Administration of Incompetence: and the hard road back

I watched this train wreck: (from here)

This is just sad..and troubling. This administration seems to almost pride itself on incompetence.

The silver lining is that such incompetence might hinder its ability to enact bad legislation.

But, while Democrats are fired up, the way that Congress is set up is a massive wall to climb. Both in the House and Senate, rural areas are grossly overrepresented. So, liberal anger itself will not be enough. We will need some moderate and even traditionally conservative allies.

Workout notes: great weather (24 F, clear) but I was sluggish. 5 miles, slowly. It felt good after 1.4 miles.

February 14, 2017 Posted by | politics, politics/social, running, social/political, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

From Friendship to Marriage: how important are shared political values?

I am getting ready to go to the gym in a bit. I caught this USA Today article:

Divisions between supporters of President Trump and Hillary Clinton have taken a toll on plenty of relationships, reports Reuters, but this might be the most extreme example.

Gayle McCormick, a 73-year-old retired prison guard in Washington state who describes herself as a “Democrat leaning toward socialist,” says she decided to end her marriage of 22 years after her husband announced at a lunch with friends last year that he was planning to vote for Trump. She says it was a “deal breaker.”

“I was in shock,” she told People magazine. “It was the breaking point. The Trump issue was the catalyst.”

McCormick says it “totally undid” her that her husband could agree with Trump on anything and though it was a tough decision, she went through with the divorce even though he didn’t end up voting for the Republican.

“When things are 51% good and 49% bad, you just stay,” she says. “I was tired and older and I didn’t want to argue and neither of us was going to change.”

So, I wondered about that.

In all honesty, it has been well over 20 years since I was on the “dating” market..and really…in terms of being available to anyone, make that close to 32 years. So it HAS been a while.

I do have friends of various kinds, including friends that I’ve I’ve been the house guest of (both sexes).

Dating Era During that time, yes, I dated some Republicans and did a number of things with them. It was the Reagan era and no, it didn’t go like this:

My criterion was roughly the same as it is now for friendship: “do I enjoy spending time with the person”?

Now, 30 years later, I still have friendship outings of various kinds (hikes, runs, ball games, shared meals) but here is the deal: some of my friends are very, very politically oriented. Others either just don’t care that much, OR it is something that they just do not discuss during an outing.

So I’d say that during casual dating, I’d conjecture that it might not matter that much.

On the other hand, for something more long term (as in: “hmmm, do I want to live with this person?”) we’d have to have some shared values, but that doesn’t mean a shared vote.

For example, there are secular, socially liberal, science accepting Republicans. Really. And in some cases, I am more compatible with them than some who voted the same way that I did. In one case, a female friend was a bit surprised to find out that I accepted capitalism; we just disagreed on the degree. We also both accepted safety nets; it was the degree on which we disagreed. We both accept public investment and agreed that a work ethic is important.

Then I have two other friends who are also non-believers, but for different reasons. One was raised in a religious tradition, but no longer believes because of the great evil that she sometimes sees in the world (e. g. Holocaust). The other: was not raised in a religion, and religion is just something she ever considered or thought about.

On the other hand, I was raised in a religious tradition, and my atheism is an intellectual conclusion for me (ok, it is a type of agnosticism …but that is for another assured that I am not trying to make up my mind about any deity that I am aware of; I’ve long since rejected those as being ideas unworthy of being seriously entertained.

So, I suppose that in many cases, I’d have more in common with a secular Republican than a believing Democrat.

Upshot: I am as tribal as anyone else. But my “tribe” crosses political party lines and includes values and personality traits: how curious are they? How sanctimonious are they? Are they introspective at all…examining their own beliefs about the world and themselves? Can they admit error?

February 12, 2017 Posted by | Friends, relationships, social/political, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Figuring it out (workout wise)

Yesterday: glorious day to run (by January in Illinois standards) and my 5.1 mile hilly course run was just sluggish, plodding (more so that usual); I had zip in the tank.

Today: weights: rotator cuff, pull ups (5 sets of 10), a few light squats, incline presses: 10 x 135, 6 x 160, 9 x 150, military presses: 3 sets of 10 with dumbbells: 2 with 50, 1 with 45.
rows: 3 sets of 10 x 110 machine.

abs: 2 sets of 12 twist crunches, 2 sets of 10 yoga leg lifts, headstand (struggled to get in…calmed down..then did it easily. It is almost as if my “fear of losing my ability to do it” is hurting my ability to do it.

Note: elbow/forearm was better. Weight: 197.0 prior to lifting, 196.0 after.

Then an easy 5K walk (Bradley Park course).

And I have to make a choice: I like my upper body strength (relative to my current age); it is the best it has been in a decade. But this weight is just killing my running.

January 24, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Walk and marches…

The walk: 10.04 miles in 2:30:54. On one hand, this is much faster than the previous to times I did this same course (2:49, 2:41). On the other hand, this isn’t the 2:10-2:15 I used to do this course in.


I did see a few runners and walkers along the way; the weather was downright glorious by “January in Illinois) standards. And I saw the set up for the Peoria Women’s March and I saw the crowd gathering 45 minutes prior to the start. The location is about mile 3 and 7 of my route (which is out and back)



January 21, 2017 Posted by | political/social, social/political, Uncategorized, walking | Leave a comment

Weather aches, hypocrisy and football

Paul Krugman noted that economic conditions are different (no longer zero interest rates..and companies are interested in borrowing and employment is up) and so we should look at deficits differently. Yes, public investment should be done, but not upper end tax breaks. OF COURSE, the right wing is calling him a hypocrite. And OF COURSE, they are wrong.

The idea that the best thing to do often depends on the situation is not a subtle concept. Why do conservatives have so much trouble with it?

Think of it this way: ask ANY football fan “what is the best play for a team to run” and they will tell you: “it depends on: down, distance, field conditions, time in the game, the score, the defense, the strengths and weaknesses of the respective teams, etc. Obviously, 3’rd and goal from the 1 with 1 minute to go in the game is different from 2’nd and 15 from your own 20 in the middle of the second quarter.

Of course, there are different philosophies; some teams are option teams, some are running teams, others are passing teams, and the play call also depends on the philosophy of the team (pass on 3’rd and 1 vs. run on 3’rd and 1). But the call is very situational. No one disputes that.

So why is this hard when it comes to economic policy?

Speaking of hypocrisy, why is hypocrisy bad? After all, if a coach has a good reputation for developing an athlete, I won’t call the coach a hypocrite for being a bad athlete and a workout slacker himself.

The article I linked to offers the following answer: those who say one thing and do another often use their moralizing to bring credit to themselves; a kind of PR. So when they don’t live up to their preaching, we get angry for them for putting up a false front. In the “out of shape coach” case, the coach is NOT billing himself as a good athlete when he coaches you. The moral scold who is themselves immoral IS billing themselves as a moral person, and that is where the resentment comes in.

Weather Yes, at one time, I bought into this “knee aches with weather changes” stuff. But more studies have been done…and I’ve come to understand I’ve run reasonably well during some very rainy days. It turns out there is no solid evidence that weather changes causes joint pain.

January 14, 2017 Posted by | economics, economy, science, social/political, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Yes, Trump is my President. Maybe some hope here?

Seriously. And I insist that my Presidents treat political opponents with respect (at least public respect), so this is unacceptable:

And I will be a vocal critic. He wants to be President of the United States? Then he has to represent all of us.

Now, there may be a little bit of hope here:

Even Trump has sent mixed signals, telling The New York Times soon after his election that infrastructure wouldn’t be “the core” of his first years in the White House. “We’re going for a lot of things, between taxes, between regulations, between health care replacement,” he said at the time. He added that infrastructure wasn’t a big part of his plan to create jobs, saying, “I think I am doing things that are more important than infrastructure.”

So if his package is going to get a big push, lawmakers expect that it will have to come from Trump himself. “I think it’s going to be driven by the administration,” Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said Wednesday. “At some point they might come and consult with us about what that might look like.”

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), a Trump transition team member, indicated the same thing Tuesday.

DeFazio suggested Democrats may just bypass their GOP colleagues, saying: “We might have a dialogue with the Trump administration. I don’t think we’re going to have a dialogue with Republican leadership in the House. They’ve closed that door pretty well.”

This isn’t much, but who knows: perhaps the Democrats plus some moderate Republicans (if there are any left) might work with Trump on some sort of stimulus compromise?

And there is something else. Obstructing and “saying no” is pretty east. Coming up with good policy and getting it passed and signed into law is far more difficult Are THESE Republicans up to it? My guess: probably not. They are good at throwing tantrums; I am not sure they are good at anything else.

January 6, 2017 Posted by | economy, republicans, social/political, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Taking on conventional wisdom

More Trump: who are those Trump voters anyway? You can read what many of them said here. So, what can or should we do? Well one thing is that we need to concern ourselves with other countries (e. g. Russia) interfering with out elections; evidently they are doing that in Germany too. We should do something about people in large states being grossly underrepresented.

But what about now? Well, some say that we ought to stick with identity politics, even if it is politically unpopular. Personally, I can see the reason for such politics being unpopular. For example, this article talks about the pick for Labor Secretary being someone who, gasp, used sex to sell hamburgers. Sorry, but the days of claiming “that’s sexist” and shutting down the discussion are over.

Alas, political correctness isn’t only found on the left wing. You see some on the right wing too: here, some criticism is aimed at Paul Krugman for pointing out that the coal/manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back and that such regions will likely lose population, just like what happened in other countries.

December 9, 2016 Posted by | political/social, politics, politics/social, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

More head scratching….

This is just nuts: Clinton’s lead in the popular vote is now about 2.5 million, and her percentage lead is 1.9 percent? And yes, the Democrat has won the popular vote in 6 of the previous 7 elections, though the Republican won the Electoral College thrice.

Nevertheless, our elections, for now, are decided by the Electoral College. Somehow, it makes sense to spend attention to a few “swing states” as opposed to where more people live? That no longer makes sense to me.

But Trump won. Oh, there will be consequences; for example many will lose their health insurance.

So, where do we go from here? I completely agree with this:

As Democrats contemplate their losses in November’s election, most have settled on a solution. They believe that the party needs more economically populist policies. But this misses an essential reality: Most people don’t vote on the basis of policies.

There is excellent research by political scientists and psychologists on why people vote. The conclusion is clear. As Gabriel Lenz writes in his landmark 2012 book, “Follow the Leader?”, “Voters don’t choose between politicians based on policy stances; rather, voters appear to adopt the policies that their favorite politicians prefer.”

And how do voters pick their favorite politicians? It is a gut decision that is more emotional than rational. Mostly it hinges on whether they identify with a politician in the social and psychological senses.

In an important recent book, “Democracy for Realists,” Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels show that “group attachments” and “social identities” are key to understanding voting behavior. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt reinforces this view with mountains of research showing that people choose their political views based on their tribal attachments.

I agree with this. However these sorts of solutions are problematic:

Barack Obama is a singularly charismatic politician. But he might have made Democrats forget that the three Democrats elected to the White House before his election came from the rural South. They knew that world; they were of it.

With these insights in mind, on the campaign trail, perhaps Clinton and the Democrats should have rallied not with Beyonce and Jay Z but rather with George Strait. And if you don’t know who he is, that’s part of the problem.

I agree that Barack Obama is so good of a politician that he may have masked problems that Democrats have. But as far as Beyonce and Jay Z: remember that a Democrat cannot not win without the base. True, they can’t win with ONLY their base, as we found out; we do need at least a few votes beyond our base. But you can’t disrespect your base either.

It is a tricky line to walk.

Workout notes: yesterday, weights only (day after whole blood donation): pull ups (5 sets of 10), rotator cuff, incline bench: 10 x 135, 5 x 160, 10 x 150, military: 10 x 50 dumbbell standing, 20 x 50 dumbbell seated, supported, 10 x 200 machine, rows: 3 sets of 10 x 50 single armed rows, headstand, 2 sets of 10 yoga leg lifts, 12 twist crunches.

today: run only; 5.1 mile shuffle on my hilly course; hills were a chore.

December 2, 2016 Posted by | political/social, politics, politics/social, running, social/political, Uncategorized, weight training | , , , | Leave a comment

One big way I was wrong…(among others)

I’ve already talked about the polls and the betting lines; together these things fooled me. And turnout: yes, Trump, as of this time, had fewer votes than either Mitt Romney or John McCain…and yes, fewer votes than Hillary Clinton too. But that is for another post.

Today: one way I was suckered is that I sincerely believed what Paul Krugman wrote:

Greg Sargent interviews Hillary’s chief strategist about the coming general election, and finds him dismissive of claims that Donald Trump can repeat his march through the Republican primary. You never know — but it does seem obvious, except to the political pundits completely flabbergasted by Trump’s rise, that the general election is going to be a very different story. For the truth is that Trump’s Republican rivals fought with both hands tied behind their backs, and that just won’t happen from here on in.

Greg summarizes the case very well, but let me do it a bit differently. Think about Trump’s obvious weaknesses, why Republicans couldn’t exploit them, but why Democrats can.

First, he’s running a campaign fundamentally based on racism. But Republicans couldn’t call him on that, because more or less veiled appeals to racial resentment have been key to their party’s success for decades. Clinton, on the other hand, won the nomination thanks to overwhelming nonwhite support, and will have no trouble hitting hard on this issue.

Second, Trump is proposing wildly irresponsible policies that benefit the rich. But so were all the other Republicans, so they couldn’t attack him for that. Clinton can.

Third, Trump’s personal record as a businessman is both antisocial and just plain dubious. Republicans, with their cult of the entrepreneur, couldn’t say anything about that. Again, Clinton can. […]

Clinton, on the other hand, is not ludicrous. She can think on her feet; she’s tough as nails. Do you really think the person who stared down the Benghazi committee for 11 hours is going to wither under schoolboy taunts?

The news media will, I fear, try their best to pretend that the contrast isn’t what it is. We’ll hear endless explanations of why Trump’s vanity, ignorance, and lack of moral fiber somehow prove his “authenticity”, which Clinton somehow lacks. And maybe that will stick with voters. But I don’t think it will. In the end, it will be a race between a tough, smart lady and someone who is obviously a yuge, um, Antonin Scalia School of Law. And voters will notice.

And yet….the Democrats did not show up.


Michael Moore, who isn’t my favorite person, got it right. Democrats need someone charismatic to motivate turn out:


And so we are disappointed…both in those who voted for Trump and those who didn’t show up.

Workout notes rotator cuff, pull ups (5 sets of 10), bench press: 10 x 135, 4 x 185, 7 x 170, incline: 10 x 135, rows: 3 sets of 10 x 50 (each arm), military: 7 x 50 standing, 15 x 50 (seated, supported), 10 x 45 standing, head stand, 2 sets of 10 x yoga leg lifts, 12 twist crunch.

run: 21 minutes for 2 mile, 14:30 track mile, 14:50 hill treadmill mile.

November 11, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, political/social, politics, politics/social, running, Uncategorized, walking, weight training | | Leave a comment

Why it is hard (but not impossible) for me to change my mind

A “Facebook Friend” posted the following:

You know what’s sad?
When someone is presented with a reasonable, fact-based presentation that points out flaws in his or her beliefs or opinions, and rather than change their mind, or at least reserve judgment until they have a chance to do more research, they decide the source is lying and / or flawed.

What do you do with that?

I like to think I’m a reasonable person. If someone presents me with a good case for something, I’ll listen, and I may even change my mind.

I am not going to identify the person as it isn’t my intention to attack a particular individual. But I do want to discuss the idea.

Yes, it is difficult for me to change my mind, though it is far easier for me to change my mind in an area that I am well versed in!

So, here goes:

1. The messenger matters. Lots of people have lots of opinions about many things, and many are very vocal. So there is a lot of “noise” out there; much more “noise” than signal. In fact, I don’t have time to take most of it seriously. So I look at the messenger.

Does this person have a history of making correct arguments? Do they have anything going for them that makes their opinion stand out? What about their sources: are they mostly junk sources (e. g. Natural News, Breitbart, Huffington Post, WND, etc.) or are they more reputable ones? In the past, are they even aware of what their own sources say? (yes, many times, people submit an article to “debunk” something, when in fact the article is a caveat, clarification, or…actually SUPPORTS the point they think is being debunked).

So, much of the time, I just dismiss what is being said without taking the time to investigate.

2. The source matters. Ok, I’ve looked at the source. Who is it written by? IF the author has impressive credentials in that field, are they still respected by that field’s community, or are they regarded as a rogue crackpot? Yes, even science Nobel Laureates go off the rails. Consensus matters.

3. My own knowledge matters. Suppose two top physicists were arguing about competing models in, say, quantum mechanics. There is a good chance that I would not understand the discussion because that isn’t my field. The same goes when, say, you have two top flight economists arguing about an economic theory. If, say, Paul Krugman wanted to fool me with a nonsense argument, I’d be unlikely to detect that his argument is nonsense. So in these matters, I turn to consensus.

Though I have a Ph. D. in mathematics and a modest publication record (enough to have attained the rank of Full Professor), I am painfully aware of how ignorant I am in mathematics. So how ignorant am I in field that I don’t have Ph. D. in?

Nevertheless, I am far less likely to be fooled in mathematically based subjects, hence I have more confidence that I can properly vet arguments in these areas and that I understand the issues at hand. That isn’t true in other areas in which I know far less.

Workout notes weights then an easy 5K walk. The day was chilly and humid; no rain though.
weights: rotator cuff and free squat rests, pull ups (5 sets of 10, strong), bench press: 10 x 135, 4 x 185, incline press: 8 x 150, 10 x 135, military presses: standing 7 x 50 dumbbell, 15 x 50 dumbbell (seated, supported), 10 x 45 dumbbell (standing), 3 sets of 10 x 50 dumbbell single arm row. Abs: 2 sets of 12 twist crunches, 10 yoga leg lifts. Headstand (good today).

November 3, 2016 Posted by | social/political, Uncategorized, walking, weight training | | Leave a comment