Thursday, August 28, 2014

This Is Getting Ridiculous

The college football season kicks off tonight, with Texas A&M taking on South Carolina, so I look to see what channel the will be on. Neither team plays in the Pac-12, so I don't have to worry about the game being on that new silly-ass Pac-12 channel.

Seems I spoke too soon. The game in on the SEC channel, because now the Southeast Conference also has its own television network. So where is that silly thing on the 1800 channels on my stupid Cox list of channels? Or is it even there at all? Yes, it's three numbers away from the Pac-12 channel, at number 1316, and yes, it is high-def.

At least my beloved LSU Tigers will meet Wisconsin on a real network Saturday night. I will have to record it, though, because I will be in Fontana, watching the Indycar season finale live.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mission Creep

According to The Guardian last Saturday, US officials have said that there is now a “new context” for confronting Isis…following the beheading of US journalist James Foley.”

Of course there is a “new context” for expanding violence. America will always have a “new context” for expanding the scope of our infliction of death and destruction.

The original air strikes in Iraq were, according to Obama, in pursuit of an “extremely limited objective to protect lives” in Erbil and tens of thousands on Mt. Sinjar who were in eminent danger of being massacred, and he assured us that there would be no “mission creep.” Turns out the numbers on Mt. Sinjar were more than a little bit exaggerated, as was the threat and immediacy of massacre.

Then there was a “new context” in the need to assist in the retaking of the Mosul dam. Then we needed to “do something” about the killing of James Foley because his beheading was so much more painful than is the peaceful and painless death which we inflict, often on women and children, by means of Hellfire missiles.

So now we need to entirely destroy the Islamic State forces before they develop a “safe haven” from which they can “launch major attacks upon America,” but we are told that the White House is dithering with a “mounting concern” over “how to target Sunni extremists without helping President Bashar Assad” because Obama is “is loath to be seen as aiding the Syrian government, even inadvertently.”

This is a real conundrum, isn’t it? Two forces are fighting each other. One of them is headed by a “evil dictator” who you have declared has “lost his legitimacy,” is a threat to your allies in the region and must step down. You have taken the position that this guy must go and you are not going to back down from it.

The other is a group which you have defined as an existential threat to yourself. You must destroy this force or risk your own destruction, but doing so risks helping the guy that you have said is evil and must go.

Perhaps the problem lies in the way that you have defined the two forces.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hypersonic Spin

Writers who are unfailingly loyal to Danica Patrick are having to resort to desperate measures to write positive things about her. I cracked up at the phrasing of this one,

"Though Patrick would fall another few laps behind, she was able to drive her way back into the top 30 by the time the checkered flag flew."

That means, actually, that several cars running in front of her crashed.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

NFL Fantasy Football

ESPN provides projections of the fantasy points expected for each player in the league, but I'm not sure how seriously we should be taking thses projections when forming our teams. Like most fortune telling schemes, there are inconsistencies.

They project only 84 points for Antonio Gates, for instance, because they say that the Chargers have essentially replaced him with the younger and now seasoned Ladarius Green. For Green, however, they project only 82 points because they say he will be playing in the shadow of the veteran Gates. That's sort of like saying that you can't have your cake because you've alread eaten it, and then in the next breath saying that you can't eat your cake because you don't have it yet.

On the other hand, the two of them add up to 166 points, which is about right for one really good tight end. So maybe each guy will play half of the time and they have it right. I'm no fortune teller either.

They also project 153 points for Johhny Manziel, which is only going to happen if he is awarded 25 points for each concussion and 80 points for a broken leg.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Things That Are Obvious

Hillary Clinton will run unopposed in the 2016 primary election because everyone is afraid to oppose her. The Clintons are famous for punishing anyone who runs against them and no one ever dares to do so.

That is, of course, why Hillary Clinton won the primary election in 2008.

Missing The Point

I watch Grey’s Anatomy and enjoy it, but I wouldn’t say it is my favorite program. I also like the character played by Jesse Williams although, again, not really my favorite. I think I will like him better next season after watching Jesse Williams speak with such elegantly restrained anger on the issues reflected in Ferguson, MO recently.

What’s interesting is that his line that “the media starts in the middle of the story” has caught people’s imagination and, in a masterpiece of irony, every film clip I can find of his discussion on CNN starts with him speaking that line, which is in the middle of what he has to say and misses the very important beginning. His whole point goes something like this:

“When a white kid shoots up a school,” he says, the media discusses the kid for days in terms of background. “We go back to the day of his birth,” Jesse says, “We have to understand him.” (emphasis his) But in a case like what happened at Ferguson Jesse says, in the line that has become famous, “the media starts in the middle of the story, which is a black kid shot in the street.”

He makes a very powerful point, diminished significantly when you leave out the first part of it. I have long asserted that we should not even know the name of the “white kid who shot up a school,” let alone spend days in this ghoulish analysis of his psyche, and Jesse’s point is profound. We know the shooter’s inner workings, but as to “the black kid shot in the street,” we don’t even know what his hobbies were.

And even when people hear Jesse Williams talk about the racist attitude in media they focus on one line, miss the meaning of it and, in discussing what he has to say about the media reporting half the story, they talk about half of what he has to say.

Racism is alive and well, thriving in America.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Things that make sense (?)

Warnings on the prescription bottle for Ambien, which is a sleeping pill, include one which says, "May cause drowsiness." Really? One actually would hope so.

Unreasoned Discourse

I have now come across three “liberal blogs” which gleefully reference the same AP article claiming that health insurance companies are finding ways around the new “health care reform” laws to “discriminate against the sick” or to “discriminate against those with chronic health conditions.” I am not going to quote at length from the article, but it consists of nothing other than vague accusations and statements which sound like accusations but actually are not.

It refers, for instance, to “the narrow networks of hospitals and doctors that insurers are using to keep premiums down,” which is untrue & nonsensical.

The actuality of networks is that insurance companies set payment levels for the plans to keep costs down, just as Medicare does. Medical providers are then invited to participate in the plans and decide for themselves whether or not they want to do so. Many decline because the payment levels are not high enough to suit them. "Narrow networks" are the result of choices by medical providers, not by insurance companies. If your doctor is not in the network it is because he wants to be paid more than that network is paying. Some doctors also refuse to accept Medicare.

At one point the article goes off its “attack the insurance industry” track, attacking the law itself to claim that, “The law also takes away some of the motivation insurers have for chasing healthy patients.” Of course one of the major and most controversial aspects of the law is that healthy people have to sign up whether they want to or not and, a minor point, the term "healthy patients" makes no sense. By the definition of “patient,” a healthy person is not a patient.

One of my favorite little pieces of nonsensicality is where a state insurance commissioner is quoted as saying that, “the federal government should establish a basic level of protection that states can build on,” which the ACA actually does. Remember the flap about plans being cancelled because they did not meet the minimum standards set by the ACA? This is an insurance commissioner criticizing the federal government for not doing something which it is doing in the new legislation that is the topic of his current discussion.

Liberals like to say that those who attack the “health care reform” law have to resort to false and incoherent arguments in order to do so, but here is a case where an attack dog is using the same tactics to attack the insurance industry. Have we completely lost our ability to engage in reasoned and reasonable debate?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Truism

I forget who it was who said that, "It is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." I have not had much to say about the Chargers because it is still preseason, but the San Diego Union-Tribune sports writers have not been quite as circumspect.

On Thursday one of them was comparing this year's team to the "Air Coryell" era, because they won their first preseason game against Dallas the preceeding week; a team which has the league's worst defense. On Friday the Chargers lost to Seattle 41-14. During the time that the starters were playing the Chargers lost 24-0.

I'm still not saying much about the Chargers, because it's still preseason.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Atlantic Interview

Consensus on Clinton after her Atlantic interview seems to be that she is being “disloyal to Obama” in being critical of his policy in Syria. I’m not sure why anyone would think that she owes him any particular loyalty at this point, and my take is that the interview actually highlights the loyalty which she demonstrated during her tenure as Secretary of State, a period during which she did owe him loyalty.

Clearly, we now know, she disagreed with him very sharply over how he was handling the civil war in Syria, but having failed to sell him on her preferred policy, she kept her disagreement to herself and carried out the policy set by her boss. One has to rather admire that kind of political maturity.

Not that I found anything to admire in the content of the Atlantic interview. Her hawkish positions on Syria and Iran utterly appall me, and I find her desire to turn the United States into a vassal of Israel seriously disturbing. The whole thing added to my already rather strong impression that having her as president would be a dismal and utterly depressing experience.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Yes! Absolutely

programmerOnly a computer programmer can truely appreciate this. It had me rolling on the floor today.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Insanity Abounds

The amount of nonsense being promoted by our government and the media over this business in Iraq is simply mindboggling, and nobody calls bullshit on any of it.

Obama is demanding that Nuri al-Maliki step down before he will commit to engaging against the “Islamic State” forces, another of America’s endless “regime change” demands in the Middle East. So while we claim in our own elections that we should not change our president (or presidential party) in the middle of a foreign war, we demand that Iraq should do a regime change while engaged in a war on their own territory. The logic, or lack thereof, of that is simply awesome.

Meanwhile we are bombing our own military equipment in northern Iraq; equipment which we gave to Iraq to make it safer and which we are now destroying in order to make Iraq safer. It would be cheaper to simply blow that shit up here at home where we manufacture it. Would doing that also make Iraq safer?

The Washington Post tells us that Kurdish forces have retaken two towns in northern Iraq “in the wake of U.S. airstrikes on the towns.” This is in line with the American practice of “we had to destroy the village in order to save it” which so endears us to indigenous populations.

It also tells us in the same article that our demand for regime change is not going well, as Nuri al-Maliki is staging what amounts to a military coup in Baghdad, flooding the city with heavily armed troops loyal to him, including the American Green Zone.

The media has also been presenting our air mission as having stopped the Islamic State forces in their tracks and saved Baghdad and all of the cities in northen Iraq from harm. People who know better tell us that it has done nothing of the sort, and that F/A-18s flying in pairs off of a single carrier are grossly insufficient to the task.

Obama assured us that our mission in Iraq would not involve "boots on the ground" and then justifies the air attacks by saying that they are protecting our diplomats and troops in Irbil. He has withdrawn the diplomats but not, apparently, the troops, who are "military advisors." (Remember Vietnam?) Perhaps these troops are wearing tennis shoes.

He also has been assuring us that any engagement in Iraq will be “very limited” in nature, then turns around and tells us that the air attacks will be going on for a very long time. In other words we will be performing a limited mission for an unlimited time, which is a contradiction in terms.

Of course, contradictions in terms are Obama’s specialty.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

"The Look"

MollyMolly continues to do well on a regimen of two pills and a shot given twice daily, alomg with subcutaneous fluid once per day. She doesn't seem to mind any of this except the last, which she doesn't much like but normally tolerates quite peacefully.

Yesterday when the young lady came to do the sub-q fluid Kathy sort of rushed to get Molly, which caused her to freak and run under the bed. Naturally, I was appointed to pull her out, since women will always look to the man of the house to perform the hazardous duty. So I'm putting her in the place where the sub-q fluid is done and Molly is giving me "the look."

This is something that cats can do and dogs cannot. Dogs have to show teeth and/or lay their ears back, but cats can do it merely with "the look." Her ears are not back, no teeth are showing, but her eyes are unmistakably telling you that she is planning your imminent death. Navy Seals have been known to say, "Oh hell no, this is your cat," and back away from that look.
I am no Navy Seal, but Molly and I have a relationship so I stood fast, the fluid treatment proceeded and no blood was shed. I did breathe easier afterward.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Immortal Question

Question: How many Chargers defensive players does it take to tackle one opponent? Answer: Too many. At least one whiff precedes any actual tackle. Sheesh. Some things never change.

Update, Saturday night: Question #2, How is Danica going to do her usual routine of "advancing to the rear" when she is starting 43rd?

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Bashing Russia

For some reason Obama is going out of his way to be insulting and rude to Russia. After referring to it as a “regional power” which didn’t want to go to war with us because we have a bigger army a couple of weeks ago, he spoke to the issue again last weekend in an interview with the Economist.

"I do think it's important to keep perspective. Russia doesn't make anything," Obama said. "Immigrants aren't rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking."

The first thing that popped into mind when I read that is that we have been having to depend on Russia to carry our astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station for some years now because they still make space vessels and we do not. Something that fewer people know, but which I’m sure Obama does, is that when we want to launch satellites we have to buy rocket motors from Russia for our launch vehicles, because they make very good rocket motors and we don’t make them at all.

Russia is also second only to the US in the manufacture of weaponry. Add $8 billion in exports of machinery and $5 billion in electronic equipment exports, and it’s kind of hard to see that “Russia doesn’t make anything.”

According to Wikipedia, Russia has 300,000 legal immigrants each year and about four million illegal immigrants. Pretty small numbers compared to the United States, but it rather puts the lie to “Immigrants aren’t rushing…”

Life expectancy of the Russian male is 65.1 and rising faster than ours.

The population of Russia stopped shrinking in 2009, and has grown every year since then. The number of people living in poverty in Russia declined from 40% in 1999 to 13% in 2010, a 67% decrease, compared to a 44% increase in this country; from 32 million to 46 million.

I don’t know which would dismay me more greatly; that our president is that ignorant, or that he is that much of a liar, and such an unskilled liar to boot.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Finland?

What do you get when you cross Finland, Bluegrass, hillbillies, and the hard rock band ACDC? You get this. Who could have guessed that there was a guy in Finland who know how to play spoons?


Monday, August 04, 2014

Excuses Abound

USA Today has a headline reading “Tire problems derail Patrick, Johnson at Pocono” today. I’m not sure if they didn’t watch the race or, perhaps, merely do not know what constitutes a “tire problem.” Even what they write does not constitute a tire problem for NASCAR’s queen of hyperbole.

“Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet smacked the wall as she exited turn 2 on lap 14,” they write, “before a severe tire rub led to a flat right-rear on the next lap.” That, dear readers, is not a tire problem. That is a “gratuitously hitting the wall” problem, otherwise known in sports as an “unforced error.”

They quote Danica Patrick as saying after the race that “I just wish I would have been smart enough to bring our GoDaddy Chevy to pit lane as soon as it happened.” I will not go into my opinion of her intelligence here, but her crew wishes she would have brought the car into the pits on the next lap, too, as they were screaming at her on the radio for the entire lap for her to do precisely that. Intelligence had nothing to do with it, all she needed to do was be able to follow instructions.

The article finishes by noting that she also “had a gear problem at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and finished 42nd.” Her gear problem at Indy was pretty much like her tire problem at Pocono; she dumped the clutch before the crew dropped the jack during a pit stop, and when the wheel spinning under power hit the pavement it broke a rear end gear.

Danica Patrick is not particularly impressive, but the people making excuses for her are awesome.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

"Fullest Confidence"

We tend to forget that the functional title of our president is “chief executive” of the nation. His job is to assure that the giant enterprise which is our nation’s government functions on a day-to-day basis, and no president has actually performed a supervisory role in governance with anything like success since Lyndon Baines Johnson, or even really attempted to do so.

At least before Obama when there was a massive failure in a government department there would be firings of the department heads and Cabinet members, but in the Obama administration we get instead that the President “has the fullest confidence” in the heads of the offending departments and nothing more than promises of “investigations.”

John Brennan headed the CIA when it hacked into and spied on the United States Senate, and then he lied to Congress about it while under oath to tell the truth, and yet President Obama “has the fullest confidence” in him and plans to keep him in his present position indefinitely. God help us all.

Informing The Public

Dean Baker accuses the New York Times of “frat boy reporting” in its article regarding the VA spending bill because they give the amount of the bill as $17 billion which he says is “presenting readers with really big numbers which mean almost nothing to any of them.” He “corrects” that problem by telling his readers that $17 billion amounts to “approximately 0.45 percent of annual spending,” which I regard as giving his readers tiny little numbers which mean very little more to them than do the big numbers provided by the New York Times.

What really matters is not what percentage of government spending that $17 billion amounts to, but rather to what degree it solves the problem. If spending 0.45% of the annual budget on the issue solves the problem, then it hardly makes sense to spend more than that, so telling us what percentage of the budget is being expended is no more informative than is giving us the amount of the expenditure.

The point he wants to make is whether or not the expenditure is major in terms relative to our national spending, but that is a minor point, and by saying that the amount means “almost nothing to any of them” he sort of insults the readers. The number will certainly be meaningless to some readers, but most readers who follow politics, even casually, will be able to put that number into context fairly readily.

What matters in terms of real national interest is whether or not we are solving the problem at the Veterans Administration, and examining the size of the expenditure does not answer that. We should be asking about the size of the expenditure relative to the size of the problem at the VA. Is it large enough to solve the problem? Knowing that it is 0.45% of spending tells us no more about that than does knowing that it is $17 billion.

He does make a valid point in saying that the article fails to say whether the expenditure is for one year or for multiple years, but even there his point is weak because the nature of the need is not made clear either. He is asking about the expenditure, but is not asking if the need is a one-time need or one which is ongoing, and to what degree that need is being met by the bill.

It’s also a bit odd that Baker can tell us what percentage of annual spending the bill amounts to while complaining that “the time period is certainly not clear from this article.” He asserts that $17 billion is “0.45% of annual spending,” regardless of whether that amount is spent in two years or is spread out over ten years. Rather strange math.

At any rate, "providing information to the readers" would really consist of comparing the spending amount to the problem, not to the national budget, and telling the public how far the amount being spent goes toward solving the problem, so in actuality Dean Baker is being no more informative than is the New York Times.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Unwillingness to Criticize

On the face of the two political parties are highly critical of each other. Democrats rant at great length about Republican obstruction, and Republicans call Democrats “socialists,” but it’s all window dressing. There’s a lot of name calling and charges over trivia, but never any real, serious accusations of wrong doing or inability at governance.

Even the current nonsensical impeachment talk is about “border security” issues and not over several real issues that could be used such as declaring war in Libya, changing the “health care reform” law in several substantive ways, civil liberty issues or his policy of assassination.

Every president has administrative issues, but Obama has set records. The Obamacare website was budgeted for $56 million, cost $209 million and still was not functional when it rolled out. Fixing it was supposed to cost $91 million, more than the original cost, but wound up costing more than $175 million. In 2012, $7 billion of the $10.5 billion spent in Afghanistan was wasted. Massive problems at the VA have been being covered up, and now $17 billion is needed merely to put a patch on the problem.

Republicans should be making a major issue about this, campaigning on it in fact, but they are not because they know that when they regain power they will do precisely the same thing.

The problem is not that “big government doesn’t work,” but that neither party is able to make it work because they are not interested in governance. They are interested only in maintaining their own party’s hold on power. The time that Obama spent on fundraising trips could have been more profitably spent making sure than the VA, DOD and Health Department were being properly supervised, but he was too concerned about being sure that his party had enough money to buy the upcoming elections to properly supervise the Executive Branch.

That’s not to criticize Obama, because he did not spend any more time on fundraising trips than did George Bush before him, and Bill Clinton before him. The president’s primary function is to serve as the head of his political party, and only secondarily is he the chief executive of the nation which elected him to office.

The idea that a nation with 3.8 million square miles and 317 million people needs a “small government” is absurd, and big government not only does work, it is absolutely necessary. It needs to be staffed, however, by people who care about governance and not about partisan power.