Thoughts On The Austin Water Shortage

Recently, there was a warning from the City of Austin that residents should boil water before using it for cooking or consumption. There was a lot of flooding upstream in the rivers that feed into the other Colorado River, which put a lot of silt and solids into the water.

Here is a quote from the link above:
This has been an unprecedented event in Austin Water’s more than 100 years of delivering water to Austin residents. Historic flooding created water that showed over 100 times the level of silt and solids typically than found in our source water. This dramatically changed the way our treatment plants needed to operate to produce high quality water, and decreased the amount of water the plants were able to filter. This required us to slow our water treatment process.

What really bothers me about all of this is that I have not been able to find any information about what they are going to do about this in the future. Climate change is happening now, folks. These floods are just one of the effects, and I think they will become more common. There will be more “unprecedented” events. So how will the city deal with this going forward?

Will they install more filtration systems? I watched a press conference on YouTube, but I did not hear anything about future preventive measures.

I did use the water to brush my teeth the first day. I did not know about the boil order until I got to work. Checking the city’s website to see the status of the water supply is not part of my daily routine.

My apartment complex has had some water issues and they have had to shut off the water several times, so to an extent I was not too bothered by the general ban. When the complex shuts off water, even showers and laundry are unavailable. I have started buying more metal water bottles to store water for shutoffs. When I first moved in, the water was getting shut off every week. I asked them what was going on, and they pulled the old “blame the government” card. The problem with that argument is the place I lived in before was also within Austin’s city limits, and that complex never had water problems.

Several restaurants were affected. Five Guys in Austin were completely shut down that week, and Whataburger only had drive-through.

I have a few more points related to this incident.

Point 1: The mayor’s press conference was first streamed on Facebook. I really wish the world would stop using Facebook, especially governments at all levels. Constituents should be able to get information on government web sites without logging into some other web site, particularly a company that most people do not trust. Do not use Facebook, do not empower Facebook, do not do anything that puts money in the pockets of Mark “privacy for me but not for thee” Snakerberg.

Point 2: I have had a few conversations in the past couple of weeks in which other people mentioned how crazy the weather has been lately. My brother in New York said that there has been no fall this year. In another conversation, one person mentioned that there are more hurricanes predicted, and again their state did not have much of an autumn. I did not say much. I found it interested that nobody said something like, “I guess climate change is really happening.”

Point 3: There were a lot of people on Twitter making the same tired joke that they will just drink more booze. This brings up two things. First, as Kristi Coulter pointed out, alcoholics and addicts are everywhere in our society. Second: As I have mentioned on this site, so many people in Austin think they are so edgy, and so original, and so “weird”, but they really are none of those things. Just people repeating the same stupid stuff, and thinking they are the first person to do so [1]. You could call it the “42 fallacy”: whenever there is a gathering of sci-fi fans or skeptics, if the number 42 comes up, somebody almost always makes a reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and they think they are the first person to ever do that. Or that it hasn’t lost its charm after 30 years. It did, about 29 years and 364 days ago.

If you think you are smarter than everybody else, try acting like it.

Note 1: Or they think that Austin is “weird” because there are a lot of people here who would not fit in whatever crazy little church town they are from in the middle of nowhere in Texas. The fact is, there are people in a LOT of places who would not fit in you little crazy church town.

Big Jim hate cliches, and likes being prepared.

“View of Toledo” by El Greco (1541 – 7 April 1614), at El Greco’s site, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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2018-10 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for October, 2018.

The monthly dividend income came out to $1130.39. The yearly income total for 2018 through the end of the month was $4606.91.

The income for September, 2017 was $341.83, and the yearly income for 2017 through the end of October was $5138.63.

So I am behind where I was last year, but still ahead of where I was two years ago.

Again, the payouts from some of the funds that should have been at the end of a “C” month spilled over into the following “A” month. I doubt that December’s payout will spill over into January.

I interviewed for a job this month. I decided not to go forward with it for a variety of reasons. This means my current 401(k) is still sitting in ordinary index funds, not in dividend funds. I am still learning new technology on my own time, but on the other hand I am in no rush to add stress to my life. Still, having all that money in dividend funds would be sweet.

I asked HR if I could move it, and they said I could only take it out if/when I leave the company. I wish I could leave for a week, move it, and come back.

We shall see how dividends do going forward. I know it is hip to predict disaster, but between trade wars, Brexit, general conservative stupidity and rising interest rates, it is obvious the good times will not last forever. How will dividends do during the next recession? Who knows? They generally do better than the general market (they did in the dot com crash and the Great Recession), but every downturn is different.

I might hold off on buying a commodities fund. I have no idea how commodities do during downturns. My first guess if they don’t do too badly. People still need to eat. But I also know I am not an expert on this stuff.

Here is a table with the year-to-date amounts, the monthly amounts, and the three- and twelve-month moving averages for each October from 2011 through 2018:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2018-10 $4606.91 $1130.39 $561.66 $583.77
2017-10 $5138.63 $341.83 $566.34 $556.11
2016-10 $4541.79 $281.09 $508.05 $496.43
2015-10 $4056.72 $312.23 $459.42 $438.15
2014-10 $3236.89 $243.87 $368.19 $340.32
2013-10 $2558.86 $184.81 $295.19 $291.08
2012-10 $2650.92 $225.14 $285.46 $284.35
2011-10 $2330.68 $208.90 $258.17 $238.44

Here are the stocks and the income amounts for September, 2018:

  • Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF: $201.69
  • Vanguard International Dividend Appreciation ETF: $33.05
  • Vanguard Global ex-US Real Estate ETF: $50.03
  • Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF: $272.77
  • Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF: $407.14
  • Vanguard International High Dividend Yield ETF: $117.99
  • Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF BND ETF: $37.46
  • Vanguard Total International Bond ETF: $10.26

Big Jim is still growing.

“The Triumph of Religion” by Γύζης Νικόλαος (Nikolaos Gyzis) (1842 -1901), assumed allowed under Fair Use. Religion is not endorsed by this website; we actually advocate people abandon fairy tales. It’s just a nice change of pace from walls of text.

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Organizations I Could Donate To

I realized I should probably start supporting some of the free stuff that I use. So here is a list of organizations that I will start donating some money to. I might do one of these a month.

  1. AdoptOpenJDK
  2. CFI Austin
  3. Freedom From Religion Foundation
  4. Maraposa Sangha
  5. Poetry In Translation
  6. RationalWiki
  7. Science Friday
  8. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  9. Wikipedia

Big Jim like helping others who help others.

“The Adoration of the Shepherds” by El Greco (1541 – 7 April 1614), at El Greco’s site, assumed allowed under Fair Use. According to Wikimedia, there are other paintings by El Greco about this topic.

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Thoughts On Discovery and Star Trek In General

I watched the first season of Star Trek:Discovery. The verdict: I liked it.

I was afraid that the series might flame out pretty quickly. The original series started strong and frankly got weaker, while the previous spin-offs were just okay for the first season or two, and really got going in the third season. There are a lot more series on television now, and a lot more channels in general. A series no longer gets a season to find its footing. But Discovery worked out okay.

I do wish we got at least one more season of Enterprise. I think the Romulan War would have been interesting. I think that is where the whole series was leading. On the other hand, if they were serious when they said that Future Guy was Archer then perhaps we dodged a bullet. I think the showrunners might have gone full Roddenberry: They were no longer worthy to manage their own brilliant creation.

I think the first two seasons of The Next Generation were almost a different series. Gene Roddenberry was still running things then. For seasons three and four, he wasn’t involved, but he was still mentioned in the credits. Some of the characters were not quite fully formed for the first two seasons. Geordi was just this guy who wore a visor, and….that was about it. And I think with Worf we were just supposed to be impressed by having a Klingon on the bridge of the Enterprise. From the third season on things improved. I think making Geordi the chief engineer was a good move. It’s a bit of a Star Trek cliche, but a show should pick a chief engineer. For the first season of TNG, there was a different chief engineer every time they went down to Engineering. It’s a starship, not a fast food joint.

One reason I think TNG was a different series is the character of Wesley Crusher. I never really liked that character. (One interesting paradox in science fiction is everybody hates Wesley Crusher, yet everybody likes Wil Weaton.) It was irritating and unbelievable that he easily figured out solutions that Starfleet officers with combined decades in space could not see. Frequently the problem at hand was something he read about for school that very same week. I am sure that sort of thing could happen, but not all the time. It’s amazing nobody ever suggested they should all learn how Wesley thinks about things so they could be as efficient as him. Nope, they were just amazed every single time. Wesley was shipped off to Starfleet Academy about the same time Roddenberry died. I think that Roddenberry had plans for the character, and after he had to step back from the show due to his health, the other producers did not have the heart to get rid of him while Roddenberry was around.

One thing I had forgotten: Wesley failed his Starfleet Academy entrance exam the first time. He is smarter than all the officers, but flunks the exam? What the Ferengi???

Season 7 got a little weird, which sometimes worked and sometimes did not. Some of those episodes were just different, and some were out there. A lot of people liked “Lower Decks“, but I did not. “Sub Rosa” was out there. I liked “Parallels“; probably one of my favorites of the entire series. I also liked “Masks“, although a lot of the staff did not. It was kind of like the fifth season of Bablyon 5.

I don’t think there is a series that I do not like (although I have no desire to try the animated series), although some had some weak episodes, even weak seasons. I think Deep Space 9 might be my favorite series overall. It had the best characters overall: great villians, even great recurring characters. I think having an overall story arc really made it stronger. Granted, while arcs are common on TV now, it was just becoming more common during the run of DS9; TNG just missed it. I think the best episodes of Enterprise were the ones that were in story arcs. Most of season three was one arc. But they threw a couple in that had nothing to do with the Xindi; one of them (“Extinction”) was the worst of the season, if not the series. Coincidence? I think not.

Back to Discovery: I liked it. The Mirror Universe is always a crowd-pleaser.

There are a few things that I did not like. I thought the Klingon war got wrapped up a bit too quickly. Maybe I was just hoping it would last longer. I do think that they could have gotten a few seasons out of it. I read on the Discovery sub-reddit that the original plan was to have a different crew for each season of Discovery. I think that would have been a very bad idea. But I think that explains why the Klingon war was ended so suddenly.

I also have read that the showrunner was replaced. I am not too clear on why. I don’t follow the behind the scenes stuff too much. Perhaps the new boss did not want to deal with the old boss’s stuff. But from what I have read on the sub-reddit, I am not the only one who thought the war ended too abruptly. [Note 1]

Another thing that I did not like is that sometimes Michael Burnham seemed a bit too much like Wesley. Maybe Wesley was just a magnification of an odd phenomenon in Star Trek: Sometimes they know an awful lot about an awful lot of subjects. They are dealing with technology that is far beyond what we have today, yet they all seem to be able to fix the warp drive, and the transporter, and the replicator, and fly a shuttle, and shoot pretty well, and this, and that. Which brings me to Paul Stamets. I guess we will see more of Stamets, since we will be seeing more of Culber (presumably through flashbacks). But Stamets will not use the spore drive. Will he stick around and manage the conventional warp drive? Again, these technologies would be beyond what we have today. People with degrees in physics do not just go off and become chemical engineers. But now Stamets is going to be an expert in warp drive after spending years trying to perfect the spore drive.

Plus it takes place before some of the other series. I try not to be one of those people who complains when there is an inconsistency. It’s fiction. There are plenty of people in the real world who are lying.

I did not like Tilly most of the time. Too much post-modern “let’s joke about everything” irony. Wouldn’t people be a bit more serious during a war? And stuck in a parallel universe. Besides, we already get enough sass with Stamets, dammit. And I am going to come out and say it: She looked to heavy to be in the military. To be frank, everybody else looked pretty fit, like they were ready to fight a war. Even Stamets, the character with the least military bearing, at least looked like he would fit in on a military vessel. They had to give Stamets some leeway because he was the expert on the spore drive. Tilly would have no excuse for being silly.

And before you get upset: No, I am not where I want to be either. I have come to realize that training more is not that hard, but eating less is.

This Star Trek has a pretty high body count. There were other series that took place during wars (like DS9), but Discovery had a lot of characters who appeared on-screen and bit the dust (and a few implied off-screen): Philippa Georgiou, Culber, Landry, the real Ash Tyler (which sounds like a twitter handle), Mirror Stamets, and both Lorcas (even though we only see one). Wearing something other than red no longer saves you.

I was not too thrilled with the look of USS Discovery. I thought the USS Shenzhou was a better looking ship.

I liked the first season, and I look forward to the second season.


Note 1: I strongly suspected that Discovery would be about Klingons after CBS put a stop to the fan film Star Trek: Axanar. I figured one reason had to be that the proposed fan film was about a similar topic to something CBS was planning.

Big Jim honors the past, but doesn’t want to be trapped by it.

Image from Memory Alpha, copyright owned by CBS, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Some Prompted Writing

Recently I went to a Meetup group called Just This: Zen Writing. It took place at the Austin Zen Center.

There was a few minutes of meditation, then there was a prompt, then we all wrote something based on the prompt, then we took turns reading out loud what we wrote and commenting on each others’ writing.

The prompt was from the Diamond Sutra:

All conditioned dharmas
Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, or shadows;
Like drops of dew, or like flashes of lightning;
Thusly should they be contemplated.

The leader played a few minutes of some monks chanting the Diamond Sutra.

One thing I found interesting is that a few people wrote quite a bit, but a couple of people only wrote a few sentences.

Here is what I wrote:

Chanting, marching, motion.

Driving. Highways. Night. Sunrise.

Things are more fleeting for me that they really are. I speed by, they remain in place. Someone may see me speed by in a second. We exist only for a second to each other. The motionless destination gets closer, yet too slow for me.

Mountains, rivers, oceans sometimes visible for a few seconds before obscured by trees and distance, or the setting of the sun. Horses and trains in Alabama are replaced by horses and trains in Illinois. Georgia pines blend into Arkansas pines. Trucks and truck stops, unique yet interchangeable across state lines and times of day.

Machines, cars, tractors arise and pass away as do deer, horses and hills. Crossing Maryland for 12 minutes, crossing Tennessee for eight hours. Engines drone as sun shines and rain falls. People live and die, birds land and rise. North, south, east, west. Job, school, family, wandering, reunion, escape, new life. Everything arises in the horizon in front of me and passes away in the horizon behind. And to them you are someone roaring by to be seen same time next year, or never again.

Big Jim prefers Theravadan suttas, but he went with the program.

Dame Autumn has a mournful face” by John Atkinson Grimshaw (6 September 1836 – 13 October 1893),  assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Thoughts On Political Machines

In his testimony last week, Brett Kavanaugh went on about shadowy left-wing forces trying to take him down.

The irony is that Hillary Clinton spoke of a “vast right-wing conspiracy“. A conspiracy implies secrecy, and frankly the right wing was never too quiet about their hatred of the Clintons. It was more of a vast right-wing machine or network.

There are the Koch Brothers, who fund many think tanks and advocacy groups, including the Cato Institute, the Mercatus Institute and ALEC. There is Richard Mellon Scaife, who, like the Kochs, got his start as a hardscrabble newborn in a rich family. One of the largest banks in the country is The Bank of New York Mellon; he is part of the Mellon family. (Seriously, what is it with conservatives who are born into wealthy families, and then turn around and lecture the rest of the world about self-reliance?) And there is Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer. (She has a very large forehead; I guess her head needs to be bigger to contain all the resentment she feels for having a wealthy father.)

Brett Kavanaugh himself spent a large part of his career as a right-wing operative. He worked with Ken Starr. He was part of the Florida mis-count. He drafted many of George W Bush’s signing statements (also see here). Like debt, signing statements are one of those things conservatives are only bothered about when a Democrat does them.

I think that Kavanaugh is committing a fallacy that a lot of conservatives commit: Because there is a right-wing machine, there MUST be a left-wing machine; because conservatives are willing to lie to get power, liberals MUST be doing the same thing. Kind of like how many drunks like Kavanaugh think that because they can’t function without a lot of booze that everybody else must need it as much as they do.

A lot of conservatives honestly think that nobody ever really disagrees with them. Anybody expressing a contrary view must be paid off. George Soros seems to be a favorite. It was funny after all the marches last year that a lot of people were joking that they never got their check.

Kavanaugh said the allegations against him are all lies and are motivated by anger about the 2016 election. It’s funny how there were no allegations about Neil Gorsuch. I guess George Soros was on vacation that month. If there was any nomination that people would go to any lengths to stop, it would be Gorsuch’s. His seat was stolen from Merrick Garland. You could say it was stolen from all the people who voted for Obama. Some people vote for President because of the judicial branch.

So there is no left-wing machine to match the one on the right. But what if there were? They spend billions to spread their lies, they gerrymander, they accept help from the Russians; all that effort, yet they still don’t get the percentage of votes commensurate with the disparity in funding. Trump won by 85,000 votes in about three states.

Maybe we the people should build a left-wing machine. I think we would crush them.


Postscript:
Kavanaugh complained that the Ford charges were sprung on him at the last minute. Kavanaugh was nominated by a president who did not receive a majority vote, but acts like he is god-emperor. Most people did not vote for Trump. Most people do not like him. Most people do not want him to be president. Kavanaugh was sprung on us.

Big Jim doesn’t like whiners who think they are big tough guys.

 “Two angels and two devils” by Paolo Uccello (1397 – 1475),  assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Thoughts On Photographing The Ladies

I don’t seem to get anywhere with women, but sometimes I have fantasized about photographing women.

It would probably be a great way to meet women and see lots of naked women. On the other hand, it would also be very expensive. I would need an actual camera, and a studio, and some lights.

When I was living in Chicago, I knew a guy who did a lot of photography, including women. A lot of the women were models who were glad he charged very little money. He may even have done it for free. Some of the women were a bit on the skanky side in my opinion. I do not find tattoos attractive at all. From what I could tell, his wife did not seem to mind him photographing all these other women.

He would also photograph Renaissance fairs and air shows. I do not know if he went to any air shows in Illinois, but he did go to a few in Wisconsin. Maybe he was at the Janesville Warbird Weekend (also see here). People really seem to like WWII aircraft. Is it because it was the last war we had no doubts about?

Instead of only taking pictures of women standing around, I would need to give them something to do. Using the famous “idea list” technique, here are a few possibilities:

  • Walking on a treadmill
  • Cleaning
  • Hanging clothes on a clothesline
  • Folding clothes (ironic, I know)
  • Changing a light bulb over and over and over again
  • Rearranging books on a shelf
  • Cleaning and shooting guns
  • Jumping rope
  • Yoga
  • Painting (art or painting a wall)
  • Cooking
  • Stuffing envelopes
  • Trying on different hats and boots
  • Writing on a white board
  • Cutting cake slices
  • Cleaning a glass door
  • Practicing with a sword
  • Adjusting her hair

Yes, a lot of these are “domestic” tasks. But I thought it would be nice to have some more variety that just a woman bending over while working on a spreadsheet.

Big Jim hates alcohol and loves women. He is the opposite of Brett Kavanaugh.

Eve” by Pantaleon Szyndler (26 July 1846, – 31 January 1905),  assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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2018-09 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for September, 2018.

The monthly dividend income came out to $506.44. The yearly income total for 2018 through the end of the month was $3476.52.

The income for September, 2017 was $775.50, and the yearly income for 2017 through the end of September was $4796.80.

I did not buy the iShares Commodities Select Strategy ETF. I think that because it is a commodities fund, I have to sign my life away before my broker will let me buy it. I would like to talk to someone at my broker about it, but their office hours are while I am at work.

Only a few of my non-bond ETFs paid out this month. Most of them are spilling over into next month. That should help my averages.

Here is a table with the year-to-date amounts, the monthly amounts, and the three- and twelve-month moving averages for each September from 2011 through 2018:

Month YTD Amount 3MMA 12MMA
2018-09 $3476.52 $506.44 $430.49 $518.06
2017-09 $4796.80 $775.50 $562.76 $551.05
2016-09 $4260.70 $720.86 $505.47 $499.02
2015-09 $3744.49 $659.59 $443.06 $432.46
2014-09 $2993.02 $536.75 $353.04 $335.39
2013-09 $2374.05 $395.65 $293.78 $294.44
2012-09 $2425.78 $315.21 $283.66 $283.00
2011-09 $2121.78 $243.26 $256.81 $233.01

Here are the stocks and the income amounts for September, 2018:

  • Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF: $38.23
  • Vanguard Total International Bond ETF: $10.35
  • RLI Corp: $30.67
  • Vanguard REIT ETF: $236.59
  • Vanguard Utilities ETF: $190.60

Big Jim’s path to riches sometimes feels very slow.

Le chat angora”  by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (4 April 1732 – 22 August 1806) , assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Things You Never Hear

A list of things you never hear, with a few I wish I did hear.

  1. Daddy didn’t mean those harsh things he said. That was the meditation talking.
  2. I only wrapped my car around the tree because I was concentrating on my driving.
  3. I only had sex with that person because I was aware of what I was doing.
  4. I only lost my job because I was following the Five Precepts.
  5. My wife left me due to my skillfulness.
  6. I got into that fight due to right speech.
  7. I heard about this sangha with a lot of hot women. (I do wish this was more common.)
  8. I want a man who is serious about meditation. (I wish more women felt this way.)
  9. I am going to become an alcoholic because Buddhism ruined my life.
  10. I want a guy who meditates and wants lots of sex. (Again, I wish more women felt this way.)

Big Jim wishes more women were interested in meditation than alcohol.

 “Welcoming Descent of Amida Buddha” at the Metropolitan Museum, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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“Both Sides” On Steroids

I know Driftglass has the market cornered on pointing out the “both sides” nonsense. But Tyler Cowen has a column on Bloomberg that takes it to the next level.

The title is “Fear Climate Change — and Our Response to It“. The subtitle is “Global warming will be expensive, and humanity’s irrational reaction may make it even more so”.

Humanity has not had an irrational reaction to climate change. Conservatives have manipulated people, distorted the debate, and have been standing in the way of action for decades. James Hansen testified in front of Congress about climate change in 1988. That means that all the free-marketeers who don’t want the government telling them what to do have had three decades to come up with solutions. To this day, conservatives like to make jokes about Al Gore, a guy who has not been in office since January, 2001, more than 17 years ago.

He talks about Brexit, which was brought to us by conservatives. They lied about how easy it would be, and they have been mucking up the negotiations since the vote. He writes, “It would have been better if the British had responded to their country’s problems in a less extreme way, or simply learned to live with the problems they had.” No, it would have been better if conservatives did not lie as easy as they breathe. “The British” do not all want Brexit. Even many who voted to leave now realize they were lied to and that it will be a disaster.

He mentions Trump, and then goes on to write about how our discourse “has become less rational and technocratic”, and “the harsh, non-sympathetic tone of the debate will further corrode American politics”.

Then he wraps up complaining about how much it will cost to do something about climate change. It would cost less if there was not a network of groups devoted to denying climate change and lying to people about the strength of the scientific consensus. Those groups are funded by conservatives, the Koch Brothers in particular.

One of the organizations funded by the Koch Brothers in the Mercatus Center, a think tank at George Mason University run by Tyler Cowen. They claim that they do not let their funding dictate their findings, but they did agree the Koch organization have a say in academic appointments at George Mason University. Mercatus likes to go back and forth about whether or not they are part of George Mason University depending on what they want. When they want some prestige, they are part of GMU, which is a public university. But if you file a state freedom of information request, then they are not.

Their annual reports simply list who is in charge, and give no information on who funds them.

This is “both sides” in steroids. It’s not the GOP that is causing problems; it’s “we”, “the world”. I guess Upton Sinclair was right: It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary and donations from his inherited-wealth benefactors depend upon his not understanding it.

That version of the quote is The Tyler Cowen Special Edition.

Big Jim knows that while both sides spin, one side is far worse than the other.

“Chaos” by Hilma af Klint (1862-1944), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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