Thursday, October 27, 2016

E Minus 12

Here's what I think.

Vladimir Putin's spy service has discovered that Hillary Clinton has secret (and crooked, but I digress) sweetheart deals with foreign powers around the world -- including with his oil rivals in the Middle East. When she first became Barack Obama's secretary of state, Putin may have believed Hillary had only forged such a relationship with him and his, but now he knows otherwise.

Russia's intervention in Syria is not about fighting terrorists, nor even protecting Syria's national sovereignty and right to be ruled by whatever insane dictatorial regime its people may be willing to tolerate as a lesser evil. It's about extending Russian influence into an oil-rich region of the world as OPEC's cohesion breaks down. Putin fears that if America regains its rudder behind a president who isn't beholden to him, his maneuverings will be for naught.

Putin's recent efforts to influence the presidential election have betrayed a growing panic on his part; Russia's oil has been its prime economic mover in this century and for various reasons it isn't performing as well as conventional thinking would have suggested. The breakdown in OPEC solidarity -- caused by increased production by non-OPEC states like the U.S. and, ironically, Russia -- has made oil cheaper on the world market.

Putin wants either for OPEC to regain control, or to be in a position to herd its members from the outside to do what they no longer have the will to do on their own account.

Forty years ago being OPEC's sheepdog would have been a key to vast global power, due to oil's unchallenged supremacy as an energy source. Since then, OPEC's past hijinks have taught the world that dependency on a single fuel from a single bloc is a bad idea.

And if world power were Putin's objective in his recent maneuverings, he wouldn't be so obsessed with getting Donald Trump into the White House. No, this isn't about geopolitics, but about Russian domestic politics, as determined by the flow of hard currency to Moscow.

This is why Putin talks of nuclear war if Trump loses. It's a typical Russian threat display that, as we learned after the fall of the Soviet Union, has nothing behind it.

He is in a precarious position at home. If future U.S. foreign policy is not firmly pro-Russia, Vladimir Putin risks being humiliated before the world as Mikhail Gorbachev was when George Bush ignored him about Iraq in 1991.

No bully can survive such humiliation.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Thoughts My Brain Made, 52

As I blame Trump for Hillary and Hillary for Trump, there is no logic to my voting for either.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Okay, I've Voted. Now All o' Y'all Just Shut Up!

Yesterday was the start of early voting here in Georgia, so Mrs. McG and I swung by the newer of the two early-voting sites in Coweta County to have our say.

In principle, early voting is described as a bad thing because it encourages people to vote before having the chance to learn all there is to know about a candidate or ballot question. In practice, it dissipates the impact of "October Surprise" gotcha revelations about a candidate or ballot question -- which in my mind isn't a bad thing. Eliminating the incentive to play endgame gotcha tricks on the electorate changes the tenor and rhythm of campaigns, and really the only ones with reason to complain are those who rely on such tricks.

In 2016 there are no negatives about either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton that I needed to wait to hear. Both are unfit for the presidency and therefore both must be rejected.

Contrary to my preference I also voted dutifully for Republicans down-ballot, even where the only other line for that office was for a write-in vote. Given that Hillary Clinton is almost certain to win, she needs to be confronted with a Congress that is at least nominally opposed to her agenda. Having Nancy Pelosi as Speaker and Dick Durbin or some such as Senate Majority Leader would mean fast-tracking Hillary's every whim -- whereas Ryan and McConnell will only fast-track 90% of them.

It's unfortunate that the alternative is Hillary's every whim coming from a Trump Administration, where a GOP Congress would feel compelled to fast-track all of it.

I despise "losing more slowly," but thanks to the know-nothings who took over the GOP nomination process, and the stand-for-nothings who couldn't pander to them fast enough, losing more slowly is our only option. If these were people capable of planning a dumpster fire I'd almost think they were in on it.

I hold out no hope for reform in the GOP. Until rank-and-file voters get the hint once and for all and abandon the elephant, I cannot imagine our politics getting any better.

Trying to win our needed victories in the political realm is like trying to win a small-claims lawsuit in the Supreme Court. Stop, already.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Chill of an Early Fall

For now I'm dropping Red Canyon as the subject of my background image, in favor of a recent photo of the Dunoir Valley, up the road from Dubois, Wyoming.

At this point the valley of the Wind River runs between the Wind River Mountains to the south and the Absaroka (ab-SOR-ka) Mountains on the north. The latter range, which spawns DuNoir Creek, also marks the east side of Yellowstone Park as well as of the caldera of the supervolcano that created its thermal features.

The continental divide leaves Yellowstone Park and runs along the Wind Rivers to South Pass, where the Oregon Trail crosses from the Sweetwater River basin into that of the Green River before striking off toward Fort Hall, Idaho. The paths of the Mormons, the Donner Party, the Pony Express, and the 49ers of the California Gold Rush instead took a southerly turnoff that took them to the Great Salt Lake and, except for the Mormons, beyond.
Dunoir Valley WY, Oct. 2016

Viewers of the "Longmire" TV show that haven't yet watched the fifth season on Netflix may be confused about the pronunciation of "Absaroka." I'm not sure what author Craig Johnson's intent was for the Absaroka County in the books, but the TV series made a decision to pronounce the name as it was spelled, in part perhaps to distinguish it from the mountain range more than 100 miles to the west -- the mountains looming over Durant, Wyoming are the Bighorns; Durant is based on Buffalo, Wyoming at the junction of Interstates 25 and 90.

The name "Absaroka" comes from the name the Crow Indian tribe used for themselves, presumably pronounced more like the mountain range than the fictional county.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Asking the Right Questions

Charles at Dustbury posts a Yahoo! Answers question -- the latest in a series of Y!A questions he has posted over the years that make one want to weep for the future.
When do you become an adult? This is a topic for my University essay and i want to know the answer from that point of view?
My spur-of-the-moment answer, on reflection, is only half-right:
You’re an adult when you have the experience and informal learning to be able to answer the question without asking other people.
That question, and questions like it, yes. But being an adult also means still being willing to ask other people for information when your life experience hasn't encompassed it. Math questions from high-school algebra on, for example, I'm better off asking someone who's mastered it than WAG-ing it like I often did in high school.

Self-reliance within your limits is part of being an adult.

Knowing and admitting your limits is another.

Delayed self-gratification and all that other stuff too.

Oh, and knowing that no matter how much you know, or how much you can rely on yourself, there's always something you can add to the toolset. Death begins when learning ends, so stay alive as long as you can.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

E Minus 28

I live in Georgia, which Trump will almost certainly win. As I've said before in this and previous election years, if the Republican nominee can't win Georgia without my one vote, he's got bigger worries than my one vote.

I think the question is not which candidate will surpass 270 -- if either one does, it will be Hillary Clinton -- but whether she will make it past 300. In my opinion the narrower the margin the better, regardless of who wins.

I am profoundly dissatisfied with my choices for U.S. House and Senate, but again this is Georgia, and the House district is one of the reddest in the state. Squishy Johnny Isakson will go back for another term in Mush McConnell's Senate, and cronyist Drew Ferguson will succeed retiring coulda-been-a-contender-for-Speaker Lynn Westmoreland.

In this, the most disheartening election cycle of my lifetime, I will make a point of casting a ballot. With middle finger raised against those who made it that way.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Real Estate, 5

Found out our other neighbors weren't being contacted by anyone offering to buy their homes, so I think it's safe to conclude the inquiries we received last spring were related to Mrs. McG's mother having passed away.

It's just as well; I'd really rather hold off on another move until it's to a climate I like. Heat and humidity like this in October is totally uncalled for.

Saturday, October 1, 2016


Yesterday morning -- the last day of September -- Mrs. McG's weather station out yonder in the field reported a low temperature of 48.3°F.

This morning it reported a low temperature of 48.6°F.

Obviously this is not climate. It could only be climate if the low temperatures were in the 80s or 90s.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Ends and Odds, 5

Fall is finally here, which in this part of the world means a heat wave in the next three or four weeks.

Mrs. McG got her first single-line AT&T bill, and it's not as small as either of us hoped. The fact her base rate is so much higher than mine must inflate the taxes, fees, assessments and surcharges proportionally higher.

Meanwhile I've taken to keeping cell data turned off on my phone, except as needed. I expect to save some 40¢ or more over last month -- and even more next month since I won't be waiting ten days or so to start this practice.

For some reason certain local drug stores started getting single-serving bags of Salsa Verde Doritos in the last few weeks, an availability that is almost unprecedented hereabouts. Once, years ago, I found them in full-size bags at Walmart but they weren't replenished the next time I went looking for them.

Well, the full-size bags are at Walmart now too -- or at least at the one Mrs. McG visited yesterday. I'm hoping this keeps up, and to encourage the stores in question I intend to keep buying whenever and wherever I find either size, whether or not I'm already stocked up.

After last season I would have expected Mississippi State's football team to be embarked on a winning season while the University of Wyoming struggled. The opposite has so far proven to be the case, with the Bulldogs 1-2 and their game tomorrow against Massachusetts not being carried on any cable channel we get.

Wyoming, on the other hand, is 2-1 and their game tonight against Eastern Michigan is on our TV lineup. I hope they do as well tonight as they have against everyone except Nebraska.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sometimes Cops Are Just Darwin's Messengers

I've been asked on Twitter to tell this story, but it's far too long a story for Twitter.

Years ago, when I was single and underemployed and living in my mother's mobile home in south Sacramento, the neighborhood surrounding the MH park was on a long downhill trajectory and, as a result, so was the park itself.

This place was not a stereotypical white-trash, tornado-magnet "trailer park" -- at least, as intended when designed and opened in perhaps the 1970s. It was supposed to be a safe, quiet country community for retirees and decent working-class people whose only shot at home ownership in those days might be one with axles under the floor. Residents might have a house note far briefer than the typical 30-year mortgage, plus a monthly rent bill and utilities. The park had its own well and water system so that was included in the rent.

Park management had a pretty high rate of turnover and some managers were more conscientious than others. No sooner did one with good ideas for cultivating a sense of community get burned out and leave than her successor started letting in all manner of riff-raff including people who got busted for drug-dealing and prostitution.

The incident I'm going to relate, though, involved the son or nephew of someone who had already lived there when Mom moved in and a family that had moved in after, but some years before things really went bad. At some point the former son or nephew, with some friends, got into a feud with the eldest son of the latter family, and one night a brawl broke out that resulted in several sheriff's cars and a sheriff's helicopter responding to restore peace.

Later as I was talking to members of the latter family someone threw a juice bottle full of -- it turned out -- water against their house. The eldest son, Jason, got a baseball bat and I got a smaller, lighter club of my own making and we walked over to the other side's house to see if there was anyone around to ... ask about the juice bottle.

We stood outside the darkened mobile home and spoke amongst ourselves loudly enough to be heard if anyone was hiding inside or nearby, to remind them that they didn't have as many friends there as Jason's family had.

Soon a sheriff's car came around the corner in our direction, headlights off. I called to Jason and we walked toward the car -- with our respective clubs in our hands.

The car braked and the driver threw open his door and crouched behind it with his gun pointed at us, ordering us to drop our weapons, which of course we promptly did. We got patted down, and before this deputy was finished with us another arrived and said we weren't the ones they'd been called in about. Deputy Gun agreed, but finished the procedure and put our clubs in the trunk of his car before letting us walk back to Jason's house with the other deputy.

After some conversation with Jason's parents about what had happened and what Jason and I had been up to, Deputy Gun gave us back our items, and advised me that mine especially, being smaller and lighter, would be most effective against an enemy's knees.

Later when we told the story to some of our other neighbors, one of them -- a redneck from somewhere in Texas that probably went on to favor Trump over Ted Cruz in that state's 2016 GOP primary -- bluntly informed us that if he'd been with us he would have told the deputy to go stuff himself, and maybe even taken his gun away from him.

It might have been doing the gene pool a favor if he'd tried.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Thoughts My Brain Made, 52

Click through and read seven more in this Twitter mini-rant.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Thoughts My Brain Made, 51

That, I think, is what Trumpers have done. It's what most party-line voters do. It's why both major parties (and the Libertarian Party) are now just different brands of the same crappy politics.

Don't oppose evil so fervently that you follow a false leader, blind to the evil he does.

Update, about a half-hour later: Indeed. (Via this tweet.)

'Nother update, two days later:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sheriff Longmire and Game Warden Pickett

Before the latest Longmire book came out -- it turned up in my e-reader app yesterday morning and I finished it by that afternoon -- I had devoured all 16 of C.J. Box's Joe Pickett books. Both are set in fictional counties in Wyoming, and both involve the named protagonist in the solving of mysteries.

Most people only know the Longmire on TV (returning soon for Season 5 on Netflix), but apart from the characters' names and the Wyoming setting (though filmed in New Mexico) the TV series is a different critter with a more troubled, less confident Walt than in the books. And the literary Henry Standing Bear makes Lou Diamond Phillips' version, however well portrayed, look like a koala.

Well, Joe Pickett is a game warden, employed (in most of the books) by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. He's not supposed to solve crimes unless they're committed against elk, sage grouse, or cutthroat trout. And the first time we meet him in "Open Season," he's trying to cite a poacher who ends up taking Pickett's gun and stopping just short of blowing the game warden's brains out.

Similar mishaps befall him in most of the books, but even before this incident he was already famous for citing the Governor for fishing without a license -- something most of his colleagues consider a damn fool stunt.

Thing is, a few months later the man who grabbed his gun is found murdered in Pickett's home woodpile, and the mystery of why he's there doesn't seem to interest Twelve Sleep County's sheriff as much as it does Pickett.

After having immersed myself in sixteen years worth of Box's Wyoming -- the Pickett books come out every March like clockwork; I wish I had his discipline -- the new Longmire book, "An Obvious Fact," was a chance to revisit Johnson's. It's less political than Box's stories -- heck, it's even less political than the "Longmire" TV series -- and also more comfortably masculine.

Well, part of that is because Walt Longmire is a widower and his best friend is tall, dark and savagely noble. Joe Pickett, on the other hand, is married and he and his wife Marybeth have spent the book years raising three girls on a paltry state salary and whatever his wife can earn at the local library or as a free-lance business manager. And while Walt approaches his job philosophically, Joe is kind of a stickler (hence the ticket he wrote against the Governor) for whom his occasional acts of badassery, demanded by exigent circumstances (nearly always to protect his wife and daughters), are departures he prefers not to let become habitual.

I like Longmire because he's an example. I like Pickett because he's the kind of guy Longmire would be an example for. And I'm looking forward to next March to find out what happens to him next.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Legends of the Autumn, 2

Meanwhile on the home acres here in subtropical west Georgia I am actually seeing some first fall color on certain trees. I don't mean the poplars -- apparently they start dropping leaves in midsummer -- but others that I wouldn't expect to see turn before October.

Our highs are staying in the mid to upper 80s, so I don't know what's up.