Friday, April 29, 2016

Repairing the Unrepaired

In San Diego non-summer heat waves usually last only a few days, so by the time the air conditioner repairman comes gets there the weather has cooled, you are no longer using the air conditioner, and you don’t know whether the repair has been effective or not.

We had one of our brief warm spells in February and my unit (which is still under warranty) did not keep the house cool, so I called for service. The guy said it was low on refrigerant and added five pounds along with some "stop leak," which he said would fix it.

I did not use it again until April, at which point it did not cool the house properly, so I called for service again. The guy said that the unit was overcharged and removed five pounds of refrigerant, which he said would solve the problem. The weather dropped to a high of 68 degrees, so we’ll have to see, but one has wonder.

Let’s say you have a machine which is running lopsided. The repairman says, “Oh, it needs a frammis,” and puts a frammis on it. The next time you go to run the machine, it is running lopsided again and a different repairman says, “Oh, the problem is that frammis. That shouldn’t be there,” takes the frammis off and proclaims it fixed.

The next time you go to run the machine, how is it going to run? Lopsided is how it’s going to run. It is now in the same state that it was in before the frammis was added, and it was running lopsided at that point. Why is adding and then removing a frammis going to make it run any better?

Why is adding five pounds of refrigerant and then removing it going to make my air conditioner work any better? The service company has not explained that. To give credit where it is due, at least they have not charged me any money for not fixing my air conditioner.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Information Age

When is the last time you heard of anyone contracting Malaria in the United States? In 1947 the United States Health service was tasked with stamping out Malaria which is a disease carried by mosquitos and was, at the time, a major health problem all across the southern tier of states. They accomplished the task in two years.

Today we are wringing our hands and quaking in fear over Zika virus, a disease also borne by mosquitos, being told that eradicating it is a task beyond comprehension, and are unable to even get started due to Congressional paralysis.

I was reading a discussion over the weekend the gist of which is that the development of the Internet and related technology has not done much of benefit, and this would seem to be a case in point. We are living, we are told, in the “information age” but it appears that history is not part of that information. It is certain that we are not living in the “accomplishment age.”

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Hyperbole Exposed

Danica hype is significantly reduced this year, but whenever she is shown during a race the commentary has been that she is “learning” (after three full seasons!) and that she is “getting better all the time” and about what a great future she has. The facts so far this year would suggest otherwise.

At this point last season, after eight races on the same tracks, she had an average 17.6 finishing position. This year she has a 24.6 average, no less than seven positions worse than last year. She finished 24th in the standings last year, and ranks 25th so far this year.

Last year she finished on the lead lap in six of the eight races, this year she has done so only twice. Last year she wrecked in none of the first eight races but has wrecked twice this year. Crashing out of 25% of your races is not going to put you high in the standings.

Last year she finished a total of four laps off the lead lap, this year her total is almost twice that, finishing a total of seven laps behind the leaders.

She was inside the top ten twice last year, a 7th place finish and a 9th; this year she has no top tens, with a best finish of 16th at Martinsville. In six of the eight races she finished worse than she did last year. At Phoenix she finished better by position, but was on the lead lap last year and a lap down this year.

I’m not sure what part of all that constitutes “getting better all the time.”

Monday, April 18, 2016

Consequences

To repeat my earlier disclaimer, I do not oppose a $15 minimum wage, but I do oppose pretending that it will be entirely free of any negative consequences.

Dean Baker has a discussion today of criticism of the Sanders plan for health care in which he cites an example of a “single mother with two children, earning $26,813 a year,” and how her health care costs would be affected. He then points out in his argument that Sanders is also proposing a $15 an hour minimum wage and that “if this single mother were working a full time job, she would see her pay increase by almost $3,200 a year, even if her pay was only at the new minimum.”

He then throws the real kicker into the argument about raising the minimum wage, saying, “it is likely that her pay would increase enough to leave her still well above the minimum,” which is a very good point indeed.

Picture an employer which has some jobs which are unskilled and pay minimum wage, and these workers are working alongside other workers who are skilled and are being paid above minimum wage. I assure you, this is by no means an uncommon scenario. Now assume that the workers are told that all of them are being paid the same amount because the unskilled workers have gotten a big raise, from $7.25/hr to $15.00/hr, while the skilled workers have gotten a very small raise, from $14.50/hr to $15.00/hr. That is most certainly not going to fly.

Proponents of the raise in minimum wage claim that employers can afford it because they will only have to raise prices a miniscule amount to cover the increase for the minimum wage workers, but reality is that employers will have to bump their entire pay scale upward consistent with the increase at the bottom of it, and that represents a major increase in payroll costs. History has, in fact, shown this to be the case when the minimum wage is increased by any amount.

Some employers will not be able to increase revenue sufficiently to cover the increase in costs and will be forced to reduce their work force. It may be only a few, and we can hope that such is the case, or it may be more than a few.

So is the minimum wage something we want to do? Sure, maybe it is, but let’s be sure we are informed as to the consequences.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Economists Are Idiots

The other day I commented that economists know as much about business as does the average house cat, and Dean Baker penned a piece on Wednesday in which he sets out to correct a mistake published by a Stanford Business School professor and proves that my statement was right on the mark.

To clarify my remark, a businessman does actual bookkeeping and manages a business, planning based on those numbers for the future course of his company and keeping track of whether or not his business is or is not making money. Sometimes he lies about the latter, of course, but even so he knows the facts even when he is not revealing them accurately. Economists, on the other hand, create “models” and formulas which explain why the overall economy does what it does. That largely consists of developing a mathematical formula from present conditions and claiming that it predicts what will happen in the future, much like predicting based on the El Nino of 1998 that San Diego would get 28” of rain this year and then trying to explain why we only got 6” of rain.

At any rate, Professor Joshua Rauh of Stanford Business School wrote that state and local pension funds are more seriously underfunded than claimed by the funds, because they are using a 7% rate of return on their investments rather than a more reasonable rate of return on risk free investments of 2.5% which currently prevails.

Dean Baker refutes the professor’s claim, saying that the numbers used by the funds “are not pulled out of the air,” but rather are “projections of investment returns based on actual experience and a range of standard economic projections.” That is to say history and numbers pulled out of the air by people like him. History is good because interest rates have not dropped recently. Oh, wait…

And Professor Rauh’s projections are no good because he is a business professor, while Baker’s projections are good because he’s an economist. You say tomato…

Then he gets to the real proof that economists should never be allowed to discuss business. He discusses how pension funds “typically average the value of their assets over the prior five years,” and points out that in 2013 that average “would have included 2009 and 2010 when the stock market was badly depressed.” He does not point out what part of Professor Rauh’s discussion involved 2013, nor does he say why that has anything to do with this discussion, because no reputable pension fund manager would put more than a very small portion of a fund into the volatility and high risk of the stock market.

As even further proof that Baker is badly out of his field of expertise, he acknowledges that the stock market is not a "risk free" investment which pension funds require by going on to say that as 2009/10 was replaced in those averaged years “with the much higher stock market values of 2014 and 2015, the funding status of these pensions will look considerably stronger.” Yes, it would look considerably stronger but, due to the risk that those stock values will dive back down to 2009/10 values, it would not be considerable stronger.

So, aside from the fact that pension funds are not materially invested in the stock market, something that Dean Baker should know if he does not, his little journey into fantasy land points out that economists are concerned with how things look, while businessmen are more concerned with how things are.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Aliens Have Landed

Paul Krugman and Dean Baker have both written pieces in the past few days regarding the need to increase inflation in order to “reduce the real interest rate” (emphasis mine). That “real interest rate,” in case you are not familiar with it, is the actual interest rate minus inflation. So, if the interest rate on your loan is 3.5% and inflation is running at 2% then the “real interest rate” on your loan is 1.5%.

There are so many things wrong with that that it’s hard to decide where to begin.

Let’s open with the fact that interest does not apply only to loans, it also applies to savings, so reducing interest is devastating to people who depend on income from their savings to augment their retirement income in their declining years. Inflation generally is devastating to people on fixed incomes, but economists don’t really care about that. They are perfectly willing to screw the senior population in the name of “growing the economy.”

There is also the working person who is setting aside money for future retirement and wants to see those savings grow. Reducing interest means they will be disappointed and will have to work longer or retire more frugally, and economists don’t really care about that either. No economist is willing to say outright that savings are bad for consumers, but they prate constantly that they are “bad for the cconomy,” so they are perfectly to screw the working class as well as seniors.

There is also the little fact that while I am having to pay more for practically everything I buy, my house payment is still the same because the bank thinks the “real interest rate” is the one printed in the loan documents. I have not had the temerity to go to a loan officer and demand that they reduce the interest rate by whatever the current inflation rate is, because I don’t want to get thrown out of the bank.

Notice I did not say that I’m paying more for food and energy, because those are not included in the calculation of inflation. They are excluded because they are “too volatile,” meaning that their prices change too rapidly. It’s interesting that computers can keep up with stock prices that change hundreds of times per second but cannot keep up with changes in the price of beef at Safeway.

At any rate, after that little side trip, inflation means that people pay more for the goods and services that they buy, but it does not mean that they pay lower interest rates. Not to mention that the Fed is breathlessly waiting for increased inflation so it can raise interest rates.

Part of the rationale is that businesses are more willing to borrow because they believe they will repay the loan with inflation-affected money that is "worth less." I’ve never met a businessman who subscribed to that little piece of insanity; the only ones who buy into it are economists, who know as much about business as the average house cat does. If nothing else, it depends on knowing not what inflation is now, but what it will be in the future when the loan is repaid, and no reasoning businessman is going to stake his future on that kind of uncertainty.

What planet did these economists come from anyway?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sanders Has A Plan

I know this is kind of wonkish, but I was greatly cheered today to hear that William K. Black has signed on as an economic advisor to the Bernie Sanders campaign. Black was a central figure in prosecuting corruption in the savings and loan crisis in the late 1980s, including imprisoning the infamous Charles Keating and charging the “Keating five” that included John McCain (who got off thru the influence of his wealthy and politically powerful father-in-law).

He has been very outspoken about the failure to prosecute the financial crimes of the decade past, and of Congressional failure to reregulate the financial industry, but the media has rigorously ignored him. He is smart, highly articulate and indefatigably ethical.

Some have been critical of Sanders for not having a specific plan for “breaking up the big banks.”  Well, maybe or maybe not, but he certainly has an excellent one now.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Dishonesty Abounds

Establishment Democrats are wont to accuse Republicans of lying and of spouting gibberish, Paul Krugman leading the chorus but far from being a solo voice, but manage constantly to demonstrate that this is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Obama has now said that the worst mistake of his presidency was, “failing to plan for the day after what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya.” The rightness of the decision to intervene in Libya is certainly arguable, but the point here is why he thinks that he should have been planning for the aftermath.

The announced purpose of the intervention, and the scope permitted by the United Nations resolution, was to prevent a massacre of the people of Benghazi, which was actually a fairly spurious claim in itself, and the administration claimed repeatedly that there was no intention of using that intervention as a pretext to overthrow the Ghadaffi regime. The UN resolution, in fact, specifically forbade any attempt at regime change. The US pretense did not, of course, hold up very long but still, the claim was made.

The intervention was made under the principle of “responsibility to protect,”  and that was the basis on which application was made to the United Nations for authorization to do the intervention. How do you plan for the aftermath of the overthrow of a government while at the same time not intending to overthrow a government?

So Obama is now saying that he made a mistake by not planning for what to do after having done what he never planned to do in the first place, sort of like saying that I made a mistake by not planning in advance what to do after I crashed my car, and almost as asinine as claiming that the reason for continuing our presence in Afghanistan is that “we are denying them space in which to plan their attacks.”

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton, in response to an accusation that she supported a foreign policy that gave rise to ISIS, claimed that, “ISIS was primarily the result of the vacuum in Syria caused by Assad first and foremost. Aided and abetted by Iran and Russia.”

Either she thinks that is true, in which case she is grossly unqualified to be leader of anything larger than a dog pound, or she is lying, in which case she is very well qualified to be president because that's what presidents do most of the time.

ISIS was created in Iraq, and Iraq remains the center of its power to this day, not to mention that many of its senior leaders are Iraqis. Its first major victories were in Anbar province where, at one time, it presented an artillery threat to the Baghdad airport. Its growth was fueled by sectarian politics in Iraq and the Obama administration, with Clinton as Secretary of State, certainly supported the Iraqi government’s suppression of the Sunni people who provided the core of the Islamic State movement.

She will probably get away with it for the same reason that Obama gets away with his nonsensical foreign policy babble, which is that the vast majority of the American people couldn't find Iraq on a map and really don’t give a shit what happens outside the borders of this nation. They think that “supporting the troops”  means buying a magnet for your car.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Paul Krugman Is A Shill

Paul Krugman has now completely abandoned logic and honesty in his pursuit of supporting the oligarchy and shilling for a Clinton presidency. In a blog post today he asks, “were big banks really at the heart of the financial crisis, and would breaking them up protect us from future crises?”  and answers his own question with a dishonest and a historically revisionist “no.”

“Predatory lending,”  he goes on to say, “was largely carried out by smaller, non-Wall Street institutions like Countrywide Financial; the crisis itself was centered not on big banks but on ‘shadow banks’ like Lehman Brothers that weren’t necessarily that big.”

Bank of America was a huge player in the predatory lending game. It was certainly not small at the time, and it definitely could not be considered a “non-Wall Street institution,”  so Krugman’s first defense of “big banks” is bullshit. Besides which, predatory lending was not the proximate cause of the crash, it only laid the groundwork.

The crash itself was caused by trading in financial instruments based on those faulty mortgages. It was that which took down Lehman Brothers, which was the fourth largest investment house in the United States at the time that it failed, so it’s pretty hard to agree with Krugman’s dishonest claim that it “wasn’t necessarily that big.”

Not to mention that it was the failure of Lehman which revealed that all of the other investment banks, including the three larger than Lehman, were as rotten and buried in bad investments as was Lehman and being "too big to fail"  had to be bailed out.

Krugman’s claim that “going on about big banks is pretty much all Mr. Sanders has done”  is utter bullshit, as his claim that an “absence of substance beyond the slogans seems to be true of his positions across the board.” Krugman is not ignorant of the truth regarding the campaign of Bernie Sanders, he is lying in an attempt to bolster Clinton’s presidential aspirations.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Making It Up

Dean Baker has a post today critical of the concept that economists praise the shipment of jobs overseas because it improved the lives of people in poor countries, and are at the same time pushing for welfare programs to improve the lives of people in this country who were impoverished by the loss of those jobs.

“Let's imagine,” he says, “that mainstream economics wasn't a make it up as you go along discipline,”  stating a position that I have held for several decades.

Economists have these mathematical formulas which they claim can foretell how the economy will perform, but I maintain that the claim is laughable since they developed those formulas by concocting the formulas to fit an aggregation of present facts.

Based on that process I could concoct a formula to determine who will win the Super Bowl based on scores in the first eight games of the season. That team would, of course, probably not even win their division.

Baker had a post yesterday which rather proves that economists are making it up as they go along, in which he claims that the failure to increase productivity is caused by low wages. WalMart, he points out, is hiring lots of workers such as greeters who do not do anything productive, and they do that because wages are low. If wages were higher, he claims, they would no longer hire these workers and productivity would improve.

He has, however, been claiming for years that raising the minimum wage would not cause employers to lay off any workers, so he sort of needs to make up his mind.

Monday, April 04, 2016

No, I Don't Oppose It

As a matter of fact, I think it's idiotic that they "phase it in" over a five year period. Who does that serve? If you are going to raise it, just raise it.

As with most laws passed by most legislatures, I think it is poorly implemented. For instance a waiter making $20,000 per year in tips must still be paid a salary of $31,200 per year; the same salary as a janitor or a lawn care worker, who rarely, if ever, is tipped at all.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Thinking Outside The Box

A minimum wage of $10.50, translating to $21,840 per year, is considered unacceptable. California feels the need to raise that to $15/hr, or $31,200 per year. Meanwhile, they have no apparent problem with seniors living on an average Social Security of $14,160 per year. So the Millennials cannot, or should not, be expected to live on $21,480 per year, while it's okay for seniors to live on 66% of that amount. Just a thought.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Small Cons and a Big Con

The Chargers knew that the chances of getting a stadium deal on its own merits was slim at best, nonexistent at worst. They claimed to need $350 million in revenue from the city, but in reality they needed $550 million given that the $300 NFL “contribution” included a $100 million grant and a $200 million loan.

The plan was to sell the deal in Mission Valley with new 2% hotel tax paying the cost so that they could convince the people of San Diego that it would require “no new taxes.”  After several months of peddling this plan somebody pointed out that a court had ruled that 2% hotel tax illegal. Ironically, they thought they could get away with diverting that tax to the stadium because the hotels weren't presently getting it anyway.

That is the first of two small cons. The hotel tax increase supposedly is “from 12.2% to 16.5%” and is merely a 30% increase. Except that the 2% tax is not currently being imposed and so the actual increase is a 60% one, from 10.5% to 16.5%.

The second small con is that in the current plan there is still no mention made as to how the $200 million loan from the NFL will be repaid.

The big con is that, knowing he could not possibly sell his stadium to the taxpayers, Spanos combines it with a convention center expansion which is much more well received by the public. The public will vote in favor of the convention center expansion so that ComicCon will not carry out its threat to move to Los Angeles, and will not mind that the price of that expansion is a football stadium that we don’t want.

Sort of ironic that we don’t mind if the Chargers move to LA, we just don’t want ComicCon to do so. Tells you something about San Diego.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

No Problem: It's Free!

The Chargers have finally announced their $1.8 billion stadium plan, and it won’t cost us a dime. Not a penny. We get it free for nothing. Yea, let’s vote for it. Does it include a pasture for the unicorns?

The plan does include an addition to the downtown convention center, but not in the location that the convention center wants the expansion to be built. The expansion is across the railroad tracks and several blocks away from the existing center, while the center (quite understandably) wants the expansion to be an extension of the existing building; something which is entirely feasible.

Let’s start with the first fiction in the plan; that hotel visitors would pay for it by raising the hotel tax from 12.5% to 16.5% and devoting that money to the stadium. Well, no, the tax is not presently 12.5% because it was raised to that rate illegally and the court reduced it back down to its present rate of 10.5%. So in actuality the plan would raise the tax from 10.5% to 16.5%, which is a significantly greater increase than is presented by proponents of the plan. It's not a 30% increase in the hotel tax; it's a 60% increase. Honesty never plays a major role in these things.

Sportswriters and politicians say flatly that such an increase will not reduce tourism, citing no surveys or studies to back that up, but pointing out that Anaheim and San Francisco have similar tax rates. Indeed they do. Anaheim has Disneyworld and San Francisco has, well, San Francisco. We have Indeed. Hotel owners are less certain. They don’t mind the 2% increase, voted in favor of it themselves when the increase was for the purpose of tourism marketing, but the 6% thing worries them a bit.

These hotel taxes would be paying off $1.15 billion in bonds. Those bonds would be spent, according to the San Diego Union Tribune, as follows: $350 toward the football stadium, $600 million for the convention center, and $200 million to buy land. No mention is made as to why they are not saving $200 million by using the vast tract of land the city already owns in Mission Valley, where Qualcomm Stadium is presently located.

The NFL is “paying $300 million” which was a significant contribution back when the stadium plan was $800 million, but seems pretty paltry now that the price tag is $1.8 billion. Not to mention that $200 million of that is actually a loan, and that there is no mention in the plan as to any source of funds with which to repay that loan. Unicorns pooping gold bars, perhaps?

The Chargers are “paying $350 million” which they will recover by selling seat licenses and naming rights. That means, of course that they are not actually paying anything.

It’s unclear whether passing this idiocy will require a simple majority, or if the California law which says that tax increases require two-thirds majority will be in effect. A court recently ruled that special interest purpose taxes only require a simple majority, which to me sort of defeats the whole purpose of the law, but the impact of that ruling on this issue is unclear.

Preliminary polls show that the San Diego public is sufficiently gullible to go for any con job that is sold to them as “something for nothing.”  While just under 30% favored building a new stadium, 54% seem to favor this combination of the expansion that the convention center doesn’t want and the stadium that almost nobody wants. If it’s free we want it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Inequality and Minimum Wage

I am in no way opposed to raising the minimum wage to $15 state wide. Hell, raise it to $20 if you want. Just don’t brag about having accomplished anything, because income inequality is not caused by the minimum wage being too low, and wealth maldistribution has even less to do with how much one gets paid for flipping hamburgers.

One person responded to an interviewer’s question about the raise by saying that his family could "go out to dinner once a month or so and vacation at Disneyland once in a while.”  Sounds about right. It’s not a Warren Buffet lifestyle, but it’s what now passes for an American dream. Dinner at Olive Garden and Disneyland.

That is today’s America. Dream small. Rail about super wealth of the rich and income inequality, and raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Pathetic.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

War: The Great Distraction

We are told, this weekend, that our Special Forces killed the “number two man” of the Islamic State. My response is to ask what all of this is accomplishing for us. What is the end point in this war; a war which we have been fighting for so long and with such futility that we are no longer willing to even call it a war?

We have been pounding our chest for more than seven years now over our brilliant execution of Obama’s plan to win the war on terror by killing the top leaders of terrorist organizations, and where are we? The only thing we have accomplished is to expand the scope of the effort.

When it began seven years ago we were using drone strikes in Pakistan. Now we are using drones and air strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Mali, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Somalia. And those are just the ones we know about.

I suspect the truth is that it doesn’t end because it serves someone’s interest for it to continue indefinitely. It serves as a distraction from the real reason that this nation’s government does not serve its people. It ends when the people of this nation refuse to be distracted by it.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Think About It

The symbol for the Democratic Party is a jackass.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Paul Krugman, Twit

Paul Krugman reminds us on his blog today that he also has a Twitter account, that he is doing some "direct postings" to it and that, "Some of the tweets are even substantive." I will restrain myself from suggesting that very little that he says anywhere is substantive (well, that restraint didn't last long), but will ask what kind of mind is it that thinks that a "substantive" thought can be expressed in 140 characters or less. I'm thinking that such a position requires a rather trivial mind, but what do I know? I'm not a Nobel economist.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Oh, Really?

Danica Patrick was asked whether she or her boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse was the better driver and, of course, said that she believed she is the better of the two. He finished third Sunday at Fontana; Danica was running 19th when she was wrecked. Furthermore, Danica ran what is now the Xfinity series for one year and finished 14th in the standings, in a year when only 15 drivers ran the entire schedule. Ricky ran in that series for two years and won the championship both years.

Someone is delusional, and it's not me.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Things I Read So You Don't Have To

Huffington Post has an article (yes, I know) entitled, “7 Things Everyone Over 40 Should Have In Their Kitchen.” I am 73 and have only one of the seven, and I’ll bet I am doing better than “everyone” who fills their list.

1. A seriously cushioned gel mat in front of the sink. They refer to this as “a lifesaver,” or at least “a leg and foot saver.” I certainly don’t have one, or need one, since I still work out in a gym and spend more time standing in front of the stove than the sink in any case. Have they never heard of automatic dishwashers?

2. Nomex Burn Guard oven mitts. Not only am I well over 40, but I have Parkinson’s Disease, and no, I don’t think so. They refer to these monstrosities as alternatives to “grabbing the nearest dish towel,” but I use perfectly good hot pot holders which are smaller, easier to hold things with, and occupy far less space in a drawer.

3. A non-electric can opener. That’s the one thing I have. I have never tried an electric can opener, and consider them idiotic.

4. Chafing dishes. Why suggest this to the “over 40 crowd?” This belongs to the “Miss Manners crowd” or to someone who is far more interested in appearance and style than in good food. I have no interest in serving up food from a steam table, having had enough of that when I was in the Navy.

5. Backup corkscrews. They suggest that “corkscrews have a way of disappearing.” Oh please. I’m old, not feeble minded. I’ve been using one corkscrew for 25 years, and it’s always right there in the second drawer down where I put it.

6. A knowledge of cookware and materials. Seriously? I’ve had that since I was in my twenties, and I don’t keep it in the kitchen (see the title), I keep it in my brain which is often in the bedroom or other parts of the house, and often is not in the house at all.

7. A window box of fresh herbs. Another thing that one can do in their twenties as easily as they can in their forties, so why is this offered as an “over forty” tip?

Apparently Arianna Huffington pays her writers at about the same rate that Joan Walsh does over at Salon.com.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Circular Firing Squad

Four times in the past week, on various crime dramas,
I have seen a couple of cops corner a criminal, get one on either side of him and both point their guns at him. Apparently they don't notice that they are also pointing their guns at each other which, it seems to me, is fraught with a certain degree of hazard.

Elections? What Elections?

There was an article in the New York Times yesterday headlined, “Republican Leaders Map a Strategy to Derail Donald Trump.”  It describes the various methods which “Republican leaders” are employing against Trump to “deny him the presidential nomination.”

Now, I am certainly no fan of that idiotic blowhard, but what part of democracy do these “Republican leaders” not get? What role do they believe it is that voters are supposed to play in a primary election?

Not that the Democrats are any better, really. The party has a nationwide database of voters and contributors, but that database is available only to incumbents. Members of the party who are running in a primary election against an incumbent Democratic office holder are denied access to these databases.

So Democratic voters think they are voting in a fair election, but they are not. They are voting in an election stacked in favor of the incumbent.

“You have a democracy,”  he said, “if you can keep it.”

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Who Is The Major Power?

We have been in Afghanistan for fifteen years now, and we cannot really define why we are there with any believability, nor can we say when we are leaving. The Russians, on the other hand, after being in Syria for the purpose of restoring the Syrian government to a winning position in their civil war, have accomplished that goal in a matter of about six months and are sending their forces back home.

So which nation is a “major power” here? The one that was warning the other about the “quagmire” into which it was going to find itself, or the one which was and still is in a quagmire of its own?

Some would say that the Russian objective was “more limited,” which actually is a good part of my point; Russia had an objective, met that objective and is going home. If we have an objective in Afghanistan, it certainly has never been spelled out in any fashion that makes sense to any thinking, rational person.

Nor has any logical objective been set forth for our presence in Syria, because the effort to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State while helping Al Queda destroy Syria makes no sense whatever, especially given that we were carefully not attacking the Islamic State’s income-producing oil transportation system. Russia wiped it out in its entirety in about two weeks while we were castigating Russia for attacking Al Queda and accusing them of not attacking the Islamic State.

Maybe the problem is that the miracle F-35 has not yet arrived at the battle front yet.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Democracy?

It is sort of amazing to me the degree to which the governing establishment has become openly, downright brazenly, undemocratic. It proves the saying the “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The Democratic Party has 715 “superdelegates” who are free to cast their votes for the nominee of their choice at the convention; who are not answerable to the voters in any way. Granted, they usually vote for the candidate who has the greater popular vote, and they are a smallish minority of the 1200 or so votes needed for nomination, but why do they exist at all? Why does the party establishment feel the need to have a not insignificant number of votes controlled by the establishment, and able possibly to thwart the will of the voters?

Further, why has the party establishment chosen to make public that the overwhelming majority of those superdelegates have already chosen in favor of the establishment candidate and against the challenger, if not to create a discouraging atmosphere with which to reduce participation of voters who might otherwise champion the challenger?

The Republican Party establishment is even more energetic in its effort to thwart the will of its voters. It may well be that stopping Donald Trump would be a worthy cause, but that is not what democracy is about. He is receiving by far the greatest majority of votes, and the party establishment is openly seeking ways to deny him the nomination no matter what choice the voters make at the polls. They have even gone so far as to openly discuss rigging the nomination process (they call it “brokering”) at the convention to deny the choice of the voters if that choice turns out to be Donald Trump.

Someone once said that we had a democracy if we could keep it, and clearly we have not kept it, because the governing establishment no longer even pretends that the votes of the governed class really count. They no longer pretend that public opinion matters, and no longer bother to make the lies that they tell us believable.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Well, Now We Know

The San Diego Chargers not only resigned Antonio Gates, they did a two-year deal for $12 million. So now we know that General Manager Tom Telesco either doesn't have a clue, doesn't watch the games, or both. Gates' pass route running can best be described as, "clump, clump, clump..." I think he runs about 8.7 in the 40. The only time he caught passes last year was when the opponent forgot to cover him at all, because a defensive lineman with a bad knee can cover him.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

What El Nino? Where?

Media which is hyperventilating about El Nino and about “El Nino-driven storms”  has pretty much reached the point of being completely detached from reality. So far this rainy season has not even been of normally wet parameters, and what they should be writing about is the degree to which El Nino has turned out to be a non-event.

California snowpack is at 83% of its normal depth. Overall the state has received 89% of normal rainfall, with 83% for San Diego. Reservoirs statewide which were at 64% of capacity are at 69% now. None of that paints a picture of any sort of cataclysmic deluge, especially since those normals include four years of severe drought.

The last “El Nino storm” which came through San Diego dropped .6” of rain in a two day period. In most years we would not even call that a storm. We would call it “some rain” and it would be reported in the weather segment of the news, not on page one above the fold.

The media runs around and finds one tree that has fallen down, or one stream that has left its banks, and then runs that film clip over and over, giving the impression that the entire state is underwater and/or buried in fallen trees, but these events happen every rainy season in this part of the country, even during drought years. Hell, I’ve seen Eucalyptus trees drop major limbs on a sunny, totally windless day.

Severe storms in the lower Midwest are being connected to El Nino, but I think that is an unwarranted assumption. There are more tornadoes than usual, but they are occurring on fewer days, meaning that there are more occurring in each storm system. That indicates that the systems are more intense, which is almost certainly due to the greater energy content of the atmosphere in general due to climate change. It’s doubtful that El Nino has anything to do with it.

I think the media is writing based on its expectations and its desire for excitement rather than based on any sort of commitment to an informed public.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Of Course He Did

Jimmie Carter resigned from the Southern Baptist Convention this year, a religious body of which he has been a member for all of his adult life; on the order of seven decades.

Why did he do that? Because the organization passed a resolution declaring that women are inferior to men and cannot hold a leadership role in the church. That means women cannot be a pastor or chaplain in a military or a deacon in a church. Jimmie Carter and his wife could not hold that position and left their life-long church.

The man is a giant. He is the standard to which members of the Democratic Party should be held.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Pro-what?

Democratic candidates were asked, “Is there a time when you think abortion should be illegal?” The answers were as typical and as revealing of the candidates as anything I’ve heard yet. Sanders replied, “No, I am very strongly pro choice.” Clinton answered, “I have been on record in favor of a late pregnancy regulation with exceptions for the life and health of the mother.”

The answers were as typical and as revealing of the candidates as anything I’ve heard yet. Sanders keeps it simple, direct and unequivocal. Clinton’s “on the record” is interesting, since someone who is habitually honest doesn’t gratuitously preface a statement with an offer of proof and, while wanting to be in line with the Democratic "pro-choice" position, her “life and health of the mother” thing is a favorite phrase of the “pro-life” crowd.

Since late term abortion is virtually never done for any reason other than “the life and health of the mother,” she favors prohibiting the procedure except when the reason for doing it is the one for which the process is almost always done. Her statement is, in fact, the sort of empty triangulation for which the Clintons are infamous. It gives her credit for being “pro-choice,” while at the same time giving her a foot in the “pro-life” camp.

Hillary Clinton has no guiding principles which direct her statements. She is guided in her rhetoric only by the number of votes she thinks she can promote.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Um, No.

There are many reasons to dislike the concept of Hillary Clinton in the White House, but to claim that it is a breach of the 22nd amendment is not one of them. Please, let's keep some small shred of sanity.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

And You Expected Logic?

Sen. Bernie Sanders “could come out a winner in most of the weekend's presidential primary contests” according to a memo sent out by the Clinton campaign headquarters. Meanwhile, CNBC tells us that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton “each look to strengthen their front-runner status” in those weekend primary races.

Meanwhile, Democrats say that the low turnout in their primaries is due to Republican voter registration laws. That is kind of amusing, since they have been saying all along that those laws are racist, targeted at preventing black voters from voting, and are now saying that Hillary is winning because black voters are turning out in great numbers and are voting for her in droves, while it is the white voters who are producing disappointing numbers.

My wife says that it is illogical to expect logic in political discussions, but then she is a Democrat.

Friday, March 04, 2016

More About Two Parties

My wife commented that the Republican Party establishment is overriding the voters to oust Trump because otherwise they will lose the general election. Assuming that to be true, which I’m not sure it is, that still is oligarchy rather than democracy.

Republican voters have long had a set of overriding principles. I don’t happen to agree with those principles, but I rather admire their willingness to lose elections when needed to send a message to their elected representatives that they expect them to abide by those principles. “Do what we elected you to do or we will throw you out of office.”

Democrats not so much. For one thing, if you put five Democrats in a room you will get six or seven sets of overriding principles. In any case, if a Democrat is elected to office and acts like a Republican, the Democratic voters might complain but will reelect him rather than risk losing an election. “Vote for anybody so long as they have a D after their name.”

The Democrats have been playing a “divide and survive” game for years, dividing their voters into many factions, making it much less likely that they will get thrown out for their demonstrated inability to govern.

No two legislators run on the same issue, or set of issues, so voters are fragmented into small splinter groups rather than being united behind one unifying set of ideals. As a result, their voters don’t know what they want their legislators to do, and are therefor not disappointed when they don’t do it. They just know, because this is the one unifying theme of Democratic legislators, that they do not want Republicans to win.

Now the Republican establishment is moving to the Democratic model, splintering the voters by throwing a plethora of candidates at them and campaigning on the horror of a Hillary Clinton presidency, and when the voters seem to be doing their usual thing of unifying behind one candidate the establishment frantically tries to unseat the people’s chosen candidate. In a democracy, if the people want to choose a losing candidate the party would be obliged to allow them to do so, whereas in an oligarchy we have the open admission that the establishment does not want the common voters to be in charge.

And nominating a losing candidate might very well be a perfectly logical choice for voters wanting to send a message to its party leadership that they have taken the party where the voters do not want it to be and willing to surrender control of the executive for four years in order to send that message.

“What we are doing is not working and we need to stop doing it. Even if the new thing is wrong, at least it’s different, and we are not merely repeating the same stupidity,” is a valid message. Democratic leadership is rejecting that message somewhat more subtly than are Republicans, but both parties are vigorously rejecting it.