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.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Has Anyone Ever Heard This?

CBS Evening News last night said that Gaza "was created in 1949 for the Palestinians after the Israeli war for independence." Has anyone ever heard it called that before? A "war for independence?" Is Isreal now the Middle East version of "American Exceptionalism?"

Fine Lines

From a comment at another venue, in which opinions were being offered on the situation between Israel and the Palestinians, along with commentary as to what America should do about it. As to the last, unfortunately, all too few properly opined that we should do nothing. Anyway, one commenter said to another that,

You should make a number of predictions based on your current knowledge: they will all prove wrong. Why am I certain of that? Because you are describing your own thoughts, not a situation in the actual world. Your hard headed "realism" is actually a reflection of your satisfaction with your own limited thinking.

You and Wolfowitz think alike. His predictions, too, were all wrong.

Write them down, [name omitted]. Write them down before you forget.

I was rolling on the floor. In reality, of course, he describes the nattering of pretty much the entirety of public discourse.

Friday, July 04, 2014

The Usual Numbers

As usual, the only number they showed us was that 288,000 new jobs had been created, and used that number to claim that the economy is gaining speed. If your goal is consumer purchasing power, perhaps that conclusion is a little optimistic.

They did they mention, for instance, that in that same report is a same message that part time jobs, voluntary and involuntary, soared by 1,115,000 in the same month that saw 288,000 new jobs. That means that using the best case scenario in which all of the 288,000 new jobs were full time jobs, then 827,000 other full time jobs became part time jobs. That's roughly equivalent to a loss of 413,500 full time jobs, which outweighs the 288,000 jobs created, and means the job market actually shrank by the equivalent of 125,500 full time jobs.

Because part time does not have the consumer spending power of full time.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Not a "Great Liberal"

Elizabeth Warren is widely hailed as the perfect liberal, or progressive as they are called today, and the ultimate champion for the working class, and a growing number of blog denizens are clamoring for her to run for president in 2016. They claim that she is to the left of the Democratic party and is as much an enemy of the corporate state as you and I are.

I’m somewhat less optimistic. We elected a one-term Senator who had a gift for passionate rhetoric once before, and how did that work out for us?

The latest video making the rounds is one where she “unloads” on Chris Matthews, something that in itself I applaud regardless of who does it. Consensus is that she kills the topic of how we should put the working class back to work, but what I hear from her is a bunch of hackneyed partisan cliches and an avoidance of the actual solution.

First she chants Obama’s mantra about education, but we have a plethora of highly educated unemployed people already, and more education is going to do nothing in terms of putting people back to work. Then she speaks of roads and bridges, another Obama mantra, but her angle is that they are “investments which allow small businesses to grow.” Oh, please. Then she comes to the 1980’s when “Republicans changed the way we manage our economy” and a distorted, abbreviated view of the admittedly nonsensical “trickle down” economic theory, but she omits entirely the Clinton dual policies of “global free market” economics which resulted in our manufacturing jobs being sent overseas and of financial deregulation which began on his watch but which Democrats all blame on George W. Bush.

In rebuttal to his accusations that Democrats have been talking the game but not walking the walk, she goes into a self righteous tirade about how every time Democrats bring up their programs the Republicans claim “there’s no money” to implement those programs and yet Republicans will not “give up those tax loopholes.” What she fails to admit is that Democrats had control of both houses of Congress for four years and did not even make an attempt to get rid of those tax loopholes themselves.

What she fails to face up to is that even when they controlled both houses of Congress they were unable to prevent Republicans from passing their own agenda. Republicans, with a minority in both houses of Congress were able to get their bills passed, and yet Democrats, with a minority in only one house, are unable to pass anything at all.

Warren, like other Democratic politicians, is so blinded by her partisanship that she does not recognize the impact of her own words. “The Republicans are blocking us.” So when the Republicans are in control they get their agenda. When the Democrats are in control the Republicans get their agenda. So, what value does it have to put the Democrats in control?

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Wild Variance

San Diego does not experiance wild swings in its weather this time of year; forecasters actually have a rubber stamp with which they can execute their duty in a matter of seconds and then go to the beach. The ten-day forecast reads "clouds, then sunshine" every day except one, so we are bracing ourselves for a wild weekend. On Saturday we are apparently going to have one of our major weather swings, because for that day they are projecting "clouds giving way to sunshine." I imagine we will be able to cope.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Stock Car Follies

Stock car racing has its clowns and follies, too.

After the first pit stop last night in Kentucky, during which almost everyone got only two tires, Kyle Petty and company went into a couple of dissertations that, even for them, was more than a bit weird. First they focused on Danica Patrick, who had restarted 11th and was running 16th. Kyle opined that the reason was that she had taken four tires and he thought that it "takes longer for those four tires to come in."

I was thinking that was a remarkable example of blowing smoke up our dresses when they next went to Jimmie Johnson, who had gained four positions after the restart. The reason they gave for that gain? You got it: he was one of the ones who had gotten four tires.

These two pieces of commentary came in immediate succession, and were delivered with complete confidence and aplomb. They did not explain why four new tires would cost Danica five positions while gaining four positions for Jimmie, nor did they seem to find anything in the least contradictory or odd about their positions.

They also did not explain, of course, why Danica, after her four tires "came in" continued advancing to the rear, running as low as 29th before finishing in 21st place after several cars ahead of her crashed.

They also spoke at great length about the failure of an air gun during a Jeff Gordon pit stop, and about how crews treat air guns like the crown jewels and such. Two are former drivers and one of them is the greatest crew chief in the history of any form of auto racing (he was described by his associate in the prerace as “America’s Crew Chief”) and none of them asked why no replacement air gun was ready to go when the air gun failed. The crew looked like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off, and it took them almost a full minute to get a replacement air gun ready to go. WTF?

I've seen air guns fail and the guy behind the wall pull it back and toss a replacement in a couple of seconds, and I've never been anything other than a fan. But an observant fan. These announcers were apparently not even watching what they were being paid to announce, because they didn't even notice the total confusion that the pit crew exhibited when the air gun failed, how totally unprepared they were for that event, and that they had no backup air gun ready to go.

These clowns are so clueless regarding the topic they are discussing that maybe they should run for Congress, or perhaps the White House.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Rough Driving

About six times in the Indycar race today one car hit another and caused a wreck. In each case the offending driver was penalized for "making contact," which I thought was rather amusing. The same thing happens about three dozen times during a stock car race, causing the targeted car to wreck about half of the time, and it is written off as "nobody's fault, just hard racing," or "just one of them there racin' deals." The offended driver usually returns the favor in a subsequent race, often with interest. Indycar drivers just whine to the media after the race.

A.J. Foyt, on the other hand, says that "There are a bunch of goddam idiots out there" when his driver is wrecked. The announcers later paraphrased him as saying "gosh darn," but the damage was already done.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Real World Politics

Mr. Obama announced yesterday that he wants Congress to give him $500 million with which to train moderate rebels in Syria. Wow. How much training can be done for $500 million? More to the point, how many weapons can be purchased for $500 million? Why do I think the second question is much more pertinent than the first?

Meanwhile, while we are arming training Syrian rebels, Mr. Kerry is telling Russia to disarm the rebels in Ukraine. And not only must Mr. Putin disarm those rebels, assuming that he has the ability to do so, which is highly unlikely, but he must do so “within hours” of Kerry telling him to do so.

Mr. and Mrs. Clinton are flying around the country touting her new book and telling people that they understand the working class because they worked hard for their money and are themselves members of the working class. They make a speech to that effect just after their private jet lands and just before they retire to the penthouse suite for champagne and pheasant under glass for dinner.

And finally, Mr. Obama is making a tour of the Midwest where he “spent a day in the life of a young Minnesota accountant struggling to make ends meet.” He had lunch with her and then went to a park for a “town hall” type meeting where “350 invited participants” had gathered. I’m sure her typical day includes meetings in the park with 350 Obama loyalists.

This trip had the stated purpose of “reconnecting Obama with Democrats ahead of midterm elections,” which seems a bit odd considering that he isn’t running for office in that midterm election.

These people are just utterly detached from reality.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Adventure

My wife locked her purse in her car yesterday, a feat which she accomplished by dropping her car keys into the night deposit box of the San Diego Library. As much fun as it might be to do so, we will not explore any theories as to why she did that. Her first thought was to call me at home; a plan which was thwarted by the fact that her cell phone was in the locked car with her purse.

A San Diego Police officer was nearby and, manfully resisting his tendency to laugh his ass off, promptly offered assistance. She decided that having him call me might not be the best idea. “Mr. Heffner, this is the police, I’m calling about your wife.” I’ve already had several strokes and one heart attack, and Anyway, he allowed her to call me on his cell phone.

I could not, however, bring her the spare car key because she carries that with her in her purse in case she locks the car keys in the car, which she has done once before. She doesn’t want to have to wait for me to bring the spare key to her if she does that again, so she carries the spare key in her purse. Good plan, except that it doesn’t cover you if you lock your purse in the car and drop your keys Never mind.

She could not call AAA because not only was her cell phone in the locked car, but so was her AAA card, in her purse with the spare key, so she had me call AAA in her behalf. I could not, of course, call her back to tell her I had done so, but we know each other well enough that such a call was not really needed.

Meanwhile, the reason that the police officer was there was that an alarm was going off in the library. Apparently someone had been left behind and locked inside when the library closed and, in the process of leaving after the library was closed and locked, had set off an alarm. A library manager had been called and was on the way to shut off the alarm and the officer was standing by until he/she got there.

When that happened my wife was able to get in the library and retrieve her car keys, so she called me and asked me to call AAA and cancel the rescue. The rescue was quicker than my call and so she and the tow truck driver waved at each other as she was leaving the scene when he arrived.

Living with my wife is many things, all good of course, but it is seldom dull.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Regime Change Again

This time of a thug who we put in charge. Obama is saying that we may commit to air strikes in Iraq, but not until Nuri al Maliki changes his ways and forms a “more inclusive” government or steps down.

Where have we heard this before? It’s a refrain which has been sung by the executive branch of this nation for several generations, going back in the Middle East to 1953 when we overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran.

Usually when we overthrow the leadership of a country we learn our lesson and move on to other countries for our regime change mania, but Obama has unlearned that lesson for us and is committing to a second regime change in the same nation after barely more than a decade regardless of how badly the first one turned out.

Not only that, but having been dissuaded from his “red line” rhetoric regarding Syria last year, Obama sees this as a chance to renew the opportunity for regime change in Syria by going in through the back door. He has pronounced that if he commits to air strikes in support of Iraq against the dreaded ISIS forces then those strikes would not be restricted to Iraq but would include strikes against those forces in Syria.

Sort of like bombing Cambodia during the war in Vietnam, you know, but we all know where air strikes against ISIS in Syria would lead. In Libya we morphed from a limited protection of Benghazi to “we will not stop until Ghadaffi is gone” (and most of Libya is rubble) in a matter of hours after
the first bomb fell.

ISIS has done us a favor. Two for the price of one. What a deal.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Unemployment Is Not Always Cyclical

If you are going to write a dissertation on an economic theory it probably does not enhance your credibility as an economist to start your dissertation with a sentence such as, “One of the things you can always bet on with surety is that the conservatives will always try to convince the public that a cyclical event is, in fact, a ‘structural’ event.” A thoughtful and unbiased reader might suspect from that opening, as several commenters did, that the writer has an agenda, which very much turns out to be the case.

His topic has to do with the failure to recover from our low level of employment which he attributes to “cyclical factors” and inadequate government stimulus.

In a nutshell, notwithstanding all of his charts, graphs and statistics, the offshoring of manufacturing and information technology jobs was not by any means a “cyclical event.” It changed the employment picture in this nation in a profoundly structural manner, and until we recognize that and change the way we seek recovery to accommodate that we will not see any meaningful recovery for the working class.

We are still seeking to restore our economy by restoring consumer spending because “consumer spending is 70% of our GDP,” and that is a fundamental problem. Consumer spending is consumption, not production, and the reason it is an element of our Gross Domestic Product is that it has been assumed that consumer spending is a valid measure of this nation’s production of consumer goods. That was valid at one time, but the offshoring of production jobs changed that to a profound degree, and it is no longer even close to being true.

When it was true an increase in consumer spending caused an increase in the production of consumer goods and an increase in the jobs producing those goods. That no longer happens. What happens now is that an increase in consumer spending mostly causes an increase in imports and a concomitant increase in our balance of trade deficit. Thus, an increase in consumer spending actually harms our economy more than it helps.

To restore the economy for the working class we have to do one of two things; either restore the production jobs so that consumer goods production once again is equal to consumer spending, or develop a new economic model that does not use consumer spending as the basis for our economy.

Economists and politicians know this, and they are lying to us by not admitting it because both alternatives are hard and complicated. They have no idea how to bring those jobs back, and they have no idea how to create a model that replaces them. Hyping an increase in consumer spending is the easy answer, but not only is it the wrong answer, it is not an answer at all. It is a lie, and our leaders know it is a lie. They will continue to tell that lie until we force them to tell the truth.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Interesting

When certain parties wanted to split this nation into two parts we fought a long and bloody war to prevent that from happening. Now it is becoming increasingly popular to suggest that we, not the Iraqis, but we split Iraq into three parts. Do we even think for the briefest moment about what we are saying and/or doing?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ironic

I just finished watching a rerun of an old Law and Order, in which McCoy prosecutes a woman for a murder committed during a 1968 protest of the war in Vietnam, with much discussion of "an immoral war," and charges that "the real criminals are in Washington." She finally agrees to a plea deal of manslaughter for 8-1/2 to 20 years. In the closing scene McCoy muses, “She’ll be in jail until 2003. I think the 60’s will be over by then.”

That was, of course, the year that we invaded Iraq.

Friday, June 13, 2014

It's About The Points

There’s a show on television named “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” which, like politics, is a comedy show. Its slogan is “Everything’s made up and the points don’t matter,” which can be modified to suit politics; “Everything’s made up and only the talking points matter.” Which brings us to Iraq.

CBS Evening News is freaking out regarding the situation in Iraq now, apparently having realized that they aren’t going to sway public opinion in favor of declaring war over Syria, describing ISIS as the new “al Queda army” and its leader as the “new Osama bin Laden.”

They emotionally told us last night that ISIS is “retaking territory where thousands of Americans died,” and then had some former CIA clown on to tell us that the group posed the danger that “with a safe haven in western Iraq” they would have “a base of operations where they could attack the United States homeland” and that “we should be very worried about that.”

He didn’t say what form he thought those attacks would take, I don’t think rocket propelled grenades (RPG’s) will reach that far, but it was as almost if he was speaking directly to Obama, who has this mantra about “denying them space in which to plan their attacks” regarding the war in Afghanistan.

Obama supporters, who have been giving Obama credit for “ending the war in Iraq” in 2011, are sort of hoist on their own petard at this point because his opponents are now saying that the disintegration of Iraq is his fault for pulling out the troops in 2011. They’re both full of cow dung, of course, because the decision to withdraw all troops in 2011 was not made by Obama; it was made by George W. Bush and formalized in an agreement between him and Nuri al Maliki in 2008.

All Obama did was allow that agreement to be carried out because he had no choice. In fact he tried valiantly to abrogate the agreement, and negotiated vigorously with al Maliki for more than two years to extend our military presence in Iraq and failed. He was, of course, roundly criticized for that failure while being praised by supporters for “ending the war,” because facts are irrelevant when it comes to politics.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Twitter is for Twits

Twitter is going to be the force that changes the world, we keep being told. It will be the driver of revolutions which will topple governments, and it will turn small causes into world shaking events.

What was the outcome of #BringBackOurGirls? That "hashtag" was going to rescue the girls kidnapped in Nigeria, and result in the destruction of Boko Haram. It turned out to be, as Twitter causes always do, to be as effective as a rock thrown in a millpond; making a big splash, diminishing to a few ripples, and then leaving the millpond as still as before the rock was thrown. The girls are still missing, Boko Haram is still as much in business as it ever was, and in Nigeria nothing has changed in the slightest.

A new "hashtag" has replaced it on top of the follower count, celebrating the defeat of Eric Cantor, as if that trivial event was in any way going to alter the cesspool that is politics in Washington.

Busted. As In Broken.

As an example of how badly broken our all-volunteer military is, to illustrate just how thoroughly that principle is failing this nation, consider this,

Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier who deserted in Afghanistan, was discharged from the Coast Guard a mere 26 days after completing boot camp. The Army was aware of that, but gave him a waiver and signed him up in a combat role. They were gearing up for Obama's 30,000 man "surge" of troops in Afghanistan at the time.

Our active frontline military level is 1.43 million, 2.28 million including the reserves. According to the above, we are so badly stretched that we did not have 2% of the active military, or 1% of the total, available to man that "surge" and the recruiting pool is so badly depleted that we had to use Coast Guard rejects.

The military has a term FUBAR, the clean version of which stands for "fouled up beyond all recognition" and means that something has become unrepairable. This is the "best military in the world" and we are filling it with Coast Guard rejects?

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Drip, Drip, Drip

Obama’s initial response to criticism about not notifying Congress regarding the negotiations about the exchange for Bergdahl was that his health was endangered and it was necessary to move very rapidly. He went into considerable detail about how the soldier appeared in videos with weight loss and such, and that his concern as Commander in Chief required him to move swiftly to rescue one of the men who served under him.

Congress, however, remained angry and unconvinced, continuing to insist that they should have been informed before the exchange was finalized.

Then, after almost a week, the administration informed us that there was also a death threat involved in the process. CBS initially reported it as an issue of speed, saying that the Taliban threatened to kill Bergdahl if the exchange was not finalized immediately. Then we heard that it actually more directly had to do with the failure to inform Congress; that the Taliban had threatened to kill Bergdahl if the negotiations became public. The spokesman who released this information was not named.

The Obama administration has a way of releasing the details of an issue in bits and pieces over a significant period of time, often with conflicting facts. If the public is not buying the initial offering, they run a different flag up the flagpole and see if the public salutes that one. That makes it very difficult to believe anything the White House says.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Water Carrier

CBS Evening News has become so open about its pimping for the administration that it has turned into a comedy show. A few days ago it carried a piece about Obama’s decision to arm and train “moderate rebels” in Syria, followed immediately by a description of Assad routinely and repeatedly employing chlorine gas in attacks on Syrian civilians in violation of their agreement to surrender their chemical weapons. This was an agreement, CBS pointed out, which prevented Obama from bombing Assad’s forces into the Stone Age.

No other news agency has even accepted that the chlorine gas attacks have been proven even to have occurred at all, let alone that Assad perpetrated them, but CBS does not let such trivial details as proof get in their way.

Last night they were all over the Bergdahl story, saying that the reason that the transfer was made so rapidly and without notifying Congress was not only due to Bergdahl’s declining health, which was displayed by him stuttering, cradling one arm “as if it was injured,” and that he seemed to have lost weight. The picture with which they backed this up was, to say the least, unconvincing, and none of it was visible when they showed the film of his transfer.

On the film of his transfer they cited further evidence of his ill health in that when first seen in the pickup truck he was blinking repeatedly “as if suffering from vision loss.” Or, perhaps, as if he’d just had a blindfold removed. Try again.

Further hastening the negotiations, and justifying failure to notify Congress, they claimed, was that there were “death threats.” They did not clarify that, but we now learn that the Taliban threatened to kill Bergdahl if the negotiations became public. The administration only trotted that out after almost a week of having his health issues being the sole justification for haste and still getting heat from Congress, so...

They then tried to contradict his fellow soldiers who are now calling him a deserter, because Obama would never release terrorists in exchange for a guy who was a sloppy soldier and a deserter. They claim that those soldiers were interviewed at the time Bergdahl was captured and said then that he was “always on time, dressed in proper uniform and courteous.”

If you think that any grunt would describe a fellow grunt in those terms you have not only not served in the military, you have never had a family member who served, and you have probably never even spoken to a person in the military. There is nothing there about how well he performed his duties, and I can assure you that is the only thing we gave a shit about with respect to our fellows.

I guess I cared a little bit about whether or not my sidekick was on time, at least in terms of relieving me on watch, but I could care less if his uniform was clean, and courtesy was the last thing I expected from him. What I cared about was could he check battery specs? Could he keep a motor-generator set on line? Could he wire a motor starter?

The CBS report goes on to say that they did not suspect desertion at the time and could not speculate why he left the outpost, but decided that he “was simply ‘bored’ with the routine of standing guard.” Sure, because one always wanders off unarmed into enemy territory when one is bored.

Getting Old

I started reading an article about "Eleven things you should never put in a dishwasher," when I realized that I almost certainly knew what the eleven things are and, blush, that I don't have a functioning dishwasher.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

GM "Investigation"

The General Motors "internal investigation" is unmitigated bullshit in its entirety. Garbage. Lies, confabulation and self justifying nonsense. The people who produced it, the smug ninny who announced it and the criminals who caused the problem and covered it up should all have concrete blocks tied around their ankles and be tossed into Lake Michigan.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Unasked Question

In all of the discussion about the release of Bowe Bergdahl, one question has not been asked, and I’m rather wondering why it has not. Who were his superiors, and what were they doing before his presumed desertion?

When I was a petty officer, the Navy equivalent of sergeant, part of my responsibility was the well being of the men who served under my direction. If one of my men was having, for instance, wife problems or money problems, it was my responsibility to counsel him and to see to it that he received whatever help he needed to resolve those problems. If those problems were not noticed and dealt with then we would have had crew members functioning at less than maximum effectiveness.

By most accounts Bergdahl was having and expressing serious doubts about the mission, about his place and role in the military unit, for quite some time prior to leaving his post. In any case, there is no way that he was behaving normally and contributing fully to the unit’s mission and then suddenly deserted to the enemy. Something had to be showing in his behavior. Why did his sergeant and/or the officer directly responsible for him not notice and address that issue before it turned into a problem? Where was the leadership within that military unit?

Push come to shove, I would tell my superior that I wanted a guy shipped out, and perhaps that's what someone should have said regarding Bergdahl. Why was that never done?

“No man is an island.” That is particularly true in an organization such as the military, and yet this man’s supposed desertion is being discussed as if it happened in a vacuum and was not something for which the military itself bears any responsibility. The military says it will investigate the conditions under which Bergdahl was captured. I think that investigation should include all levels of the leadership in Bergdahl’s unit.

Obfuscation and Evasion

Tom Dispatch, via Salon.com, attempts to debunk the theory that raising the minimum wage would have any deleterious effects. In response to the question asking if companies would not merely pass the higher wages on in the form of higher prices, the author replies,

Maybe, but they are unlikely to be significant. For example, if McDonald’s doubled the salaries of its employees to a semi-livable $14.50 an hour, not only would most of them go off public benefits, but so would the company — and yet a Big Mac would cost just 68 cents more. In general, only about 20% of the money you pay for a Big Mac goes to labor costs. At Wal-Mart, increasing wages to $12 per hour would cost the company only about one percent of its annual sales.

I have no idea what he means by “but so would the company” in terms of going off public benefits, but the bit about the Big Mac is interesting. He says it would “cost just 68 cents more,” presumably bolstering his “unlikely to be significant” argument about increased prices. I’m not sure in what universe a 20% increase would be considered insignificant.

As for Wal-Mart, he says it would reduce their annual sales volume, but he says nothing about what it would do to their prices, which is a bit odd given that he is responding to a question about businesses raising prices.

I am not opposed to raising the minimum wage but, unfortunately, this is the kind of discussion we get today. No one seems to be able to actually make their case without resorting to obfuscation, as with the price of the Big Mac, or evasion, as with the Wal-Mart sales.

Why not admit that it will raise prices and make the case for that being justifiable? Or, alternatively, make a case that it will raise prices only in areas where the price increases don’t matter? If your cause is valid, why not engage in honest discussion about it?

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

And The Crowd Goes Wild

The various objections to and defenses of Obama’s carbon cut, reducing carbon emissions from coal-fired electric plants by 2030, proves that our schools and colleges are no longer teaching the ability to use logic. Or that politics has rendered logic unpopular, which is somewhat more likely.

From Bloomberg, who unsurprisingly does not like the enforced reduction, we get that, “For one thing, the amount of the U.S. cuts would be replaced more than three times over by projected increases in China alone.”

Which would be meaningful only if China’s increase was made in response to our cuts and would be cancelled if we cancelled our cuts. Bloomberg is saying, in effect, that China is increasing only because we are making cuts, and would not increase if we did not make cuts. I know, that was so illogical that it was hard to follow. More simply put, China's increase has nothing whatever to do with out cutting carbon emissions.

Read the whole piece. There’s a “since we can’t cut carbon increase to zero, we shouldn’t try to reduce the rate of increase at all” content in there which is utterly insane.

Then Paul Krugman defends the carbon decrease by saying that doing so will cost a more 0.2% of GDP and that’s cheap. He’s pretty light hearted about it, but it’s kind of a short sighted and silly defense. The reduction affects the electric power generation very specifically, and as such affects only a portion of our economy. It doesn't affect the financial sector to any notable degree, and doesn’t markedly affect housing or transportation. The cost should be measured against the portion of the economy which is directly affected by it, and that cost is going to be a bit higher that 0.2%.

That’s not to say that I think it will be unaffordable or that I don’t think we should be willing to pay it. I think the carbon cut is a great idea and that we should be willing to pay what it costs to do so, but we should know what those costs are, not be bullshitted into thinking that there are none with the silly kind of crap that Paul Krugman is peddling.

It will, for one thing, reduce the coal industry a lot more than 0.2%; more like 80% which is the whole point of the measure. Tell the coal industry and the people who work in that industry that it won’t cost anything, Paul. It’s not free, it comes with a cost.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Who Didn't See That Coming?

Critics of recent conduct of the VA Medical System are saying that if it can't be fixed immediately then veterans should be given access to private medical providers at government expense. Of course they are. That was the purpose of underfunding the VA Medical System to begin with; so that performance would drop to a level at which privatization could be justified. They lost the opportunity to privatize Social Security, but there are plenty
of other targets.

Oddity of the week: GDP decreased at an annual rate of 1% in the first quarter, and it is being blamed on the weather, but "internals" make that excuse just a little hard to believe. Consumer spending rose by 3.3% in that same quarter. What did the weather stop from happening if it didn't stop people from going to the mall?

Jumping to conclusions: Prior to World War Two quite a lot of American citizens went to China to fight against the Japanese who were invading that country. That was not interpreted as meaning that America was invading China, or that the American government had declared war on Japan. The presence of Russian nationals in Ukraine, however, intrinsically means that the Russian government has declared war on and/or is invading Ukraine. Why can Ammericans act as private citizens but Russians cannot?