Towards a more curated experience…

A weekend with virtually no news seems to be precisely what the doctor ordered. It was a helpful reminder that there’s enough going on within my span of control to absorb every bit of free time I want to have on any given day. It was kind of great to focus in on those things rather than spending a lot of time focused in on external issues.

My news and media brown out only lasted until I sat down with a computer terminal in front of me this morning. Then I was greeted by headlines warning that “Poll reveals staggering polarization ahead of midterms,” “Fundamentals flashing red; Last pillar of credit crumbles,” and, of course, any number of stories highlighting Donald Trump being his normal, beshitted self. None of those are apt to keep one’s blood pressure down, but what else would anyone really expect on a Monday morning?

I like to imagine I now have all the all the input I need to start scaling back on the amount of hard and soft news I’m consuming on a daily basis, but breaking the habits of a lifetime is probably something of a slow burn. Even if it were possible, I’m not sure I’d ever want to wander through the world completely unaware of what’s happening – if for no other reason than it would create a whole lot of white space when it comes time to sit down every day and do a bit of writing. Short of turning this space into a blog focused on petting dogs and cats, reading books, and highlighting the occasional home cooked meal, keeping a bit of a grip on current events is probably inevitable. 

In any case, I think what that leaves me with is a strong desire to begin curtailing how engaged I am with broad-sourced news coverage – maybe a little less Drudge and a bit more heavily curating Google News to spit out coverage on more tailored issues. It feels like a good idea… and I have no idea if it’s the kind of change I can make work for the long term. 

Back in the USSR…

Maybe it’s having spent my formative years in the tail end of the long cold war between the United States and the USSR, but tuning in to the news only to hear nuclear threats spewing from Moscow doesn’t seem particularly alarming. It feels a little like home – the way the world is supposed to be, or the way it was before the Soviet Union up and collapsed and we declared the end of history.

Soviet behavior on the nuclear front was happily predictable. The Russian bear would find itself backed into a corner and then rattle its nuclear saber. It’s the kind of thing that was just expected back there and back then as a standard part of their negotiating posture.

Oh, sure, this time could be different, but it feels a lot like Uncle Vlad is cut from very similar cloth as the old Soviet leaders that came before him. It’s always possible, of course, that he’s just enough of a wild card to let a whopper fly when none of his predecessors were. Desperate men aren’t often known for their smoothly rational behavior.

Even given the nominal risk of global thermonuclear war, I’m firmly of the position that there is absolutely no strategic upside to giving in to nuclear blackmail. It’s not like we haven’t been here before… and given the performance we’ve seen from Russian equipment over the last six months, it feels more than possible that their birds are even more of a danger to their own launch facilities than they are to the targets. 

Chalk one up for Gen X’s trademark indifference, I guess, but I ain’t scared.

The agitating present…

Having spent the last week and a half taking in a steady diet of new from the UK, I tried this morning to adjust back to information from sources closer to home. It wasn’t a particularly happy reunion.

Aside from the local weather forecast, I’d be hard pressed to tell you about a single story covered my go-to station out of Baltimore that I could gin up any interest in at all. Murder, mayhem, hints of corruption – nothing new under the sun. Switching over to CNN it was the predictable drumbeat of catastrophic weather, rerunning the election of 2020 and the general fuckery surrounding it, and all manner of talking heads I’m increasingly convinced don’t have the first idea about what’s happening or why. 

I’m sure there are a host of things I should be interested in, or that I should at least have a bit of general knowledge about, but friends I’m here to tell you that I just don’t. Maybe it’s simply news overload. Maybe it’s too many sources peddling a decidedly weak product. Whatever the cause, I’m far more interested in reading analysis of what happened a continent away 500 years ago than I am in lending my eyes and ears to what happened yesterday thirty miles from home.

I’m sure once the midterm election gets a little closer or the case against the former host of The Celebrity Apprentice ever gets a bit of traction, I’ll tune back in – or at least gin up a modicum of interest. For the immediate future, if it’s not coming through BBC, The Times, or one of the news aggregators I glance at in the morning, I’m going to be ok not paying attention.

If something legitimately important happens, I’m sure it will break through the static. Until then, I’ll be perfectly content studying the past rather than being thoroughly agitated by the present.

Don’t simp for sleazy, scumbag politicians… 

I spent a good amount of time raging about Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified email back in 2016. I believed then and I believe now that if I stored classified email on my home computer, I’d be at best fired and at worst prosecuted and imprisoned. She shouldn’t receive special consideration due to her august and lofty position. 

In 2017 I called out Jared Kushner for use of private email to conduct official business on behalf of the U.S. Government. I recommended that his files and records be subpoenaed and if there was evidence of guilt he should be charged and tried.

In 2018 I called out Ivanka Trump for using her personal email address to conduct official business on behalf of the U.S. Government. 

Here, now, in 2022, I’ll state publicly and for the record that if Donald Trump is suspected of having unlawfully retained, stored, folded, spindled, mutilated, sold, or otherwise misused classified materials, his residence and/or place of business absolutely should be subject to a lawful search. If evidence is found based on that search, he should be tried. That would be my position regardless of whether we happened to be discussing a sitting president, a former president, or a private citizen.

Maybe it’s easier for me to say because I’m beholden to neither of our major political parties, though I like to think it’s simply because I have the intellectual integrity not to have different rules of behavior depending on what party I happen to support. I have many bad qualities, but being a hypocritical asshat isn’t one of them.

I know it’s far too much to expect people to dispense with their partisan blinders at this point. They’re too entrenched – too invested in the position that they’ve staked out. No one wants to admit they bought a pig in a poke. There’s too much face to lose. Nothing I say is going to change minds, so I’ll just be over here eternally grateful that I never wrapped so much of my own identity up in a sleazy, scumbag politician to have hurt feelings when they go out and do sleazy, scumbag politician stuff.

Texas, unfuck thyself…

The number of people defending the Alamo is usually pegged at right around 200. At the height of the Pacific war, a fully manned Marine infantry company consisted of 7 officers and 228 enlisted personnel for a total of 235. 

During the school shooting in Uvalde, 376 law enforcement officers were on scene. 

That’s almost 2x the number of men who held the Alamo against the Mexican army. It’s 1.6x the number of troops who would have stormed ashore in an infantry company landing on Iwo Jima.

Those 376 armed and trained law enforcement officers were held at bay by one guy with limited ammunition and no way out.

I’m not necessarily calling into question the manhood or virility of each and every one of those officers, but men have certainly been charged, tried, and shot for cowardice in the face of the enemy for a lot less. 

The biggest question, really, is if and how so many elements of Texas law enforcement will unfuck themselves – and what lessons need to be learned by agencies large and small across the country. 

Beijing and other asshattery…

It won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s been reading these posts regularly that I haven’t been watching the Olympics. Whatever the gene is that drives people to watch sports on television is one I just don’t have. I don’t hate them, it’s more like I don’t even think of them at all when left to my own devices. It’s impossible, of course, to avoid the coverage that the Olympics and other sporting events get in the media. I mostly tune those out, but occasionally something seeps through.

What little I’ve picked up about the Beijing games doesn’t fill me with regret for my general indifference to the sporting world. A winter Olympics with no snow. Athletes falling out with the Great Plague. The inevitable doping scandals. Participants using burner phones… and China just generally being China. It all reads more like bad reality television than something worth spending much brainpower on.

Based on the amount of breathless coverage everything in Beijing is getting, my opinion clearly isn’t shared by many… or maybe the Olympics are a convenient excuse not to have wall-to-wall coverage about the deteriorating state of the world and divisions at home. That’s more observation than accusation. There’s plenty enough shitshow to go around whether you want to watch the Olympics or any of the other asshattery filling the airwaves and webpages of 2022.

On crypto…

Scan the big news sites and it won’t take long to find an article where someone is decrying cryptocurrency as some kind of scam that swindled poor unsuspecting victims out of their life savings and now the bank will inevitably foreclose on the farm while Ma and Pa are tossed out to the ditch.

It makes an attention grabbing headline, but doesn’t garner any sympathy from me. It’s safe to say that most people don’t know the basics of how the Federal Reserve “creates money.” I’d wager that far fewer know with any kind of precision how an asset like Bitcoin really works, but here we are with scads of people wondering how they suddenly lost so much value, even when they didn’t know how it was generated in the first place.

You can almost hear the outcry now, begging for the government to place increasingly restrictive regulations on cryptocurrency and save the ill- and under-informed from themselves. Letting people live or die with their own decisions doesn’t play well in front of the cameras, I suppose.

In the interest of full disclosure, I hold a very small position in crypto. Mostly it’s a hedge against fear of missing out rather than any expectation of it ever shooting the moon. With much of it picked up back in 2017, I guess you can say I’m long on this brave new frontier of finance. I think some interesting things will come of it, even if no one seems quite sure what any of those will be yet.

Be not afraid…

It’s hard to miss all the current reporting on the growing impact of inflation on the overall economy. Even without the reporting, rapidly rising prices for petrol, food, and other consumer goods, the impact of our inflationary economy would be hard to miss. 

Most of the major news outlets paint a worrying picture – particularly for retirees, anyone sitting on a lot of cash (in a savings account or in certificates of deposit, for instance), or those who loaded up on variable rate debt (like your average credit card). That’s a fair concern, but it’s only part of the bigger picture.

If you happen to be a homeowner – especially one who locked in a mortgage when fixed interest rates drifted down under 3% – inflation gives you the bonus of paying back your loan on an appreciating asset with devalued dollars. If you happen to be holding equities as opposed to cash (including things like 401k, IRA, and other retirement savings vehicles), values should largely increase as the cash value of the underlying companies is inflated. All of that, of course, presupposes that your income also paces the rate of inflation, or at least doesn’t entirely stagnate during a period of sustained inflationary pressure.

I’m obviously not calling for a return to the bad old days of inflation, sky high interest rates, and 10% unemployment… but by read is that there are things out there a hell of a lot more frightening than a little pop of inflation every now and then, so for the time being my motto is “be not afraid.”

Blood and treasure…

I went to work as a very small cog in our uncle’s great green machine in January 2003. America’s war in Afghanistan was already more than a year old by then. I worked every day from then until now as part of an organization “at war,” even if the rest of the country wasn’t. Even on days when it didn’t seem to be, Afghanistan was always in the background of everything.

I’m not a grand strategist and don’t intend to pass myself off as anything other than someone who has done some reading and existed, tangentially, on the far extremity of the fight for the last two decades. There are too many people whose real world experience and voices should be rightly amplified as we come to terms with the debacle that ends our benighted involvement in Afghanistan.

Having grown up seeing the grainy images of the fall of Saigon – taken three years before I was born – I never imagined I’d see an echo of that moment played out live on the weekend news. How we could so badly bungle this “final act” of the long war, how we could have squandered so much blood and treasure, and how it went to shit so very quickly can and should haunt this generation of bureaucrats, soldiers, and statesmen as an example of what happens when we get it exactly wrong.

These last couple of days have got me feeling some kind of way. I don’t recommend it.

Sir Richard…

The social media response to Sir Richard Branson, astronaut, is nothing if not predictable. He’s an evil billionaire trying to escape earth because he’s destroyed it. He should be taxed into the stone age so we could give everyone in the world three pencils and a timeshare goat or whatever.

It’s done nothing but reinforce my opinion that the kind of lefties who are active on social media are more about controlling what people do or don’t do, how we spend our money and live our lives, and keeping perfect credit with whoever is tracking the approved “social justice” buzzwords of the day.

Branson is the kind of guy we use to tell people they should admire. Starting his own, relatively unremarkable business at the age of 16, over the next five decades he parlayed that small initial success into a corporate juggernaut. He made himself rich beyond the dreams of avarice in the process… and then used that money to fund a project that use to be the sole province of nation states. I’d love to understand how space travel and exploration is somehow less democratic now that it’s not purely a state-sponsored endeavor. 

Yesterday, a self-made man used his own fortune to heave himself into space and open another avenue to travel and explore beyond the bounds of earth. 

I’m here for it.

If the wags on social media can’t or won’t see past their obsession and abject jealousy of who has what, I almost feel sorry for their lack of vision. Sir Richard is making history while the social media set is, at best, scoring points with those in their echo chamber.