Conservative Principles

Disclosure of recipients of Paycheck Protection Program largesse surprised no one. A lot of money was distributed, as expected, to the well-connected. But a couple organizations merit special mention.

The Washington Policy Center, a Seattle-based conservative think tank, makes its philosophy clear:

“We don’t receive government money. We don’t ask for it and we wouldn’t take it even if it were offered. WPC relies on the generous support of our donors — people like you who understand that free-markets are superior to a government rigged economy, and liberty is the air that a free people must breathe.”

Freedom Foundation, opposed to government spending and taxation and a relentless opponent of labor unions:

“We have a vision of a day when opportunity, responsible self-governance, and free markets flourish in America because its citizens understand and defend the principles from which freedom is derived. We accept no government support.”

It’s reassuring to see organizations hold firm to their fundamental philosophies.

Just kidding. Each of these took between $350,000 and $1,000,000 of government money.

Another Danger from a Warming Planet

“How do you get people to protect themselves from something they don’t believe in?”
– Steve Andrews

A meteor hit earth near a small town in Pennsylvania. The impact released a diminutive mass of formless, gelatinous goo. The sludge attached itself to a hapless human victim, devouring it before oozing its way to the next unsuspecting prey. The muck grew larger with each person it consumed. As it increased in size and appetite, panic ensued in town.

The 1958 motion picture “The Blob” tells the story. Steve McQueen, in his first starring role, portrays the protagonist Steve Andrews, who encounters the monster’s first victim. (The movie features a theme song composed by up-and-coming songwriters Burt Bacharach and Mack David.) As the beast grows, neither bullets nor fire nor electric shock can stop its relentless rampage. Eventually, the ogre retreats when Steve aims the chilling spray of a CO2 fire extinguisher at it.

While the townspeople race off to round up all the fire extinguishers they can find, Lieutenant Dave is on the radio to Washington: “I think you should send us the biggest transport plane you have, and take this thing to the Arctic or somewhere and drop it where it will never thaw.”

Lieutenant Dave: “At least we’ve got it stopped.”
Steve Andrews: “Yeah, as long as the Arctic stays cold.”

Not only is the average temperature rising in the Arctic, it’s increasing at a pace much faster than anywhere else on earth.

Be ready with your CO2 extinguisher.

The Colonial Theatre, prominently featured in the “The Blob,” is putting on a stay-at-home version for its Blobfest 2020.

Devin Nunes’ Cow

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
– P.T. Barnum

Devin Nunes is a nine-term Congressperson from the California Central Valley. He is also a Putin-Trump toady. To keep his name in the news, Nunes lately has been a zealous foe of fake news. He has filed seven lawsuits alleging defamation of his character and reputation. Defendants are CNN, the Washington Post, McClatchy Company (owner of the Fresno Bee, Nunes’s hometown newspaper), Twitter, @mom_nunes (Devin Nunes’ Mom) and @DevinCow (Devin Nunes’ Cow).

@DevinCow scorns Nunes’s claim to be a dairy farmer. The family “moved” its farm from California to Iowa in 2007. The attorney representing Nunes recently admitted he is at a “dead end” in finding the person or persons responsible for the ridicule on the Twitter account.

Rep. Nunes does illustrate the Streisand Effect. When Nunes filed his suit in 2019 @DevinCow had a thousand followers. It now has 722,000.

Baker City Election Results

Direct Democracy in action

Citizens of Baker City in northeastern Oregon, population not quite ten thousand, cast their ballots, giving overwhelming approval for sale of a twenty-five-year-old backhoe the city decided it no longer needed. An archaic provision in the municipal charter requires voters’ approval for the city to sell any equipment or vehicles with a value of more than $10,000. ($5,000 for land or buildings.) The 1995 Case backhoe’s estimated value is $16,000.

The sale was approved with 92% voting “Yes.” (One wonders what reasons the other 8% had to disallow the equipment’s sale.) Baker City’s public works director admitted that a few years previously a street sweeper may have been sold in violation of the law, although no record was kept of the sale price. (An obvious coverup!)

Baker City surplus – 1995 Case backhoe

In the same election, residents also voted, by a 65% to 35% margin, to amend the city charter putting some limit on direct democracy. The city in the future will be allowed to sell surplus equipment without obtaining voters’ consent. This will simplify the possible sale of a Case excavator and a 1988 International dump truck, each valued at more than $10,000.

A third measure on the ballot would have discontinued the stipend paid to Baker City’s commissioners. Perhaps voters feared that it would be a step toward plutocracy. The measure was defeated. The seven city-council members will continue to receive their ten dollars per meeting.

Scenes from the Pandemic

Burglars recently broke into Tillie’s Cafe in Schulenburg Texas — halfway between San Antonio and Houston. After gaining entry they apparently had sanitized the place, using a can of Lysol they left behind. The intruders got away with $150 cash, some ice cream and a few checks. They exited through the front door, which they locked behind them.

The ongoing societal upheaval has become so desperate the state of Oregon has lifted the ban against motorists pumping their own gas. (Oregon is one of only two states prohibiting self serve. New Jersey is the other.) The easing of the restriction is temporary, until — for now — April 11, the day before Easter. “During this unprecedented time of state emergency, we need to ensure that critical supply lines for fuels and other basic services remain uninterrupted,” said the State Fire Marshal in a press release. Naturally, this has set off a new panic. “We were the only ones touching the pumps. Now if you let everybody touch the pumps, that’s a higher breeding ground to spread the virus,” said an attendant at a Chevron station near Portland.

An anti-gay activist and three Houston-area pastors have filed a petition to the Texas Supreme Court arguing that Harris County’s stay-at-home order violates the Constitution by ordering the closure of churches and failing to define gun shops as “essential” businesses. Because that’s what Jesus says.

And in politics…

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blamed Democrats for the spread of the coronavirus. “And it came up while we were tied down on the impeachment trial. And I think it diverted the attention of the government, because everything every day was all about impeachment.”

In a rare moment of candor, the current occupant of the White House explained his opposition to vote-by-mail and other proposals for the 2020 election in response to the pandemic. He fears “…levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

And now, this… click here

An Immigration Story

The history of the United States is the story of opposition to the immigration of ethnic or socioeconomic groups, one after another. Beginning with the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, those who had previously immigrated fought against the succeeding wave of newcomers whom they perceived as less worthy than themselves.

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin railed against the “Stupid, Swarthy” Germans coming into Pennsylvania. Irish, Italians, Chinese, Japanese, Muslims, Mexicans have all been subjected to anti-immigrant backlash. During the Depression, California tried to keep out “Okies” who were fleeing dust-bowl oppression.

Digression: Noted journalist and food writer Calvin Trillin maintains that the high point of U.S. immigration policy is the Immigration Act of 1965, which allowed a greater influx of people from third-world countries. Previously, quotas favored the British over Asians. “I guess the idea was that people who like bland food make good citizens.” He said. “In food terms, it wasn’t a good policy.”

A half-century ago, upstanding citizens tried to fight off another invading scourge: hippies. Humboldt County, on California’s northern coast, felt it was being inundated by long-haired, unwashed hordes. So much so that local citizens got up a petition to keep the hippies out. The entreaty, with 111 signatures submitted to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors demanded relief from a “mass infiltration of hippies” into their communities.

“Many residents have come upon them bathing in the nude and having intercourse on the beaches of our rivers and ocean,” the petition complained. “We are concerned with their utter lack of regard for the moral, health, and sanitary codes.” The appeal also complained that many of the interlopers were said to be receiving welfare payments.

Fifty years later, life goes on in Humboldt County. Along with Mendocino and Trinity Counties, the area has become known as the Emerald Triangle, so named because it is the largest cannabis-producing region in the U.S. Since the hippie invasion, marijuana has become a strong force in the region’s fiscal health, first as part of an underground economy, then legal and mainstream in recent years.