The “what about Hillary?” complainers

For reasons that are rather obvious, a lot of Donald Trump supporters have very little of substance to point to as achievements of his Presidency to date.
So, engaging in diversions is one of the tactics that they have adopted.
One popular diversion is the whole “Yeahbut…Hillary would have been far worse!” claim. This takes all sorts of forms, usually starting with phrases like “criminal”, and possibly including words like Benghazi, Pizzagate, Vince Foster, and more recently, Seth Rich (Whitewater is rarely used, despite the massive amounts of money spent investigating it).
That is before the inevitable descent, for some complainers, to female perjoratives and other curse-words.
It is almost as if the people making these allegations think that Hillary Clinton is actually the current POTUS, with Donald Trump operating as The Patriotic Opposition.
It certainly tends to back up my opinion that 1/3 of the Trump supporters last November were less interested in liking Donald Trump than they were in despising Hillary Clinton.

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Scaling back my Facebook presence

After watching recent developments on Facebook, partly involving an influx of people who spend a lot of their time behaving like trolls in discussions, and then having to see Jim Wright suspended from the platform temporarily due to a co-ordinated set of complaints of abuse by people he upset with one of his postings, I have been considering how I might scale back my presence on that platform. Jim has already taken one of his groups Private, and he is considering his future on Facebook.
Facebook has no idea how to cope with UseNet syndrome (the tendency of any social media platform, over time, to move towards a zone of spam and junk) and it will not effectively moderate threatening content or give persistent trolls the heave-ho.
Now, after writing a strong note about my lack of patience with absolutists and name-callers on the subject of abortion, I find myself reading comments from people on my Friends list that I need to be careful what I say and how I say it on this topic, unless they end up (as one of them said) “reading about me on the news”.
This is both disquieting and dispiriting.
If we have reached a point on social media where honestly expressed (albeit blunt) opinions are regarded as potentially dangerous to a person’s physical well-being, then this is telling me something rather worrying about not only the state of the nation, but also about the level of discourse on social media.
It is also telling me that it really is time for me to modify and re-scale my Facebook presence.
So…I will be thinking over the weekend about what actions to take.
Most likely that will take the form of my abandoning Facebook for any day-to-day interactions, retaining Facebook Messenger for private interactions with trusted friends, and using only my related pages such as White Cat Publishing and Aerial Savant for posting information on my writing and UAS activities respectively. I will retain memberships to closed groups of interest such as my aviation group memberships. I may post there as time allows on topics of interest.
All new content on topics that I find interesting will only be published here on this blog.
I will also delete most of my prior postings on Facebook on serious subjects. Most of that content, if not overtaken by events, will be transferred to the blog if it did not already exist there in some form. I have no intention of allowing Facebook to capture the IPR for that content more or less in perpetuity, when their current behaviors show that they are not prepared to be wise stewards of the platform.
Short Summary – be prepared to see a lot less of me on Facebook.

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Elections, party ideology and other stuff

1. Political ideology – obsolete and misleading classification schemes
Those people who have read more than a small number of my prattlings online (including the people who have had to listen to me actually saying this in person) will know that I am not interested in discussions about the political spectrum that fixate on left vs. right or liberal vs. conservative. I regard those classification schemes as a combination of obsolete, irrelevant and dangerously misleading. (the right vs. left classification originated in the French Revolution, which didn’t exactly occur a few years ago…). The political positions of the major US political parties have actually swapped over in the last 120 years. In the 1860s the Republican and Democratic parties held general positions that are the opposite of where they are today. This is a historical change that is routinely ignored by partisans.
This Tweet storm, converted to Storify, explains many of the slow changes in the positions of the major US political parties in a way that tries to avoid the simplistic liberal vs. conservative dichotomy.

2. What happens if a US election can be shown to be fraudulent? (answer: nobody knows)
One of the big issues that the US faces as a representative democracy at most levels, is what should and can happen if compelling evidence emerges after that the fact that an election was incorrectly or illegally influenced to the point where the result cannot be trusted.
There are no clear rules for what to do in that scenario, at any level in the legal system, including in the Constitution. The courts, understandably, are reluctant to become involved in issues of electoral malfeasance, unless clear violations of narrowly drawn statutes exist (such as rules governing campaign finance). However, the scenario being postulated by many people, where external actors are trying to distort election results, does not fall neatly into any category of legislation. When the Supreme Court was asked to become involved in the recount dispute that broke out in Florida following the 2000 Presidential election, they basically punted, preferring to stay out of what they (probably correctly) saw as a partisan dispute where the law had little of any clarity to say to direct them, and where they would be in a no-win situation no matter which way they ruled.
There is no law that can cleanly and unambiguously be applied to actors who attempt to subvert the electoral process. If, for example, a PAC throws $10bn at a Senate race, that is arguably a gross distortion of the political process; however, due to the conflation of speech with money used to disseminate speech, as laid down by SCOTUS in the infamous Citizens United ruling, spending large sums of money to influence the political process is currently totally legal provided certain funding and expenditure rules are obeyed, and even if the rules are not obeyed, the penalties are irrelevant and trifling when compared with the prize that can be won by the illegal behavior.
The US legal system is not currently organized to punish bad behavior by election actors in any useful or punitive way. If violating electoral law led to winning candidates being immediately disqualified, you can be sure that electoral laws would be respected a lot more, but none of the existing participants in the process wants that to be a possible outcome (remember the old parable of the fox in charge of the henhouse).

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Recently located scroll providing additional insight into life in the time of Jesus

These words were recently found on a parchment in a cave near Palestine (next to US Highway 84, down the road from Smith Ranch):

As the Summer did reach its searing peak, which the people didst fear and despise (for Factor 30 had not yet been invented), the people did become restless, as if desirous of frivolity.
And lo, Jesus looked upon the land, and he saw that the land was good, except for the brown parched areas where nothing except tares did grow. Then Jesus did look upon the people and sayeth unto himself “verily the people are a good people, however they have a fatal weakness that obliges them to wave flags and demand aerial tribute once a year in the Summer”.
So Jesus came across a tree, and laid his hands upon the tree, then raised his hands to the heavens and sayeth “oh Heavenly Father, wilt thou appease the masses with your great powers?”.
And as the Sun did set in the West (for it would look bloody silly if it set in the East, and would confuse the hell out of the sundial vendors, who would be forced to ask for yet more subsidies), the tree did transform into a large grove of strange devices resting in earthen tubes. And yeah verily, as darkness fell, the tubes did suddenly erupt into the air a collection of stars that filled the heavens with a multitude of lights and colors, which did greatly please the restless masses, who shouted and clapped their approval, although the shepherds were vexed, since their flocks did piss themselves with fear and stampede and trample all over arable land.

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Disciplinary processes in professional sports

Ensuring that professional sportsmen play within the defined and accepted rules of the sport is always a challenge.
Top-flight sports athletes, no matter what their sport, are at the top of their sport for reasons that have a lot to do with talent, but also to do with a burning desire to not only compete, but also to win.
As a result, competitive athletes often end up believing that the means do justify the ends, if the end is an individual or team victory. They would certainly regard any argument that their actions were against “the spirit of the sport” or “the spirit of the rules” as naive talk coming from uncompetitive wimps.
The teams for which the athletes compete usually have the same level of competitive desire, so they are unlikely to ever tell the athlete to “tone it down” or do anything that they think would put the athlete or the team at a competitive disadvantage. So it is no use anybody looking in that direction as a way of ensuring that competitors always obey the rules. (The team may choose to intervene in situations where the athlete has become a pain in the ass to deal with for any number of reasons, but plenty of assholes stayed in teams and competed. Winning gets you a lot of indulgence for bad behavior).
As a result, managing compliance with the rules has to be down to the governing bodies of a sport. They are the only interested party that can and should take on that role.
Unfortunately, many sports governing bodies consistently and persistently fail to discharge that role. They do so for a number of reasons:

1 Pressure from teams and broadcast partners to not penalize bad behavior with suspensions, in order to allow offenders (who are often the high-priced stars) to continue to play
2 A conviction that any publicity is good publicity. If an athlete does or says something outrageous, that generates column inches and web hits a.k.a. controversy
3 Fear that penalizing over-aggressive behavior will cause conservative fans and traditionalists to moan about the sport being “dumbed down” or “pussified”

The result of all of those conflicting pressures is that many sporting bodies, instead of suspending performers for bad behavior, instead subject them to fines, penalty points, probationary periods and other penalties that stop short of outright suspension.
For driven competitors, none of those punishments really matter. As long they can still compete, they won’t care about being fined or told off by email. For a top star earning millions of dollars in a year, even a fine of $500,000 is merely a cost of doing business.
For some lesser-paid players, fines do hurt their pocket-book. However, many players, particularly in team sports, are not going to change their approach, since they risk being written off as insufficiently competitive.

The conclusion that I reached years ago is that in some sports, the disciplinary process is merely window-dressing, a fig-leaf to enable the sport’s owners to say things like “we care about player conduct”, while doing next to nothing to effectively regulate it.
Sometimes that laissez-faire approach backfires badly on a sport, especially contact and collision sports. Professional hockey and rugby have both found themselves squarely in the cross-hairs of bad publicity after player in both sports engaged in unprovoked assaults during games. What many practitioners of contact sports often fail to notice is that the laws governing assault are still in force during a sports event. Sports often use tools that are potentially lethal if misused. A hockey stick is every bit as dangerous a weapon when wielded by an NH player in a red mist as a baseball bat is when wielded by a street thug. Ditto a racing car when being used as a weapon in a race.
So, when somebody says “well, Graham, how would YOU regulate competitor behavior?”, here is my short summary.

1. Make the rules of the sport governing competitor behavior on and off the field of play during the time of an event simple, clear, and not subject to on-the-spot interpretation by officials.
Complex and subjective rules end up placing the burden of ruling into the event officials, which creates all sorts of potential for inconsistency

2. Fines should be levied as a percentage of the competitor’s earnings for an event or for a series of events, not a fixed monetary amount.
The stars and the middle-tier competitors should all feel the pain equally for financial punishment

3. Suspensions should be used for any competitor that engages in reckless, dangerous play or who commmits assault.
Forget fines, letters of contrition, probation etc. They are competitors. The right way to punish them is to deny them the opportunity to compete.

4. The appeal process should follow these principles:
– Appeals should be timely, heard by a small number of independent arbiters, and competitors should not be permitted to bring lawyers and other professional advocates.
Competitors need to be directly accountable for their behavior in front of the disciplinary body. Having professional advocates gives them the ability to hide behind those advocates.
– If the appeal fails, any punishment is applied immediately, and cannot be deferred
– If the appeal is deemed to be frivolous or evasive, the governing body reserves the right to increase the punishment, up to three times the original punishment, and to refuse to allow any further appeal on the matter at any level
Every sports body has competitors to try to game the system, by appealing every punishment, sometimes not even to get the punishment modified, but simply to avoid serving the punishment until after some important event. The only effective way to deter frivolous appeals is to punish competitors for attempting them.

If all governing bodies implemented those principles, a lot of sports would start to have a lot less of a problem with competitor misbehavior.

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Miscellany

1. The slow descent towards bankruptcy for Oklahoma and Kansas
both Oklahoma and Kansas have been electing Republicans to office in record numbers over the last 10 years. However, the GOP message of fiscal discipline does not seem to be doing either state much good. They have steadily increasing levels of debt. In the case of Oklahoma, the state’s credit rating has been downgraded recently, as its debt hit the #900m mark. The failures in OK seem to be that revenues have fallen significantly below predictions. This is an analysis of the stare’s finances. Kansas has also seen its debt rise, as the policies of Governor Sam Brownback of heavy cuts in taxation have failed to generate enough economic activity.

2. When you lie and get caught, people start digging
Mark Chelgren, the GOP state senator from Ottumwa who was caught falsely claiming to have received a business degree from a Sizzler steakhouse franchisee, also founded a gun manufacturing company despite a 2006 disorderly conduct conviction.
When you are found guilty of lying to the public, and people start digging, all of your deceits can be exposed. I am seeing a pattern here.

3. The opioid resurgence in the USA
Perceptive commentators such as Chris Arnade and J.D. Vance have written about the explosion of drug addiction in rural American communities.
This is not a new phenomenon. In a previous married life, I had in-laws living in Gladewater TX, and the Fire Department there was regularly called to the scene of meth lab explosions. It was always the same story – massive damage to the kitchen, a strange gray-white deposit all over the place, and a complete inability of the house occupants to remember exactly what it was that they were cooking when the explosion occurred.
Meth addiction is common throughout rural Texas, but especially so in East Texas, where the predominance of forest provides plenty of below-canopy hiding space for drug manufacture and distribution.
This article puts the whole addiction phenomenon into context. Effectively, as per Chris Arnade’s back row/front row analogy, the front row folks get addicted to Oxycontin, while the back row folks end up addicted to heroin, Fentanyl, and meth.
I have some issues with the article, especially it’s implied endorsement of 12 Step programs, which, despite their pervasiveness and popularity, have next to no scientific evidence to back up their claims of efficacy.

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Cabinet Meeting after round 1 of Brexit negotiations

Chair: OK Item 1 on the Agenda – EU negotiations. Prime Minister, please report

PM: …we had a good meeting. Everybody was very nice. However, they want money.
Minister 1: How much money?
PM: Here is the breakdown
(admin. passes document looking like an invoice to other ministers)
Minister 2: What the Dickens? Minister 3: What’s this line down the bottom…”Surcharge – Nigel Farage being an arsehole in Brussels…100 million euros”?
Minister 4: They’re a bunch of highwaymen!
Minister 5: Did the subject of “soft Brexit” not come up
PM: Er… when I mentioned that they all looked at each other and then Guy said “so you want to pull out without really pulling out?”. Then they all laughed. I don’t know how to put this…they want rid of us. Macron has them all-a-giggle with his “France on the Move” stuff, and he and Angela couldn’t keep their eyes off each other. They also kept asking me how my “orange friends” were doing, and smiling all the time.
Minister 6: So, Prime Minister…we’re fucked aren’t we?
PM: Er..um…(shifts in seat)…have we written any position papers on what a very very soft Brexit look like?

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Vettel vs. Hamilton incident at Baku – what it tells us about rule enforcement in Formula 1 and sports

A lot of light heat and sound is being created over the incident during a Safety Car period in the European Grand Prix at Baku where Sebastian Vettel, angry at what he thought was an incident of Lewis Hamilton brake-testing him at the exit to a corner, drove alongside Hamilton and then deliberately bumped him.
Vettel was penalized for the incident by being given a stop-go penalty. Predictably, opinion is split between people who believe that Vettel was not punished severely enough, and should have been disqualified, run out of town on a rail etc. etc. and people who believe that the incident was a storm in a teacup between two competitors, and that the media is against Vettel (in the case of the UK media, it must be because Vettel is German and “Don’t Forget Ze Var!”).
Lost in a lot of the discussion is that Vettel has a track record of behaving petulantly on-track. There was the infamous “Multi 21” incident in a race in 2013, where Vettel essentially refused to obey team orders to let Mark Webber pass him on-track, and then lawyered up to weasel out of punishment from the team. More recently, last season Vettel unleashed a string of expletives at Charlie Whiting in a race after another incident. So his behavior in Baku was not exactly new, nor was it totally unpredictable.
There is a simple reality at work here. Competitors in any sport will do what they think they can get away with. They will read the rules, watch how other successful past and current competitors and their role models in the sport behave, and then go out and push the rules to their limits. Talk about “the spirit of the rules” would be regarded by hard-core sports competitors as so much naive fluff. In the case of Sebastian Vettel, he has made no secret of the fact that Michael Schumacher was his hero growing up, and Lewis Hamilton has made no secret of his reverence for the late Ayrton Senna. Both men, as drivers, were bristlingly and uncompromisingly competitive, and both pushed the rules and norms of the sport up to (and in some cases, beyond) previously accepted limits.
It is up to the rule enforcement bodies in a sport to determine what the competitive limits are, and what to do about incidents where competitors go over those limits.
Unfortunately, most competitive sports governing bodies merely fine competitors or put them on probation. Partly this is because many sports leagues are essentially run by team owners, and team owners, as a general rule, do not like to see their highly-paid star performers sitting disconsolately off to one side while the game or event takes place without them. The same applies to Formula 1, where teams like Ferrari would be publicly indignant if one of their drivers was suspended. However, as Joe Saward explains in this commentary, the FIA may be about to come down hard on Vettel for several reasons, and Ferrari, who have been behaving like a bunch of horse’s asses towards the media for months, are likely to find that there is no reservoir of sympathy for them.
However, trying to regulate competitor behavior with fines and probationary warnings never works. Most fines are chump change to athletes earning millions (and some cases, tens of millions) or dollars annually. They will regard a fine as merely part of the cost of doing business.
Competitors will only change their behavior if their actions cause them to be denied the opportunity to compete. Competing is what they live for.
So…any discussion around consequences for Sebastian Vettel’s actions in Baku involving monetary fines, penalty points or minor losses of grid position is total fluff. If he is guilty of dangerous driving, the FIA should have suspended him for 1 race, or disqualified him from the race in Baku and then made him start the next race from the pit lane with a 10 second penalty on the rest of the field.
It is my belief that if the FIA had suspended Ayrton Senna for 5 races and docked him 25 championship points for running into Alain Prost back in 1990 at Suzuka, we wouldn’t have to had to watch this incident, or the Schumacher-Hill and Schumacher-Villeneuve incidents in 1994 and 1997. The message would have been sent along time ago to formula 1 competitors “if you collide with another driver deliberately, it WILL cost you a championship”. The current behavior patterns by drivers are the direct consequence of 20+ years of pussyfooting and inaction by the FIA.
UPDATE – Whenever I read articles talking about “making an example” of a competitor to “send a message”, I know I am dealing with a scenario where a sport has failed to correctly regulate competitor behavior in the past. If Sebastian Vettel, for example, knew in advance that running into Lewis Hamilton would have resulted in an immediate black flag, preferably supported by past incidents where drivers were black-flagged, he would most probably not have run into Hamilton.

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The awakening of the UK farming Industry..Part 3

Another AHA! moment as the UK farming industry suddenly appears to engage its brain about the practical consequences of Brexit. The soft fruit industry now realizes that without boots on the ground to pick the produce, the industry is likely to contract and possibly disappear.
As is now becoming usual, their public begging and pleading statement is a hoot.

British Summer Fruits chairman Laurence Olins said: “It is inconceivable that people who voted to leave the European Union wanted to destroy an iconic and incredibly competitive British horticulture industry, and see the end of buying British produce.
“But if we cannot ensure access to the seasonal workers needed to produce soft fruit in Britain, that will be an unintended consequence of Brexit, along with soaring prices and increased reliance on imports.”

Laurence, me old pal me old beauty, could I just perform some translation on that for you? here goes…

When our members voted by a majority to leave the EU last Summer in a fit of juvenile nihilistic pique, we didn’t stop to think that it it might destroy much of the British horticulture industry, and see the end of buying British produce.
Now we are crapping in our trousers.If we cannot rely on cheap labor from those countries with weird character sets and odd place names, what the f**k do we do? HELP!

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