Saturday, November 10, 2018

Stolen Votes and Elections?

I remember back in 2008 watching the Minnesota election up north where Al Franken (D) was running against incumbent Norm Coleman (R) for a senate seat.  Coleman was ahead election night by about 212 votes.  But then challenged votes and 'wrongly' rejected absentee ballots were counted, and all of a sudden Al Franken was ahead by 312 votes.  If I remember correctly, all of the new votes came from blue (D) districts.  Minnesota was a blue state, and Coleman's legal challenges were rejected.

Now, I have no evidence to suggest that illegal or unfair action took place that year.  But it seems to have started a trend where in close elections where the Democrat candidate is behind, we suddenly find 'lost' boxes of votes or ballot errors in the Democrat's favor in strongly Democrat cities or districts.  And this happens only after election day.

In my opinion, dead people voting is so 'old hat.'   It was a fine approach (and I'm being sarcastic), when you were handling a city, town or county election.  A few tens or hundreds of dead votes could matter.

Over time, the masters of election cheating had to come up with something better.  Consider the fact (and I'm fudging as I am guesstimating from hearing previous numbers) that in most elections, no more than 50% of the registered voters actually vote.  And I hear repeatedly, that it is worse for Democrats than Republicans.  That's a LOT of votes that some one committed to stealing an election can use.  Especially if the 'lost' votes show up AFTER election day.

Now this is hypothetical, but it tends to fit the facts.  For example, the current vote changes in the Florida senate and governor's races.

Most of the voting now is electronic.  I received two texts after I voted early, purportedly from a gubernatorial candidate, stating that I had not voted yet and that there was still time to vote during early voting in my state.  I don't know if the texts were legitimate.  If they were, my vote apparently got lost.  But the point I want to make is that there are electronic or written lists of who votes and who do not, at least on election day.  I cannot say for those who submit absentee ballots, I suspect in some states they are tallied early.  So, the district or county election manager, who in a strongly blue region will be Democrat, has lists of who did and did not vote on election day.

Those lists have to be available to the election manager, who is responsible for assuring that people did not vote twice.  Voting twice would be something that a recount would find, as well as a lawsuit alleging cheating.

But you've got 50% of your party's voters that did not vote.  If you can create new ballots with those non-voters' names, you can submit them as 'lost' ballots a day or two after election day.  If you are using voting machines with no paper ballots, those new votes could be submitted as 'new' absentee ballots.

Electronic voting machines present other challenges and 'opportunities'.  First, you could change the code to 'switch' a small percentage of votes either during voting or on voter confirmation.  Someone has done that coding, and they are one party or the other.  Some of those coders could be unscrupulous or bought.  You would assume the purchasers of the machines would test them.  But it would be easy enough to include a code switch that only makes changes on election day or during early voting.  I doubt many purchasers actually review the code, or are competent to do so.  Most code is proprietary anyway, and usually won't be released to purchasers except in compiled form.

There were a number of Texans complaining the machine changed their vote.  The 'official' cause reported in the news was that the voters hit a button before a screen change.  I'm kind of curious if my vote even was registered (given the two text messages I received).  It would be just as easy to 'drop' an opponent's vote as to change it.  Though that would likely create a discrepancy between the signed-in voter list and the number of votes that could be found in an audit.  But what could they do?  They would live with it, and justify it as voter error.

So, any process that allows 'new' or 'lost' votes to be counted after election day must be considered fraudulent.

If 'lost' votes are found, there is practically no way to identify fraud.  The only way would be to go back to voters and ask each one if they voted.  That will not happen.

So watch your elections.  If the final vote and result doesn't happen on election day or night, look at the continuing results.  My assumption in any multi-day result that turns around the initial count is that an election has been stolen. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Birthright Citizenship

Recently, President Trump made the statement that he was going to change birthright citizenship by executive order, and more recently said it would be more appropriate for Congress to make the change.  I've read lots of pro and con editorials saying why he should or cannot do this.  Perhaps the best was a New York Post opinion piece by John Eastman entitled "Revoking Birthright Citizenship Would Enforce the Constitution."  I highly recommend reading the whole article.

President Trump's intent was to stop granting citizenship to the children borne to visitors to our country and to illegal immigrants.  Apparently there is also a big industry called 'Birth Tourism' where people pay to come here and give birth, granting their children citizenship with all the rights and benefits that entails.

Most of the critical writers claim that this is a constitutional right and you cannot change that by executive order.  If it were a constitutional right, they would be correct.  However, I, and a significant number of legal minds, believe the constitution is currently being interpreted incorrectly.  Theoretically, that would allow President Trump to change enforcement to a correct/different interpretation.  However, since every executive order appears to be struck down by some liberal federal district judge, I would expect the same thing to happen in this case.  Hence, execution of any executive order would likely have to wait for Supreme Court review.

The 1868 14th Amendment to the Constitution states "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”   Apparently, there is a 1952 immigration and naturalization law that uses the exact same words.  But also covers other aspects of immigration and naturalization.

John Eastman argues that the 14th Amendment authors stated their intention was to assure citizenship to former slaves and their descendants, but not to grant citizenship to visitors who had allegiances to other nations.  That would eliminate the birth tourism, and granting of citizenship to children of visitors and illegal immigrants.  He shows that the understanding of "jurisdiction" has changed in the intervening years, so most people now think it means anyone subject to US laws.

Apparently, most nations do not grant citizenship to everyone, just because they were in their country at the time of their birth.

I don't want to rehash all of those arguments.  What I do want to point out is that if the authors of the constitutional amendment wanted anyone birthed on US soil to have citizenship, they could simply have left out "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof."  For some reason, I have not seen this point anywhere else.  One could argue authors were worried about a few hundred people with diplomatic immunity, but comparing that to tens of thousands (and today a lot more) visitors and illegal immigrants, I don't think that is a valid concern.

Thus, it is obvious to me the intention of the Amendment was NOT to grant citizenship by birth to children of visitors from other countries or illegal immigrants.  Accordingly, President Trump would be within his rights and powers to enforce the laws of the US and the Constitution to change enforcement and execution of the Amendment.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Protests or Attempted Coercion?

My plans for a multi-part blog on moral actions kind of failed.  Not enough planning ahead of time, and I wanted to mix two theses that didn't integrate very well.  But in thinking about moral actions in the public sphere, I settled on a topic dealing with public protests.  I'll first state my thesis, then provide some definitions, and finally get to my arguments.

I don't like protests.  I'm not saying all protests are bad or that a protester is necessarily doing anything wrong.  Many may have admirable motives, and many protests may be pushing a good cause. But there are far too many protests that make the news where the protesters show lack of good judgment in behavior, and far too often are pushing a cause I do not believe in.  And way too many of those appear to break laws with impunity.

My preferred behavior is to vote, write letters to congressmen or local politicians, participate in your community's government, write letters to the editor, and post respectful social commentary. 

An alternative, in some cases, would be to bring a lawsuit.  I don't like that option as too often cases are filed that are trivial or depend on an off-the-wall legal theory.  And they are often misused to slow a process or bankrupt an opponent.

Back to my thesis.  Protests too often are coercive in nature or even lead to behavior that would be characterized as assault (and sometimes battery) if done by an individual.  As an example, protesting a company's factory that is creating noxious odors in the community is probably a good cause.  But blocking their parking lots, walkways, or entrance is coercive and despicable.  If they don't get out of the way when employees, who are trying to make a living, try to enter, it is the equivalent of assault.  If they push or shove employees trying to enter, it's battery.  If they protest on the company's land, such as their parking lot, it is trespass.

Now, we need some definitions. 

  • Google's definition of coerce is a fairly generic one: "persuade (an unwilling person) to do something by using force or threats."  
  • The's definition of assault is "... an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact. An assault is carried out by a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm."  
  • The's definition of battery is "... an intentional unpermitted act causing harmful or offensive contact with the "person" of another. ... The punishment for criminal battery is a fine, imprisonment, or both. Usually battery is prosecuted as a crime only in cases involving serious harm to the victim."
  • Cornell's website states that trespass is "... defined by the act of knowingly entering another person's property without permission."
Assault, battery, and trespass are common criminal offenses, and when brought to the police's attention, the offender will usually get arrested and often tried for the offense.  Trespass is not usually considered a serious crime, unlike assault and battery.

Coercion is also found in criminal law, but is applied in different ways in different jurisdictions.  For the purpose of this article, I won't assume there is any criminal penalty for the coercive aspects of protests.  However, if the protests go so far as to commit assault, battery or even trespassing, I do believe protesters should be arrested and tried for those crimes.

On to the discussion.  It appears to me that protesters have a range of motivations.  1) Some may merely want to bring an issue to the attention of voters, government, or a corporation. 2) Some protesters may be trying to obstruct an activity or operation that they think should be stopped.  3) Some may be trying to actually intimidate other individuals or groups.  4) Same may be trying to express anger or rage about an action.  5) And a few may be trying to destroy property or injure and intimidate individuals because they feel wronged.  I'm not trying to be comprehensive here, and I may have missed a few motives.  But I think these five are pretty representative.

Protests primarily involving motive #1 (getting attention for an issue) can generally be executed in a non-coercive way and with no criminal behavior.  While handheld signs are only sufficient to convey the simplest message, most such protests will get TV or newspaper attention.  If they stay on public lands and get any required local permit, I have no problem with such protests.  However, if they were to tie up my local park during regular park hours, I still wouldn't be happy with them.

I'll jump for a moment to motive #4 (expressing anger at an action).  If there are no other motivations (and related coercive or criminal activities), this is a perfectly understandable motivation for a protest.  An example would be a peaceful protest against rezoning or use of eminent domain.  Unfortunately, protests involving anger often include other motivations and offensive behavior.  Examples of that would be anger at trail verdicts that turns to violence.

In the past, motive #2 (obstructing an activity or operation) was pretty common, and it still is.  Unions, or unionizers, wanted to obstruct a company's operations when they wouldn't allow a union to form or they wouldn't accede to a union's demands.   Protesters blocked abortion clinics or pro-life clinics.  Protesters tried to stop oil pipelines or nuclear reactors from being built.  Most of these protests involved physically preventing entry of employees or customers.  Most I would consider to have passed over the threshold of assault and often battery.  Trespass was common.  This behavior is detestable and way too often, the police seem to look the other way.  Since this usually involves physical action against individuals, I believe it is entirely coercive in nature.

In today's political environment, motive #3 (intimidating individuals or groups) is becoming more common.  Instead of trying to get their message across with signs, people, and the media (where motive #1 is primary), they get in the face of their 'opponents.'  These cases include the protest groups showing up at restaurants to intimidate Trump officials and Republican legislators.  In my opinion, the restaurant owner or manager should ask the protesters to leave immediately and should file trespass charges if they do not.  If the protesters are rowdy or a large group, the police should hold them for assault (unlikely).  Another example is cornering and screaming at Senator Flake in a congressman-only elevator.  Then there is the more generic example of so-called anti-fascist protest groups forming to objective to a speaker or another protest group.  In this case, they tend to get to the pushing and shoving stage, all the way to battery.  Too many police forces are looking the other way in all of these situations--mostly in blue (Democrat run) cities. All of these examples are attempts to coerce their opponents.

Motive #5 (destroying property and injuring individuals) is the most heinous form of protest.   In the past, such protests were called riots.  And in most such cases, the police tried to arrest individuals and stop the riot.  Today, we see Democrat city administrators tell police to stand down, even when the 'protesters' are destroying cars, places of business, and university property.  Black hooded Antifa and Black Lives Matter protesters wielding weapons are somewhat common now on the West coast and in places like Baltimore.  Property damage, assault, battery, and obstructing traffic are all chargeable offenses.  But these rioters, in an extreme way, support the message of the democrat party.  To me, its despicable activity and a despicable failure to enforce our laws.

I think I've pointed out examples of many protests that are not 'peaceful and law-abiding.'  But I need to go further and say that I think you should let anyone speak on any topic and opinion.  If they were to encourage criminal activity (such as murder, assault or battery), any permit should be withdrawn and the protest disbanded by the police.  But one should not confuse hateful talk with criminal incitement.  If a speaker's words are not something you don't want to hear, don't listen.  If others think like you, no one will attend.  Heckling a speaker is to me particularly offensive behavior.  It may not be criminal, until the property owner asks the heckler to leave, but its uncivil, discourteous and any person with a sense of decency should abstain from that behavior.  That's my thoughts for public speaking and protests. 

But going into restaurants, or screeching outside someone's home, or intruding into their place of employment is going over the line for civil behavior.  Those types of protest should require immediate police response.

Most protests I see on TV or read about are not a group of well-behaved, respectful individuals just trying to get a message across.  Most are trying to coerce a group or individual to behavior they approve of, often times by behavior that is not lawful, and frequently by ridiculing or heckling opponents. 

My recommendation is stay away from protests.  Find other ways to express your opinions and get your message across.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Lies, Morals and Writing

I decided to do a two part blog, mostly because I've thought about two related topics and I want to tie them together.  This may not work. :)

If you've read any of my earlier non-hiking blogs, you probably know I don't like dishonesty.  And that's where I want to start today.  I do a lot of reading:  news, blogs, and fiction novels.  And a lot of what I'm seeing today appears blatantly dishonest.  I prefer to presume that writers and journalists are competent rather than incompetent.  They've gone through school or training and they have bosses and editors that review their work.  Fiction authors, especially for eBooks (generic term), may be the exception, as they may be doing their first professional releases.

But if the writers are competent, that means that many of them are dishonest.  When they leave out details that don't provide the whole truth or that lead a reader to a conclusion that may not be true, I assume they are being dishonest.  The exception is a big story, where they glaringly leave out one or more of the who, what, when, where and why.  In those cases, I tend to assume either they are lazy, incompetent, or their bosses are not giving them the time or resources to investigate properly.  But that's another blog.

Most of the media are now anti-Trump and most of their stories leave out or distort background that would show President Trump's actions or words were quite reasonable.  To me, that is dishonesty, and abhorrent behavior.  Likewise, when they bury or don't cover President Trump's successes.  That is not even-handed journalism. It is a blatant attempt to push the electorate to vote against President Trump, Republicans, and their positions.  Again, abhorrent.

Then there are the election advertisements.  I haven't seen a democrat's ad (or their PAC's) that I find believable or honest.  The closest might have been Beto O'Rourke's original ads that said he wanted to end divisiveness.  He didn't lie about his opponent, and I assumed he believed he wanted to end divisiveness.  Until he started the dishonest attack ads against Ted Cruz--that push divisiveness.  In a 30 second ad, I do not expect a full discussion of an issue.  But I do expect an honest presentation of the facts and what they mean.  I don't see them.

I try to carry over that belief in honesty in my private life.  I abhor lies.  Of course, I'm not perfect.  I've had recent medical problems, and my wife keeps asking how I am doing.  Instead of telling her it's been bad, I just say I'm ok.  But when she asks about specific symptoms, I tell her the full truth.  I never volunteer statements that are false or partial truths.  I never answer with false or partial truths (except in the socially acceptable setting where people don't want to hear about your problems).

I sometimes get emotional when discussing other people's falsehoods when talking with my wife.  I don't like them doing it to others, and I don't want people to lie to me either.

Transitioning from lies to more general morals is a bit more difficult.  I consider my morals my view of whether acts are right or wrong.  I had a religious upbringing, so I also consider acts, that the Bible identified as sins, as wrong.  On TV and movies today, adultery is one of the most seen acts that I consider wrong.  It really bothers me.  Then there is cheating, stealing, cussing, and murder.  At least in most series and movies, stealing and murder is still considered wrong.  And on some stations or channels, they will still bleep out cussing during hours when children could be watching.

If a series or movie seems to grant approval to immoral acts or builds its plot around such action, it bothers me, and I stop watching.  I've stopped recording (for later viewing) series after a couple of episodes.  I try not to watch a movie if the summary shows it supports immorality.

Books (and I only read electronic books now because of my eye-sight) are a different problem.  I buy some off of Amazon, and I 'rent' others through Amazon's Kindle Unlimited.  When I was young, I could go into a book store and go to the Science Fiction and Fantasy section, and look at the book's summary.  Back then, I found the vast majority of those books to be on the right side of morality.  The lead characters were the good guys, out righting the wrongs in their universe.  Kind of like the Super Heroes of today, only most didn't have super powers.  Those books didn't have cussing, adultery (very often), or graphical depictions of sex acts.

And since getting published (and edited) was tough, they were usual well written with few plot issues.

Today's flood of Kindle Unlimited books are showing a lot of poor writing, with poor character explorations and lots of plot issues.  You can avoid most of those issues by looking at the reviews.  The best reviews are usually for pretty acceptable writing.

But I've also changed preferences from science fiction to fantasy.  I still read a mix, just like when I was younger, but the mix has changed.  Maybe the science fiction writers are fewer, or maybe I'm just not finding the good ones.  But I think the TV series that make vampires look romantic instead of evil monsters seems to have influence and created a lot of fantasy writers.  It looks like some authors that in the past would have written romances (that I would not have read) are now doing urban fantasy, which I occasionally read.

But some urban fantasy authors seem to think that the romance is the central plot line.  And too many end up with graphical sex scenes.  To me, that is just too much like porn.  It is morally repugnant.  In a few cases, I've had to stop reading authors that went too far.  If the romance isn't incidental or supplementary to the plot, I won't read it.

Most recently, I started a series by two authors.  It read like traditional fantasy, set in an urban fantasy universe.  It was a little simple, but it had engaging characters and nice action, plus an intriguing fantasy world development.  I read the 10 (somewhat short) books from Kindle Unlimited.  Then looked at their other series.

I think the lead author switched from the first series to the second (though I am unsure of the order).  The authors are different genders, and the lead character was female (instead of male) in the second series.  I'll go into more detail in part on the series and writing of these two authors.

But the second series had some moral issues that almost had me drop it.  First, they came up with a 5" troll with green hair.  A cute concept.  But the troll hides his intelligence and ability to speak when he is first introduced.  Instead, most of the troll's language in the first few books of this second series is cussing; usually, some variation of the f-word.  I think its supposed to be humorous.  Maybe in real life, it would be humorous.  In the book, it was ok the first time or two, but then it became too much.  And worse, all the characters in the books observing the troll thought it's language was humorous or cute.  Why do this?  In most literature, characters using foul language were thought to be foul persons.  This writing seems to be conveying the message that cussing is ok.

The next item that bothers me in one of their other series, is when a group of high school kids go shopping in a mall run by magical beings.  I don't know why, but they have one boy still a knife for whittling.  The text indicates he doesn't have the funds to pay for it, so he just picks it up and runs.  There is no subsequent mention of consequences or corrective action, or even any indication that the boy believes he did something wrong.  Instead, the story seems to laud the boy with accolades for his subsequent whittling.

Another issue in that last series, with the boy thief, is that the female lead comes across information that her school's administration needs to know.  There are bad guys trying to disrupt the school and hurt the students.  Instead of telling the administration, she repeatedly keeps the information to herself.  While this may be a mechanism to support the defective (in my view) plot approach, it seems to support the position that it is ok to keep important information from the authorities on folks seriously breaking the law.  Is that a message you want young readers to take away?

In those last three series I mentioned, the average review was always 4.5 to 5 (out of 5) stars.  I'm not sure what's up with new writers, maybe this was an aberration.  But it sure seems that writers are going the way of journalists; i.e., immorality and dishonesty is ok.

The next part in this blog will focus more on the writing of several series of the two authors I mentioned above.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Thoughts on Manifest TV Series 2018

I have pretty much given up on new TV series.  In general, I don't agree with the morals displayed or the political and social philosophies that they push.  But I cannot resist checking out the occasional TV series where the trailers show something intriguing.  Manifest was one of those series.

A plane full of people disappear for five years then land.  The people on the plane did not age, and they weren't aware they were not landing the day they took off.  The lead characters are a family that split up before the plane took off to take advantage of an airline offer for taking a later flight.  That includes a pair of twins (one male, one female), the parents, and I think the husband's sister.

Well, the plane blows up a day or two later.  Several of the passengers hear voices that tell them to do things that help people.  And one of the doctors on board notices a new blood marker in several of the flyers.  Of course, the NSA seems to think this is a national security crisis and tends to view all of the passengers as suspects (weird).

So far, so good.  It's a kind of sci-fi mystery that is intriguing to me.

Now to the most recent episodes.  First, we find out one of the flight attendants smuggled a relative's boyfriend on the plane, and they are now hiding him from the NSA (and I presume ICE).  He's an obvious illegal immigrant.  To enhance diversity, I think he is gay.  The flight attendant is a lesbian.  They make the smuggled guy out to be very sympathetic.  So several social justice themes there.  I'm not into social justice in my TV series.  I want to be entertained.  I'm looking for the sci-fi mystery plot to be extended.

Next, we have the husband's sister who is a police officer.  She was engaged to another officer who was apparently at times her partner.  During the five years, her fiancee got promoted to detective and married her best friend.  She was obviously distressed.  But she hears voices and helps find/rescue victims.  But she doesn't always understand what the voice tells her, so we see a couple of missteps.  The last one destroys a sting operation.  Her detective/partner/former fiance takes the fall, and he may lose his job.  Disturbingly, she won't explain the voices to him, apparently thinking the NSA is a bigger threat than the consequences of honesty.  But the most disturbing point is that her father (he appears to be in his 60's) tells her since she still loves the detective, she should pursue him even though he's married.  To me, that's moral offense number one.  Its a very offensive plot detail.

The next issue is that the twin's mother got a boyfriend during the missing five years, and apparently they became close lovers.  She, and the daughter who was with her, hide this from the returning husband/father.  That part's a little believable; though it doesn't say a lot about what they think of the husband's ability to understand and forgive.  The problem is that she simply ignores the former lover's messages.  When he becomes insistent, she finally tells him she has decided to carry on with her marriage.  But in this last episode, he shows up at her door, and she lets him in.  Maybe they are doing this for the tension.  But it sure looks like the plot trajectory is going to have her be unfaithful to her husband in the present.  Maybe I'm wrong.  But it's an irritating plot line and it could become offensive to me.

So, instead of a straight sci-fi mystery series, we get a melodrama with social justice themes and potential gutter morals that have become too common on TV.  I'll record the next few episodes, but will stop watching live.  Then I'll check out whether the plot evolves in a way that I can live with.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Misleading Campaign Ads

I watch very few TV shows or movies, mostly because I don't agree with the morals and political viewpoints pushed in most shows produced today.  But when I do, I cannot help but see the TV advertisements for competing candidates.  For the most part, they are what I consider disgusting.  The best of them are just bad.  What bothers me the most are the misleading statements in most of them.

For example, Beto O'Rourke (democrat running for US Senator from Texas against Ted Cruz) seems to have only one ad on the channels I've watched.  He gets up there and talks about stopping the division in American politics today.  He says not a word about any of his positions on domestic or foreign policies.  Probably because they tend to follow the progressive line and are unpopular in red-state Texas.  But he's getting lots of donations.

And yeah, nobody likes divisive politics.  But as long as opposing parties have differing positions, its going to be divisive.  However, it sure looks to me like Democrats are advocating for more violence and divisiveness, not just in Congress, but in your everyday lives.  What does Beto O'Rourke suggest?  Nothing in that ad.  How would he reduce divisiveness?  I don't have any idea.  He might denounce the 'uncivil' advocacy spoken by Hillary Clinton or Eric Holder, but he hasn't done that.

His opponent is Ted Cruz (R).  I like Cruz; he doesn't waiver on most of the positions I support.  However, his ads are not what I would call good.  He highlights the deplorable positions Beto O'Rourke has taken on various policies, then talks about his opposing position.  I don't know what else he could do (except the debates) to bring attention to O'Rourke's lousy positions.  Unfortunately, he ends each of his ads with the required statement that he has approved the advertisement.  But for some reason the producers have the statement aired in a tiny soft voice you can barely hear.  Very odd.

Then there is the Will Hurd (R) and Jina Ortiz Jones (D) race for US Representative in Texas 23rd district.  This one involves both candidate and PAC ads.  You've probably guessed I won't vote for any democrats.  But I don't think I'm in the 23rd district.  I'll know when I go to the polls.

First, let's start with Will Hurd's ads.  I don't like them any more than than I do Beto O'Rourke's.  They show Rep Hurd meeting with constituents and talk about working to support his constituents' needs.  At least that's a little more honest than O'Rourke's assertion he will reduce divisiveness in politics.  But they are totally useless at providing information on policy positions.

Honestly, I don't remember any ads supporting Jina Ortiz Jones.  Either they are not memorable, or they aren't being placed on the channels/shows I watch.

But there are PAC ads criticizing Gina Ortiz Jones and ones criticizing Will Hurd.  The ones criticizing Hurd state that he voted to raise health care costs 8 times.  Since Congress doesn't determine health care costs, for the most part, this is nonsense.  He may have voted to cancel Obamacare, which would have been done with the expectation of reducing costs with a replacement.  Or they may have been counting Medicare, Medicaid or military Tri-Care votes.  But the ad doesn't say.  What I do conclude is that any such vote would have been something I probably supported.

The ads against Jones are peculiar.  It's like PAC's have no skill in marketing or won't hire someone with skill.  One talks about how she added the Ortiz middle name to her campaign only after she started running in a Hispanic district. It's peculiar that if you look at her Wikipedia post, she (or her submitters) call her Ortiz Jones instead of Gina Jones further in the article.

A second PAC add against Jones talks about how she supported BRAC but is against it when campaigning.  BRAC is the supposedly 'independent' assessment that recommends closing military bases.  It's the approach Congress used in the past to get enough votes to close large numbers of military bases.  There are lots of military bases in the 23rd district and San Antonio area.

Both sets of PAC ads against O'Rourke and Jones focus on how they support Nancy Pelosi or are supported by her.  While it's probably useful information, I hate wasting my time watching them.

Bottom line is that ads for the coming congressional elections are misleading, are poorly done, or just insulting to me.  I assume there are people out there who aren't into politics, and the ads are trying to influence those voters.  But can't the candidates at least focus on their own policies during those ads?

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Kavanaugh Background Investigation

This post will be unusually short (for me).  I read that the FBI background investigation update on Brett Kavanaugh was to cover current credible allegations.  I figured that was the Christine Ford allegation of attempted rape.  There have been two other major allegations, and potentially other minor ones.

The Ramirez allegation was that Kavanaugh exposed himself to the young woman at a college party.  She was unsure of whether it was actually Brett Kavanaugh and two anti-Trump newspapers (the New Yorker and New York Times) both said they could not find anybody that could corroborate her story.  To me, that's not credible.

The Swetnick allegation was that Kavanaugh was present and/or participated in multiple gang rapes at parties as well as spiking punch to get potential victims drunk. Swetnick was a college student who reportedly attended these high school parties at least 10 times.  Including one instance where she alleges she was the gang rape victim.  Again no corroboration.  Why would a college woman attend high school parties where gang rapes are taking place, multiple times?  Again, I don't find the allegation credible.

Yet media reports this morning state that the FBI has already tried to contact Ramirez and Swetnick to inquire about their allegations.  Maybe when they get details, they will find them not credible and discontinue their inquiries.

On the other hand, this potentially opens the investigation up to all non-curricular activities of Brett Kavanaugh in high school and college.  And potential interviews with anybody that knew Brett Kavanaugh or attended any party or non-school functions.  That is a ridiculously broad investigation and would require a ridiculous amount of resources to do it right.

Its like a Russian collusion investigation into the 2016 presidential election turning into decade old tax evasion and money laundering investigations involving Ukraine.  Unlimited.

I cannot believe the republicans in the Senate expected an unlimited investigation, even if it is supposed to last only 7 days.

Kavanaugh Nightmare Continued - BI

I thought the saga of dragging Brett Kavanaugh through the mud was about over.  Yesterday morning, Senator Flake had said he was going to vote yes for confirmation.  Then came his confrontation in an elevator, shown on national media, with a woman berating him for his position.  A little time later his position became he would vote to move the nomination out of committee but would only vote for Kavanaugh if the FBI did a background investigation on current credible charges against Kavanaugh.  Apparently he and Senator Murkowski went to Mitch McConnell and pointed out he wouldn't get his 50 votes without an FBI investigation.

Almost immediately, it was announced that President Trump was directing the FBI to do a limited, supplemental background investigation (BI) into current credible allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.  He limited the investigation to 7 days.  So we have another week for democrats to come up with another valid reason for not voting on Brett Kavanaugh.

What follows is purely my own thoughts and conjecture about what has happened and what will happen.

First, I want to address Jeff Flake and his potential motivation.  In the past, he's been rabidly anti-Trump.  There is no doubt he wants to stick it to the President.  That would mean a no vote on Kavanaugh.  On the other hand, people say good things about him personally, so I assume he does not want to hurt somebody he doesn't have a grudge against, such as Brett Kavanaugh.  So I figure he's torn.  I don't believe for a minute that he trusts Christine Ford's identification of Kavanaugh as her attacker.  Before the viral elevator video, he didn't have an excuse to vote for delay.  Then he did, and he took it.  He's leaving the Senate, so his electorate and voters don't matter.  Only his own conscience.

Senators Murkowski (R), Collins (R), Manchen (D), Donnelly (D), Heitkamp (D) and McCaskill (D) are in different situations.  Let's take the democrats first.

These folks are in states that went big time for Trump and they are up for re-election in a few weeks.  They have, by voting history, a big preference for going along with the democratic majority.  So presumably, they want to vote no.  I suspect they don't want to hurt Brett Kavanaugh and his family either, but they don't want him on the Supreme Court.  On the other hand, they have to be evaluating the potential effect of this confirmation on their election chances.  I suspect, they will only vote yes if they assess their electorate as likelier than not voting them out if they vote no.  They are happy for any delay in making this decision.

Senator Murkowski and Senator Collins are obviously female and registered republicans (for those who don't follow politics) and tend to jump the fence and vote for liberal social causes.  You never know how they are going to vote.  Neither has a really solid republican base in their states.  And both tend to vote for feminist issues.  Somehow, Brett Kavanaugh is considered anti-abortion and women, though his record is contrary to that media position.  Their party allegiance is less than that of their counterpart democrats, that I just mentioned.  But I believe they want to vote yes for Kavanaugh.  On the other hand, they worry about their reputation with their women voters.  A delay gives them more time to assess their options, and it potentially could provide a stronger case for Kavanaugh and a better argument for voting yes.

So, if no additional negative information were to come out in the next 7 days, Kavanaugh would likely get confirmed.  If there is any additional credible allegations or information, either from the FBI or via the media, his chances get worse and worse.

For example, yesterday I said their was no statute of limitations in Maryland for attempted rape.  Today, I learned in 1982 there was.  Attempted rape was a misdemeanor with a 1 year statute of limitation.  Brett Kavanaugh couldn't be charged, or at least tried, for any assault in 1982.  But the Montgomery County Chief of Police and State Prosecutor said they would be willing to investigate if anyone filed criminal charges.  They are democrats and wouldn't be restricted to any 7-day limit.  Since there would be no trial and no discovery, their investigation wouldn't have to reveal any information suggesting the innocence of Brett Kavanaugh.  I suspect the anti-Trump lawyers for Christine Ford will try to get her to file charges.

Then there is the FBI background investigation.  I've undergone background investigations about every five years for my previous security clearances.  Since I've had nothing bad on my record, they have been routine.  You fill out a long, very long questionnaire about your history and potentially bad events.  You get interviewed by an investigator.  And they ask questions of your neighbors, friends and others identified in your history.

I can only presume what they would do with a criminal allegation where a charge was never filed.  I would presume they would interview the accuser and anyone he/she identified as being involved or having knowledge of the alleged crime.  I would further assume they would investigate, to the extent resources allowed, the motivation and credibility of the accuser and witnesses.  In most background investigations, the interviews are conducted by agents in the respective localities involved and I believe their reports are aggregated and assessed as a package.  You don't have one detective like you do on TV that makes it their life ending motivation to bring a criminal to justice.

On the other hand, I suspect the FBI will not make this a typical background investigation.  They will assign more resources than normal and the process and reports will get more scrutiny.  I suspect they will still not have subpoena power to force anyone to talk or produce non-public records.  However, anyone that does communicate with the FBI or their agents will be under penalty of perjury, just as they were with the Judiciary Committee's investigators.

But if Christine Ford and/or her lawyers don't want to provide information, such as polygraph records or therapy notes, the FBI won't have that information.  If Christine Ford and/or her lawyers have any concern about an in-depth forensic discussion, they will not make her available for further interviews.  If she does an interview, I would expect her lawyers to be present and for her to have further memory lapses about anything having to do with polygraphs, therapy, or assault details that could be disproved.

But I could be wrong on that.  During Friday's hearing, it appeared Christine Ford's team had limited the committee's access to information, attempted to mislead the committee, and crafted the event to avoid any serious questioning.  I don't think the FBI will get access to any additional information from Ford or her attorneys.  They may be able to talk to people she's discussed the event with (from 2012 to today), but that is hearsay and those folks would have their own credibility issues.  My guess is the FBI won't try to talk to anyone but the therapists and the polygrapher, and I think both will decline based on confidentiality claims.

The FBI will likely talk to the other people Ms. Ford identified as being at the party.  They've already made on-the-record statements on penalty of perjury, so it is unlikely they can do more than elaborate.  Ms. Ford's female friend could say how she never knew of Ms. Ford lying about anything, something like that.

One thing I do not know is how much investigator personal opinion on the credibility of an interviewee is allowed by the FBI.  My guess, personal opinion is allowed on the 302's.  I'm sure they prefer to have evidence of lying or dissembling when the agent questions credibility, but my guess is they allow opinion and expect the people evaluating the 302's to assign their own level of trust in the agent's opinion.  With recent evidence of FBI prejudice against Trump and for Clinton, this throws a lot of uncertainty into what those 302's will say.

By the way, Privacy Laws are going to theoretically prevent any release of information in the background investigation to the public.  I'm assuming the whole package will be transmitted to the Judiciary Committee, but like with Ms. Ford's letter in the previous package, they may black out key information.  And like with Ms. Ford's letter that requested confidentiality, I'm guessing any negative findings will be leaked to the press, with everyone declaring they didn't do it.

My best guess is that the FBI will report an inability to access additional information on Ms. Ford's accusation and cannot therefore assess her credibility with any confidence.  They may highlight the relative friendships of the witnesses and highlight any probable memory losses due to medical issues over the years.  One would expect, with unbiased agents, and the previous difficulties encountered by committee investigators, that the FBI supplemental BI will be unable to confirm that a crime was committed and cannot add any significant additional information on the allegation.

But I don't think that is the only event that will appear in the media over the next week.  Montgomery County in Maryland may open an investigation if Ms. Ford's lawyers can convince her to file charges.  The media will be doing their best to find additional people (with corroborating witnesses) that will make additional allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.  Do you think that the anti-Trump resistance cannot come up with two progressives willing to make an allegation for money?  It can take some time to find people associated in some way with Brett Kavanaugh.  But the delays in confirmation are continuing, and that time is increasing.

As you've seen, statements by just about everyone that knows Brett Kavanaugh that he's not the kind of person to treat anyone badly and statements that refute charges and even the actual get together are not enough to get him a vote.  All there has to be is an allegation of misconduct, and they put off the voting.  Further, they drag Brett Kavanaugh's reputation through the mud in the media.

This is wrong.  Our society cannot continue in this fashion.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Kavanaugh vs the US Senate's Judiciary Committee

The Judiciary Committe's hearings on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination for the US Supreme Court have left me very unhappy.  I don't like the borking he received or the disrespectful in-committee protesters.  But the allegations of attempted rape, exposing himself, and then conspiracy to commit gang rape--all at the last minute and unsubstantiated--infuriated me.

I was also irritated by my wife during the whole episode.  She would watch the NBC or CBS evening news and then make comments like "Kavanaugh really screwed up."  I told her the allegations were ridiculous and that the party attendees said it didn't happen, and I asked her to read some articles on the allegations.  She refused, and at one point said something like "... all men behave horribly, except you."  Predictably, the qualifier didn't make me feel any better.  Subsequent discussions made me suspect she thinks rich, powerful men all misbehave, and not the people we know.  I know she has a lot of male friends at work, and has never given even a hint of any sexual misconduct that she has observed.  My conclusion was that the media propaganda against Kavanaugh was having an impact.

So, like much of the nation, I watched the Ford and Kavanaugh hearing yesterday.  And there were a lot of things about the day's events that really bothered me.

First, I learned there is a process to confidentially issues handle raised about a candidate that doesn't involve an open hearing.  Christine Ford wanted to keep her accusation confidential.  Diane Feinstein didn't pursue the confidential process, but waited till just before the first vote after the hearings to raise the complaint.  I'm leaving out a lot about how despicably I think the democratic members of the committee  behaved.

Next, there's the fact that attempted rape apparently does not have a statue of limitations in Maryland.  I think every woman that is sexually assaulted or abused should report the incident when it happens.  Not doing so lets the offender off the hook and potentially allows him/her to continue the behavior and assault or harass someone else.  Yeah, I know reporting this type of crime is difficult, and I theoretically understand why some women (or men) do not.  But even if there is not enough evidence for a trial or conviction, the event is available as supporting a pattern of behavior for the next victim.

But back to my point.  I was surprised there is no statute of limitations in this type of crime.  She could still report the crime to the local Maryland police department where it occurred and get the investigation she and all the democrats on the committee say they want.  Why doesn't she?

This line of thought leads me to my next point.  There was too much information suppressed at the hearing.  I don't think a police investigation was likely to reveal that information, as I don't think they could find any corroborating evidence to lead to a full scale court case with discovery and full cross examination.  But there is the chance that a prosecutor could still bring it to trial.  We've seen a lot of politically motivated trials in the past few years where there did not seem sufficient evidence to proceed.  But a real trial would give the defense the opportunity, through discovery, to view evidence that brings into question Christine Ford's accusations.

Evidence such as her statements in couple's therapy and individual therapy that were not provided to the committee.  What was her story then?  What did she say about her memory of who assaulted her?  You would think that just relevant parts of her therapy discussions could have been presented.  But then maybe they would have shown more problems with mental issues?  I prefer to assume that they likely showed she didn't know who her attacker was at the time or that her account of the event was significantly different.

Then there is the polygraph test recording and list of questions.  All the committee was given was the polygrapher's conclusion that she answered two questions truthfully and that she verified the truthfulness of her hand-written story that day.  Yesterday we found out the polygrapher was paid by the liberal pro-bono attorneys Christine Ford 'hired'.  Way too much information being withheld.  It's even worse when Ford described the questioning as lengthy and emotional, yet the report says they only asked her two relevant questions.

Then there's the whole episode about Ford not understanding that the committee offered to send investigators or come itself to California to interview her.  Instead, she insisted on a delayed interview in DC, because, according to her lawyers, she was afraid to fly.  Yet she flys frequently for work and vacation.  Worse to me was her response to the republican questioner, Ms. Mitchell, when she first asked about whether she flew to DC for yesterday's inquiry.  She said she had a lot of encouragement from friends helping her to fly.  The subsequent revelations of frequent flying suggested strongly that she was attempting to dissemble or mislead the audience.  This is even inconsistent with an assumption that her liberal lawyers had their own agenda and didn't properly inform her of the committee's offers or that they were the ones providing the fear-of-flying excuse.  Ms. Ford made it obvious she was also being misleading.

Before getting to her actual story, let me point out that the four people she identified as being at the party all say they have no memory of such a gathering.  Her female friend went further and said she had never met Brett Kavanaugh.  These people don't just say that Brett did not assault the female, they claim there was never a get together like the one described by Christine Ford.  And her good female friend says she never met or knew Brett Kavanaugh, one of only four guys at a small get together. 

Now, if these folks had been talking to a reporter, you might believe you could impeach their 'testimony.'  The boys probably felt some sympathy for their friend.  Christine Ford says her female friend has medical issues.  But they weren't talking to a reporter.  They made the statements on penalty of felony--making false statements to the U.S. Senate.  If they wanted to help their friends, and avoid legal jeopardy, they should have simply stated that they don't remember anything about such a party.  Instead, they said no such party took place, and even that the female friend had never met Brett Kavanaugh.

Their on-record statements directly refute the story that Christine Ford told.  This is why there should never have been any public hearings.  Some democrat involved released Christine's Ford name to the media, the democrat's on the committee demanded a hearing, and the statements contradicting Ford came to light after the republicans were committed to a hearing.

Now back to Christine Ford's testimony and story.  First, let's address the 'thorough' exploration of Ms. Ford's story.  The democratic senator's toughest question was to what degree of certainty Mr. Ford believed Brett Kavanaugh was her assaulter.  She answered 100%.  All of the rest of the democratic time was taken up speaking about how heroic she was or asserting that they needed an FBI investigation to determine the facts.

The republican senators opted to have Ms. Ford questioned by Ms. Mitchell, a prosecutor involved with sexual assault crimes.  This was probably their best option as plenty of pre-inquiry media discussion involved the fact that it was going to look like 11 old white men were going to attack the credibility of a helpless female.  But the rather innocuous list of questions Ms. Mitchell asked did not lead to any significant impeachment of Ms. Ford's testimony.  Sure, she found false-hoods, pointed out some of the unlikely representations, and showed some evidence of liberal/progressive involvement in supporting her presentation.  But she never made any pointed accusations or highlighted what the answers meant.  It was like a deposition, rather than the public trial or roasting that was meant to convict or clear Brett Kavanaugh of allegations of attempted rape.  Sure, they all claimed this was just a job interview, but polls show that up to 50% of the public think he committed attempted rape.  That's not the outcome of a job interview.

As I suspected, she gave a summary of her 'findings' to the committee later that evening out of camera view.  Apparently she told them Ms. Ford's story was not enough to file charges or even get a warrant.  But the public hearing wasn't just about gathering info for the republican senators, it was about the public's view of the behavior of a man nominated for the Supreme Court.  If the public believed he was guilty, it wouldn't matter what the individual senators believed, they would vote the way that would keep them in office.

So, there was no effective cross examination or even thorough inquiry into Ms. Ford's story.  Here are my thoughts.

First, she seemed very sincere in describing a story of assault.  I believe she was assaulted at some time in her youth, and she used those memories to support her earnestness.  I do not believe she was assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh, though she may have come to that conclusion.  But she was never asked about how often she had met Brett Kavanaugh or why she was able to identify him.  When asked about who introduced her to Brett Kavanaugh, she refused to identify the person.  Why?  Ms. Mitchell did no questioning on the identification of the attacker.  And this seems to be the obvious line of questioning.  The one thing she remembers, but no questions?

At this point, I also want to highlight something else that was never in the record.  All of her social media was scrubbed.  I don't do a lot of social media, but most people do.  If she did not use social media, why not just explain it.  But she was reported to have marched once and signed a petition once recently involving anti-Trump resistance.  One may assume that there was derogatory behavior in her social media, whether anti-Trump, progressive, or showing personal behavior that would not have reflected well on her believability.  But no questions were asked.

If she was anti-Trump or pro-resistance, it would help to explain a false identification of Brett Kavanaugh.  But we aren't even given the opportunity of learning about such a motivation.

Now the story itself.  I understand having a bad memory about events from 36 years ago.  But there's some behavior that most people would expect.  Like a 15 year old does not go to a party by herself.  In this case, we have the implication that her female friend accompanied or met her there.  I don't know about you, but I walked to parties on campus and drove to others.  The few times I went to gatherings or events when I was younger, I either got dropped off and picked up by friends or family.  Someone had to have been there to help her get there and home.  Though this is a national event, and no one has come forward.

So she's at a small party and is assaulted.  She doesn't approach or get her friend's help.  Doesn't warn her about the guys' behavior.  Doesn't get her assistance in going home.  And doesn't say anything to her good friend about what happened.  Further, her friend doesn't notice or inquire about her absence, nor note and inquire about subsequent behavior that Ms. Ford describes as having ruined her life for four to five years.  And now, her friend says no such get together ever happened and she has not met Brett Kavanaugh. 

Her friend's statement didn't even note that she had observed any change in Ms. Ford's behavior during that period of time that might have been explained by a traumatic assault.

The whole setup prevented any thorough questioning of Ms. Ford's account, including avoiding an off-camera in-depth forensic interview.  Much of the supposedly supporting evidence (therapy transcripts and polygraph recording) were not available to the committee or the public.  Almost no background information is available on Ms. Ford, other than typical resume facts, that would allow a reviewer to assess the likelihood of other motivations for her story.

We are asked to believe she is telling the truth just because she was earnest and believable on the stand.  But the others' that she claims were at the party assert there never was such a party.

I believe Kavanaugh was unjustly smeared.  He was not given the opportunity to question his accuser, and the process prevented anyone else from doing so.  I believe Brett Kavanaugh is a good man and should be confirmed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

In Defense of Trump

I'm not sure how other people evaluate a person's behavior, but I tend to look at various alternatives and assess which motivation is mostly likely the primary driver.

As a shallow example, I will mention one of my wife's driving habits.  First, the background.  We bought a house about 14 years back with a limited access, divided 4-lane highway into the city.  It's more than a few miles.  As the years have gone by, they've built up sub-divisions all along that highway and started adding stop lights at every major entrance.  Apparently over-passes are too expensive for this road.  Traffic is going slower and slower.

Well, my wife gets exasperated.  She'll get in the left lane thinking it will go faster, and it doesn't.  So she loudly blames the slow driver in front of her.  I look at the line of cars in front of the one she's blaming and point out that driver cannot go any faster than he/she already is.

My quick and dirty point is that you have to look at all the reasons a person will take a certain action in order to properly understand that action.  Just because a car is going slow doesn't mean the driver is a slow-poke.

Now to my blog's title, the defense of President Trump.  Yesterday, everyone was attacking Trump for not coming down hard on Putin for past election meddling.  Unfortunately, I turned on Fox and saw Shepard Smith claiming Trump's behavior was treasonous, and I couldn't watch anything after that.  So the logic I'll step through may have some holes due to my not watching the news on this one in depth.

Why might Trump not take a hard position against Putin and Russian election meddling?  Could it be that most of the media and lots of social media claim that Russian meddling affected the results of the election and that Hillary Clinton would have won without it?  That Russian meddling makes his presidency illegitimate?

I expect that President Trump believes that his campaign was superior to Hillary Clinton's.  That Russian meddling changed little or no votes.  And that his win and his legitimacy are being wrongly maligned for no good reason.

Further, you have the despised media and most of the government telling him what he has to say and how he has to behave in a meeting with Putin.  Would you want to be told what you had to do in an important meeting?

Then take it a step further.  Every action he has taken has been opposed by the media and frequently by much or most of his own party.  Do you think Trump is the type of person to close-up, play it safe, and avoid controversy?  Especially if he thinks he is in the right?

Let's take a few examples of the pressure he's been put under.  Supposedly, he is the head of the executive branch of government.  He hires an Attorney General he believes will be a defender of his agenda.  The AG promptly recuses himself from all things Russian and campaign related.  His deputy AG recommends firing the FBI director (which Trump does), then turns around and appoints a Special Prosecutor to investigate all things Russian and campaign related, an old friend.  Does Trump have any control over his DOJ?  Obviously not. 

But it goes further, Congress introduces legislation that will prevent him from firing the AG and deputy AG.  His own party indicates support.  I assume Trump's advisers say don't fire them or you will be compared to Nixon and impeachment will be a likely outcome.  So Trump lives with the Mueller investigation and the media bashing for over a year and a half.

Not only that, but anybody associated with his campaign that appears to have done anything legally questionable in the last decade or two is indicted on charges having nothing to do with Trump.

On a second topic, his immigration actions are stymied by federal judges for a year and a half until the Supreme Court finally says he was right in following the law.

He believes a wall will help limit illegal immigration--that violates our federal laws.  But his request for $20 B goes unanswered.  He cannot get congress to pass DACA legislation and cannot even get a rider on other bills for the wall.  Further, the defense bill included language saying he could not use existing funds for the wall.  His own party had to vote to include that language.

As far as I can tell, most of his attempts to reduce regulations have been successful, with the courts and congress being relatively unsuccessful at stopping those actions.  However, the media has successfully hounded his cabinet members that have been the most successful at deregulation.

Then there is the world-wide tariff war.  Trump is trying to to reduce or eliminate other nations' trade barriers to US imports.  Does he get credit for using what little leverage he has?  No, he's accused of trying to start a trade war.  Do any of the media even talk about those nations' trade barriers?  Nope.  Does his party support him?  Again no, he hears the same criticism from those folks.  They even introduce a measure to prevent the president from raising tariffs for national security reasons.

Then there is every trip or summit Trump attends.  The media and congress say how bad an idea it is for him to meet with anyone:  North Korea, NATO, Germany, England, or Russia.  And they tell him how he should behave and what he should say, if he absolutely must meet with them.

What else can I say.  Be honest with yourself.  Would you imply at a summit with Putin that his meddling got you elected and that your presidency is illegitimate?  Sure, I'm sure you think you could walk the line better than Trump and wouldn't appear like a bumbling fool.  Perhaps you should throw your hat in the ring for President of the United States?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Never-Trumpers at Fox and WSJ

First, let me give you some background about my online activities.  Obviously, I occasionally write posts for this blog.  I don't use or read Twitter.  I rarely use Facebook.  I've joined a couple of the CDT groups (observing only), and occasionally I view a friend's or relative's posts.  I use email and vastly prefer it to my rare texts.  You might call me a hermit, and you wouldn't be too far off. 

I had an excuse earlier in life.  At that time, I was a government employee with a security clearance.  I didn't want to risk my employment.  Even further, most people with the clearance I had did not want to write about the government or participate in any political activities.  Both were thought too much of a risk of accidentally violating rules, regulations or laws, and thus losing your clearance and your job.

Further, I don't like cursing or name calling.  I also don't appreciate people that do not tell the truth, either with falsehoods or by omission.  And, I have to say it, I don't think much of people that fail to think through the logic of an argument and instead base their decision on emotion or bad data.

So, getting back to my thesis, for the most part I don't use social media.  But I tend to read multiple online news sites and blogs to keep up with current events.

Before Trump was elected, I was an avid reader of the Wall Street Journal.  I got a couple of years at a reduced price (about $200/yr), but by the time Trump was elected, I was paying $100 per quarter.  That hurt.  But I really loved the in-depth writing that fully explored the issues under discussion.  They seemed to be pretty non-political, though their analysis tended to line up with conservative positions.

After Trump was elected president, the articles seemed to become less non-political.  Bret Stephens appeared like a rabid Trump hater, and his articles were actually offensive.  I wasn't surprised when he moved to the New York Times.  After his first couple of post-election articles, I didn't look at his material again. 

But more bothersome was what happened to the Best of the Web, a daily humor column that would start with current events.  Before Trump, they had been spot on.  Afterwords, the conclusions were generally the same, but you had sprinkled everywhere things like "Trump went about it the wrong way" or "Trump's approach was unnecessarily offensive."  It didn't seem to matter that Trump's position and goal were correct, he did it wrong and hence was subject to criticism.

As I mentioned before, I don't follow Twitter.  I see it quoted extensively in online articles.  But if someone doesn't quote a tweet in an online article or blog, I'm not going to know about it.  Further, tweets are not part of our governmental processes.  The fact that Trump my hit back at his attackers in a tweet bothers me not a bit.  In fact, when I see liberal tweets with extensive cursing and crude language, President Trump's tweets seem particularly mild.

Bottom line here on the Wall Street Journal, I liked the core content of their articles, but could not stomach the constant Trump criticism for non-policy behavior.  At $400/year, I was not going to pay to read off-hand criticism of my President that has nothing to do with policies that I whole-heartedly support.  Each of those articles would be just as strong, and as interesting, without the presidential attacks.  I stopped my Wall Street Journal subscription.

Fox News is a slightly different situation.  They had both TV and online media that I watched and read.  Then they moved Hannity out of my prime time period and canceled Bill O'Reilly's show.  His No Spin News was my favorite talk show.  I didn't always agree with him, but he always had reasonable positions.  And he gave people the benefit of the doubt.

Fox News also replaced Brit Hume with Bret Baier on their Evening News show.  I really enjoyed Brit and his panel.  It all seemed to change when Bret took over.  Bret just didn't seem to have the depth of understanding and grasp of the issues that Brit displayed.  I may be doing Bret a disservice, but I stopped watching that show too.

Maybe all the change at Fox was innocent, but it sure seemed to remove the biggest Trump supporters from the scene.  Though I think Brit's departure really was a normal retirement.  He had an opinion piece in yesterday's Fox News web site that talked about Maxine Waters' suggestion to mob Trump supporters and staff.  Just like with the Wall Street Journal's editorial pieces, he threw in that Trump's actions were likewise uncivil.  Of course, he didn't quote any of Trump's 'incivility' like he did Rep Waters'.  Why?  Maybe because it wasn't on the same level.

My conclusion is that most of the Wall Street Journal editors and some of those at Fox are Never-Trumpers at heart.  They have conservative beliefs, but cannot reconcile those beliefs with Trump's unusual style.  They have to criticize the President, even when they are writing a piece that agrees with his policy and actions.

Fox News has one good thing going for it.  Their opinion pieces do not seem to all be written by Never-Trumpers.  There is some straight stuff.

On the other hand, their web site seems designed to gather clicks.  Often their short titles are misleading.  Yesterday I read an article about the Army's acquisition of about 476 new Bradley fighting machines/troop carriers.  I don't remember the article's title being misleading.  But today, the article was labeled "...Big Tank Buy..."--though now I've seen it changed again back to Bradleys.  A Bradley is NOT a tank.  My point is, they change article titles to get you to read them.  It is very irritating to open an article when you are assuming the subject is one thing, and get another.

Worse than misleading titles is the fact that the top section of their home page is mostly what I would call personal interest articles (gossip).  I suspect that approach must get more clicks than straight news would.  In all fairness, it doesn't seem to be much different than the approach of  USA Today or Google News, except that those sites have strong liberal bias.  Reuters seems to go more with straight news (good), but it too has a strong liberal bias (bad, but not quite as bad as CNN, MSNBC, USA Today or Google).

So if Fox News ever added a pay wall (like the Wall Street Journal), I would drop it like a hot potato.

Obviously, I'm unhappy with my previous two conservative favorites (Fox and WSJ).  My suggestion, for what it's worth (ha!), would be that, when writing about a government policy,  reporters/journalists stick to the facts about the policy.  That is, what is the policy and how is it being executed.  Leave out irrelevant quotes from political parties and their propagandists.  Opinion writers should write their opinions of the policy and how it is being executed.  Leave out their personal opinions about the character of the government employees involved.

That doesn't mean reporters/journalists should not write articles on political controversies.  I just don't want to read those.  I also don't want to read opinion articles focused primarily on personal behavior of politicians. 

But most of all I really don't want to read another irritating, one-sentence, hypocritical and offensive quote from some politician about their opponent's proposal or action.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Prius C Review in Local Paper

The anti-Trump propaganda in most news publications and the liberal social values propaganda in Hollywood productions have really ticked me off.  But there is still some straight news (though usually with a lot of unanswered questions) that I find informative when going through the media.

So it surprised me when my wife cut out a review of the new Toyota Prius C from our local newspaper.  She's pro-Toyota and I tend to go along with her automotive preferences.  We have had only Toyota vehicles for years now, and that includes previous models of the Prius.  But this article was written so poorly I couldn't get past the mileage figures.

The author claimed to have driven the vehicle 300 miles and stated that he still had 2/3 of a tank of gas remaining, implying that the vehicle could get 900 miles on a tank of gas.  OK, that's a bit outlandish as I've never heard of a vehicle being designed to get more than about 450 miles on a tank of gas.  But maybe Toyota came up with a better design.  He also said that with a full tank, the Prius was indicating 760 miles of travel remaining.

Then he says that the vehicle's instruments showed he was getting 46.6 miles per gallon.  According to that, he would have used over 6 gallons to go his 300 miles, and his tank must be over 18 gallons if the data was accurate, including his 300 miles and 2/3 of a tank of fuel left.

Our three year old Prius (not the small C model) shows about 48-49 miles per gallon, and if we go over 300 miles we are getting low on fuel.  It has a very small gas tank.  Did they increase the size of the fuel tank by a factor of 2 or 3?  Was the miles per gallon shown on the Prius dash wrong?  Were the miles driven or the fuel remaining wrong on the instruments?  Did the author make a typo?

The author did not qualify any of his statements indicating uncertainty.  Nor did he suggest further testing to resolve any kind of inconsistency in his report.  Neither he nor his editor seemed to have any problem with the published article.

Personally, I could not trust this car reviewer in the future nor his paper to publish an accurate description of an event (even a non-political event).

I'm not sure what they are teaching journalists today.  Throwing out the political and social propaganda that you can hardly avoid, even the straight news is deficient in information.  Nearly every article leaves out critical information on who, what, where, when and why.  I don't know whether the journalists and their editors cannot think and write, or whether they just are unwilling to expend the resources to gather the information.

And even finding a written article is somewhat difficult.  All of the online media seem to be going to short video clips.  There's no way in a 2 to 5 minute clip that you are going to get thorough questions and answers on a topic.

I think that's enough frustration for today. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

BRS-3000T vs Soto Micro Windmaster

While I was hiking the CDT this year, they announced fire restrictions for several national forests.  Essentially, they allowed only the use of stoves with on/off switches.  I believe the intent was only to allow canister stoves with the standard twist control to open and close the gas valve.  Since I have used only alcohol stoves for the past few years, this was a big impact to my backpacking.

Well, I ordered a Soto Micro Windmaster and planned to buy a canister while on the trail.  My knee injury and return home left me with a Windmaster, but no immediate use for it.  A few days ago, a friend sent me a link to the BRS-3000T stove that is only 26 grams as opposed to the 68 gram (2.4 oz) Windmaster.  The BRS was about $17, the Windmaster about $70.  Because of the low price and weight, I couldn't resist ordering a BRS.

This post provides a rough assessment of the relative performance of the two burners and some of their potential pros and cons.

Here's a picture of the two burners.

As you can tell, in addition to being heavier, the Windmaster is significantly larger.  It also has a built in spark generator to light the stove.  And it has a broader base that mates more securely with the valve stems on canisters.

On the other hand, the BRS is titanium.  Its burner head is smaller (and cools down a lot faster).  And the pot support limbs are permanently attached (hinged) to the unit.

Here's a picture of the two burners broken down and ready to pack.

This morning, I wanted to see if the performance of the two burners was comparable.  I started with an old (2014) Jetboil Jetpower Isobutane / Propane 100 g fuel canister.  I had used it for an 8 day hike with a Jetboil Sol Ti stove back in 2014.  After which, I decided to lighten my pack load and switched to alcohol stoves.  I used the Jetboil for about 13 meals, and had used 37 grams of fuel.  That was about 3 grams of fuel per meal.  I only boil water for reconstituting freeze dried meals, so it was about 3 grams to heat a cup of water.  The Jetboil was very efficient!  But relatively heavy.

Anyway, the canister still weighed about 163 g with fuel; 100 g would be the empty weight.  So the performance today was with an old, partially filled canister.  The temperature out was in the lower 80's.  The altitude was about 1200'. The test was outdoors and the wind was negligible. The water I used was probably about 70 F, as this is south Texas and it came from the tap on a well system.  My pot was a light titanium Toaks 550 ml pot/cup with a lid that I believe is 90 mm in diameter--its just big enough to hold the small canister.  The lid has 3 small holes to let out steam.  The pot weighs 2.54 oz with the lid.

I only ran one test for each burner.  In both cases, I boiled 300 ml of water, about 1.25 cups.

I tested the Soto Micro Windmaster first.  I lit the stove, immediately put the cup on the stove (with water and lid on), increased the gas burn rate, and waited till I saw steam coming out of the holes on the lid.  I took the lid off and observed a rolling boil.  This is the same procedure I used for the BRS burner.  I saw steam after about 1 minute and 50 seconds.  The boil used about 6 grams of fuel.

The second run tested the BRS.  In that test, the steam happened at about 1 minute and 55 seconds. I tried to adjust the burner to the same level--by sound. The boil used about 7 grams of fuel.  However, the boil did not appear as energetic as it did for the Windmaster.

Here's what the BRS burner and pot look like configured with the canister.

The conclusion was that the two burners essentially burned fuel at the same rate and boiled water at the same speed.  Please note that I did not open the two burners wide open, and this is just one test.

But I don't think performance is everything.  Let me explain...

First, attaching and detaching the burners.  The BRS caused a longer hiss (escaping gas) during attachment than the Windmaster.  But the Windmaster made a little pop on disconnecting that appeared to be due to a slight vacuum around its wider base seal.

Related to that is the fact that the BRS requires the valve to be open an eighth of a turn in order to rotate the support limbs down for packing.  When I first attached the burner to the canister, I thought I had a bad seal as I still heard gas.  Then I realized I hadn't fully closed the valve.  You will need to remember to re-close the valve when setting up the burner.

The BRS was also a little difficult to deploy.  The pot support limbs have to ALL be rotated (180 deg) up, before any of them can be rotated the final 90 deg into their locked positions.  In the up positions they are loose and it is a little difficult to keep them there until you get the first two locked down.  Then there is the support hinges that may or may not last during a long trip.

On the other hand, I don't know if the one-piece Soto Windmaster pot support will be reliable over long use.  It requires bending the metal supports to an open position, and then closing them again before packing.  I would expect long term stress and failure.

The Windmaster burner took a long time to cool down.  Though the valve stem cooled down pretty quickly.  The BRS was cool to the touch (titanium) shortly after use.  The BRS's quicker cooling might allow you to pack up the stove before your food is reconstituted--if you are just boiling water.

I used a new, smaller pot for this test.  The Windmaster support legs extended maybe half an inch past the pot in each of the three directions.  The BRS support legs did not quite reach the edge of the pot.  Both burners provided adequate support for my small pot.  The Windmaster does have a larger pot support system I can attach with four support limbs.

Obviously, the BRS required an ignition source; I used a match.  The Windmaster did not.  My preference there is for the integrated spark system.

One other thing I noticed during the boils.  The BRS burn sound had a few abnormalities.  Several times it sounded like the burner's fuel burn changed rates.  I couldn't tell whether it was more or less efficient, but each anomaly would last for several seconds.  The sound/burn always returned to the same default rate.  I didn't notice any wind, but the BRS burner is smaller and more exposed. 

I cannot tell you anything about whether the Windmaster actually works well in wind.  That's what Soto advertises, but I would be surprised if you can get an efficient boil without a decent wind screen.  You will notice from the picture that the Windmaster's burner includes a curved shell that does not directly expose the fuel ports to the wind.  On the other hand, the BRS makes no such claim.

I would probably not recommend using the BRS if you have a significantly larger pot or intend to cook larger quantities.  However, for a single user, especially one that just boils water, the BRS appears to have a significant advantage in weight and cost without losing any measurable performance.

On the other hand, the Windmaster appears to be a better (stronger) quality build.  It has a better canister seal.  It has an integrated spark generator. And its pot support is just a little bit larger.  You can also leave your lighter, matches, or other fire starter packed away during meals.

I looks like I'm going to have to take both for a field test!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Thoughts on CDT Southern NM Section

I didn’t expect to be writing this summary so soon, but what can I say?

First, your feet. The path is so rough that you are going to get some blisters. If you go through the Gila, it will take any callouses or blisters off. Doesn’t really matter what shoe you wear. Get as good a fit as you can. Do not wear waterproof shoes!  You can easily get blisters again after the Gila because of the forced long stretches without water. And the Gila is going to eat up the lining of your shoes with sand!

Next is the wind, dryness, sand and dirt. The locals here in Reserve say it’s the windiest spring in memory. I think we had one calm evening. Your throat and nose get dried out nearly instantaneously. Sometimes by morning you can barely moisten your mouth. 

We all had hacking coughs early each morning when the throats tried to clear out for food and water. I had some kind of allergy (Juniper?) that caused continuous sinus drainage. Both the cough and drainage had about cleared up by Reserve. But one guy is leaving the trail because he cannot breathe through his nose. 

The wind created another problem. My tarp was like a big sail in a strong gale. I could hardly orient it in the wind, let alone set it up. Forget the standard procedure of 2 rear stakes then the from center pole, etc. I often had to stake all four corners before I could even try putting a pole up. And most places the stakes wouldn’t hold. You had to use rocks at most tie-out points. 

Once the tarp was up, it was good for nothing but a little piece of mind and as a noise maker. . It sprinkled maybe 5 minutes at night my whole trip. And it sure didn’t stop the dry, dusty wind from blowing in your face all night. 

Bottom line here is take a tent that provides some protection from the wind. But carry one that is easy to set up in the wind and uses minimal tie-outs. You will probably cowboy camp, but you might get surprised by rain. 

Another thought on tenting is that there are thorns and thorny plants everywhere. I constantly worried about my air mattress even though I used a cuben ground sheet under my bivy which itself has a cuben bathtub bottom. My ground sheet was penetrated. Just sitting down for a rest stop, the thorns can pierce your hands. 

Now to clothing. You are walking through a desert and a brushy river bottom. Maybe you don’t worry about future melanoma, and want to look youthful and cool. A lot of people wore shorts and short sleeves. I never saw anybody with shorts that didn’t have lots of scratches and cuts. Most people coming out of the Gila had removed the lower part of their zippered pants legs or just wore shorts. The scratches and chapping were extensive. Some folks looked like they had lizard skin. We put our pants legs back on for the last day in the Gila river crossings and it felt wonderful. If it’s too cold out, that could be different. 

If you have exposed skin, unless you are dark skinned already, it is going to burn. Prepare with sunscreen and lip balm. 

Overall, compared to the CDT, the AT was a walk in the park. Don’t under-estimate this trail. Prepare for dry water locations that had water in past years. The Bear Creek waypoints include water locations, but most are from prior years and too many are from south-bounders after the rainy season. The CDT water report is kind of reliable but only maybe 25% will be recent. You need to update that report in every town and talk to everyone about it. 

One hiker was repeating from last year and thought he knew what to expect. He hiked the whole day before NM 12 without water!

Finally, don’t presume that the trail you are walking that was the CDT a few minutes back still is. Check your map/GPS at junctions and as often as possible elsewhere. 

Good luck!

Day 22 - Water Tank to Reserve

5/6/2018. About 1.2 miles. 

We got up early needing to hike about 1.2 miles uphill for an expected 0800 shuttle pickup into town. 

Just before the Hwy 12 intersection was a hiker doing trail magic. We each got a soda, apple, and chips. Thanks!!  He said there was cell at the highway. Well it was 0700 and no cell reception for ATT. 

I used my Delorme inReach Explorer and texted a shuttle request via Iridium satellite. They responsed it would be about 0900 before they could get there. 

We talked to Cruise and NoDay (?) while we waited in the nice warm sun. NoDay was the young lady that surprised me while my foot was hurting yesterday and I explained my lack of conversation. She was very nice. 

I should mention my knee was killing me on the short hike this morning. It usually didn’t hurt early in the day, but I think the overly long, stressful hike yesterday made it worse. 

I decided to talk to my wife about options. I’ve been hiking over a week using Ibuprofen to make it through. The trail is just too rough to let it heal while walking. 

I could stay in town several days spending money on food and hotels, hope the trail to Pie Town is easy enough to let it heal, or leave the trail. Landstar says lots of ups and downs to Pie Town. It would be another 10 days of limping before a town with a bus if I continued.   I just don’t want to lay around town spending money. Also you really don’t want to stay in Reserve long (really). 

So I talked to Susan. She’ll take a few vacation days and come pick me up. We can visit Pie Town, Silver City, Gila Cliff Dwellings and maybe Carlsbad. 

Since I don’t seem to last long on the AT this probably isn’t much of a surprise to you. 

I really regret not continuing with Landstar. He’s good company and has a nearly identical walking speed. Also, I think the CDT is challenging enough, that hiking solo is not the best option.