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The Occasional Observer



Bourbon. Cured meats. And opinion without sprouts.



Updated: 2017-01-27T05:29:48.361-05:00

 



What to do with nominee Trump

2016-03-02T12:50:30.271-05:00

Contemplating Trump’s delegate lead--the fact that he’s won 2/3 of the state contests so far, that he performs best in states where the voters skew moderate and the South is largely spent already--I can only come to one conclusion: It’s hard to see a scenario under which Trump is not the GOP nominee at this point.   This puts me squarely in the position of having to choose between Trump and Hillary, exactly where I told Mike I’d hope never to be.   So now, I’m going to have to do more than reflexively throw up in my mouth at the sound of his name, I’m actually going to have to contemplate if the good outweighs the bad of a Trump candidacy.Believe it or not, I’ve felt right along there are a lot of things I’ve liked about the Trump candidacy.   They can be summarized as follows:Moderates the party on social policyModerates the party on trade policy (maintaining the flexibility to be hawkish on trade policy is a key starting point for any negotiation—and he understands “positioning” and the process of negotiations better than most)Wants to be a foreign policy realist and not a neoconservative (I say “wants to” b/c all we have to go on in are his inclinations; he doesn’t seem to actually know enough yet to BE a realist)Is willing to pursue goals that he feels are worthwhile regardless of political conventionIs willing to speak to the cultural sensitivities of the silent majority: e.g., it’s OK to have a Christmas tree up in your town square in Kansas without the Supreme Court pissing in your cornflakes Expressly reaches out to, and bridges, the divide between the GOP and working class voters, offering the possibility of a positive political realignment for the country, and a move away from perpetual class warfare between the partiesThe negatives of Trump we’ve gone over too many times to restate, but the most pertinent are his lack of accountability and transparency, past organizational/business failures, lack of personal ethics and overreliance on litigation, his “might makes right” philosophy that is fundamentally dangerous when married to the power of the Oval Office, willingness to send dog whistles to the most bigoted and xenophobic extremes of the populace, and his personal crudeness and the reshaping of our political discourse that he has brought about.Now, it has to be said, I’m believer in rules, a believer in process and systems, and Trump is winning under the rules of the game as they were laid out.It also has to be stated that I believe it is in the national interest for the GOP and it’s governing principles to win.  As a result, my starting point has to be support for the party nominee, regardless of whether it’s my first choice.   I’ve never been a believer in “taking my ball and going home” just to prove a point.  So absent some grave and serious reasons, I would support Trump.Of course, there could be grave and serious reasons.   I have every reason to believe he will be the most corrupt, self-dealing President of our lifetime, because that’s how he’s carried out every other endeavor in his life.   But we’ve had various degrees of institutionalized corruption inside our government for decades, and in that sense Trump is just more obvious about it, than truly new.Where Trump could set this country back, irrevocably, is with entitlement spending and tax policy.   In the past he’s advocated a wealth tax and hiking tax rates on upper income workers.   If a Dem president suggested these policies, the GOP would oppose it to the gates of hell.   A Republican president who was willing to offer these policies, however, would have an almost limitless ability to move forward.  He merely needs to co-opt a third of his caucus to do so, and most Presidents carry far more weight than that in their own party.  Entitlement spending already stands to bankrupt the country, and with his admiration for single-payer health care, the pace of our fiscal destructi[...]



On Scott Walker and his "college diploma" problem

2015-02-18T15:39:31.962-05:00

Over at Race 4 2016, the astute SouthernDoc argued that back-and-forth over Walker and his college dropout status is indicative of an age-old divide in US politics:
The Walker college degree issue is really a proxy for one of the great recurring fights in American politics: Hamiltonian elitism vs. Jacksonian populism. Who should govern and who governs best? Do we rely on the professionals, specialists, and highly educated who are overwhelmingly the products of elite and established families to lead us or do we turn to those who rose out of the mass of society through initiative and personal merit even though they often lack both refinement and structured learning.
I disagreed as follows, and welcome your thoughts:

One can glean some insight from Walker’s decision to leave school (that he was in a hurry, ambitious, maybe a bit myopic–-issues that would surface again in his first few months as governor), but it does not prove that he fails to meet the standards of the office. That he is not "among the brightest.” I’ve known too many college grads without smarts, and vice versa.

The real import, though, is not what the decision tells us about Walker the man. It is the political liability that will be his achillies heel throughout the cycle, based on perception as much as anything else.

We live in a country where college graduates are no longer “professionals, specialists, and highly educated,” and who are no longer “overwhelmingly the product of elite and established families,” as SD mentions.  Rather, we live in a country where a Bachelors degree is a fairly commonplace occurrence, with about 1/3 of the population having obtained such a degree.  Not like in the first half of the 20th century, where that figure was 5% or thereabouts.

Is it a sign of some intelligence? Sure. Also of having enough discipline early in life to see it through.  In the case of someone like Walker, who by all accounts was aspiring to a political career from the jump, it would also have been indicative of prudence (to not leave a glaring weakness on his CV). 

But college is no longer about “elitism” and whether we surrender our sovereignty to elite families. We’re no longer in the era of FDR living in in a private townhouse, surrounded by other trust fund students adjacent Harvard’s campus, to ensure they never mix socially with the masses. Rather, in today’s world, almost anyone who can see his way through H.S. can find a college somewhere that is willing to give him or her an opportunity.

This reality is reflected in our job market.  Grade school teachers where I live are required to have a bachelors degrees.  Many districts expect an M.S. within a set number of years.   Federal agents need a BA plus work experience, but can place out of the work requirement with an advanced qualification (often a JD or other graduate degree).  Police officers in NYC are required to have multiple years of college.  FDNY firefighters are required to have at least a bit of college under their belt, unless they meet an exemption. These are not professions populated by the Hamiltonian elite. And yet college is a pre-requisite for them.

The gulf between the reality of today’s workforce and the Walker campaign’s position (no one cares about that, what have you done for me lately), is just too wide to wish it away. Nor can they demonize as elitists those who have come to accept such credentials as a basic and typical hurdle for many (less important) jobs.  Why?  Because too many regular people have sacrificed too much–time, money, etc.–for them to accept that the President deserves to be held to a lower standard.



For Your Consideration

2015-02-12T23:13:28.051-05:00

width="425" height="350" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src="https://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=One+Main+Restaurant+%26+Bar,+West+Main+Street,+Babylon,+NY&daddr=Post+Office+Cafe,+West+Main+Street,+Babylon,+NY+to:Babylon+Bean+Coffee+House,+Fire+Island+Avenue,+Babylon,+NY+to:Mary+Carroll's,+Deer+Park+Avenue,+Babylon,+NY+to:Salty+Dog+Tavern,+Railroad+Avenue,+Babylon,+NY+to:The+Villager,+Deer+Park+Avenue,+Babylon,+NY+to:Lily+Flanagans+Pub,+Deer+Park+Avenue,+Babylon,+NY&hl=en&geocode=FbX7bAIdHS2h-yHGP49V0Tp_lCl71Kx51dLpiTHGP49V0Tp_lA%3BFbT3bAIdFyWh-yE2-lXUzRKoxCmrvURAKtPpiTE2-lXUzRKoxA%3BFUj5bAId0y2h-yGbZukMpYdvQSldN8aD1dLpiTGbZukMpYdvQQ%3BFSYCbQIdzy-h-yHNyq4xBXOgjimhj-pO1dLpiTHNyq4xBXOgjg%3BFaAJbQId-i2h-yHGx2396vQ6mykbnlKWKi3oiTHGx2396vQ6mw%3BFY0KbQIdiTCh-yFSI-PPqz4wyCkzIpOSKi3oiTFSI-PPqz4wyA%3BFRwPbQIdZTKh-yEJsilFTvLJPSmfSfNPKi3oiTEJsilFTvLJPQ&aq=0&oq=lily+flanagans&sll=40.698857,-73.323771&sspn=0.007703,0.006899&mra=ls&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=40.698857,-73.323771&spn=0.005863,0.003318&output=embed">
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A farewell speech that should be required viewing

2014-12-18T09:46:43.184-05:00

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A farewell speech that should be required viewing

2014-12-18T09:44:50.586-05:00

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The Office: Middle Earth Edition

2014-12-15T10:29:37.560-05:00

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The Call of the Woods

2014-11-24T11:03:28.002-05:00

As I shuffle down the road to work in my truck, my gaze wanders to the woods through which this asphalt scar has been cut.

 My body will sit at a desk, but my mind will stalk silently through the forest. As my animal eye spots trails and cover, my mind and my domain expand through the quiet beyond the range of an office, to cover all the trees and boulders I can see.

 Might it be, that this time, I will be granted that beautiful piece of this expanse to feel the thrill, to admire, to kill - to consume, so that it may become part of me and me of it.

 Alas, my reverie is rudely broken by a blinking box demanding my attention, trapping the call of the woods in anticipation for a few more days.



Don't fret--resistance is NOT futile.

2014-09-26T14:51:29.736-04:00

Assimilation can be avoided...

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Plus--pink hair = sexy...



What happens next?

2014-08-11T12:55:59.991-04:00

Recent months have brought us a steady grind of bad news in the global arena.  Order seems to breaking down, with increasingly authoritarian regimes taking increasingly belligerent actions around the globe.

To whit:

1) Russia annexes Crimea
2) Russia masses troops on Ukraine border and foments unrest in the Eastern part of the nation.  Europe and the U.S. seem at odds in formulating a response.
3) Former elements of Al Qaeda in Iraq, since reformed as ISIS or ISIL, proclaimed a new caliphate, and have successfully taken control of large swathes of territory in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. 
4) ISIL proceeds to demand conversions of Christians or they will be executed.
5) Prime Minister Erdogan takes on a new office and has taken a more fundamentalist tone.  All the pieces seem in place for him to roll up more authority.  Meanwhile, he has taken a much more belligerent stance with respect to Israel, and repeatedly has deployed naval vessels to supply Hamas.
6) The Chinese have accelerated talks with Moscow to create a non-dollar currency regime.  They have also ramped up nuclear capabilities and production with an eye towards developing a second strike capability that would put them on par with Russia and the U.S.  

As the Obama presidency winds down, and these authoritarian regimes feel the weight of their "window of opportunity" closing, which of the following seem plausible, possible, or likely:

1) Iran announcing a nuclear weapon capability.
2) Iran directly intervening to protect the Shiite majority in southern Iraq against ISIL advances.
3) A Turkish incursion into northern Iraq to prevent Kurds from forming a viable nation state.
4) An ISIL-like group consolidating authority in Libya and/or Afghanistan. 
5) China invading Taiwan.
6) North Korea, supported by the Chinese, invading South Korea.
7) Russia invading Ukraine
8) Increasingly belligerent military maneuvers by China and Russia, such as flying nuclear bombers near US airspace (as we have seen recently).



Epic Rap Battles Of History - Darth Vader VS Adolf Hitler Parts 1, 2 and 3

2014-06-20T13:45:34.967-04:00

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Rick Grimes vs Walter White. Epic Rap Battles of History Season 3.

2014-06-20T13:45:15.637-04:00

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Epic Rap Battle: Nerd vs. Geek

2014-06-20T13:44:39.743-04:00

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The Real Immigration Problem

2014-04-08T08:46:24.162-04:00

Illegal immigration is totally out of control.  I don't think any one on this blog would disagree.  The real problem, however is legal immigration.  We have lots of low-skill, low-education people coming here illegally sucking up resources without paying in to the system (for the most part).  When it comes to people that will actually pay in to the system and improve our economy, we make it so difficult it's almost self-destructive.  This article describes how the high-skill visas for 2015 were exhausted in less than a week.  It's maddening how a problem that is so obvious with a solution that seems equally as obvious gets stuck in Congress because of politics as usual.



Malaysian Air Flight 370

2014-03-19T11:23:46.679-04:00

I've been horrified and fascinated by this all week. How does a 777 go missing? In the age of global satellite coverage, no less? When hundreds of cell phones are on board?

The only plausible explanation at first seemed a sudden and catastrophic accident. It would have to been so sudden and catastrophic, that the pilots were rendered incapacitated within moments. Otherwise, how to account for the lack of a single radio transmission of trouble?

Once that possibility seemed contradicted by the flight making course and altitude changes after the plane disappeared from our scopes, it seemed likely that the pilot was trying to float away with the rest of garbage. That theory is getting more probable by the day, now that it seems clear the new waypoints were programmed into the system before the pilot signed off with his dispassionate "All right, good night."

The lack of any apparent conflict in the cabin (again, no radio transmissions from the captain, no text messages from the passengers despite the plane apparently flying at a low altitude for a considerable period of time, during which even the messages of dead passengers written previously could have transmitted) makes a hijacking appear unlikely, especially coupled with the transponders being shut off while the plane was still flying.  Unless these were some silent and incredibly effective terrorists.

So who does #2 work for? Hard to say. Plenty of theories. Was this a test, to see if a plane could be set to fly remotely or on autopilot towards a potential target, with the cabin depressurized so that there would be no conscious passengers to thwart the plan? Was the plane being stolen for use in a future attack? Were there specific targets among the passengers being taken hostage or killed? Was there a completely silent cockpit intrusion and coercion of the crew, coupled with a very sophisticated set of hijacking requests (shut off data transmission/change course/evade radar), and the inability of the experienced pilot to send up a silent alarm to air controllers?

There is too much intentionality for there not to be a larger plan at work. What and why is yet to be revealed. It seems to me that this was no mere mechanical failure, nor pilot suicide. Going nose down would've been easy by comparison. Meanwhile, the hundreds of family members are being put through a form of torture that is difficult to comprehend.



NCOFM: QOTD

2014-03-19T11:03:50.265-04:00

Malaysian Air 370 version.  I've had this in my head as I've been reading about the various search zones, search parties from various nations, lack of communication between various agencies, confused chain of command, etc.:
Nervous Accountant: … he felt that the more people looking...

[cut off by Chigurh]

Anton Chigurh:That’s foolish. You pick the one right tool.



This is not even the beginning of the end,

2014-03-19T11:20:56.383-04:00

...more like the end of the beginning.  From the NY Times:

Moscow’s Actions Upend Europe’s Post-Cold War Order
By STEVEN LEE MYERS, ELLEN BARRY and ALAN COWELL

Defying the United States and Europe, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said he was reversing what he described as a historical mistake, declaring, “Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia in the hearts and minds of people.”

Now, just for fun, how many proper nouns can you use to replace the bolded "Crimea" in the quote above, and still have it make sense?

Putin's stated reasons for the annexation could have been exclusively historical or legal.  He's already made the point that the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine by Kruschev was illegal, and he's stated his demographic argument for not leaving ethnic Russians out in the cold.  Putin goes further.  Crimea is a part of Russia, he argues, because it's a part of Russia in the "hearts and minds of people." [my emphasis]  Bush thought he could see into Putin's soul.  Putin's powers are apparently much greater.

Putin's logic does beg the question: "Which people?"



Foundational prinicples: Choosing between competing goods

2014-03-12T16:54:17.764-04:00

Version 1:

There should be stability of law. 

We need a regulatory, entitlement and tax code framework that is palatable across the vast middle of the political spectrum, so that it is not constantly redrawn when power changes hands. 

When such changes occur (e.g., ACA), it damages the ability of individuals to make intentional, thoughtful choices in the marketplace.   It makes it difficult for free parties to enter into arrangements with confidence (e.g., hiring new workers).

It also creates the appearance of third world corruption, where rules are artifice, constantly redefined to the benefit a small group of backers of the party in power (e.g., Solyndra).


Version 2:

There should be a rollback of government.

The footprint of our regulatory, entitlement and tax code needs to be drastically reduced.   Even if such a rollback can only be achieved by a bare plurality, it is a legal and moral obligation based on our nation's founding principles.  

The positive effects of such a rollback, including enhanced personal freedom and increased prosperity, will eventually lead to this model being embraced by a broad majority of Americans.  It will be a sustainable political paradigm.


Version 3: 

We need a smarter deployment of federal resources.

We need a muscular government that invests in domestic programs and favors domestic interests.   Policy needs to be directed at improving our economic growth prospects in the future, and reversing the decades-long stagnation in real middle-class wages.  

The largest benefits to our information-age economy come from investing in human capital, so improving educational outcomes is a high priority.   

Improvements to the economic infrastructure, such as transportation and telecommunication technology, need to be incentivized.   Where the private sector cannot bring necessary scale to such endeavors, public investment should be considered on a cost/benefit basis.  


Version 4: 

Something better.



The Government Broke My Truck

2014-02-28T18:05:39.560-05:00

Earlier this week, 4 dashboard lights came on in my truck for no apparent reason.  It seemed to drive OK, so I drove it home from work.  During my drive home, it wasn't accelerate properly over 45 MPH.  I brought it to my mechanic who did some diagnostics and cleared the code.  He said he didn't need to fix anything and it would drive OK.

The next day he called me to tell me he did more research into the problem.  It turns out there was an issue with the secondary air flow system.  The truck was put into a crippled mode because of this issue, which caused the acceleration problem.  The only function of this system is to divert more hot air to the catalytic converter when it's cold so it will heat up faster and reduce emissions earlier.  It has nothing to do with making the car go.

So, because of some bureaucrat pushing some emissions regulation, my truck didn't work right for no real reason.

BONUS:


I don't like my local library, funded by my tax dollars, telling me where I can park because they don't like my choice of vehicle.  SCREW THAT.


Now get off my lawn.



Oscar season has the movies

2013-12-18T09:50:02.722-05:00

Don't know why there's nothing that interests me on the big screen all year, and then they have to cram all the good stuff into one month.

I'm really looking forward to American Hustle, Her, Hobbit DOS, Catching Fire (actually already caught this one), Book Thief, Secret Life of Walter Mitty, August: Osage County, and the Invisible Woman.   

Of course, a bunch of these are probably films I can wait to see on video, but at least 3 (American Hustle, WOWS, Hobbit DOS) are big screen musts for me.

And speaking of the Wolf of Wall Street, Scott Foundras from Variety offers this enticing summation:
If some of the advance hype suggested that “Wolf” was going to be a kind of “Goodfellas” on Wall Street, in reality it’s more like the jittery, paranoid third act of that movie stretched out to three hours, starting at a fever pitch and heading toward the nuclear.



Leaving the hunting cabin

2013-11-23T07:01:49.126-05:00

Another year in the books for the boys. A successful one at that: two deer harvested.

Clean-up at the end is always a bit of challenge. All the gear needs to get organized, packed, and stored for another year. Plus the cabin has to be restored to the condition it was in before 10 guys got around to a weeks worth of hunting.

Those challenges can be amplified, however, for some of our members. As a fellow contributor of our blog put it, "I should have made a bigger distinction between the piles of clothes that are clean and those that are sh*t."

How to overcome this packing obstacle?

"I just smell every item," he explained.



Here's a cool thought

2013-10-27T21:42:31.853-04:00

I love "Money for Nothing" and Mark Knopfler. But I'd love to see it live with Sting (who sang background vocals on the studio track) on stage. Better yet if we could just get silly and have Phil Collins playing drums. And if we're just being stupid, might as well have Clapton join Knopfler on guitar.

Oh snap...

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'This Week': Sen. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush Interview on Government Shutdown...

2013-10-21T15:35:10.525-04:00

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James Woods

2013-10-09T15:37:31.154-04:00

is pretty the much the man.   As if you didn't know that already, just from Lester Diamond.

But here he is IRL, living the creed "Country First."

Conservative actor James Woods: 'I don't expect to work again' - Washington Times



Libertarian Taxi

2013-10-08T08:35:06.228-04:00

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