity to heat an 800 square foot home (think “two-bedroom apartment”) for 4 to 5 hours.  In fairness, furnaces don’t run 24/7 unless it’s REALLY cold, but generally estimators assume they’ll run about half the time in the winter.  Consider, then, that your Level 2 charger will require enough electricity to heat a typical two-bedroom apartment on a mild winter day.  Is this still efficient?  And if your electricity is generated by coal, oil, or natural gas, is it still clean and green like you want to think it is?

An interesting spin

As most folks are probably aware, the Christian Colorado baker who’s so far 2-0 in court (1 outright win, 1 settlement that was effectively a win) has been sued YET AGAIN by the same fucking plaintiff, who apparently can’t get enough of that sweet sweet court action — even though plaintiff effectively lost twice already.*

For a lot of people, it’s difficult to decide where to come down on this case.  Either it’s a religious freedom issue, or it’s a public accommodation issue.  Either you have the right of your religious convictions to not create art for people who go against your religious convictions, or simply by being in business serving the public, you are bound to create art for anyone who asks you to (and is willing to pay for it), regardless of how it might violate your religious convictions.

I just saw a comment on Facebook that might put the whole thing into perspective:

There’s a big difference between baking bread to FEED people, a common need, and making cult-items for cult-worship, which is extraordinarily specific. Each community has to provide those items for its own members.

In essence, nobody “needs” a wedding cake; and if they want a particular kind of wedding cake that is not the sort of thing someone outside of their community is likely to agree to make, they are expected to find someone in their own community who will, rather than trying to force someone not of their community to do so.

The two communities in question are the Christian community, and the gay community.

And we’re all aware that Masterpiece Cakeshop was targeted specifically to spark the legal battle that ensued.  The plaintiffs can’t lie about that; there were plenty of other cake shops, the owner offered to sell them a non-customized cake, and they weren’t having any of it.  This is weaponized lawfare, pure and simple.

But it violates the dictum that nobody should be forced to do something against their will simply because they happen to operate a business that makes the sort of thing that someone else wants to pervert for “reasons”.

I mean, let’s say I have an old Ford Model A and I want my mechanic to make a rat-rod out of it.  But my mechanic doesn’t believe in making rat-rods, and in fact feels very strongly that my Model A ought to be restored.  Can I sue him for refusing to do what I want to pay him to do?  Sure, if I want to be laughed out of court and find a new mechanic.**

No, I would be expected in that case to seek out a mechanic who specialized in, or at least did rat-rod conversions.  Thus fulfilling the commenter’s dictum that cult-items for cult-worship should be provided by the cult’s community.

Conversely, if plaintiff had approached Masterpiece Cakeshop and simply purchased a ready-made cake, the owner would not have been put in the position of having to provide a custom cult-item for plaintiff’s cult-activity.

This seems fair to me.  Every rule can be taken too far, and the folks who argue that this is a public accommodation case are simply wrong.  “The public” does not typically walk into a Christian-owned wedding cake shop and order a cake for a gay wedding.

And let’s pose another proposition:  What if plaintiff had walked into a Muslim-owned bakery and asked for such a cake?  (Yes, that proposition has been posed before.)  Does anyone in the “public accommodation” arena actually believe a discrimination suit would have been filed against the baker?  (Does anyone actually think plaintiff was deranged enough to ASK a Muslim-owned bakery for such a thing?)

What this was and continues to be about is the attempted destruction of the majority Christian society in this country and its adherents who still believe certain things are immoral and will not participate in the doing of them.

Those people have rights, too.  And those rights are being trampled on in the name of inclusiveness and diversity, both of which ought to be considered obscenities rather than virtues.  It needs to stop, and I have a feeling one of these days it’s going to stop — violently.

Citizens, be vigilant.


* See how I did that without pronouns?

** For the record, I don’t own a Model A, and I think rat-rods are ridiculous.

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