Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Are We There Yet?

Meant to put this in with the prior item on the risibly erroneous Roger Kimball, but it was hard to find. Here's what he had to say about Covid-19:

In about three weeks, maybe four, it will all be over and many people will feel sheepish about their overreaction.

That was Kimball on March 12, 2020. Guess he was off, a bit.

Why do I obsess over this small man and his small ability to know what he's talking about? Because he, and a few of his clones, keep popping up next to credible reporters on sites like Real Clear Politics. That gives people a reason to take him seriously, when there really isn't one. He's a fool, he writes like a fool, and he has the credibility of a fool.

But he won't go away.

So, up there, for the record, is a link to proof that Roger Kimball is a fool.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Mark Peterson, RIP

Dr. Peterson was one of my first teachers at Amherst. None ever surpassed him in his patience, empathy, or ability to create understanding. He also had a quiet wit that created a moment I will never forget.

After literally every other member of the physics department had declined to do so, I walked into Mark Peterson's office in 1979 and said, "Professor Peterson, you are my last chance. No one else will do a thesis with me. Will you?" He said, "Of course I will, but I get to pick the topic." It was a deal.

The topic he picked involved scattering laser light off microscopic glass tubes. Making the tubes was hard. Before our first success, I wrote computer programs that predicted the scattering pattern. At a mid-thesis presentation, most of the physics faculty looked at them rather skeptically, as those predictions showed highly erratic blobs of light, encircling the tube.

Towards the end of spring, 1980, we finally made a microscopic glass tube. Dr. Peterson watched over me as, ever so gently, I mounted the tube in a stand where the laser could light it up. We dimmed the room, switched on the beam and saw, all around on the walls, highly erratic blobs of light, encircling the tube.

I will always remember, in the darkness next to me, my advisor, Mark Peterson, saying, "Well. This ought to silence those doubters."

He was the kind of person who found a reason to have faith in you, when no one else could. I teach at a university myself, these days. With every student I meet, I try to do for them what Mark Peterson did for me: find something to have faith in. Thanks for teaching me that lesson, Doc.

Stevens R. Miller, '80
Lecturer, Computer Science
University of Maryland, College Park

But for these...

I'm pretty happy with my life. It's not over yet, but I'm in my 60s, so the bulk of it is past. How I got here is an interesting mix of unlikely events. To what do I owe my happiness? Well, a lot of hard work should be on the list, because American ethics are pretty clear that you're supposed to earn your joy that way. But I'd be lying if I put it near the top. There was some hard work, but not a lot of hard work.

Here's the most important stuff, in chronological order:

1958: I'm born to a couple of smart parents who take excellent care of me.

1972: Langley High School has dial-up access to a computer. I teach myself to program it, and stop hating school, a little.

1974: My parents move me into the "alternative learning program." I stop hating school, a little more.

1976: Explicitly because he "might want a military brat," Dean Ed Wall accepts me into Amherst College. Years later, I will realize I was a diversity admission.

1977: Amherst replaces its antique IBM-1130 computer with a VAX 11/780. As the school's sole "computer consultant," I get unlimited use. Everyone tells me I am wasting my time, using it to make abstract computer animations and mysterious synthetic sounds. 

1980: I graduate with a physics degree, cum laude. The Latin words are solely because Mark Peterson was willing to do a thesis with me after every other member of the department turned me down.

1982: A nearby business asked us to copy an eight-inch data tape onto five-inch reels for their smaller machine. My boss thought they made porn so he pushed me to make friends. Turns out they made computer graphics for TV ads. Quit my job, started with them.

1984: Living in Hoboken, was able to start a graduate degree in computer science, at night. This was not hard work, as I already knew everything they covered. Got the degree in only four years. 8-)

1988: Kind of on a lark, took the LSAT. New York Law School got my score and accepted me without application. With a scholarship. And a night school. Started a law degree, in New York, for free, while keeping my day job.

1991: Finished law school a little early. Yeah, that actually was hard work.

1992: Passed the New York bar without taking a bar review (I was too broke to pay for it).

1994: Met a stunning young woman who loves to read science fiction and play computer games. She works in a book store, and is utterly out of my league. Also, I'm sure she's a lesbian. We get married two years later.

1996: Faxed famous defense attorney Jack Litman to offer my help in the first big press case of a "cybersex" offense. He takes me on. No pay, but it's Jack Litman.

1999: Litman's old partner takes me on as computer forensics expert for his intelligence firm.

2001: Went solo as an expert witness.

2002: Passed Virginia bar exam without a bar review (well, took one by mail). Also, a stunning young woman delivers our son who, as it turns out, ends up being a really decent fellow.

2007: Won election to the Loudoun county board of supervisors, defeating the incumbent.

2020: Heard University of Maryland has a sudden need for a game programming teacher, online. My degree is a master's, not a doctorate, but I apply. They take me.

2021: Maryland starts a new department of "Immersive Media Design." Something about abstract computer animations and mysterious synthetic sounds. I apply for the spot. They take me.

Nobody really plans a path like that, so I recognize that most of what has happened to me has been a mix of modest effort on my part, substantial good will and help from others, and a lorryload of really good luck. Never made a billion dollars, but I'm not complaining. (Well, never made a billion... yet.)

Saturday, November 26, 2022

The Eight Days of Winter (is almost over)


I am not a fan of the cold months. I do not ski. I hate snow. My skin gets dry and cracks. There's also this rash I get that does not bear a detailed description.

So, every year at this time, I prepare the schedule below, which consists of events marking the coming end of winter (or, if you prefer, the coming start of spring). No two of them are as much as four weeks apart, so whichever one is pending next can be thought of as, more or less, "not that far away." Each marks another opportunity to say, upon its arrival, that winter will be over soon.

I posted it to F__book a few years ago and got a surprisingly warm response. (Heh, see what I did there?)

So, since I am off of that service (and also off of Musk's train-wreck, preferring the revolutionary Mastodon instead), here it is on my personal blog. Hope you find it useful.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Where I Got The Question

I recently wrote that, when evaluating candidates for elected office, I only need them to answer a single question. It's not that I'm a single-issue voter, it's that a single issue correlates reliably with the other issues that I care about. (Reminder: candidates who are pro-choice swing my way on the other issues, while anti-choice candidates don't.)

To give credit where it is due, I connived the Just Tell Me This approach to political assessments from the writing of mediocre science fiction author L. Neil Smith. He was a lunatic about a single issue: guns. Here's his take:

If a politician isn’t perfectly comfortable with the idea of his average constituent, any man, woman, or responsible child, walking into a hardware store and paying cash — for any rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything — without producing ID or signing one scrap of paper, he isn’t your friend no matter what he tells you.

If he isn’t genuinely enthusiastic about his average constituent stuffing that weapon into a purse or pocket or tucking it under a coat and walking home without asking anybody’s permission, he’s a four-flusher, no matter what he claims.

What his attitude — toward your ownership and use of weapons — conveys is his real attitude about you. And if he doesn’t trust you, then why in the name of John Moses Browning should you trust him?

Um, Mr. Smith? Since you trust everyone, why do you carry a gun?

Asking dead people questions is pointless and, really, kind of unfair. So let's put that one aside. The answer doesn't matter anyway because, of course, it is based on a false premise: Smith didn't trust everyone. That means his comparison of the voter to the politician is a classic example of the false equivalence. Smith asserts the voter should be given the unreviewable right to acquire deadly power over everyone around him, while ignoring the fact that the politician is asking for the consent of those over which he seeks to wield power. Smith's voter just buys power, while Smith's politician needs the voter's permission to get it.

It's a false equivalence to say the voter is being asked to trust the politician while the politician refuses to trust the voter, because the politician is presenting themself to the voter for the voter's evaluation. The politician has no access at all to power over the voter, unless and until the voter (and at least another 50% of the rest of the voters) finds the politician fit to have that power. A true equivalence would have the voter willing to condition their access to deadly power on the same review: are they fit to have it?

Returning, briefly, to the question I set aside: there is a difference between trusting one person and trusting everyone. Maybe Smith even knew that, as he referred to the "average constituent" being armed, rather than the outliers. Average folks don't commit mass murder. Outliers do that. So, sure, anyone who can show they are fit to have a gun, should be able to have a gun. Those who can't show it shouldn't have one.

I suppose Smith may have thought letting someone unfit to have a gun, have a gun, was still okay, since he may have been a quick-draw artist or something. But note that even Smith couldn't quite bring himself to say truly "everyone" should have a gun, because he qualified "child" with "responsible," which opens a can of worms Smith just ignored. For example, if he didn't think an irresponsible child should have a gun, was he okay with irresponsible adults having them? Again, was that because Smith thought he could shoot the irresponsible adults before the irresponsible adults shot Smith? I don't know. I just know I don't trust everyone, and neither did he or else, again, why did he want a gun?

Don't be a victim of a false equivalence. Smith didn't trust everyone, nor does any candidate for office. Nor do I. You don't either, I'd wager. Candidates must prove they're fit to hold power over others before they get any. Seems only reasonable that the rest of us ought to be held to that standard too.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Best Not To Go There

 From an interview with some flight attendants:

What strange things do people leave behind in the cabin?

It's best not to go there.

Everything your imagination can drum up, we'll have found it.

Many years ago, I did an assignment for an airline. I was in the office of their head of security and needed to do a quick math calculation, but I didn't have my calculator (this was before iPhones). He asked me, "Do you prefer HP or Texas Instruments?" I answered and he handed me a device from a drawer in his desk.

"Do you have one of each?" I asked him. "No," he said, "not one." Then he pulled a box out of that drawer and showed me that it contained about a hundred calculators.

"I have at least one of every calculator, cell phone, PDA, and pager that's ever been made. If it can fit your pocket, it's been left on our planes." They do try to return them, he said, but if no one asks about a particular type of gizmo on a particular flight within some number of days, it just goes into a big pile where the employees take what they want. There are just too many of them to keep track of each one's origin for very long.

And here I thought I was a clever boy for realizing my dad left nickels underneath the couch cushions.

Mastodon Rocks

Just FYI to anyone passes by: I'm three weeks into Mastodon and loving it. The whole "fediverse" concept is cool and solves a lot of the problems Twitter (and Facebook) have had (strikethrough there because I terminated my Twitter account and I haven't used Facebook in almost three weeks).

Mastodon is not a service. It's a software package anyone can use and run on a server of their own. A  Mastodon server is called "an instance." An instance can connect via the internet to others, allowing anyone on any of them to follow and be followed by anyone else. It works rather well, which each instance having its own local culture and policies. To follow someone on another instance you need to know their full Mastodon identity, but that's no harder than knowing an email address. Mine, for example, is this:

You can use that to follow me from any Mastdon instance that is part of the same federation of systems (which, as far as I can tell, is any of the ones you might want to choose to use, unless you are a racist gun-nut, which means you'll likely use an instance that is connected to other instances with people, uh... such as yourself).

I do believe the decentralized, local-culture/global-connectivity model Mastodon uses represents the future. This may be a real turning point in the history of mass social media.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Never Again?

I’m proud of the accomplishments [during the Trump administration] – of the tax reform, the deregulation and criminal justice reform – I’m really excited about the judges we got on the bench, not just the Supreme Court, but throughout the judiciary. But I am a Never-Again Trumper. Why? Because I want to win, and we lose with Trump. It was really clear to us in ’18, in ‘20 and now in 2022.

Paul Ryan, former Speaker of the House, Republican 

What utter bullshit. There are people who say "never again," but the folks I am thinking of actually mean it. Sure, Ryan thinks his party loses with Trump and the evidence is on his side. It stands to reason that he'd prefer another nominee. But "never" is a long time. Certainly, it exceeds beyond the primary season.

When Ryan says "never again Trump," does he "as our nominee?" Or does he mean "in office?" Because, without any further words, "never again" means "never again." As in "ever." Which sounds very dramatic. It sounds powerful. It sounds noble, coming from a life-long Republican who rose to the highest office in one branch of the federal government. Kind of inspiring and worthy of a little respect.

Except that it is utter bullshit, because Ryan will vote for whomever the Republicans nominate, rather than for whomever the Democrats nominate, even if the Republicans nominate Donald Trump.

Reporters are lazy, often timid. One of them needs to rise up and put the question to Paul Ryan: When you say "never again Trump," does that mean you will vote for Joe Biden in 2024 if Trump is the Republican nominee? A true Never-Again Trumper would give the truly noble answer. Ryan would probably say, "I'm focused on making sure he isn't the nominee," to avoid answering the question (and to leave his options open, when his feeble influence fails to achieve what he's focused on).

Don't be fooled. Don't think he's noble. "Never again" means something. Just not to Paul Ryan.

Monday, November 21, 2022

FIFA vs. Love

Love loses.

In an increasingly embarrassing display of where its priorities really are, FIFA has capitulated to Qatar's demand that football ("soccer") team captains not wear armbands showing support for equality. It has directed those captains to leave their ethics in the locker room and help make wealthy bigots richer by playing on the field without them.

In a word: disgusting. Specifically, each of the following:

  • Disgusting that FIFA would agree to hold its championships in a nation where being gay is a crime.
  • Disgusting that FIFA has specifically told its players to hide their support. Some of those players are gay.
  • Disgusting that football fans are going to watch the games anyway.
  • Disgusting Disturbing that the players will take the field. Some of those players are gay.

(I demoted that last one because the players aren't all in positions of power that give them much in the way of options.)

Here's a line from the CNN story on this announcement:

France has been part of the season-long campaign but last week captain Hugo Lloris told reporters that he would “respect” the local culture during the tournament.

The local culture? Seriously? The test here is the same as it always is: would he feel the same way if the local culture made it a crime to be Black? I don't know Hugo, but I will credit him with an answer of "no" on the general belief that the right answer comes naturally to fully accredited members of the human race. Alas, it ought to come as easily to our members when the question is about being gay. But it doesn't. Somehow, some way, it still just doesn't. FIFA is going to hold its main event in a country where it is a crime to be Black. Okay, gay. Same thing, for moral purposes. Isn't it?

I demoted what it means for the players to play, because of what it would cost them personally. But consider this: it doesn't have to be personal. It could be all involved. It could be this:

  • FIFA refuses to hold events in countries that make being gay a crime.
  • Fans refuse to watch games in countries that make being gay a crime.
  • Players refuse to play games in countries that make being gay a crime. All of the players.

If the association, the fans, and the teams all said "no, our sport has no place where hate is the law," this wouldn't be happening, no single player would lose a thing, and Qatar wouldn't be getting anything out of it. But that's not what's happening. What's happening is that people from all over the world, who have been showing their support for love and equality, are being made to hide it by a wretched place with lots of oil, all because of money. That calls for just one word.


Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Wealth and Power I Never Knew I Had

From an interesting article about the effects resulting from the post-pandemic practices of some colleges making submission of SAT scores optional:

Hannah Wolff, a former college counselor at Langley High School, a top-ranked high school in the wealthy suburbs of Washington, D.C., heard from admissions counselors at several public universities that a few Langley seniors who were rejected might have been admitted if they had not submitted their SAT scores, which were in the 1350 range. While a 1350 would have been considered a good score in the past at those schools, now, when the only applicants submitting scores are mostly those well above the average, the expectations of admissions officers have risen with the scores — especially for applicants from wealthy academic powerhouses like Langley.

Wealthy academic powerhouse? I went to Langley, class of 1976 (yes, the American bicentennial, which nonetheless ended with The Beautiful Popular Kids Who Decide Such Things naming us "the class with class" in the yearbook; pathetic). It was dreary, doctrinaire, and overcrowded (2,400 students in a square two-story building, surrounded by chain-link fences topped with barbed wire that was angled in towards the school, not out, and what's that tell you?). Students who valued scholarship were reminded of their place in society by cute cheerleaders in short skirts decorating the lockers of football players whenever there was a home game that night (there were only five minutes between bells, so the cheerleaders were allowed to leave class early to go decorate the football players' lockers, of course).

As a local elected official in the neighboring county of Loudoun, I heard over and over from our public school administrators that "ninety percent of success in school is determined by what happens at home." Now, it's true that some people with money and power do live in the "wealthy suburbs of Washington, D.C." My father was a senior military officer, so he did have a certain kind of power, though not really the kind people think of when they contemplate power in the context of the nation's capital. Wealth? He drove a ten-year-old Mustang to work every day. The old man spent at least a couple of hours every month, on his back, underneath the thing, replacing and resetting worn-out parts. We had more copies of the J.C. Whitney catalog in our home than most people had of the Sears Christmas wishbook. He called the continuing process of torque-wrenching the old Ford's greasy bolts his "hobby."

As a military brat, I did not grow up in the "wealthy suburbs" (or, as the press still likes to call the specific census designated place we lived in, "affluent McLean, Virginia). By the time I got to Langley, I had lived in a half-dozen other places. But, of course, I had always lived in just one: my home, with my family.

Now, I did get to submit a SAT score with my college applications. In those days, it wasn't optional. Mine was higher than 1350 and, in all humility, if you Google this you will find out that scores today are on a different scale, such that any score today would equal a score about 20 points higher back then. So my SAT score was pretty dang good, to be quite blunt about it. But, to be equally blunt, it was not the result my being a student at a "wealthy academic powerhouse." Those school administrators knew what it was a result of: what happened at home. My home, with my family, and my military officer-and-spouse's personal philosophies about what mattered. I will also credit a program that rescued me from failure at, yes, Langley, called ALP ("Alternative Learning Program"). It was mostly for hippies and slackers, but it embraced the identity of the individual, which helped me score a bunch of As and Bs in my last two years. It is important to know that the vast majority of Langley students, teachers, and administrators detested ALP and frequently tried to shut it down. Without ALP, I wouldn't have gotten anywhere, certainly not the wealthy powerhouse college I did get into. But Langley itself would rather not have had ALP at all. Today, I believe, it is long dead.

Perhaps Langley is a wealthy powerhouse today. Maybe (who knows?) it was back then, too. But you wouldn't have been able to prove its goal was to do anything for a person like me by either whose lockers the cheerleaders decorated, nor by which programs it supported. What you could prove is that academic success happens mostly at home, no matter where that is, nor how often it changes. That's where my SAT score came from, and nowhere else.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Harvard, Too

"The Board of Fellows is composed of leaders with expertise in science, medicine, health care, finance, management, and marketing. Members are appointed, advise Dean Jeffrey S. Flier, MD, and help develop and implement strategies for financing educational and research programs at HMS."

Those are Harvard Medical School's own words about its "Board of Fellows," written in the same 2015 announcement that Elizabeth Holmes would be joining the Board. The evidence of her "expertise," after having dropped out of Stanford, was an on-paper worth of over a billion dollars, and a non-existent blood-testing machine. Holmes said the machine would be able to do multiple tests on a single drop of blood that, at the time, required several vials full, and a complete laboratory. In other words, Harvard Medical School found her fit to serve because she said she could accomplish something medically impossible, and because she appeared to have a lot of money.

Today, seven years later, Holmes will be sentenced to prison for criminal fraud. She could get 20 years, with prosecutors asking for fifteen, her lawyers requesting eighteen months of home detention, and the probation report recommending nine years. Given that her imaginary machine may have and, if allowed to go into wider use, would certainly have harmed many people, I predict she'll get twelve. She will probably be allowed to defer starting her time, because she is pregnant with her second child since being charged, and attractive rich white women are often allowed to wait until after delivery before going to jail on a pending sentence. Black women with no money and who bear the look of those who have lived on the street for most of their lives deliver their babies in prison, where they are allowed to raise them in a prison nursery until their first birthday, when the babies are sent elsewhere. (Did you know prisons include nurseries for infants? I didn't, until I toured Rikers Island in 1990, as an intern with the New York city public defender's office. I believe that babies in nursery bassinets inside a high security prison may be the saddest thing I have ever seen with my own eyes.)

In addition to Harvard Medical School, Holmes fooled some allegedly pretty bright folks:

  • Rupert Murdoch
  • The Walton family
  • Betsy DeVos
  • The Cox family of Cox Enterprises
  • George Shultz
  • Henry Kissinger
  • William Perry, a former secretary of defense
  • James Mattis, a future secretary of defense
  • Gary Roughead, a retired U.S. Navy admiral
  • Bill Frist, a former U.S. senator
  • Sam Nunn, a former U.S. senator
  • CEO Dick Kovacevich of Wells Fargo
  • CDO Riley Bechtel of Bechtel

She won honorary doctoral degrees and numerous other honors from such sources as Time, Fortune, Forbes, and the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, all on the strength of a magic machine that did not exist.

One can probably overlook the involvement of Rupert Murdoch, who is a publisher, and Henry Kissinger, who is a diplomat. They couldn't be expected to know much about medical machines. (Although both of them, come to think of it, could be expected to know rather a lot about bullshit, which should you give you pause the next time you read the Wall Street Journal.) But Harvard Medical School?

If Holmes had ever actually delivered her machine, it would have changed the world. Fast, cheap testing to help diagnose and treat disease. Lives would have been saved. Certainly, her paper billions would have become real ones. She'd have been a hero, a proven visionary genius, and deservedly very wealthy. But her machine was a fantasy, it did not exist, never would exist, because it could not exist, and Harvard Medical School should have known that. All Elizabeth Holmes ever had was a ridiculous idea that sounded very good. As my brother-in-law once offered for comparison, it's as though her entire pitch had been, "Wouldn't it be great if we could levitate?" and people took it seriously.

Holmes's idea sounded very good. But that's because it was too good. Too good to be true. Which Kissinger, Murdoch, and those others weren't in the ideal place to know. But Harvard Medical School?

Elizabeth Holmes fooled them all, almost. Today, she gets sentenced to years in prison for it. Her guileless, trusting investors are among her victims. But not Harvard. When she gets sentenced today for nearly killing a lot of people with an imaginary machine any medical expert would have known was impossible, Elizabeth Holmes shouldn't be alone. A medical authority we all tend to trust, and who gave her their highest stamp of approval should be in the box there with her.

Harvard should be there too.

UPDATE: I was close. Holmes has been sentenced to 11.25 years. Harvard Medical School will do no time.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

0. It was Trump

This op-ed offers six reasons why Republicans did so badly against expectations of a "red wave" last week. Amazingly, it only mentions the one actual reason once, towards the end, and not even in the context of calling it a reason. In short, here are the six proffered reasons, according to Tom Del Beccaro:

  1. Districts are more solidly partisan than ever.
  2. Most House seats won't flip anymore.
  3. There were more Republican seats contested in the Senate than Democratic seats.
  4. Democrats will vote for a ham sandwich if it has a "D" next to it.
  5. America has become reliant on government.
  6. Republicans had no visible agenda.

Del Beccaro's bio blurb says he is the head of a PAC, "supporting right of center grass roots efforts in California." It also says he is, "the former chairman of the California Republican Party," so that "right of center" thing tells you he is also an outright fake. But let's consider his reasons (for as long as they deserve it):

  1. Partisanism works both ways, so he is trying to say no one will ever have a wave again.
  2. Seats staying partisan is the same point made again.
  3. Wait, you can lose a seat? Are they partisan or not?
  4. If the sandwich is running against anything with an "R" next to it, it's got my vote.
  5. If this was a factor, why didn't a single voter mention it in exit polls?
  6. Of course not. Remember the 2020 RNC "platform?" It was, literally, "Whatever Trump says."

In other words, all of his reasons apply to both parties equally, except that last one (or, like #5, are just nonsense they like to tell themselves). He tries to emphasize that ham sandwich thing, saying Democrats are "more loyal" than Republicans. He must not have heard of Boebert, Jordan, Gaetz, Taylor-Greene, or any of the other deli cuts who all just got re-elected in spite of passing no legislation and delivering no constituent services.

He mentions Donald Trump exactly once, after his list of reasons, when he says this:

Going back to Pennsylvania, the fight over who should have been the Republican candidate for Senate could well have cost Republicans the seat. Republican Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz was former President Donald Trump’s choice and that did not sit well with the Pennsylvania Republican establishment nor with the Washington establishment.

Ah yes, "the Washington establishment." Them. This was all their fault. Somehow, his own party's elected senior people are to blame for the fact that Trump's man lost. Which ignores the biggest reason that he did: he lost because he was Trump's man. So did Kari Lake in her bid for governor of Arizona. And Don Bolduc, trying for senate in New Hampshire. And some others. Not all of Trump's people lost, but the winners won in places where Republicans always win anyway (despite  Del Beccaro's reason #4).

Now, this kind of thinking is good for Democrats, because it is so very badly wrong. My blog editor only numbers lists from 1 to 2 and so on, while Del Beccaro used the clever count-down format, going from 6 down to 1. I think he meant for that to denote increasing importance (though how that puts reliance on goverment ahead of partisan districts is puzzling). Following that logic, the seventh entry, numbered "0," appropriately enough, and by far the most imporant, should have been this:

0. Trump

But he didn't make the list at all, which means Republican commentators are already guiding their readers away from the one reason their party did so poorly. Yes, Trump is still a factor and may well get their nomination. We can't ignore him, not at all. But he continues to obsess over an election he lost, telling the same increasingly tired story about why it had to be stolen (briefly, because it was historically not very likely to go the way it did, which can be said about a lot of elections).

Trump is wearing out the few swing voters there are who voted for him in 2016 and their subset who voted for him again in 2020. If he keeps it up, he'll drain them of any support for him they have left, which is very clearly what he is doing every day. If the Republican commentators would like to blame something else, that should be fine by us. The more Trump stays in the game, the more we are going to win.

Monday, November 14, 2022

The Feeding Frenzy Begins

All seismic defeats (and any expected seismic victory that fails to materialize is a seismic defeat) are followed by an inescapable series of aftershocks:

  1. Seeking out the guilty.
  2. Punishing the not guilty.
  3. Rewarding those who made no contribution.

For the Republicans this last week, that has meant:

  1. Blaming anyone but Trump.
  2. Threatening to get rid of Mitch McConnell.
  3. Promising committee seats to people like Boebert and Taylor-Greene.

If the other highly anticipated event of this November takes place as expected (and we must accept that it remains likely), Trump will announce he is running for president again. Seven years ago, lots of us thought his candidacy was absurd (not me; I predicted he would win, but no one listened). Today, of course, we know better. But what is interesting to see on the other side is that, finally, some of them are admitting that Trump is becoming a liability.

In this remarkably candid piece, columnist and past president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Everett Piper, says the colossal flop of the expected Red Wave last Tuesday was all the fault of one man: Donald Trump. His logic is simple: after listing a lot of reasons why this should have been a perfect storm for Republicans (inflation, gas prices, and a number of other things that are all the result of capitalism, but which conservatives regularly con Americans into thinking are liberals' fault), he points out that Trump's choices, based on his own "petty selfishness," just could not win seats Republicans would ordinarily have won.

He concludes with this unequivocal prediction:

The take-home of this past week is simple: Donald Trump has to go. If he‘s our nominee in 2024, we will get destroyed.

I can't say I'm as sure, but I certainly hope he's right. Because if the Republicans wise up and run Ron DeSantis, he will win, and that would be worse than Trump.

[NOTE: I don't have the time it would take to do the drill-down on all the long lists of bullshit Republicans spout as fact, but I did check one from Piper's essay. He says, "Democrat open border policies have led to 100,000+ fentanyl/illegal drug deaths in 2021, mainly because the Mexican cartels are using the open border to import their ‘death pills’ from China." The Cato Institute disagrees, saying, "fentanyl is overwhelmingly smuggled by U.S. citizens" and "Just 0.02 percent of the people arrested by Border Patrol for crossing illegally possessed any fentanyl whatsoever."]

Saturday, November 12, 2022

I Need Only One Answer

For some time now, I have known I only need the answer to one question in order to decide if I will support a political candidate or not: Where do you stand on choice? The more pro-choice a candidate is, the more support they get from me. In the unlikely scenario of two viable candidates asserting exactly the same support for choice, I would be able ask more questions (see next paragraph), but that never happens.

Mind you, I care a lot about several other issues. Here are the big ones, not listed in an particular order:

  • Equality
  • The Environment
  • Workers' Rights

There are a few more, but by the time I know where candidates stand on the big ones, the rest won't make any difference to my voting decisions. Which is why I only need one answer in the first place: if you are pro-choice, you are almost certainly on my side of the other issues that matter to me. That's just how it goes, so I don't need to waste your time (or mine) asking a lot of questions I already know the answer to. And, to be clear, if you are anti-choice, I pretty much know where you're going to fall on the other issues too.

So you know where I stand on choice: I'm for it. But I'm one of the few pro-choice lawyers I know who also thinks there just isn't a clear expression of a right to abortion in the constitution. This fact tends to infuriate my pro-choice friends, but most of them would claim they could find a clear expression of a right to abortion in a candy wrapper if, somehow, the text of the constitution were replaced with a copy of a candy wrapper. I respect their zeal, but that kind of conclusions-first-reasons-later approach makes for good advocacy, not good law. Bad law is how we got to the place we're at today. For 50 years, pro-choicers have relied on the combination of a weak pro-choice decision by the Supreme Court and a resolute pro-choice majority on the Supreme Court to keep choice safe. Well, that majority is gone and, unsurprisingly, so is that decision. Pro-choice elected officials have had half a century to write choice into the statutes of the land, but chose not to. Something about "upsetting conservatives," I think. Well, time for that to change too. The pro-choice vote in Kentucky should make that clear. But, if that's not enough, try this:

Over 60% of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. That number is only going up. The time has come to recognize that upsetting conservatives is no reason to back away from being pro-choice. If you like a little schadenfreude with your politics, feel free to see that upsetting conservatives ought to be just an extra reason to embrace being pro-choice.

This has become a winning issue for us at last. And it can save everyone a lot of time. Just ask the next candidate who wants your vote, where do they stand on choice? It's the only answer you will need.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Roger Kimball Thinks He Was Wrong: For Once, He's Right

Have you heard of Roger Kimball? Most haven't. I only have because I spend too much time following political links on the internet. Kimball writes about... I was going to say "politics," but he doesn't really know much about politics, so saying he writes about it would be giving him credit for something he doesn't really do. It would be more accurate to say Kimball writes about whatever it is that Kimball thinks. He does it a lot, and seems to have made some career success out of it. But that's what he does: he writes about what he thinks (he mostly seems to think he thinks about politics but, again, if you know anything about politics, you know Roger Kimball doesn't know anything about politics).

See, Roger Kimball is one of those guys who can write moderately well, choosing a his words from an erudite promptuary (see what I did there?). By doing so, and doing it a lot, he has also become one of those guys who can be had to tell from anyone who actually knows anything, unless you bother to look into him or give much thought to what he says. I mean, he says what it is he says about what he thinks with apparent authority (that promptuary serves him well (okay, "promptuary" is an archaic term for a warehouse)). Amazingly, with no credentials I can find, Kimball gets taken seriously in some circles that purport to care about evidence that one knows what one is talking about.

In early 2020, Kimball seemed to think a lot of us were overreacting to the pandemic. Writing about what he thought, he told us he thought it would all be over in a couple of weeks, four at the most. That's not what happened, but that's what he thought, so he told us (in, I think, a defunct website called "," which I can no longer find, nor can I find his essay saying the pandemic would be over in a month; guess Roger Kimball's words don't last very long).

This time, he chose to do something almost noble: Roger Kimball wrote that he thought he was wrong. Well, Roger Kimball is almost always wrong, but it's rare for anyone ever to admit they were wrong, so props to him for doing something almost noble. Here's what he said:

How did I get the midterms so wrong? I had assumed that with the president underwater, inflation raging, interest rates rises, thousands upon thousands of illegal immigrants pouring over our southern border and crime spiking that Republicans would have the advantage. How could it be otherwise?

Now, one can kind of forgive his error this time. All polls said a red blowout was on its way. I expected one, just like Roger did. We were both wrong (though I did predict, with some accuracy, the pro-choice outcome in Kentucky). But I can do math, while Roger can only write about what he thinks. He shouldn't be surprised that he was wrong, because he can't do math. He can't do much of anything except: 1) think; and 2) write about what he thinks.

I do wonder, when I read Kimball's writing about what he thinks, if he's playing us. That is, he does write well enough, and clearly with the goal of inflaming a certain community, that his lack of actual knowledge might not matter to his true purpose, which is inflaming a certain community. Inflammation keeps them coming back for more, after all (cf. Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, for examples from the left). And the beauty of such a con is that Kimball's community tends also not to know all that much, so his own general ignorance is probably not as apparent to them as it is to you and me.

So there it is: Roger Kimball admits he is wrong, and wants to know how that happened. Let me answer that one for you Roger. You were wrong because you sought to pretend you knew what you were talking about, but you were talking about something other than what you think, which means you didn't know anything about what you were talking about. Keep it in your wheelhouse, Roger. Talk about what you think, and you'll never be wrong again.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Chew on This, Glenn Youngkin

Every single time a political newcomer wins their first race for anything, the press anoints that person as the latest "rising star." Last year, just as soon as my wife and I left Virginia to live in College Park, Maryland (a wonderful little town), the Old Dominion forgot everything we'd taught it and elected the Republicans' their freshest rising star, Glenn Youngkin. Now, to give him due credit, he found a way to appeal to all of the conservatives in his state without Trump's endorsement, while his opponent, Terry McAuliffe, tried to act as though Youngkin and Trump were the same person. During the campaign season, Virginia was being targeted by outside interlopers as an ideal place to suggest gender equality was a front for creeps seeking to watch girls pee (is there really anyone who likes doing that?) Terry, alas, fumbled his message on that one and gave Youngkin a victory he didn't deserve. It's politics, so that happens, and undeserved victories still make a candidate the winner. So Youngkin became the media's new "rising star."

He did pretty well with that title, touring the country, and (inevitably) started provoking whispers about "presidential aspirations" (I was elected to something once, so trust me when I tell that presidential aspirations are kind of hard to keep out your bloodstream.) Now, never mind that Virginia hasn't had a governor become president since James Monroe in 1799 (no, Tyler doesn't count because he ascended by succession from being vice-president when William Harrison died, and was never actually elected). But then he fumbled too, cracking an unfunny joke at the expense of Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul, who had nearly been beaten to death a few days before. So much for the rising star.

Until now, when we have a new one, a better one: Now that we're in Maryland, I'm pleased that the latest rising star is our new governor, Democrat Wes Moore. He flipped the seat from Republican Larry Hogan, though his opponent was a weakling Trump Mini-Me named somethingorother. "Cox," maybe. His yard signs said, "IT'S YOUR FREEDOM!" Yes, Mr. Cox, it is. I used it to vote for Wes Moore.

Ladies and gentlemen, your new rising star, Maryland Governor-elect, Wes Moore:

Choice Wins in Kentucky! (I was right!)

Every single person reading this blog probably laughed when I predicted choice would win in Kentucky. Well, now you can all suck on this, both of you:

To the nearest whole number, my forecast was exactly correct: 53/47. Okay, okay, some precincts haven't reported in yet. So?

Note that the total vote count in this statewide question matches the total vote count in Sen. Rand Paul's re-election race. Paul won, 61/39. He is a virulently anti-choice senator. Now, to see how important that is, you need to package the numbers a little differently (since the winning number usually gets written first, when you use ##/## format as I have here). Let's do it this way:

Now you can see why it matters. about 1.35M people voted in both contests, and it is reasonable to assume they were the same people. It is also reasonable to assume that everyone who voted against "no abortion" also voted against Rand Paul. Which means that about 164,000 Paul voters also voted in favor of choice. (I know that chart is confusing, because of its use of double-negatives, but it has to be that way to stack up the pro-Paul, anti-choice voters in one column together, and the anti-Paul, pro-choice voters in another column.)

The implications are profound. First, if those 164,000 pro-choice voters had all voted against Paul, he would have lost. Second, it means no statewide candidate can win in Kentucky on this issue. Of course, it also means lots of local candidates in Kentucky cannot win on this issue. Third, this means any hope for a federal abortion ban is now DOA.

This is a seismic-shift moment for American politics. As a liberal lawyer who is pro-choice, I have long infuriated countless liberal allies by saying I don't think there is a clear right to abortion expressed in the United States constitution. I wish there were, but there isn't. So I have also long said that returning this issue to the political arena (rather than relying forever on a court decision) would be the surest way to shut down anti-choice politicians, nation-wide.

I was sad to see Roe overturned, because it has already meant the ruin of some people's lives. But I also felt this might be the moment I have expected, when the need to defend our rights through the democratic process would finally bring out the true American liberal majority. Nothing is certain but death and taxes. Yet, I think last night gives me more reason than I have ever had to believe my long-term prediction is on the verge of coming true. (And thus I say to my my regular readers, who tend to disagree with me about this, the two of you can just buy me lunch.)

UPDATE: As the last few precincts report in, the margin has only solidified:

This is a clear win for choice. Ironic, isn't it? The vote was about choice in an anti-choice state. The government of Kentucky just found out that its people choose choice, when given a choice to choose. Let that be a lesson to all right-wing legislators who think it's their place to tell others how to live their lives: you guys may think that freedom is a gun; we think it's being able to decide things for ourselves.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Another Rubber Stamp Operation?

"Flynn points out that FBI agents in a May 11 subpoena asked Trump for all documents in his custody 'bearing classification markings,' as opposed to classified documents, which he says was a carefully worded distinction designed to trip up the former president."

Because knowing if a document is classified, marked as such or not, is so much easier than being able to see if it has a mark on it.

Sorry, General Flynn, but no sale.

I Voted

Please, you do too.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Why is Football So Popular?

This article is a by fellow who enjoyed watching football for a long time. More recently, he has been put off of it by the severe injuries he has witnessed. I get that, but I never made it far enough for that to matter to me. That is, I never found football interesting at all. I find it boring. Clearly, though, millions of people love watching football.

Why? Why does anyone enjoy watching someone else play?

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Health is not a Policy Position

"After the debate, Republicans intensified their focus on Fetterman’s health."

Seriously? And I'm not asking because a doctor(?) using his opponent's health as an issue is vulgar. (It is, but that's not why I'm asking.) I'm asking because it seems to assume that a voter who was planning to vote for Fetterman might change plans and vote for Oz, because Fetterman has a health issue.

But who casts a vote based on a candidate's health?

This is a federal race. That means the primary issues are guns, abortion, gay rights, guns, abortion, taxes, guns, abortion, and guns. Also guns. Fetterman is not the candidate he is because he shaves his head, wears a hoodie, or had a stroke, any more than Oz is the candidate he is because of Grecian Formula 16. Each is the candidate they are because of abortion and guns. That's it. That's all. That's why Herschel Walker, who can barely speak coherently enough to tell lies about being an FBI agent, is viable against an eloquent minister. Walker is against abortion (credible accusations that he paid for one for two don't matter, because "against" means "will make illegal" in this context, and wealthy Republicans like Walker aren't much deterred by what's illegal). That's why he's viable. That's all it takes in Georgia, and no one's health has anything to do with that.

That's the situation in Pennsylvania, too. No one is voting on what they think of either Fetterman or Oz in this race. They are voting on what they think of guns and abortion. Fetterman is on one side of those issues, Oz is on the other. Whichever one of them wins will add one more to the total senate count for that side. That's it. That's all. Nothing else matters.

Perhaps one would prefer a healthy senator to a frail one. From time to time, senators do get the chance to advocate for their individual states. But, long before anyone takes that into account, votes get cast according to the side they're on, not according to how well they'll bring home the pork. I mean, when you think about it, pork kind of tells the whole story, when it comes to casting your vote in a federal race, doesn't it?

Saturday, November 5, 2022

I'm on Mastodon!

If you found your way here, it may be because you noticed I've closed my Twitter Musk account and I am dormant on Facebook. Today, I signed up for Mastodon. It's inferior to Twitter Musk's new toy, but at least it's not Twitter Musk. Give it a try with me!

Note that by joining via that link, you also automatically follow me.

Be patient. Mastodon is gaining followers at an unprecedented rate, jumping from about 400,000 to nearly 700,000 just, uh... recently. It is distributed across (so far) about 125 servers, none of which is as powerful as the equipment you're used to using. So it may be a little sluggish. I think this may change soon...

Hope to see you there soon.

BTW, it is slightly funny for me to be on this service. My college recently "dropped" its (unofficial) mascot, the execrable Lord Jeffrey Amherst. Instead, in an act of promotional genius only a liberal arts institution could achieve, they adopted an extinct animal, the mammoth, which I guess is kind of like a mastodon, but who knows? I was barely able to wrest a physics degrees out of those navel-gazers.

...Half a Dozen of Another.

"He captured a total of six images of the great white shark breaching, he said. He attributed the once-in-a-lifetime shot to a combination of luck and his 400 millimeter telephoto lens..."

I suppose one could parse that to mean only one of the six images was "the once-in-a-lifetime shot," but it still reads funny. Regardless, this is an amazing picture. And who knew sharks breach? I didn't.

It almost looks like that creature is sharing the surfer's joy, doesn't it? I love images like this because no amount of money nor power can make them happen, nor make any difference to how they make us feel. Rich or poor, monarch or serf, the waves, the sky, a shark and man are just as exhilarating to each of us, all the same way.

Friday, November 4, 2022

4k Resolution, Sorta...


My YouTube video that explains how to do click-and-drag with Unity's Input System reached 4,000 views today. That's kind of cool.

Everyone Wants This. It Costs Nothing. Congress Won't Do It.

Do you like losing an hour of sleep every spring when we turn the clocks ahead? Neither do I. Nor do an unusually large percentage of Americans: about two-thirds of us want to keep the time we use in the summer all year round, while only about one-eighth of us want to use winter's schedule (which makes me wonder if they understood the question).

The easiest legislation ever to pass would be the bill the senate unanimously approved already, keeping permanent Daylight Saving Time (the one where we get up earlier, so we have more light later in the day). But Nancy Pelosi--who says she favors it--won't put it on the agenda for a vote. More precisely, it's stalled in Frank Pallone's Energy Committee. He says there is "no consensus" on it.

That's nuts.

The consensus is in the people, even if it isn't in Pallone's committee. And the senate passed it 100%! (It is worth noting that a couple of senators voted in favor, along with a lot of other stuff, because it was on the "consent agenda," which skips floor debate and, apparently, also skips the senators knowing what they're voting on.)

It's pretty rare that anything is all of : 1) Highly popular with the people; 2) Within the power of congress to deliver; and 3) Free. But they're not delivering it.

There are a lot of reasons people say they disapprove of congress and how it does its job. But if you would prefer to rely on a single example, I'd say this is the one to use. And they wonder why we don't think more highly of them all.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Who Guards the Guardians?

"A review of the Moab Police Department’s handling of the incident by an independent investigator – a captain with the police department in Price, Utah, about 115 miles away – recommended the two officers who responded be placed on probation...

The city at the time did not address any potential discipline for the two officers but said it 'intends to implement the report’s recommendations' on new policies for the police department, including additional domestic violence training and legal training for officers."

Cops do tend not to discipline other cops. Must be great to have a job where you have power with no accountability, and where no one ever says you're wrong (or else, when they do, you have no reason to care).

Every Man's Death Diminishes Me (but some more than others)

"Needless to say, I was not sad when he died. I also like to think I wasn’t happy."

That's LZ Granderson, talking about Rush Limbaugh. He goes on to explain that someone else's pain should never be anyone's joy, and I agree with him. But Rush Limbaugh is dead and I am happy about that. He died unpleasantly and I am not happy about how he died. I'm just glad he's gone. He hurt countless people and, in the process, fueled the engines of hate and lies that helped get us where we are today (about to lose an election because of hate and lies, mostly the lies).

No, I have no joy in anyone's pain. But I am glad Rush Limbaugh is dead and gone. My world is better without him, and I don't mind saying so.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Leather Cheese?

"Judges described the Le Gruyère AOP surchoix, entered by Swiss cheese maker Vorderfultigen and affineur (refiner) Gourmino, as a 'really refined, hand-crafted cheese' that melts on the tongue and has notes of herbs, fruits and leather. 'A cheese with a lot of taste and bouquet.'"



I mean... I love gruyère. But... leather?

Cheese is one of the reasons life is worth living. Living with good cheese is a way to live a good life.

After this, however, I will continue to judge cheese on my own.

Cuz I don't eat no leather cheese.

Prediction: Choice Will Win in Kentucky

Kentucky will vote this Tuesday on whether or not to amend its constitution to say that it contains no right to an abortion. Philosophically, I see adding language to a constitution that restricts personal rights as a kind of vandalism. The foundational document of a government instituted by a free people should only establish rights, not curtail them. At the same time, it can empower its government to pass statutory restrictions. That's how freedom works in a system of ordered liberties: you elect people who pass laws that keep you safe without making you a slave to the state. Or so we'd like to think.

This time, the elected guardians of personal sovereignty in Kentucky have decided their own laws aren't strong enough to regulate the people they govern, so they are going to try to put regulating people directly into their state constitution. That's disgusting. But, some folks would be vandals if it gets them something that they want, and some vandals in Kentucky want rape victims to have their rapists' children (and to die needlessly in childbirth, and to deliver babies that will die painfully shortly thereafter, and, well, to just be quiet and do what they're told, it would seem).

I think the forces opposing personal liberty in Kentucky are going to lose. Here's why: They lost in Kansas. Kansas voted for Trump by a margin of 14 points. Kansas voted against a constitutional ban on abortion by a margin of 18 points. Now, Kentucky was more pro-Trump than Kansas was, with the documented act of lunacy that was their vote in favor of him by a margin of 26 points. But, doing some back-of-the-envelope math, I see that as meaning 6 percent more Kentuckians will favor taking their own rights away, and 6 percent fewer will favor keeping them, than did in Kansas. That means the 59/41 pro-choice vote in Kansas will probably be a 53/47 pro-choice vote in Kentucky. (Also, three years ago, a poll found the large majority of Kentuckians favored at least some access to abortion, and that was before Roe was overturned, which I think will put some motivating fear into the pro-choice electorate.)

I could be wrong, but that's my prediction. Choice wins in Kentucky next Tuesday.


We've Been Here Before...

 " 'override clause' that would allow the Knesset to overrule Supreme Court decisions."

This is jaw-dropping. The prime-minister of Israel (Israel!) wants to put the judiciary of his nation under the control of the legislature.

If you know any history at all, you must be left as breathless as I am by this.

One More Time

Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter made me drop Twitter. Thinking about Facebook, I can't find the same reason to feel like using it is unethical. But I know people who do feel that way and their reasons are not easily dismissed. At the very least, I'm personally very sick of helping billionaires make more money. See, the important thing is that we are not customers to Twitter or Facebook: we are inventory. We don't pay to use those services, so any claims we make about "rights" are meaningless. We do have a value to them, but only as a mass, not as individuals.

Now, I'm not (that) naïve. I don't pay to use this blog service, either. Whatever value I bring to them is, again, because of something I don't really control and cannot use to exert any sort of leverage. But, until someone brings me a reason to think BlogSpot is unethical, I'll give this a bit of a try. Probably going to look harder at YouTube. But, when I have something to type, I will probably type it here for, at least, the immediate future.