All of Them Witches

United States Senators were poleaxed to discover that other legislative bodies manage to enact budgets and avoid chronic deficits without dancing naked with Satan under the full moon. (Paywall warning.)

In Wyoming, the constitution mandates that the Legislature pass a balanced budget, (Republican state Sen. Eli) Bebout continued, recommending a similar rule be put in place in Congress. Once that balanced budget is in place, Bebout said, Wyoming lives "within those revenue streams."

He referred again to the Wyoming Constitution, which bars the state from incurring debt that exceeds 1 percent of the assessed value of the taxable property in the state.

That lack of debt made it difficult for Bebout to answer a question from Kaine about debt management policies in Wyoming.

"We don't have anything in place," Bebout said. "We don't have any debt."

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., spoke later, saying he was "still trying to get over the fact that Wyoming has no debt."

"I'm trying to get my mind around that," he said.

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., also wanted to talk about debt in Wyoming: He asked Bebout about the state's capital construction fund, assuming that Wyoming's balanced budget amendment must not apply in that area.

Bebout clarified that Wyoming's budget includes capital expenditures.

"It's all one package based on our revenues," he said. "(The budgets) includes capital construction and capital spending."

"So the year-to-year spending on a particular building is right in the constitutional budget?" Whitehouse asked.

"Yes," Bebout replied, recalling the state's recently completed capitol renovation project that cost $300 million.

The idea behind the testimony in question was to help Congress find ways to get federal deficits and long-term debt under control. Wyoming’s senior U.S. Senator, Mike Enzi (R) invited Bebout — a longtime Wyoming lawmaker and a onetime GOP nominee for governor — to tell about how his state does it. You can almost see the other Senators’ jaws agape and their eyes bulging from their heads as they grapple with the alien ideas to which they were being exposed.

Enzi and others who spoke during the Senate hearing expressed a desire to see a biennial budget process applied at the federal level. The change would "give Congress more time (for) executive branch oversight and policy development and reduce the potential for government shutdowns," Enzi said.

Bebout spoke about Wyoming's two-year budget process during his testimony, offering support for the idea of a biennial federal budget that would provide more certainty for those impacted by government spending decisions.

He also suggested the federal government base more of its budget process on revenue predictions, like Wyoming does.

"The thing that really drives our budget is not what we want to spend but the revenues available to us," he said. "That's where we start ... rather than having the spending side of it drive it."

Senators Kennedy and Whitehouse were later seen piling cordwood for a bonfire, with a Bebout-sized stake on the top.

©   McGehee

And Now With Even Less Google Than the Last Time I Had Less Google

I recently discovered that I didn’t need to create a brand new Google account when I first wanted to get rid of the Gmail address attached to the old one. Or rather, I wouldn’t have needed to, if the option to detach the Gmail address from an existing Google account had always been available. I don’t think it always has been, but it sure is now.

I discovered this while in the process of disencumbering the old account — which had a Gmail address — of the last few remaining bits of non-transferable intellectual property (meaning ebooks) so that I could delete the account once and for all. I had already transferred everything from that account to my new, Gmail-free Google account that I could, and I had replaced the Google ebooks I had bought on it with Kindle versions so that if I ever lost my sanity and wanted to switch Google accounts yet again I wouldn’t need to worry about them.

In the course of doing some last housekeeping on the doomed old account, I followed a link and found that among the services associated with that account that could be deleted, was Gmail. All I needed to do was provide a non-Gmail address that wasn’t attached to another active Google account, and voilà! — no more Gmail address.

I’m positive this wasn’t an option when I created my current account. If you know otherwise, don’t tell me.

As long as I’m using an Android phone, I’ll still need a Google account; and also as long as Mrs. McG depends on Google for her calendar. But I have found alternatives to almost everything I used to depend on Google for. I even found a contact manager that is as flexible as Google’s, something I had despaired of repeatedly over the last ten years or so.

I just wish being able to de-Googlify to this extent didn’t feel just a little bit... too easy.

©   McGehee

Four Years-ish

Has it really only been four years (give or take half a week or so) since I resumed “serious” blogging, under the name “Ridin’ Fence” (which I changed to the current name a couple of years later)?

It probably seems longer to you because you have to read it — whereas I only have to write it.

What will the next four years bring? I’m not even sure about the next four weeks — but at least I know that, blogging or not, I won’t be going back on social media.

The other day I was reading some Reddit posts about why people have deleted their Facebook accounts (no, I’m not on Reddit; the AskReddit YouTube videos have become a guilty indulgence), and it brought to mind my own experience with that... platform.

When I first joined Facebook, I friended pretty much everyone whose name or handle looked familiar to me from the blog comment threads I was already frequenting. This was back when sites like JunkyardBlog, Ipse Dixit, Gut Rumbles, etc., were still going concerns, so there was a lot to work with. And since I’ve always used my own name in one form or another in blogdom, they recognized me and friended me back in turn. It was a heady time, and my “friend” count quickly rose into triple digits. In meatspace I would have had to reach back to my college, or possibly high school years, to get my total that high. And I don’t mean just during those years, I mean then and since, cumulatively.

I don’t remember what caused me to reconsider this pattern, but I decided that I wanted my Facebook circle limited to people I had actually met in meatspace. Only one of the hundreds of “friends” I unfriended at that point noticed, and asked about it, and even she accepted my reasoning. For the rest of the time I was on Facebook, I adhered to that rule (with only one well-deserved exception) for the remainder of my time on the platform, and it worked — until Facebook stopped letting me order my feed the way I wanted.

In retrospect it was a small reason to abandon the social media juggernaut, but I saw it as a warning of things to come, and my misgivings were prophetic.

The reality is, actual personal news — significant events of real interest to the people that genuinely care — doesn’t happen every day. If you’re lucky it doesn’t even happen every year. Wading through sharings of memes and of outrages-of-the-moment only serves to make me less interested in those pieces of actual news that might inadvertently get shared (and promptly buried under the deluge of trivia — maybe that was why I unfriended those people I only knew online, way back when).

I frankly wonder how it is Facebook’s algorithms can wade through all the pictures of restaurant food and fashion selfies shared so widely by people who don’t even know, haven’t even heard of, the original posters, to develop a useful profile of any Facebooker. That may be the saving grace of the chaos: its abysmal signal-to-noise ratio. It’s that same ratio that drives people like me away, people who don’t chase every ephemeral FOMO craze, thus also protecting us from being much more effectively catalogued.

If someone ever did perfect a social media platform that stayed securely in my signal-to-noise comfort zone, that characteristic would itself put it outside my comfort zone in a bigger way.

As for Twitter, it’s what I have in mind when I say that social media constitute a dystopic alternate reality that drives mad anyone not already insane. It takes Facebook’s noise and distills it, elevating the intensity to the pandæmonic. If you ever watched Joss Whedon’s Serenity and remember the scene where the heroes’ ship is sneaking past the Reavers, with the howls and screams from the Reavers’ fleet coming though the cockpit speakers, you know how Twitter sounds to me these days. If only it could be padlocked shut from the outside.

So, even if my blogging frequency were to subside to the point where whole months might pass between posts, don’t bother looking for me on those other platforms, nor on any new ones that may arise. If you don’t find me saying anything here, it’s because I literally have nothing to say. At least in public.

©   McGehee

“The Eagle Has Landed”

I don’t remember “watching” the landing itself, but I do remember sitting in front of the TV waiting what seemed like an eternity for the astronauts to finally leave the Lunar Excursion Module and set foot on the Moon.

Fifty years later, NASA describes the moment:

They reconfigured Eagle’s cabin for depressurization, donned their helmets, visors, and gloves, and then opened the valve that vented the cabin.

Aldrin opened Eagle’s forward hatch, which swung inward toward him, giving Armstrong access to the outside front porch. Aldrin added, “About ready to go down and get some Moon rock?” He helped Armstrong navigate through the narrow confines of Eagle’s hatch and onto the front porch. Once on the ladder, Armstrong pulled a lanyard that released the Modularized Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA) on the side of Eagle’s Descent Stage, on which was mounted a black and white TV camera, allowing hundreds of millions of viewers on Earth to see him descend the ladder down to the landing leg’s footpad.

As a precaution, he practiced the three-foot jump back up to the ladder’s first rung, made easier in the one-sixth lunar gravity. Once back down on the footpad, Armstrong described that the footpads had only sunk one or two inches into the lunar dust which he noted was fine-grained, almost powdery. Armstrong announced, “I’m going to step off the LM now.” And at 9:56 PM Houston time he did just that, firmly planting his left foot onto the lunar surface, proclaiming, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Of course, we all heard it — and still do on playback — without the indefinite article in the first clause, but apparently that was due to Armstrong’s Midwestern inflection.

I remember having a cardboard punch-out LEM model that I don’t think I succeeded at putting together, though I seem to recall that my older brother got his set up the way it was supposed to. (The link was selected because it includes a photo of the model put together.)

We sent six more missions to the Moon, of which five landed — the last in 1972. It’s scandalous that we haven’t landed anyone there or anywhere else since. There are people who weren’t even born yet in 1972, who are grandparents now. Imagine if the Wright Brothers had stopped experimenting with powered heavier-than-air flight in 1906, and in 1953 there were still no prospect of another such flight in the foreseeable future.


©   McGehee

Am I Ready for Some Football?

Just a bit over two weeks to go. The linked article is four months old, but there never seems to be a lot of news generated about this game, as such, before the Hall of Fame induction festivities actually begin.

The Atlanta Falcons will be the designated home team, “hosting” the Denver Broncos. It’s NFL pre-season football, so a step... below spring football, actually — though that could be because neither team holds any particular allegiance in this household.

Pre-season pro football is only an appetizer until college footbll begins on August 31, with Mrs. McG's alma mater, Mississippi State, visiting Louisiana-Lafayette. Wyoming’s hosting of Missouri (!) will begin before the Mississippi State game ends, but that’s what DVRs are for.

Update, July 30: 56 hours to go. Fading fast. May not make it.

Update, August 1: I made it! Mrs. McG learned that one of the Broncos’ players was from Mississippi State, so we’re cheered by Denver’s 14-10 victory.

©   McGehee

But This Is a New One

I do quote myself sometimes, and this will be one of those times.

Over at Instapundit, to a post by Ed Driscoll about the latest Nike idiocy, I commented:

Nike's target market consists of people who live in an alternate reality called "social media."

Sane people ought to avoid living there, it's past the point of dystopia.

First we closed all of the insane asylums, then Facebook and Twitter, et al, opened new ones.

©   McGehee

Free As Can Be

I posted the entire text of the Declaration of Independence last year (and the year before), and if you've a mind to read it again here (as opposed to, oh I don't know, any of the thousands of other places online you can find it), you can follow either of those links.

The state of our American union these days may be — and certainly ought to be — of profound concern to many of us, but the rest of the world is no better off. Americans remain more free even now than anyone else in the world. Some countries are dead set on getting worse; others want to get better. I think we’re one of the latter, The Most Busted Name in News™ and its fellow-travelers in the media and in public office to the contrary notwithstanding.

The next sixteen months, give or take a day, will show whether I’m right or wrong about that.

Me, I’ll be celebrating this day with some target practice. Because I can, and nincompoops in Congress can’t stop me.

Update: If you genuinely believe this flag is the equivalent of the Nazi swastika, you have the IQ of dirt.

©   McGehee

Clever Headline of the Week

Most headlines deemed “clever” tend to be puns or wordplay, or an ironic play on the history of the subject of the piece.

What we have here is a mite more low-key than that.

Upcoming Event Aims to Connect Us to Our Heritage Using Storytelling and the Sweet Smell of Gunpowder

Lander Valley Sportsmen’s Association (LVSA) is hosting a two-day event in July to promote civic responsibility. To accomplish this LVSA is bringing the nationally recognized Project Appleseed program to leverage the tradition of rifle marksmanship as a tool for teaching colonial history and the timeless values our culture has embraced.

Project Appleseed’s site shares its goal like this: “In today’s world of 24-hour news cycles, changing technologies, and push-button gratification, it’s a challenge to stay connected to the values that our great country was built on. Ideals like integrity, commitment, and personal responsibility are what our founding fathers relied on to win our independence and to then make America a great nation. We use rifle marksmanship instruction as a gateway to help bring our nation’s history to life and to show that many of the values that our forefathers relied on to win our independence are still very much in demand today.”

I’ve smelled gunpowder smoke from Fourth of July fireworks, and I’ve smelled expended nitrocellulose, which is the propellant used in modern cartridge ammunition. The difference is subtle, and they do smell similar enough that I won’t complain. Why ruin a cleverness with pedantry (after I’ve already had to correct an its/it’s error in the copy)?

©   McGehee

Bank on This

Your financial institution will not spoof your own phone number to warn you they’ve suspended your account.

The Cheyenne Police Department are warning people in the capital city of a phone scam, where the potential victim’s own number shows up on the caller I.D.

“They will claim that your bank account has been suspended and that you must verify your account information with them,” the Cheyenne PD said in a statement Wednesday morning. “Please continue to be wary of these types of calls and hang up immediately or don’t answer them at all.”

If future me slips through a time warp and calls me from my future phone, he’ll know I check my voicemail, so he can leave me one when I don’t answer. Any other calls purporting to be from my own number can only be scams.

©   McGehee

Speaking of Integrity in Public Office...

The Coweta County school board recently had to commission an investigation at the insistence of one of its members — who was then the only board member that refused to cooperate with it.

On the one hand, this seems to be one of those “Sayre’s Law” instances where the battles are so vicious because the stakes are so small. On the other hand, one might be excused for assuming the only thing at stake here was the board member’s own ego.

As the local paper sifts through the investigation’s findings, though, it discovers increasing evidence that the allegations that sparked the investigation were cooked up for unrelated reasons.

God knows that’s never happened before.

Diogenes, I think you’d better re-light that lamp of yours.

©   McGehee

Well, I’m Unconfuzzled

For the seventh time in a row, the incumbent sheriff was re-elected.

This time it was Lenn Wood, who succeeded to the job a few months ago when longtime incumbent Mike Yeager retired to take his post as United States Marshal for the Northern District of Georgia.

This result is exactly what I expected. Yeager had been a popular sheriff for the entire time Mrs. McG and I have lived in Coweta County, and he specifically promoted Wood into the position to become sheriff when he left office. The only people arguing that Wood was unsuited to the job were the three candidates trying to take it away from him. He beat the entire field, 3-to-1.

Now, it’s entirely possible they were right — but a few months is hardly enough time to see if that’s true. Fortunately, there’s a regular sheriff’s election next year, and if Sheriff Wood really is a poor choice for the job, one or more of his special-election opponents will be duty- and honor-bound to run against him for the Republican nomination next July.

I rather hope at least one of them does. They’ve invested their personal reputations in saying things about Wood that, if they sit out the regular election rather than try again to prove their point, will be shown as humbug born of pure, ugly ambition. And if we do end up needing to replace the man we just elected, we should have someone with integrity for an alternative.

Update, the following Monday: Wood actually won in every voting precinct in the county.

©   McGehee

The “Man Bites Dog” Fallacy

Maybe you’ve heard of “Gell-Mann Amnesia,” the tendency of people to notice that journalists get everything wrong about things they have independent knowledge of, but assume those same journalists get everything right about everything else.

That’s only one problem with modern journalism, though. Even if the Derp State Media weren’t politically biased — which it is — the calculation of news value that goes into deciding what to report, creates a misperception of the real world that actively disinforms news consumers.

To figure out why, simply consider the judgment intrinsic to the idea that a dog biting a man isn’t news because it happens so often.

Unfortunately, a lot of news consumers have never bothered to compare the picture of the world they get from the media, to the picture they get from pretty much every other source. While Crichton’s Gell-Mann effect refers specifically to experts, a variant of it can apply to literally anyone. Among them? Journalists.

Journalists don’t report the world you know. They don’t think the world you know is newsworthy. They report a skewed, wacked-out, perverse world that they used to think readers and viewers would recognize as consisting of the weird and crazy. The abnormal. These days, if you really pay attention to what they say, how they describe the world when they’re not merely reciting what happened (do they even still do that?), you can tell they don’t even think it’s weird or crazy anymore. They think reality begins and ends with what they report.

What bothers me most is that too many of the people who still pay attention to them agree, even if they wish it weren’t so. And they let that skewed, wacked-out, perverse vision of the world inform their expectations for the future.

Whenever I see it at work, I want to reach through the internet and slap the stupid right out of them.

©   McGehee


There is no “inconsistency” between conservative views on abortion and capital punishment.

The victim of abortion is innocent. A perpetrator of a capital crime — assuming the guilt proved in court is true — is not. We do not put people to death for something they have not yet done. Period.

If you have doubts about the application of the death penalty, address them. Don’t set up a false equivalency with another issue that has nothing to do with it.

©   McGehee


For months now, the games I have from the Microsoft Store — Solitaire, Minesweeper, and a third-party Hearts game — have all been exhibiting bad behavior when ads are cycling. That is, when a banner ad is loading, or changing its display image.

The Hearts game in particular, which is the only one cycling ads during actual play, was the worst; cards in motion would freeze in place for several seconds until the ad process had finished, and only then could play resume.

There's been buzz about a new version of Windows 10 (remember when “Windows 10” was the version?), and today I found out why it hadn't yet installed on my laptop: I needed to install the "upgrade assistant" for such a momentous update. Well, so I did it.

It changed my taskbar, and I had to re-select my background image, but at least the ad-cycling in the various games is working more smoothly.

It remains to be seen what damage the upgrade does to the rest of my user experience.

©   McGehee

And Here I Thought March Was Madness

Last summer I was taken somewhat aback to find that the NBA had a summer league that started play in July. Today I discovered something I hadn’t realized back then.

The NBA’s non-summer league began the final round of its playoffs two days ago.

Back in April when I asked, “Will the NBA title be decided before school gets out for the summer?” I thought I was kidding (the school year hereabouts normally ends just before the Memorial Day weekend). Turns out the answer was “No.”

So here’s football struggling to keep a spring league going for one lousy season, and the NBA, between a playoff schedule that stretches into June, and a summer league that bridges much of the gap between then and the start of regular-season play in — what, August? — is almost literally a year-round operation.

Thank God the NFL’s Hall of Fame Game is only two months away. That’s, like, a quarter-finals round in pro basketball.

©   McGehee


Coming to You from
Subtropical West Georgia

Original content and design © 2019 Kevin McGehee. Images and excerpts are © their respective owners.