Report cards

Scott Adams has the best take I've seen so far on the famous first 100 days.

Make El Chapo Pay for the Wall

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) introduced the Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order (EL CHAPO) Act on Tuesday, intending to cover the cost of the southern border wall by seizing more than $14 billion in drug proceeds from infamous Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán.

Being Helpful

Sonny Bunch at the Free Beacon has some suggestions to help the Democratic Party connect with "most people":

The real problem isn't that Democrats are out of touch with common folks; it's that common folks don't understand that the struggles of the out-of-work coal miner are intricately linked to the struggles of the bisexual transgendered pronounless twitter user who feels oppressed by the mainstream's refusal to admit that zir exists and that zir's problems are not trivialities. A nationwide ad campaign explaining the intricacies of intersectionality will bring Democrats one step closer to showing that progressives really do have the problems of you, the people, in their hearts.

Spot on, man! And he has more.

Wow. If they follow his advice, the Democrats may be on the road to dominating the federal government for a generation.

Talk about things you like to hear

"Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble talk . . . ."  Politico joins the ranks of professional media types grasping for an explanation of how they could have blown the last election so badly.  Clearly it's not deliberate bias, that would be wrong, but plausibly it's that the bubble they all live in has grown more extreme over the last decade as local newspapers disappeared and were replaced by e-journalism.  It's not our fault!  We might have guessed that the rise of internet news would have a dispersive effect, but in fact it's only concentrated the higher-paying journalism jobs in the usual coastal and urban bubbles.  So, yes, we talk only to those in our highly-paid, progressive bubbles, but that's only natural.

Politico's proposed treatment for this malaise is not particularly compelling.
The best medicine for journalistic myopia isn’t reeducation camps or a splurge of diversity hiring, though tiny doses of those two remedies wouldn’t hurt. Journalists respond to their failings best when their vanity is punctured with proof that they blew a story that was right in front of them. If the burning humiliation of missing the biggest political story in a generation won’t change newsrooms, nothing will. More than anything, journalists hate getting beat.
Do they really?  More than they hate preening and congratulating themselves and their colleagues?  More than they hate moping about how the profit motive contaminates discourse, just as they'd always suspected?  (Here, the author throws in a little salve to Politico's vanity by noting that Breitbart's news site does a surprisingly robust click-business, though of course nothing to equal Politico's own.  If you want to talk about being the popular kids.)

I've been reading "Shattered," about the disastrous Clinton campaign.  The authors may be unsparing in their description of the awful candidate--the only character who's getting kid-glove treatment so far is Bernie Sanders--but they're still 100% in for their poor lost Hillary.  It's pretty amazing, really, how much time they can spend wringing their hands over how difficult it was for the poor woman to identify and communicate her message.  She could not seem to articulate why she was running for president.  She kept berating her campaign staff for failing to accomplish this task on her behalf.  As if it were not obvious that would-be President "It's My Turn" wanted the office because it's only fair, dang it, not to mention pretty convenient and lucrative and flattering.

Sanders appears in the narrative as an admirably honest fellow; it's only unfortunate that "most Americans" don't cotton to socialism.  If the authors make a connection between the lovely, caring policies Sanders would try to implement and the horror that is now overtaking Venezuela, I can't detect it.  They simply are drawn to Sanders because they can't quite escape the conviction that Clinton is a stone-cold liar without a trace of self-knowledge, with no identifiable political convictions other than that governing is a tough exercise in smart policy of some kind or another that, to our collective sorrow, cannot easily be communicated to a lot of mouth-breathing voters.  Meanwhile, Trump effortlessly channels the ugly Zeitgeist.  Woe to the republic.

This aside in the Politico article made me laugh, too:
Unlike other industries, the national media has a directive beyond just staying in business: Many newsrooms really do feel a commitment to reflecting America fairly.
They . . . ? Well, unless "fairly" means looking in the mirror.  What's so hard about learning something of the viewpoints outside one's own bubble?  Is the job of a journalist really limited to cocktail party chat, or do they occasionally find time to read a book or frequent a website with opposing views?  Even if they don't have the leisure or the budget for a safari through wildest I-30 corridor-land, we have tools in the modern world for communicating with distant strangers, available to anyone with a bit of curiosity and a gift for tamping down the smugness for a few hours.

At church this week, a co-parishioner announced a new chat group that would attempt to bridge the unidentified political divide (guess which side she's on) and foster more respectful communication.  I told her I'd almost stopped trying to talk to family and college friends on the other (still unidentified) side of the political landscape, not because I couldn't restrain myself from insulting them, but because I was tired of listening quietly while they loudly and persistently insulted me.  It wasn't that the conversation foundered when I adopted her advice of listening respectfully.  All I do now is listen and try to stem the worst of the oblivious attack-speech by gently suggesting that there are other points of view, and that my interlocutor might want to consider that she might be in the presence of someone who holds them.  That, combined with my pruning of my Facebook feed, has meant I spend no time explaining myself to these people, and less and less time listening to them, either.  Increasingly, I get my limited information about their views from more impersonal outlets.  As far as I can tell, they get no information about my views from any source, unless you count their assumption that a second-hand description of what Limbaugh said this week accurately sums up my own views.

Why would I attend her gatherings?  Will she have taught any of her fellow travelers to listen to someone like me without drifting into insult?  Will she even learn the knack herself?  Her anecdotes of success included the breathless report that she mentioned to a friend how much she disliked Rush Limbaugh, only to learn that her friend unexpectedly was not that crazy about him herself.  A blow for communication and solidarity!  They went on to learn that her friend wasn't actually that crazy about Bill O'Reilly, either.  See, they really are people!  You don't have to be afraid to talk to them!  They may turn out to share your views on some public personalities, and then you won't even have to hear what they think on any of the scary issues.

But then the national votes come in and remain perennially astonishing.  "We may never know what motivates these people . . . ."

Detective stories

It turns out Audible.com has quite a few free books on offer.  At first I stuck to classics, some Jane Austen and so forth, because I'm suspicious of modern fiction recommended by sites like Audible or Kindle.  In desperation during a long painting job, though, I took a chance on an author named Colin Cotteril, who turns out to be terrific.  Imagine John Le Carre on antidepressants and channeling Roger Zelazny.

So far I've listened to the first two in a series about a Laotian coroner, The Coroner's Lunch and Thirty-Three Teeth.  Unlike many coroner-based procedurals, this one doesn't try to gross the reader out.  The protagonist, a disillusioned 72-year-old doctor who finds himself the reluctant national coroner without training or facilities in post-revolution socialist Laos in 1978, is cynical but not in the least hard-hearted, more of a Jane Marple than a Sam Spade.  Actually a bit of Obi-Wan Kenobe.  The Audible version is especially enjoyable for the accents, which are all Brit.

Seasick Steve on a Friday Night


Good for all of your howling-at-the-moon needs.

Life Advice from Old Cowboy Movies

There's three times in a man's life when he has a right to yell at the moon: when he marries, when his children come, and... and when he finishes a job he had to be crazy to start.

-Red River
Today I finished something I was probably crazy to start, which I've been working on for seven years. I'm going to be offline for a bit; perhaps a week. I don't know that I'll yell at the moon, but I'll definitely celebrate with some time doing something else.

Enjoy yourselves. I'll be back.

Cybersecurity, the Old-Fashioned Way

Vice points out that our nuclear missiles are almost completely secure from cyber attack.
The technology that currently powers these nukes is notoriously antiquated. Most of the systems were designed and built during the height of the Cold War in the 1960s and ’70s, with the last major overhaul completed during the Reagan administration. Some computers in the missile base command centers still use eight-inch floppy disks....

U.S. nuclear missile base technology is ancient by modern standards, but the old machines offer almost maximum cybersecurity simply by virtue of their age. With everything hardwired and analog, the system is uniquely impervious to intrusion and meddling. That leaves some nuclear experts to ask: Why spend billions switching from a system that is relatively safe to one that’s potentially more vulnerable?
That strikes me as a good point.

Good Order & Discipline

The Department of the Navy has settled upon a regulatory change to address the Marines United photo-sharing scandal.
The statute details three conditions that will be considered a violation of Navy regulations, including if images are broadcast or transmitted: “with the intent to realize personal gain; with the intent to humiliate, harm, harass, intimidate, threaten, or coerce the depicted person; or with reckless disregard as to whether the depicted person would be humiliated, harmed, intimidated, threatened, or coerced,” the regs read...

In this case, detailing expectations of Department of the Navy personnel amounts to a lawful order, which can be enforced with the full weight of the justice system, from non-judicial punishment to general court martial. Sailors and Marines who run afoul of the new regs could be charged with an Article 92, failure to obey a lawful order, the Navy's chief spokesperson confirmed in a statement.
As expected, 100% of the focus is on the unauthorized sharing of the photos. There will not be any attempt to rein in the fraternizing of male and female Marines, nor their sharing of nude photos of each other so long as it is consensual. Neither will there be any inquiry into whether such an environment is really compatible with good order and discipline.

It's a half-step, but my guess is that there is no one in the leadership who feels empowered to question the place of Free Love in the military at this particular moment in American history. As with other 1960s counterculture values, Free Love is now ascendant for good and for ill.

Even in the Marine Corps.

Awakening

A Vox writer comes to the dawning realization that the US government isn't capable of handling the legalization of drugs. It's a pretty good piece -- I don't raise it to mock it, but to praise the willingness to rethink a long-held position based on evidence you would likely prefer to ignore.

The basic idea is that he has come to realize that, while legalization might work elsewhere, America's particular government is incapable of regulating drugs effectively. Legalization will thus predictably bring a vast increase in drug use and the trauma associated with it. It is not that it is impossible to legalize drugs and regulate them wisely; other countries may be able to do it. Our system, however, is incapable of it.

I sometimes use a similar argument against single-payer in America. It may be that other governments can do that well, but if we had single-payer, you already know what it would look like. It would look like the VA.

Two Very Different Takes on the Same Information

The American Spectator has been developing a report from the UK's Guardian. The information in the stories is substantially the same, but the impression you get about what the story actually is will differ wildly depending on which publication you read. The Guardian report is another "Trump (or at least some people with his campaign) colluded with Russia" story. The Spectator story is not.
...John Brennan was the American progenitor of political espionage aimed at defeating Donald Trump. One side did collude with foreign powers to tip the election — Hillary’s.

Seeking to retain his position as CIA director under Hillary, Brennan teamed up with British spies and Estonian spies to cripple Trump’s candidacy. He used their phony intelligence as a pretext for a multi-agency investigation into Trump, which led the FBI to probe a computer server connected to Trump Tower and gave cover to Susan Rice, among other Hillary supporters, to spy on Trump and his people.

John Brennan’s CIA operated like a branch office of the Hillary campaign, leaking out mentions of this bogus investigation to the press in the hopes of inflicting maximum political damage on Trump. An official in the intelligence community tells TAS that Brennan’s retinue of political radicals didn’t even bother to hide their activism, decorating offices with “Hillary for president cups” and other campaign paraphernalia.

A supporter of the American Communist Party at the height of the Cold War, Brennan brought into the CIA a raft of subversives and gave them plum positions from which to gather and leak political espionage on Trump. He bastardized standards so that these left-wing activists could burrow in and take career positions.
Is it possible that both papers are correct in their take? The claim that Brennan was a "supporter" of CPUSA does at least track to his admission that he voted for the CPUSA candidate in 1976. He was also the CIA director when the Agency hacked the US Senate, which should have been a red line for anyone who respected democratic limits on the powers of spying.

Up or Down?

From a mostly-correct piece on the dangers of politics as comedy:
The late-night political-comedy shows... staked their territory during the heat of the general election: unwavering, bombastic, belittling, humiliating screeds against Donald Trump. Fair enough. Trump is a man who on any casual summer day during the campaign could be found inciting a crowd to violence. This isn’t the slippery slope; this is the ditch at the bottom of the hill. Once a man stands before a mob and exhorts the powerful to beat the outlier, it’s all over except for the cannibalism and the cave painting. “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” said Abraham Lincoln. “Knock the crap out of them,” said Donald Trump.
Which way is down slope? Lincoln's remarks were made on a battlefield very recently interred with ten thousand men.