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In English literature, there is a long series of articles written by writers about how poorly they have managed money and so don't have it. Herewith is the latest example. John Scalzi, a man good with money, discussed this some time ago. It's not a new phenomenon. In the 19th century, Sir Walter Scott and Alexandre Dumas were both chronically strapped financially. In truth and as Scalzi notes, it's not just writers. "Broke aristocrat" was a stereotype, and just plain ole' broke people aren't uncommon.

I may not live in a glass house in this regard, but I've got a lot of windows. (I just recently paid down some credit card debt.) In thinking about money management, there are a lot of reasons people don't have money. Sometimes it's a case of bad decisions. I know one person who quit their day job to be a writer before they had published anything. In my case, and I suspect a lot of people, financial trouble comes on more subtly.

For example, I eat out for lunch at least five times a week, sometimes six. (Sunday I don't eat lunch.) My lunch bill is $10 - $15, so at an average of $12.50 / day, that's $62 a week or $3,250 a year. I eat out for dinner at least 3 times a week, at an average of $30 a night. That's $90 a week or $4,680. Total restaurant tab = $7,980. That's serious money, coming out of my pocket a drip at a time.

How do you spend your money?


Locust Alert

My day is being devoured by locusts. No blogging for you.


LCS and tank destroyers

I've blogged before about my dislike of the US Navy's most recent type of surface warship, the Littoral Combat Ship or LCS. For those not clicking through, the LCS is "a class of relatively small surface vessels intended for operations in the littoral zone (close to shore)" and combines light troop transport and anti-ship warfare into one small (2500 to 3500 ton) vessel. (For the record, the frigate I served on was 4,100 tons, so an LCS at ~25% lighter isn't that small.)

My chief complaint with the LCS is firepower, or rather lack of same. As built, the ships have a single 57MM cannon with a range of ~ 5 miles and an air defense system designed for anti-missile use with the same 5 mile range. The cannon is simply too small a caliber for anti-ship use, at least against anything the same size as the LCS or bigger, and the anti-missile system is rudimentary (largely due to radar limitations). In short, the LCS simply can't effectively engage ships it's own size or larger.

I've seen this movie before. In WWII, most armies fielded a type of vehicle called a tank destroyer. This was a tank-like vehicle but one, unlike the "typical" tank of the period, equipped with a gun powerful enough to destroy an enemy tank. In theory, tanks were used to support infantry attacks and tank destroyers would hunt enemy tanks.

In practice, this didn't work. Tanks frequently found themselves fighting other tanks and tank destroyers found themselves supporting infantry attacks. The long-term solution proved obvious, namely give the tank the firepower it needed to face other tanks.

Thus, I expect, unto the LCS. The first rule of modern naval warfare is that every ship needs to fend for itself in the area it is expected to operate in. So the LCS needs to be able to sink, or at least fight evenly, a ship it's size and deal with a small airstrike and have some anti-submarine capability.

Reality = Gravity

I've said before that reality is like gravity. Neither force care whether you believe in them or not, and you can only ignore them so long before they bite you square in the ass.

Today's lesson is from Kansas. There, the GOP governor and legislature cut taxes, because that would increase jobs, economic output and revenue for the state. Well, what happened is But Scott Drenkard, an economist for the conservative Tax Foundation, told legislators last month that farmers and business owners appeared to pocket the extra money from the state's recent tax cuts rather than use it for expansion — "tax avoidance, not job creation."

Surprise, surprise, I say in my best Gomer Pyle voice. Tax burden isn't even in the top 10 factors determining how many people the average business will hire. Now, as per the article, the GOP legislature is pushing the Governor to rescind his tax cuts.

Culture Vulture

Over the weekend, I attended the final concert of the 39th season of the New Philharmonic Orchestra, playing at College of DuPage. The headline act was "dueling pianos" starring two Chicago-based players, Winston Choi and Marta Aznavoorian. The piano pieces were enjoyable, but to get to them, I had to sit through Mahler's 4th Symphony. It was 55 minutes of snoozefest, punctuated with 4 or 5 false endings per movement. Now, work and Rotary stuff. Happy Monday.


Joe McCarthy, or The Weatherman

John C. Wright, he of many words, has a lengthy post up about Communists stealing his manly essence under his bed. I frankly can't be arsed to read the whole thing with any care. I can be arsed to note that he repeats the claim that "Joe McCarthy was right." For those a bit hazy on history, McCarthy was the Senator who ran around waving a list of names of known Communists in US government. So, was McCarthy right?

Well, yes, in a narrow sense. Let me unpack that. If you announce that you are a meteorologist and every day issue a prediction that it will rain tomorrow, you will be correct some percentage of the time (at least here in Illinois). If you further point out that sometimes rain comes with damaging winds, again here in Illinois you'll be occasionally right. However, I suspect the general public will find that your "predictions" are of little use.

Thus unto McCarthy. There were Communists trying to infiltrate the US government, and some of them had, although by the time McCarthy started to wave his list around many of them were being shown the door. In short, if you call everybody a Communist, you will occasionally land on one.

What McCarthy actually did was help Communists. His wild and baseless accusations allowed people to claim that they were being falsely accused. It discredited the whole process, much like the weatherman who always predicts rain.

Source 1
Source 2

Sorry, Roswell

Perhaps to nobody's surprise, there weren't really aliens discovered in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. Contemporaneous reports talk of 5 pounds of debris, foil mostly and entirely consistent with a ballon, being discovered. Most of what we "know" about aliens at Roswell are based on the memories of one Glenn Dennis, who first came forward with same in 1991, 44 years after the events in question.

At the link, one can see all the errors of Mr. Dennis's memory. There is a reasonable explanation for everything he remembers, even the small and blackened bodies. (They were victims of an air tanker crash and fire.)

This is actually a common occurrence, noted in places such as the Bermuda Triangle. Years after a boat sank, people, working from memory, fail to remember such key factors as "it was stormy." Other people, either cynically wanting to sell books or fervently wanting to believe, don't do the research, and wham-bam-thank-you-Ma'am we've got a mystery and conspiracy.

Skeptical thinking is not just for breakfast.
True women of history, Irish edition: Constance Markievicz, leader of the Easter Rising of 1916.
My Rotary fundraiser was last week, and the preliminary numbers look good. Today we'll get the final set. In the meantime, have a few links.

1) The tattooed costumer. Modern costume-wearers are frequently told tattoos are "not period." Er, not so. Did you know Winston S. Churchill's mother had a tat on her wrist?

2) A longish three-part series on modes of morality. To simplify (perhaps over-simplify) their are people for whom "one's moral standard of conduct for interacting with other people by default doesn't include all human beings – and that is considered a feature, not a bug. There is some, somewhat flexible, mental category of people to whom one owes moral conduct – but then there's everybody else."

3) Lydy Nickerson waxes wise on the problem with zero-tolerance anti-harassment policies.

4) An interesting concept - the best way to watch the Star Wars movies is in machete order. This is: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith and then Return of the Jedi.

5) A very good piece of historical fiction: Girl Waits With Gun. Highly recommended.

Unintended Impact

Recently, the author Jim Proebstle visited my Rotary club. He was there to talk about his new book, Unintended Impact.

Jim, I learned, played college football for Michigan State in the 1960s, as did his older brother Dick. You may have heard of various NFL stars suffering from chronic traumatic encephaopathy or CTE. This is a form of dementia caused by repeated blows to the head. Well, Dick, based on his high school and college career, developed CTE, and symptoms started to appear in college.

Unintended Impact is the story of how Dick went from a bright All-American kid to a wealthy man to a broke and senile man who could barely walk or talk. This decline was caused by CTE, and it's documented with humor and love by Jim. It's a good read for anybody who knows somebody suffering from dementia, whether caused by CTE or other diseases.


Over on Crooked Timber, John Quiggin asks does Australia need a navy? He did a cost-benefit analysis and determined the answer was no. Herewith my reply.

This post is a classic example of what I call “Wall Theory.”

Imagine that a village keeps getting attacked by barbarians, so they build a wall. Attacks stop, as the barbarians don’t like heights. Then, about the time the last person who actually saw a barbarian is old and feeble, somebody shows up and says “lets tear down the wall. It’s too expensive to maintain and blocks the breeze.” The question is, are the barbarians gone or just waiting in the treeline?

Quiggins concludes: the counterfactual in the absence of naval expenditure would have to be a chronic state of crisis ten times as bad as the blocking of the Suez canal. Just how many deep-water pirate ships would it take to create that crisis? If any ship is liable to be attacked, they all will need to be armed, insurance rates will skyrocket, and the cost to ship anything will radically rise. Not to mention the human cost in loss of life and limb.

Surface ships at sea serve the same purpose as armies on land: they prevent the development of warlords, and keep crime down to levels that can be handled by police forces. What keeps the Somali pirates down to the level of speedboats and AK-47s is naval power. Otherwise they could take some of their captured merchant ships, mount a cannon on them, and go roaming the oceans. I should note here that Nigeria and Indonesia have piracy problems as well – problems also kept in check by navies.

Oceanic commerce moves on surface ships. Submarines are useless at protecting surface ships from anything, including other submarines, because of the technical difficulties of convoy operations.

Aircraft are helpful in protecting ships, but if you don’t like the expense of operating a frigate, you’ll hate the expense of maintaining a combat air patrol over a convoy 2000 kilometers from the nearest airbase. They also have clear limitations in anti-piracy, in that frequently the only way to tell a pirate from a fishing boat is to board and search the vessel. Also, should a merchant ship be captured, air power becomes useless.

One can and should argue how much navy one needs. (Speaking as an American, frankly I find Australia in particular and most countries in general are spending too little on their navies and relying on Uncle Sam to pick up the gap.) In any event, there is a clear need for some organization to police the seas.

A Huge Sigh of Relief

Yesterday's radio silence was brought to you by my Rotary club's annual fundraiser, A Taste of Route 66. it was held last night at Carriage Greens Country Club in Darien. We're still counting the cash and collecting expenses, but preliminary numbers are looking good.

The event was a lot of work, of course, but for the first time in a decade I wasn't in charge. It was nice not having that burden. I did help at checkout, a job I finished by 9:30. I was invited by the committee to join them at a side bar for a drink, which turned into several, so I didn't get home until midnight. As a result, my tail is dragging a bit today.


The Walking Dead

I mentioned previously that I had stopped following the TV series The Walking Dead. At the time, I had stated that I was getting tired of the endlessness of the series. Well, last night, I watched an episode of the show, largely because of Alicia Witt who was guest-starring. That made clear why I'm largely done with the show.

Simply put, Rick's crew are no longer "the good guys" in any real sense of the word. They'll kill anybody who gets in their way without blinking. This means I have nobody to root for, and I don't like entertainments without at least a marginal "good guy."


Non-April Fools Thoughts

I am not a fan of April Fools. Most such jokes hit me before I'm fully caffeinated. Trust me - very few things amuse me before caffeine. Herewith, a few (I hope) non-foolish thoughts.

Rabid Puppies

The nominating phase of Hugo voting is over, so now we await the counting. Wile E. Coyote, Super-Genius At Large over on his site is crowing about victory. Of course, said "victory" (if it happens, given that the fat lady has not sang yet) requires him to celebrate both Ancillary Mercy and Seveneves. The former is the latest in a series of books that assign everybody to the female gender and the later is a book in which seven female astronauts become the sole survivors of humanity. Bottom line - if you define victory broadly enough, you can always win.

Land Ownership in the American West

Until Donald Trump's latest shoot-foot-then-put-in-mouth incident, much buzz was heard on various conservative sites to the effect of "the Federal government owns too much land in teh west." Hello, Homestead Acts, anybody? We spent a century trying to give that land away and couldn't. The simple fact is that most of the land in states like Utah and Arizona is worthless. It costs more money in terms of providing water than one can get out of the land by grazing. So, since we couldn't give the land away, even to the states, the government manages it.

ETA - because I'm feeling my oats a bit:

Coming Up For Air

Life has been a bit hectic this week due to work and Rotary commitments, and so postings have been light.

I note that Donald Trump, in a case of a stopped clock being right twice a day, said something about abortion. He said that if abortion is a criminal act, then the woman getting the abortion is a criminal. Now, to be clear, I'm in favor of a woman's right to choose and against the whole idea of criminalizing abortion. However, I can't fault Trump's logic.

If abortion is a criminal act, then the woman getting the abortion is a criminal. Anti-abortion politicians, aware that saying that would make them look even more jerkish than they do now, go through great mental gymnastics to not say that. Trump, who hasn't done much research on this (or other) issues merely stated what should be obvious.


Mindless Entertainment

The past couple of days have been a bit stressful due to work and Rotary commitments. I was planning to do some editing last night, but found that my git-up-and-go had gotten up and left. So I ended up watching White House Down, a marginally-believable movie that required few brain cells. Much Stuff Got Blown Up Real Good, and many allegedly smart people did dumb things, but in the end, Good Triumphed.


The Home Soil

I went to Westville, The Home Soil, for the weekend. Westville is in Vermilion County, IL, and the economic engine of the county is Danville, Il. In reading the Sunday papers at home, the lead articles were the closure of the oldest indoor swimming pool in the state (built 1911) and the planned closure of a Danville school building built in 1922.

These are symptoms of a larger problem. Danville's population and economy peaked in the 1920s, during the same period Joe Cannon, Danville's Congressman, was Speaker of the House. The city was at the junction of the main north-south and east-west rail lines, which brought great economic activity. As rail declined, so did Danville, and now the population is falling dramatically. At the same time, infrastructure built in the 1920s and designed for a century of use is hitting the end of its useful life.

This is not unique to Danville. In America, we worship small towns, yet we don't live in them. (Your Correspondent being Exhibit Number 100 Million.)


Three For Good Friday

Three thoughts on this Good Friday-shortened work week:

1) Ryan Bundy, one of the dudes who took over the Federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, sends a letter. It's typical libertarian BS - no rules at all for me.

2) Part one of a two-fer from Gin and Tacos: Donald Trump and his supporters are absolutely right about one thing when it comes to immigration. Ed, the proprietor, points out that economically, America wants cheap immigrant labor while politically we want to keep immigrants out. Harsh laws poorly enforced accomplish both goals.

3) Part two of the two-fer: The story of Frank Woodall AKA Mary Johnson. In 1908, a woman living as a man got stopped for a health inspection at Ellis Island. When asked why, Frank said, "Women have a hard time in this world."

Link Salad, Rainy Day Thursday Edition

Like the label on the tin says:

A) A very long but fascinating read on Obama's foreign policy.

B) Related to the above - there are reasons these terrorist attacks keep happening in Europe.

C) The breaking news story consumer handbook.

D) A piece of Britain: the shipping forecast.

E) My review of Jeff Duntemann's new novel Ten Gentle Opportunities. You should buy it today!

I hesitate to take too many political lessons from the Star Wars series of movies. Having said that, I find the quote above very much on point. After this week's bomb attacks in Brussels, various Republican pants-wetters candidates for President were calling for "law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized" or waterboarding suspects.

This may be perhaps obvious, but I think such ideas are both un-American and counterproductive. The gist of the Tarkin quote is that the more one creates an "us vs. them" environment, the more likely it is that "them" will either cooperate with "our" enemies or at least not cooperate with us. We see this today in the inner cities, where police overreach makes people, even crime victims, reluctant to cooperate with the police. What is needed is intelligent action, not stupid panic.

ETA: Wise words from an immigrant living in Brussels.

ETA #2: What she said about the stupidity of expecting Obama to run home because of the attack in Belgium.


Comment Policy

This is the personal blog of Chris Gerrib, and all opinions expressed here are solely his own. Commenters are welcome; however please be polite to me and my other readers. I reserve the right to delete comments that are rude, inappropriate or otherwise objectionable at my sole discretion. The opinions expressed in a comment are not necessarily mine, and if I do not delete a comment that should not be construed as my agreement with the commenter.

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