Friday, January 31, 2014

"Fall Follies"

Whatever we can accuse Brian France of, we certainly cannot accuse him of having any imagination. He has announced yet another change to the NASCAR scoring system, modifying the much hated “Chase For The Championship,” which has been an (unsuccessful) attempt to attract viewers away from the NFL.

The “Chase” has been expanded to sixteen drivers, eight of whom will be eliminated after four races, and four more of whom will be eliminated before the final race. The last race of the season will feature four drivers contesting on an equal basis for the season championship. Do those numbers look familiar? Yes, by golly, they do.

Giving up on competing with the NFL, Brian has decided to compete with NCAA basketball, giving us NASCAR’s version of “March Madness” in late fall with NASCAR’s “Fall Follies,” complete with a “Sweet Sixteen,” an “Elite Eight” and a “Final Four.” If he’s lucky the NCAA won’t sue him for being a flagrant copycat.

In order to get his initial “Sweet Sixteen” he has to go with the NHL’s route of having the entire season eliminate less than half of the field from the playoffs, since only 28 drivers made the required 36 starts last year, so 57% of them would have made the “playoffs.”

Change Who Can Believe In?

I am vastly amused that so many people who presumably voted for Obama because he promised to “change the way things are done in Washington” are now defending his recess appointments, executive orders, and undeclared wars by saying that “previous presidents have done it too.” They elected him to change things, applaud him for not changing things, and then say that Republicans are stupid and illogical.

I’m not claiming that Republicans are not stupid and illogical, they are. I’m just saying that Democrats are a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. I would suggest that anyone who supports any political party or incumbent politician is stupid and illogical.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"I Will Bypass Congress"

I’ve seen at least a dozen Obama supporters defend his statement by citing the number of executive orders issued by presidents who preceded him, providing links to a list published by a group at the University of California at Santa Barbara. I have no doubt the list is accurate, but the argument is spurious because an executive order declaring, for instance, that there will be an Easter egg roll on the White House lawn is a vastly different thing than one ordering the summary execution of an American citizen or one rescinding a significant provision of a bill passed by Congress. How many former presidents have issued such orders?

In any case, the mere statement “I will bypass Congress” is an affront to the constitution which he is sworn to uphold. It is an insult to those who voted for him based on his campaign rhetoric which promised that, “I have taught the constitution. I understand the constitution. I will restore the constitution.” Far from restoring the constitution, he has done more than any president before him to render the constitution meaningless.

When George W. Bush issued executive orders regarding EPA emissions standards those who are supporting Obama today were up in arms about “executive overreach.” Now they are defending Obama’s prerogative to “bypass Congress.” As a commenter elsewhere so elegantly put it, “Loyalty and obedience to the party, any party, is a pox on this country.”

Monday, January 27, 2014

First Five Years

Attywood writes yesterday that Obama’s first five years are characterized primarily by timidity, a point which I find rather difficult to refute notwithstanding drones, NSA revelations, Libya and a few other examples of an increasingly imperial presidency. I can’t help but think that to a large extent the military and the “national security apparatus” have been manipulating and browbeating him into much of what appears to be executive overreach.

His piece admits that many of Obama’s half measures have been the result of Republican opposition; saying , for instance, that, “Yes, Obama's 2009 stimulus was too weak, but the GOP would have filibustered one more dollar.” He gives several more examples, on health care reform and jobs creation, but let’s consider for a moment that very first time that Obama ran into serious headwinds from his opposition.

The problem was that Obama never even proposed a strong stimulus bill. When negotiating with an opponent, if you are determined to get $10, you demand $20 and let him talk you down to the $10 that you wanted in the first place, but Obama began the negotiations with a “weak stimulus bill” that he hoped Congress would pass without discussion. He managed to create the impression that this was all he wanted.

Attywood says that “the GOP would have filibustered a dollar more,” but we don’t know that because they were never placed in a position where they needed to do so. Obama’s geniuses read some kind of tea leaves and decided that this magic number was the best that could be obtained. It was a number that neither side was happy with, which is supposedly the result of a successful negotiation.

Obama’s first five years may be marked by his timidity, but more especially they may be remembered by the manner in which he managed to piss both sides off.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Potpourri

Fracking has “liberated” an unimaginable amount of oil and natural gas in the United States, with well drilling proceeding at a frenetic pace in states from Pennsylvania to California, putting this nation being on the verge of becoming the world’s largest producer. Meanwhile, gasoline remains steady at near $4 per gallon, and with the recent cold weather natural gas cost has risen from $3.50 per million BTU to $4.35.

A local headline informed us that police had classified a body found in the trunk of a car as a “suspicious death.” My initial reaction was to laugh. It doesn’t really take a rocket scientist to conclude that a dead body in a car trunk is suspicious. Turns out they were saying that they were no longer certain it was a murder, which didn’t actually improve the profundity of the statement all that much.

Some “contributor” on CBS Evening News was describing why he thought Snowden was aided by the Russians (sigh) and said that there were “a couple of things that I can’t talk about” while Snowden was in Hong Kong. He can’t talk about them because he hasn’t invented them yet. He’s working on ideas, but all he’s come up with so far is a chambermaid named Olga, and he feels he needs something a bit more credible.

John Kerry is turning the Syria peace talks into an “Assad must step down” forum, claiming that Assad has "lost his legitimacy," and insisting that no peace treaty can be arrived at that does not include the removal of Assad. Again we are committed to regime change in the Middle East/North Africa, because it worked out so well in Egypt and Libya.

Richard Sherman was, um, a little heated after the 49er’s/Seahawks game Sunday. What do you expect when you stick a microphone in the face of a young man who is still pumped up and filled with adrenaline and who, just a few seconds earlier, made a game winning play on the field? Same thing applies when you stick a microphone in the face of a guy as he climbs out of a race car he has been driving at 200mph for three hours and expect him to say something thoughtful and profound. Don’t be surprised if he uses some really bad language about a fellow driver who tried to wreck him.

Molly is a highly social cat under any conditions but we have come to call one of her medications her “happy pill.” It is for the purpose of increasing her appetite, and we give it to her once every three days. It may make her eat more, I’m not sure, but it increases her sociability by about 1000% or so. She refuses to be anywhere but in my lap, head butting, purring and demanding to be petted. My wife gives her the pill and then blithely goes to work, leaving me at home, alone and defenseless with the damned cat.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Head In The Sand

This is our rainy season, January is historically our second rainiest month, but we have not had a drop for 36 days and none is forecast for the next ten days. The past month is the first rainless January in San Diego in 38 years. Lake Hodges is at 30% full, and others are not much better.

Mammoth Mountain is making snow, but most of their revenue is presently coming from renting mountain bikes. That part of their business usually closes down in September or early October.

Notwithstanding the drought emergency declared by our governor, the city of San Diego is not rationing water. Incredibly, no local government has even issued guidelines for restricting outdoor water use, let alone set any regulations. The city imposed a limit of ten minutes three times weekly for sprinkler systems in 2009, but is not indicating any need for limits at this point. Head in the sand anyone?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Madness

Whatever our foreign policy is, it sure as hell isn’t “policy.” The sheer stupidity of our government simply staggers the imagination.

The news is filled with the immense instability that exists in Iraq today. The country is on the verge, we are told, of a deadly civil war. One tiny spark, one false step, one trivial incident and the country could erupt into chaos that would rival that which prevails in Syria just door. And what is our government’s response to that alarming situation? Send large quantities of automatic weaponry to Iraq. Awesome. What could possibly go wrong?

Obama has done some pretty stupid things since he has been in office, but after backing away from bombing Syria, Kerry is once again trumpeting that Assad must go, and that we have methods of hastening his removal. Can anything more thoroughly illustrate the continuance of the Bush stupidity than Obama’s persistence in pursuing “regime change” throughout the Middle East?

Did we learn nothing from the events in Iran in 1979, or Libya in 2011, or Egypt? The people of the Middle East do not want us screwing around with their governments. Is Russia going to stand by idle and let us depose a government which they support?

Only America pours gasoline on a smoldering fire and claims the right to depose the leader of a sovereign nation on its own whim. How long is the world going to allow us to do this kind of nonsense?

Evolving Language

Despite being an “old guy” I not only accept that the English language is evolving, but have become rather comfortable with no few of the new verbal shortcuts and see them as actually sort of useful.

Rob Reinalda writes in Huffington Post of Literary mistakes that he wants people to stop making, but his only credential seems to be that he is a writer. If he’s was even taught to write his curriculum vitae doesn’t say so.
I know, neither was I, but I’m not issuing edicts about how other people should write. For the most part he seems to be objecting to the evolving nature of the English language.

“Arriving passengers may be met momentarily,” used to mean that they could be seen only for a brief time before they disappeared for some mysterious reason, but today it means they can be seen soon and for as long as you want. One has to admit that the new usage rolls off of the tongue nicely, and is certainly more easily understood over a PA system in a noisy airport than some lengthy phrase involving numbers and minutes, which would probably be inaccurate anyway.

There’s the old edict against ending a sentence with a preposition, which most people today don’t even know from a hole in the ground. I was taught it’s anything you can do regarding a mountain, but “paint” isn’t a preposition, so I think I missed the point. “With” is a preposition, and someone once famously made the point about the literary rule by saying the ending a sentence with a proposition is “something up with which I will not put.” A mountain is too big to “put” so I guess “put” is not a preposition.

Anyway, people end sentences all the time with “to” and “with,” both of which are prepositions, and who cares? Not me, certainly.

There is a growing tendency to turn intransitive verbs into transitive ones, such as, “We will grow the economy.” I have to admit that one still annoys me a little bit, probably because it is usually applied to the economy and any statement about the economy tends to annoy me. I probably don’t really object to the word usage, I just know that cutting taxes to “grow the economy” is bullshit.

The rules matter, but they are arbitrary and it’s the message that is the purpose of writing. If the message is conveyed clearly and unambiguously, then the writer has accomplished the task.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Heavy Drinking & Cognitive Decline

The Los Angeles Times has an article today which says that heavy drinking in middle age speeds up cognitive decline. No few of my readers may think that applies to me, but my heavy drinking preceeded middle age, I stopped at 38, so I don't think so. Not to mention that I don't think I have had any cognitive decline, although in all fairness I may not be the best judge of that.

The reason for my comment here is the manner in which the article defines "heavy drinking," which they say is drinking "more than 2-1/2 alcoholic drinks per day," and that is just sad. Maybe 2-1/2 quarts per day would be heavy drinking, but 2-1/2 drinks per day is not even a serious drinker, let alone a heavy drinker. 2-1/2 drinks per day is a rank amateur.

#10 !

The San Diego State Aztecs are ranked number ten in the AP poll. Wow.
A friend and I were talking this morning and wordering if we dared celebrate. Hope those guys are wearing oxygen masks. They're five positions ahead of Kansas, which is fair enough since they not only beat the Jayhawks but left them looking sort of dazed and bemused in their own house, but they're three positions ahead of Kentucky. Kentucky!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fight Fire With Gasoline

When I was a kid and used the argument for wanting to engage in the latest fad that “all the kids are doing it,” my parents would ask me if all the kids were jumping off of ten-story buildings would I join them in that activity as well. Actually, I would probably have been the ringleader of an asinine stunt like that, but…

Anyway, liberal Obama loyalists are now arguing that since Congress has corrupted the “advise and consent” provision of the presidential appointments process then the president should follow their example and corrupt the “recess appointment” provision of the constitution in return. Sort of a “meet evil with evil, only when we do it it’s not evil” approach. It’s not unique to liberals, both sides feel that things are wrong only when the other side does them.

Democrats, for instance, blocked voting on presidential appointments when George Bush was in the White House, and Republicans complained bitterly about that and called it “ridiculous partisan politics.” Now that a Democrat is in the White House, Republicans are blocking presidential nominations and Democrats are not merely calling that “ridiculous partisan politics,” they are claiming that it is criminal and a violation of the constitution. Unlike when they did it, since they were merely keeping America safe from Republicans.

So Obama loyalists, who complained loudly when George Bush made recess appointments, say that Obama should make many more recess appointments, including when Congress is not actually in recess but is merely on a holiday break and is holding periodic sessions to establish that they are not in a recess. They claim that Obama manipulating the recess appointment process is okay, because Congress has corrupted the appointments process with their partisanship.

Their point seems to be that if one branch of government is broken, the solution is to break another branch to balance that problem. Solve one problem by creating another problem.

If the left front tire on your car is flat, are you going to make things right by flattening the right front tire? Of course not, but this is the solution offered by Obama loyalists. They do not suggest that we need to find a way to fix the flat left front tire, they suggest we need to make things worse by flattening the right front tire.

If one branch of government has become corrupted, you do not make for better governance by corrupting a second branch to “balance” the corruption of the first.

Unhappy Cat Today

unhappy catMolly got her fourth dose of chemotherapy yesterday, and this one did not go well. She came home groggy and as of this morning is not speaking to either one of us, although she did sleep on the bed next to me all night. She still sppears to be suffering from nausea this morning, so we’re leaving off some meds and focusing on the anti-nausea ones. Not a happy cat today.

Part of it has to do with sedation. The vet staff is afraid of her, so they have to sedate her rather heavily. Yes, I know. She doesn't look it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

San Diego Winter

lego mania

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Nothing Worth Mentioning

I haven't written because the only subject which is being discussed in any depth this week is "Bridgegate," and I regard that as simply too silly and trivial to discuss. It has reached the point that I am willing to comment on the utter stupidity of the news media devoting hours and days to "discussing" it with pundits, lawmakers, and even "law scholars," and on how trivialized our governance has become that the Port Authority, state government, and both Congress and the US Justice Department are launching investigations into it. All over two state politicians bickering.

Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan is one small paragraph on page 12.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Who Lost Fallujah?

Well, the real answer is nobody, because it was never ours to begin with, but let’s check out all of the political posturing just for fun. Reality first.

In 2007 George W. Bush and Nouri al-Maliki negotiated a deal which spelled out a date for the total withdrawal of all of our military forces from Iraq. That date was Dec 31, 2011 and it pissed off pretty much everyone except the Iraqis. Our media claimed the Iraqis didn’t want us to leave because we were keeping them safe, but that was bullshit. The conservatives were angry at Bush for agreeing to a withdrawal, and liberals were angry at him for doing it after Obama was elected but before he took office and was able to take credit for doing it himself.

Until nobody wanted credit for it, of course, but that came later.

Between the date that he took office and the date of the withdrawal, Obama tried valiantly to negotiate a new deal with al-Maliki that would allow our military forces to remain in Iraq past the date set by Bush. That he was unsuccessful proves that the media claim that the Iraqis wanted us to stay was bullshit and so, because it exposed their idiocy, they played down Obama’s failure to extend our military presence. This was okay with Obama because it avoided exposing his failure and allowed him to say pontifically during his reelection campaign that “we ended the war in Iraq” without clarifying who the hell he meant by “we.”

So Bush actually “ended the war in Iraq,” but that didn’t stop Obama loyalists from giving credit for that feat to Obama because the actual date of the withdrawal was on his watch. They also conveniently ignored the valiant but failed efforts he made not to end the war in Iraq. This would be called “revisionist history” if Republicans were doing it, but since Democrats were doing it was perfectly okay.

Republicans, meanwhile, also ignored his failed efforts not to end the war, eschewing the opportunity to point out failure in favor of being able to accuse him of “surrendering,” although it has never been clear who he surrendered to. It should be pointed out that logic is never really required in political discourse, and is sometimes actually counterproductive.

Now Anbar province is once again embroiled in violence, and so the Obama contingent is trying to back pedal from the “we ended the war in Iraq” bit, but they haven’t quite figured out how to do that. The war, it turns out, hasn’t ended; the only thing that has is our part in it. So a new argument will start over whether or not that is a good thing.

Now along comes a Washington Post editorial (behind a paywall) which says that the US should wage a “counterinsurgency campaign to win back the Sunni population,” but cannot do so because Obama “chose to leave Iraq in toto to serve his re-election theme that ‘the tide of war is receding.’” Aside from the absurdity about it being Obama’s choice to leave Iraq, the Post is insane to be beating the drums for counterinsurgency, which has repeatedly demonstrated itself to be a nonsensical military strategy.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Shooting Blanks At The Wrong Target

Economists are so wedded to their pet theories that they tend to apply them without even knowing in full the situation which is in need of solution. Dean Baker, for instance, addresses a New York Times article on Thursday by retorting that it “Tells Readers About Shortage of Skilled Workers in Europe Without Ever Mentioning Wages,” which in fact it does. I would suggest there’s nothing wrong with that.

Baker starts out by saying that he cannot find a doctor to treat him for $30 per hour, as if that were somehow relevant to the discussion, and then tries to make it relevant by claiming that the Times would interpret that as a doctor shortage. Apparently in addition to being an economist, he’s a mind reader as well.

In the same paragraph about the doctor shortage he points out that the Times says that Europe has a shortage of skilled workers and an unemployment rate of 12%. He does not say that the unemployed are skilled workers who are declining the available jobs because the offered pay rate is too low. He does not say, or appear to care, what wages are being offered for those available jobs, admits that the article does not mention wages, but he does say that if the employers would raise those wage offers there would be plenty of skilled workers.

He is claiming by implication that the skilled workers are available but that the wages are too low to bring them to employment, and he does not know either to actually be the case. He doesn’t know whether or not skilled workers are or are not actually available, in fact the whole point of the Times article is that they are not, and he doesn’t know what wages are being offered. “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with any stinking facts.”

If I offer a guy $20/hour to run a numerically controlled lathe and he doesn’t know how to do it, all I have to do is offer him $45/hour and he will know how to do it. That’s what Dean Baker says; if you offer higher wages there will be more skilled workers. The man is brilliant. Even better, if I need a doctor and there isn’t one in my town, all I have to do is offer $10,000 to the town drunk, and he will be a doctor.

Those examples are stretching it a bit, but what Baker is saying specifically is that if you are not getting any applicants for a job opening it does not matter what wage you are offering, just offer more and you will be inundated with applicants. It is a ridiculous statement. Paying higher wages does not, of itself, create skills.

In fact, the article isn't even about employers not able to find workers, it's about unemployed people unable to find jobs for which they are qualified. The headline is "Unemployed in Europe Stymied by Lack of Technology Skills," and it's about the plight of the unemployed workers, not about the employers at all. Dean Baker is not only shooting blanks, he's not even shooting at the right target.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Same As The Old Management

After winning the game which sent them into the playoffs, one of the Charger players was celebrating in downtown San Diego and wound up getting arrested for assault. According to the nightclub where it occurred, a member of his party was asked to leave by a security person (otherwise known as a “bouncer”) and the player left with him. He returned an hour later, waited outside an office for the security person to appear and proceeded to attack him. Excellent public relations for the Chargers organization, isn't it?.

Apparently they think so, because their only reaction is that they “will let the legal system run its course.” In other words, his actions have nothing to do with them. Wrong. It is the Chargers organization who hired this thug and brought him to San Diego. If not for them, he would be beating up the citizens of some other city, so the havoc he wreaks in our city is on them. They owe us something more than “will let the legal system run its course.”

Their reaction was the same when another linebacker and an infamous wide receiver were endangering the citizens of this city with habitual drunk driving and assaults on police officers. Not our problem and “will let the legal system run its course.”

The Chargers unapologetically sign up and bring thugs to this city who terrorize and endanger the city with drunken brawls in our entertainment venues, throwing wine bottles across crowded dance floors, assaulting police and security personnel and driving drunk on our streets, and then they want us to spend our tax dollars to build them a new stadium. I don’t think so.

And the new head coach, who I was beginning to like, is handling the situation by saying that “We will move on.” He, too, does not care if his players go out and beat up the citizens of the city. As long as the guy can tackle and is not in prison, he will play.

As much as I despise the New England Patriots, when Aaron Hernandez was arrested that team management did not say “we are not concerned” and “will let the legal system run its course.” They decided that the guy was reflecting discredit on their organization and they dropped him like a hot rock. The Chargers should take a lesson from them.

Update, 2:30pm: Don't get me wrong; I don't think they should fire or suspend Keiser, I am still a fan and will be rooting for the Chargers to win, and I have always been opposed to building them a new stadium at taxpayer expense. I just think they should take more responsibility for their players.