Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Problem With Freedom

Here's the problem with supporting liberty and freedom... You have to support peoples liberty and freedom to be assholes and idiots.

I think discriminating against gays or blacks or anyone else for some arbitrary characteristic that doesn't harm you is fucking idiotic, and proof that you are a total asshole.

However, I think you should be free to associate with, or exclude, anyone you want to from your private property, or private business.

Why?

Because that's what freedom of conscience, and true property rights are.

The  right to associate with those you wish, and not associate with those you do not, is inherent to freedom of conscience.

The right of exclusion IS one of the three fundamental rights of private property (the others being the rights to use and dispose of the property as you see fit, and the right to the outputs, proceeds, and benefits accrued on or by the property).

Arbitrary discrimination by private businesses is wrong, stupid, offensive, and just bad business.

But it shouldn't be illegal.
Note: At least not for truly private businesses. 
There is an argument to be made that public corporations, because of the legal protections they receive from the government, and their "public ownership" through equities; should not be allowed to discriminate. Some even argue that by obtaining a business license, a business can be prohibited from discrimination. 
Unless such prohibition is written into the laws for licensure of these businesses, or for the foundation and governance of corporations, I disagree with this argument (and I have issues with the concept of making anti-discrimination part of the law, again on the grounds above), but there is at least a basis for it.
Oh and for those of you who think this is just about gays... it applies equally to guns. I think that businesses that exclude lawful bearers of arms from their premises are idiots, and that it's bad business... but its THEIR property, and they have the right to exclude me if they want to.

The GOVERNMENT should NEVER be allowed to discriminate, nor should any public utility, or any organization with a lawful monopoly. Any organization with which interaction is mandatory, or their power over you is involuntary, can never be allowed to discriminate.

Private individuals, and their private property though, can never be prohibited from doing so... at least if we value and wish to preserve freedom and liberty (and in this country, frequently and unfortunately, we do not).

Freedom of conscience though, is a wonderful thing... They get to discriminate. Guess what, so do you. You can choose not to patronize their business. You can organize all your friends... and the entire world if everyone else is so inclined... to not patronize that business.

That's freedom for ya...
Oh and by the by, these laws currently proceeding in several states explicitly legally authorizing business to refuse to serve people on the basis of their sexual orientation, are part of the blowback I predicted would result from the current strategy many in the gay rights movement have of "suing our way to normalcy"... 
"Dammit, if they don't want to make my same sex wedding cake, I'll SUE".
Or worse "We'll get married in Massachusetts, and then move to Kansas and sue for them to recognize our marriage".
 
Many lied saying that would never happen. Many more well intentioned supporters honestly believed the lie, and repeated it. 
When I raise this issue with my liberal friends, they often say that I am being ridiculous.  
It HAS been happening, from the first legally recognized same sex marriages in this country. 
It's a bad strategy, and it has and will continue to backfire.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A bad analogy can be dangerous, a purity test, deadly

I've written at rather great length about the debt ceiling, and the political idiocy surrounding it, several times, most recently during the LAST "debt ceiling showdown and government shutdown traveling vaudeville show" here:

"Defunding, Debt Limits, Shutdowns, Oh My!"

"A not so brief explanation and history of U.S. federal government debt"

As noted when the "fix" was passed last time, it wasn't actually a "fix", it just pushed the next "crisis" a few months down the road.

Welcome to a few months down the road... 

The debt ceiling increase was voted up last week (this time for 12 months instead of 3), as everyone knew it would be, as it absolutely had to be (see the posts above for more on why that is true).

The Republican leadership used a procedural trick to make it seem like they were actually opposing it... entirely for PR purposes, and entirely because of these geniuses who either don't understand; or rather  those who do, but take advantage of the ignorance and misunderstand of those who don't.

This time, the Republicans... or at least most of them... were slightly less stupid than the last couple times. MOST republicans seem to have finally come to understand that playing chicken with the debt ceiling is NOT a winning strategy.

...Well, it isn't a winning strategy for Republicans, but when they do, it IS a GREAT strategy for Democrats.

Of course, that hasn't stopped much of the self identified "conservative" public from going absolutely insane, again... sadly, quite predictably.

It seems they believe, with absolutely unshakable conviction, that somehow, attacking a supermajority of the house and senate for not doing the impossible, will make things better. That somehow, doing what absolutely must be done to avoid disaster, is "betrayal".

Really, all they are doing is highlighting their complete lack of understanding of both politics, and the mechanics of how our government functions; oh and that they completely failed to learn anything from the last few times they pulled this crap.

In fact, many of them are PROUDLY ignorant of reality. They will loudly proclaim that "it's a matter of principle dammit", and that anyone who actually understand what reality is, and understands the necessity to work within the bounds of reality is just "caught up in the system".

... and of course, there are always politicians in a position to use this sentiment. They have been doing so quite aggressively this past week.

This REALLY does not help

The only Republicans (or conservatives, or even libertarians) this sort of idiocy helps, are the ones who have no chance of losing to a Democrat (it helps them raise money), and the ones mounting a challenge to a safe Republican seat from the right.

Republicans being attacked from the right may make some "conservatives" feel better, but it doesn't actually make anything better, because rhetoric isn't legislation. It certainly doesn't do anything good for the Republican legislative agenda.

In the long run, this stupidity (and yes, it is emotionally indulgent stupidity, and attention seeking) weakens congressional Republicans, and doesn't actually HELP achieve the desires of the "conservatives" who like the IDEA of "fighting at all costs", "never compromising" etc... etc... (most of whom aren't actually conservative even if they think they are. Mostly, they're populists, or reactionaries, or both)

Simply put, you can't legislate if you don't win elections. The elections that are going to be won by senators and house members who are "real conservatives", as defined by these geniuses, are already in Republican hands. Maybe 1 or 2 seats can be won from the right, but that's it.

The geniuses forget two major things:


  1. You don't win majorities from the edges: The far right and the far left are only about 20% of the electorate on either side. 40% total. 60% of the electorate are somewhere "in the middle", and they will VOTE somewhere "in the middle".
  2. All politics is local: Senators, and particularly house members, are elected on LOCAL issues, or at least on LOCAL attitudes, ideas, preferences etc... "Real conservative" ideas may be vote winners where YOU live, but not for where the majority of voters live. Yes, they're "better" and "right" and all that, but it doesn't matter because most people don't agree with them.


To gain vetoproof legislative majorities in both houses, which is the only way they can legislate now, Republicans need to take seats away from "centrist" democrats.

Let's leave aside the entire issue of "centrists" (whether they actually exist, what the definition is etc...) and just accept there is an electoral reality here.

Republicans who are "real conservatives" are not going to win seats in the urban northeast. A republican who believes in small government, personal and economic liberty, low taxes etc, but who is also socially moderate or liberal (pro choice, pro gay marriage for example), just might (in fact, they have).

If you say that someone who believes those things isn't really conservative, or isn't a Republican, or is a RINO... YOU are part of the problem.

Shutting down the government may FEEL like a great "moral victory" to those on the right, but it will NEVER win elections in centrist districts. In fact, it will COST the Republicans seats they've already won in those districts.

These are seats that will NOT be made up by the phantom hoards of "real conservative" voters that will magically appear when "real conservative" candidates show up. Those seats are the ones that Republican already control.

There are a few senate seats in the south and west that the "real conservatives" might be able to win with their rhetoric... but honestly, if they were going to do so, why didn't they over the last three elections?

The people who don't understand this, have since 2012 been doing their best to turn the Republicans, into the democratic party circa 1968. They are the Republican equivalent of McGovern democrats.
Note: At the moment, there is a very strange dichotomy going on with presidential politics, largely as a function of the differences between local and national media and their influence in elections. 
Mitt Romney likely would have beaten Obama in 2012 if a large number of conservatives hadn't stayed home, because he wasn't conservative enough. He also likely would have won, if the media hadn't been so effective at portraying Romney as an ultra-right wing super-conservative. 
Both happened. Romney lost. 
Do you see the problem here? 
Anyone not left wing (or otherwise a media darling... which tends to last just until that person threatens a "progressive" with defeat) can reliably count on the media to portray them as insanely far right. Witness McCain in 2008. He went from being the anti-Bush media darling, to, you guessed it, "right wing lunatic who want to control womens bodies" etc... etc... 
The only way to combat that, is to DIRECTLY (with irrefutable evidence) show "centrists" that you are a "centrist", or at least someone they can vote for. 
2012 was a matter of purity tests screwing conservatives and Republicans. If the "McGovern Democrats" have their way, so will 2016.
So... why don't they understand?

Part of the problem here, is that most people (including most of the "conservatives" above) don't really understand the debt ceiling. They don't actually understand what it is, how it works, and why we can't just decide not to raise the limit once we've reached... or more often actually exceeded... it.

No, really, we can't do that. If we did, very bad things would happen.

They feel that refusing to raise the debt ceiling would mean the federal government would have to spend less.

That is an intuitive idea. It makes sense... 

... It's also dangerously wrong.

The problem, is that people intuitively think of the debt ceiling as analogous to the credit limit on a credit card. In fact, that is the rhetoric most politicians and much of the media use when they talk about the subject; and the rhetoric of much of the "conservative" commentariat.

With a credit card, when you hit your credit limit, you have to stop spending. Then, you have to pay down your debt before you can spend again.

Many people, probably most people, seem to think that government spending and debt work like this; or at least is should, and would if we didn't keep raising the debt ceiling.

It's an easy and relatable analogy. It feels correct, and it suggests a simple solution to a very difficult problem.

Unfortunately, feelings are not reality.

There are rarely simple solutions to complicated and difficult problems.

A friend wrote this:
"I think the problem with the debt ceiling comes mainly from the fact that people think it's a credit limit, when it's more like a kind of a line you set yourself when drawing up a budget for the year"
That analogy is better than what most people seem to have in their mind, but it's still not quite right. It's simple, and quick, but it's still misleading as an analogy.

There is really no one sentence explanation for how this works, unless you have a background in business or finance.

Trying to relate it to something that a lot of people are familiar with, though not as many as a credit card... hmmm...

Ok, this is one of those "I have to explain this thing, so I can explain this other thing" situations.

Here goes...

Say you run a company that only gets paid every three months, at the end of each quarter (this is more common than you might think).

In order to run the company, you need to pay all your suppliers and contractors. So, you get terms from them. Your suppliers and contractors will provide you goods and services, and you will pay them within 90 days of invoicing.

At the end of the 90 days, you HAVE to pay these bills.

Remember, you've already used the goods and services. If you don't pay the bills, your vendors sue you, put a lien on your business and property etc... If you want to try to keep running, you can't get anyone else to give you terms. Everything goes to prepay or COD.

You REALLY want to avoid that if at all possible.

Now... it's possible that your receivables won't come in until after your payables are due. It's possible that there will be delays in processing and funds clearance. It's possible your business might have a bad quarter, and your receivables won't be enough to pay your outstanding payables. Maybe most of your billables are paid quarterly, but there a couple big ones that are only paid yearly.

Oh and of course, you need to pay the day to day costs and expenses (which are two different things, and the difference is important, but would make this explanation even longer) of running your business. Weekly salaries, payables without credit terms, fees etc...

So, in order to operate, you get a line of credit from a commercial lender (hopefully at a favorable interest rate). That lets you pay your day to day costs and expenses, and pay your bills as they come due, without worrying about your receivables current account.

Then, as your revenues come in, you pay down your credit line. The amount of your credit line you use, is, reasonably, called your utilization.

The lender doesn't make you pay ALL of your utilization off every month, or every year, or for that matter EVER.

So long as you don't use ALL of your credit (creditors consider that a bad sign), and you keep making your mandated payments (on time), your lenders will probably keep extending you credit (since they make money on it).

Pretty much every medium and large business (and a lot of small businesses) operate on this basis. Whether you know it or not, if they've got more than 20 employees, or they own or lease a building, it's almost certainly how your employer operates. It's how most of the businesses you interact with operate.

It's also how the federal government operates.

The government has day to day costs, and they consume goods and services (and transfer funds to other entities), as directed by legislation and regulation. They pay these costs from their current accounts, which are debt financed, and they pay on the debt out of their revenues.

So... that's the background and baseline.

Now, a business with a lot of revenue, can still have a year, even several years (in some cases even MANY years) where their expenditures exceed their revenues.

Maybe they had an off year, maybe a major customer went bankrupt and didn't pay them, maybe they expanded a lot, maybe they made a lot of investment; maybe their revenues were increasing, but their expenses increased faster...

There are plenty of reasons why a viable business might have their expenditures exceed their revenues. Many companies go on that way for many years in fact. Some businesses have more years with losses than profits.

This is where most peoples level of understanding becomes problematic. Most people know that a company can lose money and still continue operating, but they don't really understand the details of how or why.

So long as a company has substantial ongoing revenue, and a solid history of making their payments on time; even if the company isn't profitable, they will likely be able to obtain operating credit.

Major companies maintain lines of credit in the billions, so that they can manage manage their liquidity. When they need it, and presuming creditors have confidence in their ability to repay, they will get additional credit.

If a company would like to raise a fixed amount of capital, that they would like to repay over a longer (or at least a fixed) period of time, typically at a lower interest rate than cash/credit financing, they may elect to issue debt in the form of bonds.

The proceeds of the sale of bonds accrue directly to the issuer. The purchasers are then free to sell these bonds to others as they see fit.

So long as investors believe in the viability of the bond issuer, they will buy new bond issues.

Again, this is how the federal government operates.

The FedGov's 2013 accounts receivable (2.8 trillion) were lower than their 2013 expenditures (3.5 trillion). This 700 billion deficit was covered by issuing bonds, which were purchased by investors (primarily large institutional investors, foreign governments, and foreign banks).

However, this debt isn't issued in real time, to pay the governments bills. The government floats a balance at all times, paying it down with revenues and the proceeds of debt issuance.

The government can't just shut down in between tax payments and bond auctions. It has bills to pay and payments to make every day.

Depending on the time of year, and the particular year, the government spends about 90 days ahead of its revenues.

The debt ceiling isn't actually a credit limit, it's the terms of the debt we've already incurred.

An important difference between the government and private businesses of course, is that they don't have a choice about most of their spending, as their board of directors (congress) has incurred these obligations, and written them into law.

The federal government can't just stop spending, even if they don't have any money. They are not allowed to stop spending until congress tells them to.

Congress tells them to spend, and it tells them not to spend.

The problem isn't the debt ceiling... and the debt ceiling isn't actually a restraint on government spending.

The problem is congress.

You can't stop government spending by refusing to increase the debt limit. That just shuts the government down, and really, that isn't good for anyone...

...but in actuality it doesn't shut the government down, because the law doesn't allow it to.

It just shuts down the stuff that isn't explicitly required by law.

Even if the government is "shut down", they are still required to make payments on debt.

If they don't, the U.S. defaults on our sovereign debt.

If the U.S. Federal Government were to default on our sovereign debt, the entire world would be plunged into a massive depression. Pretty much every economy in the world would collapse.

That's really bad. We really don't want that.

But guess what, even that wouldn't stop the government from spending.

The many laws requiring government spending don't allow it to stop just because the bank accounts are empty. They do not contemplate the notion of an empty bank account.

When governments don't have enough money to pay their bills, they just print more.

So, what happens then, is hyperinflation. The government keeps spending dollars, by printing money... or rather electronically creating it out of nothing. This devalues the currency.

When the currency enters a devaluation cycle, people decide to stop taking it.

This of course makes the global depression a thousand times worse.

Repeat after me:

NOTHING CAN STOP THE GOVERNMENT FROM SPENDING BUT ACTS OF CONGRESS

Ok, so then, how do we make them stop spending?

Win elections.

So long as the democrats have control of the presidency and one house of congress, they can keep spending nearly as much as they want.

AFTER you win elections, you have to pass legislation cutting spending. To do that, you need veto-proof majorities, and/or a Republican president.

Now... if the Republicans prove to be no better than democrats on spending (or worse, as Bush was), THEN you attack them from the right.





Saturday, February 15, 2014

3287 days? Damn, that's like, a million in internet years

Today was my 9 year blogiversary.

Damn.

Seriously that's like, a million in blog years.

Doncha know, blogs are dead now... it's all about the instagram, and the snapchat, and the tweets.

And I admit, this blog has been damn near dead for the last couple years.

Once I was heavily into the cancer treatment...

Well, you blog about what bugs you, and what's going on in your life... and what was going on in my life was kinda depressing.

Lately, I've mostly been doing short posts on facebook... mostly because that's where I see the stuff that irritates me most ;-)

But I'm still here. And I'm still writing... every once in a while.

Thanks for sticking around.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Better, but not Recovered

Robb Allen posted something yesterday about his father in laws last chemo treatment. He notes how he's come to understand that once the docs are done treating the cancer, you aren't exactly "cured"

You're better because you aren't dying any more, but you aren't recovered.

Your cancer goes into remission, but you're not cured.

 I've officially been cancer free for 1 year, 1 month, and 21 days (my doc declared me cancer free Dec. 22nd 2012).

The last six weeks or so, have been a very vivid reminder that while my cancer may be gone, I am by no means recovered.

I had multi-endocrine cancer, which had metastasized into my blood stream (there was extreme vascular invasion, but thankfully it had not gone lymphocytic).

The cancer presented as a primary thyroid tumor (which eventually grew to over 4" in diameter), with secondary lesions throughout my endocrine system, which caused my body to go haywire in many strange ways (this is called paraneoplastic syndrome).

We treated the cancer with surgery, and high dose radiation. No chemo thankfully.

Between the cancer itself, and the radiation, my endocrine system is permanently damaged. I no longer have a thyroid, and my other endocrine glands and regulating systems are shot.

They'll recover somewhat over the next 3 or so years, but will never work properly again. I'll be on hormones and endocrine medication for the rest of my life, and even then my bodies regulation will be erratic at best.

I am immunocompromised, even more than a year later. Over time it will improve somewhat, but I will likely always have some level of immunodeficiency.

Because of the radiation, I'm now infertile (most likely permanently, though there is a small possibility some slight fertility may return over time. It's also possible that doctors could harvest viable sperm from me, and we could conceive with IVF).

I now bruise easier, and don't heal as well. I have less energy overall, and I'm fatigued easier. My inflammatory response is completely out of whack...

There are mental side effects as well. It significantly impacted my memory, both short and long term, both retention and recall. I have far less focus, mental energy, and mental drive than I used to. My attention span, and depth, are both worse. I can't concentrate like I used to, nor can I split my attention like I used to. I've become absent minded, and now have difficulty remembering names, dates, addresses and phone numbers. I often can't recall words, names for things, technical terms etc... even for areas in which I'm an expert.

I've always been an insomniac, but its FAR worse now than it has been at any time in my life except my early teens (another time when hormone regulation is out of whack).

There's all sorts of relatively little things... but they add up.

Most of them should get somewhat better over time, though there's no way to know how much.

I the mean time though... at times it FEELS like I'm recovered, until I try to do things like I used to.

Then I get smacked pretty hard in the face with just how NOT recovered I am.

It's very... discouraging, disorienting... it's almost an alienated feeling; when you know this is something you should know, or be able to do, or were good at... and it's just not working.

Robb also talks about how some cancer patients, when their cancers come out of remission, decide to live and die as it comes, rather than go through more chemo or radiation.

I can understand that. I dont think that would be my choice, but I can respect it...

It's the choice my own brother made.

When he was 30, doctors found that Rob had developed a rare type of bone cancer, with lesions in his pelvis and femur.

When they found it, it was treatable.

The treatment would have involved cutting muscle away from bone, and excising the lesions in the bone (literally burning then grinding them out), followed by chemotherapy, and possibly radiation.

Even if the treatment were successful, it would have left him unable to walk, and either confined to a wheelchair, or at best using crutches; most likely permanently. No matter what, it would have been incredibly painful, with literally years of recovery time, to a life far more constrained than the one he had before.

And after all that, there was a high likelihood the cancer would recurr anyway.

Rather than go through that, my brother chose not to treat his cancer.

Rob died a few months before his 32nd birthday, from a combination of the effects of the cancer,  a septic infection which weakened his body dramatically, and an accidental overdose of the several different kinds of opiates he was taking (for the pain from the cancer and the infection).

There's no such thing as a good way to die from cancer, but my brother died as he chose to. That's better than nothing.

I am sick of the last six weeks

The last six weeks have been double plus ungood.

This is a long story, but I really need to get it all out, at least to vent.

Ok... here goes.

So, just before we left New Hampshire, after a month of looking for a house and being repeatedly disappointed (a couple were sold out from under us, a couple weren't available 'til March or April etc... etc...), we managed to sign a lease on a house in Laconia.

Laconia is the biggest town in the New Hampshire lakes region, and largely the center of activities for the area. It's a nice place, an old mill town, and it still has a lot of the original 19th century architecture.

If you're a biker, Laconia has additional meaning, because it's the home of the third largest motorcyclist gathering in the country (after Daytona and Sturgis); Laconia bike week, held the week of fathers day every year.

The house wasn't exactly what we wanted (we wanted rural, or at least private, on some land if possible), but it was near the big lake (less than a mile from Winnepesaukee), pretty big (5 bedrooms, over 3000 square feet including the partially finished basement), in a nice quiet neighborhood but still close to everything, and it had a big fenced yard (important for the dogs). It even had a good sized pool off the rear deck.

So yay, new house.

Now all we had to do was drive back to Arizona, get our stuff and our dogs, then haul all of it, and us, back to New Hampshire.

How hard could that be, right?
**No, I wasn't silly enough to actually say, or even think, "how hard could that be" or "what could go wrong". After DECADES of extremely painful experience, I most certainly know better. Ask those questions, and they WILL be answered, THOROUGHLY.
Yeah... So that's when the REAL unfun started 

Actually, to be fair, the prelude to the unfun started on Christmas day, when Mels 93 year old grandmother (who lives with Mels dad) had a stroke, falling and breaking her hip in the process.

Now, our original plan was to drive back to Arizona over new years, spend less than two weeks with Mels dad (one week of which I was supposed to be at a clients site in Seattle), hook up the trailer, pack up the dogs, and head straight back to New Hampshire.

The second part of that got screwed up just before we left.

Mels grandmothers injury put her in the hospital for a week, after which she was transferred to a rehab clinic. The plan to deal with Grandmas injury was to have her come home from the rehab clinic the following week, and get a live in home care aide.

From a practical standpoint, what that meant to us, was that we couldn't stay with Mel's dad, because the spare bedroom would be in use by the home care aide.

So then, the plan was to stay with Mel's best friend (none of my friends in the area were in a position to put us up for a couple weeks). Unfortunately, her housemate (who is also her brother) objected to living with a two extra adults and a teething baby for a few weeks (understandably. It's a small house, and there's not a lot of noise isolation).

What we ended up having to do, was stay in a hotel; which should have been fine, since it was only supposed to be for a couple weeks anyway.

Sure, it's not cheap even in a room with a kitchen (it ended up being about $450 a week at an Extended Stay America. You pay more for the kitchen, but spend a LOT less on food and drink), but it's certainly tolerable.

So... then we actually set off...

The trip itself was pretty nice actually, minus the repeated ice storms. We got to hang out with friends and family we haven't seen for a while, and I got to meet family I hadn't met before; always good things.

Unfortunately, towards the end of the drive, I started coming down with something.

From about January 4th (when we checked into our hotel), I had a full blown flu. From the symptoms, likely H1N1 aka "Swine Flu", which has been widespread this flu season.

Meanwhile... 

...actually, while we were driving from NH to AZ...

...the client changed their schedule.

So, instead of being onsite the week of the 6th, I was supposed to be onsite the week of the 13th.

From one perspective that was a good thing, since I ended up being sick the week of the 6th and wouldn't have been able to fly out there anyway.

Unfortunately, we were planning on LEAVING Arizona the week of the 13th (we were supposed to take possession of the house on the 15th). Moving the onsite a week later, also also meant staying in AZ until at least the 20th, and for logistical reasons the 25th.

So, we changed our plans again, and extended our hotel stay to the 25th.

Then, the Friday before I was to leave, the client cancelled the onsite week entirely. So, yay, I didn't have to fly while I'm still sick, but we'd already prepaid for a hotel through the 25th (had to prepay or it was 20% more expensive), and rejiggered everything else to make the 25th work. We couldn't change it all back.

Turns out that the later date would have been necessary anyway however, for four reasons:

First: At the same time as my client was being fickle, our new house in New Hampshire had a pipe burst. A large portion of the house flooded, with significant water damage; and the house wouldn't be ready for us to take possession until at least the 1st of February, possibly later.

We planned on, and agreed with the owners to take possession of the house on the 5th of February (that way we could leave the Friday before, and drive over the weekend, giving us plenty of time to get there).

Second: The next week, the steering on our truck failed while Mel was driving it.

Thankfully no-one was hurt, but the entire steering mechanism and part of the suspension were badly damaged, and needed replacement (with a newer design, heavier duty setup from the factory).

The failure was due to defective tie-rod ends (which it turns out were subject to a recall). The tie-rods were covered under the recall, but the parts that were damaged or destroyed because of them (and the associated labor) were not. The repairs, all up, including a rental car for five days, ended up costing about $3,000.

Third: Money...

By January 31st, between repairs, hotel bills, additional meals, additional travel expenses, and unreimbursed expenses from work (they're being paid on my check this Friday), we had to lay out a HUGE amount over our planned and budgeted expenses for the month.

Then there's the AMEX bill, covering all the previous travel and expenses, and purchases from December (moving is EXPENSIVE).

Then there's the actual BUDGETED travel expenses, and all our regular bills and expenses (truck payment, fuel, food, insurance, phones, medications etc... also budgeted).

Combined, our total outlay Jan-1 to Jan-31 (which, to be fair, included paying most of the bills and expenses from December) was somewhere around $17,000 (and no, I don't make NEARLY that much a month. In part it was covered by expense reimbursement, combined with pretty much all of what I took home in January, and part of what I took home in December).

That's nearly double the outlay we had planned for the month.

That $17,000 meant we wouldn't actually have enough cash to complete the move ($4,200 in rent and security deposit on the house, and $2,500 in travel expenses for the drive. Hauling a trailer, 3 people, and 2 dogs 3000 miles is EXPENSIVE) before February anyway.

Fourth: At that point I was still sick, and getting sicker.

The flu seemed to subside around the 14th or so, which was good. Unfortunately, the flu led to a sinus infection and bronchitis, which was not.

The sinusitis and bronchitis hung on for a while, but I was managing the symptoms fairly effectively with medication (I take adderall, and a very strong anti-inflammatory anyway, and it just so happens that the combination makes a pretty effective treatment for the symptoms of sinusitis and bronchitis).

Unfortunately, I take those medications because I need them to function properly. When their effects are being taken up relieving symptoms, they aren't actually making me functional.

Worse, the medications also masked the fact that I wasn't actually getting better. I was just staggering along being propped up by the wonder of modern medicine.

Some time around Friday the 24th, I started getting sicker again.

MUCH sicker.

For the first week I thought it was just a combination of sleep deprivation, and a relapse of the flu.

Meanwhile...

We couldn't extend our stay at the Extended Stay America past the 25th, as they were fully booked. Unfortunately, this is the time that peak golf travel season hits Arizona, and rates at any of the extended stay/kitchen suite places went from $450 a week, to $700 a week, basically overnight.

Thankfully, rather than find a place for a week at a ridiculous rate, a friend agreed to let us stay with him 'til the end of the month (when we planned to leave for NH).

Unfortunately, he got sick that week as well (though not from me. I was past the contagious stage then, and it turned out to just be a bad cold or maybe a light flu for him).

And I kept getting sicker...

By Sunday the 26th, I was pretty much in bed 24/7. In fact, from the 26th until today (February 13th. 19ish days ), I've pretty much been sick in bed, minus changing the actual location of said bed.

A couple times I've felt better for a day or two, only to be slammed back down even worse afterwards.

Anyway, our friend was sick, and he needed his place free of a teething baby and two houseguests in order to rest.

So, we ended up transferring from our friends place to another hotel a couple days early, and swallowing the $700 for a week (six nights actually). At least it was a much nicer place than the ESA (a Hilton garden inn, with a 2 room suite. Funny thing was, it was actually only $40 more than the ESA would have been).

Unfortunately, I couldn't enjoy the nicer surroundings, because I was pretty much out of my head sick. By that point, it was clear that my Bronchitis had developed into pneumonia.

And then life got more complicated...

At that point it was ALSO very clear we wouldn't be leaving AZ until WELL after the fifth. So, we asked our new landlords if we could take possession on the 15th.

Initially they agreed. Unfortunately, a few days later, they insisted that we take possession on the fifth, and pay a full months rent for February, plus the deposit etc... and that they wanted the full amount by the 5th.

Apparently the husband (who had initially agreed to our request) was fine with what we wanted to do, but the wife wasn't, and she was making the decisions.

After I told them this was unacceptable to us, they agreed to prorate the rent from the 5th, but no further.

I told them I was perfectly willing to pay from the 15th, ON the 15th, whether we were there to take possession or not; but that we weren't going to pay a full months rent for a half months occupancy (or likely less, given that we wouldn't even be able to LEAVE AZ until at least the 15th... frankly I doubted whether we could get to NH before the end of February). I thought it was kind of silly to lose tenants over a matter of 10 days rent, and that if they agreed to the 15th I would be willing to send them half the security deposit immediately.

Well, that wasn't acceptable to them.

So as of February 1st, we were stuck in Arizona, no longer having a new house to bring our stuff and our selves back to.

We started looking for a new place immediately of course.

And we had to change venues again...

By the 1st, it was clear that Mels grandmother wouldn't be coming home. Between her injuries, the stroke, and her dementia, she can no longer be cared for at home, even with an aide. She's still in the rehab facility, but when they release her, we're transferring her to a 24 hour care facility.

This is really for the best. She needs 24 hour care that she can't get here.

That also meant that the spare room in my father in laws house would be available to us again (of course, it ended up being available the whole month, and we could have avoided wasting $2,000 for a months worth of hotel charges, and god knows how much more on a bunch of takeout/restaurant meals for when we didn't want to use the kitchenette... but we didn't know that at the time).

So, not knowing how long it would take to find a new place to live in NH, and rather than pay for more hotel rooms, on the 5th we transferred our operation back to Mels fathers house.

And I kept getting sicker...

The day we moved over my father in laws house, I basically collapsed into the bed, and I've barely left it since.

The last eight days have been really bad, with low to medium fevers, sweats and chills, lots of pain (particularly joint pain, and stomach pain), a nasty cough, myalgia, stomach and intestinal issues, sinus problems, photophobia... it's just sucked frankly.

Actually, yesterday (the 12th) was the first day since the 24th that I didn't have a fever.

The only compensation has been that for most of the past week, the pneumonia has knocked me out for 10 or 12 hours a day. For the first few weeks of this crud, it was bad enough to keep me from sleeping, but NOT bad enough to knock me out.

Oh and by the by, my wife, and my 10 month old son have ALSO been sick for the last three weeks (since the week with our friend), though thankfully it's just been a mild flu or bad cold (it can be hard to tell) and a touch of bronchitis for them.

...Of course, it's also kept THEM from sleeping  until the past few days as well.

Combined with the boys MASSIVE teething issue the past month or so... (he's cried more in the last six weeks than he did in the entire previous 9 months)... I pretty much hadn't slept the entire month of January.

Basically I was averaging about 2 hours of not particularly restful sleep out of every 24.

And then of course there's been the stress issue. The money, the mad rush, the uncertainty, the not having a place to live... You could say it's been a LITTLE bit stressful.

Between being sick, and not sleeping, I was pretty much a zombie for most of January (unless I was taking plenty of adderall, nasal spray, and anti-inflammatories, which you can't do all day every day).

Oh and of course, stress, sleep deprivation and exhaustion make illnesses worse, and make healing much harder. Frankly, it was probably the sleep deprivation and exhaustion that made it progress to pneumonia in the first place.

The bad news...

I just spent most of my second month (and half my third month) with a new employer, dead sick. For two weeks of that, I've been damn near useless.

I've been so sick, I've barely done any useful work in the last two weeks (I've been doing a lot of reading and research, and a little bit of writing), and I haven't been on anything billable for four weeks.

Also, I'm still in Arizona, a month after I was supposed to be back in New England, with at least a few more weeks to go before I actually make it back.

They're somewhat less than thrilled with me at the moment.

The good news...

I've got two pieces of good news actually.

First, the pneumonia seems to have broken. I haven't had a fever in over 24 hours, my coughing is greatly diminished... the only major thing really left is a particularly nasty sinus problem... and I think that's really a leftover, not a new sinus infection.

Second, we found a new house... and it's damn near exactly what we were looking for, at about half the price the Laconia place was (though it is MUCH more remote... which is both good and bad). Even better the owners are going to work with us on a lease to buy option. We're in the process of signing on it now (more on this house in a later post).

Ok, vent over... 



Thursday, February 06, 2014

CVS Drops Tobacco Products, Walgreens Considering it

Washington Post: "Why CVS thinks it can win big by ending cigarette sales"

Don't mistake this for altruism... this is forward thinking, and getting ahead of the trend, in order to milk some good PR out of it.

They're losing 2.4% of their gross revenue and 3% of their profit, in exchange for lots of good press, and avoiding a lot of hassle.

Walgreens is apparently "considering dropping tobacco products" as well.

Mark my words, the next target of the tobacco lawsuit industry will be retailers (just like the gun lawsuit industry has gone after gun stores). Never mind what will happen to tobacco producers and sellers if Obamacare proceeds.

Dropping tobacco means, lower insurance and legal bills, fewer hassles from state regulators, and less risk in general.

The smoking population in america is now below 20% (2013 estimate is 19% of adults). Unless a store is a "first choice" retailer for tobacco products, or can sell them at a large markup (gas stations are both for example) it no longer makes sense to sell tobacco products.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Franchise limitation isn't the solution to illegal immigration

A few days ago, Roger L. Simon of PJ Media posted "A Modest Proposal for Immigration Reform".
"So here’s my simple — call it simple-minded, if you want — solution, my modest proposal.  Illegal immigrants, assuming they have lived here for a decent period of time and have not committed a felony, can have amnesty, but they can NEVER be allowed to vote.  They can do anything else that is legal, but if they want to vote — or run for office or practice law in our country, as just happened in California — they must return home and go through the normal immigrant application process, however long that may take until they have citizenship."
Now, Simon is a smart and well read man, and by invoking Swift in his title, it's possible that he is cueing the reader that the piece is satire... but it reads as straight to me.

...Unfortunately.

Oh, on its face it sounds like a decent, practical idea, as Simon writes:
"This takes political motivations off the table in immigration policy and allows it to be about the lives of the people themselves, not the advancement of politicians and their parties.  If our Democratic friends mean what they say about their “compassion,” they should have no objection. If they do, they simply expose themselves as political opportunists with no real interest in the welfare of what they euphemistically choose to call “undocumented workers,” only in creating a voting bloc."
That would be nice... and overall, denying the franchise to illegals given amnesty citizenship seems like an OK idea... better than nothing, better than most legislation ideas being bandied about, and addressing one of the biggest problems with mass amnesty.

Except that passing such a law would, in fact, be disastrous.

Sebastian of PAGunBlog referred to the idea as "Amnesty Light", which isn't a bad way of putting it. More accurate though, would be to call it "Citizenship light"... which is a problem in several ways.

First of all, purely from a practical standpoint, the franchise limitation provision would fail in its intended goal.

The core issue, is that if such a law passed, it would effectively create multi-tiered citizenship: "Amnesty Citizens" and "Full Citizens"

In addition to the MANY other areas where this could be legally problematic; this would almost certainly be ruled, by just about any court, to be a 14th amendment violation (a privileges and immunities clause violation at the least, and possibly an equal protection violation).

Of course, it is not necessarily unconstitutional to limit the franchise by legislation (though based on court rulings over the past 60 years, that has some pretty strict, if ill defined, limits). For example, federally, we limit the franchise to those over 18. In most states they limit the franchise of felons, to some degree or another.

It is almost certainly unconstitutional however, to permanently deny franchise en-bloc, based on arbitrary characteristics, or on acts that were committed prior to passage of such a law.

It may even simply be ruled to be a fundamental violation of our system of citizenship as a whole; and that congress does not have the power to create a limited class of citizenship through legislation.

... I actually think that's likely. I don't believe congress has the power to create a limited citizenship by legislation.

I'd say that was absolutely the case, but there is a little wiggle room in the constitution, the 14th amendment, and the body of citizenship law; which potentially leaves it open to interpretation by a judge.

In that case, creating a limited citizenship would require a constitutional amendment... which will NEVER happen.
Oh an important aside... Some may suggest that the legal problems could be circumvented by requiring amnesty seekers to voluntarily agree to give up the franchise as part of their citizenship agreement. Effectively, each amnesty seeker would sign a consent decree voluntarily surrendering the franchise.
Normally, a consent decree can be used to enforce conditions that the government otherwise would not have the power to enforce, but there here are a few major exceptions.
This country has a body of anti-slavery and anti-abuse jurisprudence, which has enshrined a basic principle of law and contracts: American citizens cannot voluntarily give up their basic rights, privileges, and immunities. They can agree to reasonable restrictions such as non-disclosure agreements, but they can't contract themselves into slavery for example.
There may be some ways to make it work legislatively of course. For example, in order to get citizenship via the amnesty, each illegal immigrant would have to plead guilty to a felony (don't get me started on felonies), but that could get very messy very quickly.

Really though, which specific issue the franchise restriction was struck down for is unimportant. There are enough issues here that eventually (likely very quickly), there would be a successful challenge.

Given that any law passed would almost certainly have a severability clause, and that the supreme court would almost certainly strike down such a broad restriction on the franchise (certainly, many groups would litigate the issue constantly, and until they got the result they desired); effectively there would be no compromise. A few years after the law passed... possibly even a few months.... the voting provision would be struck down, and the amnesty citizens would be voters.

And let's just ignore fact that this would inevitably become an incredibly nasty race issue...

It's not just impracticable though. As a matter of principle, such a law would be morally and ethically wrong, and corrosive to our liberty.

Citizenship is, and must be, absolute. It's an all or nothing thing. The United States cannot create multiple classes of citizenship, de jure or de facto, and survive in any recognizable form.

Simply put, that way lies tyranny.

This is not to say that all people should be treated the same at all times.

Individuals may, through their own actions and choices, cause the PRIVILEGES* society grants them to change. A society can restrict certain privileges to certain individuals, who qualify by their own actions and choices; or deny them to others, disqualified by their actions and choices.

... so long as all have equal status under law, and the law is applied equally.

*The franchise is a privilege, not a right; as for that matter, is citizenship. They can be granted or denied by society, as society defines; so long as the law is applied equally to all, and not arbitrary or capricious.

Citizenship though, is absolute in this country. With one single and extremely limited exception, a citizen is a citizen, with equal rights, privileges, and immunities.

In this country, you can't say "you're a citizen EXCEPT...". It just goes against the nature of what we are... or at least what we're supposed to be.

There's a reason why there is only one office in this country that a naturalized citizen can't hold (Ok, technically two, since you have to be qualified to the the president in order to be the VP... but it's entirely likely that part of the constitution will eventually either be changed, or that the supremes will decide the 14th amendment moots it). There's a very big reason why it's explicitly called out in the constitution, as the sole exception to the rule that citizenship is citizenship, no matter what.

When the constitution specifies very broad rights and principles, and very narrow restrictions and exceptions to them, that's not an accident.

I'm not denying that giving somewhere between 10 and 20 million (and no matter what the propaganda says, largely unassimilated. I've lived in Arizona, California, Texas, Florida) illegal immigrants the franchise all at once could be a major problem. No matter what, it would be incredibly destabilizing, and we almost certainly shouldn't do that.

Neither though, should we weaken the essential protections our rights, privileges, and immunities have against an overreaching state, in order to attempt to address that problem.

It's a matter of the camels nose... or if you prefer, perhaps the slippery slope (slippery slopes may be a formal logical fallacy, but they do in fact exist. That's how incrementalism works).

Today, it's former illegal immigrants having the franchise restricted. If we allow that though, in principle, it could be acceptable to remove the franchise from any group. You'd simply need to come up with "compelling justification".

If you try to say "oh, that can't happen here"... it already has. In the civil war, WW1, WW2... The internment of the Japanese is the best known example, but far from the only one.

The fact is, several times in our not so distant past, the government has arbitrarily decided, based on "compelling interest"; that some people weren't "real" citizens, with all the rights and privileges thereof. That it was acceptable to simply ignore these peoples fundamental rights as human beings, never mind as citizens.

... and each time, the supreme court ruled it constitutional.

The principle of absolute citizenship should be just that, absolute. You either have citizenship, and all the privileges and immunities thereof... or you don't. That's it. there is no "in between"

Of course and unfortunately, these are principles that we rarely manage to uphold. The "real world" has more examples of inequitable treatment under law, than you could ever count.

That this is true, despite what are in theory our best efforts, should not make us discard the principle however.

On the contrary... That this is true, should make it incredibly clear, that we should avoid deliberately writing inequality into law; no matter how compelling the cause, no matter how limited the scope.

Oh... There's one thing I agree with Simon on in the entire:

"Our country lives by the rule of law — at least we should.  Immigration policy has been a farce."

You know what's not fun?

Two adults, living out of a suitcase for a month, in one room, with a 10 month old teething baby with growing pains.

And trying to work during that time.

And when all three of us manage to get sick twice.

And the sleep deprivation that comes along with all that.

We haven't been writing much, because... all of the above.

I'm sick as hell... can't think, can barely breathe... and I've had about 20 hours total sleep, no more than 2 hours at a time, in the last week.

Such joy.