Friday, July 03, 2015

Masterpiece of Understatement

The headline reads, "Skilled workers relish chance to restore USS Constitution."  I would think so, yes. I would give several years of my life to be able to be one of the restorers on this great ship. The Boston Globe article describes in the words of the craftsmen themselves what it is like to work on a piece of living history. Fine reading.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Flagging Interest

A large portion of the media discussion about the upcoming Coke Zero 400 at Daytona is not about who will contend for the win, or rules changes, or team efforts, it’s about whether of not any confederate flags will be allowed. (They will be, but are discouraged.)

There is no actual discussion about whether or not African-American people are welcome at NASCAR races. (Actually, they’re sort of not, which is why there are no statements about the flags being offensive to “all of the black people at our races,”  because, well, I think you get the point.) There is certainly no discussion of how many African-American drivers there are in NASCAR. (One, but only in a junior circuit.) So we are not going to talk about racism in NASCAR in terms of people of color, but we are certainly going to talk about racism in NASCAR in terms of a fucking flag. Good for us.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Do Not Celebrate The Fourth!

Do not celebarte the founding of our nation this upcoming weekend. Do not go to the beach or to a public park. Don't go to any ballgames. Do not hold your family gathering at any sort of public venue.

Stay home, by yourself, and watch the television so that the news can tell you where the terrorists are and how many hundreds thousands of innocent people they have gunned down in the streets. Congratulate yourselves that you listened to the warnings issued by the Department of Homeland Stupidity and knew that these horrific attacks from the "thousands of self-radicalized homegrown terrorists"  was coming.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Oh, really?

The pastor who said that he would set himself on fire if gay marriage ever became law now says that he was "speaking figuratively."  I would say that he was actually spouting bullshit, and doing so in both utterances.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Freakout!

The negative reactions to yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling have been interesting. They would be really amusing if they weren’t so repulsive.

The minority Supreme Court opinions were bizarre. Roberts said the decision was “an assault on democracy.”  Thomas claimed in his opinion that “slaves didn’t lose their dignity because the government allowed them to be enslaved.”  Scalia said he would “put my head in a bag,”  and that “Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage.”  To prove the latter point he said that we should “Ask any hippe.” He didn’t suggest where we should find one in 2015.

A local television station had the following leader promoting its upcoming evening news. “New dilemma for religious leaders as they try to balance their religious beliefs with this new law.”  It isn’t, of course, a “new law,”  and apparently they are unfamiliar with the principle of separation of church and state, and think that the Supreme Court ruling is going to force the Roman Catholic Church to perform marriage ceremonies in its churches for gay couples.

Quick note: that is not what the ruling will do.

This is an independent station whose evening news I don’t usually watch, but I tuned in to see if it would be as weird as the leader suggested. It was. They had a lengthy interview with the pastor of some unnamed but obviously fundamentalist church who explained to us that the Bible defined marriage, and that it was more than two thousand years older than the constitution.

Actually, it’s not, but this is a guy who undoubtedly thinks that man and dinosaurs roomed the Earth together just a few hundred years ago and that God created fossils for the express purpose of faking us out, so there’ no real point in arguing with him.

This is the same station who had weather reporter John Coleman, who was a complete fruitcake and a notorious climate change denier. His retirement did not provide sufficient impetus to persuade me to watch the station.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Burying the Lede

The NY Times, in discussing the Obama Administration defense position leading to today’s Supreme Court decision on Obamacare, tells us that the administration said that “the balance of the law demonstrated that Congress could not have intended to limit the subsidies.”  The administration also argued, “Accepting the plaintiffs’ position would affect more than six million people and create havoc in the insurance markets.”

The Times goes on to say that the administration finished with, “the phrase, noticed by almost no one until long after the law was enacted, was a curious way to encourage states to establish exchanges.”

I think they saved their best argument for last, because that phrase strikes me as an utterly bizarre vehicle for encouraging states to form exchanges. Congress can be, and often is, pretty idiotic, but when you want to force someone to do something, you don’t carefully conceal the threat for failing to do it.

I think their second argument is pretty weak. Civil rights legislation affected a lot more than six million people, created some years of havoc in multiple venues, and was pretty worthwhile legislation. But their first argument was a winner, too. When considering one piece of anything, one has to look at it in the context of the whole.

I am, as you know, no fan of Obamacare, but I think the Supreme Court got this one right.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Trailblaizer? Not!

A couple of days ago, Daniel McFadin wrote an article, published online at NBC Sports, claiming that Danica Patrick qualifies for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He did not assert that she will do so before her career is finished, but that she qualifies right now. You know what is coming, right? Of course you do.

Except, for the most part and other than to say it is absurd to claim Hall-of-Fame status for any driver who has never won a NASCAR race, I’m not going to bother. The one point that does need to be addressed is a claim by Steven Cole Smith at motorsport.com that she is a “trailblazer” equal to Wendell Scott.

Wendell Scott was the first person of color to win a NASCAR race, so right off the bat any claim to equality with Wendell Scott is shot down in flames because winning a NASCAR race is something that Danica Patrick has never even come close to doing. On that basis alone I can call bullshit to Smith’s idiotic claim.

Another small point is that Scott was the first man of color to even drive in a NASCAR race. Danica, on the other hand, is a long way from being the first woman to drive in NASCAR. Women, in fact, have been driving in NASCAR races ever since the first one was held, right there on Daytona Beach. Janet Guthrie was competing in NASCAR in 1976, earning rookie honors in that year, and enjoying better results than Danica has accomplished in any year of her entire career.

But the real insult is to apply the word “trailblazer” to both Wendell Scott and Danica Patrick. Wendell Scott came into NASCAR using only his own resources and at a time when athletes of his color were not only unpopular, but were banned outright in many racing venues. Danica Patrick came with truckloads of other people’s money and at a time when the public was fully accepting of, and even enthusiastic about female athletes.

Wendell Scott was a trailblazer. Danica Patrick is merely an opportunist.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Um, Probably Not

NOAA shows a forecast high of 77° for today. At 7:30am, however, they show the current temperature already at 75° and, looking out my window, I see that the marine layer is burning off very quickly. I cannot say what the high today will be, but I'll bet it won't be 77°.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Dean Baker Is An Idiot

I think all economists are idiots, actually. They think that economics and business are the same thing, and that having studied some arcane formulas which purport to predict the rise and fall of economic conditions under certain civil circumstance while sitting in an ivory tower, that they then know how to manage an actual brick and mortar business in the real world.

Baker writes a piece today discussing the claims by employers that they are having difficulty filling some jobs due to a lack of qualified applicants. He claims, as he always does, that all they have to do is raise the offered wage and they will get more applicants than they can handle, and that regardless of the skills required, there is a complete adequacy of any skill set available.

He admits that those skilled workers might not be currently unemployed, but might be presently working for other employers. He says that is not a problem, however, because all the company in question needs to do is raise the offered wages high enough to hire the workers away from their present employer and the problem is solved.

I see two small problems with that; perhaps not all that small. The first being that his plan has not solved the problem at all; it has merely moved it from one employer to another. Now the company from whom the employees were pirated is faced with the need to find qualified employees, so the problem still exists in the same nature, and to precisely the same degree. It merely exists for a different employer.

Economists are prone to thinking that relocating a problem is the same as solving it. “If it’s no longer my problem, then it isn’t a problem at all.”  Baker once solved Europe’s shortage of hotel workers by arranging for parking lot attendants and taxi drivers to take those jobs. He didn’t stop to think that he had merely created a problem for parking lot and taxicab company owners.

The other problem with Baker’s solution here is something called a “wage/price spiral.”  Everyone is busily pirating employees from everyone else, meaning that wages are rising higher and causing prices to do the same, which leads to inflation. We’ve been there before, and it wasn’t pretty.

Dean Baker is, of course, an economist and therefor thinks that inflation is a good thing because he lives in that ivory tower and does not have to deal with the real world effects of it. He thinks that it has all sorts of beneficial effects, like “diminishing debt,”  reducing effective interest rates and minimizing the impact of the federal deficit on GDP.

He doesn’t realize that it makes milk, eggs and heating your home cost more, and doesn’t seem to care that the reduction to effectiveness of interest applies to savings as well as debt. He also thinks that wages rise at the same pace as inflation. Haha, dream on.

In fact, the reason that we have employer-provided health care benefits is that a wage/price spiral was damaging the economy so badly that the government froze wages in an effort to put a stop to it. Unable to offer higher wages to hire workers away from other employers, which is what Baker is suggesting here, and which they had been doing until the government stopped them, companies began offering “fringe benefits”  instead of wages to pirate workers from other employers.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Reporting on Mass Shootings

I have no real evidence for this, but I have a suspicion that we might have fewer mass shootings if the media spent less time talking about the shooters. Yes, the event is news and needs to be reported, but do we need to know what the shooter’s childhood was like? Do we need to read about his inner thoughts and the manner in which he planned the deed?

It seems evident that many of them were suffering from a sense of isolation, and felt that no one was paying attention to them. What better way to make people pay attention than to emulate the guy who made the headlines; the guy who everyone was talking about?
“I may be dead, but at least they’ll pay attention.”

Perhaps they should report the event, and tell us bout those who lost their lives, but say little or nothing about the shooter; maybe not even report his name. What would we lose in that process that would be worth knowing? What might society gain?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Missing The Point

A couple of examples, today, of the rifle range malaprop practice of firing at your neighboring station’s target.

Paul Krugman has a piece today in which he refers to one benefit of Obamacare being that it provides “major gains in coverage at relatively low cost.”  It does nothing of the sort, of course, and as an economist he should be very well aware of and outraged by that. It provides people with access to high-cost coverage by having the government pick up part of the tab.

We should, instead, be providing everyone in this nation with actual “relatively low cost”  coverage by regulating the health care provider industry, just as we regulate all other industries which provide services which consumers buy from necessity and not from choice. Deregulating energy distribution was a disaster, and leaving the provision of health care unregulated is precisely the same kind of disaster.

Second amendment fanatics are reenergized after the latest mass shooting, and are crying out that the founders stated the need for a “well organized militia”  so that citizens could fight against a tyrannical government. I am always amused at how vigorously people claim to defend a document while knowing so little about it, because these same morons defend a “strong national defense” with equal devotion.

The founders actually spoke of the need for a “well organized militia”  because in the same document, our own sacred constitution, they forbade the government from maintaining a standing army. Article I, Section 8 authorizes Congress “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years.”

So the “well organized militia”  was not intended to fight against our own government, which the founders never in their worst nightmares imagined would ever become tyrannical, but rather to rise up and fight against possible invaders. And the enormous military establishment which second amendment fanatics almost universally support with the same fervor that they devote to their guns, is a gross violation of our governing document.

And we wonder why democracy doesn’t seem to be working very well.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Three score and twelve

My ambition to "live hard, die young and leave a good looking corpse" has foundered. I am no longer capable of pulling off any one of the three parts of that. I will now have to settle for living well and confusing confounding my enemies, which is a better goal anyway.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Gutting Obamacare

We are waiting to see if the Supreme Court will or will not “gut Obamacare”  by disallowing the payment of government subsidies for health insurance. Let’s think, for a moment, about the admission that preventing the government from paying subsidies for health insurance would “gut Obamacare.”

This was, going in, a process advertised as “health care reform”  which turned into “health insurance reform.”  But was it even that? Was it actually, as supporters claim, “landmark legislation”  and the “greatest piece of legislation in five generations?”  Did it, as claimed, rank in significance alongside legislation like Social Security and the original Medicare bill?

Health care costs more than three times as much per capita in this nation as it does in any other developed country. Obamacare says that not only will we not make any major efforts to reduce that cost, we will deliberately maintain that high cost and, instead, the government will pick up part of the cost for those who cannot afford it.

What nation does that? What nation not only maintains the high costs of a necessary service, but goes to the extent of providing government subsidies in order to maintain that high cost, and celebrates having done so? What voter base calls the imposition of subsidies which support high cost “landmark legislation”  and applauds and reelects the author?

Real reform and “making insurance affordable”  would involve allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices; it would allow the reimportation of medications from foreign countries; it would recognize legitimate medical degrees from other nations; it would modify drug patent laws; it would require cost-based pricing by medical providers The list goes on at length, and what started out as “health care reform”  touches on none of these things.

Obamacare should be gutted. Not because I am a Republican, but because it is not “landmark legislation,” but is a sufficient “band aid”  to reduce the demand for real reform. It leads the uninformed to think that it is “a first step in the right direction.”  It is nothing of the sort. It is insanity and stupidity which should be discarded so that conditions remain bad enough that the citizens continue to demand real reform.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Well, Duh

Every week we get half a dozen headlines like, "Carl Edwards hoping to win the Quicken Loans 400," which is the race in Michigan today. I have no idea why any of the 43 drivers would drive in the race if they were not hoping to win the damned thing. Some of those hopes are realistic and some are not, and the driver's chances of actually winning the race may be worthy of discussion, but please spare me the headline about a race car driver hoping to win a race.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Chomsky on Obama et al

Noam Chomsky is no more an admirer of Obama than am I. In an interview published today he says that Obama is “an opportunist”  and that Hillary Clinton is “much the same, only more militant.”  He goes on to say that he has not been disappointed in Obama, because he didn’t expect anything. “His portrayed idealism could not be taken seriously,”  he says and, “The policies he was proudest of I thought were awful.”

I particularly like the part where he says that Obama has "essentially rescinded the principle that was established in the Magna Carta 800 years ago”  with his policy of assasination by drone. You are no longer innocent until proven guilty by a jury of your peers, you are dead if Obama decides you are dead.

He’s even more critical of Kennedy, and all of this is because, unlike today’s Democrats, he’s an actual Liberal. Read the whole interview, and you’ll get an understanding of what today’s generation has missed by not experiencing the Depression. We think times are bad today. How little we know.

CBS News is Confused

CBS Evening News is confused by the administration’s Iraq strategy. In reporting the addition of 450 troops to western Anbar, reporter David Martin said that, “because the base is so close to the front lines, most of the troops will be there simply to protect the base from attack.”  He finished his report by stating that, “Like all the other Americans in Iraq, they will be barred from frontline combat against ISIS.”

He did not say how these troops are going to protect the base from attack without engaging in frontline combat. Wave their arms and scream curses in the background, perhaps?

Or, since they are “barred from frontline combat,” perhaps they are supposed to join the Iraqi Army in running for their lives, which is not very dignified, and which renders their stated mission of protecting the base from attack a bit spurious.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Incoherence Abounds

Apparently Obama did speak of international affairs at the recent G-7 international economic summit, but his remarks regarding economic matters, if he made any, are not receiving much in the way of press coverage.
I have already touched on his discussion of domestic policy, and today the media is focused on his remarks regarding military action in Ukraine and the Middle East.

In Ukraine, he claims that Putin’s resistance to the absorption of that nation, which borders directly on Russia, into the military alliance of NATO constitutes expansionism and an attempt to “reconstitute the glory of the Soviet Union.”  It was, of course, not expansionist for us to attempt to incorporate Ukraine into NATO.

As to Iraq and Syria, his discourse becomes even more unmoored from reality. He admits that we “have no complete strategy”  against the Islamic State, but that doesn’t prevent him for actively pursuing our incomplete strategy with increasing levels of activity. The “Obama Doctrine”  seems to be that if you don’t know what you are doing, you should definitely do more of it.

Pursuant to that, he is building a new US base in Anbar Province, which is mostly occupied by the Islamic State and is therefor an ideal place to put a US base, and is sending 400 more US troops to train Iraqi soldiers. He is doing this despite his admission in the same speech that we presently “have more training capacity than we have recruits.”  Obviously, in light of that, we need to increase our training capacity. (?)

His admission regarding training capacity has been confirmed by an anonymous (of course) “defense official,”  who said that our training base at Asad air base has not received a single recruit in as much as six weeks. That might have to do with the fact that the base is in Anbar Province and is entirely surrounded by Islamic State forces. We have some 300 Marines there, who are very much at risk, although they can certainly be airlifted out if need be.

That doesn’t mean that it makes any sense to leave them in such an exposed position, especially when they are serving no useful purpose. If they are attacked too rapidly for air evacuation, their blood will be on Obama’s hands.

Be that as it may, given that we have one training base in Anbar which is surrounded by the Islamic State and is not receiving recruits, why are we building and manning another training base in Anbar? A corollary to the Obama Doctrine seems to be “If what you are doing is not working, do more of it.”

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Imperial Presidency

Why Obama is talking about domestic policy at a press conference which is part of an international economic summit meeting sort of escapes me, and it particularly surprises me that he would be discussing the one economic area in which the other six nations are so clearly superior to us. But there he was, discussing a decision made by his executive branch pursuant to health care legislation and telling us, no less, that it was such an exercise in excellence that the Supreme Court should not even have agreed to hear a challenge to it.

He’s not limiting himself to telling the highest court in the land how it should rule. That would not sufficiently demonstrate his concept of the power of the presidency. He says that a challenge to a decision made by his executive branch, “Frankly, probably should not even have been taken up,"  by a coequal branch of government which is charged in the constitution with the specific responsibility of serving as a “check and balance”  on the other two branches.

Obama is giving us a new definition of the “imperial presidency.”  Bush said that if a person threatened us he could imprison them without trial; Obama says he can simply order that person executed. He does not need permission from Congress before engaging in acts of war upon other sovereign nations, and now he is saying that decisions made by his executive branch should not be questioned by the Supreme Court.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Triple Crown

I am not a horse racing fan; know nothing about it. But I care about the making of history, and I think that horses are lovely creatures, so watched the Belmont Stakes yesterday. I'm glad I did.

As they were in the second turn, entering the backstretch, I said out loud, "Oh my. No one is going to beat that horse."  Even I could see that he was not working as hard as any of the other horses. He was biding his time. They came into the frontstretch and I thought, "This is where he hits high gear."  And... Well, you saw it.

Why Do We Need Drivers?

Many years ago Dale Earnhardt was asked, “How do you plan to win today’s race?”  He looked at the interviewer much as he might look at a bug which had just crawled out from under a rock and replied, “I plan to drive real fast.”  If you don’t know how much that typifies the Iron Man, I feel sorry for you.

The reporter, as I recall, mumbled something like, "Oh, okay, thanks,"  and wandered off to interview elsewhere.

Today a driver’s answer would probably be more along the lines of, “Well, we’ll put a quarter pound of air in the right rear tire on lap 187, around lap 300 we’ll use a half turn of wedge, and  Because today it’s not about how fast the driver can drive, it’s about what the mechanic can make the car do. A "quarter pound of air,"  forsooth.

Whenever they interview the second place finisher he never blames himself for not winning. He always says something along the lines of, “Well, the car got tight the last few laps and we didn’t have anything for him.” What’s this “we”  shit? I only saw one guy inside that race car. Back to Dale Earnhardt, the Iron Man; I never heard him blame his car for not winning a race. “I pedaled as hard as I could, but I couldn’t run him down.”

If second place is always the car’s fault, why do we need drivers? Let’s just put those Google self-driving mechanisms in the cars and let the mechanics and computers have at it. Sorry, they aren’t called mechanics any more, they’re called “crew chiefs.”  Mechanics don’t make that much money.

Why do we have drivers championships, for that matter? Jimmie Johnson should not get the Sprint Cup trophy; Chad Knaus should get it because every time Jimmie does not win the race it’s because Chad didn’t make the car go fast enough. Or turn well enough. Or something. Stands to reason, then, that when Jimmie does win it’s because Chad did make the car go really fast.

Drivers complain that rules changes “make the cars too hard to drive.”  Seriously. Race cars are supposed to be easy to drive? Reminds me of another old time driver,
A. J. Foyt, who once famously said, “Hell, if we’re going to race taxi cabs, then lets get a bunch of taxi cab drivers out here to drive the damned things.”

Dale Earnhardt didn’t think race cars needed to be easy to drive. I watched him go sideways at Talledega one time, coming out of turn four at 200 mph, and I do mean sideways. He recovered and kept going, just lost a couple of positions, and his radio remained silent until car owner Richard Childress asked him if he was okay. “I’m okay,”  he replied, “Car’s a little loose.”  And that was all he had to say about the issue.

They don’t make race car drivers like they used to.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

The Worm Turns

Kevin Acee is a local sportswriter who has been defending the Chargers management against charges by the fans of incompetence and ennui due to consistent failure to make the playoffs. He claimed, for instance, that Norv Turner was an outstanding head coach and that A.J. Smith was the best general manager in the league.

Now he is turning against them for reasons which are not entirely clear. Last week he was castigating the team for not agreeing to renew Eric Weddle’s $6 million/year contract a full year before it expired because Weddle is, he said, entitled to “a sense of financial security going forward.”  Seriously?

Weddle has already been paid $34 million, and if he hasn’t been able to turn that into “a sense of financial security”  that certainly is not the fault of the San Diego Chargers. I’m not sure what kind of money the Union-Tribune is paying Kevin Acee that he does not instinctively understand that, and does not recognize that if Eric Weddle cannot find financial security in having been paid $34 million then he is not going to find it in any amount the Chargers are going to be willing to cough up.

Now he is accusing the Chargers of disloyalty to San Diego because he thinks they have “quit”  on the effort to build a new stadium and keep the team in this city. They have, admittedly, not had much to say regarding the committee’s proposal to spend $1.4 billion for a new stadium in Mission Valley, which may simply be because they don’t want to expose themselves as idiots and drive their stockholders away.

I guess that, based on the headline, I’m calling Kevin Acee a worm which, coming from me, would actually be a compliment, but I suppose we do have to remember that Acee’s attitude changed when the Union-Tribune was purchased by and merged with the Los Angeles Times. There may be a reason why he suddenly became less averse to the team moving to our northern neighbor.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Terror Again

CBS Evening News had a segment last night in which a young man “radicalized by ISIS”  on the Internet quite literally brought a knife to a gunfight, with entirely predictable results, and they headlined it as a “terror plot.”  If we are going to be, as a nation, terrorized by a guy with a knife, then we have come to a very silly place in our history.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Torture Regime

I have been engaged in “strength training” for some time now, and it has become clear that this damned personal trainer is trying to kill me. I think my wife is in on it because she uses the same trainer and she’s all, “Oh, she’s so nice  No she’s not; she’s a fucking tyrant.

I don’t know if she hates all men in general, or if it’s just me, but if I disappear check that gym on Alvarado Canyon Road for dead bodies. I’ll bet there’s a bunch of them stashed in there. I think it’s a misandranous plot and she gets a bounty from the National Organization for Women. Yes, my wife is a member.

Who's In Charge?

Eric Weddle is beginning the final year of his contract, a year during which he will earn receive $8 million. He “feels highly disrespected”  that the Chargers have not contacted him about extending that contract, and has retaliated by not attending voluntary team workouts.

The general manager finally responded by announcing that the team would not only not extend the contract before this season, but that they would not discuss the contract after the season either. I think Tom Telesco is sending a message that he is not going to let the employees run the store.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Missed Opportunity

I received a letter from a company sort of loosely masquerading as the credit union which holds our home mortgage, which offered to refinance my loan at “the lowest rates in recent history.”  Out of curiosity, I called the number on the letter.

I was told that the company was “managing a government program designed to help low income people reduce their mortgage payments”  and was offering rates as low as 2.75% at this time. She needed, she said, to ask me a few questions to “qualify”  me for the program. We are not low income, and are not burdened by an underwater mortgage or a high payment, but I agreed to answer her questions within reason.

My answers, if she was actually operating a “government program to lower payments for struggling homeowners,”  should have caused her to call me dirty names for wasting her time and hang up on me. After finding out that we have about a 25% loan-to-value balance in our home and getting the amount of our current payment, she asked if making that payment was a struggle for us. I said it was not, and was wondering to myself how she was going to suggest that her “government program”  might have anything to offer me.

Instead of telling me to take a long walk on a short pier, she went into an enthusiastic sales pitch about their “fabulous rates”  and wanted to make an appointment to come to our home to sit down with me and my wife to discuss all of the “wonderful options”  which they could offer us.

Either the government is more idiotic than I think it is, which would be quite a stretch, or that woman was lying her ass off. I did not, of course, make the appointment.

But I’m pretty sure I didn’t need to tell you that.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Cooking Mistakes

I read an article yesterday about “seventeen mistakes you are making when you cook” and found, of course, that I was making none of them. I also found that I was avoiding some of those mistakes for all of the wrong reasons, but reasons don't affect the taste of dinner.

The first one was that you should not thaw a frozen steak before cooking it, and I’m okay in that one, but not because I cook steaks in the frozen state. Some foods can be frozen successfully and some cannot, and steak is in the latter category. If you freeze a steak it will have the texture of old boiled cannibal no matter how you cook it, so you might as well not waste time thawing it. Damn thing will be inedible in any case.

The second one suggests that you are not adequately draining your tofu before cooking it and I either pass that test or flunk it completely depending on your definition. I am not draining my tofu at all because I’m not buying any tofu. I will not allow tofu within 100 yards of my kitchen.

Another suggestion was that you’re putting too much milk in your scrambled eggs; that you should add only a little bit of milk. I sort of flunked that one because I don’t add any milk when I scramble eggs. Adding milk to scrambled eggs is barbaric.

The last suggestion which I’m going to address was that canned tomatoes work better than fresh ones when making Marinara. I pass that test; not because I knew they work better, but because I’ve always been too lazy to use fresh ones. Peeling tomatoes is a pain in the ass. Now I can make sauce with a glow of righteousness.

They did not point out, though, that those canned tomatoes need to be simmered for a fair length of time, at least 40 minutes or so, to get the canned taste out of them.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

California Early Summer

I think it was Mark Twain who said that the coldest winter he had ever experienced was June in San Francisco. We're not that bad, but NOAA is pressed to come up with different ways to say the same thing. "Decreasing clouds"  gives way to "some sun"  which changes to "some clearing"  and is followed by "partly cloudy."

It all means the same thing. If you are three miles inland you will get two hours of sun in midafternoon, but it you live at the coast you will not see the sun until July. People come here from Arizona and sit on the beach in shorts and sweatshirts, wrapped in big beach towels, looking stunned and rather pissed off.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Paul Krugman is an Idiot #6,376

Paul Krugman likes to remind us about how often he is right when he says things. If it were anyone else it would be called unseemly bragging, but coming from a liberal economist it is merely reminding us. Anyway, yesterday he reminded us that he was right in saying the interest rates were not going to rise, and that, “The longer high unemployment drags on, the greater the odds that crazy people will win big in the midterm elections — dooming us to economic policy failure on a truly grand scale.”

Because high unemployment is not, itself, an economic policy failure. And what have the “crazy people”  done in terms of economic policy that is significantly different than what the Democrats did when they were in the majority?

Today he ponders on Inequality and Urbanism,”  or what happens when rich people move into poor neighborhoods. He uses an example of when “a bank branch takes over the space formerly occupied by a beloved neighborhood shop.”  Everyone is “maximizing returns,”  he says, except, of course, the shop owner who is out of business, but Paul Krugman is a Princeton man so we have to give him some room to forget the little guy.

He opines that “the disappearance of that shop may lead to a decline in foot traffic,”  but that on a more positive note “an influx of well-paid yuppies can help support the essential infrastructure of hipster coffee shops, ethnic restaurants, and dry cleaners,"  all of which are populated by people who pop into and out of them by teleportation, apparently, since the foot traffic declined when the “beloved neighborhood shop”  left.

He sort of waffles on whether any of this is good or bad, but he considers “hipster coffee shops, ethnic restaurants, and dry cleaners”  to be “essential infrastructure.”  Why do we keep listening to this idiot?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

Never Forget"They go to war, these young men, not to die for their country but to place themselves, their precious lives, between their home and the forces which would destroy it."   Kenneth Roberts in "A Rabble In Arms."

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Talking Points

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

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

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

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Unicorns!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Paul Krugman is an Idiot #6,375

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Still Selling Bridges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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