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Let the Texans have their truck. Leave the rest of us alone. Sedans are also authentic.

-{Originally Appeared on Ordinary Times}-

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Category: Road

{Note: None of the videos themselves are especially interesting. They are chosen for the music.}


Category: Theater

While visiting home, I’ve been listening to some good ole country music. One of the artists has been James McMurtry. One of the songs that came up is this one:

This song was written in 2005, as a protest with an eye on the re-election of George W Bush. There were many of its kind, though this one was particularly good. It focused a bit on blood overseas but mostly depression at home. The title, “We Can’t Make It Here” relates to manufacturing and a nation basically feeling underwater. As far as economics go, the song isn’t great as it decries both the low minimum wage and the fact that those jobs are being sent overseas. To Singapore, of all places, which to my knowledge is not exactly known for low wages (though, importantly, does rhyme in the appropriate place).

mcmurtryWhat’s noteworthy about the song is that if you listen to it in 2016, it’s orbits around being something of a Trump anthem. Not just a matter of manufacturing and the like, but the haunting apocalyptic feel of it. The jobs are being shipped overseas and the factories are closing, oh and drug abuse and crime while people try to cope, “high on Jesus or hooked up dope.” He was talking about much of the same America that Trump was. McMurtry mightbe horrified by the comparison, and perhaps rightly as their prescriptions for what ails us do not perfectly overlap. But that gets into the specifics, and neither Trump nor McMurtry are models of internal consistency and deliberate policy.

McMurtry himself was at least somewhat aware of the potential for his lyrics to come across the wrong way, as he throws in what Clancy and I call a “Not Racist!” verse, in reference to Singapore:

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I’m in
Should I hate ?em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away

The view from Asia may be entirely different. Which is to say, you don’t hate them for taking the jobs, but hating that they have the jobs might still not go over super well. That’s not something Donald Trump has expressed particular concern about. And McMurtry sings about “Will I work for food, will I die for oil, Will kill for power and to us the spoils“… Trump has talked about the spoils of war, but without the air of disapproval. Though the slogan “America First” has a loaded history and a lot of baggage, I don’t consider the sentiment behind it – to an extent – beyond the pale. But it does run contrary to the one-worldism of the contemporary left, and explains the distance between McMurtrian discontent and the Democratic Party.


Category: Theater

This is the state flag of Louisiana:

louisiana-flag

It is not a good flag. Not the least of which because it does not even have the instantly recognizable symbol of Louisiana, the fleur de lis. Given that the fleur de lis represents French Louisiana and not the entirety of Louisiana, it’s forgivable that the flag is not just that, but stylistically that would be a nice looking flag. Better than the pelican, anyway. But it’s just the pelican. The state bird. Feeding its children. Heartwarming, I guess, but most states would kill for a symbol like the fleur de lis to put on their flag.

What’s really weird is that it’s not like Louisiana can’t do flags. New Orleans has a flag that’s okay. And Acadiana, a region of Louisiana, has a flag that is darn near perfect:

acadiana-flag

The kicker is that the Acadiana flag was designed before the state flag of Louisiana. Sort of. A variation of the pelican flag was in use since the Civil War, but they updated the design in 1912, 1991, 2006, and 2010. So it’s not like they just haven’t gotten around to doing anything about the mediocre flag. They have just stubbornly refused to actually change it into something worthwhile.

A good flag is one that you see everywhere. Maryland isn’t exactly a jingoistic state, but they do love their flag. Washington DC has the pride of the slighted, and use their flag liberally. Texas gave itself a nickname based on its flag. Alaska and New Mexico used their great flags liberally.

I have spent a fair amount of time in RL Louisiana, and I never see their flag anywhere. I see the Acadiana flag a lot more often. That’s an indication that their flag is better than the state flag! That is what a flag is supposed to be.


Category: Statehouse

Seattle is cracking down on greedy landlords:

After many months of process, the Seattle City Council voted 8-0 to restrict move-in fees imposed on tenants, and give renters more options in how they choose to pay these and other costs associated with moving.

The legislation is part of what Councilmember Kshama Sawant has called a “Tenants Bill of Rights” — a methodical unveiling of renter-friendly laws that, when taken together, can be viewed as a complete package.

Sawant introduced the legislation last summer with the Washington Community Action Network, a local advocacy organization. It takes several unprecedented steps. For one, it restricts the security deposit and non-refundable fees — often labeled as cleaning fees — to one month’s rent. Second, it will allow tenants to pay the security deposit as well as last month’s rent in installments.

What’s interesting to me about this battery of regulations is how it runs almost the opposite of the problems I’ve seen with dubious landlords back in Colosse. Back there, it was never really an issue about what they would do to you when you moved in, but rather what they would do once they had you. After you’d moved in.

A long time ago I was chatting with a newly-wed friend from Canada who was apartment hunting. He was frustrated because they couldn’t find a good place. Worse yet, the places he did find wanted a six month or year-long lease. I wasn’t quite sure the issue when he said that, though. Was he looking for something longer? No, he was aghast at the notion of signing a lease. Only unscrupulous landlords in Toronto did things like that. If their apartment was good, then why would they want to lock you in?

This was the opposite of my view, to a degree. We always wanted a lease because a lease locked in the rent. As long as you were on that lease, they couldn’t raise it on you. And after that, it was often open season. And that, rather than the things Seattle is seeking to regulate, was always the issue. They would have low introductory rents, often with the first month free or 30% off the first three months and whatnot. The goal to get you to move your stuff in. Then, once you’d moved your stuff in, they would often had some formula explaining how much they could gouge you for to line their pocketbooks without tipping you towards moving.

Rent going up after the end of the lease was norm, even if rents for new tenants was holding steady and introductory offers were getting better. So the very things that Seattle seeks to combat, gouging them at the move-in, was really a non-starter. If I’d wanted to regulate the Colosse market, it would combat the opposite thing as Seattle.

Which makes sense, to a degree, because of the different markets. The Seattle rental market is pretty tight and therefore being able to find a place at all can be a challenge. That, in turn, gives landlords an awful lot of leverage. Meanwhile, in Colosse, expansion occurs in all directions and there is not shortage of places. So to get you to notice them, they need to have big signs saying “First month free!” or something of the like. The only time they do have leverage over you is once you’re moving there. So that’s when they turn the screws to subsidize the people that just moved in.


Category: Home

We flew down from DC to Colosse today. There was a layover in RL Nashville. Funny thing about the Nashville airport… it seems like everybody there has a guitar.

Anyhow, it was a very exhausting day. Traveling with a little one usually is. She was extremely well-behaved, but we were all just really tired when we finally got to Colosse.

As is our tradition, Dad drove us to Happy Burger (our favorite regional chain) on the way home for the airport. The thing is, neither Clancy nor I were hungry. We were also both tired and just ready to go home. But tradition is tradition. Besides, for all I knew they had been waiting to eat out and we didn’t want to deny them that. But man… we were just tired. In every sense. And we found out that Mom and Dad weren’t actually particularly hungry anyway.

While leaving the parking lot, Dad took a wrong turn and we found ourselves in the drive-through lane. Which was long. But we got a bit of a laugh at it. But because of that, we spent an additional twenty minutes at an intersection because while we were in the drive-through line a team of mobile home delivery trucks were going through. So big were these mobile tricks that they were accompanied by city employees who had to disconnect the traffic lights, let the caravan through, then reconnect them.

At every intersection.

The moral of the story is that the amount of time everything takes rises with your level of exhaustion. If not because you are moving slower, then because of a mobile home delivery fleet.


Category: Road

Because I know you wanted to know! Given my track record, consider this advice on who not to bet on. I made some sort of mistake putting three on Louisville over LSU. But what’s done is done.

New Mexico over UTSA (3)
Houston over San Diego State (1)
Appalachian State over Toledo (1)
Central Florida over Arkansas State (2)
Southern Miss over Louisiana (2)
Tulsa over Central Michigan (3)
Memphis over Western Kentucky (2)
BYU over Wyoming (1)
Colorado State over Idaho (2)
Old Dominion over Eastern Michigan (1)
Navy over Louisiana Tech (2)
Troy over Ohio (2)
Hawaii over Middle Tennessee (1)
Mississippi State over Miami U (2)
Maryland over NC State (2)
Army over North Texas (3)
Temple over Wake Forest (2)
Washington State over Minnesota or Northern Illinois (3)
Boise State over Baylor (3)
Pittsburgh over Northwestern (2)
West Virginia over Miami (2)
Utah over Indiana (3)
Kansas State over Texas A&M (1)
South Florida over South Carolina (2)
Virginia Tech over Arkansas (2)
Colorado over Okahoma State (2)
TCU over Georgia (1)
Stanford over North Carolina (2)
Nebraska over Tennessee (1)
Air Force over South Alabama (3)
Michigan over Florida State (2)
Louisville over LSU (3)
Georgia Tech over Kentucky (1)
Alabama over Washington (3)
Ohio State over Clemson (3)
Wisconsin over Western Michigan (2)
Florida over Iowa (1)
USC over Penn State (2)
Oklahoma over Auburn (3)
Alabama over Ohio State (3)Photo by Parker Knight


Category: Theater

usac-huntsmanusac-lockeusac-baucus

Trump picks trade advocate to be ambassador to China (New York Times)

Mr. Branstad, whose selection was first reported by Bloomberg News and confirmed on condition of anonymity on Wednesday by two people with direct knowledge, is close to President Xi Jinping, whom he has known for more than three decades. They met in 1985, when Mr. Branstad was serving his first term as governor of Iowa and Mr. Xi was a 31-year-old rural official in Hebei Province, studying modern American agriculture, including hog and corn farming in Iowa.

Mr. Branstad has courted China as governor, promoting his state’s farm goods. As ambassador, he would be tasked with managing a complex relationship that Mr. Trump has already indicated he is willing to shake up. The president-elect’s call with Taiwan’s president last week prompted criticism from Beijing, which considers it a breakaway province, and Mr. Trump responded with posts on Twitter attacking China for its trade practices and provocative moves in the South China Sea.

Trump picks Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad — a ‘friend’ of China’s leader — as Beijing ambassador (Washington Post)

Branstad has extensive ties to China and a personal friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping that dates back decades. If confirmed, the move could go some way to reassure China’s leadership that Trump understands the importance of healthy relations with Beijing.

The Chinese reacted with concern to Trump’s protocol-busting phone call last Friday with Tsai Ing-wen, the leader of Taiwan, an island that China considers a rogue province. Trump repeatedly attacked China on the campaign trail and in a pair of tweets last Sunday over its trade and currency policies, as well as the way it has staked its territorial claims in the South China Sea. He has threatened to slap tariffs of up to 45 percent on Chinese goods if Beijing didn’t “behave.”

The selection of Branstad was first reported by Bloomberg News and confirmed Wednesday by a transition official, who requested anonymity because the nomination had not yet been formally announced.

China’s foreign ministry did not confirm the report, but reacted warmly.

“First of all, I would like to say that Mr. Branstad is an old friend of the Chinese people and we welcome him to play a greater role in promoting Sino-U. S. relations,” spokesman Lu Kang told a regular news conference.

“The U.S. ambassador to China is an important bridge between the U.S. government and the Chinese government. No matter who is in this position, we are willing to work with him to push forward the sound, steady and steady development of Sino-U. S. relations.”

usac-snark


Category: Newsroom

As expected, the hammer has come down on smoking in public housing:

The Obama administration has issued a sweeping final rule banning smoking in all public housing units nationwide, extending a smoke-free environment to nearly a million units.

The rule, issued Wednesday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, prohibits smoking any lit tobacco products (like cigarettes, pipes and cigars) in indoor areas of public housing complexes. It also bans smoking in public housing administrative offices and in outdoor areas within 25 feet from the buildings.

The department says the rule “will save public housing agencies $153 million every year in repairs and preventable fires, including $94 million in secondhand smoke-related health care, $43 million in renovation of smoking-permitted units, and $16 million in smoking-related fire losses.”

It gives public housing agencies 18 months to bring their buildings into compliance. The department says it has been encouraging public housing agencies to impose smoke-free policies since 2009 and about a quarter of the units already have these rules in place.

When it was proposed in November, I said the following:

This seems like the sort of thing that would rile me up, but… it doesn’t, for the most part. Mainly, because from what I’m reading this would mostly bring public housing in line with private housing. Which is to say that landlords – including the government – have their own incentives apart from social engineering to prohibit smoking in their apartments. Smoking represents a fire hazard. It smells, obviously, and can be difficult and costly to clean. If the places are furnished (which I suspect, though don’t know, they might be), you do get cigarette burns on the furniture. So all of these reasons make such a prohibition pretty valid.

I stand by those comments, especially as they pertain to indoor smoking. However, it’s the outside stuff that has me concerned. If you can’t smoke indoors, what about outdoors? Well, not there, either:

“Some commenters objected to the proposed 25-foot smoke-free perimeter around all public housing buildings,” the agency wrote in the final rule. “Some felt that the distance was too large because it would force smokers off the property and onto sidewalks or adjacent areas, including the street. Others expressed concern that the distance would be too great for elderly residents or residents with disabilities or would place residents in danger from having to travel so far. Some believed that the distance could subject smokers to crime or would force parents to leave sleeping children.”

“Commenters stated that requiring smokers to go outdoors is enough and that residents should be able to smoke on their porches or balconies,” the agency said.

“Many commenters objected to the proposed rule because of the burden it would place on public housing residents,” according to the final rule. “Some stated that an indoor smoking ban is unfair to persons with disabilities who cannot easily travel outside their units, particularly if they live alone and cannot leave without help. Others commented that it was not right to force the elderly or persons with disabilities outside in bad weather, putting their health at risk. Some simply stated that it would be unfair to make the elderly or persons with disabilities walk that far to smoke.”

HUD said it “appreciates” the comments on requiring the elderly and disabled to walk 25 feet to smoke, but refused to change the policy. The agency said elderly and disabled tenants, who make up the vast majority of low-income housing residents, would benefit from the rule.

Rules against smoking in public walkways and in front of doors are pretty standard. Rules against smoking on balconies and porches were not commonplace a few years ago, but I suspect are becoming moreso. I would need to know more about where the market is. I suspect middle class apartments and higher do it, while lower class ones don’t. This is a little bit troublesome because it means those who can afford their own apartment have options that those who can’t don’t. Ideally, you might have smoking and non-smoking buildings. But while that’s iffy, it can still be justified.

Where I’m really left hanging is the 25-foot rule, which I honestly missed at first. I saw it, but assumed that it meant 25 feet entrances and exits, and/or 25 feet from administration buildings and common areas. It didn’t occur to me that they would require 25 feet from back walls and the like because that doesn’t make sense and is really quite hard to justify. Now, depending on the layout, in some apartment buildings it’s a distinction without a difference. I’ve lived in one where that was the case because each unit had a front and back entrance. But it was only that one. Every apartment complex I’ve ever lived in or spent enough time in that I can mentally envision it in my head did have blank walls (with, at most, windows).

Why is this such a big deal? Well, if you’re smoking you are ideally covered from three sides and from above so that if it’s raining, snowing, or windy, you’re not out in the middle of it. But beyond that, the more coverage the better. Even being covered from one side can help with wind or wind and rain. Being out in the middle with no protection anywhere just really sucks. And from the sounds of some of the complaints, people are going to be shuffled out to the sidewalks. The justification for this is really quite limited, and there is not even an attempt between trying to balance the right of smokers to smoke and the right of non-smokers not to be inconvenienced. This assumes the former has little or no legitimacy. Which is, naturally, par for the course.

But here we are, though, with a somewhat captive audience that by definition have limited options available to them. With all of the places they can’t smoke, they are left without the ability to smoke wherever they live except perhaps off in the middle of the parking lot or a sidewalk. They may be without the ability to even find a complex where smoking is allowed. In all probability, they are going to simply continue to smoke in their apartments, risk eviction, and present all of the dangers to their kids that are being used to justify this law.

Or, of course, they could stop smoking. Which is, ultimately, where the conversation so frequently comes back to. Which is, of course, the goal mixed in with the other goals. I’m not entirely unsympathetic. Inconvenience can induce people to quit. The one previous time I quit smoking, it was precisely by limiting the opportunities until there were no opportunities left that weren’t ridiculously inconvenient. The last cigarette I smoked was when I was out in 30-degree weather, barely able to hold it because my hands were shaking so bad, and I said to myself “This is fishing stupid.” Which is the public health victory they’re going for, I guess, but it’s hard to ignore the prospect of elderly people smoking out in the middle of the courtyard in thirty-degree weather and winds.

The saving grace is that they (to my surprise) chose not to include ecigarettes in this band. Which, hey, if this policy does get people to switch from cigarettes to ecigarettes that’s a positive outcome. But it doesn’t do a whole lot for those that can’t quite seem to make the leap.


Category: Statehouse

{A Crosspost from Ordinary Times}
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Category: Statehouse

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Queenland

Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.


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