Thursday, May 31, 2012

Political Blindness

It continues to baffle me that American leadership so stubbornly refuses to see what is displayed so clearly right in front of its nose, or at least pretends to do so.

We are still prattling about the danger of Iran developing a nuclear weapon because if it did so, “that would start an nuclear arms race in the Middle East.” Israel, last time I looked, is in the Middle East and has a whole bunch of nuclear weapons, so if one accepts the premise that Iran is, in fact, attempting to develop a nuclear weapon then there is already an ongoing nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Of course, no one with an IQ above room temperature believes that Iran is actually developing nuclear weapons, which rather renders the point moot.

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton is hyperventilating about the “window closing” on the opportunity to prevent Syria from having a civil war. With pitched battles being fought throughout the country and thousands dying of gunfire and artillery, one has to wonder what, exactly, her definition of “civil war” is.

And, of course, President Obama is telling Syria’s Assad to “step down.” I wonder how he would respond if the president of Pakistan got fed up with us firing missiles into his country from unmanned drones and called on President Obama to “step down.” I’m pretty sure that Obama would tell him to do something to himself that is morally repugnant and physically impossible.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

One More For CBS

Last night CBS Evening News did an enthusiastic piece about the housing market; about prices increasing in four cities (not mentioning what prices are doing the thirty or so other cities), and about companies refurbishing foreclosed houses by the hundreds and reselling them like hotcakes. Of course they had the mandatory featured indivual, a single mom naturally, who was all excited because she qualified for a loan and can now go out and buy one of those houses. She didn't wax enthusiastic about making house payments, but that part may not have been explained to her.

And, of course, today we have this, telling us that "pending home resales dropped 5.5 percent" in April and offer the conclusion that the figure indicates "the U.S. housing recovery remains uneven." I guess "uneven" is one word for it. The article goes on to say that, "Mortgage rates at record lows failed to sustain the pace of demand as some buyers may have waited for home prices to decline further." That must be those other thirty cities about which I speculated earlier.

And buyers indeed "may have waited for home prices to decline further." They may also have failed to qualify for loans because they still don't have jobs. Or they may have had jobs but still been saddled with so much debt from having been unemployed for so long that they cannot qualify for a home loan. Or they had to move to get a new job and they haven't been able to sell their old home, and so cannot buy a new one. Or they may have had two heads and been stored in a jar at Harvard.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Oh, Good Lord

Just yesterday CBS Evening News was hyperventilating about how consumers felt the best about the economy that they have felt since 2009, with consumer confidence hitting new heights of polyannaism, and today we have this; about how Americans caused "consumer confidence to suffer its biggest decline in eight months."

The article says that, "Analysts were hoping a slight rise in May would give some credence to the idea that the economy is stabilizing." Yes indeed. Analysts are always just filled with hope for all sorts of things. Tell you what; hope like crazy in one hand and poop in the other, and see which one fills up first.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Well Done

If the title doesn't ring a bell, it is a military phrase; a highly complimentary one. My service preceeded Vietnam, but I must say that I deeply appreciate President Obama making the gesture of going to "The Wall" today to honor those who fell in that war. It will mean a lot to a great many people of my generation.

Memorial Day

USS Thresher
April 10, 1963   To them and all those on eternal patrol. Rest in peace.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Subron 8: Small Arms

I qualified “Expert” with an M1 Garand, unusual in the Navy, which did not place a high degree of emphasis on small arms proficiency. I think the reasons for that are fairly obvious, since we have the Marines to do that sort of thing for us. I was, however, cruising through Electrician’s Mate school at the top of my class without much need for studying, so I had quite a bit of free time to spend on the rifle range.

“Expert” was the only marksmanship level award actually worn on the Navy uniform, and even it was optional. It was a patch, worn on the left sleeve just above the cuff, and I never wore mine. The only privilege the award ever got me was to sit in the periscope shears with an M1 as shark guard whenever the ship had swim call at sea.

There is a trick to shooting sharks. You have to let them get fairly close, otherwise the bullet hits the water at an angle which causes it to ricochet rather than enter the water and hit the shark. Then you aim right at the base of the protruding dorsal fin, which causes it to arch out of the water, at which point you pop a couple more rounds into it. Kind of fun, actually, although the swimmers don’t usually enjoy it much.

If I got bored I would just fire a few rounds at random and watch the swimmers rise up and sort of motor across the surface of the water back to the ship. The guys could really haul ass. I would never admit to not having seen a shark, of course. That would not have been good for my health.

My skill with a rifle did not extend to pistols. In order to qualify for promotion to E-4 we had to “qualify” with a M1911 .45 caliber automatic. Qualification required you to fire ten rounds, but fortunately it did not require you to hit anything in particular, because I didn’t. I was lucky not to hit myself, and the only thing I could reliably hit was the ground. I was actually pretty good at hitting the ground.

I always felt kind of silly wearing the damned thing on watch; which, happily, I very seldom ever had to do. If I was ever confronted with the need to use it, my best bet would be to throw the gun itself at the intruder, or let him get close and hit him over the head with it. If I was shooting at him, he would be about the safest person in the vicinity.

There are a lot of people, even today who swear by that weapon, but I am definitely not one of them. I was certainly known to swear at it, though.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Comedic Relief

Now here’s a truly bizarre article from Canada, by a guy named Jeff Rubin regarding oil prices. This guy is babbling away to explain why his forecast of oil priced at $200 per barrel did not come to pass, and you have to read all the way to the end of his inane and idiotic prating to find his profound conclusion, “Quite simply, the end of growth,” which by pure coincidence, happens to be the title of a book he wrote. The man is effing brilliant.

In between is some rather stunning lack of basic ability to even read newspapers printed in English. They do speak English in Canada, right?
I know they speak it a little bit differently than we do, what with sitting on "chesterfields" and all, but…

He admits that his projection of oil reaching $200/barrel, “unfortunately, didn’t adequately address the stifling impact that rising oil prices would have on economic growth,” for which he rather amazingly makes no apology. That’s like projecting a football team to win a game when eight of its 22 starting players are sidelined with injuries and then, when they lose, saying that failing to take injuries into account in your prediction was no big deal.

He then talks about the effect of the rising price of oil, even well short of $200/barrel, as a “chain reaction of events - including spurring higher interest rates which pricked the U.S. sub-prime mortgage bubble.” And I’ll bet you thought that what triggered the bursting of that bubble was people not paying their mortgages because you failed to notice the rise in interest rates. Don’t worry, everybody else also failed to notice the rise of interest rates, because there wasn’t one. Jeffy may be thinking about the rate adjustments in ARMs, because maybe they don’t understand ARMs up there. Or maybe he was just confused because we kept calling them ARMs and he didn’t know that stood for Adjustable Rate Mortgage.

He then says that “[t]he return of low prices was taken, by some, as proof that oil will continue to be as cheap and abundant as ever.” Ah yes, the famous “some” returns. “Some” was, probably, actually he himself until oil started back up in price immediately, because I certainly never heard anyone make that claim.

He then tells us that “If a mea culpa is in order, its roots can be found in the decision to underplay the demand side of the equation,” which is almost as bad as “mistakes were made.” What he’s actually saying is that, “Since I said something that was incredibly stupid, you should excuse that since I am actually as dumb as a bag of rocks.”

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Be Afraid, America

I grew up during the “Cold War” in the fifties and sixties. The threat facing us was not one guy wearing explosive underwear, but thousands of nuclear weapons on intercontinental ballistic missiles pointed at us. I do not remember the nation being steeped in this eternal miasma of fear that we are in today.

I cannot speak from personal experience as to the Cuban missile crisis, since I was at sea during that episode and Navy sailors are not much given to cowering under their bunks, especially those serving on diesel electric submarines. But friends and family report that, while there was tension and some anxiety, the nation was less fearful then than it is today, more ten full years after the unrepeated events of 9/11.

The United States faces nothing whatever which poses a threat to us as a national entity. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch. I don’t remember who said it, but it is absolutely true that, “They can knock down some of our buildings; they can kill some of our people; but they cannot harm us as a nation; only we can do that to ourselves.”

And with our leadership, past and present, preaching endlessly of the violent steps we must take to protect ourselves from a national threat which does not exist, we are doing precisely that; destroying the nation that our founding fathers created. We are doing what terrorists cannot do; destroying our freedom.

Whatever else you have, living in fear is not freedom, and we are living in fear. This Democratic president is no less a fear monger than his Republican predecessor was, and in fact he is more so. He not only keeps us afraid of the guy in the explosive underwear, but he makes afraid of his opposition political party. A major aspect of his reelection campaign is the terrible things that will happen if Republicans gain control.

And he is selling that message. I was in a conversation on a political blog with some interesting and thoughtful people the other day, who were trying to persuade me that I must support the Democratic Party. These were not, by any means, Obamabots; far from it. But they were literally terrified of what would happen to this nation if Republicans take control of the White House; some even fearful that democracy itself would not survive.

Not since Joe McCarthy has anyone so successfully turned America against itself; made Americans distrust and fear each other to this degree. Republicans are running a foul and filthy campaign against Obama himself, but Obama is drumming up fear and distrust of the Republican clan in its entirety. Never before, in fifty years of following campaign rhetoric, have I seen such a pervasion of abject fear of the opposition as I hear from liberals today. More than anyone we have the Fear Monger In Chief, Obama to thank for that.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cox Is Wierd

Cox Cable has music channels, two of which are named "Classical" and "Light Classical." I listen to both and sometimes wonder how they make their musical selections. For instance, the selection which is playing on "Light Classical" right now is Beethoven, Symphony Number 6. Very nice music, of course, but "Light Classical?"

Leaving Afghanistan

If we are going to leave in two years regardless of conditions on the ground, why not leave now? If we have not been able to train the Afghan Army in the last ten years, what kind of training are we going to provide in the next two? If we have not reduced corruption in ten years of supposedly trying, how much progress will we make in the next two years?

Why not leave now and save $2 trillion and a lot of American lives?

Because the election is not until November, and Obama does not want images of American troops exiting Afghanistan during his reelection campaign. He does not care about the lives that will be lost in the next two years, so long as he is successfully reelected. He does not care about the trillions of dollars that it will cost the American taxpayers for his reelection. He just needs to be sure that preparations for the ignominious exit from Afghanistan does not occur until after he is safely reelected.

Unbridled Greed

I watched this Facebook IPO with a jaundiced view, unconvinced that any of it made the slightest bit of sense, and that it essentially consisted of an attempt to blow a new “Internet bubble.” Turns out our economy is so feeble, and so filled with greed and corruption, that we can no longer even blow bubbles successfully.

Morgan Stanley, as backer of the IPO, had a couple of responsibilities which it failed to fulfill. It was required to say nothing to its clients about Facebook, since it had inside information about that company as a result of preparing the IPO, and it advised some of its clients that Facebook was likely to face lowered earnings in coming months. It was also required to advise Facebook of the proper initial price at which to offer the stock, and it allowed the Facebook owner to raise that offer from the initial $28 to a ridiculous figure of $38 per share.

You know the result, major embarrassment for everybody, but the “owners” of Facebook don’t care, because they are walking away from the debacle with their pockets stuffed full of money.

And this along with the JP Morgan debacle proves that, for all of the smoke that they have been blowing up our dresses, Obama and the Democrats have done absolutely nothing about the financial structure that caused the economic collapse of 2008. The failure to prosecute the fraud and corruption that caused that economic crisis is leading us right straight into another one, and this one cannot be blamed on Republicans.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Oh Lord, Krugman Again

Krugman is part of the echo chamber which falls in line with the dogma which decries that any Democrat who disagrees with the President has destroyed his political future. Democrats, it seems, are turning into a party which demands lockstep loyalty to it’s “great leader” much as Republicans at one time accused as “un-American” anyone who dared disagree with George W. Bush. Krugman says today,

I didn’t know this, but apparently Booker is so close to his Wall Street donors that it never occurred to him that echoing their over-the-top reactions to Obama’s very mild populism would destroy his own political future (which I believe it has).

Calling Romney a “vampire” is “very mild populism” in Krugman’s book.

Perhaps Booker was harking back to the Obama campaign of “hope” and “change” in 2008, which ran on positives, eschewed negativity and specifically rejected the use of ad hominem attacks.

Perhaps he was nauseated by the transmogrification of Obama into a standard, nasty, political attack dog no different than the mongrel pack in which he runs, when he had been filled with such “hope for change” in the style and demeanor which Obama had promised to bring to Washington.

Perhaps he thought that the personal attacks were beneath the dignity of a sitting president.

Perhaps he thought that, since Romney had specifically rejected the Jeremiah Wright attack campaign, that Obama should leave the personal attacks to the surrogates and not join in them himself.

Perhaps he thought that Obama should especially not use the Jeremiah Wright attack campaign as “justification” for his “vampire” attacks given that Romney had personally rejected that campaign and is prohibited by law from directing the activities of the PACs that are running it.

Perhaps he thought that Obama should not be running a attack campaign which contains only a grain of truth and a great deal of falsehood. The purpose of venture capital is to fund companies, and some 80% of the companies funded by Bain Capital have thrived in the long run.

This whole thing is based on one steel company which failed two years after Romney was no longer actively running Bain Capital. Bain put money into that company; how is that the action of a “vulture,” pray tell? They took some profit from that venture. Did they do that while the company was losing money? Show me. The company failed. Foreign steel was killing the industry in those years; a lot of steel companies failed about that time, including one that I worked for, and no venture capital company ever came within a proverbial hundred miles of the one I worked for. Show me that Bain was the proximate cause of that failure.

More than 80% of the companies hiring in San Diego right now are biotech companies, and while some have since been bought by major corporations they are, every single one of them, startups funded by venture capital firms exactly like Bain Capital. Show me the evil there. Show me.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Funniest Prank Ever

This cracked me up. Thanks to Jonathan Turley for the tip.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ready, Fire, Oops Again

There is a reason that we put sights on a rifle; it’s done so that we can fire the rifle with some hope of hitting something useful. Journalists and politicians pick up their rifles, cock and lock them, and then blaze away without even knowing what a furshlugginer gunsight is, let alone thinking to use it before firing.

JP Morgan Chase lost $2 billion on derivatives, now up to $4 billion, and everyone is fulminating about how they bought too many derivatives, or used the wrong money on them, or whatever.

No one acknowledges that the fundamental problem is not how derivatives are traded, who trades them, in what volume they are traded, or whose money is used to trade them, but the derivatives themselves. These instruments are frauds. They are promises of payment that are not backed by the ability to pay. Buying them in any quantity is stupid, selling them is fraudulent. They should not be regulated, they should be outlawed, and anyone selling them should be put in prison.

JP Morgan Chase is guilty of nothing other than stupidity, which is not a crime in this country. In fact, it usually gets you elected to high office. The people we should be pointing our rifles at are the criminals who sold to JP Morgan Chase the instruments which caused the financial loss.

The correct order of events is, “Ready, Aim, Fire.”

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Okay, Two More Times

Not content with babbling nonsense about JP Morgan Chase yesterday, Paul Krugman repeats himself today. A tower of knowledge and erudition on the subject of economics he may be (?), but I think I probably understand quantum nuclear physics better than he understands finance. Today he closed with,

But of course, the fact that these risks are being taken by a too-big-to-fail institution, whose failure would cause a global crisis, which would therefore inevitably be bailed out if it got in big trouble, and which benefits from taxpayer-backed deposit insurance, is no cause for concern. None at all.

Emphasis mine. Hello? Earth to Paul Krugman. Are you there?

It’s called “financial reform legislation” in the form of Dodd-Frank, and it promises no more bailouts. You are refuting the liberals whom you pretend to support. Maybe it doesn’t actually do that, but if so your Democratic friends don’t want you announcing it.

And then Paul says that the bank “benefits from taxpayer-backed deposit insurance” without, apparently, knowing what “insurance” means. It means that member banks pay into a fund that holds the money to be used to pay depositors if their money is lost when a member bank fails. Please note that “no taxpayers were harmed in the making of this movie,” because the money was provided by the banks themselves, including the failed bank before it failed.

Still, I guess that’s a slight improvement over yesterday’s “government guaranteed deposits.” At least this time he used the word “insurance.”

He also provided a nicely dramatic chart, with only two bars on it, showing the difference in job creation between George Bush and Barack Obama. I’m not sure what point he was trying to make. My wife is a better driver than my cat, too. That doesn’t mean I’m going to enter her in the Indy 500.

Put Bill Clinton’s job creation record on that chart you coward.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hahahahaha

Bloomberg headline: "Facebook stock up slightly in public debut." Oh, yes, indeedy. The operative word would be "slightly" there, as it opened priced at $38.00 and closed at $38.25. That would be an increase of six tenths of one percent. Woohoo!

Ineffable Answer

big butt
big buttDoes this chair make my butt look big?

Social Security and the Deficit

Sometimes political cleverness comes back and bites you on your ass. Of course, sometimes by the time it does that you have retired or been term limited out of office and it bites someone else on the ass, which may have been the plan all along. Whatever.

I’m actually not entirely sure when Social Security got lumped into the federal budget reporting, but when I first was becoming aware of governance it was not. The federal deficit was reported honestly, with the surplus of the Social Security revenue stream reported separately. Somewhere along the line it became common practice to lump them together so that the surplus in the SS revenue stream disguised the deficit in the federal operating budget, which made Congress and the president look better.

In fact, by the time Clinton was in office he was credited not only with “balancing the budget” but with “creating significant surplus” in the federal budget; so much so that when George W. took office he “had to” cut taxes because of the “dangerous surpluses” we were creating. Actually, the federal debt increased every year that Clinton was in office, except 2000 when it decreased by 2% before increasing again in 2001.

Combining the two revenue streams is seriously dishonest reporting, because the SS revenue is not actually income for the federal government; it is a trust fund, and that money is useable for one thing and one thing only, which is to pay benefits to people who are eligible members of the program and are paying into the trust fund.

The chicanery worked out very well for Congress and the White House, though, always making the deficit look smaller than it actually was, until the economy crashed in 2008. At that point the deficit went berserk and the bogus reporting made the change more dramatic than it would otherwise have been. The real deficit was increased by the reduction in income tax collections due to unemployment, but the apparent deficit was doubled due to the reduction in the SS revenue due to loss of payroll tax deductions. Government not only lost actual income, but it lost the disguise of the SS revenue stream’s offset.

It’s the old “pay me now or pay me later.” 2008 was "later."

Paul Krugman, One More Time

Paul Krugman is telling us in his blog post today that Congress did not actually pass any financial reform legislation after all. Either he has never heard of the Dodd-Frank bill, or he does not believe that Barney Frank is telling us the truth about what that bill will do. He asks if Mitt Romney can "really not understand that ... taxpayers are ultimately on the hook for large losses." Well, according to Barney Frank, we are not, but Congressmen do lie sometimes, so...

If Paul Krugman is correct in his criticism, here, then Barack Obama and Congress have grossly misled us about the impact of a piece of legislation which they claim to be one of their major accomplishments. Paul Krugman is famous for being wrong, so I'll assume that the "financial reform bill" known as Dodd-Frank does have essentially the effects claimed for it.

Krugman asks if Mitt is aware that, "that JPMorgan in particular has government-guaranteed deposits." One has to assume that he is referring to the FDIC, and apparently Paul Krugman is unaware that that program is funded by contributions from member banks themselves. That unawareness is part of why I'm willing to believe the Democrats, rather than him, on the effectiveness of Dodd-Frank.

It is a bit silly for Romney to blow the JP Morgan loss off as "no big deal," because it does reveal some troubling practices at that bank, but it hardly makes him the "dangerous fool" that Krugman claims.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Another Tin Bugle (updated)

Andrew Leonard is blowing the bugle of economic recovery at Salon this week. He sees April economic numbers which are a “disappearing slowdown” and as signals that we are “shaking off spring doldrums.”

The first marvel he quotes is the April rise in housing starts to “an annualized rate of 717,000 units.” He doesn’t want to tell us that the number is a mere 59,750 per month because we deal in big numbers these days. We used to cite government budgets in annual figures, but now politicians tell us how much they are going to save us per decade rather than per year; it’s much more impressive.

He goes on to say that because of this increase, “now one can make a case that a sustained rise is in place.” One could make that case, but no one in any of the articles I have read has done so. What they have pointed out is that even with the increase the building rate is still below half of what is needed for the industry to be considered healthy. To his credit, I guess, he doesn’t say that he is making that case, merely that one could do so.

He then gushes happily that industrial production rose by 1.1% in April, but disregards as irrelevant that it fell in both February and March. He seems to think that winning one out of three constitutes a “winning streak,” which would qualify him to do PR work for the San Diego Padres.

My favorite is this little piece of delusional thinking,

Gas prices on Wednesday were 18 cents a gallon lower than a month ago. It might not be appropriate to be too ecstatic over this news, since one of the factors depressing world oil prices is the prospect that Europe’s economic woes will depend and China’s economic growth slow further. But the threat of higher gas prices had promised to act as a serious headwind to the U.S. recovery, and for now, we can scratch that worry off the list.

Seriously. Europe and China are both going to a recession but that’s good news for us because it means low oil prices, so high oil prices won’t slow our recovery. Does he really believe that recession in both Europe and China will not slow our recovery, irrespective of oil prices?

Needless to say, he did not discuss the jobs picture, because to the punditry the jobs market has nothing to do with recovery. We still are not creating new jobs fast enough to keep up with the increase in the work force caused by population growth, and the nominal unemployment rate is dropping only because people are giving up and ceasing to look for work.

Of course this piece about the rosy state of the economy is accompanied by a picture of President Obama, beaming happily at the camera.

Update, 11:30am: h/t The Market Ticker

The Philadelphia Fed is definitely not on board with Mr. Leonard. Among other things, it's May report (pdf) says regarding manufacturing in May that, "The index for new orders fell four points, from 2.7 to ‐1.2, its first negative reading in eight months."

Clinton's Balanced Budgets

Steve Kornacki writes a piece at Salon which is intended as criticism of Republicans, but primarily praises Clinton for “the balanced budgets and surpluses that marked the late years of the 1990s.” Actually, the federal debt increased every year that Clinton was in office, except 2000 when the “dot com boom” brought in unparalleled tax revenues.

That’s not intended as a knock on Clinton. His fiscal responsibility took a degree of wisdom and courage that is pretty much unknown in today's governance, and his path is one to which we should return immediately. That happening is about as likely as me winning next year’s Ironman.

Kornacki says that Clinton “raised taxes on the rich,” but that’s actually not what he did. Clinton championed a comprehensive economic reform bill which, being more progressive than the conservative policies of the day, included higher tax rates for the rich, but he had better leadership skills than to present it in those terms. Nor was the reform limited to those rate increases. It included other income tax reforms, changes to improve Social Security, and an increase in transportation tax.

Five years after Democrats took control of Congress and three years after they took the White House, they have yet to even suggest any kind of comprehensive tax policy of their own. Obama cannot even mention taxes without referring to the “Bush tax cuts,” and his only plan other than to match the Republican mantra of cutting taxes is to “raise taxes on the rich.”

If that isn’t class warfare, it certainly sounds like something close to it, and he has certainly managed to convince a large number of people that their enemy is not the Republicans who control the House or the Democrats who control the Senate, but rather the rich people who control both. We don’t see protestors camped on the steps of the Capitol, we see them camped on Wall Street, and no political discussion can occur today without including the 1% versus the 99% and “tax the rich.”

Plus, of course, his plan to raise taxes on the rich solves only about 4% of the problem and he offers no plan whatever to solve the other 96% of it.

Whatever else he was, Clinton was a leader, because he managed to convince a Republican-controlled Congress to pass an economic reform package that included revenue in the form of tax increases, even while they were accusing him of land fraud, murdering his associates and using the White House as a high class motel.

He didn’t sit back and wring his hands, whining about Congress being “obstructionist.”

Automotive Industry Rebirth

Yes, Obama "rescued" General Motors and they are generating "record profits," but let's not get too excited yet. The taxpayers still own the majority of their stock, and it is still worth far less than what we paid for it. The record profits are in unadjusted dollars, and once adjusted for the revised prices for automobiles would look one whole hell of a lot less impressive. Finally, as with most profits reported today, much of that improved profit has been achieved by cost cutting.

I also recall when Chrysler Corporation was "rescued" and Lee Ioccoa repaid the loans ahead of schedule. That didn't prevent the company from failing again and being sold to a private equity firm, under which it failed yet again and was bailed out by Obama along with GM.

So I'm waiting to see how long this auto industry "rebirth" will last.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Solution: 7-Year Tax

Governor Brown promised that if we elected him again that this time he would not spend all of his time in night clubs and casinos like he did last time. We can believe him, he said, if for no other reason than that now he is too old for that kind of thing, which I can sort of relate to. He seems to be keeping his promise, but I'm not sure how much good it's doing us.

This $16 billion deficit we have is a one-year shortfall, so he is proposing a .25¢ sales tax increase and a small income tax increase on people making more than $250,000 per year. The new taxes are to last for seven years. Um, what?

Expectations?

California is reeling from the horrible news that our deficit has suddenly gone from $9 billion to $16 billion because, pay very close attention here, “revenues are lower than expected.”

Expected by whom, precisely? Anyone who was paying attention and is not a halfwit knew that the revenue projections in California’s budget were bogus, and knew that at about this point in the fiscal year the government would be heading for the fainting couch and clamoring for a tax increase. This state just cracks me up; there’s more entertainment in Sacramento than there is in Hollywood.

Two years ago California voted on one of our infamous “propositions” which dictated that if the legislature did not pass a balanced budget on time their pay would be cut off. Every dimwit in the state voted “yes” on that one, and obviously dimwits outnumber intelligentsia, because it passed easily. The result was completely predictable, in that the first budget to be passed was on time and was 100% smoke and mirrors.

It was so filled with financial trickery, such as calling tax increases “fees” and “surcharges” in order to avoid the two-thirds majority requirement, that the state Supreme Court rejected it, sent it back to the legislature and told them to do it over. So much for the “on time” thing.

The revenue projections upon which the budget had been based called for a fairly modest economic recovery and something like a 1% reduction in unemployment. Since the legislature could not find any more spending that they were willing to cut, and they could not garner a two-thirds majority to raise taxes, they just revised their assumptions for economic recovery and unemployment. The new budget was based on rosy expectations for economic recovery and several points off the unemployment rate.

Those of us whose IQ is closer to a bad bowling score than a good golf score knew what the outcome of that was going to be, and here we are.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Political Derangement Syndrome

Whatever else Obama has or has not done, he has raised “Political Derangement Syndrome” in this nation to new, and often amusing, heights. PDS has always been around, but the last three presidents have made it more visible and have increased its role in political discourse. PDS used to be reserved for the lunatic fringe, but today it has entered the lexicon of mainstream media and the floor of Congress.

PDS cast Bill Clinton in the role of the murderer of Vince Foster and pretty much anyone else who crossed him either politically or financially, had him engaged in land fraud schemes, travel schemes in the White House, and stealing the W’s from the keyboards on the White House computers.

He actually did have sex with an intern in the Oval Office, it turns out, so we have to give his opponents a little bit of credit on that one.

The PDS sufferers during the Bush years were on his side, claiming that “the surge” worked and, prior to that, that Iraq was to blame for 9/11 and really did have WMD’s, which we didn’t find only because they were moved to Syria right before we invaded. Why that did not necessitate the invasion and destruction of Syria has never been made clear.

PDS has infected both sides in the Obama era, however, with supporters claiming, for instance, that he ended the war in Iraq. Actually he merely followed the “Status of Forces Agreement” entered into between Bush and Maliki, and he didn’t do that by choice. He spent more than a year negotiating for permission to keep our troops there longer, and failed, so he took us out of Iraq on Bush’s schedule and under protest.

And don’t even get me started on PDS defense of “health care reform.”

Opponents are even less rational, however, calling his corporatist policies “socialism,” even though they are far closer to fascism than socialism. Some of them do call him a fascist with socialist policies, seeing no contradiction in that, and most of them call him a Muslim, as if it would matter even if it was true.

Both sides make lists of his “accomplishments” and credit him with everything from walking on water on one extreme to spreading the Bubonic Plague on the other. One such list by Doug Ross credits him, for instance with being the “First President to press for a ‘treaty giving a UN body veto power over the use of our territorial waters and rights to half of all offshore oil revenue’ (The Law Of The Sea Treaty).”

First of all, The Law Of The Sea Treaty doesn’t do that, or anything close to that, and since George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all pressed for ratification of the treaty, Obama is the fourth president to do that, not the first.

So, dog on the menu or dog on the roof of the car? Are you voting for a Muslim or a Mormon? These are important decisions because this is, according to a consensus of the PDS community, “the most important election this nation has ever faced,” either because it gets rid of Obama or because it keeps him in office, depending on point of view.

Interest Is "Trivial"

Paul Krugman and Dean Baker both claim that government debt is the safest investment in the world because government never defaults on its debt. They also claim that spending to an essentially unlimited degree is acceptable and that doing so does not burden future generations because government never repays its debt, which strikes me as contradictory.

Walk into a bank and tell them, “It’s perfectly safe to lend money to me, because I never pay off my debts,” and see how fast they give you a loan.

Paul Krugman said, as I remarked yesterday, that building infrastructure cost only the “trivial interest” on the money that the government had to borrow to build the infrastructure. Because, of course, concrete and labor are free when they are paid for with borrowed money. Which is actually true, in a sense, if the borrowed money isn't going to be repaid. Reminds me of my grandmother driving my father nuts with her, “These biscuits didn’t cost me anything because I already had all of the ingredients.”

How “trivial” is the interest paid by the United States on its debt?

Well, it turns out that “trivial” might not be quite the right word. The only larger budget items are defense and Medicare/Medicaid, and interest is one of only seven line items which have three digits west of the third comma.
I omitted Social Security, which has its own funding. In the fiscal year to date, which is seven months, we have paid $241 billion in interest, which works out to $413 billion for the year.

The only larger items on Obama’s budget was HHS at $941 billion and Defense at $673 billion, and the next largest after $246 billion for interest on the debt was Agriculture at $154 billion.

That $246 billion for interest might explain, in part, why there were precisely zero votes for the Obama budget in Congress, by the way, since we had paid $454 billion in interest the preceding year. What, precisely, did Obama think was going to happen to either the interest rate or the debt that was going to reduce our interest by a whopping 46% in one year?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Credit = Cash

A commenter pointed out that I seem to really like Paul Krugman, since I write on him an average of once per month. I’m not sure that “like” is the operative word, which should have been obvious even if he didn’t read my articles. The titles alone (which he listed) should have clued him that “like” would not be the operative word.

To up my average a bit, in his discussion of what Britain should be doing Paul Krugman is propounding today that cash and credit are the same thing. It’s a useful theory for people who have no cash, of course, and who are fiscally reckless, but it’s actually insane unless you are planning on never paying back the borrowed money.

He is critical of the British government’s cutback on spending and then says, “There might conceivably be a justification for this policy if Britain were facing an intense cash squeeze. But it isn’t — it’s able to borrow very cheaply.” I don’t know how to read that other than that cheap credit equates to available cash. It used to be that economic theory used borrowing as an alternative to cash, but Krugman has now established that spending is the goal and it doesn’t matter whether one is using cash or credit.

He does the same thing with American consumer spending, by the way. He, like the government, has given up on job creation, so he’s trying to get the banks lending again so that consumers can go back to spending borrowed money in order to restart the economy. It’s not working because consumers are still too deep in debt to borrow any more money and banks don’t want to lend money to people who don’t have jobs.

In his piece today, Krugman goes on today to say that, “by shortchanging infrastructure now the Cameron government is saving only a trivial amount on interest payments.”

He would be a perfect sucker for those car ads that tell us we can save $1000 by buying a new Ford today from Al Smucker’s Ford. My response was always that I’m going to save $30,000 by not buying a new Ford at all. He is suggesting that roads and bridges cost only the “trivial amount on interest payments” because the actual cost of them is put on the credit card and is not real money.

Except that it’s the same as cash when you want to buy things, but whatever you bought with it only costs whatever the interest is on the loan. He should sell cars.

And he says that “lunatics are running the economic policy asylum.”

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Paul Krugman is an Idiot

Paul Krugman is making a comparison between JP Morgan Chase and Solyndra, saying that if the government’s role in the latter outraged you then the government’s role in the former should outrage you as well.

Because the direct lending of cash money to a newly formed small company is precisely the same as the continuation of decades-long implied guarantees of the existing debts of long-established major corporation.

Of Solyndra he says it was, “a small part of a broad program of loan guarantees,” but downplays that the loan to that company was its sole means of survival, and adds that, “it was the only loss.” Perhaps so, but it was a loan written off as a result of the total collapse of the company.

For JP Morgan he says that it, “is also part of a broad program of guarantees, explicit on deposits, implicit through the general aspect of
too-bit-to-fail.”
(Probably means “too-big-to-fail” and not “two-bit-to-fail.”) Right off the bat his comparison fails, because sitting back and saying that we’ll chip in if you need money is not the same as actually cosigning an unsecured loan. And the government is in no way involved in this loss, one which does not endanger the overall financial health of the company.

He goes on to say that, “There have been government losses on these programs, and will be in future,” which is an interesting claim because the “explicit on deposits” part is the FDIC, which is funded by payments from participating banks, and the “too big to fail” part is TARP, on which the government claims that we have not only recovered all of our money but have turned a profit. As for the “will be in the future,” he needs to talk to Barney Frank, who claims that the Democratic “financial reform” has taken care of all of that for the future.

Paul Krugman’s disdain for the financial industry is not entirely misplaced but, as tends to be the case with him, his logic is just not up to the task of illustrating his point.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Pragmatic Missile Program

The most recent underwear bomber story is, as is usual with these stories, becoming more confusing every time some spokesman adds to it. The agent was not the “double agent” that everyone keeps calling him, he was merely an agent because we never thought he was working for them, which would have had to be the case for him to be a double agent. A double agent is more dramatic, of course, but sadly, he wasn’t one.

He was also a British citizen, working for the Saudi secret service, but he turned the bomb over to us, so it appears it’s not all that clear that even he knew who he was working for. We are crowing about the success of our “intelligence agencies,” but it’s not clear that we knew this guy existed until he walked up and handed us the bomb.

We are also, as we tend to do, trumpeting the “intelligence knowledge harvest” involved, saying that he told us where a bunch of bad guys are so that we can do what we always do when we think we know where bad guys are. He must have told us they are pretty much everywhere in Yemen, because we are raining Hellfire drone missiles on pretty much the entirety of Yemen, killing “militants, terrorists” and “insurgents” by the dozen.

How do we know that they are militants, terrorists and insurgents? Well, because they are dead. By definition a militant, terrorist or insurgent is anyone killed by American drone strikes.

Interestingly, the program is still called our “covert drone program,” even though every time we kill someone we believe to be important the government issues a news release bragging not only about the assassination, but describing the method in considerable detail. Sometimes on the same page will be one headline saying that we killed half a dozen “militants” in a drone strike, and another saying that we can’t talk about the secret drone program.

Yemen, like Pakistan, at one time was okay with our drone strikes, but is now demanding the we stop doing it with a signal lack of success, because we are not even slowing the pace of our drone strikes. Chris Hedges at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism observes, "Part of the justification for the US carrying out drone strikes without consent is their reported success.”

And part of the justification for the Bush torture program was that “it worked.” This is who we are now. We no longer commit crimes in secret and try to pretend we did not commit them. We do them right out in the open and justify them not with moral arguments but with pragmatic ones. Our actions do not need to me ethical or moral, they merely need to be effective.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Liberal After All

Well, that was a pleasant surprise. Obama actually said something that could be considered liberal, and he didn’t hedge it; he just came out with a real, live, honest to goodness position. Suck on that Republicans.

Of course, as usual, the parade was well formed, waving its signs and halfway down the block before he got in front of it, but that’s his normal leadership style. No, he doesn’t “lead from the rear,” he leads from the front; he just waits until there is a very well-defined front before he gets there.

A certain amount of criticism has been raised because he went on to say that the issue should be left up to individual states, but there’s nothing radical about that since this always has been an issue decided by state laws. It is a bit curious that he is so protective of the prerogatives of states on marriage and less so on medical marijuana, health care and immigration enforcement issues, but I’m sure he has good reasons for that. I’m being generic when I say “good reasons,” because I’m not very sure that I would agree with his reasons.

Speaking of immigration, CBS News said that this announcement is going to cost Obama votes among Hispanic Catholic and Evangelical voters, stressing how important the Hispanic vote is to him. I’m not sure why any Hispanic would vote for Obama given that he has deported more people, mostly Hispanic, than all of his predecessors combined. But then I’m not Hispanic, or a journalist, so what do I know?

This “demographic campaign” thing is getting out of hand. I wonder how Obama’s support of gay marriage will affect the votes of left handed Lithuanian bricklayers? That may be important if it turns out that he needs the support of left handed Lithuanian bricklayers.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Tightroping the "Politics of Fear"

President Obama has a problem on this “national security” thing. He wants to trumpet his accomplishment of killing Osama bin Laden, and has done so at no small length, but realizes that doing so creates an issue with the “politics of fear” that has been such a key portion of his public persona. With Osama bin Laden dead, who is there for us to be afraid of? Oops.

Enter the “second generation underwear bomb,” and be very afraid, America, because “this one might have worked.” Notice the “might” in that purportedly alarming statement, which naturally comes from “undisclosed sources” who have the bomb in their possession and “will examine it” and “test its explosive power against airplanes.”

Now, you might think that our government would wait until they have actually tested the device, so that they could tell us the precise nature of the threat, but that risks having to tell us that it would not destroy anything bigger than a Mini Cooper and would only moderately damage a Ford Focus. By displaying a pair of underpants and hyperventilating about 767’s they can create a far greater need for an increase in the Department of Homeland Stupidity budget.

They also tell us that this device had the magical property of being undetectable in airport security, not realizing that raises the question of why, then, are we still going through all of than invasive and inconvenient nonsense before being allowed to get on a furshlugginer airplane?

And with bin Laden dead we need a new “bogeyman” so now have one Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, who is being credited with Mensa caliber intelligence and a mind even more devious and evil than bin Laden; our new “enemy number one” who is endlessly dreaming up new and dangerous ways to “attack the homeland.”

(Every time I hear that "homeland" bullshit I keep tending to break out into
 a chorus of "Deutschland Uber Alles.")

And now it turns out that the guy who was buying the airline ticket while wearing the explosive underpants was actually a CIA agent, which pretty much makes the whole thing perfect. The CIA has now joined the FBI in protecting us from plots which were fomented by itself. Like the guys in Cleveland who were going to knock corporate signs off of headquarter buildings but were persuaded by the FBI agents that blowing up a bridge would be way more cool.

One wonders why the CIA guy didn’t just shoot the bogeyman when he was given the explosive underpants, but that would have been too simple and would have left the whole security apparatus with nothing to do for weeks and weeks while a new plot was being dreamed up, and it would have left Obama’s campaign without a bogeyman.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Subron 8: Semper Fi, Part 2

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

Our Marines have calmed down and are sitting in the crew’s dinette, holding the helmets which they have not puked in because we thoughtfully provided them with a garbage can.

Actually the can is enlightened self interest because we are pathologically incapable of resisting the temptation to think up and implement diabolical plots to fuck with the Marines while they are on board, and doing that often results in them throwing their helmets at us. When the helmets are full of barf the outcome of that is unpleasant, thus the garbage can. That’s not the reason we cited to our Executive Officer, of course.

Anyway, I’m telling the Marines that the motion will subside and that they will feel better after we dive. I don’t think that is particularly reassuring to the ones for whom this is the first submarine experience, as I’m not sure they had realized we were actually going to do that.

In due course the diving alarm sounds and the deck tilts, and the Marines start looking a bit apprehensive. One of them asks me if we’re diving, which is not a particularly intelligent question, because accompanying the diving alarm is an announcement over the 1MC, “Now dive, dive. Man your diving stations,” which should have provided him with a clue. The roar of air leaving the ballast tanks might have tipped him off, too, but admittedly it might take some experience to know what that was.

I tell him that we’re either diving or we’re sinking, and a rather pregnant silence descends as the Marines are all staring at me like they are trying to figure out what the hell I just said. Actually, I believe they are all pretty much trying to figure out what the hell I just said. Gunny has been here before, but apparently he’s never heard that one, because I keep looking at him and finally he asks me what the difference is and I cheerfully tell him the difference is whether or not we come back up.

I get a lot of blank looks, and it doesn't seem like that penetrated, so I clarify; telling them that if we come back up we're diving and if we don't come back up we're sinking. Several of the Marines turn visibly pale, because it had apparently not occurred to them that the issue might be in doubt. No one quite dares to ask just how much doubt there is about the "coming back up" thing.

About that time the hull groans loudly, then produces a loud creaking noise, and all of the crew members in the dinette become alarmed, start looking wildly around the compartment and generally freaking out. A couple of guys run aft through the after battery screaming in panic. I have no idea who orchestrated this, but it’s a very nice touch and the timing is excellent. One of them is babbling something about the snorkel breaking, which almost makes me start laughing, since we don’t have a snorkel and it wouldn’t be breaking at this point if we did. Actually, come to think of it, breaking is not something that snorkels do under any circumstances. Anyway...

All of this is purely for effect and for the purpose of freaking out the Marines, because the noises are entirely normal. The pressure of the sea as we go deeper causes the hull to compress and creaking, groaning and occasional banging noises are called “hull popping” and are caused by the minor hull deformation as a result of the increasing pressure.

In any case, our little drama definitely works, because two of the Marines actually dive under the tables. I have no idea what good they think that is going to do if the hull implodes, but in all fairness they probably are not thinking at all and are merely looking for the nearest equivalent of a foxhole. Diving under tables is a better result than we usually get, and we are cracking up while the Gunnery Sergeant, who has seen this before, is shaking his head and trying to pretend that he has no idea who these guys in the green uniforms are.

The point at which we are no longer alarmed and are laughing our asses off is the point at which the helmet throwing usually starts.

The New Bubble

The "Internet Bubble" collapsed, erasing billions of dollars of wealth. Then we blew a new bubble in housing, and that one collapsed too. Ever since then there have been politicians and economists frantically trying to reinflate the housing bubble or create a new bubble, and failing miserably. Finally we have a new bubble puffing up and, with total idiocy, it's another Internet bubble. $11.5 BILLION for Facebook. Seriously?

Political Wilderness

This is one of those occasions when Paul Krugman says something, in his blog post today, with which I tend to agree. That’s not as rare as you might think, as sometimes I agree with his premise but still need to point out the fallacy of his purported “proof” of said premise. I am never convinced that the mere fact that two things happened at one time is certain proof that one of them caused the other.

At any rate, he says that the elections in Europe don’t say much about the policy concerns of the European voters, as the results are mostly about the principle that, “voters toss out incumbents and reward insurgents if the economy is bad, never mind the specifics of their platforms.” So, he says, France is not moving to the left but, yes, Greece is really fubar.

I think that’s right, particularly the part about when the economy is bad politicians are wasting their breath talking about policy, because voters are going to throw incumbents the hell out no matter what their policies are.

Political campaigns are also wasting time and energy bloviating about who ate whose dog, or put whose dog on the roof of the car, because voters don’t really give a shit about that either. Voters care about the economy, and they are beginning to realize that big numbers in the stock market do not mean that the economy is recovering.

That should result in a Republican White House and Senate next year and a Democratic House, but it won’t because we aren’t as smart as European voters. Most voters don’t actually vote about what really concerns them at all; they will vote for the incumbent either because it’s the only name they recognize, or because the incumbent has been reminding them of how many federal dollars and favors he has been able to “bring home.”

Which, of course, still makes policy irrelevant.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Subron 8: Semper Fi, Part 1

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

Outward bound from Little Creek, VA with a squadron of Marines for training purposes. We will, in due course, put them ashore in their rubber boats, and they will invade the United States and create mock death and destruction, evading Marines wearing different color armbands; an exercise which we think is hilarious. They do not look particularly funny at the moment, though, and when we injected a little humor into the situation when they came aboard earlier they did not take too kindly to it. Or to us. Marines don’t have a sense of humor.

Nor did they take it kindly when we asked them very politely to give us their guns as they came aboard. They didn’t like us calling them “guns” for one thing. We knew that, of course, and we may not have been entirely polite. We do have a sense of humor.

Nonetheless, we really did want them to surrender their weapons. The Navy has regulations about weaponry at sea; besides which, if one of their weapons discharged it might very well put a hole in our pressure hull, and we are pretty sensitive about that. We don’t like holes in our pressure hull, so we made something of an issue out of it. A certain amount of yelling and tension ensued, until our Chief of the Boat and their Gunnery Sergeant compromised on them demonstrating that their weapons were not loaded. Most of them turned out to be loaded, of course, which embarrassed Gunny a bit, but they got them unloaded and things calmed down.

So we stowed our Jarheads with their empty guns in the crew’s dinette (don’t ever let our cook hear you call it the “mess”), the only place to put them where they will be out of our way, and get under weigh. I’m in the maneuvering room until the special sea detail is secured and then, since I’m off watch, I head to the dinette to watch the show, because I'm pretty sure I know what happens next.

The Marines are sitting around looking dangerous, as Marines are wont to do. I give them a cheery hello and ask if anybody wants anything to eat. Submarines have regular mealtimes, but in between we have an open galley. I get quite a few no’s and a couple of “Fuck you” responses because we are just now clearing Chesapeake Bay and starting to pick up Atlantic rollers, and Diablo is by no means stationary.

Submarines have no keel, are completely round bottomed and, because of weight distribution, are complete pigs as to riding quality on the surface. In bad weather we can roll farther then any surface ship and recover from it, but we also roll very easily in good weather. Your average submarine will take ten-degree rolls in a dead calm sea. We are now rolling significantly, beginning to pitch as we enter the Atlantic, and our Marines are beginning to look less and less dangerous.

After half an hour the Marines look about as dangerous as three-year-olds. Their weapons are piled in a corner, and they are sitting in a circle around a garbage can which we have thoughtfully provided, taking turns throwing up. There is a fairly steady parade of sailors through the after battery checking on the Jarheads, and I’m keeping an eye on their Gunny. He is an old FMF Marine, not seasick, sitting as far from his troops as he can get and looking more than a little bit disgusted.

I go in the galley and make myself a sandwich; lots of Mayonnaise and some pickles. Then I go over and have a seat next to Gunny, take a bite of my sandwich and, after chewing carefully and swallowing, comment to him that this is probably the first trip to sea for his troops. He nods without looking at me and I know that my sandwich is getting to him, so I ask him if he wants a sandwich. He gives me a rather curt negative.

So then I hold my sandwich right in front of his face, squeeze it so that Mayo and pickle juice drips out of it, and ask him if he wants a bite of mine. He turns to me, gives me a look that makes me damned glad we unloaded their weapons, and joins his troops at the garbage can.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

New Theory, Sort Of

John Coleman is a "weatherman" on our local, unaffiliated television station, KUSI. "Unaffiliated" means that none of the networks wants anything to do with them and, given the credibility, or lack thereof, of the networks, that says quite a bit about the station and about John Coleman.

John has been a global warming denialist for many years; claims that it is some sort of international plot for nefarious but undefined purposes, and even purports to be offended by it. He has traveled across the nation in a sort of “counter Al Gore” mode, and has done several television specials offering various and sundry contradictory proofs why carbon dioxide is not increasing in our atmosphere and why the increase is not caused by human activity. He seems a little confused at times.

Well, no, I should say that he is a little confusing at times. He is always highly didactic and authoritative in his manner and presents as being entirely certain of himself, even when he is spouting obvious bullshit.

Anyway, he now has presented a new theory for climate change, which is made even more interesting by the fact that he claims it doesn’t exist. The presentation of his theory is accompanied by elaborate artwork showing the position of our planet orbiting around the Sun, zooming out to show our Sun orbiting in one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way, and then zooming out to show, conceptually of course, the entire universe.

John Coleman does not think small when he presents his theories.

It seems that as our galaxy drifts through the universe (Omigod, our galaxy is adrift!) it periodically encounters “clouds of debris from exploding stars” known as super-novas. It drifts through such a cloud and out the other side and then, in due course, encounters another cloud of super-nova debris. It is the drifting in and out of super-nova debris which causes climate change.

He does not say what that debris consists of, nor what the mechanism is that causes it to change our climate, but then, I guess he doesn’t have to. All he needs to do is to offer it as being a reason which is not greenhouse gasses, thereby giving us permission to continue burning fossil fuels.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Dishonoring Unions

“Credibility, we don’t need no steenkin credibility,” seems to be the mantra of the NFL Players’ Association. Countering the wave of sympathy from the death of Junior Seau, we have the NFLPA filing a “grievance” claiming that players cannot be disciplined for their participation in the “bounty system” run by the Saints last year.

My reaction to the disciplinary announcement was that it was grossly insufficient, since the league determined that between 22 and 27 players participated in the program but that only four of them would receive penalty for it, but the NFLPA claims that punishing even the four most grievous offenders is not okay.

The defense of “I was merely following orders” was ruled non-exculpatory at the Nuremberg trails many years ago. Pretty much the entire defense of the New Orleans Saints is as guilty as dirt, and they are trying to get away with their crimes in every underhanded and cowardly manner that they can think of. They give the word “union” a bad name, and they are taking some of the enjoyment out of the game for me. I'm not sure I want to cheer for this kind of people.

Irony

Only 115,000 new jobs were added last month, not enough to keep up with population growth. New unemployment numbers are still at very high levels. Retail sales are the lowest they’ve been in three years. And Facebook expects to raise $11 billion in its initial stock sale. Facebook.

Congress is at its lowest popularity ever, with a mere 9% of the voting public approving of its performance, yet 85% of its membership will be reelected in the fall election.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The "Chen Affair"

I’m not going to evaluate the Obama Administration’s handling of the “Chen affair,” pro or con, firstly because I don’t have all the facts of the matter and never will, and secondly because if the administration decided that relations between the two nations is more important than the fate of one individual I don’t think I’m inclined to disagree with them.

What’s interesting to me is the reactions expressed in the various commentaries that I’m reading. One person said that it meant that “the U.S. remains the power of the future simply by default.” I asked in the comments why that would be so, and he replied that it was because it indicated the China’s leadership was “insecure in its own legitimacy.”

I asked then, what he thought was the difference between that and our treatment of Bradley Manning and other whistle blowers, and he and other commenters offered a rather wide variety of reasons why there was a huge difference between us imprisoning people who challenge the government under conditions that international agencies claim amounts to torture and China doing so. I won’t bother to list them, because they all pretty much boiled down to “it’s okay when we do it because our government is legitimate and theirs is not.”

I’m always rather fascinated by the way the Obamabot mind functions. First they claim that our government has been corrupted by the 1% and the “Citizen’s United” decision of the Supreme Court, which would seem to indicate that they question the legitimacy of our government. Then, when you question anything the Obama Administration does, they get all huffy and ask, “How dare you question the legitimacy of our government?"

Apparently they think that Republicans are corrupted by money while Democrats are not, but they also brag that Obama is raising orders of magnitude more money than Romney is. Presumably they believe that Obama is spending that money but not influencing anyone in the process, which makes one wonder why he is raising and spending it.

Conclusion Jumping Abounds

Now here is a classic case of jumping to conclusions. Junior Seau is a former football player who took his own life, therefor we can conclude without further evidence that he suffered from traumatic brain injury and took his life as a result of it.

He also was divorced and appeared to be having trouble with relationships, since he was charged with assaulting his girlfriend a couple of years ago. He spoke frequently of the difficulty he had giving up playing football and only reluctantly retired, finally doing so pretty much only because no NFL team would sign him. The man had many good things in his life, but he also had unhappiness and we do not know what led him to end it all.

Yes, his brain may have been damaged by repeated physical insults suffered during his football career, but that is 100% speculation at this point and making such assumptions as this writer and others have done is irresponsible and stupid.

I liked Junior a lot and admired the role he lived in the community of San Diego. I went to his club a time or two and, while sports bars are not my thing, I enjoyed the evenings I spent there. The place is by no means a monument to himself; although there is a good bit of Chargers memorabilia there and certainly some Seau treasures are on display, it is all done in very nice taste. He was a good guy and he will be missed, and exploiting his misfortune for the purpose of grinding one’s own axe is despicable.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Land of Magic, Again

In his victory dance in Afghanistan Obama again cited the magical properties of that nation in the War on Terror, saying that “And so, 10 years ago, the United States and our allies went to war to make sure that al Qaeda could never again use this country to launch attacks against us.”

Because, you know, an attack launched from Afghanistan is so much more devastating than an attack launched from anywhere else. Not that we would have definitive proof of that, because the attack of 9/11 was actually launched from Boston, Massachusetts, right here in the good old USA. The attack was conceived and planned in Germany, training for it took place in Fort Lauderdale and San Diego, and the people who carried it out came from Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Afghanistan played the same role in 9/11 that the West Wing played in the attack on Bin Laden, namely to say “Go ahead” on a procedure that was planned elsewhere and would be carried out by unrelated forces. Obama is doing the same thing that Bin Laden did, taking credit for something that was planned by people smarter than he is and carried out by people braver than he is.

And he has the gall to prate about the courage required to give the order for the mission. If the mission failed he would be embarrassed, but the people deployed on the mission would be dead. I do not regard risking embarrassment as courage. Obama is playing the role of the typical REMF; taking credit for what other people risked their lives to accomplish.

Grandstander in Chief

I found it distasteful when George Bush took victory laps over the doings of the military as if he had been personally involved in their accomplishments and used our troops as visual backdrops for his self aggrandizement, and I don’t like it any better when Barack Obama does it. Yesterday’s stunt, and the date chosen to do it, was pure grandstanding, and it offends me that he uses our military in such a fashion, particularly those in a combat theater. To paraphrase Kenneth Roberts,

"They go to war, those young men and women, not to die for their country, but to place themselves, their precious lives, between their homeland and the forces which would destroy it."

These are men and women who are risking their lives in combat, not pawns to be used as a backdrop for this REMF’s reelection campaign. If you don’t know the term “REMF,” the first two letters stand for “rear echelon” and the last two are not complimentary.

Obama and his campaign staff are crowing about the killing of Osama Bin Laden, even taking a trip to Kabul to highlight the event, as if Obama himself had stormed the battlements in Abbotobad with a knife in his teeth and taken down Bin Laden personally in hand to hand combat. He did not. He played the role of a typical REMF, giving the order from an office safe at home and then running victory laps after the men who were risking their lives to perform the mission succeeded. And now they are running an additional grandiose victory lap a year later, after most of the men who did the actual work have been killed in combat without, of course, mentioning their subsequent sacrifice.

I was going to stay out of Obama’s campaign use of the Bin Laden killing, it’s not unreasonable for him to make some use of the good things that have happened on his watch, but this grandstanding was simply too Bushian for me to leave it alone. The power of the office has so corrupted Obama that the man simply no longer has any sense of taste or restraint.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

US and "The Rule Of Law"

One Jose Rodriguez was featured in “60 Minutes” the other night on Pravda CBS News, providing him with half an hour or so to brag about how he committed heinous crimes and violated a great many American and international laws. His book, notably, is being published by a sister company of Pravda CBS News.

This program illustrates a very good reason to vote Republican, as somewhere, somehow, we simply have to punish the Peoples Democratic Party for destroying the last remnant of the rule of law in this nation. I’m not going to lay this on Obama, because it started with Nancy Pelosi and her “impeachment is off the table” in the election of 2008. Obama finished it off with his “looking forward not back” thing, but he was merely following the pattern set by his party.

The Republicans at least had the decency to act under the table; to exercise their imperialism in secrecy and by means of euphemism. They pretended that they were acting within the bounds of civilization and law, even if they were being imperial overlords behind the curtain.

Then in 2008 Nancy Pelosi, who would become Speaker of the Politburo House by some sort of divine right if the Peoples Democratic Party won a majority, even though the members who would elect her to such a position had not yet won office in their districts, announced that it did not matter what crimes George Bush had committed or might commit, that she would not, if named to head the Politburo House, move to ask for articles of impeachment against him.

Then Obama and his Council of Ministers Cabinet have pursued such a rigorous policy of “looking forward not back” and preventing anyone else from looking back and blowing the whistle on any past or present criminal activity, that not only can crimes by high officials be committed, but the criminals can go on television and brag about them. We just really should not reward that policy by reelecting its perpetrators.

But we will, of course, because Bin Laden is dead. Yea.

Krugman's "Inflation Fairy"

I never went to college, lived my whole life with merely a high school education. If that was good enough for me, then by God that should be good enough for kids today, so we should drop all of this nonsense about student loans and the cost of higher education. Let them get jobs after high school.

Of course that position is utterly absurd, and I assure you I do not hold it.

I used it to illustrate the folly of Paul Krugman’s position in the debate he had with Ron Paul the other day, in which he said that, “I like the economic policies we had after World War Two.” They worked then, he goes on to say, and they will work now. Then he goes on to advocate for the Fed to create inflation, which he believes will drive down unemployment.

Ron Paul, on the other hand, believes that inflation will destroy savings, including the retirement savings of people whose savings have already been devastated by the economic collapse of 2008. It also worsens the living standard for people on fixed incomes and low income wage earners. Dean Baker, who is something of a Paul Krugman clone, maintains that “wages increase with inflation,” but I don’t know where he gets that idea from. My experience after some fifty years of working for wages is that incremental wage increases never keep pace with inflation.

Krugman, meanwhile, is living is some sort of delusional world where economic theory is completely independent of conditions on the ground. Levels of global competition have no effect on economic policy; internals of income levels and structure are irrelevant; and the balance between production and consumption or between capital and debt do not affect the theory under which the economy should function. The differences in all of those areas between the post war years and now are as between night and day, and yet Krugman thinks our economic policies should be the same.

Krugman mocks the “confidence fairy” who is going to hire new employees because Republicans are back in control, and the “bond vigilantes” who are going to drive the federal borrowing rates up because they fear the massive federal debt, but he adores the “inflation fairy” which is the people who are going to buy things like crazy because they hear the word “inflation” and want to get stuff now before the price goes up.

He fails to think about that “cart and horse” thing. Too many people are currently unemployed, underemployed and/or deeply in debt to be going on a spending spree to become the “inflation fairies” that he thinks are going to cause the surge in consumer spending that is going to restart the economy. He is trying to create a spending spree by diluting purchasing power; a self licking ice cream cone that is merely going to melt.