Monday, January 31, 2011

Super Bowl Prediction

Back when we were discussing Super Bowl One, which wasn’t called that of course, Paul Harvey made a weird prediction. After remarking that everyone was comparing the two quarterbacks, he predicted that the outcome of the game would not be determined by either of them, but would pivot on the play of free safety Willie Wood of the Green Bay Packers. As it turned out, #24 made an interception that was generally considered to be the key to the Packers’ victory.

Fast forward to 2011, and I’m thinking along similar lines. Everyone is hyperventilating about the two quarterbacks, but I’m going to be looking at/for a guy in the defensive backfield, wearing #43. Where was Troy Polamalu in the NFC championship game? Given the nature of television coverage, it’s hard to be sure, but as far as I could tell he was mostly invisible. If he does that again, Green Bay will win this Super Bowl. If the guy with the big hair has a big day, Steelers players will add another ring
to their collection.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

And More Blather

I don’t know that I am really qualified to say what our reaction should be to the events in Egypt. Many are saying that we should openly support the protestors, and I’m sympathetic to that concept but don’t really agree with it because I don’t believe this country’s government should be taking official positions regarding the internal affairs of other nations.

The one thing I’m pretty sure of is that with street riots occurring, the army in the street, and with military jets and helicopters overflying the cities, it sounds absolutely inane for our Secretary of State to be babbling about a “peaceful transition to democracy” in that country.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Now here is some truly idiotic thinking. This clown is saying that the fact that the people of Tunisia and Egypt are uprising for democracy in their own countries without the U.S. invading them and creating democracy “at the point of a gun” is proof in itself that the U.S. invading countries and installing democracy “at the point of a gun” is a bad idea.

Now, I happen to think that it is a bad idea, and that we should not be doing it, but the fact that another country can agitate for democracy without our intervention is hardly proof of that contention. That’s like saying that the fact that you can boil water on a campfire is proof that stoves are a bad idea.

Don't Blame Lobbyists

In his passionate appeals for new laws restricting ammunition and magazine size, Lawrence O’Donnel has been referring to the NRA as “the most successful lobby in the history of lobbying,” and he does not mean that in a complimentary way. I am not entirely unsympathetic with him, I resigned my life membership in the NRA about the same time that George H. W. Bush did, and I did so because they had become a lobbyist group rather than the sportsman’s organization that they were founded to be. The final straw for me was their boast that they could, and would, defeat any politician on the single issue of his/her stance on gun control.

I abhor single issue politics. The idea that an otherwise acceptable legislator should be defeated because he/she does not agree with the voter on one single issue is utterly absurd. Yet when voters are asked the reason for their support of a particular politician they will almost always cite one single reason, and will be completely ignorant of that politician’s stand on any other current issue facing this nation.

Even worse, the “fact” which that voter cites as the reason for supporting that candidate will, as often as not, be completely false. It will simply be some tidbit that the voter saw in a television commercial and which struck a chord causing him/her to remember it.

“I’m voting against him because he plans to take my guns away from me.”

And so pundits and politicians alike decry the lobbyists and the money that they pour into political campaigns, they rail against the “Citizens United” ruling, and they claim that the power of “big money” is destroying democracy in this nation. And no one thinks to place any responsibility on the voters themselves. No one stops to realize that half of our voters do not bother to vote and of those who do vote a great many, I would venture to say a majority, vote stupidly because they vote based on tv commercials, paid advertisements and lies.

“I’m voting against him because he’s a Muslim from Kenya.”

When the government of Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen are unresponsive to the demands of their people, the people take to the streets and create an uproar. When our government is unresponsive to the needs of its people, admittedly on a lesser scale, our people cannot even be bothered to vote them out of office.

If we want a better government, if we want a better democracy, we cannot wait for the courts, the chief executive or the legislature to do that; it is the voters who have to take the responsibility to make that happen.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Twenty-five years ago today; Challenger.

I can still remember the utter dismay with which I watched that event on television. We watched shuttle launches in those days, and were excited by them. I remember having the same sense of horror and loss that I had the day Jack Kennedy was lost to us.

That was a day, also, that Tom Brokaw forever endeared himself to me. The network had been showing a clip of the parents of Christa McAuliffe, at the launch site, as they watched the disaster and after Brokaw introduced the clip at one point it failed to come up. He said something about having trouble with the clip and added, “That’s a good one to lose, in my opinion.” The clip was never aired again.

I remember the absolute fury that I felt when it was revealed that Challenger’s loss had been due to the arrogance and complacency of the agency itself, an agency that had once been the pride and shining star of the nation. The Kennedys, Martin Luther King and, later, the Towers were all the result of the hatred of mad men, but this we had done to ourselves.

We would do it again less than twenty years later, and in repeating ourselves allow that same arrogance and complacency to take the lives of the crew of Columbia.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

And Now There is One

And it's not the San Diego State Aztecs. I knew early in the second half, when BYU went on the 7-0 mini-run that this was not going to end well. State was visibly tiring, and even though they came back twice, they wound up committing turnovers and missing shots in very uncharacteristic fashion. Nine minutes without a field goal. They were just out of gas. That guy Fredette is something else. Why can't you double team a guard?

Father or Son?

This is going to be a little bit of a nitpick, I know, but I'm going to do it anyway. It has to do with Michele Bachmann's bizarre rant on the subject of the founding fathers and the issue of slavery. In case you live in some place that the Internet does not reach, I'll quote it for you here. She said,

"We know there was slavery that was still tolerated when the nation began. We know that was evil. And it was a scourge, and a blot and a stain upon our history. But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States. And I think that it's high time that we recognize the contributions of our forebears who worked tirelessly - men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country."

Plenty has been said about her lack of knowledge regarding the cause of the Civil War, about the fact that no few of the founding fathers were slave owners, and that the constitution they finalized enshrined slavery as a national institution by declaring slaves to be three-fifths of a person.

What hasn't been mentioned, other than very briefly in passing by Chris Matthews, is that she had the wrong John Adams. John Quincy Adams was the son of the man who was one of the founding fathers. It may have been mere incoherence on her part, though; John Quincey Adams did advocate against slavery, but he was not one of the founding fathers, was not among those who "wrote those documents," and his advocacy against slavery was not until about 30 years before the Civil War.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Word Salad

I did listen to the President’s speech last night and, unlike 90% of “people surveyed,” I did not think it was wonderful. That’s because I listened to what he actually said rather than merely to the tone of voice. In between all of the rah-rah sounds about how much “sets us apart” and how good this country has always been at rising to challenges was…

There was the usual plethora of his inconsistencies. Half of the jobs in the future will require an education beyond high school, but every child should get a college degree. That means that half of our jobs will be filled with people who have degrees which they do not need and which cost them tens of thousands to get. Apparently we will not need truck drivers, ditch diggers, landscape operators, etc. Enough with this idea that every child should spend $100,000 or so to get a college degree.

Again he’s going with this nonsense that we are “denying safe haven to those who attacked us.” Dude, they have safe haven elsewhere already.

We’re going to pay to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure by taking away the subsidies we give to oil companies. We’re going to balance the budget by raising taxes on the richest 2% of Americans. I’m going to buy a private 747 by saving pennies in a big jar.

The big issue that I took with his speech was what was missing from it; what to do about today’s problem. His theme was that of a farmer who cannot afford to buy seed corn to plant this year and who is ignoring that issue to focus on the problem of soil erosion.

We’re going to do education, innovation, research and infrastructure so that we can leave a better world to our kids, but no mention of what we are going to do about our kids’ parents who cannot get a job today. He made that lack all the more glaring by saying that, “the stock market has come roaring back," that "corporate profits are up," that “the worst of the recession is over" and that “we have broken the back of the recession."

Tell that, Mr. President, to the millions of people who used to work in to "the shuttered windows of once booming factories, and the vacant storefronts of once busy Main Streets," to which you also referred in your speech, and for which you offered no solution.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Emulating Olbermann

Chris Matthews and Lawrence O’Donnell have just gone berserk over the concept of new gun laws since the Tucson shooting. I don’t have any objection to limiting the size of magazines, nor to laws designed to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and those who are mentally deranged, but to make a semi-religion of the subject and advocate for those laws as if they were going to solve the problem is just silly. Reality is that the vast majority of gun crimes are committed with guns that are illegally in the possession of the criminals committing the crime. The fact that such was not the case in Tucson does not change the fact that such laws are not completely effective.

O’Donnell wanted to know how many times the lack of oversized magazines during the ten-year ban on them caused any law officer problems in self defense or law enforcement. I would ask a similar question of him; how many times have the oversized magazines increased the death toll in a shooting rampage? If he can tell me with any assurance that it was more than once, the Tucson event, I will be impressed.

O’Donnell last night even went to the extent of saying that if Obama does not address the subject of gun control in his speech tonight then O'Donnell “will be disappointed in him for the first time and he will become part of the problem.” Oh, please.

There is absolutely nothing that Obama can do or omit doing that can cause Obama to become part of the problem of gun violence in this nation. This is, after all, the president at greatest risk of being assassinated in recent history. O’Donnell is an absolute idiot to suggest that Obama could become part of the problem which places his own life at risk.

And after claiming this past couple of years to be a liberal, this would be “the first time” that O’Donnell would be disappointed in Obama? He was not disappointed when Obama voted to immunize the telecoms for spying on Americans? He was not disappointed by Obama’s lack of real effort to close Guantanamo? He was not disappointed when Obama made a deal with drug companies before even opening the discussion on health care reform? He was not disappointed when Obama failed to support the public option? He was not disappointed that Obama claims the right to assassinate American citizens without trial? He was not disappointed when Obama failed to ban rendition? Not disappointed by Obama's failure to investigate war crimes?

Apparently he is filling more than Olbermann’s time slot.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Artificial Deadlines

Dick Polman, who I read quite regularly and usually agree with, is taking a sharp poke at John Boehner for the House's failure to act quickly on coming up with new ideas to replace Obama's "health care reform" which they just repealed. I thought he might have his tongue in his cheek, but he seems to be quite serious on the issue.

First, Dicky boy, who the hell cares how quickly they come up with a replacement for the repealed bill, since the bill is not actually repealed at all and doesn't need to be replaced? You do understand there are three steps to passing a bill, and that the Republicans control only one of them, right?

Second, if you as a Democrat are so concerned about the timeliness of taking care on uninsured Americans, why do you fall all over yourself supporting a "health care reform" which doesn't do that for the next five years? What is the advantage in waiting five years to deal with the issue?

Why, Dickey, are you castigating Republicans for dragging their feet on dealing with this issue, and silent on Democrats for deliberately postponing it for five years?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Obama Plan

So the new keyword for the Obama Administration is apparently going to be "American competitiveness," even forming a "commission" for that purpose. It's is hard to describe just how utterly unmoved I am by that. I would be equally excited if Michelle Obama was proposing universal free enemas as an anti-obesity measure.

The minute that the word "competitiveness" is mentioned in a business context, I see anti-union measures. I see management saying that we have to cut wages and improve productivity in order to "be competitive in the world market." Improved productivity means that fewer workers do more work, of course. How does that translate to job growth in today's economy?

Jeffery Immelt, the new commission chairman, had a column in the Washington Post yesterday that was full of meaningless "upbeatism" about American spirit and know-how leading us back to "becoming competitive" and utterly devoid of concrete suggestion as to how that is actually going to happen. Nothing at all, of course, about the artificial overvaluation of the dollar and what that does to our "competitiveness" in the world market.

I would be delighted if this administration is going to focus on rebuilding exports to create jobs, but if that is the plan let's say so rather than pussy footing around with flannel mouth nonsense about "competitiveness."

Cosmic News

A nearby star, Betelgeuse, is gearing up to turn into a supernova and will "give us two suns." The article about this upcoming event begins,

The Earth could find itself with a 'second sun' for a period of weeks later this year when one of the night sky's most luminous stars explodes, scientists have claimed.

But don't get too excited, because later in the article they explain that the calculations are not quite that precise. The window during which they expect the event to occur is actually about one million years. So it might be later this year, or it might be the year 1,002,011 or so.

Apparently the American media is not alone in writing idiotic prose.

Goodbye Keith Olbermann

I am personally unmoved by the removal of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC, since I quit watching him months ago. His pontifical style, arrogance, and insistence on never using one word when twelve would do the job were not quite enough to drive me away, but his increasingly dishonest discourse and misrepresentation of facts was. I dislike demagoguery, no matter which side is engaging in it.

That does not mean that I believe his removal is a good thing. He pissed off a lot of people, while pissing on quite a lot more, but he made some people think. He had a following and he was keeping at least a portion of that following attuned to and thinking about the process of democracy. He was undoubtedly making a significant number of his audience follow him without thinking at all, of course, but that portion would be following somebody and better him than someone like, say, Glen Beck.

In his final show he dropped little tidbits to give the impression that his departure was of his making, but I rather doubt that such was the case. I’m not going to speculate on the cause, other than to suggest that I doubt it had to do with the merger but may have had to do with the departure of Jeff Zucker. I don’t really care why it happened.

His removal would be a good thing only if it was accompanied by the removal of all the rest of his ilk from both sides of the political spectrum. That, of course, would mean the collapse of cable news altogether, which would be great, and maybe of the cable system itself, which might not be all that bad either.

Update: Seems Olbermann is prohibited from being on television for a while, but rumor has it that he will "establish a presence for himself" on the Internet. I am so excited that I am on the verge of having an organism.

Friday, January 21, 2011

This Old House

I'm about ready to claim the plumber as a dependent on my tax return.

After replacing the angle stops on all of the bathroom sinks, and the faucets on two of them, last night just before going to bed I had the kitchen sink faucet handle break off in my hand. It's not a matter of simply replacing the handle, as it broke off below the set screw. So the plumber, with whom I am on a first name basis, will be back right after lunch today.

It's sort of like not letting an old car know it can be repaired. The minute it finds out it can be repaired it goes nuts and wants everything to be repaired and replaced. I actually told a machanic that once. He was changing the oil and offered to fix something and I said, "No, I don't want this car to know it can be repaired." He decided I was nuts.

We won't even mention my opinion of women and what happens when they discover... No, I said we wouldn't mention that.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

National Tragedy

Some people will not like this, but I’m going to write it anyway. It is my reaction to a piece by Tom Engelhardt at which appeared last Tuesday. I love my country and its people, I really do, but sometimes I wonder if we can survive as a nation. The short version of what Tom has to say is something like this.

When something like the Tucson shooting occurs this nation comes unglued. Congress suspends itself for a week. The President comes to the scene to console the nation. The news media speaks of nothing else for two weeks and more. There is endless pointing of fingers and blaming. Talk shows indulge in endless effort to assuage the national trauma. Demands are made for new laws to assure that “this can never happen again.” Endless discussion ensues as to how the perpetrator should be punished.

In Afghanistan today such an event, and worse, happens nearly every week, caused by American armed forces.

No leader comes to the scene to console the nation, because there such an event is not a tragedy, it is “collateral damage.” Their news media talks about it, perhaps, but ours does not even report these events with so much as a mention in passing. Nobody gets blamed, this is war and “these things happen.” They have been happening for nine long years.

The people of Afghanistan cannot agitate for new laws to assure that such things cannot happen again, because these things are not within their control. They are being caused by an armed military of a foreign power in their land. The people of Afghanistan cannot make demands as to how the perpetrators should be punished because the perpetrators are not subject to Afghanistan laws. The people who did those things continue, in fact, to walk the streets, still carrying the weaponry with which they killed the families of the survivors.

The people of Afghanistan can't call for weapons bans, or bans on oversized magazines. The weapons and magazines that were involved in the killings are not within their national purview.

I love my country and its people, I really do, but when I read something like this and think about the facts of this case, on how we so casually inflict upon others that with which we ourselves cannot cope, I have a feeling that I want to bury my flag in the deepest hole that I can dig. I don’t do it because we are better than this.

Tell me, we are better than this, aren’t we?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Power (Company) Play

San Diego Gas & Electric is upping our rates again, but not for the reasons that one might imagine, such as increased cost of production due to higher prices for coal and gas. They have some rather creative justifications.

One is that consumers used less electricity last year, and what with fixed costs the cost per kilowatt-hour was higher. San Diego had the coldest summer in recorded history this past year, so air conditioners were off much of the time, but that doesn’t mean that they will be off next summer. There is something rather diabolical in the idea that you get urged to practice conservation and then are charged a higher rate when you comply.

SDG&E also installed “smart meters” for every residence, and didn’t charge us for them. It allows us to look at our usage online and see what we are using at any given moment, and I’m sure there are some people in San Diego who want to do that. It also allows SDG&E to read our usage online and eliminates the guy walking around reading them, which saves them money. They nonetheless feel the need to raise rates to pay for the meters. Of course they do.

My favorite one has to do with the wildfires of 2007, some of which were caused by high winds blowing down SDG&E power lines, with the consequent sparks causing fires. The company was sued for the cost of putting out the fires, lost the suit, and had to pay a whole bunch of money to the county to compensate taxpayers. Guess where that money is coming from. You don’t get a medal for that softball; SDG&E is raising their rates to cover their cost.

Question; what’s the difference between a San Diego County taxpayer and an SDG&E customer? No, seriously, what’s the difference?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Family Matters

I have a nephew whose job requires him to fly around the world doing something that people with very, very high foreheads do. He occasionally tries to tell me what it is that he does, but every time he does that he begins speaking in Zaparoan. That is not a spoken language, you think? Well, just ask my nephew what he does for a living. Trust me, the man speaks fluent Zaparoan.

I have another nephew who is a truck driver. We are a very eclectic family.

So my Zaparoan-speaking nephew was returning from Australia to Los Angeles when Quantas had another engine malfunction, this one on a 747, just as the airplane was on the verge of taking off. The engine, apparently, exploded as Quantas engines are showing a rather alarming tendency to do lately. It doesn’t seem to have freaked him out particularly, and my niece (his wife) emailed us about it in sort of an “oh, by the way” tone.

It could have been worse, I guess, he could have had his airplane crash on an uncharted Pacific island and gotten trapped in some kind of time warp, where he is caught up in battling “others” and smoke monsters.

Oh, wait, how do we know that he didn’t? I seem to recall the crash survivors were existing in several places all at the same time, and most of the time even they didn’t know it.

There’s no point asking him about it. Even if it did happen and he knew about it he’d probably try to explain the phenomenon to us in Zaparoan.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Weather Catch Up

The weather forecast for today included an expected high of 77 degrees. NOAA apparently decided that looked just a little bit silly with a current temperature of 83 degrees, so it changed the forecast to an expected high of 83 degrees for today. Brilliant.

I am fearlessly forecasting a Bears victory over the Seahawks.

"A Still, Small Voice..." Part 2

Paul Krugman has another column on politics, and despite Obama’s pleas for “civil discourse,” his request that we discuss differing ideas without making personal attacks on each other, Krugman continues to use the same methods of arguing ideas that the right does. He accuses the other side of dishonesty and bad faith.

First is the manner in which he attacks the Republican analysis of medical spending costs which it claims are attributable to “health care reform,” the Medicare “doc fix” and similar costs. He presents his side of the argument, that they would have happened with or without reform, and claims by implication that the Republican position is that it is reform causing them.

He fails to present the actual position taken by Republicans, which is that if reform had been done properly these costs would not have happened, an argument that is not entirely without merit. He also doesn’t present their intention to kill the reform and replace it with one that will better serve the purpose of bringing down the cost of health care.

I’m not defending Republicans here, because they do not have the cohesion or means to carry out their proposals, and a great many of them are more focused on the first part of that than on the second part. They have not presented any replacement reform and probably do not have one; almost certainly will not be able to come up with one. That does not mean that they are bad people who have the intention of watching millions of Americans suffer without health care as Paul Krugman states in his column.

And it’s not about the money. As I tried to explain in my last column, the modern G.O.P. has been taken over by an ideology in which the suffering of the unfortunate isn’t a proper concern of government, and alleviating that suffering at taxpayer expense is immoral, never mind how little it costs.

I would like for him to show me one YouTube clip of a Republican saying anything even close to that. This is precisely the kind of ad hominem argument that President Obama has asked us to stop, and Krugman has continued this shrill tone in two consecutive columns after that speech.

“The right” is not alone in ignoring the President’s appeal for more civil discourse.

Update: In case it is unclear, no, I do not support the Republican plan to repeal "health care reform." I think that the reform was extraordinarily badly done, that it is more of a gift to corporations than it is a populist reform, and that it barely touches on the issue of the cost of health care, actually increasing it in the short term. The delay in implementation is politically self serving and is unconscionable. But it does do some good things and those things should not be abandoned.

Update 2: Oops, I added a link to Krugman's column.

"Elite Company"

David Haugh of the LA Times is simply swooning today over Jay Cutler’s performance yesterday; saying, among other things, that it puts him “in the company of elite quarterbacks.” The man did win a playoff game, but given the number of playoff games that there have been in the NFL, winning one is not sufficient for the “elite company” label unless something else happened. I watched the game, and I saw a decent team with a balanced offense beat an overmatched opponent.

Haugh seems impressed with Cutler completing 15 of 28 passes, but I find that somewhat underwhelming. It amounts to a whopping 53% completion against the league’s 27th best passing defense; a defense that allowed completion of 57% of the passes thrown at it during the regular season. I'm not sure how Haugh regards a 53% completion percentage as a "nearly flawless playoff performance."

Haugh was dazzled by the fact that Cutler spoke in complete sentences, so I guess we have to concede something. After all, how many quarterbacks speak in complete sentences? Oh wait, I’m pretty sure all of them do.

The one that cracks me up is where he refers to Cutler as “one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks in the NFL.” Oh, reeely? I’m not even going to bother to name names, but is Cutler even one of the ten most physically gifted? I think not.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Weekend Activity (?)

wait what?This fairly well describes my level of activity this weekend, now that I have the roof leak dealt with (it's not raining) and the plumbing problems in hand (plumber appointment is made). The Steelers/Ravens wore me out, but the right team won. I'm not sure how Atlanta even managed to win a single game with that defense, let alone become the NFC's top seed.

I do know how SDSU found it's way into the top ten. Awesome.

The two games today are supposed to be relative blowouts, but I don't know how a game could get more lopsided than that Falcons/Packers debacle. It's too bad they don't have a rule like boxing and just let them just throw a towel out on the damned field.

Update: We now know how a game can get more lopsided. The only thing more inept than the Seahawks' offense is its defense. The last game this weekend doesn't have any teams named for birds in it so onward and upward, hopefully, to better things.

Update the second: Better things indeed. The Jets not only won; that was no fluke, nor was it poor play by the Patriots. The Jets played well and dominated on both offense and defense. As "bruce" commented, so much for my rather cocky prediction, but we can still entertain the thought of a Super Bowl ring for Ladanian Tomlinson.

Friday, January 14, 2011

"A Still, Small Voice..."

How well was Barack Obama’s appeal for “civil discourse” in Tucson heard? Apparently not very well. In fact his powerful speech seems to have fallen on some very deaf ears.

Lawrence O’Donnell on The Last Word last night could not be dissuaded from harping on John Boehner’s non-appearance at the Tucson memorial. No matter how many guests pointed out that Boehner had contributed much bipartisan effort to healing intervention, O’Donnell continued to insist that Boehner was at a cocktail party instead of doing what O’Donnell considered to be his duty.

Chris Matthews made a statement of apology for his similar remarks of the previous day, saying yesterday that he had been informed that Boehner had remained in Washington to attend some sort of bipartisan memorial in that city. It was not in any of the clips but was between segments so I do not remember the details, but it was gracefully done. It seems he was listening. Hours later O’Donnell was still attacking Boehner for attending a cocktail party.

Paul Krugman has an editorial in the New York Times today in which he says that, “We are a deeply divided nation and likely to remain one for a long time.” He goes on at great length about the deep and bitter divide and claims that “there is no middle ground” between the positions. He says that readers know which side he is on and assures readers that he will “no doubt spend a lot of time pointing out the hypocrisy and logical fallacies” of the other side.

I’m not saying anyone is evil here, nor that they are wrong. I’m just saying that I wish they had been listening with more open minds when President Obama spoke in Tucson.

Now Is Not The Time

As is to be expected, I guess, Congress and the media are talking about legislation to regulate guns and ammunition in the aftermath of the Tucson tragedy. My reaction that I didn’t see anyone clamoring to regulate matches after the Southern California wildfires is not actually logical, but might be understandable given where I live. Saying that “there’s too many guns in this country” is all the rage now. Well, I would say there’s too much dry foliage in Southern California, too.

I am not an opponent of reasonable firearm control legislation, and I don’t buy the “slippery slope” argument that claims the one law leads to more laws and to eventual disarming of the population. Nonsense. We have been licensing drivers for many, many years and I don’t see many people being denied the right to drive. Not enough, actually, but that’s a different topic.

But passing laws in the aftermath of disaster is almost always a mistake, because action based on emotion is usually over-reaction. Such laws, written and passed in haste, tend to be poorly formulated and to poorly serve the intended purpose. “Act in haste, repent at leisure.” Too often that is the eventual result, and such laws wind up having to be repealed. Often, nothing is done to replace them and the net result is the loss of an opportunity to have reasonable regulation in place.

Grief counselors will tell people who have suffered trauma that major decisions should be postponed for a period of time until emotional balance has been restored. Why would we think that the same principle is inapplicable to establishing law which will regulate us for years? Acting in the midst of emotional imbalance is simply not good judgement.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


In my post yesterday I wrote that the Tucson shooter had been guilty of threatening public officials which, a reader pointed out to me, is not factually accurate. I appreciate the correction and the civil manner in which it was delivered, along with the implied compliment that the reader was not expecting me to “echo unproven rightwing falsehoods.”

I actually hesitated as I wrote the point in question because I did not remember where I had read it and was not entirely certain as to its accuracy, but I forged ahead because I wanted to make the larger point about the passage of new laws. I still think my point about the reflexive need to pass new laws was valid, but I should have found a better way to make the point.

Usually when I have any sense of uncertainty as to a citation I either don’t use it or I research it to make sure of my facts. I did not do so in this case because I had some other things that I needed to get done and I was in a hurry. That was an error on my part and I want offer assurance to my loyal readers that I will endeavor not to do that again.

Talk About Guidance

Trust Debbie Wasserman Shultz to be at the side of Gabrielle Giffords as she recovers from her injury. I am a big fan of that lady. She has survived some very heavy weather, and Ms. Giffords could not ask for a better guide.


ObamaI think that this may be the best speech he’s ever made. In a matter of minutes he turned the event from mourning death into a celebration of life. Genius. A masterpiece of leadership.

He said nothing about himself or about his own feelings. He focused, laserlike, on lives lost and in jeopardy, and on how a nation must respond to honor those lives. He spoke of a little girl just becoming aware of citizen participation in government,

She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted. I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us - we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations.

He spoke to man’s need for simple answers and solutions; there are none. He spoke to man’s need to find sense in that which is senseless. And then he gave an opportunity to give meaning to that which has no meaning,

…it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy – it did not - but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.

A single violent man created tragedy, and our President is telling us that we can turn that event into a meaningful change of direction for governance of our nation. That choice is ours.

A thought occurred to me as I reflected on what the President said. A lot of men and women have died in the last 200+ years to free this nation and keep it free. They cannot exercise the freedom of speech which they secured for us. We owe it to them to use that freedom responsibly, to use that freedom with the same spirit of generosity that they exhibited in securing it for us.

Tucson Medical Care

Tucson Medical CenterMy father spent the last days of his life at this hospital many years ago when lung cancer took him, and I can tell you that there is no finer facility, and no better group of doctors and nurses anywhere in this nation. In particular, the people who staff this place are awesome.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Sense of Balance

Okay, people, we are eventually going to have to find something about which to talk other than the Tucson shooting spree. Hardball and The Last Word have already devoted their entire program to that subject for two full days now, as if nothing else was happening in the world. Apparently unnoticed, the government of Lebanon fell, the European economy deteriorated further, and more devastation of war occurred in Afghanistan, just to mention a few items.

Why do we as a nation assume that when something like this happens that it immediately becomes the “new normal?” Much of the pundit discussion revolves around, “how we need to deal with this going forward” as if political rallies will suddenly be filled with crazed gunmen on a routine and regular basis. Reality is that the average politician still stands a higher chance of getting hit by lightening than of getting shot at a political rally. Whatever this shooter was, he was not an average person.

Why are we discussing the need for new laws, when if the existing laws had been enforced this shooter would have had his firearms taken away from him? He had been making death threats to public officials, which is a felony, and law enforcement in Tucson chose to do nothing about it other than to expel him from Pima College. Had he been charged with the felony which he committed and convicted, he would not have been permitted to own a firearm. Laws do no good if they are not enforced. As is the case with most of the hyperventilating about this nation’s problems, we don’t need new laws, we merely need to enforce the ones we have.

Where is the sense of balance? Certainly the event in Tucson was a tragedy, and I certainly don’t mean to minimize it, but during the time that the media has been screaming about the horror of six deaths by gunfire, more than thirty people have died on our highways as a result of drunk drivers, and no one is even whispering about how we can prevent that tragedy. The carnage on our highways is entirely preventable, and the media ignores it completely. Tens of thousands of people killed and hundreds of thousands injured annually on our highways is not worth reporting on, but six people killed by a single crazed shooter is worthy of day after day of endless discussion.

Stop all the silly finger pointing and blaming. If you blame someone else you can be sure that it isn’t your fault; relax, it isn’t your fault. The person
to blame for this is the shooter, and he is in jail and will be judged and punished appropriately.

The Earth doesn’t stop revolving when a tragedy like this happens, and life does not come to a halt. Life is going on; it’s time for us to go on with it. Keep alive the memory of those who are gone, don’t ignore the past, but get on with the business of today.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I'm Too Old For This

The Oregon Ducks were introduced by ESPN as being in “a special costume designed specifically for this contest.” Give me a break. Football players don’t wear “costumes,” they wear uniforms, and they don’t decorate those uniforms with feathers, for God’s sake. Toe dancers wear costumes decorated with feathers.

The Auburn Tigers are National Champions, but this sure as hell did not look like two teams with too much practice time prior to the game. Like missing a two yard pass to a wide open receiver in the end zone. Or holding Oregon to zero yards on its first three downs and then giving up thirty yards on fourth and ten. Or, hello, this might be a fake punt.

Anyway, Oregon can go back home and start designing their new feathered costumes for the Pac-12 tea dances next year.

But Not For This

nice weather
The days between now and then are not bad, either, building up from the high 60's to what you see here. This is more like it. Now if I can get the roof leak repaired and all of the plumbing problems resolved...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Non-inane Commentary

This is the run that iced the Saints@Seahawks game. I think listening to the commentary during the replay was as much fun as watching the run to begin with. "Are you kidding me?"

Inane Commentary

I was watching some college bowl game last night, not sure which one it was; I had it on while I was finishing up some things preparatory to going to bed. It was on ESPN, whose announcers are particularly prone to inane commentary, especially late in a game which is not close, but these guys were singularly obnoxious.

They spent several minutes discussing the “problem” of the lengthy bowl season and that it results in “too much practice time” for teams in the later bowls. They pointed out that for the teams in tonight’s championship game there will have been almost three entire weeks for them to practice. Oh, the horror of it. They opined that the NCAA should establish some rules on the maximum number of practice sessions that each team could hold.

Given that the two teams are playing each other, not teams from earlier bowls, and each team has an equal amount of time to practice, what possible difference can it make how much practice time they have?

Further, given that we want to see the best possible level of play in the final college football game of the year, the game which determines the national champion, why would we want to limit the amount of practice they devote to preparing for the game?

These guys convinced me that commentators merely babble to fill air time; that they talk, as my father used to say, to hear their brains rattle. Assuming that they have brains.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Alarmist Labels

The more I think about the indiscriminate use of the “terrorist” label the more I am concerned by it. Juan Cole at Informed Comment is so convinced of the propriety of the label that he deleted my comment on his blog, in which I asked him to describe where the shooter displayed any desire to “create terror.” So much for Professor Cole’s belief in free speech. Disagree with him or weaken his argument and he will delete you from the discussion.

The more that we apply that label to events and perpetrators of violence, the more we raise a public outcry to “prevent terrorism” in this country. It is in the name of “preventing terrorism” that our government infringes on individual freedoms and places curbs on civil liberties. Does Professor Cole wish to create a society where we must provide identification, take off our shoes and submit to x-ray searches in order to attend a political rally? Perhaps even to enter a shopping mall?

You think that can’t happen? Ten years ago I could not have imagined that I would submit to such a process in order to board an airplane. I do so now because that is our government’s response to public fear; its premise being that it will “prevent terrorism.”

Let’s leave the alarmist rhetoric and fear mongering to politicians who feel the need to use it for the purpose of their own reelection.

Update, Monday morning: Happily, Professor Cole is the only journalist or writer I have seen anywhere who is calling for the Tucson shooting to be referred to as a terrorist incident.

Terrorists, Terrorists Everywhere

If someone, mentally unstable or not, hates the Unites States government and decides to act on that hatred by taking out a gun and killing a member of that government, is that “terrorism?” My answer would be that it is not, and seemingly that is a common thought because I am not seeing that word used to any significant degree in connection with the shootings in Tucson yesterday.

Juan Cole of Informed Comment, a writer whose opinion on the Middle East I respect and value greatly, disagrees with me. In a blog post today titled “White Terrorism” he is actually critical of the media for not calling the incident terrorism. He suggests that the reason the media doesn’t use the term is because the guy is white. I would suggest that they don’t use the term because the act didn’t look like a terrorist act.

He discusses the shooter at some length and says that “political themes of his instability were those of the American far Right.” He then says of the guy’s favorite books,

I don’t think we can take too seriously the list of books he said he liked, as a guide to his political thinking. They could just have been randomly pulled off some list of great books on the Web, since there is no coherence to the choices.

Or, they could just reflect that he has no real political thinking at all, but merely parrots slogans which he has heard. I suspect the real reason he suggests we not “take too seriously” that list of favorite books is that they do not fit the picture that Juan Cole is trying to paint of a person who hates the government and wants to act on that hatred by killing members of that government.

But, let’s assume that Cole is entirely correct in the assumption to which he has leapt. Where is the intention to “create terror” in that? The definition and purpose of terrorism is, after all, to create terror. The shooter here might properly be called an assassin, but not a terrorist. At least not on the rationale that Cole builds up based on his hatred of government.

This nation has fallen in love with the word “terrorist.” We have become obsessed with the topic of terrorism and tend to apply it to every aspect of life and every act of violence we experience. Pavlov could make a dog’s mouth water when a bell rang, but we are reasoning beings with intelligence; we should be able to do better than dogs.

Guns in the Debate

Tucson is where I call home, even though I moved to San Diego in 1995, so the event hits me nearly as hard as it does current residents of that city. Ms. Giffords was elected by Tuscon citizens, but as a Member of the U.S. House, she represented all Americans and we all care about her.

There have always been people in this country who will bring lethal weapons to a political debate, so while of course I utterly condemn the action I don't believe this is really anything new, nor that this is the time to be flinging blame and accusations. I will only suggest that if you pray then do so now for Ms. Giffords and for the families of those whose lives were lost.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Well, That Was More Like It

LSU not only upheld the honor of the SEC, they pretty much whomped the Aggies. I never had any real doubt, although I'll admit I was a bit less than ecstatic during the first quarter, a period when the LSU defense looked like it consisted of ten-year-old girls.

The Governing Class

Perhaps nothing better illustrates the premise that we are being governed by an oligarchy than President Obama saying of his Press Secretary,
“He's had a six-year stretch now where basically he's been going 24/7 with relatively modest pay.” We live in a society where the average annual wage of the working class is $42,000, where 20% have a part time job or no job at all, and for the governing class $172,000 per year is “relatively modest pay,” and so it is reasonable for him to quit in order to make some "real money."

Friday, January 07, 2011

No One Could Have Predicted

Health insurance rates are increasing by leaps and bounds. Our employer-provided plan increased our premium 18% last year, and 24% this year with no significant change in coverage. Individual plans are seeing even higher increases, notwithstanding Obama's rhetoric in 2008 that "if we do not pass this reform bill then insurance rates will keep increasing," and his promises that "health care reform" would "cut the cost of health care."

Blue Shield is seeking a rate increase of 35% for individual policies due, they say, to "increased medical costs, sicker policyholders and healthier people dropping coverage because of the economy." The requirement for all individuals to carry health insurance does not come into play for several years, but requirements for insurance companies to cover sicker individuals are in force now.

No one could have foreseen that delaying the "individual mandate" for several years while immediately requiring coverage of additional sick people would cause insurance companies to raise premiums.

Chief of Staff

Liberals are in high umbrage over the naming of William Daley as Obama’s Chief of Staff today. Well, they might as well have their knickers in a twist over that as anything else, since they need to be in a state of high umbrage over something no matter what.

I can’t say that I’m all that thrilled to have another Wall Streeter in the West Wing, but let’s try to keep a sense of balance here. He is Chief of Staff. The operative word is “staff,” which means, figuratively speaking, that he tells the butler when to clear off the table. Sure, it’s a bit more than that, but he runs the staff, not the damned President.

One pundit was using Rahm Emanuel as an example and said that Harry Reid was all set to get the “public option” passed in the Senate until Emanuel used his wiles to talk him out of it. Quick, everybody, how many of you think Emanuel did that on his own initiative? How many think he did it without Obama telling him to do it? Right, me too.

Daley is going to do what Emanuel did. He is going to sit in an office within call of the Oval Office and when Obama says “froggy” he is going to hop. He may ask “how high?” first. Then, whatever Obama wants to happen, he will make happen. That is what a Chief of Staff does.

Polls, Statistics and Lies

Polls are what they are. People interpreting polls will put whatever spin they want on them to make the poll say whatever they want it to say. The poll on “health care reform” is a case in point in that supporters of the “reform” claim that 56% of people support it while opponents, citing the same poll, claim that only 43% do.

The difference is a category, comprising 13% of respondents, who say that the reform “should be more liberal.” One side claims that answer constitutes support of “health care reform” while the other side claims it does not. I’m not going to claim that I know who is right, but I will tell you that for me it fouls up the poll.

Asked if I support “health care reform” as it was passed by Congress on a yes/no basis, I would have no problem in unhesitatingly checking the “no” box. If there was an “Oh hell no” box, I would check it.

Add the question about whether it should be more liberal and I am presented with a dilemma. I most certainly think it should be more liberal, but I am certainly not going to check that box if I know that some jackass is going to count it as a vote in favor of the abomination passed by Congress.

Chris Matthews included that 13% as approval, saying, “That actually that means they approve of it, they just think that it should be more liberal.”

Well, Chris, maybe some of them meant it that way. I would have meant to say that I don’t approve of it as passed by Congress. I regard it as a gift to corporations and an abomination to the American people. I don’t approve of it because think it should be more liberal.

Kicking It Around

Catching up in the local paper, and I see that the Chargers did wind up with the #1 ranked offense in the NFL, as well as the #1 ranked defense. Philip Rivers ranked #1 in passing yardage. No fewer than 18 teams finished with a better record. Local sportswriters, and the head coach of the Chargers, say that it is due to a blocked punt in each of two games, and a turnover or two in each of several others. Two writers say that it was because AJ Smith did not sign Vincent Jackson.

Nonsense. If your offense is scoring 35 points and your defense is allowing only 13, then you can give up not only one touchdown on blocked punts or turnovers, you can give up two such touchdowns and still win. Hell, you could give up three touchdowns on turnovers and still win by a point.

As to the absence of everyone's favorite drunk driver, how did that lose any games when Rivers was setting records for the highest passing yardage in a season with Jackson not in the game?

Excuses are like cattle, they come in herds and are stupid.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Cable Tier Humor

I’ve been following this thing about the Captain, then Exec, of the USS Enterprise and his videos, and I am, to say the least, a bit bemused by the whole thing. I did tell you I served in the Navy, didn’t I? Well, it was a different freaking Navy, and I’m not sure I’d want to serve in this one.

For one thing, why did this guy, as Executive Officer of one of our major nuclear powered aircraft carriers, have that much free time on his hands? Really, he had so little real work to do that he had time to spend making these stupid freak films? You have to be kidding me. The Navy I served in kept our officers a whole hell of a lot busier than that.

The other thing is that, while our officers would occasionally crack a joke with us, there was a real sense of separation between officers and enlisted. The officers were always just a little bit aloof with us, and I think we wanted it that way. That was part of the sense we had of their dependability and, as a “white hat,” the first thing I wanted my officers to convey was an aura of dependability. I wanted them to be men whom I could admire, look up to.

Now, I’ll grant that was a different age, half a century ago, and a different kind of ship. Guys on an aircraft carrier probably don’t really give much thought to the possibility that their ship might sink out from under them; something that submariners give quite a lot of thought to, especially when with each dive the hull is creaking, groaning, banging and generally sounding as if it is about to disintegrate. We had a sense of impending doom that the bird farm sailors probably do not.

But a ship of any kind when at sea is a very special kind of environment, and I think John Paul Jones had it right when he said that a naval officer had to be more than merely capable, but needed also to be of, “refined manners, punctilious courtesy, and the nicest sense of personal honor.”

I’ve always liked that description, because it actually fit virtually every Navy officer I ever served under. It was part of what I treasured about Navy tradition, and about serving in that honorable service. It saddens me greatly that it seems to have gone by the wayside.

Heroic Budget Balancing

The 112th Congress has already turned into a laugher, beginning with the Speaker’s gavel which is an instrument of truly comedic proportions.

Republican promises to cut $100 billion in spending were pretty weak tea to begin with, as it would have reduced the deficit by a whopping 5% or so, but on day one they are admitting that the cuts may amount to only $30 billion. Way to go, Republicans; at that rate you will balance the budget in a mere 56 years.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Stopping Gridlock

In line with the dumbest people in the world, Democratic politicians are a couple of french fries short of a Happy Meal as well. Now that Republicans are in control of the House, and four full years after taking control of the Senate, they are going to do something to weaken the filibuster process in order to "stop partisan gridlock."

Exquisite timing, girls. Now that the Republican House is going to reject anything that the Democratic Senate does and vice versa, this is a really good time to do something about the filibuster. Not to mention that you are shooting yourselves in the foot when Republicans take control of the Senate following the 2012 election.

What makes me think that? Republicans are in a win-win position. If the economy improves they can claim it is because they controlled the House. If the economy stays bad they can claim it is because they did not control the Senate and White House. They will make the pertinent claim, and they will win with it because they are infinitely better at "messaging" than are Democrats.

The Dumbest People in the World

I am still registered as a Republican, but have not voted that way other than in primary elections for many years because I cannot espouse the brutally inhumane policies which that party has adopted and which it laughably calls “Christian values.” I’m not sure how much longer I can stay with Democrats, tho, because this group has got to be the dumbest people in the universe.

Politicians all lie. I have something of a problem with that, but I expect it. They understand that they cannot get elected if they do not lie, and so to a degree their dishonesty is as much the fault of the electorate as it is that of the politicians. But I want the lies to have some degree of credibility, and Democrats will believe that the Moon is made of green cheese with chocolate sprinkles.

George Bush told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. That turned out to be a lie, of course, but it was at least within the realm of possibility that it might have had them. A person with an IQ of more than a single digit might not be faulted for believing that lie because it at least had the possibility of being true.

Barack Obama tells us that we are occupying Afghanistan to prevent it being from used to plan attacks on us and Democrats cheer wildly. We are being led, apparently, by a man who believes that Afghanistan has magical properties of some sort, properties which facilitate attack planning on America. He seems to believe that either the evil doers cannot make plans anywhere else, or that plans made outside of Afghanistan will fail.

He did grow up, of course, in an era of songs about, “I believe in magic.”

Barack Obama says that Republicans “drove the car into the ditch” with excessive spending and cutting taxes, and Democrats cheer and applaud because he is “fighting back” at Republicans. In the real world, of course, fighting back requires striking actual blows, but in grade school and for Democrats name calling and placing blame is sufficient.

He then says that he is going to drive the car out of the ditch by spending even more money and making even deeper tax cuts, and Democrats cheer even louder and cry, “Oh thank God he solved the problem,” and his poll numbers go up to 50% approval.

What? How can anyone think that pursuing the same policy at a greater intensity for a longer time is going to correct the problem which it caused to begin with? I don’t know if it did cause the problem, nor if it will or will not solve it, but that is what Obama just claimed. He is going to do more of what he just criticized the Republicans for doing, and Democrats are ecstatic about it.

Note also that Democratic discussionists are decrying the Republicans for claiming that they want to reduce the deficit while championing policies which increase the deficit. These guys are in a state of high umbrage over the duplicity of such a position, notwithstanding that their own Democratic President makes similar statements about deficit reduction and blithely championed a tax compromise that added $900 billion to the deficit.

Obama could tell Democrats that the Moon is made of bologna, and the Democrats would applaud and say, “Oh good. Let’s slice it up and make lunch.”


More later today, but the SEC lost another bowl game last night. Shit.

LSU is up Friday night. Geaux Tigers.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

I'll drive: No no, you drive

Back home, to my own bed, my own cat and my own computer. Whew. Still playing catch up, so this will be rather brief.

In the pending confrontation over raising the debt ceiling, a routine and recurring question that always makes me wonder why the hell we even have such a thing since every time we hit the ceiling we simply raise it, Republicans are blaming Democrats for the current deficit and Democrats are tyring to ignore the current deficit and are blaming the Republicans for the past deficit.

All of that is pretty humdrum and routine, really, but what gets me is the Democrats screaming about Republicans and their "unpaid-for wars," while breezily ignoring the fact that we are still fighting costly wars and that they not only did not raise taxes to pay for their own wars, they reduced taxes even farther.

Not only is the pot calling the kettle black, the pot is calling the kettle black while applying an additional coat of black paint to itself.