Friday, November 30, 2012

Bashing Romney

Bad mouthing Romney is still very popular, even several weeks after the election is over. At one liberal blog I read I started noticing the number of comments evoked by the guy's posts. When the subject is labor relations he gets 17 comments; women's rights gets 24; the Egyptian crisis gets 14 comments. Whenever he writes a post critical of Mitt Romney, including yesterday, the post shows anywhere form 70 to 90 comments. I don't bother to read those comments.

Now, This Is Negotiating

President Obama spent last week proposing that Congress should pass a bill extending the middle class Bush tax cuts immediately and that, having done so, they could deal with the rest of the “fiscal cliff” issues at leisure.

Brilliant. Like the Republicans are going to give up their leverage before the negotiations begin. That’s like the car dealer suggesting that we agree on the price of the car first and then we will dicker over whether or not the sale will include wheels on the car.

Now Obama has a new proposal bigger and even more ridiculous than his first one: a $1.6 trillion tax hike, $50 billion in 2013 stimulus spending, $400 billion in non-specific spending cuts delayed for a year, and a transfer of debt limit hiking power to the president. His response to Republican hysterical laughter is that at least he has a plan, while they have none.

All of this, while a bit silly on the face of it, does show that Obama has learned something about the art of negotiation. In his first term his practice was to figure out what he thought he was going to have to give up during the negotiations and to offer that as a starting point. We all know how well that worked out. Now he’s taking the approach of starting by asking for "pie in the sky" and making them whittle him down from there. Maybe he’s not as stupid as he’s been looking.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What Keynesian?

Paul Krugman claims to be of the “Keynesian School” of economics. I am by no means any kind of economic scholar, but I do know three things about what John Maynard Keynes advocated.

*Deficit spending (on infrastructure) in times of economic stress.
*Repayment of government debt in economic good times.
*That inflation was greatly not to be desired.

Keynes once said that, “Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the Capitalist System was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.”

Krugman is on board with the first tenet of Keynes’ theory, although he’s not all that big on limiting the spending to infrastructure. He thinks government should spend money on pretty much anything that can be bought, and should do so essentially all the time.

He is not only not big on repaying debt, he specifically says that it is stupid, is a virtue that is not rewarded and that governments should never do it. I find it interesting that he does admit that it is a virtue, while advising against its indulgence. Typical government advisor, “Do not do the right thing, do that which best serves Wall Street.” Not in those words, of course.

And he is, of course, a big fan of inflation, seeing it as a form of economic growth and as a resolver of debt. To use my lawn mowing analogy of yesterday, if I charge you twice as much to mow your lawn and you charge me twice as much to mow my lawn, Krugman will cheer lustily and say that our economy has just doubled. Actually, of course, the exact same amount of lawn mowing is going on and our economy is unchanged. We just inflated the shit out it, and nobody gained anything in the process.

Krugman may or may not be an expert economist, I have no way of knowing, but he most certainly is not an advocate of Keynesian economic principles.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Balloons Pop Again

CBS Evening News had a fairly lengthy segment last night about recovery in the housing market. Sales up last month, it declaimed, and they provided interviews with people who sold their homes and brokers who have homes selling faster than IHOP sells pancakes.

Then we have this from Reuters today that "New single-family home sales fell slightly in October and the prior month's pace of sales was revised sharply lower," so CBS may have been just a bit premature with their celebration. Especially since Reuters goes on to say that the news is "casting a small shadow over what has been one of the brighter spots in the U.S. economy."

Is Virtue Rewarded?

Here’s Paul Krugman again, explaining why inflation is good, and going back to the 1920’s and European economics to prove his point. He even has charts, in which the blue line climbs more rapidly and rises above the red one, to illustrate his point. Omigod.

What he is pointing out is that both Britain and France emerged from World War I with large national debts. Britain, he says, “was a model of orthodoxy, returning to the gold standard and running huge primary surpluses to pay its debts.” We all know from the history of his manic scribbling that he regards such behavior as unbearably foolish.

France, on the other hand, “ended up inflating away much of its debt,” which he has always advocated as the proper way for nations to handle debt. The nation ignores the debt and engages in inflation so that the debt becomes an ever smaller percentage of GDP until it disappears altogether.

Of course it doesn’t actually disappear, so the term “inflating away its debt” is utterly absurd, but if Paul Krugman says it then everyone is going to accept it as gospel.

He claims that “virtue was not rewarded” since Britain’s virtue of paying off their debt resulted in a less favorable debt:GDP ratio than France wound up with by ignoring their debt. He assumes that no other factors than the payment or non-payment of debt were involved in that outcome, which strikes me as a bit simplistic, to say the least.

Like, for instance that Britain had almost no natural resources and had to import them, while France had tons of natural resources. But that would complicate his argument so he conveniently ignores it.

What his chart actually reveals is not the value of inflation in resolving debt, which is actually sheer insanity on the face of it, but the absurdity of using GDP as the measure of a nation's economic success. That GDP number is merely a measure of cash flow, which is nothing more than a snapshot of momentary activity and does nothing to measure what a nation is actually doing economically.

If I pay you to mow my lawn and you pay me to mow your lawn we are creating cash flow and contributing to the GDP. But what are we creating that is of any value? If I pay you twice as much to mow my lawn and you pay me twice as much to mow your lawn, we have doubled our cash flow and increased our contribution to the GDP by a factor of two, but to what degree has our economy actually grown? None.

So Krugman’s chart of the ratios of debt to GDP of Britain and France actually tell us nothing about the actual value of paying off debt because they tell us nothing about the real economies of the nations involved.

To add insult to injury, he's not even comparing the actual GDPs of the two nations, or perhaps the rates of growth in GDP, either of which might mean something at least, but the two nations' ratios between GDP and debt and calling that "economic performance."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lines In The Sand

The blind worship of Obama, where it existed, was not purely for the purpose of getting him reelected, because it continues today and may even be getting more shrill. The defense is unstinting, for instance, of his making plans to set rules for killing unknown people in foreign lands by drone strikes in the event that it might be a Republican in charge, and much relief is being expressed about the rules no longer being needed now that the authority remains safely in the benevolent hands of Obama.

Then I read an Obamabot saying that this “fiscal cliff” is “an event entirely manufactured by conservatives pretending to be deficit hawks,” a claim which I find as baffling as it is infuriating. Apparently he hasn’t heard his paragon of virtue lecturing for the past couple of years about “living within our means” and “paying down our debt.”

(The latter is a rather absurd mantra on Obama's part, by the way, since he never proposes eliminating our deficit, merely reducing it. One cannot "pay down" debt while still borrowing money.)

This specific event was an agreement reached between the two parties, partly in exchange for an extension of the debt ceiling, and partly for the purpose of postponing the “Bush tax cut” discussion until after the election. Not only was the agreement mutual, but Obama signed off on it before either house of Congress even brought it to the floor for a vote.

And this clown calls it “entirely manufactured by conservatives,” forsooth.

A big part of what makes it a “cliff” likely to be fallen off of is Obama’s inflexible demand that taxes be increased for the rich, and his threat to drive us off the cliff if Republicans don’t allow the “modest increase” in tax on the rich. That’s the one place that Democrats speak truthfully; the increase is not only modest, it’s minor to the degree of pointlessness.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, this “tax the rich” plan will raise $82 billion per year, so it will impact the deficit to the tune of a 7.4% reduction. That’s a minor impact on a minor goal, because there is no real reason to be in such a feverish hurry to be reducing the deficit at this point. Supporters are, of course, delighted that Obama is “drawing a line in the sand” over a symbolic gesture that makes no real progress toward a goal that isn’t really worth achieving.

Supporters claim that it “speaks to income inequality,” but if so it certainly doesn’t speak very loudly. The “rich” in question make an annual income of $3.5 trillion, so this scheme takes a whopping 2.3% bite out of their income. It doesn’t raise the income of the poor or middle class, so the “speaking” that it is doing is more of a whisper than a shout or roar.

Of course, Obama’s gestures tend to be whispers, so…

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Perfect Reply

Our local paper is pretty much a right wing rag, mostly fit only for reading criticism of the Chargers and wrapping garbage in. It does, however produce a heartwarming column once in a while, such as today's column "Sports Dad" by Scott Kaplan.

A volunteer coach writes in about a problem kid on his team, describes the problems the kid is having at home, and asks for advice. Kaplan tells him, "This is exactly what you signed up for," and that he should, "Forget the parents, and forget the kid’s home life. Spend some time with the kid."

He goes on, "That kid will have a great experience playing for you if he feels safe, and not only might you get him to become a better player, but you might make a strong impact on his life, which sounds a bit unstable."

Read the whole thing. I wish we had more people like Scott Kaplan influencing our kids and the people who coach them.

New Tone Deafness Record

Every time I think the President Obama has reached about the limit of anyone’s ability to display tone deafness, the man comes out with another one which moves the goal posts forward another few yards. In defending Israel on Sunday he said that, “…there's no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”

Yes, he actually said that. I did not really quite believe it the first time I read it, but it’s even on YouTube in video form, so he actually did say it.

That would exclude, apparently, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and even the Philippines, which are having missiles rained down upon them by the United States. Perhaps he does not consider these to be “countries,” or maybe he doesn’t think they are on Earth. I’m often of the opinion that he is on some planet other than Earth, so…

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Triumph Of Neuroscience

I’m not a big fan of doctors, generally speaking. I went through a series of “issues” a few years back which sort of filled my quota of seeing doctors, and I do so now pretty much only when my wife browbeats me into it. The exception is the neurologist I see every six months. He’s apparently known nationally as one of the best for treating movement disorders, but you’d never know it. His office is small and sort of dumpy, and the people in his waiting room are mostly working class like me. He’s a nice guy, and visits to him are by no means a tribulation.

He also doesn’t tell me something is “idiopathic.” He says, “I have no idea what is causing that.”

What made me write that is an article in the Los Angeles Times which refers to a “study published Tuesday in the Journal of Neuroscience” which supposedly offers a possible explanation why David Petraeus could not keep his pants zipped.

Apparently there is a human pheromone called “oxytocin” which, when smelled by a “monogamous male” (which I assume to mean a married man) causes him, later on, to avoid hot women, standing 6-1/2” further away from them than an unmarried man would do who had also smelled the same stuff. So, it appears, if a man stands 12” away from a hot chick he is going to succumb to her charms, while if he stands 18-1/2” away from her he will not even notice her. Is it a cooincidence that the difference is the average length of a man's...? I don’t make this shit up, I’m merely reporting.

The article goes on to say that the source of this substance which will assure his fidelity is, of course, his wife. We all saw that coming. Equally obvious is that he has to be pretty close to his wife in order to smell it, and we all know what is going to be next. It turns out that oxytocin “floods the body in response to orgasm,” and there you have it.

In order to bring it on home, though, the article goes on to explain that for married women, “It might make a lot of sense to remind him of the relationship, and sexual activity might be one means of achieving this.”

Or, in male terms, if David Petraeus had been getting more sex at home, he might not have been getting sex on the road. Like we needed neuroscience to provide that tired, old, lame excuse.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Speaking of Books

I’m reading again, I think it’s the third time but it might be the fourth, the Patrick O’Brian series on which the movie “Master and Commander” was based. There are thirty books in the series, so it takes a while.

I just finished the episode where Captain Aubrey is aboard the HMS Java when she is taken and burned by the USS Constitution. Interesting to read about that ship, the battle and about Americans from the British point of view. The description is scrupulously accurate historically, and the author makes it rather gripping reading.

HMS Surprise in on display in San Diego, and her presence provided me with a really nice lunch hour a few years ago.

This Day In History

I was reminded yesterday that, in addition to being Thanksgiving, it was also the anniversary of the death of one C.S. Lewis, an author whom I treasured deeply in my youth. I read and reread his “Space Trilogy” and, of even greater value, the “Narnia Chronicles,” which I read so many times I had it all but memorized. My parents were more enamored of the "Screwtape Letters" than I was.

When the first “Narnia” movie was made I was reluctant to see it. I had such fond memories of the books, and of the mental images I had formed reading them as a kid, that I was not sure I wanted to see how a commercial screenwriter would interpret the story. I finally did go to the movie, and it did Lewis justice. I’ve seen it several times.

Oh yes, it was also the anniversary of the JFK assassination.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

He's Not Heavy...

He’s my brother newspaper. The San Diego Union-Tribune has a little self congratulatory note on the front page to the effect that today’s paper weighs four pounds. Some papers would brag about content, or writing; our local rag brags about its weight. The "heaviest in at least a decade."
For comparison, they tell us that today’s issue weighs the same as two green bean casseroles, or four NFL footballs, or three eight-inch apple pies, or one average Chihuahua. A small Chihuahua, actually, but...
I wonder how it compares to the weight of an average bowel movement.

No More Twinkies

The uproar over the demise of the maker of Twinkies rather bemuses me, as I’m not sure why the welfare of our economy is so dependent on our ability to manufacture Twinkies. I guess it’s symbolic; the demise of a company that has been such a staple of the landscape for so long. Except that it hasn’t. The Hostess brand has only been around since 2004. If Interstate Bakeries was so critical to our financial infrastructure they would not have gone bankrupt and changed their name.

Some people are blaming the labor unions for this tragedy (?), some are blaming management, and yet others are blaming both. I’m going to go out on a limb, blame neither and say that dinosaurs naturally become extinct.

It is claimed that the company should have diversified its products when the existing product line began losing ground. I’m not sure of that. When you make Twinkies, how do you credibly introduce a healthy snack? It’s not going to fly and you’re just going to magnify your losses.

Rule of business: do what you do. Companies that drill oil wells generally don’t succeed when they decide to open up a chain of hair salons. Women don’t want to get their hair done by oil drillers, and hair salons stocked with drilling mud don’t draw well. Hostess did what it does until the need for what it does diminished to the vanishing point. So be it. They knew when it was time to quit.

Maybe the union should have made “just one more concession” to keep their jobs a little longer; times are tough and jobs are hard to get. But there comes a time to stand up on your hind legs and say that enough is enough. I cannot disrespect that.

I’m a union guy anyway. I’ve stood at the gates of a steel plant with an axe handle in my hand, staring down the West Allis Police Department. I’m not going to be very critical of a labor union saying that it will not accept yet more pay cuts.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Technology Today

In the Google News technology section today the headlines all had to do with iPhones, Facebook and iPads. That’s what matters in American technology today. Meanwhile in China, a company is preparing to build the world’s tallest building, 220 stories high, and to do so in a mere 90 days. They recently completed a 30 story building, complete, in fifteen days.
Now that is technology that matters.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Et Tu Brute?

The only thing worse than having the media condemn an organization is having the media ignore it. The San Diego Chargers have finally reached that nadir of ignominy. The local CBS television affiliate showed NFL highlights on the sports segment of its news last night and never mentioned the Chargers, and the Union-Tribune this morning had only one article about them, mocking the players who continue to assert that the team is still mathematically in the running to make the playoffs.

ESPN introduced discussion of the Chargers-Broncos game by saying that, “We come to bury the Chargers, not to praise them,” and at one point said of our quarterback that, “Philip Rivers is to turnovers as an ATM is to cash. He dispenses them.” Yikes.

Paul Krugman Is An Idiot

Oh no, Paul Krugman is at it again. In a blog post yesterday he repeats his claim that America’s post-war economic boom had nothing to do with the fact that the rest of the world was lying in ruins and that we were the only nation remaining which had production facilities which were not rubble.

His first argument for debunking that claim is that the boom was “whole generation long, from 1947 to 1973,” and we all know that rebuilding Europe only took a couple of weeks. Actually, we don’t all know that; only Paul Krugman thinks that. His span there was a whole 26 years, and fully rebuilding all of Europe in terms of manufacturing and economic strength took considerably longer than 26 years.

“The Europe-in-ruins era,” he says, “was long over while the US boom was still going strong.” Hardly true, but even if it was, that does not rule out that rebuilding Europe was what got our economic boom started.

Then he goes on to say that his argument is irrelevant anyway (which makes me wonder why he made it, then) and introduces an even more ridiculous one, saying that while, “our competitors were in ruins for a while; so were our customers,” and that therefore, “we had nobody to trade with.”

Because everybody knows that when you destroy a country’s buildings and bridges, you also destroy its monetary wealth and its natural resources as well. Actually, everyone doesn’t know that, because you don’t. Only Paul Krugman thinks that, because the country he lives in has no monetary wealth. In America if you destroy a bank you destroy the “wealth" that was in it because that wealth was nothing other than numbers in a computer. The money in the banks in Europe that we bombed into rubble was largely gold, silver and other forms of real money.

Of course we had trading partners, you silly ass. They rebuilt, did they not? What did they use for rebuilding, each other’s rubble? They rebuilt with what they bought from us, and the return trade was natural resources and raw materials.

He then argues that in the post-war years we did “very little trading” and produces a chart of exports and imports, as usual not showing real numbers but illustrating them as a percentage of GDP. Whenever an economist wants to obfuscate, he throws numbers at you as a percentage of GDP rather than using real numbers.

That cancer tumor in your brain is nothing to worry about because “it’s only 2% as large as your brain” will make a patient feel much less worried than telling him that the thing is the size of a golf ball. That’s what economists do with our deficit; the idea that it’s 8.6% of GDP is easier to swallow than knowing that it’s $1.3 trillion, or that it’s 43% of the federal budget.

I am always suspicious of overkill, such as when someone makes multiple arguments to refute one point, especially when, as Krugman does here, you toss in a few gratuitous insults at people who don't agree with you. If you know that you are right and the other person is wrong, you only need to make one argument to prove it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Symbolic Line In The Sand

President Obama has drawn a line in the sand over “taxing the rich.” He has drawn this line because, according to him, “we cannot afford” the tax cuts for the rich and because “it is only fair that people like me,” he says, “who can easily afford it, should pay a little more” in order to reduce the deficit.

This is absolutely thrilling his supporters almost to the point of orgasm, not because anything will actually have been accomplished, as I will proceed to illustrate, but merely because he will have scored a point over Republicans and the evil rich. Accomplishing anything is irrelevant in today’s politics; scoring symbolic points is everything.

This magnificent victory that Obama is purportedly going to win over Republicans and the evil rich will, according to the Congressional Budget Office, net $823 billion dollars in ten years, which will reduce the $1.3 trillion deficit by almost two thirds. Oh, wait. I forgot that we cite the deficit in one year numbers and modifications to the deficit in ten year numbers so that taxpayers will think that we are making changes that are actually significant. So this thunder and lightening and the line in the sand is over $82.3 billion per year, which will reduce the deficit by 6.3% in the coming year. Well now, isn’t that one hell of a victory!

That’s assuming that he actually scores the victory. Notice that the line is in the sand, not jackhammered into concrete. Obama only draws lines in sand, where they can easily be erased.

This $82.3 billion tax cut that we cannot afford is exceeded by the Obama payroll tax cut which amounts to $100 billion per year according to the Trustees Report of the Social Security Administration, which does report in one year increments. How is it that we can afford $100 billion per year in Obama tax cus, when we cannot afford $82.3 billion per year in Bush tax cuts which were there first?

Obama claims adamantly that this is not “taking from the rich to give to the poor.” I would possibly have no real objection if it was that; if he admitted to it and if it was indeed to the poor. But he does not admit it and it is to the middle class, not to the poor. The poor never enter into any political discussion these days, and certainly not into this one. Obama, who used to work for the poor, doesn’t even seem to know that they exist today.

Instead, we get this bogus argument about how “we can’t afford” one tax cut, and he replaces it with another tax cut, a larger one, which he claims is essential and omits entirely from the affordability discussion. Needless to say, his supporters are entirely on board with that.

The shift in taxes may actually be the best policy, but the method is dishonest and, worse, stupid. What should be done, if this is actually the needs of the nation, is the introduction of a comprehensive new tax policy, as has been done by previous presidents of both parties. Obama is trying to obtain a new car by changing one part at a time on his old car.

Policy is what leadership is all about, and Obama is still doesn’t get that. He is endlessly tinkering with details and never provides an overriding policy that tells us where he wants this nation to go. After four years in office, he is still looking for a parade to form so that he can get in front of it and call himself a leader.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wherein I Engage The Drivel

I have not been writing much because the drivel which is in the news and which is being discussed today is for the most part supremely uninteresting. Jobs was in the discussion so long as Obama was campaigning for reelection, but once that was decided he is right back to deficit reduction and doing so by stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.

He is, for instance, totally unwilling to make any meaningful reductions to the massively overfunded “national security” feeding trough, but is adamant on making “those who can afford it pay a little more” to cut the deficit by a whopping 8% this year. As is the favorite ploy by both sides these days, he cites everything in ten year figures to make them sound like meaningful numbers, even though we only budget for one year at a time when we budget at all, which we have not done since the Democrats assumed control of Congress.

Obama only submitted one budget to Congress, a budget which not even Democrats would vote for and which was rejected by a Democratically controlled Senate 99-0. To avoid similar embarrassment, he has never submitted a budget since, and the only tax policy he has proposed is to extend the “Bush tax cuts” minus one bracket. That, after extending them
in their entirety for two years to assure his reelection.

Of course it could be worse. We could have elected McCain four years ago, who was so busy attacking Obama over the Benghazi affair and demanding a “Watergate style” investigation into it that he forgot to attend his own Senate committee hearing on the, um, Benghazi affair. The man may be just a bit past his prime.

There is, however, a question in my mind that Obama even has a prime.

Correction: Requiring “those who can afford it," that is to say "people like me" (Obama), to "pay a little more” will actually cut the deficit only by a whopping 3% in the coming year. Three. Precent. With him taking stands like this, I no longer have any question; he has no prime.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

CBS is Today's Idiot

CBS Evening News had a real knee slapper on the “fiscal cliff” last night, which they explained thusly: “The government needed to borrow money to pay its debts, and the Republican Congress gave permission, but it came with a price tag; a $1 trillion spending cut and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the first of the coming year.”

There are so many things wrong with that statement that it’s hard to decide where to start. Let’s start with pointing out that “the government” that needed to borrow money and Congress that “gave permission” are not two separate entities as the statement implies, they are the same thing.

The spending cap deal did not cause the ending of the Bush tax cuts, they were already scheduled to end two years ago, and the deal actually extended them for two years, which was a self serving move by everybody involved to put off dealing with them until after the election.

CBS is apparently unaware that the Democrats have had control of the Senate since 2006, and still do have control of it, so it was not then and is not now a “Republican Congress.” In any case, it was not Congress that imposed the spending cap deal, it was a deal negotiated between Congress and the White House and was agreed to by the President before either house of Congress passed it.

Not to mention that the government needed to borrow that money because of spending mandated by Congress, so the whole argument about borrowing is a bit insane. Congress passes bills authorizing programs that cost money, does not provide income with which to execute those programs, and then tries to deny permission to borrow the money, apparently expecting the programs which it created and approved to be executed with money pulled out of someone’s backside.

So, in slanting the story to make Republicans look bad and the current administration look good, CBS managed merely to make itself look idiotic. Almost as idiotic as the anchor grandstanding in the middle of a storm and managing only in getting himself eliminated from the program when the power failed.

Monday, November 12, 2012

One Bad Play

Again yesterday Philip Rivers is at the podium babbling about “one bad play” as if that phrase meant something.

For one thing, maybe he should consider not making that “one bad play.” At least not doing so in every game he plays in. How many quarterbacks in the NFL make one horrendously bad play in every game they play in? Right.

But even if you accept the premise of a flawless game other than the “one bad play,” he is spouting nonsense. The Chargers scored three touchdowns in the first half and zero in the second half. The difference between three touchdowns and zero touchdowns is not “one bad play.” Had they played at a three touchdown level in the second half that “one bad play” would have cost them one touchdown and they would have won by four points rather than losing by ten.

Why ever they are losing, it is not because of “one bad play.”

Keeping Us Safe

I do believe that our FBI may be just slightly overstaffed these days.

I have been suspecting that as I watched them running around looking for nitwits to whom they could sell Play-Doh and then string along and eventually charge with “attempting to deploy weapons of mass destruction” after six months of underground plotting. Not to mention tracking down the guy who was shopping at too many hair salons so that they could charge him with plotting to blow up the New York subway system using hair spray.

But then, when a woman walks into the FBI office with emails from another woman telling her to “stay away from my man,” and both of them are married but neither of them to the man cited in the emails, instead of saying, “You have to be kidding me,” they launch a major investigation and discover, amazingly, that adultery is afoot.

So, thanks to the FBI, not only are we being kept safe from morons with Play-Doh, but we are also safe from maniacal adulteresses.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fox Sports Wierdness

I just finished watching Texas Tech defeat Kansas in double overtime. That is not particularly remarkable (other, perhaps, than them needing overtime to do it), but the commentary from the Fox Sports announcers at the beginning of the first overtime was truly bizarre.

Texas Tech won the toss and chose to go on defense. The announcers expressed surprise and said that the decision was unusual. They went on at length about how Tech made the decision in order to force Kansas to choose the direction of play, thereby giving Texas Tech the wind at their backs. They went on at length about how, “It’s very unusual not to take the ball when you win the toss in overtime.”

Kansas scored a touchdown in their possession and when Tech went on offense the announcer commented, “This is why they deferred, in order to have the wind at their back.” Throughout the whole two periods of overtime they continued to bloviate about Tech's "remarkable" decision to "defer" on playing offense at the beginning of overtime.

First of all, the winner of the toss chooses offense or defense and, regardless of their choice, the loser chooses direction of play. So Tech's choice of defense played no role in whether Kansas chose the direction or not; as loser of the toss they were going to choose direction anyway. Since both teams play the same direction in overtime, Kansas was pretty certain to choose to play downwind regardless.

Further, have you ever seen the winner of the toss in overtime choose to play offense first? No, you have not, because they never, ever do that. College football does not play “sudden death” in overtime; each team has an opportunity to match or best the opponent’s score. By going on defense first, they know precisely what they have to do to answer the opponent when it is their turn on offense. Playing offense first puts the team at a significant disadvantage.

And these clowns at Fox, all the way through two periods of overtime, never did figure out how badly they were displaying ignorance.

Criminal Infidelity

Lord knows I’ve never had any real regard for David Petreaus; have regarded him as much more of a politician than a general. And you all know by now how I feel about politicians.

He wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post just before the 2004 election which was an undisguised advocacy for the reelection of George Bush; a move which is unconscionable in a serving officer and should have gotten him fired. It got him promoted, by Bush of course.

I watched him testifying to Congress about missing weapons in Iraq and telling them how his command was "so desperate to distribute weapons" that they were "literally kicking them out the doors" of helicopters at hot landing zones. It was clear to me that he was either incompetent or lying at that point. Since when do you throw weapons out of helicopters when you don't know which side will pick them up? Not to mention that, given the amount of weapons that were missing, something like 3500 helicopters would have been required to carry them. Congress, of course, lapped it up and thanked him for his service.

The missing weapons were arguably sold on the black market to the insurgency during his command, and a senior colonel named Ted Westhusing committed suicide and left a message accusing Petreaus of failing to properly supervise his command. It was covered up, so we will never know the truth of the matter, and Petreaus was again promoted.

He commanded a staff which rewrote the counterinsurgency manual, put his name on it and took full credit for the work of his staff. He then took credit for the work of his predecessors in Iraq who had enrolled the Sunni tribes in fighting against al-Queda and became known as author of the “surge,” which had nothing to do with anything, and savior of the war in Iraq.

Pertinent to more recent events, any serving officer who allows a “journalist” to follow him around for months for the purpose of writing a biography about him is a self-seeking publicity hound and is utterly beneath contempt.

All of that being said, that he is summarily removed from command of the CIA, either by himself or by Obama, for something so trivial as an extramarital affair with a woman not under his authority strikes me as absurd beyond belief.

We have members of Congress who engage in prolonged affairs with their own staff members, and not only are they not removed from office, but Congress does not even discipline or admonish them, and when they run for an additional term they are reelected. We have a Senator who drove one of his extramarital affairs off a bridge and drowned her, and he served another four decades in the Senate, being reelected six times. We have a president not only engaging in extramarital affairs, but doing so in the damned oval office, and we reelected him and regard him as one of the nation’s greatest statesmen even today.

But for some reason, Petreaus boinks a journalist and he is gone with not even one day’s notice. The mind utterly boggles.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Fiscal Cliff

The Wall Street Journal has an article yesterday about how Congress and the White House are now turning toward dealing with the “fiscal cliff,” that is, the “year-end spending cuts and tax increases that threaten to push the U.S. back into recession.” You can’t read the whole article unless you are registered, but that’s okay, because the WSJ never says anything worth reading anyway. I just used them to broach the subject.

The teaser goes on the say that, ”Whether this represents a temporary truce, or a step toward a pact to trim the deficit, won't be known for weeks.” Since the “fiscal cliff” was purportedly created for the express purpose of “trimming the deficit” with its tax increases and spending cuts, I’m not sure what point the writer was trying to make with that little gem.

There are several things that are actually rather amusing about this situation, putting aside the sad fact that it is likely to wreck our economy. Reality is that the measures that Congress takes to resolve it are also going to wreck our economy, so there’s no point in getting too wound up about it. Our economy long since passed the point where it could be restored. We’ll keep it going for a while yet with bandaids, but…

The people in office who are frantically trying to deal with this problem are, of course, the same people who created it to begin with. They kicked the can past the election, apparently hoping that they would not get reelected and that someone else would have to deal with it, and then they spent an inordinate amount of money, time, money, energy and money getting reelected so that now they do have to deal with it and they consider than an “unforeseen circumstance.”

Then there is Obama still blaming Republicans for wrecking the economy with their reckless and irresponsible tax cuts and at the same time demanding that not only should two-thirds of those “Bush tax cuts” be extended, but so should the tax cuts that he piled on top of them. We need to continue $2.2 trillion of the “Bush tax cuts” and $1.2 trillion of his tax cuts so that he can reduce the deficit and pay off our debt.

Republicans say that tax cuts will boost the economy, while Democrats do not make that claim. Democrats say that tax cuts will restore the economy, which Republicans ruined by making tax cuts. They also say that eliminating the existing Republican tax cuts will crash the economy. Actually, no Democrats before this one have said anything like that, and they mostly raised taxes rather than cut them, but modern Democratic economic theory has become all but indistinguishable from Republican's.

Obama has made a fetish out of not extending the “Bush tax cuts” for the “one percent” and has been equally adamant about not allowing them to expire for anyone else, so the discussion on the “Bush tax cuts” is apparently going to continue for a full eight years after he is out of office and we are seemingly never going to hear the term “Obama tax policy” uttered in his second term any more than we did in his first. Democrats don’t do budgets and they don’t do tax policies. They do do tax cuts.

Not to mention that shortly after the “fiscal cliff” is dealt with we will hit the spending cap again.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Argument For More Debt

Mark Weisbrot writes yesterday in The Guardian about the benefit of an Obama second term and how the media facilitated that eventuality. His piece is, as Guardian pieces tend to be, fairly well reasoned in a liberally slanted manner, and I will comment on just one statement that he makes in support of America’s fiscal position. It is one much used by economists in arguing for continued deficit spending, and I regard it as absurd.

“For the record,” he says parenthetically, “the US currently pays less than 1% of GDP in net interest annually on the federal debt – less than it has paid during the past 60 years.”

When you make an application for credit, does the bank look at the amount of interest you pay as a percentage of your employer’s income? “I pay interest on my $400,000 mortgage at 3.9% which is $15,600. My employer’s income is $12.6 billion, so I am paying a mere 0.0012% of my employer’s income in interest.” Right, I don’t think so.

For a long time economists cited government interest as a percentage of government revenue. That, however, became a large and frightening percentage, so they began citing interest payments as a percentage of government expense. Since we spend more than we take in that was a smaller percentage, but eventually that also became a large and frightening percentage, and so now we are citing interest payment as a percentage of GDP. That is a completely meaningless number, but it has the advantage of being small and thus facilitates the argument for continued deficit spending.

Economists used to do the same thing with government debt, by the way. They cited the amount of the debt as a percentage of annual government revenue, then of annual government spending. When the amount of debt became larger than annual spending, that is the percentage was larger than 100%, the basis switched to a percentage of GDP and the basis for interest payments followed suit.

I have no idea what basis they will use when the debt as a ratio of GDP becomes too large as it has in, for instance, Japan, where it is more than 200% of GDP. Probably use the world economy or some fictional World Bank balance.

The other nonsensical aspect of this issue is that the reason for our low cost of interest on the debt is that government has artificially set interest rates at zero and left them there indefinitely. The reasons why this is a pernicious policy are too numerous to go into here, but the policy is idiotic in the extreme and eventually the interest rate which we pay on that debt is going to go back up to a sane level. When it does the grits, as we say in the south, are really going to hit the fan.

If you don’t know what grits are, I recommend Wikipedia, although it says that they can be fried in vegetable oil or butter. Good God. Frying them in anything other than bacon drippings or lard would be criminal.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Doom! (?)

The doom sayers need to suck it up. I have said this before; this nation is one whole hell of a lot stronger than they seem to think it is. It survived eight years of Bush, it has already survived four years of Obama and it will certainly survive four more years of Obama. It would have survived Romney if it came to that. We’ve lasted 236 years and you think one silly ass in the White House is going to bring us down? Get real.

Californians approved additional taxes; that was a bit of a surprise. We rejected repeal of the death penalty, which was another surprise. I think adding the work rule and the $130 million spending requirement doomed that one. The writers of that proposition got a bit too clever.

San Diego voters approved a $2.88 billion school bond which the school district does not even pretend is for capital spending; the bill clearly says it is for maintenance issues. How stupid is that?

Every one of the incumbents was reelected for federal office, of course. Congress has an approval rating of 9% but its members are reelected at a 100% rate in San Diego County. And we wonder why democracy is failing.

I see that Michelle Bachmann was reelected, so I'll be able to keep harassing my niece in Minnesota. I'm sure she's thrilled. Alan Grayson is back, so we'll be subjected to another two years of his loud mouthed jackassery, which the left will adoringly label as "highly intelligent attack politics."

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Electoral College

Every election year we get the same rant about doing away with the Electoral College system for electing presidents, but usually it’s about the fear that one candidate will win the popular vote and the other will become president by winning the Electoral College vote count and democracy will have been subverted, the nation will run aground and national governance will fail completely.

Actually that has happened, but it happened following an uncontested election, after Obama was elected with a clear majority of both popular and Electoral College votes. After the several times when the election was decided contrary to the popular vote, our national government functioned pretty much as usual.

Anyway, Alex Pareene, who stands out as particularly idiotic in a stable of writers noted for inanity and silliness at, has a new and uniquely unintelligent argument against the Electoral College which revolves around the “swing state” theory. He argues that the evil of the system is that it leaves to election decision up to “swing states” which are “completely incompetent and mostly run by horrible assholes.”

He goes on to say that this election has three such states, and of those three states he writes that, “Ohio is a depressing place already, as is much of the post-industrial Midwest, and this attention is not making them any happier. Florida is full of lunatics and run by criminals. Virginia might elect George Allen again.”

And there you have it. This is what passes for political discussion these days, pretty much on a level with, "Don't vote for Joe Blow because he's an asshole." Namely, not even particularly imaginative as a form of ad hominem attack. I particularly like his description of Florida. I wonder where Alex Pareene lives, and how we might describe his home state.

There may be reasons to get rid of the Electoral College, but the claim that the people of Florida are “incompetent assholes” is not one of them.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Red Flags and Nitwits

As is not uncommon this time of year, we have had “Red Flag” warnings the past few days, with significant winds, inland temperatures in the high nineties and humidity in the teens. Of course that has raised a new storm of complaints about the attempt by Cal Fire, which is a division of the state Forestry Department, to impose a $150 annual fee per property owner in rural San Diego County for fire protection.

This county is one of the few in the state which does not have a county fire department. It has been on the ballot, with a fee/tax ranging from $50 annually per property to $150, and has been soundly voted down every time. Riverside and Orange counties to our north despise us, because every time we have a fire state law requires them to send their county fire assets to our assistance, leaving them at risk, but when they have a fire we do not assist them because we have no assets to send.

If that makes San Diego County residents sound a bit like self centered assholes, well… It's worth noting that rural San Diego County is heavily Republican and sends Duncan Hunter and Brian Billbray to Congress.

One idiot from Lakeside, a suburb of San Diego served by county agencies, has a letter to the editor which reads in part, “I do appreciate the firefighters’ effort to help people after the fire. But I don’t feel we should pay more for services that are already paid for by tax dollars.”

Well he should check the facts. Cal Fire, being part of the State Forest Service, has a mandate to protect public lands. It does not have a mandate to protect private property, and does so only when it can do so without jeopardizing its primary mission. Those of us who live in cities pay the same taxes that this clown does, which does not include fire protection, and then we pay city taxes which do fund the city fire departments which provide us with the fire protection that we pay for and that he does not.

The operative part of that clown’s letter is “I do not feel that we should pay,” which is the great American mantra today.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Election Nears

For some reason, the closer we get to election day the more vigorously Obama supporters try to persuade left-leaning voters that they don't need to bother to vote, because Obama has a huge lead in the polls and will win the election with the votes that he already has. If you are planning to go vote for Obama, don't bother, because according to his fans and members of his political tribe, he has already won. I'm not sure what their thinking is, but...

I haven't been planning to vote for him since he began his reelection campaign on Jan 21, 2009. Since I live and vote in California my vote is irrelevant, but I'm voting for Rocky Anderson.

Coaching and Blundering

Rocky Long had said before the game that, “If we don’t play our very best it might get embarrassing.” It did not get embarrassing. The SDSU Aztecs win over Boise State was no fluke, they simply outplayed the Broncos for sixty minutes. The thing about having a head a coach who says things like that is that when he says you can do something you believe him, and you go out and do it.

At the opposite of that coaching scale was the game in “Death Valley” at Baton Rouge where the players played well enough to win the game but were betrayed by a coach who is dumber than a bag of hammers. The fake field goal, and going for it on fourth down can be passed off as “aggressive play calling,” but to call for a prevent defense when leading by three points and when you have held your opponent to one completed pass in nine attempts is idiocy of staggering and gargantuan proportions.

The Board of LSU should not wait until Monday to fire Les Miles, they should call a special meeting and do it today. Better yet, put out a contract on the bastard. The players should take him out in a back alley and beat him to a bloody pulp, and then throw him in the nearest bayou for the alligators. The student body should be out with torches and pitchforks, looking to tar and feather the idiot.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Oh, really?

headlinesThe above two headlines have been appearing on Google News for the past two days. Oddly, it turns out they are referring to the same payroll data.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Platitudes and Stupidity

Has America broken out in a rash of terminal stupidity or something? Is there something in the water, perhaps, that is fatally diminishing our intelligence to the vanishing point?

First we have Obama telling us that we are fighting in Afghanistan in order to “deny them space in which to plan their attacks,” which is at least grammatically correct but otherwise makes no sense, especially given that the 9/11 attack was planned in Germany.

Then we have Romney saying that he’s going to cut all of the tax rates and make up for it by eliminating deductions, which is somewhat similar to the businessman who is going to cut his price to below cost and "make it up in volumne." Not to mention that that he isn’t sure which deductions he’s going to eliminate, and if he’s going to make it “revenue neutral” as he claims, why bother to do it at all?

And now we have Philip Rivers telling us that the Chargers are losing games by “razor thin margins" and are “just one good play” away from winning them. Seriously? What, precisely is “razor thin” about being outscored by Denver in one half by 34 points? And what “one good play” would have scored eleven points and won that game?

Does he really think that the Chargers can go out and run forty five half-assed sloppy plays and that one well-run play will win the game? That may be the explanation for the team’s losses right there; Philip Rivers thinks they only need to run one play well, and hasn’t decided which one.

While we’re at it, Philip ole buddy. Everyone is blaming Robert Meacham for that dropped touchdown pass, but it was a badly thrown pass. Sure, he should have caught it, but it was behind him and on his hip, making the catch and run two separate actions and harder than it needed to be. Had the ball been at shoulder level and in front of him, catching and running would have been one continuous, seamless process and a touchdown a much more likely outcome.

Philip Rivers should be on the field practicing throwing the ball rather than at the podium making stupid remarks, because right now he could not hit a bull in the ass with a bass fiddle.