Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cherche le Chat

My computer mouse is acting quirky, jumping all over the screen and annoying me, and I'm beginning to think I've contracted some sort of malware. Russian, maybe? Probably not. Then I turn it over and check the little red light on the bottom. Ah, yes. Maybe if I clean all of the cat hair out of the light port... By golly that worked just fine.

Stoopid cat. The title, in case you don't know it, is French for "Blame the cat."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sucker City Not Dead

The “News Break” upon which I based yesterday’s post was unclear. It turns out that the City Council voted against a special election for an initiative to expand the convention center. The “Sucker City” proposal is still an open issue, which is why the investors are planning to address the council today.

The Council did not override Hizzonor’s veto, so next year's city budget still contains $5 million for a special election even though, at the moment, no special election is planned. The “Sucker City” investors hope to persuade the City Council to call a November special election for that proposal, after the Council rejected a special election for the convention center expansion, which seems like a bit of a long shot.

The alternative is to persuade the City Council to approve the “Sucker City” proposal outright, without a public vote, which would be entirely legal since no taxes are involved. There is very little chance of that happening, I suspect, since it would almost certainly result in a 0% reelection rate for the present Council members.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

San Diego Politics

There is a proposal before the citizens of San Diego to replace Qualcomm Stadium with, among other things, a 30,000 seat stadium for a major league professional soccer team. We do not, of course, have such a team, and have no actual promise of one, and the “other things” are far from trivial. But proponents of such initiatives do not want us to be bothered with such trivia.

For those who care, the “other things” consist of 3 million square feet of commercial office space and 4800 more condominiums in Mission Valley, making the soccer stadium something like 5% of the enterprise and casting doubt in some minds on the validity of calling the project “Soccer City.” Saner minds call it the “Mission Valley Congestion Project,” and some less polite people call it “Sucker City.”

That doesn’t keep FS Investors from pressing forward with it, wanting to have it placed into a special election this November, and reminding us that “it will not cost taxpayers a dime,” which ought to raise red flags everywhere. If it’s not costing us any money, why is it necessary for us to vote on it? Not to mention that the special election itself will cost us $5 million, which Hizzonor the mayor included in the upcoming city budget.

Proponents say that if we don’t have a special election this year we will “disenfranchise 110,000 voters” who signed the initiative in grocery store parking lots all across the city. They fail to point out that if we do put it on a special election we will “disenfranchise 305,638 voters” who voted for and passed Measure L last year, which specifies that all initiatives shall be placed on the ballot in regular elections, not in elections created especially for the purpose of the initiatives.

The idiocy sort of boggles the mind, but then the City Council broke out in an unusual moment of sanity and voted down the $5 million budget item for the special election. Hizzonor was undeterred and used his line item veto to put the $5 million and the special election back into the budget, and the City Council responded by voting not to have a special election.

They will vote later this week on overriding Hizzonor’s veto, but since they have already voted not to have a special election, the issue is moot.

FS Investors is asserting that it is not defeated, and plans to address the City Council about a special election on some other date. Apparently they took heart in noting that the City Council only voted not to have a special election in November, which does not rule out that they might agree to have a special election in Really?

San Diego is certainly in Southern California.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Fantasy Land

This nation has devolved into something out of a Lewis Carroll novel when it can come up with the likes of the drama surrounding the Comey “testimony” before Congress. I am certainly no fan of Donald Trump, despise the man actually, but I am a big fan of the due process of law; something that the media seems to regard as needed only when it suits their agenda.

The word “evidence” means “the available body of facts indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid,” but the last thing that the Senate committee wanted to hear was anything resembling any facts. When Comey reported what Trump said in a given conversation, the questioner blew that off in a heartbeat, asking, “What did you take that to mean?”

In any venue seeking truth, i.e. a courtroom, an attorney would be leaping to his feet screaming “Objection,” and the judge would sustain him before he could even finish saying that the question should not be allowed because it, “calls for conjecture” by the witness.

The media was undeterred by any of this and happily reported that Trump was guilty of “obstruction of justice” because Comey testified that Trump had “ordered Comey to shut down the investigation of the Russians,” notwithstanding that the conversation that Comey was discussing had not even been about the Russians, it had been about Michael Flynn, and Trump most certainly did not order any investigation to be shut down.

Only in the American media can a person be convicted for what someone thought he said even when he did not, in fact, say it.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Missing The Obvious

The America's Cup sailing has been, to say the least, interesting. It has only marginally been sailing, with boats going 42 knots in a 14 knot breeze, but that's a separate issue. To start with, Sir Ben Ainslie and the English boat, after winning the start in eight races and gaining leads of as much as 400 meters, only to lose seven of those races, are now dog meat and headed back to England. The English came to gun fight not even with a knife, but carrying some sort of stick.

The Swedes lost twice on Tuesday and were match point down to the Japanese boat, then won three out of three yesterday and put their opponent match point down. The announcers, who for the most part are awesome, failed to notice that the Swedes returned to classic sailboat match racing technique, covering their opponent, not letting Japan split the course, and beating Japan by actually outsailing them. Nice stuff.

Sweden vs. New Zealand may be interesting, but I expect we will once again see Oracle vs. New Zealand for the cup. I would not put much money against the Kiwis taking the damned thing back south of the equator. I think the Cup race is going to be awesome.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Well Said

Richard Petty is turning eighty next month. Dover Speedway is so enthusiastic that they are celebrating his birthday today because there is a race there today and won't be one there next month. They are going all out, with a cake in the shape of his 1969 Ford Torino, and having him pace the field before the race in his Superbird. Wish I could be there.

As one guy put it, "It doesn't matter how man times I've seen the King, anytime Richard Petty walks by you can sense - that guy is a big deal."

Saturday, June 03, 2017

California Dreaming

California has already passed a minimum wage which is on its way to $15/hour. Whether that is fair, reasonable or good policy is something for another discussion. Since it is imposed equally on every business, its effect of creating or destroying jobs is arguable and can be deferred to another discussion. It cannot be denied, however, that it raises the cost of doing business in this state.

Now the state has completed the first stage of trying to pass universal health care which will be funded by a 15% payroll tax. It is not stated whether the burden of that tax will be borne by employers or workers, but let’s think about a 15% payroll tax in conjunction with the increase in the minimum wage.

If the tax is to be paid by employees Well, the state just partially reversed the increase in the minimum wage, driving it back down to $12.75. Granted, that will be offset to some degree for some employees who will no longer have to buy health insurance, but at the lower end it will be a big blow for those who are currently on Medicaid.

If it is to be paid by employers it will be partially offset, but only partially and only for some employers, by not having to purchase employee health insurance, but for many it is an added expense in its entirety. And that after having just absorbed an increase in payroll expense due to the increase in the minimum wage.

The fast food industry will be destroyed. Will anyone pay $12 for a fast food hamburger? Some would say that's no loss, but what happened to this being a country with free choice?

And California claims that it does not deserve its reputation as a state which is unfriendly to business.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Governments We Support

Dateline Afghanistan: The Taliban set off a huge bomb in downtown Kabul which killed three dozen Afghan people. The people are pissed off at their government for not protecting them, so they gather in protest. Government "security forces" then disperse them with machine guns, killing upwards of a hundred of them of them.

And this is the government that we are not only supporting, but are putting our armed forces in harms way to support. Our military men and women are dying to keep this government in place. On what planet is this sane?

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Only Hillary Clinton

There are few people, possibly only one, who would even say, "I take responsibility for every decision I made, but that’s not why I lost," and not be laughed out of the room. Instead of the hoots of derision her statement, made at the annual Code Conference in Ranchos Palos Verdes, CA, deserved she was rewarded with solemn nods of sympathetic understanding. Just for the record, she added four more reasons for her loss in the presidential election, one new reason being "the general expectation that I would win," bringing the total to eleven.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Hump Day

As in, "over the hump." My wife had the last of her chemo last week, and the effects are significantly lesser today than they were yesterday, so we are on the downhill side of this damned thing. Still have radiation to go, but the doctor promises that will be a walk in the park; very limited in scope and duration. Hopefully they got it all and we're done with it.

Low Inflation?

We are told that inflation is well below the 2% rate targeted by the Fed.

In the last five years the value of our house has gone from $420,000 to $720,000. What has increased its value? Not capital improvements; it has not had any, has not so much as been repainted. So, how does 2% inflation account for a 71% increase in the value of our house in just five years?

Just as a point of information, at the peak of the last housing bubble, just before it collapsed in 2008, this house was valued at $550,000. Despite being valued at some 30% higher now, we are told that this value is not artificial or part of a bubble for reasons that are too complex for uneducated slobs like me to understand. Right.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Let's See How This Works

I'm not holding my breath, since NASCAR's track record (pun intended) is considerably less than stellar the last few years.

Today's issue, which is at Charlotte, goes back a few weeks ago to Bristol. That has always been a one-groove track, with many fans complaining that cars could not pass and that no real racing, therefore, ever occurred. Other fans liked the "bump and run," in which the overtaking car would hit the car ahead, knock it physically up out of the "groove" in order to pass, and sometimes knock it into the wall in the process and wreck it completely. Fun and games.

Dale Earnhardt (senior) once said of Terry Labonte after such an event that, "I didn't mean to wreck him, I just meant to rattle his cage." He was, as he said it, grinning like a jackass eating thistles, so some people questioned the sincerity of his statement. Terry Labonte, usually among the most mild tempered of men, attempted to express his opinion with his fists, but was successfully restrained.

NASCAR, never willing to leave well enough alone, brought a grinder to the track and ground the concrete pavement to provide a graduated banking, steeper on the outside of the turns and less steep on the inside. The idea was to provide multiple racing grooves, which had worked well on several asphalt tracks. It didn't work for shit on a concrete track; all it did was move the single racing groove from the bottom of the track to the top. No more "bump and run," because now when you hit the car ahead of you he cannot just move up the track, he can't do anything but hit the wall because he's only about one foot away from it. The "run" part turned into running away from the really pissed off driver that you bumped.

Nobody could come up with a way to "ungrind" the concrete, sort of like trying to teach a chicken to "unlay an egg," so some genius came up with some sticky gunk to spray on the lower groove to provide better traction and allow cars to race down there. Results are, to say the least, mixed. Sometimes it works until the sun comes out, sometimes it quits working when the sun comes out, sometimes it works until the tires heat up, sometimes...

Fast forward to the "All Star Race" last weekend at Charlotte, which was one of the best soporifics on television in weeks. The screaming by the announcers kind of spoiled the sedative effect of the event, but the racing certainly did not. There was only one pass for the lead, and that was during a restart when one driver caught the rest of them snoozing because nobody seemed to think anybody was actually racing. Everybody drove in the same racing line which, as I recall, has always been the case at Charlotte.

Everyone acknowledges that the main problem is the aerodynamics of the cars, in which when a car is the clean air of having the lead it is enough faster that it cannot be caught, let alone passed. Everyone acknowledges that solving that problem means a redesign of the car and getting rid of the "splitter." (Never mind what that is. It's an aerodynamic part that totally divorces the machine from being a "stock car.")

Everyone further acknowledges that racing is further degraded by excessively hard tires required, or claimed to be required, by high downforce that makes the car easier to drive and impossible to actually race.

Well, everyone except NASCAR, who seems to have decided that something is wrong with the Charlotte track. They noticed that everyone was driving in the inside of the turns, which makes sense since it is the shortest way around the track and nobody is trying to pass anybody. NASCAR decided that if the drivers would choose to drive up next to the wall, taking the longer way around the track, then the racing would be more competitive.

So, they went down to Bristol and got a bunch of that gunk and sprayed it on the upper groove of the Charlotte track in the hopes that it would provide closer racing. There's a few imponderables in that thought:
  Charlotte is paved with asphalt, Bristol with concrete.
  At Bristol they are going 90mph in the turns, at Charlotte more than 180mph
  The tire compounds used at the two tracks are very different.

The lengths to which NASCAR will go to avoid solving the problems with their racing program boggle the mind. Indycar had similar problems, and they addressed the car design. That made a big difference and began to re-grow their fan base, and they are taking that experience and building on it with a new car next year. They listen to their fans and undo their errors. NASCAR just piles on more gimmicks, like playoffs, and stage racing, and spraying gunk on the track.

Friday, May 26, 2017

NASCAR Gets It Wrong, Again

The Coca Cola 600 is run on Memorial Day weekend, so NASCAR goes all out to "honor the troops" at the race. They make a big production out of having troops on the track prior to the race, troops in the stands, troops in the television broadcast... All of these troops are alive and speaking to us, so NASCAR, as they so often do, is honoring the wrong troops.

Further, in addition to appearing in public wearing fatigue uniforms, showing that they have little or no pride in their service and no self respect, not one of these "troops" tells the interviewer that they are getting it wrong, because this holiday is about honoring military service people who have lost their lives in service to their country.

We have Veterans Day to celebrate guys like me, people who have served in the past; none of whom would ever have appeared off base wearing anything but Class A dress uniform.

We have Armed Forces Day to honor those who are presently serving; despite of their own disrespect for their service by wearing fatigues off base.

This day was created specifically to honor those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation; those who in placing themselves, "their precious lives, between their homes and the forces which would destroy them," lost their lives.

To those, the soldiers and sailors on eternal patrol, rest in peace.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Asking a Dumb Question

A blogger asks, "Why is the Left Losing in a Moment it was Made for?" Notwithstanding the rather odd capitalization, it's not a bad question on the face of it. His posit is that with "minuscule wage growth, near-record levels of household debt, and soaring corporate profits" the left should be winning elections by large margins, but is losing them on a dishearteningly regular basis.

But, why is "the left" a movement that is "made for" such miserable economic conditions? Okay, I'll chalk that off to a degree of illiteracy, because I don't think that he really understands what "made for" really means. Anyway, his explanation for liberalism's inability to win elections is an overwhelming tendency to "straddle between globalization and economic nationalism," whatever the fuck that means.

The real reason, of course, is the liberal adoption of "identity politics," meaning that they are so busy making sure that a tiny handful of the population is able to use the bathroom of their choice that they are doing nothing for 300 million working men and women who are the backbone of the electorate.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Racing Update

Watching qualifying at Indianapolis yesterday, where only one car is on the track at a time, was infinitely more exciting than watching the "All Star Race" that NASCAR put on Saturday night. The "stock car race" produced precisely three passes for the lead, all of them on restarts after a caution.

Fernando Alonzo, the Formula 1 driver who is running in an Indycar for the first time, qualified fifth. Not bad for a rookie.

Six of the top nine cars are powered by Honda. Chevrolet has been dominating on the road courses but are not doing well at all on ovals. Penske, in particular, is struggling to come up to speed with his Chevvys; only one car in the top nine, and his next best position is 18th. Might be an interesting race.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

This Is How Democracy Dies

The California Democratic Party elected its leader this week, and the representative of the portion which regards itself as “progressive” because they supported Bernie Sanders in the presidential race lost to the “establishment” candidate by a narrow margin. Needless to say, the losing faction cried foul, claimed that the election was rigged in some undefined manner, and is vowing to file a lawsuit to invalidate the election.

They are not, as far as I know, claiming that it was the Russians who interfered with the election, but

They seem not to realize that an election in which only one outcome is acceptable is the kind of election that is held in, say, Syria. They feel that democracy only works when they win. Six-year-olds feel the same way.

In a similar vein, I inadvertently watched a few minutes of Face The Nation this morning. Three CBS anchors were discussing James Comey and one of them stated that, while it, “might be okay to question a few of his actions, you just do not attack his character.” Continuously, and rigorously attacking the character of the President, however, is entirely fair game.

That same anchor went on to say that persons leaking contents of private meetings are, “trying to get out what they believe to be the truth.” Not what is the truth, you understand, but what they believe to be the truth.

Democracy simply has no chance in this nation.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

It Depends On Who You Are

Quote from the New York Times, just in case you thought the media was neutral in reporting the news.

"Democrats are struggling to challenge President Donald Trump, and with control over nothing in Washington, they're relying for now on the power of saying 'no.'" They go on in praise of Democrats, after eight years of severely castigating Republicans for taking precisely the same position vis-à-vis Obama.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Deer In The Headlights

Watching a clip from some "news" show; some talking head interviewing Dianne Feinstein. The clip provided me with no convincing evidence that she is still alive. Sort of like El Cid propped up on his horse.

Anyway, he asked her if there was any evidence that the Russians had interfered in the presidential election. There was a pause while the question filtered through whatever it is that she uses for a mind, and then there was a flicker of panic in her eyes, like a deer caught in the headlights of a car.

She knew that the next question, if she said yes, would be, "What is that evidence?" She opened her mouth; paused, choking on the answer that she did not want to utter. "No," she said; turned and left.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Trending "News"

There was a quote on “Madame Secretary” this past weekend that was unattributed but which I have heard before, regarding a reporter; “The stories that we least want to read are the stories that must be written.”

That was true when the media was populated by journalists. Today the news media is entertainment and even brags that, “We present the news that people want to watch.” And thus comes the term “clickbait” for news items that are trivial and matter to no one, but are of a degree of prurient interest that many will click on the link to read about them.

For instance the current rash of misbehavior by airlines. Have airlines suddenly hired a bunch of thugs and idiots for some unknown bizarre reason? Has passenger treatment been totally lovely until some contagious disease hit airline employees and caused a sudden outbreak of bad behavior?

Of course not. One story got traction for God only knows what reason, and every “journalist” in the media went looking for anyone who had a video on his iPhone of an airline employee saying “shit.” Airlines being bad is “trending” right now, and so that’s what the media is presenting.

This stuff has been happening for a long time, but it didn’t matter six months ago because no one wanted to read about it. It wasn’t popular. It wasn’t what people wanted to read. Now it is one of the hottest news items, not because it suddenly matters or has suddenly become important, but because it is popular and will attract readers.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Selective Outrage

Trump is under pressure from Democrats for firing the director of the FBI, James Comey, who was investigating him for being a Russian spy. I still have a bit of a problem getting my head around that; the FBI is investigating the President of the United States for anything, let alone for being an undercover foreign agent. Anyway.

CBS News stated repeatedly last night that Comey “has an impeccable reputation for integrity,” but that’s a little different than the song they were singing a few months ago when they were blaming him for Hillary Clinton’s loss in the election.

Democrats are displaying their general lack of intelligence or principle. In December of last year they wanted him fired, and now they are outraged that he has been fired for basically the reason that they wanted him fired; namely his handling of the Clinton email issue. Democrats claim his handling of that issue in October cost Clinton the election, while Trump says his handling of the issue throughout the process exceeded his authority.

Democrats would have been thrilled had Obama fired Comey before he left office, but they are outrage that Trump was the one to do it. Typical. My only question is why it took so long to fire the silly ass. I have been wondering for months why he still had a job.

Oh yes: the last president to fire an FBI director who was investigating him? Bill Clinton.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Thanks, Google

The latest Gmail scame has been in the news quite a bit, so Google has done something about it, namely making it harder for me to access my own effing Gmail account. Instead of the usual login screen, I now get one saying that they are protecting me from the phishing scam that they claimed in the news they have already shut down, and telling me how wonderful the new process is, with a tag that says "First, enter your password."

Then, of course, it will not accept my password. There is a link for "Forgot your password." Clicking on that leads to the original login screen, the one I've been familiar with for many months, only now it reads "Enter the last password you remember." I do that, and am logged in to my Gmail account.

??? So, what did all of that accomplish?

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

A Product Of Her Times

If you actually "take full and personal responsibility" for something, you say so and stop talking. Hillary Clinton says that she takes "full and personal responsibility" for losing the presidential election last year, and then goes on to say that she also lost because of James Comey, Russian interference in the election and self hating women who would not vote for her. In other words, she takes no real responsibility at all.

There is, however nothing unusual in that, this is the way modern politics works. "I apologize if anyone took offense."

Friday, April 28, 2017

Premature Freak Out

I love the reaction to Trump’s tax cut plan. Republicans are thrilled but mostly don’t have much to say because the plan is largely incomplete, but the liberals and Democrats have gone utterly nuts, screaming about “$2 trillion in lost revenue” and “massive enrichment for the rich” and incredible increases in federal debt.

Of course Democrats have spent the last eight years saying that federal debt didn’t matter for all sorts of rather bizarre reasons, but now suddenly a large federal debt is a disaster. What happened to change that? Oh, yes, right.

One of the arguments Democrats use is that the federal deficit has been reduced under Obama to only $600 billion, which strikes me as a pretty weak argument, only $600 billion, but whatever smoke and mirrors they want to use, the national debt increased in the last fiscal year by $1.487 trillion and that, friends, is the real current federal deficit. But Democrats don’t lie, only Republicans do. Remember that in November of 2020.

Will corporations pay less tax, as Democrats are hyperventilating about? The proposal is to cut the rate from 35% to 15% and eliminate deductions, and that’s all we know about the plan. If it turns out to be that simple, then corporations would go from paying an average of 12%, as they do now due to deductions, to 15% since the deductions would be eliminated. Is that what will happen? Maybe, or maybe not. Let’s not start screaming until we know.

Will the rich be further enriched by elimination of the alternative minimum tax? Of course not. The AMT is in place to assure than too many deductions do not result in an unfairly low actual tax, and deductions will have been eliminated, so the AMT is simply no longer needed.

The number of brackets will be reduced to three, but no income ranges have been proposed for those brackets, so there is simply no way possible to calculate the revenue that will be produced by the new plan. It may be fine, with a whole host of deductions eliminated, or it may be a disaster. We don’t know, and here too we should wait to start screaming until we know what we are screaming about.

The party of the left continues to act like children, and not very bright children at that.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Nonsensical Numbers

Dean Baker is still engaged in the economist’s favorite pastime of making stuff up as they go along. On Monday he refuted a claim that labor is declining as a percentage of GDP by showing that it is not declining as a percentage of NDP.

First he refers us to a column in Bloomberg News which is concerned about labor’s share of GDP, which Baker describes as “declining from a range of 64 to 65 percent in the 1960s and early 1970s to just over 60 percent in the most recent data.” Actually, the piece provides a chart which shows the rate falling from a high of 66% in 1970 to a low of 59% in 2010, but Dean Baker doesn’t sweat the small stuff.

Then he says that he can show that there has been no drop of labor as a share of GDP by introducing labor as a share of Net Domestic Product, which is GDP “after removing depreciation.”

First of all, this is non sequitur at its worst; similar to proving that trees are not dying on Main Street by showing that I mowed my lawn on Cherry Avenue. He does not claim that anything the Bloomberg author wrote is in error, he doesn’t refute any of the statistics or issues cited in the original column, he merely introduces a new and different measurement which shows labor not declining and pats himself on the back.

And that’s assuming that “GDP after removing depreciation” is a number that has any actual meaning. GDP measures cash flow; how much money is moving in our economy. Yes, investment is one component in that calculation, but that component is the amount of money that has been spent in the current year on investment.

Depreciation exists on a financial statement which evaluates assets and liabilities, known as a “balance sheet,” while GDP is an evaluation of cash flow, known as an “income statement.“ There is no meaningful way to put depreciation on an income statement.

And how was the amount of depreciation determined, do you suppose? How does Dean Baker know the asset value of the US economy, and the lifetime over which it should be depreciated? I suspect the depreciation was determined by applying whatever number was needed to provide an income level that was not falling.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Everybody Wants Heaven

There is a song which starts with, “Everybody wants Heaven, but nobody wants death.”

Right. That is out social discourse today. Everybody wants for all of our illegal immigrants to magically become legal, but nobody wants to address our immigration policy. Everybody wants the “good manufacturing jobs” to come back, but nobody wants to give up buying cheap foreign-made products. Everybody wants a strong social safety net, but nobody wants to pay taxes to support it.

Everyone builds dream castles. Only the insane try to live in them.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Electing Monsters

I have long considered Lindsay Graham to be one of the most pernicious, evil persons in Congress; one of the few worse than John McCain. He has now convinced me that he has an evilness that is unparalleled in this century, advocating a preemptive attack on North Korea for reasons that are so inhumane that they should serve as grounds for impeachment.

He acknowledges that such a move would almost inevitably provoke war across most of Asia, and that “It’d be terrible” if it did so, but “the war would be over there,” he says, and it “wouldn’t be here [in America]. It’d be bad for the Korean Peninsula," he continues, "it’d be bad for China, it’d be bad for Japan, it’d be bad for South Korea. It’d be the end of North Korea. What it would not do is hit America.”

Is South Carolina actually proud of having elected this monster?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Prima Donna Much?

Danica Patrick, it seems, has an issue with NASCAR giving her insufficient time to before practice sessions begin on the track. “Like there have been many times," she says, "when I’ve been on the bus in my pajamas and they’re like, ‘Green flag in 15 minutes.’ And I’m like,‘What???!!!'" Seriously?

It would be one thing if she had anything to be prima donnaish about, but with no wins, no top fives, and only two top tens in 160 races...

In yesterday's practice session at Bristol she was 38th fastest out of 39 cars. The one car that was slower than her only ran six laps.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Ideology Over Common Sense

Dean Baker is again demonstrating the difference between economics and business, and proving that the former is voodoo and that economists know nothing about the latter.

On the shortage of skilled workers, he says Friday that, “…the usual way to get better workers is to offer higher pay. And, the workers are almost invariably out there, most likely working for a competitor.”

So. If you hire a skilled worker away from your competitor by offering him a higher wage, and your competitor is now looking to hire a replacement, have you solved the problem of the shortage of skilled workers? Of course not. Moving the job opening from one employer to another is not solving the shortage of workers.

What it does do is increase the cost of producing your product, which you pass on to your customer in the form of higher prices. If you can. Not all companies can do that, for various reasons; a fact which economists vigorously deny. Economists love rising prices because they create inflation, which they think is a good thing. No one else thinks that.

“This means,” he goes on to tell us, “that if there were really shortages of workers with specific skills then we should see pay for workers with these skills rising rapidly.”

To begin with, he sort of blew his theory with his own statement that workers are almost invariably out there.” Even Dean Baker does not claim that such workers are always available, so the claim that there is a shortage of skilled workers may be valid, and raising the offered wage may, in fact, do no good.

And his claim about obtaining workers by raising wages might mean increasing wages in the economy at large if a) his theory was valid and b) the shortage was nation-wide. To the best of my knowledge, Baker has never cited a specific case where a company solved a skilled worker shortage by offering higher wages.

Something like, “The Skunk Iron Works was trying to hire welders at $12/hr and could not hire them. They started offering $20/hr and in one day had more welders than they could use and formed a waiting list.” Got an example like that Mr. Baker?

Did the example get followed by, “The subsequent decrease in sales due to price increases caused them to lay off all of their new hires and some of the original workers, reducing their work force to below its original level,” or something on that order?

Or perhaps, “The original welders, who were still being paid $12/hr, quit and went to work for the competitor from which Skunk Iron Works hired the new guys.”

He claims validation for his theory by saying that, “there is no major segment of the labor market where we see rapidly rising real wages,” but the shortages were not claimed to have been in a “major segment of the labor market,” in fact he mentions “workers with specific skills,” and he is looking at nation-wide statistics while discussing issues which have been described by local businessmen.

Common sense is called that because it is so uncommon. Economists should be put into a wooden whiskey barrel upon graduation and fed through the bung hole.

Clueless in Ramona

This “marketing writer” gives new meaning to “missing the point.”

He made an offer to award free breakfast with him to the reader who best observed a number of marketing campaigns and was able to explain the theory behind them. He writes for a paper in Ramona CA, which is a pretty small town, but even so that fact that only two readers responded should have been a clue that he needs a new writing topic and possibly a new career.

With only two responses, he decided to reward both of them with a free breakfast with him, but has been unable to schedule with either of them. Repeated messages offering dates and times have gone unanswered. He still has no clue, thinks the two lucky people might merely be suffering from a “lack of bandwidth for returning emails,” and is hoping to reach them via yet another column, literally begging them to respond and set up dates for their breakfasts.

Maybe he should start writing about economics for the New York Times.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Svelte

Wife dragged me shopping for new jeans today; at Old Navy no less. In the past year that terrorist at Envision Gym has worked me from a size 44 waist "relaxed" fit jeans to a size 40 waist "slim" fit.

The title may be a slight overstatement, but...

Who's In Charge?

My wife and I are standing in the hallway, both wanting coffee but waiting to go into the kitchen to get it until the cat finishes eating her breakfast. Earlier, I had been standing outside the bathroom with my legs crossed, waiting for the cat to finish using her litter box. We pay for this place, and the food that is in it, but the cat...

Update, 9:00am: Well, perhaps some explanation is in order. The bathroom issue is simple courtesy; cats don't like to be disturbed while they are doing their bidness. Enabling? Perhaps, but the consequence of disturbing them is that they might start doing their bidness outside the litter box. Certain amount of enlightened self interest.

As to the eating. Molly has 20% kidney function and has survived more than three years with Lymphoma and periodic pancreatitis. She has a tendency not to eat, so when she does we leave her the fuck alone.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

False Narrative

“The Syrian regime, backed by the Russians, has been killing its own people for as long as I can remember.” (emphasis mine)

Short memory; just six years. The Syrian civil war started in 2011, triggered by North African food shortages due to prolonged drought. Russian backing has been in place for less than three years.

The part that annoys me is the media usage of “killing his own people.”

What were we doing in 1864 during the lengthy artillery bombardment of Vicksburg? What were we doing when Sherman burned Atlanta to the ground? We were "preserving the union."

As we were in the nineteenth century, Assad is fighting a civil war for the survival of his nation; a war which began not as a protest against the policies of his government, but in protest against a shortage of food and adequate employment. The media even refers to the forces opposing the Syrian Army as “rebels,” but refuses to acknowledge that it is entirely legitimate for a government to defend itself against such rebels.

Assad is certainly not a good guy, but neither are the leaders of a lot of nations that we deal with peacefully. And you think Syria, as a nation, survives if the rebelling forces win? Look at Libya.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

News You Can't Count On

On Friday in the opening segment of its Evening News, CBS reported that 59 cruise missiles hit a Syrian airfield, causing great damage. They tell us that two US Navy destroyers fired 60 Tomahawk missiles and that, “one of them failed and went in the water, while the other 59 flew different routes in order to hit the target all at the same time.”

They go on to say that “Neither Syrian or Russian air defenses tried to shoot the missiles down,” and add a quote from US Navy Commodore Tate Westbrook that, “We had no indication of any Russian intent to interfere with this mission.”

They do not actually say that all 59 missiles hit the airfield, but they certainly make a valiant effort to convey that impression, which caught my attention because I had already read two reports earlier in the day which said that only 23 missiles had hit the airfield. Neither source was entirely reliable, so I spent a good bit of time yesterday digging deeper into the issue.

I now have four sources, all of which I consider reliable, which say that 23 missiles hit the airfield; representing a 38% success rate. One source is Russian, one German and two Syrian, and all four of them are in agreement on 23 missiles specifically.

If you are not familiar with the Tomahawk, it is a missile which is launched from ships against surface targets. It has been in use for more than 40 years, is both reliable and accurate, and is pretty devastating against surface installations, carrying 1000 pounds of varying types of non-nuclear warhead. It flies low to avoid radar, and has a speed of around 550 mph.

So, what happened to the other 36 missiles? One source suggests that some fell prey to anti-aircraft fire, notwithstanding the Commodore’s statement, while others were the victim of something electronic that caused their guidance systems to fail.

Since the Tomahawk is an offensive weapon, not a defensive one, this does not constitute an “oh shit, we’re all going to die” issue, but it illustrates the appalling unreliability of Scott Pelley and CBS News.