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Three Short Thoughts

A few short thoughts:

1) I went to Shanahan's Pub over the weekend and had their burger salad. It was quite tasty.

2) I went grocery shopping yesterday afternoon. By going on weekdays and masking, I figure I'm doing my bit for social distancing. Apparently the great toilet paper shortage of 2020 is over. Not only were the shelves stocked, you could take unlimited quantities and some brands were on sale.

3) I watched the new Netflix movie "The Old Guard" last night. It was very good, with a lot of characterization to go with the action. Nicely done. This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
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On Reopening the Economy

I've been watching the debate over reopening the economy during COVID-19. For the most part, the debate seems to consider the issue as if it were a light switch - on or off. It's not.

It's not even a dial. It's a combination of dials, levers and even an occasional switch. (Masks seem to be the switch - on please as much as possible.) What we, from government to businesses to individuals, do, will have to vary greatly depending on circumstances.

The local auto repair shop will have a different response to COVID than will an office-based firm. Some educational programs, from auto mechanics to brain surgery, really do require a level of in-person training. What works for a high school in an upper-middle income suburb may not work in a rural low-income grade school.

Not only that, but individuals will differ. That healthy non-smoking auto mechanic may live with an elderly parent or a spouse undergoing chemotherapy. Everybody is going to have to adapt.

For example, that auto repair shop may open, but because one of their mechanics has an immune-compromised spouse, they may have that mechanic come in and work alone after hours. Yes, making that work will be difficult. But we don't have a choice. Finally, the sooner we get unstuck from the on / off mentality, the better. This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
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Don't Give Stupid People Guns

I am opposed to giving stupid people guns. Over the weekend, a pair of wealthy lawyers became yet another set of poster children for this premise. The pair of them came out of their house with guns to "protect" said house from a mob. Thoughts:

1) All indications were that this "mob" was no more dangerous than the crowd at the midway of your local fair.
2) If, however, one feels threatened by a mob, one should not stand in such a place that mob members can easily lob bricks at your head. Stand inside your house by an open window - much harder to be seen or hit.
3) Should the tactical situation require you to be visible to the mob, avoid verbally engaging individual mob members. While you're arguing with Mob Member #1 and distracted, Mob Member #2 can be up to no good.
4) If you have time to get your gun, you have time to put on shoes. Should matters go kinetic, the ground will quickly get covered in debris.
5) Our pair of defenders, the Straight Out of Applebee's Kids, felt they were "defending the Bastille." Given that the defenders of the Bastille lost, one should have a plan to retreat if need be. Again, shoes would be helpful.

In short, stupid is as stupid does. This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
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Mildly Disappointed

On Saturday, President Trump held a re-election rally in Tulsa Oklahoma. The place was half-empty and there was no crowd outside. Allegedly, groups of teens on Tik-Tok and fans of K-Pop hacked the event by reserving large numbers of seats they had no intention or in many cases ability to fill. I am mildly disappointed at this.

Again, given the lack of people standing around outside in the specially-prepared outside overflow area, I am reasonably certain that nobody who actually wanted a seat was denied one. My disappointment is that these kids have provided a ready-made excuse to the Trump campaign about why the event was a flop. Now, to be fair, Trump never fails - he is only failed - so his people would find some excuse for any poor showing. My disappointment is only that I will be denied the minor amusement of watching the campaign do it's imitation of Jon Lovitz's pathological liar when coming up with a reason for the failure.

Like I said, it's a mild disappointment. This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
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Me 2

Blue Flu and Warrior Cops

Blue Flu

Reportedly in Atlanta, local police officers called in sick or otherwise decided not to work in protest to the arrest of an officer for shooting a fleeing suspect in the back. The cute name for this activity is "blue flu." A commentator, Beau of the Fifth Column, made a short video which captured my thoughts on the matter with great clarity. To recap:

1) Blue flu is intended to cause pain in the community. The chaos and fear of no cops is supposed to cause the community to run to the cops with open arms and say "protect us."
2) These kind of actions make it clear that the officers aren't interested in serving the public; rather in protecting themselves. True public servants would show up anyway.
3) Generally, blue flu doesn't create chaos and crime. Reported crime either stays the same or goes down.
4) Blue flu typically proves that the US is over-policed and we could be as safe as we are now with fewer and/or less active cops. "As safe as we are now" may not be "as safe as we want to be" but that's a different argument.

Warrior Cops

There is also a phenomenon of "warrior cops." This is a term of art for various training programs which purport to teach police how to survive and win in the event they get in a fight with a violent offender. I am of two minds on these programs.

On the one hand, the history of police work in the US is full of cases where police officers get badly beaten by violent offenders. These events usually end in officer fatalities. There are a lot of tactical lessons to be taken from those sad events.

On the other hand, many of these programs train their graduates to walk around "with a plan to kill everyone they meet." This is not a good outcome, especially since statistically, 95% of cops will never be in a genuine life-or-death fight. Creating this "us vs. them" mentality leads to overreactions and fewer crimes solved, as the "thems" find themselves wanting nothing to do with the cops.

I've heard that the training classes offered by Massad Ayoob square that circle. I'm not sure if he succeeds in that effort or how, but making the attempt is an important thing to try. This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
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On Police Reform

As we argue about the murder of George Floyd, I’ve heard calls for police reform, ranging from retraining to abolishing the police. (I’m definitely not in favor of the later.) I think most people can agree that our police on whole are too militarized. It would be helpful to understand why, and to understand that one needs to go back to 1876. This will be a long read – please refresh your beverages now.

In 1876, the former Confederates were in the process of retaking the South in the form of the insurgency called “Reconstruction.” Three states sent two sets of Electoral votes to Congress – a set for each of the Republican and Democratic candidates. To avoid the election going to Congress, a deal was struck – the Republican, Rutherford B. Hayes, got to be President, and the South got the Federal government, in the form of the US Army, to stop enforcing laws in the South.

The actual law that prevented the US military from enforcing laws in the South was called the Posse Comitatus Act, and it meant that the US military could not enforce civilian laws except under certain limited circumstances. This law is unique to the US and was not designed by the Founding Fathers. In fact, George Washington used the Army to enforce tax law during his term in office.

Fast forward to the 1960s. Various events, including the 1966 University of Texas tower shooting, where a man barricaded himself in a tower and killed 14 with a sniper rifle, convinced local law enforcement that they were in need of more firepower. Since, unlike anywhere else in the world, they couldn’t just call the Army in, the US solution was SWAT.

“SWAT” is “Special Weapons and Tactics” and it’s a militarized unit in the police. Originally, SWAT was just supposed to respond to the types of problems faced in the Texas tower shooting. The problem is several-fold.
  1. SWAT units are expensive, even part-time units. They need special training and special gear. There is a lot of pressure on police chiefs to “get our money out of SWAT” by sending them to do things that are at best SWAT-adjacent. That means you see SWAT rolling out to do drug raids and other stuff that you really don’t need SWAT to do.
  2. SWAT units are seen as the elite group in the police. Ambitious officers want to be on SWAT, and so they try to be like SWAT.
  3. SWAT units are elite, and one of the things you do with elite units is you have them train less-elite units. So SWAT training percolates down into the regular force. Since SWAT is designed to deal with desperate characters who are willing to shoot it out with the cops, this training tends to be focused on how to aggressively deal with threats as opposed to de-escalate.

There’s a related problem, which is that because the US military is not involved in local law enforcement, as a practical matter should some kind of terrorist attack actually materialize in the US, the Army would take days to respond. It’s common to make fun of the Podunk Iowa PD having an ex-Army armored vehicle, but there are no US Army units in Iowa who could provide armor in the event it was needed.

The solution, or at least a solution, is two-fold, and not cheap.
  1. Get rid of most if not all local SWAT units. (Maybe Chicago or New York actually needs a local SWAT. Podunk Iowa? Not so much.)
  2. Create, staff, train, and deploy full-time military units that are available on request to local PD for when they actually need SWAT. (Hostage situations, active shooters, etc.) Given our love of federalism, these units would probably be full-time National Guard units. But they would need to be full-time and distributed such that if the Podunk Iowa PD gets in a bind, a unit could be there before next Tuesday.

Given the current political climate, I expect this idea has less-than-zero chance of happening. This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
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Me 2

There is no "but"

I watched about 10 minutes of a video by Candace Owens, Pundit At Large. (Google it if you want to.) Owens made two entirely wrong-headed points in her video.

1) Nobody is claiming George Floyd is a hero.
2) There is no "but."

Point 2 requires a bit of elaboration. Owens said repeatedly "Floyd didn't deserve to die but he was a criminal, etc." *There is no "but."*

George Floyd did not deserve to die. He was illegally killed by somebody who was supposed to uphold the law while others who were supposed to uphold the law did nothing. That's it. That's all there is. Until we as a nation make an effort to do better, we will continue to have problems. This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
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On Protests

I watched the protests in Michigan, which involved people getting very angry with cops. I also watched the protests in Minnesota, which involved people getting very angry with cops. In Michigan, the cops let the protesters go. In Minnesota, they broke out the tear gas.

The different between the protests was the Michigan people were armed. The lesson for protesters is to bring their guns. This is not a lesson that the police or anybody else wants to get out. This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
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Food Update

For various reasons I decided to physically go to the grocery store yesterday. (Mariano's in Westmont, for the curious.) I was able to make my visit at 1:00 PM on a weekday so there were no crowds. The experience was a bit surreal in that everybody was wandering around wearing facemasks. The shelves seemed reasonably-well stocked, although there were restrictions on the number of packages of toilet paper and paper towels one could buy. In any event, I was able to get all that I needed.

Just prior to the mid-March wave of panic buying, I hit the grocery store and purchased a few extra items, including a can of salmon. I am leaning very strongly towards using that next week to make salmon patties. I'll be modifying this recipe by adding a can of cream of mushroom soup as a gravy.

Further updates as events warrant. This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2

French Onion Soup ala Gerrib

I had a surplus of onions (the 2 pound bag was the same price as 1 pound of loose onions) so I decided to make French Onion Soup. Herewith is the recipe I used:

3 baseball-sized onions
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup wine
2 cups prepared beef broth
2 cups water

Melt butter and heat olive oil in your electric skillet (thanks Mom!). While doing that, chop up the onions. Once butter is melted, add onions and cook @ 300 degrees for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add sugar and garlic, reduce to 250 degrees and cook for another 15 minutes. While doing this, prepare your broth. Your onions should be very brown and soft by this point.

Next, add the wine and stir, getting all the onions unstuck from the bottom of the skillet. Add the broth and water, stir, and let simmer for another 30 minutes at 200 degrees. Then serve!

A word on liquid - even with 4 cups added liquid, I had a very thick soup, almost an onion stew. You could easily add 2 or even 4 cups additional liquid. If you're using prepared broth, follow the 1 to 1 ratio, as prepared broth has a lot of salt. If you have a low-salt broth, you might get away with a richer broth mixture. This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.