Friday, March 30, 2012

Money & Laundry-ing -OR- Friday Night Blog Follies

Here is another picture of that tall sycamore tree that grows in front of the Horizon House -- a public housing apartment complex for seniors and disabled individuals supported by the D.C. Housing Authority -- at 1150 12th Street NW, Washington, D.C., 7:21PM, March 29, 2012.

For the second day in a row, I walked home from work, passing on this Thursday evening by the tree, which is prominently visible looking north from the National Mall up 12th Street. By "prominently," I mean you can see it about 3/4 mile away standing by itself. Most folks wouldn't even notice it.


OK, I'm trying to get used to Blogger's new publishing format. It isas radically different and while it contains all the elements as the old format, as well as new options, it is taking time to get accustomed to it. Also, it appears that this new format is compatible with Internet Explorer in the way that the previous one was not, while Chrome -- which I had been previously using -- appears to be less compatible.


It is Friday evening (at this moment about 7PM) and I'm trying to figure out whether to do my laundry. I typically do my laundry on a Friday evening before I go out since the basement laundry room is quite empty.

It would entail spending $10 since you can only put money on the card in increments of $5, $10, or $20 and two wash / two dry cycles comes to $6.50. I only have $65 in cash in increments of three $20 bills and a $5 bill, so this would actually mean putting a frickin' $20 on the damn card.

One of Party Rental Ltd.'s trucks with the pink hippo along 12th Street between Madison Drive and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 6:29PM, March 28, 2012.


Another pink hippo-themed Party Rental Ltd. truck on the following day, this one outside the Metro Center's Macy in downtown Washington, D.C., 7:09PM, March 29, 2012.


Then I would have to go to the ATM, but since I refuse to pay an ATM fee, I have to go to the damn Bank of America, which means walking to frickin' Dupont Circle or Columbia Road/Adams Morgan -- the opposite direction of where I intend to go later on (Nellie's).

In addition, if I don't go home thereafter, it means walking around with my ATM card on me, which I try to avoid doing at night. And right now I have extra money in my account because my IRS tax refund arrived a few days ago ($1,106). I was going to pay my April rent early but now I'm thinking of just waiting until my regular twice-monthly check arrives (April 10th). The first one of the month I have always used to pay my rent -- fortuitously on the last day possible (the 10th, when the check typically arrives, unless that date falls on a weekend or holiday, in which case it is moved up) before it is considered late.

Say, lookie thar, it's Mr. You-Know-Who's two-night tip earings.

Finally, I am beyond exhausted ... I was so tired this week that it actually interrupted my work schedule, as in I got into work quite late yesterday (I took an hour off, unless I can make it working from home this weekend). The office was practically empty yesterday and today.

I REALLY need to catch up on my sleep -- I get 7 hours or so a night but that is not enough for me -- and probably will do so well into tomorrow afternoon, once again effectively losing my Saturday daytime.

The Smithsonian Castle seen from the Haupt Garden, 6:23PM, March 28, 2012. I work near here and was starting my walk home (Wednesday).


As for tomorrow -- Saturday -- I would like to purchase a new and significantly larger pot that I really need for my gold dust croton. The plant is simply too big and starting to topple out of its current home. Also, I am considering going to one of the early voting places tomorrow (probaby Jood-wish-yoo-whary Square) to vote in D.C.'s totally irrelevant primary. The actual primary day is April 3rd. I'm tempted to write in a candidate in lieu of Obama -- voting for Obama in the Democratic primary in D.C. is (to borrow a Sophia Petrillo line) like barking in a kennel.

There she is, Queen Noble ("THIS IS CAPTIVITY!").

More importantly, I am deeply chagrined that Queen Noble of the H.E.R.O.S.H.E.R.O. party is not on the ballot. I wonder how goes her $994 TRILLION lawsuit against the United States Government (an amount that is only 12 times WORLD GROSS PRODUCT for 2011 of about $79 trillion) for slavery reparations, which she intends upon assuming office to go after SWIFTLY AND IMMEDIATELY.

View her priceless campaign video here when she was running against D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. As it is, I am not going to vote for Norton. She's just been in office too long and her anti-gun stance for law-abiding citizens is annoying -- all that does is ensure young thugs will act and terrorize with impunity.

Look, there's the reality we want and then there's the reality we have. And, no, I don't own a gun and not sure I ever would. That would probably not be the wisest idea.

ANYWAY, as for my laundry, I could just do it another night but I get obessive compulsive about doing things on the same night -- not to the point that it is debilitating, but it's not far from it. And even if I don't, I probably still need to go to the ATM.

Speaking of money, I came very close to buying a "Mega Millions" lottery ticket today since the jackpot is a record-shattering $640 million -- the highest ever for an individual lottery -- at present with the drawing later tonight.

But I simply could not bring myself to stand in line in a ghastly, robbery-prone, East Asian-run fluorescent-lit convenience store behind my D.C. brethren and sistren.

As it is, I have never played a lottery in my life -- I never even gambled that 5 days in Las Vegas in 1997. Furthermore, on the one hand, I'm not throwing away a dollar just to lose it (1 in 176 million odds). On the other hand, in the astronomically unlikely chance of winning, the disruption to life would be nothing short of irreversible and violent.


The Old Post Office building along Pennsylvania Ave. NW in downtown Washington, D.C., 7:03PM, March 29, 2012.


There is a lot more I want to write including weather-related and politically commentary.

For the former, I wanted to note that today was a lot cooler than forecasted (not to mention cloudier with a few needed rain showers), with high of "only" 54F, so what I thought would be an "average" day turned out to be below average.

This daily temp high (and depending on the low, which should end up being 43F) may jeopardize (depending on tomorrow's temps) a record that I am hoping we reach -- if only because I have to suffer through all the damn March 80+F heat to get to it -- namely, surpassing the warmest March on record for Washington, D.C. (as recorded at DCA) set in 1945 with its +9.4F departure -- vis-a-vis the current March average of 46.8F -- at 56.2F.

We were up +10.7F as of yesterday for the first 29 days of the month at 57.1F. It is NOT the case that we can lose 1.3F and still tie it -- we can actually only lose 0.9F because the first 29-day average is 46.4F, not 46.8F (that's the current 30-year full monthly average).

I had reckoned we would do it based on a zero anomaly for today and tomorrow, but today will probably turn to be about -2F daily average anomaly. The normal high is 61F but the normal low is 42F. This will knock off a few tenths of a point from the monthly anomaly. So it will all come down to tomorrow's temperatures, which are forecasted to be normal to a tad above.

As I noted already, BWI cannot have a warmest March -- it will be 3rd -- because there are old pre-BWI Baltimore records from 1921 and 1945 (when the weather obs. station was in much warmer downtown Baltimore at the Custom House).

For better or worse, the NWS considers it a single unbroken record. The current anomaly through yesterday was +11.0F at 54.2F. The warmest ever was 55.7F in 1945 (and 54.6F in 1921). The 55.7F is +12.1F above the current 30-year full monthly average of 43.6F.

As for Dulles (IAD), it is running nearly 5F ahead of its previous warmest March in 2010 at 54.6F or +10.8F above the average of 43.8F through yesterday (the first 29 days of the month). The previous warmest full month March warmest was 49.5F in 2010 or +5.3F above the current full monthly average of 44.2F. In short, there is NO WAY Dulles cannot have a record warm March -- and by at least 4F above the March 2010 anomaly. Of course, IAD's records only go back to Jan. 1963 versus 1871 for Baltimore (now BWI) and Washington (now DCA).

DCA always manages to "just miss" records -- except record high minima.

Surface temperature anomalies across the Lower 48, southern Canada, and parts of Mexico as measured by MODIS aboard NASA's Terra satellite for the period March 8 - 15, 2012. Source here.

Nationwise, given the +10F to +20F departures in the Midwest and Great Lakes region, and +5F to +10F in New England and the mid-Atlantic, it should be among the warmest Marches on record, if not the warmest. Chicago's current departure is +16.5F (through yesterday) at 54.0F and no matter the temps today or tomorrow, it will far surpass its warmest March, which was 46.8F, also set in 1945.


The other topic I wanted to discuss was today's Paul Krugman's excellent Friday regular op-ed New York Times piece.

He discussed the consequences of the likelihood of the Supreme Court's "Scalia 5" five fascist / nutty ideologues striking down the deeply flawed but still better than nothing Affordable Health Care Act.  I would like to cite the paragraph in reference to the stupidity of supposedly legal genius Scalia's broccoli analogy:

"That comparison horrified health care experts all across America because health insurance is nothing like broccoli. Why? When people choose not to buy broccoli, they don’t make broccoli unavailable to those who want it. But when people don’t buy health insurance until they get sick -- which is what happens in the absence of a mandate -- the resulting worsening of the risk pool makes insurance more expensive, and often unaffordable, for those who remain. As a result, unregulated health insurance basically doesn’t work, and never has."

Full article here.

Uh, oh ... It looks like Wall-P's got something to say about this ... I know he got all tingly and was profoundly impressed by French bulldog Scalia's bullying and hectoring.

"Eh. Eh. This proves yet again I'm right. Eh. Medicare Part D doesn't appear in the Constitution. Therefore, if you want health care, amend the Constitution. Or get rich. If you don't like it, get your own army and your own damn country -- "

That's enough out of you, Wall-P, you little sewing thimble on wheels. Go recharge yourself.

As it is, this ruling will rank up there with Bush v. Gore and Citizens United v. FEC, two other 5-4 crypto-fascist corporate oligarichal criminal rulings cheered by the lumpen-proletariat, Marx's "bribed tools of reactionary intrigue" that they are.


The house at 1330 13 Street NW, Washington, D.C., 7:00PM, March 28, 2012.


OK, I really think that's all for now. I didn't actually post this until 11:30PM and I'm just going to go to Nellie's with no ATM detour. I have enough money for tonight. I may post another shorter entry this weekend or if not, then the next planned one will be on Monday night.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Quick Midweek Update -OR- Blogger's Dreadful New Publishing Format

An Eastern Red Bud in bloom in the back alley between the 2000 block of New Hampshire Ave. and 15th Street with my apt. building on the left side.


This is the first time I am using Blogger's forcible upgrade to its new template and I must say that it absolutely sucks big time, although you can't really notice it on the actual published site. It is on the compositional / blog template side. Anyway, it's late and I don't have time to deal with frickin' Blogger at this hour -- and as it is, I'm sure this new look was designed for some purpose that has nothing to do with its actual blog users. 

The Old Post Office building as seen off 12th Street NW, Washington, D.C., 6:32PM, March 28, 2012.


Instead, I just wanted to post a new entry to note that I will not be able to update this blog until either Friday night or the weekend. 


Monday, March 26, 2012

Sweet Home District of Columbia & Alabama -OR- Very Strange Libertarian Delights

Washington, D.C., "Celebrate and Discover" (as it said on the old D.C. license plates), or Seat of Empire, Early 3rd Millennium.

The iconic view from the Lincoln Memorial looking toward the Washington Monument with the Reflecting Pool -- being completely rebuilt -- in the foreground, 5:51PM, March 25, 2012.


So I wasn't planning on updating this blog really until Wednesday, but the last entry needs a bit of tweaking. In addition, I took a series of pictures yesterday on a Sunday circuitous walkabout that I'd like to post. I will be posting them along with a series of pictures that Chris T. sent me from Alabama on a bike ride.*

*Stars may have fallen on Alabama, but I didn't think that was possible to ride a bike there.

The pictures will be posted in conjunction with re-posting of a wonderful must-read piece by blogger / economist Noah Smith on the basic fraud of American-style libertarianism.

The double-flowering Kwanzan cherry tree in floral bloom in front of the building at 1725 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 4:30PM, March 25, 2012.


My walk in question was about four or five mile in length. My route was from my apt. down to the National Mall and back via Nellie's and Larry's Lounge.

Here is the National World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C., 6:02PM, March 25, 2012. The Rainbow Pool used to be here, although I think it's the same fountain.

In particular, I walked from near 16th and U Streets NW all the way down New Hampshire Avenue to the Watergate, detouring over to the Kennedy Center, and thence down to the tourist-clogged Lincoln Memorial and along the south side of the Reflecting Pool -- still under massive reconstruction but the project appears to be making progress -- and thence past the Washington Monument, then over to the Elephant & Castle at 12th and Pennsylvania Ave. for dinner, and finally up 12th Street to Vermont Avenue and thence to U Street and to Nellie's. Later, I walked over to Larry's Lounge where I met up with the usual group before finally getting home around 11PM.

The Heurich House Museum located just south of Dupont Circle along New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 4:40PM, March 25, 2012. It is also called "the Brewmaster's Castle" since Christian Heurich and his decedents family ran the old Heurich Brewing Company.


First, though, let me clarify in my past entry what I said to one person in particular -- he knows who he is. I apologize that I may have sort of over-interpreted / overreacted and wrote what I wrote. And I appreciate your e-mail earlier today.


The turret-like tower atop the house at 1272 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., (nearly) silhouetted on the late afternoon blue sky, 4:42PM, March 25, 2012.


Secondly, a tidbit on the weather ...

Owing to the incredible warmth of the past several weeks, the trees / vegetation cycle is way accelerated this year with even the oaks in bloom here in D.C. proper. Tonight is forecasted to be near or below freezing over a widespread part of the eastern U.S., and as such there are widespread freeze warnings in effect. That is, the widespread early blossoming and blooming of plants has necessitated this widespread freeze warning. (I had included a longer weather write up but have opted to remove it since the previous entries contain a fair amount of weather discussion).

Here is a map of the advisories for the NWS Eastern Region of the U.S. The cyan blue shows counties / independent cities where freeze warnings are in effect. In New Jersey, freeze warnings exist next to daytime red flag warnings. This is not so unusual.


I believe this is a white crab apple tree in full floral blossom at Washington Circle, Washington, D.C., 4:50PM, March 25, 2012.


As for all those blooming trees, the pollen levels have been surging and today I invested $18.99 in a 30-count box of Claritin (it was $24.49 reduced by $5.50 at the Kalorama Harris Teeter). I really was not feeling well this morning with the allergies and a sort of head cold and fever, so I actually stayed home today from work.

Here is a picture taken late this afternoon of some of my current necessities including Claritin, Alka-Seltzer, Prilosec, Pepto-Bismol, and Advil. The Listerine is also good to have. And, yes, my hair is still on the longer and excessively thick side so I'm still using the Murray's pomade wax for African Americans as it is the only thing that seems to work well and keep my hair from looking like a white Afro (a Eurfro?). 


H2O at the H2O-Gate

The fountain complex between the north and east lobbies of the Watergate East (at least I think this is the Watergate East) in the Watergate Complex, Washington, D.C., 4:58PM, March 25, 2012.

I'm still chagrined that the Watergate Safeway closed.

One of the water chutes in the terraced fountain at the Watergate East, Watergate Complex, Washington, D.C., 4:58PM, March 25, 2012.

I just find the area curiously peaceful.


One more image of the Watergate Fountain peering up from the steps toward the North Lobby of the Watergate East, Washington, D.C., 5:01PM, March 25, 2012.


Libertarian Crypto-fascist Delights

This entry is a resposting of the excellent Noah Smith blog piece from late last December "The Liberty of Local Bullies" in which he describes American-style libertarianism's basic fraud, namely, its happy substitution of what he calls local bullies -- anything from overbearing community associations to corporate interests -- in place of what it views as the national bully, the Federal Government.

The interior of the Kennedy Center near the giant, weird bust of President Kennedy, Washington, D.C., 5:21PM, March 25, 2012.

There was a rehearsal ongoing at the Millennium Stage for one of the Sunday 6PM free concerts. It was something called Penny the One-of-a-Kind Piano.

Here was the cast rehearsing a short time earlier.


This piece was written three months before the Trayvon Martin case, which occurred in such a gated community in Sanford, Florida, a state with a "Stand Your Ground" vigilante statute in place that goes part and parcel with its emphasis on "privatized" police forces and penal systems.

BTW, I highly recommend today's op-ed by Paul Krugman entitled Lobbyists, Guns and Money because he discusses this in the context of the nefarious, often successful, but largely under-the-radar extensive efforts of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to institute unchecked corporate oligarchical control by getting state legislatures to pass legislation that it writes chapter and verse for them.

Looking up a lazy Potomac River toward Georgetown and Theodore Roosevelt Island, Washington, D.C., 5:31PM, March 25, 2012.


The aim of these laws is always, always, always to expand crony capitalism for the sake of the corporate oligarchical overclass in all spheres of public life -- and always in the name of "free markets" but really contingent on exploiting racial and economic class anxieties.

Approaching the Lincoln Memorial on foot from the northwest, 5:44PM, March 25, 2012.


In this case, as Krugman notes, ALEC has provided template legislation to legislators in other states with "language virtually identical to Florida's law." This is keeping with its "privatizing" the sprawling American "penal-industrial complex" to help the oligarchical overclass.

The Lincoln Memorial overrun with tourists, 5:49PM, March 25, 2012. I actually stopped inside to make a pit stop in the lower level bathroom. As it is, the Lincoln Memorial is far better seen in the sublime late night when it is not crowded.


This actually gets into another Noah Smith piece about libertarianism -- he has blogged a fair amount on this subject from different angles including its "low-end strategy" for state formation and where that leads.

The Reflecting Pool being completely rebuilt, 5:56PM, March 25, 2012.

Another piece was the following:

The National World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C., 6:02PM, March 25, 2012.

Needless to say, World War II could not have been successfully fought by the Allies in a libertarian paradise. If anything, the American-style libertarian would have been on the fascist side.


And the two other pieces related to libertarianism that he wrote: 

* Libertarian Property Rights, Japan-style;

* Libertarian chagrin that the Koch Brothers have launched a hostile takeover of the Cato Institute for not being sufficiently a tool for oligarchical overclass corporate interests.

Nearing the Washington Monument under a serene sky, 6:03PM, March 25, 2012.


As it is, the only reason I found out about Smith is because of a piece he wrote entitled "Did the Krugman Insurgency Fail?" on whether or not the effort to return to basic Keynesian economics has been a failure now that the immediate economic crisis is ebbing in the United States.

Krugman responded to this -- it was a friendly back-and-forth -- on his blog here.

This is a large sycamore tree that grows in front of the Horizon House at 1150 12th Street NW, Washington, D.C., taken at dusk, 7:35PM, March 25, 2012.

It is possible to see this tree -- growing about 80 feet high and located at the top of a rise along 12th Street -- from the National Mall about half a mile away.


A sidewalk carpeted in Yoshino cherry tree blossom petals in the 1200 block of 12th Street NW, Washington, D.C., 7:37PM, March 25, 2012.


Anyway, without further ado, here is the Noah Smith piece in question as cited in full here. I have not included the embedded links and in some cases I've changed the paragraph breakpoints to include more images.

About those images, Chris T. took them in three locations southeast of Montgomery including the (nearly abandoned?) hamlets of Fitzpatrick and Cecil, and also Pike Road, specifically, a (gated?) community within in it called The Waters.

NOTE: I do not give any text info about the pictures, but rather it is included in the image file name, so if you are interested in them, please click on / download them.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The liberty of local bullies
by Noah Smith 

I have not been surprised by any of the quotes that have recently come to light from Ron Paul's racist newsletters. I grew up in Texas, remember, and I know from experience that if you talk to a hardcore Paul supporter for a reasonable length of time, these sorts of ideas are more likely than not to come up.

So does this mean that Ron Paul's libertarianism is merely a thin veneer covering a bedrock of tribalist white-supremacist paleoconservatism? Well, no, I don't think so. Sure, the tribalist white-supremacist paleoconservatism is there. I just don't think it's incompatible with libertarianism.

I have often remarked in the past how libertarianism - at least, its modern American manifestation - is not really about increasing liberty or freedom as an average person would define those terms. An ideal libertarian society would leave the vast majority of people feeling profoundly constrained in many ways.

This is because the freedom of the individual can be curtailed not only by the government, but by a large variety of intermediate powers like work bosses, neighborhood associations, self-organized ethnic movements, organized religions, tough violent men, or social conventions.

In a society such as ours, where the government maintains a nominal monopoly on the use of physical violence, there is plenty of room for people to be oppressed by such intermediate powers, whom I call "local bullies."

The modern American libertarian ideology does not deal with the issue of local bullies. In the world envisioned by Nozick, Hayek, Rand, and other foundational thinkers of the movement, there are only two levels to society - the government (the "big bully") and the individual.

If your freedom is not being taken away by the biggest bully that exists, your freedom is not being taken away at all.

In a perfect libertarian world, it is therefore possible for rich people to buy all the beaches and charge admission fees to whomever they want (or simply ban anyone they choose).

In a libertarian world, a self-organized cartel of white people can, under certain conditions, get together and effectively prohibit black people from being able to go out to dinner in their own city. In a libertarian world, a corporate boss can use the threat of unemployment to force you into accepting unsafe working conditions.

In other words, the local bullies are free to revoke the freedoms of individuals, using methods more subtle than overt violent coercion.

Such a world wouldn't feel incredibly free to the people in it.

Sure, you could get together with friends and pool your money to buy a little patch of beach. Sure, you could move to a less racist city. Sure, you could quit and find another job. But doing any of these things requires paying large transaction costs.

As a result you would feel much less free.

Now, the founders of libertarianism - Nozick et. al. - obviously understood the principle that freedoms are often mutually exclusive - that my freedom to punch you in the face curtails quite a number of your freedoms.

For this reason, they endorsed "minarchy," or a government whose only role is to protect people from violence and protect property rights.

But they didn't extend the principle to covertly violent, semi-violent, or nonviolent forms of coercion. Not surprisingly, this gigantic loophole has made modern American libertarianism the favorite philosophy of a vast array of local bullies, who want to keep the big bully (government) off their backs so they can bully to their hearts' content.

The curtailment of government legitimacy, in the name of "liberty," allows abusive bosses to abuse workers, racists to curtail opportunities for minorities, polluters to pollute without cost, religious groups to make religious minorities feel excluded, etc.

In theory, libertarianism is about the freedom of the individual, but in practice it is often about the freedom of local bullies to bully. It's a "don't tattle to the teacher" ideology.

Therefore I see no real conflict between Ron Paul's libertarianism and his support for the agenda of racists. 

It's just part and parcel of the whole movement.

Not necessarily the movement as it was conceived, but the movement as it in fact exists.


OK, that's all for now. My next planned update will be later this week -- not sure the day.