Friday, August 21, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Trump's Wasteland

It’s Friday, and I start vacation next week.  Life is good.  It feels late to be getting away, but I cannot wait.
Let’s get to it, yeah?
The only long-term solution is the construction of a new tunnel complex, as proposed by Amtrak in its Gateway Program. Without a new tunnel and new rail tracks, a massive storm or some other disaster could sever a critical link in the Northeast rail corridor that serves more than 750,000 people a day on 2,000 intercity and commuter trains. For commuters and rail passengers crossing the Hudson River who are already complaining about delays, it can only get worse…
The price of the full Gateway Program is now estimated at $20 billion. The new rails and tunnel are expected to cost $14 billion, and the remaining $6 billion would pay for expanding Penn Station in New York City and replacing the 105-year-old Portal Bridge in New Jersey, a span all trains have to cross on the way to the tunnel. That bridge opens and closes three times a week to accommodate passing boats. Amtrak is already spending more than $300 million, primarily from federal sources, to plan the project and to create an underground path for trains to get from the new tunnel to Penn Station.
New York and New Jersey will also have to provide money. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has said that this tunnel between the two states is more New Jersey’s problem than New York’s. That may be a negotiating tactic to lower his state’s contribution. But it makes no sense. Without all those people coming in and out of the New York City, the state’s economy would sag and state tax revenue would drop with it.
Via TunnelTalk (2009).  I'm pretty sure this project is defunct.
If it's not, it exists as a set of unfunded plans in Gov. Christie's desk drawer.
It looks like the website was abandoned five years ago.
They’re talking about this like it’s solely a commuter problem, but New York is not just a commuter city.  People live here, and they need stuff.  Food, fuel, etc.  The very vast majority of it comes in on trucks, but some of it comes in by rail, and it doesn’t take a civic study to see how increased use of rails would reduce traffic congestion and help clean the local air.  
I’ve seen multiple studies that show the necessity of these tunnels, but somehow their required upkeep is a controversy.  That’s weird.  The United States used to make infrastructure investments as a matter of course.  A big country needs decent logistics.  Now, though, no one wants to pay for anything, and as a result, all of the basic logistics pathways are deteriorating, some rapidly.  As with anything else, we can keep kicking the can down the road, but that doesn’t mean that the can isn’t real.  It means that we’ve ignored our responsibilities to the next generation.
"We are declining jurisdiction only in this case involving the football players at Northwestern University," the decision says. "We therefore do not address what the Board’s approach might be to a petition for all FBS scholarship."
This decision makes sense in the current landscape.  There are 128 Division I schools and many sports besides football, and letting one subset of players from just one school upend the entire system would serve a microscopically small minority of the student-athlete population.  Hence a ruling based on common sense.
For the record, I love college sports.  In conjunction with academic coursework, intercollegiate athletics prepares students for the rigors of real life in a way that classwork by itself never can.  However, I hate what major college sports have become, especially because they can be so exploitative of the players.  I would love to see a system where alumni cheer on real college students fighting for the honor of their schools—this is why I love Army-Navy or even Army-Fordham but don’t care who wins the BCS National Championship—but once we add in TV revenue, the temptation to cheat the system and create semi-pro leagues for “big time” college sports becomes utterly overwhelming.
3. Friday Hair Metal: Rocket Man

Trump earned high marks from Republican voters on the economy, illegal immigration, fighting the Islamic State, and to a lesser degree, social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. On those issues, the billionaire businessman earned the highest share of trust, with Bush a distant second on the economy (8 percent to 45 percent) and immigration (12 percent to 44 percent), the Islamic State (16 percent to 32 percent) and to a lesser extent, on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage (14 percent to 18 percent).
At the same time, voters still have a net unfavorable opinion of Trump (-20 percentage points), as they do of Bush (-22 points) and Walker (-7 points). Candidates polling with a net positive favorability rating included Fiorina (+9 points) and Kasich (+3 points).
Can someone explain to me why anyone would trust Donald Trump with U.S. foreign policy?  I get why people think he might be a decent candidate on domestic economic issues—I disagree profoundly, but it’s at least understandable—but why on Earth do people trust a real estate developer with a famously bad temper and ill-disciplined media presence to manage the nation’s relationships with other nations?  That makes no sense at all.  Okay, folks are angry, but supporting Trump is like committing national-level political suicide.  It’s not a strategy, it’s a cry for help.
What this poll tells me more than anything is that Jeb Bush is never going to be president.  He’s an astonishing two points lower than Trump on the unfavorability scale, meaning that people hate him even more than they hate Trump, which is astonishing.  Bush has fucked up so bad that I don’t think there’s any coming back, but it’s concerning because I have no idea where this leaves us as a nation.  Clinton’s campaign is on the verge of self-destructing for real, Bernie Sanders is an interesting guy with a lot of interesting ideas, but people, he is a card-carrying Socialist, and Trump has destroyed the GOP in detail.  Even an ostensibly sensible guy like Scott Walker now says that he wants to build a wall across the border with Mexico!
Jim Webb is a former senator from Virginia
and the author of Fields of Fire.  His
presidential campaign hasn't gotten much press.
Full disclosure: as of this writing, I support John Kasich.  He maybe has an opportunity in all this, but if so, it’s a small one.  He’s probably too mainstream for the Republican primary process.  That ought to leave a Democrat with a path to the White House, but if Clinton gets indicted—and I still think that either she or one of her senior staff members will—that’s going to throw the Democratic party into an equal level of chaos.  Meanwhile, Sanders is unelectable.  I don’t hate his views, and I laud him for running in a way that changes the conversation his party is having, but he’s no closer to mainstream America than is Donald Trump, and his own party apparatus hates him.  In truth, he’s not even a Democrat, he’s an Independent!  However, there’s no one else on the left side of the aisle.  Sure, I’d love to see Jim Webb’s campaign take off, even if it would mean allowing the Naval Academy to even the score on academy alumni Presidents, but that seems vanishingly unlikely.  There’s been some press recently on guys like Al Gore and Joe Biden jumping in at the last minute as well, but neither of those guys strikes me as a world-beater, and Biden’s almost as gaff-prone as Trump.
What now?  Where do we go from here?
5. Writing Update
 -- Blog traffic is way up.  It’s been up since I put out The Mystery of Malvern Manor, and it went up even more when Merric’s Musings reviewed Malvern Manor and then The Fall of Cahokiantepindexed those reviews, and assigned each piece a four-star rating using his cool little easy-to-see graphic.  I think I have both of the highest rated free adventures on that list.  To say the least, I am extremely gratified by Merric’s enthusiasm for my work.  His blog is terrific, and the work he puts into cataloging the work of others is a legitimate public service.
Most readers find this blog either through Merric’s blog or via the D&D Next Community on Google+.  Recently D&D folks have begun coming back for Five Things on a Friday and other, non-gaming content, and that’s been gratifying to see.  In fact, most of the content on this blog is not gaming related, but folks are still reading, and many seem to read every day.  Part of me has started wondering how long I have to blog aboutD&D and Army Football simultaneously before Army becomes the default college team of choice for RPG fans on a national basis.  If you’re wondering what kind of goals I set for the blog, that’s an example of one, though obviously one with an extended time horizon.
 -- I did my first Triathlon Training Log in several months on Monday, and a crap-ton of people read it.  I was very surprised.  My friend Alan was the only person to actually comment on it, but as of this writing, more than three hundred people have stopped by to read about my struggle to become a marathon swimmer.  That’s three or four times what I would have predicted under even the most optimistic scenario, and I don’t know how to explain it.  Monday’s Training Update has done almost as much traffic as Tuesday’s article about building slow reveals for Dungeons & Dragons, which was also very well received.  The difference is that I expect my core audience to be interested in writing X-Files-type plot outlines for D&D, but I cannot begin to imagine why anyone cares what I did in the pool last week.
Still, I can’t ignore my audience.  If you guys want to hear about my workouts, then I’ll tell you about my workouts.  If that inspires you, then good.  If you read this because you think I’m a masochist, well…  I suppose I can live with that.
Some version of this symbol is
going on the cover for
The Crown of Pluto.
 -- Folks have been asking me when Sneakatara Boatman & the Crown of Pluto is coming out.  Soon, I hope.  I’m finished with my third re-write, and unfortunately, I really think it’s good.  This means that you guys are probably going to hate it, but what can you do?  Judging the quality of one’s own fiction is maddeningly difficult, and yet I can’t help being pleased with what I’ve got.
Sally is reading the book now, making copy-edits and marking spots where she feels that the narrative is unclear.  Editing in self-published books is always a chore, and although I know that I am much better than most, still we want to put out the best product that we possibly can.  Hopefully, we’ll have it out shortly after we get back from Maine, but I make no promises.  If you want it sooner, volunteer to do some copy-editing.
 -- My next writing project is a short fiction version of The Mystery of Mordecai’s Monster, tentatively titled Sneakatara Boatman & the Mystery of the Monster.  Naming convention aside, this particular piece is mostly about Elaina Emboo.  I’d like to release it as a series of sequential scenes via Sketch in My Notebook, but unfortunately there are just too many spoilers for Crown of Pluto.  What’s worse is that without a deadline I’ve been struggling to stay on task.  Assuming I somehow manage to finish MysteryCahokiantep: Journey to the End of the Universe will be next, followed by a short piece about one of the villains from Crown of Pluto.
I mention all this because some poor bastard searches Google every day for “Cahokiantep: Journey to the End of the Universe,” and it shows up in my blog statistics.  I’m telling you right now, Journey to the End of the Universe is months away at least.  I’m sorry, but beyond having a basic high concept in mind, I haven’t even started thinking about it yet.  If I had to guess, I’d say to expect something around the beginning of the year.  
If you want it faster, help me find a publisher who’ll pay me for it.  Failing that, you’re left to the whims of my creative muse, and she can be a bit of an anarchist.
I haven’t said anything this week about the two women who passed Ranger School because I don’t think I have anything to add to the conversation.  What those women did is amazing.  They were Day 1 recycles, but they hung on and made it through anyway…  That’s awe-inspiring.  Seriously.  I have multiple friends who’ve earned Ranger tabs who told me that they would not have accepted Day 1 recycles.  People that I trust have gone to great lengths to note how awesome these women were, how they made reluctant believers out of the Ranger cadre.  I’m glad it went down like that.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s all I need to hear.
These women have extremely bright futures ahead of them.  They are an Apache pilot and a Military Police officer, and although I doubt either will immediately attempt to branch transfer to the Infantry—and I doubt that the Army would allow the pilot leave Aviation branch—having a Ranger tab is a serious career enhancer.  These women’s chances of becoming generals have increased ten-fold.  That’s no small thing.  
That’s all I’ve got.  Have a good weekend!

Support this Blog:
I write this stuff because I enjoy it but also as a way to attract interest in the blog and in my fiction.  My book, Sneakatara Boatman & the Priest of Loki, is out for the Kindle App and on Patreon.  The follow-up, Sneakatara Boatman & the Crown of Pluto, will be out later this summer on those same platforms.  I’m even planning to put a collected single edition up in the Google Play store.  These stories are wild fantasy adventures that use the same WTF-style plotting that I use in all my RPG content.  If you liked any of my RPG stuff or any of the Sketch in My Notebook stuff, you will probably like my longer form fiction, too.
I’m not asking you to buy anything right now.  However, if you’re looking for something to read on the beach this summer, and you have a tablet, please at least consider checking out some of the Sneax stories.  There are several free ones up on my Patreon page.  If you like those, and you want to support this blog, then buy my book.  That is by far the best way to support my writing.
Thanks in advance.


  1. Trump's only serious shot at the presidency is if he finds a killer running mate, one who has everything he lacks. But at the very least he's dynamited the field and made the results seem less inevitable. So we may actually have a shot at someone more people can agree on. I think that's been the problem with the last few presidents. They were incredibly polarizing. I'm not at all saying Trump is the answer. But hopefully he's shaken up the election enough so we can find out who is.

    1. If there's a good thing about Trump, it's that he's not the right-wing mouth-breather that some of the other, ostensibly more mainstream Republicans are. GOP primary voters might go for that, but the country as a whole is moving the other way. Oddly, the most divisive candidate may move the party towards the center.

      But. The problem is that Americans have become so cynical that most see little difference between Trump and actual politicians. There are no statesmen. So people shrug and say, "Why NOT vote for Trump? At least he is a successful guy who's not beholden to special interests." But he is. He is those interests personified.

      I think he can win. It's a nightmare scenario, but it could absolutely happen.

    2. It's that lack of statesmen that has been the problem. But you look at the history of the United States, and it's curious how rare they really are. Roosevelt, Kennedy, and...?