TT#184 - More Super Tuesday

I am very tired from work and redoing my office, so this will be more of a time capsule entry than any real analysis. For more analysis watch this weeks ORLYRADIO show # 101.

At the time of this writing:

Republicans: Kasich predictably took Ohio, Trump won Florida, making Rubio quit the race. Trump is also favored in Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina. If Ted gets any winnings they will be scraps from the billionaire's plate.  This does leave the GOP with the unenviable task of choosing a... how can I put this to where it is the most historically accurate... Fascist Andy Kaufman impression and a dominionist apocalyptic Eddie Munster son of a preacher man who is perfectly fine watching the world burn if it means the world gets to have Jesus back. I weep for the future. Oh... And there is the voice of reason, Kasich, who can't possibly win, because he may actually be sane. 

Democrats: Clinton has had a strong showing and is predicted to take all the states but not all the delegates. The Democrats like to award partials rather than a winner take all approach that the GOP favors. The tally at midnight could be different as it is being called early based on exit polls, but so far, this is pretty decisive for Clinton based on the earned delegates. She has added approximately 150 delegates to her lead on Sanders. Sanders needs California and New York, and needs them big, to compete with the media and majesty of the lady in waiting. Still a chance, but it is growing slimmer by the day.

There were a whole lot of Cruz and Trump signs in my precinct and around the state as I was driving today. This is why I am having a drink and hoping it was all a bad dream.

TT#183 - Google Project Fi

I have had to take a little break from politics while I focus efforts of technical mumbo jumbo for the podcast, so guess what you get to read about? The Nexus 6P. I was having a terrible time with my MotoX (2nd Gen). The bluetooth would constantly restart itself. The charging module decided to just stop charging while using GPS and then shut down at 20% because it was actually 3% but was actually 20%? yeah it was frustrating.  I live on my phone during business hours and several hours both before and after work so having a reliable device is pretty darn important.

I have been a proud proponent of Republic Wireless, which is an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) for the Sprint network. They make a darn affordable service, as long as you use as much WiFi as you can. This worked great for me for both cost and offloading my phone calls to my more reliable wifi network. The construction of my home is a little like a bunker and cell phone reception is terrible for all providers. I inquired with them if they had a new model coming out, since Motorola sold off their cell phone business to Lenovo, thereby likely killing the  brand for their use. They have to build custom firmware for the phones to do this cool little wifi to cell to wifi  handoff thing. Regardless of my personal superuser issues, I got my parents and my children on Republic Wireless and I still recommend them highly as a valuable budget option.

So then I was reminded that Google was rolling out their Google Fi service. This is an interesting project and it warrants attention. First, the phones Google chooses as Nexus devices are always top grade performers in the "flagship" category. These phones are also unlocked and can be taken to any GSM carrier. They always get the latest software update which has become more and more important in recent times.  Google Fi is similar in function to Republic Wireless. They handoff calls to wifi when possible. The billing is also quite fair starting at $20 for unlimited cell calls and text messages and $10 a gigabyte of data. If you don't use all your data that you pre purchased, you get a refund at the end of the billing cycle. Totally fair. Republic Wireless has some similar plans but I was not using it due to my work style being on the road most of the day and away from WiFi. With Google Fi, they also use the Sprint back bone, but not solely. Google engineered a dual carrier sim for the phones and put enough radios in the phone to cover Sprint and T-Mobile. Between the two, they can likely balance billing and we end users will use the best network available in the area.Also, tethering devices to your cell phone with Google Fi is included at no extra cost, you just pay for more data as you use it, which removes the need for the WiFi hotspot that I have through Ting or the Vinli OBDII WiFi hotspot that I have also been playing with. 

Project Fi was closed to invite only until just a couple days ago. Now anyone can jump in at and I beleive there was a discount for the smaller Nexus phone, the Nexus 5X. Now might be a great time to switch carriers and phones.

So now I start a new adventure with a massive phone with 3GB of RAM. This really should help out a lot.  One caveat, it is a USB-C device. Now I have to get certified cables (otherwise the USB-C cable can allow for too much voltage and kill the device). There has been a smart guy at Google named Benson Leung, going through Amazon cable offerings and reviewing them in excruciating detail. Look for his review before buying a cable, it matters.

For those curious about Republic Wireless, Vinli, or Ting, here are their links. and  and 

TT#181 - Obstructions

I was fully intending to discuss the unlikely juxtaposition between South Carolina and Nevada in having alternating parties doing their electioneering events today as it is the Republican Caucus in Nevada and we already saw some action on that front, but instead I bust my butt removing a cabinet and installing electric and gas lines for a new to me range.

So I am tired. I'm a little tired of the minutia of the electioneering and the caucuses in particular. They are the most antiquated and backwards thing about the presidential election that it makes me want to scream. It is obvious that the system is like a stacked deck of cards where the house gets to guide the public to the winner of their choice. They have said as much. I find the counting of Super Delegates to be terribly disingenuous since they can change their mind. their vote is not cast. All it does is put a foot on the scale where they want it. It's so obvious! I wish they would just lie better. It's insulting to have their disregard of the system flaunted so. Today the Judicial Subcommittee came out of a closed door meeting declaring they would not even bother with reviewing any nominee that the president puts forward for the open SCOTUS chair. Again... I feel insulted. At least waste money like you do on trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Hear out the nominee, grill them, then drag your feet until the President's term is up and there is someone new in the high office to put new names in the hat. But no... Couldn't play the game, instead you show everyone you don't even intend to play by the rules and put forth any effort to work with the opposition. Nope. Just obstruct and stonewall, and let everyone know about it too. I hope it hurts their chances for re-election but sadly there are many in their constituency that would just applaud the move. No action is at least not the wrong action they would say. Sure... That can be true, but the spirit of the system that we work within is broken by such petulance. There is no desire of the elected officials to do their job, and I sincerely hope they have to find a new job come November.

Okay, I'm done ranting and we will be back to the elections next week for Super Tuesday! Hopefully we will have some results by the time I post.

TT#180 - The Supreme Court, Man Down

Saturday, February 13th, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia, "Nino" to his friends, died at the age of 79, at home, in his sleep. The Supreme Court Justice served since his appointment by Ronald Reagan September 26th 1986. He was born in Trenton NJ, March 11th 1936. He is survived by his wife Maureen McCarthy Scalia, and their 9 children. Antonin Scalia was one of the Roman Catholics on the bench and also a Republican. He was cantankerous and had some lively opinions and reviled remarks throughout his career. I enjoyed reading some of his dissenting opinions, mostly for his use of language rather than his salient reasoning, which he did have on numerous occasions.

His untimely demise has left the country in a tizzy instead of mourning. See, this leaves a 9 person team short one. This also leaves the Supreme Court a bit too even for most people's taste. Not only can you stalemate 4 to 4, but you are more likely to do so since it is now more or less even politically as well. A new justice needs to be appointed and the sooner the better, unless you are the Republican party.

Throughout President Obama's tenure in office, the GOP (Grand Old Party) has tried to obstruct him at every turn. I do not say that lightly, it is obvious and has even been admitted to by party leaders. Now they want to prevent him from nominating a Supreme Court Justice. They have gone so far as to lie about it being a tradition for a lame duck president to not nominate. It's just flatly wrong.

Appointments are rare, since it is a lifetime position, if desired. To have a position vacant during the last year of a presidents career is even more rare, but not unheard of.

In 1912, Taft nominated Mahlon Pitney. Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis and John Clarke in 1916 (both confirmed by the way). Herbert Hoover nominated Benjamin Cardozo in 1932. FDR nominated Frank Murphy in 1940. LBJ nominated Homer Thornberry and Abe Fortas in 1968, however neither was confirmed. Richard Nixon nominated Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist (whom Scalia succeeded) in 1971. Gerald Ford nominated John Paul Stevens in 1975. Ronald Reagan, the poster pin up for the GOP, nominated Anthony Kennedy in 1988.

The constitution is a bit light on requirements to fill a Supreme Court Justice seat. "The President shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges of the supreme Court." It certainly doesn't say anything about election years or the last year of a presidency or any number of other false charges being leveled. It's the Presidents job to select a nominee, and then it is the Senate that confirms them.

Obama had this to say today on the issue:
I understand the stakes. I understand the pressure that Republican senators are undoubtedly under. I mean, the fact of the matter is that what the issue here is that the court is now divided on many issues this would be a deciding vote. And there are a lot of Republican senators who are going to be under a lot of pressure from various special interests and various constituencies and many of their voters to not let any nominee go through. No matter who I nominate. But that's not how the system is supposed to work. That's not how our democracy is supposed to work.

So... Let's get on with it. Our courts are backed up enough. All I know is that this has become another facet of the most exciting election year I have ever heard of. As to Nino, may he be justly rewarded in whatever finds him after this life, for good or ill, is not up to me.


TT#179 - Election 2016: New Hampshire Primaries

Unlike the nail bitter affair that the 2016 Iowa Caucuses turned out to be, New Hampshire, in the words of a dear friend, "This will not be the clusterf*ck that was witnessed in Iowa. New Hampshire is efficient. New Hampshire is precise. New Hampshire will provide zero confusion at the end of this evening. Elections are a religion here."

As he properly prognosticated, New Hampshire was quick to come to the conclusions that have remained at the time of my writing. Bernie Sanders took the lead by double digit margins over Hillary Clinton becoming the first Jew to ever win a primary. The Jewish part of that is just one of those side factoids that may be interesting in trivial pursuit later. Their numbers are stunning. Sanders with 60.7% and Hillary with 38.2%

On the other side of the aisle, the republican contestants were measured for their worthiness. Donald Trump too the lead with a very surprising John Kasich bringing in the second place position. At the time of this, Trump 34.6%, Kasich 16%, Cruz 11.7% Jeb! 11.3% and Rubio coming in with 10.7%. Yes there are others but they aren't worth the type.

So what does this mean?

(DNC TL:DR is that right now Bernie gets 15 of the 24 total delegates and Hillary gets 9. This makes Bernie the leader in Delegate count at this time.)

(RNC TL:DR 23 delegates up for grabs, Trump wins 11, Kasich 3, Cruz 2, Bush 2, Rubio 2)

I will let this article at the DailyKos explain the mechanics of the Democratic Primary Process, as it's kind of cumbersome and I would not do it any better justice than it is here.

For the Democrats, New Hampshire has 24 DNC delegates. State party has opted for simple, 8-8-8 split between 2 congressional districts and statewide allocation.
At certain percentage levels of primary votes, various thresholds for number of delegates acquired triggers. Thereby it changes the delegate split between the candidates. The table below shows the minimum relative percentages votes required to acquire a delegate out of 8 available.
Delegate allocation is not just simply calculate percentages. The trigger points generated by the formula for fair apportionment means that there is a substantial range of vote share which results in no change in delegate allocation. Any thresholds crossed will result in an even number of delegate advantage, simply because there are even number of delegates available. The difference between delegates awarded to each candidate will be an even number.
Any vote share between 43.8% and 56.3% will result in a 4-4 delegate split. In order to get that two extra delegate advantage by crossing the threshold of support level, the larger vote share needs to be 56.3% or higher for a 5-3 split. Next stage of change in delegates (6-2split) happens at 68.8% share of votes. For the next level up (7-1split) 81.3% of votes are needed. We have to account for each of the congressional districts and statewide share of votes separately. Calculate their delegate allocations independently and then add them up.
Given the current level of polling, we can probably safely say that sanders is unlikely to grab 81.3% share of votes anywhere, District wide or statewide.  So most of the battle will be for crossing those   56.3% (5-3Split) and the 68.8% (6-2split) threshold for Sanders. If Clinton can reduce the sanders vote share to below 56.3% then she still manages a tie on delegates with 4-4 split.
For example, CD1 is a bit more liberal and favorable to Sanders. Sanders is most likely to cross the 56.3% marker and achieve a 5-3 split.  Congressional District 2 is slightly more favorable to Clinton, a bit more republicans (not meant to be a judgement from me). So holding sanders advantage under 56.3% is a possibility for Clinton. CD2 has Nashua and Concord main population centers which are already being visited by Clintons. Most likely also to have Clinton surrogates making heavy effort there just like they did in Polk County in IOWA.  Every extra delegate matters. Where and how you decide to focus your efforts based on the trigger thresholds and a campaigns own internal polling data will be a tactical game. Clinton we seem to assume is better at this (Again, this is not a judgement. No idea why we think so, is it because we think she is a calculating, plotting, planning person?)
So even with a big boost for Sanders in places like Manchester (CD1) the overall outcome, unless there is a last minute massive groundswell that crosses the daunting 68.8% barrier giving 6-2 split, overall delegate numbers will be disappointment to some and a relief to others.
CD1 — 5-3, CD2 4-4 Statewide 5-3
Most results will be within the ranges of 4-4 or 5-3 (Sanders Advantage). There are only a handful of combinations of these in the three delegate allocation elements.
1. CD1 5-3, CD 2 5-3, State 5-3total 15-9 Sanders advantage.
2. CD1 5-3, CD2 4-4, State 5-3   total 14-10 Sanders advantage
3. CD1 5-3, CD2 4-4, State 4-4   total 13-11 Sanders advantage
4. CD1 4-4, CD2 4-4, State 4-4   total 12-12 Sanders advantage.
(Preemptive answer to what is likely to be asked: I have not included CD1 5-3, CD2 5-3, Statewide 4-4 split, because if you get enough votes for 5-3 in CD1 and CD2, then you automatically have enough for 5-3 in Statewide.  Also CD2, CD1 numbers switching also results in same scenario as number 2 above)
Goal for Sanders will be to achieve an across the board 5-3 splits in each CD and also statewide. Goal for Clinton will be to drag as many as possible into 4-4 range.
If we spot any Clinton events in CD1, then we can assume that Clinton campaigns own numbers are indicating that CD1 is hovering around the threshold of 56.3% Sanders advantage and Clinton Campaign thinks it can drag that under to make a 4-4 split.
There will not be an all sweeping and grabbing of delegates by Sanders without soundly achieve 68.8% across the board and individually in each CD. That is cross the 68.8% for each congressional district without taking into account what is happening in other district. And even with that kind of revolution it gives 18-6 split. Which is pretty awesome but not death dealing and unlikely. Those thresholds will be crossed in Vermont itself I expect.

Completely clear, right? After a while it gets to be clear. But it is still messy. Not as messy as Iowa, but bad on its own.

the republican process can be found here:

Each state’s delegate allotment is set by national party rules and includes at-large delegates, congressional district delegates, and national party representatives. Apart from the states, the District of Columbia and the five territories are awarded a specified number of at-large delegates. There are three types of delegates: At-Large Delegates (AL), Congressional District Delegates (CD), and Republican National Committee Members.

  • At-Large Delegates (AL) are statewide delegates who are residents of that state and are selected at large. Each state receives 10 AL delegates plus additional AL delegates based on the state’s past Republican electoral successes.
    (10 delegates + bonus)
  •  Congressional District (CD) Delegates must be residents of and selected by the congressional district they represent. Each state gets three CD delegates per district.
    (3 delegates per district)
  • RNC Members are automatically national convention delegates and include the state’s national committeeman, national committeewoman, and state chair.
    (3 delegates)

New Hampshire has 23 delegates, 14 At-Large Delegates, 6 Congressional District Delegates, and 3 Republican National Committee Members.

This was all the data I could find... I know there is more and I will come back and fill it in.

TT#178 - Election 2016: What's a Delegate? What's a Super Delegate?

Today is Groundhog's Day in the United States. This is pretty much completely irrelevant. I do feel bemused that we still wait for seasonal weather predictions from a giant rodent and we have about half the country that doesn't trust science enough to say climate change is a real thing... Or that evolution is a thing too. Anyway, the rat known as Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, and in this universe that means an early spring. And the 12 year old boy in me giggles that this arcane farce is under taken by a bunch of men in top hats from the Groundhog Club at "Gobbler's Knob". Phil is the most famous but there are several other divining rodents, all of whom concurred with the no shadow pronouncement. 

Today is also the day after the first major event in the run to the White House. The Iowa caucuses concluded last night with some interesting results, to say the least. The republicans went with a closed vote process this year and that left Ted Cruz as the winner of the Iowa event.  You can see the results here

The democrats had a much closer race. The difference between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was .2% Yeah, point 2 percent. you can see the results here For all intents and purposes it was a tie. reports are that 6 precincts had to assign their odd number delegate by coin flip, and Hillary Clinton's camp managed to win all 6. Yes, it is quite a streak, but statistics and probability do not make it any better than 50/50 each time. It does, however, highlight the oddities of the Caucus system. I'm pretty sold on not liking it and wanting it to go the way of the dodo. 

Ok, you have come this far, so let's get to the actual subject, the delegate. By the dictionary definition, a delegate is an authorized representative of someone or a group. In electioneering the delegates are sent to their state political convention to cast a vote among other delegates from other areas in the state. It's pretty simple when you realize they are the middle men, the messenger to the central committee of your location's preferences. The number of delegates that are available are based on population. In places like Iowa, there are multiple caucuses where the delegates that were awarded then are narrowed further until at last we know which candidate has been chosen by the state's political power structure.  

To be completely honest, the system is a bit farcical and purposely difficult to understand to game the system to give the party more control over who is nominated and who will win the election. Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington-based nonpartisan organization, says the delegate system is so complex because after most elections, "the respective national parties go back and look at their rules and their system and try to make adjustments that they believe will give their party an advantage."

So, basically, delegates are a buffer between your choice and the result. It would be classed like so much of our system as a representative democracy. One thing we have going for us is that the delegates are typically bound by law (check your state codes) to vote for the choice that you the voter told them to. But not all delegates are created equal, in the Democratic Party.

What is a Super Delegate? No, not a delegate that was bitten by a radioactive spider... That would be a better story. In this case, the Super Delegates are chosen by the party outside of the way the other delegates are chosen (which is an entire other post...). They are typically old guard power players in the party. Super Delegates may even be former presidents. Okay, big deal right? Well here's the deal, about 20% of the delegates at the convention are Super Delegates, and they are not bound to the same rules as a regular Delegate; they can vote for whomever they please. The Democratic nomination process was altered to include Super Delegates in 1984. That year, former Vice President Walter Mondale won the Democratic nomination with strong support from party stalwarts. Some experts say Democratic candidate George McGovern's landslide 1972 loss to Richard Nixon influenced the party's introduction of Super Delegates. "There was a view that the Democratic party had allowed the grass roots to become too empowered and that in too many instances, people whose job it was to get Democrats elected were being shut out of the process," says McGehee.

Republicans do not have Super Delegates.

The Republicans, to settle things the way the party elite would desire is though a brokered convention, which is also available but not favored by the Democratic Party.. Delegates at a convention could have more difficulty in reaching a clear majority of support for any one candidate. A brokering process then takes place, with multiple ballots a possibility. Though a brokered convention has not occurred in either party since 1952 when Adlai Stevenson won the Democratic nomination. 

Clear as mud right? Tune in to the ORLYRADIO podcast to get more analysis and banter on politics and current events. 


TT#177 - Election 2016: What's a Caucus?

What's a Caucus, and why is it happening in Iowa, and why is it a big deal, I thought we were doing the primaries, whatever those are...

Yeah. That's the question of the moment. We are about to determine who the nominations will go to for both the Republican National Convention, RNC, and the Democratic National Convention, DNC. There is a cast of characters on both sides trying to get the approval of their party's constituents, but why the weird name for what is basically a preliminary state election?

First, a little trivia. The election of the president and how that is supposed to happen is not in the Constitution, it was created over time by the political parties. Some states only hold primary elections, some only hold caucuses, and others use a combination of both. These primaries and caucuses are staggered generally between January and June before the general election in November. The primary elections are run by state and local governments, while caucuses are private events that are directly run by the political parties themselves. A state's primary election or caucus is usually an indirect election: instead of voters directly selecting a particular person running for President, they determine how many delegates each party's national convention will receive from their respective state. These delegates then in turn select their party's presidential nominee. Also, just a little note, most election laws do not normally apply to caucuses.
The process is a controversial one. Voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other small states which traditionally hold their primaries and caucuses first usually have a major impact on the races, while voters in California and other large states which traditionally hold their primaries last in June generally end up having no say because the races are usually over by then. As a result, more states vie for earlier primaries to claim a greater influence in the process.

According to Wikipedia, "A caucus is a meeting of supporters or members of a specific political party or movement. The term originated in the United States, but has spread to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil and Nepal. As the use of the term has been expanded, the exact definition has come to vary among political cultures."  As with so many things, no one can really agree as to the whens and whys and hows of a ye olde tradition. In this case, Caucas (not a misspelling I assure you) with it's modern usage was seen in the diary of John Adams (the 2nd president of the USA) in February 1763. The way he describes it, it's a select group of power players determining, in a gathering like a cocktail party, who shall be the ones that will be elected, before the general election.

There they drink Phlip I suppose, and there they choose a Moderator, who puts Questions to the Vote regularly, and select Men, Assessors, Collectors, Wardens, Fire Wards, and Representatives are Regularly chosen before they are chosen in the Town...

Further in history in an article in Great Leaders and National Issues in 1896, a popular etymology is posited.

" to the origin of the "caucus." In the early part of the eighteenth century a number of caulkers connected with the shipping business in the North End of Boston held a meeting for consultation. That meeting was the germ of the political caucuses which have formed so prominent a feature of our government ever since its organization."

Okay... So... It basically started as a way to see who would be electable. Alright. That's easy enough to digest.

Now... What's the process we are about to see in the first of the choosings, Iowa?

"...residents of the U.S. state of Iowa meet in precinct caucuses in all of Iowa's 1,681/1,682 precincts and elect delegates to the corresponding county conventions. There are 99 counties in Iowa, and thus there are 99 conventions. These county conventions then select delegates for both Iowa's Congressional District Convention and the State Convention, which eventually choose the delegates for the presidential nominating conventions."

Here is where it get's weird, unless you are from Iowa and have done this your whole life.

The Iowa Caucus operates very differently from the more common primary election used by most other states......The caucuses are generally defined as "gatherings of neighbors." Rather than going to polls and casting ballots, Iowans gather at a set location in each of Iowa's 1,681/1,682 precincts. .......The caucuses are held every two years but only the presidential years get national attention..... In addition to the voting and the presidential preference choices, caucus-goers begin the process of writing their parties’ platforms by introducing resolutions.

huh... so the party platform starts to take shape here. I hadn't seen what the party platform was this year, so I see there is method to that process as well, since a candidate may represent a very different outlook than another. Another thing to look at is the results of this process, since it is different for each party.

The Republicans and Democrats each hold their own set of caucuses.
Recent changes to the Republican Party of Iowa's bylaws now make the caucus results binding on Iowa's delegates to the national convention. In June 2015 the party announced that the Straw Poll would no longer take place. This used to be the determining factor for them. Starting in 2016, the caucus site voting that was previously a non-binding poll becomes the binding method of selecting delegates.[5] Acting in accordance with a mandate from the Republican National Committee, the delegates are bound to vote for candidates in proportion to the votes cast for each candidate at the caucus sites.

The process used by the Democrats is more complex than the Republican Party caucus process. Each precinct divides its delegate seats among the candidates in proportion to caucus goers' votes. Participants indicate their support for a particular candidate by standing in a designated area of the caucus site (forming a preference group). An area may also be designated for undecided participants. Then, for roughly 30 minutes, participants try to convince their neighbors to support their candidates. After 30 minutes, the electioneering is temporarily halted and the supporters for each candidate are counted. At this point, the caucus officials determine which candidates are viable.  To be viable, he or she must have the support of at least the percentage of participants required by the viability threshold, in this case 15%. Once viability is determined, then the delegates have 30 minutes to realign the supporters of the in-viable candidates.
Here is a major distinction: This realignment is a crucial distinction of caucuses in that (unlike a primary) being a voter's second candidate of choice can help a candidate.
When the voting is closed, a final head count is conducted, and each precinct apportions delegates to the county convention. These numbers are reported to the state party, which counts the total number of delegates for each candidate and reports the results to the media.

There is more, but it is largely irrelevant. There is no ballot for the Democrats given their unique structure set above but we are down to 4 candidates to choose from, yeah, 4. Debate groupings will choose delegates to county conventions supporting:

Republican Caucusers will be faced with a blank piece of paper as the ballot, and the candidates that voters may vote for in the binding preference poll include:

In the future I will cover what a Delegate and a Super Delegate is. That should be fun!

Topic Tuesday #176 2015/12/15 "Sabbatical"

Topic Tuesday #176 2015/12/15 "Sabbatical

sab·bat·i·cal səˈbadək(ə)l/

noun- a period of paid leave granted to a college teacher for study or travel, traditionally every seventh year"

Though I may not be a professor, and though I have not been doing this blog for 7 years, I am going to take a wee break. I missed one, and then two and now I am under the weather with the Christmas season upon me. I will resume the Topic Tuesday Blog in 2016.

Until then, tune in (or download) the O'Rly Radio Show with fresh content every Friday at 9:30 pm eastern, available at and on finer podcast aggregators around the world.

Topic Tuesday #172 2015/11/03 "Elections"

Topic Tuesday #172 2015/11/03 "Elections"

It is another year and another election day (at least for some). I hope that those that were at all able were did your civic duty and voted for the most qualified candidate for the offices on the register. If you didn't, remember, next November is going to be a biggie. You can register to vote up to 29 days before the election. 

I recommend you head over to and register your email address for election alerts and to register for the first time.  

Topic Tuesday #171 2015/10/27 "Doing Something"

Topic Tuesday #171 2015/10/27 "Doing Something"

I have given it a lot of thought and I don't feel like I am doing enough. I am doing lots of things, certainly, but not in the direction I want. I am fearful of the direction the world is taking. I want the world to be the best it can be for my children and there are so many disturbing trends that are beyond my influence to change. I have this blog... I have the OrlyRadio podcast... I have people that listen and read what I have to say, though it very well could just be an echo chamber without any real impact or reach. 

Where does this line of thought lead? I asked myself that very question, and the answer is increasingly that I need to do something. If you want to change the world, you have to do it yourself. I am not really prepared to do that... I am not wealthy, nor part of a political dynasty. I know a great deal about a lot of different things but I will be the first to tell you I don't know everything and have plenty to learn. So... I will see how this 2016 election shakes out. Will the people that have the constitution to change the things that are wrong win or will we flounder under the same old business as usual system that has brought us here? I have hope, but there isn't much left. 

So... I may have to run for office. Any office.  I may have to step through several offices to make changes along the way to get things done. I may have to lose people along the way. I may have to do things I do not want to do to make the best choices. But I would then know what was in the way of those that have come before me, and that would be informative for me and the future leaders I would tell.  

I'm not perfect, no one is - but if I decide I am needed... If I am called to service to make a difference, I will. So, world... You are on notice. Get your act together, or I am coming for you.

Topic Tuesday #169 2015/10/13 "1st Democrat Debate for 2016 POTUS Primary"

Topic Tuesday #169 2015/10/13 "1st Democrat Debate for 2016 POTUS Primary"

Tonight, in about an hour, the blue team will take the debate stage. The red team has already had two so far. We will be watching both of these closely, as this is one of the most interesting and critical elections in our modern time, though I bet I say that again about the next election too...

The cast of debaters will be (in Order of popular vote) Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee. The cast of interlocutors will be Anderson Cooper, Dana Bash, and Juan Carlos Lopez, with Don Lemon monitoring the social media feeds.

There are a lot of issues to unpack and it will be fascinating to see how they all interact with each other. Safe money says it is Hillary's race to lose, and the front runner to knock her off that pedestal is Bernie Sanders. 

Let's watch and find out. 

Also, go get your flu shot. I had mine today and the pharmacist told me the CDC was correct in their selection of the flu strain this year. Stay healthy!

Topic Tuesday #165 2015/09/15 "If You Can't Say Anything Nice..."

Topic Tuesday #165 2015/09/15 "If You Can't Say Anything Nice..."

You've heard it. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. I am typically against this line of thought, but when I have not nice things to say, I try to have the discussion  warranted rather than just shout into the open. Sometimes that is possible. Somethings it is not your choice to make. Other times, life happens. 

There's always room for jello.

There's always room for jello.

I am reminded this day that no matter how clearly you consider your statements., no matter how clear and erudite your arguments, someone will not understand. Someone will be offended. Something can always go wrong, because communication is a remarkably complex thing among humans. I can say, "lemon jello" and most of you will actually think of the jello in your mouth, the taste of the lemon, the texture of it. Some of you will be happy, others will be disgusted. How would I know? If it my fault if you were disgusted by my statement of "lemon jello?" Should I care?

I don't think I should care, at least not deeply. If you are offended by something I say, and it was not specifically about you by name, that is not my problem. That is your interpretation of the words I have said representing the thoughts in my head.  If you think the thoughts in my head should change, then you too can use your words to put ideas into my head and change them. It is a marketplace of ideas, and I hope the best idea wins, even if it is not my idea.

Topic Tuesday #155 2015/07/07 "Run up the flag pole"

Topic Tuesday #155 2015/07/07 "Run up the flag pole"

Flags have been in the news quite a bit lately. You can't peruse the news without stumbling over a veritable plethora of people weighing in on South Carolina and the Confederate Battle Flag. Since that has been covered to death, (TL:DR-The flag still represents slavery and continued oppression, not Southern Pride, deal with it and put the flag in a museum next to the Nazi Party flag from WWII.)  I'm not here to talk about the Confederacy or racism or the politics behind mandating the flag be mounted at the top of a 30' pole for all time (hopefully changing soon).

No, today it is about a North Carolina Pastor who has decided to show his distaste for the progressive direction the country has taken by flying the Christian Flag (yes it is a thing) above the United States Flag, Old Glory Herself.

The Christian flag flies above the American flag at a NC church (WJZY/screen grab)

The Christian flag flies above the American flag at a NC church (WJZY/screen grab)

This story was brought to me by RawStory, and you can view it's contents here.

The narrative goes that Pastor Rit Varriale, long-time anti-gay activist of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, NC is claiming this action as part of his own "God Before Government" group. On Sunday he unveiled that he had the pole installed specifically to run this up and see who saluted.

He has been met with criticism from unexpected sources such as Fox and Friends and even the Baptist Press, who reported, "Varriale is among an increasing number of pastors who believe government is trying to coerce Christians to live in ways that violate Scripture." To editor K. Allan Blume's credit, the The Baptist Press writer was rather good about just reporting and not taking a side. Varriale knows he is against proper defined flag etiquette, something taught in grade school and to every scout I have ever encountered. If you need to see what it is, Wikipedia has an outstanding rundown of the United States Flag Code (Yes, there is such a thing)

He said "...from a Christian perspective, our flag etiquette is completely improper, ...we should be flying the Christian flag above the American flag." Varriale is an Army veteran as a Ranger and officer with the 82nd Airborne Division and graduate of The Citadel, Campbell University Divinity School, Duke Divinity School and Princeton Theological Seminary. He certainly has his credentials in order and is at least walking the walk and talking the talk.

I have one rebuttal to him - Romans 13: 1-10 (New American Standard Bible Translation)

  1. Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
  2. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
  3. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;
  4. for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
  5. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.
  6. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.
  7. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
  8. Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
  9. For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."
  10. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

I am for free speech. I am not into nationalism at all and think such is as destructive as religious division. I count this among those that would burn the US flag in protest. I don't have to like it, but I do respect the free speech and holding to your values in spite of how much of a jerk it will make you appear. At the end of the day, the public court of opinion will settle this one out, as is being done with the Confederate flag.  It makes me wonder what the opinion would be is the local Mosque decided to do the same with the Islamic flag. Food for thought.

Topic Tuesday #151 2015/06/09 "Mobility - The Urge To Travel"

Topic Tuesday #151 2015/06/09 "Mobility - The Urge To Travel"

Do you ever have the urge to do something that you haven't done in decades? I have found myself day dreaming. I want to travel. I want to see the country and meet fascinating people. I do not want to fly, that has become too stressful and expensive. I don't want to stay in hotels, though they are often fabulous, they are also too costly and inflexible in many ways. No.. I have a somewhat crazy idea to buy a travel trailer. 

I have a van that can tow 3,500 lbs. I'm not buying a truck just for this idea. I will use what I have and make it work. I have 2 children. If I plan on taking them, which I certainly do since camping is an American family tradition, I need room for them to sleep. If I want to take my significant other, then I have more berths to allocate with more offspring. I essentially need to look at a sleeping capacity of 6. The criteria of tow weight and number of bodies narrows down what I can look at significantly. A nice, snug fit: 184BH | 2015 JAY FLIGHT SLX  

There are a plethora of options out there, including the styles that pop out beds on the sides. Those models have more space, but have more moving parts. I grew up playing around in an old Winnebago (Brave Style). I have fond memories of that experience, but more than that, I see more potential. Should I go down this route, I want it simple, no setup beyond stabilizing. I want to open the door and be in a little home, or an office. This is not just a camper, this is a mobile command center, at getaway, a den, a club house - with a kitchen. I like this model because of the flow.

I have many aspirations. One day, I would like to just be mobile. Go wherever and setup and be home away from home. I fantasize about podcasting and writing from my mothership, being my own master. Wireless internet and cloud services have made staying connected an easy proposition. It could work. I could be doing it right now, and you would never know! 

Dare to dream.

But, as dreams go, this is quite an affordable option. Brand new, one of these is under $15,000. My van will be paid off soon, and this, this could be toddling behind me on my way to the next grand adventure. 

What do you think? Is camping your thing? Do you have dreams to escape the rat race? 

Topic Tuesday #145 2015/04/28 "Pressure Cooker Satire"

Topic Tuesday #145 2015/04/28 "Pressure Cooker Satire"

I was going to talk about the SCOTUS and the opening arguments in what may end up as the key to full marriage equality for those that are not hetrosexual, but I was so enraged but the dialog and the logical fallacies in use, the worst of which was the slippery slope argument to incest posed by one of the conservative justices... No, I can't address that right now, no matter how much booze is sat in front of me, so rather I have another concept that I want to address before it flees my brainpan. 


Satire is a valuable element of free cultures around the world. It has been employed for all of recorded history, and therefore into prehistory. Satire, allows up to poke the bear without the bear tearing us to shreds; to provide commentary without the authority to do so. I value all free speech and satire closely. However, there is an affect that was only brought to my attention today that is disturbing.

Anyone that had cooked or been a student and heard the phrase, will know what letting off some steam means. A pressure cooker is the best example. If the regulator doesn't let off some steam, the cooking vessel will explode like a bomb, releasing all of it at once. If you let that steam off, and keep the heat on, the contents cook quite quickly. 

Satire is that pressure release valve to society. Take what has been happening in the United States around racial violence with the police force. Ferguson and the very recent Baltimore riots come to mind as pressure cookers. 
These "pots" have been on a low flame for a very long time. The populace has been brought to a boil time and again, but could it be that occasional humorous outcries of satire, the pressure was released and they didn't explode earlier?
Could we be so manipulated; sated by the heartfelt and frustrated humor that a comedian can deliver? Could the Daily Show not only deliver news, but as it is delivering it, defuse the bomb of the message?

It is a philosophical question, that may have some scientific merit to it, though I have not found a study on it. If you find one, please bring it to my attention.

Until then, stay reasonable.

Topic Tuesday #143 2015/04/14 "What's The Harm?"

Topic Tuesday #143 2015/04/14 "What's The Harm?"

Today my thought train derailed when an article crossed my path. It was one of those "ah ha" style moments. Some of those moments make you jubilant, and sometimes they drive you to drink; this was the latter.

Have you ever excused an action or series of events with the rhetorical question, "What's the harm?" I imagine you have. I have, in the past. I've reached a point in my life that "what's the harm" is a call to action instead of rhetoric. Dear readers, I challenge you to examine those things in your path that could be simple rhetorical questions and find out what the harm really is. 

Beware though; the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.

I don't like to tease too much, so here is the story that jerked me around and made me really consider this topic. 

Briefly, here is the TL:DR version: Texas, a set of very religious parents starved their two year old boy because their faith leader believe he was possessed by demons.  After 25 days without food, the boy died and the couple fled to Mexico with the corpse to attempt to resurrect the boy. It didn't work, much to the grief of the bereaved parents.

So... What's the harm? What could possibly be harmful about religious practice?

They killed their son with the love of their faith. They didn't seek proper treatment for whatever was the root cause of the "demon possession" and rather took it on faith that... what were they hoping for?  As a parent, I can understand how terrible it can be to have a child in pain, or in a psychological condition that you do not know how to handle. I can sympathize that they were trying to save him. I can't fathom how difficult it could be to withhold food from their defenseless child who is completely reliant on their parents for their basic needs... The phrases "for your own good," and "this hurts me more than you" come to mind. That tough love... That ended up killing the recipient of their love. This brings another phrase to mind, "With friends like these, who needs enemies?" 

And of course, the echo in my mind, "What's the harm?" 

I think I figured it out, but you tell me. Cheers. 

I owe you all a drink after this downer. Sorry everyone, but the world is really screwed up and we need to fix it.

I owe you all a drink after this downer. Sorry everyone, but the world is really screwed up and we need to fix it.

Topic Tuesday #142 2015/04/07 "Lemon Sherbert"

Topic Tuesday #142 2015/04/07 "Lemon Sherbert"

In last weeks ORly Radio Podcast, our one year anniversary show, we examined the Lemon Test and the Sherbert Test. Since they are so similar, form, function, method, I have grouped them as The Lemon Sherbert Test for "excessive entanglement" between government and religion.

The recent hubbub about the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that the individual states are hoisting upon the citizenry got me thinking what the deal was. The original RFRA (1993) was brought about primarily (or under the guise) of supporting indigenous American religious rites, including land use and the use of illicit substances in the practice of their religion. Drugs, kids, I'm talking about Peyote (mescaline). The new state laws extend the law to individual citizens and it works out that it is very possible to use these laws to promote religious discrimination, looking a lot like bigotry ala segregation but for GLBT and other unprotected classes. So... How can you tell that the government has stepped in the doo doo? A fairly simple test, that in true government fashion was invented twice. 

The Sherbert Test  came about in Sherbert v. Verner in 1963. It works as follows:

For the individual, the court must determine:

  • whether the person has a claim involving a sincere religious belief, and

  • whether the government action is a substantial burden on the person’s ability to act on that belief. Expanded: If government confronts an individual with a choice that pressures the individual to forego a religious practice, whether by imposing a penalty or withholding a benefit, then the government has burdened the individual's free exercise of religion.

If these two elements are established, then the government must prove

  • Interest Prong: that it is acting in furtherance of a “compelling state interest,” and

  • Narrowly-Tailored Prong: that it has pursued that interest in the manner least restrictive, or least burdensome, to religion.

The Lemon Test  similarly came from Lemon v. Kurtzman in 1971. It breaks down like this:

The requirements for legislation concerning religion, is threefold:

  1. Entanglement Prong - The statute must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religious affairs.

  2. Effect Prong - The statute must not advance nor inhibit religious practice

  3. Purpose Prong - The statute must have a secular legislative purpose.

If any of these prongs are violated, the government's action is deemed unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Now, let's break this into the Lemon Sherbert Test.

Three seems to be a magic number, so let's keep with three "prongs".

  1. Entanglement Determination Prong: Does an established religious practice run against a government interest? Then the Government cannot advance nor inhibit the free exercise of religion with its secular (religion neutral legislative) purpose.
  2. Narrowly-Tailored Interest Prong: In the event that the least burdensome government action to religion is still in conflict with a practice for furtherance of a “compelling state interest", the state interest will overrule the free exercise of religion. (National Security Loophole, which I estimate why the Sherbert test is prefered in RFRA legal challenges.)
  3. Purpose Prong: The government's purpose/actions must adhere to the constitution and be in the best interest to the citizenry without endorsing a religious belief.

But to be even clearer:

Government, may not endorse or burden a religion. Government must work around religion without interfering in, or endorsing, the practice thereof - unless a compelling state interest makes compromise infeasible for greater national interests within the bounds of the constitution.

There... Now, hopefully, you understand how to determine if there is a violation of a religious interest by government action. Typically, what we see is a misunderstanding of the rights of the religious versus the abilities of the government to govern. Religions do not exist in a vacuum and must deal with the laws of the land. Even Jesus said, "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." Mark 12:17

Topic Tuesday #135 2015/02/17 "Home Automation - Part 1"

Topic Tuesday #135 2015/02/17 "Home Automation - Part 1"

This week I decided to use some of my tax return and jump into the mysterious world of home automation. I'm going to be going through all the bits and pieces on here and with reviews in Cowen's Corner. This is just a tease, as I'm still letting the dust settle.

I went with the SmartThings ecosystem.

There were three primary reasons for why this product and not one of the many others.

1) Cost - The SmartThings Hub was among the least expensive for the features offered. It's a pay once solution with no subscription fees.
2) Flexibility - The SmartThings ecosystem works with the major standards of "internet of things" and home automation. Primarily "Z-Wave" is represented along with the "ZigBee" protocol. These standards make up the backbone of the "internet of things" in your connected home. If you have a security system that has wireless sensors on doors and windows, you might already have some of these in your home.
3) Integration with other pioneers on the internet. So far, I would be lost without recipes from IFTTT (IF This Then That) For instance, IFTTT allows me to record when the front door is locked or unlocked to a spreadsheet on my Google Drive. It is location aware based on my phone., so if I leave the area it will lock the door and turn off my phone's WiFi. I've also set times of day for when that door should be locked by default. It makes that happen and sends me an alert and records it on the sheet. With other partners like Life360 (which I just came across) you can really get a handle on how your family can benefit from some automation and the piece of mind of know where anyone is at a given time.

I've just scratched the surface and it will be an adventure - not the cheapest adventure, but well worth exploring.

What would you automate?

Topic Tuesday #128 2014/12/30 - "Allow populace to come to a boil, then simmer"

Topic Tuesday #128 2014/12/30 - "The Enemy is Fear"

I am little more than an armchair quarterback, and at most I play at being a pundit. I sit here and pluck headlines and talk about them. Some of them are more obscure or more interesting than others, on purely personal notes of interest. This Tuesday, I want to offer something on the state of violence that has permeated our media, and thereby our minds.  

Once upon a time I was interested in serving the people. I wanted to make a difference and I was thinking that the way to go about that was to go into law enforcement. Yes, I do have a great respect for the law and follow the process with great interest, even if you may find my other commentary to the contrary. I did just a little cursory examination of life in law enforcement and I changed my mind. I discovered that I have a greater respect for life (particularly my own) than for the law. Call it a fear of lead... I had/have no desire to be shot at. I also did not join the armed services, much for the same reasons. I have become a conscientious objector over the years. I prefer diplomatic solutions to blunt force trauma. 

Sometimes force is what is needed. For that, there are men and women that are more daring than I. I have great respect for those that would put themselves on the line for justice. 

This year, more than others in memory, has been divisive to the armed and the unarmed. We have Open Carry of long arms and small, we have school shootings, riots, and crazy men taking it into their own hands to perform vigilante justice on the streets verses the ones that have stepped up to keep the peace. 

There have been many deaths at the hands of law enforcement over the years. This we know intrinsically. For some this sense of foreboding is ever present. Racial tensions and stereotyping are still very strong in 2014 and they will not be less in 2015. There are facts that are being manipulated by the powerful and the weak to make people dance to the right tune. 

This is nothing new. The results, on the otherhand, are. 

I implore everyone of my readers to be aware of what is going on, but to not act rashly. We are slow animals that are trying to react to too much too quickly. We are being run like a herd of cattle, by fear of predators. The trouble is, we don't know who the real threats are. 

Threat detection is a key to a species survival. Typically, animalistic tendencies take the greatest of our subconscious attentions to protect us. That weird feeling of unease you get right before being snuck up on, or attacked from the side. The number one problem that our species has today is, in my opinion, threat overload. Again, our brains are only able to hold so many things in them at any given time. We don't really multitask very well, though we can keep things rolling nicely. We have too many data points to keep track of. How many new credit cards did you get this year because of hacks? Half a dozen of these and that's just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much trying to control our threat detection... We are afraid of our own shadows. 

Everyone is. The ones that put themselves on the firing lines of the world, are just the same - but they expect to be shot at too. No one really wants to be harmed. Self preservation kicks into high gear and we react. Some... shoot first. 

I am saddened by the tragedy that has been raking the nation, but I fear it is not as tragic as it could be. We have unprecedented access to information. Sometimes it is too much. Sometimes, it poses more questions that requires even more information.

With the troubles we have with the police, they are scared of the population they serve. They are taking measures that seem quite justified to those that feel threatened. Get bigger guns, get armor, build up defenses. It is no wonder they look like the military.  

The other side of the coin is the populace is more armed. Technology is not limited to the policing forces after all. The NRA has been pushing for a more armed populace. The GOP has been doing the same. Any attempts to make it harder to have a weapon in the hands of the civilian have been met with angry vigor and a lot of money. Now you have two sides that are built to go to war with each other. Everyone is afraid. Fear makes people do stupid things. Carelessness often follows these scenarios. People go too far. Rules are broken. People are killed. Parents shot by toddlers. Men choked by police. Babies killed by stun grenades thrown into the wrong house.

Some sense of sanity needs to be restored. We need to remember that we are little more than fearful children that just want a safe place to live. We need to remember our own humanity. 

My wish for 2015; Freedom - from fear. 
Happy New Year.

Topic Tuesday #121 2014/11/11 "The Open Letter"

Topic Tuesday #121 2014/11/11 "The Open Letter"

The open letter is not a new phenomenon. Ever since Martin Luther nailed his dissent to the church door, publicly posted letters to a specific entity yet available to anyone, have been making their way throughout human culture. It's an odd thing, as a device. I see it as rather passive aggressive. Others will see it in it's purest form of protest and free speech. Perhaps we are both right. 

One thing about these "letters" is they are designed to shame, at least they try to. I think there is some political value in such a show. Sometimes it can bring the needed attention to the problem it is designed to address. Many times... They are ignored. "To Whom It May Concern" and "Dear John" sometimes all at once. 

I think open letters are remarkably self serving, even if the cause is great. The ability to stump on your soap box is one thing, but to call out an individual or a group... Well.. what else can a little guy do? 

This is one of those times that I find myself slapped in the face with irony. I'm writing about this in a blog that only reaches a small audience, which is completely analogous to a posted open letter or a letter to the editor... 

Touche internet. You have won this round.