Sunday, February 28, 2016

I Told You So

I'm going to indulge in a little self-serving "I told you so" action today.

First up: Life in the Universe:

On February 22, 2016 Discover Magazine reported that Earth May Be a 1-in-700-Quintillion Kind of Place. They describe an study [pdf] done by astrophysicist Erik Zackrisson from Uppsala University in Sweden. Zackrisson's computer model suggests that there is a chance that Earth is the only life-supporting planet in the Universe.

I told you so. Back in April of 2014, I posted The Anti-Life Equation, in which I discussed the Drake Equation, the Fermi Paradox, the Great Filter. I also describe my long-held suspicion that Earth may be the very first planet in the observable Universe to develop sentient life. I've never based this on hard math, as it's a pointless exercise. My estimation is based on some internal modeling more akin to geometry of sculpting with clay than math. In other words, my estimations are no more rigorous than the Drake Equation itself. I've been arguing this counterpoint since I first heard of the Drake Equation described in Cosmos: A Personal Voyage back in 1980, and had the good fortune to have actually written it down. Thirty-six years of smiles and nods gives me the right to shake a fist.

OK. I'm done crowing.

Zachrisson's model isn't perfect. For one thing, it models according to criteria gleaned from the exoplanets that we've actually discovered, and that's a pretty miniscule sample. But it is enough to tell us that truly Earthlike planets aren't nearly as common as Drake supposed. This study does not prove anything. It most certainly doesn't prove that the Earth is unique in the Universe. But it does demonstrate that it's not the raving of a crackpot to posit that it may be.

Next up: NASA vs The Moon

On February 25, 2016 Ars Technica reported that former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin had harsh words for the space agency. In a congressional hearing, Griffin took the agency to task for their diaphanous plan for a direct manned mission to Mars which we can neither afford nor sustain. Not to mention the fact that we don't even have the tech. The article points out that he's joining a growing number of critics

It's wonderful that in 2016 criticism about this ridiculous "plan" of President Obama's has mainstream support. You can look at me all you like for putting the blame on his desk, but it flatly belongs nowhere else. It's exactly what you get when you give an ignorant politician the reins of an engineering challenge. I've moaned about that before as well, in 2006. In 2015 I offered the opinion that we were better off without NASA's political friction at all, and doubled down when called on it. In So What's the Moon, Chopped Liver? I quoted Obama's vapid statement in 2010 and specifically called him on his lack of vision. In that article I pointed out the obvious utility of the Moon as a staging platform for future missions.

I don't mention this to claim that I have great vision and foresight. I bring it up because I'm seriously curious as to how monumentally stupid you can be and still have a job as a NASA chief under this Administration. You don't have to be a bloody genius to figure this stuff out. It may even get in the way. I didn't see Neil Degrasse Tyson or Buzz Aldrin speaking sense to the White House. They'd rather appease the dumb ass who's got the money and appoints the administrators than do some actual science.

So I repeat my previous statements of last year. We're better off without NASA, at least in its present form. We need to take the politics out of NASA... or better yet, take NASA out of politics. Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) is at least on the right track when he says,  “We need to ensure that we take the politics out of science and provide NASA with clear direction and guidance that outlasts the political whims of any one presidential administration—and the political whims of Congress.” But he's still a politician with a political mind, and he and would have them going back to Congress for budget. I hope that's a compromise position based on what he thinks people would accept, because a far better choice is to spin it off from the government entirely. Make it a privatized corporation, and make the Government put out requests for bid when the Government wants to fund a project. And then take off some regulatory shackles so that we can have commercial flights to the Moon and beyond. Make them engage in competition and co-opetition with the likes of Space-X, Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, and others. We would have our permanent Moon base, with smaller, more efficient transport in the time it takes government-run projects to decide what color desks to buy.

That's all for today. It may be the only two times that this stopped clock is right today, but I'm still pointing them out.

Bernie dies from a thousand cuts?

Last week it was the Republican Primary in South Carolina; last night it was the Democrats' turn. Here are the results:

What a boring exercise. There were no fireworks. Sanders didn't even show up to campaign. That didn't keep Talk Radio from trying to drum up a little excitement, though... one commentator on WORD 106.3 remarked that Clinton walked away with the popular vote because Bernie Sanders was away in Texas, talking to 10,000 White people.

There's some meat to that snark. The South Carolina Democratic Party membership is largely Black. And it doesn't look like they're feeling the Bern. Eighty-seven percent of them voted for Hillary, according to exit polls, as did 53% of Whites did. I grew up in a Black school (here), and Blacks in South Carolina are perhaps more conservative (ok, let's compromise with "centrist") than the Yankee pundits might believe. Around here we call it "home trainin'" and it centers on taking responsibility for yourself. And though the Democratic Party is largely Black, there are a good number of Blacks in the Republican Party as well, including one of only two Blacks in the US Senate, Tim Scott. We could not have a Republican governor and legislature without that. You can't tell from elected officials, and no one in the state has to register party affiliation, and party affiliation here leans Democratic at the local level and gets progressively more Republican the closer you get to the National level; so there is some fuzziness in the numbers. What isn't fuzzy is that the folks who voted yesterday didn't feel that an old Jewish Senator from Vermont would represent their interests.

The aversion to Sanders in this state is such that there were self-reports of groups of Republicans who held back to vote in the Democratic election because they'd rather see another Clinton in the race than a Socialist. (Unlike Trump, who actively courted Democrats to vote in the Republican open primary, Clinton didn't seek this "support". In this case the votes were squarely against Sanders.

When you map the results by county, Sanders won nothing. Not a single county, not a single district. That does pose the question of where he got those 12 delegates, doesn't it? It's a proportional allocation based on yadda yadda blah blah. Basically, everybody gets a trophy (or, if you prefer, the states where the candidate lost still get representation in the National Convention, should the other states go his way).


We've known for a while now that this was going to be about the Black vote. As Janell Ross noted in the Washington Post, "For the first time in what may be, well, ever, there is a genuine competition for the black vote — a critical and now very much proven portion of any winning Democrat’s coalition."

Except there wasn't. Sanders was a no-show.

Sanders' strategy is a bit puzzling. Since it is a proportional allocation, he could have gotten more delegates had he put in some more effort. But he's going for big, showy crowds, and I have to assume that he's using the "sizzle sells the steak" strategy. If you look like a winner, then people will vote for you purely because you're a winner. (According to a friend, a woman in Texas just admitted to just that kind of thinking on cable news... she only supports 'winners'.) I suppose this is a winning strategy if you're actually selling the steak. Under normal circumstances, I'd say you can't sell the sizzle alone.

But as this piece in points out. Clinton is well on track to win the Democratic nomination. While Sanders is winning some delegates, he's winning far less than the number he'll need to pull out an overall win. Proportional states matter. If it goes on like this, Sanders' campaign will die the death of a thousand small cuts. We'll have to see what happens Super Tuesday. And frankly, I'm not calling this one way or the other until somebody's tuchus is sitting in the Oval Office. This year it looks like anything can happen.

Nevertheless, I can't imagine any circumstance where Bernie Sanders does not stay in the race until the fat lady sings at the Democratic Convention. Even if Sanders loses every state from here on out, he still has an outside chance at a win should Clinton's worst-case scenario come about: that of being indicted for mishandling classified information without a pardon from Obama. So Sanders might as well just sit it out.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Is It Immoral Not To Vote?

In "Don't Vote, It's Your Right", I took issue with the commonly-stated idea that "If you don't vote, you can't complain". I point out that, not only is it your right to abstain, but that your First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, association, and the right to petition for the redress of grievances are not contingent upon your participation in a voting booth. Thus, not only do you always have the right to complain, but it is as unalienable as any other right that is acknowledged (not "granted", mind you) by the Constitution. I take this to be a statement of fact, not opinion.

Concurrent with that, I made an incidental argument that if anyone had no business complaining, it is those who participated in the voting process, as their participation in the process indicates their willingness to be held to the result.

But prior to that, I opened with a description of the "broken" open primary system here in South Carolina and use Donald Trump's open solicitation of Democrats to vote in the Republican primary as an example of its brokenness. I wrap it up with an appeal to Instant Runoff Voting, which I believe would fix the most egregious "brokenness" of our popular elections without necessitating any great changes to our electoral system.

The first of the responses I received, in a political forum, was fairly rude. Even after a lengthy explanation, his rebuttal was that not voting at all makes you a "lazy shit". Quite the intellectual tour de force. My response was via South Park example.


Fortunately my friends are more intellectually interesting than my acquaintances. Here's a more thoughtful response.
I've been thinking about this a lot over the past week. Obviously people have a legal right to not vote. And yet ethics and morals are developed in a social context, not an individual one, and their exercise have community repercussions. To not try and stop Donald Trump's becoming president reminds me of Edmund Burke's observation that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
I wish I were that concise. This has good vs. evil... the good of the many.... it has Edmund Burke, for cryin' out loud. And yet I take exception. Here's why:

Let's start with the "legal right" of the People to abstain. It is not merely a legal right. As I've already pointed out, it is an inalienable Right, making it extralegal. It may therefore be exercised as a moral right, and it will be clear why that's important in a moment.


Next, ethics and morals are lumped together. It's common for philosophers to make no distinction, and often we're told that the difference is subtle, but I don't find that to be the case (and honestly, I don't think they do either, as I'll show). I do draw a distinction, and along the usual lines.

  • Ethics are standards of good and bad, right and wrong, imposed by an outside group; a professional organization, for example. Ethical conduct is that which conforms to those standards adopted by the group, regardless of what that conduct may be. Ethics are legalistic and lack the weight of personal conviction.
  • Morals are also standards of good and bad, but they are guided by conscience, or an internal "sense" of Right and Wrong. Morals are intensely personal. In a religious context, even though it's often claimed that morality is "dictated by the Church", this isn't the case. Any member of the religion will tell you that he or she has accepted the deity "into their heart". Morals are taught and accepted, but cannot be imposed. In fact, when a Church has attempted to impose morals it has inevitably led to the splintering of that church, as in the case of Catholicism vs. innumerable Protestant denominations. Literally, "protesters".

So, while it's right to  say that ethics are developed in a social context, it's not necessarily true of morality. While ethics and morality may coincide, that's not a given. A distinction is necessary because it is obvious that you do not require societal agreement to regard someone's actions as immoral. And conduct may be completely ethical and completely immoral at the same time. ISIS beheads Christians, Jews, Yazidis, and others. They take this to be a moral imperative. And while I must allow that, taken in a social context, it is ethical, I flatly deny its morality.

And here we have a paradox. Those who adhere to morals in a religious sense commonly claim that they do so because they adhere to objective, universal standards laid down by God. But we have free will, and disagree in the most broad sense as to what those standards actually are. And those who prefer ethics point to the good of Society, sometimes to the detriment of the individuals of which that society is comprised. But for all of the philosophers' claim that there is no distinction between the two concepts, they find that distinction in record time when someone speaks of "imposing morality". They note immediately that an imposed morality looks a lot like tyranny, but they rarely if ever say the same of ethics, which is exactly that, by their definition fairly applied. The two are confusing, yes, but they are nevertheless distinct.


The bottom line is, that even in extreme cases of murder, we can't completely agree on what is moral, much less what is ethical. Societies and individuals alike argue incessantly over whether there can be a "just war"; whether it is permissible to use deadly force for self-defense, and whether abortion is moral/ethical. I have certainly heard Democrats and Republicans each vehemently proclaim the character deficiencies of the other side. A moral argument is necessarily a matter of "preaching to the choir". But you have to remember there's more than one choir.

I am neither Republican nor Democrat. There should be little wonder why I find it unconvincing to impose an onus to vote for a limited choice of candidates based on a moral or ethical argument. It's the obvious imposition of a false dichotomy. Who is going to make this argument stick? Who is going to look me in the eye and earnestly convince me that I must choose between Fascism and Socialism; that I should take even one step toward Hitler or Stalin? I say I can oppose both.

This isn't what I call "choice"

With all due respect to Edmund Burke, allowing two enemies to fight each other while you wait it out is not the same as doing nothing. Turning away from that false dichotomy to directly face the People and say that ideas can be considered on their own merit without the baggage of team politics is not doing nothing.

Don't misconstrue this to mean that I think Trump and Sanders are Hitler and Stalin. I personally find it quite easy to disagree with someone without concluding that they are "evil" in a moral sense. In my last post I used Trump merely as an example of someone who was gaming the system. Here, I'm using extreme examples to eliminate ambiguity and make the point clear.


So let's look one last time at your conclusion:
To not try and stop Donald Trump's becoming president reminds me of Edmund Burke's observation that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
You seem to conclude that because you don't like one candidate, then I, who don't agree with either candidate, should vote for your candidate anyway because your candidate opposes one we both don't like. This, though the identical argument is made by the other side.

No sale.

In a free society, it is neither moral nor ethical to force a person to choose between what they see as two evils.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What Rubik's Cube taught me about Human Nature

Everybody's seen one.
One of my sons has taken an interest in Rubik's cubes. Today I pointed him to a box in the basement where I have over the years collected not just Cubes, but similar geometric puzzles of every sort. For a number of years I was practically addicted to the things... twisty, sliding colorful puzzles of all sizes and shapes.

Right now, as I write this, he's in hog heaven, rummaging through that box.


When Rubik's Cube was released in the U.S. in 1980, I was still in high school.

I didn't buy my first Cube. It was given to me by my German teacher, Mrs. Nora Esterhazy. She showed me the thing and casually said, "This is rather clever. I think maybe you can solve it."

It took me two weeks to solve it the first time. And you should be aware that back then there were no books and no YouTube videos to walk you through a solution. It was hard. At first I was fairly frustrated, as I would work to make one face all the same color only to see that work undone as I started on another face. Finally I asked myself the obvious, "well, what does a solved Cube look like?" What followed was the revelation that a face was not complete unless the colors along the edges were solved as well. This led to the epiphany that I shouldn't attempt to solve six faces... I should solve three tiers. That understanding alone is 70% of solving the entire puzzle, in my estimation.


Of course, the Cube became immensely popular. You'd see them everywhere. And often I'd hear people claim that they solved some number of faces. Some of these were "mathematically improbable", to put it nicely. I strongly doubt any of them had completed more than one face, but I never pushed the matter. Desirous of being helpful, but not wanting to give away the solution and spoil their fun, I'd look at their work and point out that they hadn't actually solved any faces.

I thought this was kind. After all, three tiers is a lot easier to solve than six faces. Half the work is gone in a single puff of logic. I thought they'd appreciate knowing this truth.

They didn't.

They got mad.

Granted, there were some individuals who got the message and for whom the light went on. But more often than not, the recipients of my advice were immensely proud of the screwed-up, improperly completed single face that they had worked so hard on, and they were resentful that I had stolen that accomplishment from them... that I had marginalized their effort. Never mind that they hadn't actually accomplished what they thought they had. In their view they had, and I, Dave Leigh, took it away by merely presenting a rational point of view.


Some people don't want a rational point of view. They don't think strategically, about what will solve the entire problem, and how to get there. Rather, they look at one face at a time, with each "solution" screwing up a previous "solution", with very little understanding of why that's so.

But they are proud of their small victories that never lead to total success.

They are resentful when objective reality isn't as they imagine it to be, and they are content to reject that reality in favor of their own misguided, doomed conception of the same. And some of them will continue to reject it even when you show them the solution.

The Cube is just a puzzle. But then again, Life is filled with puzzles. And I learned 36 years ago that some people just aren't interested in real solutions.

Everything in this post is 100% historically accurate. No fables today. Or perhaps, more to the point... sometimes life itself is the fable.

Monday, February 22, 2016

His Own Worst Enemy

I've pointed out in a previous post that Donald Trump was the subject of a poll in which 60% of the respondents said they would not vote for him under any circumstances. Yesterday I pointed out that the numbers from the South Carolina primary bore this out. I didn't say it then, but the New Hampshire poll did too.

You see, both of these races are open Republican primaries. It's very easy for Democrats to simply walk in and vote... and those that can't bring themselves to vote for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton do. And those that do, vote Trump. So the number should be skewed somewhat in Trump's favor.

In case you missed it, here are the New Hampshire numbers:

Good Lord, that's a lot of candidates! I had to squeeze the screen pretty tight to get all of them in one graphic. Trump wins with 35.3%. Impressive, right? All those faces to choose from, and they're voting for Trump... He's got a big number, they've got little numbers. Landslide, right?

Not so fast. NINE of those faces don't show up in the South Carolina results. OK, so only five of them received enough votes to count. If the Trump supporters are right and there's this upswell of support, we'd expect to see some of their votes move over to Trump in the South Carolina open primary. Those drop-outs got 12.4% of the vote in New Hampshire, and if that kind of support got moved over in total, then you'd expect Trump to pull out as much as 47.7% of the vote. Obviously, every state is different, but we're still making fewer, bigger cuts in the pie.

And remember, he was openly courting Democratic voters. He had "open primary" written all over his trucks and on the name tags of his volunteers. He's also trying to increase the size of the pie to his benefit.

So how did he do?  

Yeah, that's right. With twelve and a half additional percentage points up for grabs, he did worse in in the popular vote in South Carolina than he did in New Hampshire. The votes... all of them and then some... went to the other candidates.

Yes, he did pick up all 50 of South Carolina's delegates, but I can't see that as anything special. This indicates broad geographic support, but not that it's particularly deep. And despite it being touted as "historic" by some pundits, we have to realize that South Carolina only went from winner-take-all to a modified (half-proportional) system in 2000. We have barely enough elections behind us to declare "trends", much less be excited by them.

This is really, really not looking good for the Trump campaign in the general election. In fact, it's making me re-think my previous analysis. This race is going to be a lot tighter than anyone ever guessed. It may actually come down to voters being stuck with what's left after every after all the better choices have annihilated each other. On the one hand you've got large-scale Democratic defection (as much as 20%) countered by sometimes bizarre primary rules; and on the other hand you've got Trump benefiting from split opposition while alienating his base. But it's not just Trump doing the alienating...'s his supporters.

Leadership is done by example, and we're seeing it at work. Trump supporters have shown that they can be as boorish, obnoxious, and distasteful as their leader. Just as he eschews details in favor of platitudes, they reject details and have taken up sloganeering.

Here's one response to yesterday's post (name withheld):
And more than 77+% of those who voted yesterday said they didn't want Rubio. And 77+% of those who voted yesterday said they didn't want little Rafael. And an astonishing 92+% said they didn't want the Jebber. So your point is? I would say your point is, wait for it, pointless!
Now, this dude's not even understanding that I'm looking ahead to the general election and that I'm taking into account a poll that asks who you would never vote for. The general election isn't going to be some big three-way brawl where you can squeak by with 40% of the popular vote. You have to do better. Hell, if it's true that 60% of people won't vote for him at all, then Trump could lose the nomination entirely if as little as one more candidate drops out. The point is, you have to do better than that.

And then there was this brilliant exchange:

Skippy here thinks he's playing a game. Hell, he's perfectly content not to think at all. If you take him at his word, he's ignorant of the point being argued because he doesn't read. He doesn't expend any effort... he just repeats what he was told.

If you want to view it as a game, fine. You have to think strategically and tactically. Those 50 delegates are not a golden ticket that entitles you to the votes of every party member in the general election. Some of them are going to stay home. Some may cast their vote toward Gary Johnson, or even burn their vote on Donald Duck. And you're not going to fix that by standing there spouting non sequiturs and playing stupid.

I hope you're playing. As devotees of Poe's Law understand, it's often impossible to tell a parody from the thing being parodied.


One more bit of math. Although 20% of Democrats may choose not to vote for either Clinton or Sanders, that doesn't mean Trump will benefit from that 20%. Many will stay home. If the Trump poll numbers hold true across this population, the best Trump can optimistically count on is 40% of the 20%, or an 8% boost. In the general election, that eight percent is very tight, and may not be enough to win. Every other vote is one that will have to be fought for, using some skills that we haven't seen from Trump yet.

Ladies and gentlemen, in a race where each party is seemingly intent on throwing away as much support as possible, it is possible for anyone to win. But it is not enough that you are excited about your candidate. You have to make other people excited. Those people are far more issue-oriented and detail-conscious than you are, judging from the evidence. And you are not going to to win them over with jibes and bad behavior. At some point you have to get serious and talk sense.


You may think that all this "anti-Trump" talk has me in the Democratic camp. Maybe you think I'm "feelin' the Bern"... nothing could be further from the truth. But that's a discussion for another time, once the Democrats have had their day at the polls.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

We Still Need IRV

It's an astonishing thing really. Every time which I firmly believe to be satire, it turns out to be a bloody prophecy instead. In this case I'm thinking of a satirical bit I wrote back in July, 2015 called Vote for Donald! In it I point out that "over 60% of people responding to polls have indicated that they would not vote for Trump for President under any circumstances whatsoever."[1]

That actually held true in yesterday's Republican primary in South Carolina. Look at the numbers as supplied by the Associated Press this morning:

There it is, in black-and-white... 67.5% of South Carolinians voting in the primary would rather have someone other than Trump. By any measure... and it's not even close... he's not preferred by the majority.

And yet he "won".

This leads once again to my every-four-year rant regarding plurality voting.

Plurality voting is the system we currently have whereby the candidate with the most votes wins. As you can see for yourself, it's not necessarily the candidate with the most support. It is obvious that it is possible for a population to be stuck with the "leadership" of a candidate that most of them strongly oppose. All that's needed is for the opposition to be split.

This sort of result is what we get when we have a system that presupposes the participation of only two candidates. We get a two-party system which actively works to marginalize alternatives, no matter how broadly their ideas are accepted. This same two-party system opposes the sort of reform that would bring meaningful, beneficial change to politics. And within a party it is possible to "game" the system by encouraging "spoilers" to participate. The people who best illustrate the need for reform are the ones most likely to impede it, as they are not only the same ones who benefit the most from the current system, but the ones most empowered to perpetuate it.

What's needed to combat gaming the system is a system where the  issues actually matter in the voting process. The solution is Instant Run-off (or "Ranked Choice") voting.

Of course, you are free to remain in an unfair system if you so choose. Perhaps you benefit from it yourself. But I think that if most people knew of a viable alternative, they'd change the system as have the people of Australia, Ireland, London, New Zealand, and a number of municipalities in the United States. So each election I follow up my rant with a letter-writing campaign.

Here's a slideshow explanation, using Muppets. Click or use your arrow keys to navigate the slides. If you go full-screen, then pressing Esc will restore you to the blog:

Instant run-off voting encourages voters and candidates to focus on issues, not ad hominem. Furthermore, this breaks the two-party stranglehold on election politics, as voters are empowered to vote honestly, knowing that their vote is not "wasted" should their preferred candidate not win. This is a strong encouragement of third-party participation and increased diversity.

You might not get your favorite candidate, but under this system the voters will always elect a candidate that the maximum number of citizens can best live with.


I linked to this video yesterday before the votes were tallied, and I'll do it again now:

Here's another video that illustrates it, perhaps a little more clearly:

[1] A clueless commentator (CC) rather rudely pointed out that over 77% of those who voted yesterday said they didn't want Rubio or Cruz, and that over 92% didn't want Bush. He therefore declares the entire concept pointless. Of course, his general demeanor and lack of grammar and civility indicates that he's not in the habit of expending much thought about such things. The ideal Trump supporter. I suggested he might want to try actually testing the theory instead instead of summarily declaring it pointless.

For my part, I consider it tested. As I mentioned above, polls have already been taken that indicate Trump a least favorite candidate among all voters. The same poll indicated he could pull out a win in a three-way race. Thus far nothing has disproved the accuracy of these numbers. Cruz supporters do not flock to Trump when Cruz is removed from the race. And name-calling the candidates doesn't prove a point.

That a clueless Trump supporter who happened to have benefitted from a broken system continues to support that system merely proves that my point is anything but pointless. He couldn't have illustrated the need for Instant Run-off voting better had he actually tried.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Don't Vote. It's Your Right.

It's Primary election season, and in particular it's election day in South Carolina if you're voting in the Republican Primary.

South Carolina's primary is interesting in that it is an open primary. This is the day when Democrats turn out in force to vote for the Republican candidate that they think will perform the worst against a Democrat in a general election.

Or perhaps it's a good time to just jump the fence. Trump's campaign is counting on it. He knows that up to 20% of Democrats can be made to defect. Those include Democrats that can't endorse Clinton's baggage or Sanders' socialism. He has no intention of winning with Republican votes alone. And that's OK... you expect to appeal to more than just your party in the general election.

Photo by Stacy Mae via Facebook
Where Trump differs is that he's actively targeting Democrats in the Republican primary. Click to "embiggen" the photo above and note the "Open Primary" on the campaign sign.

We might see a little more of that next week during the Democratic primary, which is also open. Bernie Sanders is actively courting Rand Paul voters, and that's perfectly fine, too, even though I think Sanders is mistaken in the belief that their support of legal marijuana is based on a desire for marijuana vs. a desire for Liberty. (In fact if you talk to them, you'll find out that they have very little interest in "legalizing" marijuana. They want to repeal the laws that criminalize it in the first place. It's not really a subtle difference.)


And this brings up a point... it's a common tactic during elections to drum up votes by shaming people into voting. They tell you how much it's your duty to vote, that "you can't complain" if you don't vote, etc.
99.44% of the time they have no interest in you going to just cast a vote. Rather, they want you to cast a vote in their direction. 
If that doesn't describe you... then you're part of the 0.56%. Congrats.
That's really visible in the case of an open primary where people can "tactically vote" for the other side. If they were voting honestly and fairly, the "correct" thing to do in the case of another party's primary would be to not vote at all. To abstain, and then vote in their own primary.

But that's not the only time when it makes sense not to vote.

Look... you're not doing anyone any favors if you're voting just to vote. The American electoral system is based on the idea that people will vote in their interest... and it being a republic, that they will vote for people to represent those interests. Lacking that, they should stand for election and represent their own interests. This has long since been perverted into a party system, and for many reasons (for instance, lack of money or political talent) an individual may not be able to represent their own interests politically. The system that we have actively discourages participation by any but Republicans and Democrats, neither of which may represent you at all. It's not to your advantage to compromise your interests just to go through the motions of pushing a button or pulling a lever when you're told.

Here are completely valid reasons not to vote:
  1. There is no candidate with whom you agree. For instance, a die-hard Rand Paul fan might find himself without a voice now that his candidate has dropped out of the race. In this primary election he may be completely without representation, and thus may choose to abstain. This is reasonable.
  2. You may be ignorant of the candidates' views. Sure, you should have done your homework long before election day, but you didn't and it's water under the bridge. The fact remains that you can't make an informed decision, and your "duty" as a voter is not to "cast a vote"... it's to cast an informed one. You're not going to satisfy that duty by cramming on election day. Rather than let the alphabet, or pure chance decide for you, you abstain. This allows the decision to be made by informed minds. This is reasonable. 
  3. Same as 2, but you're being guilt-tripped into it by people who are trying to steal your voice. They want you cast a proxy vote for them. In other words, they want to cheat. Typically they'll send a bus 'round to take you to the polls and "educate" you as to who to vote for on the way. They don't see it as cheating, because they're all wrapped up in the larger cause that they're pursuing. It's vitally important to them that "Candidate Jones" gets elected, and they don't even think about whether you vote for a candidate of your free, unfettered, and informed choice. Should you push back because you're feeling manipulated or imposed upon, then it's because you are. This is reasonable.
Basically, if you don't want to vote, it is your right to abstain. You no more have to give your reasons than they have to tell you who they voted for.


So what about the people who tell you that you've forfeited your right to complain if you don't vote?

Well basically, they're full of shit, and I won't tell you that without explanation:
  1. Your First Amendment right to free speech and more especially to petition the government for the redress of grievances is not constrained by whether or not you cast a vote. Ever. It is an unalienable right which may not be abridged. So "Mr. You-can't-complain" is simply full of shit, as he's suggesting an unconstitutional penalty for your choice to abstain, and therefore has neither the business nor the wisdom to coach you on election politics. This trumps any other excuse he may throw at you, without any exception whatsoever.
That's it. A list of one.

I actually had a long list of reasons; but basically, they're unnecessary.
  • the fact that you had no viable candidate for whom to vote; 
  • the fact that you may have already participated in the electoral system by financially or otherwise supporting a candidate who didn't survive to be on your ballot;
  • the fact that the "informed voters" chose so poorly in not only the general election, but in a succession of primary elections leading up to yours that you were faced with this non-choice; 
  • the fact that we have a plurality election system that allows a candidate to "win" an election despite having two thirds of the vote cast in favor of anyone but that candidate (instead of a vastly more reasonable instant run-off system)
... all of these are valid reasons to complain, whether you voted or not. But be assured that they are all eclipsed by the fact that free speech is your right.

If anything, the person who does vote has no business complaining. He's the one who willingly took part in a system that by many objective standards is completely broken. If he casts a vote and the majority wins, whether he's a part of that majority or not, then he has agreed to take part in and accept the results of this broken system.

So he's the one who should STFU and stop bitching.


If you really want to see less post-election complaining, then don't guilt-trip citizens out of their First Amendment right to air grievances. Rather, you should advocate a switch to a system that's not broken.

You might not get your favorite candidate, but under this system the voters will always elect a candidate that the maximum number of citizens can best live with.

And by the way... you'll note that this is not the kind of positive change that can ever be effected by telling they have no say because they didn't endorse the system they want to replace.


Someone already disagrees... can't say I'm surprised. The gist of it:
If you're not informed, then its your fault. If your favorite candidate isn't there, then vote against your least favorite or spoil your vote. But not voting at all makes you a "lazy shit".
In response, I should mention this... if you're abstaining just because you're lazy, then I don't like that at all. But your rights are not determined by what I like.

It's still your right to abstain, and you still have the right to complain. Keep in mind that I'm primarily blogging against telling people they can't complain, which is just plain false. I'm not advocating not voting... but I don't endorse elections that are decided by uninformed voters. So I encourage you to inform yourself or don't vote. If you're ignorant, and you want to stay home, do it. It's the best thing you can do. Furthermore, I don't encourage people to be forced to choose between a giant douche and a turd sandwich. That's a false dichotomy. You have other choices, one of which is to abstain. Sure, you could write in "Porky Pig", but that's a different message than "I'm not going to participate in this process". You have that Constitutional right to abstain whether some bully wants you to exercise it or not.

But if someone abstains because it's their choice not to vote... because their interests are not represented, or are best expressed by actively abstaining... that's the complete opposite of being a "lazy shit", and you would do well to recognize the difference.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

On the passing of Antonin Scalia.

Antonin Scalia.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead at a Texas ranch last Saturday, of apparently natural causes. Because this is a blog and not a news aggregator, I won't be posting follow-ups.

Just know that any person who has gone through the vetting process necessary to become a Supreme Court Justice is there for the purpose of justice, whether you agree with their opinions or not.

Our politicians know this, and I believe that their expressions of loss are sincere: [link]


I've found myself inclined to distance myself from some personal connections over the incident, at least for a while. Scalia's body wasn't cold before I was raking through social media posts in which people declared their delight at the news.

That's right. Delight.

Hell, I didn't even express delight when bin Laden, Qaddafi, or Saddam Hussein died. Some deaths are necessary. They're not cause for celebration. And while I know there are people who celebrated those deaths, I think those people were being asshats. I have never expressed delight over the death of any Supreme Court Justice. And if you celebrated this death, then I think you're being an asshat as well.

The most astonishing statement came from a friend of whom I expected more. I won't quote it here, because I don't want to directly identify them and thus cause them strife. But as similar points are expressed by others on social media, I feel the need to respond. Here's the gist of it.
Scalia's very existence was threatening beyond all other threats. His death is a relief equivalent to that of having a police sniper kill a screaming terrorist who is holding a gun to your head. The glee that they have expressed is due to this overwhelming relief from this primal terror, and if you don't approve of that glee, then you're disconnected.
Furthermore, Scalia's death is a lesson in white privilege because it allowed them to understand that Black Americans feel this very same abject terror every moment of their lives, and therefore they must rejoice in the same way when police officers die. Only more so, because hey, they're Black.
To that, I must say... you're right. I can not grok that threat because my brain is incapable of generating that incalculable level of immature, self-serving, soft-racist condescension.


Firstly, we all know of judges that disagree with us politically.  All of us. You don't learn anything about white privilege from that. You just don't. And you don't get a pass for claiming that your problems are bigger everyone else's because [queue violin]. You don't know their problems. And you don't get to claim that this is the same as having a gun to your head, in complete disregard for the feelings of real victims with real guns pointed at real heads.

What you do have is something profoundly important missing from your psyche that prevents you from interacting with the real world where people have both the right and the privilege of disagreeing with each other without being accused of being terrorists.

Let's put this in perspective: we're talking about a judge sitting on a bench in Washington DC along with 8 other judges who may or may not rule on a subject pertaining to a case which may or may not be heard by them after it may have been heard by numerous levels of appellate courts... said subject being strictly limited to the constitutionality of a law. This is what my friend has equated to a gun to the head.

Exaggerating much? You bet. Clueless? Totally.

Here's how an educated adult handles both the life and the death of someone who disagrees politically:

Seriously, read Ginsburg's comments. We are primarily struck by the fact that she understands, as did Scalia, that differences of opinion do not make people enemies. We must value diversity on the Court because diverse opinions must be spoken for, and not through strawmen or lip-service. When an argument is made before the Supreme Court, it is not like any other court. It is the judges who directly ask questions of the lawyers, and they make those questions as difficult as they can; because when setting a precedent that will be followed as forcefully as the law itself, you must be able to defend that position. You do not find out whether an argument is weak by failing to test it.

And whether such questioning results in the Court rejecting a weak argument, or accepting a strong one; and whether the Justice himself is in the majority or the minority; it doesn't change the fact that the decisions of the court as a whole are better for this tough, direct approach. We must value dissent on the court precisely because it strengthens the majority decision. Ruth Bader Ginsburg shared that job with Antonin Scalia, her close friend. She understood this.

Unfortunately, those who are indoctrinated to look at everything through the lens of confrontational politics know nothing of this, and both misunderstand what the judges are doing through questioning, as well as confuse the difference between personal opinion and the written opinion of the Court. They also regularly misinterpret the purpose of a dissenting opinion in writing.

Scalia was a Constitutionalist precisely because he felt that the Court has no greater charge than that of safeguarding the rights of individual Americans to make decisions for themselves. Thus he opposed all attempts to legislate from the bench. And this was completely divorced from any opinion he might have held about whether the thing being legislated was good or bad, as that kind of decision is not the job of a Supreme Court Justice. Rather, if you want to change the law, then you should do so through legislation. And if you want to change the Constitution, you should amend it. And if you think that position is "threatening", then you have no understanding whatsoever of how utterly, hopelessly clueless you are.

That's not so hard now, is it?


Secondly, there is not one iota of "blackness" to be gained from your histrionic display. None.

In an earlier post ('Splainin') I had just addressed the subject of such condescension. And then I got to read the static on social media. Between the time I posted my last post and the time I read of Scalia's death, a video appeared in my feed from Prager University. I thought about, and then rejected the idea of appending it to my post. But with this, I have a different reason for doing so.

Do you know what good, decent Black people want from you? Exactly the same thing as every other good, decent person. Not condescension. Not pity. Not victimhood. And most certainly not to be held up as the reason for applauding the death of an innocent man who did his best to uphold the Constitution and with it the rights of individual Americans of every stripe. Frankly, if such a person can't hold a different political viewpoint than you without being pronounced "evil" in your view, then the problem lies within you, not them.

And here's how an educated adult defines equality:

Sunday, February 14, 2016

St. Valentine's Day

I went to far too much trouble to make this image. But it IS the feast of St. Valentine and people DO give each other hearts. I just put two and two together. Some day my sense of humor is going to land me in a lot of trouble. Maybe today.


Interesting Fun Facts:

There was more than one St. Valentine. On February 14 we honor Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni, although almost nothing is known of these gentlemen except that they were martyrs and Valentine of Rome was buried on February 14th.

Although some folks claim that this observance was a Christian assumption of the fertility rites of the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, there's no evidence that this was the case. Rather, the co-incidence of the dates is just that... co-incidence. Lupercalia was abolished in the Fifth Century by Pope Gelasius, who didn't replace it with anything.

Hearts don't really look like this.

Of course, you knew this already. So did ancient artists. In antiquity, hearts were depicted as being more anatomically correct. The stylized heart symbol is an invention of the Middle Ages, which may have been popularized by its use on playing cards. But even as late as the 18th century, sacred hearts were drawn as being anatomically correct in ecclesiastical art.

The sending of flowers, chocolates, and greeting cards are all British innovations, but one of their traditions hasn't quite made it into the worldwide main stream... Jack Valentine. You might think of him as a cross between Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny with really bad press. In Norfolk, on February 14th, Jack Valentine would leave gifts at the back door, knock loudly, and then run like hell. Sound creepy? Still, I prefer it to the similar practice in the US of leaving a flaming bag of dog poo.

Finally, here's a fun little song that was written with Valentine's Day in mind:

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Pundits are Getting New Hampshire All Wrong

I haven't been hanging on the news over the past week or so, but what I have seen and heard bugs me in a way I've been wanting to comment on for a while (and just haven't had time).

Where's what I am TOLD by pundits:
  1. There is more "excitement" on the Republican side resulting in a larger turnout in the Republican Primary 
  2. The "excitement" for Bernie and Trump is great as evidenced by their respective wins.
But here's what I SEE.
  1. New Hampshire has an open primary, like my home state's (South Carolina). You don't have to declare party affiliation to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary.
  2. Voting in the Democratic Primary was weak.
  3. Voting in the Republican Primary was strong.
  4. Democrats are more deeply divided than they themselves know:
    1. Many voters will not vote for a publicly avowed Socialist, no matter how you 'splain it. Some will, but many will not
    2. Clinton is facing a crisis of scandals. The classified document scandal alone presents a reasonable doubt as to whether she'd actually be indicted before the general election. People don't like that, and some would not vote for her under any circumstances.
  5. Trump is widely acknowledged to be as un-Republican a Republican as has run in recent memory. A number of his positions aren't terribly different from Clinton's.
Now here's what I THINK.
  1. The people of New Hampshire weren't particularly excited about Bernie Sanders at all. Rather, they were disenchanted with Hillary Clinton. But even though they couldn't vote for Clinton, they found themselves left with an alternate choice (Bernie) that they couldn't vote for, either.
  2. Nevertheless, they didn't stay home. The voting in the Republican primary was above expectations because many of those voters were Democrats.
  3. Those Democrats voting in the Republican primary voted for Trump.
I think that the New Hampshire election is evidence that there are a large number of Democratic voters who can not bring themselves to vote for any of the candidates currently fielded by their party. These disenfranchised voters are inclined to defect to the Republican side if they don't simply stay home.

This did happen for Ronald Reagan; and despite his personality it could possibly happen for Trump. In fact, as I was preparing to post this I went searching, and a poll last month concluded the same thing... as many as 20% of Democrats would defect if their own candidate wasn't on the ballot. That spells bad news whether your name is Clinton or Sanders. As Trump would say, 20% is HUGE. It's far greater than the difference in raw numbers between the two parties. And Trump, thus far, has a commanding lead on the Republican side, as much as that makes me shudder.

As to why the talking heads aren't paying attention to this during the actual primaries, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe all of them are except for every last one of them I've seen.

I have no idea why these two are smiling.
The chances are very good that both of them are completely screwed.


Charles M. Blow made an erudite observation in the New York Times on Feb 11th:

"If only black people knew more, understood better, where the candidates stood — now and over their lifetimes — they would make a better choice, the right choice. The level of condescension in these comments is staggering."

Welcome to the world, dear White Reader.

Charles Blow is describing something that's true on a far broader scale than he limits himself to in this editorial. This level of condescension is aimed not just at Blacks who choose one Democratic candidate over another, but at those that choose ANY candidate but the "right" one... as if Black people have to think and vote alike or lose their Blackness.

Good thing they have a "white knight" like you to tell them which candidate is the one they should be voting for, huh? And which party, too. And when to be offended.

In reality, people -- all people -- have all kinds of opinions and vote all kinds of ways and it's far too easy to fall into a mentality that assumes they should "all look alike to you". And what's worse, that they should all look like your expectations of them.

You want people to be free?  Really free?

Then stop trying to chain them to your expectations.

Personally, I'd pay serious attention to any candidate who stops talking about "white voters" and "black voters" and instead looks for voters who freely share their clearly declaimed ideology and values. Because that's the candidate who's paying serious attention to what really matters.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Electric cars are even less green than PragerU says.

Prager University has posted an analysis of whether electric cars really help the environment.

It's a thought-provoking argument, but it doesn't really cover all the bases for those who are really environmentally-conscious. For instance, I'm not sure that their analysis takes into account the production and refinement of gasoline. If we do that for coal, it's only fair to do the same for petrol. But the numbers won't change that much, really. As it turns out, petrol's pretty efficient. So much so that it's worth burning a little petrol to make vast quantities of petrol. Nevertheless, it's an expense.

PragerU definitely missed a few things which take into account the driving habits of those who are predisposed toward certain kinds of cars. I've discussed before with friend of mine who regularly leases hybrid cars to stay on the cutting edge. He dutifully turns in his car every 3 years or so for the latest and greatest and thus feels he's doing the best he can to support the "green initiative".

And that three-year lease is about typical. Given a 90,000 mile lifespan (as per PragerU's video) divided by the average number of miles driven per year of 16,550 miles (from the US Department of Transportation) we find that the average car has an expected lifespan of about five and a half years. So it's obvious that the term of a lease doesn't cover the life of the car. As my parents would say, he hasn't "gotten all the good out of it" before he turns it in.

I, on the other hand, until very recently drove a 1992 Toyota Camry, which got comfortably over 30mpg... about 34mpg on the highway. My friend's hybrid got 36mpg. But over my car's 20 year lifespan, my friend would have fired up a factory seven times.  Me: once. Of course, I had already owned the Camry or ten years before we met, so the actual score over our ten-year acquaintance has been him:3, me:0.  Even had I been turning in my car for a comparable one every three years as he did, the difference in mileage couldn't justify the increased expense and environmental damage done by mining the lithium and rare metals used in the construction of the hybrid.

Doubtless there will be some people reading this who will be sputtering and searching in vain for some math in which an electric or hybrid vehicle is more environmentally sound than driving a well-tuned economy car into the ground. And notice I said 'environmentally sound', not 'environmentally conscious'. Just being conscious of what you're doing doesn't make it a logical decision. For instance, my friend has fallen into the fallacy of valuing what feels good over that which does good, as have a great many others who "think green".  His driving habits compared to a driver content to stick with one economy car over the years have landed him in carbon debt to a degree which he could not pay back in multiple lifetimes.

After viewing a draft of the above, a friend noted that "having an electric car definitely reduces the amount of miles a person drives." He considered this to be a hole in my logic, as if driving fewer miles changes the equation per mile driven. It's the opposite. If your less-green-to-manufacture car is driven less, then it is far less green per mile than the equivalent internal combustion car. In addition, this is clear evidence that the utility value of an electric car is far less than that of a gas-powered vehicle. And while an internal combustion car may be the only vehicle owned by its driver, it's also typical for an electric vehicle to be a second car, supplemented by a gas-powered one.

My point is, There's nothing wrong with investing in electric in the hopes that it will someday become more green, but thinking that it is now is fallacious. If you want to be environmentally conscious, keep your vehicles in good repair, no matter what kind of vehicles you drive. Drive them well past their 'expected' lifespans, which are always woefully understated. Stop using so many electric appliances. You can cut food with a knife just fine. And not every damned thing in the Universe has to have an electronic chip in it, and those with chips aren't necessarily doing a better job.

But mostly, stop putting your feels in front of your logic. Think.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Mattress Exchange Day

OK, today I'm just wanting to share a couple of memories. They're anecdotes, really; but you might find them entertaining.

Way back in the day -- 1982 -- I left US Air Force Basic Training to start radio tech school at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi.
To my geek friends: Basic Training is NOT where you learn about line numbers and why you should never type GOTO (unless you should). That's BASIC training.

This is the place, roughly as it looked when I arrived (click to embiggen it):

Today it looks a great deal different. Hurricane Katrina washed much of the base away, including almost all of the buildings that housed the training squadrons. These are the weird-looking buildings that are in the triangular area at the bottom-left. They've been replaced with buildings that look depressingly normal.

I was initially assigned to the 3413th Student Squadron, affectionately known as "Animal House", as I was reminded today. We didn't earn the title, but we maintained it with vigor.

FYI, someone in training at Keesler was known as a "pinger", which is actually an acronym standing for "Person In Need of Graduation". As is usual for all places of continuing education, we took it upon ourselves to put those newly arrived students to the test.  Let's not call it "hazing", shall we? That always sounds so crass. I thought of them as fun gags.

One of the gags that had a long tradition was that of "Chief Master Rope". And now you need to know what a "Rope" is. In military tradition, aiguillettes are decorative colored braided cords worn on the shoulder, often by Third World dictators. In the US Air Force they're worn under the epaulet and unobtrusively tucked under the shoulder.

In other countries, and particularly the United Kingdom, they tend to be more prominent. To the left is picture of Prince Harry in splendid regalia at William's wedding. It's either that, or he fell off the dock and onto a trawler and, being in a hurry, just showed up still entangled in the rigging.

At Keesler these devices were worn by student leaders, who were known by the color of their "ropes".

  • A Green Rope was also known as a Bay Chief. Each was responsible for a dormitory "bay" in which were housed maybe two dozen Airmen. 
  • A Yellow Rope, aka "Floor Rope" was responsible for an entire floor, maybe six or eight bays. This was the best of the student leader positions. I know because I was one.
  • A Red Rope, aka "Suck-up" (but only behind his back) was responsible for all of the Yellow Ropes and reported to the Squadron Commander. 
  • A White Rope was a chapel guide.
  • A Black Rope was on the drill team.
  • Blue ropes weren't worn by students... those were instructors.

Augillette of a
"Chief Master Rope"
And now you know. The important ones for this story were the traffic light colors. "Chief Master Rope" (or CMR, a parody of Chief Master Sergeant), was a fictional grade used for the gag. Enterprising jokesters would un-braid one of each of the student leader cords and then braid them back together to form this emblem of super-rank. Then he'd show up in a dormitory bay unannounced and perform a mock "inspection". Of course, everyone would be in the know except for the new guy, who would be quaking in his boots. Of course, he'd be the one singled out. His belongings would be scattered, he'd be yelled at and belittled until at some point he'd be shown mercy. His buddies would come clean about the gag, and everybody would have a good laugh as they helped him put his stuff back in order. It was a protracted form of jumping out and shouting "Boo!"

Of course, The Powers That Be couldn't allow such a thing to continue, lest it be confused with hazing. So by the time I got there, new students were warned of "Chief Master Rope Inspections" during their in-processing, and were encouraged to report such behavior.

Naturally, only a dick would actually report it. Enterprising souls found ways to use these warnings to their benefit. One ingenious solution was "Mattress Exchange Day"...


There were many ways to pull this one off, but we started with the old "Chief Master Rope" gag. Of course we knew our victim had been warned, and he was suitably unimpressed by the charade. We nevertheless pretended to be fearful and respectful of our fake boss, while our victim was convinced of how terribly lame it was. And truth be told, the CMR was as lame as we could possibly make him... all dressed up like a cross between General MacArthur and a bag of Skittles.

Then, just when our victim is convinced of the stupidity of it all, an older fellow barges in, preferably in his late twenties or thirties, with no signs of a recent trainee haircut, and with a mustache, wearing civilian clothes. Before he says a word, everyone in sight of him snaps to rigid attention. An almost inaudible "oh, shit" might escape someone's lips.

He never announces his name or his rank -- lying about that could get you discharged. The implication is clear, though, that this is an NCO at the very least or perhaps even an officer. Whoever he is, he's one Important Guy. He demands, "What the hell is going on here?"

And that's when the CMR sees him. SNAP! Attention! Oh, shit, the hat! Off comes the hat! Off come the mirrored glasses, revealing eyes that look as though they have witnessed the fury of God Himself. The corncob pipe clatters to the polished floor.

The victim is perplexed, but he knows that something just went horribly wrong and he's at attention, too, out of sheer reflex. He's straight out of Basic. It's what you do.

And now the "Chief Master Rope" is dressed down thoroughly, and might be made to do pushups or some other fun task, the purpose of which is to convince the victim that this is real.

"You jackasses want an inspection, you'll GET ONE!" bellows the IG, who then turns on his heels into the pinger's room and proceeds to tear it to shreds. Nothing is right about it. Nothing. The poor victim can't even see the mayhem, as he's standing at attention in the hall, facing away.

Once the sheets are torn from the bed, IG lets out a cry of astonished rage:
"You idiot! It's Mattress Exchange Day! Why the hell isn't your g**d*** mattress at the g**d*** CQ?  Get your ass down there!  Move it!  Move it!  Move it!
And of course, our completely cowed target would be halfway down the hall before the second "Move it!" with mattress in tow.

We had to stop the poor victim as he was dragging his bedding down the stairs. And we'd come clean about the gag and everybody would have a good laugh as they helped him put his stuff back in order.

Of course, if you really wanted to mess with the pinger again, you could always tell him that it was all a joke except Mattress Exchange Day.  That's next Tuesday.


Shortly thereafter I changed shifts and moved to the 3411th. They never did Mattress Exchange Day. Boring.