Thursday, November 5, 2020

Some Post Election Thoughts

 What a strange night we had this week. As has been my custom of late, I sat out the evening's fireworks, laying my head down to sleep at about 2000 hrs after reading some colonial American history by the fire. I intended to sleep through until four or five, but at one AM, I woke and saw that the Kitten was there next to me. This meant one of two things: that Biden had won Florida and it was all over, or that something had gone wrong. I decided to wake to see which it was.

Had I checked my text messages before turning on the television, I would have had my answer, as the Kitten had written me an abrupt missive critical of my usual enthusiasm and telling me that I was "wrong again".  That I had only a few hours earlier told her that the most likely outcome was a very close election with no declared winner by morning, but Biden being on a path to victory that would be in the can within ten days--did not seem to matter because I had said that the second most likely outcome was a Biden runaway. 

I sat down and for 2.5 hours, took in all the information that was available to me, including the execrable spectacle of the President claiming victory like a banana republic caudillo, only to have his VP speak of the results as a sane individual only feet away. Around 0330, I had all the information I needed. Given where things were and what was left, Biden would have at least 270 and I can go back to sleep. As I write this, the same conditions apply, and I believe it to be only a matter of time before this thing is in the history books, save for whatever boorish behavior history's least gracious President decides upon during his last weeks of freedom before being indicted by the New York Attorney General. But, I digress.

The only way that I could have been more wrong about this election would be if Trump had won. My skills as a prognosticator continue to underwhelm, but more importantly, my understanding of the country I live in and its voters revealed itself to once again be unequal to the task. To wit: I was metaphysically certain that Donald Trump's share of the vote would decline in virtually every state. I mean, We've had four years of the shitshow, there was no "lesser of two evils" thing anymore. We had evidence that he was bad at his job , we had hundreds of thousands of dead Americans, we had daily reminders of what a terrible person we had elected. OF COURSE he would lose share.

But that didn't happen. In fact, quite the opposite. I did some random sampling this morning of state results (as of now) vs 2016, and in virtually every single one, Trump's share of the vote increased. Even in states that flipped or seem to have flipped. This may entirely be a factor of less convincing third party candidates this year, but that would just be something I told myself to comfort my tender ego. The bottom line is that as big of a dumpster fire that this administration was, MORE AMERICANS THOUGHT IT WAS WORTH KEEPING THAN VOTED FOR IT IN THE FIRST PLACE. I could not have been more wrong, and my error leads me to think very differently about the future.

Now--am I over-reacting? After all, all summer long I told my woke older daughter that the rioting is going to hurt Biden, that apolitical people think that the Democratic Party supports not only the just causes behind the peaceful protests, but also the chaos and violence that seemed conveniently to accompany them. Should I have listened more closely to my 85 year old mother who really despises Trump, but who saw Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as Trojan Horses for socialism, family destruction, and chaos? Did I have an inkling that this was coming, that there would be no Blue Wave and that half the country is scared shitless about what the left might do when it has power? I did--but I ignored it.

I ignored it because I thought there was no way the pollsters could get 2020 as wrong as they got 2016. And at this writing, it looks like that may have done just that. We heard so much about "shy Trump" voters this cycle, but I think it is worse than shyness. I think there was yet another spasm of the aggrieved collective unconscious that ties Trump Nation together--and that there was simply a good deal of lying to pollsters. That's right. When you support a man who has zero regard for anything even approaching institutions or norms, you have no problem adopting his well outlined penchant for lying and manipulation. There's nothing wrong with the pollsters--there is something wrong with the polity. Shyness wasn't the issue. Dishonesty was. 

So what now? Darling of Republican nationalism Missouri Senator Josh Hawley tipped his hand yesterday with this tweet: and not far behind, never late to jump on a trendy train Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted this

So if the two darlings of the new right are to be believed, the GOP is going to become a working class party, presumably without the baggage of all the identity politics and unions (good) but also without the emphasis on capital, management, business, and growth (bad). What it looks to me like is that the GOP will try to turn itself into the 1950's Democratic Party, with updated features to include more diversity and presumably, policies devoted to the working class, however that might be defined.

I wish them luck. But this will be a permanent minority party, in no small measure because in order to cater to their new electoral targets, they will have to increasingly demonize wealth and capital, something Republicans have always pointed to as a sin of the Democratic Party. I suppose now everything old is new again. 

So where is a deeply conservative, pro-business, pro-trade, pro-success, pro-growth, pro-American Exceptionalism voter to go?

I suppose it will be right where I've been since 2016, party-less but unbowed in devotion to a set of ideas for governing a large, free people. 

It will be interesting to see how all this plays out. But then again, I'm so bad at predicting things that this may all be BS.  We'll see. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

Concerning Forgiveness

 Addicted as I am to both binge-watching and foreign language programming, I have been slowly making my way through a Danish production called "Herrens Veje" or "Ride Upon the Storm". This is essentially a family drama in which the father is the latest of a centuries long dynasty of ministers in the Danish Church. He is a very, very flawed man, a husband and father to two grown sons, one of whom has followed him into the ministry, the other having dropped out of seminary before ordination. The relationship between the father and sons is fraught, and both sons deal with it in their own ways.

The one who dropped out of seminary eventually finds himself in Nepal, and he is taken in by a group of Buddhist monks after falling from a steep trail upon which he was traveling. In the course of his time, he is befriended by one of the monks who serves to help him confront the anger he carries, most of which is aimed at his father. The monk is particularly wise, and I suspect the dialogue is influenced by real Buddhist teaching, but having no background therein, I cannot be sure. 

The monk at one point talks with the recovering man, and talks about anger and forgiveness. While I have always understood the essential message he conveys, it is one I have been unable consistently to practice. He tells the man to let go of the anger. That the only person he is punishing by holding onto it, is himself. That only he is carrying the burden of his anger. He should learn to forgive his father, to let go of the anger.

Cut to this morning. On many quiet pre-sunrise days, when I arrive on station at my computer to begin my labors, I start by calling up an app on my phone called "Calm". It is a wonderful resource, with relaxing music, stories to put you to sleep, and the thing I use it for the most, which is "The Daily Calm", a ten-minute guided meditation conducted by one of the stars of this realm, Tamara Leavitt. Since I am very unlikely both by demeanor and activity level to be in this Zen state again during the day, I tend to value this ten minutes of reflection to start things out. Today's meditation was on "Forgiveness", and the message conveyed was pretty much the same as what the Buddhist monk passed along during my binge-watching.

This concept of forgiveness, at least this Buddhist conception of it, is something I've been wrestling with. You see, I carry a lot of anger around with me, anger created and sustained by the Trump presidency. And I'm having a really hard time "letting go" of the anger, and I think it is because of my understanding (or perhaps misunderstanding) of forgiveness in the Christian sense of the word. Now I am not a fundamentalist, or even a very serious Christian. I am however, shaped by the Catholic Church, its teachings, and my own sense of connection to that which there is no greater than. 

I am angry with a lot of people. Some of them know it. Some of them don't. Most don't care, far as I can tell. But I'm angry with them nevertheless. I am angry at them for supporting the President and embracing his divisive, lawless, uncivil, unconstitutional, embarrassing, and dangerous approach to his awesome responsibilities. I am angry at them for appearing to have an ideological base and then exchanging it for power, fame, or something as prosaic as the belittling of those on "the other side". I am angry with them for not maintaining the level of moral and ethical standards and basic humanity that is the baseline for my friendship. Many of the people with whom I am angry were beside me in the GOP foxhole for years. Many were close friends. And then there are the family members. 

The Daily Calm and my TV Buddhist monk would tell me, let go of the anger. Forgive. You (me) are the only one suffering with this burden, so let go of it. 

I see people on social media writing about how they don't let politics get in the way of their friendships/relationships. I'm sure they believe this. I suspect they are also virtue signaling, as most of the time they are very much fans of the President and are potentially rationalizing their choices.

But here is my problem with all of this. Where is the atonement? If I am to forgive, for some odd reason, I have this sense that there should be atonement. I have the strange idea that the ledger should balance. Given that the likelihood of these people ever seeking forgiveness or atoning for their behavior approaches zero (more likely they will double down even as the consequences mount), this (perhaps misinformed) application of Christian forgiveness fates me to the burden of this anger. 

It is obvious that the burden of carrying this anger is entirely my choice. Or at least that part of my conscious being over which I exercise dominion. But deep down, I am having trouble taking the (eminently wise, kind, and clearly therapeutic) Buddhist approach. 

I guess we'll see how it turns out. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Some Things I'm Not Sure About

I spend a lot of time in this space pontificating on all manner of subjects with a sense of metaphysical certainty. For instance, I know that Donald Trump is a fool. And I know that many of his followers are dark, troubled people with as well-honed sense of privation. 

But there are a lot of REALLY IMPORTANT things about which I am unsure, and about which I occasionally cluck with disapproval when I read someone opining about them with great assurance, knowing full well they are less informed. What are some of these things?

Should Schools Open in the Fall?

I really don't know. Part of me says yes. School age people appear not only more resistant to the ravages of COVID, they recover more quickly. I know, I know--we are treated to stories all the time about how the young REALLY ARE AT RISK, but the numbers don't back that up (in a sane world of how risk is assessed). Additionally, some of the more well-publicized instances seem to be feature pretty obvious co-morbidity situations

But young people aren't the only people in schools, and while they don't suffer at the same rates, I'm unsure about how efficient they are as carriers and spreaders. And there are a LOT of people at schools all the way through college, who are NOT as chronologically privileged as the students they teach. 

Then there are the parents at home. Some are really concerned about their children's health, and some are really concerned about the economic well-being of the family the child is being raised in. These are cosmically huge problems, and likely seem not to lend themselves to "one size fits all solutions". 

Bottom line? I don't know what the right answer is.

The Deployment of Federal Law Enforcement to Protect Federal Property

I'm torn on this one.

On the one hand, I am pretty much a law and order guy. When I see thugs destroying property not their own--public or private--I am moved to discomfort. Chaos and lawlessness are not good things.

So when I see the pictures from (name the place) showing largely white, male, agents of chaos (as opposed to what some would have us believe, aggrieved victims of oppression) destroying federal property, I expect an effort be made by law enforcement to 1) stop the destruction and 2) hold those responsible--you know--responsible. 

I would prefer that law enforcement in these situations come from local authorities. I understand that sometimes, local authorities are overwhelmed and State power is brought in. I am wary of federal law enforcement being employed, but my wariness is somewhat relieved when it is requested by local and State authority.

It appears that a good bit of the federal response to these situations lately has not been requested. Not good. There are reports that local and state law enforcement have not assiduously provided protection to federal property. This too is not good. 

Bottom line? I don't know what the right answer is.

Climate Change

I wish I were as smart as my 21 year old daughter on the subject of climate change, or at least as certain about my opinions. But I'm not. I'm all over the map, and I'm amazed at how many people aren't.

I think the climate is changing. But then, it always is. I think humans are contributing. I think humans can do a lot more to contribute less. 

I think many climate change advocates are attempting to rework economies and capitalism, and that climate change is as much a religion as Catholicism. I think the market, free enterprise, and corporations have a role to play in addressing climate change. 

I think that many climate change advocates overstate both the speed at which deleterious changes are happening (and consequently, the speed at which humans need to react), and the degree. I think there are a lot of people who are whistling past the graveyard by considering this all a hoax. 

I think there are pro-growth strategies that can address human behavior. I think there are flat out Marxian proposals that utterly misunderstand human nature.

Bottom line? I don't know what the answer is.

What are some things you don't know the answer to, but which people around you seem absolutely certain?

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

So, I've Dropped a Little Weight. Here's How.

Somewhere around the middle of April, a few weeks into the COVID lockdown and after a gluttonous period of comfort eating, I participated in a family Zoom meeting in which we wished Catherine's nephew a happy birthday. I sat in from of the computer in her office transfixed by the person looking back at me, a cartoon character like moon face playing along with the frivolity while I considered how bloated I was.

I think the eating spree was born of a sense of uncertainty about COVID--that there was no way the lockdown was going to last very long, so I might as well make hay while the sun shines and eat things I love that aren't that good for me. I was exercising each day, but pretty much lying to myself on that front too.  More on that in a second.

As the lockdown continued and so did my expansion, I think I realized that we were in this for a long haul, and that I needed to get my act in gear. So, on April 19, I weighed in at 198.7 pounds, tied with a late autumn 2014 measurement of the same magnitude. I keep a spreadsheet with weight measurements from much of the last 20 years, but this photo from my phone tells the story. 

In it, you can see the earliest entries from late October 2014. At the time, I was anticipating an early 2015 (second) hip replacement operation, I had ceased exercising due to the discomfort, and I ate myself through the holidays. Shortly after Christmas 2014 and in conjunction with the year of my 50th Birthday, I settled on a plan in which I was shooting for "150's by 50"-- that is, by June 27, 2015, I would once again be 159.9 lbs or less. I worked hard, cataloged some of it here in this blog, and was successful in reaching my goal.

Weight loss is a funny subject, as losing it is sometimes the easy part, with keeping it off more difficult. That said, I spent the vast majority of the next three years between 155 and 175, not great, but not horrible either. Then from the fall of 2018 through April of 2020, it was a steady climb back to all time rotundity.

Obviously, the question worth all of our consideration is whether five years from now, I will have another graph that shows yet another five year climb and attempted decline. I hope not. So, in response to absolutely no one's request, here's how I have lost 30 lbs during the COVID outbreak, with no real sense of what the eventual goal is. 

Take the Long View. I don't think any diet goal horizon worth pursuing is less than six months. I said to myself, "I am going to do this and stay with it through mid-September and see where it leads." By keeping my eyes on the far horizon, I am less tempted to fixate on predictable, constant, setbacks that happen along the way. 

Weigh Myself Every Day. This may seem counter-intuitive based on what I just wrote, and it is the source of considerable angst due to fluctuations, but it is another part of the discipline that I have to impose on myself to make this work. Yes, I have had NUMEROUS two or three day periods in the last 90 days in which my weight actually INCREASED--even though I had done the diet and exercise consistently. I don't know why this happens. Lots of people have views on it. But it happens--so you just have to ACCEPT IT and keep your eyes downrange on the 6 month point. But--and this I know from my spreadsheet--I cannot find a single one week interlude in that 90 days where I did not lose weight. PERIOD. No matter what day you pick, look a week later, and there is loss. So you may say, why not weigh yourself weekly. My answer is that the daily reminder is part of the discipline and is part of the inducement to stay the course.

Buy a Good Scale. They aren't that expensive, and none of us have the eyesight we once did to enable precise weight estimates on analog scales. Get a niche digital one that weighs to tenths of pounds. Mine has personal settings so that I get what I weigh, what the average of my last 3 weigh ins DIFFERENCE from what I weigh is, and what the average of my last 7 weigh ins difference is. Then it shows me my Body mass Index (BMI) and how many net calories I can eat at this weight in order to maintain this weight. I love all of these things because as I lose, I get to see multiple signs of it--weight (obviously), BMI (a slower/less responsive measure, but worthwhile) and calories. The number of calories to maintain body weight declines as your weight does, and you need to factor that into your eating. Weigh yourself at the same time every day. Every day. Every day.

Record every calorie. I use It really doesn't matter which you use, although some have better databases than others. Most have the ability to use a product code reader if the product isn't in the database. Again, not a big deal which you use, but use one. Account for everything. If I eat five cherry tomatoes while making dinner, they get counted. Weigh stuff if you don't how much you're eating (we have a little kitchen diet scale). Don't lie. If you've had four dinner rolls, claim four dinner rolls. The more honest you are with yourself, the better. I tend to lie more when I am not trying to diet, than when I am dieting, because when I am not dieting, I am a pig.

Eat Less. Any of these diet programs will give you a guide. You'll enter some combination of your current weight, your goal weight, and a time horizon. The program will then give you a recommended number of net calories per day that you can consume to lose weight on the slope that you have determined. Some people say, I want to lose a pound a week. Some people say they want to lose 20 pounds in four months. Whatever you enter, the program will tell you how many calories you must eat (net, after exercise is accounted for) in order to track to that weight goal. When I say eat less, this is where the trouble comes in--as there are tons and tons and tons of different diets out there that will result in lowered caloric intake. I truly believe that you have to pick one that you can sustain. I really love pasta and bread. A diet that restricts them is somewhat difficult for me to sustain, but not impossible. If you told me that the diet I had to pursue dramatically reduced red meat, chicken, fish, seafood, pork, lamb etc--I would be unable to pursue it. Period. I know myself, and I won't live without those things. Therefore, I pursue a low carbohydrate approach, with less than 10% of my calories each day coming from carbs, with the rest coming from fat and protein. To the extent that I eat carbs, they come from vegetables. I don't want to be a missionary for low-carb eating. I only want to point out that this is a way for me to eat the things I REALLY like -- although less of them -- while dramatically cutting out carbs and sugars which I like, but can live without. In order to remain below my daily caloric intake goals, portion control is necessary. Here's how it works. Yesterday at lunch, I ate 8 old bay chicken wings (I skipped breakfast, don't @ me), and was looking in my freezer at the steaks available. I knew I was having roasted eggplant and asparagus, and so there was budget left for the main course. A 12 oz ribeye brought me in under calorie budget by 100. A 19 Oz cowboy ribeye would have busted it by a couple of hundred. I picked the 12 oz. I was one tenth of a pound less this morning than yesterday morning. Bottom line, I don't care what you eat, just eat less of it and eat enough less of it to get under your calorie budget. There are other important reasons to eat a low carb/sugar diet, but then I sound like an AMWAY salesman and so I'll leave it at this.

Move More. For the longest time as I gained weight...I walked on my treadmill. More days than most, but I missed plenty. I can alter both speed and elevation, and so I did, for a combination that (with my weight entered into the machine's computer) produced a 300 calorie burn in 30 minutes. And so I would dutifully add 300 calories burned into the afforementioned MyFitnesspal program, and then eat as desired. But--I was lying to myself and the program. Because when I was at 3 degrees or six degrees or any elevation for that matter, I held onto the safety rails of the machine. It changed the free-body diagram suggested by the exercise (thank you Mr. Evangelista 12th grade Physics) and so the energy I was using was considerably less than the machine was telling me. I knew this. It is no different than the calorie lies I was telling myself. But when I got serious again about dieting, I let go of the rails and walked as long as was required to get to 300 calories. This took about 40 minutes, rather than 30. As I lost weight, I began to add in periods of running, first a minute, then two, then five, then ten and now I run for 20, take a one minute walk, and then run for nine more--burning 350 calories or so along the way at zero elevation the whole way. I get that I have two metal hips and you're not advise to run after getting them, but there is give in the treadmill and it is far less stressful than road running. Point is, you can burn calories that enable you to eat a little more and still be under your daily net requirement. So move. Move more than you do now.

It Has to Work for You. My calorie budget today is 1580 calories to maintain the weight loss slope I am on. I will eat probably 1100 of them at dinner. I love dinner food (we've discussed this already) and so I "save up" calories during the day. I'll have an apple for breakfast. A little chicken salad on some greens at lunch. And then two nice pork chops, roasted brussels sprouts, and salad (no dressing) for dinner. Catherine cannot eat like this. She's more comfortable with more, smaller meals during the day. Do it however works best for you, but stay under your budget. Now, I am prone to "hangriness" and so mid afternoon I'll have a few cherry tomatoes, or a hard boiled egg, or something to cut the edge off. Also, I eat dinner around 5 or 5:15, so I don't extend the agony (Catherine has kindly decided decided to join me at my dinner, so I have company). I'll return to the kitchen later on when the Kittens gather to make whatever vegan joy it is they are making, just to participate in the family dinner hullaballoo. But I'm not hungry anymore, and I don't get hungry throughout the evening. Of course I'm usually abed by 10PM, so there isn't a whole lot of time to be hungry. Again, do what works for you.

Why not start today on your own plan? Maybe you won't do it at the pace I'm on, maybe you'll eat a lot of grains and lean meats, however you decide to do it is ok with me. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Getting on the Record About A Biden Presidency

As we approach the November election with Donald Trump's re-election increasingly looking improbable, I want to take this opportunity to get a few thoughts into the record. This effort is mainly aimed at providing an easy, go-to hyperlink that I (and you!) can insert into other social media when, after I invariably criticize the Biden Administration, some wag decides to come out from under his or her Trumpy rock to remind me that "I own this" because I voted Biden. 

My vote for Joe Biden is as much a vote against Donald Trump. Trump's unique blend of corruption, pathology, and malevolence would ordinarily be enough to justify voting against him, but foremost in my decision is the degree to which he has threatened the Constitutional order. He has at various times, advocated for  unconstitutional limits on speech, the press, and peaceable assembly. His attempt to re-allocate execution year budget resources from the Department of Defense to construction of a border wall violates separation of powers and the Article I prerogatives of Congress. Additionally, his early attempts to prohibit the entry of Muslims into the United States violated the 14th Amendment. Whatever disagreements I have with Joe Biden's policy positions, I do not see him as a threat to the basic constitutional order.

So in voting for Joe Biden as a measure against anti-constitutionalism, am I voting for Joe Biden's policy positions and preferences? Assuredly not. First, there is the whole issue of what electing someone means. Biden's ascension to the Oval Office will not mean that every policy he ran on accompanies him into authority. More to the point, his election is the FIRST move in the process of policy becoming legislation, and my voice--along with millions of others--in opposition to those policies can have the benefit of shaping them into more acceptable proposals or creating additional opposition to truly damaging ideas. 

Second, I am, and have remained, a conservative even as the GOP turned toward personality-based populism. I will continue to resist government encroachment on individual liberty (including religious liberty), federal accretion of powers and authorities properly allocated to the States or society, and expansion of the welfare state. I will resist isolationism and protectionism. I will advocate for a strong military as one of the tools of national power. 

So, if a President Biden puts forward any of a number of proposals that he has floated on the campaign trail, I will use this platform and others to bring attention to their unsuitability or their lack of wisdom, and when the Trumpenproletariat suggests my fault in it, I'll just link to this post. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

What in God's Name Are They Thinking?

Last night, the President commuted the 40 month jail sentence of his friend and co-conspirator Roger Stone. Stone has not been shy about wishing for this outcome; in fact, he quite bluntly reminded the President in public many times how valuable his silence has been. For it, he was amply rewarded by the plenary power of the Republic's first Mafia Don Chief Executive. 

Some who read this will fall in line with the President's rationale--witch hunt, procedural crimes, no underlying offense, politically motivated, yada...yada...yada...  I doubt there will be many reading this who think this way, as by now, most of them have decided I'm not worth reading anymore, anyway. We'll discuss them in a moment. 
Roger Stone, criminal
Roger Stone, felon

But there is simply no substance to this defense. This is an abuse of power, and it puts to rest ANY suggestion that an actual crime has to be committed in order for something to be impeachable. In fact, the power the President exercised here is HIS AND HIS ALONE, and it cannot be undone. 

Some may point at the ongoing kerfuffle over the General Flynn prosecution as evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. Flynn lied to the FBI in an official statement (and then lied to the Vice President) about the subject of his pre-inaugural conversations with the Russian Ambassador to the United States. And though it is very difficult to conclude that Flynn was clean in this case, if one skews their sense of justice, one can be convinced that Flynn's prosecution was unjust (I don't believe this. I think he was guilty of what he was charged with).

But Stone? Stone is so thoroughly and deeply guilty it is not even funny. And yet he will walk. He will walk because the man exercising this unquestioned authority is so thoroughly corrupt as to 
set a new standard of misconduct in this office. 

I woke today and scoured my Twitter feed and the newswires for any evidence that even one Republican of note had publicly commented on the miscarriage of justice Stone's commutation represents. Not one. Not a single, elected Republican.  (Editor's Note: Mitt Romney rose to the occasion while I wrote this). But its worse than that. The folks I used to huddle in the (metaphorical) foxhole with as we tried to get what I believed were principled conservatives and civilized human beings elected to the Presidency....people who turned their backs on integrity and honor in the pursuit of ephemeral political power, personal financial gain, or some combination thereof....are also uniformly silent. These are not reticent people, mind you. They are happy to speak out on what the view as Chinese perfidy, the hypocrisy of the NBA, or the Marxism of BLM (each of which by the way, they are correct about). But across the board, fear of Donald Trump and his incompressible base has rendered them limp, silent, feckless, and beside the point.

When I see them spouting off on social media about everything under the sun except the ONE BIG THING that they ignore, two things come to mind. One general, one personal.

First, I wonder if they realize how much damage they are doing to their own ability to be seen as competent and reliable voices of opposition when someone of the other party occupies the White House? They have so often surrendered the high ground to the man they've tied their fortunes to, that when the time comes for arguments to be made from it, they will not know where to go to find it. This is a serious point. Joe Biden and his team are going to have to be constrained from the right...but upon what principles will or can these people stand? Putting aside the emergency money voted as part of an economic rescue this year--this crowd silently assented as Trump knee-capped Paul Ryan and other voices calling for entitlement reform. When the inevitable call for increases in entitlement spending come, upon what arguments will they draw? Where will they find credibility? On free trade, they have willingly given the issue away. How can they reclaim it, in the light of 3.5 years of sliming it? Given the level of constant flat out corruption that they have enabled, how ever will they have the moral standing to point it out in others? 

The second thing I think about--and Catherine would be shocked if she knew I were writing this--is that I wonder what they think about me? I get a lot of mileage around the house with my "I don't really care what people think about me, I only care what YOU think of me" line, and Catherine appears to have bought into it--thinking that I am just stubborn and pigheaded (and occasionally exhibiting a little jealousy in my approach). But it isn't entirely true. I do wonder about this. When these people see what I write, what do they think? Has my raving for four plus years convinced them that I am an unserious and unsophisticated person, that there is important work to be done and someone has to do it, that I am a naive waif who simply doesn't understand how the game is played? Have they long ago muted me so as a result? Has my constant reminder to them that not everyone turned their back on conscience and principle, caused them to question even one iota of their descent, or has it more likely caused them to tune me out as their self-image was strained? 

As I've written here before, I've lost friendships over all of this. There are some who consider this "sad", and an overreaction. They ask "why can't we all just get along?" and "is it really worth losing friends over?" My answer remains the same--my standards for friendship are so much higher than my standards for political affinity. You cannot be my friend if you shill for this, you cannot be my friend if you enable it, you cannot be my friend if you are so inconsistent as to repudiate core beliefs in pursuit of personal gain, you cannot be my friend if you defend the corruption and dishonesty and incivility and chaos. By doing so, you by definition do not possess the basic character necessary for being my friend.

I get it. My friendship wasn't worth that much to begin with. I have to agree with you. I get that my pompous, self-aggrandizing, preening about principle and integrity is tiring. I get that my reminders about founding documents and bedrock beliefs are out of step with your fungible ideology and your personality-based loyalties. 

But...and I mean this with all sincerity...I hope it was worth it. I hope your time in the sun was all that you'd hoped it would be, and that when President Trump rides off into glory after his term is over, you are satisfied with what you have accomplished and the price you paid. I hope the hobbling of the GOP was worth it. I hope the reinforcement of the GOP as a white, racist party...was worth it. I hope your repudiation of 20th century American conservatism was worth it. 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

America Is Headed In the Wrong Direction, But Be Not Afraid

I am not normally prone to morosity, quite the opposite. The Kitten accuses me of irrational optimism, and she says that I tend to look back across the failures and setbacks of my 55 years through the lens of how each actually set me up for some future good turn. She isn't wrong. I imagine that were she not so very patient with me, I could tend to be annoying. 

I spent the first two hours of consciousness this morning with my tablet-app version of the Sunday New York Times, reviewing the news of our world. Fellow denizens of the political right may upbraid me for my choice of reading material, but there really is no equal to a deep dive into the Sunday Times for nice beginning of the week base-lining. Afterward, I spent some time on Twitter. 

The sum total of these two immersive experiences is that I sat down to write this blog tending toward morosity. There really is quite a bit of bad news. Our President retweeted this little gem this morning. Should he at some point delete the Tweet, a short summary follows. What we have is two minutes of video in which anti-Trump and pro-Trump demonstrators at a senior citizen village in Florida hurl insults and general upleasantries at each other. Included in these generic vocalizations is the ironic cry--from the driver of a golf-cart piloted by someone who presumably owns it in order to conserve his waning energy--of "White Power". Ordinarily, something of this nature would muddle around the cesspool of alt-right Twitter without great distribution, but the President of the United States chose not only to retweet it, but to praise his supporters there. I suppose the only good news I could take from the exchange was the possibility that folks in this demographic may be learning from their 2016 mistake

Moving on to the global pandemic (you like that segue?), it appears that the United States is leading the world in how poorly it has responded, with the President simply deciding there was no electoral profit in, you know, being President during a time of global pandemic. And so he has moved on to other pursuits as the nation slips into another phase of this disease, one in that APPEARS somewhat less fatal, but which is nevertheless clogging up ICU's with aplomb. We here on the farm aren't quite as locked down as we used to be, but we're not far from it. We practice social distancing (though the presence of Gen-Z daughters and their insatiable need for social interaction stresses this), we wear masks on any trip out of the house, and we continue to watch and wait. 

Don't get me wrong. I am absolutely onboard with those who said we could not stay in quarantine forever. Opening up in mid May made a lot of sense as a way of looking at how we might arrive at a more manageable approach to the pandemic without destroying our economy. But what has happened across broad swathes of the country--aided and abetted by the most irresponsible leadership imaginable from the White House--is absolute entitled recklessness. I'm not an epidemiologist, so forgive me if I am skating on your ice, but it occurs to me that IF WE ALL JUST WEAR OUR DAMN MASKS WHEN WE ARE AROUND PEOPLE OTHER THAN THOSE SHARING LODGING WITH US, THE VIRUS WOULD BE A GOOD BIT LESS VIRULENT and we could all carry on as homo economicus, in effect, walking and chewing gum at the same time. But no. Wearing a mask is an affront to Karen's Civil Rights (or Corey, in the case of her male counterpart), and led by our adolescent President, a common sense approach to public health has now become a loyalty oath to The Bad Orange Man.

As it is nearly July, thoughts turn to autumn, and football, and Saturday home games in Charlottesville. But you know what? I'm beginning to think all these mid May/mid June predictions of a return to normalcy on campus--may be JUST a tad bit premature. We'll see--clearly the demo in college is among the more resistant to the full damage of this virus--but six weeks from now, parents across the country are going to be making a very important risk decision in whether or not to swim out into what by then, could be a full-blown re-emergence (not that it ever de-emerged) of the virus.

I guess what I'm getting at here--and where when I sat down, I had believed would be the point of this piece--is that there is a lot to be morose about.  

But then I thought about an email exchange I had a few days ago with a friend in which I tried to cheer HIM up from a bit of crushing morosity. It goes like this. If we look back at the years from roughly 1972-1984, it plays out like a complete disaster. We lost our first war and high-tailed it out of there. The Arabs woke up and realized that they had us "over a barrel" (so to speak) when it came to our reliance on oil. A man who was already considered somewhat corrupt by many, resigned his presidency over corruption, and then was pardoned by his successor. We learned what "inflation" was. We elected the second most inept President in our history who then (quite rightly) told us we suffered from "malaise". Iranian thugs took 52 Americans from our Embassy and held them for 444 days. The Russians invaded Afghanistan. Our economy faced double-digit inflation, unemployment, and interest rates--all at the same time. The Japanese were cleaning our clock, and American cars came to suck like no other time since cars existed. 

And a fellow from California came along and told us our best days were ahead of us. And he was right. He led us for two terms with effectiveness, honor, and dignity. And then his Vice President led us for one term of honor and dignity. And then a fellow from Arkansas came along and led us for two terms with somewhat less dignity, but no less of a position of hope and effectiveness. American ingenuity and productivity--always there, returned.

My point is--we can, and will, get through all this. No, there is no land of rainbows and unicorns on the other side, but there is a time of more peace and civility, of love and honor, of respect and admiration, of health and stability. As dark as things seem now, it will one day be light again. I am certain of it. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

What's Next for the Right-of-Center National Security Community?

Four years ago, former George W. Bush administration State Department appointee Eliot Cohen (now Dean of the  Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University) and I placed an Open Letter on Donald Trump from GOP National Security Leaders in the online media and education forum “War on the Rocks”. In it, we laid out a case for Trump’s unfitness for office in the hope that his early primary momentum could be stopped. Ten dozen right-of-center national security experts of all ages and foreign policy approaches signed the letter, the overwhelming number of whom continue to support its assertions. Included among our warnings were words about Trump’s unmoored and inconsistent approach to foreign policy, his affinity for authoritarian dictators, and his basic and lifelong dishonesty. Additionally, we cited Mr. Trump’s own statements and concluded that he would use the authority of his office in ways that made America less safe, and that his expansive view of presidential power posed a threat to civil liberty.

Today, the Trump Administration is in deep trouble, unable to respond effectively to the COVID pandemic and now fanning the flames of race war as a re-election strategy. To say our warnings were prescient demeans the concept, as little we asserted took much imagination to conjure. We were right. But what to do now? How should the Trump-unfriendly right-of-center national security community move forward?

First, we should help defeat Donald Trump in November. A second Trump term would be a colossal mistake for this nation, and the unique cocktail of power and corruption he dispenses represents a continuing threat to the Republic. Then we must prepare for the future. Principled right-of-center national security thinkers must begin to prepare for the post-Trump era, one in which basic institutions and norms that have historically buttressed our power and influence will have to be strengthened, along with a number of friendships and alliances with international partners. Additionally, opportunities to cooperate with a Biden Administration must be explored, especially those that better posture the nation for continuing competition with China and Russia.

On the policy front, returning to the pre-Trump consensus is unlikely, but clinging to the GOP’s current fascination with nationalist populism cannot continue. Domestic missionary work is necessary, work that would help Americans who had been previously ignored  by the national security thinkers of both parties understand the value of free trade, the centrality of alliances, the importance of U.S. leadership in international organizations, and the need to build national strength across the whole of government for the competitions already underway.

The post-Trump right needs to prepare for a policy environment in which persuading others of the value of our ideas is the path to realizing them, putting the intimidation tactics of the racketeer behind us, as well as those who enabled them. There must be a reckoning in the post-Trump world, a time in which the right re-captures its emphases on ethics, values, and ideas, and systematically exposes the excess of the unprincipled who led it astray. Newly fashionable Trump-lite fan service dispensed by young and attractive faces peddling “re-alignment” should be exposed for what it is, a dramatic expansion of the power and reach of the government into areas of civil life where its influence should always be looked at with a jaundiced eye. Those warning us of the dangers of unbridled capitalism should be made to cite where exactly the bridles are, as what seems to bedevil growth and prosperity in this country—and consequently, our power and influence in the world—is a surfeit of bridles (regulation, crony-capitalism, tariffs) rather than an absence.

Rebuilding the right along classical liberal lines mixed with an updated post-Cold War primacy in the international sphere will not happen overnight, though the damage has been swiftly wrought. The hangover of Trumpism must not be allowed to weigh down a renewal, and the enablers of that decline must not be allowed to outrun their complicity. Those hoping for leadership in this new right must begin by immediately repudiating their support for Trump and Trumpism in all its forms, and they must rededicate themselves to the proposition that ideas, honesty, and persuasion comprise the best path to lasting change.


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

A Good Mind is Capable of Holding Many, Seemingly Opposed Ideas

The Age of Trump has caused me to spend several years examining my ideas and ideology, a process many a former kindred spirit has abandoned while they express politics through their equally opposed political dark hearts and near-Freudian ids.  I've been thinking recently about seemingly opposed ideas in the same head, and the quote attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald that "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." This essay attempts to do something like that. In it, I will explore the deep recesses of my political/social mind in an attempt to put forward a number of opposed or "not necessarily aligned" ideas that I hold equally in good standing.  Here goes.

I am a conservative. 
President Trump is not conservative.

I am not a Republican.
I cannot be a Democrat.

A well-trained police force is essential to law, order, and civil life.
Many communities in this country have legitimate beefs with the police. Many of those communities are minority, including black communities.

Peaceful protests are a constitutional right are to be encouraged in a free society.
Looting and violence are crimes and should be met with force if necessary.

Law and order and the protection of bodily and property safety is the purview of state and local police forces. Federal intervention into local disturbances should come after deep deliberation and caution, and in cooperation with state and local authorities.
Federal intervention can become necessary when local disturbances exceed local ability to quell.

Police reform and criminal justice reform are reasonable policy options in response to current upheaval.
De-funding police departments is not reasonable.

It is asinine for Trump supporters to say "take him seriously, not literally".
It is asinine for activists to say that "De-fund the Police" does not mean--de-fund the police. 

All Lives Matter.
Black Lives Matter.

Racism exists in the United States.
The United States is not racist.

Capitalism will inevitably create losers. 
The alternative makes everyone a loser.

Free markets are a form of liberty.
Markets are far from free.

Our friends and allies around the world do not spend enough on their own defense.
Abandoning our friends and allies is a terrible thing.

American participation in international organizations constrains policy choices.
Participating--no, leading--international organizations is in our national interest. 

Socialized medicine is an evil worth avoiding at all costs.
Our system linking insurance coverage to employment is ridiculous.

Taxation is confiscation.
Taxes are the price paid for a functioning civil society.

America has a gun problem.
The crime rate has dramatically fallen over the same time there has been a significant increase in the number of privately held guns. 

Determining who enters and who stays in this country is the table-stakes of sovereignty.
America is improved by its immigrants.

A wall or physical barrier on our southern border is a prudent policy choice.
This choice should be made by our representatives in our Federal legislature, not funded by Presidential fiat through questionable re-allocation of appropriated funds.

That was fun. You are invited to share oppositions from your own supple minds in the comment section. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

On Parting with the Past

During our ongoing COVID hunkering, The Kitten has been very busy with various projects that we have long put off, made somewhat worse by her Mother's death last year and her duties as executor. Between us, there is a good deal of the past that needs cleaning up, looking into, throwing out, and passing along. She is a great respecter of the past. Her family history in this county goes back to the mid 1600's, she has a sharp eye for colonial era antiques, and she is far better at appreciating the value of things than I am. This is a very pleasant way of saying that she doesn't like to throw things out, and donating them is often a difficult decision. But she has made the decisions, she is working hard, and progress is being made. Along the way, I have been made to examine my own approach to the accumulation of things, and that is what this post is about. 

The Navy, and its tendency to move me from place to place every 30 months or so, created in me a dedication to not only having only what I need, but in divesting of things every time the moving van's arrival was imminent. Over the 21 years I was in the Navy, I gave away a LOT of stuff. Beds, bedding, towels, kitchen stuff, clothes, whatever. At each new duty station, I arrived lightly equipped, and added a little here and there.

When I left the Navy and accepted The Kitten's offer of bliss here on the Farm, I began what has turned into a new experience for me as an adult--living in one place. I've been here over twelve years now, and honestly, I've become something of a pack-rat. We have a nice sized place, but most of the available storage (see para 1) was taken, so ten years ago, I started renting a storage unit. In it were placed items of furniture, old computers/monitors/printers, the bedding and linens from my final Swinging Bachelor Pad (some of you remember it, we all honor it), the kitchenware from the Swinging Bachelor Pad, boxes of books that didn't make the cut to be on my bookshelves, lamps, prints (yes, the frolicking beagles and the hunt scenes), etc. And there are other things there. A box of uniforms. A box of the stuff I pulled off USS BULKELEY when I left--a copy of every fitrep I signed, every letter I wrote, pictures, photo CD's. Every plaque I ever got in the Navy. Photos. Memorabilia. But that's not all. Virtually every note I ever took in grad school, all the papers I wrote, and a good bit of the undergraduate versions thereof. It's all there. 

For the longest time, The Kitten--from her glass house--has chided me for the expense of the storage unit. Up until I lit myself on fire politically, I would tell her that I need all that household stuff to set up a DC apartment when my people come into power and I go to work in government. I abandoned that hope several years ago, and made a halting first step last summer when my Godson--newly commissioned Ensign James A. Blanford, USCG--and I raided the unit for stuff to help him set up his first place--in Kodiak, AL.  I felt really good passing that stuff along.

This morning, The Kitten asked me if I had room in my storage unit for some of the treasures from her mother's house. While I of course, wanted to to a little end-zone dance proclaiming how wise I was for spending $900 a year for ten years on it, I said "of course", and then headed across town to it to make sure I wasn't lying. It was 2/3 full or so, but I have a loaner while my car is getting serviced, and it is one of those little SUVlets with some storage area. I folded down the seats, and dedicated a little time to making some more room for The Kitten's treasures.

I made two trips back and forth to Goodwill. The first was primarily books. Between us, The Kitten and I have accumulated a LOT of books. With her came along all the books accumulated by her late-husband, and so between the three of us are seven degrees and decades of book accumulation. Then there are her mother's books. I have a wall full of books in my ManCave, we have bookshelves in our bedroom, our upstairs master, and our library/dining room. We have a ton of books. But there are no longer any books in my storage unit.

I've begun to wonder about the breezy way I acquire books, and whether I am just saddling my heirs with the backbreaking job of figuring out what to do with them. I'll be on the Metro reading a book review, and then I'll hit the link to Amazon and buy it. I do this more than I ought. Because I see my retirement as the golden age of reading--I just may decide to do it all on a Kindle in order not to be such a burden.

I donated two Keurig coffee makers. I donated the linens and kitchen stuff from my last apartment. There will be no DC apartment. 

There are a ton of electronics that need to go bye-bye, but most of what remains for some odd reason, continues to have meaning for me. When I got home, I talked to The Kitten about my morning, and she said she understood pretty much all of my decisions except the one to retain the undergrad and grad school work. I thought long and hard about it, and decided it was just too soon. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

America is Burning

Like much of the country, I have been transfixed over the images playing out on my screens of whatever size these past few days. I am truly sad for my country; no, I am sadder. I have been sad for several years now, but the feeling has intensified as that which I and others warned of has now come to fruition, and our country is being torn apart at least in part by the words and actions of the President. I have much to say on this. Strap in because not everyone is going to be happy.

There is a rich alchemy at work in the streets of America's cities, one in which 400 years of slavery and oppression is mixed with 90 days of isolation, and then ignited by devious forces of chaos and anarchy riding the wave of technology. Atop it all sits a man uniquely unqualified for the moment, who has convinced himself that it is 1968 and he is Richard Nixon, while the much of the country realizes that he is in actuality, Mayor Dailey. Put another way, he isn't here to "fix" anything; he caused it.

Well, that's actually wrong to say. This--and by this I mean the riots--was not caused by Donald Trump. We'll get to his role and culpability in all of this. Let's look at what is going on here.

First there is the undeniable contribution of the country's legacy of slavery and oppression. The black community in America had a much different start than any other immigrant group, so different that it is a strain to even make a comparison. But we must. While you may not believe systemic racism exists, it once did in the form of democratically sanctioned law-making, and one result after hundreds of years is a particular darkness in the hearts of many white people. While laws of changed, many hearts have not.

We move then onto the police, and we think about the startling, nearly miraculous decline in crime in America in recent decades. Go and look. Check the FBI's crime statistics, and you will find that crime (mugging, robbery, assault, random gun crime, etc) was a MUCH bigger problem in the 60's and 70's than it is today. America's cities are incredibly safe today--compared to their Johnson-era predecessors. How did this happen? It happened like most complicated things, through a complicated series of inputs. Here are a few. First, there was a revolution in policing that started in academia and then moved to the streets, one in which police were encouraged to become MUCH more visible. In that visibility was included an added emphasis on the suppression of petty crime, under the theory that cleaning up the criminal underbrush would slow the spread of criminal conflagration. Police over time, became not only more visible, but more active. Dare I say, more aggressive. This added aggression over time, established a "new normal" in many places, and in that new normal, what passed for acceptable police behavior changed--and it changed in a way that behavior that went over the line now had become dangerous, abusive, violent, and life-threatening. The recipients of this treatment--tended to be members of the community discussed in the previous paragraph, inner city minorities, especially black people. Indeed, the perception grew that the police were racist, because the professional conduct of policing changed so dramatically and was felt so substantially by black people. I think racism was in the mix. But I think there was more to it.

The police also have become militarized. Or more militarized. I do not like seeing armored vehicles on America's streets operated by police. I do not like hearing police officers on television referring to "civilians", as if they are not very much part of the civilian population, the part paid and trusted to serve and protect. But let's not kid ourselves--they are facing more effective and more militarized opponents on the rioting field.

Keep in mind--there are a TON of angry but law-abiding citizens on the streets of our cities. The murder of George Floyd by a white police officer playing out on an eight and half minute video like some sick snuff porn, was just the latest instance of a black man in police custody being killed. It occurs to me that the police officer involved did not set out to kill George Floyd. He did nonetheless, and he did it for all the world to see. There are other names. There are other lives. This is a problem, and it is a problem worth protesting.

The fact that protesters have been quarantined for months is not helping, as many protesters are also newly jobless in addition to stir-crazy. There is palpable rage among a group of people for whom "the system" is not working. Much of the looting being done seems to me to be coming out of this group, but it has ever been thus when cities burn. 

And then there are the free-lance chaos artists, anarchists, and thrill seekers. Many are college students newly without summer jobs and much to do, looking for an outlet for their woke-i-tude.  They are super-empowered with modern technology, and they are--like the President they despise--accelerating the burn.  

Speaking of the President, the man is a menace. He has never been one to unite, and his go-to move is to divide. Guilty last evening of impeachable abuse of power in using federal law enforcement to violently disburse a crowd so that he could waddle across the street in the company of his co-conspirators grasping a book he has never opened to a building he does not know for a thirteen second photo-op, he is like a boy in a backyard firework display with a lighter in his hand and a crazed look on his face. He simply cannot WAIT to federalize the National Guard and force military power on Governors and Mayors who have not asked for it. Aided and abetted by men of low character (the Attorney General, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs), he has decided to make his last stand atop the wreckage of American civil life. He has utterly lost interest in a virus that has killed 100,000 of his fellow citizens, and he seems unfazed by the irony of his statements providing for any and all means to stop the urban violence even as he was unable to summon up these same forces to stop a virus. 

Armchair historians quick to curry favor with the regime point to the various times in our history when more virtuous Chief Executives called out federal power to quell disturbances, without ever considering the unique role this Chief Executive is playing in the disturbances he fosters and supports. 

To be sure, there must be order. We cannot go on each night having businesses torched and looted. We cannot have a caviling media on the one hand criticizing law enforcement for excess force, even as they criticize the same law enforcement for standing by while stores are looted--knowing that to stop the looting would require the use of force they would then broadcast in real-time without context. 

There may be a time where federal troops are necessary to quell these outbreaks. It occurs to me that these troops should be requested prior to their being deployed. But with a President like this one who respects not a single pillar of our founding--federalism included--we cannot be sure.

It is going to be a long, hot, summer. God be with us. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Dispatch from the Q-Life: Week 13

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Entering week 13--if it had come at all--I would have a gnarly beard, a strong lip from much trumpet playing, rudimentary banjo skills, a near finished novel, and considerably more blog posts on record. But as the poet tells us...the best laid plans....

Let me deal with my failures in turn.

First, the beard. I still don't know how beard wearing men make it through the itchy stage. I never have. Then there is the complaining. I go in for a little kiss and I'm not even six inches away and I hear "ouch". How fair is that?

I had thought about playing my trumpet more during the quarantine, and it is here in its stand next to my desk, the music book opened to "You've Got a Friend", and I can almost HEAR the oil drying from the valves as they stick into place from lack of use. Why? I don't know. I could get back to it. As for the banjo, although my desired instructor is happy to do lessons by Zoom or some other such contrivance, I'm not up for that. Gonna need a little in-person instruction to get started.

The novel you ask? Like the other times I have taken determined stabs at it, a frenzy of activity for about a week, and then....well, not much. I do hope someday to complete it.

Blog posts? Faithful readers already know that one is pitiful. To be honest, there just hasn't been that much to talk about.

But as we end the month of May, a few things to pass on. First, May is a month of great joy in our house, as both of the Kittens have birthdays (7th, 26th), as does their mother The Kitten (28th). Add to the mix Mother's Day. So lots of little celebrations. The older Kitten turned 21 yesterday, and had a few socially distanced friends (3) over to the house to celebrate in style. We recover today--and prepare for tomorrow's great celebration of The Kitten's Birthday. I am one of six kids. Outside of a FESTIVAL I threw for MYSELF on my 50th Birthday, my birthdays have always been relatively cozy affairs. As a boy, a friend or two would join the family for whatever meat my father was grilling, or pizza, and cake. A present or two. A good day, no doubt. But birthdays in my acquired family are annual rites of godly worship. OVER THE TOP. 

To be honest, the birthdays this month have broken the monotony of things, not that I dislike monotony. In fact--as we've discussed--I'm sorta into it. My day, explained: Wake naturally whenever, usually around 7. Coffee, daily Calm meditation, weigh-in (down 15.4 lbs, thank you), and weight recording in three different places (personal spreadsheet, Noom (the Kitten hornswaggled me into it so that she had a buddy) and MyFitnessPal. Noom requires a few guided lessons/exercises, so I perform them in a desultory manner. Feed the beasts. Onload the dishwasher, which to my great joy, all of the savages I live with have been much better about using as a place to store dirty dishes (rather than the sink and counters). In fact, the team has stepped up their performance in this regard. 

I work until about 2:30pm. Work these days consists of--well, mostly what I did before the quarantine but with a lot of video meetings and teleconferences substituted for formerly in-person meetings, and because scheduling and conducting meetings during the quarantine is a sign of productivity. I read professionally quite a bit. I write about what I've read for people who care what I think. I think for people who care about how I think and then tell them what I think. It is a uniquely fashioned professional life generally well-fitted to a quarantine, although I can do no classified work in the ManCave. 

I drop in on people via Facebook Messenger, unannounced. There is a feature that shows a little green dot next to people's profile feature if they have the program running (even if it is just in the background/not properly closed out). I find my dude friends are very receptive to drop-ins, but 8 out of 10 times I drop in on a lady-friend, I get ignored and then receive a Direct Message saying some version of "I haven't showered". Speaking of showers. I'd say I'm on an every other day schedule. I pretty much wear the same thing every day. I rotate among two sets of Adidas warm-up pants (keen readers will note this is a key element of my travel rig), a T-Shirt, trainers and a fleece (if it is chilly).  Here is me, this very morning:

Honestly, the world's most forgiving mirror

At some point during the day, I get on the treadmill for thirty minutes....20 of them "running" at 5.2 MPH and 10 of them walking at 3.8. I have two metal hips, and I'm told that running shouldn't be part of my life, but I grew weary of having little or no wind, and the treadmill has "give", so I'm back at it. The treadmill is located in my office/Mancave, and I have two three women with varying degrees of desire to use it and the other equipment in here...and so I vacate my office by 3PM.

Generally, I have no commitments after 3, except for a weekly conference call at 4PM on Tuesdays and occasional calls that pop up here and there. We have a pool here at the homestead, but the weather on the Eastern Shore has been SHITTY this spring (longest March since Sherman/Atlanta) and so I am unaware of any humans having been in it (though the dogs love it). But pool chores must be done and usually they get done late in the afternoon, along with a little binge-watching of whatever it is I'm currently addicted to. 

Somewhere around 4:30 PM, I begin preparations for dinner, which I like to eat no later than 5:30PM. I've sorta imposed WARSHIP meal hours on myself here in the Q, and I like it. All four of the residents of this rest-home are on their own special diets/eating plans. I'm high fat/protein, low carb, the Kittens are Vegan (you won't need to ask them), and The Kitten seems to bounce between the two. She (The Kitten) is a good sport, and tries to eat dinner with me, even though I think she'd rather eat later. Once I've eaten and cleaned up, I grab the last cup of coffee of the day and take my place next to the kitchen fireplace (which has actually still been in use) to sit quietly and enjoy the chatter of the Kittens when they come down to the kitchen to begin their meal preps. When I have my hearing aids in, I am able to follow along and even participate. Sometimes I do not have them in.

After a bit, I will head back out to the office to contemplate the next day, to read through notes I've made, and to write out tomorrow's tasks. Then, some reading and or more binge-ing. Taps at 2200.

Sprinkled during the week are a trip to the grocery store now and then, pool chemicals, and the like. Not much though...the cars have had a nice rest during this time. I'm told that the weather will improve, so I'm gonna work some Kayaking or rowing (with the Kitten in her wooden rowboat) or paddleboarding into things.

I woke this morning to news that DoD has rescinded its "don't move until 30 June" order, and substituted a set of conditions based strictures to guide local installations in coming out of the Q. Since the DMV area (District, Maryland, Virginia) remains a hotspot, I expect we'll be in Q for a bit longer, but not much. Then, it is off into a brave new world of I don't know what. I don't think any of us do. Stay tuned for more as we discover it together. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Entering Month 3: Update from the Q-Life

Since I entered the Q-Life on 10 March, two months have transpired and the third is upon me. As I've admitted here before, my sheltering in place is not nearly as tough as some.  I can do much of my job from home, and as my clients are also laboring under the impact of the virus, they are quite accommodating. I have a large enough house to have space set apart largely for myself, and my domestic situation does not include other humans in need of great oversight. Some people are really struggling...financially, psychologically, or both. I have a lot of sympathy for them. The hardest thing for anyone to figure out these days is "how does this all end"? I'm neither a math guy nor an epidemiologist, so all I can do is pose the questions that I consider and that form a good bit of conversation around my house these days, questions like "Does anything really change without a vaccine?" and "Won't there be a ton more deaths if we open the economy too quickly?" and "I wonder if my college is going to have classes on campus this fall?"  All are good questions and I have no answers. One question I don't hear from the others I live with is "what is this doing to the economy?"  This is the luxury of class and position, and sometimes I have to remind others that there are a lot of people truly suffering economically right now, and that suffering is fueling some of the protests underway. Clearly, there are other factors in the protests (political performative theater, identity politics, COSPLAYing), but this pain is real and the pressures to find a middle ground between open and Q-life is probably for the good. We need to find a way to "manage" things while people work and live.

One development that has me truly worried is the slow, grinding, decline of the meat and poultry processing industries as the virus ravages their work-forces. Presumably, after the workforce gets sick and recovers, these industries would be somewhat less impacted by the disease and could "come back", but in the meantime, people are going to suffer and die, and that is a tragedy. 

May is always a big month around the house. Both Kittens and The Kitten have their birthdays in May, and Mother's Day adds to the fun. Lord Bezos of Amazon (all praise be upon him) has made some of the logistics of pulling these events off easier, but birthdays are a pretty big deal around here and they are getting squashed a little. My proposal to shift birthdays a month to the right (with provisions for further shifting) was not adopted.

The younger members of the tribe are getting more restless with the requirements of the Q-Life, and their "salami-slicing" tactics designed to slowly wear down the resolve of decision-makers appears to be having some success. Maryland is still very much in lockdown, but a drive Saturday over to St. Michaels revealed a good bit of humanity on the streets (most with masks, thankfully), and no shortage of cars on the road, etc. It begins to give one a glimpse of where we might be going soon, with social distancing still stressed, mando-masking, lower density in shops and restaurants, etc, while life goes on elsewhere. Even under these conditions, the virus is likely to continue to be spread, and people will continue to be hospitalized and die. The more dedicated to mitigation we remain, the fewer get infected. 

To end this cheery update, I brought my 10 year old Jag (260,000 miles) to a local mechanic with various maladies in need of attention (don't shake your head--this has been the most reliable car I've ever owned). Among other pathologies, it appears mice ate through the wiring harness to one of the fuel injectors.  Country living.

Be well, friends. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Thoughts on the President's Nightly Campaign Rallies

There is--in the wider culture, that is, the culture existing outside the walls of my quarantined existence--a debate underway. On the one side are those who believe that the White House Press Corps and the cable news networks are obligated by their craft to cover live each night the 90-120 minute press conferences conducted by the White House. On the other hand are those who believe that these 90-120 minute circuses are simply Trumpy campaign rallies, and by covering them live as they do, the media are providing the President with tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars worth of free media. I fall into the second category for those who are curious.

Now, there are clearly people who fit in neither of these categories, but nowhere do I say that this debate includes all Americans. There are those who simply don't care, which astounds me. And there are those who think the rallies are wonderful and why would the press not cover them? This repulses me. So I'm not talking here about either of these two groups.

I'm talking about two groups of people who have differing views on the role of the media and their obligation--if any--to cover all of the President's appearances.

One of the things that occurs to me as I wade through this is the correlation between those who believe the press has a duty to cover these events and those who believe the press treat the President unfairly in these events. Lotta overlap here. The crew at Commentary magazine and specifically in their podcast --- fall into this category. They've become more Trumpy during the course of this pandemic (especially John Podhoretz and Noah Rothman), expressing utter amazement that anyone would suggest that the press not cover these events live, at the same time deriding the press for the "gotcha" coverage thereof, as if they are supposed to do as the President asks and ask nice questions framed in the manner he desires, while avoiding any reference to the utter failure of leadership for which he was responsible throughout the entire month of February and the farrago of lies, inconsistency, and incompetence that has dominated his nightly performances. The President veers from being a petulant child to a volatile monarch, talking over reporters and insulting them at every turn--but woe betide a reporter who stands there and unwaveringly continues to ask their question --especially if----SHE IS A WOMAN!  The nerve.

On the bright side there is some evidence that these nightly exercises in Trumpenproletarian group masturbation---carried live--- are having a deleterious impact on the President's standing with voters. Joe Biden's relative silence these days is chalked up by some to be a sign of there not really being much he can do, what with the country being locked down and all (which is also hurting his fund raising). I see it differently. I think old Uncle Joe is sitting there in his Delaware villa watching the President shoot himself in the foot every night and thinking about Napoleon's dictum never to interrupt one's enemy while he is making a mistake.

And so as I think about this subject, I reluctantly come down on the side of the press covering it as it is, in no small part because I believe in Napoleon's wisdom too. That and a naive hope that the size of the Trumpenproletariat has reached its zenith, and that Trump's nightly tantrums are convincing those who held their nose for him in '16 because of Hillary's odiousness,  that doing so in '20 is unthinkable due to Trump's. We can hope, anyway.

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