Monday, January 22, 2018

Dean Baker Goes Openly Anti-Worker

Dean Baker argues today that the recent “uptick” in the economy may not have much to do with Donald Trump, creating a rare moment in which I actually agree with him, and goes on to say that it may actually be due to “the continuation of the Obama-Yellen recovery,” which puts us in separate universes again. The rest of his piece today is a virulent rant against the interests of the working class.

He does agree with Summers that when another recession happens “the Fed will again have to rely on unorthodox monetary policy,” and goes on to say that, “This is why many of us have argued for an inflation target higher than 2.0 percent.” Of course, so that the working class can suffer as badly during economic boom times as they do during a recession. Brilliant.

He then claims it is “also worth bringing in the story of robots taking all our jobs,” saying that it is “a story of a massive uptick in productivity growth,” which is awesome because he loves productivity growth. It is, after all, another opportunity to worship an economic theory which in modern times punishes the working class.

Higher productivity means that more product is produced by less work, so higher productivity means fewer workers. Even if, as Dean Baker claims, higher productivity inevitably resulted in higher wages, which it does not, then higher wages for fewer workers is not really a good outcome for the working class.

But higher wages for fewer workers is not a good outcome for business, either, because it requires an investment which doesn’t cut labor costs much, if at all, so business sees to it that higher productivity means unchanged wages for fewer workers, which really sucks for workers.

Dean Baker even admits that his claim of higher productivity is not actually what causes higher wages when he says that, “It's possible that we won't see the same wage growth this time due to weaker unions, the decision to expose less-educated workers to competition with low paid workers in the developing world, and more protectionism in the form of longer and stronger patent and copyright protection.”

The patent and copyright thing is nonsense, of course. It’s a pet peeve of his which he injects into everything, and it’s not about the working class at all. The abuse of patents and copyrights is about inflating prices to increase corporate profits and has nothing whatever to do with working class wages.

The other two items, weaker unions and offshored jobs, have a lot to do with wage growth not occurring as a result of productivity growth, so of course Dean Baker would follow that statement by agitating for stronger unions and for restoring manufacturing jobs to this country, right?

He does nothing of the sort. His support for the working class evaporates in a puff of smoke when he argues that to make up for wages not rising the government should, “make up the lost demand with larger budget deficits.” You get that? He’s a member of the “as long as money is being spent, it doesn’t matter who’s spending it” school of economics. He only cares about cash flow and, like the rest of the Washington elite, is unconcerned about the spending power of the working class of this nation.

Since workers are not being paid well and have no money to spend, he claims, the government should spend money instead, using borrowed money, to keep the economy flowing. The working class won’t be okay, but the economy will be fine. The spending level will be high even though the working class is flat on its ass, because the government will be spending money that it borrowed from…?

Sort of what we have today, actually, because last fiscal year, during what he claims to be economic good times, our government spent $665.8 billion more than it took in. He does not say what number in the way of a “larger deficit” he would consider reasonable.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Okay, He's Finally Lost It

Dean Baker seems to have finally lost all contact with reality, as yesterday he went totally, completely and utterly batshit crazy over tax cuts and investment by Apple Inc.

My favorite was his statement that the columnist he is criticizing, “doesn't seem to have a clue why the government taxes in the first place,” and proceeds to tell us that, “The reason the government taxes is to reduce demand in the economy. The purpose is to prevent the economy from overheating and experiencing inflation.”

I mean, I knew that Baker was unconcerned by the amount of the federal debt, an attitude which has always struck me as a bit bizarre. I never in my wildest imagination, however, thought that he believed that all government operation, things like national parks, highways and the military, should be financed entirely and only by borrowed money and increases in the government debt.

He appears to be of the modern school of thought that citizens should reap the benefit of government services and benefits without having to pay anything for them. Citizens at least think that somebody else, “the rich,” should pay for those benefits, but Baker seems to think that they should be paid for by just borrowing more money.

He expands on his “taxation to reduce demand” theme by adding that, “When the economy is near full employment we face the standard story where we have to tax to finance spending. In other words, if we want additional spending we have to pull demand out of the economy to open the space. However, when we are below full employment, the government is not constrained by its tax revenue.” I have no idea what any of that means, don't think that he does either, and included it here merely for it’s entertainment value.

He goes on in the same column to say that the government will not benefit from Apple paying $38 billion in taxes on the repatriation of funds from overseas because the money is, “already being held in the U.S., its ownership is just attributed to a foreign subsidiary,” which ignores the fact that it was not being taxed and now is, and that having $38 billion is better than not having $38 billion.

He asks the question, “How would the world be different if Apple still held its money overseas and we had the Fed credit the government with another $38 billion to count against its debt?” Because, apparently, the money that the Federal Reserve Bank creates out of thin air for "Quantitative Easing" is the same thing, in Dean Baker’s feverish little mind, as real money which will be paid by Apple in the form of taxes.

He then repudiates one of his favorite rants about how the media is “mind reading” when they say that “Republicans think blah, blah, blah” merely because Republicans say “blah, blah, blah,” when he says that Apple’s claim to be spending $20 billion on capital expansion and pay raises is due to the tax cut is not true because they would be doing that anyway without the tax cut, because businesses “make investments and raise wages all the time,” but that, “They usually don't go to such great effort to put on a public display” about it.

Actually, they do, but let’s not split hairs with an economist who has totally lost his mind.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Why Newspapers Publish

From an article in The Washington Post regarding a Trump "scandalous" rumor, "That doesn't mean it's true or even that there has been any genuine wrongdoing — just that it's worth asking some very serious questions."

Yes, a real newspaper prints that statement and then goes on to say that because a porn star says something we should read it on the front page and have a long discussion about it, even though she presents no proof of her allegations and offers as evidence facts which have been printed in the media for many years and is knowledge which has been held by millions of people, such as that Trump had a bodyguard named Keith and a secretary named Rhona, and that he didn't like sharks.

And the media claims that Trump is making the nation ungovernable.

PS: Okay, that's assuming that the Post is "a real newspaper" which is, perhaps, arguable but...

Monday, January 15, 2018

Election Derangement

I am considered by those who know me to be liberal in my thinking. Those who know me best see some fiscal conservatism moderating my liberal social thinking, but none would hesitate to label me a Democrat. They would be mistaken, but only partly so. Although I tend most often to vote for Democrats, I am registered as a Republican and sometimes vote for them.

An objective examination of reaction by the losing party in the last three elections which resulted in the White House changing from one party to the other might shed some light as to why I will not register as a member of the Democratic Party.

2000, Bush v. Gore: Democrats promptly claimed that votes in Florida had not been properly counted. They further claimed that the Supreme Court improperly intervened to prevent those votes from being properly counted, and that if they had not done so a recount would have given the state’s electoral votes to the Democratic candidate and the White House would have remained in Democratic Party hands.

While the losing presidential candidate, Al Gore, never embraced this argument, the Democratic Party leadership did. The outgoing president embraced this argument. Senior Democratic members of Congress embraced this argument.

2008, Obama v McCain: Republicans reaction was to vow to “block the Obama agenda” and to resolve that they would defeat him in the following presidential election, (i.e. “make him a one-term president”). While their reaction was inartfully expressed, that is pretty much what opposition parties are supposed to do. At no time did they question the legitimacy of the electoral victory.

There was the nonsense about the place of Obama’s birth, but the Republican Party leadership never from the beginning embraced this ridiculous argument. The losing presidential candidate, John McCain, certainly never embraced this argument. The outgoing president never embraced this argument. Senior Republican membership in Congress never embraced this argument. There was never the slightest suggestion that any Congressional investigation should be made as to the place of Obama’s birth.

2016, Trump v. Clinton: Democrats claimed generally that “the Russians interfered with the election.” Clinton also claimed that the FBI interfered with the election and, although that gained no traction with the media, she adhered to that claim regardless.

The outgoing president embraced the Russian interference argument. The losing presidential candidate embraced this argument. Democratic Party leadership embraced this argument. Senior Democratic members of Congress embraced this argument. So enthusiastically do Democrats embrace the Russian interference argument that Congressional committees are established to investigate Russian interference and the degree to which the winning candidate participated in it.

Conclusion: I am not a Trump supporter and did not vote for him, but I do support this nation’s constitutional democratic process and certainly have no desire to become a member of a political party which routinely attempts to discredit that process simply because it did not work in their short term favor.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Waiting For Orders

In news coverage of the mudslides in Santa Barbara County the past few days, I noticed that one person after another said that the noise made by the mudslides had waked them up in the middle of the might. That raised a question in my mind to the effect of, “Why were you asleep?”

Certainly these people knew about the Thomas fire that had left those steep hills denuded of any trace of vegetation, and certainly they knew that heavy rain was forecast for that night. The media and public officials had been warning for several days of the danger of slides and urging people to leave. And yet here they were, at home and asleep when the event happened precisely as predicted.

One woman explained why they didn't leave, saying that, “We were never issued the mandatory evacuation order.” She went on to say that, “We’re good citizens, if we were ordered to leave we would have left. We would have done what we were told to do.”

It suggests to me that if left to think for themselves, the people of this state will not do so. They were warned for days of the danger. They were warned for days that leaving would be the wise thing to do. They were waiting for someone to order them to do it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sportsmanship Still Exists

A small point is being sort of overlooked in what was maybe the best football game I have ever watched; the SEC National College Championship game between Alabama and Georgia on Monday evening. The game had it all. It had dominance, comeback, highlights, lowlights, suspense and exhibitions of the obvious.

But the best thing I saw all night came from a player who, at the time, was not even on the field. It was the Alabama quarterback, Jason Hurts, who played in the first half with so little success that Nick Saban pulled him in the second half and replaced him with a freshman. This freshman was wildly successful and brought Alabama back from a thirteen point deficit to win the game.

The entire second half, Hurts was on the sideline and fully engaged in the action. He was not standing behind other players, he was on the sideline, cheering on his team and applauding their successes. When his replacement threw a touchdown pass and returned to the sideline, the first person to meet him was Jason Hurts, applauding and pounding him on the shoulder pads.

Less is being said about this young man than should be said. It was a demonstration of sportsmanship and personal character that was heartwarming and rewarding to watch.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Tarnished Gold

Oprah knewI’m going to get in trouble for saying this, hopefully my wife won’t read it, but I can’t hold it in; the Golden Globes is just too typical of where we've gone.

The women who sucked up the courage to initially accuse Harvey Weinstein were not there, and were given no recognition. Asia Argento, Rose McGowan, Rosanna Arquette, Mira Sorvino, and Annabelle Sciorra.

Did you see them there or hear their names spoken? Of course not.

The women who enabled that piece of shit for decades, who fawned upon him to advance their own fame and glory were there, wearing their symbolic black dresses and pronouncing that the era of men was at an end; that women have all of the power now.

They can, after all, put a man’s career and personal life into the trash can with merely an unsupported accusation now, against which his denials are about as useful as a paper match in a hurricane.

These women's definition of leadership is to find a parade, already formed by people with real imagination and courage, and to jump in front of it.

I’m willing to bet there are plenty of men who think this. It is symptomatic of the problem that none have the courage to say it.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Aging Well

I have written three checks so far this year, and I wrote the year as 2018 on all three. Unfortunately, I also wrote the month as December on one.

Do not grow old unless you tolerate embarrassment well.

Missing The Point

The Dow Jones rose another thousand points, much to the delight of pundits who think that overpriced stocks are good for the economy. As usual, the media reported the increase in a manner which made the one thousand point increase seem more dramatic than it actually was, with Market Watch telling us that the rise occurred, “in a blistering 23 trading days, which would represent the fastest rally to such a mark, outpacing the 24 sessions it took to ascend to 21,000 last March and the move to 11,000 back in May of 1999.”

But what was the increase in the value of the stock index in terms that have actual impact on the value of the stock market? Well, this month’s increase was 4.2% in 23 days, amounting to 0.18% per day, which is a little less exciting than the “blistering pace” they described.

The increase last March was a 5.0% increase in 24 days, or 0.21% per day, which means that the current increase did not “outpace” that March increase. The current increase was actually smaller than the earlier one, and it gets worse for Market Watch.

The increase in May of 1999 was a whopping 10% increase in 24 days, or 0.42% per day, meaning that it had twice the impact on stock values as did the one in March of this year and more than twice the impact as did the current one.

The media gets all excited about each “one thousand point” marker in the index, but that is hardly very informative. As the market index becomes larger, each thousand points becomes a smaller and smaller indicator. Here they are citing three such indicators, and are presenting the least impactful one, at 4.2%, as being more dramatic than an earlier one that was just one day longer and, at 10%, had more than twice the impact.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Constitutional Duty

Today’s version of “democracy” is baffling to me, and I suspect would make the founders of this nation wish that they had taken up golf instead.

The founders saw fit to make it one of the duties of our president to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” The people of this nation used to applaud presidents for fulfilling that obligation, but today they seem more often to applaud his breach of it and excoriate the executive branch for any attempt to carry out the constitutional mandate.

For instance, lawmakers, Congress and state legislatures, passed an amendment back in 1919 to make the production, transportation or sale of alcohol illegal, and Congress passed a law in 1920 making the possession and consumption of alcohol illegal.

While both aspects of the legislation were violated in a pretty massive fashion, no one ever suggested that the executive should ignore the existence of the law, or that no attempt to enforce the law should be made. Certainly no one ever suggested that any state could pass a law making alcohol sale, possession and consumption legal and that the federal government should overlook and allow that. By 1933 voters had pressured lawmakers to repeal the almost universally unpopular federal law. All of that was consistent with what the founders, I think, had in mind as to what they had set up for governance in this nation.

Then in 1970 Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act which, among other things, classified marijuana as an addictive drug and made production, transportation, sale, possession or consumption of it illegal. More and more people, voters, are objecting to that law, but instead of agitating for the repeal of that federal law, they are insisting that they can pass state laws making it legal and that the president should simply not enforce the federal law.

I am actually sort of neutral on the legalization of marijuana. The evidence seems to be that it is actually somewhat less dangerous than alcohol. If nothing else, withdrawal from excessive use of marijuana is not medically dangerous, while alcohol withdrawal can cause death. Don’t know, and don’t really care. My point here is about governance.

President Obama announced that he considered marijuana to be a state issue and that he would direct the Justice Department not to interfere with states which had declared marijuana to be legal. In doing so he was actively renouncing his constitutional responsibility to enforce federal law, and he was widely applauded for doing so. If any voice was raised criticizing him for violating his oath of office, I never read it.

Then President Trump rescinds that directive and directs the Justice Department to enforce federal law. He is excoriated by the same media and the same people for following his constitutional mandate to enforce federal law as applauded President Obama for renouncing that mandate.

Nowhere is any call made upon Congress to change that part of the Controlled Substances Act which relates to marijuana. The media is, big time, all over whether or not the Executive Branch should enforce the federal law on marijuana use. The discussion, under the false umbrella of "states rights," is not about whether or not the federal law should exist, it is about whether or not it should be enforced, which is utterly nonsensical.

So what we had in the 1930’s was that a law which was unpopular resulted in the voters putting pressure on the legislature to change the law. Today we have an unpopular law resulting in voters putting pressure on the executive to violate his constitutional duty by failing to enforce the law. Voters, apparently, realize that they not only do not control Congress, they do not even have any influence with Congress.

Or perhaps the whole thing is just hollow drumbeat to popularize one president and, more to the point, to depopularize another one, and no one really cares whether federal laws are enforced or not. In either case, it’s pretty clear that what our founders created is no longer functional.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Tweeting For Change

John Dean tweeted today, “Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, is more important in 2018 than taking the US House from the GOP, and beginning the end of Trump’s horrific presidency. The well being of the nation depends on it. Don’t let a day pass without doing some act to help Democrats win control.”

It is worth noting that if you change one name, this would fit well for Democrats in 2002 after Bush was elected, and for Republicans in 2010 after Obama was elected. (“Our duty is to make sure Obama is a one term president.”) In both cases the opposing party did gain majorities, in both houses, and in both cases it changed nothing.

It’s also worth noting that both presidents, in 2004 & 2012, were reelected.

The Democrats might gain control of one or both houses in this year’s midterm election. Any bets on what it will actually change?

"Tweeting," forsooth. I would be intellectually embarrassed to discuss that I relied upon a "twitter" account to communicate in any dimension, given that "twittering" is what we used to accuse brainless adolescent females of doing. Brainlessness is no longer limited to adolescent females.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Dean Baker Does It Again

Dean Baker’s Tuesday column proves once again my theory that studying economics in college causes brain damage, when he says that this nation’s cuts in economic support to the United Nations were a waste of time because doing so didn’t really save us any significant amount of money.

He’s obviously not a parent. When you dock a kid’s allowance, do you calculate how much money that is going to save you?

He references a New York Times article which informs that a cut of $1.2 billion amounted to 22% of the UN operating budget, and that another cut constituted 28.5% of the UN’s budget for peacekeeping operations, which calculates to a cut of $1.94 billion. From that, a reader whose brain was intact could derive the information that Trump’s punitive cuts to the United Nations for its votes on the Jerusalem issue, no matter how ill advised, was fairly effective punishment.

Dean Baker, whose brain is clearly not intact, was critical of the Times for not telling their readers that the cuts of “slightly less than $3.1 billion” amounted to a mere 0.08% of federal spending. I’m not sure I trust the percentage, since he clearly is not a mathematician: the total of the cuts he cites comes to $3.14 billion, which is slightly more than $3.1 billion.

I’m surprised he didn’t related it to GDP, and I suspect he tried to but came up with a few thousandths of one percent and didn’t know how to express that in print. 1.65e-4% would be even less understandable to readers than… Readers would simply think his calculator blew up, and he’s talking about “informing readers.”

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Good Thinking

The NFL rearranged the schedule for the last week of the season, putting all games which involve teams "in the playoff hunt" in the 4:30pm EST time slot so that no team will know, as they begin their game, whether or not they are still alive in the playoffs.

Nice thought, but it screws the fans, because it means that any fan who wants to watch more than one of those meaningful games, or two by means of recording one of them, cannot do so because all seven of the games are at the same time and they are all carried between only two networks.

Good work. The NFL, as always, is putting the fans last.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Morning

from spaceThis may not seem impressive, but in San Diego we usually either have a "marine layer," which is a solid cloud layer, or the wind is offshore, in which case there are no clouds at all. In either case sunrise is, to say the least, unimpressive. So Molly and I had a nice treat this morning while the wife slept in.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Stealing The Game

The Pittsburg Steelers lost the game today because of an utterly ridiculous call by the officials with 13 seconds remaining in the game. The Pittsburg receiver caught a pass on the one-yard line, went to his knees, rotated his body, reached the ball across the goal line, placed the ball on the ground and let go of it. The officials ruled it an incomplete pass because the reception "did not survive contact with the ground."

The rule that this idiot was referring to requires the receiver to "make a football move" before losing control of the ball, either by contact with the ground or from a defender, or to make contact with the ground with any part of his body other than a hand or foot while in control of the ball, for it to be ruled as a completed pass. Apparently this official did not consider rotating one's body and reaching the ball across the goal line to be "a football move," nor did he consider both knees to be a "part of the body other than a hand or foot."

Actually, by another rule, once the ball crosses the goal line in an offensive player's control, which it very clearly did in this case, it is a touchdown no matter what happens to it afterward. Apparently the official is unaware of that rule.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Off-Season Quickie

I'm not sure I want to mention "quickie" and Danica Patrick in the same article, but this piece doesn't have a whole lot to say. Danica announced that she would exit the stage by racing at the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 next year, but named neither sponsor or car owner at the time. There now seems to be a problem. Only two owners have cars in both races. Penske immediately sent a message to Ganassi saying that he hoped Ganassi would enjoy the 2018 experience with Patrick, and now her negotiations with Ganassi seem to be on the rocks.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Quick Question

Do you think the tax bill would pass without all this sexual misconduct?

Two months ago, in an online discussion, I remarked that all of the hand wringing over the proposed tax bill was uncalled for because it could never pass in anything like its then-present form. I submit that the comment was entirely correct, given the circumstances at the time.

The great lie of Russian interference in the election had been repeated often enough that everyone believed it, but no one really cared any more because the "magic bullet" that proved that Trump had participated with the Russians in corrupting the elections, or that he was the Manchurian Candidate, had never materialized. The media had given it one last shot with a memo that he supposedly received about Wikileaks documents ten days before they were released, but after a couple days of hyperventilation it turned out he got the email, along with several million other people, four days after they were released.

So now we have this tidal wave of accusations of sexual misbehavior. They've been around for years, of course; Bill Cosby comes to mind. But now we have a tidal wave. Every day there are one or two new ones. Politicians, newsmen, football players, media stars, actors, journalists, chefs... And who is on the tail end of that parade? You got it, The ones who accused Trump early in the campaign and were ignored are back making the same accusations, but in this climate they are being taken very seriously indeed.

And because of this distraction, the tax bill, which I said two months ago could not pass, is going to pass into law before the end of the year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Eternal Question

Dean Baker is at it again, saying that the claims of employers that there is a shortage of skilled workers is nonsense because, “there are always workers with the necessary skills — they just might work for competitors or in another city,” and that all an employer needs to do is offer higher wages in order to lure those workers away from those competitors and other cities.

He offers no evidence for his statement, of course, let alone proof, but we'll let that go and proceed with our argument based on the accuracy of his unsupported allegation, unlikely as it may be.

So if you have an shortage of gas in the form of a 20-gallon tank with only 10 gallons in it and I have a full 20-gallon gas tank, all we have to do is siphon half of the gas from my tank to yours and the gasoline shortage is over, right? Because you now have 20 gallons of gas and I have…

Oh wait, something went wrong. There’s still the same shortage of gasoline, but it’s just in a different place. I now have it instead of you.

Only an economist would come up with the utterly stupid idea that you solve a shortage by moving that which is in short supply from one user to another. Which raises the eternal question. Do only idiots become economists, or does becoming an economist cause normal people to turn into idiots?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hoist On Their Own Petard

The media is presenting the concept of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of our embassy to that city as being some radical idea conceived in the insane mind of Donald Trump and sprung as a major surprise into the politics of the nation, catching everyone on the wrong foot and at a loss for how to respond to such an insane idea coming from such a stupid and inexperienced idiot.

I have been waiting for one news pundit, just one, to mention the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, Bill S-1322 passed by votes of 93-5 in the Senate, and 374-37 in the House and not vetoed by William Jefferson Clinton, allowing it to become law on Nov. 8, 1995.

The law mandates that the US recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and requires that the State Department move our embassy to Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999. The bill provides that failure to move the embassy would be punished by a cut of 50% in State Department funding.

It is worth noting that among the people who voted for the bill and are now screaming about Trump’s insanity in this particular action are John McCain and Dianne Feinstein, so both sides are in on the hysterical hypocrisy.

Clinton, Bush and Obama all repeatedly took advantage of the bill’s provision for a six-month delay in implementation based upon national security concerns. Trump used one such delay, but is now carrying out the will of Congress.

Anyone with more than half a dozen functioning brain cells has to be wondering why the media is so intent on condemning Trump for carrying out the will of Congress and so unconcerned with addressing the insanity of people in Congress complaining about Trump acting to implement their own law.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Democratic Thinking

Spoiler alert: the title is irony, perhaps sarcasm.

Democrats are leaping to claim that Al Franken should not have resigned because he has twenty women who claim that he did not sexually harass them and was, in fact, a perfect gentleman to them at all times.

So when a man is accused of robbing a bank, his defense should be to present a list of banks that have never been robbed. The judge will promptly bang his hammer on the bench and proclaim him innocent.

This actually parallels NFL gambler thinking, which now places the Los Angeles Chargers, with their 13th-best 6-6 record, as the third most likely team to win the Super Bowl, albeit with 15-1 odds. This despite the fact that they have not yet this season defeated a team which currently has a winning record.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Jobs Data Nonsense

The jobs report from the Bureau of Lies and Scams tells us that the country added 228,000 new jobs in November, which has economists ecstatic about the “robust economy” and has them swooning about the economy being “on its firmist footing in at least a decade,” but is leaving them confused about why “salaries show meager growth,” given their theory that increasing employment should lead to increasing wages.

Maybe it’s because the jobs increase is not as “robust” as the “Employer Survey” would lead us to believe, since the “Household Survey” tells us that 43,000 fewer were employed in November than in the previous month.

The report does turn that 43,000 fewer people into 57,000 more people employed on a “seasonally adjusted” basis, but one has to wonder how those seasonal adjustments are helping some 100,000 people pay their bills. Do the mortgage and utility companies accept seasonal adjustments as payment?

The absurdity of the method used by the BLS to report on the jobs situation in the nation simply defies belief. They conduct telephone surveys which result in two conflicting reports which inform us that 43,000 fewer people are filling 228,000 additional jobs. They then attempt to reconcile that discrepancy with “seasonal adjustments” of 100,000 fictional workers that suggest that 57,000 new workers are filling those 228,000 new jobs.

Really? Neither the 100,000 seasonal adjustments, nor the 57,000 imaginary new workers that result from the 100,000 seasonal adjustments can fill 228,000 new jobs.

If you’re going to make up numbers, at least make up numbers that work.

What sense, regardless of the rationale for them, do seasonal adjustments make? We’re talking about living breathing people here, and about whether or not they are able to feed their families. If you are in the labor force, are you employed, unemployed, or are you a “seasonal adjustment” as reported by the Labor Department? Ridiculous.

There is a very easy, fast and highly accurate method of reporting on the jobs status. Employers file payroll tax reports within ten days of every pay period, and from that data we can gain the exact number of people employed and the exact amount they are paid. The BLS says they cannot use those records due to “privacy concerns” which is utter nonsense.

Those databases can provide information in any manner which is programmed into them, including summary numbers and totals, and the information needed to provide jobs data can be provided all but instantaneously with total respect to the privacy of all individuals. Ignoring them to obtain contradictory, tardy, costly and contradictory data in the current manner is utter stupidity.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Worldwide Garrison as Homeland Defense

In an article datelined AFP, which presumably stands for the world’s third largest news agency Agence France-Presse, we are informed that the United States has announced that it is prepared to maintain a permanent military presence in Syria.

My immediate reaction is, “Well that’s no surprise. We maintain one everywhere else, why not Syria?” Which should not be interpreted to imply approval by me of anything.

Anyway, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told that news agency that, “We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to -- to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups.”

Hard to imagine who Eric thinks “our partners” are, since the Syrian government has said repeatedly that our military is not welcome in their country and has told us in no uncertain term to get the hell out. That would seem to mean that “our partners” are forces fighting against the Syrian government, and against the Russians, and makes our presence there a very dicey proposition both on legal grounds and logistically.

Some people would, of course, describe the “partners” we are supporting as terror groups themselves, and do actually, but not all nations define terror groups in the same manner. That itself has actually been a point of contention in Syria for quite some years, but it’s a separate topic and would fill a book all by itself.

I’m beginning to see a trend here. We are maintaining a “multigenerational” presence in Afghanistan in order to “deny them space in which to plan their attacks” (which is very nice grammatically at least), and now are maintaining an apparently permanent presence in Syria in order to “support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups.”

Aren’t we just fucking awesome?

Maybe not so much. The Roman Legions occupied Britain, France and Germany in order to keep the Visigoths from attacking Rome, and we all know how that turned out.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Go Chargers?

Local sports writers are absolutely swooning over the fact that the Chargers (never mind that they are no longer a local team) are now tied for the division lead, having won five of their last seven games. Let’s see how close that brings them to the Super Bowl.

Other than the AFC West, the worst division is the AFC South, which is led by two teams tied with 8-4 records. The Chargers are in a three-way tie atop the AFC West with the Chiefs and the Raiders, all with 6-6 records.

The Chargers, in this seven game streak, have played two teams who currently have winning records. They lost both games. To underscore the point, of the five games they won, all of them have been against teams which currently have losing records.

They scored 19 points this past weekend against a team with a 0-12 record, winning by a whopping nine point margin. The Chargers are just majorly kicking ass, aren’t they?

Monday, December 04, 2017

Signs of The Times

Yesterday evening I went to Rubio’s to order a take-out meal for the Sunday Night Football game. Well, full disclosure, my wife doesn’t watch football so we watched a program on the DVR while we ate and then I watched the football game and wound up wishing I hadn’t. But this is not about the football game.

Two customers came in ahead of me with the same purpose, ordering take-out, one of them carrying a rather large dog. The dog was of a size such that the guy was barely able to carry it, and he had no small amount of difficulty keeping hold of it while waiting for his order. No employee informed the man that state law does not permit dogs to be in food service establishments, including the manager who spent her entire time delivering orders to tables and ignoring her employees, few of whom were actually working.

Three of the employees, in fact, were petting the dog and chatting with the owner, fellow dog owners apparently. None of them washed their hands before returning to their food handling duties. The manager saw that, but did not appear to notice it.

I saw my order placed on the kitchen’s serving shelf, two bowls of salad and two small containers of dressing. A worker, not one who had been petting the dog, put lids on the salads and put them in a bag, turned and called my name and handed me the bag, correctly describing my order. I looked in the bag, for effect because I already knew precisely what was in it, and told her that I didn’t see any dressing. Only then did she turn and notice the dressing containers sitting right there where she had taken the salads from.

And they want to be paid $15 per hour because…?

Certainly not because they are highly trained and know the rules under which they are working, like what is and is not permitted in their place of work and that they are required to have clean hands when handling food. Not because they are so attentive that when taking an order off of a shelf and putting it in a bag they are careful to get all of that order. Because, apparently, someone told them that they have rights and did not tell them that with rights come responsibilities.

We're real big on rights these days. Not so much on responsibilities.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Of Course She Did

A San Diego woman has filed a lawsuit for damages resulting from her participation in a protest that “spilled out onto I-5” from the USD campus last winter. Named as defendants in the suit are the university, the city, the police department and the driver of the car that hit her when she went onto the interstate highway.

She claims that the police, and apparently the city and somehow the university as well, should have prevented her and the crowd of protestors from leaving the campus and going onto the freeway. Not sure about her rationale regarding the driver of the car. Perhaps the driver should have levitated the car over the crowd.

The protestors were, of course, protesting the presidential inauguration, arguing that it should not have taken place because elections only matter when the right side wins.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Yes, The Name is Apt

Given fifteen years of military progress in Afghanistan and recent conduct of the US Navy's Seventh Fleet, yes, I believe the Dallas Cowboys can appropriately be called "America's Team."

Meanwhile, local sports writers are swooning over the Chargers having won "five of their last seven games" and now being in contention to reach the playoffs. Right; with a current record of five wins and six losses. It should be noted that all five wins have been against teams with losing records; such notables as the Giants, currently 2-9, and the Broncos, who are currently 3-7. They have played two teams with winning records in that seven-game stretch, and have lost to both of them.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Specious Argument

Dean Baker used yesterday the kind of specious argument that is beginning to make me think that economists should simply be shot dead immediately upon graduation from economist’s school, claiming that the proposed increase in the standard deduction would decrease the value of the mortgage interest deduction.

His headline is about the elimination of state and local taxes as deductions, but that only serves as a lead to the taxpayer’s use of the standard deduction, which the tax plan would double in size. He immediately points out that, “The piece notes that doubling the standard deduction will reduce the number of people who itemize and therefore benefit from the mortgage interest deduction,” and thus has changed the subject away from the headline in the first paragraph.

Note the disingenuous argument here, when he refers to people who, “itemize and therefore benefit from the mortgage interest deduction.” If using the standard deduction results in a lower tax burden, how does it cause one to “lose the benefit” from the mortgage interest deduction? They are paying a lower tax.

The sleazy and dishonest part of his argument is what he means when he says that the new tax plan will “decrease the value,” specifically when the standard deduction is not large enough to overcome the advantage of itemizing and using the mortgage interest deduction, in which case he points out that difference between itemized and standard deduction would be smaller, thus making the itemized deduction “of less value.”

So when one thing costs more than another, if you raise the price of the cheaper one you devalue the higher-priced one.

Only an economist could argue that doubling the standard deduction is a bad thing. Just shoot them all and put us out of our misery.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Mutual Poop Fling

Economists crack me up. They also annoy the shit out of me, sometimes doing both things at the same time. Dean Baker has yet another case in point where he makes a hilariously ridiculous statement in “correcting” an error that Robert Samuelson made in a print editorial.

He doesn’t link to Samuelson’s editorial, but from Dean’s rebuttals it seems that Samuelson claimed that our current trade deficit is being caused by the dollar’s status as “the global major currency,” inadequate government enforcement of patents and copyrights overseas, and the failure of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement to come to fruition.

I have no problem in agreeing with Dean Baker that Robert Samuelson is full of shit. My problem is that I don’t agree with his reason for thinking so, which is that “The reason the U.S. is running such large trade deficits was the decision by many developing countries to accumulate huge amounts of reserves…”

He does not make any mention whatever of consumers buying Korean televisions and Japanese automobiles, or the decision by American manufacturers to export the production of both industrial and consumer goods to foreign countries. No indeed, this nation had nothing whatever to do with creating the terrible trade deficit that is trashing our economy. It was entirely inflicted upon us by others, making us innocent victims of predatory foreign countries.

Economists should be sealed in a hogshead immediately upon graduation from college, stored in a deep isolated cavern and fed through the bunghole until they die of old age.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Security As Oxymoron

My wife and I switched health insurance this month, due to her phased retirement which will be finalized at the end of the year. United Health Care invited me to create a personal account at the website for the new plan, which I did Wednesday.

I had, of course, to create a username and password. The latter took me several tries due to a long list of rules for security reasons. It had to have a capital letter, a small letter, a number, and one of several special characters. It could not have any of several other special characters. No letter or number could be repeated more than once, and it could not contain any actual words.

All of this to protect entry into a site that does not allow any data entry, merely allows the viewing of data. They are seriously concerned with protecting my medical payments from being viewed by unauthorized eyes.

The next day I get an email from them thanking me for signing up at their website. It went on to say, “Please write down your username and password for future reference. You will need it to sign in the next time you visit our website.”

The emphasis is mine, because I am pointing out that they are asking me to render all of the complex security rules they have for creating the password entirely useless, since a password that is written down anywhere is completely insecure. (Not to mention the grammatical error of using “it” to refer to the two things they told me to write down.)

The point should be made that due to their security rules the password must be written down because no one could possibly remember it.

One website required me to remember the name of the street I lived on when I was in first grade. I am 74 years old and grew up in the military. I don’t remember the name of the street I lived on before we bought this house twenty years ago, let alone something from almost seven decades ago. I made something up to satisfy their webform, and then immediately forgot what it was that I invented.

When I needed to answer that “security question” I tried “First Street,” which seemed like a logical answer, but apparently I was not that logical the day I filled out the stupid form.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fine Lines

Best quote about the Chargers game from a San Diego resident. “That was like watching your ex throw up on the dance floor at a party and knowing that’s no longer your problem.”

Monday, November 13, 2017

Um, You Already Said That

The Denver Broncos promise to "evaluate all areas" after being humiliated 41-16 by the New England Patriots and bringing their record to 3-6, tied with the Los Angeles Chargers for last in the division.

Um, they said that last week after losing to the Philadelphia Eagles 51-23.

Last night was special, in that they muffed a punt on their own 15, gave up a 103-yard kickoff return, and suffered a blocked punt, all in the first 18 minutes of the game. They also scored field goals to answer New England touchdowns, apparently not realizing that scoring three points every time your opponent scores seven is not a winning strategy.

Perhaps they should evaluate their mascot; trading a stallion for a jackass.