Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Provenance of Rights

There is little wonder that the argument over civil liberties and justice in this nation is incoherent; people argue the constitution without ever having read that document before declaiming their opinions on its content. In a comment thread at Ian Welsh’s place, someone made this statement.

Rights are not given by the government. They are inherent. They are ours before the notion of government even comes into it. They are, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, “unalienable.”

Yes, of course I know governments shit on rights all the time. I get it. But government doesn’t grant rights. Rights are not that which are granted, they are that which can’t be taken away — unless we let them. And there’s a lot of letting going on.

The Declaration of Independence is not a governing document for this nation, and so anything it has to say has nothing to do with what our government may or may not do. Our governing document is the constitution and, more specific to this discussion, its Bill of Rights. If you read that document you will see that it specifically does grant some rights while, as the commenter suggests, it merely assures others.

When it says that the “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not infringed,” it is not giving citizens the right to bear arms, which is the point the commenter makes, it is accepting that there is an inherent right to do so and dictates that the government may not interfere with that right.

When the constitution says, on the other hand, that “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial,” it is giving that right specifically and not merely guaranteeing a previously existing right. How, in fact, could the right to a trial be “natural and inherent” when the trial process itself is a construct of government?

The whole argument about what creates the rights which people enjoy is an exercise in mental masturbation, in that it feels good but does not accomplish the intended purpose of the organ which one is using. More important is the commenter’s second point, that being that governments can take away rights, including those rights which they did not grant to begin with.

While we are busy arguing about who has too much money, we have a president who has declared the power to void that part of our constitution which reads that no person may be “deprived of life without due process of law,” because on mere secret presidential direction an American citizen may be summarily executed.

We need to be less concerned with provenance of our rights, and more concerned with where our rights are going.

Subron 8: Comms Etiquette

I had a couple hours before going on watch and was unusually caught up on sleep, so I thought I’d check with the forward torpedo room and see if I could get up a pinocle game. The Torpedomen forward were the best pinochle players on the boat for some reason, maybe because we didn’t fire their fish very often and they had the most free time on their hands, and I spent a lot of time up there playing pinochle with them.

So I reach for the 3EM and dial up tubes forward. This is a comm system that works something like the very old fashioned telephone; you turn a dial to the station you want to talk to, turn a crank to ring it at the other end, and talk away. There is one important step, which I had forgotten in this case, which is to listen first and make sure no one is already talking on the system, because it’s a single circuit and if you turn the crank when someone is already talking on the system you produce a very unpleasant growling sound in their ear.

So I’m sticking the headset to my ear after turning the crank and at the same time thinking, “Oops, I forgot the sound check,” but am not really worried about it, until I hear from the headset a voice ask, “Who did that?”

This is not good. In fact, this is very bad. It’s worse than you probably think.

As an EM1, first class petty officer, there are not that many people on the boat who outrank me; a couple of dozen or so. Between the less than stellar sound quality of the comm system and the ambient noise level I do not recognize the voice, but the fact that he’s asking that question strongly suggests that this not only is one of them, it’s one who outranks me by quite a bit. Which means I probably don’t want to answer his question.

Stalling for time, I ask, “You don’t know?”

The voice on the other end responds, simply, “No.”

Which is all I need to respond “Ain’t I lucky” and hang up.

I decide to skip the pinochle game in tubes forward. Anything that requires going through officer’s country for, say, the rest of the day seems like poor judgement.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Inflation Is Our Friend

The ability of the ideologue to ignore facts in favor of supporting his favorite ideal never fails to surprise me. The concept of, “Don’t confuse me with a bunch of facts when my mind is already made up,” is firmly entrenched in the American political psyche.

In a discussion elsewhere online there was a back and forth regarding the brilliance of Paul Krugman. I mentioned that his excellence might possibly be flawed by his call for higher inflation to “reduce the effective interest rate on debt,” and was loudly shouted down and told that inflation is our friend. I pointed out the inflation reduces the value of savings, thereby rewarding those who accumulate debt while punishing those who invest and save for old age, and was told that I am an idiot.

So in the liberal world, taking money away from retirees by reducing their Social Security payments is a heinous crime against humanity, because it is Republicans who are suggesting that we do this. Reducing retirees access to medical help by cutting Medicare payments is inhumane and bloodthirsty, because it Republicans who are suggesting that we do this. But reducing the amount of food that retirees can buy by making that food more expensive is an act of brilliance and social responsibility, because it is Paul Krugman who is suggesting that we do this.

I am certainly glad that we cleared that confusion up.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rockets Red Glare

Daniel Larison writes a piece yesterday condemning Mitt Romney for his anti-Obama message, which was to the effect that Obama ignores the horror of Gaza residents raining rockets down on the heads of poor innocent Israeli children. He (Larison) points out that Obama has condemned the Gaza rocketry on many occasions. For instance, this in Obama's first address to the United Nations,

"We must remember that the greatest price of this conflict is not paid by us. It’s not paid by politicians. It’s paid by the Israeli girl in Sderot who closes her eyes in fear that a rocket will take her life in the middle of the night."

That’s Obama speaking. Then Larison reminds us that Obama said in a 2010 address to the United Nations,

"The courage of a man like President Abbas, who stands up for his people in front of the world under very difficult circumstances, is far greater than those who fire rockets at innocent women and children."

Heady stuff, and in the same speech Obama makes reference, Larison tells us, to “the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire.” Indeed, we are all caught up in the image of innocent children who sleep the sleep of the pure of heart and peacefully undisturbed by…

Oh to hell with it, I can’t keep this up. Does the word "Hellfire" ring a bell?

How many Israeli children have actually been killed by rockets fired from Gaza? No, I don’t actually know the answer, but these are unguided rockets, and if the number was very high you can bet we would be hearing that number a lot. How many children have been killed by Hellfire missiles fired on the orders of one Barack Obama? Yeah, we don’t know that number either, because our government goes to great length to keep us from finding out what it is, but I’ll guarantee it’s a lot higher than the first one.

And he’s standing at the UN making speeches denigrating the courage of men “who fire rockets at innocent women and children.” Give me a break.

Get The "Good Jobs"

In one of his campaign speeches, that is to say one of his campaign speeches that was not masquerading as a State Of The Union Address, Obama made one of his typical statements about how if you wanted to get a "good job" you needed to be able to go to college. He went on to say that meant that colleges need to keep their prices down and that if they don't then he's going to cut the money that the federal government gives them. That's another of his threats that he can't carry out, but it sounds good and gets lots of cheers, which is what Obama is all about for the next ten months, so I need to get used to that.

Anyway, you need to get a job because driving a truck to haul supplies to feed and clothe the people who live in your nation is not a "good job." He is touting his success at saving millions of jobs in the auto industry buildling cars and trucks, but since none of those jobs required a college degree and are therefor not "good jobs," why is he so proud of having saved them? What, he's the president who saved a bunch of crappy jobs?

When I grew up jobs that did not require a college degree were "good jobs." When I got out of the Navy I went to work as a maintenance electrician for a company in Milwaukee in a factory building that was over a mile long. There were literally thousands of people working in that plant every day building transformers for the Tennessee Valley Authority, each transformer the size of an apartment building. Not one of those workers was college educated, and every one of those jobs was a "good job," not just because of the pay scale, which was excellent, but because of the satisfaction it provided. We were doing something that mattered. We were building something that would change the way people lived.

Various reasons are given for the rising cost of higher education; overpaid educators, sports programs, cutbacks in public funding, etc. I would suggest that supply and demand is a large player in that issue. When a commodity is in greater demand than it is able to supply then the price rises. Look to braying jackasses like Obama who sell college as nothing more than a ticket to a "good job." "Getting a good job" is the worst reason to go to college. It is an institution of higher learning, not a damned job training mill. Colleges today are filled with young people who don't even have a clue what they want to learn, who actually have no interest in learning anything, they're just there to "get a better job."

The presence of these deadbeats, and from an educational standpoint they are deadbeats because they are not there for what that educational institution is designed to offer them, drives up the cost of operating these institutions in precisely the same way that unproductive workers drive up the costs for a manufacturer. This whole idea of college as a "pathway to a better job" is destructive. We need to make our jobs better because they're better, not because they have "smarter" people in them.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sea Stories

At the request of a couple of friends, I'm going to start including a few "sea stories" in my posts. It's important that you understand what these are, they are "sea stories." Some of them are true, some are ledgends told over beers late at night when reason and sanity have been discarded. Of the ones that are true, some are personal experience, and some are not. They are told for fun and to capture the "essence" of the men who served in diesel submarines. They were a very special breed of men.

I don't know how good I'll be at writing them, how often I will do it, or for how long I will keep it up. That will, in part, depend on your comments. Let me know what you think. I'm going to call it the "Subron 8" series, because I liked the squadron insignia, wich included a dolphin and an eight ball.

The stories:
Told 01/27/2012: The Skipper's Car.
Told 02/08/2012: A Joke Backfires
Told 02/15/2012: Black Smoker
Told 02/28/2012: We Have Air
Told 02/29/2012: Captain's Mast
Told 03/11/2012: Liberty "Cancelled"
Told 03/24/2012: The Admiral's Kid
Told 05/05/2012: Semper Fi, Part 1
Told 05/07/2012: Semper Fi, Part 2
Told 05/27/2012: Small Arms
Told 02/21/2015: Comms Etiquette

Subron 8: The Skipper's Car

Another in the ongoing "Subron 8 Sea Stories" series.

We had just secured the special sea detail and I was stowing my foul weather gear, heading for the crew’s mess to get a snack before going on watch. Pughead joined me and, as we were drawing coffee, asked me if I remembered the docking incident a couple months earlier, when our bow clipped a car parked dockside.

“Oh hell yeah,” I laughed, “we really creamed that sucker.”

“Well, you know whose car it was?” he asked me.

I told him I didn’t and he started laughing, “It was the skipper’s car, man.”

 ----

Docking at New London Submarine Base can be tricky, depending on the state of the water. The base is on the New London River and the piers are at right angle to the current, which runs stronger at low tide than at high tide. When you turn and start moving into the pier you need to get with the program, because the current is moving you sideways. If you are on the upstream side of the pier you can ram the pier if you don’t come in fast enough, and if you’re on the downstream side the current is taking you away from the pier. New London doesn’t have any tugs, so the maneuver requires that you make the turn, approach at pretty high speed, and then back the motors hard at the last minute to stop alongside the pier.

It’s not as hard as it sounds, but it’s not for the faint of heart either and standing on the forward deck during that maneuver is something of a treat. I was coming up for my crow pretty soon, and being an Electrician would no longer be on the deck gang, and I was going to miss it.

On the day in question we were approaching on the downstream side of the pier and, since we’d been at sea for several weeks, there was a pretty good crowd of families and such there to greet us. We’re eyeing the distance between ship and pier and the closing rate and are pretty happy because we’re coming in close and fast; at this rate we might not have to use the capstan to winch in to the pier at all. And then a certain sense of unease begins to set in; the sea wall, is getting really close, we are still moving at a hell of a clip, and we haven't felt the screws stop in preparation for backing.

I look up at the bridge to see if they are awake up there. No, actually, it appears they are not; they’re waving to the people on shore. Hello? I’m not sure whether to shit or yell “fire.” I start waving my arms and pointing to the oncoming sea wall, and feeling like some kind of idiot. Three other guys join me and finally the geniuses on the bridge notice that all is not well.

As soon as I see that the OOD is screaming into the 7MC I turn back to watch the oncoming sea wall, and decide that maybe I don’t want to watch that. But it’s hard to take your eyes away from it, as the bow of the boat looks bigger and bigger and those cars and people look smaller and smaller. We feel the screws stop and then go back, really fast. I’m not sure the EM’s actually let them come to a complete stop before reversing them, and they really pour the coal to them. The boat is shaking like a drunk having the dt’s and it’s slowing, finally, but…

Diablo hadn’t had the GUPPY mods and we still have the peaked, overhanging bow, and all eyes are on the “bullnose” as it zeros in on a car parked on the seawall. A woman is standing beside the car, her eyes big as dinner plates as she watches the oncoming disaster, and nobody on shore or on the boat moves a muscle. I don’t think anyone so much as blinks an eye. Me, I’m not even breathing.

We’re down to about the speed at which a man walks when the bullnose hits the car right between the headlights. The boat continues forward about ten more feet before a lower part of the bow hits the seawall and the brings us to a nice gentle stop. Later investigation reveals no significant damage to the ship, but that car... Well, in a contest between 1,800 tons of submarine and a couple tons of car, the car does not fare well.

Now it’s our turn to play dumb ass because we are all frozen in place staring at the crushed car and are forgetting to get the lines over, and the guys with the high foreheads up on the bridge are screaming at us to get moving and tie the damned ship up. Oh yes, that. I, personally, don’t think they have any room to be quite so indignant, but whatever.

 ----

So I asked Pughead who had been conning the ship when we hit the skipper’s car, and how much trouble he was in.

“You don’t remember?” he asked, I shook my head. “Well,” he went on, “That’s the interesting part. The Captain had the con.”

“You’re shitting me. The skipper hit his own car?”

“Yep, and it gets even better. He turned a claim in to his auto insurance company. ‘One car hit by submarine.’ Claimed it on his, you know, not collision but his ‘act of god’ insurance.”

“Did they pay it?”

“Well, they were going to, but then they found out that he had the con and said that meant that meant (are you ready for this?) that he was driving the submarine. So they said that the accident was his fault, and charged him a deductible under his collision insurance.”


We’re laughing our asses off and he says, “But it gets better yet.”

“Oh yeah, how can it get better?”

“He’s trying to get the Navy to pay the deductible.”


Killing Hostage Takers

The media keeps repeating that the SEALs had an option for “detaining” the hostage takers, but I have absolutely no problem with the SEALs killing the hostage takers in the process of rescuing their captives. In fact I’m inclined to think that killing them should be the default. Sort of let them know that, “If you really want to surrender, we’ll let you, but you better make that desire very clear and do it very fast.”

What I have a problem with is the President of The United States standing at a podium afterward and smugly talking about how we have “brought them to justice.” That is not how our constitution defines “justice.” In this country, justice is not delivered through the muzzle of a gun.

That mission was not about delivering justice. That mission was about rescuing people who were being held hostage, and if killing was needed to accomplish that, then so be it. If that meant that the bad guys did not get justice, then that’s life. Sometimes bad guys don’t get justice, sometimes they just get killed in the process of committing a bad act.

So it’s fine for Obama to be pleased with the rescue, and even with how it was done, but a constitutional scholar should know better than to refer to extrajudicial execution as “justice.”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

State Of The Union, 2012

It took me a couple of days to put my thoughts together on this because, for one thing, I kept finding myself becoming a bit overheated. I try not to write here when I’m agitated, so I had to step back from time to time and regain my objectivity. Yes, I actually did say that. If you think what I write here is, um, a bit heated at times, you should see what I decide not to post.

I fell asleep several times during the actual event, so I had to rely on a transcript, which you can use to follow along. He actually did make some pretty good points, and I will not skip over those when I get to them. I don't bash Obama for the fun of bashing him. I voted for him and I want to see that vote made good. He just keeps doing things that are in direct contradiction to the motivation for my vote.

He pretty much lost me with his opening statement. In 2003 he was referring to Iraq as a “dumb war.” In his 2008 campaign he was calling it “the wrong war.” Now he is claiming that it has “made America safer and more respected around the world.” How he can imagine or pretend that it has done either of those two things is beyond my comprehension, and by beginning that little fable with a recitation of his trip to Andrews AFB to “welcome home some of the last troops” he tries to establish his connection with ending that war, which is a flat out lie. That war ended on precisely the schedule laid out by George W. Bush before he left office. In fact, Obama tried to negotiate an extension of our military presence in Iraq, and upon failing to do so claimed the withdrawal date as his own accomplishment.

On Economic Growth

He first talks about “when another generation of heroes returned home from combat, they built the strongest economy and middle class the world has ever known.” Ah, yes, the miraculous economic boom following World War 2 and, “if we did it then we can do it again.” Paul Krugman sings that song, too. Of course back then returning combat veterans comprised about 14% of the population, while today they comprise about one tenth of one percent.

The larger difference is that back then we didn’t have any competition, because we had just spent four years bombing it into rubble. This time we have rather stupidly bombed Iraq and Afghanistan into rubble, and they were not our competitors. Our competitors we left fully intact, making consumer goods and high tech goodies while we focused on making instruments of war with which to bomb Iraq and Afghanistan into rubble. So sadly, no, we certainly can do a lot better than we’re doing but we can’t do the 1950’s and 60’s again. I’m not sure that bombing India, China and South Korea into rubble is a good idea.

I’m leaving out the “great country” and “keeping promises” cheerleading, which will shorten the discussion quite a lot, but I will take a quick look at how effective he is at bullshitting by telling the truth, that is spreading manure by stating facts which are entirely accurate.

“In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005. American manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s.”

Opponents are claiming that his statement is untrue because a) there weren’t that many jobs created and b) he’s claiming credit for jobs he didn’t create. The first is crap, there were 3.16 million jobs created in the private sector in that time period, so he’s actually understating the facts. The second is idiotic: he does not claim, even by implication, that he or his policies created those jobs. It is a nice clean statement of fact and, even as he made the statement, I had not doubt as to its truthfulness.

It is, however, manure because the work force is also growing, and because of that and the low number of new jobs the portion of people in the work force who are actually employed is essentially unchanged since the worst of the latest recession, with participation having increased by only 0.3% since that time. That means that if you are of working age your chance of getting a job are no better now than they were in 2008.

“Together, we’ve agreed to cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion.”

Well, yes, but that’s in ten years, not one. With a current deficit of $1.4 trillion, that means we’ve reduced the deficit by a whopping 15% so far. So in the next ten years the increase in the debt will be $12 trillion instead of $14 trillion. Are you properly impressed?

“And we’ve put in place new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like that never happens again.”

Except that the people who wrote the legislation and economic experts who review the effectiveness of it disagree wildly on just how much it prevents future crisis, and the banks that were “too big to fail” then are even bigger now than they were then.

He embarks on an almost orgasmic paean about the auto industry, excitedly says that “the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs,” and winds up with a triumphant, “the American auto industry is back.”

Well, adding 160,000 jobs in a couple of years is not to be sneered at, for sure, but it’s somewhat less than overwhelming given that we need to add 200,000 jobs per month in this country merely to keep up with population growth. And saying that the industry “is back” at this point is sort of like saying that the 49ers have won the game when they score a touchdown in the first quarter. The auto industry may be "back," and I hope it is, but it’s a little early to be beating victory drums.

Then he gets to the part about restoring American manufacturing and, as I feared would be the case, the first thing he brings up is taxes. After saying that companies “get tax cuts for moving jobs and profits overseas,” the next thing that he says is, “companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world.”

Where have I heard that before? Oh yes, of course, from about 600 Republicans for the last dozen years or so. Did we really elect a Democratic president to spout Republican slogans at us? Yes, I believe we did, because he goes on, “if you’re an American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax cut. If you’re a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making products here.” Tax cuts for businesses! What a novel idea. It’s amazing that some Republican hasn’t already proposed that. Oh, wait…

He doesn’t give any real details on his “bipartisan trade agreements,” and it’s probably in the best interests of his reelection chances that he doesn’t. He describes them as creating “millions of new customers for American goods,” but he leaves out the “trade” part where they create millions of American customers for foreign goods, and thereby millions of foreign jobs making those goods. I don’t know if you remember Ross Perot and his “giant sucking sound” in the NAFTA debate.

The we have the quintessential “Americana moment” with the blushing laid off single mom in the audience, the community college, the magnanimous corporation opening a plant in a destitute village, the tuition getting paid, the wonderful job with laser technology due to “partnerships.” Applause all around. Close up camera shot of the single mom looking embarrassed and pleased. Happiness abounds.

It would have been, I think, a little more patriotic had he chosen an example using an American corporation rather than Siemens, which is a huge German company. That’s splitting hairs, perhaps, and it’s not all bad having foreign money paying American wages. Still, it would be a little better, I think, if he’d used an example where American labor was generating American profits and income tax revenue, rather than German profits.

And the idea of community colleges pairing with industry to train workers is a little on the trite side. Actually, it’s a lot on the trite side, since it’s been around since before Obama was born. I remember Jimmy Carter using it, and it never turns out to have any significant impact. We can always cite anecdotes of lack of worker skills, but the unemployment problem is not about lack of “skills and education.” We need something that addresses the central issues, not just tinkering around the edges with tired old cliches.

On Education

His section on education is about a fifteen minute continuous cliché, trying to pose education as a solution to the economic conditions that we presently face which is, at best, presenting a long term solution to a short term problem and at worst just sheer nonsense. Manufacturing jobs do not require a college education, and it’s questionable that they even require graduation from high school. He presents the same old generalities that he and his predecessors have presented a thousand times: give states more money for more teachers, require kids to stay in school, somehow create better teachers (magic!), tuition tax credits (tax cuts!), lower interest on student loans, lower tuition…

He does a few of what I call his “specialty statements,” which are saying things that sound really good but, when broken down and examined carefully, make absolutely no sense. “States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets.” Really? Higher than what? California, for instance, is cutting their programs for food assistance, and all but eliminating their in-home health care programs for the elderly, so what else should we cut in order to fund universities?

What he’s really saying, of course, is that education is so important that the federal government is going to do a lot of talking and mandating but is not paying for any of it and that it is up to the states to foot the bill.

“So let me put colleges and universities on notice:” he says, “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.” What does that mean and how, precisely, does that help young people obtain college educations? I suppose that he is in some manner demonstrating how “tough” he can be, but I don’t see how he is helping anyone with that kind of statement. Why is everyone cheering as he threatens to cut funding to higher education?

On Immigration

He got particularly dishonest in immigration, and it was the first time that I caught him in an actual lie. After saying that he “put more boots on the border than ever before,” he then makes the totally untrue statement, “That’s why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office.”

No, the main reason is that our economy crashed as he was taking office and there are fewer jobs to be had in this country, and so fewer people are crossing illegally in pursuit of those jobs.

After castigating Congress for not tackling immigration reform, he than says, “let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, and defend this country.” This from the head of an administration which is arresting and deporting undocumented workers at a rate far exceeding any previous administration.

Understandably, he did not dwell on this topic very long.

On Energy

The first thing he did in his discussion on energy was “open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources.” Are you kidding me? Just twenty months after Deepwater Horizon, and in the face of disastrous evidence of a dangerously warming planet, he authorizes an enormous amount of new offshore drilling.

He then touts our natural gas reserves, another environmental disaster in the making, and makes shale gas and its extraction sound like one of the best things to happen since the initial discovery of oil. He will require drillers on public lands to “disclose the chemicals" they use, but does not say that there will be limitations on those chemicals, so the only difference is that now you will know what is poisoning you instead of having to wonder. Drillers on private lands, which is much of the country is most of them, are not affected by the requirement and can continue to poison us with unknown chemicals.

He waxes at some length about “clean energy” and “executive orders,” but we are left mostly uninformed as to what the hell he’s talking about. The Navy is going to buy enough clean energy to power a quarter million homes. Does that clean energy come in buckets? In barrels? Do they ship it in tankers? Or is it boxed so that it can be shipped by truck? Over what period of time are they going to make this purchase, and what are they going to do with it?

“I’m directing my Administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes.” Um, what?

On Infrastructure

Okay, Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge, forefathers, all that good stuff, and then this from total lala land,

“Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.”

Dude, the money we are “spending at war” is all borrowed money. We can’t “use half of it to pay down the debt” for heaven’s sake, because you cannot pay down debt with borrowed money. Good God, does he think we are totally stupid? Well, that was a dumb question, because of course he does.

“Now is a really good time to build,” apparently because there are lots of unemployed construction workers. That would be a good reason if the purpose of building was to provide jobs. Building is desperately needed and I’m not arguing with his statement, I just have an issue with his reason.

I think he could have spent more time in this topic than he did. I believe the American Society of Civil Engineers would agree with me.

On Financial Reform

Financial reform starts with, oh no, here comes “mortgage relief.” You know what, I can’t “save $3000 a year by refinancing my home at historically low rates” because I already have that low rate which I got it when I bought the house many years ago and I never refinanced with the fancy “get rich quick” schemes that mortgage companies have been offering me all these years.

But my car is worth less than it was when I bought it. In fact, it is worth less than I owe on it. Why is Obama not offering to “forgive” my car loan? Come on man, I didn’t know the car’s value would go down. I didn’t understand things like that I would have to pay, you know, interest on that loan. I thought that if the car broke down I could stop making payments. Why isn’t he offering to cancel my car loan? I thought that in this country if I did something stupid that the government would bail me out of the situation I got myself into. (That was snark. The only debt we have is our home loan.)

Here’s one of his “specialty statements," “It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.” Did you follow the thread that brought us here?

First an admission that, “…mortgages had been sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them.” Then we have, “…the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low interest rates.” That’s on the mortgage that they couldn’t afford and/or couldn’t understand, but which they undertook anyway, and that is a policy of “no bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts.” Right.

He does a really clever thing with spilled oil and spilled milk and his feelings about regulations. That’s “eliminating burdensome regulations that hamstring businesses,” which is another popular Republican theme from a Democratic president. Yes, he manages to work in a reference to “crying over spilled milk.” He mentions the “Gulf two years ago,” but does not connect that to his earlier declaration of opening up “more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources.” Of course he doesn’t.

We then reached another moment when I actually sat up and listened as he expounded at some length about financial regulation and investigation of financial wrong doing. Some of it requires Congressional action, which we all know won’t happen, but I respect and appreciate that he called for specific action by Congress. The part of it which had to do with executive action sounded good, but it is so disparate from his past action and his unbroken record of “looking forward not back” that I am more than a little bit skeptical. I like it, but I'll believe it when I see it.

On Taxes

On taxes, Obama is almost 100% Republican, starting by saying that the “most immediate priority is stopping a tax hike.” Never before Obama have I seen a Democrat refer to the expiration of a tax cut as a “tax hike.” Republicans have been doing it for years as an underhanded method of popularizing renewals of their tax cuts, but since Democrats are not generally associated with tax cuts they have never really needed to engage in this particular form of deception. Obama is all tax cuts all the time, and he is dead set to renew his pet tax cut right now, and so we have this rhetoric of “stopping a tax hike.”

He then goes into a very lengthy and heartfelt dissertation about “$1 trillion per year on tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.” It’s hard for me to describe how much this frustrates me, not because of the subject itself, but because it is so freaking trivial and distracting. No, it is not “class warfare,” and yes, the wealthy should absolutely pay more taxes than they do, but to keep harping on this subject is something on the order of the Captain of the Titanic complaining about the arrangement of the freaking deck chairs.

If the amount is correct, and I rather question that it is, then correction of the problem would eliminate less than 8% of our deficit, even assuming that the deficit is our largest problem in the first place, which it is not. If we restored the economy it would eliminate about half of our deficit, and if we got health care costs, not health insurance, but health care costs, under control we would have a federal budget surplus. The trivial amount of tax which is not paid by the rich is not worth the time we spend discussing it, and it is time that we do not spend discussing things that really do matter.

Getting the economy back on track matters, and we are not going to do that by making the rich pay a little bit more of their income in the form of taxes. Getting the cost of health care under control matters, and the tax rate paid by the rich has nothing whatever to do with that. Neither does health insurance, which doesn’t generate health care costs, it pays those costs. Health care costs are generated by drug companies, hospitals, medical labs, and associations of doctors. We don’t even talk about those things at all, we barely talk about real means of restoring the economy, and instead we blow a lot of hot air about whether rich people pay enough taxes.

On Congress

He launches an attack on Congress; slamming their insider trading in the stock market, legislating favorably for companies whose stock they own, campaign contribution bundling, lobbying and the filibuster.

All well and good, I despise Congress as much as anybody, but we can’t vote for Congress to replace the President, so he’s wasting his breath here. He needs to campaign against some Republican to be named later, not against Congress.

He tries to be fair by adding the, “The executive branch also needs to change. Too often, it's inefficient, outdated, and remote,” but it’s less than a home run because he left out “corrupt.” He asks Congress for authority to change the executive branch, which is a bit of a farce since he didn’t think he needed permission from Congress to start a war in Libya.

After pissing off John McCain and Eric Cantor almost continuously for more than an hour, he declaims that we need to “end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction.” I’m pretty sure that elegant piece of rhetoric did not come from the Dale Carnegie course on “How To Win Friends and Influence People.”

On Foreign Policy

I’ve never bought into the nonsense that Obama’s foreign policy was “apologist” or any of the similar criticism, but it has seemed to me that it lacked any clear overall pattern. His policy has appeared to be one of reacting to the conditions of the moment. After this speech I’m not sure that even he knows what his policy is, that he has an overall policy at all, or that he even knows what is going on in the world or even in his own Cabinet.

As to Al Queda, he tells us that what remains of them are “scrambling” and know that they can’t hide from us. Once again he is not on the same page as his Secretary of Defense, who tells us that there are still a lot of them, they are almost everywhere “out there,” and that they are still very dangerous. Panetta’s “so we need to spend lots of money on weapons” is unstated but clearly implied, as is Obama’s “I killed Bin Laden so you need to reelect me."

Obama has a tough job here, because he wants to claim credit for winning wars, but he also wants to keep the voters afraid of ongoing threats, so he has to walk a tightrope. If all the wars are won, voters might feel free to dump him and he won’t have the “I can keep you safe” lever to pull, but if he overdoes the threat he might convey the message that he hasn’t done a very good job of keeping us safe. So he goes all passive mode and says “wars have been won,” but throws the Iran nuclear threat in there at the end.

“Through the power of our diplomacy,” he says, “a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran's nuclear program now stands as one.”

Well, sure, if you ignore China, Japan and India, all of whom are still buying oil from Iran and have clearly stated that they have every intention of continuing to do so, and Russia, which has said that it has reached its limit on sanctions and will not go along with any more. I sometimes wonder who is advising Obama, or if anyone is.

You also need to deny the evidence that Israel is going to throw a huge load of grits into the fan by launching an attack on Iran before the end of 2012.

Other than that, yes indeed, the world “stands as one.” That’s almost as delusional as taking half the money we no longer spend on war and using it to pay down the debt.

He says that “Our oldest alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger than ever.” Which sort of overlooks the minor detail that their economies are on the verge of collapse.

He claims that “Our iron-clad commitment -- and I mean iron-clad -- to Israel's security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history,” which is just weird. We had a joint military exercise scheduled recently, but cancelled it when Iran threatened to close Hormuz, but other than that, what “military cooperation” is he talking about?

“We've made it clear that America is a Pacific power,” he says. Yeah, by stationing 2500 Marines, ground troops, in Australia. Marines are pretty awesome troops, but I don’t think that 2500 of them constitutes a “Pacific power.” Yes, I know we have vast numbers of forces in the Pacific, but this is the only addition Obama has made that can be seen to justify his “we have made clear.”

He says that across the world “opinions of America are higher than they've been in years,” and that “as long as I'm president, I intend to keep it that way.” The first part is true and I won’t argue the second because I can’t read his mind. There is evidence, however, that he is not accomplishing that goal. Worldwide opinion of this nation went up when Obama was elected merely because we elected him or, more likely, because we got rid of George W. Bush. Since he has been in office, unfortunately, world opinion has been dropping again, because Obama has turned out to be just about as much of an imperialist as Bush was.

On Defense

His spending plan of “a new defense strategy that ensures we maintain the finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a trillion dollars in our budget” remains intact. The “saving half a trillion dollars” is infuriating.

First, that’s in ten years, not one, so it’s a very, very small fraction of what we spend on war material. And it is not a reduction in spending, it is a reduction in the rate of increase in spending, because the cut is not from the current budget, it’s from projected future budgets. If spending which was budgeted to grow at 4% is altered to grow at only 3% have you “reduced spending” by any amount at all? No, you are still increasing spending, you are just doing it a bit more slowly.

How much money do you “save” by increasing your spending more slowly? Well, that’s a philosophical question related to asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Then answer doesn’t matter. What matters is that the policy requires tax increases.

All in all, this was one of his most forgettable speeches.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Oh Good, Pirate Rescue

So "commandos" (yes, we have progressed to using that James Bond term now) rescued some Americans from pirates. I don't think they used cutlasses, but I'll bet it was even more dramatic than that because it was the very same commandos who killed Bin Laden, and it was authorized by none other than the President himself.

So now, after hearing that "Obama killed Bin Laden" for a year or so, we are going to hear how "Obama rescued Americans from pirates." The man is simply awesome.

"The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people and will spare no effort to secure the safety of our citizens and to bring their captors to justice," Obama said in a statement.

That actually means killing them, because that's what the "commandos" did. There were nine captors, and all nine of them were dead before the "commandos" left with the rescued American citizens. President Obama has his own definition of "justice" you know. "Bringing someone to justice" means killing them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Romney's Taxes

Romney released his income tax records and the left is outraged and indignant over the amount of taxes he paid; or, actually, didn't pay. Let's try this one more time, people,

Mitt Romney does not determine his own freaking tax rate.

He pays the taxes determined by Congress. If you are outraged by the tax rate he pays, take it out on the Congress that passed the laws creating that tax rate. Take it out on President Obama who extended the Bush tax cut for the rich for two years.

Military Priorities

Well, the war crimes trial of the Iraq war, the Iraq “My Lai” investigation if you will, is finally done, and one noncom has been convicted of “dereliction of duty” and will serve three months. The rest of his platoon walks after killing a couple of dozen Iraqi civilians, including women and children, in Haditha in northern Iraq. Excuse me, I meant to say, after they created a couple dozen items of “collateral damage.”

Having never been in combat, I am not going to comment on the specific actions of men in combat, but the noncom in question did say one thing that rather jarred me. In an interview he said that, “As platoon leader my first responsibility is to see that none of my men is injured or killed.” That struck me as a truly remarkable statement.

This is the “finest fighting force in the world” is it? A fighting force whose “first responsibility” is the safety of the troops, rather than the mission? I have known quite a few Marines, I respect them deeply, and most of the ones I’ve known would respond to that with something like, “It that’s the case, son, then you’d best park your platoon on the sofa back home and let some real men do the fighting.”

I served in the Navy, which the arms-carrying branches usually considered as a rather cushy and sort of candy ass service. (They usually changed their minds when we cleared Hampton Roads and dived the boat, but…) Even us sailors knew, though, that the ship and its mission was why we were there. If our personal safety was our “first priority,” we would not have been on the freaking ship in the first place.

If this guy is typical of our modern military, then we have a major problem. Certainly “force protection” is a valid concern, I have no problem with that, but when personal safety is the “first priority” of the leadership of our fighting forces then we might as well not send them into combat. They are not going to win many battles against any kind of determined foe.

What Do You "Live For"?

Many writers have noted that Joe Paterno "lived only for family and football" and that he even said that he would probably die as soon as he retired from football coaching. Which he did, of course. They say that like it was something wonderful; how dedicated he was to his job as a football coach.

Sorry, I don't think so. To me that shows a very deeply flawed person. Someone who is so deeply defined by profession and only by profession, for whom the horizons of life are that narrow, has something very wrong with them. They are ignoring most of the broad spectrum that is life.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Wishful Thinking?

headline
chart
The Guardian presumably has a rather liberal reader base, but the title would probably be true for conservatives as well. In any case, you probably know just how accuratly predictive this poll turned out to be.

Practice What You Preach

Here’s another thought for you in the disconnect between what the Left preaches and what it actually practices.

The liberal/progressive movement decries the influence that “evangelicals” hold over Republican politicians, with their stance on gay marriage, abortion and such, and yet they happily accept a president who is willing to have the rights of survivorship, power of attorney, inheritance and other spousal rights to be determined by the religious institution and definition of marriage, saying, “I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

He says that his views on gay marriage are “evolving,” but that is merely a stall. He uses that to make “his base” believe that he might someday change his mind. Don’t hold your breath. In the meantime, the tie between religion and government, for this president, remains firmly in place; the religious definition of marriage is what the state should use to determine who a person should have the right to chose as the person to make decisions for them if they are unable to do so, the person to inherit their possessions, the person to fill the hole left by their death.

But it is the Republicans, not Democrats, who are influenced by religion.

There was a scene in “West Wing” where a group was discussing the open service of gays in the military and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs closed the discussion by pointing out that the arguments against it were the same ones that would have prevented him, an African American, from achieving the rank that he held. He didn’t call them idiots, but the word was clearly implied. He gave them a withering look and left the room.

Barack Obama looks at arguments which a generation ago would be used to prevent him from marrying freely and says those arguments were wrong, but when those same arguments are used today to prevent gay people from marrying freely he has no argument with them. That is the very definition of hypocrisy, and yet the liberal/progressive movement claims him as the nation’s salvation and claims that we absolutely must reelect him.

Super Bowl Rematch

NFL football has deteriorated to an offense that consists of nothing but 4-yard forward passes. They run the ball once in a while and throw a downfield pass, a few of which accidentally result in big gains, but the game itself is the 4-yard forward pass because no team defends against it. It's actually easy to defend, merely jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage and don't let him run the route, but no one does it, and so that completion rate is about 80% and that is what all teams do.

This weekend's games were drawn out, low scoring affairs of marginally successful running and 4-yard passes. Both games were given as gifts to the other team by rookies who were not paying attention to what they were doing. A Ravens receiver catches the winning touchdown in the end zone and has it batted out of his hands because he is not paying attention to the defender nearby. A 49er's punt returner loses the ball because he was carrying the ball like an idiot, inviting the other team to strip it from him.

The way college teams play the game is infinitely more exciting, and they are more focused and more skillful than the idiots that the NFL puts on the field. Of course, college players are allowed to make contact in practice, so what happens in the game is familiar to them. NFL practice consists of touch football, so I don't know why we would expect much when they are actually hitting each other.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Phil Simms Is Just Stupid

CBS is probably my least favorite network for watching NFL football, certainly so when Phil Simms is at the microphone. I think that idiot was hit on the head a few times too many in his football career.

For instance, he was swooning over the Raven's defense, which was a bit odd given that the Patriots never found it necessary to punt. Just after they ripped off two 10+ yard runs against the Ravens, Simms opined that, "The Ravens game plan is so well thought out and so well executed." Oh really? Perhaps so, if that game plan is to tire out the Patriots' place kicker.

At another point he said something about "you have to defense every play with that pinpoint accuracy and such good defense." I'm unsure what the hell that even means, but the pass in question was significantly off target, and there was no defender even close.

There is almost certainly no brain connected to his mouth.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gingrich Smackdown

The Republican Debate opened with a question to Newt Gingrich regarding his ex-wife’s claim that he had asked her for an open marriage, and I think this may be the first time in my life that I have ever been on Newt’s side or agreed with anything that he said. He replied to the question with,

“I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that,” Gingrich told the CNN moderator.

He added, "I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate." And then continued,

“Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question for a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine."

I do think the “go through painful things” was more than a bit disingenuous. Perhaps “been put through painful things” would be more accurate, with Newt as the putter, so he’s trying to slide past the issue that he was being accused of some pretty slimy behavior. Still, while I disagree with that particular phrase, the topic had nothing whatever to do with his fitness for the office being contested, was nothing more than scandal mongering, and I agree with the rest of what he had to say.

The moderator tried to bail out of his faux pas by claiming that, “As you noted, Mr. Speaker, this story did not come from our network. As you also know, it is a subject of conversation on the campaign. I'm not -- I get your point. I take your point.”

Give me a break. And he calls Newt “Mr. Speaker” which Newt has not been for 13 years. What’s with this “elected to office for life” that we seem to have adopted in this country lately? A person is entitled to the honorific only for so long as he/she holds that office. The exception would be judges who are appointed for life, but we only have one Speaker of the House.

Newt promptly engaged in smackdown number two, and I agreed with him for the second, and probably the last, time in my life.

"John, it was repeated by your network. You chose to start the debate with it. Don't try to blame somebody else. You and your staff chose to start this debate with it."

Whatever else Newt may or may not be, he knows how to kick ass.

He then went completely off the rails, and returned me to my comfortable position of regarding him as a complete asshole; finishing his smackdown of the media by saying that he is “tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.”

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Food Blogging

Got this one from the newspaper the other day, but modified it more than a little bit. It turned out pretty well, and passes the "wife test" even after a drive home that included a flat tire.

Slow Cooker Chicken
6 Chicken thighs, deboned and skinned
1 large Sweet Onion, sliced
4 Carrots, peeled and sliced
1 can, Petite diced Tomatoes
1 can, Chicken Broth
Frozen Peas
Olive oil
Garlic, crushed
Oregano
Thyme

Put the onion, carrots, tomatoes and broth in slow cooker and set on low.

Cut the chicken thighs into about four pieces each. Put about a quarter cup olive oil in a bowl and add the garlic, Oregano and Thyme to it. Mix that well. Dip the chicken pieces in the oil/herbs mixture, coating well, and put them in the slow cooker on top of what’s already in there.

Cook eight hours on low, being sure not to remove the lid. Add some frozen peas about thirty minutes or so before serving.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Right Thing, Wrong Reason

I was delighted to read that President Obama had put a stop to the Keystone Pipeline yesterday. Initial evidence earlier this year was that he would approve it, but recently he has been bowing to public pressure and environmentalists and granted a delay, and now we have a final rejection. Then I read the details which gives his reason for the rejection.

"This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people," Obama said in a statement. "I'm disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my administration's commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil."

I’ll take that last sentence first, with its “commitment to American-made energy” and to his desire to “reduce our dependence on oil," because it is just pure nonsense. The pipeline would be carrying Canadian-made energy which is oil; so the statement is, at best, totally unrelated to his rejection of the pipeline and is thrown in merely to distract the voters.

Then there’s the “arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people," which is enough to make a sane person either have a coronary of fall out of his chair laughing. The project was proposed in 2005. This is 2012. Seven years is not sufficient time to “gather information” to make a decision?

He says specifically that the decision is not about “the merits of the pipeline” but is due to the Republicans, which is a clear statement that he is making a purely political decision for the purpose of making Republicans look bad and for no other reason. For the next eleven months that is the only reason our president is going to do anything, is to make the Republicans look bad and to get himself reelected.

After three years of “being above partisanship” and cooperating with Republican demands, suddenly, when the election season begins, he has become the steely eyed liberal who is beating up the other side and is going all out to be the die-hard liberal who will go to any length to defeat the evil designs which they have for this nation. And if you believe that I have a bridge in Brooklyn on which I can give you a really good deal.

And rejecting the pipeline damn well should be “about the merits” of it.

I think the dangers to the aquifer are a bit exaggerated; the Alaska Pipeline has operated for 34 years without incurring any of the kinds of spills that are promoted as threats to that water source, but any threat to the Ogallala Aquifer is unacceptable if it can be avoided. It’s also not unreasonable to assume that in today’s climate of corruption and greed the pipeline would not be built with the integrity that the Alaska pipeline was built.

The larger issue, though, is that the pipeline would be carrying oil extracted using possibly the most environmentally disastrous procedure ever devised by mankind, and we should not be involved in encouraging that process. Sure, if we don’t use that oil someone else will, but that boat don’t float with me. Just because evil is happening in the world and we can’t stop it doesn’t mean that we have to participate in it. Building that pipeline would mean participating in it, and we damn well should not do it.

The initial delay was, of course, simply an effort to put the issue off until after the 2012 elections, which I regarded as cowardly. It was pretty clear to me that he would approve the project after he had been reelected. Now he has realized that rejecting it benefits his reelection chances, especially since he can blame it on the Republicans.

Someone once said that doing the right thing for the wrong reason has no more merit in heaven than doing the wrong thing. Politics is not heaven, certainly, but motives count with me, and Obama gets spitballs from me for this gesture, not flowers.

My New Favorite Excuse

Is the captain of the semi-sunken cruise liner off the Italian coast. He did not intentionally leave his sinking ship before the passengers had all departed safely, he "tripped and accidentally fell into a lifeboat." He actually made that claim. I guess that American sailors just don't fully understand Italian mariners.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Fallacy of Polls

Somebody did a poll of some group of people, and Think Progress described the poll by saying that it “asked an incisive question.” I’ll give you the questions in a moment, but first the definition of “incisive.”

Incisive adj. Penetrating, clear, and sharp

And the questions: they ask which is worse for the American economy, “inherent unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy,” or “over-regulation of the free market.”

First of all, please tell me which of those two questions is “penetrating” or “clear,” let alone “sharp.” They are, in fact, both conclusions rather than conditions, both are extraordinarily vague, and the first one is so biased as to render to poll all but self-answering. What idiot would ever pick any answer that did not include the word “unfairness.”

To anyone who can get outside of ideology and actually think with the slightest trace of logic and intellect, this poll and its “conclusion” that “most Americans agree with progressives” make the Washington Post, and ABC News who conducted the poll, and Greg Sargent who drew that simple-minded conclusion, look like complete idiots. I’m actually amazed that the result was as disparate as it was.

But this is the way that political discussion is done in our nation today.

Too Much Money

I have been reading articles and posts all morning in which Mitt Romney is castigated for the amount of taxes, and the tax rate, that he pays on his income, and I fail to see the point of such criticism. Romney did not write the tax laws, did not participate in writing the tax laws, never lobbied for tax laws, and has never held a federal office of any kind. What is he supposed to do, cheat on his taxes to pay more than he owes?

Why do we persist in demonizing everyone except those who are creating the situations which we deplore? The rich “pay too little tax” because Congress passed laws declaring that they should do so. We should be angry at Congress, but we give them a pass and vent our spleen on the people who “have too much money.”

And therein, I believe, is the point. I don’t think we really give a damn what they pay in taxes, I think we are just pissed off that they have too much damned money.

On Firing Head Coaches

The Baltimore Colts lose their quarterback, not only their starting quarterback, but their only quarterback and the quy who has been 100% of their offense for years. They lose him for the entire season, win two games and fire their head coach.

The Oakland Raiders lose their starting quarterback early in the year, then they lose their second string quarterback. They have to go out and sign up a quarterback who had retired earlier in the year. They also lose a running back who is potentially All-Pro. They win eight games for a .500 season and fire their head coach.

The San Diego Chargers have their All-Pro quarterback healthy all year. They have their first round draft pick running back healthy all year. They win eight games, only one of which is against a team with a winning record, for a .500 record on the season, and do not fire their head coach.

There is undoubtedly a planet on which that makes sense. It isn’t Earth.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Insanity Abounds

Stock car racing has devolved into complete nonsense now, making even less sense in its regulatory processes than the US government.

Last year at Daytona and Talledega, the two superspeedways, drivers discovered that two-car tandems were vastly faster than either single cars or “packs” containing three or more cars, and the racing was…. Well, there was no racing as you and I understand racing. There was high speed certainly, but the two car tandems were just ridiculous.

So this year, NASCAR is trying to make sure that two cars cannot “hook up” for the same kind of extra speed. One might think that authorities would look at shape of the cars to do that, since the issue is an aerodynamic linkage between two cars that allows them to go faster, but no, NASCAR is reducing the parameters of the cooling systems of the cars in hopes that the pushing car will overheat and force the tandem to break up so that the driver of the rear car can cool his engine down.

What could possibly go wrong with that plan?

Well, actually several things can go wrong; one being that the pushing driver doesn’t decide soon enough to cool his engine and it overheats and blows up. That dumps lots of oil, water and engine pieces on the track, which cause a whole bunch of other cars to wreck. That would indicate that NASCAR’s plan did not turn out very well.

Another possible outcome revolves around the fact that, with the rear car overheating, the two cars must trade places, taking turns pushing and leading. The more prone the pusher is to overheating, the more often they must trade places, and the more chance there is that they will wreck themselves in the process. So NASCAR’s plan increases the likelihood of a wreck, which some might say is a good thing. I don’t.

Finally, NASCAR claims to be trying to restore the “big pack” racing, where up to twenty or more cars raced in a single “draft,” or aerodynamically linked parade of cars. Why, exactly, they think that a car will overheat while pushing a single car and not overheat as one of the trailing cars in this “big pack” eludes me. Taking twenty cars, instead of having ten of them prone to overheating in ten tandems, you will have nineteen of them prone to overheating in a single twenty-car draft.

I definitely think that Brian France should run for President.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cruise Ship Question

I have never seen a ship sink... Okay, mandatory pause here for a corny submarine joke. What is the difference between a submarine and a regular ship? Hint, it is not that a submarine can dive. Give up? Answer: it is that a submarine can surface.

Cynical old submariners will add, "usually." Any ship can dive once, it's called "sinking." The trick is coming back to the surface, and you can only do that if you a) are a submarine and b) have your shit together.

Anyway, that Italian cruise ship that hit the rocks and essentially sank was gashed and took on water on the port side, and yet pictures show her lying on her starboard side. The gash in her hull can be seen, well above the present waterline. WTF?

Sports Line Of The Week

From Gary Kamiya at Salon, whose sports writing is usually completely yawn worthy and who in general knows as much about football as my cat does, comes this little jewel,

"The Giants were helped by the fact that the Green Bay receivers appeared to mistake the football for an incoming hand grenade."

He then goes into rapturous paens of ecstaty over Alex Smith. Yikes. He wants the Giants/49ers game to be played on San Francisco Bay rather than at Candlestick Park, because Alex Smith is the only one who can walk on water. That might create problems for the receivers, but we're talking about Alex Smith - he don't need no steenkin receivers.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Coming Around On Tebow

After watching Tim Tebow the past few weeks, I have changed my attitude of him quite a lot; mostly as a person, but also as a football player. As a college player I was prejudiced against him because he played for Florida and the only SEC team I like less than Florida is… Well, actually, there is no SEC team I like less than Florida.

Like the rest of the world, I kind of forgot about him last year, and this year I found all of the hype a bit annoying. I thought, too, that his public affectations of religiosity were in poor taste and that they were self serving. I no longer think that, really, and I’m seeing a young man who is dedicated, enthusiastic and refreshingly ethical.

I think the media and a lot of bloggers are being a bit unfair to Tebow with this stuff about God and Tebow’s won/loss record. I have written on several occasions about the risks that are incurred in public displays of faith and why I believe one’s faith should be reserved to private venues, but I don't believe that Tebow has ever actually ascribed a victory to God's intervention. He frequently says "I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," but listen to him; he never says "for this win" or anything similar to that. In fact, he never says what he is thankful for, merely that he is thankful. Yes, I think his utterances lack a certain amount of taste, but this fashion of accusing him of claiming that God is on the side of the Denver Broncos is, I'm pretty sure, just not accurate.

Here's what he said last night after Denver’s loss to New England. Notice he says what he is thanking his teammates for, and what he is thanking Broncos fans for, but...

"But before we talk about that I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and thank my teammates for the effort they put forth not only tonight, but our entire season and also I want to thank the Broncos fans for all their support this season. It definitely meant a lot."

That’s actually a pretty nice statement, isn’t it? Later in the interview he was asked, “How do you make sense of losing in the context of your faith?”

“Something I pray before games, during games, after games is regardless whether I win or I lose, whether the hero or the goat, it doesn't matter, I still honor the Lord and give Him the glory because He's deserving of it. Just like my faith shouldn't change, neither should that. That's how I try to approach it, and sometimes even in a loss you can honor Him more. For me, I just pray that my character, and who I am doesn't change even though you can be dejected, you can still feel hurt, you can still feel disappointed, but you can still honor the Lord with how you handle things.”

Does that sound like someone who is claiming that God is on his side? It doesn’t sound like that to me, and in fact, it sounds to me like a young man who is more concerned with being a person of good character than he is with winning football games. He sounds like someone who knows that how you play the game is more important than the outcome.

Maybe our politicians, of both parties, could learn something from him.

NFL Playoffs

So far the home team has won every game, and I would be somewhat less than astonished if today did not continue that record. The Denver win last weekend was a surprise, and was rather a fun one.

This week the surprise was the 49ers, and San Francisco got away with a bad case of stupid. When you are playing a team that passed for 600+ yards each of its last two games, and averages 39 points per game, no matter how good your defense is, you do not tell your offense to sit on a six point lead. Still, it made for an exciting finish.

Is Tebowmania finally finished? But now Bradymania begins.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rate The Candidates

You can take a quiz to see which candidate has values which most nearly match yours. There is a scale on the left on which you set the relative importance of the issues, then answer the questions. You don't see the candidates until the end.

I got Ron Paul in 1st at 37% and 1 of 11 categories (Afghanistan war), and Obama 2nd at 24% and 0 of 11 categories. On about half the questions, though, I had to answer "none of the above." Let me know who you get.

MLK Monument

Apparently public outcry over the quotation on the Martin Luther King monument reached critical level and resulted in a decision that it will be changed, but I think the whole damned thing should be dynamited and started over. The statue is a monstrosity. His pose, with arms crossed across his chest, is remarkably untypical of the man, and the expression on his face appears hostile and angry.

At the risk of sounding racist, I cannot understand why a Chinese artist was chosen for this work. Not just ethnically Chinese, but a person living in China, who speaks no English and who built the monument in China from Chinese materials. It should have been done by an African-American artist who had lived through the experience of the civil rights campaign.

The Right To Fail

I was reading an article about the continuing problem of bee colonies dying off, and one sentence kind of leaped out at me. It pointed out the dischord between the rhetoric of overtaxation, and the casual expectation that we place on government to spend money in our behalf. It was simply this, “Last year he had so many abnormal bee die-offs that he'll qualify for disaster relief from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

I used to have my own business installing machinery in steel plants. In the 1980’s the steel processing industry became so weak that plants pretty much quit installing new machinery, and my business failed. It simply never occurred to me that the government should make up for what I had lost. That concept, that the government should protect me from failure, is simply not in my mindset.

I wound up becoming a landscaper. After digging holes for a while and a dozen years in landscape management, I finished with six years as a website programmer. “If you can’t get a job doing what you do, get a job doing whatever you can get a job doing.” That I should expect the government to make up to me what I had lost simply never occurred to me.

Now we have “disaster relief” for beekeepers who lose too many bees.

I remember watching a piece on “farm relief” some years ago. It used to be that farms made money in good years and banked that money as a reserve against the bad years. Now they spend the money on new equipment and such in good years, and the government makes up their losses in bad years. One elderly farmer did not really approve of the new way of doing business. “They’ve taken away our right to fail,” he said.

I have to agree with him. My career doesn’t look like much, and not many people would consider me a success. But whatever success I have achieved, I did it when Americans still had the right to fail.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Superstition

I am not superstitious. I walk under ladders, I pet black cats, I sneer at broken mirrors… I am not setting foot outside of my house today.

It has to do with my ship leaving port to go screw around off the north coast of Russia, which was the Soviet Union at the time. I don’t know what we were going to be doing; I was an electrician, and they didn’t tell me those things. They told me how fast to make the boat go, and when we were diving. The usually didn’t tell me when it was time to panic, as that was usually self evident.

We left New London on Friday the 13th of some month. I think it was February, and it was probably 1960 or so. We never reached the coast of Russia, because we hit several storms that beat the crap out of us and forced us to return for repairs. There was, at one point, some small question as whether or not we would even be able to make it back. To a man, we blamed it on the date of our departure.

What Kind of Control?

Michael Hastings wrote a piece in Reuters a couple of days ago extolling the prowess of Obama in wresting control of the military away from… Well, it’s unclear who was controlling the military before Obama took control of it; generals/admirals, Congress, or the industrial half of the Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex. Whoever it was, Obama stood steely-eyed at a podium in the Pentagon to symbolize his assumption of command over the armed forces some three years after becoming Commander-in-Chief.

Tom Englehardt had a different view of the same event, viewing Obama’s use of the Pentagon podium as a metaphorical aircraft carrier and the moment as an implied assertion that with regard to the land wars in the Middle East we are declaring victory and going home.

I have a view that is in between, but somewhat closer to Tom Englehardt than Hastings. Obama has done a better job of controlling the military than Bush did, and by quite a lot, but to say that he has “taken control of it” is a bit of a stretch I think, and his “new” strategy is long on forehead and more than a little bit short on reality.

For one thing it is, as Englehardt points out, hauntingly reminiscent of Rumsfeld, and we all know how well that worked out. I may be a little older than Tom, and I grew up in the Air Force, and I recall echoes of Billy Mitchell all too well. “We don’t need the Army, we can win wars with aerial bombardment.” The military is always obsessed with its newest toys, and always believes that the new technology will replace combat. It never does.

If you want to avoid combat, stay out of wars.

All three of us agreed on one aspect of the moment, that it was politically inspired and was a key moment in a reelection campaign. As such it is, in the long run, probably no more meaningful than one of his cheerleading stump speeches at a “town hall” in the nation’s heartland, and the “change” contained within it is probably no more realistic than the change he advertised in 2008.

Premature Indeed

Interesting case on People’s Court yesterday. A renter decided not to move into an apartment after paying the first month’s rent. The landlord said that if he could rent the place out right away he would return the non-renter’s money. He did so and put a check for the entire amount in the mail the same day that the new renter signed the lease. But the story did not have a happy ending, or it would not have ended in court.

The day the landlord mailed the check he received notice that he was being sued for the money, in the amount of the check which he had just mailed. The suit had been filed the very next day after the non-renter had asked for the money back and been told he would get it if the place was re-rented. The landlord promptly went to the bank and stopped payment on the check, and sent a letter to the non-renter saying that he had done so and that they would meet in court.

The judge asked the landlord why he stopped payment on the check.

The landlord, a gentleman in his eighties, answered the judge, “Judge, I returned that money because it was the moral thing to do. But this man turns out to be sue happy. He could have had his money several months ago, but if he wants to wait until a judge orders me to return his money I’m perfectly happy to let him wait until you to order me to return his money.”

The judge, laughing her head off, so ordered, but the plaintiff did not get the usual award of court costs due to the suit being deemed “premature.”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Insanity Abounds

The liberal blogs are trying to convince me that the field of Republican candidates are incoherent idiots who will drive this country on a course of insanity if elected, but I’m not all that convinced that there is any real degree of sanity at the helm right now.

Leon Panetta was on Face The Nation this past weekend and said that with respect to their nuclear program we must, “try to convince Iran that if, you know, they want to do what's right, they need to join the international family of nations and act in a responsible way.” That’s an amazing statement considering that Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty while our client state, Israel, which possesses nuclear weapons, has steadfastly refused to sign on to that agreement. Further, Iran has opened their nuclear facilities to international inspection, while Israel has not.

He went on to say that sanctions are “working to put pressure on them, to make them understand that they cannot continue to do what they're doing.” If you think about that, it reveals a certain lack of logic. If sanctions were convincing them that they “cannot continue to do what they're doing” would they still be doing it?

And what is it that they are doing that we cannot tolerate? Well on that topic he gets really confusing. “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that's what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is do not develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us.”

So the “red line for us” is that we have to stop them from doing what we admit that they are not trying to do. And we have to reserve the option of using bombs for the purpose of stopping them from doing that which they are not trying to do. Probably by bombing the shit out of facilities which they don’t have.

Scott Pelley of CBS News, meanwhile condensed all of this discussion into a tiny little throwaway line at the end of a marginally related news item, saying that, “And on Sunday Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told CBS News that Iran was within one year of being able to build a nuclear weapon. Thank you, David."

Pitiful, Just Pitiful

I quit watching MSNBC for obvious reasons; tried ABC (blecch), tried NBC and decided that I could not stomach Brian Williams, and finally settled on CBS but am having trouble with that one.

They did a piece last night, for instance, on the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist by "somebody," without speculating on who might have done it, and at the end of the piece said that, "Last Sunday Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told CBS News that Iran was within one year of being able to build a nuclear weapon."

Actually, what Panetta said to CBS on that network's Face The Nation was, "Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon, no."

It's difficult to take our any of our news media seriously when all of last month we were being told what a booming event the current Christmas shopping season was, with malls crowded, deals being offered, stores being open long hours and shoppers buying at a frenetic pace, and that all of this was turning the economy around and look at how low the unemployemnt application numbers are going.

And today we see that December consumer spending was, in fact, less than stellar; rising 0.1% for the month after a 0.3% increase the previous month. Not only that, but unemployment applications are rising again, just 1000 short of the 400,000 mark as employers discard holiday temporary help, which surprises everyone for some strange reason.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cold Turkey v. The Patch

New evidence emerges that "the patch" doesn't help one quit smoking. Take out your coloring book, turn to page four and color me surprised.

After almost thirty years of smoking 4+ packs per day of Pall Mall regulars (yes, you read that right), I had made several efforts to "cut back" or "taper off" and quit, with no success whatever. Then I read the doctor's report which contained the phrase "well advanced emphysema" and became motivated, and quit cold turkey. It was not easy, but I have not had a smoke of any description since.

I'm always a bit embarrassed when a doctor says "good for you" that I quit smoking. Reality is it's damned stupid that it took such a degree of damage to motivate me to stop.

I can't read people's minds, but I suspect that people who use "the patch" and can't stop smoking are not sufficiently motivated to beat a serious addiction, while people who use it and do quit would have quit without it. If you really want to stop smoking and are committed to doing so you're going to stop no matter what method you use, and if you lack that serious commitment then all the tricks in the world are not going to help you.

Because, make no mistake, it requires serious intent, and half measures don't get it done. I think that, in order to beat that addiction, any addiction really, one has to make up your mind that you want it badly enough to stay with it no matter how much it costs or how badly it hurts in the short term. If you want freedom badly enough then whatever the symptoms are, they will pass and that freedom will come.

PS: the "cold turkey" method is much less expensive & probably faster.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Debacle

I would not hav minded LSU failing to win, had they played a competitive game, but that performance last night was shameful, and was a disgrace to a great school and a great football conference. The defence was tentative, lethargic and was tackling like NFL players, while the offence... Well, the less said about the offense the better. They were not even trying to advance the ball and only twice even attempted a pass of greater than three yards.

Not to take anything away from the Crimson Tide. They have played great football all year all year, and they did so last night. But the game was far more of a blowout than the score would seem to indicate. Alabama had reached scoring position seven times in the first three quarters, while LSU had never crossed midfield and had achieved a whopping two first downs.

Monday, January 09, 2012

We are all liberals now.

David Atkins, at digby’s place, writes a lengthy and rather incoherent piece on what he views as the principles of liberalism, which illustrates that he doesn’t have a clue what the hell a liberal is, and that he is totally incapable of any form of coherent thought. He says at one point that, “For a liberal like me, who is primarily interested in the well-being of the American middle-class…” Someone who has that primary interest is not a liberal; he is a smug, ignorant, self-satisfied, greedy pig.

This is the kind of bigot who cheerfully declares that brown people in other countries should be blown to pieces if doing so will preserve the "freedom” of the American middle class people whose well being is his primary interest. Read his piece, if you can stand the smug self adulation which he spews at great length, and you will discern that David has essentially no idea whatever what a “liberal” is, a trait which he shares with most other writers who call themselves liberals.

The dictionary gives a couple of basic meanings for the word, one of which is “tending to give freely; generous,” and I’m sure politicians in the Democratic Party are leaning on that one rather heavily. The more important one is “favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.” Oh yeah, right. How many Obama supporters meet that definition? I was blacklisted from commenting on one “liberal” blog because I refused to admit that Obama was justified in starting the war in Libya.

But the term is more than a word, it is a political theory defined as,

A political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of the individual and favoring civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority.

It is difficult to square that “autonomy of the individual” with David’s statement that, “Liberalism is and has always been about intervention.” He goes on to say that liberalism “is unavoidably, inescapably paternalistic in nature,” which contradicts, just a little bit, the concept of “protection from arbitrary authority.”

His jackassery reaches something of a crescendo with his admission that, “Conservatives use force of government as well, of course…” and goes on to say that while liberals are using the “force of government” for good purposes, conservatives are using it for bad purposes. At this point we are all supposed to run to the polls and vote for Obama because, of course, we all agree with David’s definition of “good purposes.”

He’s on a par with the lady who would not vote for Nixon because “his eyes are too close together.” He just uses more words.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Professional Football? (updt Monday)

I swear to heaven, the lack of ability on the part of NFL players to tackle ball carriers is absolutely astonishing. I watched four NFL games this weekend, eight teams, and not one of them had the tackling ability of a decent high school team. More than once a defender made a clean miss on a ball carrier that was standing flat footed; just plain whiffed on a stationary target. And these are the playoff teams. Utterly ridiculous.

Update: A comment at another thread pointed out that it took longer to explain the new overtime rules than it did to actually play the overtime. True, but at eleven seconds of playing time, the damned coin toss took longer than the actual overtime did.

Monday thoughts: When you get really bad service in a dining establishment, a 2¢ tip is a more insulting message than leaving no tip at all. Those two points scored by the Falcons was sort of like that 2¢ tip.

Phil Simms ia an idiot. At one point he commented "This is what Denver does, they throw the ball down the field." Actually, vast numbers of writers and fans have been harshly critical of Tim Tebow for not throwing the ball down the field, and I was one of probably several million viewers who were astonished that he was actually doing it in that game. Then he wondered why Big Ben was not being used in shotgun formation more often, apparently not having heard dozens of sports figures discuss how ineffective Ben is from the shotgun and how much more accurately he throws when taking the snap from under center. He also apparently had not noticed Ben taking the snap from shotgun more than half the time before he said that. If Simms had a brain I would wonder if his mouth was connected to it.

The officials at Mile High Sports Authority Field need to quit checking out the cheerleaders' asses and watch what is happening on the field. The Steelers were grabbing Tebow's face mask every time they tackled him and it was never called, and that was clearly a backward pass.

I have to admit, it was sort of fun watching Denver beat the vaunted Steel Curtain. That was a fun game to watch; best of the weekend.

Fool Me Once...

I don’t know why the American people keep falling for this. I’m talking about Obama at the moment, but it is by no means unique to him. All politicians do it, and have been doing so for years. What I’m talking about is illustrated by the number of articles headlined to the effect of, “Obama finally gets aggressive with Congress.”

For the first three years of his first term, Barack Obama was clearly a creature of moneyed interests. Before he even began the “health care reform” process, he sat down and made a deal with the pharmaceutical industry that drug price negotiation by Medicare would not be part of that reform, and he never gave more than lip service to the “public option.” He named Wall Street insiders to his cabinet. He watered down the “stimulus bill” in size and diluted it with Republican tax cuts. He allowed financial reform to be a farce.

As the election year approaches he suddenly is making impassioned rhetoric about “taxing the rich,” a nominal tax that leaves capital gains protected, about “payroll tax cuts for working men and women,” and he makes a recess appointment that pisses off Congress. The Democrats all cheer wildly, make statements to the effect that now they “finally see the leadership we have been waiting for” and declaim about how they cannot wait to rush to the polls to vote for him.

For the first three years of his first term Obama’s administration arrested and deported undocumented immigrants at an unprecedented rate, far more than the Bush administration had done before him. Now, as he enters a reelection campaign, Obama signs an executive order easing the deportation process for families. His chances of maintaining the Hispanic vote are projected to improve because of “his record on immigration.”

During the second full year of Obama’s first term the release of toxic chemicals into the environment rose by 16% nationwide. The following year’s budget for the EPA was cut from $10.3 billion to $8.3 billion. Obama’s role in that cut is unclear, but he certainly did not lead any public resistance to the reduction, nor does he include environmental issues in his campaign rhetoric today.

Voters listened to his promises of change during the campaign, suffered through three years of corporatism, and now are willing to be suckered again by the campaign rhetoric that they were suckered by the first time. This is not “the real Barack Obama.” This is the Barack Obama who is campaigning for reelection. The things he is doing now are not what he will be doing for the four years of his second term. The things he was doing for his first three years are the things he will be doing for the four years of his second term; making deals with his corporate masters.