Political childishness

So this week the main concerns of politically oriented social media appear to be:

  • How a woman sat on a couch (left wing outrage).
  • Who sat when during a speech (right wing outrage).

To which I must inquire: seriously?

Let’s see what’s going on that’s kind of important:

  • Multiple aggressive nations, with crazy leaders who wish us harm and the ones without nuclear weapons working hard to get them.
  • We are a nation without a real immigration policy.
  • We don’t know how to pay for health care nationwide.
  • We don’t know how to put our working population to work.

What becomes clear is these outrages aren’t about what’s good for the country, but some sort of political counting coup, good — for now — for stirring up people who agree with you but not changing the hearts and minds of anyone else.

There was a time when the system that allowed a minority party to push the majority to the center was called checks and balances. Now it’s “obstructionism” which is the political equivalent of “Waah, I can’t get my own way!”

Every group of people has wacko outliers that are going to say or do stupid stuff. They don’t actually represent the group. So maybe we could stop supporting the latest outrage and encourage our politicians to govern the old fashioned way — respect, discussion, compromise. You know, the boring stuff that has little entertainment value but is actually good for the country.

Why DeVos is education secretary

Some of my liberal / progressive friends have expressed displeasure and / or surprise that Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education. In the perhaps overly optimistic hope that there is still a place for civil political discourse in 2017, I’ll explain it.

First off all, there was a time when the US Senate valued consensus and required 60 votes to confirm a cabinet level appointment. But recently the majority Senate leader changed the rules, after changing the rule that such a change would require a two thirds vote. I’m talking about former Democratic majority leader Harry Reid, who pulled this stunt in 2013. Current majority leader Mitch McConnell was against the move: It’s a sad day in the history of the Senate. So if you’re upset the Rs are able to confirm cabinet level positions without any Democratic support, you can thank Harry Reid.

Secondly — yes, I’ve seen the graphs of DeVos’s political contributions. What’s important to understand is that for years, politically the national teacher unions have essentially been wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic party, donating millions. Middle America likes teachers — that doesn’t mean it likes teacher unions. An August 2016 Rasmussen poll found only 20% of likely voters think unions do a good job for there members and 50% think they have too much political influence. Union membership remains high only because of mandatory membership rules in many states ; when workers are given a choice in right to work states, enrollment drops … since it’s hard to find anything resembling non-biased (left or right) reporting on that, here’s the google news results. I did find this analysis by a human resources website interesting. By shilling for the losing presidential candidate, and interjecting itself in non educational political topics [1] [2], the National Education Association both alienates part of the public and plays a high stakes, “all in” political game; a good strategy if and only if your picks win. They lost: why would anyone expect anything but an anti-teacher union stance from the (current) powers that be??

Thirdly, because Americans went to school, they think they understand schools. (I did until I started working in them.) The idea of choice has powerful appeal: one current US Senator, in a book cowritten with their daughter, wrote: Fully funded vouchers would relieve parents from the terrible choice of leaving their kids in lousy schools or bankrupting themselves to escape those schools, and that was Democratic Elizabeth Warren.

Of course vouchers are good for kids with parents with the skill set to utilize them, but maybe not so good for society at large; like many topics involving humans, where gold standard scientific processes can’t be applied, research and opinions vary. Nonetheless Trump ran on pro-voucher platform and he won.

Finally — don’t blame Mike Pence for his tie breaking vote. For all the reasons I’ve outlined above DeVos was essentially in as soon as Trump nominated here. Only two Rs opposed, Lisa Murkowski, who owed public sector unions for her 2010 victory as a write in, and Susan Collins from blue state Maine who may be considering a run for governor. McConnell can count — it didn’t hurt anything for two R Senators to oppose, so it’s not that big a deal from the Republican view of things.

 

Stupid research

So today’s copy of the Journal Inquirer (JI) has the provocative headline: Students mine data to find where unfaithful husbands live: Fairfield County. Well it’s actually a Toledo Blade story — the Connecticut based JI just tacked the “Fairfield County” on the end.

So these kids at University of Toledo use data from hacked Ashley Madison website to determine who cheats most often, noting that “Metropolitan areas with some of the lowest subscription rates were in poor Appalachian and southern locations, strengthening the conclusion that affluence is linked to this kind of online adultery.” The story goes on to note that “The Fairfield County area also topped the list of metro areas in spending rates, doling out $1,127 on the site per 1,000 people.”

Huh. Of course this fits with the usual liberal narrative that rich people are inherently evil and poor people inherently virtuous ….

One thousand, one hundred twenty dollars ? And that’s just on the website — presumably there are other costs in cheating. Or maybe — just maybe — poor people have cheaper ways to cheat. Because the Internet is a tiny place and Ashley Madison is the only way to cheat …

 

 

My fitness journey

A while back I posted on social media that I had lost 45 pounds this year. A friend asked “how” and I said I’d get back to him, so here goes.

The brief answer is a combination of motivation, diet, really good luck, and exercise.

Motivation

Out of respect for the privacy of others, I’m not going go into complete detail of all the factors motivating me, but a key one was the birth of a granddaughter this year.  My focus shifted from a vague “oh, I should get in shape someday” to “I really want to be around decades from now.” My own daughter never really knew her paternal grandfather, and I don’t want that for me granddaughter. I know there are no guarantees, but I wanted to tilt the odds.

Exercise, the beginning

A few years ago, with an obese Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30.7 and arthritis in the right hip, getting up was a 20 minute evolution which consisted of groaning my way out of bed, urinating, grabbing coffee, and sitting while the pain subsided to bearable. I knew I had to do something, had heard positive things about yoga from the daughter, and saw a group on for a place near work. First class March 4, 2013: I liked it, and I liked the “beginner / gentle / slow” instructors. Flexibility increased, pain diminished, and I was able to lose about ten pounds without thinking about it too much.

Diet, part I

On a warm beach last January the wife and I had time to relax from the life / work hamster wheel and admit to each other we weren’t really happy with the shape we were in. I had a good idea, exploiting our own personal proclivities — we’re competitive. We made a bet with each about losing weight. In order to keep it safe and reasonable and challenging, we settled on losing twenty pounds in six weeks. She won. I “lost” — only making it down eighteen. But it got the ball rolling. The diet was basic nutrition stuff — more veggies, less sugar and sweets, more awareness.

Good fortune

A new routine

Due to the unfortunate closing of my first yoga studio, one of my fav instructors started teaching at a hybrid Pilates / Strength Training / Yoga studio, Total Body Pilates and Yoga. The owner and primary coach attended the first several yoga sessions, and, although she seemed inhumanly flexible in yoga class and the online workout descriptions kind of scary, she convinced me to give it a try.  A combo of yoga-ish stretching, weight training, and Pilates apparatus strength, flexibility and balance, a continual variety of exercises –not the same thing every day — and a small core of fellow members who turned out to be fun people to workout with made going relaxing and fun.

I had had a decades old misperception I should only work out every other day — a chance conversation with a friend to be on a Saturday morning in the parking lot clued me in that the studio programming allows daily workouts, so I started going roughly six days a week.

Healthy choices

A shift in work brought me to working in the main building complex at UConn Health; the main cafeteria includes both all the decadent stuff a soul could want (pizza, fries, burgers) and protein rich main dishes (if you leave the sauce off), nicely done veggies and salads. Carb loaded breakfast sandwiches from coffee shops were replaced with freshly made omelets or oatmeal with fruit.

Between the workouts, and better breakfasts and lunches, after a couple months, the change started to become noticeable.

Diet, Part II

September brought a studio challenge to try something called “The Whole Life Challenge,” a combination of sound and fad diet choices, a tracking / game playing / social media site and lifestyle choices. The lifestyle stuff was mostly covered by existing workout habits. The main things I ended up taking away from it were:

  • drink lots of water. A full stomach displaces perceived hunger and thirst for coffee and the like. I guess there’s some calorie consumption heating it, too.
  • you don’t need that many carbs.
  • sparkling water (mainly Pellegrino) adds a little taste and makes a nice substitute for my previous glass a drink moderate drinking which may, or may not be healthy, depending on which survey you believe; regardless not drinking is definitely less calories.
  • cheese should be an occasional flavor treat (like zero to one servings a day), rather than a staple.

Summary

Have a grand child. Workout, including strength training, almost daily (whatever works for you). Eat healthy — sort of paleo without being whacky about it. Drink lots water, avoid stress, get enough sleep.

Hamilton cast theatrics

So the latest buzz, is, of course, the cast of the broadway show Hamilton addressing Vice-President elect Pence after a recent performance, Governor’s Pence tolerating the nonsense with dignity — and President elect Trump calling the cast out for being rude.

First of all — it was rude; meaning depends on context. Had the cast wished to respectfully address Governor Pence, they could have invited him backstage. If you watch the video, the actor takes the time to encourage the New York audience to record and tweet the message; this was a self-indulgent, self-righteous publicity stunt. But the progressive left has succumbed to the fantasy that any behavior is righteous when the cause is just. It doesn’t actually work that way.

Secondly, The Donald did exactly the right thing by firing back. In the Prisoner’s Dilemma game theory scenario, players can either cooperate or be nasty. A famous simulation showed the best performing strategy is neither attack always, or be a patsy, but “Tit for Tat with forgiveness.” Which means if the other player attacks, you attack back, most of the time. “With forgiveness” means you let it go every once in awhile.

So some progressive actors takes a rude potshot at the new VP, and The Donald’s going to fight back. And the social media left is saying, “That’s perfectly fine, and Trump is wrong for retaliating,” and the social media right is saying “That was rude, good job pushing back!” and the country gets or stays acrimoniously divided.

 

Balance

I learned a long time around from my father and writer Robert Heinlein, TANSTAAFL (there ain’t not such thing as a free lunch). Or, in the paraphrased words of Margaret Thatcher, “The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

All in all, we are a centrist country. We want to provide support to those with unfortunate circumstances while valuing virtues like hard work, honesty, and self-reliance. We respect people who play by the rules.

For the past eight years the country has turned leftward. The result has been of mistruths based on economic and social fantasies.

If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”

Obama promised a “reset” with Russia, and Russia has invaded parts of Georgia and the Ukraine. He promised a withdraw from the mideast, yet Americans are stilling fighting and dying over there, and Guantanamo Bay remains open.

He, and the Democratic legislature, have treated the Constitution as a an “inconvenient document,” implementing a long string of actions without legislation and bipartisan support in Congress; these include a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that is not funded by Congress, [1] the infamous IRS political prosecution of conservative groups, deciding carbon is an Clean Air Act pollutant, using the power of the law to coerce private business into “settlements,” with the fines going to support pet causes rather than the US Treasury, and so on. Our government turns Western rivers yellow and Michigan drinking water brown — the point here that Government is not inherently better at doing things than private industry. They’ve funded economically unsound business, such as solar and electric, so a few rich people can drive Teslas.

The justification for this is a general “Well, the Republicans are an obstructionist and won’t do the right thing!” the ends justify the means gestalt. The opposition party is supposed to be, well, in opposition. It’s called checks and balances, and it’s supposed to protect the country from the worst impulses of both the right and left — but the Democrats have dishonored the long term by changing the “inconvenient” 60 vote Senate rule [2] and were arrogantly plotting to do so again after the Democrats won the presidency and Senate [3].

He and his party have shown contempt for both the Constitution and many Americans with they’re “they cling to guns or religion” attitude, and Clinton’s cohorts have both disparaged Catholics and plotted to use use Bernie Sander’s faith against him. [4]

She told the American people one thing and her daughter something different about the “At this point, what difference does it make” Benghazi attacks. [5]

She blatantly sought to evade public government transparency laws, and put national security at risk, with the private email server.

She used the Clinton Foundation “charity” to bankroll her cronies and sell access to the Secretary of State.

And so on.

Although socialism and Sanders would have been a disaster for the country, her craven machine use and public lurch leftward (while telling her Wall Street backers something else) showed what little character she has.

I knew Clinton was in trouble when I overhead librarians saying “I don’t trust her.” As a group, librarians are hardly right wing. And I knew she was in real trouble when someone posted a graphic with a recent “I’m a lifelong Cubs fan,” and a late 90s “I’m a lifelong Yankees fan.”

To those of who believe character counts, it became apparent this was woman who only believed that she should be president, and would do and say almost anything to reach that goal. Who may (or may not) have stayed on the side of “legal” in her myriad scandals, but clearly didn’t believe the  spirit of the rules should apply to her.

You reap what you sow.

The nation has elected a crude, scary individual President. And all those imperial presidency, non bipartisan executive orders actions implemented over the last eight years can be undone with the stroke of a pen.

One of the many snide graphics going around the last month referenced “setting the country back 50 years.” Well, if that means going back to when deals were hammered out in Congress — represented bipartisan consensus –, the constitution was respected a bit more, the Supreme Court was less of a super-legislature, and the press was less eager to dish on every human foible of our politicians, I don’t know that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Blessings of weather forecasts

So it looks look Hermine is only going to brush Connecticut; as of mid day Monday, there’s only a low probability of tropical storm strength winds on the coast and the flooding will be limited to the low lying coastal areas that flood.

Hurricane Hermine spiral over Florida
Hermine over Florida. Public domain photo from “NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response.”

I spent hours Saturday removing what I could from topside the boat, replacing a worn line and adding more, going from the usual six to fourteen. It’s likely it’s going to turn out that wasn’t necessary.

Some people — hopefully not you, dear reader, are whining about “the hype” and “unnecessary” closures of things like Connecticut state campgrounds.

Get over it and be grateful. For most of mankind’s existence (200,000 years) weather has been a short term, sporadic and sometimes deadly phenomena. Consider the Schoolhouse Blizzard of 1888 that struck so suddenly many children sent home from school died before they could make it. (Death toll: 235), or 1938 New England Hurricane, where the region was caught by surprise by insufficiently conservative forecasts. (Death toll: 682) A sudden 1940 blizzard in the midwest caught many duck hunters unawares; the death toll of 145 likely lessened by a couple foolish / brave man flying a new fangled flying machine dropping supplies. (Turkey death toll: 1.5 million, estimated.)

Sputnik went up in 1957 and now we see hurricanes days in advance. For the past decade — 0.00005 of human existence — smartphones have brought incredible amounts of data right into our hands.  Rather than scrambling under darkening skies I was able to prep the boat in fairly light winds and warm sunny skies. I don’t regret for one instance the time spent and am happy to have had the opportunity to prepare.

 

Connected

I do think social media is a great way to keep up with old friends and acquaintances, in moderation.

Being “connected” seems to be all the rage, and as I move through life, I’m finding more and more folks being online at the time.

I really wish they would stop, especially when I’m actually trying to walk somewhere and have to dodge around physically capable people moving slower than old folks with walkers. What’s so darn important on that tiny screen that it can’t wait? For the record, although obviously I’d providing basic first aid and/or calling 911 when you walk off that wall or get hit by the car,  don’t expect sympathy, okay?

More to the point, what ya’ll are missing is the truth that it’s actually me who’s connected, not you. I’m aware of the actual world around me, and am noticing things around me, whether it’s a cool flying insect I don’t recognize, clouds moving in layers, an unusual flower, the smells of nearby restaurants and neighborhood cookouts, or even my fellow human beings; the cute romance of a young couple, the parental bond between adults and young ones, or the funky style of someone self confident enough to go their own way.

Yes, the cat and dog videos are cute, but after the first twenty or so … really?

I think the cultural shift may go even deeper. When I was in my forties, there was a lot of concern about staying employable beyond due to age related changes and bias.  I don’t worry anymore, because the way many young folks are being raised, they’re not being provided the opportunity to learn how to focus on one thing for extended periods of time; it’s well understand that people multitasking 1 is a myth. When it comes to focus on one thing, if you a typical under 40 something, I’m going to kick your ass.

So put the damn device away and focus on the here and now. Or maybe just get out of the way instead of continuing your slow, drunken sailor walk down that hallway.


1 On the other hand, computers are wired to do context switches very well, so it’s fine to make them multitask.

2016 Political Challenge

Okay, friends, acquaintances, and facebook friends. I’ve see your political posts … I probably didn’t read all of it. I just don’t think Facebook is a particularly good platform for political discussion. Maybe I’ll expand upon that in a future post. Or not.

Any here’s the challenge. In the comments, explain why we should vote for your candidate. There’s only one rule. You can’t mention, explicitly or implicitly, that we should vote for candidate because they’re not them (the others).

I didn’t say it would be easy, did I?