Sunday, January 31, 2010

Politics & Money

The Citizens United case has certainly evoked a lot of discussion about the role of corporations in government, and in that respect it has actually been good for the nation; that subject has been left underneath the table and out of sight for too long. The discussion of money in politics has been loud and contentious, as has that regarding the role of lobbyists in legislation, but the role of corporations has been left safely at one remove and the Supreme Court decision put them directly in the crosshairs.

What doesn’t get discussed in any of this is why money, lobbyists and corporations play such a role in our elections, and to what degree it might be the voter, rather than those other, corrupting influences, that is at fault for the breakdown.

The crux of the matter is that corporations and lobbyists provide money, and money provides paid advertising. It is paid advertising, mostly those “sound bite” television and media commercials, which to a very large degree determines the outcome of our elections.

The focus on correcting that problem has been on eliminating the money, and it clearly is not working. And so we blame “broken government” on the corrupting influence of money, the corporations that provide money, the politicians who use money, and the courts who are unable to block the influence of money.

Where are the voters in that evaluation? Consider the scenario in which
Joe the Plumber votes for Senator Blowhard because Joe the Plumber is opposed to abortion.

Blowhard believes that the federal deficit is a good thing, thinks that we should invade and bomb at least six more countries, thinks that tobacco should be given free to children, believes that illegal immigrants should be shot on sight, advocates making prostitution legal, advocates legalizing the sale of narcotic drugs on street corners, all things that Joe the Plumber would hate if he knew about them, but Blowhard is strongly against abortion and runs a television commercial saying that his opponent “kills babies.”

Joe the Plumber sees that commercial and votes for Senator Blowhard.

And the problem has nothing to do with Joe the Plumber’s lack of any effort to inform himself; we blame the money that provided the television commercial. We do not think that it is problematic that Joe the Plumber sits in front of his television, getting his information about how to select the representatives who will decide the course of the nation from sixty-second television commercials that he views primarily as interruptions in the crime drama that is entertaining him.

The problem is that some corporation gave Senator Blowhard the money to run the commercial and corrupted our “free and fair” election process.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mohammad and the mountain

Mohammad was not proverbially diminished when the mountain would not come to him and he therefor listed his hands and said that he would go to the mountain. No more is Obama diminished by going to the Republican Caucus. On the contrary, I really like that he did so. It has always been my opinion that being willing to take the conversation to your opponent's turf shows strength rather than weakness, and that it invites conversation rather than confrontation. Too often when Presidents have wanted to confer with Congress it has begun with a "summons to the White House." Such a move hardly constitutes an auspicious conversational opener.

Update: Saturday morning.
And it was really good stuff. Some of the Republican questions were nasty political theatre, and some were decent and rather thoughtful questions with legitimate challenges. On the latter he dissembled just a little on some of them, and quite a lot on a few, but provided some significant degree of honest "my bad" commentary. On the former, he called the bluff, and was not particularly subtle about it, using phrases like "that is just factually not true." It was a real debate, and he did not, to say the least, walk away with his tail between his legs.

There was much comment that him going to the Republicans made him look weak. All I can say to that is that the people making that claim did not watch his performance there. If that was him looking weak...

Snippets From The Speech

But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. Let me know. Let me know. I'm eager to see it.

Shoot, do you mean no one has told him about single payer?

That's what I came to Washington to do. That's why -- for the first time in history -- my administration posts on our White House visitors online.

Oh, please. When first asked for a list of White House visitors, the Obama Administration claimed executive privilege, as had the Bush Administration before. After howls of outrage, they agreed to publish the visitor's list but reserved the right to redact from it "sensitive" names pertaining to matters of diplomacy or national security.

So the list is online, but under protest and in incomplete form.

So let's put aside the schoolyard taunts about who's tough. [...]
And in the last year, hundreds of al-Qaida's fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed -- far
more than in 2008.

So much for putting aside schoolyard taunts about who's tough.

As a candidate, I promised that I would end this [Iraq] war, and that is what I am doing as president.

Right. By following the timetable signed between Bush and Al Maliki.

We're working with Muslim communities around the world to promote science and education and innovation.

Demonstrating ever new and innovative ways of bombing by remote control.

Abroad, America's greatest source of strength has always been our ideals.

Other nations are actually more swayed by our Army, Navy and Air Force.

Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions -- our corporations, our media, and, yes, our government -- still reflect these same values. Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper.

Well, maybe not "full," so much. Maybe they have some such men and women, but it's a real stretch to say that they are "full" of them. "Full" of something else, maybe.

I campaigned on the promise of change -- change we can believe in, the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren't sure if they still believe we can change -- or that I can deliver it.

You think? News flash; there are more than a few who doubt that you want or intend to deliver it, let alone "can" do so.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The President's Speech

Well, I thought I would have something to say about the President’s speech, but I don’t really. Overall, it was better than I thought it was going to be, but it didn’t really do all that much for me. He charmed the shit out of me, but he always does that. He has been a bit long on inspiration and charm, lately, and maybe a little short on specifics, and he gave us a bit more substance last night than I’d been counting on, but not enough to get all that excited about.

The formula for the SOTU is always in two parts; “where we are,” which is always about the wonderful things that the current administration has done for us, and “where we go from here,” which is the part that’s worth listening to if it isn’t just a set of empty promises.

His “where we are” was pretty typical, trying to make it sound like he and the Democratic Congress had done a wonderful job in his first year. Reminding us that “We’ve been here before” was a good point, though. I recall many predicting in the Nixon years that the nation was going to sink without much of a trace, and we’ve had some pretty good years since then. This country has weathered some pretty bad storms.

“Now, let me repeat: We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college.”

At that point the Dems were whooping it up and the and the Republicans were sitting on there hands, so he added, “I thought I'd get some applause on that one.” That cracked me up, and it was needed, because all of that tax cutting had depressed me. He reminds us how the previous gang had run us into a ditch by spending and cutting taxes, keeps talking about how he inherited a mess due to spending and tax cutting, and then he is patting himself on the back for a whole host of tax cuts?

I guess I did/do have something to say about the President’s speech.

The jobs creation part of his speech was more on track. I liked the parts about building infrastructure and clean energy, and bringing production jobs back from overseas. He spoke forcefully and well on jobs creation, and he demanded action from Congress.

The only problem I have with his jobs creation is that is that he is painting with a very small brush. As with the initial stimulus, he is counting on doing a great many very small things and bringing off a big result, and I am doubtful of the actual or political efficacy of that approach.

More than fifty years later, people can still point to bridges, roads and campgrounds and say that the CCC built them. A generation can still say, with some pride, “I was part of the CCC.” Nobody is going to say that about the Recovery Act. What person is going to tell their grandchild, “I was a teacher, and for two years my salary was paid by the Recovery Act of 2009.”

Sure unemployment might have been worse without the Recovery Act, but the actual numbers are not the only issue. The Recovery Act needed to do something for the mood of the country and it did not. The administration may know that it did some good, but as a nation we have no feeling that it did. Now we are repeating that process; painting a big picture with tiny brushstrokes.

“But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies.”

As he said it I had no idea what that first sentence meant. More production of what? Then came the second sentence, and the third. What? Okay, who are you and where did you put Barack Obama? Wait, no, there is no such thing as clean coal technology. It’s a good thing my wife was not home, she would have learned some new words. The cat just left the room at speed.

The part about exports created some cognitive dissonance. When I heard the part about two million new jobs I though that was a pretty modest goal, but at least it was specific, a real goal. Then the part about “doubling our exports” sank in and I realized that it is actually a sizeable goal and that, more importantly, it speaks to the present state of our economy. If our exports currently support a mere two million jobs it is no wonder that our economy looks like a major train wreck.

The rest of it was just sort of the usual cheerleading. He won’t quit on healthcare, but he isn’t saying much about what is important in that effort and what he is actually going to do pursuant to that goal. He’s going to continue to protect us from terrorists, and presumably from rogue asteroids as well. He’s going to beat up the bankers, but he’s not saying much about what the content of the reform is going to be. He’s going to freeze spending, cut taxes for good people and raise taxes for bad people, and thereby balance the budget. Yea. He’s going to stop lobbying, even if it pisses off the Supreme Court.

Oh yes, he and John McCain are going to kill earmarks.

“This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.”

Oh for God’s sake. How about, “I challenge Congress to pass a law…”
He doesn’t have to “work with the military,” he is Commander in Chief of the damned military. All he has to do is tell them to do it and their only option is to salute smartly and comply.

It’s called leadership and command. Exercise it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Unlike about everyone else on the Internet, I have no comment on what President Obama either should say or will say in tonight's State of the Union address. I'm going to do something really radical; I'm going to wait and see what he actually does say. I realize that renders me essentially useless as a blogger, but...

I will probably have commentary on what he says after he says it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Overcoming Roadblocks

Richard W. Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, writes in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, in part,

There are many roadblocks we must overcome to get our economy running again. Businesses must develop sufficient confidence in the future to begin expanding their order books and payrolls. Banks must be willing and able to lend again. And consumers must regain the wherewithal to open their pocketbooks.

That is a deeply delusional statement.

“Business must begin buying things and hiring people.” That, pinhead, is the result of an improving economy, not what must be done to restart it.

“Banks must be willing and able to lend.” How about having creditworthy people and businesses with greater than zero inclination to borrow any money? How about having borrowers who have a better than zero chance of repaying loans?

“Consumers must regain the wherewithal…” Oh, I can’t go on. With the economy not only not creating jobs, but still shedding them, where would you suggest they regain that wherewithal?

There is precisely one “roadblock” that we need to “overcome to get our economy running again.” We need to provide approximately 10 million people with a means of earning a living wage. How we do that is, of course, a very difficult question, and I do not have an answer for it. But until we do that all of this economic blather is nothing more than the sound of jackasses braying at an empty hayrick.

When Obama Does It

One of the things that troubled me about the Bush Administration was that we had a Political Director in the White House. It wasn’t just that Karl Rove was a despicable excuse for a human being, it was that his presence, as a member of the White House staff, as a person whose duties were specifically political was embodiment of the “permanent campaign.” It was acknowledgement that the leader of our country was distracted by being the leader of a political party, and that the former was always going to be colored by the latter. It was a reminder that serving the needs of the nation would always be affected by serving the interests of the party in power.

Now the Obama Administration has brought a Political Director into the White House staff, his former campaign director David Plouffe; the same position that Karl Rove had held for George Bush. I guess we are supposed to be okay with this because David is a nice person campaigning for a nice President espousing nice causes.

More of the “It’s okay when Obama does it” syndrome.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Football Blogging

Too dispirited to blog much after watching what were supposedly the four best teams in the NFL yesterday, two of which totally melted down and played as they were members of some amateur league, and a third which acted like a bunch of back street thugs. Only the Colts played professional football, and that is the team I most utterly despise.

I would have championed New Orleans, but after hearing them proclaim in advance that they were going to hammer Brett Favre and watching them repeatedly take cheap shots and unnecessarily hard hits on him, and watching them repeatedly use forearms when hitting in the secondary, I could only hope that they would manage to lose. Thanks to no fewer than six fumbles, five of them unforced and four lost, and two unforced interceptions by the idiots in purple and white, New Orleans was given a gift of a trip to the Super Bowl. They will have to do better than 77 yards of total offense in the second half to even stay in that game.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lap Cat

Lap CatMolly is a “lap cat,” spending much time in my lap or my wife’s when we are reading or watching television; mostly mine, since Kathy is constantly bounding up and down to do things, while am usually about as active as your average root vegetable. While being a lap cat, Molly constantly proves the third law of cat physics, “A cat’s weight is inversely proportional to the level of its alertness.” Her eight pounds gradually increases to about eighty.

One rule of being in my lap is that no bathing is allowed, which occasionally precipitates a mild contretemps; Molly is a frequent and very enthusiastic bather. She knows the rule and is mostly cool with it, but every once in a while she discovers a spot on her coat which is just unbearably filthy and needs to be dealt with immediately. When that happens I poke her butt with a fingertip and she stops and glares at me, and I then give her a lecture about not giving me “attitude” and knowing the rules.

My wife is vastly amused at me lecturing a cat who is motionless in my lap and giving me a look that could melt the paint off of a battleship. I have to admit that “the look” sometimes makes me have second thoughts about the butt poke. Molly does, after all, have teeth and claws.

Update: No, this is not "the look." This is merely, "What was that?"

Update: Monday, 7:50am
The first law of cat physics is that, "The temperature of a room can be measured by the length of a sleeping cat."

The second law of cat physics is also the first law of cat thermodynamics, "All heat in a room radiates to the cat."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Spam Winner

A local lady, Stacy Slagor, won the national competition for Spam recipes this year, something called Spam Fusion Fajitas. I really love Spam, as does my cat, but this recipe (which is here) frankly looks disgusting.

Update: Sunday, 9:00am
Actually, all of those Spam recipes look disgusting. Gack.

I like Spam just right out of a room-temperature can, cut up in little cubes and eaten on Ritz crackers. Or sliced thin and fried nice and crisp in bacon drippings, eaten with my breakfast eggs. Or a really awesome sandwich; Spam, lettuce and tomato on toast with Mayo.

Olbermann Rants On

Keith Olbermann continued his hyperventilation regarding the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” ruling last night. The thrust of his panic-stricken wailing was that a corporate representative could walk into a lawmaker’s office and demand that he change his vote on current legislation affecting that corporation, threatening to drown that lawmaker in a blizzard of negative advertising if he failed to do so.

Oh, Keith. I realize that thinking is not your forte, sir, and that knee-jerk reactivity is what you do best, pretty much to the exclusion of any other mode. I’m not sure you have the capability of this, but let’s try thinking that scenario through for, oh, maybe four two seconds and focus on the word “threatening.” No, Keith, ignore the shiny object over there; focus.

The Supreme Court changed the law on spending money, but it did not change the law regarding extortion. You do know what extortion is, Keith? Look it up; Google it. About the 2nd time that a corporate representative pulled that stunt there would be cameras running in the lawmaker’s office and that corporation would have a bunch of people going to prison.

Connecting The Dots

It’s difficult not to connect the dots between two articles published on the same day, one in the New York Times, and the other in the Wall Street Journal. We cannot pretend that either publication is an entirely unbiased and independent reporter of objective news, but it’s unlikely that either has returned to the habits of pre-Iraq-War hype.

From the Journal, a couple of excerpts,

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is overseeing wars with Sunni militants in Iraq and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, he's facing a different foe: the pervasive conspiracy theories that fuel widespread anti-American feelings here.

Mr. Gates acknowledged in his remarks that there was a "very real…trust deficit" separating the U.S. and Pakistan.

And from the Times, emphasis added by me,

Beginning the day after the attack on a C.I.A. base in Khost, Afghanistan, the agency [CIA] has carried out 11 [Predator drone] strikes that have killed about 90 people suspected of being militants, according to Pakistani news reports, which make almost no mention of civilian casualties. The assault has included strikes on a mud fortress in North Waziristan on Jan. 6 that killed 17 people and a volley of missiles on a compound in South Waziristan last Sunday that killed at least 20.

Is it really hard to understand why one nation does not trust another when it is being bombed within its sovereign territory almost daily and is powerless to stop the death and destruction? If England was bombing our small towns several times a week from bases in Canada and killing 20 or 90 people each time, would we “trust” England?

And, aside from extracting revenge and making us feel better because we're killing somebody, is it really doing any good? Is it really “winning the War On Terror”?

“Has the situation stabilized in the past two years?” asked the general, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Are the tribal areas more stable?” Yes, he said, Baitullah Mehsud, founder of the Pakistani Taliban, was killed by a missile last August. “But he’s been replaced and the number of fighters is increasing,” the general said.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Boy, Was I Wrong

I was nervous after Obama got elected, because I thought that with my guy in the White House and my party in control of Congress I might not have anything to blog about. Hoo boy, did I ever call that one wrong!

Post count went from 417 in 2008 to 545 in 2009 and 30 so far this month.

Democracy Lives

I was as upset as most liberals (most of the rest of liberals that is, being one myself) at the “Citizens United” decision yesterday. I did not, however, see the sun imploding or the United States flag turning into some sort of dishrag. I see democracy becoming a bit more difficult, but it’s not all that easy right now.

Corporations will play a bigger role in government because of this decision. Well, haven’t we been complaining for years that corporations already control government? Haven’t we been complaining for years about the influence of lobbyists that flood Washington? So where is the radical change as a result of this decision?

Was there not a Democratic primary just two years ago where one candidate took in a record amount of money, and none of it was corporate donations? Is not that candidate our President as we speak?

Juan Cole at Informed Comment sums it up nicely and saves me a lot of space. Go read what he says. His, and mine, are the “still small voices crying in the wilderness; democracy lives.”

Update: Friday 1:50pm
Glenn Greenwald not only sounds the same caution against hyperbole that Juan Cole and I do, but maintains that the Supreme Court made the correct decision. I'm not certain that I am entirely pursuaded, but he makes a very powerful arguement for freedom of speech.

Worse Than Dred Scott?

Keith Olbermann us become increasingly buffoonish of late and, in making his political points, has reached increasingly in the magnification of trivia. Last night his screeching and wailing about the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United was simply over the top. For the most part I am able to overlook Olbermann’s hyperbole and clowning with a chuckle, but I found his extensive howling and hair pulling last night on this topic to be at best tiresome and at worst offensive.

To hear Keith Olbermann tell it, the Supreme Court eliminated elections altogether, and simply decided that corporations will hold some sort of closed bidding process to decide which one of them would put their employee into each office. Olbermann has regularly expressed contempt for the American electorate, but last night he specifically said that they are stupid and irrelevant.

Then in his “Special Comment” he pompously and egregiously declaimed at great length that this decision was “worse than Dred Scott.” I simply cannot find words to express my disgust with that pronouncement. Olbermann is a despicable excuse for a human being, and he owes an apology, delivered on his knees, to every person of African descent.

He then engaged in a hyperbolic description of his vision of the future under a "corporate government" that was so insanely exaggerated that I turned it off. I was intending to hear it through in order to write about it, but I simply could not stomach his pompous jackassery any longer.

Keith Olbermann has gone beyond ignorance, into stupidity and bigotry.

Evening Things Up

Common wisdom seems to be that Obama has read the handwriting on the political wall and, reading that Main Street is really angry with all of the favoritism that he has delivered to Wall Street, is finally taking on the issue of financial regulation and reform. The consensus seems to be that people on Main Street will feel better about having been ignored for the first year of his presidency if he continues to ignore them and compensates for all of the favored treatment afforded Wall Street by beating up on it for a while.

Now, think about that for a while. Mommy ignores Sally and gives Tommy cookies for a couple months. Sally becomes neurotic from neglect, so the psychiatrist tells Mommy not to give anybody cookies and to spank Tommy once a day for a month to even things up. That evens things up, all right; you end up with two neurotic kids.

I was absent when they taught mind reading in school, apparently, since I don't do it as well as everybody else seems to; so I'm not sure why Obama is doing this now. I'm pretty sure, though, that he is quite a lot smarter than the motive implied by the above consensus would attribute to him.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Money Rules

If you have been fed up with all of the political ads on television to this point, it is going to get worse, much worse.

Brushstrokes in a Painting

Howard Dean was on Hardball yesterday “discussing” the Coakley loss with Chris Matthews. I put that word in quotes, because the “discussion” had more in common with two monkeys fighting over possession of a football that it did with adult discourse. Digby has a transcript of that comedy in a post at Hullabaloo if you’d like to read it, or you can watch the clip, or I’ll summarize the inanity for you;

Matthews says that voters voted against health care because Coakley said she favored the “public option” and lost, and Brown said he would “kill health care reform” entirely and won. Dean, strangely enough, claimed that Coakley lost because the “health care reform” did not go far enough. It was an exercise in silliness, which is why I watch Hardball, but I think Dean was closer to being right than Matthews was. (No surprise there.)

Art critics look at a painting and they see the brushstrokes; they see the technique that the artist used to make the canvas come to life. Ordinary people look at a painting and are utterly unaware of the brushstrokes; they see the canvas, the finished picture.

Media pundits are the “art critics” of politics; they are fanatical about individual statements made and positions taken by candidates. Voters hear thousands of statements on hundreds of issues, and generally remember none of them when they enter the voting booth. What they remember is the picture that the candidate painted of who he/she is. The individual statements and positions are the brushstrokes that the candidate uses to paint the picture that gets him/her elected.

Sure, maybe a voter or two went into the booth last November and voted for Obama specifically because he was for healthcare reform and opposed the individual mandate (omigosh, remember that?), and that voter was so concerned with that one issue that nothing else mattered. Millions more voted for him because he was “the agent of change” or something similar.

As Steve McMahon, thinking Democratic pundit, points out, candidates can run on a couple of differing sets of axes; the conservative/liberal axis, or the establishment/change axis. Coakley, regardless of any single policy position or statement, painted herself as part of the establishment and ran as a liberal. Brown, again regardless of any single thing that he said, represented himself as an outsider and ran as an agent of change.

To interpret the election as about any single issue would be viable, probably, only if we had one single voter. The trend that should be discernable is that voters were angry with the way government was working last year and wanted change and they are angry still, or again, and want change. The “outsider” vowing to change the system won the presidential election in 2008, and the “outsider” promising change won last Tuesday. That would suggest that Democrats are not delivering on their promise.

The Democratic Party does not seem to be getting that message.

Baby Steps

President Obama is, finally, actively talking up steps to rein in the financial industry; first the bank tax to “recover the bailout money,” and now what is being hailed as a “modern day version of Glass-Steagall,” a law prohibiting banks from trading using their client’s money. My thoughts on the bank tax is that it has been more for swaying public opinion than anything else, as it isn’t an amount that is significantly going to affect banks or the government deficit, and doesn’t address the problem of Wall Street behavior.

I regularly read two financial writers, Mish and Market Ticker. Both of them write in laymen’s terms most of the time, and when they do I quite often can follow what they are talking about. Both are “doomsayers” to a degree, so I tend to read them with a salt shaker handy, but they provide useful insight as to how the financial industry works. If you don’t think that the politicians of both parties are obfuscating like crazy, you need your head examined.

(Mish had a piece yesterday on the San Diego pension crisis, in which he commends Donna Frye and says she should run for mayor. He may know finance, but he certainly doesn't know Donna Frye.)

Anyway, Mish says that Obama’s latest effort misses the point, while Market Ticker says it is on point and very much in the right direction. I’m with the latter, but I am of the opinion that it is another of Obama’s baby steps. This is timidity when bold action is seriously needed.

The proposal only requires that banks not be allowed to trade with their client’s money, it doesn’t prevent them from risk-taking in general, and it applies only to the very largest handful of banks, when it should apply to all deposit banks as Glass-Steagall did. It does not prevent deposit banks making loans from selling those loans and then counting them as assets rather than liabilities. It leaves un-addressed a vast array of problems of oversight and enforcement.

Baby steps are better than nothing, of course, but this was a candidate whose theme was “audacity.” We have settled on a smaller-than-desired stimulus, we are buying a crappy compromise on health care reform, and now we are approaching financial regulation reform with timidity and trepidation. Determined and steadfast on doing the hard things he may be, but this approach of doing them piecemeal seriously risks leaving many of them half done. Where is the “audacity” we were promised?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

...because it is hard.

In announcing the goal to send men to the moon, Jack Kennedy said,
"We choose to do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard."
That is my kind of Democrat.

And we did it. Get of your backsides and pass real health care reform.

Update: To expand on this thought, what Obama is doing is hard. The fact that it is hard, that it is not working at the moment, does not mean that he should stop doing it.

A democracy in which the minority is rendered powerless and irrelevant does not lend itself to viable governance. A democracy in which the minority has no voice leads to strife and rancor and stalemate. This is the democracy which the radical left wants to create.

Obama is bigger and better than that. He wants a democracy in which the majority rules, but in which the minority participates. He wants the minority to still have a voice that is heard and respected. Creating that democracy is hard. Obama is willing to do hard things.

Update 2: Obama, from an interview with George Stephanopoulos,

Well, you know, it is my responsibility to try to reset the tone. And I'm going to have a State of the Union speech and one of my goals, I think, I spoke about this on King's birthday, the fact that I felt disappointed that we had lost some of that sense of common cause that existed a year ago and that I have not been able to change the tone here in Washington. I am going to keep on trying though. And the reason I'm going to keep on trying is, because if we can't do that, if all that's taken place back and forth between the parties is vitriol and accusations, then what's going to end up happening is that we're going to just keep on in a direction in which families are losing ground and they become further and further disenchanted with the possibilities of politics and government can solve any problems whatsoever.

Now, here's what I'm not going to do though, George, because I think this is very important and it goes to a lot of the questions that you've asked. What we can't do is simply say we're going to stand pat and avoid big problems because they're just too hard politically.

That's what I'm talking about.

The Cost of Overthinking

No I’m not talking about overthinking the reasons for or the implications of the Coakley loss, there are plenty of others doing that and I’m not eager to get lost in that crowd. I have a theory about why Democrats are losing ground, and it involves overthinking.

Two major legislative efforts have been issues so far under Democratic control of our government this go around; economic stimulus and health care reform. Both bills have been debated at great length, and have attempted to deal with every aspect even peripherally related to the central theme of the bill. In both cases the end result was, after a contentious and ugly process, creation of a monstrous and massive bill that the public did not understand and did not like.

Bush and the Republicans crafted legislation that was, for the most part, rather limited in scope (and unfortunately sweeping in effect, but that’s a different issue), with each bill being limited narrowly to the purpose it was intended to achieve. Hundreds of peripheral items and riders were often added, of course, but they were the run-of-the mill pork barrel spending that doesn’t merit discussion by Congress or the media. Once in a while social policy would be added to a war spending bill; the bill would promptly be voted down and a new bill introduced and passed that did not contain the social policy.

Medicare Part D was a massive spending bill, one of the biggest ever, but it was rammed through fairly quickly and without all that much controversy. (It seemed like a lot at the time, but pales to insignificance compared to what Democrats have managed to generate.) In part that was because it didn't contain anything other than Medicare Part D. The Republicans didn't use this massive bill as a platform to make sweeping changes to everything about Medicare; it focused on the one central idea of securing payment of medications for seniors.

Democrats come up with a basic idea of stimulating the economy. The initial idea was to create jobs, but then they create a bill that attempts to accomplish that and much more, and it makes that effort by doing several hundred different things, none of them on a really major scale that can be pointed to as central to the bill. Consequently they have a “stimulus bill” with no signature item, nothing that the public can identify with and really get behind. The initial idea of creating jobs got lost in the morass of this massive bill, and the end result is that the only “big thing” about the bill is the dollars spent.

Now they are saying that the stimulus bill did create jobs, but unemployment is still increasing and they cannot actually show the jobs that were created; can only claim that it would have been worse without the bill. Maybe so, but if the bill had been about roads and they could point to the new roads, for instance, they would be in a lot better shape.

They have approached health care reform much the same way, diverging from the initial issue of insuring the uninsured and providing no central issue that the public can really get behind and support. Look at all the issues that Democrats are touting as attempting to resolve with this monstrous bill; insure the uninsured yes, but then they have added; reduce the cost of insurance, lower health care cost, keep everything the same for people who like what they have, lower the cost of Medicare, eliminate waste in Medicare, not change Medicare, expand Medicaid, reform the way health insurance is administered, reform the delivery of health care, computerize health care records, hold health insurance accountable… The list is almost endless. Again, the initial idea of insuring the uninsured got swallowed up in the process, and the one thing that is clear is that the cost is very large and we have their promise that money will be extracted somehow, from someone, to pay for it. The cost is very clear, the method of payment is much less so.

Health care reform is going to do the same thing to them that the stimulus bill did, if it passes. People are going to want to know why the cost of health insurance is still rising, and Democrats are not really going to be able to point to any specific and tangible thing that this legislation has actually done.

But the money spent for both of these bills will be highly visible.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Weather Watch

The rain we've gotten has been significant and at times rather dramatic, but the really heavy stuff has been to the north. We've gotten a bit over two inches since Monday afternoon, with more to come.

These are big Pacific storms, producing surf far larger than San Diego is accustomed to seeing. From the NOAA:


Preserving Government

The Republican has not yet won in Massachusetts but is expected to today, giving Republicans their 41st Senator and wreaking havoc with the “health care reform” bill currently undergoing debate in Congress. Let me be on record that I consider it necessary that Congress pass some sort of “health care reform” very soon, although I am not of the opinion that any bill at all, no matter how bad, is better than no bill at all.

Current thinking appears to be that the reaction of Congress to the loss of the 60th Senate seat will be to resolve the impasse by simply having the House pass the current Senate version of “health care reform.” I can think of almost nothing that would be, in my view, less appropriate. My reasons are not entirely to do with the differing versions of the bill, although I do consider the House version to be considerably less pernicious than the Senate one.

This is a spending bill, and by the terms of the constitution all such bills must originate in the House of Representatives. This would stand that procedure on its head.

More important, such a move would establish the Senate as the “senior” of what are supposed to be two equal houses of the Legislature, allowing the elitist Senate to run roughshod over the “people’s house” which is the House of Representatives. Such a move would take our government one more step toward oligarchy by rendering irrelevant that legislative body which is, by its elective nature, most required to be responsive to the will of the people.

I have written to my Representative, urging her not to vote in favor of the Senate bill in the event that it is presented to the House for consideration, and I urge you to do likewise. The integrity of our form of government is under attack, and by the Democratic Party no less, and action by the voters is needed now.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cadillac Health Plans

Remember the, “If you like the health care you have and want to keep it, nothing in this plan will require you to change,” assurance from Obama?

Well, if you have a low-deductible, low-copay plan and you are willing to pay what it presently costs, you better be willing to pay a lot more because the government just raised the cost of that plan by 40% or more. It wasn’t the “evil insurance companies” that raised the cost, and the House tried to prevent the raise, it was the Senate and President Obama.

In justifying the 40% tax on what he calls “Cadillac health insurance” plans and those who have the plans call “health insurance I like,” Obama said the plans encouraged excessive health care spending and the tax was necessary to help “bend the cost curve” of health care spending. Not only does he want to price you out of the insurance plan that you now have, but he wants you to use less health care than you are now using.

Make a note of that, if you have one of those plans. You are going to the doctor too often. You are getting too many tests. I don’t know why people enjoy colonoscopies and MRI’s and having needles poked into them, but apparently you do; quit getting all of those tests that you enjoy so much. You are having too many surgeries. I’m sorry, you are just not going to be able to enjoy all that pampering that you get in that hospital; quit having all those surgeries. If you are going too keep doing so many of these things that you enjoy so much, we might have to ration them.

Making people use less health care by making it cost more out-of-pocket is not rationing, however. Of course, it is not by any stretch of the imagination “bending the cost curve downward” either. Unless, that is, you make it so ungodly costly that no one uses any of it, in which case the overall national spending on health care does decrease.

I’m not sure that’s what the public has in mind, though.

Four Blowouts

The "Wildcard Weekend" provided four entertaining, competitive football games. The Divisional Playoffs provided four blowouts. Forget the score of 17-14 for the Jets-Chargers game; one team played football, the other team ran the wrong pass routes, dropped passes, fumbled the ball, threw interceptions, committed personal fouls and procedure penalties, missed tackles, and gave up a 53-yard touchdown run.

I have to wonder how many Chargers were in which nightclubs until 3am during the week before this game, celebrating their Division title, and how many talked themselves out of D.U.I. charges. Our General Manager has been drafting players for their talent; maybe he should be drafting players with a little less talent and more character. Winning regular games is a matter of talent; winning the big game requires character as well, and the past few years many of these players have made it clear they don't have it.

Oh well, at least we got to see the Cowboys blown out too.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ark Building Time?

Rainy Weather



"...a vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean." Whew.

This will not make up for four years of below-normal rainfall, officially classified as drought. Even a full year of normal rainfall would be far short of enough to meet the city’s needs, and recent court decisions have seriously cut our water allocations from the Colorado River and from the Northern California delta. Still, a good soaking like this is more than welcome.

On the other hand, in the unlikely event that a crew shows up Monday morning to tear up my driveway, I think I'm going to send them away.

The Global Warming Hoax

Local weatherman John Coleman had an hour-long prime-time television special on our local independent channel the other night to prove that global warming is a hoax, is “science gone bad.” As you might expect, it was long on rhetoric and short on actual, um, facts.

For instance, it was claimed that the greenhouse gas in our atmosphere is water vapor, not carbon dioxide, as proved by the fact that cloudy nights are warmer than clear nights because clouds keep the heat in. No mention was made of the concomitant and inconvenient fact that cloudy days are cooler than clear days, nor was it explained how warmer nights disproves the effect of carbon dioxide on global temperatures.

The concern about the effects of the spread of tropical diseases was cleared up by establishing that the reason that Malaria is endemic in the tropics is due to lack of pest control, and that the mosquitoes that spread it can live as far north as the North Pole. That would indeed solve the issue if anybody had mentioned Malaria, but nobody did. The discussion was about tropical diseases, of which there are a great many, so calming fears about Malaria doesn’t do much to resolve the discussion, and why it needed resolving is unclear if the globe isn't actually warming as is claimed.

If there’s a herd of elephants in the room, you don’t solve the problem by shooting one of them; there would be one dead elephant, but you would still have a herd of elephants in the room. And bear in mind, they are claiming there is no herd of elephants, but still finding it necessary to shoot one of the elephants that they claim does not exist.

One scientist debunked the loss of Arctic ice cap, stating that it did indeed shrink for one single year, in 2007. In 2008, he said, it had largely rebounded, and in 2009 it was fully back to normal. Hmmm. Well, let’s not split hairs, here, he’s full of it.

Another scientist claimed that the rise in carbon dioxide will double crop yields, since that harmless gas is a nutrient for plants. That might have some merit if CO2 was the only thing that plants feed on, but they also need a couple of other things like nitrogen, phosphorous and, oh yeah, water. Additionally, some types of plants consume a lot more CO2 than others, and crops are a type of plant that consume very little. Trees consume a lot, but we don’t actually eat trees very much.

All of their efforts at refuting arguments about the rise of sea level were somewhat comedic in view of the unarguable and inconvenient fact that
it’s already happening.

Coleman went on at great length about the U.S. government deliberately manipulating temperature readings. He has found a computer programmer and a meteorologist who have discovered that the government used 6000 thermometers to measure global temperatures until about 1980, at which point they dropped that number to 1000. The ones they quit using are all in cold locations on mountains and such, while the ones they continue to use are in warm places such as beaches in San Diego. The government has not limited its dishonesty to that, however, it has cooked the computer program so that it produces artificially high temperature averages from the readings of the 1000 thermometers that the government does continue to use.

He and his two friends are going public about this heinous conspiracy soon, and “it will become major news.” I can’t wait.

Friday, January 15, 2010

State of the City

Mayor Sanders’ speech on the state of San Diego, as it has for the past several years, boiled down to. “I hope you enjoy our weather, because financially we’re screwed.” Actually our weather isn’t going to be all that great for the next week or so.

The Mayor has used a vast array of draconian cuts to reduce the deficit in our $735 million budget from $179 million down to a mere $77 million. Everything got hit; shorter library hours, parking-meter rate increases, reduced maintenance at parks and beaches, layoffs of 200 workers, and cuts in public safety programs. Brutal, but one has to applaud the man for doing what had to be done.

In the same speech, though, he vowed to proceed with plans for a new $185 million main library, a $432 million city hall, a civic center expansion with a cost yet to be determined, and he was supportive of plans to build a new stadium for the Chargers to the tune of $800 million.

These, of course, won’t cost us anything because they are paid for with bonds. He assumes that the voters don’t know that when the city sells bonds it then has to repay those bonds with interest; that projects built with bonds not only cost the taxpayers money, they actually cost more money than projects built directly with cash.

Expanding your capital budget in such a manner while you have a 25% shortfall in your operating budget is nothing short of delusional.

Wall Street Journal and Sports

Fairly trivial, but the Wall Street Journal should stay away from sports writing, or it should hire someone who knows something about sports. An article yesterday in that paper about the Minnesota Vikings starts off,

One of the most sacred commandments of the NFL is that elite players aren't supposed to change uniforms. The league's rules and customs are explicitly designed to discourage this. And when players do move, common sense tells you they usually target teams in glamorous towns with championship pedigrees.

But for the first time in NFL history, one franchise is threatening to upturn both of these orthodoxies. And it's not the team you'd expect.

Perhaps they should hire someone who knows how to write at all; "threatening to upturn both of these orthodoxies"? How the hell do you "upturn" an "orthodoxy"?

At any rate, this clown has not been watching the NFL for the past 15 years or so. How many teams has Randy Moss played for, or Terrell Owens? Who did Michael Turner carry the ball for before he began setting records for Atlanta? It's called "free agency" and since the current rules for it were established some years ago the league has been noteworthy for the absence of consistency with which players remain with any given team.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I have nothing to say about the earthquake in Haiti, because what can one say that is meaningful? I will say that President Obama's response has struck me as reflecting very well upon the quality of his leadership.

I do recall one scene from the 2004 tsunami in the Pacific. It was aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier and sailors were frantically loading water bladders onto helicopters, working as feverishly as if it was their own lives that depended on it. Watching my Navy saving lives made me proud of my country, and proud to be a Navy veteran. Whatever else this nation may or may not do, we always show up whenever needs like this arise.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Good Guys Lie, Too

There is a massive construction project on I-15 just north of where I live, adding carpool lanes to one of the most crowded and dangerous freeways in the San Diego area. This project has been ongoing for more than four years and has not gotten any bigger during 2009. In fact, work has actually slowed a bit the past year. What has happened is that new signs have appeared in the construction zones telling us that the project is being funded by the “Stimulus Bill of 2009.”

That’s interesting, since it is not a new project and is not employing anyone who wasn’t already at work. The current administration would have us believe that this is part of the “jobs saved” in the number jobs that have been “created or saved” by the stimulus bill but there are a few problems with that claim. The California DOT published a list of projects that were scheduled for the axe due to budget cuts in 2008 and another such list in early 2009. The I-15 carpool lane project was not on either list. This is a very high priority project, and almost all other construction would be cancelled before this one got axed.

The last time I read claims for jobs “created or saved” by the stimulus the number was a paltry 640,000, and even that number was being challenged since quite a few of the jobs were in districts which don’t exist. The administration was blithely ignoring the criticism, saying that there were errors in reporting the district numbers; casually disregarding the suggestion that there might be errors (or dishonesty?) in reporting the numbers of jobs. Everybody got the job numbers right, and all the foul-ups were in the district numbers.

Now, suddenly, the number of jobs “created or saved” is two million.

Holy crap! How did the number more than triple overnight? Well, when the accounting rules don’t provide the numbers that you feel you need, change the accounting rules. It works for the financial industry, so why not use it in government? According to AP,

It is also becoming more difficult to obtain an accurate count of stimulus jobs. Those who receive stimulus money can now credit jobs to the program even if they were never in jeopardy of being lost, according to new rules outlined by the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

The new rules, reported Monday by the Internet site ProPublica, allow any job paid for with stimulus money to count as a position saved or created.

That’s why the I-15 carpool lane project has those signs about stimulus funding. The workers on that project, who have been working on that project for more than four years and who have never been in danger of layoff, are now being counted as “jobs saved by the stimulus bill.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Just My Luck

San Diego has gone 14 months with only one modestly significant rainfall.

Last May I submitted a request to my HOA to have my driveway repaired.
It is cracked and buckled and is preventing my garage door from closing properly, resulting is the presence of rats in my garage. That makes my wife unhappy, and when my wife is unhappy... Well, I don't like rats in the garage either.

Finally the HOA approved the driveway replacement last month (it only took eight months), and the work is scheduled to begin next Monday and be completed Thursday. Here's the NOAA weather forecast for next week:


Update: No, I suspect the rats would chase Molly out of the garage.

Ford in the News

No, not the car company, Harold Ford. He is considering a run for Senator from New York as a Democrat, against Gillibrand.

This is weird on a couple of levels. First, nothing that I've ever heard him say on television led me to believe he is a Democrat, or could even pose as one.

Plus, just a year ago he was running for the Senate in Tennessee. Don't you have to live in the state to be a Senator from that state? Maybe New York is special; we did have Hillary Clinton parachuting in to be Senator from New York, as a former resident of Arkansas by way of DC, about twenty minutes after her husband left the White House.

Monday, January 11, 2010

B of A Wierdness

The ongoing adventure with Bank of America and our Health Savings Account (HSA) continues. At the end of the year the BofA suddenly decided it needed "receipts" for about a third of the charges it had paid on the credit card that we use to charge medical expenses to our HSA, some of those expenses going back to May and June. It turned out the "receipts" they needed were actually the medical invoices, proving the medical nature and insurability of the expense. Most of them were actually copays on medical bills paid by our health insurance, and I outfoxed them; I had all of the bills so, they could not back charge us any of the amounts.

Now they show a negative balance on the account, which is a little weird in itself, but the reason for that negative amount is really weird. The amount they show as paid out is the amount that we "elected," so the balance should be zero, but the amount they show as "elected" is $230.88 less than that, so it shows them as having overpaid by that amount.

B of A is incompetent, or corrupt, or both.

Perfecting Government

It’s interesting to me how many in the media, and even more in the blogosphere, go on at great length about the need to eliminate the graft and corruption in the government of Afghanistan and emit not so much as a whisper about eliminating the, admittedly less severe but still pervasive, graft and corruption in our own government. Andrew Sullivan and others make a crusade out of trying to advance more perfect democracy in Iran by supporting the “Green Revolution", but seem unaware of just how imperfect democracy is here in this nation.

Why are we so intent on reforming other nations, and not our own?

I have read, and even on occasion uttered, the aphorism that since we keep electing the same people to office again and again we get the government we deserve, but I don’t really support that theory. Since both parties utilize the same methods for securing reelection and assuring their own retention of power, the voters have very little real choice. We deserve a better government than we have, but short of revolution we have very little chance of achieving it.

Why isn’t Andrew Sullivan concerned that our form of democracy consists almost entirely of “the person with the most money wins,” and that no one seems very fussy about the sources of that money? It seems to me that someone who has chosen this country to be his home would be more concerned with how this government is elected that with how an election is held in a nation that he is unlikely to ever visit, much less live in.

When public and/or media does manage to significantly influence government it often destroys the good that government tries to do.

Obama came to office with a grand idea to reform health care, and liberals immediately perverted it into a war between vested corporate interests and “liberals” intent on destruction of a corporate enemy. The liberal campaign became not actually to reform health care in any meaningful way but to destroy the health insurance industry.

Who is going to join that band wagon? Well I’ll tell you who’s not going to; 200 million or so people whose health care bills are currently being paid by health insurance companies. Ed Shultz and Keith Olbermann have been prating at length about unpaid claims and I don’t know the actual numbers, but for every claim that is denied there are many, many claims that are paid as agreed. Without those paid claims, thousands of medical bankruptcies that Shultz and Olbermann have decried would be many millions.

It’s this kind of demagoguery that derails the best intentions that do emerge from the government that we have, and send it off of the mainline and down a dead end siding to useless and destructive legislation. A worthy ideal turned into a nasty and divisive fight and resulted in legislation that will do a very small percentage of the possibility that Obama envisaged.

Instead of worrying about cleaning up and perfecting the forms and management of governments overseas, we need to be working on making our own government more responsive to the real needs of the people it is supposed to represent and serve.

There’s something about stones and glass houses.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Dream Dies

There’s a “dairy” at DailyKos, a blog I seldom read, about a failed small business. The title is “I Watched A Dream Die Today,” and the author was almost certainly writing through a flood of tears. A friend started a “unique natural pet food store” in a small town, and the store failed. Disclosure: I don’t feed my cat expensive “natural” cat food.

The town she operated her store in does not have a well-informed and active town board or Chamber of Commerce to work on the local businesses behalf. Indeed, her requests for assistance on parking for her customers and other similar common business needs went unheeded. She is not the only business owner in that town with similar complaints, just the most recent.

An even more serious (and all too common problem nationally) was that the local townspeople didn't shop in their own town. This particular town has a very high income level, both from well-off retirees and a local university. However, rather than keep their neighbors in business, the townspeople shopped at malls and box stores in nearby towns.

In other words, she failed because she chose a poor business and opened it in a poor location. She didn’t do her homework. The lack of parking and the wealthy people who don’t shop in their bedroom community existed before she opened her store, and if she had done proper market research she could have known that before she opened a store with such a limited product range that it had little chance of success regardless of location.

And here the writer is blubbering about the failure of her friend and not able to see that the friend in any way contributed to her own demise. All failures are due to the heartless society that fails to uphold the ultra-liberal ideal.

According to this writer, small businesses have some sort of “purity” that is essential, that should attract patronage regardless of the manner in which the business is operated or the range of products it offers. We should support it not because it has structured its location, hours and products to serve our needs, but merely because it is a “small business.”

I certainly don’t qualify as any kind of conservative; I certainly am willing to agitate for financial and health assistance for persons who have fallen on bad times. Many small businesses, however, fail because they were started and operated as a “dream” and not as a business, and I’m not going to lose any sleep over them.

Not every bad thing that happens is society’s fault.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Political Theater

Tom Ridge, former Director of Homeland Security, was on Hardball yesterday discussing the latest idiocy from Rudy Guliani and, to his credit, he said that we should be seeing “less political theater.” Unfortunately, he followed that in the very same sentence with, “because the homeland has already been a battlefield.”

Are these people even aware of their own words?

Friday, January 08, 2010

Lost Not Nost

The Obama Administration has assured us that the State of the Union Address on Feb 2nd will not disrupt the opening episode of the final season of "Lost." I'm certainly glad we straightened that out. We Americans do have our priorities, you know.

I was really into that show which, we are told, will have all of the answers revealed this season. What with them piling question upon question and making the seasons all of something like six weeks in length each with about 18 months between seasons, I have forgotten most of the questions and no longer really give a shit about the answers.

Not sure I want to hear about the sorry State of the Union either, but...

Security Concerns

It’s difficult to respond to the “underpants bomber” in any kind of reasonable way. One cannot simply disregard it as having no kind of real significance, because it does have very real and significant implications. I cannot, however, see that it is worthy of all of the obsession that the topic is receiving, nor all of the blame-placing.

Of course, obsessing and blame placing is what we do, and this episode is merely the topic of the day; we will obsess and place blame on this until the next topic arises and will switch to that one without a backward look at this one. By “we” I refer to the media and body politic; the public consciousness, so to speak.

I once went to work for a guy because he needed someone to help find out why his company was in a condition where, “We show a profit but there’s never any money.” As I dug into the practices of his supervisors I found, not surprisingly, that the problem was him. His management philosophy was that all errors had to be punished to prevent them being made again, so his employees spent more time covering up mistakes than they did actually getting anything done.

That’s what the “blame game” does for you, but here we are as a nation insisting on knowing who was at fault for this incident and demanding that someone be fired. Obama takes a somewhat more reasonable approach of looking past blame and focusing of correcting systemic problems, and is accused of being “weak on terror” because he isn’t firing somebody.

Unfortunately, the opposition has goaded Obama into resurrecting the “We are at war” rhetoric, which I consider unfortunate. How we gain by deploying huge armies with tanks, artillery and air forces against a few hundred guys scattered over several continents and communicating with one another over the Internet is beyond me. They are criminals aspiring to be warriors, and we cater to their wishes by elevating them to the undeserved status that they crave.

An individual setting off a bomb that kills 300 people in an airplane is not a warrior, he is a murderer; a criminal of the same kind as a thug who kills a store owner while robbing him. The scale of the crime is larger, but the kind of crime is the same. He is a murderer, not a warrior.

Obama talks about “national security,” but what he is catering to is personal security. An individual setting off a bomb that kills 300 people is not attacking the Unites States and is not a threat to this nation; he is simply killing people in the United States and is a threat to individuals. He is a serious threat and individuals need to be protected against him; but it is protection, not defense, and it is individuals who are at risk, not the nation.

People are entitled to be “safe in their persons” in their homes and as they go about their lawful business, and it is the responsibility of government to assure that within reason. I’m glad that Obama takes that responsibility seriously. I just wish that reckless opposition and lurid media didn’t force him to couch it in terms of “war” and “national security.”

Nick Saban is an Idiot

You do not sit on an 18-point lead for an entire quarter in the BCS National Championship game. When that lead drops to 11 points you do not continue to sit on it. The fact that his defensive players rescued him from his stupidity does not make it any less stupid; the lead was down to three points. The players are national champions; the coach is an idiot.

I certainly hope the Chargers don't decide to do a fake punt from their own 25-yard line on the first series of their championship game and have their punter throw an interception. In the first quarter, with the score tied at zero all. Idiot.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A New Low

To diverge from politics; this one is a television commercial. The scene is, of all things a jar of spaghetti sauce lying in a saucepan; stupid enough in itself, but accompanied by, "When it comes to sauce, some people turn to this jar." The last two words are emphasized and simply dripping with sarcasm. What is it advertising? You guessed it; spaghetti sauce that comes in a jar. The label is slightly different, but the jar is the same. Why they think that will sell their jar as opposed to the one they disparage is beyond me.

Oh well, I'm fixing to watch Alabama beat Texas for the National Championship. Maybe that commercial won't be shown during the game.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Recovery Delusion

All of the economic news about recovery is really encouraging, right? Sales in December were up quite a lot over last year, employment is improving… (If by “improving” you mean not “unimproving” as rapidly as it was earlier in the year.) Consumer confidence is wonderful.

Remember, though, that none of those numbers are actual, real numbers. They are samplings and polls, the latter of which is a sampling as well.

For instance the government gathers retail sales numbers by questioning a relatively small number of stores who have all been in business for multiple years. If a store does not respond to this year’s questionnaire, the government assumes its sales numbers are unchanged from the preceding year. If its failure to respond is actually caused by its having gone out of business and closing the doors, then its sales numbers actually changed quite a lot, to zero, so the government estimates based on its previous year’s sales might be, shall we say, a bit inflated.

One number that is not an estimate is tax receipts; every business has to file the sales taxes based on current sales at the end of each month, and the government compiles those as actual totals, not as some sort of estimate or “seasonally adjusted” number. So how were the tax receipts for the wonderful holiday shopping season that the government reported?

Um, December was down 7.7% over the preceding year.

The Wall Street Examiner is available by subscription only but the first paragraph of this article about December sales tax receipts can be read, telling us that November’s tax receipts were also down by the same amount. The first sentence of the next paragraph is a doozy, “Meanwhile, the implications of the NAR’s data on pending home sales are terrifying.”

I happen to think that attempting to restore the economy by consumer spending and “restoring home values” is delusional in itself, but that seems to be the government’s plan and they are telling us that it is showing signs of success. All of the government’s manipulated “estimates” are in agreement with that, but the one hard number available is completely at odds with it.

Who to believe, who to believe…