How we got here

Nobody explains US history better than Heather Cox Richardson. Nobody. Her column today is so good, I’m quoting the entire thing here. It explains how we got to where we are today in US politics, hinging on two major inflection points in 1929 and 1954. The Great Depression and desegregation. Bold type emphasis is mine.

On October 29, 1929, the U.S. stock market crashed. It had been rocked five days before, when heavy trading early in the day drove it down, but leading bankers had seen the mounting crisis and moved in to stabilize the markets before the end of the day. October 24 left small investors broken but the system intact. On Monday, October 28, the market slid again, with a key industrial average dropping 49 points.

And then, on October 29, the crisis hit. When the gong in the great hall of the New York Stock Exchange hit at ten o’clock, the market opened with heavy trading, all of it downward. When the ticker tape finally showed the day’s transactions, two and a half hours later, it documented that more than 16 million shares had changed hands and the industrial average had dropped another 43 points. 

Black Tuesday was the beginning of the end. The market continued to drop. By November the industrial average stood at half of what it had been two months before. By 1932, manufacturing output was less than it had been in 1913; foreign trade plummeted from $10 billion to $3 billion in the three years after 1929, and agricultural prices fell by more than half. By 1932 a million people in New York City were out of work; by 1933, thirteen million people—one person of every four in the labor force—were unemployed. Unable to pay rent or mortgages, people lived in shelters made of packing boxes.

While the administration of Republican president Herbert Hoover preached that Americans could combat the Depression with thrift, morality, and individualism, voters looked carefully at the businessmen who only years before had seemed to be pillars of society and saw they had plundered ordinary Americans. The business boom of the 1920s had increased worker productivity by about 43%, but wages did not rise. Those profits, along with tax cuts and stock market dividends, meant that wealth moved upward: in 1929, 5% of the population received one third of the nation’s income.

In 1932, nearly 58% of voters turned to Democratic president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who promised them a “New Deal”: a government that would work for everyone, not just for the wealthy and well connected.

As soon as Roosevelt was in office, Democrats began to pass laws protecting workers’ rights, providing government jobs, regulating business and banking, and beginning to chip away at the racial segregation of the American South. New Deal policies employed more than 8.5 million people, built more than 650,000 miles of highways, built or repaired more than 120,000 bridges, and put up more than 125,000 buildings. They regulated banking and the stock market and gave workers the right to bargain collectively. They established minimum wages and maximum hours for work. They provided a basic social safety net and regulated food and drug safety. 

When he took office in 1953, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower built on this system, adding to the nation’s infrastructure with the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which provided $25 billion to build 41,000 miles of highway across the country; adding the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to the government and calling for a national healthcare system; and nominating former Republican governor of California Earl Warren as chief justice of the Supreme Court to protect civil rights. Eisenhower also insisted on the vital importance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to stop the Soviet Union from spreading communism throughout Europe.

Eisenhower called his vision “a middle way between untrammeled freedom of the individual and the demands of the welfare of the whole Nation.” The system worked: between 1945 and 1960 the nation’s gross national product (GNP) jumped by 250%, from $200 billion to $500 billion.

But while the vast majority of Americans of both parties liked the new system that had helped the nation to recover from the Depression and to equip the Allies to win World War II, a group of Republican businessmen and their libertarian allies at places like the National Association of Manufacturers insisted that the system proved both parties had been corrupted by communism. They inundated newspapers, radio, and magazines with the message that the government must stay out of the economy to return the nation to the policies of the 1920s.

Their position got little traction until the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional. That decision enabled them to divide the American people by insisting that the popular new government simply redistributed tax dollars from hardworking white taxpayers to undeserving minorities. 

A promise to cut the taxes that funded social services and the business regulations they insisted hampered business growth fueled the election of Ronald Reagan for president in 1980. But by 1986 administration officials recognized that tax cuts that were driving the deficit up despite dramatic cuts to social services were so unpopular that they needed footsoldiers to back businessmen. So, Reagan backed the creation of an organization that brought together big businessmen, evangelical Christians, and social conservatives behind his agenda. “Traditional Republican business groups can provide the resources,” leader of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist explained, “but these groups can provide the votes.” 

By 1989, Norquist’s friend Ralph Reed turned evangelical Christians into a permanent political pressure group. The Christian Coalition rallied evangelicals behind the Republican Party, calling for the dismantling of the post–World War II government services and protections for civil rights—including abortion—they disliked. 

As Republicans could reliably turn out religious voters over abortion, that evangelical base has become more and more important to the Republican Party. Now it has put one of its own in the House Speaker’s chair, just two places from the presidency. On October 25, after three weeks of being unable to unite behind a speaker after extremists tossed out Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the Republican conference coalesced behind Representative Mike Johnson (R-LA) in part because he was obscure enough to have avoided scrutiny.

Since then, his past has been unearthed, showing interviews in which he asserted that we do not live in a democracy but in a “Biblical republic.” He told a Fox News Channel interviewer that to discover his worldview, one simply had to “go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview.” 

Johnson is staunchly against abortion rights and gay rights, including same-sex marriage, and says that immigration is “the true existential threat to the country.” In a 2016 sermon he warned that the 1960s and 1970s undermined “the foundations of religion and morality in the U.S.” and that attempts to address climate change, for example, are an attempt to destroy capitalism. 

Like other adherents of Christian nationalism, Johnson appears to reject the central premise of democracy: that we have a right to be treated equally before the law. And while his wife, Kelly, noted last year on a podcast that only about 4% of Americans “still adhere to a Biblical worldview,” they appear to reject the idea we have the right to a say in our government. In 2021, Johnson was a key player in the congressional attempt to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 presidential election. 

In his rejection of democracy, Johnson echoes authoritarian leaders like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, both of whom have the loyal support of America’s far right. Such leaders claim that the multiculturalism at the heart of democracy ruins nations. The welcoming of various races and ethnicities through immigration or affirmative action undermines national purity, they say, while the equality of LGBTQ+ individuals and women undermines morality. Johnson has direct ties to these regimes: his 2018 campaign accepted money from a group of Russian nationals, and he has said he does not support additional funding for Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression. 

The rejection of democracy in favor of Christian authoritarianism at the highest levels of our government is an astonishing outcome of the attempt to prevent another Great Depression by creating a government that worked for ordinary Americans rather than a few wealthy men. 

But here we are. 

After Johnson’s election as speaker, extremist Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida spelled out what it meant for the party…and for the country: “MAGA is ascendant,” Gaetz told former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, “and if you don’t think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to MAGA Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement, and where the power of the Republican Party truly lies, then you’re not paying attention.”

I hope some of us are paying attention. We’re losing separation of church and state. If the Mike Johnsons of the world get their way, we’ll be right back where we were before the Revolutionary War. Governed by an authoritarian church.

Audio perversity

Listening to my updated stereo this weekend I had an epiphany. I’ve always wondered why it was just old dudes at high-end audio shows. Not 100%, but a high percentage – geriatric nerds. Then I considered my own experience and the answer was clear:

  • We all love music and electronic gear, probably from an early age.
  • When young (and with perfect hearing), most of us couldn’t afford the real high-end gear, so we cobbled together the best we could afford. Pioneer, Marantz, Sansui…whatever.
  • At some point we could afford better gear and we began to buy it. And the gear, both electronic and analog (speakers), *has* gotten much better over the years.
  • So now that we can afford it we buy all kinds of exotic gear, chasing the sound quality and sonic impact that we remember from our youth. But so much of that sound quality was our ability to hear frequencies from 20 Hz to 20 KHz, an ability we’ve all lost after age 50ish. Most of us can’t hear anything above 12 KHz. Even the guys selling $50,000 speakers can’t hear that shit.
  • But we keep buying the gear, hoping to hear those sonic highs and lows from our youth.

Life is pretty fucking perverse sometimes.

Good enough

I’m late to the party, but I just added a great little component to my home audio system – the Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 preamp and DAC. I’ve wanted a solid state preamp to compare with the ancient tube pre I’ve used, and the S2’s price made it an easy call. The fact that it has a great DAC included and that the snooty curmudgeon of audio reviews, The Absolute Sound, gave it a great review, didn’t hurt.

Right out of the box, it sounds great. Part of that may be that I’m using my much-loved Wyred mAmp monoblocs with the S2 preamp. Those things are beasts. But I never really loved the sound of the mAmps with my tube preamp, and right now I’m *really* liking the mAmp-S2 combination. Plenty of power, deeply quiet when it should be, zero background hiss. Just clean, sharp reproduction of great recordings. Nice.

And the S2 is *tiny* – I wasn’t ready for it to be one pound and the size of a deck of cards.

I don’t listen to the stereo as much as I used to – I worry that I can’t trust my ears any more. I know I have some serious high-end hearing loss, so a lot of music sounds a bit more compressed than my memory says it should. But fuck it, I love the gear and the music still sounds good, even a little compressed. Perfect is the enemy of good enough. And the S2 is definitely good enough.

It’s the economy, stupid

Yes, prices are high. But people who think the economy was better under the previous President are misinformed. Or brainwashed. From the great Heather Cox Richardson:

An article this morning jumped out at me. Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post noted that the U.S. economy “looks remarkably good.” A recent stunning jobs report, showing that the economy continues to add jobs at record rates—more than 13.9 million since President Joe Biden took office—along with yesterday’s stunning report that U.S. economic growth grew at an annual pace of 4.9% in the third quarter of this year, puts the U.S. economy at the forefront of most of the world. And inflation is back in the range that the Federal Reserve prefers—it’s at 2.4%, close to the Fed’s target of 2%.

The U.S. is outperforming forecasts made even before the pandemic began for where the economy would be now, even as other countries are worse off. 

And yet, Rampell notes, Americans are about as negative about the economy today as they were during the Great Recession after 2008, when mortgage foreclosures were forcing people out of their homes and unemployment rested at about 9%, more than twice what it is today. In contrast, consumers give high marks to the Trump years, when average growth before the pandemic was 2.5% and the U.S. added only about 6.4 million jobs.

There is a crucial divorce here between image and reality. Americans think our economy, currently the strongest in the world, is in poor shape. They mistakenly believe it was better under Trump.

As usual, people ignore facts and believe what they want to believe. Confirmation bias.

I’m negative about the cost of living in CA (see previous posts), but CA isn’t the whole country. The US economy is indeed strong, and will be stronger if the current trend of bringing manufacturing back to the US continues. And some of my negativity is about the culture of CA, where regulation has gotten out of control.

Friday notes

WTF, NCAA? Why isn’t Big Z certified to play? #FreeBigZ


It only took 18 people murdered to convince this Maine congressional-shitheel that owning assault weapons maybe isn’t such a great idea for American citizens. You think?

And with wonderful timing, the Senate voted Wednesday to allow veterans with mental health issues to keep their guns. Brilliant. Another win for the NRA.

I don’t care who the fuck you are – veteran, ex-cop, judge, Nobel prize winner, Einstein – if you have mental health problems and are under treatment for them, you should *not* be allowed to own a gun. I know, the practicalities in enforcing this are significant, but it’s just common sense. If you’re hearing voices, or you’re depressed enough to commit suicide and take a dozen other folks along with you, if you have trouble with reality, you’re Second Amendment “right” should be shelved. My right to not be killed in your delusional Rambo fantasy trumps yours.


The new Speaker of the House, second in line for the Presidency after the VP, is a real piece of work. The Republican party just got more extreme, more Christofascist. Well done, Rs.


I’m planning Thanksgiving dinner. It’s going to be a small crowd, but I don’t know how to cook small for Thanksgiving. Leftovers will be generous. Here’s the prospective menu.

  • Spiced pumpkin soup
  • Smoked turkey
  • Some KY country ham slices (maybe)
  • Bread and sausage stuffing (not stuffed in turkey)
  • Cranberries
  • Air fryer green beans
  • Roasted butternut squash
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Costco pecan pie (why bother to make it when this is so good)
  • Quintessa Cabernet and/or a nice du Pape

All in all, a fairly traditional feast. I’m still perusing NY Times recipes for some more interesting takes on Turkeyday sides, but this is the plan right now. Corn pudding would be a good addition.


My buddy Todd and I played golf in Temecula yesterday afternoon. After the round at 4pm, we observed the massive amount of traffic driving north on Rainbow Valley Road, a small secondary road used as an alternative to I-15. An infinite line of cars, crawling slowly north. Where are all the people coming from? Why are they still here? San Diego was just rated the #1 most expensive place to live in the US, and I believe it. A million bucks for a modest 1500 sq ft home in a crowded neighborhood. Six dollar gasoline. Constant traffic jams. High taxes, both state and sales tax. No bike-friendly roads, no regional park system. Wildfires. Can’t get homeowners insurance in many areas.

The California dream is pretty much dead unless you’re wealthy. And even then, it’s a mixed bag.

A little optimism

Feel good song of the day: Breath Deeper, by Tame Impala, from the album The Slow Rush. Love these lyrics, the repetitive “I can, believe me”. Perfect song to combat pessimism.

If you think I couldn’t hold my own, believe me, I can
Believe me, I can, believe me, I can
If ain’t so awful and we’re all together, I can
Believe me, I can, believe me, I can
If you think I couldn’t roll with you, believe me, I can
Believe me, I can, believe me, I can
If ideally we should feel like this forever, I can
Believe me, I can, believe me, I can

seems you’re coming on
Breathe a little deeper, should you need to come undone
And let those colors run
(It just so) now you’re having fun
So do this and get through this, and come find me when you’re done
So we can be as one

If you think I couldn’t hold my own, believe me, I can
Believe me, I can, believe me, I can
If you need someone to tell you that you’re special, I can
Believe me, I can, believe me, I can
If you need someone to carry on, believe me, I can
Believe me, I can, believe me, I can
If you think no one is feeling what you’re feeling, I am
Believe me, I am, believe me, I am

And the groove is slow

seems you’re coming on
Breathe a little deeper, should you need to come undone
And let those colors run
Now you’re having fun
So do this and get through this, and come find me when you’re done
So we can be as one

‘Til the mornin’

‘Til the mornin’
And the groove is slow

‘Til the mornin’
And the groove is slow

Seems you’re coming on
Breathe a little deeper, should you need to come undone
And let those colors run
Now you’re having fun
So do this and get through this, and until we see the sun
You’re my number one

‘Til the mornin’
(It just so)
And the groove is slow
‘Til the mornin’
And the groove is slow

We’re both adults but we behave like children
Long as we got enough to keep on livin’

‘Til the mornin’
‘Til the mornin’

Justice, technology, and hoops

There’s absolutely no justice in this country until this guy is removed from the court or in jail. Or both. This kind of corruption makes it impossible to have faith in an objective SCOTUS. That hurts everyone. He’s a corrupt, unethical, dishonest, arrogant and smug prick.


This guy has an interesting blog theme – using technology to make life better for senior citizens. I learned a few things from the very first article – especially how an Amazon Fire TV Cube can replace a constellation of remotes. Remote sprawl is irritating, confusing, and now, apparently unnecessary. We might have just found the killer use case for Amazon Alexa.


This kind of sneaked up on me, but…it’s here! UK basketball 2023-2024 season starts Friday evening (afternoon, for me). UK v Georgetown College – an exhibition game, but a real, competitive game for the first time in many months. The actual season start is only ten days away (!!), on Monday 11/6. Full schedule can be found here. It’s the best time of the year.


It’s time for our annual true-up bill payment to SDGE, and it’s clear that the time of use rates have made our solar roof uneconomical. We installed a big (13.5 kW) solar roof back in 2015, and for a couple of years it took our net energy cost to zero, as designed. Then SDGE and regulators began fucking around with rates, and now our annual bill is over $5K, or $600/month. Back to where it was in 2015 without solar. So it’s time to install a home battery system to use during peak rates. The system I’m looking at is the Homegrid Stacked system, paired with a Sol-Ark 15 inverter. This will allow us to charge the batteries during non-peak-rate times (late at night), run the house on solar during peak sunlight, and run the house on battery during the evening’s peak hours. With a little behavioral management (e.g., do all laundry before noon, trim some trees), we should be able to get back to net zero SDGE charges, and the investment payback will be about 5-6 years. It’s a shame that this stuff is so expensive and complicated – I’m a EE and I have to think hard about what I buy and why. There are firms that will do that thinking for you, but at least I can double-check their recommendations.

I will say that whoever buys this house next will get a very full-featured property. Water supplied by a well and a robust filtration system (with backup of city water), electricity supplied by solar roof and battery (with SDGE grid as backup), programmable pool and spa pumps, a Ring-based security system, a custom microwave link between main house and guest house to deliver Wifi, and (maybe, one of these days) a fire suppression system. When you consider it all, it’s complex – we might need to sell to an engineer.

Or maybe there’s a business opportunity here. For houses with big, complex infrastructure like ours, maybe we pay a fee to an outside party to monitor and manage it all. I don’t know of any such companies yet, but it makes sense that they would exist.

Sound bites

In the quest for better sleep, Advil PM isn’t the answer. I took two of them last night (the recommended dose) and slept longer/later, but felt like a drugged-up zombie as late as 10am. Not worth it.


The latest news on former Trump staff turning states’ witness is encouraging. This week we’ve got Jenna Ellis and Mark Meadows, two lovely human beings. The prosecutors are rollin’ ’em up, getting ready for the big finale.


As if air travel wasn’t bad enough, now we have to worry about the pilots consuming magic mushrooms and trying to crash the plane. I for one am ready for 100% autopilot. Cut the number of pilots by 50% and drug test the shit out of the ones paid to babysit the autopilot.


I heard a good explanation of why the Republican’s can’t nominate a House Speaker. There are just enough crazy representatives to stop any sane nominee, and there are just enough sane representatives to stop any crazy from winning a vote. Mexican standoff in the House.

WTF stories

Kentucky’s performative “representatives” and senators have some explaining to do. Why KY doesn’t have a red dot in the map below is a mystery to me. From Newsweek, the map illustrates this:

President Joe Biden on Monday designated 31 Regional Innovation and Technology Hubs (Tech Hubs) across the U.S., marking a stride in boosting American innovation, manufacturing, and employment opportunities.

The initiative emerged from the CHIPS and Science Act Biden signed last August, orchestrated by Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

The phase one Tech Hubs, scattered across 32 states and Puerto Rico, encompass a broad spectrum of technological arenas including semiconductors, clean energy, biotechnology, and quantum computing, among others. They aim to integrate private industry, local governments, educational institutions, labor unions, Tribal communities, and nonprofit organizations.

If anywhere deserves jobs investment, it’s eastern KY. WTF, guys?


I hate seeing these negative stories about Southwest. Not because I don’t believe the stories, but because SW is my lifeline transportation between homes. I’ve run into a few surly flight attendants in my time and only narrowly avoided something like this happening. I don’t do well with another person having absolute power over my fate, particularly when said person is acting unreasonable. In this story, WTF Southwest? Air travel continues to be a race to the bottom, sadly.


It’s really looking bad for Herr Drumpf in the Georgia election-tampering RICO case. Another of his ex-lawyers just plead guilty (flipped on him); this time Jenna Ellis. That’s three flipped lawyers – the prosecution must now know *everything*. This is the case that I believe will find Trump guilty and move us on to the “what’s next?” part of having a felon ex-Pres. How do you put a guy like that in jail? I think we’re about to find out.


Well, this just happened. Now the world’s most powerful bot has access to all of the Internet, including all the misinformation, lies and crazy shit that’s out there. WTF, guys? Who thought that was a good idea?

33 degrees N, 117 degrees W

Back on the Left Coast after visits to Ashland, Louisville, and NOLA. Two+ weeks of travel seasoned liberally with illness, and I’m still not feeling right. Some kind of respiratory infection has grabbed me and won’t let go. Two solid weeks of fatigue, coughing, nasal drip and general cold symptoms. Just not fun.

The NOLA trip was great in terms of spending time with my buddy Jon, but we failed to win our golf tournament for the first time in a couple of years. Biggest problem – I crashed toward the end of our first day. After about 24 holes in the heat (it was 90-ish all day, with that high pressure heat feeling that just magnifies the sun), I couldn’t focus enough to hit the ball properly and we lost the last three holes to a lesser team. I played a lot better the second day (it wasn’t as hot, and we only played 18 holes), but we had dug too large a hole for ourselves on day one. We missed winning it all (in our flight) by 1.5 points, so the three-peat was within our grasp but my body just gave out. That’s kind of my story of the year so far – the body is wearing out. On a better note, here’s a picture of the beautiful Tchefuncta golf course. The morning shadows are long.

Southwest flights were absolutely full again, every seat, every flight. Not optimal for someone who (a) is large, and (b) is fighting respiratory problems. But I’m not willing to drive cross-country all the time, so…welcome to the cattle car. On the ground, the San Diego airport is a disaster zone (infinite construction), but the new NOLA airport is one of the best I’ve seen. Roomy, well-designed, great food venues, comfortable seating – it’s a good one.

Now that I’m back in CA, it’s time to find a way to get healthy. It shouldn’t be that complicated – eat properly, sleep more, drink less (or not at all), take some walks. I plan to have a quiet, restful week before trundling off to Hawaii for yet another week of golf and outdoor activity. The timing isn’t great, but reservations have been made so off we go.

Travel day

I always laugh about going to New Orleans for an event called Swingfest. I know it’s golf, my friends know it’s golf, but still…whoever came up with that name has a cleaner mind than me. Though that doesn’t narrow the crowd down much.

I’m mid-trip at a layover in Houston, at Houston Hobby. It’s a pleasant little airport, clean and compact. A string quartet playing in the central hall. Decent food, though expensive. Twenty dollar burritos, fifteen dollar draft beers. I’ll wait to get to NOLA for a nosh.

Meanwhile, while killing time at the airport I’ve made the arrangements for our 2023 olive harvest. We pick olives on 11/8 and get them pressed for oil on 11/9. Exciting! I hope to have about a ton of olives, which will produce 15-30 gallons of oil. That’s a bit more than we use in a year, so we either find a retail outlet for a few gallons or give friends and family lots of holiday gifts. Just-pressed oil is like nothing most folks have ever tasted. Fresh, green, buttery and herbal. Great stuff.

I’m not much of a farmer, but I like the end result. The combo of fresh oil and great wine is worth all the work and money. If you’re in Socal those dates, come by and help pick. (We pay in oil and take frequent wine breaks. A pretty good gig.)