The Most Logical Explanation

Published at 07:29 on 11 August 2022

Hubris: Trump deliberately chose not to return all the documents he stole simply because he thought he could get away with it. And he did get away with it… until his hubris got to the point where he started boasting about getting away with it. Then someone who learned about this (directly or indirectly) due to the boasting chose to squeal, quite likely because the stool pigeon was himself under a cloud and cut a deal to lighten his or her likely punishment.

Given his hubris, it is conceivable that Trump allowed multiple individuals to see examples of the deliberately retained documents. This allowed the tattle-tale to be explicit and specific. This in turn allowed the authorities to verify that indeed, those particular documents were missing. Affidavits from both were then presented to a magistrate who promptly signed off on a search warrant.

This is all vintage Trump, and it does not require much speculation on anything more sinister. On the latter, I am reluctant to do that. We have seen, time and time again, anti-Trump sources being “certain” that serious dirt was about to doom Trump… only to be disappointed when it turns out that while the truth is on the sordid side, it is far less lurid than speculated.

So no, I am not at this stage expecting any of the stolen documents to contain any big bombshells.

The Worst Take of All

Published at 20:16 on 9 August 2022

“This is unwise. It will just provoke them.”

Really, now. That is what some voices are saying.

First off, this didn’t start with Trump. Trump certainly represented taking it to a whole new level, but the sickness was evident at least 20 years ago, when another president lied his way into a war and then ignored both domestic and international law and ordered suspects be tortured during interrogation. A series of crimes for which there was very little, if any, accountability.

And that happened, mind you, only after decades of the most milquetoast “opposition” to right-wing politics by the Democratic Party.

Which itself happened after another criminal Republican president got off scot-free for his crimes when his handpicked Republican successor pardoned him.

So can we shut up already about the positively moronic claim that there is nothing that can be done about the increasing lawlessness and fascism of the American Right other than continued appeasement? Get it straight: just about all that has been done is appease, appease, appease and it has not pacified them one bit.

No, the lesson has been that you can get away with it (and hey, why not push the envelope a little further and see if you can get away with even more).

Of course there is a risk of more political violence. The rub is, just about everything indicates that flinching from that risk won’t ultimately avoid violence, any more than the appeasement of Hitler in 1938 avoided a war with Hitler.

There is no safe option. The situation in the USA has been allowed to degrade literally for decades, and the payments on this backsliding are now coming due with compound interest. All that remains are various sorts of dangerous options. Making a firm stand against fascism is in fact the best and least dangerous option.

The Odds of Accountability Just Went Up

Published at 19:23 on 8 August 2022

Way up, in fact. When I wrote this, the odds of Trump being prosecuted were about 60%. I would say they are now more like 80–85%, possibly even higher.

Searching a former president’s residence is a very high-profile thing. It is, so far as I know, unprecedented. This means that the disgusting precedent of considering presidents above the law is apparently now at long last dead.

The FBI and Department of Justice would not do such a thing unless they were very sure they were likely to acquire something good and incriminating in the search. Like it or not, the bar on getting this approved was almost certainly significantly higher than if you or I were accused of stealing classified government papers.

As such, the odds are high they did find some really good dirt on Trump today. Which in turn makes for high odds that charges and a prosecution are in the cards.

Getting an iPhone?

Published at 17:59 on 4 August 2022

I have long considered Apple’s phones to be ripoffs due to their high prices and lack of features (no 3.5 mm headphone jack, no FM radio, iOS can’t do something as simple as automatically sort apps by name, etc.).

But reviews like this are making me reconsider. Note that of the top-rated smartphones, the iPhone 13 mini is the smallest. (It’s still larger than desirable, of course.)

I have a non-top-rated smartphone. It’s OK, but there has been since Day One a most annoying misfeature with the audio. About 20% of the time, it is annoyingly loud, and cannot meaningfully be turned down (even turning the volume all the way down results in only a modest reduction). About 40% of the time the exact converse is true: volume too soft, cannot meaningfully be turned up. Only about 40% of the time is the volume reasonable. It’s truly annoying and I don’t want to experience such behaviour again.

A friend of mine has a nice, small, decently-sized smartphone. Since decently-sized smartphones are niche items in this world, it is not a top-rated device either. Its nemesis is positively awful battery life.

All the above strongly indicates sticking with top-rated devices.

Then I look at the prices. Yes, the Apple devices sell at a premium. But not much of one over the top-rated Android devices. Plus, Apple commits to supporting its current devices with software upgrades and patches for a minimum of six years. For Android that period of time is more like two years (my Android phone is already no longer being supported).

The rub is, I would still be giving up those features I mentioned above, and paying a premium to do so. So I’m still thinking it over. But not for too terribly much longer; the battery on my existing phone is slowly dying and I worry that if I procrastinate much longer, I will be left temporarily without a phone.

Walls Finally Closing in on Trump?

Published at 08:41 on 4 August 2022

I don’t have time at the moment to list all the reasons (this is a big part of it), but it really seems as if they might finally be. I still do not have much respect for the generally rotten state of American political culture, but I would estimate that right now signals indicate that odds are slightly in favour of Trump and his top cronies in fascism getting prosecuted.

For liberty and an open society to survive in the USA, the above must happen. It is a “this town isn’t big enough for the both of us” situation: either fascism will crush democracy, or democracy will crush fascism.

And yes, this is advocating for using the power of the State to crush a political movement. And yes, that is an incredibly dangerous thing to advocate for. The USA is in an incredibly dangerous position. Safety is simply not an immediate option. Refraining from crushing the fascists will not preserve liberty; it will merely make it inevitable that the fascists will crush democracy.

The means exist: the fascists broke a large number of existing laws in their effort to remain in power despite losing an election. Enforce those laws and you crush the fascist movement. All that needs to be done is to abandon the disgusting precedent that those high up enough in power ought to be exempt from the laws that apply to everybody else.

Trump and his cronies should get their day in court. They should be allowed to go after prosecutorial misconduct. They should be allowed to argue for their innocence. If convicted and sentenced, they should be entitled to standards of humane treatment, and should be allowed to file lawsuits against the state if those standards are violated.

Under the current rules of the game, they will be. If the fascists are not crushed and are allowed to gain power, they will extend none of these niceties to those whom they crush.

It is them or us. Crush them. It may be indelicate to say it, but it really is that simple.

Azov Brigade Terrorist Determination

Published at 07:10 on 2 August 2022

So Russia has determined that the neo-Nazi Azov Regiment is a terrorist group. Two comments:

  1. Knowing the nature of the regiment, it is hard to feel all that sorry about this.
  2. Those upset about the precedent this establishes for the treatment of prisoners of war need to realize that the horses left this particular barn over twenty years ago. Specifically, they left it the moment the USA declared those captured in Afghanistan would be neither prisoners of war (with Geneva Convention rights), nor normal criminals (with rights under the US Constitution).

The Problem with Manufactured Housing

Published at 10:20 on 30 July 2022

If you diss manufactured housing, one of the standard responses you get is that there is no intrinsic reason for it to be low-end housing, and that quality, high-end manufactured housing is totally possible to make. In fact, there are already a few niche companies producing it.

The problem is that it is only a few niche companies and that this seems unlikely to change.

You see, the fact that it is theoretically possible for there to be quality manufactured housing doesn’t matter so much when it comes to choosing a home. What matters is the sort of manufactured housing that actually exists. And that is overwhelmingly low-end, low-quality housing.

Because of this, many zoning codes and neighbourhood covenants ban manufactured housing. The only places one can readily place it are either (a) more remote, rural areas with fewer regulations, and (b) mobile home parks.

More remote, rural areas inevitably have limited economic opportunities. They can be great places to live if you are self-employed and in a long-term relationship. If you are single, or if you work for someone else, they tend to suck. It doesn’t matter that they tend to be cheap places to live in: they are cheap for a reason; market prices of rural housing are kept low by the low incomes in rural areas. Evaluated in the light of the income one is likely to earn, those low rural prices suddenly cease to be a good deal.

Mobile home parks have rented lots. Yes, there are a few condo or coop mobile home parks which are owned either individually or collectively by their residents. Those are the exceptions to the rule. In most areas, all the mobile home parks will be owned by capitalists. In most areas, there is no rent control, so those capitalists can charge basically whatever they want for rent.

Sure, there’s market constraints on that, but those are imperfect. Suppose a shortage of mobile home sites develops in a given market. Lot rents will then tend to go up. If the shortage is severe, they will go up a lot. Or maybe decades of urban growth will turn what had been a relatively isolated, exurban park into a prime suburban area, ripe for redevelopment into a shopping center. In that case, its owner can cash out and make a huge wad by jacking the rent sky-high, driving his tenants away, and selling the resulting vacant land.

What happens then? If you have lived in your home for any length of time, you’re screwed. You see, most mobile home parks also ban older mobile homes. Why shouldn’t they? Remember, manufactured housing tends to be low-end and not built to last. Again, it doesn’t have to be, but practically it tends to be. Old mobile homes are therefore inevitably shoddy, dilapidated mobile homes. Nobody wants those moving in.

In other words, your lot rent goes up more than you can afford, and you have to walk away from the asset you spent a huge chunk of your net worth purchasing. If you had rented an apartment, you would have at least been able to pack your shit and git without leaving anything behind.

What it all means is that manufactured housing in the USA is in large part a scam that plays on the desperate (namely, people who really want a home of their own but who cannot really afford one and who fail to think long-term about the possible drawbacks of the decision they are making).

So, Trump is Being Investigated

Published at 23:04 on 26 July 2022

That’s good news.

It is also not the end of the story. Odds still disfavour Trump being prosecuted. The disgusting deference of the American political system to the powerful is still intact. It is going to take a lot to change it. Maybe this will be the start of that change. I hope it will. But it is hardly certain.

The Drive Back: a Trip Journal

Published at 11:47 on 25 July 2022

Introduction

I have for at least several years desired to make a road trip at least from New Mexico back to the Pacific Northwest (if not a round trip), camping instead of staying in motels and carrying mementos of my parents back with me.

While stuck in Albuquerque handling Mom’s estate, it occurred to me: things were slowing down, I could leave about a week earlier than planned without harming much, and use much of that extra time to drive back… if I could secure a one-way rental car at a non-extortionate price. Surprisingly, I could! It was still pretty expensive, mind you, but still doable, and still worth it to me at that price. I really wanted to revisit some of the places I passed through on my drives from New Mexico to northern Utah in my college years, and now, unexpectedly, I could. Plus it would salvage what has been basically a blown summer as far as camping and vacation opportunities are concerned.

Thursday, 21 July 2022

ESCAPED TODAY!

It all went pretty much as planned. Collected the rental car (2018 Buick Encore, as hoped, a compact car was unavailable so I got bumped up to a small SUV) shortly after 09:00. There was a little trouble locating the rental car place, but not a whole lot.

Drove back to my Mom’s house, loaded, went with my sister Mary to Dad’s grave, and departed Corrales at 10:45. Lunch at noon near the Continental Divide north of Cuba.

Was in the 90’s Fahrenheit until I dropped down into the San Juan river valley, then it was in the 100’s. Had forgotten just what a barren desert it is for much of the way between Shiprock and Cortez.

Since I had left before noon, I was optimistic about being able to get to Soldier Summit. Nope, didn’t happen. Back to the original plan of camping near Monticello. Am at Dalton Springs Campground. $20, but decided it was worth it for a picnic table and the ability to refill my water jugs. About 8,000ʹ. Gambel oak and aspen.

Was in the 80’s when I arrived (17:00), but has already cooled into the 70’s (19:00). Bet ABQ is still in the upper 90’s at this time. Should be a nice, cool night for sleeping.

Lots of mule deer in the area. The cheap Walmart tent and sleeping bag are indeed cheap. Would not want to rely on the tent in a storm. It is fine for keeping the bugs out in present conditions.

There were plenty of campsites when I arrived. Looks like there will be vacancies tonight [there were]. So glad to be here and not in the desert below.

——————–

US.550 is 4 wide lanes all the way to Bloomfield. Used to be called NM.44 and be mostly two lanes, sometimes two narrow ones and with “aprons” that would flood in each heavy rainfall, closing the road. Highway to Monticello no longer narrows significantly when one crosses into Utah. Ah, the changes that happen in 35 years (more than half my life).

Friday, 22 July 2022

Left Dalton Springs CG at 07:30. The decent into Moab was spectacular [it was, in retrospect, probably the highlight of the entire trip]. It also warmed up like crazy, from around 60˚F at daybreak at 8,000ʹ to 90˚F in the desert by 10:00. Right after I left Monticello, a family of wild turkeys (a mother and four poults) crossed the road.

Stopped in Moab to buy a few groceries, text a status update to Mary, and check on a debit card, which both the gas station in Cortez and the supermarket in Moab declined. They couldn’t find any problems with it and there is plenty of money in that account.

Lots of road modernizations. About half the road from I.70 to Moab has been 4-laned. There still is a rest area on US.6 between I.70 and Price, but much larger (and in the process of being expanded) and in a slightly different location (atop a plateau, not below it). The Thistle Slide bypass no longer sticks out like a sore thumb for being 4-laned. Was hard to recognize Soldier Summit as the road had been straightened and 4-laned there.

It has been 35 years (2022–1987) of course. When Dad helped me drive home from USU that time it was so hot in an old car without A/C, he was younger than I am now!

Stopped for gas at Ogden. My debit card worked. It was in the 100’s when driving through the Wasatch Front megalopolis. Did not make any other stops there.

Camped for the night at Bennett Springs, a free USFS campground near Burley. Was a little worried given the lack of a reservation, the late hour, and Pioneer Day long weekend that it would be full. False alarm, though it did not take long after I arrived for it to fill up.

It is on a paved road, but the sign on the road just says “Bennett Springs,” not “Bennett Springs Campground.” Bet that helps keep the riff-raff out.

Lots of dejected latecomers, including ones in large RV’s, are now showing up. I dread one of those “squat-camping” along the road in front of my site, generator running until late [false alarm]. One of the annoyances of Dalton Springs last night was how the host (yes, the host) ran her generator until 22:00.

There is no drinking water here and the camp sites are a lot less level. But, hey, free!

Found the campground no thanks to the Gaia app. The latter is the worst $35 I have ever spent. They claim you can download data for use off the network, but the downloading often randomly fails to include route data. The app itself sometimes randomly fails to work properly absent a network connection. Total P.O.S. Wasted an hour getting sent in the wrong direction this evening thanks to it.

The way back from here on (actually, from Spanish Forks on) is mostly interstate. Rural interstates were built to such ridiculously high standards that there will be a lot less changes to the roads from here on. Plus, I drove most of this route with Rick not too long ago.

I.15 through the SLC metro area had been widened to 4 or even 5 lanes in each direction, however, and rebuilt using concrete. No bridge work noted! [In the 1980’s, that stretch of freeway was notorious for having perpetual bridge repair work.]

Mimulus lewisii, Penstemon procerus, Rudbeckia occidentalis. The flora is starting to look familiar. I can tell it is going to get cooler here than it did at the last place [it did].

21:10 — Incredible sunset underway.

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Left Bennett Springs at 07:30 despite waking at 05:30 and not 06:00. Rolled up the tent with half of my jewellery in it (no harm done).

After a somewhat weak start (exhibited poor stopping discipline, making separate stops for ice, water, and fuel when one would have sufficed), realized that this had to change because making it past The Bottomlands (otherwise known as the Columbia Basin) meant for a long day.

Between then exercising greater discipline and gaining an hour due to a time zone change, I’ve made it to Taneum Creek Campground [near Ellensburg]. Plenty of vacancies, despite it being a few hours from Seattle and one of the nicest Forest Service campgrounds there is. $20/night, and the water system is working.

Not that I need water. A janitor at a rest stop in Idaho saw me walking around with empty jugs and invited me to fill them at his janitor’s sink “because the hydrants outside are broken.”

Was nowhere near as hot today. Car thermometer never got warmer than the mid-90’s Fahernheit (and was doubtless reading several degrees too high).

My down-to-business pace today did not allow for photography, but I don’t feel terribly deprived. The gap between seeing most places I drove was not 35 years. Only exception was the stretch between Ontario and Baker.

Speaking of the latter, opted to eat lunch by the train tracks on the hunch that I might see a train (I did). (Messing with my phone to find out how far it was until the next rest area would have made for an extra stop.)

Now it is time for a brief walk into the nearby state wildlife lands.

——————–

Boise still sprawls very little to the east. Even 8 miles out, nothing but arid grassland as far as the eye can see. Then you crest a ridge and BOOM!

Sunday, 24 July 2022

Dropped the rental car keys off in the after hours drop box at the Bellingham airport, with a note that I’m returning the car a day early (will not get credit for the time it sits until the desk opens tomorrow morning). There were only 2 drop off spots available, and it was tricky to find a bus to Vancouver that left at decent hours — but I found one.

The drive from Taneum Campground felt very short, and very anticlimactic. Was hard to believe I had driven that far. Was odd looking though the various items I had bought and realizing I had bought them in various distant places all within the past several days. Hard to believe just two mornings ago I was savouring the sight of the rock formations near Moab in the morning light.

The night spent at Taenum was cool and crisp, easily the coolest night of the three, ideal for sleeping.

Now comes the wait for the cab.

Monday, 25 July 2022

The final leg of the trip went just fine. As hoped, I arrived at my Vancouver home before nightfall yesterday.

The wrinkle was figuring it all out. There are at least three bus lines running between Bellingham and Vancouver these days: Greyhound, FlixBus, and Quick Shuttle. The latter would have been optimal, because it departs from the airport terminal, which is the same place I had to drop the rental car off at. Alas, all seats were sold out. A further complication was that the Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty (all three are merely different brands owned by the same parent corporation) counter at BLI is closed weekends. Worse, all buses on Monday were booked until the evening runs, meaning I would have to blow over 24 hours waiting for a connecting trip. But FlixBus had vacancies on a Sunday evening run, if only I could drop the car off after hours. There really wasn’t anything specific on after-hours returns, so I had to go to the airport and verify that: a) there was an after-hours key drop, b) with my contact, I was allowed to use it, and c) there was space in the lot to drop off the vehicle. All three were the case, so the key drop and FlixBus it was.

FlixBus was a bit strange. It was a nice new, clean bus. However, it was a pretty basic bus (no outlets for laptops or anything like that). The bus showed up in Bellingham promptly on time. What floored me is how little the bus driver scrutinized anyone’s tickets; she basically did not scrutinize them at all! She announced it was the bus heading north to Vancouver and requested Vancouver-bound passengers board. I could have gotten a ride for free if I had wanted to! Got off at Pacific Central Station and took the No. 19 trolleybus home.

Was expecting to start work today, but that cannot be done because my access to all accounts got suspended and it will take about a day to un-suspend it all. So I have an unexpected day in which to tie up loose ends.

Checking in after Nearly a Month

Published at 22:31 on 24 July 2022

A lot has happened since my past post. My Mom fainted while reaching for something in the laundry room, took a bad fall, and ended up in the hospital. Since she was 92 and already in frail condition before this, it was pretty obvious where this was likely headed.

So I headed down to New Mexico to see her while I still could. Then the obvious happened, and I was stuck there for a couple more weeks working on settling her estate (which is far from done, but at least I managed to get the ball rolling). Complicating it all, I came down with COVID-19 shortly after arriving and had to self-isolate, which acted to somewhat limit what I could do. (Thankfully, I never got seriously ill and for the most part felt well enough to be able to make phone calls and do research.)

I did manage to somewhat salvage what is otherwise a pretty blown summer by managing to finagle a road trip back to the Pacific Northwest in a rental car filled with camping gear and mementos of my parents (and these two are not disjoint sets; I cooked on my Dad’s old Coleman stove). I had to be focused on the business of transporting myself and the goods with me and didn’t have much time for side trips, but it was still a lot of fun to drive routes some of which I had last been on 35 years ago.

Throughout it all, I did write down my thoughts and experiences. I just did not post them here. I will now be doing that as time allows.