Draconian Voter Restrictions

And Draco himself, they say, being asked why he made death the penalty for most offences, replied that in his opinion the lesser ones deserved it, and for the greater ones no heavier penalty could be found.

Plutarch, Life of Solon (wikipedia.org)

As we headed into summer of 2021, Democratic Texas senators fled the state in protest of Greg Abbott’s drive to stop people from voting for Democrats in the state. This isn’t the first time that Texas legislators have broken quorum, and it didn’t end any better this time than it did last time. Which is too bad because being a good citizen in Texas is already hard enough to do. We don’t need more laws keeping people from the polls and that is what this latest effort from the Trumpists who run Texas amounts to.

In the 2020 general election 60% of Texans showed up to vote, and the Republican oligopoly that runs Texas came closer to loosing control of the state than it has since Rick Perry took the Lt. Governor’s office from Bob Bullock in 2000 and flipped the last statewide office to Republican hands. 60% is one of the highest ever modern turnouts for Texas voters, and yet that is just barely over half of eligible Texans taking the time and the risk to go out and do their basic civic duty. Barely over half, and still the Republicans think that is too many people voting.

Finally facing the long-predicted blue wave surging across Texas, a blue wave fueled by young people of color swelling the ranks of minorities across the state, Republican leadership panicked. They panicked just like any threatened dictatorial regime would, and they passed even more restrictive laws to keep even more people from voting for their opponents in the next election. They passed these new laws over the steadfast opposition of the entire Democratic caucus; Democrats who are finally waking up to what it is that they will have to do to win in the South.

They have to win at the ballot box with new voters, and Republicans are dead set against allowing the formerly oppressed minorities the liberty of the ballot box, raising legal threats against anyone who dares to vote against them:

Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday called for Texas lawmakers to increase the penalty for illegal voting — less than a month after he signed a bill that lowers the maximum punishment.

texastribune.org

The reduced penalties were part of amendments that Democrats negotiated with Republicans to get into the bill in an attempt to soften the impact on citizenry who are caught up in the draconian new laws Republicans put in place this summer. Mercifully, the Democrats managed to get the provision to allow the Texas State legislature to reverse the will of the voting public removed from the bill, as well as softening punishment.

This was Texas voting law before this summer:

It’s harder [to vote in Texas] than in 49 other states, according to a “cost-of-voting index” compiled by political scientists at Northern Illinois University, Jacksonville University and Wuhan University in China.

texastribune.org

Now there are whole new classes of illegal voting created by the new laws demanded by Greg Abbott and his Trumpist cronies in the Texas state government, and the few things that Democrats managed to get changed in order to soften the burden on Texas voters are now being targeted for reversal.

Make no mistake here, Greg Abbott wants to force Texans to reelect him. That is his goal right now in pandering to the Trumpist voters that make up the majority of Texas Republicans. “Don’t primary me, I’m on your side. Nominate me again and we’ll stick it to those softy Democrats by hook or by crook.” This drive to increase penalties is just another attempt to terrorize Texans into voting for him. Vote for me or face punishment. Vote for me because I will make sure your voice is not heard no matter what you do:

“The story in Texas is very similar to the story across the United States. You’ve got urban areas that are increasingly disproportionately Democratic. And you’ve got rural areas that are disproportionately decreasing,” said Stephen Klineberg, a demographer at Rice University.

“You can’t prevent it. So redistricting becomes one of the major mechanisms by which the party that is in control of the senate, the house, and the governorship has really free rein now to redraw the districts to minimize the power of non-Anglos for the Republicans.”

theguardian.com

Greg Abbott say support him and his boss Donald Trump, or else. Support him the twice-impeached insurrectionist that created the pandemic we are still suffering under and currently is directing the actions of our Texas state government from his hideaway in Mar-a-Lago Florida. Are we Floridians now? Are we New Yorkers who must bow to the will of the corrupt land developers that own the government?

No. We are Texans and we have made it our mission to resist government in all forms since the day we told Santa Anna what he could do with his demand that we declare allegiance to him. Therefore, it is our patriotic duty to kick Greg Abbott and the rest of the Trump-loving fraudsters out of our state government. Wake up Texas and see just what the hell is really going on here.

reddit.com

Chemically Dependent

These feelings come from chemicals, I remind myself. It is fitting that this is true. How did the complex carbon chains that started this process we call life feel? Obviously they were attracted to each other, not pressured into existence like the elements themselves were.

Was there more than attraction? Was there a drive to reverse entropy, if only on a tiny local level? A desire to return to the simpler, hotter times of a young universe? A time when galaxies could pop into existence in the blink of a geologically-tuned eye? A time when anything could happen, matter itself barely even a concept yet?

After three or four transitions through supernova, were the carbon atoms ready for a change? Let’s try something different? Was life a kink that carbon engaged in on a lark, just because it was bored? Or was it something that carbon felt it was suited for, it’s many connection points needing attention all at the same time?

The Babylon Project Reborn?

Back in February I wrote this article:

In it I opine about the deluge of bad Trek spinoffs, so much bad Trek that it would be easy to drown in the volume of it all. As a closing observation I tossed out a few paragraphs about the complete lack of revisits to a popular science fiction television show that I felt got short shrift back in the nineties, Babylon 5, and then proceeded to lament this fact. I said, in effect:

You, Hollywood mogul. Why don’t you leave the corpse of Star Trek alone and go mess around with the dream given form? It could use a bit more attention.

I have lamented about the sorry state of affairs that was the five-year run of Babylon 5 since the days that we waited breathlessly for each episode to drop, for each season’s contract to be picked up, for the replacement of cast characters, etcetera. It was a pins and needles affair through the entire experience.

As a wannabe storyteller, I wept when Commander Sinclair was replaced with Captain Sheridan. I knew what a hampering of the overall story arc that this replacement would represent. The compromise that was worked out that allowed Michael O’Hare to retire marked the show and altered everything that happened after it. Michael O’Hare wasn’t the first actor to be replaced from the original pilot lineup of characters. This wasn’t unexpected, but the number of actors who came and went as the story progressed was a staggering number for any series, culminating in the loss of my favorite character, Susan Ivanova played by Claudia Christian at the beginning of season five.

The syndication contract that was arranged at the beginning of the show proved to be a constant sore, with each succeeding season being marked by negotiations that threatened the show’s continued existence, much like the fictional threats to the five mile long space station that the show was about. All alone in the night. The fifth season was such an open question that series creator, J. Michael Straczynski (Joe) felt compelled to complete the majority of the storylines at the end of the fourth season instead of gambling on getting a fifth. In the end the fifth season was picked up by another network, but the snafu of getting all the contracts carried over caused the loss of Claudia Christian from the cast, which in my personal estimation marred the last season irrevocably. The fire had gone out of the show for me, and I watched with only passing interest as the series wrapped up its promised fifth season and bid us all a fond farewell.

The problems with the show didn’t end there, though. The coveted DVD copies that made or broke shows after their airtimes were finished back in the day were slow appearing, and weren’t of the quality that the hardcore fans expected. The Wife and I made the ill-advised move to invest in laserdisc copies of the show, but the run of discs was never completed and we ended up having to sell the ones that were released for a pittance. That loss left a sour taste in my mouth, and has turned me against Fox media in all its forms ever since.

My ire for Fox is well-earned. They went on from defrauding us of the promised full release of laserdiscs for Babylon 5, went on to cover up for the fact that they skimped on putting together the episodes for airing. Fox never finished the composite shots correctly for widescreen display, and they never transferred the animation sequences to high definition formats, making display of the show on high-definition television an irksome task of squinting from just the right distance to make the show look good. All of this making Joe’s work to produce a show that could be transferred to new technologies in the future a waste of effort.

Today I read in the news that far from having hard feelings about Fox’s betrayal of his interests, Joe has decided to go back into business with Fox:

twitter.com/straczynski

To be continued.

You cannot step in the same river twice, for the river has changed, and you have changed.

Heraclitus

Regression to the Mean

Republicans:

facebook.com/Stonekettle

facebook.com/Stonekettle

They have made their way for so long on the mantra of resistance and regression that they can’t comprehend a change that is necessary for thier own survival. They would rather die than admit that a tradition was wrong.

The tradition in this case being that the individual is paramount. There can be no such thing as a legitimate public health concern if the public is subservient to the individual. This is the error in accepting individualism as your only ideology.

Vaccine mandates are how this civilization will survive this crisis. It is the only way we will survive and not be swallowed up by the other societies who are instinctively capable of subsuming the individual to the will of the group.

We either force the insanely individualistic to submit to majority will in this instance, or we will devolve into small islands of localized authority that will be gobbled up by the next society to gain dominance in the new reality. The new reality that Donald Trump and his Republican party have made necessary by failing to stop the SARS-COV2 virus from spreading across the world.

This isn’t just about vaccine mandates, either:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed a bill that aims to stop social media companies from banning users or nixing posts based solely on political opinions — the latest salvo by Republicans, who claim that these tech giants are censoring conservative users.

cbsnews.com

The Trumpists that run the Republican party are intent on seeing that their particular brand of insanity can’t be removed from the public arena. They have now given up on the idea of businesses being allowed to go their own way, the unbridled worship of the free market.

Businesses must now strictly conform to Republican views or they will face dire consequences:

If these companies comply with the Democrat order to turn over private information, they are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” McCarthy said in Tuesday’s statement. “If companies still choose to violate federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law.

Kevin McCarthy via politico.com

This is terrorism, no different than the terroristic threats issued by violent extremists and dictatorial governments elsewhere in the world. Republicans have proven themselves over and over again to be the kind of vicious bastards that would do the things that they threaten to do. Which is exactly the reason why the United States government should act to protect itself now, not wait for the next Congress or the next President to be elected from the Republican party to act in the manner they have already promised to act, and then have the gall to feign surprise at the promised retribution being delivered.

They are threatening us with violence, have been threatening us with violence for decades. These are the same people whose grandparents and great-grandparents joined the KKK and terrorized minority communities in order to get their way. The same people who filibustered against civil rights legislation and voting rights legislation before they switched parties and became Republicans.

They are the direct descendants of terrorists, and we cannot allow them to compete for power in this country any longer unless they are willing to renounce terror as a method of governing. Either they submit to the current government and its completely legitimate concerns for public health, for civil discourse; or the government should use its equally legitimate control of the use of force to ensure that they comply with the needs of society.

Enforced compliance, up to and including the disenfranchisement of the Republican party itself in favor of a party-less system that makes no allowances for party affiliation in the rules of government. The way that representative government in the United States should have been arranged for in the first place. The least amount of party interference in active government that can be achieved; through conscious, objectively designed rules that minimize factional disfunction in favor of just getting the necessary shit done.

The House passed a bill Tuesday that would both prevent a government shutdown and suspend the debt limit in a step toward preventing possible economic calamity.

The chamber approved the plan in a 220-211 vote. All Democrats voted for it and all Republicans opposed it.

As the bill heads to the Senate, Republicans are threatening to block it, which could leave Democrats scrambling to find another way to avoid a federal funding lapse — or even a first-ever default on U.S. debt. Worries about a looming default and the economic damage it would cause contributed to a U.S. stock market drubbing on Monday.

cnbc.com

Conservatism has now resumed it’s traditional place in the United States. It has regressed to its mean; blind support of tradition for tradition’s sake. Pursuit of power for power’s sake. The Republican party has ceased to function as a party that can govern and so consequently should be relegated to the back bench. We should allow some other party to take its place, or allow a combination of parties vie for the prime opposition spot.

We cannot allow public health to be treated as just another thing that we should expect the government to argue with itself about. The average American just wants to be allowed to live their life, and enforcing minimal public health standards will let that happen. Can we all just be allowed to go outside again, please? Get your damn shots.

A Cashless Society

Going cashless shouldn’t bother anyone, but it will probably bother most people quite a bit. Most people seem to value those little green rectangles of paper, but paper notes have no real value. They are a liability since they can be easily stolen and the cost of maintaining and policing the physical currency is astronomical (both points are made in the SGU episode segment) Digital currency has all the benefits of physical currency, without the need to carry it around. It is a win-win.

I used to be a hardcore numismatist. I was all in on silver and gold currency, coin collecting, etcetera. Then I tried bartering for goods with silver as a test to see how well it would be received by businesses. Most businesses were not interested. They wanted to deposit their earnings in the bank at night and the bank only accepted federal money, “the coin of the realm.” The test was a failure, as was the silver currency that I was using as my test at the time.

To individuals, the physicality of the money is what makes it valuable. To volume businesses, the physicality is a liability. This is why credit cards took off and why businesses gladly gave four percent to the card issuers in exchange for not having to deal with cash. It makes their jobs easier and safer and the analog or digital nature of the money being traded on the card system makes no difference as long as it can’t easily be stolen or have to be stored.

The value is in the goods exchanged, the location maintained, not in the money that made the transaction possible. Money has no value because you can’t eat it, it won’t keep you safe, it doesn’t make you live longer. The things that do can be traded for money, so long as the person who has those things has them to trade.

The future’s cashless society will look almost exactly like the one we live in now. The government will have to maintain accounts for each and every one of us in order to make it work; otherwise the poor will be shut out of participation in the economy to the detriment of us all and to the eventual destruction of our societies. In the US they may even make us all banks so that the fed can just issue us money directly. You’ll be able to go to the Post Office (most likely) to conduct your federal banking business. The better off will move their funds to private banks, but the poor will have to rely on government issued cards to buy their necessities. Life will go on pretty much as before.

Black markets will still exist. They’ll go to the barter system and commodities like gold and silver. They’ll create bot nets of dummy accounts that will mask the crypto-currency transactions. The buyer will need to show up with the commodity the seller wants in exchange. Currency is irrelevant.

Bob talks about the briefcase full of cash and that magical moment of imagination towards the end of the segment as a reason for preserving the greenbacks. Remember the scene in Pulp Fiction? You never see what is in the briefcase. You only see the golden reflection on Pumpkin/Ringo’s face, but that’s enough to make you understand the immense value of what is in that case. The money in his wallet is irrelevant. The money in your wallet is irrelevant. The money in my wallet is irrelevant. The commodities. They have value.

Standoff Scene from Pulp Fiction (Prime Video)

Based on an email sent to The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe in reference to the segment in episode 844.

Postscript

I have apparently been nominated to be the Jesus of monetary policy. Not quite sure how to take that. Run and hide before the Pharisees send the Romans to crucify me, or stand and accept my fate? I’m thinking I should decline the nomination now that I’ve spelled the conditions out for myself.

NBC App Wants Feedback?

I’ve been catching The Rachel Maddow Show via her audio podcast for years now. I occasionally watch the partial video podcast too, but only on days when I want to see what she’s talking about. Wednesday was one of those days.

There was some bit or other that was visual later in the show on September 2nd, and so consequently not in the video podcast which is generally the first thirty minutes of the show or the first story, whichever comes out to about half of her airtime, and I thought I would try to catch that bit on MSNBC’s website. While looking around on MSNBC.com I noticed that there was an NBC app that they said I could watch the show on, so I downloaded and installed the app.

The Rachel Maddow Show is indeed on the app, but the ability to search for clips from that or any show is almost non- existent, the same problem that I run into on the website. The content is almost always more easily found on YouTube than it is on MSNBC.com or NBC.com, even when NBC puts the video on YouTube themselves.

I couldn’t find the current episode of Rachel’s show that day. So I gave up and finished listening to the audio podcast. The next day it was the same problem when I thought I would start with the NBC app instead of heading straight to the podcast. I could find yesterday’s show (now I had forgotten what it was I had wanted to see in that show) but not that day’s episode. Back to my podcast app then.

What good is yesterday’s news? It is of little use unless you are constructing a narrative that spans the subject in question, as Rachel did when digging up what the news was on the day that Roe versus Wade was decided by the supreme court. I don’t need to see yesterday’s news if I’ve already heard that news. I had heard it. I heard it elsewhere.

Today I opened the app to watch Rachel Maddow for September 3rd, 2021. It isn’t available on the app yet. The feed helpfully says “finish watching” on the episode I’ve already seen elsewhere and queued previously. When I scroll through to the end of the episode, the app queued all the ads from the episode for me to watch just to finish the show. If I wanted to check that I’ve seen the end of the days news from her, I have to watch five thirty second ads.

I’m not going to watch five ads, not even five ten second ads. I won’t remember what the first two ads were about by the time I get to the fifth one. No, I’m going to close the app and do something else. Everyone would close the app and so something else.

When I exit the video stream, the NBC programmers incautiously ask me for for feedback on my dissatisfaction. My feedback? You might want to change the way that scrolling feature works. You won’t retain too many watchers if you don’t. You might want to rethink not putting the latest news show on the feed. Everyone will have seen the episode elsewhere before they will see it in the app, making including all of your news programming in the app pointless, those viewers permanently lost.

Also? The feedback page errored out when I went to send this novel to you. You might want to fix that issue as well. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Postscript

The reality of the situation is even more ridiculous than I described. I have to have a cable subscription to be able to access MSNBC content on my phone. Never mind that the content comes with ads embedded, ads that they pretend to everyone actually pay for the content (clearly the ads do not pay for anything. So why must I watch them?) I have to pay the middleman, the cable company or some similarly set up other middleman, in order to watch content that is available on the web for free if I simply wait a few hours and then go to a pirate site to download it.

I don’t mind paying for entertainment, I do that all the time. I do mind being charged for access to information that is necessary for the proper functioning of a self-representational governmental system. Access to current news is essential, unless we are all going to just bow to the man and let him make our decisions for us.

Graveyard of Empires

I remember those days like a nightmare that you can’t seem to escape. I was walking to work from my remote parking space. I had been loaned out as a draftsman to another firm while working for Graeber, Simmons and Cowan back in 2001. I don’t recall the name of the firm, but I can point you to the building it was in on Congress Avenue if I happen to be driving with you downtown.

A plane had struck the North tower of the World Trade Center at some point during my drive to work that morning. I was late to work as usual when I was under a deadline and working late nights. The second plane struck not too long after we had all settled down to work that day, and I believe we were dismissed early because there was no use in pretending we were going to get anything done on the project with the kinds of things that were happening in the world that day.

I remember the second plane strike most vividly because it was one of the first times that I was forced to use the internet to get essential news updates, there being no television in the office I was working at. We watched the video of the crash over and over that morning, before leaving to go home and contemplate what we had just witnessed.

When the Travis County Libertarians convened later that week to try to pass an antiwar resolution, declaring that Travis County Libertarians were opposed to the war in Afghanistan that the President was proposing, I motioned to table the declaration. With a second and a majority vote, we did table it. The majority of us at that meeting that day knew that blood called out for blood. It was inevitable and probably right for the United States to seek vengeance against the instigators of the plot that destroyed those towers in New York City. I don’t regret doing that; even today, twenty years later I don’t regret it. I regret that we violated parliamentary procedure to get the resolution tabled, but not that we refused to say that the United States had no right to seek vengeance. Blood called out for blood.

By October 7, 2001, when the war against the Taliban started:

The U.S. military, with British support, begins a bombing campaign against Taliban forces, officially launching Operation Enduring Freedom. Canada, Australia, Germany, and France pledge future support. The wars early phase [PDF] mainly involves U.S. air strikes on al-Qaeda and Taliban forces that are assisted by a partnership of about one thousand U.S. special forces, the Northern Alliance, and ethnic Pashtun anti-Taliban forces. The first wave of conventional ground forces arrives twelve days later. Most of the ground combat is between the Taliban and its Afghan opponents.

cfr.org

I was actively planning to go overseas to help rebuild Afghanistan. They needed engineers and experienced construction personnel, and I wanted to put my money where my mouth was, my expertise to work at something that would hopefully inspire a lasting change in the country that had fostered so much hatred for the United States. This was a radical change from the teenager I had been a scant decade earlier. I was ready to go to jail rather than even register for the draft when I turned 18 in 1980. I was that opposed to war.

I knew that if we wanted to avoid a quagmire in Afghanistan, the Graveyard of Empires, it was going to take finesse and a deft hand on the tiller, and I hoped that the former Texas Governor was up to the job that he had signed himself up to perform as President of the United States. I wanted to be part of the success of that effort. I wanted the cycle we were caught in to end.

My hopes were soon dashed, though. By the middle of 2002, before I had made any headway in deciding if it would be smart to involve myself in Bush II’s ill-begotten war on terrorism, he was already taking his eye off the ball and had begun flirting with conducting a war against his daddy’s nemesis, Saddam Hussein:

There’s an old line: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” And so it was with the Iraq war. Bush and Clinton and Powell and Blair knew quite a bit that wasn’t true. As Robert Draper shows in his book “To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq,” they were certain Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Only he didn’t. They were also certain, based on decades of testimony from Iraqi expats, that Americans would be welcomed as liberators.

nytimes.com

We ultimately squandered the opportunity handed to us by our allies in Afghanistan. Instead of pursuing a limited campaign that would destroy Al Qaeda and kill Osama Bin Laden, George W. Bush betrayed the needs of the nation and instead pursued imperial goals, trying to bring more countries under the direct control of the United States military through a permanent troop presence and a widening field of battle that essentially encompassed the entire globe, much less all of Afghanistan.

Osama Bin Laden left Afghanistan while we were distracted and took up residence under the protection of one of our purported allies, Pakistan. He lived in hiding there for another decade while our President’s dreams of empire were pursued at our nation’s expense. At the cost of nearly a million lives. Iraq’s government was destroyed and the entire region was destabilized because of the War on Terror. President Bush played right into OBL’s hands and attempted to colonize not just Afghanistan but Iraq as well.

We betrayed our allies, the Northern Alliance, the people who should have been the tip of the spear in everything we did in Afghanistan so as to keep our footprint in the country to a minimum, and instead tried to occupy the country. Time and again it was shown to us that this effort was doomed, and yet we kept doubling down on the investment of blood and treasure, with no one in leadership willing to admit that we were never going to be able to leave the country that we stupidly thought we could control.

We know now what that error has cost us. Has cost the people of Afghanistan. Twenty years later, the United States lead war in Afghanistan has finally come to an end, and the war between conservative governing factions in Afghanistan is set to begin. No one knows how long that war will rage, or what the ultimate outcome will be, but there is little doubt that the next war in Afghanistan is about to begin. Begin without our presence for the first time in a generation.

Donald Trump, the only president in history worse that George W. Bush, was left in charge of the United States when it came time to cut a deal to get us out of Afghanistan. President Obama could have done it, should have done it, but he thought he could turn that sow’s ear into a silk purse (the same hope of every leader left in charge of a debacle in the making) and kept us fighting an unwinnable war for the entire eight years of his Presidency.

Barack Obama, to his credit, did finally see to the death of the architect of the attacks on our country, but he failed to realize that with the death of OBL we no longer had a reason to stay in Afghanistan. We should have gotten out then, at least. Instead we kept lying to ourselves about what the ultimate outcome of the boondoggle would be. Another ten years went by.

Donald Trump, in his infinite lack of wisdom, decided the smart thing to do was hand the country of Afghanistan back over to the people we had fought for twenty years. He released the prisoners of war that we had captured and had them sign his peace deal, tying the hands of Joe Biden to the August 31st deadline that we have just gone through.

The Ezra Klein ShowThe Foreign Policy Conversation Washington Doesn’t Want to Have

Make no mistake, Joe Biden understood what needed to be done when he was Barack Obama’s Vice President. He opposed the surge. He wanted us to get out of Afghanistan sooner rather than later. As Ezra sums up in his article in the NY Times, it was always going to end this way. President Biden knew this just as well as Ezra’s guest in the podcast embedded above knows this.

There was never going to be a time when the coddled, corrupt Afghan puppet that we installed as leader of the country was going to be willing to risk his life for the country that we created. The same clearly went for all of the military personnel that we meticulously trained alongside us for twenty years in-country. Without leadership that would stand firm beside them they would melt away, leaving all the technology we had left in their hands in the hands of the enemies that Donald Trump put in charge with a stroke of his pen.

The Northern Alliance might have been up to the task if we had allowed them to lead, to put their blood and treasure on the line as the cost of not supporting the central government in Kabul. We’ll never know, because that eventuality never occurred. Instead we colonized and set up a puppet government just like we did in Vietnam; and the entire façade collapsed without our constant support, also just like Vietnam.

Now. Now we need to be working with Afghanistan’s neighbors to insure that it doesn’t devolve into the hellhole the Taliban made of it before. If we don’t do this work then we will find ourselves once again drawn into conflict there sometime in the future. Drawn into conflict or attacked by terrorists that found safe harbor there just as they did before. This outcome can’t be allowed to occur; and the only way to stop it is to help make Afghanistan the place it should have been all those years ago when we decided to continue being an empire instead of being a republic of fellow humans that needed to see past wrongs righted and the guilty brought to justice.

How can we, the country that still can’t come to peace with its own slave history, its own genocide of the original population of the land our country was founded on, how can we hope to ever show others how they can move past the point were blood calls out for blood? Who else is there that will do this work if we don’t?

facebook.com/Stonekettle

Featured image from: warfarehistorynetwork.com

When Squirrels Attack

It was two days before Christmas. December 23, 2020. The Wife went out to run errands like she does pretty much every day. I can’t convince her to stay home, not even with contagion everywhere around us. Nope, she has to go out and do things or her day is wasted. I’m awake, which is unusual for me this early in the day. We had been out early the day before, which meant I slept early the night before, and it was going to be awhile before I could slouch my way back into sleeping well into the afternoon and pretending to be annoyed about it.

She called me from the road. “There is something wrong with the car. There are lights on all over the dash and the transmission isn’t shifting properly. I think I better bring it back home.”

I told her to be careful and then I poured myself a cup of hot tea and stood inside the front door waiting for the car to reappear over the hill in front of the house.

When it finally did reappear it was definitely limping and she barely managed to get the car up the driveway. I motioned for her to pop the hood and it only took a few minutes of inspection to reveal what the problem was. The wiring harness was visibly chewed right at the point where it plugged into the engine manifold.

We had experienced a version of this problem before. A few years previously the Daughter had left the Leaf out on the back driveway and something had gotten into the engine compartment and made a nest right behind the driver’s side headlight. She just thought the headlight was out and bought a replacement bulb, but when we opened the hood and looked at where the wires went into the back of the headlight, there were no wires. There was only a nest made of some kind of chewed fabric that we couldn’t identify but hoped wasn’t also from inside the vehicle, and the stubs of wires sticking up out of the the place where they merged with the rest of the wiring harness.

I had never heard of creatures nesting in cars before, but when we took the Leaf to be estimated and fixed, the mechanic said “Oh, yeah. We see that pretty regularly.” Little did we know that we were leaving the new Nissan Versa to be vandalized by the same rodent that had struck the Leaf the day before. We parked the other car in the same spot on the driveway, and while we were gone the saboteur came back, and, apparently mistaking one vehicle for another vehicle parked in the same place, proceeded to make an identical nest in the same place in the Versa.

We must have interrupted her, because the nest wasn’t finished when we checked why that car’s headlight was also out. The Versa was still under warranty at the time, so we played stupid and just took the car in complaining about the headlight, and we let them fix the wiring that the rodent had chewed in that car, without ever asking about who was paying for it. As it turned out, they paid for it. We made a point of never parking cars on that driveway again. We instead parked on the front driveway, since this lot has the rare attribute of two curb cuts and driveways onto the property. We parked on the front driveway because it was more open and less prone to rodent traffic.

Or so we thought.

As we stood there looking at the damaged wiring harness, I knew that we were facing the same enemy. The varmint had struck again, crippling our mobility and probably costing us thousands of dollars.

I called the insurance company. Two days before Christmas, in the time of COVID, meant that I didn’t get a live person for quite awhile. When I did they were less than helpful about the problem. I had already logged onto our insurer’s website to try and start the claims process, but neither avenue was giving me the options that I wanted. Finally I just called Nissan and had them come tow the vehicle to the dealer’s shop so that Nissan could get started estimating the damage while I took the necessary time to argue with my insurer.

The Wife hitched a ride to a car rental place and secured replacement transportation. We were going to be without a vehicle for quite some time. I don’t think we understood how long, but we knew we wouldn’t be getting the Versa back until well after New Years. We’d be lucky to even get the car inspected and an estimate on repairs before New Years Day.

As it turns out, I never saw that Nissan Versa again. When Nissan finally got us an estimate for the repair, the price stated was more than what the car was worth. My insurance company insisted they could get the repair done for less money, and then fumbled about for weeks trying to find a place that would give them a lower figure, only managing to find a shop in their network that was hamstrung by deals with Nissan that required them to duplicate estimates that Nissan shops offer.

The price to replace both damaged harnesses was about $14,000.00. This was only slightly less than the car cost when it rolled off the dealership lot, straight off the delivery truck with 24 miles on the odometer. Mind you, they would have had to pull the drive assembly to replace one of the harnesses, which required a full shop and several days work to complete, but that just tells me the car was worth a lot more than they charged me to drive it off the lot in the first place. If the two harnesses installed was $14,000.oo, how much were the seats worth? 50¢? The body must have only been worth $100. What an unmitigated crock of shit! Is what I thought.

It is entirely possible that every car on the market in the United States is rolling rodent buffet in waiting. The manufacturers have to roll out these new harnesses for years after the cars are delivered:

Some believe the culprit could be modern car wiring or, more specifically, the soy-based insulation used to wrap it. This insulation can be an irresistible treat for rats, mice, squirrels, and even rabbits. The issue has become so widespread that several class-action lawsuits have been levied at automakers, with some of the highest-profile cases involving Honda and Toyota.

caranddriver.com
I miss this car.

So here we are. Versa totaled. Totaled because of squirrels. Driving a rental car. Looking for another car to replace the car that we both thought would be the last gasoline vehicle we would purchase, just two years after we purchased it. This is not how we normally change vehicles. Normally, we buy a car and it stays with us like a member of the family. We grow old together, gain scars together, etcetera. Our cars stay with us for at least a decade, generally. The green Saturn wagon we special ordered has been the only other car we’ve owned that we didn’t hang onto until the bitter end, and we traded that one in for a bigger Saturn sedan that we hung onto until there wasn’t an automotive brand called Saturn anymore.

This hurt. It hurt financially, because the car had depreciated by over half its value since we had bought it, and that came out of our almost empty pockets. It hurt physically, a gaping hole in our lives in the form of a car we had just come to accept as a replacement for the Rav4 that had eaten it’s own transmission two years previously (another car that we drove for nearly a decade. It’s even in a movie) now taken from us by a squirrel. A SQUIRREL for fucks sake! Not a deer or a cow or some unavoidably tragic accident involving an 18 wheeler and a greased roadway. A fucking rodent the size of a football killed our car.

How do I know how big it was? Because The Wife found the bitch. Under the hood of the rental car. In a McDonald’s parking lot. The Wife was just driving along, getting her morning cup of iced tea, and the dash lights started flashing again just like in the Versa before it died. So she jumped out, popped the hood, and the squirrel and The Wife stared at each other in surprise.

The squirrel decided it was time to beat a hasty retreat. The Wife said “Oh no you don’t” and grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and flung it as far as she could make it fly. Which was about the distance between the McDonald’s and the neighboring auto repair shop. Which is where the squirrel landed. In the towing yard of an auto repair shop.

She had taken the wire-eating monster away from it’s morning snack, and flung it square into the middle of a smorgasbord of automotive harnesses. Which is probably where it still is to this day. Eating wiring harnesses to its heart’s content. Unless the mechanics found it. I personally hope they did. The pelt would make a nice hat, I bet.

The Wife nonchalantly whistled her way onto the rental company’s nearest yard and pretended to not know why the dash lights were all flashing red on her rental car’s dashboard. “Can I have another car, please?” and proceeded on her quest to find and buy a replacement vehicle. One that would now probably be safe from wire-eating varmints, unless there were two of them near the house. The other one was not coming back over the distance she had taken it.

We ended up at First Texas Honda where we bought a used Honda Fit in February, almost two months after having the Versa chewed to death on our own driveway. The insurer paid for the rental, at least. It’s too bad we didn’t have insurance that replaced the car. We fixed that this time. Having a car destroyed like that, costing us about $10k in the process, with no visible sign of harm, seems almost unreal. But that is what happens when squirrels attack.

Postscript

I scare the Honda Fit. It doesn’t like the way I drive. No one likes the way I drive. It talks back to me. Flashing me messages. Sounding alarms. pulling on the wheel or activating the brakes. Slow down! Not so close! Brake. Brake! BRAKE! It’s worse than a side seat driver. It keeps yelling at me when I straighten curves out too. Lane departure is now a thing I read pretty regularly on the dashboard. I’m beginning to realize how bad a driver I am.

Ever since The Wife went in for her open heart surgery, I have been forced back into my role as a driver. I don’t really mind driving her to and from her appointments (really honey, I don’t) It is just that driving drains all my attention and mental energy, leaving me with almost nothing to utilize for other things during the day. This is part of the reason why I haven’t written anything for several weeks. This article took months to complete. It wasn’t the wife’s fault. No really. I needed the separation time from the events described here. I’m finally not as pissed about loosing $10k. I think.

Reinventing the Game

I was relating the story of the Cleveland Indians trying to change their name to the Guardians to The Wife the other day. She didn’t believe that they could have been so stupid as to not determine that there was a team named Guardians in Cleveland before changing their name:

Cleveland Indians changing name to Cleveland Guardians: Tom Hanks narrates announcement

That’s shaping the two teams up for a fight. The Guardians roller derby team has filed a trademark application for the rights to the name. The MLB team did the same four days prior, but trademarks often go to the first entity to use the name, rather than the first to file for it.

fortune.com

This apparently put her in the mood to watch one of her favorite standby movies:

Major League (1989)

I don’t know why someone who hates watching sports as much as she and I do can sit down and repeatedly watch movies about the business of sports over and over again like she does. But she does, and this movie is just one among many that she has rewatched repeatedly over the years including movies like Draft Day, Field of Dreams, Tin Cup, Jerry Maguire and several others. Major League is a film that I also like. I like it for the comedy and the comeback spirit that is the theme of the movie. What I was reminded of when I wandered through and watched a few scenes of the film with her, was the similarity of that movie’s theme to the theme of:

Moneyball (2011)

Moneyball (2011) Movie Trailer

There is very little comedy in Moneyball. But that line from Brad Pitt “There are rich teams and there are poor teams. Then there’s fifty feet of crap, and then there is us.” It is the theme of Major League, but Moneyball is a movie about events that actually took place in baseball history and not a comedy spoof about underdogs who beat the system. The manager of the Oakland A’s at the time, Billy Beane, and a character named Peter Brand, an amalgamation of several people who worked with Beane to implement the Moneyball algorithms into the selection process for new players, changed the way baseball has been run ever since the season that is documented in the movie. It is truly a movie about the underdogs taking what has been given to them, and making something better out of it.

Major League is a funny, heartwarming movie. Moneyball is a down to brass tacks gritty-assed film about the choices that go into putting together a winning team. Both movies tell a similar story. Don’t blame me if I like the story of a real underdog succeeding over the fiction. It took me forever to even get the Wife to watch Moneyball. The fact that math was somehow involved in the movie was enough to leave her cold. After having watched it once, she’s now put that movie into rotation, too.

Here’s hoping the Cleveland Indians get to change their name. I doubt a name change will be enough to change their baseball future, but anything is possible. Any move away from using native Americans as sports mascots is a move in the right direction. Time to leave that past behind us.

MAGA: Rising Gas Prices

facebook.com/McGeachinforidaho

Dear wannbe Governor,

I would have sworn that everyone was onboard with oil prices rising so as to save the oil industry? That seemed to be the mantra under the last president. I mean, the oil industry collapsed under Trump and the glut of gasoline that his pandemic failure caused drove oil down into unheard of negative prices per barrel last summer. Republicans were crying left and right for someone to do something to prop up the price of oil. You can’t sell gasoline if no one is driving, and no one was driving last summer or all of last year. This summer, now that people are driving again, there isn’t enough gasoline to go around. Hence the price rise. This is not rocket science, nor does it have a single thing to do with President Biden.

If you want to thank President Biden for something, thank him for the infrastructure bill that he helped guide through congress with bipartisan support. He’s easily been more of a president in his first six months in office than Trump was at any point in his entire four years in the office. I’ll bet Biden won’t be impeached even one time during his presidency. He’s hands down better than the last guy, but probably not better than what might have been if the woman had won in 2016. What was her name again?

President Biden has been good for the country, in any case. There is no point in trying to throw shade at him for the elevated gasoline prices, which are ridiculous right now. Who’s going to disagree with that? Would you like him to institute price controls so that the cost to the consumer doesn’t go up? No? Then what action by the executive will change the price of gas? Nothing. Nothing that the executive branch can do will reduce the price of gasoline at the pump right now aside from that action.

Joe Biden has not been bad for the country. It floors me that Republican hopefuls think that trashing President Biden will earn them points. If anything, Biden and the Democrats should be doing even more than they’ve already done. They should have already killed the filibuster and passed voter protection laws:

They should have passed the bigger infrastructure bill.

Afghanistan? You want to blame Joe Biden for Afghanistan? Obama should have pulled us out of Afghanistan eight years ago instead of waiting for Trump to make a deal with the Taliban to take over when we left. The only thing that would have been better than that is if Bush II hadn’t been dumb enough to try to colonize Afghanistan in the first place (Graveyard of Empires? Hello?) The bullshit coming off the current crop of Republicans is the same odiferous stuff that Trump was shoveling for the last four years. The people who smell what is coming off the Biden administration and think that what they smell is bad for us should remember that. If what is coming out of the White House smells bad, it’s because the staff there haven’t gotten all the bullshit that Trump left in the White House out of it yet. You can take that observation to the bank.

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