Monday, March 02, 2015

Nine Rules

Huffington Post has an article on “9 Simple Rules” for sleeping featuring a pictures of a cat, which we all know to be world class sleepers. I know, I know, but it isn’t written by Arianna. It’s written by one Lindsay Holmes, whose qualifications are not given, and it does not say whether or not she lives with any cats.

Rule 1: Take a shower or bath. I’ve never seen a cat take a shower, of course, but cats very often bathe vigorously before curling up and going to sleep. I have, however, had my cat jump into my lap, curl up, and promptly give the appearance of being a dead cat with no preliminaries at all so we’ll give her, at best, a “maybe” on this one.

Rule 2: Wear actual pajamas. Oh, I don’t think so. Ever try to put silk pajamas on a cat? Don’t. Maybe she thinks that cats sleep so much that their fur coat can be considered pajamas and that they are “leisure class” beings who eat, hang out, and watch TV in their pajamas, but… No on this one.

Rule 3: Turn your bed into a haven. Well, clearly not. A cat will sleep anywhere, including on top of your toaster oven and, if you give it a chance to do so, inside your microwave. Neither of those could be considered a “haven,” although one could claim that the cat turned them into havens by sleeping there. That’s stretching it, though, so no.

Rule 4: Create realistic limits. Give me a break. Cats have no realistic limits about anything, and certainly not about sleeping. Total no on this one.

Rule 5: Set sleep alarm. Well, maybe. My cat will give every appearance of being comatose and suddenly her head will pop up like a jack-in-the-box. She will give me a blank stare, stand up and stretch with her back arched, and stroll into the kitchen for a snack. There better be a snack available at that point, or I will get yelled at. Some sort of alarm went off, although it may not have been a sleep alarm per se. We’ll have to give this one some more thought.

Rule 6: Don’t go to bed hungry. I think I’ll give her this one. My cat has only one mode when she’s hungry, and that consists of harassing me to correct the condition from which she is suffering at that time.

Rule 7: Write everything down. On the face of it, no, but if my cat finds where I dropped a potato chip, she will go back there every time she comes in that room for the next several weeks to see if I dropped another potato chip. She may have written down where that chip was. That does not, however, have anything to do with her sleeping, so we’ll stay with the no.

Rule 8: Tap into your inner child. Well, okay, cats are very, very good at tapping into their inner children. Cats are inextricably bound to their inner children. That’s why the internet is full of cat videos. This one is a no brainier.

Rule 9: No phones. I’m not sure how to score this one. Certainly cats don’t sleep with phones, but then they don’t care much for them when awake either. My cat tends to freak out and flee the room whenever the phone rings, so sleeping with a phone would definitely be counterproductive. Cats and phones just don’t belong in the same conversation, so we’ll just score this one a swing and a miss.

If you’re waiting for a conclusion, sorry, I have none. A conclusion would imply that all of this has some degree of significance, and it’s pretty obvious that it does not.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Cosby Thing

I have no real opinion about his morals. Facts are required to form such an opinion, and all I have are accusations. There are a sufficient number of them to lend some credibility to the issue and to create a faint distaste, but...

However, I watched a Bill Cosby special on television recently, and I have no idea why any venue is still presenting him as entertainment. He is inarticulate, misogynistic and utterly boring. I have watched a special on sewage treatment that was funnier.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lip Service Again

President Obama is trumpeting a “progressive agenda for the middle class” which consists of taxing the rich, raising the minimum wage, and providing free community college education. Other than the last, which has some tangible potential but is small and only a temporary fix, the agenda is his usual empty rhetoric.

There’s nothing wrong with taxing the rich but it should not be part of an "agenda for the middle class," since it does nothing to improve the their status. It does not raise their wages, provide them with better jobs, improve their access to truly affordable health care, or improve the conditions under which they work and live. In any case, Obama is talking about one or two percentage points of increase, and a truly progressive tax policy would raise the upper tax rates by twenty points or more.

Leadership should not be talking about minimum wage. Leadership should be demanding that no one in this great nation who is supporting himself, let alone a family, should ever work for minimum wage, regardless of what that minimum wage is. To insist that minimum wage should be sufficient to constitute a living wage is to have given up on restoring the middle class, to have surrendered the whole concept of general prosperity. We are not a minimum wage nation, and we should not be accepting, which we are beginning to do, that minimum wage is our standard of living.

In third world countries people live on minimum wage. In this nation we do not. We live better than that. We probably have to live differently than we do to assure a sustainable planet, but that’s a different issue. The point is that “minimum” is not in our vocabulary.

Free community college is a worthy concept provided that the community college is providing training in trades which constitute preparation for productive career jobs, not four year degrees that cater to the modern life goal of accumulation of wealth. There are job openings right now for welders, millwrights, pipefitters and other “skilled trades,” and providing access to training for those jobs is applaudable.

But more needs to be done to create more such jobs in the future, because the market for those jobs is temporary, caused by retirement of baby boomers and not by market growth. There is growth, but it is not sufficient to keep up with the population, and we cannot settle for the status quo. Once the current job openings are filled employment growth stalls again unless we have done something to create economic growth that is based on real production instead of being merely the manipulation of numbers in financial institutions.

We need, specifically to re-empower the working class so that paid sick leave, vacation and employer-provided health care are not issues mandated by government, but are benefits negotiated by workers because the workers have to power to do so as they once did.

We need to bring back production which has been offshored, so that this nation makes what it needs and wants, and so that the prosperity generated by our consumption is for the benefit of our own people and not squandered abroad.

Instead we get more lip service from our leaders, and we don’t need lip service and platitudes. We need real solutions offered by leaders who have vision and courage. Anybody?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Suing Over $7.91

A Washington state Attorney General filed suit against a florist for refusing to provide flowers to a same sex wedding, based on the state’s law prohibiting discrimination against “protected classes” (minorities). On first read I found the item unremarkable, but then I read “the rest of the story.”

It turns out the wedding involved a long time customer, Robert Ingersoll, who the florist knew very well was gay because he had been buying flowers for his partner at the florist for more than a decade. When he asked the florist to provide flowers for his wedding, she told him, apparently with regret, that her religion did not permit her to participate in same sex marriage. He responded by “giving her a hug,” and then suing her, “claiming $7.91 in out-of-pocket expenses, or the cost of driving to find a new florist.”

My first reaction is that Ingersoll seems to place great value on his freedom to practice his own beliefs, but he apparently does not think that the florist should have the freedom to comply with her own religious beliefs. This odd position is one which is, I think, altogether too common in today’s society. One certainly does not sue purely for damages when those damages are $7.91.

There appear to be two lawsuits ongoing, although the article is not real clear on that. There seems to be one by the couple for “economic damages to be determined at a later date,” which will probably be whatever “punitive damage” windfall the lawyers can persuade a jury to award, and another by the state for violation of the civil code against discrimination, in which the florist is accused of discriminating against a customer she served for more than ten years.

The law is, as was once famously said however, “an ass” and frequently does put law enforcement into positions where they do have to engage in such practice, so Attorneys General filing cases which on their face seem to deny an individual’s freedom for the sake of society’s greater good is not a big deal. If Ingersoll had not been a long time customer of the florist, I would have no bone to pick with the Attorney General.

He is quoted as saying by example that, “If an African American couple walked into a restaurant But that does not reflect what happened here, because the florist never refused to serve Robert Ingersoll because he was gay. She had been selling flowers to him, and presumably to other gay people, for many years. It was specifically the gay marriage that was her issue.

Since she did not refuse to serve gay people, as a juror I would disagree with her position, would tend to argue that selling flowers for a wedding does not constitute “participating in” that wedding. I would strongly suspect that she is a zealot proselytizing against the institution of gay marriage, but I’m not sure I would find her guilty of breaking any law.

The likely outcome, regardless of the rights or wrongs involved, is that the florist will be ruined, the couple will be enriched and the Attorney General will be reelected, all of which is what these trials are really about anyway.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Subron 8: Comms Etiquette

I had not been in the forward torpedo room for a week or so, even though I normally tended to hang out there when
I was off duty. The torpedomen kept a high stakes pinochle game going much of the time, and I was one of the few other crew members who was a player of sufficient caliber to join it. My presence there was not universally celebrated.

The torpedomen did not much appreciate me taking their money, which I tended to do, but that generated nothing more than a certain amount of banter. Ill feelings were prevented by buying rounds of drinks periodically.

Somewhat more serious was that tubes forward is separated from my duty area by five compartments and no fewer than six watertight doors, all of which are only three feet tall. What with me being well over six feet tall, those doors presented a certain impediment to me arriving at my duty station in anything like a rapid manner when I was sent for, which sometimes annoyed my division officer. He would make snide remarks like having had to send for a sandwich so as to avoid starving to death while waiting for me to arrive.

The next time he sent for me I brought a sandwich with me, which he did not think was as funny as I thought it was. It created a small problem for the Chief Electrician, because he had trouble concealing that he thought it was funny as hell, but all of that is a different story.

Even more serious was that when any kind of alarm sounded all of those doors would be shut and locked down. And they would be shut very fast; so fast that they sort of made one prolonged bang. I would go flying through as many of them as I could before they were shut, but there was no way I was ever going to make it to my station in maneuvering room, especially since other people, some of them officers, were also using the doors.

To gain my station, then, I would have to call the Captain and ask for permission to open a single watertight door. Having gone through it, I would call him again, report the door secured and ask permission to open the next door. I then had to repeat this process as many times as needed to reach my station in maneuvering room. If I spent my spare time in the crew’s area in after battery I might have to do it once, at most, but coming from tubes forward I sometimes had to do it four or five times, and to say that it annoyed the Captain would be a considerable understatement.

The Captain, however, was a very understanding guy, and he could never bring himself to tell me that I was not permitted to play pinochle with the torpedomen in tubes forward in my free time. He finally reached the point where he would tell me, “Go to maneuvering and call me back to tell me that all of the watertight doors are secured.” My division officer dropped a few hints about where I should spend my free time, but I was real good at being very dense when I wanted to be, and his hints sailed right over my head.

So anyway, I decided to see if the torpedomen had a pinochle game going, so I went to a communications device called the “growler” to call up and find out. Using the growler is pretty simple; pick up the handset, set the dial to the compartment you want to talk to, then turn the crank to make it ring at the other end. First, however you listen to be sure no one is on the circuit, because if someone is, then turning the crank causes a loud and horrendously annoying buzzing in their ear. This was, unfortunately, a step which I had omitted.

I belatedly stuck the headset to my ear and heard a voice say, “Who did that?” Sadly, I recognized the voice. It was, without question, the Captain himself.

“You mean you don’t know?” I asked. There was a brief pause, and then the Captain replied, “No.”

“Ain’t I lucky.” I responded and quickly hung up.

About half an hour later, having found out that a game was starting, I was passing through the control room on my way to tubes forward. Speaking to someone, officer or enlisted, as you pass them is considered good form but is optional with the exception of the Captain; you do not pass him without acknowledgement. Under the circumstances I was tempted to break protocol, but told him good morning and he returned it, and then he spoke my last name. He said nothing further, so I stopped and looked at him. He was sort of half smiling. “You’re not that lucky,” he said,

I waited a moment to see if he was going to say anything else, which he did not, mumbled a hasty “Aye sir” and got the hell out of the control room as fast as I could.

I found out later that he was only guessing.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Well, This Sucks

Our weather has turned cold, with highs only around 68, and people are having to wear long sleeves. Not long pants, though; nothing will get San Diegans to wear anything other than short pants and flip flops.

That does not include me, however; blue jeans and western boots regardless of weather. I do not own any short pants or flip flops.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tortured Logic

Jared Turner, of Fox Sports, indulges his fantasies of Danica Patrick stardom by giving us “3 reasons Danica can nab career win No. 1 in the Daytona 500.” His reasons are, to say the least, a sterling example of tortured logic.

Reason number one, he says, is, “her past Daytona success.” The facts rather contradict his starry-eyed thinking, because Danica has run the Daytona 500 three times, finishing 40th, 8th and 38th, for an average finish of 27th. That does not actually suggest high odds on her winning the race this year.

Reason number two is, according to him, that “Daytona loves Cinderellas.” He goes on to cite the number of times that rookies and underfunded teams have won at Daytona, but Danica has run the race three times and is therefor not a rookie, and her team, sponsored by GoDaddy and backed by Hendrick Motorsports, is one of the best funded and technically advanced teams in NASCAR. She hardly qualifies as a “Cinderella.”

The third reason he gives is that restrictor plates make the race an absolute crap shoot with all cars being equal, and means that any car in the race might win. That would mean that her chances are one in 43 of winning, which is hardly the best odds she will have all year. They are, in fact, the same odds she will have in the entire season.

Since this Danica fan wrote this piece of hyperbole, Danica crashed in practice, destroying her car completely, and will be going to a backup car for today’s qualifying race. Awesome.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Well, They Whiffed On That One

CBS Evening News did a segment last night on the report from Kaspersky, and to say that it was a swing and a miss would be a horrendous understatement. They missed the point of that report so badly that one would have to say that they swung the bat before the ball even left the pitcher’s hand, and would have to add that they did the classic spin themselves around and fall down at the plate. I think the pitcher balked and fell down laughing.

CBS went on at great length about the millions of dollars that were stolen, how balances were changed on accounts, and how the “hackers” would have ATMs spit out money at certain times and have people standing by to grab the $20 bills as they came flying out of the slot. Seriously.

Do you know how many man-hours would be involved in stealing the $1 billion that CBS claimed by changing individual balances, transferring amounts from those individual accounts and, for God’s sake, having bike messengers standing at ATMs collecting $20 bills? That would be a very lengthy ongoing enterprise, and they did that for all that time without getting caught? Nobody noticed the dudes hanging around the ATMs waiting for them to start spitting out money?

They actually said that “the hackers would program ATMs to spit out money at certain times, and then have someone there to collect the money.” Really. If they had claimed that they programed the ATM in a manner that would allow an accomplice to enter a code and withdraw unlimited funds, I might believe that, but to have it “spit out money” at a fixed time without assurance that it would, in fact, be collected is absurd, and ATMs do not hold all that much money in any case. Stealing money from ATMs is strictly small time stuff.

Now you can read an article in Reuters, another one in PC World and yet another one in Times of India, all of which are about the Kaspersky report and none of which mention monetary theft at all. What they do say is that Kaspersky discovered spyware in the hard drives of millions of computers which was undoubtedly placed there by NSA for the purpose of spying on behalf of the US government. The monetary theft, if it even happened at all, was a trivial sideline. The actual story was the ability of the NSA to plant spyware in the hard drive operating software of so many computers.

CBS forgot to mention that. They never mentioned NSA or the US government at all, but rather came up with this buffoonery about a $1 billion theft consisting of ATMs spitting out $20 bills. “Bonnie and Clyde would have been so proud,” Scott Pelley closed. Yeah, and Harpo Marx would have been embarrassed by Scott Pelley.

Update, (PS) 9:55am: The content of the piece struck me as bogus even as I was watching it last evening, but then when I went online and read the more objective articles today and realized the degree to which CBS was engaging in puffery and propaganda, I had to laugh out loud. And they are actually critical of Brian Williams.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"Neoliberalism is our Frankenstein"

Patrick Smith writes a delightful takedown of today’s neoliberalism which, make no mistake, is the religion of modern Democrats including Barack Obama. He missed an opportunity to draw a parallel to between it and the equally odious and idiotic neoconservatism, leaving a gap which I will endeavor to fill here.

He relates the issue specifically to the crises in Ukraine and Greece, but don’t doubt for a moment that it is not at the center of this nation’s inability to meaningfully recover from the economic crash of 2008; the reason that Wall Street and corporations have actually gained from that crash while the working class has been left on the tailings dump of an elitist economic policy.

Smith points out that neoliberals draw their logic from the English liberal economists Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, which puts them even further from current reality than neoconservatives. Neocons draw from Ayn Rand, who was at least an American and lived in the twentieth century. (She was also a notorious drunk and “woman of loose morals,” but that’s a different issue.) Neolibs are drawing from Englishmen who lived in the 17th and 18th century, and whose thinking was about as relevant to today’s economic conditions as Richard Lionheart’s might be.

He goes on to note that neoliberals sort of “cherry pick” from the writings of people such as Adam Smith, quoting his words only when they bolster their case for the kind of chaos they wish to create. Sort of like fundamentalists do with the bible when condemning certain lives of which they disapprove.

Which is actually a rather apt comparison, since Smith goes on to point out that neoliberalism, “denotes not thought but belief, ideological conviction,” a point which I have noticed often in discussion. They do not tolerate other points of view and take the position that their minds are made up so they therefor do not want to be confused by any facts. Today’s neoliberal finds it very difficult to describe that for which he stands and spends most of any discussion ranting about the evils of the “other side.”

It’s hard to argue against his conclusion that neoliberalism “is the ideology of radical deregulation, radical corporatization, radical privatization … maximal profit without regard to consequences, and the radical devaluation of any serious consciousness of the communities in which all individuals are suspended.”

You might want to argue the first point, citing Dodd-Frank, until you examine the reality of that bill and give thought to what happens if, as Congress certainly intended, it is not adequately enforced. Where are the provisions that assure that it will be enforced, and where are the penalties for institutions which are found to be in breach? What happens if Congress fails to act as specified? The answers to all of that lie in the bills that were passed following the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s.

The relentlessness of privatization can be illustrated by Obama’s trip to California to “enlist the help of major IT corporations in securing the safety of the nation’s communication systems.” Need I say more?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The King Is Dead

The “liberals” at Salon and Huffinton Post are aghast at the announcement that Jon Steward is leaving the Daily Show, a show that they seem to forget is on the Comedy Channel. They are raving about the way that he “revolutionized the manner in which news is delivered,” and worrying about who will replace him. Replace him on the Comedy Channel.

Many are distraught because they claim that the public will no longer have a reliable source of “real news” with Jon Stewart gone, again I remind you, gone from the Comedy Channel. How seriously should we take people who rely on the Comedy Channel as their main source of news? Given that most of them are desperate for Elizabeth Warren to make a run for president, I would say the answer to that is, "not very seriously." And their concern seems to me to be misplaced in more ways than merely with respect to the venue of the show.

As best I can determine Stewart drew a nightly audience of 2 million people, which amounts to about 0.6% of the population. So these writers are not concerned about where “the public” will go for “reliable news,” they are concerned about where less than one percent of the public will go. Of every 157 people in this country, 1 person watches Jon Stewart.

The one time they never listened to Jon Stewart was when he told them, repeatedly, “I am a comedian, not a newsman.”

Saturday, February 07, 2015

The Illusion of "Solving Inequality"

Even Republicans are now agreeing that “inequality” needs to be dealt with and they are, like the Democrats, proposing to deal with it by “taxing the rich,” that is by taking small amounts of money away from the richest Americans. That means that instead of owning 99.9% of America’s wealth, the “1%” will then own only 99.8% of America’s wealth, the working class will still be working two jobs to be only marginally able to pay their bills, and politicians can run on a platform of having solved the inequality problem.

Unfortunately, the American voters are delighted with this totally illusory solution. As someone said in a comment on another blog, “The level of acceptance of propaganda as truth in the US has now become staggering in its effect.”

Much is being made of sundry individuals in the 1% saying that they don’t mind paying a little bit more tax, using that as support for the plan of “taxing the rich” to solve the inequality problem. Of course the 1% supports this solution and is happy to pay a slightly higher tax, so long as the basic policies which created inequality and are still contributing to it are left in place. Their willingness to pay a higher tax should be a "red flag" as to just how bogus this solution actually is, something along the lines of Br'er Rabbit begging not to be thrown into the briar patch.

Inequality is not the real issue; it is the result of unfair economic and social policies, and is a symptom of those policies in action, and the progressivism in the tax rate is among the smallest of those issues. Solving inequality is going to require changing those policies in major ways, starting with the biggest ones, which are replacing the well paying jobs which were shipped offshore in the name of “globalization” and “free trade,” and allowing the forces of collective bargaining to regain equal power with business.

Taking small amounts of money from the rich may help the poor if it is redistributed in social programs, which for the most part it will not be, but it will do nothing towards raising the living standards of the men and women who work for a living and draw paychecks based on hourly wages. That is what the discussion must be about, because it doesn’t matter how many jobs we generate if those jobs do not permit the workers to support their families with dignity and a provide quality way of life.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Nightly Freak Show

CBS Evening News has a piece last night with Holly Williams purportedly interviewing heroic Kurds who are fighting the terrorist ISIS in northern Iraq, or Syria. She seems to be a little confused about precisely where she is, which might be due to the helmet she is wearing for dramatic effect. The actual effect is more silly than dramatic, since she is the only person in the area wearing a helmet. The actual fighters are wearing cloth caps and, since everyone is walking around in the open and no one is looking the least bit on guard, one has to doubt her claims that she is “at the front lines” and that “a terrorist attack could happen at any second.”

Not to mention that she said early in the piece that “the ISIS forces are four miles that direction,” which hardly portends “an attack any second” and rather debunks the need for body armor and a helmet.

She then holds a Skype interview in which Scott Pelley discusses with her how incredibly harrowing it must be for her to be traveling to such dangerous places, to which she replies that it is indeed nerve wracking to be where one is in danger of being killed but that that’s what brave reporters do. Fortunately, I had not yet eaten my dinner so I didn’t throw it up.

Scott Pelley closed, as he is now closing all interviews with this posturing jackass, “More intrepid reporting from Holly Williams.” Intrepid reporting. Gack.

Meanwhile, Stars and Stripes reports that NBC anchor Brian Williams, now admits that he was being less than truthful when he claimed to have been aboard an Army helicopter that was shot down in Iraq during the 2003 invasion. People who were in that helicopter, it seems, do not recall seeing him there.

One of them, Lance Reynolds, challenges him on Facebook. “Sorry dude, I don't remember you being on my aircraft. I do remember you walking up about an hour after we had landed to ask me what had happened.” He has more to say.

Williams at first tried to palm it off as having been in the chopper that was immediately behind the one which was hit by ground fire and forced to land, but eventually had to admit that he was in a flight that was following about an hour behind the flight in question, and that he did not arrive until the wounded chopper was safely on the ground and the crew was out of it unharmed.

He claims it was a “mistake” in his reporting, and that he doesn't know how he could have "misremembered" the event. Seriously. He claims that.

Our “mainstream media” is a nightly freak show.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Economic Obfuscation

Dean Baker castigates the Washington Post for telling readers that under Obama’s proposed budget, “interest payments will be larger than spending on any program other than Social Security and Medicare.” He claims that they should have reported instead that, “the interest tab projected for 2025 is 3.0 percent of GDP,” because the Post’s statement does not “provide context” for the amount of interest the nation will be paying, while his statement does.

Apparently he has no idea of what the word “context” means, mainly “the terms in which an item or concept can be fully understood and assessed.”

Saying that the government is spending “more in interest payments than it is on any program other than Social Security or Medicare” strikes me as fairly informative. It suggests that the debt upon which that interest is being paid is rather large and, most importantly, it very clearly tells me that interest payments are interfering with the government’s ability to provide services to its people.

Saying that the “the interest tab is 3.0 percent of GDP” tells me, at most, that the payments are not significantly damaging the nation’s overall economy. Except that it is not the overall economy which is making the payments, it is the government, and Baker’s inane statement tells me nothing whatever about how the payments are affecting the government’s ability to function financially.

Dean Baker is an idiot. He is critical of the media and then offers a “better” statement which provides even less of what he was castigating them for not providing.

But this is the function of today’s economist; to obfuscate and conceal economic reality because if the public realized what was really going on they would react with torches and pitchforks and burn down Wall Street and Washington both.

The purpose of relating everything to “a percentage of GDP” even when it is not a function of the overall economy but is a matter of government spending is a deliberate ploy to make the amounts look smaller and less significant, and to make the public more tolerant of the appalling and profligate waste and theft which has become the primary purpose of today’s government.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Super Bowl

Both teams use a 4-3 defense, so it doesn't prove my point either way, but no defense will be successful when it sits back eight yards off the line of scrimmage and allows Tom Brady to complete 74% of his passes. The NFL should create the equivalent of throwing a towel onto the field and leaving the premises.

Exciting game? Not really. If the Patriots had played defense during the last two minutes of each half, and had Brady thrown one fewer interception, we would be talking about how boring the game was.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Why a 3-4 Defense Doesn't Work

The 3-4 defense does work very well if the defensive coordinator knows how to run it, but very few do, and as a result the 3-4 is very seldom particularly successful.

When the San Diego Chargers first switched to the 3-4 it was under defensive coordinator Wade Philips, who knows very well how to run that defense. He may be the best coach ever to run that particular scheme, and the Chargers were very successful with it for quite a while. Then he left, and none of his replacements have been able to provide the Chargers with a reliable defense using that pattern.

There was an article in the Detroit Free Press which posited that the Pro Bowl needed to change the way it selected outside linebackers because of teams which used the 4-3 defense, arguing that outside linebackers in the 4-3 did not make as many quarterback sacks as linebackers in the 3-4 and were therefor under-represented in the Pro Bowl. That was evidence, to me, that defensive coaches are not using the 3-4 properly.

Proper use of the 3-4 requires that all four linebackers play as linebackers. That means they are assigned as “head hunters,” assigned to cover a portion of the field with responsibility for defense against both run and pass. You do not merely treat the outside linebackers as nothing more than linemen who are standing up and use them as quarterback rushers. Doing that negates the advantage of the 3-4 in two ways.

First is that you no longer have four linebackers, you effectively have two linebackers and five down linemen and are actually using a 5-2 defense. You now have only 2-1/2 “head hunters” in the defensive backfield on each play because one outside linebacker is rushing the quarterback and the other one is a pass rusher who is wandering around back there wondering what the hell is going on.

You have also told the opponent where the pass rush in coming from. A major advantage of the 3-4 is that the opponent knows that a fourth player will be coming on the pass rush, but he doesn’t know where than fourth man will be coming from. It might be an outside linebacker, but it also might be an inside linebacker, or it might be a safety, or it might even be a cornerback. That makes blocking assignments very difficult for an offense. If he knows that the fourth man is going to be an outside linebacker, pass blocking becomes a hell of a lot easier.

Finally, a 3-4 defense has to be aggressive, has to attack the opponent. In the 4-3 defense you have four down linemen protecting three linebackers, preventing the offensive blockers from getting to and disabling the linebackers. In a 3-4 the linebackers are “naked.” You have only three linemen covering four linebackers, and blockers can easily get to and disable a slow moving or stationary linebacker. In a 3-4 defense the linebackers must be in motion the moment that the ball is snapped; if he remains static even for a second an offensive player can get to him and take him out. Too few defensive coaches realize that.

Announcers go crazy about the “last minute winning drives,” giving credit to quarterbacks and offensive players, but in most of the ones that I have watched, the real cause of that drive was a defense that could not finish off the opponent, and it was almost always a 3-4 defense that did not attack.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Omigod, The Concussions

There is an alarming article which points out that players in the NFL suffered 111 concussions this past season. While I would certainly prefer that no players suffered any concussions, the awesomeness of that horrendous number of concussions needs to be put into proportion.

There are 32 teams in the NFL, and each team plays sixteen games. For each game, 22 players are on the field for the game; not the same 22, but there will be 11 defensive players and 11 offensive players who will "man the battle" during the game. A football game is sixty minutes long, so a little simple math says that there are 11,264 man-hours of football played during the season. That means that a concussion happens every 101.5 man-hours or, since 22 man-hours are played per game, once every 4.6 games.

That means that there is a 21.7% chance that a concussion will occur during the upcoming Super Bowl, and for each player the risk is slightly under 1%.

Not wonderful, but hardly "Omigod, 111 concussions."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Never Forget?

I have watched this week, and been deeply moved by, the film clips of survivors of Auschwitz returning on the 70th anniversary of their liberation to visit that place of horror. What must that be like for them? Their faces don’t show much, and they show so little anger when they speak. There is a nobility in those aged faces that suggests they are beyond anger and have reached something stronger and more enduring. The pain can still be seen, though; nothing can erase that.

Never forget. What does that mean? To me it means that the people of a nation must be aware of and responsible for every action taken by its government, and by that standard we have already forgotten. We accept the thousands killed in wars fought based on lies; the Afghan wedding parties slaughtered by Hellfire missiles fired from drones; the innocent bystanders tortured in Guantanamo

Immensely fewer innocents than the holocaust, but we are not speaking out against the killing of innocent people. Tell me how that ends.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Breaking: Inflationgate

Headline at Huffington Post reads "Employee seen taking balls into bathroom." They really need to hone their headline writing skills. I would certainly hope that the employee would not attempt to go into the bathroom and leave his balls behind. That would be painful. I guess one has to be a guy to jump to certain conclusions.

Monday, January 26, 2015


I haven't watched the Pro Bowl (or is it Probowl?) for years, but chanced upon it while flipping channels last night. Did they really make the uniforms for one side gray and white, and the uniforms for the other side black and white? Why would they do that? Is it a tacit admission of how boring the whole exercise in futility has become?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Pot Calls Kettle An Idiot

Economist Dean Baker praised economist Paul Krugman last Thursday for ridiculing billionaire Jeff Greene, who Baker said richly deserved to be ridiculed for saying that people “need to get used to lower living standards,” which isn't actually precisely what he said.

Once again proving that economists are stupid as a bag of hammers when it comes to anything other than playing with and manipulating numbers which have dollar signs in front of them.

What Greene actually said was, “America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence." (Which is hardly a "lower living standard.") He goes on to say that, "We need to reinvent our whole system of life.” (emphasis mine)

He makes a lot more sense than does either Krugman or Baker, both of whom cheerfully endorse an economy which consumes twice as much as it produces and which maintains an annual net trade deficit of staggering proportion as a result. Baker occasionally gives lip service to the evils of the trade deficit, but continues to support consumer consumption as the basis of our economy, which actually makes him even more unmoored from reality than is Krugman.

Greene is simply acknowledging that a population of 350 million people cannot live as lavishly as can one of 200 million, because resources and infrastructure simply do not permit. Baker, Krugman and everybody else in public life have buried their heads in the sand and refused to see this simple fact, assuming that resources, energy in particular, and infrastructure are limitless and can accommodate an endlessly growing society.

It is as plain as the print on the front page of our daily newspaper that such is not the case. Our economy is not working. It has not been working for decades; has been failing repeatedly, failing bigger each time and recovering more slowly and less thoroughly. We can’t fix it by simply doing more of what we have been doing or trying to do it on a bigger scale, and we can’t continue to pretend that what we are doing is working, as economists and politicians want to do. We have to come up with something different.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Raising Tax Inequality?

The San Diego newspaper (well, it looks like a newspaper until you read it), which bears the rather weird name of U-T San Diego, had a headline on the front page yesterday which read, “Obama plan raises tax inequality.” The article itself does suggest, in a meandering and indirect way, that some people like the plan because they think that taxing the rich is good, while others dislike the plan because they are rich and don’t want to pay more taxes.

The headline is, I suppose, making some sort of ignorant and misguided counter to talk of “income inequality,” and the writer of it is unaware that our income tax system is, and has been since its inception, a progressive income tax, based on the principle that taxes should be levied on each citizen based on ability to pay.

Over the years various corrupt politicians have made the tax less and less progressive, and Obama’s proposal is to take a timid and utterly inadequate step toward restoring the progressive nature of the tax. His plan should, indeed, be criticized; not for “raising tax inequality,” forsooth, but for doing far too little to restore the progressiveness of our income tax and for his monstrously idiotic plan to “make corporate taxes more competitive,” which is Obama-speak for reducing them.

The U-T San Diego should be used exclusively for starting fires in your fireplace or for lining garbage cans, bird cages, and cat litter boxes.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Big Speech

I saw the event described as the, “Annual Monarchist Ritual To Acclaim U.S. Hypocrisy,” which I thought was slightly hyperbolic but not altogether inapt. It does bring to mind the seemingly hours-long process of presidential entry into the hall, with all and sundry fawning over his presence and frantically attempting to touch the royal robe.

Everyone who has mentioned it has loved Obama’s comment about “I have no more campaigns to run,” but I have not seen one remark about the open and utterly corrupt cynicism which is embodied in that comment. This is the first time I have ever heard a politician openly admit that winning campaigns is more important than governing “for the people,” which is precisely what he is saying. He has not advocated this sort of legislation before because winning campaigns was more important to him, and he is doing so now only because he has no more campaigns to prevent him from doing the right thing.

One also has to wonder why, if he “has no more campaigns to run,” he has been headlining at fundraisers on an almost weekly basis.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Inflation Gate

It's perfectly reasonable to despise the New England Patriots. It's perfectly reasonable to be disappointed, even modestly angry, when they win a playoff game.
It is utterly insane to accuse them of tampering with
the fucking footballs.

Comedy Devolves Into Farce

Sony pictures is hacked and the government almost immediately announces that they know, have proof in fact, that North Korea did it and that the purpose was to prevent the release of a movie mocking the North Korean leader. The train of thought appears to be that North Korea is a terrorist state and therefor emulates radical Islam by threatening death to parties mocking their leader.

The “proof” is offered by the same FBI which once proudly announced the arrest of a man for attempting to blow up the Mackinack Bridge in Michigan, only to find out that he had no explosives because the only thing he was actually doing was bootlegging cell phones.

Anyway, professional computer companies examine the FBI proof of North Korea’s guilt in the Sony hack and say that it is doubtful that it proves anything of the sort. They reveal that the initial demand had nothing to do with the silly movie at all, but was an attempt to extort money and they suggest that they suspect a disgruntled former employee.

The government responds by standing its ground and claiming that some of its proof is too secret to release. The secret proof is more thorough, they say, than that which is being debunked by computer professionals, but we will have to trust them because disclosing it cannot be done for national security reasons. Just to prove how serious we are about this, though we are issuing sanctions against North Korea for hacking us.

That did not put the issue to rest because apparently we don't actually trust them all that much. The computer companies continue to say that they just don’t think the hack looks like North Korea, raising some pretty good points to support their contentions.

So here comes the FBI, who just won’t give up on this, saying that we know it was North Korea who hacked Sony because we hacked them first. We had, it seems, installed spyware in North Korea’s computers and were actually watching them hack Sony, and we know they did it because we were watching them do it.

Well, no, that would raise the question of why did we not stop them, so the FBI admits that our spyware did not see the actual hack of Sony but did see other things which lead to proof that the Sony hack came from the same computers. Unfortunately for the FBI, that’s not how spyware works, but we won’t go into that here.

Just the supposed fact that we hacked them first is ironic enough. How can we be quite so outraged at them hacking us if we did it to them first? The image of James Comey standing at the podium in high dudgeon over North Korea’s invasion of our computer networks and saying that he knows they did it because we invaded their networks first is simply beyond belief.

Germany, England and other allies have not yet raised the question that, if we have planted spyware in one government’s computer system, have we done the same in the computer systems of their nations as well? That question will arise, and when it does, things are going to get very, very awkward.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

"Yes" Means What?

Governor Jerry Brown signed into law on Sunday a bill known as the “yes means yes” bill that the legislature claims will significantly reduce rapes on the campuses of our state. Because if you have a social problem, you definitely heed a new law.

The law requires "an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision" by each party to engage in sexual activity, which is about the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. Imagine, if you can, two college students, both of them intoxicated, trying to arrive at an “affirmative, unambiguous and conscious mutual decision" about anything.

Respect for others, men for women, or for that matter respect regardless of gender, is disappearing from our culture, so we pass laws trying to cure that illness. It won’t work any more than an ice-water bath will work to cure pneumonia. The fever is not what kills a pneumonia patient, it is but a symptom, and passing a law that requires that he has to get a woman to audibly say “yes” does not teach a man to respect women.

Nor does such a silly law protect the woman if she is herself intoxicated, since an intoxicated person is by definition unable to give an “unambiguous and conscious decision,” and why should women in college be any less free to imbibe alcohol than are men?

And don’t give me the “he should have known that she was drunk” nonsense. Not if he was drunk himself, and it is perfectly possible for a person to be sufficiently intoxicated to be incapable of informed consent and to show no outward sign of it whatever. It is not, in fact, even a particularly rare condition

I’m not sure how pervasive the problem actually is in any case. I’m not questioning its seriousness, but Twitter blows things out of proportion. For a while the world was afire with passion about the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. They were never rescued and that crisis continued unabated, but it disappeared when the Ebola virus erupted and the world set out to cure that dread disease and succor people affected by it. Ebola is not cured and people are still suffering, but then Ray Rice slugged his girlfriend in front of an elevator camera and so now we are all about violence against women. Until the next sensational event occurs. Twitter rules to a degree that we pass laws based on its current trends.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Picking the Playoffs

Picking the Seahawks is pretty easy. Green Bay possibly could beat them in the 12th man stadium, but they won't.

I am, however, going to go against the odds and pick the Colts to win in New England. The Patriots only rushed for 14 yards last week, and the Colts defense is as good against the run as the Ravens. More to the point, the Colts will play pass defense, which the Ravens did not.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Now That Was Poise

Give up four turnovers, three of them entirely unforced, surrender 13 points of a 14 point lead, and then march down the field from your own three yard line for a touchdown. Follow that up by holding your opponent scoreless while scoring two more touchdowns. That was impressive.

Immediately after he scored a touchdown on a quarterback sneak, Cardale Jones was on the sideline slapping the shoulder pads of and congratulating each and every one of his offensive linemen. That was a very classy thing to do, and I decided right then that I would be quite happy if Ohio State won the game.

Win it they did, and it was a well deserved win. The announcers kept commenting that Oregon was in trouble with long third down situations because their game depended on deception, on making the opponent think they were going to do one thing while they actually did something else. Ohio State's game was one of execution and precision. Their plays were not complex, and they ran the same running play repeatedly. Oregon knew what was coming, but Ohio State executed the play with such precision and physicality that Oregon was simply unable to do anything to stop it. Shades of Vince Lombardi, and it was fun to watch.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Football Notes

I did not enjoy watching Denver lose yesterday, but I very much did enjoy watching the Colts play real live honest to God pass defense. The secondary got right in the grill of the Denver recievers and said to them, "I am not going to let you catch a pass. Be it one yard or twenty, if you are going to catch a pass, you are going to have to go through me." Which is why Manning completed only 9 of his first 22 passes, and finished the game with a paltry 200 yards passing on the day. Wrong team won, but it was a good game.

I also did not enjoy watching the Patriots win, especially given that they did so as a result of the Ravens' choice not to play pass defense at all. The secondary lined up eight yards off the line of scrimmage and stood there like house plants, allowing any pass of less than eight yards to be completed uncontested. Being stationary, they frequently were in no position to do anything more that shout curses at the receivers who galloped past them after the catch, turning eight yard passes into twenty yard gains.

This scheme was, of course, for the purpose of being sure that they did not "give up the big one," but they still managed to surrender a 51-yard touchdown pass that was not even thrown by Tom Brady. It was thrown by a pass receiver who they were deliberately not covering and was caught by another receiver who they were inadvertantly not covering. Awesome.

With 14 yards rushing and passing that was gifted by the Ravens, the Patriots' game was a travesty.

Carolina was simply beaten by a better team, which is hard to argue given that they entered the playoffs with a record of 7-8-1. I don't think we need to go into much detail on that one.

I didn't care who won in Green Bay. I wanted both teams to lose and knew that wasn't going to happen, so I rooted for whichever team was behind and enjoyed the hits on the quarterbacks that left them limping and hobbling around. Both quarterbacks walked off the field intact and one team won, so the game was a bit of a disappointment.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Feline Follies

I woke up last night from a dream which I only vaguely recall, having to do with battling for territory, only to realize that I was in reality fighting with the damn cat for possession of the bed. I was sort of perched on the edge, while Molly was holding the more desirable soft ground in the center.

Efforts to dislodge her were not as easy as one might think. She weighs only slightly over eight pounds, but was doing the feline thing of altering gravity and behaving much like a black hole of essentially infinite mass. There is a law of cat physics to the effect that a cat’s weight is inversely proportional to it’s state of alertness, and cats can reach infinitely low levels of alertness. Or they can rise from the dead like the gods that they think they are.

Not only can they alter mass, but they can transmogrify their bodies such that picking them up is much like trying to pick up a ninety pound mass of warm Jell-O. You pick up the front half, to which they offer no resistance whatever, and the back half remains on the bed, seemingly not connected to the front half but somehow managing to serve as a highly effective anchor for it.

We got things sorted out, but she was back to sleep before I was.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

35 Degrees, Forsooth

One of the dogwalkers who pass my window every morning was wearing earmuffs this morning. Earmuffs. Even the dog looked cold. "Do my business in this? You have to be kidding. Do you know about newspapers in the house?" Some people are walking really fast, either to generate heat or to get it over with, while others look like their blood has congealed. A few regulars have not even showed up, so apparently they do know about newspapers in the house. Or are just telling their dogs to suck it up until it gets warmer - mid-afternoon perhaps..

San Diegans do not deal well with anything below 60 degrees.

Monday, December 29, 2014

They Are Who I thought They Were

The Chargers season ended, not with a bang, as the saying goes, but with a whimper; scoring a whopping seven points while losing to another non-playoff team. U-T San Diego writers are bleating endlessly about injuries, of course, but it should be pointed out that the Green Bay Packers won a Super Bowl with no fewer than eight of their starting players on injured reserve.

One might also ask why the Chargers have incurred all of those injuries. Could it have to do, perhaps, with players being in night clubs on Friday nights flinging champagne bottles drunkenly across the room? That does not, I believe do much for physical conditioning, and when have we seen the Chargers ever play a full 60 minutes of hard, physical football?

The Chargers, I believe have had for many years an attitude problem. They have too many players, not all of them, but too many who are more interested in being celebrities than they are in being professional football players, and that attitude is tolerated by the team’s management. Winning teams do not keep players who are in night clubs on Friday night when there is a Sunday game.

The Chargers are a team of celebrities, and as long as management tolerates that this is what you will get. They will continue to be pretty boys in pretty powder blue uniforms who cannot win the games that count.