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December 2018

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A Constitutional Amendment I Hereby Propose

When there is no federal budget -- just a Continuing Resolution -- the paychecks of all top federal officials in all three branches of government -- including the President, all members of Congress, and all members of the Supreme Court -- should be held until a budget is enacted.

When there is not even a Continuing Resolution, all compensation to these same federal officials -- including from external sources, such as campaign contributors -- should be diverted to the U.S. Treasury for debt reduction until either a budget or CR is in effect. They would not get one penny of that money back.

If they want to recoup the lost income after a government shutdown, they'll just have to work overtime. Meanwhile, they'll have an incentive not to waste their energy on side issues until spending authority is restored.

All federal employees whose jobs are not part of the explicitly enumerated powers listed in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution would be furloughed until spending authority is restored; those not furloughed would have their pay held, but would be compensated in full for hours worked during the lapse. Hopefully with the top echelons suffering with the rest, such lapses will be brief to nonexistent.

Furthermore, any lapse in spending authority must extend to so-called non-discretionary spending such as entitlements -- but will not apply to the support of U.S. troops stationed overseas, which shall continue unabated, using funds previously appropriated for other purposes if necessary.

Nor shall the federal courts have any power to interpret any Act of Congress so as to alter the plain meaning of the text of this amendment -- other than, if necessary, to make its application harsher on the top federal officials targeted above, themselves included. Violation of this last provision in any form shall be cause for summary removal from the bench and disqualification for life from any federal office or employment.

©   McGehee


A Visit from Saint Nick, Cowboy-Style

Clement Moore, one hopes, would approve.

As quickly as tumbleweeds blow o’er the high plains,
They started to run as he called out their names.
Then up to the roof of the shed they all flew,
With a tractor full of toys, and St. Nicholas, too.

©   McGehee



Merry Christmas




Here in My Car

Mrs. McG doesn't like to hear me say this -- even though she learned to drive in the same state I did, a state that, thanks to Jerry Brown and his ilk, now exists only in story and song -- but I've long been of the opinion that Southern drivers in general have the lousiest driving habits I've ever encountered. It's possible they're worse in the Northeast, but I've never tried to drive there and don't plan to.

Last October, as we were returning from our vacation out West, I saw the most striking change in driving habits when we came within about 75 miles of Atlanta. Southern drivers who had been actually somewhat predictable and pragmatic about their driving across so much of Mississippi and Alabama, lost their minds.

I had always suspected metro Atlanta drivers were the worst, but it was as if there was some kind of force field we all went through, and certain people just found themselves behind the wheel as if out of nowhere, with no clue how to operate their motor vehicles in traffic. It was sudden mass amnesia, I'm sure of it.

So you can understand why avoiding high-density retail areas during Christmas shopping season, when the traffic congestion has tended to increase by one or two orders of magnitude, has become one of my Yuletide traditions since moving here. It's already bad enough that school-related traffic, including high-school-age drivers set loose in the afternoons, already represents the worst driving to be seen around here, and that it blends in with afternoon work-commute drivers returning from Atlanta proper (whose relatively practical habits are vastly overshadowed by their vast numbers) because apparently the need to go home and do homework is no longer a thing.

You throw in Christmas shopping traffic and it's just not worth getting out of bed unless the sun has only just barely begun to rise. Any errands that require driving have to be done pretty much before noon or you can just forget it until the next day.

I may have a phobia about this. It's one of the reasons I'm so looking forward to Mrs. McG's retirement.

The window is narrowed further by the morning commute, but it generally dissipates around here before nine. On dreary, cloudy/rainy days, it may even be almost light out by then (hey, in Fairbanks this time of year that wouldn't happen until after ten, and on bad-weather days maybe not at all). Yesterday was the winter solstice, which may have something to do with why I'm writing about this today...

Anyway, some weeks ago my car's vehicle information display announced that I needed to take it in for an oil change. It's calibrated at the factory, so it doesn't nag me every 3,000 miles as the motor oil vendors prefer, but the longer interval means that if I let it go too long there may actually be a problem. Cars today aren't like the clunkers I drove when I was a kid, that could survive on year-old crankcase sludge and brag about it.

But a long run of late nights and insomnia resulted in my sleeping progressively later until last Tuesday when I awoke to find it was almost noon. That was a bad day for other reasons too, but having wasted a potentially productive morning when I had things I needed to do didn't make it any better.

That night I warned Mrs. McG, who was on a run of evening shifts, that contrary to her preference and my habit I was going to be setting an alarm for the next morning, an alarm that would be loud and persistent and would not stop until I was fully awake. And I got that damned oil change.

Among other things. I've been getting to sleep earlier too since then, funny how that works. Helps my mood immensely.

One of these years I suppose I could recheck the retail traffic situation now that so many people do their shopping online.

But it's almost over now for this year. Merry Grinchmas, everybody.

©   McGehee


Coming in 2019

After a bit of tinkering to satisfy myself that the platform and chosen theme are acceptable to me, I've decided that next year, the Tally Book will become a sort of hybrid site. The storefront page at the base URL will continue to look like this, but <update> has been replaced with a splash page, and </update> there will be individual entry pages generated by Publii.

Publii is a content management system that operates on the user's own computer to generate static HTML files and upload them to his web server -- perfect for those of us whose web hosts don't support SQL. It's not brim-full of bells and whistles, and the themes available aren't all that impressive, but for my purposes it eases the process enough that I may actually resume posting at a rate like I was a few months ago.

For those of you who've been wishing they could respond to my drivel in public, Publii supports Disqus comments, which wouldn't have been my first choice, but it's free. Just remember that I rule here by whim (some of the original published terms have changed, of course) and behave accordingly, and it should work okay.

©   McGehee


Holes in Their Logic

Jackson, Wyoming was supposed to virtue-signal about the Great Pacific Garbage Island the other night, but they'll have to wait until next year.

Even the opponents of the ban couldn't get their facts straight:

The new ordinance that was supposed to be a done deal wasn’t done at Monday night’s regular meeting of the town council. As at previous readings, public comment was peppered with local business owners who complained the ordinance would unfairly burden local mom-and-pop shops when the real bad guy in the plastic waste stream is large grocers like Smith’s and Albertson’s.

Smith's and Albertson's don't do business in Asia, where all that trash swirling around in the Pacific is coming from. Which is why this thing is almost certainly going to be adopted at the town council's next meeting in January -- it was never about actually making a difference, except in how the locals feel about themselves. Banning plastic bags makes them heroes, you see, so whether the actual problem ever gets solved is just so much trivia.

©   McGehee


Oh, God

The next presidential election is only 23 months away. I'm surprised we're not already seeing campaign ads.

Though I have to admit, the earliest post I apparently had about the 2016 campaign didn't appear until the election was only 15 months out. I was right about a few things, and events have shown us in no uncertain terms what I was wrong about.

To be fair, it was a "Here Be Dragons" election cycle. Whether there are more of those in our near future, we'll just have to find out.

But I really really really don't want to have to be opining about electoral politics in an odd-numbered year.

©   McGehee


History Repeats...

...first as tragedy,
...then as farce,
...then as slapstick,
...then as a Saturday morning cartoon,
...then as bathroom graffiti,
...then as the long, rambling story told by the drunk uncle at a wedding reception,
...then as a Dad joke,
...then as the word salad in a spam email,
...then as a vaguely amusing one-liner stretched into an excruciating ten-minute skit on "Saturday Night Live,"
...then as a NSFW internet meme,
...then as breaking news.

©   McGehee


It Doesn't Work That Way

Remember when the Associated Press was a respectable news operation? Well, I can, but I'm older than dirt.

Last weekend, Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park erupted for the 30th time this year. That’s the most eruptions since 1964, when the geyser erupted 29 times.

No, AP. It's the most since whenever Steamboat last erupted AT LEAST 30 times. Which would therefore almost certainly have been sometime before 1964 -- assuming your dates and facts are even accurate. Have you been hiring people away from CNN?

A while back somebody in the news media pointed out that the average journalist at that time literally (sic) knew nothing.

If it weren't for spell-check it might be even more obviously true.

©   McGehee


A Reminder

Mother Nature is not the loving, gentle nurturer some argue her to be. From the very beginning she has plotted to wipe out every living thing in the universe.

Between one thing and another, she always bats 1.000

©   McGehee


Ends and Odds

Georgia's runoff election ran its course last Tuesday, and without the national news media on a full-court press to drag Democrats over the finish line, Republicans were elected, respectively, to Governor-Elect Brian Kemp's old job, and to another term on the state Public Service Commission. Apparently Stacey Abrams was a better GOTV organizer for Republicans than for her own party -- GOP voters were still in walk-to-the-polls-over-hot-coals-and-broken-glass mode.

 

A new freeway interchange has been under construction near the "new" Piedmont Newnan Hospital, which was built several years ago near a crossing of Interstate 85 that had no freeway access. Now, neither of the previous hospital sites in Newnan were anywhere near that freeway, let alone an interchange, but putting the new facility there made a new interchange kind of inevitable.

The project is in the home stretch, with the new, widened overpass getting lane striping the last time I drove by there. Stoplights hadn't yet been installed though, and I suspect when they are they'll need to be tested and certified error-free before the freeway access ramps are slated to open.

 

Closer to home, the two mini-roundabouts constructed on U.S. 29 seem to have gained acceptance by local drivers. I still try to avoid going that way during commute hours, if I can, but in general they seem to be working as hoped. There are two more roundabouts planned for this part of the county in the next few years, one not quite in our front yard, but close enough. They were planned to be at either end of a new road connecting U.S. 29 with the road that serves our neighborhood, with the idea of taking pressure off of two existing connecting roads, one of which goes past a middle school with often dysfunctional traffic during afternoon pick-up.

The new connecting road got nixed, but the county has decided to go ahead with the roundabout at our end. Given how the double-roundabout project screwed up traffic along the highway, I'm not looking forward to this one -- assuming it starts before Mrs. McG retires and we can make ourselves scarce.

I really think the other one, along Highway 29 (again) should go in first. The ultimate plan is for that one to serve a new road that will cross the interstate and ease access from our part of the county to a stretch of highway extending east out of Newnan where a lot of development has taken place over the years. In a way, our area's isolation from all that has been pleasant enough, but it also means that to go over there under current conditions requires either navigating an over-congested, six-lane main artery with two of the busiest intersections in the county, or diverting miles out of our way to another freeway crossing that is an over-congested two-lane.

Of course, adding a more direct freeway-crossing alternative that will ultimately feed into the road that runs past our home driveway -- a road that is already a moderately busy access route for locals and savvy non-locals -- will have all manner of unpleasant consequences for us and our neighbors.

Still wonder why we're counting the days, or why our intended destination isn't a place on a steep upward growth curve?

©   McGehee


Conservation of Snow?

I don't remember whether the fall/winter of 2004-05 was one of those during which our part of Georgia got any snow, but I do know there have been winters where we've gotten none here. In fact, I would have expected my first blog post about our dog Lucy (who had just joined our family in 2004) and snow to have been before 2008. That would be an unusually long spell without any snow here at all.

That particular season is of interest because we had traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska for a return visit in October and there was plenty of snowfall there during our stay. Given the amount of snowfall we saw during our Wyoming trip last October, I'm wondering whether we'll be skunked here at home this winter.

They're expecting snow in the mountains of north Georgia from the imminent winter storm, but metro Atlanta is supposed to get only rain, if anything. Of course, there's plenty of winter yet to come so we might still see some chance of snow.

©   McGehee


Some Humble Advice for Today's Youth

If you want to fix the world, first learn how it works.

For example, if you're concerned about inequality, learn math. Not economics, not sociology, not [insert stupid identity category here] studies. Math.

©   McGehee


Can't Stop the Signal

Our home internet is down. Most of the indicators on the cable modem are dark, one is flashing yellow, and the router's single status light is pulsating red.

So how, you may ask, am I posting this entry?

Wifi hotspot, run from my phone, thanks to that sweet senior citizen deal we got from T-Mobile earlier this year.

Take that, you cyber-gremlins!

Update, well, minutes after I originally posted this: Cable modem lights all went back to normal, as did home internet. I guess the cyber-gremlins saw the post and gave up.

For now.

©   McGehee



 
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December 2018

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Original content and design © 2018 Kevin McGehee. Images and excerpts are © their respective owners.