June 23rd, 2017

#5688: Nice!

Today's weather is ridiculously nice again. Shut the AC off and opened the windows because it's cooler outside than it is inside. Thuderstorms went through early this morning, knocking the dewpoint into the 50s.

I'm going to get a shower and run some errands, then start in with the chores.

But first: you know.

* * *

The true minimum wage is $0. McDonald's is replacing some 2,500 employees with touchscreen kiosks.

When I still worked at the shithole, I frequently ate lunch at the nearby McDonald's. That location is equipped with kiosks, so I would walk in the door right to a kiosk and punch in my order. I think they got my order wrong one time (that wasn't my fault, I mean, because I entered it wrong) and otherwise my orders were always right.

The kiosk is very easy to use, and convenient, and perfect when you've just spent five hours talking to friggin' idiots and want absolutely no human contact whatsoever.

There just isn't any reason to have a huge number of people manning cash registers at fast-food joints. Certainly not when those people cost $30,000 per year to employ.

* * *

Communists say that Warmbier "got what he deserved". A lot of people on the left are sneering at the guy, mainly because they hate rich white men, and saying that he deserved to die for trying to steal a communist propaganda poster because he's "rich, white, and clueless".

The hatred of the left knows no bounds.

* * *

Demand for fuel transport is at a 6-year low. Specifically, gasoline. Inventories are high and demand for gasoline is lower than it has been for a long time.

If that's the case, why is gasoline still around $2.50 a gallon? Got to love Illinois!

* * *

"Russiagate" is a gigantic nothingburger, that's why.

The article is long and full of discussion as to what mistakes the Democrat party is making, and how they came to lose the 2016 election, but I want to focus on the whole Russia imbroglio, because that's the focus of the Democrat party's attempt at ousting Trump.

There is nothing there. Every time they turn over another rock, a gigantic nothing wafts out from under it. People gathered in bars intending to celebrate the end of the Trump presidency when Comey testified, only to learn that there was nothing there and they would not be getting President Mike Pence today.

The Democrat party's continued attempts to flog a dead horse come from two sources.

First: "Where there's smoke, there's fire." They are trying to make Americans think Trump did something wrong, even though he did not. They want people--other than their own supporters--to say, "Well, I know Comey said there wasn't anything there, but there's got to be something going on!" By continually hammering the scandals, day after day, they hope to create the impression that Trump illegally colluded with Russians.

Second: "Because he ought to be dirty!" They insist that Trump must have done something fraudulent and/or illegal to win the election, because Hillary was supposed to win. All the polls said so. All the people they know vote Democrat. All the smart people said Trump could never win it. All the newspapers said so. The important places were all voting Democrat like they always do. Yet somehow, Trump won, and so there must have been some kind of subterfuge taking place.

And the only place they can find any suggestion of subterfuge is in the Trump campaign's interactions with Russian officials.

I should say, "the only place they can find any suggestion of subterfuge on the Republican side" because there were some 3,000,000 votes cast for Hillary which were fraudulent which--not incidentally--means that Trump won the popular vote, too, not just the Electoral College vote.

The linked article goes on to mention something else that the Democrat party is doing wrong: ignoring white blue-collar workers (WBCW).

Hillary's strategy for election amounted to courting women and minorities. The Democrat party has, in recent years, begun to ignore the WBCW class, instead choosing to emphasize blacks, hispanics, gays, lesbians, women, transgenders--all sorts of demographics, but not WBCW. Much of their rhetoric makes it plain that they look down on WBCW, dismissing them as "uneducated".

It's true that the WBCW has little in common with the Democrat party of today. WBCW are typically pretty conservative in most opinions, liking guns and fireworks and apple pie and America; they're not too sure they want their neighborhoods filled with islamic refugees, and they definitely don't want their 9-year-old daughters being forced to share bathrooms with 43-year-old transgendered men. They want illegal immigration and outsourcing brought under control so Americans can have good jobs, and they want their taxes to be low enough that they can enjoy the fruits of their labor while still providing a reasonable safety net for the disadvantaged.

...all of which is anathema to the Democrat party. Someone who believes those things is called bigot and islamophobe and homophobe and greedy and racist by Democrats. Hillary herself referred to people with those opinions as a "basket of deplorables".

Democrats were convinced by the election of Barack Obama that the WBCW no longer mattered (because of course being white they were also racist and likely didn't vote for Obama) and so put all their cards on the table: Hillary played to the Democrat fringe instead of her core constituency.

There will be, someday, an election where the white vote is drowned out in a sea of minority votes--certainly if we don't get illegal immigration under control--but 2016 was not that day. The parties still need the white vote, and cannot win elections without it.

But aside from all that, there's another critical piece of the puzze that the Democrat leadership is ignoring, at their peril:

Investigate long enough and Democrats will start to come under suspicion.

If Democrats continue with the implications that there were dirty tricks in the last election that did indeed amount to treason, it's going to start sticking to everyone who took part in shenanigans. And there were a hell of a lot of shenanigans on the Democrat side of things.

I don't expect anything to come of the investigation into Loretta Lynch (Democrat) but if she ended up in dock for obstruction of justice, I would probably laugh myself into a coma at such a beautiful example of the Democrats scoring an own goal.

* * *

Yep, that's a bad shoot, all right. Short form: black man shot by cop because cop smelled marajuana smoke on him, cop exonerated of wrongdoing.

Black man was not resisting arrest at the time. Did not draw his weapon, which was legally carried. Cop saw black man, smelled marajuana smoke, overreacted, and opened fire. Not good.

* * *

Karl Denninger comes up with a health care solution which is far, far too simple for Congress. You see, one-sentence laws don't justify the huge expense of congresscritters and their staffs. And with something that simple, there aren't any carve-outs for favored constituencies.

Besides, doctors' organizations contribute a lot of money to election funds, much the same way trial lawyers do.

Believe me, doctors don't want to have to obey the same kinds of laws that other service providers must, not even with "reasonable exceptions". The medical industry has grown fat and lucrative on being able to charge one patient $3,000 and another one $45,000 for the exact same procedure, because there's a lot of fat in those prices.

I know what the reason is, why a doctor "can't" post prices for procedures: "Well, what if there's an emergency or a complication?"

What if there is?

When I ask a plumber to come in and give me an estimate for fixing a leaky toilet, the plumber will look the job over and tell me what he expects it to cost. He's then legally bound to that estimate and cannot change it without my permission--which is to say, he can't tell me it'll be $400 to replace that one pipe, and then redo the plumbing for the entire bathroom and present me with a bill for $4,000. The law will force him to hew to his original estimate.

What he can do is attempt to replace that one pipe for $400 and--if it turns out that won't completely fix the problem--he can show me what's wrong, give me a new estimate to completely fix the issue, and get my permission to do that work.

Now, it's true that you can't stop in the middle of open-heart surgery and wake up the patient and ask him if it's okay to do a triple bypass instead of the single bypass you thought he needed. That's what I meant by "reasonable exceptions", but those "reasonable exceptions" are also not going to be unprecedented situations. Just as an example, you're not going to open someone up to do a bypass and find an alien creature wrapped around the guy's heart, and that's why he has chest pains!

The simple fact is that 90% of surgeries are routine. 99% of treatments are routine, in that they are administered by nurses or by the patient himself, and if there are complications, the complications are not unique to that specific patient. ("Oh, you say you're itching all over? Well, stop taking the erithromycin, and I'll have the doctor prescribe another antibiotic for you. Which pharmacy should we call it in to?")

Nearly all interactions that doctors have with their patients are completely routine. Okay, someone comes into the ER with three pieces of rebar through his chest, that is something that might be hard to put an estimate on fixing, but the guy that comes in with a simple fracture to his ulna? The other guy who's had the runs for four days and is dehydrated? The kid with the cut that needs eight stitches? It's not routine for the patient, but it is routine for the doctor, who will use procedures and therapies developed decades ago, which are technologically mature.

And it's even moreso when you're talking about office visits. What can happen during an annual physical that justifies not posting what it will cost? A checkup? Being seen for an earache or a cold? Granted that some visits are more involved than others, why not have a tiered pricing structure such that a longer visit costs more?

Because that's the case, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever that doctors cannot post their prices for procedures and such, even subject to reasonable and proper exceptions. People are used to paying for services by the hour. Why not make it transparent?

I'll tell you why: because if it's transparent, doctors cannot charge what the market will bear. If a single visit costs $100 regardless of whether it's five minutes or twenty, the doctor makes a lot more money than he would if he had to bill his time the way a plumber or an electrician does. Certainly what would happen is that he could see fewer patients in a day, because--knowing what they are paying him--people would insist on the doctor spending more time with them.

But you know, even that would be an improvement over what we have right now. If I go see my doctor and pay up front by check out of my own pocket, the visit costs $75. If I have him bill my insurance company and all that first, I end up paying $115 out of my pocket for the exact same service. (This guy's a good doctor, and at least he's up front about giving you that option.)

There aren't any really good answers, but we have to start with getting the cost of medical care under control, and if that means making the medical industry beholden to the same laws other industries must obey, I'd say that's a good start. And if we can't do that, then Denninger's idea is a good substitute for that.

* * *

WHY the war on (some) drugs is a failure. With severe legal restrictions on drugs, the black market can charge what it likes for them. As Prohibition demonstrated you cannot stop the flow of goods for which there is a demand; all you can do is force upward the price for them.

And in so doing, you end up making a lot of extremely unsavory people very, very rich.

There is a hell of a lot of money in the illegal drug trade. That's why we have so much violence in the big cities, where gangs hold sway: the gangs fight over turf, basically over market share.

And when there is a hell of a lot of money involved, even honest people can be tempted to dishonesty. I mean, really: if someone offered you a pallet of $100 bills (conservative estimate, about $100 million dollars) to do something wrong, would you do it? Wouldn't you at least be tempted by the vision of a cube of $100 bills, 48"x48"x40"?

Money is a corrupting influence. The kind of money one gets from the drug trade is so staggeringly massive that it is absolutely corrupting--and it's all due to drugs being illegal. It's time to end it.

* * *

Visuals from Star Trek: Discovery continue to be unimpressive. What's funniest about all this is the exchange down in the comments:
reinvent and reimagine everything. keep the names and the recognizable properties and change everything else to be unrecognizable and thematically near opposite of the original. I expect the latter to occur pretty soon. We'll be shown how the Federation is really a dark corrupt entity spying on its members and doing all sorts of evil things against the dark skinned but deeply spiritual Klingons, and major admirals in Starfleed in collusion with the Romulans...
> the Federation is really a dark corrupt entity spying on its members

Deep Space Nine. Had episodes with Starfleet trying to stage a coup against the UFP government, and several with Section 31's dirty tricks in the dark.

> major admirals in Starfleed in collusion with the Romulans

Star Trek VI. Admiral Cartwright in cahoots with the Romulan Ambassador to torpedo the peace talks with the Klngons.

> deeply spiritual Klingons

Many episodes with Worf. Couldn't get him to shut the hell up about Klingon spiritualism.

See, I've run into this phenomenon myself: you think it's hyperbole you're writing, but it's too true to life to be funny....

* * *

Discussion board, 1917 style. A telegraph "party line" where people could chat using Morse Code. Proving that my generation didn't really invent the BBS or social media....

* * *

Gadzooks, I know how he feels. Well, okay, actually I don't--my wife is convinced that I am too full of myself when it comes to writing, and I for damn sure am no Melville--but damn if I don't sympathize with Melville after reading this piece.

* * *

Well, now it's after four and I still haven't moved from this spot. I don't know what's wrong with me.

#5689: Why must I sweat so profusely?

John Book, we are building a wood crib today.

Looking over the wood I had on hand, I didn't think I'd be able to do it without buying more. Then I took a closer look and saw what I had to hand:
1 2x4, 8'
1 1x4, 8'
2 1x6, 6'
...and that rather neatly matched the BOM for what I wanted to build, so off I went.

The design is dead simple. Two rails of 1x4, 4 feet long, spaced 8" apart with pieces of 2x4. Two 12" pieces of 2x4 screwed to the spacers to act as feet. At each end, two 3' pieces of 1x6, screwed to the 1x4 with 4" square pieces of 2x4 for strength (and also because I don't have any short wood screws). The 1x6 risers will also be spaced with 8" lengths of 2x4, probably about two feet above the rails.

It should be extremely sturdy and last 2-3 years. Longer if I go get some kind of varnish for it. But if I do that, that varnish will represent the total invenstment I have in the project but for the time it takes me to build it.

What a marvelous thing! Not only am I doing this with stuff I already had on hand; I knew where it all was and could actually get to it because of the work I did on the garage. The wood, the power tools, the screws, everything I'm using was in its place and accessible with a minimum of horseshit.

The only fly in the ointment is the fact that we've got gorgeous, gorgeous weather today, yet I am sweating like a pig. I'm on the back patio, no direct sunlight, there's a breeze, the dew point is fifty and it's a mere 80 degrees outside. That's 35% relative humidity. It's not hot out nor is it even uncomfortable yet I'm sweating as if it were 102 with 99% humidity!

The power tools are doing all the hard work. I'm just measuring, marking, cutting, drilling, driving--using power tools--yet I'm sweating as if I'm digging a ditch!

I go inside, I sit down to have a snack; it's warmer here than outside--and now I'm not sweating at all.

It must be the brain. My brain is running at full speed, and that is why. But WTF the human brain dissipates 42 watts, and there's no way in hell me engaging in a little casual carpentry is enough to tax my intellect. But it makes sense. Man, what a world it is where I sweat my ass off even when it's not hot outside. This is dicks.

But the crib is going to be great. It'll let me get all the firewood off the patio without me just dumping it somewhere. I'm looking forward to having a clean patio.


Finishing up with putting everything away and closing up the garage--the wood crib is laden with wood and not going anywhere, the remainder of the wood out front for the tree grinders on Monday--I paused a few moments to look at the garage, now back in 100% order after my project, and thought about the next step for cleaning it out.

Getting rid of that old stove (you can see a broken piece hanging off the front; it was ever thus even when it first came here in 1988) will free up room for the lawnmower I'm not using, and some other stuff, so I made the decision to have a gander at that Monday or Tuesday. Satisfied that all was in order, I shut off the light, locked the door, and stepped outside, closing it behind me--


Right over the kidney in my back, feeling like a hot wire shoved into the skin, right where a human being cannot reach on his own body unless he's really flexible.

Me: "Oooowww what the FUCK!" Reflexively trying to reach the spot where I'm being stung, instinctively fleeing the spot, get it off GET IT OFF ME--

Swearing some more, and looking back, and realizing A) that I'd been stung by a bee or something, and B) was no longer being stung, I looked for my assailant. Nothing squirming on the ground, which is where a bee should be after stinging a mammal, but ah! Up there, by the garage door, a rather nicely-sized wasps' nest that wasn't there earlier this year, with wasps on it. Wasps can sting you and fly away.

Then I got mad.

I stormed inside, went under the kitchen sink and found the can of Black Flag, went back out there and hosed that motherfucker down.

"How do you like that?" I snapped. "You fucker! Take that, you piece of shit! That's right, I've got poison and I hope you like it, asshole! That's what you get for stinging me!"

I know the wasp was only acting on instinct, but it's my nature to take such things personally. It's not really a good trait, but it's part of who I am.

It was perhaps a quarter-can, and I used it up hosing down that bitch. Damn it, do not sting me, you fuck. If you leave me alone I'll leave you alone--I was not even aware of your presence until you stung me--but if you hurt me or my wife, I will kill you and all your children and tear down your house.

...dang, put that way, it's kind of metal, and not at all petulant.

* * *

The other thing that happened today was good; while I was working on the wood crib a fox sauntered through the yard. It was no scraggly-looking beast, but a healthy example of the breed. It stopped by the fence and looked at me as I greeted him warmly. "Hey, Foxy-loxy! How're you doing, guy?" He sniffed the pile of logs I'd dumped there, and looked around a bit, and finally ducked into the bushes, in absolutely no hurry whatsoever. What a pity I didn't have my camera handy.

I also saw a crane or heron go sailing over the house, about the time I was ascertaining what had stung me. You never used to see them around here, but they seem to be increasingly common over the past few years.

So I've got the wood crib done and loaded with firewood, and it's off the patio, and the next step is to powerwash all the dirt and crud off so we have a clean place to celebrate the 4th of July. And I got a little more junk (the wood I used to build it!) out of the garage. Win all around!

Except for getting stung. Bitch.

#5691: That's approximately correct.

Illinois, the banana republic state. That motto doesn't have the same ring as "Land of Lincoln" but it is just as accurate. Probably moreso.

I especially love the lede: "Illinois is the perfect example of what happens when your state is run by fiscally irresponsible dunces for decades." Illinois has been run by Democrats since Pangea broke up. You do the math. (They cannot.)
The root of the problem is Illinois' unfunded pension liabilities, which amount to $130 billion. The state's leaders simply promised what could not be delivered. Most of their employees can retire in their 50's, and many of them will receive 1-2 million dollars over the course of their retirements. As the debts associated with those pensions reached astronomical levels, the government increased taxes so much that many of the wealthiest and most productive citizens and businesses have moved away, leaving an even smaller tax base to draw from.

In short, Illinois is in a death spiral, but it's not alone. Illinois is merely the canary in the coal mine.
The Democrat philosophy is, "Well, the taxpayers will just have to pay it." But that ignores the fact that the taxpayers can leave the state, and the people who make the most money are the ones with the skills and training and education to be able to take their experience anywhere and make the same money (if not more) they made in Illinois, without the confiscatory taxes. The ones who can't leave are the ones who don't pay taxes, or who don't pay much, certainly not enough to make up for the ones who left.

As you know, something like 50% of the federal government's tax revenue is collected from the top 5% of income earners. It's the same at the state level, but in Illinois that top 5% has been dwindling as those people move away from the ever-higher taxes and ever shittier infrastructure. For what we pay here in IL in property taxes alone, our schools should be the best in the country--yet they suck.

I'm not kidding. When I compare the bunker to Og's cave, they compare pretty evenly. He has about as much land, the house is about the same size (and in better shape), he's in a good neighborhood with decent neighbors. He's in Indiana, though, and his property tax is one-sixth of what it is on the bunker.

One-sixth, and for what? The infrastructure is better, crime is lower, hell--people are moving into Indiana, not fleeing it.

The bunker is a scant three miles from the Cook County border, and Cook County has the highest sales taxes in the nation, higher than anywhere, even in California! And it's still not enough; they're putting a confiscatory sales tax on soft drinks starting July 1 that'll double the price of a 2-liter!

And Democrats stand in the way of Rauner's budget because they don't like the property tax freeze! They don't like the provisions that keep them from raising taxes whenever the hell they want to, even though Illinois is so heavily taxed we're well to the right of the Laffer Curve:

Whatever happens, it's going to be a big friggin' mess. Count on it.