Happy 111th!

Roughly once out of every seven years, my grandmother’s birthday falls on Mothers’ Day. This year sees such an instance, so after the 2pm Mothers’ Day dinner, we sang “Happy Birthday” and had cake. It was good. Here’s Gram celebrating a birthday, presumably her birthday, at my late aunt’s house in the late ’90s or early double-aughts:

Can’t quite nail down the date because a] I don’t remember the year she finally let her hair go white, which looked sharp on her; and b] if it was her birthday, counting the candles wouldn’t help because after a certain point, you just use a whole buncha candles.

Anyhow, happy 111th birthday and happy 86th Mothers’ Day to “the Old Girl”!

Happy 121st!

Every year I post a digital birthday card for my grandfather– even if I apparently post nothing else the entire year–so here comes this year’s edition. This is Grampa as a young man of presently-unknown age.

Looks like it would be a high school graduation photo, but he graduated from high school at 22 and I think he was a bit younger than that here.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my niece about our ancestors, and trying to put in perspective how long ago Grampa was born, how long he lived, and how much had changed in the meantime. That was a fun conversation. Was he alive for this president, or that war, or this assassination? Were there “wall phones”? Had this been discovered? Was that person alive? How many states were there? And so on.

This got me thinking about the simplest way to explain the most drastic change in his lifetime. The best I could come up with was that when he was born, there were no planes, and taking photographs using “dust” (flash powder) was expensive enough that we have very few pictures of him before age 10. By the time he died, we had close-up photos of Neptune.

Grampa would’ve turned 121 today if he hadn’t died stopping the salt vampires from stealing our oceans.

Merry Christmas 2020!

Merry Christmas to all! May your hearts be warmed, your masks be comfy, and your sanitizer be soothing!

This year I should’ve asked Santa for the motivation to actually actually post more often. That, and to not have a pandemic.


Sir Sean Connery, who won an Oscar for playing Irish beat cop Jim Malone in The Untouchables and portrayed Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez in Highlander, Captain Marko Ramius in The Hunt for Red October, and Michael MacBride in Darby O’Gill and the Little People, died today at the age of 90.

Connery’s career spanned seven decades, including turns as Dr. Henry Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Zed in Zardoz, Robin Hood in Robin and Marian, and SAS officer John Patrick Mason in The Rock. He was a strong supporter of the Scottish film industry, breathing life into Scotland’s first computer-animated film, Sir Billi, in 2012. Connery was also Peter Jackson’s first choice to play Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, and was approached to play Sybok in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

A former bodybuilder and Royal Navy gunner, Connery was voted People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive in 1989 and Sexiest Man of the Century in 1999. He was knighted in 2000 by Queen Elizabeth II, largely for his early roles as a British mid-level civil servant.

Connery also championed Scottish independence and supported Rangers FC of the Scottish Premiership. R.I.P.

Media may direct further inquiries to Universal Exports Ltd of London.

O glorious morrow!

Flashback to the 2016 primary season:

That said, last week I was presented with a scenario in which I could see myself voting for Trump. Here goes:

Obama strings along the feds’ investigation into Hillary Clinton to weaken her as much as feasibly possible. When it becomes apparent that she’s going to beat Sanders, Obama springs the trap. Hillary gets indicted and has to drop out. The DNC simply won’t let Sanders be the candidate, and so they throw Joe Biden’s hat in the ring. Uncle Joe will “reluctantly” take on the burden of being handed the nomination, campaign on taking up the Obama mantle, brag about forcing Obama’s hand on gay marriage, and remind us of his family tragedy at every possible opportunity, germane or not.

If that happens, then I swear to you and God Almighty that I will do whatever I must to make Trump the Republican nominee, thereby ensuring the best damn Presidential debates ever. Those two hair-plugged, brain-addled gasbags bloviating at each other would make for the most glorious spectacle in televised political history.

And Lo! it has come to pass, at long last, that we shall witness said spectacle!

Tomorrow night, President Trump and Vice President Biden are scheduled to meet in rhetorical battle, if “rhetorical” is even remotely appropriate to describe what drops from their maws. I expect the rationality of a goldfish on social media, the intellectual heft of a pile of gypsum, and the eloquence of a braying hyena, with dignity to match.

But that’s if it even happens. Turns out that a] Biden recently visited Governor Northam of Virginia, who tested positive for coronavirus, and b] the campaign has been putting early “lids” on Joe’s appearances this month, and we can’t tell if it’s to prepare for the debates or if he’s just not lucid on those days.

My guess is that Biden will do better than expected in the debate. He usually does; he’s spent nearly 50 years getting people to expect very little of him. If he’s lucid for the first 15-20 minutes of his own speaking time, I think he’ll be the “winner” by conventional wisdom. If his handlers know he’s not going to have a good night, I think he should use his opening statement to say something along the lines of, “I’m walking off in protest of Trump,” walk off, then let the press and his fans (BIRM) applaud the move. I think Biden needs to remain invisible for as much of the next six weeks as possible; the more people see of him, especially in unmanaged environments, the more likely he loses.

I still say that Trump would win relatively easily if he locked himself into a Captain Pike-style apparatus that would only permit him to answer “yes” or “no.” It would be less entertaining, but he’d save himself a good 90% of the trouble he gets into.

Either way, popcorn tomorrow night. Well, not actually popcorn, probably some air-fried chopped cauliflower with gobs of salt and butter, but you get the idea.

For the record, “The DNC simply won’t let Sanders be the candidate” was not a brilliant prediction, it was already happening in 2016 and there was every reason to think it would happen again this time. And… it did.

Fourth of July, 2020!

Happy 244th birthday to the United States, and happy 147th birthday to Calvin Coolidge!

As Independence Day drew near this year, I saw more mentions than usual of Frederick Douglass’s speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” This is unsurprising given the national mood, especially in the wake of Juneteenth receiving more attention than ever before. It is a masterpiece of righteous indignation, worth studying in its entirety.

The Better Douglas/s of that age gave this speech in 1852. It was… harsh. Here’s the short version: “The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretence, and your Christianity as a lie.”

He blasted those who favored slavery and those who weren’t doing enough to end it. He excoriated pro-slavers for ignoring the “all men are created equal” part of the Declaration. He called those who argued that the Constitution protected slavery “imposters.”* The preachers who defended slavery were so wretched that “I would say, welcome infidelity! welcome atheism! welcome anything! in preference to the gospel, as preached by those Divines!” He goes on in this strident vein for about an hour, according to the timestamp on the online full reading.

And yet, he closes on a note of great hope in the moral progress of our nation and the world. He’ll explain it better than I can, so here’s Douglass in closing, followed by William Lloyd Garrison’s “The Triumph of Freedom.”

Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work The downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from “the Declaration of Independence,” the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world, and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated.—Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are, distinctly heard on the other. The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, “Let there be Light,” has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen, in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. “Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand unto God.” In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:

God speed the year of jubilee
⁠⁠The wide world o′er!
⁠When from their galling chains set free,
⁠Th′ oppress′d shall vilely bend the knee,
⁠And wear the yoke of tyranny
⁠⁠Like brutes no more.
⁠That year will come, and freedom′s reign,
⁠To man his plundered rights again

⁠God speed the day when human blood
⁠⁠Shall cease to flow!
⁠In every clime be understood,
⁠The claims of human brotherhood,
⁠And each return for evil, good,
⁠⁠Not blow for blow;
⁠That day will come all feuds to end
⁠And change into a faithful friend
⁠⁠Each foe.

God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
⁠⁠When none on earth
⁠Shall exercise a lordly power,
⁠Nor in a tyrant's presence cower;
⁠But all to manhood′s stature tower,
⁠⁠By equal birth!
⁠That hour will come, to each, to all,
⁠And from his prison-house, the thrall
⁠⁠Go forth.

⁠Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
⁠With head, and heart, and hand I′ll strive,
⁠To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
⁠The spoiler of his prey deprive—
⁠⁠So witness Heaven!
⁠And never from my chosen post,
⁠Whate′er the peril or the cost,
⁠⁠Be driven.

We live in interesting (which is a generous way of saying difficult) times. But if such a man as Frederick Douglass– born a slave, hunted and targeted for much of his adult life, watching the house divide for exactly the reasons that made Jefferson tremble– could be optimistic about this country, then so should we.

*Douglass called the Constitution “a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT,” but acknowledged he was in the minority of abolitionist sentiment on that matter, and that “There is not time now to argue the constitutional question at length.”

On Juneteenth.

There are a few days on the calendar which might serve as an optimal holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. If we proceed chronologically through the events themselves rather than the calendar:

There’s September 22nd, which would mark the day in 1862 that President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Emancipation went into effect on January 1st, 1863.

The Civil War essentially ended on April 9th, 1865 with Lee’s surrender, and officially ended exactly one month later when President Johnson declared the rebellion to be over.

June 19th, 1865 is of course Juneteenth, which marks the day that the Emancipation took effect in Texas due to the arrival of a northern occupation army that would announce it and could enforce it…

…and full abolition was achieved on December 6th, 1865, with ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment.

June 19th is the obvious candidate for a full-fledged federal holiday, given that it was celebrated in Texas as early as 1866 and has grown in national awareness. There’s bipartisan support for making it a federal holiday, and little doubt that it will be one by this time next year. It is altogether fitting and proper that it should be so.

But something quite relevant gets left out of most narratives I’ve seen of late regarding the Emancipation, and Juneteenth, and the Abolition. For something like a year, year-and-a-half after the war ended, emancipation was enforced only where there was a northern army nearby to enforce it. There are records of many slaves being freed by northern troops, only to be re-enslaved as the Yankees marched to another area. Silly old yarnspinner Bailey’s American Pageant refers to a North Carolinian man who was freed, re-enslaved, re-freed, and so on, a dozen times by his estimate. The lesson, I think, is that no matter what laws are written in the books, you have to be vigilant in guarding liberty– your own, and that of others who can’t guard it themselves.

In addition to going on the record in support of a federal Juneteenth holiday, I’d also like to register my irritation at seeing so many former students on social media lament that they were never taught about this, or never taught about that. I would like to tell my extremely diligent and conscientious former students that there’s an awful lot of stuff that you may not have learned, but you definitely were taught.

Happy 110th!

Today would have been my grandmother’s 110th birthday. Here she is with, presumably, my dad’s cat Waglio, which would mean this was taken in the late 60s, or maybe the 70s. No clue where it was taken.

It’s not the best picture of her out there. The composition is off a bit. You can see the photographer’s shadow at the bottom right. You can’t see her face and the cat looks to be in an awkward pose. Maybe he’s getting settled, who knows. But it occurs to me that I can’t think of many pictures of my grandmother (or grandfather for that matter) with pets, so it’s a bit of a novelty to me. In fact, I’m not sure they had any pets at all aside from this one. Either way, here it is: Gram either petting, or adjusting, or possibly advising Waglio.

Happy birthday!

Happy 120th!

Every year I post a digital birthday card for my grandfather. 2020 is a year, so here’s the card: Grampa with Gram and my dad on a beach. I believe the car is a Nash Statesman, but if it isn’t I’ll get corrected soon enough.

They’re not quite in their Sunday finest; for instance, my grandfather’s not wearing a tie in this shot. But the ancient broad outlines on a sedan big enough that I could probably park my own sedan inside, the woman in a shin-length dress, the man in slacks and a jacket on an otherwise empty beach, and nobody hamming or glamming it up for social media purposes, all speak to a very different time. That, and the photo’s in black and white.

The driver’s door being slightly ajar nags at me, though.

Grampa would’ve turned 120 today if he hadn’t died returning the three phantom centuries to our space-time continuum.

On pandemiconomics, part two.

Last time I left off with a promise that I’d resume my blathering on Thursday, which was pushed back to Friday in one of the comments. That clearly didn’t happen, so there goes my credibility. Anyhow, I don’t think the stimulus is actually going to stimulate, but I also don’t think it was a mistake. This is an odd position for me to be in, because my list of “economic stuff the government should do” is much shorter than most. (Proceeds to rattle off three things.)

I think that generally, the best things a government can do to help an economy out of recession are [A] to ease excessive tax or regulatory burdens on the economy, [B] keep inflation slow and low (given government control of the currency), and [C] nothing. [A]’s pretty straightforward and obvious; note the use of the word “excessive.” [B] will get me in trouble with my more hardcore libertarian/free-market readers, but I only have, like, three readers so we’re talking about one guy. [C]’s cool, but as I’ve said before, [C] loses elections unless you do the nothing early enough in your term that the nothing pays off and the economy recovers in time for the election. But if [A] and [B] are in place, then the government should do [C] so the market can work its wonders.

So why isn’t this “stimulus,” or as the letter from Presidente Donald J. Trump, printed in both English and Spanish, more appropriately calls it, this “Economic Impact Payment” necessarily a mistake?

Because in this case, the government– Trump, the feds, the governors, the states– forbade a lot of the economic activity that falls under the rubric of “the market working its wonders.” Those of you who took econ classes, you know how, like, supply and demand seek equilibrium when unfettered? How if butchers aren’t making money, then fewer butchers will butch and they’ll start looking for other work? Or if brewers are making lots of money, then more brewers will enter the industry to soak up the economic profits? Or if bakers are charging too much, then Q-sub-D will fall until– you know what, I’m not going to reteach the entire class here, you get the idea.

The invisible hand can’t work its magic if the butcher, the brewer, and the baker aren’t allowed to work.

The economic impact payment (EIP) isn’t going to stimulate the overall economy; I think production is going to drop too much for that to be possible. But what it might do, what it hopefully will do, is serve as a temporary bailout for those who aren’t allowed to work. (Warning: callousness ahead.) I don’t mean bail out everybody who’s out of work– because I guarantee that the invisible hand wants to shift many of those folks into different jobs. If I lose my job as a public school teacher because the marketplace falls in love with online teaching and I become redundant, then that’s on me to find or create new work, same as if times were normal. But if I’m not allowed to do my job,* then I think that’s a violation of my rights– perhaps a necessary one given the pandemic– and the government owes compensation.

Here’s the tricky, maybe weaselly** part: it’s tough to distinguish those who are out of work because of structural changes underway (i.e., the economy is transforming and demand for different types of jobs is shifting) from those who are out of work solely because the government says so (for good reason, granted). In some cases, someone may be out of work for a combination of the two reasons. So rather than sort the two groups out, and rather than determine how responsible the government is for your unemployment, the feds just sent checks to everybody because it was fast and simple. They said they’ll clean up the mess later (which means they won’t ever clean up the mess, but ignore that for now).

So: the EIPs aren’t going to stimulate, but they aren’t a mistake because the government needs to make up for putting people out of work. Yes, it was out of apparent necessity and an abundance of precaution, but the feds need to make up for it.

More analysis soon. Night night for now.

*I should specify: “my private sector job.” The public sector has the right to take away “my” public sector job.

**”Maybe weaselly” because I’ll concede the possibility that I have abandoned principle in the face of economic disaster. But I didn’t like stimulus checks in 2008, and I didn’t like them in 2001, and I have no reason to believe they would have helped in 1982, or 1973, or 1946, or 1929, and so on. This is a case of Uncle Sam saying “You’re not allowed to earn money for the next few weeks.” That didn’t happen in any other recession I can think of (though you could argue that conscription of labor and other resources in our major wars might be analogous). So if Trump tells me I have to close my store, and won’t allow me to make a go of it with social distancing and masks and proper hygiene and occupancy limits, he’d better cut me a check.