Saturday, May 23, 2015

Talking Points

So “the Benghazi affair”  raises its silly head again; an issue that could be of some modestly serious import but is not because it is a discussion about the relative validity of various “talking points.”  No one raises the more basic truth that the existence of “talking points”  is a problem in and of itself, regardless of whether they were valid or not.

Talking points are what people use to get their stories straight when they are not intending to reveal what they actually know. Susan Rice, it seems, had been given the wrong set of talking points, which is to say she told the wrong story, which would not have happened if she had been revealing her own knowledge. As Judge Judy says, “If you tell the truth, you don’t need a good memory.”

The whole Benghazi “defense”  is about members of the administration getting together to agree upon what they were going to say, and people who are being honest don’t do that. Somehow that point keeps getting left out of the discussion.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Unicorns!

CSAG has saved the future prosperity of the great city of San Diego by assuring that the Chargers will play their games here for the next thirty years in a new $1.1 billion stadium that will be built without the imposition of any new taxes on the citizens of our city because it will be paid for by unicorns and mermaids. Most cities have to rely only on unicorns, be we have the advantage of being right on the Pacific Ocean, so we have mermaids too.

Actually, the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group plan (pdf) includes more than a dozen putatively realistic funding sources, one or two of which might actually fly, in which case the stadium would be about 10% funded in the real world that you and I live in. CSAG’s funding includes:

$200 million from the NFL, which has not been approached on the subject and has not agreed to provide any money for any stadium in any city. They have said that they “will study CSAG’s proposal carefully.”

$300 million from the Chargers, who said twelve years ago that they might provide $200 million toward a new stadium, but who have not been approached recently as to paying any part of a new stadium. They also have said that they “will study CSAG’s proposal carefully.”  The Charger contribution is not really $300 million, though, as we will see later.

$121 million from the “City Stadium Fund”  which sounds like an existing pile of money but is nothing of the sort. In fine print it says “$70 million per year for 30 years,”  which is actually $210 million and is the amount of the general obligation bonds which the city will sell to provide $121 million toward construction of the stadium. The other $89 million is, of course, interest on the bonds, but the whole $210 million is money out of the taxpayers’ pockets. For some reason, that $210 million will come out of the pockets of taxpayers without any new taxes being imposed, which is a pretty neat trick.

$121 million from the “County Stadium Fund,”  which means that CSAG is an ecumenical taxpayer abuser, willing to screw county taxpayers as well as city ones.

$60 million from “personal seat license”  (PSL) sales. They actually plan to sell $120 million of these PSLs, 50% of which will be returned to the Chargers to reimburse them for what they contributed to the construction, which why it was pointed out that the Chargers’ contribution is not $300 million, but is actually $240 million. This is a complicated plan; try to keep up.

Selling $120 million in PSLs is going to be a neat trick in a market which cannot reliably fill a 40,000 seat stadium, which holds the league record in television blackouts and is in the only city ever to have a Monday Night game blacked out locally. Some of the PSLs will be bought by voyeurs who will be attending games to watch the mermaids who bought the other PSLs.

$216.2 million in rent from the Chargers, San Diego State and bowl games. If that goes to pay for the construction, what is going to be used to cover the operating cost? Nonetheless, probably one source of funding that is legitimate.

$225 million from the sale of part of the Mission Valley site to developers, at $3 million per acre. That might happen. And I might win the Boston Marathon too, but I don’t think that San Diego should be selling any bonds against that eventuality.

$110.7 million from ticket and parking surcharges. No tax increases, but going to games is going to cost quite a bit more. This does have the advantage of placing the burden on those who benefit from the Chargers, and not on the general taxpayers.

$50 million form “Additional funding sources stadium is expected to generate.”  This is otherwise, and more accurately, stated as “We don’t know what that might be but we needed another $50 million in the plan.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of the Chargers and I want them to stay in town. But if the population is resisting the idea of building a $500 million stadium I just cannot believe that the solution is to come up with a $1.1 billion alternative. Someone has just flat lost their collective mind, here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Paul Krugman is an Idiot #6,375

Paul Krugman produced a column yesterday regarding manufacturing employment and its relationship the trade deficit which is so filled with muddy and downright delusional thinking that it’s hard not to conclude that he hasn’t had a stroke or brain aneurysm and simply become brain dead.

He begins by giving the opinion that people who believe that “US manufacturing has disappeared because it has all moved to China and Mexico”  are “largely wrong.”  He goes on to say that “pointing to measures of industrial production is not the bet way to make this point,”  and argues that a better way to examine the above claim is to “ask how much of the decline in manufacturing employment would have been avoided if we weren’t running big trade deficits.”

Since it was the export of manufacturing jobs to cheaper labor overseas which largely caused the trade deficit, because consumers are buying foreign goods instead of domestic ones, that’s sort of saying that we should ask how quickly the chicken would have died if I had not hit it in the neck with my axe.

He then says that the negative contribution of 3% to GDP in manufacturing is a “major obstacle in efforts to achieve full employment,”  as if we were actually making any efforts to achieve full employment, because it is “a drag on the overall demand for US goods and services.”  Really? Aside from a deficit in manufactured goods being unrelated to services, domestic or otherwise, and therefor unlikely to be a drag on them, as to domestic goods he’s saying that the unavailability of domestic goods reduces demand for domestic goods.

Hello? We’re not buying American computers because America doesn’t make computers. America has no manufacturing jobs making computers. They are all in China. And so we import computers, adding to the trade deficit, because the computer manufacturing jobs were all sent to China. Those jobs were not sent to China because there was a trade deficit, they were sent there because it allowed companies to build computers more cheaply. And I don't mean less expensively, I mean more cheaply.

He then makes the point that the trade deficit of 3% does not account for a decline in manufacturing jobs, which is “15 points,”  but he’s not even comparing apples and oranges, he’s comparing apples and freight trains. The 3% decline is a percentage of the nation’s total dollar economy, while the “15 points,”  is the share of manpower employment; manufacturing employment accounted for 25% of the workforce in 1970, and it accounts for 10% today. The workforce is vastly larger today that it was 45 years ago, so it’s pretty hard to come up with any really meaningful numbers, but Krugman’s numbers certainly don’t do it, and the manufacturing workforce certainly has shrunk.

Oddly, manufacturing accounted for 30% of jobs in 1955, but he doesn’t use that number. He chooses a time 15 years later and 5% lower. One has to wonder why.

He admits that the “3 points out of 15”  is an exaggeration, actually who knows what it is, because “not every dollar of manufactured exports corresponds to a dollar of manufacturing value-added,”  except that we’re not talking about “value-added”  here, we’re talking about labor, and one cannot conflate dollars with relative employment share in national employment.

“For the most part,”  he concludes, “in other words, declining manufacturing employment isn’t due to trade.”  And this is the crux and reason for the whole pile of babble and nonsense, because Paul Krugman is a supporter of Barack Obama’s push for the Trans Pacific Partnership “free trade” agreement. “But even if we’d had a highly protectionist world,”  he says, “…we’d still have seen most of the great decline in industrial jobs.”

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Still Selling Bridges

*We apparently pulled off a commando raid in cooperation with the Syrian Army and killed an Islamic State oil minister this week. On George Stephanopoulos this morning various pundits, including Dianne Feinstein, opined that the raid was a complete success which signals that we are winning the war against the Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh or whatever name it is being addressed by these days.

Meanwhile, the media is completely ignoring that the Islamic State completed its rout of Iraqi forces in Anbar Province this week and took full control of and occupied Ramadi, a major city in that province which is only seventy miles from fun-packed, downtown metropolitan Baghdad. So we kill an oil minister while they capture a major city, and somehow we are winning.

*The Obama administration is hyperventilating about the construction by China of a military base outside of its national borders, specifically a small airfield in the China Sea which is being built on a manmade island. It says that the base is an example of China “using its ‘muscle’ to bully smaller nations,”  even though it is being built by China in the China Sea.

We argue that the base is “violating the harmony, the feng shui, of Southeast Asia, and it’s certainly violating China’s claim to be a good neighbor and a benign and non-threatening power.”  Our 750+ overseas bases do not violate our claims to be a good neighbor, or to be a “benign and non-threatening power,”  because we make no such claims; we claim nothing other than to be the “world’s sole superpower.”

And, of course, our plan to restore the “feng shui”  of Southeast Asia and to assure peace in the area is to patrol this heinous base with B1 bombers, because nothing creates a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere better than a few nuclear bombs hovering around.

*Obama held a summit for the Gulf Cooperation Council (the “gulf” being the Persian Gulf) at Camp David, and virtually none of the heads of state showed up. There was much talk about Obama being “snubbed” until, after several days, the administration said that he was not snubbed at all; that the heads of state were not really supposed to attend and it was always planned that the summit would be held for deputies.

Right. When was the last time you saw a “summit meeting”  which consisted of the President of the United States and a bunch of deputy ministers being held at Camp David? It would not have been advertised as a “summit meeting”  unless heads of state were involved. If it was planned as a meeting of deputies, the Secretary of State would have presided, and it would not have been at Camp David.

Does Mr. Obama, perhaps, have a bridge in Brooklyn which he wants to sell us?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Two Tales of a Killing

I have been studying the Sy Hersch account of the Osama bin Laden raid, against the account provided by the Obama administration, and I have to say that the former is somewhat more believable. Critics of Hersch cite the lack of any named sources, but as to sources for the administration’s story we have only itself, so

There has always been “holes” in the official story, even after the administration quit telling a miscellaneous set of wildly different stories and settled on a single one starring John Wayne and Chuck Norris. (Sorry.) The big hole, for me, was that after explosions and gunfire were reported in the close vicinity, a few blocks in fact, of the homes of several of Pakistan’s top generals no police or military showed up to investigate for more than 45 minutes.

Hersch explains that by saying that the police were told by the Pakistani government to stay away because the government knew it was the Americans and did not want to engage in a firefight with us. That makes more sense to me than the administration’s explanation that the Pakistanis were incompetent; an explanation which reportedly pissed off the Pakistani government. “We let you conduct a raid in our territory and then you throw us under the bus.”  Well, yes; throwing allies under the bus is what this nation does best.

It also astonished me that we though we could fly 100 miles across a heavily populated part of Pakistan without being detected, and apparently did so. The administration claims it was because we were using special “stealth Blackhawk”  helicopters, which had never been seen before and have never been seen since. They also didn’t mention the two Chinook helicopters, since they certainly could not claim that those beasts were configured to “fly quietly”  or be undetectable by radar.

Sy Hersch claims we pulled it off because Pakistan knew in advance and gave us permission, which sounds a lot more believable than inventing a whole new magical helicopter for the purpose.

Some of the government untruths don’t really bother me. The tale, for instance, about how bin Laden was discovered, that he was turned in by an informant rather than the fanciful story about following couriers and running fake vaccination programs, was told for the purpose of protecting the informant, and I see no harm in that. The fake vaccination program was an embellishment that did significant harm, in that it sowed suspicion on valid programs to the detriment of people who are in dire need of those programs. The administration should have thought more carefully about the consequences of that part of the tale, but in terms of being untruthful with the public I see no real problem.

I’m not even particularly troubled by the claim, false as it turns out, that bin Laden was supposed to be captured if possible when in reality that was a “kill mission”  from the start. Why is anyone upset by this? Assassination is the official policy of the United States, and has been since Obama took office. He makes no bones about it. Anyone who presents a perceived threat to this nation is killed. That is, according to Obama, “among the easiest decisions I make.”  Usually it is done by sending a Hellfire missile fired from a drone, but dead is dead.

I don’t like that policy, and don’t agree with it, but it is our national policy, set by the person we elected, and reelected, so why is anyone taking exception to it?

What I don’t like is the degree to which the story has been tailored simply to glorify the administration and the military, obscuring truth simply to make our elite class look good. Protecting those whose lives are at risk is fine with me. Lying to protect ego and reputation is a whole different matter.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Milestone

My father died 40 days before his 72nd birthday. I have now reached a point 36 days before my 72nd birthday, so I have now outlived my father. I know that is statistically insignificant, but...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Hyperbole Diminishes

After Danica Patrick was running 18th at Bristol and had ten cars running ahead of her crash, giving her a 9th place finish, the Danica fans went wild. She had turned the corner, they claimed, and would win one of her next few races, having finally proved that she can run with the best of the best in NASCAR racing. They were giddy with her success, and were breathlessly awaiting Talledega, where everyone either finishes on the lead lap or does not finish at all.

But first, she had to race at Richmond, where she finished 25th, two laps down to the leader. Then she did indeed finish on the lead lap at Tallegega, along with 32 other cars who did not wreck, but she finished in 21st place. This past weekend she finished in 27th place at Kansas, once again two laps down to the leader.

So, since her fans predicted her impending win and eligibility for the "championship chase," she has an average finish of slightly worse than 24th, and has driven four fewer laps than the leaders in three races, which is somewhat less than awesome.

Johanna Long, on the other hand, who actually is a race car driver, has driven in two races and finished in the top ten and on the lead lap in both of them, driving equipment with nothing on it but her car number, meaning that she has no sponsorship money. One has to wonder what she could do in the #10 GoDaddy car. Well, I don't have to wonder, I'm pretty sure I know.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Free Range Parenting

The fact that this term even exists is just sad. The fact that it is headlined in the news and is controversial, that people who practice it are being accused of child abuse, makes me wonder how we can survive as a nation.

We used to call kids who were raised by parents who were, at the time, known as "helicopter parents," who hovered over them constantly as being "tied to their mother's apron strings," and we wanted nothing to do with them. We went off in the woods with our buddies and did neat stuff like find Great Horned owls and raccoons to bring home and make pets out of.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Delusional Campaign

The New York Times brings us an article headlined, “Carly Fiorina Announces 2016 Presidential Bid, Citing Years Leading Hewlett…” The headline alone is enough to send anyone from California into either a rage or gales of hysterical laughter, depending on temperament, since her notoriety in this state is for having utterly ruined that once-beloved company.

One could cite her massive layoffs, or her purchase of Compaq computer company, or the infamous spying on the company’s board of directors. One could certainly find millions of former customers to document her company’s fall from one with the best tech support in the industry to being a company with no tech support at all.

None of which, of course, supports her contention that she “understand[s] executive decision-making, which is making a tough call in a tough time with high stakes,” since all of the high-stakes decisions which she made were disasterously wrong.

She makes some rather vague statements about her political experience, which is even more laughable, because she began her political career by working on John McCain’s campaign and has never run for public office and actually won the election. She spent $6.5 million of her own money running for the US Senate in California, won the primary against such political giants as Tom Campbell and Chuck Devore, and then lost to Barbara Boxer by ten points. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of those two primary opponents, nobody else has either. She then tried to run for governor but failed to even make the primary.

In addition to her “executive experience” and political savvy, she runs now on being a woman who isn’t Hillary Clinton, and on blaming environmentalists for the California drought. We have, it seems, expended too much effort saving fish, and that’s why our snow pack has failed and our ground water is drying up.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

It Sounds Good, But...

Hillary Clinton uttered a campaign line on Baltimore which is one of those things that sounds really good. "Without the mass incarceration that we currently practice, millions fewer people would be living in poverty,"  she said. "It's time to end the era of mass incarceration."

But does it really make any sense? Does It actually address the problem? Not really. A much better case can be made that poverty leads to incarceration than can be made for incarceration causing poverty. Changing sentencing guidelines is not going to do much to correct what ails Baltimore.

The people who were rioting were not prison inmates. They were not ex-cons. They were unemployed and underemployed and they were without hope.

What Baltimore needs is a better economy; a real improvement in the economy, in the form of more jobs. Baltimore needs employment that provides a future for the people who live there, and Clinton is tossing out sound bites about her campaign themes such as “mass incarceration.”  Not that I don’t agree with her premise, but are shorter prison sentences going to provide meaningful, remunerative employment for the people of Baltimore?

She reveals the typical political “thinking”  which is to simply toss around political sound bites. Asked to comment on the situation in Baltimore, she can do nothing more thoughtful than drag out one of her campaign slogans.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Trading Philip Rivers

Nick Canepa says that the Chargers draft "blew in cooler heads,"  whatever that means, and goes on to blather about the dodged bullet of the rumor that the Chargers might trade Rivers to Tennessee for a #2 draft pick which "would have been a mistake of enormous magnitude."  The "cooler heads"  bit presumably refers to the fact the Chargers drafted a running back, which everyone with an IQ higher than room temperature fully expected them to do.

Trading Rivers to Tennessee in order to draft a new quarterback is something that never even crossed the mind of the Chargers management. It was a rumor started by sports writers, probably Nick Canepa himself, so that sports writers would have something to talk about with respect to the upcoming draft. Chargers management never said anything about Philip Rivers until some sports writer asked them if they were going to trade him, at which point they not only said "No,"  they said, "Oh hell no."  That did not stop sports writers from speculating that Chargers management might be lying and that Philip Rivers might be traded to Tennessee in order for the Chargers to draft a new quarterback.

Which is pretty much the way political reporting is done these days, too. Rumors are not started because they have any basis in fact or logic, they are started so that reporters and political pundits will have something to talk about. Thus we have all this uproar about contributions to the Clinton Foundation, all of which has about as much meaning as the rumors of Philip Rivers shopping for real estate in Memphis.

Update, Friday night: oops, make that Nashville.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

I Don't Get It

If you choose someone who you wish to inherit your worldly goods if you die without a will, someone who can act in your behalf if you are incapacitated, someone who can visit you if you are in an intensive care unit of a hospital, someone with whom you can maintain fully confidential communication, why should it matter to any government what gender that person is?

Now She Speaks...

Hillary Clinton says that we have to stop the "age of mass incarceration." Interesting. In several decades of public service she has never once shown any objection to the frequency with which we imprison our population, and has even spoken favorably of the "war on drugs" which is the primary cause of that "mass incarceration." Now, in the first week of her campaign for president she is suddenly appalled that we imprison a higher percentage of our population than does Russia.

If she is elected president, do you suppose that she will continue to sing this refrain? Yeah, me neither.

Monday, April 27, 2015

She's Better At Cooking

Stock car racing pundits were all agog that Danica finished ninth last week at Bristol, and were so hysterical over that feat that some were predicting that she will "be in the championship Chase" at the end of the year. Never mind that she did it by running 18th with thirty laps remaining in the race, having one car pass her and ten cars in front of her crash.

This week at Richmond she never ran better than 18th, played bumper cars all day, was repeatedly in danger of going a lap down before she actually did so, and finished 25th, two laps down to the leader. Oh well, her admirers had fun for one week.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Oops.

I won't go into details, because I'm sure you know that an American drone strike killed two people who were being held hostage by "extremists" who we decided to kill. We fired a Hellfire missile at a target without knowing precisely what was there. If you think that is a rare event I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to talk to you about.

We not only kill "suspected militants,"  we kill people that we don't even know we are killing. Makes you proud, doesn't it?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Football Tidbits

So, the Eagles have signed Tim Tebow for a one-year deal. The mind sort of boggles, but considering that he will be behind Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez, and the head coach is Chip Kelly... Who knows?

I have always liked Philip Rivers, and now he shows us that he is a man of good taste, discernment and perspicacity. He says that he does not want to sign a long term contract with the Chargers because he doesn't want to live in Los Angeles if the team moves there.

Eric Weddle is feeling "hghly disrespected" because the Chargers do not place a high priority on resigning him. Yes, he is an outstanding free safety, but he is also 30 years old, which is getting a little long in the tooth for the defensive secondary. He is finishing up what was at the time the richest contract in history ever awarded to a defensive player, and the Chargers are not interested in coming anywhere near that amount again. He expressed his displeasure by skipping voluntary workouts this week, which I rather doubt was very helpful to his cause.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Big Cats Are Smart

If there is a mountain lion in the crawl space underneath your house, how do you get rid of it? Well, it turns out your best plan is to leave it the hell alone and it will leave during the night, because it doesn't want to be there just as much as you don't want it to be there.

Firefighters, animal control and the police department tried all day the persuade the beast out, with no success whatever. They used sticks, poles (which looked pretty much like sticks to me), and even air-powered cannons firing tennis balls. The mountain lion was unimpressed and stayed right where it was. They were wise enough that no one volunteered to go in and get it; there being no one willing to personally confront the visibly pissed off mountain lion.

They finally gave up and everybody went home. When they came back the next morning to try again, the mauntain lion was gone.

Blogging Ethics

There is a blogger I have been reading for some years who used to write interesting and thought provocative pieces. He has lately become somewhat enamored of his own intellect and has begun an annual fund drive, which I have been ignoring.

This fund drive was interesting, though, because in addition to becoming more and more pedantic, his pieces had also become more and more infrequent. His fund drive proposed that the more money that was donated the more frequently he would write and post pieces. He even set specific goals, with one amount of “donations” for three articles per week, another for four per week, etc. It was the first time I had seen such a thing and I had mixed feelings. It seemed a bit arrogant, and I wondered why he didn’t demand we pay him by the word.

On the other hand, there is a certain logic to, “the more money I’m making the more I will do.”  But for blogging? Most fund drives say that it is to “cover the cost of running the blog.”  In my case, don’t give me any money, because the Google blogging platform is free. Many of those who are “covering their costs”  are on the same platform I am, but

Anyway, the guy’s fund drive garnered enough money for five posts per week, and he was thrilled; thanked his readers profusely. For the following year, however, not once did he produce five articles in any one week. He seldom produced as many as three and some weeks he posted nothing. I figured that his readers had probably learned the same lesson I had, and waited to see how his next fund drive would go.

Oddly, his next fund drive has also netted an amount sufficient to gain a promise of five articles per week. Not from me, of course. In weeks subsequent to the close of that drive there has been close to five posts per week, but half of them are reprints of articles he published as far back as 2008, which he re-posts along with the comments which were made by readers at that time.

So, the title of this piece was made in jest. There is no such thing.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Even More Inanity

I told you about the article that taught us how to divide a recipe in half. Now Huffington Post offers us an article on how to start a conversation with someone you just met for the first time at a party. "My tried and true method is to start with an intriguing fact or little-known story,"  the author tells us, and goes on to say that this is the basis for his "Webby Award-nominated book."  He does not point out that the book did not win the award, and I'm thinking that he probably made the nomination himself.

He lists some of the "nuggets of trivia gold"  which he says will "ensure better conversations, a cure for any awkward silence, and maybe a new best friend or two."  I have to ask, though, what kind of conversation is started by remarking to a stranger that, "There are more cell phones in the world than toothbrushes."  If I'm holding a cell phone when when someone says that to me I'm likely to think that he just accused me of having bad breath, and that certainly is not a conversation starter.

Definitely on par with "if the recipe calls for two cups, use one cup."

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Saturday Tidbits

Paul Krugman addresses the Apple watch. "I have no special expertise here,"  he says, and goes on to say, "But what the heck; I might as well put my own thoughts out there."  Don't we all, Paul, don't we all.

Danica Patrick was on the show Chopped the other day. She was the winner, and by the time she won I wanted her to. She made three very attractive dishes, and she was charming and fun for the entire show. Nothing like the personality she presents in the stock car racing venue.

Words of Wisdom

John Kerry is continuing to be a real font of wisdom these days, and I cannot resist commenting on a couple more of his recent witty remarks. The unfortunate part is that I’m sure he did not intend them to be witty, but that is beside the point.

He justified our assistance to Saudi Arabia in bombing Yemen by saying that we were “not going to stand by while the region is destabilized.”  When one comes upon a raging bonfire and throws gasoline on it, one is not “standing by,”  so I think Mr. Kerry’s statement is entirely accurate, but not with the meaning that he intended.

He then assured Israel that the United States can walk and chew gum at the same time. (He said “do two things at the same time.”) The two things we could do simultaneously, it turned out, were to “push back against Iranian attempts to project its influence in the area”  and “reward Tehran for providing guarantees that it was not building nuclear weapons.”

Aside from the fact that Iran has already provided that guarantee by signing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which Israel has not done, the “reward”  to which Mr. Kerry refers is lifting sanctions that we have imposed on Iran for decades. So by that standard, one person could reward another by no longer beating him over the head with a brick. It takes a rather weird mentality to consider that a reward, but American foreign policy is certainly based on some rather weird forms of thinking.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Just a Tidbit

CBS Evening News said this evening that an upcoming progran would feature "presidential contender, Rand Paul."   I don't think so.  Presidential candidate; yes. Presidential contender; no.

Hello Kettle, This Is Pot

Self awareness is not an American national trait, and most certainly is not something commonly displayed by American leaders in foreign affairs. I often wonder what the people of other nations think when they hear, for instance, our president declare that Venezuela presents a “grave and immediate existential threat” to the US.

Or when they hear Secretary of State John Kerry advise us in a PBS interview that “Iran needs to recognize that the United States is not going to stand by while the region is destabilized or while people engage in overt warfare across lines, international boundaries, in other countries.” We do, however, expect that the rest of the world will stand by while we do all of that, as it has done for us for the past couple of decades.

And then there is Obama’s recent complaint that China “is using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions.” Fortunately, I was not drinking coffee when I read that, or I would have had to buy another new keyboard. His remark was made as part of a complaint that China is building bases on islands, that is to say, outside of their own national borders. How dare they?

Just because we have built over 700 such bases doesn’t mean that it’s okay for China to build five or six of them. In the China Sea. The irony of that location apparently escaped Obama completely. We have bases in the Indian Ocean, but…

Thursday, April 09, 2015

La Jolla Money vs Nature

La Jolla Cove is a scenic treasure, downtown, with a nice park. People go there to shop in the trendy stores, eat trendy food in the trendy restaurants, cruise around for hours looking for a parking place… If they succeed in the latter, they sit in the park with bottles of Cabernet and Pinot Noir and watch the sun go down, unless the marine layer hides that event, which it usually does.

You may get the idea I’m not a big fan of La Jolla, which has partly to do with its average income which rivals the national debt.

La Jollans are presently outraged by an invasion of seals, which are defecating on the rocks at La Jolla Cove. They are doing so in great quantity, and it may not surprise you to know that seal shit stinks. Badly. La Jollans are not happy about the stink, and they want the city government to do something about it. This is serious stuff. Who wants to eat trendy dinners, watch a sunset or stare at the marine layer in an area that smells like an overflowing sewage treatment plant?

The La Jolla Cove Business Association, I believe it was, hired a company to pressure wash the poop off of the rocks, but that didn’t turn out to be very effective. In order for it to work they had to use detergent, but the Coastal Commission vetoed that due to the pollution it caused, and blasting it with plain sea water didn’t remove it. All it did was piss off the seals, which is illegal.

Then they proposed hiring an animal behaviorist to train the seals to do their business somewhere else. I thought that was a joke when I read of it, and was trying to envision the size of the litter box that would be required, but it turned out they were actually getting bids from supposedly legitimate companies. Very high bids, as it turned out, so that idea was dropped.

Then they simply sued the city to force it to do a cleanup, not specifying how the cleanup was supposed to be done or what measures were to be taken to prevent the mess from recurring. The judge apparently noted the flaws in their filings, and ruled that cleaning seal shit from rocks was not a municipal responsibility in any case.

So that’s where it stands. La Jolla Cove still stinks, proving that no matter how much money you have, nature still rules.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Sauce For The Goose?

I am sometimes a bit baffled by the things that the American public chooses to become outraged about.

(And my mother just spun in her grave because I ended that sentence with a preposition. But Mom was rather easily outraged over trivia much of her life, so I’m not going to worry about it.)

Most recently, without taking a position either pro or con on the issue, is the Indiana law thing. There was essentially no outcry when the courts decided that it was entirely permissible for a business to discriminate against its employees based on its religious beliefs. Even President Obama just shrugged his shoulders.

But when Indiana declared that it might be okay for a business to discriminate against its customers based on its religious beliefs, the grits hit the fan, President Obama is flinging grits with as much enthusiasm as anyone.

I realize that the principles involved are not precisely the same, but they are sufficiently similar to make me wonder why we care so much about customers and so little about employees. Customers, after all, can go elsewhere (voting with their feet) a lot more easily than employees can.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Daily Dosing

sleeping catMolly is a sweet cat, and mostly pretty smart, but she hasn’t quite mastered this “fleeing for your life” thing yet. Usually, when my wife goes to administer her twice-daily medication, Molly is either hanging out in my lap or is curled up in one of her many resting places throughout the house. Sometimes, however, she sees the medication coming and decides that terror is the order of the day, but she doesn’t bring it off very well. She runs off about eight feet or so and then stops to see if her tactic worked; which, of course, it didn’t since she stopped in the middle of the dining room.

Yesterday she fled to the top of my desk. Um, news flash, Molly; we can see you there.

Once caught, or snuck up on as the case may be, her resistance to taking the two pills and the shot in the back of her neck is precisely zero. Well, “taking” the pills is not really the right word, since cats don’t “take” pills. At any rate, she does not need to be held down or anything, and giving the meds is a one-person task since she passively allows my wife to pry her mouth open and shove the pills down her throat, never threatening to use any of those teeth and claws.

Sort of makes one wonder why she decided to flee, no matter how ineffectively, but she’s a cat.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Clarifying The Deal

Democrats are idolizing Obama for working out a deal with Iran which prevents them from developing a nuclear weapon. That’s sort of like working out a deal with the US Air Force to prevent them from bombing Kansas City, because Iran has no more intention of building a nuclear weapon than does the USAF of bombing Kansas City.

Obama’s big problem has been to get Iran to quit denying that they have any remote desire to build a nuclear weapon and, instead, to agree not to build one. Sort of like our hoa getting me to agree not to paint my house purple with green trim.

Republicans hate the deal because they are afraid it will allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon which, they claim, would “start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.” No one excels at being afraid more than Republicans, of course, but they are really reaching with this one. Israel already has nuclear weapons, quite a few of them, so if Iran is, as they claim, trying to develop a nuclear weapon, then there already is a nuclear arms race ongoing in the Middle East.

Republicans don’t care much for facts, though, so in their fantasy world Israel doesn’t have nuclear weapons and if Iran is successful at building nuclear weapons that it isn't trying to build, it would start something which is actually already happening. Keep reading that repeatedly until you understand it. It will sink in eventually.

Iran, on the other hand, is delirious because we are rewarding them for agreeing not to do something that they weren’t doing in the first place. Much as I would be if someone paid me $10,000 not to beat my wife.

Welcome to the twilight zone of American politics.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Paul Krugman Is An Idiot, Chapter 3,645

Paul Krugman uses a comparison today between Walmart, citing its “low wages, low morale, and very high turnover,” and Costco, which he points out “offers higher wages and better benefits,” to claim that employers can raise the pay scale of workers without any actual net cost because Costco “makes up the difference with better productivity and worker loyalty.” This is an example of why economists should never talk about business practices. They have truly idiotic ideas about what a business is and how it works.

Krugman does admit that “the two retailers serve different markets,” and that, “Costco’s merchandise is higher-end and its customers more affluent,” but he goes on to say that his comparison is valid despite that. That’s sort of like admitting that one vehicle is hauling 80,000 pounds of freight and the other merely contains two human passengers, but that my mileage comparison remains legitimate.

And it isn't just a difference in market and affluence of customer base. Costco sells vastly fewer items and markets them in an entirely different manner than Walmart. For the most part they do not even remove items from boxes, but merely cut the box open and stick it on the shelving in the store. That creates a difference in productivity which is not a result of being paid better, it’s a result of a structural difference in the way the stores do business, and it’s only one example out of many.

Not to mention that Costco is selling a significantly different type of item, there being only a nominal crossover in the nature of goods which they sell, and they are selling them in bulk, with a vastly larger unit purchase than Walmart enjoys. Krugman is saying, in effect, that apples and oranges are both fruit and should therefor taste the same. Idiot.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Distraction? What Distraction?

Like much of America, I am a regular reader of Dear Abby, and I usually agree with her responses although I consider some of them to be pretty weak and/or Pallyanna-ish. She descended to new depths of “weak tea syndrome” with her advice today to the woman who admits to being an alcoholic and complains about her husband’s criticism of her drinking despite what the writer considers to be his own eating and drinking problems.

She responds that “The more your husband draws attention to your alcohol problem, the less he is forced to confront his own addictions to food and tobacco, and it also serves as a distraction,” and suggests that a “mental health professional may be able to help you understand why you tolerate your husband's behavior.” (emphasis mine) Seriously. She actually said that.

How about, “The way to get your husband to stop criticizing you for your drinking is to stop drinking.” Or maybe, “The reason you husband is critical of you for having a drinking problem is because you have a drinking problem, and his eating and smoking is irrelevant to that issue.” It is not the husband who is using distraction, Abby dear, it is the alcoholic wife. Jeez.

Your problem, dear "Humiliated in Texas," and what is causing you to be humiliated is not your husband's eating and smoking, nor is it your husband's criticism of you; your problem is your drinking.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Wow, Amazing!

To tell you how erudite and useful The Huffington Post is, I came across an "Indispensible Guide For Cutting A Recpe In Half." It tells me, for instance, that if the recipe calls for four cups of something, to cut the recipe in half I should use two cups. That is awesome. I have been cooking meals larger than needed for years because I could not figure out things like that. It suggests, no less, that I print the article and tape it to my refrigerator, assuming that I can figure out how to use a computer printer and a tape dispenser.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Varsity Hot Dogs Rule

NASCAR is racing this week at Martinsville, where there is more talk about the hot dogs than about racing. Martinsville Speedway is, for some reason, famous for its hot dogs. I’ve been there, and of course I ate one. Okay, more than one.

They are monstrous things, and I don’t want to talk about what color they are. Actually, I can’t talk about their color because it is indescribable, but the word “neon” would be part of that description. Unless you tell them to leave it off they put chili on it, and if you do that they look at you weird, sort of like they suspect you of being a Yankee. Not that I would do that, since every good race track hot dog deserves chili.

It is claimed that Martinsville sells the best hot dog in NASCAR land, but that claim is wrong. That honor belongs to the Varsity Drive-In in Atlanta. Yes, of course it has chili on it. You think there are a whole bunch of Yankees in Atlanta or something?

The Varsity is right next to the Georgia Tech campus in downtown Atlanta, and it sells something like five tons of hot dogs every day. They have an express line, and if you get in it you better have your mind made up when you reach the order point. The order taker is a huge guy wearing a torn tee shirt, and if you hesitate he will bellow insults at you, wanting to know what the hell you were doing while standing in line if it was not deciding what you wanted, and asking you if you are feeble minded and wanting to know why you are holding up all of those nice people behind you.

I was hospitalized after an industrial accident, multiple fractures of both legs, and when my friends were taking me home from the hospital I told them I wanted to stop at the Varsity on the way home for hot dogs. They were embarrassed that they had not thought of that idea themselves.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Memorable Chopped

I’ve been sort of binge watching Chopped, and am beginning to think it should be renamed “Pity Party,” since the contestants seem to be talking more about themselves than about the food they are preparing. “I grew up homeless. My mother died last month. I’m a single mom. I wasted my life with drugs and alcohol.” Boohoo. It’s sort of like they think they can win by tugging on the judges’ heart strings, but it doesn’t seem to be all that effective. The biggest whiner doesn’t win very often.

The one time it did seems to get to the judges was when one of the two finalists was a young woman with a French accent. She wanted the winner’s money so that she could go to France to visit her grandmother, who was very elderly and in failing health. She wanted to see the lady, who had raised her as a young child, one more time before she passed away.

The other finalist was a young man who was the chef for a Christian organization. He was competing to create publicity for his employer, because he thought they were a fine ministry and that people should know about them

Both were truly likeable people, and the decision was close. The young woman was chopped and as she was turning to leave the winner said, “Wait.” There was a pause and then he said, “I will buy you the ticket.” He went on to say that he had no need for the money and that he would use whatever amount was needed to allow her to go visit her grandmother in France.

There was not a dry eye in the house. Including my house. It was a very pleasant moment.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Path of Least Resistance

In speaking about closing Guantanamo, President Obama said a couple of days ago that he should have closed it in his first year in office, which I think is rather a statement of the obvious. He went on to say that the reason he didn’t was that “we had a bipartisan agreement that it should be closed,” and that, “I thought that we had enough consensus there that we could do it in a more deliberate fashion.”

He wasn’t through yet, adding that then “the politics of it got tough,” and going on to say that, “the path of least resistance was just to leave it open, even though it's not who we are as a country.”

That sort of sums up his presidency. The laughable delusion of “bipartisanship” and "political consensus," accompanied by that when things “got tough” he followed “the path of least resistance.” Pathetic.

The Big Dance

I do not know who those guys were in the Aztec uniforms last night. They scored 76 points and shot 47%, no less than 41% on 3-pointers. They had 13 offensive rebounds, 10 of them in the first half.

On the other hand, their opponent scored 64 points and shot 45%. What?

They play Duke on Sunday and, strange as it may sound, they need to step up their defense.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A couple of Comments

Ashley Judd still has a smile that could stop a speeding freight train. She's the only Kentucky fan at whom I would not throw rotten fruit. If she ran for President I would vote for her, which would be utterly stupid; but I would do it anyway. In fact, I rather hope she does.

A critic made the comment that "Arizona and Hawaii do not save daylight." News flash: neither do any of the other 48 states. They just change their clocks twice a year. The amount of daylight is unaffected.

Oh, yes; 33 years today since my last drink/drunk.