Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Preparing for life in the twenty-first century. Uh, and a half.

Should people dismantle their life’s work, to enter politics?—Wednesday, November 30th, 2016
Zucchini squash salesman

“Sorry, son. You can’t grow up to be president unless you get rid of the family business.”—the political class

I went into November 8 determined to be happy whatever the outcome. If Hillary Clinton won, well, divided government is usually good for the economy as long as Republicans hold the House, which they were going to do. And if Donald Trump won, it would be a good and well-deserved black eye for the political establishment. One very good result of his election is that he punctured the class ceiling. He’s not from the political class, and it’s a good thing that people from outside the political class can still be elected to high office without turning “politics” into their career. But the political establishment obviously doesn’t think so. In the short run they’re trying to overturn the results of the election, and in the long term they’re trying to build some walls of their own to keep the political class safe.

Asking people to give up their family businesses in order to get into politics is one of those walls. They want to keep successful businesspeople on the other side of the political wall, and they want any businessperson who crosses it to pay for that wall. Trump’s holdings are much bigger than the average family business, but it’s still a family business; and for that matter the more successful a business is, the more important it is to its creators to hand it down to their children.

The members of the political class, politicians especially, usually have portfolios rather than businesses, because that’s how corruption works, and even when it isn’t corruption, that’s how investing works for political funds. It is relatively easy to put a portfolio into a blind trust.1

Champaign, Illinois: Orphans Treasure Box—Tuesday, November 29th, 2016
Orphans Treasure Box

The storefront is easy to miss, and there’s not a lot else around.

So far I’ve only purchased one book from this bookstore—which means I’ve spent a total of twenty-five cents there. I’m not sure how often I’ll get back to it, either. I don’t often go through Champaign, Illinois. It will depend, I suppose, on whether I need to continue avoiding the traffic on the Illinois section of I-80.

Mind you, that one book was one of the better ones in the Three Investigators series. So chances are I’ll figure a way to pass by here again.

The bookstore is the outlet store of the charity’s Amazon storefront. According to their web site and the flyers in the store, the charity is focused on orphans, and especially on finding them homes and making sure that the people who take them in are supported.

When I pulled up, I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. I came up a county road into a dusty lot that seemed to be the middle of nowhere. Pioneer Street is one lone block and appears to be some sort of warehouse district. It isn’t: Google Maps shows lots of businesses around that street but nothing particularly on it.

The bookstore itself is clean, organized, and filled with books. Which is what you want in a bookstore. If you’re traveling east/west on 74, or even north/south on 57 as I was, it’s worth checking out.

Orphans Treasure Box
826 Pioneer Street
Champaign, IL

Aug. 23, 2016

The Mystery of the Screaming Clock Robert Arthur $0.25 mass market paperback
Lessons for new Presidents: Entangling long-term alliances—Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016
George Washington goes to war

That’s a mighty entangling alliance you got with that eagle there, George. (SharpWriter, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The New York Times recently headlined an oped by William S. Cohen and Gary Hart, Don’t retreat into fortress America. As headlines go it’s good advice, but I had to wonder where they were when President Obama retreated from Iraq, tried to bring terrorist inmates from Guantanamo Bay into the continental United States, turned Middle East foreign policy over to Russia, and threatened not to deal with a free Britain.

It’s the usual relative bullshit that ensures people don’t trust the media today: they’ve taken sides, and when their side retreats from long-term alliances, it’s right, when their enemy does it, it’s wrong.

But what form our long-term involvement overseas takes is a huge issue, one of trust—or the lack of it—brought on mainly by our abandonment of the Iraqi people

One of the defined duties of the United States President is negotiating the “permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world” that President Washington feared would “entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice”. In the modern world, these entanglements did all that, but they also turned a fascist Germany into a modern democratic powerhouse, and turned a totalitarian Japan into a similar democratic economic miracle.

These entanglements continued following the Korean war, which was justifiably criticized as propping up a dictatorship—and yet still managed to produce a modern democratic country with a powerful economy in South Korea.

There is every likelihood that South Vietnam would have followed the same path, if we had lived up to our commitments after the peace, as we did in Germany, Japan, and South Korea. The war was won; the enemy was back across the border; we had a peace treaty and we had agreements with South Vietnam. We did not honor those agreements—replacing military equipment—and the result was hundreds of thousands of deaths among the Vietnamese “boat people”, millions of deaths in the “killing fields” of Cambodia, and a fragile economy that remains weak under a communist rule that isn’t as bad as North Korea, but is far worse than what they’d have if we’d honored our commitments.

Election lessons: The Supreme Court and the New Tone—Wednesday, November 16th, 2016
Supreme Court Building

If you’re a Democrat, would you rather have Ted Cruz in the Senate, where he would tend to keep Congressional Republicans from moving left, or in the Supreme Court, where he would tend to keep President Donald Trump in line?

The establishment left is often hypocritical. They will claim, for example, that standard map markers are firearms crosshairs, and that this is unacceptable political rhetoric. And then when they don’t get their way in an election, they’ll promise to train “the full firepower” of themselves and their supporters on the President of the United States—as the ACLU did in a post-election mailing a few days ago, while those supporters are literally rioting and threatening to kill the president-elect.

This despite the fact that the left has a very simple means of restraining a Trump presidency. Before the election, Donald Trump released a list of judges he’d appoint to the Supreme Court. All of them are conservative, and all of them are distrustful of executive lawmaking.

If the left is not just trolling their members for more money—if they are truly afraid that Trump will act in a totalitarian manner—what they should do is team with conservatives and make sure that Trump only nominates justices from that list. No judge on that list will allow Trump to exercise totalitarian powers. They are not judges who acquiesce to the mood of the day or to executive orders. That’s what makes them conservative.

The thing is, Democrats have pretty much ensured that Donald Trump will get whoever he nominates. Democrats threatened before the election, when Democrats thought that ignoring the working class was a winning strategy, that they were going to get rid of the supermajority requirement for bringing Supreme Court justices to a floor vote after they won the Senate.

They already got rid of the supermajority requirement for other positions in 2013 when they still held the Senate.

Democrats can do two things if they want to overcome their past intransigence and save the filibuster—and thus have an influence on some of Trump’s nominees. First, they really should apologize for what they did to Robert Bork. Conservatives are still using Bork as an example of bad behavior on the left, and for good reason. The Democrats’ behavior with Bork, a highly-rated judge, was the start of a decades-long Lucy-pulling-the-football series of antics. They’ve continued this, on and off, until it peaked during George W. Bush’s presidency.

The Levenger Ambi Folio—Tuesday, November 15th, 2016
Levenger Ambi Folio at lunch

A composition notebook fits perfectly; the Ambi was a great companion at the Colorado BlogCon in 2011. This may have been the first serious use I put it to.

Sometime in 2010 I started thinking seriously about getting a good folio. I was tired of making do with cheap pieces of junk that cracked, didn’t work well with my writing tools, and that seemed to be designed more for kids than for writers.

I wanted something that could handle an iPad without the iPad sliding out, keep loose papers together, and hold a notepad for writing by hand—preferably a classic marble-cover composition book. I also wanted it to hold at least one pen. Preferably two, because at the time I had not yet found the Space Pen.

And, at the same time, I needed it to be relatively compact and easy to carry around—the whole point of a folio is to be able to take it to the park or a bar or the library, somewhere to write.

It took several months, but I finally settled on the Levenger Ambi, waited for a good sale, and ordered it in November 2011. It’s exactly what I was looking for. The overall folio zippers shut, so that anything inside, such as an iPad or loose papers, does not fall out. It has space for two pens, one on the top and one on the bottom of the left side1 . It has three different-sized pockets on the left. One works great for cards, one for large tickets or receipts, and one for full-sized writing paper.

It has a space to slide in the back cover of a notebook, so that I can slide composition books into it horizontally. It also can take writing pads that slide in vertically, if you prefer. I haven’t used one since I finished up the one that came with the folio.

And it has a zippered compartment for especially important things such as a passport or checkbook. I rarely carry such things in my folio, but when I do, the inner zipper ensures they don’t fall out when I unfold the folio. More often, the zippered compartment carries extra camera cards, adapters for the iPad for reading camera cards, and rulers or even a bit of extra cash.

Congratulations, and condolences—Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

By the time you read this, you will know who won the election and who lost. At the time I’m writing it, the outcome remains in doubt. Since it’s really a matter of which lizard1 wins, I’m going to sleep.

If your candidate lost, better luck next time.

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”—Robert A. Heinlein (Time Enough for Love)

If your candidate won, good luck.

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see… ”

“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”

“No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”

“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”

“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”

“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”

“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”

“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”

“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”—Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

Voting Nobody in 2016—Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016
Clinton-Trump

Separated at birth?

For many years, or at least every four years, I wrote a Nobody For President musing. I stopped in 2008 because the choice between the two candidates was much clearer.

But if there’s any election to test the idea of voting for Nobody, it’s this one. Both Republicans and Democrats had Nobody in their primaries, and the Republicans, because they don’t have a super-delegate system to override the will of the people, elected theirs.

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were both Nobody for President; they were both protest votes. Only Trump won.

But because this Nobody is a real person rather than an empty seat, this is a crappy election. We’re either going to elect someone who clearly has no respect for women; or we’re going to elect someone who has viciously smeared women who have been sexually assaulted and raped and who has enabled multiple abusers, at least including her husband and her aide’s husband. Probably more.

I’m going to ramble a lot more than usual because Donald Trump is like voting Nobody in one sense: everyone in the DC elite hates him, including Republican leadership. When he tries to act like a Democrat, the press will call him on it—as he’s discovered. And both Republicans and Democrats in Congress will be ready to assert congressional power and reign him in.

The main difference between Clinton and Trump is that Clinton will get away with it.

Think about how FBI director James Comey’s press conference would have gone if it had been Trump who lied about reckless handling of national security secrets.

Instead of calling him careless and unreasonable, testifying under oath about lying, often, about reckless handling of classified information and irresponsible evasion of public records laws and then saying that those lies aren’t evidence of intent, Donald Trump would have been indicted.

The FBI and the Justice Department would not have let Trump get away with what they let Clinton get away with. The Attorney General would not have met with his spouse in a clandestine meeting..

Tomato-cucumber sandwich on sweet bread—Tuesday, November 1st, 2016
Tomato cucumber sandwich

Thursday is national sandwich day! So eat a sandwich! This recipe blends Lebanon and Syria in a sandwich.

This sandwich works best with a bread made from sweet dough, a yeasted white flour loaf made with eggs and extra sugar. I like to use a Syrian-style anise bread with mahleb, but any sandwich bread will do, especially breads like the Portuguese sweet bread from the The Bread Machine Cookbook.

Don’t skimp on the butter, do skimp on the salt, since you’re putting it on twice, and raise a toast (pun intended) to National Sandwich Day!

You’ll most likely have slices left over from the tomato and cucumber, so put them on the side with salt or salt and pepper, as you prefer. Drink with iced tea or some other not-particularly-sweet beverage, and relax.

I’ve been fascinated by cucumber sandwiches ever since reading The Importance of Being Earnest, and while this is nothing like that, I did have the urge to make a cucumber-focused sandwich after having some left over from a Lebanese garlic-tomato-cucumber salad. This is pretty much that salad (minus the lemon and olive oil, plus butter) on toast.

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