Sunday, March 11, 2018

On Anger

Anger has much in common with fire. Like fire, it can serve us well when stoked by proper fuel and kept within the confines of vessels which control it, or it can destroy us when overfed and/or allowed outside the places where it can be of use to us.

The anger that is bred of an unjust act against me or against someone who matters to me is like a cooking fire or a coal stove. Such anger moves me to right a wrong or to take action which betters my environment. It does me no harm, and indeed invigorates me. It moves me into actions which benefit others.

There is another anger that is like a forest fire; that harms and can destroy me. That anger is the one born from the cult of self; anger raised because someone does not agree with my opinion, anger raised because someone takes an action of which I disapprove and, worst of all, anger raised because it is a feeling that I prefer to that of experiencing fear.

That last surprises you? Many of us manifest depression, which is fear turned inward, as anger. We become angry if we fear that someone or something will deprive us of what we have or will deny us access to what we want.

The origin of the useful anger lies outside of myself, and since my anger resolution is aimed at the source the anger is resolved, the social or physical environment is bettered and I am left at peace.

Anger which has its roots inside me, in my unmet expectations or my unexpressed and often unrecognized fear, starts a vicious circle. Perceiving the source of the anger to be outside of myself, I aim my resolution efforts at that which is not the source, and allow that anger, like a forest fire, to grow larger and larger, to feed on itself, and ultimately to destroy all that it comes in contact with, mostly me.

When I abandon the cult of self, when I turn outward from self and expand my intellectual and emotional horizon to include others, then anger and fear lose their ability to control my life. It happens automatically. It is the inevitable result of the turn toward others and expansion of my horizons.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

It Means What It Means

In political argument, the point being made means whatever you want it to mean, and proves whatever you want it to prove. The same citation, actually, can prove diametrically opposite positions depending on the point you are trying to make at the moment.

We know, for instance, that Vladimir Putin personally interfered in the 2016 presidential election because computer experts have traced his fingerprints through the internet and have tracked the computer hacking backward to a computer that sits right on his desk, in a room to which no one but him has a key.

Well, maybe not, but you get my point. Claims are made that the “interference in the election,” and the hacking into Hillary Clinton’s email servers have been traced to specific computers which prove beyond any shadow of doubt that Russia, under the direction of Putin himself, interfered in the election.

Now Putin announces that Russian nuclear weapons have been upgraded in response to a Trump policy in which nuclear weapons may be used in response to a cyber attack. MIT’s Theodore Postol tells us, an a Real News Network interview cited by Naked Capitalism, that Putin should have ignored that policy as an empty threat because it was unrealistic.

Postol says in the interview that as to, “the issue of using low yield nuclear warheads in conventional military situations or in response to a cyber attack, first of all, I don’t know how you would know where the cyber attack came from.” He goes on to say that, “anybody who’s even modestly competent, even some of these hackers who really are not very competent people, you can hide your address, your location from anybody you’re attacking.”

So when the Obama administration wants to blame Russia for interfering with our election, yes we can trace the cyber attack to its source, but when Russia defends itself against Trump administration threats against it, no we certainly cannot trace the cyber attack to its source. Isn’t that convenient?

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Not a Manchurian Candidate

From the New Yorker magazine, written by Jane Mayer, comes a serious and scholarly resume of Christopher Steele, the guy who exposed President Trump as a guy whom, among other things, likes to be urinated on by Russian whores. Steele told us that Vladimir Putin watched this being done, in fact, and would therefor be able to use that information to blackmail Trump into turning this nation into a vassal state of Russia.

Well, okay, maybe a little bit hyperbolic, but every bit as serious as the subject matter warrants. New Yorker obviously thinks differently, however, as they pay this…, this…, this person big bucks to write an article telling us how the “Steele Dossier” came to be written.

“In January, after a long day at his London office, Christopher Steele, the former spy turned private investigator, was stepping off a commuter train in Farnham, where he lives, when one of his two phones rang,” the piece begins, so now we know that the guy is so important that he carries two phones. The pace is brisk right from the beginning.

Notwithstanding his importance, she goes on to tell us, still in the first paragraph, he, “looks much like the other businessmen heading home, except for the fact that he kept his phones in a Faraday bag—a pouch, of military-tested double-grade fabric, designed to block signal detection.”

Which implies that you can tell by looking at him where he "keeps his phones," and, um, wait a minute. If he keeps his phones in a “Faraday bag” which blocks electronic signals, how did the phone ring? An average eighth grader knows that for a cell phone to ring, an electronic signal has to reach it.

I can’t tell you about the rest of the article because I stopped reading at that point. I don’t read dime novels written by idiots.

Sunday, March 04, 2018


MIT published a report saying that a study had revealed that the vast majority of Uber and Lyft drivers make net earnings of less than minimum wage, and that fully a third of them are actually losing money by driving in this "sharing economy" business. That's not the stunning part; hardly surprises me, in fact.

What's stunning is that it took an MIT study to bring it to public attention. If our schools were graduating people with real educations, this "sharing economy" nonsense would never have gotten off of the ground, because the basic economics of income and costs is dead simple and the drivers would have realized within a month of starting the work that driving your own car for someone else's profit is a losing proposition.

Also stunning is that Uber responded to the report by saying that MIT's study protocol was "deeply flawed." Of course it was.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Passing the Smell Test

This whole “Russia meddled in the election” thing just makes no sense to me. The test that it fails for me is a sensible answer to the question of, “What’s in it for them?” The indictment of 13 Russians by Mueller reduces that issue to absolute absurdity.

According to Mueller’s indictment the purpose of all of this was to “sow dissent” within the United States and to “cause Americans to lose faith in democracy.” And how does that benefit Russia or the Russian government? Even if they are doing what the indictment claims they are doing, what do they gain by it?

Actually, far from gain, it actually endangers Russia and the Russian government. In fact, it endangers the entire world, because the American government does what any government does when faced with unrest at home. It increases foreign adventurism in order to distract it’s citizenry from domestic issues. It threatens war with North Korea, for instance, and it wages war throughout the entire Middle East in the name of “fighting terrorism.”

Keeping this whole “Russia is our enemy” issue active, whether Russia meddled in our election or not, whether Russia is active in our social media or not, is a useful method of distracting the public from the failure of our government to do virtually anything that works to the real and lasting benefit of the American people.

It also serves to distract the public from the influence of American money, not only in our elections, but in every aspect of governance in this nation.

We are horrified that the Russians may have spent a few hundred thousand dollars on social media to influence votes, and allow that to distract us from the fact that for many decades corporations and the wealthy have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually to influence not only our elections, but to directly affect the passage or failure of legislation on a routine basis.

It seems likely to me that these 13 Russians were doing what they were doing, not for the purposes assumed and stated by Mueller, but rather for the same reason that thousands of Americans do the same things – generating “click bait” in order to create a multitude of “followers” which they can use to sell themselves for the purpose of a form online marketing consisting of “reviews” of products and services.

“I have 50,000 followers,” they will tell a business, “pay me $15,000 and I will write a favorable review of your product which those 50,000 people will read online.” Not very savory certainly, and possibly illegal, but the use of an election to create the followers was entirely incidental to a money making scheme.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Oh Really?

From Time Magazine we get an article which tells us that,

A study published Monday in the journal Trauma Surgery & Acute Care says that medical dramas — Grey’s Anatomy, specifically — “may cultivate false expectations among patients and their families” when it comes to the realities of medical care, treatment and recovery.

Get out your coloring book, turn to page four and color me shocked.

I'm not sure which magazine is discredited more by that, Time Magazine for passing this nonsense on or Trauma Surgery & Acute Care for authorizing a "study" to determine something that a eighth grader would regard as obvious simply by watching a couple episodes of the show.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Wrong Conclusion Again

A bunch of "heads of intelligence agencies" were in front of Congress yesterday to warn of all the dangers facing the nation, chief among them being that Russia interfered with the 2016 election and is now actively meddling with the 2018 midterm election. "We do not want Russians to tell us who to vote for," one of these clowns intoned, warning us of Russia's activity on Facebook.

Think about that for a moment. If people are basing their vote on Russian Facebook posts, then the problem is not that Russia is posting on Facebook, the problem is that people are basing their votes on Facebook posts.

We are a nation governed by morons who are elected by idiots.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Hypocrisy Rules

Dean Baker is fond of castigating media persons for “mind reading” when they tell readers what various parties believe or think, even when the parties in question are on record as saying that they believe or think whatever belief it is that the writer ascribed to them.

“Republicans think that in a robust economy the social safety net could be dealt with by non-governmental charity organizations,” for instance, will instantly draw a charge of mind reading from Dean Baker, even though dozens of Republicans have stated that belief publicly over the last fifty years.

I would have no issue with Dean Baker for asserting that the belief is idiotic, but stating that Republicans believe it is certainly not mind reading.

Then on Monday he himself stated that, “Republicans in Congress are explicitly using the federal tax code to target states controlled by Democrats,” with the most recent income tax law. I wrote to him in the comments, noting his use of the word “explicitly,” and politely asked him to tell me the name of the Republican(s) who told him they were doing that or, I asked, “are you doing some mind reading here?” He deleted the comment.

Then yesterday he accuses the Washington Post of mind reading, saying,
“It's good we have the Post to tell us what the White House really believes.”

The entirety of his piece was not to challenge the theory advanced by the White House, but merely to castigate the Post for mind reading after he started the piece by saying that, "I thought it was just a way to give a middle finger to low-income people for getting government aid," which is, of course, clearly not mind reading.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

What Passes For Logic

Dean Baker tells us today that in the late 1990’s, “many new startups actually were financing investment by issuing stock,” and that, “This is generally rare, since the vast majority of investment is financed by retained earnings and borrowing on credit markets or from banks.”

The stock market, according to Investopedia, “provides companies with access to capital in exchange for giving investors a slice of ownership.”

So startups in the 1990’s were doing precisely what the stock market exists to do; they were selling part ownership in their companies to investors in order to obtain capital to build their companies into major operations. And Dean Baker tells us this is rare.

In the same article he tells us that, “In principle the stock market is the value of future corporate profits,” which actually has become accepted thought generally and is factually nuts, being completely contrary to what the stock market actually is, in which a share of stock is a “slice of ownership.”

That “principle” assumes that purchasing stock entitles you to be paid a share of corporate profits, but it does nothing of the sort. Other than for “Subchapter S” corporations, which most large corporations are not, it entitles you to receive a dividend, which is declared by the board of directors and may be greater than or less than the profits achieved by the corporation.

Dividends are usually less than corporate profits, as the corporation maintains some cash in the form of “retained earnings” against future operations and investment. If dividends were larger than profits, which is sometimes the case in order to (falsely) maintain stock value, the corporation has to borrow the money to pay them.

So at best, this definition should read, “In principle the stock market is the value of future corporate declared dividends,” and would still be bogus, since it misdefines what the stock market is, in which (to repeat) a share of stock is “a slice of ownership.”

Investopedia goes on to describe the “primary market” in which initial offerings of stock are sold to investors to raise capital, and the “secondary market” in which stocks are bought and sold between traders. It is in the latter that the prices of stocks rise and fall based on their perceived value.

The real value of a stock is determined by the corporation’s net worth, reflected by the bottom line on its financial balance sheet, divided by the number of shares outstanding. The perceived value is, quite simply, whatever someone is willing to pay for it, and is often totally irrational. Witness tulips going for thousands of dollars per bulb in the 1800’s and Amazon at $1,458 today.

To claim that perceived value as being “the value of future corporate profits” is sort of putting invisible new clothes on the emperor and hoping that no little kid comes along. You buy a stock based on what you think you can sell it for in the future. It’s called gambling, and investors do it with the same logic that visitors to Las Vegas use at the craps table.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Play Of The Game

Many are talking about the fourth and goal play near the end of the first half, when the ball was snapped to the running back, who tossed it to a flanker, who threw a touchdown pass to the quarterback. It was certainly an exciting play.
But for me the play of the game was this tackle, with the Patriots third and two at the Eagles’ nine yard line. The New England runner went airborne, intending to leap over the Philadelphia tackler. The tackler foiled that plan by keeping his head up and his eyes open, a practice that defensive players are taught but which they all too seldom actually do, and met the runner in mid air. He not only made the tackle, he stopped the runner dead in his tracks, preventing the first down and leading to a missed field goal.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Hyperbole Extends Now to Golf

I was watching the Waste Management Open in Phoenix yesterday... Well, I was watching it in San Diego; the tournament is being held in Phoenix. Anyway, NBC was carrying on about the tournament drawing the biggest crowds of any golf tournament in the world, which it does, and then they got carried away and started putting up graphics to claim that the event draws by far the biggest crowds of any sporting event ever, of any kind, anywhere in the nation.

They put up a graphic showing attendance for this year's event at 689,000 and pointing out that the largest crowd ever to watch the Indianapolis 500 was a paltry 350,000, but they failed to mention that the golf event is four days while the auto race crowd is cited for a single day event.

Not everyone who attends a golf tournament goes all four days, so it would be incorrect to assume that the daily attendance in Phoenix is 172,250, but the highest single day crowd is not much bigger than that, being about 204,000.

It's certainly far smaller than the crowd of 350,000 which showed up in one day to watch the Indianapolis 500.

They also failed to point out that, since the event is always held on NFL Super Bowl weekend, their biggest daily crowd of 200,000+ is on Saturday. That crowd almost entirely evaporates on Sunday, dropping to 50,000 or so, when 75% of those who attended on Saturday stay home on Sunday to watch the Super Bowl.

They made quite a point of saying that their attendance of 689,000 is more than twice the population of Scottsdale, which hosts the tournament and is home to 246,000 people. That little bit of hyperbole suffers when one realizes that the tournament actually draws about 200,000 people, many of whom attend the tournament multiple times, and that means there are actually more than 40,000 fewer people coming to the tournament than the population of Scottsdale.

The narrative really bites the dust when it is pointed out that Scottsdale is a contiguous suburb of Phoenix, and that the Phoenix metropolitan area has a population of over 4 million.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Busy, busy, busy...

I watched CBS News do a piece on the Super Bowl venue last night, telling us that cold weather was not any kind of deterrent to having fun when there is a Super Bowl in town. Temps of nine degrees, they were telling us, do not prevent crowds of people from enjoying the zip line over the Mississippi River, and the ice sculptures, and sledding down...

They tried their best to show us those "crowds of people enjoying the run up to the Super Bowl," but somehow never managed to widen the field of view on their camera to take in more than about eight people at a time. The gender and age ranges of those people could not be determined due to parkas and snow pants, so they interviewed a few folks so that we could know that both men and women were attending the game in Minneapolis.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Failure of Rational Thought

This DACA thing is sort of amusing, really. Obama asked Congress to pass it as a law and Congress, at the time controlled by Democrats in both houses, refused to do so. They didn’t just reject the request, they introduced the bill in both housed and voted against it in both houses. Liberals yawned and went to the vineyards to sample wine. Outrage = zero.

Obama passed DACA as an executive order, not only usurping Congress’ role as lawmaker, but actually directly going against the will of Congress, and liberals cheered lustily, ignoring the cautions that what was done by the executive order of one president could be undone by the executive order of another president. They weren’t worried because Democrats would certainly never lose a presidential election.

Trump then says he is cancelling the executive order but will sign a DACA bill if Congress passes one. Congress does not pass one, but no anger is directed at Congress for not passing a DACA bill, in fact for twice not passing a DACA bill.

Instead, enormous anger and accusations of racism are directed at Trump for cancelling an executive order that, being executive overreach, should never have been issued in the first place.

All this despite the fact that 38% of voters approve of Trump while only 15% of voters approve of Congress.

No, I am by no means a Trump supporter, vote for Democrats more often than I do Republicans, and I am not expressing an opinion here for or against DACA. I am expressing that I continue to be astonished by the abysmal failure of political rationality in this country.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Dean Baker Goes Openly Anti-Worker

Dean Baker argues today that the recent “uptick” in the economy may not have much to do with Donald Trump, creating a rare moment in which I actually agree with him, and goes on to say that it may actually be due to “the continuation of the Obama-Yellen recovery,” which puts us in separate universes again. The rest of his piece today is a virulent rant against the interests of the working class.

He does agree with Summers that when another recession happens “the Fed will again have to rely on unorthodox monetary policy,” and goes on to say that, “This is why many of us have argued for an inflation target higher than 2.0 percent.” Of course, so that the working class can suffer as badly during economic boom times as they do during a recession. Brilliant.

He then claims it is “also worth bringing in the story of robots taking all our jobs,” saying that it is “a story of a massive uptick in productivity growth,” which is awesome because he loves productivity growth. It is, after all, another opportunity to worship an economic theory which in modern times punishes the working class.

Higher productivity means that more product is produced by less work, so higher productivity means fewer workers. Even if, as Dean Baker claims, higher productivity inevitably resulted in higher wages, which it does not, then higher wages for fewer workers is not really a good outcome for the working class.

But higher wages for fewer workers is not a good outcome for business, either, because it requires an investment which doesn’t cut labor costs much, if at all, so business sees to it that higher productivity means unchanged wages for fewer workers, which really sucks for workers.

Dean Baker even admits that his claim of higher productivity is not actually what causes higher wages when he says that, “It's possible that we won't see the same wage growth this time due to weaker unions, the decision to expose less-educated workers to competition with low paid workers in the developing world, and more protectionism in the form of longer and stronger patent and copyright protection.”

The patent and copyright thing is nonsense, of course. It’s a pet peeve of his which he injects into everything, and it’s not about the working class at all. The abuse of patents and copyrights is about inflating prices to increase corporate profits and has nothing whatever to do with working class wages.

The other two items, weaker unions and offshored jobs, have a lot to do with wage growth not occurring as a result of productivity growth, so of course Dean Baker would follow that statement by agitating for stronger unions and for restoring manufacturing jobs to this country, right?

He does nothing of the sort. His support for the working class evaporates in a puff of smoke when he argues that to make up for wages not rising the government should, “make up the lost demand with larger budget deficits.” You get that? He’s a member of the “as long as money is being spent, it doesn’t matter who’s spending it” school of economics. He only cares about cash flow and, like the rest of the Washington elite, is unconcerned about the spending power of the working class of this nation.

Since workers are not being paid well and have no money to spend, he claims, the government should spend money instead, using borrowed money, to keep the economy flowing. The working class won’t be okay, but the economy will be fine. The spending level will be high even though the working class is flat on its ass, because the government will be spending money that it borrowed from…?

Sort of what we have today, actually, because last fiscal year, during what he claims to be economic good times, our government spent $665.8 billion more than it took in. He does not say what number in the way of a “larger deficit” he would consider reasonable.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Okay, He's Finally Lost It

Dean Baker seems to have finally lost all contact with reality, as yesterday he went totally, completely and utterly batshit crazy over tax cuts and investment by Apple Inc.

My favorite was his statement that the columnist he is criticizing, “doesn't seem to have a clue why the government taxes in the first place,” and proceeds to tell us that, “The reason the government taxes is to reduce demand in the economy. The purpose is to prevent the economy from overheating and experiencing inflation.”

I mean, I knew that Baker was unconcerned by the amount of the federal debt, an attitude which has always struck me as a bit bizarre. I never in my wildest imagination, however, thought that he believed that all government operation, things like national parks, highways and the military, should be financed entirely and only by borrowed money and increases in the government debt.

He appears to be of the modern school of thought that citizens should reap the benefit of government services and benefits without having to pay anything for them. Citizens at least think that somebody else, “the rich,” should pay for those benefits, but Baker seems to think that they should be paid for by just borrowing more money.

He expands on his “taxation to reduce demand” theme by adding that, “When the economy is near full employment we face the standard story where we have to tax to finance spending. In other words, if we want additional spending we have to pull demand out of the economy to open the space. However, when we are below full employment, the government is not constrained by its tax revenue.” I have no idea what any of that means, don't think that he does either, and included it here merely for it’s entertainment value.

He goes on in the same column to say that the government will not benefit from Apple paying $38 billion in taxes on the repatriation of funds from overseas because the money is, “already being held in the U.S., its ownership is just attributed to a foreign subsidiary,” which ignores the fact that it was not being taxed and now is, and that having $38 billion is better than not having $38 billion.

He asks the question, “How would the world be different if Apple still held its money overseas and we had the Fed credit the government with another $38 billion to count against its debt?” Because, apparently, the money that the Federal Reserve Bank creates out of thin air for "Quantitative Easing" is the same thing, in Dean Baker’s feverish little mind, as real money which will be paid by Apple in the form of taxes.

He then repudiates one of his favorite rants about how the media is “mind reading” when they say that “Republicans think blah, blah, blah” merely because Republicans say “blah, blah, blah,” when he says that Apple’s claim to be spending $20 billion on capital expansion and pay raises is due to the tax cut is not true because they would be doing that anyway without the tax cut, because businesses “make investments and raise wages all the time,” but that, “They usually don't go to such great effort to put on a public display” about it.

Actually, they do, but let’s not split hairs with an economist who has totally lost his mind.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Why Newspapers Publish

From an article in The Washington Post regarding a Trump "scandalous" rumor, "That doesn't mean it's true or even that there has been any genuine wrongdoing — just that it's worth asking some very serious questions."

Yes, a real newspaper prints that statement and then goes on to say that because a porn star says something we should read it on the front page and have a long discussion about it, even though she presents no proof of her allegations and offers as evidence facts which have been printed in the media for many years and is knowledge which has been held by millions of people, such as that Trump had a bodyguard named Keith and a secretary named Rhona, and that he didn't like sharks.

And the media claims that Trump is making the nation ungovernable.

PS: Okay, that's assuming that the Post is "a real newspaper" which is, perhaps, arguable but...

Monday, January 15, 2018

Election Derangement

I am considered by those who know me to be liberal in my thinking. Those who know me best see some fiscal conservatism moderating my liberal social thinking, but none would hesitate to label me a Democrat. They would be mistaken, but only partly so. Although I tend most often to vote for Democrats, I am registered as a Republican and sometimes vote for them.

An objective examination of reaction by the losing party in the last three elections which resulted in the White House changing from one party to the other might shed some light as to why I will not register as a member of the Democratic Party.

2000, Bush v. Gore: Democrats promptly claimed that votes in Florida had not been properly counted. They further claimed that the Supreme Court improperly intervened to prevent those votes from being properly counted, and that if they had not done so a recount would have given the state’s electoral votes to the Democratic candidate and the White House would have remained in Democratic Party hands.

While the losing presidential candidate, Al Gore, never embraced this argument, the Democratic Party leadership did. The outgoing president embraced this argument. Senior Democratic members of Congress embraced this argument.

2008, Obama v McCain: Republicans reaction was to vow to “block the Obama agenda” and to resolve that they would defeat him in the following presidential election, (i.e. “make him a one-term president”). While their reaction was inartfully expressed, that is pretty much what opposition parties are supposed to do. At no time did they question the legitimacy of the electoral victory.

There was the nonsense about the place of Obama’s birth, but the Republican Party leadership never from the beginning embraced this ridiculous argument. The losing presidential candidate, John McCain, certainly never embraced this argument. The outgoing president never embraced this argument. Senior Republican membership in Congress never embraced this argument. There was never the slightest suggestion that any Congressional investigation should be made as to the place of Obama’s birth.

2016, Trump v. Clinton: Democrats claimed generally that “the Russians interfered with the election.” Clinton also claimed that the FBI interfered with the election and, although that gained no traction with the media, she adhered to that claim regardless.

The outgoing president embraced the Russian interference argument. The losing presidential candidate embraced this argument. Democratic Party leadership embraced this argument. Senior Democratic members of Congress embraced this argument. So enthusiastically do Democrats embrace the Russian interference argument that Congressional committees are established to investigate Russian interference and the degree to which the winning candidate participated in it.

Conclusion: I am not a Trump supporter and did not vote for him, but I do support this nation’s constitutional democratic process and certainly have no desire to become a member of a political party which routinely attempts to discredit that process simply because it did not work in their short term favor.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Waiting For Orders

In news coverage of the mudslides in Santa Barbara County the past few days, I noticed that one person after another said that the noise made by the mudslides had waked them up in the middle of the might. That raised a question in my mind to the effect of, “Why were you asleep?”

Certainly these people knew about the Thomas fire that had left those steep hills denuded of any trace of vegetation, and certainly they knew that heavy rain was forecast for that night. The media and public officials had been warning for several days of the danger of slides and urging people to leave. And yet here they were, at home and asleep when the event happened precisely as predicted.

One woman explained why they didn't leave, saying that, “We were never issued the mandatory evacuation order.” She went on to say that, “We’re good citizens, if we were ordered to leave we would have left. We would have done what we were told to do.”

It suggests to me that if left to think for themselves, the people of this state will not do so. They were warned for days of the danger. They were warned for days that leaving would be the wise thing to do. They were waiting for someone to order them to do it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sportsmanship Still Exists

A small point is being sort of overlooked in what was maybe the best football game I have ever watched; the SEC National College Championship game between Alabama and Georgia on Monday evening. The game had it all. It had dominance, comeback, highlights, lowlights, suspense and exhibitions of the obvious.

But the best thing I saw all night came from a player who, at the time, was not even on the field. It was the Alabama quarterback, Jason Hurts, who played in the first half with so little success that Nick Saban pulled him in the second half and replaced him with a freshman. This freshman was wildly successful and brought Alabama back from a thirteen point deficit to win the game.

The entire second half, Hurts was on the sideline and fully engaged in the action. He was not standing behind other players, he was on the sideline, cheering on his team and applauding their successes. When his replacement threw a touchdown pass and returned to the sideline, the first person to meet him was Jason Hurts, applauding and pounding him on the shoulder pads.

Less is being said about this young man than should be said. It was a demonstration of sportsmanship and personal character that was heartwarming and rewarding to watch.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Tarnished Gold

Oprah knewI’m going to get in trouble for saying this, hopefully my wife won’t read it, but I can’t hold it in; the Golden Globes is just too typical of where we've gone.

The women who sucked up the courage to initially accuse Harvey Weinstein were not there, and were given no recognition. Asia Argento, Rose McGowan, Rosanna Arquette, Mira Sorvino, and Annabelle Sciorra.

Did you see them there or hear their names spoken? Of course not.

The women who enabled that piece of shit for decades, who fawned upon him to advance their own fame and glory were there, wearing their symbolic black dresses and pronouncing that the era of men was at an end; that women have all of the power now.

They can, after all, put a man’s career and personal life into the trash can with merely an unsupported accusation now, against which his denials are about as useful as a paper match in a hurricane.

These women's definition of leadership is to find a parade, already formed by people with real imagination and courage, and to jump in front of it.

I’m willing to bet there are plenty of men who think this. It is symptomatic of the problem that none have the courage to say it.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Aging Well

I have written three checks so far this year, and I wrote the year as 2018 on all three. Unfortunately, I also wrote the month as December on one.

Do not grow old unless you tolerate embarrassment well.

Missing The Point

The Dow Jones rose another thousand points, much to the delight of pundits who think that overpriced stocks are good for the economy. As usual, the media reported the increase in a manner which made the one thousand point increase seem more dramatic than it actually was, with Market Watch telling us that the rise occurred, “in a blistering 23 trading days, which would represent the fastest rally to such a mark, outpacing the 24 sessions it took to ascend to 21,000 last March and the move to 11,000 back in May of 1999.”

But what was the increase in the value of the stock index in terms that have actual impact on the value of the stock market? Well, this month’s increase was 4.2% in 23 days, amounting to 0.18% per day, which is a little less exciting than the “blistering pace” they described.

The increase last March was a 5.0% increase in 24 days, or 0.21% per day, which means that the current increase did not “outpace” that March increase. The current increase was actually smaller than the earlier one, and it gets worse for Market Watch.

The increase in May of 1999 was a whopping 10% increase in 24 days, or 0.42% per day, meaning that it had twice the impact on stock values as did the one in March of this year and more than twice the impact as did the current one.

The media gets all excited about each “one thousand point” marker in the index, but that is hardly very informative. As the market index becomes larger, each thousand points becomes a smaller and smaller indicator. Here they are citing three such indicators, and are presenting the least impactful one, at 4.2%, as being more dramatic than an earlier one that was just one day longer and, at 10%, had more than twice the impact.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Constitutional Duty

Today’s version of “democracy” is baffling to me, and I suspect would make the founders of this nation wish that they had taken up golf instead.

The founders saw fit to make it one of the duties of our president to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” The people of this nation used to applaud presidents for fulfilling that obligation, but today they seem more often to applaud his breach of it and excoriate the executive branch for any attempt to carry out the constitutional mandate.

For instance, lawmakers, Congress and state legislatures, passed an amendment back in 1919 to make the production, transportation or sale of alcohol illegal, and Congress passed a law in 1920 making the possession and consumption of alcohol illegal.

While both aspects of the legislation were violated in a pretty massive fashion, no one ever suggested that the executive should ignore the existence of the law, or that no attempt to enforce the law should be made. Certainly no one ever suggested that any state could pass a law making alcohol sale, possession and consumption legal and that the federal government should overlook and allow that. By 1933 voters had pressured lawmakers to repeal the almost universally unpopular federal law. All of that was consistent with what the founders, I think, had in mind as to what they had set up for governance in this nation.

Then in 1970 Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act which, among other things, classified marijuana as an addictive drug and made production, transportation, sale, possession or consumption of it illegal. More and more people, voters, are objecting to that law, but instead of agitating for the repeal of that federal law, they are insisting that they can pass state laws making it legal and that the president should simply not enforce the federal law.

I am actually sort of neutral on the legalization of marijuana. The evidence seems to be that it is actually somewhat less dangerous than alcohol. If nothing else, withdrawal from excessive use of marijuana is not medically dangerous, while alcohol withdrawal can cause death. Don’t know, and don’t really care. My point here is about governance.

President Obama announced that he considered marijuana to be a state issue and that he would direct the Justice Department not to interfere with states which had declared marijuana to be legal. In doing so he was actively renouncing his constitutional responsibility to enforce federal law, and he was widely applauded for doing so. If any voice was raised criticizing him for violating his oath of office, I never read it.

Then President Trump rescinds that directive and directs the Justice Department to enforce federal law. He is excoriated by the same media and the same people for following his constitutional mandate to enforce federal law as applauded President Obama for renouncing that mandate.

Nowhere is any call made upon Congress to change that part of the Controlled Substances Act which relates to marijuana. The media is, big time, all over whether or not the Executive Branch should enforce the federal law on marijuana use. The discussion, under the false umbrella of "states rights," is not about whether or not the federal law should exist, it is about whether or not it should be enforced, which is utterly nonsensical.

So what we had in the 1930’s was that a law which was unpopular resulted in the voters putting pressure on the legislature to change the law. Today we have an unpopular law resulting in voters putting pressure on the executive to violate his constitutional duty by failing to enforce the law. Voters, apparently, realize that they not only do not control Congress, they do not even have any influence with Congress.

Or perhaps the whole thing is just hollow drumbeat to popularize one president and, more to the point, to depopularize another one, and no one really cares whether federal laws are enforced or not. In either case, it’s pretty clear that what our founders created is no longer functional.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Tweeting For Change

John Dean tweeted today, “Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, is more important in 2018 than taking the US House from the GOP, and beginning the end of Trump’s horrific presidency. The well being of the nation depends on it. Don’t let a day pass without doing some act to help Democrats win control.”

It is worth noting that if you change one name, this would fit well for Democrats in 2002 after Bush was elected, and for Republicans in 2010 after Obama was elected. (“Our duty is to make sure Obama is a one term president.”) In both cases the opposing party did gain majorities, in both houses, and in both cases it changed nothing.

It’s also worth noting that both presidents, in 2004 & 2012, were reelected.

The Democrats might gain control of one or both houses in this year’s midterm election. Any bets on what it will actually change?

"Tweeting," forsooth. I would be intellectually embarrassed to discuss that I relied upon a "twitter" account to communicate in any dimension, given that "twittering" is what we used to accuse brainless adolescent females of doing. Brainlessness is no longer limited to adolescent females.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Dean Baker Does It Again

Dean Baker’s Tuesday column proves once again my theory that studying economics in college causes brain damage, when he says that this nation’s cuts in economic support to the United Nations were a waste of time because doing so didn’t really save us any significant amount of money.

He’s obviously not a parent. When you dock a kid’s allowance, do you calculate how much money that is going to save you?

He references a New York Times article which informs that a cut of $1.2 billion amounted to 22% of the UN operating budget, and that another cut constituted 28.5% of the UN’s budget for peacekeeping operations, which calculates to a cut of $1.94 billion. From that, a reader whose brain was intact could derive the information that Trump’s punitive cuts to the United Nations for its votes on the Jerusalem issue, no matter how ill advised, was fairly effective punishment.

Dean Baker, whose brain is clearly not intact, was critical of the Times for not telling their readers that the cuts of “slightly less than $3.1 billion” amounted to a mere 0.08% of federal spending. I’m not sure I trust the percentage, since he clearly is not a mathematician: the total of the cuts he cites comes to $3.14 billion, which is slightly more than $3.1 billion.

I’m surprised he didn’t related it to GDP, and I suspect he tried to but came up with a few thousandths of one percent and didn’t know how to express that in print. 1.65e-4% would be even less understandable to readers than… Readers would simply think his calculator blew up, and he’s talking about “informing readers.”

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Good Thinking

The NFL rearranged the schedule for the last week of the season, putting all games which involve teams "in the playoff hunt" in the 4:30pm EST time slot so that no team will know, as they begin their game, whether or not they are still alive in the playoffs.

Nice thought, but it screws the fans, because it means that any fan who wants to watch more than one of those meaningful games, or two by means of recording one of them, cannot do so because all seven of the games are at the same time and they are all carried between only two networks.

Good work. The NFL, as always, is putting the fans last.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Morning

from spaceThis may not seem impressive, but in San Diego we usually either have a "marine layer," which is a solid cloud layer, or the wind is offshore, in which case there are no clouds at all. In either case sunrise is, to say the least, unimpressive. So Molly and I had a nice treat this morning while the wife slept in.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Stealing The Game

The Pittsburg Steelers lost the game today because of an utterly ridiculous call by the officials with 13 seconds remaining in the game. The Pittsburg receiver caught a pass on the one-yard line, went to his knees, rotated his body, reached the ball across the goal line, placed the ball on the ground and let go of it. The officials ruled it an incomplete pass because the reception "did not survive contact with the ground."

The rule that this idiot was referring to requires the receiver to "make a football move" before losing control of the ball, either by contact with the ground or from a defender, or to make contact with the ground with any part of his body other than a hand or foot while in control of the ball, for it to be ruled as a completed pass. Apparently this official did not consider rotating one's body and reaching the ball across the goal line to be "a football move," nor did he consider both knees to be a "part of the body other than a hand or foot."

Actually, by another rule, once the ball crosses the goal line in an offensive player's control, which it very clearly did in this case, it is a touchdown no matter what happens to it afterward. Apparently the official is unaware of that rule.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Off-Season Quickie

I'm not sure I want to mention "quickie" and Danica Patrick in the same article, but this piece doesn't have a whole lot to say. Danica announced that she would exit the stage by racing at the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 next year, but named neither sponsor or car owner at the time. There now seems to be a problem. Only two owners have cars in both races. Penske immediately sent a message to Ganassi saying that he hoped Ganassi would enjoy the 2018 experience with Patrick, and now her negotiations with Ganassi seem to be on the rocks.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Quick Question

Do you think the tax bill would pass without all this sexual misconduct?

Two months ago, in an online discussion, I remarked that all of the hand wringing over the proposed tax bill was uncalled for because it could never pass in anything like its then-present form. I submit that the comment was entirely correct, given the circumstances at the time.

The great lie of Russian interference in the election had been repeated often enough that everyone believed it, but no one really cared any more because the "magic bullet" that proved that Trump had participated with the Russians in corrupting the elections, or that he was the Manchurian Candidate, had never materialized. The media had given it one last shot with a memo that he supposedly received about Wikileaks documents ten days before they were released, but after a couple days of hyperventilation it turned out he got the email, along with several million other people, four days after they were released.

So now we have this tidal wave of accusations of sexual misbehavior. They've been around for years, of course; Bill Cosby comes to mind. But now we have a tidal wave. Every day there are one or two new ones. Politicians, newsmen, football players, media stars, actors, journalists, chefs... And who is on the tail end of that parade? You got it, The ones who accused Trump early in the campaign and were ignored are back making the same accusations, but in this climate they are being taken very seriously indeed.

And because of this distraction, the tax bill, which I said two months ago could not pass, is going to pass into law before the end of the year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Eternal Question

Dean Baker is at it again, saying that the claims of employers that there is a shortage of skilled workers is nonsense because, “there are always workers with the necessary skills — they just might work for competitors or in another city,” and that all an employer needs to do is offer higher wages in order to lure those workers away from those competitors and other cities.

He offers no evidence for his statement, of course, let alone proof, but we'll let that go and proceed with our argument based on the accuracy of his unsupported allegation, unlikely as it may be.

So if you have an shortage of gas in the form of a 20-gallon tank with only 10 gallons in it and I have a full 20-gallon gas tank, all we have to do is siphon half of the gas from my tank to yours and the gasoline shortage is over, right? Because you now have 20 gallons of gas and I have…

Oh wait, something went wrong. There’s still the same shortage of gasoline, but it’s just in a different place. I now have it instead of you.

Only an economist would come up with the utterly stupid idea that you solve a shortage by moving that which is in short supply from one user to another. Which raises the eternal question. Do only idiots become economists, or does becoming an economist cause normal people to turn into idiots?