Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A "Still Small Voice"

I’m leery of “Wall Street experts,” but James Grant makes, I think, an interesting point when he discusses the wisdom of investing in government treasury bonds.

“Sovereign debt is my nomination for the number one overvalued market around the world. You are earning nothing or less than nothing for the privilege of lending your money to a government that has pledged to depreciate the currency that you’re investing in. The central banks of the world are striving to achieve a rate of inflation of 2% or more and you are lending certainly at much less than 2% and in many cases at less than nominal 0%. The experience of losing money is common in investing. But where is the certitude of loss even before your check clears? That’s the situation with sovereign debt right now.”

He does not go into the perfidy of governments paying less than 1% on the money you lend them while deliberately devaluing that money at an annual 2% rate. Who is served by such a policy? Yes. Bankers.

The whole thing is worth reading, especially the part about the Swiss National Bank buying American equities using Swiss francs which they “create from the thin alpine air where the Swiss money grows.” Unlike the American Fed money which is created from the humid, heavy air at sea level.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Effect of Taxes

The media is not talking much about what the two candidates are promising for income tax changes. They don’t offer much detail, and they don’t say how the changes offered by either candidate will affect taxes paid by average working class Americans.

Trump, we hear, proposes to change the brackets and have only three tax rates of 10%, 20% and 25% with increase in the standard deduction to $25,000 for single filers and $50,000 for married couples. The media stresses that such a scheme would result in the rich paying lower taxes.

Clinton says that she will add a new rate at the top, percentage unspecified, which the media quotes her repeatedly as saying will, “finally make the rich pay their fair share for a change.”

Trump doesn’t say what the wage brackets are for his three rates, but since under the current tax plan the 10% bracket tops out at a mere $9275, there is no 20% bracket and the boundary at which we begin paying 25% is below average wage of $39,156, it’s safe to say that income on which you are now paying 15% will be taxed at 10% and income on which you are paying 25% tax will be taxed at either 10% or 20%. Not to mention that the standard deduction, for the 82% of people making average wage who do not itemize, is quadrupled.

In other words, Trump’s proposal will significantly reduce the tax liability for average working class men and women. The media carefully does not point that out.

Clinton’s proposal does not change the taxes paid by the working class, but does raise taxes paid by the rich by some unspecified amount. The media, then, is persuading working class voters to reject a tax reduction for themselves in favor of a tax increase to punish the rich. What kind of sense does that make? How does the working class benefit from making the rich just a tiny bit less rich?

They would, perhaps, rather feel good about kicking someone else’s ass than having some extra income for themselves? Have we really deteriorated to that?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Uber Gets A Beating

Bill Mitchell had a discussion Tuesday on why progressives (damn, that is starting to sound to me like a dirty word) should not be swanning over the likes of Uber, explaining the ways in which that business model resembles sharecropping. He goes on at some length about the evils of sharecropping, and of Uber.

He does not, at least, refer to “the sharing economy,” a term which seems to have lost momentum lately. Thank God. That term was always nonsense. If you’re charging money for it, you’re not “sharing” it. Anyway…

I have noticed lately that Uber is running television commercials for drivers. They ran them for riders for a long time, but then there was nothing for a while and now it’s for drivers. I’ve been wondering what that means, but now I read that Uber also does car financing and I think I know. Ugh. That’s not a pretty picture.

I agree with much of what Mitchell has to say, although I’m less sympathetic than he with the taxi industry. I have a little different slant than he does on the history of the taxi industry persuading (bribing) local governments to limit the number of licenses. He sees that as opportunity for impoverished taxi drivers to realize capital gains on taxi licenses, while I see it as a method of enriching taxi owners through the limitation of competition. Either way, seeing them suffer from competition now because their bribes were overtaken by events doesn’t really bother me much.

Way down in the comments section someone mentions that sharecropping is not intrinsically evil; that it provides entry into farming without the need for capital to purchase land, for instance. Which raises an interesting point. Most systems, either in government or business, are intrinsically neither good or bad. What matters is the manner in which that system is implemented.

The modern generation of “progressives” are ranting on the evils of capitalism, and notably not offering to say what should replace it, but capitalism is what produced the boom times and almost utopian living standard of the 1960's and 70's. What changed about the way our systems have been implemented between then and now is for another discussion, certainly Uber is part of the change and part of the problem, but the problem is not the system itself.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Pearls of Wisdom

A talking head commenting on the women's eight rowing team said that they dominate the class because, "They have established their own identity and are rowing to their potential."

The women were in command from the opening horn and won gold by a bit over two seconds, so I'm sure this female commentator was pretty excited, but what does that even mean? Their own identity? Yes, they wore team uniforms, as did all the other teams. Rowing to their potential? Yes, I dare say they were, as were seven other teams in that competition. I'm no rowing expert, but I suspect that their winning probably had a lot to do with strength training and many hours of practice to get their timing just right, and very little to do with "establishing their identity" etc.

I once told my father when I was a kid that I needed to "find out who I am." I won't tell you what his response was specifically. He sent me on a journey, but it was very short and it wasn't about self discovery.

Yes, I sometimes engage in snark when I pick titles.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Say What?

In the comment section on an NBC article about Joey Bosa's holdout with the Chargers a fan writes, "As much as I think Bosa should accept the reasonable terms set by the team I still hate that the Chargers always seem to find ways to crap on their players."

So, making a reasonable offer to a player which he does not accept is "crapping on the player" these days?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

They're Back!

imageThis is even better news than the return of Twinkies! Archway only had one facility, which went bankrupt several years ago, and now they are back. These are the real deal, too. They are crispy, crunchy and you can taste the molasses. So far Vons is the only store I've seen that has them.

Twinkies, Windmill cookies and football season only days away. I am almost giddy. Well college football and the NFL regular season is still four weeks away, but the NFL preseason will tide me over until then.

Now if we can only get Chase Elliott to quit doing stupid things on the race track.

What is Progressive?

In a comment on another venue a commentor referenced polls showing that "younger people are overwhelmingly progressive." Someone has a different definition of "progressive" than I do.

"We want to receive a free college education and a higher minimum wage, and we want the rich to pay for it," is not progressive.

"We want to build water systems and develop clean energy and are willing to pay taxes to cover the cost," is progressive.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

What Is Democracy?

I don't get it. Republican voters select a presidential nominee, and no fewer than fifty members of Republican "leadership" say that they will reject the choice made by the voters and will vote for the Democrat. Not that I hold any brief for Donald Trump, but who do these "leaders" think is supposed to be in charge in a democracy?

Barack Obama and others say that Trump is "temperamentally and intellectually unfit," apparently not caring that in doing so they are insulting millions of citizens who chose him to represent them. To disagree with policies is one thing, but a campaign that abandons persuasion for this flood of personal character assassination is divisive and, in the end, accomplishes nothing useful.

Does anyone seriously think that you are going to get me to vote for your candidate by personally insulting mine? Do you really think that by telling millions of people that they voted for a man who is "temperamentally and intellectually unfit" you are going to change their votes to Clinton?

What are we doing? What is all this rhetoric about?

Saturday, August 06, 2016

The Sky Is Falling

Democracy Now warned us on Thursday that, “First Evidence Surfaces of Foreign Money Pouring into U.S. Elections After Citizens United.”

Citizens United, you may recall, is the Supreme Court decision based on the premise that a) corporations have the same rights of free speech as persons, and that b) money is the same as speech and that therefor corporations may donate money to the campaigns of politicians. It caused all sorts of alarm to the effect that money would corrupt our elections beyond redemption.

Democracy Now is sounding the alarm over the contribution of some $1.3 million by a Chinese couple to the campaign of Jeb Bush, six years after the court decision in question

But, Jeb Bush? Given the nature of Jeb Bush’s campaign, Democracy Now seems to have missed the point just a bit. If Bush’s campaign was an airplane, it not only would not have gotten off the ground, it would not have gotten to the runway. It never, as it turned out, even left the gate.

If the Jeb Bush campaign is what results from the influx of foreign money, then I think we should encourage a vast flood of foreign money and destroy a few more campaigns.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Nature Can Be Interesting

Lawn TreeWe have an African Tulip tree in our front yard, which is supposed not to be deciduous but is – sort of. It stays fully green and lush all winter, but then in May or so it produces a prolific and dramatic crop of reddish orange flowers and sheds about 80% of its leaves. It is native to Africa, southern hemisphere, and that may have something to do with the timing, although I’m inclined to doubt it.

So far this is not all that interesting, nor is it particularly interesting that in late July the tree starts vigorously putting out new leaves. What’s interesting is the degree to which that new leaf growth initially occurs on the top and South (sunny) side of the tree and not on the North side.

The top and South side of the tree right now are covered with new growth, and not just buds but fully developed leaves, while the North side is not even setting buds yet. If you think that the angle of the Sun (which is much higher here than it would be in, say, Minnesota) doesn’t make a difference, think again.

And Somewhat Less Interesting

Comes from ESPN.COM which tells us that (are you ready?), "Danica Patrick continues to amaze us with her yoga skills." There are pictures. Of her doing yoga. Go look if you want, but be warned that if you do you cannot unsee them.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Pop Goes Another Bubble

Dean Baker yesterday refutes a claim made by the New York Times, and in doing so pops a bubble that is a favorite of Paul Krugman. That’s the problem for economists. Their little theories are such exercises in fantasy that when they prop one up, they always manage to do damage to another one.

The Times claims that the federal deficit is projected to increase by 2020 “as increasing entitlement costs for retiring baby boomers take their toll on federal coffers." Dean Baker says that is untrue and that the projected deficit increase is due to the “Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) projection that interest rates will rise.”

He seems to have no argument with the CBO’s projection that payments of interest will rise to about $800 billion per year just four years from now. That’s a pretty big jump from the $223 billion we spent on interest payments in 2015, and it should be receiving a lot of discussion in the presidential campaign. It’s not mentioned at all, of course.

Anyway, Paul Krugman is fond of repeating that the government should be borrowing a lot of money right now because interest rates are low and “debt is cheap.”

Borrowing money merely because the interest is low is a stupid move under any circumstances. My family doesn’t, for instance, need a new car; we don’t want a new car; we can’t afford a new car; we can’t afford to put gas in a new car; but we buy a new car because we are offered one at a good price. Stupid.

But borrowing money merely because the interest rate is low is particularly stupid when the interest rate is not going to remain low.

The government secures debt in the form of fixed rate bonds, but many of them are short term bonds and none of them are of indefinite term. All of them must be either repaid or rolled over into new debt at whatever interest rate prevails at the time. Since Krugman also promotes the theory that governments “never pay off debt” (which is another discussion), and our government has not done so in any meaningful amount since World War II, that means in effect that the government has a variable rate loan.

Remember all those people in 2000 through 2006 who bought houses using the wonderful adjustable rate mortgage loans? They were so happy that, because the interest rate was only 2%, they could afford to buy a much bigger house. Right? They must all have been reading Paul Krugman.

Government, that is taxpayer’s, payment of interest on the debt was $223 billion last year and is objectively forecast to increase to $800 billion in just four more years, even if the government does not borrow any more money. That’s a 259% increase, or more than tripling the expense. Somebody please ask Paul Krugman if that borrowing still sounds like a real bargain.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Question

How do Democrats reconcile their new "America is already great" mantra with their claim to being the country's "progressive party?"

Dean Baker is an Idiot

Dean Baker repeated yesterday the absurd claim which Keynesians are fond of repeating that, “We got out of the last Great Depression by spending lots of money on fighting World War II.”  He obviously wasn’t around during that war, as my parents were, or he would know that World War II merely changed the form of depression from one where many people had no jobs to one where they had jobs but there were no goods to buy with the income they were making.

He would also know that we actually got out of that depression by rebuilding a world destroyed by war, and that we had no competition while doing it because we had bombed our competition into rubble. We also provided college educations for much of the generation which fought that war.

He goes on to say that, “the economy doesn't care what we spend money on, it responds in the same way.” Actually, that’s not even close to being true, because when the money winds up being spent on consumer goods manufactured in other economies, that spending merely increases the trade deficit and does essentially nothing for our economy. When we spend it on fighting wars in foreign countries it is money gone forever and we have nothing to show for it.

When, on the other hand, we spend it on building roads, bridges, water and sewer systems and energy production and transmission, we grow our economy, provide meaningful employment for our working class, and we still have the money in the form of infrastructure because we have invested the money instead of merely spent it. We have not, however, done anything meaningful in this arena in more than fifty years.

Hopefully that spending is done in a manner which reduces our impact on the planet, but that’s a different topic.

Dean Baker is an idiot, as are all economists by definition, because we cannot grow our economy from within like some sort of self licking ice cream cone, we can only do so from without by means of a positive trade balance as we did from the end of World War II until the 1970’s, and when we do spend money it matters very much how and on what we spend it.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Also Interesting

The San Diego Chamber of Commerce has taken a position supporting the Chargers bid to build a stadium downtown, financed in part by a 32% increase in the city's hotel tax. What's interesting is that the Chamber apparently did not reach out to any of the downtown businesses it represents to obtain their opinions before taking this position. If they had, their position might be a bit different, since the business owners downtown almost universally oppose the plan.

Seems that the Chamber of Commerce represents its constituents in much the same manner that the United States government does.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Interesting

Donald Trump "invites" the Russians to hack Clinton's email server, which no longer exists, and there is a massive freakout from the entire Democratic party and the media, who think he's serious.

It's going to be an interesting political campaign year.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Well, That Was A New Low

America's Got Talent: Results was a one hour show. It took about four minutes to announce which five acts will go on to the semi-finals, and the rest of the time was... I don't know what it was. It was just nonsense and crap.

Happily, the ninety-year-old stripper has reached the end of her road and, even more happily, the Philadelphia Eagles football player will continue. "Thank you America," he said, "and thank you Eagles for allowing me to do this."  I've always been an Eagles fan; more so now.

Distraction Continues

The by now infamous emails are homophobic, anti-Semitic and betray both Democratic and democratic principles, and of course Obama does not even address, let alone condemn that content, but merely condemns Russia for the act of illegally obtaining and releasing the emails. He says that the Russian purpose in doing this was to “interfere with US elections,” which is precisely what the DNC was doing.

That is the “politics of distraction,” practiced by politicians for many decades, but perfected by Obama's predecessor, Bill Clinton. It is also what psychologists call, “projection;  accusing someone else of having certain character flaws so that you do not need to acknowledge the presence of those same flaws in your own character.

That’s why we should never elect to any office anyone who has expressed a desire to hold that office.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Delusion, Delusion

Paul Krugman posted a thought piece yesterday saying that Trump is a candidate that “Putin is aiding because he knows Trump is close to, probably financially entangled with friendly oligarchs.” Seriously? The use of popular cant verbiage detracts from one’s believability a bit, but when Putin was asked if he was “aiding Trump” he didn’t even bother to answer, merely laughed in the reporter’s face.

Krugman goes on to say that this controversy about Putin aiding Trump is timely because it is “dovetailing with my bedtime reading,” which is about the Roman Empire. I’m not sure what foreign leaders were nefariously aiding the Roman emperors in their bids for power, but…

To dovetail with my bedtime reading we would have to have combat troops actively engaged at brigade strength in Columbia, so Who knows? Maybe we do.

Anyway, he compares Trump’s claim of making NATO allies pay their fair share of the cost of common defense, which Krugman describes as “a protection racket, in which countries get defended only if they pay up,” to the Roman Empire’s looting and sacking which, even for an economist, is quite a stretch.

Dean Baker says, also yesterday, that “Glass-Steagall would not have prevented the economic crisis in 2008. The problem was allowing a massive housing bubble to grow unchecked.” The first is debatable, while the second is utter bullshit.

The housing bubble was a symptom to begin with; the real problem being far too much wealth accumulating with no place available to invest it at reasonable rates of return due to the Fed’s low interest rates. That wealth was the fodder for those loans, and the failure to repay those loans was merely the trigger for the collapse.

The meat of the collapse was not the housing loan money itself, but a huge pyramid of “funny money” financial instruments that had been sold based on those mortgage loans and which had face values orders of magnitude larger than those loans.

And because Glass-Steagall had been repealed, money in deposit banks was available for the purchase of these “funny money” financial instruments. Would the collapse have happened without the money which came from the deposit banks? Possibly, but it would have been much less severe.

Economics is not actually a science. It is a profession that allows you to just make up shit as you go along.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Um, Okay? Again

Message from Elizabeth Warren, "Donald Trump’s Divisive Tactics Empower Those At The Top." This from the party that just rigged the primary election in order to assure the nomination of the establishment candidate.

Shoot the messenger, or... Shoot whoever is accused of being the messenger, even if he isn't, but in any case, ignore the message. Democrats are utterly focused on proving that it was Putin who released the emails, and are totally ignoring the fact that the emails reveal a rigged election. Contents, apparently, are irrelevant, their illegal release is all that they care about.

And Democrats accuse Republicans of being deranged.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Um, Okay?

I will doubtless be castigated as a misogynistic pig for this, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign are beginning to make me question their contact with reality.

Hillary Clinton said on CBS Sixty Minutes that she faces more scrutiny than other top-level politicians, saying, “I often feel like there's the Hillary standard and then there's the standard for everybody else.”  Shades of her earlier complaint of a “vast right wing conspiracy.”  Her supporters will doubtless claim something to the effect that being paranoid does not disprove the presence of someone following you.

Then Clinton’s campaign manager claims that Vladimir Putin released the emails which revealed that the DNC had deliberately sabotaged the candidacy of Bernie Sanders; emails with sufficient level of evidence to force the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz. He claims at considerable length that Putin did so as a deliberate effort to damage Clinton’s election chances and to bolster Donald Trump.

He may, of course, have done that without Clinton’s knowledge or approval, and I may have won the San Diego 10K last month. But I didn’t and neither did he.

Then, after Wasserman Schultz resigns from the DNC, Clinton praises her leadership (yes it is specifically her leadership that Clinton admires) and names Wasserman Schultz as a member of her campaign staff. Why? Well, apparently because the principles revealed by the emails that forced her resignation from the DNC are precisely the principles that Clinton admires and wants to use in her campaign.

The San Diego Union Tribune comments, in an article which is not online, that, “Two years ago it was almost unimaginable that she [Hillary Clinton] would be campaigning on debt-free college, expanding Social Security, breaking up ‘too big to fail’ banks and all these other progressive issues.”

Yes, and it still is. When someone says and does something for decades and then suddenly reverses that position for an election, what kind of person actually believes that reversal? Democrats mock Republicans for believing that dinosaurs coexisted with mankind 6000 years ago, and yet they believe that Hillary Clinton is going to   Oh never mind.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Smug Word Games

Now here’s a stunningly dishonest piece of opinion from Forbes, a supposedly legitimate economic journal. It is, at least, presented as the opinion of one Tim Wortstall, a “Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London” and apparently a complete idiot.

The headline, “As We've Been Saying, California's Minimum Wage Rises Increase Unemployment,” doesn’t define who “We” is, so one has to assume that it means the staff at Forbes, since writers don’t write their own headlines. Please note the implication of consensus as the piece begins.

This is an interesting little tale which illustrates the other side of the minimum wage story. Around here at least the standard side is that when you raise the price of something people buy less of it. Increase the minimum wage and employers will economise on minimum wage labour. This is a terribly simple point and yet people will twist themselves into ever more improbable positions to try to deny it.

Actually, of course, it’s not a “terribly simple point” at all, because it has been proven repeatedly that employers have not reduced the number of such jobs when the minimum wage was increased. The current increase is larger than past ones, and such a reduction may happen this time, but it’s unlikely, and it certainly has never happened in the past.

The piece babbles some nonsense about “seasonal adjustments,” which has nothing to do with the subject at hand, and then admits that “seasonal factors” are not pertinent to the issue, which makes you wonder why the idiot brought them up in the first place and makes you question his economic bona fides. As if you hadn’t done that already when you read the “Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute” thing.

He then goes on to discuss the way that unemployment is reported, namely that only people who are actively looking for work are counted as unemployed. He tells us that the increase in minimum wage has caused people to resume looking for work, and that since more people are looking for work the unemployment number reported as a percentage of the workforce has increased.

He makes the claim that even though thousands more people are employed rather than fewer, the fact that 27,000 more people are looking for work means that, “higher wages have called more labour supply into the market,” which is true enough. He then concludes that, “unemployment is defined those looking for a job but cannot find one. Thus an increased labour supply at this higher labour rate leads to more unemployment.”

In reality, of course, we know that those not previously looking for work were actually unemployed before they were drawn back into the workforce, and that this smug bastard’s word games prove nothing.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Baton Rouge

I am not a fan of LSU because I like their colors. My parents met when my father was in medical school at Tulane in New Orleans. My grandmother grew up in Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana and once worked as a dietician at LSU.

CBS ran an interview with two women whose husbands were among the police officers killed in Baton Rouge a few days ago. I usually have little patience with these productions, which normally involve much display of weeping and self pity, but this was Southern Louisiana. These women spoke of deep love and respect for their husbands. There was great sadness, and there was dignity that just tore the heart right out of my chest.

This is Cajun country; a people who have a inner core strength that puts the rest of us to shame. They are why Katrina did not beat New Orleans. They are of French heritage by way of Canada, and arrived in southern Louisiana when even native Americans disdained it, making their homes in an uninhabited and formerly uninhabitable swamp.

Cajuns look adversity in the eye, turn it around and kick its ass, and they don’t cry while they are doing it. These women will not raise damaged children. They will raise kids into healthy and happy adults unharmed by the adversity of their childhoods.

But I do like purple and gold.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hello, Pot. Nice to meet you.

CBS Evening News responded to Trump's speech last night by saying that he stressed "gloom and doom"  too much, that he talked too much about what is wrong in the nation. Right, because their nightly news segment only reports unicorn sightings and rainbows over mountains.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Capitalism, What Capitalism?

Capitalism: an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit

I started to listen to a discussion on the problems of modern capitalism, held by “great thinkers on the economy,”  and turned it off after just five minutes, having found out why our economy is sinking under its own weight.

The first exercise in lunacy was a discussion was about how “every problem has become a financial problem,” citing the example that if there is not enough energy then we must invest in more energy.

That would be a problematic approach if we were following it, because eventually we would be consuming more energy than the planet has resources to produce, but with a population increasing by 20 million every decade when was the last time we invested in new water supplies of any significance? When have we invested in transportation in any real sense?

Then they begin discussing the financial sector, the trading of financial instruments, as if it was part of capitalism, when in fact it is entirely artificial and is destructive to capitalism. It allows capital to become stagnant and to do nothing more than to produce more artificial capital in the form of debt not backed by any real or economic property.

The discussion was rapidly moving toward proof that finance has overtaken capitalism as the basis of our economy, to the almost complete destruction of the latter.

Back to the “energy problem;”  we should, of course, be designing a social model that consumes orders of magnitude less energy, but no one is talking about that.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Why Nucs In Turkey?

In all of the blathering about the attempted coup in Turkey, one thing that was largely ignored by the mainstream American media was that the US has a fairly large collection of nuclear weapons stored at Incirlic Air Base in Turkey. This is a base which is inside Turkey, belongs to Turkey, and which they are permitting us to use.

I have been asking sources, mostly retired military and some former intelligence, why we still have nuclear weapons in Turkey, and have not gotten any really meaningful answers. No one, for instance, is willing to say that we might use them on Middle East nations because they are “harboring terrorists” or because we fear that they might be “building a nuclear bomb.”

One suggestion was to the effect that it is simply inertia; that we needed them during the days of the Soviet Union and have never gotten around to taking them out. That may be the most frightening thought I have encountered.

One person made my question more specific and raised a question of principle. What, he asked, is their purpose there; are they serving as a counter to the nuclear capabilities of others, or are they intended to counter non-nuclear threats?

If the former, it makes no sense whatever and they should have been removed several decades ago. If it is the latter, then it reflects a refusal to rule out the ”first use” of nuclear weapons, in which case that policy should be reversed, a policy of “no first use” should be reinstated and the weapons should be removed.

I recall a time when this country had a clearly stated policy that our nuclear arsenal was strictly a deterrent and that we would never again be the initiator of the use of nuclear weapons. I have not been able to track down precisely when that policy was abandoned, or who it was who first threatened to use “the nuclear option,”  but that threat has become common today. It should be banned, and any question about the use of nuclear weapons should be met with a restatement of the “no first use” policy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Oh, Please

No fewer than 23 headlines on my news feed to the effect that Melania Trump plagiarized Michelle Obama's speech. Turns out she is actually only acused of plagiarizing part of said speech, but so what if she did?

Her husband is running for president, not her, and she will do nothing in the future other than decorate the White House. Of what real import to the Trump campaign is her speech in real terms? None. Our obsession for trivia...

Friday, July 15, 2016

Here's A Question

If you bought a house in my HOA in, say, 1990 and were forced to sell it after the housing crash of 2008, you lost a ton of money that you had gained in (supposed) equity in that house. If, however, for some reason you did not have to sell that house but held on to it, you came out well ahead of the game, because that house is worth more now than it was at its peak before 2008.

So if that value just before 2008 turned out to be phoney, why is its value today not phoney?

And don't tell me it's inflation, because inflation has been pitifully low. The government is frantically trying to make it higher (for reasons that are entirely bogus, but that's a different subject). Home prices nationwide are back up to where they were before the crash of 2008, and everyone is reporting that as if it is a good thing.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pokemon Go

What's not to like about this game? Okay, I actually know almost nothing about it, except a quote from one kid playing it. "I've never been to Ocean Beach Pier before. It's pretty cool."  Looking at his iPhone, "Next I'm going to Petco Park. I've never seen that either."

What's not to like about a game that has people getting out and going places they've never been?

Update, 8:15am: Okay, on the other hand, the game seems to have led to two guys falling off a seaside cliff in Encinitas. My guess would be that they had never been there, either, but perhaps they should not have let the game take them there.

Get Used To It

imageSan Diego is not boring, really, but its weather can be. This seems to be the only image that the Weather Service knows how to use for the several months of summer. Not sure where the "patchy fog" occurs, because it looks like a solid overcast where I live. It does, however, burn off well before noon, so...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Oh, Big Whoop

Bernie supporters and other “liberals” in the Democratic party are all excited, as illustrated by an NBC News headline reading, “Democrats Advance Most Progressive Platform in Party History.”  I am, to say the least, somewhat less impressed.

Is there anything less useful than the platform of a political party? Screen doors in a submarine come to mind. A political party platform has all of the significance and impact of a good healthy a fart in the midst of a hurricane.

The lifespan of the party platform is day one of the party convention, when it is passed to much acclaim and self congratulation, after which the process moves on to selection of the party’s nominee for the presidency and the platform sinks into oblivion, leaving no more trace than the proverbial pebble in the mill pond.

“Progressive platform” forsooth. Select a progressive candidate and I’ll be impressed.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

"They were not careless."

Judy Woodruff: "Madam Secretary, we also want to ask you about the FBI report that came out this week.

We heard the director, James Comey, say they were not going to recommend criminal charges against you, but he said that you and your colleagues at the State Department were, in his words, extremely careless in the handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

Do you believe you benefited from a double standard, that ordinary government employees experience one sort of treatment and a different one for you?"


Hillary Clinton: "No, not at all.

In fact, I think Director Comey made exactly the opposite point in his long testimony yesterday, that those who somehow hoped that action would be taken are the ones who were hoping for a double standard.

He made very clear there was no basis for going forward. And he also clarified what he said in his statement.

You know, with respect to the handling of classified material, I take it very seriously, and the 300 or so people with whom I e-mailed on the course of my time in the State Department do as well. These are experienced diplomats. They have expertise in handling classified material. They were not careless.

And the material that they sent to me, they didn’t believe was classified. The very, very few examples that Director Comey pointed to have also been clarified, as he accounted yesterday. The State Department has said two of the three that he had pointed to were human error. They were not to be classified.

So, I’m very proud of the work that we did over four years. And I’m very proud of our diplomats and our other professionals, who have to act in real time. They are responding to heads of state, to press inquiries. And they are doing the best they can. I do not believe they were careless. I do not believe that they sent material that they thought was classified, and certainly no finding of anything intentional was made after this investigation."

This is the babbling empty suit we will almost certainly elect to be our next president.

And I love Woodruff calling her “Madame Secretary,”  the title of a post she has not held for almost four years. Like Cuba and other tinpot dictatorships, this country now seems to bestow lifetime titles.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Today's Navy

Six months ago or so there was a scandal in the Navy during which it was mentioned that the Captain of a ship was in a night club on shore, drinking with members of his crew. I thought that was part of the scandal, but it turned out that it was being mentioned in defense of the Captain; as an illustration of the crew’s esteem for him.

I was shocked to discover that drinking with the crew ashore by any officer, let alone the Captain, had become common practice in the Navy, and wondered how any kind of command structure or atmosphere of good discipline could possibly be maintained in the face of such behavior.

Turns out, apparently, that it pretty much cannot. One crew, for instance, forgot to put oil in the ship’s main propulsion reduction gears, disabling the ship for almost a year. Then we have Navy gunboats in hostile waters off Iran who were not mounting half their weapons because they didn't want to have to clean them. Those same boats left port three hours late because they could not start their engines, and then were picked up by the Iranians because their engines broke down again.

Now a Navy SEAL is the victim of homicide in training, and it turns out that he was taking medication for asthma and had an abnormality in his heart which contributed to his death. How does a guy with asthma and a potentially fatal cardiac abnormality get accepted for SEAL training?

I used to have momentary regrets from time to time that I did not stay in the Navy and make it a career, but I have not had such a feeling for quite a while. I mostly feel like I “dodged a bullet” so to speak.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Less and Less Pretense

James Comey yesterday, in announcing the results of the investigation regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server, did not attempt to claim that what she did was legal or that a person doing what she did should not be prosecuted for the actions that were uncovered.

To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.

The felony statute regarding the mishandling of classified information makes it an offense to do so “either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way.”

Comey claims that their investigation “did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information,”  but went on to say that “that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

So he declaims any intent, which is possibly but not definitively arguable, but finds that there is a difference between “gross negligence” and being “extremely careless.”  Someone will have to explain that difference to me because I don’t understand it, and Comey made no effort to clarify it in explaining why Clinton should not be subject to prosecution.

Let’s not forget the “undue command influence” that was in place when Obama endorsed Clinton for the presidency before the investigation was completed. Do you think that there was any chance that Comey was going to recommend prosecution after his boss had said of Clinton in a national forum that he had “the highest possible confidence in her judgement and integrity?” Yeah, right. I’m surprised that Comey’s statement was a critical as it was.

I have no real issue with the law not being applied to the ruling class; it has not been for several decades. What astonishes me is the degree to which pretense has been dropped. The ruling class has simply become openly contemptuous of due process and the rule of law.

Comey openly says in his statement that “this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences,” but goes on to say “that is not what we are deciding now.” More plainly put, “I would hang an ordinary person who did this, but not Hillary Clinton.”

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Jingoism v. the Rational

Jonathan Turley is a law professor at George Washington University and is about as strict constitutionalist as can be found in public discourse today. I read his blog regularly, even though it has mostly deteriorated into meaningless trivia, because he still has pieces from time to time about the ongoing shredding of the constitution by all branches of our government and the efforts by him and by others to prevent that.

He can also be a bit of a jingoistic pain in the ass, for instance beginning his Independence Day post yesterday with, ”This holiday has particular meaning for many of us as we fight those who wish to destroy liberty and to terrorize people into submission.”

For one thing, he isn’t fighting terrorism even at a keyboard, let alone on any field of battle, so his “we fight those who, blah blah blah” was a little bit hyperbolic.

I responded with a comment,
Yeah, right, “They hate us for our freedoms.” They do not wish to destroy freedom and they don’t care about our submission. They are fighting to get us to take our boot off their necks. They want our armed forces out of their countries. They want to stop the terror drones from killing them and their families without warning.

If somebody was raining Hellfire missiles down on Phoenix and Denver at the rate of several a week and killing more than a thousand of our wives and children per year, how would we react?

Their terrorist attacks are not by any means righteous, but neither are ours, and self-righteous posturing is not contributing to the solution.

Interestingly, of the many comments not one was critical of what I had to say, and no few of them specifically agreed with me. One even went so far as to say, “Thank you for summarizing my thoughts.”

There is still rational thought in this nation after all.