Thursday, August 28, 2014

This Is Getting Ridiculous

The college football season kicks off tonight, with Texas A&M taking on South Carolina, so I look to see what channel the will be on. Neither team plays in the Pac-12, so I don't have to worry about the game being on that new silly-ass Pac-12 channel.

Seems I spoke too soon. The game in on the SEC channel, because now the Southeast Conference also has its own television network. So where is that silly thing on the 1800 channels on my stupid Cox list of channels? Or is it even there at all? Yes, it's three numbers away from the Pac-12 channel, at number 1316, and yes, it is high-def.

At least my beloved LSU Tigers will meet Wisconsin on a real network Saturday night. I will have to record it, though, because I will be in Fontana, watching the Indycar season finale live.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mission Creep

According to The Guardian last Saturday, US officials have said that there is now a “new context” for confronting Isis…following the beheading of US journalist James Foley.”

Of course there is a “new context” for expanding violence. America will always have a “new context” for expanding the scope of our infliction of death and destruction.

The original air strikes in Iraq were, according to Obama, in pursuit of an “extremely limited objective to protect lives” in Erbil and tens of thousands on Mt. Sinjar who were in eminent danger of being massacred, and he assured us that there would be no “mission creep.” Turns out the numbers on Mt. Sinjar were more than a little bit exaggerated, as was the threat and immediacy of massacre.

Then there was a “new context” in the need to assist in the retaking of the Mosul dam. Then we needed to “do something” about the killing of James Foley because his beheading was so much more painful than is the peaceful and painless death which we inflict, often on women and children, by means of Hellfire missiles.

So now we need to entirely destroy the Islamic State forces before they develop a “safe haven” from which they can “launch major attacks upon America,” but we are told that the White House is dithering with a “mounting concern” over “how to target Sunni extremists without helping President Bashar Assad” because Obama is “is loath to be seen as aiding the Syrian government, even inadvertently.”

This is a real conundrum, isn’t it? Two forces are fighting each other. One of them is headed by a “evil dictator” who you have declared has “lost his legitimacy,” is a threat to your allies in the region and must step down. You have taken the position that this guy must go and you are not going to back down from it.

The other is a group which you have defined as an existential threat to yourself. You must destroy this force or risk your own destruction, but doing so risks helping the guy that you have said is evil and must go.

Perhaps the problem lies in the way that you have defined the two forces.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hypersonic Spin

Writers who are unfailingly loyal to Danica Patrick are having to resort to desperate measures to write positive things about her. I cracked up at the phrasing of this one,

"Though Patrick would fall another few laps behind, she was able to drive her way back into the top 30 by the time the checkered flag flew."

That means, actually, that several cars running in front of her crashed.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

NFL Fantasy Football

ESPN provides projections of the fantasy points expected for each player in the league, but I'm not sure how seriously we should be taking thses projections when forming our teams. Like most fortune telling schemes, there are inconsistencies.

They project only 84 points for Antonio Gates, for instance, because they say that the Chargers have essentially replaced him with the younger and now seasoned Ladarius Green. For Green, however, they project only 82 points because they say he will be playing in the shadow of the veteran Gates. That's sort of like saying that you can't have your cake because you've alread eaten it, and then in the next breath saying that you can't eat your cake because you don't have it yet.

On the other hand, the two of them add up to 166 points, which is about right for one really good tight end. So maybe each guy will play half of the time and they have it right. I'm no fortune teller either.

They also project 153 points for Johhny Manziel, which is only going to happen if he is awarded 25 points for each concussion and 80 points for a broken leg.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Things That Are Obvious

Hillary Clinton will run unopposed in the 2016 primary election because everyone is afraid to oppose her. The Clintons are famous for punishing anyone who runs against them and no one ever dares to do so.

That is, of course, why Hillary Clinton won the primary election in 2008.

Missing The Point

I watch Grey’s Anatomy and enjoy it, but I wouldn’t say it is my favorite program. I also like the character played by Jesse Williams although, again, not really my favorite. I think I will like him better next season after watching Jesse Williams speak with such elegantly restrained anger on the issues reflected in Ferguson, MO recently.

What’s interesting is that his line that “the media starts in the middle of the story” has caught people’s imagination and, in a masterpiece of irony, every film clip I can find of his discussion on CNN starts with him speaking that line, which is in the middle of what he has to say and misses the very important beginning. His whole point goes something like this:

“When a white kid shoots up a school,” he says, the media discusses the kid for days in terms of background. “We go back to the day of his birth,” Jesse says, “We have to understand him.” (emphasis his) But in a case like what happened at Ferguson Jesse says, in the line that has become famous, “the media starts in the middle of the story, which is a black kid shot in the street.”

He makes a very powerful point, diminished significantly when you leave out the first part of it. I have long asserted that we should not even know the name of the “white kid who shot up a school,” let alone spend days in this ghoulish analysis of his psyche, and Jesse’s point is profound. We know the shooter’s inner workings, but as to “the black kid shot in the street,” we don’t even know what his hobbies were.

And even when people hear Jesse Williams talk about the racist attitude in media they focus on one line, miss the meaning of it and, in discussing what he has to say about the media reporting half the story, they talk about half of what he has to say.

Racism is alive and well, thriving in America.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Things that make sense (?)

Warnings on the prescription bottle for Ambien, which is a sleeping pill, include one which says, "May cause drowsiness." Really? One actually would hope so.

Unreasoned Discourse

I have now come across three “liberal blogs” which gleefully reference the same AP article claiming that health insurance companies are finding ways around the new “health care reform” laws to “discriminate against the sick” or to “discriminate against those with chronic health conditions.” I am not going to quote at length from the article, but it consists of nothing other than vague accusations and statements which sound like accusations but actually are not.

It refers, for instance, to “the narrow networks of hospitals and doctors that insurers are using to keep premiums down,” which is untrue & nonsensical.

The actuality of networks is that insurance companies set payment levels for the plans to keep costs down, just as Medicare does. Medical providers are then invited to participate in the plans and decide for themselves whether or not they want to do so. Many decline because the payment levels are not high enough to suit them. "Narrow networks" are the result of choices by medical providers, not by insurance companies. If your doctor is not in the network it is because he wants to be paid more than that network is paying. Some doctors also refuse to accept Medicare.

At one point the article goes off its “attack the insurance industry” track, attacking the law itself to claim that, “The law also takes away some of the motivation insurers have for chasing healthy patients.” Of course one of the major and most controversial aspects of the law is that healthy people have to sign up whether they want to or not and, a minor point, the term "healthy patients" makes no sense. By the definition of “patient,” a healthy person is not a patient.

One of my favorite little pieces of nonsensicality is where a state insurance commissioner is quoted as saying that, “the federal government should establish a basic level of protection that states can build on,” which the ACA actually does. Remember the flap about plans being cancelled because they did not meet the minimum standards set by the ACA? This is an insurance commissioner criticizing the federal government for not doing something which it is doing in the new legislation that is the topic of his current discussion.

Liberals like to say that those who attack the “health care reform” law have to resort to false and incoherent arguments in order to do so, but here is a case where an attack dog is using the same tactics to attack the insurance industry. Have we completely lost our ability to engage in reasoned and reasonable debate?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Truism

I forget who it was who said that, "It is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." I have not had much to say about the Chargers because it is still preseason, but the San Diego Union-Tribune sports writers have not been quite as circumspect.

On Thursday one of them was comparing this year's team to the "Air Coryell" era, because they won their first preseason game against Dallas the preceeding week; a team which has the league's worst defense. On Friday the Chargers lost to Seattle 41-14. During the time that the starters were playing the Chargers lost 24-0.

I'm still not saying much about the Chargers, because it's still preseason.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Atlantic Interview

Consensus on Clinton after her Atlantic interview seems to be that she is being “disloyal to Obama” in being critical of his policy in Syria. I’m not sure why anyone would think that she owes him any particular loyalty at this point, and my take is that the interview actually highlights the loyalty which she demonstrated during her tenure as Secretary of State, a period during which she did owe him loyalty.

Clearly, we now know, she disagreed with him very sharply over how he was handling the civil war in Syria, but having failed to sell him on her preferred policy, she kept her disagreement to herself and carried out the policy set by her boss. One has to rather admire that kind of political maturity.

Not that I found anything to admire in the content of the Atlantic interview. Her hawkish positions on Syria and Iran utterly appall me, and I find her desire to turn the United States into a vassal of Israel seriously disturbing. The whole thing added to my already rather strong impression that having her as president would be a dismal and utterly depressing experience.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Yes! Absolutely

programmerOnly a computer programmer can truely appreciate this. It had me rolling on the floor today.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Insanity Abounds

The amount of nonsense being promoted by our government and the media over this business in Iraq is simply mindboggling, and nobody calls bullshit on any of it.

Obama is demanding that Nuri al-Maliki step down before he will commit to engaging against the “Islamic State” forces, another of America’s endless “regime change” demands in the Middle East. So while we claim in our own elections that we should not change our president (or presidential party) in the middle of a foreign war, we demand that Iraq should do a regime change while engaged in a war on their own territory. The logic, or lack thereof, of that is simply awesome.

Meanwhile we are bombing our own military equipment in northern Iraq; equipment which we gave to Iraq to make it safer and which we are now destroying in order to make Iraq safer. It would be cheaper to simply blow that shit up here at home where we manufacture it. Would doing that also make Iraq safer?

The Washington Post tells us that Kurdish forces have retaken two towns in northern Iraq “in the wake of U.S. airstrikes on the towns.” This is in line with the American practice of “we had to destroy the village in order to save it” which so endears us to indigenous populations.

It also tells us in the same article that our demand for regime change is not going well, as Nuri al-Maliki is staging what amounts to a military coup in Baghdad, flooding the city with heavily armed troops loyal to him, including the American Green Zone.

The media has also been presenting our air mission as having stopped the Islamic State forces in their tracks and saved Baghdad and all of the cities in northen Iraq from harm. People who know better tell us that it has done nothing of the sort, and that F/A-18s flying in pairs off of a single carrier are grossly insufficient to the task.

Obama assured us that our mission in Iraq would not involve "boots on the ground" and then justifies the air attacks by saying that they are protecting our diplomats and troops in Irbil. He has withdrawn the diplomats but not, apparently, the troops, who are "military advisors." (Remember Vietnam?) Perhaps these troops are wearing tennis shoes.

He also has been assuring us that any engagement in Iraq will be “very limited” in nature, then turns around and tells us that the air attacks will be going on for a very long time. In other words we will be performing a limited mission for an unlimited time, which is a contradiction in terms.

Of course, contradictions in terms are Obama’s specialty.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

"The Look"

MollyMolly continues to do well on a regimen of two pills and a shot given twice daily, alomg with subcutaneous fluid once per day. She doesn't seem to mind any of this except the last, which she doesn't much like but normally tolerates quite peacefully.

Yesterday when the young lady came to do the sub-q fluid Kathy sort of rushed to get Molly, which caused her to freak and run under the bed. Naturally, I was appointed to pull her out, since women will always look to the man of the house to perform the hazardous duty. So I'm putting her in the place where the sub-q fluid is done and Molly is giving me "the look."

This is something that cats can do and dogs cannot. Dogs have to show teeth and/or lay their ears back, but cats can do it merely with "the look." Her ears are not back, no teeth are showing, but her eyes are unmistakably telling you that she is planning your imminent death. Navy Seals have been known to say, "Oh hell no, this is your cat," and back away from that look.
I am no Navy Seal, but Molly and I have a relationship so I stood fast, the fluid treatment proceeded and no blood was shed. I did breathe easier afterward.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Immortal Question

Question: How many Chargers defensive players does it take to tackle one opponent? Answer: Too many. At least one whiff precedes any actual tackle. Sheesh. Some things never change.

Update, Saturday night: Question #2, How is Danica going to do her usual routine of "advancing to the rear" when she is starting 43rd?

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Bashing Russia

For some reason Obama is going out of his way to be insulting and rude to Russia. After referring to it as a “regional power” which didn’t want to go to war with us because we have a bigger army a couple of weeks ago, he spoke to the issue again last weekend in an interview with the Economist.

"I do think it's important to keep perspective. Russia doesn't make anything," Obama said. "Immigrants aren't rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking."

The first thing that popped into mind when I read that is that we have been having to depend on Russia to carry our astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station for some years now because they still make space vessels and we do not. Something that fewer people know, but which I’m sure Obama does, is that when we want to launch satellites we have to buy rocket motors from Russia for our launch vehicles, because they make very good rocket motors and we don’t make them at all.

Russia is also second only to the US in the manufacture of weaponry. Add $8 billion in exports of machinery and $5 billion in electronic equipment exports, and it’s kind of hard to see that “Russia doesn’t make anything.”

According to Wikipedia, Russia has 300,000 legal immigrants each year and about four million illegal immigrants. Pretty small numbers compared to the United States, but it rather puts the lie to “Immigrants aren’t rushing…”

Life expectancy of the Russian male is 65.1 and rising faster than ours.

The population of Russia stopped shrinking in 2009, and has grown every year since then. The number of people living in poverty in Russia declined from 40% in 1999 to 13% in 2010, a 67% decrease, compared to a 44% increase in this country; from 32 million to 46 million.

I don’t know which would dismay me more greatly; that our president is that ignorant, or that he is that much of a liar, and such an unskilled liar to boot.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Finland?

What do you get when you cross Finland, Bluegrass, hillbillies, and the hard rock band ACDC? You get this. Who could have guessed that there was a guy in Finland who know how to play spoons?


Monday, August 04, 2014

Excuses Abound

USA Today has a headline reading “Tire problems derail Patrick, Johnson at Pocono” today. I’m not sure if they didn’t watch the race or, perhaps, merely do not know what constitutes a “tire problem.” Even what they write does not constitute a tire problem for NASCAR’s queen of hyperbole.

“Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet smacked the wall as she exited turn 2 on lap 14,” they write, “before a severe tire rub led to a flat right-rear on the next lap.” That, dear readers, is not a tire problem. That is a “gratuitously hitting the wall” problem, otherwise known in sports as an “unforced error.”

They quote Danica Patrick as saying after the race that “I just wish I would have been smart enough to bring our GoDaddy Chevy to pit lane as soon as it happened.” I will not go into my opinion of her intelligence here, but her crew wishes she would have brought the car into the pits on the next lap, too, as they were screaming at her on the radio for the entire lap for her to do precisely that. Intelligence had nothing to do with it, all she needed to do was be able to follow instructions.

The article finishes by noting that she also “had a gear problem at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and finished 42nd.” Her gear problem at Indy was pretty much like her tire problem at Pocono; she dumped the clutch before the crew dropped the jack during a pit stop, and when the wheel spinning under power hit the pavement it broke a rear end gear.

Danica Patrick is not particularly impressive, but the people making excuses for her are awesome.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

"Fullest Confidence"

We tend to forget that the functional title of our president is “chief executive” of the nation. His job is to assure that the giant enterprise which is our nation’s government functions on a day-to-day basis, and no president has actually performed a supervisory role in governance with anything like success since Lyndon Baines Johnson, or even really attempted to do so.

At least before Obama when there was a massive failure in a government department there would be firings of the department heads and Cabinet members, but in the Obama administration we get instead that the President “has the fullest confidence” in the heads of the offending departments and nothing more than promises of “investigations.”

John Brennan headed the CIA when it hacked into and spied on the United States Senate, and then he lied to Congress about it while under oath to tell the truth, and yet President Obama “has the fullest confidence” in him and plans to keep him in his present position indefinitely. God help us all.

Informing The Public

Dean Baker accuses the New York Times of “frat boy reporting” in its article regarding the VA spending bill because they give the amount of the bill as $17 billion which he says is “presenting readers with really big numbers which mean almost nothing to any of them.” He “corrects” that problem by telling his readers that $17 billion amounts to “approximately 0.45 percent of annual spending,” which I regard as giving his readers tiny little numbers which mean very little more to them than do the big numbers provided by the New York Times.

What really matters is not what percentage of government spending that $17 billion amounts to, but rather to what degree it solves the problem. If spending 0.45% of the annual budget on the issue solves the problem, then it hardly makes sense to spend more than that, so telling us what percentage of the budget is being expended is no more informative than is giving us the amount of the expenditure.

The point he wants to make is whether or not the expenditure is major in terms relative to our national spending, but that is a minor point, and by saying that the amount means “almost nothing to any of them” he sort of insults the readers. The number will certainly be meaningless to some readers, but most readers who follow politics, even casually, will be able to put that number into context fairly readily.

What matters in terms of real national interest is whether or not we are solving the problem at the Veterans Administration, and examining the size of the expenditure does not answer that. We should be asking about the size of the expenditure relative to the size of the problem at the VA. Is it large enough to solve the problem? Knowing that it is 0.45% of spending tells us no more about that than does knowing that it is $17 billion.

He does make a valid point in saying that the article fails to say whether the expenditure is for one year or for multiple years, but even there his point is weak because the nature of the need is not made clear either. He is asking about the expenditure, but is not asking if the need is a one-time need or one which is ongoing, and to what degree that need is being met by the bill.

It’s also a bit odd that Baker can tell us what percentage of annual spending the bill amounts to while complaining that “the time period is certainly not clear from this article.” He asserts that $17 billion is “0.45% of annual spending,” regardless of whether that amount is spent in two years or is spread out over ten years. Rather strange math.

At any rate, "providing information to the readers" would really consist of comparing the spending amount to the problem, not to the national budget, and telling the public how far the amount being spent goes toward solving the problem, so in actuality Dean Baker is being no more informative than is the New York Times.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Unwillingness to Criticize

On the face of the two political parties are highly critical of each other. Democrats rant at great length about Republican obstruction, and Republicans call Democrats “socialists,” but it’s all window dressing. There’s a lot of name calling and charges over trivia, but never any real, serious accusations of wrong doing or inability at governance.

Even the current nonsensical impeachment talk is about “border security” issues and not over several real issues that could be used such as declaring war in Libya, changing the “health care reform” law in several substantive ways, civil liberty issues or his policy of assassination.

Every president has administrative issues, but Obama has set records. The Obamacare website was budgeted for $56 million, cost $209 million and still was not functional when it rolled out. Fixing it was supposed to cost $91 million, more than the original cost, but wound up costing more than $175 million. In 2012, $7 billion of the $10.5 billion spent in Afghanistan was wasted. Massive problems at the VA have been being covered up, and now $17 billion is needed merely to put a patch on the problem.

Republicans should be making a major issue about this, campaigning on it in fact, but they are not because they know that when they regain power they will do precisely the same thing.

The problem is not that “big government doesn’t work,” but that neither party is able to make it work because they are not interested in governance. They are interested only in maintaining their own party’s hold on power. The time that Obama spent on fundraising trips could have been more profitably spent making sure than the VA, DOD and Health Department were being properly supervised, but he was too concerned about being sure that his party had enough money to buy the upcoming elections to properly supervise the Executive Branch.

That’s not to criticize Obama, because he did not spend any more time on fundraising trips than did George Bush before him, and Bill Clinton before him. The president’s primary function is to serve as the head of his political party, and only secondarily is he the chief executive of the nation which elected him to office.

The idea that a nation with 3.8 million square miles and 317 million people needs a “small government” is absurd, and big government not only does work, it is absolutely necessary. It needs to be staffed, however, by people who care about governance and not about partisan power.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Another Economist

Some dude in the Wall Street Journal has written a piece on “Nine Reasons To Love Your Mortgage.” It doesn’t give his resume or CV, so we don’t know his qualifications, but he must be an economist, because he knows nothing whatever about finance.

1. “It's your cheapest way to borrow,” he says, which actually makes sense but would be a bit more logical if he didn’t start by saying that, “I'm not crazy about carrying debt.”
2. “It's a negative bond,” which seems to me like a bad thing and not a reason to “love it.” He pretty much confirms that thought by saying that “it might make sense to sell bonds to pay down your mortgage.” That’s hardly something you would do if you “loved your mortgage.”
3. “It leverages your entire financial life,” hanging like a financial anchor over every investment you want to make, every financial plan you have, every… Seriously?
4. “It's a backup source of emergency money,” which is where the nitwit doesn’t know the difference between the mortgage and the property which is secured by the mortgage. One can get some extra money from the equity in one’s home if the mortgage is low enough and is one can show ability to repay, but one cannot get extra money from the mortgage itself. And if you lose your job, good luck borrowing additional money against your house.
5. “It makes inflation your friend,” because inflation makes the price of your house increase forever and ever, amen. First of all, that has nothing to do with the mortgage. Secondly, a lot of people found out in 2008 that that theory is bullshit.
6. “It lets you profit from falling interest rates,” by playing the refinance game, except that eventually it no longer works.
7. “It's an effective way to build wealth,” which is a redux of #5 and was debunked in 2008.
8. “It's your default investment.” How many investments need to be repaired to the tune of $14,000 that you just spent for that new roof?

The last one is the zaniest one yet, equating to the insane guy who said that he was beating his head against the brick wall because it felt so good when he stopped doing it.

9. “Paying it off can drastically reduce your cost of living.” Not having it at all would have allowed you to have the lower cost of living to begin with.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

California Water, Part 2

I’m still pondering the severity of our water crisis compared to 1977, when things were so bad, apparently, that one could be fined for failing to capture and reuse the condensation from one’s air conditioner and a green plant in your yard was a hanging offense. According to the twit from the water department, we aren’t in that bad of a condition this time around.

Bruce commented that we have supposedly learned to use less water per capita, which is a good point. Hizzonner the governor says we have a goal of using 20% less water per person, but I’m not sure than anyone thinks we’ve met that goal. The water bill for my HOA has gone from $1500/mth ten years ago to $5000/mth now and we have exactly the same lawn area that we did ten years ago. I have been agitating to reduce lawn area and relandscape to lower water usage and have done nothing other than make myself unpopular.

According to the best numbers I can come up with, we had 88 km3 of water in storage for each one million population in 1977, which was regarded as disastrous and required that all green landscapes be allowed to die. If we have, as Bruce suggests, learned to use 20% less water, then a comparable number today would be 70 km3 per one million people, but we don’t even have that. What we have today is 56 km3 per one million people.

If that doesn’t qualify and an “oh shit” moment, I don’t know what does.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Making Things Up

CBS Evening News is always good for some light entertainment. They said last night that Russia is providing heavy weapons to the Ukrainian rebels and that the equipment is “identical to the equipment used by the Ukraine army so that the rebels can claim they captured it.” Let’s think that concept through for a moment.

A third party is trying to determine where the equipment came from and is told by the rebels that, “No, Russia didn’t give these tanks to us, we captured them from the Ukraine army last week.” So the third party goes to the Ukraine army and asks, “Hey guys, are you missing any tanks?”

The minute that the Ukraine army says, “No, we aren’t missing any fucking tanks,” the jig is going to be up on that little story about where the tanks came from. Somebody is making shit up, and if it isn’t CBS News then they are incredibly gullible.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

California Water Wars

Lying and distorting facts is not limited to the federal government; state government can come up with some real gems of altered reality too. From the Los Angeles Times we get an article headlined “Major California reservoirs below 50% capacity as drought wears on,” in which California Department of Water Resources spokesman Ted Thomas says that, “When all 12 of the major reservoirs are combined, the average is at 60%.”

Here are the twelve major reservoirs and the current status for each.

I don't know where the water department twit gets that 60%, because if you take the average for each lake, add them together and divide by twelve, you get 40% which is nowhere near the 60% he apparently pulled out of his ass.

But even if it did come to 60% or somewhere close to it, it would not tell a true story, because the size of the reservoirs makes a lot of difference, and California's reservoirs vary enormously in size. When you have a tiny little reservoir that is 90% full, and a monstrous big reservoir that is 10% full, they do not average out to give you 50% of your water capacity.

If you look at the our major reservoirs, the biggest reservoirs are at 36%, 37% and 26% full, while down in the southern part of the state Pyramid Lake is at 92% of its teacup-sized capacity. If you add up the total capacities and the total contents, the total percentage of water stored in those "12 major reservoirs" is only 36% of the total capacity.

Ted Twit Thomas goes on to say that “That's puts the state in a far better position than it was 37 years ago, when a crippling drought brought the statewide reservoir average down to 41%.” Well, it would if his 60% was an actual number rather than an imaginary one, but in this universe 36% is actually less than 41%.

Not that it really matters, because he’s actually saying something to the effect of “my apple is better than your orange” because the reservoir capacity and population are both just a little bit different now than they were 37 years ago. The population in 1977 was in the close vicinity of 20 million and is about 38 million today, so it has grown something like 90% in the past 37 years. The reservoir capacity has grown from 4300 km3 in 1977 to about 6000 km3 today, or about 40% growth in the same period.

So, to recap, we have 36% of a capacity which has grown 40% to serve a population which has grown 90% but we are in better shape now than we were when we had 41% of capacity back then. Brilliant.

Ivory Tower Economics

Here’s a sterling example of the manner in which economists are disconnected from the real world. They sit in their ivory towers and totally ignorant as to how real people live, and therefor do not have the slightest clue of what they are talking about. Dean Baker is talking today about the “wealth effect” of housing on consumer spending, and he says,

If a homeowner owed $100,000 on a home whose price dropped from $300,000 to $200,000 (leaving them with $100,000 in equity), we would expect them to cut back annual consumption on average by between $5,000 and $7,000.

Oh really? Why would you expect that, Dean, and why that amount?

The “we” there is presumably him and Paul Krugman, because any person who works for wages and owns a house with such a mortgage would not really expect that homeowner’s consumption to change at all. Those of us who live in the real world know that the equity in our homes cannot be spent until we take that equity out of our homes. I have no earthly idea where Baker gets the idea that someone will spend $5000 to $7000 more per year, regardless of income, simply because of untapped equity in his house.

My wife and I may or may not be typical, probably aren’t, but the equity in our home went from about $50,000 when we bought it, to about $400,000 at the peak of the market, and then down to about $280,000 at the 2008 slump. Want to know how much our spending habits changed throughout those fluctuations? Right. Zilch.

The “wealth effect” of overvalued houses was not that people would spend a lot of money merely because they had a high-priced house, as Dean Baker seems to think. The effect was caused by people taking that equity out of their houses in the form of refinancing and second mortgages and using that money for consumer spending.

The reduction of spending when home values collapsed was not due to some sort of psychological trauma inflicted on the homeowners involved; it was the result of there being no more equity available to take out in the form of spendable cash. If Dean Baker would come out of his ivory tower and meet some real people, he would know that.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Helpless Little Children?

I keep seeing claims that humanitarian concerns demand that we shelter and take in these 52,000 children at our border because they are "helpless little kids." Really? These kids travelled more than a thousand miles through rather hostile climate on their own, riding freight trains and foraging for food. There are one hell of a lot of American adults who could not accomplish that. Whatever these kids are, "helpless" they are not.

Maybe we should take them in, maybe not, but let's not play silly word games.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Detroit Water Wars, Part 2

I do not advocate the water should be shut off to those who legitimately cannot pay their bill. What I am saying in my earlier post is that liberal arguments against such shutoffs are hypocritical and bogus. Relief for such homeowners should be provided as part of a taxpayer funded safety net on the same basis as extended unemployment relief. Government should provide assistance on the same basis that it assists with payment for food and, with the new "health care reform," for health insurance.

The argument that the city, or any other service provider, should continue to provide service without the customer paying for that service is absurd. That they receive assistance in making that payment is entirely reasonable, but let's quit making the case for this being a nation that insists on free lunch

Detroit Water Wars

The people, and unions, in Detroit voted in favor of the “grand bargain” in resolving the city’s bankruptcy, resulting in reduced pensions and retiree healthcare benefits. I don’t have any real opinion on that because the published arguments have not included any actual numbers, but I have been following the Detroit “water wars” with some interest.

Seems people in Detroit have not been paying their water bills, which the UN regards as “exorbitant,” and so the city is shutting off water to nonpayers, which the UN says is a “human rights violation” because access to water is a "basic human right." Weird.

My water bill for the past two months was $154.68 in San Diego. The same bill would have been $114.29 in Detroit. There are some very good reasons why water is more costly in San Diego, but I would hardly say that Detroit water rates are “exorbitant.” And, while I can’t argue with the UN that access to water is a basic human right, I don’t think that access to purified water delivered under pressure directly to your home is a basic human right. I think there is a certain amount of hyperbole being engaged in here.

Liberals have mastered the art of inconsistency, and this issue compared to the liberal position on healthcare is a case in point.

For one thing, liberals seem to have missed the point that what is being paid for is not the water, but the services of purifying and delivering the water under pressure to the private homes. Even the UN does not claim that there is any “basic human right” to those services.

Part of the argument for “health care reform” was that the cost of health care was being driven up, causing those who paid for health care to pay higher prices, because of people who did not pay for health care because they did not carry insurance. Liberals subscribed to this argument as much as conservatives did, but in the case of Detroit’s water crisis they do not want to argue that the cost of water delivery is being driven up for people who do pay for it by people who receive water delivery and don't pay for it.

Liberals did not argue that people who could not pay for health care should have their health care paid for by those who could pay for health care, but they are now arguing that Detroit citizens who cannot pay for water delivery should continue to receive it for free, with the service being paid for by higher rates on people who can pay for the service. Hardly what anyone would call consistent.

Further, liberals have had no problem with the solution to the problems caused by people not carrying health insurance being a law that requires them to carry health insurance, albeit with the government picking up part, but not all, of the cost. They do not, however, welcome the solution to Detroit’s water crisis being to require people who are not paying for water delivery to actually pay for water delivery.

This despite the fact that even if the city stops delivering it, those people can still have all the water they want. They just have to go down to the river and get it for themselves, and then boil it before they drink it. Which people did for centuries before Detroit began the delivery service.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

We Don't Need No Steenkin Proof

From the Wall Street Journal today, "U.S. officials say they now suspect that Russia supplied the rebels with multiple SA-11 antiaircraft systems." (emphasis mine) The officials are, of course, not named, the basis for their suspicion is not provided, and evidence is entirely absent. They could as easily report that "A California blogger suspects that the airliner in question was shot down by space aliens."

It goes on the say that "U.S. officials believe the systems were moved back across the border into Russia following the shoot down of the jetliner." Once again the officials are not named, but they are probably the same ones who claimed we didn't find Saddam's weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because he secretly shipped them to Syria before we invaded.

"The assumption is they're trying to remove evidence of what they did," said a senior U.S. official briefed on the latest intelligence.

That's a brilliant deduction, arriving at that conclusion after being told...
Ah, to hell with it. Needless to say, I have a slightly (slightly?) different set of assumptions.

Update: No, I don't actually suspect the airlainer was shot down by space aliens. It just happens to be a suspicion which conveniently suits my agenda of having us not go to war with Russia. The "US officials" are making shit up based on their agenda, which is the opposite of mine.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Maybe Not So New

lego maniaThe “mysterious” Siberian hole is rapidly becoming less and less mysterious as scientists arrive at consensus that it is yet another result of a warming planet. It increasingly appears that frozen underground gas vaporized and popped this hole like a cork popping out of a wine bottle.

What’s interesting to me is what appears near the hole as the helicopter flies over the area. The “mystery” hole is in the upper left, but look in the lower left at what appears to be a perfectly circular water-filled hole. Question. What is the mystery hole going to look like a few dozen years from now, once the “ejecta” has worn away and the hole has filled with water? Right. It’s going to look a whole lot like that circular water hole.

This process may have been going on longer than we know.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

This Is Not "Defending Itself"

There is a quote from Rabble In Arms by Kenneth Roberts that I have cited many times that goes, “They go to war, these young men, not to die for their country, but to place their precious lives between their home and the forces which would destroy it.” The point is that men, and today women, do not fight for abstractions like patriotism or freedom. Dying is not on their agenda. They fight because their homes have been threatened and they are determined to defeat the threat.

For the Palestinians from the West Bank, and especially from Gaza, this quote no longer applies. The “forces that would destroy their homes” has already done so and they no longer have any homes to defend. They have reached a position of such bleak desperation that the only option they have left is to die as visibly as possible to call the world’s attention to the plight of their people. And dying they are; men, women and children.

“WP” writes a brutal history of the Israeli occupation’s treatment of the Palestinians at Sic Semper Tyrannis and describes the current state of that affair. It is not pretty, and he pulls no punches. He says, for instance, that, “people worldwide will increasingly believe that Israel has become a monster nation with no interest in anything except further extermination of the Palestinian people,” a belief that I reached many months ago.

He describes Gaza as, “now a death camp. The Gazaians are on an involuntary diet, subject to a malicious coriander blockade that deprives their entire society of any hope,” and goes on to say that, “Israel bombs and attacks helpless people with impunity, teased on by fireworks rockets that nearly never kill. Truly, Israel plays the role of the ultimate bully.”

I will undoubtedly be called an Anti-Semite for recommending this piece, something which I am not, but I do recommend it. Read the whole thing. It speaks truth to power; power most horribly and brutally abused.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Interesting

alarming headlineInteresting and rather alarming headline on Huffington Post today, and a totally false one. Turns out the article is in reference to the eminemt restart of the Sendai power plant reactors 1 and 2 on the southern tip of Kyushu Island, about 700 miles away from Fukushima.

Update, 7:40am: They have changed the headline. It now reads "Japanese Nuclear Power Plant Deemed Safe By Regulators, Clearing Major Hurdle For Restart."

which catUpdate, 10:00am: They also ran a story about the alarming number of people adopting cheetah cubs as pets, headlining it with a picture of a leopard. Sigh. The comments consisted mostly of an argument about what the picture was, running about half and half cheetah vs. leopard.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wise Gambler

When Kenny Rogers says that "you never count your winnings when you're sitting at the table," he is not talking about a poker game. He's talking about life. If you go through life constantly keeping track of what you have done and what others have done for you, you are not going to live a happy life. You play each hand as it is dealt to you, and enjoy that you are still in the game.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Chopping Onions

If you watch cooking shows you have seen this method for cutting onions. It is, the chef tells us, the only proper way to dice onions, and it is “super easy.” He is full of crap. Making a very similar series of cuts in a different sequence is vastly easier, faster, produces precisely the same results, and presents far less chance of cutting yourself.

First chop off the head of the onion as shown in picture #1, but also chop off the roots in precisely the same way. Chop the onion in half as shown in #3 except, of course, you won’t be cutting through the roots.

Now remove the outer skin from each half of the onion. This is the first part of it being easier, because having cut off the root there’s nothing holding the skin on and it’s a lot easier to remove it. I remove the first layer under the skin as well, since it tends to be a bit tough. Now for the dicing part.

What they show next is a set of horizontal cuts that must be made very carefully because they are being made underneath and very close to your hand, which is flat on top of the onion. Note also that it says, “Try to keep the cuts the same width apart.” Not easy when you can’t see what the hell you’re doing.

A second set of cuts is then made vertically, also with care to keep them carefully the same width apart, and finally a third set of cuts is made across the rest, providing the diced onion. That’s three sets of cuts, two of which need to be made very painstakingly.

Now the better way is to simply make a set of crosscuts, the same direction as the cut you made chopping off the root and head, which result in slices of onion. Hold those slices together as you make the cuts so that they are “flying in formation” when you are done and look like a half onion.

Now turn that assembly 90 degrees and make a series of cuts which result is diced onion. With each cut angle the knife just a bit so that you are making the cut nearly perpendicular to the surface into which the knife is cutting. At the center the knife will be vertical and at each end it will be angled slightly outward.

You now have the same results with only two sets of cuts that the silly chef achieved with three sets of cuts. You didn’t look as good as television, but then you aren’t on television; you are simply making dinner.

Oh yes, how do you avoid tears while chopping onions? Put the onion in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before chopping it.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What's New?

About twenty years ago there was a big thing about “fifty is the new thirty,” which had to do with aging. Since age thirty was in my drinking days and my memory of those days is cloudy at best, I never knew quite what it meant, but I can tell you right now that seventy is not the new fifty.

Today there is “orange is the new black,” and I have no clue what that means. I was in a church the other week and the minister’s outfit still looked black to me, so it’s not that. Maybe we’re supposed to keep an eye peeled overhead for orange helicopters?

Which brings us to “Syria is the new Afghanistan” and, yes, I just made that up based on watching the news and reading newspapers. They are pressing very hard to make us afraid of this new combined force of terrorists named ISIS and the territory they have occupied, which they are referring to as a “safe haven.” They are telling us that this terrorist army can “spread it’s agents throughout Europe and the United States” where they will be able to “mount small attacks,” and that if they maintain this “safe haven” long enough they will be able to use it for “planning 9/11 scale attacks.”

Because “9/11 scale attacks” can only be planned in “safe havens.” They cannot be planned in, say, downtown Hamburg, Germany. Oh, wait. The attack of 9/11 was planned in downtown Hamburg, Germany. And so, of course, we invaded and occupied Afghanistan.

I’m not particularly worried that ISIS is going to build massive airfields in northern Iraq or eastern Syria, from which they will launch massive Trans-Atlantic air strikes against the United States. What I am concerned about is that if enough people talk about a “safe haven” long enough, then Obama will feel compelled to launch another war to “deny them space in which to plan their attacks,” which we have been doing in Afghanistan for more than twelve years now.

Because Syria is, apparently, the new Afghanistan.