Saturday, October 22, 2016

Let's Not Party

There is a proposal on next month’s ballot to build a “convadium,” which isn’t even a thing, for the Chargers to play football in and comic book fans to hold conventions in. Hopefully, these events will not happen at the same time, but that points out one of many weaknesses of having a convention center that doubles as a football stadium.

Fifty thousand cars converging on downtown San Diego at one time on a single freeway is another.

The paper today had a breakdown of a poll regarding voting on this issue, and one thing struck me as possibly noteworthy. Of Republicans, 38% intend to vote against this idiocy, while among Democrats 37% intend to do so; not a big difference. The big difference is that among Independents, 53% intend to vote against alienating tourists in order to build a half-assed convention center for a half-assed football team.

Unlike both Democrats and Republicans, Independents seem to think that maybe a football team doesn’t need a convention center, which suggests to me that political parties make you stupid.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Short Takes

A drunken driver driving at high speed breaks through the railing on the Coronado Bridge and kills four people in the park below. A clamor is immediately raised to make the bridge more safe.

People. That bridge did not kill anyone. Some jackass got drunk and decided to drive like a maniac. We are killing each other and demanding that the government prevent us from the consequences of our own actions. How about directing your anger at drunk drivers that kill 38,000 people every year, one third of all traffic deaths, rather than at one bridge?

The latest ad against Proposition 61, requiring drug companies to sell to Medical at the same rates that they sell to the Veterans Administration, is a real doozy. They claim it only applies to 12% of the population (people receiving Medical) and "only helps a few people, like state workers and prisoners," because only DMV employees and prisoners get their prescription medication from Medical.

Actually, the measure doesn't benefit the recipients of Medical ("state workers and prisoners"), because they are not paying for those drugs. Medical is paying for those drugs and the money comes from taxpayers, so Prop 61 actually benefits everyone who is a taxpayer in California, and that's closer to 100% than it is 12%.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics

The New York Times informed us yesterday the the federal deficit in the current fiscal year ending last month rose to $587 billion. You can go to a nice government website which shows colorful charts illustrating this deficit and confirming the story told to us by the Times.

I’m always a little suspicious when I see something this elaborately stage managed, not to mention that I saw the word “budget” in that report, so let’s dig a little deeper.

It took a while, and this government website is nowhere as pretty, but the Treasury Department does publish a monthly statement of the total debt outstanding owed by the federal government. Guess what, it doesn’t verify the $587 billion deficit. It doesn’t contain the word “budget” either. The amounts are in trillions.
lego mania
So it would appear that the deficit was closer to $1.5 trillion than it was to the $.5 thillion that the Times is telling us about. Where did the other $835 billion go?

Is it the difference between the budget and actual spending? Perhaps so, but to some degree it is the result of a distortion caused by lumping Social Security revenue into the general revenue stream. That money is paid into a trust fund, not into the government’s coffers, and the government borrows from the trust fund, borrowing which is largely concealed in the reporting by the ploy of including non-government funds into government revenue reporting.

This is just one of many ways in which our government lies to us.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Idiocy of Economics

Dean Baker produced a response today to a column in Bloomberg News in which he says it is “almost impossible to exaggerate how absurd” the premise of the column is. He then proceeds to illustrate that the columnist cannot hold a candle to an economist when it comes to being absurd.

First, he says that “it only takes the debt side of the ledger,” which is something that “no business would ever engage in.” This after spending years pointing out repeatedly that the government is not a business in that governments do not repay debt, but we’ll let that one slide.

Then he points out that “Microsoft has much more debt than the restaurant down my street,” and suggests that Bloomberg should be “highlighting Microsoft's massive debt.” All of that is, of course, irrelevant to the column’s argument about the increasing size of government debt. In any case, if you look up Microsoft’s balance sheet, it has a rather small debt, 32% of its assets and only 75% of its annual revenue.

He than explains that Bloomberg’s business reporters would “report on Microsoft's debt in relation to its assets and its debt service in relation to its revenue or profits,” and that if they reported on the government debt in this fashion, “it would be pretty obvious and totally non-scary that our per capita debt rises through time.” Actually, that’s precisely what the column said and was, in fact, the whole point of the column. Baker may consider that “totally non-scary,” but not everybody agrees with him.

Besides which, it’s not clear to me how reporting the government debt “in relation to its assets and its debt service in relation to its revenue or profits” would make it in any way obvious that government debt is increasing over time, or especially why it would make that fact “totally non-scary.” For one thing, how does one determine the assets of the federal government?

The big lie, though, is the part where he advocates reporting of government “debt service in relation to its revenue or profits,” and then says that if they did so then “it would be reported on the ratio of debt service to GDP,” which he cites as being 0.8% currently. That is an utterly false picture, because the Gross Domestic Product is an order of magnitude larger than federal revenue. The government does not have access to the money represented by the GDP, it only has access to the money that is paid into its coffers by taxes and other sources.

Federal revenue this past year is $3.3 trillion, but of that $1.1 trillion is social services taxes which are paid directly into a trust fund for Social Security and medical care. The general fund revenue is $2.2 trillion, then, of which $432.7 billion was paid to service the debt, i.e. interest charges, which amounts to 19.7% of revenue. That is not the trivial amount that Dean Baker wants us to believe it is.

There is a very large difference between the reality of “19.7% of federal revenue” which Dean Baker says Bloomberg should be reporting and the meaningless “0.8% of GDP” which he cites instead.

He then declaims the “absurdity that in the Bloomberg Halloween debt story our children would be better off if we eliminated public schools and funding for their education altogether,” which apparently came entirely from his feverish imagination, because it certainly is not contained in the Bloomberg column. He then claims they say that it “would be even better off if we stopped spending to maintain and improve infrastructure,” despite the fact that the column doesn’t say that and apparently unaware that we’ve already stopped such spending decades ago.

He finishes up with a tirade on patents, which is a pet peeve of his, but is pretty much irrelevant to government debt. Sort of like writing about a football game and complaining about a baseball rule. He considers patents as a government plot to permit corporate graft and overpricing and thinks patents and copyrights should be outlawed. Authors and inventors may disagree.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Consensus Prediction

I have been reading, and watching, the local sports media too much, resulting in a brainwashed prediction of a Chargers win tonight by a score of 24-0. The reason that the Broncos will be scoreless is that every time their quarterback attempts to throw a pass Joey Bosa will sack him. San Diego will miss eighteen field goals, be successful on one, and Rivers will throw three touchdown passes.


lego maniaReturning home after running some errands, I walked into the room where Molly was hanging out. I had not begun petting her, had not yet even spoken to her, and she was already purring audibly. Merely at the sight of me. That's why one houses a cat.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Limited Reading

I ditched places like Salon and Democratic Underground a couple of months ago. Now I'm having to abandon even Facebook in order to avoid being inundated with the personal shortcomings of Donald Trump. It's not that I support the guy, I don't, but I'm not a chimpanzee and I don't participate in feces flinging contests.

Delusion Abounds

Just to illustrate how delusional the San Diego sports writers are, Nick Canepa is claiming today that head coach Mike McCoy should not be fired, at least not until the end of the season. As evidence of this theory he cites another sunken ship, "McCoy is the captain. When the Exxon Valdez crashed into Bligh Reef, people didn’t blame the reef."

No, Nick, they blamed the captain, and they didn't wait until he crashed into a dozen more reefs before they fired him.

Update: No, Canepa does not have a valid point regarding injuries. The Chargers lost their best receiver to a season-ending injury. So they are going to lose a whole bunch of games because the team doesn't have any other receivers? Those other guys are no-talent window dressing that were added just as a formality to fill out the roster? They didn't expect them to, you know, actually catch any passes? I guess we only had one linebacker as well, right?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Well, It Was Creative

We did all the traditional things, yes -- fumbles and interceptions, two of each. The sixteen-yard punt from our own ten yard line was pretty creative, but we did that before in game one.

Lining up for a game-tying field goal at the opponent’s twenty and having the holder fumble the snap from center – well, you have to admit that adds a nice note of novelty.

Raiders 34, Chargers 31. Chargers season: 1-4

One has to think we saw 20,000 or so votes in favor of the new stadium disappear yesterday, which should kill the subject permanently because the deal made with the NFL was that if we did not build a new stadium the Chargers had just one year to move in with the Rams in Los Angeles.

This past week, however, Hizzonor the mayor made some deals with the Chargers which allowed him to support the measure to build the stadium. They are not being incorporated in the measure, are only “verbal assurances,” but Hizzonor says they can be worked into whatever stadium deal is proposed next year.

He doesn’t seem to recognize that he is a) acknowledging that he knows this “convadium” deal is going to fail notwithstanding his support of it and b) admitting that he knows that the Chargers and the NFL were lying when they said the Chargers would move to Los Angeles in 2017 if we didn’t build them a stadium this year.

Politics as usual. Here, Sacramento and Washington.

Update, Monday, 4:30pm: A poll taken this afternoon has support for the "convadium" at 36%. That's down from 41% last week.

Friday, October 07, 2016

More on Proposition 64

A couple of excellent points were raised in comments on my discussion regarding Proposition 64.

Based on the title of the book she referenced, I think that Barbara was suggesting that the “War on Drugs” is worse than drugs themselves, and I have little doubt that such is the case. I suspect that the “War on Drugs” has caused infinitely more suffering and death than has drug abuse, and certainly we are doing this wrong.

I don’t have the answer, and I suspect that solution lies much closer to the legalization end of the spectrum than it does to where we are now. I think my argument yesterday was more that we need to know how to assess “responsible use” more than than it was taking a position in opposition to legalizing it.

And I'm talking about the users themselves, actually, as well as the law. It's by no means uncommon for people impaired by alcohol to insist that they are not impaired, and that phenomenon is much more pervasive in users of marijuana. We need a way to measure that impairment in order to help establish a subjective standard for users of the substance to measure themselves against.

Bruce also raises the problem of “citizen measures,” and many official ones, which are poorly worded, sometimes deliberately so. It’s not unusual to have measures so deceptively worded that a liberal position requires a “no” vote while appearing to require an affirmative one. The whole “citizen’s initiative” process in California is badly broken.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Proposition 64

Proposition 64 would legalize marijuana for recreational use for persons over 21 years of age in California. Our Attorney General warns against the crime wave that revolves around the weed, but the idiot fails to recognize that said crime wave is the result of the weed’s illegality. A very similar crime wave revolved around alcohol during prohibition.

Reality is that legalizing marijuana is likely to reduce crime, not increase it, and the Attorney General is not as stupid as her argument would seem to indicate. She is merely as dishonest as most of the advocates on both sides of pretty much all of the measures on this year's ballot.

That being said, I do see a couple of problems with legalization, one being that after the state of Washington legalized marijuana they experienced a large increase in fatal highway crashes involving drivers who had been using marijuana, in fact the number of such crashes doubled. A direct cause and effect is hard to prove because of the second problem, which is that we have no way to detect when a person’s use of marijuana has become an impairment.

Alcohol use is generally defined as an impairment when the content in the blood reaches .08%, but even that, while close enough for legal action, is really only an approximation. Under some circumstances and for some people a blood alcohol content significantly lower than .08% can impair performance to a dangerous degree. We have nothing of a similar nature to determine safe levels of marijuana use.

Until we know more clearly what degree of impairment is caused by marijuana, when it is caused, and how to measure the effect of that impairment I think it is unwise to release it for general and unrestricted use.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Coaching Change

It has been suggested that the Chargers should fire head coach Mike McCoy and hire Les Miles, and I think the idea has merit.

LSU, despite it's recent woes, has had a much better winning record than the Chargers over the years, even this season, and it faces considerably tougher competition, relatively speaking.

Even if we didn't win more games, Les Miles would be a hell of a lot more entertaining on the sidelines and in the media than McCoy. If nothing else, the media could discuss his habit of eating grass.

Okay, perhaps "habit" is a bit hyperbolic, but even having done it once is a lot more interesting than anything Mike McCoy has ever done.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Double Standard

Various accusations have been made regarding Clinton and donations to the Clinton Foundation, in response to which Clinton dares anyone to show any instance where “I did any specific favors for those donors.” Typical Clinton triangulated denial in which she may actually be admitting to have taken bribes, but claiming that she didn’t fulfill her part of the bargain.

The media, of course, blows off any suggestion that donations to the Clinton Foundation while she was Secretary of State could possibly have been improper in any manner; says that anyone making such suggestions are irresponsible louts and are probably unpatriotic to boot.

But then the media pounces on a story about Trump’s use of his charitable foundation, including a headline that he “Used Foundation Funds for 2016 Run, Filings Suggest.” Given the last two words, the beginning of the headline should have read “May Have Used,” not “Used.”

The story revolves around Trump meeting with various conservative groups early in his campaign, many of whom asked for contributions, and he gave them money from his foundation in a perfectly legal manner.

The person reporting the issue to the media points out that “Trump did not explicitly ask for favors in return for the money,” but the article continues with vague accusations of illegality about what may have been wandering around in Trump’s mind when he wrote the check.

Does that sound familiar? Sure it does. See Hillary’s challenge to name anyone for whom she “did specific favors.” No one speculates about what may or may not have been wandering around in her mind when she received the money.

Meanwhile, the New York Attorney General is investigating the Trump Foundation and has shut it down for the moment. The investigation involves filing errors, and no on will be surprised to learn that the AG is a Democrat.

There are two parallel sets of standards for media reporting and legal investigation. There is Comey’s “no intent” standard for investigating those who are in power, and there is Schneiderman’s “file charges and shut it down now” standard for those who seek to gain power.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Well, That Was Epic

Not only did the Chargers lose to an 0-3 team, they lost after leading by 13 points with 8:39 left in the game. In their last three possessions they fumbled twice and threw an interception and, on the two New Orleans possessions that counted, could not prevent touchdowns and lost by one point. Awesome. Beyond awesome. I truly believe there is only one team in the league that could do that.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Proposition Nonsense Again

Backers of the proposition to build the "Convadium" in downtown San Diego... For those who don't know, that is the combination of a convention center and a football stadium, and the idea is every bit as ridiculous as you think it is. Chargers ownership knew they could not pass a measure paying for a stadium, but that the expansion of the convention center to accommodate ComicCon is a popular cause, so they jumped on board that one. The organizers of ComicCon want no part of it but aren't saying what they will do if it is built.

Anyway, the Convadium backers are saying that raising the hotel tax to 16.5% will not hurt tourism because two other California cities already have taxes that high and draw lots of visitors. Yes. Well, Anaheim has Disneyland, and San Francisco has, um, San Francisco. San Diego has nice beaches, but so do about eight other cities just to the north and south of us. And, have you stayed in a San Diego hotel lately?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Better Times

Somewhat over forty years ago I met a young fellow at a party who had just come to this country from Poland, which was still behind the Iron Curtain at the time. I asked him what most impressed him about the United States and without hesitation he replied, “You don’t have to be afraid of the police.”

Of course, he was a white guy so he might feel the same way today. I’m a white guy, though, and I’m not sure I do. One of the cops who shot the man in El Cajon was facing two charges of domestic assault, and was still on duty and still carrying a firearm. That’s not a police department that engenders a feeling of public safety.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

And Another Lie

Another commercial urging a "no" vote, this one on Proposition 53 because it "gives the state control over local projects."

Oh, please. The proposition requires a popular vote before the state can issue general revenue bonds for amounts exceeding $2 billion. So, regarding the claim made in the commercial, the state does not issue bonds for local projects, local governments issue those bonds and this proposition affects only state issuance of bonds. In any case, how many local projects exceed $2 billion?

That doesn't mean I'm going to vote for this mess, but...

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Just A Thought

Somebody is spending a huge amount of money to defeat Proposition 61. There are ads everywhere, every fifteen minutes on television, full page ads in the newspaper, and even major billboards all over town telling me I should vote "no" on Proposition 61.

All of this suggests to me that I should vote "yes" on it.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Are You Listening, Spanos?

The LSU Tigers lost two of their first four games, and head coach Les Miles is fired along with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Now, if we could just get the owner of the San Diego Chargers on the same page.

The difference, of course, is that the LSU administration expects their football team to win games. Spanos makes money either way, and Mike McCoy's salary is pretty cheap, so Spanos doesn't really care one way or the other. It's kind of short sighted, though, because with the Chargers having a 1-2 record and in firmly last place in the AFC West division, that new stadium proposition vote is looking pretty shaky right now.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Campaign Style

If I am going to be asked by the establishment to disbelieve claims made about Clinton's email and charitable foundation, then I am going to choose to disbelieve similar claims made about Trump and his use of his charity funds as well.

We have deteriorated to campaigning like chimpanzees; whoever flings the most excrement wins.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Yesterday a middle aged woman in an Escalade was tailgating me as I drove on a residential street. I was driving a bit faster that I should have been actually, about 35mph, and she got so close to me at times that all I could see in my mirror was the grill of her car. I did what I always do in these circumstances, which is find a way to pull over and let her go by.

She blasted past me a high speed just as I noticed a speed limit sign, so I adjusted my speed to the required 30mph. We had been going up a slight hill, the crown of which was about three blocks ahead. When I topped the hill there was a motorcycle cop in the act of dismounting with a radar gun in his hand, parked in front of the Escalade which had just passed me.

I almost had a wreck because I was laughing so hard.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Oh Gack

Sixty Minutes did a piece last night that should have been titled "Do You Really Want Donald Trump's Finger On This Button?"

Choice little lines were included like, "So these are the President's rockets?" The "expert" replied that no, they are the nation's rocket, but that only the President can fire them. Dickweed repeated his line that they are, then, "the President's rockets."

Frankly, yes, I would rather have Trump's finger on that button than have Hillary Clinton's finger there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Yeah, That Makes Sense

Melvin Gordon was running behind a fullback in the first half Sunday and gaining 8-10 yards at a time, scoring two touchdowns. In the second half he ran only three times, all three as a single setback from a shotgun formation, and gained a total of five yards. Coach Mike McCoy told the media, when asked about it, that the change was due to "the flow of the game." What? The flow of the game is dictated by the plays called, not the other way around.

I told my trainer at the gym this morning that she needed to go easy on me because I was suffering from dehydration. She laughed and told me that I should have fully recovered in 90 minutes.

And So It Continues

Giving us information which, while it may not be entirely false, is misleading and distorts reality.

The New York Times blares in a headline that "Household Income Grew
5.2 Percent in 2015,"
which sounds like quite an accomplishment for our economy. Our local bird cage liner went even further, headlining the same article, "Americans Register Big Economic Gains."  Read the details, however, and we see that income for men grew by 1.5% while income for women grew by 2.5% in the same period.

There is one aspect of the latter that is actually good news, because it indicates progress toward gender pay equality, but if household income has grown by an amount so much greater than either component of that household it means that there are more workers per household than the prior year, and that is anything but good news, and it certainly isn't "big economic gains."

The same article says that "unemployment dropped to 5%," but doesn't remind us that the number does not represent 5% of the workforce, but rather is 5% of those who are participating in the workforce. That percentage is only 63% of those who are in the workforce, and is a historically low number which is not improving significantly.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Cheerleaders Are Back

I just read the sports section of our city's Sunday morning bird cage liner, which reminds me that the Chargers are playing in Kansas City today. I had not forgotten, of course, but...

The Las Vegas betting line is the Chiefs winning by six points. The San Diego sports writers are picking San Diego to win by a six to one margin. The one writer picking us to lose is doing so for the wrong reason; something about the new stadium, which is neither new or a stadium at this point. Needless to say, the six picking us to win are simply delusional.

Now the Chargers will probably win and make me look like an idiot, but I can deal with that. I've been looking like an idiot for much of my life.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Debunking the Debunker

Dean Baker writes a column called “Beat The Press,” in which he debunks articles written by other pundits and sets the records straight with what they would have said if they a) were not liars, b) did not have an agenda and/or c) were not stupid. He is not always polite about it and is frequently fun to read but, being an economist, he is fairly often full of shit himself.

Yesterday he set about correcting a column by David Brooks, which is usually fun, what with David Brooks being who he is, but he gets a little weird in the process. He cites a claim made by Brooks that, “the exchanges are disproportionately drawing lower-income people.” Actually, since the exchanges pick up a portion of the cost of insurance based on income, I believe that’s precisely what they are designed to do, but Dean Baker doesn’t go there.

Instead, he refutes Brooks by saying that, “Apparently Brooks did not realize that the ACA also requires that all insurers charge patients the same premium regardless of their health condition,” which is a masterpiece of non sequitur. He tries to strengthen what purports to be an argument by talking about health conditions a bit, and finishes that sick people now, “can get insurance at the same price as anyone else of the same age.”

“Non sequitur,” for those who don’t know, is Latin and loosely translates to, “What the hell does that have to do with what I just said?” Brooks is talking about people choosing the exchanges based on income and Baker “refutes” him by babbling about choosing the exchanges based on health condition.

In the comments it becomes somewhat more clear. Dean Baker was actually ignoring the Brooks comment about low income users of the exchanges and changing the subject to say, “Yeah, but Obamacare does some good things, too.” Typical economist, in that he can never admit that the other guy has made a valid point; when that happens he changes the subject.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Football ?

Not sure that what I watched this weekend was actually football. All of my teams not only lost, they humiliated themselves. Haven't heard any Les Miles firing rumors, but I would not settle for that anyway, preferring lynching. About the middle of the fourth quarter last night I swore off football altogether. Francois, forsooth. That's not only a first name, not a surname, it's a girl's first name. I think I'm over the swearing off thing now, though. I'm nothing if not resilient.

Monday, September 05, 2016


Media reporting is becoming increasingly detached from reality these days.

The New York Times carries a column by Paul Krugman in which he claims that the shortcomings of Donald Trump are being unreasonably downplayed by the media, while the travails of Hillary Clinton with respect to email servers and charitable foundations is being seriously and unfairly distorted into what amounts to falsehoods. I don’t know what planet he is living on, but it isn’t Earth.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post goes on at great length about a national security investigation into “a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions.” I think our own politicians have already beaten the Russians to the punch on that, but

The headline reads “U.S. investigating potential covert Russian plan to disrupt November elections,” an accusation which is not made in the article. In fact, the statement is made within the article that, “The Kremlin’s intent may not be to sway the election in one direction or another, officials said, but to cause chaos and provide propaganda fodder to attack U.S. democracy-building policies around the world, particularly in the countries of the former Soviet Union,” which is pretty opaque, but does not seem to imply “swaying November elections.”

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Employment's "Sound Footing"

The consensus of reporting is that the 155,000 new jobs created last month means that “employment growth is still on a sound footing.” That number, however, is seasonally adjusted. The unadjusted number was a mere 33,000 new jobs. Even if you accept the rosier adjusted number, despite no explanation ever being given for why the adjustment is needed or how it is made, the 155,000 new jobs did not keep up with the 176,000 new people who entered the work force, so I find the “sound footing” hard to swallow.

Of those 176,000 new workers, 33,000 found new jobs, 20,000 joined the workforce as unemployed, while 122,000 were “seasonally adjusted” out of the statistics. Awesome.

Year-to-date numbers are even more depressing. Without the “seasonal adjustments,” which cannot possibly be needed in annual numbers, 275,000 fewer jobs have been created this year than were created in the same period of 2015, and 460,000 fewer jobs have been created this year than were created in the same period of 2014. To condense that a little bit, the economy is down by 275,000 jobs over last year, and by 460,000 jobs over the year before that. Sound footing?

The candidates are too busy pointing out each other’s personality flaws to have time to discuss anything like the job situation faced by working class men and women.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Food Blogging, Friday

I invented this recipe out of thin air and made it last night. Results, frankly, surprised me a bit. I don't usually hit it on the first try. My wife freaked out. It is very spicy, so you may want to use a little less Creole seasoning, but my wife said it was a home run the way it is.

Pasta Jambalaya

1 lg or 2 sm Chicken breast, skinned and deboned
8-12 shrimp, uncooked, peeled and deveined, tails removed
1 ea, spicy smoked sausage, diced fairly small
8-12 oz ham, diced fairly small
2 tsp Creole seasoning, plus more for blackening
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 can petite diced Tomatoes
½ cup white wine (Pinot Grigio)

Put tomatoes, wine and seasonings into a large stovetop pot and bring to a simmer. If you think the volume doesn’t justify the large pot, just trust me and use it anyway.

Brown the diced sausage and ham in a hot skillet and add it to the pot, mixing them in.

Now things get a little more tricky. Cut the chicken into pieces bigger than bite sized, but not very large. You can use the “chicken tenders” which are about the right size. Now dust those pieces very heavily with Creole seasoning. Don’t be bashful, use quite a lot. Put the seasoned chicken pieces into a little oil in a very hot skillet and brown them heavily. Get them very brown; maybe a little black. The skillet should be hot enough that it happens quite rapidly, and we aren’t concerned with cooking them through.

Once they are done on both sides, place them on top of the liquid in the pot. Just let them rest on top, don’t submerge them. Cover the pot and let it simmer very low for about one hour.

Now take your shrimp and do the same thing with them that you did with the chicken, only use less Creole seasoning and less time in the skillet. Just a few seconds on each side will do the trick. Put the shrimp on top just like you did with the chicken. Cover and let it continue to simmer until the shrimp are done; about 15-20 minutes.

Serve over pasta.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Modern Navy

Another new littoral combat ship has been rendered “hors de combat” on a long term basis, the third one in a year, and while the article does not say so, this one appears to be one of at least two where the issue was crew maintenance failure. The USS Freedom lost a main engine when “seawater entered the engine oil lube system through a leak in a seawater pump's mechanical seal.”

It’s hard to follow that description, because normally the mechanical seal on a seawater pump would be sealing the shaft that connects the electric drive motor to the pump, and it would be sealing the pumped content from the atmosphere of the ship, or from the electric motor. Freedom must have some pretty funky mechanical systems to allow the failure of such a seal to dump seawater into the lube oil system. Either that or the government is doing one of its infamous tap dances again.

And yes, seawater pumps cooling diesel engines is something I know quite a lot about. Look at the picture at the top of this blog. Granted, I was an electrician, but those pumps are driven by electric motors, and I have actually changed the mechanical seals in question. Seawater did not get into our engine lube oil when the seal failed; it sprayed into the electric motor, creating a bit of havoc, and then went into our bilge.

In any case, allowing the leak (whatever it was) to develop is bad enough, but apparently it was not discovered for quite a long time, because the entire engine is having to be replaced due to interior rust. That means a lot of seawater got into the lube oil, a hell of a lot, and it stayed there for a long time without anyone noticing. Seawater in lube oil is not that hard to notice, and regular inspection should have caught it long before it did any damage.

USS Fort Worth was crippled when it tried to operate with no lubricating oil in its main propulsion reduction gears because the crew had forgotten to put it in after draining the gearbox for maintenance. Again, I thought it was pretty remarkable that a ship that new would already be changing the gearbox oil, but that the crew would overlook something so basic as replacing the oil is mind boggling.

This incident happened in Japan, and the ship is having to be towed all the way back to San Diego for repairs, which raises the question of why they were performing this level of maintenance in a foreign port.

The USS Milwaukee suffered a disabling breakdown when a clutch failed to disengage, but she had been in commission for less than a month so it's hard to draw any conclusions from that. Although, from other events in the news it would not surprise me that a Navy crew could screw up a new ship in less than a month.

Later in the article an admiral actually comes to the defense of the ships as if these failures were the fault of the ships themselves. He refers to them as “teething problems of the class.” So the Navy has massive leadership and crew incompetence problems and doesn’t even recognize what it is looking at.

The Navy in which I served was certainly not perfect, but this is astonishing. We had ships that were twenty years old and we took good care of them. We paid attention to our jobs. We took pride in our service. Today’s Navy seems to incorporate none of that, being given brand new ships and simply trashing them.

Friday, August 26, 2016


Dean Baker, a couple of days ago, offered a rather odd explanation of why the Obamacare healthcare exchanges are failing in many states, with major insurers losing money and pulling out of them. He says that the exchanges are, “attracting a less healthy group of patients.”

He goes on to say that insurance companies “are happy to insure relatively healthy people,” which seems fairly obvious, and suggests that the states can “require that insurers commit to insuring less healthy people on the exchanges as a condition of insuring the more healthy people on the individual market.”

Let’s see if we can parse what he’s saying here. People who are healthy buy expensive policies outside of the exchanges, while people who are sick buy cheaper policies in the exchanges. No, that doesn’t sound right.

People who buy health insurance on the exchanges rather than in the mass market do not do so because they are sick, they do so because they have lower income and receive a subsidy when using the exchanges. That subsidy applies to sick people and healthy people, but the healthy people don’t want to buy health insurance.

Obamacare was supposed to assure that healthy people would buy health insurance whether they wanted to or not, but has not delivered on that promise because the penalties are far too small. Healthy people have figured out they are better off paying the trivial penalty than they are spending a vastly larger sum on insurance they don’t want. Pundits universally claimed that no one would ever think that way, but

As for Baker’s suggestion that states require that insurance companies remain in the exchange as a condition of remaining in the mass market, yes, they could do that. The result would be an increase in rates for the mass market to offset losses in the exchanges, which might not be too popular, especially given that popular pressure is to reduce health care cost rather than increase it.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Biden Barking

Watched a film clip last night of Joe Biden in Turkey barking with great indignation about how the United States would never, ever, never, under any circumstances support the evils of a military coup. He apparently has already forgotten about Egypt and Honduras, both of which happened during his watch. Whatever shred of credibility this nation might once have had is long gone now.

Missing the Point

Clinton is accused of doing government favors for donors to the Clinton Foundation because of memos as Secretary of State and because more than half of the meetings she has had as a candidate were with Foundation donors; says she met with them but never actually did them any favors.

Opponents say she’s lying, supporters say she’s telling the truth, and both of them are missing the point. The problem is that, favors or not, such access to government officials is a problem in itself. Ordinary people, people who are not filthy rich, do not get to meet with people in power and express their views.

Opponents also say she’s lying about the email server thing while supporters say she’s telling the truth but, in reality, why should any of us pay the slightest attention to anything she’s says about it? Not because she’s crooked, but because she’s not stupid. If she did do something wrong, is she going to admit that to a reporter? The reporter is actually pretty damned stupid to ask the question.

“Mrs Clinton, did you send secret material on an insecure email server?”
Do you really think that she is going to answer in the affirmative? So why bother to make such a big deal about her giving the only possible answer and saying that she didn’t do it?

I’m not claiming that she did any of these things; I’m just asserting that her denials mean nothing.