Wednesday, August 31, 2016

On Cancelled Presidential Elections

In 2012 I wrote this about a potential delay of a presidential election. And in February of this year I wrote this about how such a scenario could play out this time around. Now here's an article from U.S. News & World Report about the idea.

I see the coming Obamacare death spiral as related to this topic (please forgive me for linking to Vox; I only did it because I read about it on Greg Mankiw's blog (the one entitled Greg Mankiw's Blog) and he linked to Vox). A guy who ignored everything else but healthcare and who takes pride in the eponymous nature of public discourse on the project--such a guy will not quietly step aside when faced with "repeal and replace."

The biggest issue, to me, is the fact that we have a system in place that allows for a president to be elected without a popular plebiscite on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, but I suspect most Americans (and all American media) will ignore that.

Think Florida 2000 writ large.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Requiem for the All-Married Man's Club

Earlier this week I tweeted "Fiona is a 'disorganized tropical depression.' Now that I live in Florida, I'm all three of those things, too!"

I want to talk openly about depression, but I feel I can't do that. Some of that constraint is external and some of it is internal.

Externally, I get the feeling that most people with whom I associate still think of depression as a fancy name for being weak-willed or lazy or soft or neurotic. When I'm in one of my cyclical troughs and I show up at, say, a family gathering, I get attitude for harshing the celebratory buzz. Or if it's church, I get the "you probably need to repent or something" vibe.

Internally, I still carry the lessons of my formative years: that I'm seeking attention, or holding a pity party, or underhandedly seeking for compliments, or any number of ways to let me know that what is happening is wrong and needs to be hidden.

I had a "Personal Board of Directors" e-mail thing going on for about eight months, but it got to the point where the only new update I had was that I was still a failure, and my friends don't need that in their lives, right? I'm not much of a friend if I make them read that.

I have a theory: life is a constant process of relying on something other than God and having God show you that that thing is unreliable. This continues until you learn that you should rely solely on God, or until death (whichever comes first). Some people rely on terrible things: drugs, pornography. Some people rely on okay things: hobbies, work, sports teams. Some people rely on good things: family, friends. But when we ask them to fill the role that only God should fill, even the good things are false gods and we need to be shown that they are ultimately unreliable.

On the sidebar of my blog is one of my favorite quotes. It's from The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck. Since Blogger doesn't allow for HTML in a sidebar text box, it might not be clear what's going on.It's a conversation between Ethan and Joey. Joey speaks first.

"Story of my life. When the cards are down--no place to go. Nobody to talk to."

"You should get married."

"That's nobody to talk to in spades."

"Maybe you're right."

"Damn right I am. There's nobody as lonely as an all-married man."

I use the tag "All-Married Man's Club" for posts about these feelings. I had a vague idea once of sort of a group Personal Board of Directors called The All-Married Man's Club. It never really came about, I guess because everybody else in my circle of acquaintances doesn't have this problem: they all have relationships with God they way they're supposed to. It's only me who's crapping the bed of life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hyper-Detailed Memorial Highway Signs

What's the deal with naming every single feature of every single highway after a fallen soldier or first responder? That's frustrating enough as it is, but given that we are going to do this, can we at least not use 30 words to do it?

First, why this is frustrating: in a post-God world, people insist on recognition by all of humanity to replace the recognition we used to believe we would receive from God. I've named this "anthrotheism" and I've written before about this here. Once I worked in an office where a co-worker's father died. The rest of us signed a condolence card. One of the men in my office wrote something about how "you'll have your memories" as the thing that lessens Death's blow. It came to me then just how bleak the atheistic view is. Really? A unique existence just ended and the ONLY saving grace is that some of us remember it? What happens when the remembering ones have died? Thus is born the drive to achieve celebrity. And so when a loved one dies in the line of duty, we want a highway sign so thousands of people every day will read his name.

Second, why we're doing it wrong: highway signs are supposed to convey needed information. There is a cost associated with each sign as it distracts the driver who must read it. There are some bits of information that would be nice to have but which aren't important enough to merit the added distraction they would cause. Many memorial highway signs, however, include the person's full name, his rank, and his unit. So instead of a sign marking the, say, Davis Memorial Bridge, there's a sign marking the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Sgt. Adam Francis Davis Memorial Bridge. It takes longer for the driver to process the information, which makes the highway less safe.

The first issue leads to the second. If I'm Sgt. Davis's family, and I need all humanity to think of my son because that's the only way he continues to exist, then Davis Memorial Bridge doesn't cut it. There are lots of Davises in the world. It's the seventh-most common surname in the United States. A sign that makes you think of a generic "Davis" doesn't keep my son's memory alive in a post-God world. So I need the sign to be as specific as possible. If there was a way of including his picture, I'd want the sign to do that (and I bet somewhere in America, such a thing exists).

The end of every life is a tragedy. But what we've forgotten is that death is not the end of life, nor is the gradual assumption of anonymity of past generations. God remembers our dead, so we don't need to make everyone on the highway do it for us.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Circular Abbreviations

My school has posters up advertising "WOW," which stands for "Week of Welcome." However, I really want it to stand for "Week of WOW." It could be like how WACO started off meaning Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio but eventually came to mean Waco Aircraft Company. It's the first thing I'll bring up after I get tenure (which will be a major coup, since I'm not in a tenure-track position, or even permanent faculty, but--hey--Nietzsche got his doctorate without having to complete a defense, so maybe they'll just come to me and throw tenure in my lap).

Friday, August 19, 2016

Who Were the Zoramites?

This morning I was reading Alma 48. I was intrigued when I read this:

And thus he [Amalickiah] did appoint chief captains of the Zoramites, they being the most acquainted with the strength of the Nephites, and their places of resort, and the weakest parts of their cities; therefore he appointed them to be chief captains over his armies. (Alma 48:5)
Why would the Zoramites be most familiar with these things? Well, maybe because they were the most-recent dissenters from the Nephites, but maybe there's more.

The Zoramites came from Antionum "which was south of the land of Jershon, which also bordered upon the wilderness south, which wilderness was full of the Lamanites" (Alma 31:3). And the land of Jershon itself was "south of the land of Bountiful" (Alma 27:22), and "between the land Jershon and the land Nephi" (Alma 27:23) was stationed...the Nephite army.

Is it possible that the Zoramites were members of the army?

When I thought of this, I realized it answers one of the nagging questions I've always had, which is: was Captain Moroni really such a great military leader? I mean, Mormon's got a Level-5 man-crush on the guy, obviously (named his son after him and all, and the whole "if all men had been and were and ever would be" bit), and Mormon's a battle-hardened general himself, but in the past when I read the war chapters of Alma, I went away thinking Captain Moroni was more George B. McClellan than Ulysses S. Grant. All the previous Nephite generals met the Lamanite armies and won. Only Moroni manages to turn the thing into an existential crisis with three fronts (the east where he is in command, the west under Helaman, and the resistance led by Nephihah [NB: Actually Pahoran. Sorry. -ARS] against the Fifth Column in Zarahemla) that requires child warriors to succeed. But if Moroni is fighting against mutinous military leaders, it really is a marvelous victory he manages.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Let Them Eat HOV Lanes

Others have probably mentioned this already somewhere, but I don't remember seeing it: the current round of toll-road construction in the United States is a form of regressive taxation and thus contributes to economic inequality. With the amount of this type of construction and with the current emphasis in some circles on economic inequality, I'm surprised that I'm not seeing this point being made.

States give money for construction, or at least preferential treatment to the private firms that will operate the roads. (Granting of state favors is the bestowal of state resources just the same as cash handouts.) Then the roads are inordinately accessed by upper-income users. This is ensured in the variable-pricing set-ups most of these new toll roads use: when the road is most desirable, that's when it's accessible to the smallest group of well-off users.

Maybe the revenue from the roads goes into the general fund and helps the disadvantaged (I seriously doubt it, but it's possible). If so, isn't this just about the most round-about way of taxing rich people ever devised?

A second tax is from the construction delays. The poor are inconvenienced by the construction process and then don't get the benefit. "They get a less-congested road when the rich pay the tolls." I don't think so. When the regular road is uncongested, no one pays the toll and things are as they were. When the regular road is congested, if enough users are moving to the toll lanes to relieve the congestion, that's an indication that the variable toll is too low. The toll should be set such that the regular road stays congested enough to make it worth your while to pay the toll. So these won't relieve congestion, they will just make it chronic.

I'm not sure how I feel about the focus on economic inequality. I suspect that most of the discussion points (and nearly all of the recommended remedies) are bogus. But for people who live and breathe this stuff to not talk about it seems fishy. If I had to guess why we don't see it, I'd say because the professional hand-wringers are the ones benefiting from the transfer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Worth the Wait

If a guy named Sal wanted a website for his sausage store, he could get www.salsausage.com, unless someone else had already started a website documenting salsa usage.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Doldrums

I live in Florida now. That's just one of the many things that has happened in my life while I've been very busy and very depressed. I was even thinking of stopping my blog, because it's only my arrogance that makes me assume people care what crack-pot opinions I have. But I think I'm going to keep this going, at least for now. Just not yet, because I'm still busy and depressed.