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. 

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