Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dishonest Reporting

These are not stories taken from some fringe partisan publication. They have been published in the San Diego Union-Tribune and/or were taken from the Associated Press and other mainstream media publications.

The headline reads, “Brain Disease Seen In Most Football Players In Large Report On CTE.” If you read the article, however, you will find that the study involved the brains of 115 former NFL football players. That is 6.7% of the players who are actively playing in the NFL today, and is certainly less than a fraction of 1% of those who have played in the NFL since it was formed, so it cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called a “large study.”

Further, it involved only the brains of players whose brains had been donated by their families and whose behavior prior to death had led to a suspicion of brain disease, so it can hardly be called a “study.” They found what they already knew to be there.

In short, this so called “large study of football players” was entirely meaningless in real terms, and one has to wonder why this article was even written. Well, we know why it was written. It was written as an anti-NFL propaganda hit piece.

Another headline reads, “House Approves Sanctions Package Against Russia,” and tells us that it is in retaliation for Russia meddling in the 2016 US election. What it doesn’t tell us is that there is no actual physical evidence that they did anything of the sort, nor do they tell us that the bill also contains sanctions against companies doing business with Russia. Not only is that against international law, but the whole bill is an egregious infringement executive prerogative, because foreign policy is a mandate of the Executive Branch, not of the Legislature.

The sanctions against companies doing business is actually the real purpose of the bill, because it is an attempt to prevent BP and other European petroleum companies from importing Russian natural gas by pipeline, so that American petroleum companies can export liquefied natural gas to Europe at higher cost.

Last week the Union-Tribune headlined that the “Soccer City Planner Wants MLS To Delay Franchise Award,” until plans could be redrawn for a Mission Valley stadium to replace the failed initiative from earlier this year. What they failed to mention in the article is that Major League Soccer has already awarded the two new franchises in question, that one of them did go to San Diego, and that plans are being made for a stadium to be built for the new professional soccer team in North County.

President Trump, whom I consider a moron and who I dislike intensely, claims that the mainstream media is a major purveyor of “fake news,” and this one of the few things on which I agree with him.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

On The Lighter Side at Indianapolis

A lighter moment in the Xfinity race at Indianapolis as William Byron went three wide into turn one. The announcers were freaking out, probably already trying to decide how to describe the terrible wreck which was about to happen, because even two wide into the turns at Indianapolis is less than a wonderful idea.

One of the announcers then says, “Okay, we’ll have to give him that one. He’s never raced here before so he didn’t know that you cannot do that, and that’s why he was able to pull that off.”

I enjoyed the hell out of that. You can do that only if you don’t know you can’t do it. I don’t actually think it was as stupid as it sounds, he was just so flustered he got his tongue all twisted up. I’m still chuckling about it the next day.

The driver, a rookie, went on to win the race; not only the first time he’s raced at Indianapolis, the first time he has ever seen the speedway in person. Not the first time he’s won an Xfinity race, though; at age nineteen, this was his 3rd win.

No, he did not repeat the three wide into the turn thing. He probably scared the shit out of himself the one time he did it, plus he almost certainly had his spotter screaming in his ear, "Don't you ever do that again."

Update, Sunday 6:25pm: Jimmie Johnson, seven time NASCAR champion, went three wide into turn one at Indianapolis this afternoon. Unlike rookie William Byron, he didn't make it; put his car into the wall and totaled it. Maybe the rookie should give "Seven Time" some lessons.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Not a Rising Tide

I do not object to raising the minimum wage. It benefits those who work for minimum wage, and for a liberal that should be a sufficient reason. Liberals, however, can never be satisfied with doing good for its own sake, because the modern convention is that voters should vote only in their own self interest.

(I actually reject the concept of voting only in one’s own self interest, but that’s a different subject for a different time.)

The only voters whose own self interest supports raising the minimum wage, however, are those working for minimum wage, and they don’t make campaign contributions. Nor are there enough of them to assure the reelection of liberal politicians, so the assistance of economists is secured to tell us that raising the minimum wage “injects money into the economy,” thereby increasing consumer spending and raising the GDP, which is in everybody’s self interest.

Sort of “the rising tide that raises all boats,” but does it actually work? Lets look at Dean Baker’s example of the roofer in Nebraska, who he suggests should raise her workers’ wage from $17/hr to $20/hr and thereby gain more business and enrich the economy by increasing the GDP because the workers will have more money to spend.

The average roofing job takes about 150 man-hours, so each for job the higher wage will enrich the workers by about $450, typically about $90 per worker. This is where the difference between economics and business enters the picture, because Dean Baker thinks that the discussion ends here, with telling us that the economy has been enriched by $450 per roofing job, the additional amount that the workers have been paid.

There is, however, the issue of payroll deductions which usually run about one third of gross pay, so the economy is actually enriched by about $300 per roofing job, which is the increased spending power that is realized by the workers due to the increase in wages. That’s a good thing, of course, but it’s still not the end of the discussion.

The roofer’s cost to do the job has increased by $450, and Dean Baker will tell us that the roofing company can just absorb that additional cost and move on. Any business that allows its cost to increase without a consequent increase in selling price, however, is all be certain to be going out of business in very short order. That’s not economics, so Dean Baker would not know anything about that. It’s basic business management, which a kid selling lemonade on the street corner figures out pretty quickly.

And the direct wage increase of $450 is not the whole story either. There are costs related to wages, such as workers’ compensation insurance, unemployment insurance tax and payroll tax. There are others, such as sick pay, vacation pay and, increasingly, mandated maternity pay, and they all usually add up to about 30% of direct wages. I suspect that the rate for a high risk business such as roofing is a little higher than that, but we’ll stay with the average and say that this factor bumps the average cost increase to about $585 per roofing job.

And that’s without the roofer adding anything for profit on that increased cost, which is actually a must if she wants to stay in business, not to mention applying a factor called “burden” onto the additional cost. The latter is a factor to cover the fixed overhead of the business, and companies who do not apply it regularly on job costing fail every time. I have seen it more than once. Profit and burden add another 20% at the very least; it is usually a percentage significantly much larger than that.

So the increased sale price of the roofing job is some $700 due to the $3/hr wage increase that Dean Baker urged the roofer to award her employees. That means that five employees have a total of $300 more spending money from this roofing job as a result of the wage increase, while the homeowner has $700 less spending money. The economy, then, had a net loss of $400 in consumer spending power.

I suspect that somebody is going to say that the homeowner is so wealthy that the cost of the roofing job does not affect his spending habits. I will prevent that person from looking foolish by reminding him of the “American dream” of every person a homeowner, and that over 50% of the population has already realized that dream. I would not for a moment suggest that 50% of the population is indifferent to spending resources.

That argument is beside the point anyway, because the “injection of money into the economy” is not about how much will actually be spent, but is about how much will be made available for spending, and we have shown that the economy did not realize any net benefit from the Nebraska roofer raising her workers’ wages.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Economics Is Idiocy

Dean Baker explains why we stupid people do not understand “how the labor market works” to the owner of a roofing contractor in an extraordinarily thick headed manner last week. This is an example of why I seldom read Dean Baker’s column any more. (I quit reading Paul Krugman more than a year ago.)

The roofer is paying a starting wage of $17/hr, well over the state’s minimum wage of $9/hr, and not getting enough new hires. She explains that she would cheerfully pay $35/hr but is constrained by competition and, even more so, by what insurance companies dictate for roof repairs.

Baker’s response is that, if she cannot pay $35/hr, she can still pay $20/hr and thus hire new workers away from her competition, thereby solving her worker shortage. His column continues, offering erudite comments about “textbook economics,” which is a lot less enlightening than he thinks it is, because the roofing company owner is not dealing in Dean Baker’s “economic world” but rather in a business world.

He suggests that, “Maybe the government should provide employers with an incentive for learning basic labor economics,” but I’m thinking that maybe the course should be for economists. Raising wages to hire workers away from competing companies in the same industry is a refrain continuously sung by Dean Baker, and it is utter drivel. Moving a worker shortage from one employer to another does not eliminate the shortage.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Primary Cause"

To set the scene, a semi-truck is parked at the curb on a boulevard, one with multiple lanes in both directions. It is there illegally, blocking a bicycle lane, while the driver goes into a fast food place for breakfast. Along comes a person driving a car and slams into the rear of the truck. His car goes under the trailer of the semi, shearing off the top of the car and killing the driver. There is no evidence that the driver of the car ever touched his brakes before he was killed.

The police are citing the truck as "the primary cause of the accident."

That makes no sense to me. It was a clear day, on a straight stretch of road, with no hills. How did the driver not see a semi-truck? How does a parked, unoccupied semi-truck in plain view of oncoming traffic cause an accident? Police do not whether or not a cell phone was found in the car, by the way.

Certainly the truck driver was wrong, and certainly in parking where he did he created a hazard. I would not argue if the police cited his truck as a contributor to the accident. But the truck, an inanimate, stationary object, as the primary cause of the accident? If the driver of the car, who pretty obviously never saw the truck, had hit a tree, would the tree have been the "primary cause of the accident?"

If the other party does something illegal, that does not relieve me of responsibility for my own safety. If a car runs a red light, it is not okay for me to use that as license to run into him and blame him for the carnage; I still have the responsibility, morally and under the law, to avoid hitting him if possible. What are the police thinking here, claiming that a stationary truck is the "the primary cause of the accident?"

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Crazy, Stupid, or... ?

I sometimes get the feeling that Trump is doing to the establishment what Osama bin Laden did to the United States. We drove him out of Afghanistan in three months, and sixteen years later we are still fighting, dying and bankrupting ourselves there; such a long time and with such futility that we no longer even know why the fuck we are there.

The establishment is descending to a similar level of insanity in their war against Trump; using the same lack of sanity and the same desperate dishonesty in their frantic thrashing around, and steadily destroying what little ability they ever had to govern.

Not that I'm into carrying any water for Donald Trump, I despise the man, but the establishment has abandoned any pretense that we have a constitutional government.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Men Are The Weaker Sex

In the last general election California voters had a choice between two female Democrats to replace a retiring female Democrat in the US Senate. The winner has joined the female Democrat who is presently in the process of dying in office.

Ardent Democrats are now urging this new female Democrat to run for POTUS in 2020, since the last female Democratic champion botched the task (and is blaming it on "angry white men") and the Ardent Democrats have become jaded with the current female Democratic champion now that she has three full years of federal experience and her snarky rhetoric is starting to become a bit stale.

It is worth noting that men wear pink in their football games in behalf of women's causes, while women wear... Um, pink in behalf of women's causes. I know, payback time, but payback is not justice.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Racing This Weekend

The Americans seem to have improved their boat speed, enough to win one race on Saturday, but they still have the same idiot at the helm. I have not seen so much just plain bad sailing since I watched a bunch of Cub Scouts. Oracle jumped the start on one race and blamed his "software." I was watching on television, for God's sake, and three boat lengths before he got to the line said "Shit!" loud enough to startle Molly, who was not even on my lap. If I didn't need any stinking computer software to know that he was early to the line, why did he?

In the same race he drew a boundary penalty and committed a crossing foul, and twice he tacked so badly that he dumped both hulls in the water and dropped his speed to under five knots. He did the same thing once during a prestart. During prestart! He crossed the start line twenty seconds behind the Kiwis after that little debacle.

Danica Patrick started 6th and finished 17th. Her teammates finished 1st and 2nd. I don't think we need to say much more about that.

Well, we might add that she wrecked her boyfriend on lap 30. Tore his car all to pieces and put him out of the race. I'll bet that will be a quiet house tonight.

In Indycar the announcing crew kept telling us about the complete dominance of the Penske team. Scott Dixon sort of spoiled their party by winning, because he drives for Chip Ganassi.

Corruption Is Now Normal

One of the problems with these so-called “citizens initiatives” that are placed on our ballots is the extreme level of dishonesty with which they are promoted. In all fairness, the honesty of opponents is no better, but while the process is designed to allow citizens a voice in the process of governance, all too often these ballot measures are blatantly dishonest schemes to enrich the major financial players who sponsor them.

Such turns out to be the case with the San Diego “Soccer City” initiative, which we were told by FS Investors must be placed into a special election in 2017 in order to avoid losing an opportunity for an expansion team being created by Major League Soccer in 2018. If we waited for a 2018 regular election, we were told by the investment group wanting to “develop a fantastic plan for Mission Valley,” we would probably lose a chance at obtaining one of the planned MLS expansion teams.

It turns out that even as they were saying all of this, San Diego had already obtained an MLS expansion team. The investors who obtained the franchise early last month “purposely delayed the announcement so it wouldn’t conflict with the public debate over the Soccer City proposal.” The stadium will be built, we are told now, somewhere in North County.

The corruption boggles the mind. FS Investors knew that the expansion team deal was already locked up, and so did the group who had already secured the expansion team, and both groups kept silent about it in order to coerce voters into approving a $5 billion commercial development by FS Investors, three million sqft of commercial space and 4500 condominiums, which happened to have a soccer stadium and river park as window dressing.

Named "Soccer City" for the stadium which was ~5% of the investment.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Intelligent (?) Reporting

There is a stock car race tomorrow... Well, to digress a bit, what will be on the track certainly are not stock cars and it being an actual race is more than a bit questionable, but it is being promoted as a stock car race and is hosted by the National Association for Stock Automobile Racing.

Anyway, of course various media pundits have to write about it but, since all of the vehicles are so exactly the same that the sanctioning body measures them with lasers, and the drivers are pretty much likewise although the sanctioning body doesn't measure them with anything, it's a little hard for said pundits to come up with anything meaningful to write about.

So the pundits do what they always do in those circumstances; they write things that aren't meaningful. They write gibberish. They write things like, "Kyle Larson hoping to win Sunday." Would Kyle Larson even be getting in the fucking race car if he wasn't hoping to win?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Party of Incoherence

The first step in winning the next election is recognizing how and why you lost the current election. In the case of the Democratic Party, the first step is even accepting the basic fact that you did lose the current election, something that they have not yet done.

After the debacle that was the 2016 presidential election many party loyalists are hung up on the claim that they did not actually lose the election, regardless of who is actually occupying the White House, because of some fantasy about the popular vote.

Aside from that issue and faced with the inescapable fact that their candidate is not presently living in the White House, the Democratic Party elected the same leadership, who then proclaimed that the party did not need to do anything different in order to win the next election. Their reasoning was a bit hard to follow, but seemed to be something to the effect that the voters had been wrong and would come to their senses over the next four years.

They did not say what they were going to do to bring those voters to their senses, and apparently it has not yet happened because in four special elections this month, four Republicans will be going to Washington as members of the House of Representatives.

Democrats are divided between those patting themselves on the back for having achieved a “moral victory” in those four elections and those castigating Democratic voters for not voting in sufficient numbers. No one is asking why those Democratic voters did not come out and vote, other than Rachel Maddow, who opined that Democrats don’t come out in rainy weather while apparently Republicans do.

In one election the Democratic Party ran a candidate who did not even live in the district, and in discussion after discussion I cannot find one party loyalist who admits that might have been a mistake; that next time maybe the candidates should be locals. That election was in Georgia where, I believe, the term “carpetbagger” originated.

In one particularly fascinating exchange, a “conversationalist” excoriated Republicans because they blindly vote for anyone who is a Republican, not questioning anything about the candidate’s policies other than his party affiliation. I thought I recognized the handle and went back to last year and found a post in which he said that he was unhappy with Clinton but would “hold his nose and vote for her” because she was the Democratic nominee. I decided not to pursue that, but it might have been fun.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cherche le Chat

My computer mouse is acting quirky, jumping all over the screen and annoying me, and I'm beginning to think I've contracted some sort of malware. Russian, maybe? Probably not. Then I turn it over and check the little red light on the bottom. Ah, yes. Maybe if I clean all of the cat hair out of the light port... By golly that worked just fine.

Stoopid cat. The title, in case you don't know it, is French for "Blame the cat."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sucker City Not Dead

The “News Break” upon which I based yesterday’s post was unclear. It turns out that the City Council voted against a special election for an initiative to expand the convention center. The “Sucker City” proposal is still an open issue, which is why the investors are planning to address the council today.

The Council did not override Hizzonor’s veto, so next year's city budget still contains $5 million for a special election even though, at the moment, no special election is planned. The “Sucker City” investors hope to persuade the City Council to call a November special election for that proposal, after the Council rejected a special election for the convention center expansion, which seems like a bit of a long shot.

The alternative is to persuade the City Council to approve the “Sucker City” proposal outright, without a public vote, which would be entirely legal since no taxes are involved. There is very little chance of that happening, I suspect, since it would almost certainly result in a 0% reelection rate for the present Council members.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

San Diego Politics

There is a proposal before the citizens of San Diego to replace Qualcomm Stadium with, among other things, a 30,000 seat stadium for a major league professional soccer team. We do not, of course, have such a team, and have no actual promise of one, and the “other things” are far from trivial. But proponents of such initiatives do not want us to be bothered with such trivia.

For those who care, the “other things” consist of 3 million square feet of commercial office space and 4800 more condominiums in Mission Valley, making the soccer stadium something like 5% of the enterprise and casting doubt in some minds on the validity of calling the project “Soccer City.” Saner minds call it the “Mission Valley Congestion Project,” and some less polite people call it “Sucker City.”

That doesn’t keep FS Investors from pressing forward with it, wanting to have it placed into a special election this November, and reminding us that “it will not cost taxpayers a dime,” which ought to raise red flags everywhere. If it’s not costing us any money, why is it necessary for us to vote on it? Not to mention that the special election itself will cost us $5 million, which Hizzonor the mayor included in the upcoming city budget.

Proponents say that if we don’t have a special election this year we will “disenfranchise 110,000 voters” who signed the initiative in grocery store parking lots all across the city. They fail to point out that if we do put it on a special election we will “disenfranchise 305,638 voters” who voted for and passed Measure L last year, which specifies that all initiatives shall be placed on the ballot in regular elections, not in elections created especially for the purpose of the initiatives.

The idiocy sort of boggles the mind, but then the City Council broke out in an unusual moment of sanity and voted down the $5 million budget item for the special election. Hizzonor was undeterred and used his line item veto to put the $5 million and the special election back into the budget, and the City Council responded by voting not to have a special election.

They will vote later this week on overriding Hizzonor’s veto, but since they have already voted not to have a special election, the issue is moot.

FS Investors is asserting that it is not defeated, and plans to address the City Council about a special election on some other date. Apparently they took heart in noting that the City Council only voted not to have a special election in November, which does not rule out that they might agree to have a special election in Really?

San Diego is certainly in Southern California.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Fantasy Land

This nation has devolved into something out of a Lewis Carroll novel when it can come up with the likes of the drama surrounding the Comey “testimony” before Congress. I am certainly no fan of Donald Trump, despise the man actually, but I am a big fan of the due process of law; something that the media seems to regard as needed only when it suits their agenda.

The word “evidence” means “the available body of facts indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid,” but the last thing that the Senate committee wanted to hear was anything resembling any facts. When Comey reported what Trump said in a given conversation, the questioner blew that off in a heartbeat, asking, “What did you take that to mean?”

In any venue seeking truth, i.e. a courtroom, an attorney would be leaping to his feet screaming “Objection,” and the judge would sustain him before he could even finish saying that the question should not be allowed because it, “calls for conjecture” by the witness.

The media was undeterred by any of this and happily reported that Trump was guilty of “obstruction of justice” because Comey testified that Trump had “ordered Comey to shut down the investigation of the Russians,” notwithstanding that the conversation that Comey was discussing had not even been about the Russians, it had been about Michael Flynn, and Trump most certainly did not order any investigation to be shut down.

Only in the American media can a person be convicted for what someone thought he said even when he did not, in fact, say it.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Missing The Obvious

The America's Cup sailing has been, to say the least, interesting. It has only marginally been sailing, with boats going 42 knots in a 14 knot breeze, but that's a separate issue. To start with, Sir Ben Ainslie and the English boat, after winning the start in eight races and gaining leads of as much as 400 meters, only to lose seven of those races, are now dog meat and headed back to England. The English came to gun fight not even with a knife, but carrying some sort of stick.

The Swedes lost twice on Tuesday and were match point down to the Japanese boat, then won three out of three yesterday and put their opponent match point down. The announcers, who for the most part are awesome, failed to notice that the Swedes returned to classic sailboat match racing technique, covering their opponent, not letting Japan split the course, and beating Japan by actually outsailing them. Nice stuff.

Sweden vs. New Zealand may be interesting, but I expect we will once again see Oracle vs. New Zealand for the cup. I would not put much money against the Kiwis taking the damned thing back south of the equator. I think the Cup race is going to be awesome.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Well Said

Richard Petty is turning eighty next month. Dover Speedway is so enthusiastic that they are celebrating his birthday today because there is a race there today and won't be one there next month. They are going all out, with a cake in the shape of his 1969 Ford Torino, and having him pace the field before the race in his Superbird. Wish I could be there.

As one guy put it, "It doesn't matter how man times I've seen the King, anytime Richard Petty walks by you can sense - that guy is a big deal."

Saturday, June 03, 2017

California Dreaming

California has already passed a minimum wage which is on its way to $15/hour. Whether that is fair, reasonable or good policy is something for another discussion. Since it is imposed equally on every business, its effect of creating or destroying jobs is arguable and can be deferred to another discussion. It cannot be denied, however, that it raises the cost of doing business in this state.

Now the state has completed the first stage of trying to pass universal health care which will be funded by a 15% payroll tax. It is not stated whether the burden of that tax will be borne by employers or workers, but let’s think about a 15% payroll tax in conjunction with the increase in the minimum wage.

If the tax is to be paid by employees Well, the state just partially reversed the increase in the minimum wage, driving it back down to $12.75. Granted, that will be offset to some degree for some employees who will no longer have to buy health insurance, but at the lower end it will be a big blow for those who are currently on Medicaid.

If it is to be paid by employers it will be partially offset, but only partially and only for some employers, by not having to purchase employee health insurance, but for many it is an added expense in its entirety. And that after having just absorbed an increase in payroll expense due to the increase in the minimum wage.

The fast food industry will be destroyed. Will anyone pay $12 for a fast food hamburger? Some would say that's no loss, but what happened to this being a country with free choice?

And California claims that it does not deserve its reputation as a state which is unfriendly to business.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Governments We Support

Dateline Afghanistan: The Taliban set off a huge bomb in downtown Kabul which killed three dozen Afghan people. The people are pissed off at their government for not protecting them, so they gather in protest. Government "security forces" then disperse them with machine guns, killing upwards of a hundred of them of them.

And this is the government that we are not only supporting, but are putting our armed forces in harms way to support. Our military men and women are dying to keep this government in place. On what planet is this sane?

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Only Hillary Clinton

There are few people, possibly only one, who would even say, "I take responsibility for every decision I made, but that’s not why I lost," and not be laughed out of the room. Instead of the hoots of derision her statement, made at the annual Code Conference in Ranchos Palos Verdes, CA, deserved she was rewarded with solemn nods of sympathetic understanding. Just for the record, she added four more reasons for her loss in the presidential election, one new reason being "the general expectation that I would win," bringing the total to eleven.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Hump Day

As in, "over the hump." My wife had the last of her chemo last week, and the effects are significantly lesser today than they were yesterday, so we are on the downhill side of this damned thing. Still have radiation to go, but the doctor promises that will be a walk in the park; very limited in scope and duration. Hopefully they got it all and we're done with it.

Low Inflation?

We are told that inflation is well below the 2% rate targeted by the Fed.

In the last five years the value of our house has gone from $420,000 to $720,000. What has increased its value? Not capital improvements; it has not had any, has not so much as been repainted. So, how does 2% inflation account for a 71% increase in the value of our house in just five years?

Just as a point of information, at the peak of the last housing bubble, just before it collapsed in 2008, this house was valued at $550,000. Despite being valued at some 30% higher now, we are told that this value is not artificial or part of a bubble for reasons that are too complex for uneducated slobs like me to understand. Right.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Let's See How This Works

I'm not holding my breath, since NASCAR's track record (pun intended) is considerably less than stellar the last few years.

Today's issue, which is at Charlotte, goes back a few weeks ago to Bristol. That has always been a one-groove track, with many fans complaining that cars could not pass and that no real racing, therefore, ever occurred. Other fans liked the "bump and run," in which the overtaking car would hit the car ahead, knock it physically up out of the "groove" in order to pass, and sometimes knock it into the wall in the process and wreck it completely. Fun and games.

Dale Earnhardt (senior) once said of Terry Labonte after such an event that, "I didn't mean to wreck him, I just meant to rattle his cage." He was, as he said it, grinning like a jackass eating thistles, so some people questioned the sincerity of his statement. Terry Labonte, usually among the most mild tempered of men, attempted to express his opinion with his fists, but was successfully restrained.

NASCAR, never willing to leave well enough alone, brought a grinder to the track and ground the concrete pavement to provide a graduated banking, steeper on the outside of the turns and less steep on the inside. The idea was to provide multiple racing grooves, which had worked well on several asphalt tracks. It didn't work for shit on a concrete track; all it did was move the single racing groove from the bottom of the track to the top. No more "bump and run," because now when you hit the car ahead of you he cannot just move up the track, he can't do anything but hit the wall because he's only about one foot away from it. The "run" part turned into running away from the really pissed off driver that you bumped.

Nobody could come up with a way to "ungrind" the concrete, sort of like trying to teach a chicken to "unlay an egg," so some genius came up with some sticky gunk to spray on the lower groove to provide better traction and allow cars to race down there. Results are, to say the least, mixed. Sometimes it works until the sun comes out, sometimes it quits working when the sun comes out, sometimes it works until the tires heat up, sometimes...

Fast forward to the "All Star Race" last weekend at Charlotte, which was one of the best soporifics on television in weeks. The screaming by the announcers kind of spoiled the sedative effect of the event, but the racing certainly did not. There was only one pass for the lead, and that was during a restart when one driver caught the rest of them snoozing because nobody seemed to think anybody was actually racing. Everybody drove in the same racing line which, as I recall, has always been the case at Charlotte.

Everyone acknowledges that the main problem is the aerodynamics of the cars, in which when a car is the clean air of having the lead it is enough faster that it cannot be caught, let alone passed. Everyone acknowledges that solving that problem means a redesign of the car and getting rid of the "splitter." (Never mind what that is. It's an aerodynamic part that totally divorces the machine from being a "stock car.")

Everyone further acknowledges that racing is further degraded by excessively hard tires required, or claimed to be required, by high downforce that makes the car easier to drive and impossible to actually race.

Well, everyone except NASCAR, who seems to have decided that something is wrong with the Charlotte track. They noticed that everyone was driving in the inside of the turns, which makes sense since it is the shortest way around the track and nobody is trying to pass anybody. NASCAR decided that if the drivers would choose to drive up next to the wall, taking the longer way around the track, then the racing would be more competitive.

So, they went down to Bristol and got a bunch of that gunk and sprayed it on the upper groove of the Charlotte track in the hopes that it would provide closer racing. There's a few imponderables in that thought:
  Charlotte is paved with asphalt, Bristol with concrete.
  At Bristol they are going 90mph in the turns, at Charlotte more than 180mph
  The tire compounds used at the two tracks are very different.

The lengths to which NASCAR will go to avoid solving the problems with their racing program boggle the mind. Indycar had similar problems, and they addressed the car design. That made a big difference and began to re-grow their fan base, and they are taking that experience and building on it with a new car next year. They listen to their fans and undo their errors. NASCAR just piles on more gimmicks, like playoffs, and stage racing, and spraying gunk on the track.

Friday, May 26, 2017

NASCAR Gets It Wrong, Again

The Coca Cola 600 is run on Memorial Day weekend, so NASCAR goes all out to "honor the troops" at the race. They make a big production out of having troops on the track prior to the race, troops in the stands, troops in the television broadcast... All of these troops are alive and speaking to us, so NASCAR, as they so often do, is honoring the wrong troops.

Further, in addition to appearing in public wearing fatigue uniforms, showing that they have little or no pride in their service and no self respect, not one of these "troops" tells the interviewer that they are getting it wrong, because this holiday is about honoring military service people who have lost their lives in service to their country.

We have Veterans Day to celebrate guys like me, people who have served in the past; none of whom would ever have appeared off base wearing anything but Class A dress uniform.

We have Armed Forces Day to honor those who are presently serving; despite of their own disrespect for their service by wearing fatigues off base.

This day was created specifically to honor those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation; those who in placing themselves, "their precious lives, between their homes and the forces which would destroy them," lost their lives.

To those, the soldiers and sailors on eternal patrol, rest in peace.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Asking a Dumb Question

A blogger asks, "Why is the Left Losing in a Moment it was Made for?" Notwithstanding the rather odd capitalization, it's not a bad question on the face of it. His posit is that with "minuscule wage growth, near-record levels of household debt, and soaring corporate profits" the left should be winning elections by large margins, but is losing them on a dishearteningly regular basis.

But, why is "the left" a movement that is "made for" such miserable economic conditions? Okay, I'll chalk that off to a degree of illiteracy, because I don't think that he really understands what "made for" really means. Anyway, his explanation for liberalism's inability to win elections is an overwhelming tendency to "straddle between globalization and economic nationalism," whatever the fuck that means.

The real reason, of course, is the liberal adoption of "identity politics," meaning that they are so busy making sure that a tiny handful of the population is able to use the bathroom of their choice that they are doing nothing for 300 million working men and women who are the backbone of the electorate.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Racing Update

Watching qualifying at Indianapolis yesterday, where only one car is on the track at a time, was infinitely more exciting than watching the "All Star Race" that NASCAR put on Saturday night. The "stock car race" produced precisely three passes for the lead, all of them on restarts after a caution.

Fernando Alonzo, the Formula 1 driver who is running in an Indycar for the first time, qualified fifth. Not bad for a rookie.

Six of the top nine cars are powered by Honda. Chevrolet has been dominating on the road courses but are not doing well at all on ovals. Penske, in particular, is struggling to come up to speed with his Chevvys; only one car in the top nine, and his next best position is 18th. Might be an interesting race.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

This Is How Democracy Dies

The California Democratic Party elected its leader this week, and the representative of the portion which regards itself as “progressive” because they supported Bernie Sanders in the presidential race lost to the “establishment” candidate by a narrow margin. Needless to say, the losing faction cried foul, claimed that the election was rigged in some undefined manner, and is vowing to file a lawsuit to invalidate the election.

They are not, as far as I know, claiming that it was the Russians who interfered with the election, but

They seem not to realize that an election in which only one outcome is acceptable is the kind of election that is held in, say, Syria. They feel that democracy only works when they win. Six-year-olds feel the same way.

In a similar vein, I inadvertently watched a few minutes of Face The Nation this morning. Three CBS anchors were discussing James Comey and one of them stated that, while it, “might be okay to question a few of his actions, you just do not attack his character.” Continuously, and rigorously attacking the character of the President, however, is entirely fair game.

That same anchor went on to say that persons leaking contents of private meetings are, “trying to get out what they believe to be the truth.” Not what is the truth, you understand, but what they believe to be the truth.

Democracy simply has no chance in this nation.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

It Depends On Who You Are

Quote from the New York Times, just in case you thought the media was neutral in reporting the news.

"Democrats are struggling to challenge President Donald Trump, and with control over nothing in Washington, they're relying for now on the power of saying 'no.'" They go on in praise of Democrats, after eight years of severely castigating Republicans for taking precisely the same position vis-à-vis Obama.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Deer In The Headlights

Watching a clip from some "news" show; some talking head interviewing Dianne Feinstein. The clip provided me with no convincing evidence that she is still alive. Sort of like El Cid propped up on his horse.

Anyway, he asked her if there was any evidence that the Russians had interfered in the presidential election. There was a pause while the question filtered through whatever it is that she uses for a mind, and then there was a flicker of panic in her eyes, like a deer caught in the headlights of a car.

She knew that the next question, if she said yes, would be, "What is that evidence?" She opened her mouth; paused, choking on the answer that she did not want to utter. "No," she said; turned and left.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Trending "News"

There was a quote on “Madame Secretary” this past weekend that was unattributed but which I have heard before, regarding a reporter; “The stories that we least want to read are the stories that must be written.”

That was true when the media was populated by journalists. Today the news media is entertainment and even brags that, “We present the news that people want to watch.” And thus comes the term “clickbait” for news items that are trivial and matter to no one, but are of a degree of prurient interest that many will click on the link to read about them.

For instance the current rash of misbehavior by airlines. Have airlines suddenly hired a bunch of thugs and idiots for some unknown bizarre reason? Has passenger treatment been totally lovely until some contagious disease hit airline employees and caused a sudden outbreak of bad behavior?

Of course not. One story got traction for God only knows what reason, and every “journalist” in the media went looking for anyone who had a video on his iPhone of an airline employee saying “shit.” Airlines being bad is “trending” right now, and so that’s what the media is presenting.

This stuff has been happening for a long time, but it didn’t matter six months ago because no one wanted to read about it. It wasn’t popular. It wasn’t what people wanted to read. Now it is one of the hottest news items, not because it suddenly matters or has suddenly become important, but because it is popular and will attract readers.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Selective Outrage

Trump is under pressure from Democrats for firing the director of the FBI, James Comey, who was investigating him for being a Russian spy. I still have a bit of a problem getting my head around that; the FBI is investigating the President of the United States for anything, let alone for being an undercover foreign agent. Anyway.

CBS News stated repeatedly last night that Comey “has an impeccable reputation for integrity,” but that’s a little different than the song they were singing a few months ago when they were blaming him for Hillary Clinton’s loss in the election.

Democrats are displaying their general lack of intelligence or principle. In December of last year they wanted him fired, and now they are outraged that he has been fired for basically the reason that they wanted him fired; namely his handling of the Clinton email issue. Democrats claim his handling of that issue in October cost Clinton the election, while Trump says his handling of the issue throughout the process exceeded his authority.

Democrats would have been thrilled had Obama fired Comey before he left office, but they are outrage that Trump was the one to do it. Typical. My only question is why it took so long to fire the silly ass. I have been wondering for months why he still had a job.

Oh yes: the last president to fire an FBI director who was investigating him? Bill Clinton.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Thanks, Google

The latest Gmail scame has been in the news quite a bit, so Google has done something about it, namely making it harder for me to access my own effing Gmail account. Instead of the usual login screen, I now get one saying that they are protecting me from the phishing scam that they claimed in the news they have already shut down, and telling me how wonderful the new process is, with a tag that says "First, enter your password."

Then, of course, it will not accept my password. There is a link for "Forgot your password." Clicking on that leads to the original login screen, the one I've been familiar with for many months, only now it reads "Enter the last password you remember." I do that, and am logged in to my Gmail account.

??? So, what did all of that accomplish?

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

A Product Of Her Times

If you actually "take full and personal responsibility" for something, you say so and stop talking. Hillary Clinton says that she takes "full and personal responsibility" for losing the presidential election last year, and then goes on to say that she also lost because of James Comey, Russian interference in the election and self hating women who would not vote for her. In other words, she takes no real responsibility at all.

There is, however nothing unusual in that, this is the way modern politics works. "I apologize if anyone took offense."

Friday, April 28, 2017

Premature Freak Out

I love the reaction to Trump’s tax cut plan. Republicans are thrilled but mostly don’t have much to say because the plan is largely incomplete, but the liberals and Democrats have gone utterly nuts, screaming about “$2 trillion in lost revenue” and “massive enrichment for the rich” and incredible increases in federal debt.

Of course Democrats have spent the last eight years saying that federal debt didn’t matter for all sorts of rather bizarre reasons, but now suddenly a large federal debt is a disaster. What happened to change that? Oh, yes, right.

One of the arguments Democrats use is that the federal deficit has been reduced under Obama to only $600 billion, which strikes me as a pretty weak argument, only $600 billion, but whatever smoke and mirrors they want to use, the national debt increased in the last fiscal year by $1.487 trillion and that, friends, is the real current federal deficit. But Democrats don’t lie, only Republicans do. Remember that in November of 2020.

Will corporations pay less tax, as Democrats are hyperventilating about? The proposal is to cut the rate from 35% to 15% and eliminate deductions, and that’s all we know about the plan. If it turns out to be that simple, then corporations would go from paying an average of 12%, as they do now due to deductions, to 15% since the deductions would be eliminated. Is that what will happen? Maybe, or maybe not. Let’s not start screaming until we know.

Will the rich be further enriched by elimination of the alternative minimum tax? Of course not. The AMT is in place to assure than too many deductions do not result in an unfairly low actual tax, and deductions will have been eliminated, so the AMT is simply no longer needed.

The number of brackets will be reduced to three, but no income ranges have been proposed for those brackets, so there is simply no way possible to calculate the revenue that will be produced by the new plan. It may be fine, with a whole host of deductions eliminated, or it may be a disaster. We don’t know, and here too we should wait to start screaming until we know what we are screaming about.

The party of the left continues to act like children, and not very bright children at that.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Nonsensical Numbers

Dean Baker is still engaged in the economist’s favorite pastime of making stuff up as they go along. On Monday he refuted a claim that labor is declining as a percentage of GDP by showing that it is not declining as a percentage of NDP.

First he refers us to a column in Bloomberg News which is concerned about labor’s share of GDP, which Baker describes as “declining from a range of 64 to 65 percent in the 1960s and early 1970s to just over 60 percent in the most recent data.” Actually, the piece provides a chart which shows the rate falling from a high of 66% in 1970 to a low of 59% in 2010, but Dean Baker doesn’t sweat the small stuff.

Then he says that he can show that there has been no drop of labor as a share of GDP by introducing labor as a share of Net Domestic Product, which is GDP “after removing depreciation.”

First of all, this is non sequitur at its worst; similar to proving that trees are not dying on Main Street by showing that I mowed my lawn on Cherry Avenue. He does not claim that anything the Bloomberg author wrote is in error, he doesn’t refute any of the statistics or issues cited in the original column, he merely introduces a new and different measurement which shows labor not declining and pats himself on the back.

And that’s assuming that “GDP after removing depreciation” is a number that has any actual meaning. GDP measures cash flow; how much money is moving in our economy. Yes, investment is one component in that calculation, but that component is the amount of money that has been spent in the current year on investment.

Depreciation exists on a financial statement which evaluates assets and liabilities, known as a “balance sheet,” while GDP is an evaluation of cash flow, known as an “income statement.“ There is no meaningful way to put depreciation on an income statement.

And how was the amount of depreciation determined, do you suppose? How does Dean Baker know the asset value of the US economy, and the lifetime over which it should be depreciated? I suspect the depreciation was determined by applying whatever number was needed to provide an income level that was not falling.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Everybody Wants Heaven

There is a song which starts with, “Everybody wants Heaven, but nobody wants death.”

Right. That is out social discourse today. Everybody wants for all of our illegal immigrants to magically become legal, but nobody wants to address our immigration policy. Everybody wants the “good manufacturing jobs” to come back, but nobody wants to give up buying cheap foreign-made products. Everybody wants a strong social safety net, but nobody wants to pay taxes to support it.

Everyone builds dream castles. Only the insane try to live in them.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Electing Monsters

I have long considered Lindsay Graham to be one of the most pernicious, evil persons in Congress; one of the few worse than John McCain. He has now convinced me that he has an evilness that is unparalleled in this century, advocating a preemptive attack on North Korea for reasons that are so inhumane that they should serve as grounds for impeachment.

He acknowledges that such a move would almost inevitably provoke war across most of Asia, and that “It’d be terrible” if it did so, but “the war would be over there,” he says, and it “wouldn’t be here [in America]. It’d be bad for the Korean Peninsula," he continues, "it’d be bad for China, it’d be bad for Japan, it’d be bad for South Korea. It’d be the end of North Korea. What it would not do is hit America.”

Is South Carolina actually proud of having elected this monster?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Prima Donna Much?

Danica Patrick, it seems, has an issue with NASCAR giving her insufficient time to before practice sessions begin on the track. “Like there have been many times," she says, "when I’ve been on the bus in my pajamas and they’re like, ‘Green flag in 15 minutes.’ And I’m like,‘What???!!!'" Seriously?

It would be one thing if she had anything to be prima donnaish about, but with no wins, no top fives, and only two top tens in 160 races...

In yesterday's practice session at Bristol she was 38th fastest out of 39 cars. The one car that was slower than her only ran six laps.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Ideology Over Common Sense

Dean Baker is again demonstrating the difference between economics and business, and proving that the former is voodoo and that economists know nothing about the latter.

On the shortage of skilled workers, he says Friday that, “…the usual way to get better workers is to offer higher pay. And, the workers are almost invariably out there, most likely working for a competitor.”

So. If you hire a skilled worker away from your competitor by offering him a higher wage, and your competitor is now looking to hire a replacement, have you solved the problem of the shortage of skilled workers? Of course not. Moving the job opening from one employer to another is not solving the shortage of workers.

What it does do is increase the cost of producing your product, which you pass on to your customer in the form of higher prices. If you can. Not all companies can do that, for various reasons; a fact which economists vigorously deny. Economists love rising prices because they create inflation, which they think is a good thing. No one else thinks that.

“This means,” he goes on to tell us, “that if there were really shortages of workers with specific skills then we should see pay for workers with these skills rising rapidly.”

To begin with, he sort of blew his theory with his own statement that workers are almost invariably out there.” Even Dean Baker does not claim that such workers are always available, so the claim that there is a shortage of skilled workers may be valid, and raising the offered wage may, in fact, do no good.

And his claim about obtaining workers by raising wages might mean increasing wages in the economy at large if a) his theory was valid and b) the shortage was nation-wide. To the best of my knowledge, Baker has never cited a specific case where a company solved a skilled worker shortage by offering higher wages.

Something like, “The Skunk Iron Works was trying to hire welders at $12/hr and could not hire them. They started offering $20/hr and in one day had more welders than they could use and formed a waiting list.” Got an example like that Mr. Baker?

Did the example get followed by, “The subsequent decrease in sales due to price increases caused them to lay off all of their new hires and some of the original workers, reducing their work force to below its original level,” or something on that order?

Or perhaps, “The original welders, who were still being paid $12/hr, quit and went to work for the competitor from which Skunk Iron Works hired the new guys.”

He claims validation for his theory by saying that, “there is no major segment of the labor market where we see rapidly rising real wages,” but the shortages were not claimed to have been in a “major segment of the labor market,” in fact he mentions “workers with specific skills,” and he is looking at nation-wide statistics while discussing issues which have been described by local businessmen.

Common sense is called that because it is so uncommon. Economists should be put into a wooden whiskey barrel upon graduation and fed through the bung hole.

Clueless in Ramona

This “marketing writer” gives new meaning to “missing the point.”

He made an offer to award free breakfast with him to the reader who best observed a number of marketing campaigns and was able to explain the theory behind them. He writes for a paper in Ramona CA, which is a pretty small town, but even so that fact that only two readers responded should have been a clue that he needs a new writing topic and possibly a new career.

With only two responses, he decided to reward both of them with a free breakfast with him, but has been unable to schedule with either of them. Repeated messages offering dates and times have gone unanswered. He still has no clue, thinks the two lucky people might merely be suffering from a “lack of bandwidth for returning emails,” and is hoping to reach them via yet another column, literally begging them to respond and set up dates for their breakfasts.

Maybe he should start writing about economics for the New York Times.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Svelte

Wife dragged me shopping for new jeans today; at Old Navy no less. In the past year that terrorist at Envision Gym has worked me from a size 44 waist "relaxed" fit jeans to a size 40 waist "slim" fit.

The title may be a slight overstatement, but...

Who's In Charge?

My wife and I are standing in the hallway, both wanting coffee but waiting to go into the kitchen to get it until the cat finishes eating her breakfast. Earlier, I had been standing outside the bathroom with my legs crossed, waiting for the cat to finish using her litter box. We pay for this place, and the food that is in it, but the cat...

Update, 9:00am: Well, perhaps some explanation is in order. The bathroom issue is simple courtesy; cats don't like to be disturbed while they are doing their bidness. Enabling? Perhaps, but the consequence of disturbing them is that they might start doing their bidness outside the litter box. Certain amount of enlightened self interest.

As to the eating. Molly has 20% kidney function and has survived more than three years with Lymphoma and periodic pancreatitis. She has a tendency not to eat, so when she does we leave her the fuck alone.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

False Narrative

“The Syrian regime, backed by the Russians, has been killing its own people for as long as I can remember.” (emphasis mine)

Short memory; just six years. The Syrian civil war started in 2011, triggered by North African food shortages due to prolonged drought. Russian backing has been in place for less than three years.

The part that annoys me is the media usage of “killing his own people.”

What were we doing in 1864 during the lengthy artillery bombardment of Vicksburg? What were we doing when Sherman burned Atlanta to the ground? We were "preserving the union."

As we were in the nineteenth century, Assad is fighting a civil war for the survival of his nation; a war which began not as a protest against the policies of his government, but in protest against a shortage of food and adequate employment. The media even refers to the forces opposing the Syrian Army as “rebels,” but refuses to acknowledge that it is entirely legitimate for a government to defend itself against such rebels.

Assad is certainly not a good guy, but neither are the leaders of a lot of nations that we deal with peacefully. And you think Syria, as a nation, survives if the rebelling forces win? Look at Libya.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

News You Can't Count On

On Friday in the opening segment of its Evening News, CBS reported that 59 cruise missiles hit a Syrian airfield, causing great damage. They tell us that two US Navy destroyers fired 60 Tomahawk missiles and that, “one of them failed and went in the water, while the other 59 flew different routes in order to hit the target all at the same time.”

They go on to say that “Neither Syrian or Russian air defenses tried to shoot the missiles down,” and add a quote from US Navy Commodore Tate Westbrook that, “We had no indication of any Russian intent to interfere with this mission.”

They do not actually say that all 59 missiles hit the airfield, but they certainly make a valiant effort to convey that impression, which caught my attention because I had already read two reports earlier in the day which said that only 23 missiles had hit the airfield. Neither source was entirely reliable, so I spent a good bit of time yesterday digging deeper into the issue.

I now have four sources, all of which I consider reliable, which say that 23 missiles hit the airfield; representing a 38% success rate. One source is Russian, one German and two Syrian, and all four of them are in agreement on 23 missiles specifically.

If you are not familiar with the Tomahawk, it is a missile which is launched from ships against surface targets. It has been in use for more than 40 years, is both reliable and accurate, and is pretty devastating against surface installations, carrying 1000 pounds of varying types of non-nuclear warhead. It flies low to avoid radar, and has a speed of around 550 mph.

So, what happened to the other 36 missiles? One source suggests that some fell prey to anti-aircraft fire, notwithstanding the Commodore’s statement, while others were the victim of something electronic that caused their guidance systems to fail.

Since the Tomahawk is an offensive weapon, not a defensive one, this does not constitute an “oh shit, we’re all going to die” issue, but it illustrates the appalling unreliability of Scott Pelley and CBS News.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Did You Notice?

It was only a few years ago that NASCAR had a starting field of 43 cars, and each week had a fairly lengthy list of cars that were too slow in qualifications to be among the 43, and went home. Fifty cars in the entry list was not unusual. Then, last year, they cut the starting field to 40 cars. The reason, we were told, had to do with their new team franchising system. Last week at Martinsville, only 38 cars were on the starting grid.

Texas Motor Speedway is giving free Danica Patrick bobblehead dolls to the first 30,000 fans to enter the gates next weekend for the NASCAR race. I simply cannot come up with a comment that suits here. My brain exploded.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

The Beat Accelerates

At first we had the Russians hiring "more than 1000 hackers" to plant fake news and alter the outcome of our election. Now that has grown to "more than 15,000 hackers in Russia" who were planting fake news to corrupt Google search results.

Democrats also claimed that "hacking vote counts" was impossible back when they were being accused of doing it and were winning elections, now they claim that Republicans are winning elections only because they are "hacking vote counts" on a massive scale.

This has now truly become the children's crusade.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

IOIYAD

During the Obama years a sizeable group of ardent Democrats were harshly critical of and condemned Fox News for its criticism of and attacks upon the President of The United States.

Now those same ardent Democrats are applauding and encouraging Scott Pelley of CBS News for his even more harsh criticism of and attacks upon the President of The United States.

They are entirely oblivious to the hypocrisy of their position.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Of Little Consequence

Whenever you see an ambulance at the scene of an accident in San Diego, you will see a firetruck parked right behind it. I like the way that firefighters always protect their paramedics; sort of like big brothers. Not all cities do this, citing the cost, but in San Diego a firetruck always rolls with the ambulance.

The statue of the girl facing the bull on Wall Street will stay a while. Good move. I'm not sure I buy the great social message that some people attribute to her, but I like her. She has a nice expression, neither aggressive or angry, but sort of sassy and unafraid. To me, she is a better symbol of America than something military.

And yet we are now banning iPads on airliners because, it turns out, some idiot tried and failed to use one in a plot to blow up... Why do we keep responding in panic mode to failed plots? And plots which, despite spying on everybody and killing "terrorist leaders" with Hellfire missiles by the dozen for more than a decade in seven countries, we didn't know was coming?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Auto Racing Weekend

Formula 1: Boy, they blew that redesign. The aero kit is ridiculous, and the bigger tires hurt more than they help. Lap times were no faster at Melbourne than they were last year, and an overtaking car could get no closer to the car he was catching than to be trailing by 1.5 seconds before the dirty air from the leading car stalled him out. Not only was there no passing, there was never any hint that there might be passing. They have a lot of work to do to make that sport watchable.

NASCAR: Still doing the boring parade for 380 laps and then ending the race with an "exciting" 20-lap wreckfest, justified by the triteness of "cautions breed cautions." Actually, idiotic driving is what breeds cautions, but the announcers will never admit that a NASCAR driver exhibits anything less than godlike perfection. Admittedly, once in a while a caution is due to a blown tire.

The new "stage racing" means that they no longer have to throw "debris cautions" to try to keep Danica Patrick on the lead lap. Didn't work, though; she finished 26th, two laps down.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Critical Thinking

Following the discussion on Congressional confirmation of Judge Gorsuch provides examples of the decreasing ability of this country to engage in critical thinking.

One of the cases for which he is being criticized is one regarding a truck driver who was ordered to stay with his disabled truck in freezing weather and then fired when he did not do so. He sued the company for firing him and Gorsuch sided with the company. Critics use the case to say that Gorsuch should not be on the Supreme Court because he is a heartless and cruel bastard.

Certainly the company owner that fired the driver is a heartless and cruel bastard, but most trucking company owners are. I have some experience with that. Gorsuch was merely ruling on the legality of the firing, and in the state in question, the law says that employees may be fired for any reason, or for no reason. He did not say that the firing was kind, he did not approve of it in principal, he merely said that it was legal.

Senator Al Franken reverted to his comedian days and repeatedly challenged Gorsuch to tell him what, if placed in the driver’s position, he would have done. He never permitted Gorsuch to respond to the question, merely shouting at him repeatedly, “What would you have done?”

But the legal case under discussion, as any rational, thinking person would know, had nothing to do with what the driver did or did not do. It had to do with the owner firing the driver, and the owner did not need to have a reason for that firing. All of the posturing in the hearing and in the media about the driver freezing is irrelevant, attempting to divert the issue away from reality and reason.

Friday, March 24, 2017

How Blind Can You Be?

The Washington Post does a truly stunning job of missing the obvious today with an article pondering why the death rate among the middle aged is higher in the United States than in European countries. The author notes that the gap is widening as our average age of death gets lower while their gets higher and wonders what the reason could be. He admits it isn’t the popular news frenzy of the “opoid epidemic” causing it, but cannot figure out what it might be.

It never occurs to him that it might have to do with the fact that all European countries have universal health care, while we do not. We do not even have universal health insurance, and if we did, that would be a very long way from universal health care. Of course more of use are dying sooner.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Don't Use The Phone

CBS News informed us last night that the government can listen in to and record your telephone calls without a warrant, provided that the phone tap is not targeting you, but is catching your conversation incidental to some other phone that it is targeting. I’m not sure that their interpretation of the spying law is correct, although the government may be making it correct on a de facto basis.

What CBS News is saying is that what the intelligence agencies were doing was spying on Russians, which they are legally entitled to do, so anyone talking to the Russians can also be recorded and their conversations used as evidence against them. It’s called “incidental collection,” we are told, and it “happens every day.” Sort of invokes the phrase “collateral damage,” and what it means is that intelligence agencies can record almost everything.

You may not have to worry about a tap on your own telephone, because the law says that you must be informed if your own phone is tapped. (Actually, it doesn’t, because the FISA law allows them to tap your phone without informing you.) You never know, however, when the person you are talking to may be being tapped, which would result in you being recorded and your words being used against you.

Best advice; never talk to anyone on the telephone about anything that you do not want the entire world to know. Someone is almost certainly listening.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What is Discrimination

Trump bans visas from seven nations which are mostly Muslim. Everyone screams discrimination, and several states sue to prevent the rule. Horror is expressed from all corners that this country would engage in such "profiling."

Headline reads, "Britain and U.S. ban most electronic devices in cabins on flights from several Muslim-majority countries." So far, not one voice has suggested that this amounts to discrimination.

Liberal Loss Redux

The last time Democrats lost the White House, to George W. Bush, we had Patrick Fitzgerald. Remember him? He was the special prosecutor appointed to investigate the “outing” of Valerie Plame, and the media went absolutely batshit for over a year “reporting” on the scandal.

Fitzgerald was going to put Dick Cheney in prison and throw away the key; he was going to put Karl Rove in Guantanamo; he was going to indict George W himself All he got was Scooter Libby for lying to the FBI, convicted in a trial that was a featured news item for six months, and Scooter got his sentence commuted.

Now we have Democrats losing the White House again, and does this picture look familiar? Russian collusion in rigging the election; tax evasion; business affairs in the White House James Comey is hot on the trail of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” and there are calls for a special prosecutor.

Fitzgerald, by the way, was so frustrated that he went after, and got, the Democratic governor of Illinois. Democrats need to be careful when they select legal assassins. A hit man who draws his sword often feels the need to kill somebody with it before he puts it back in the scabbard.

I mangled a metaphor just a little bit, there, but I made my point.

This is what liberals do. This year they preceded it with massive marches in protest, carrying signs of “not my president,” which translates to “how dare you outvote me.” Then they revert to the more traditional, “We lost because they are criminals.”

Monday, March 20, 2017

Stock Car Update

Something like 40% of the verbal diarrhea during television coverage of the NASCAR race yesterday was telling us how wonderful the new "stage racing" is and how much better the racing has become. Another 40% was telling us what a huge advantage it is to be in the lead and have "clean air" because you are a full tenth of an mph faster and no one can catch you, much less pass you, as was proven by Ryan Newman winning going away on old tires.

Those two things struck me as more than a bit inconsistent.

Fans don’t seem to be buying into the hype either. Phoenix Speedway removed all of the backstretch stands and still could only halfway fill the main grandstand yesterday, and the turn four hillside, which used to be a popular viewing spot and drew a big crowd, was completely empty. Yikes.

There was a nice piece in the San Bernadino paper, written by a healthcare writer rather than by a sports writer, about the California Speedway which hosts NASCAR next weekend. It goes on a great length about what a wonderful money maker it is for the region and shows a picture of full stands in 2014. Well, it shows the portion of the stands that was full in 2014. It doesn't show the larger portion of the stands in 2014 that was closed off.

To satisfy your craving for Danica news, she started 25th and finished 22nd. That progress was somewhat less than meets the eye, since six four cars that were running ahead of her crashed or had mechanical issues.

I watch this stuff so that you don’t have to.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Oh, Gack

As I was turning the television off just now I caught the beginning of a commercial that began with a guy proclaiming, "I've taken enough laxatives to cover the Eastern Seaboard." I didn't leave the set on long enough to find out what that was actually about, but it paints a picture that I don't even want to think about.

Chuck Berry

He taught everyone else how to do it, and sang the greatest rock and roll song ever sung. Rest in peace, old man, you done good.

Poster Children

Poster children may be on the poster, but they aren’t always children.

“Meals on Wheels” has received a boost in donations because Trump has severely cut their funding and the media has made them the poster child for the Trump administration’s cruelty. The problem with that picture is that “Meals on Wheels” is not a federally funded program and is therefor not having its funding slashed by Trump’s new budget.

The program is actually a whole lot of local programs which share a name and process, and are funded in many different ways and from many different sources. Some of the funding for some of the programs comes from federal “block grants” which the Trump budget does reduce, but even those block grants are not being eliminated, and the distribution of block grant funds is determined by local governments.

So, if funding to any “Meals on Wheels” program is cut due to the Trump budget the actual cut will be made by a state government, and in most cases the local programs will lose no funding at all.

A well informed voting public is essential to proper governance, and today’s media assures that we do not have that essential ingredient.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Actions Detrimental"

Sports writers who cover what passes for stock car racing these days, that is to say NASCAR, which calls itself stock car racing but is not racing and does not involve stock cars Well, I digressed a little far there. Let’s start over.

Certain sports writers have long been critical of NASCAR for its inconsistent enforcement of rules, given that it actually is rules which are being enforced since the rule book is secret and no one other than drivers, owners and NASCAR officials have ever claimed to have seen one. There is one school of thought that insists that there actually is no rule book and that NASCAR makes the rules up as they go along.

One of the most common rules broken, or at least cited in giving punishment, is “actions detrimental to the sport,” which in the past has included punching another driver in the face after a race. I’ve never figured out quite how this is detrimental to the sport, but NASCAR has issued large fines and put drivers on probation for doing it, and sports writers have pretty much universally applauded that action.

Then last week there was a collision between Joey Logano and Kyle Busch at the end of the race. After his car stopped, Busch got out, made a high speed walk to where Logano was and without exchanging a single word threw a haymaker which landed on Logano’s jaw. It was not his brightest move, because his crew was not around and Logano’s crew was, and Logano’s crew proceed to pounce on and beat the shit out of him while Logano stood back and egged them on.

The same sports writers I spoke of earlier are now saying that this fight is the best thing to happen to NASCAR in several years, in that it will help regain some of the popularity that NASCAR has been steadily losing, and they are applauding NASCAR for not issuing any penalties to either driver for the fight. Seems that inconsistency no longer bothers them, now that they are engaging in it along with NASCAR.

The new generation stock car racing fan comes to the speedway, it seems, to see crashes and fist fights, which explains why punching another driver in the face after a race is no longer deemed to be an “action detrimental to the sport” of stock car racing.

Friday, March 17, 2017

I am not Irish

"Everybody is Irish on St. Patrick's Day."

If I am not Irish 363 days of the year, then I am not Irish on one day just because a church of which I am not a member is celebrating the sainthood of someone I don't even care about. No, I am not wearing green today, and I am not drinking any green beer.

Well, I'm not drinking beer of any color, but...

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"Healthcare Reform" Again

I don't know enough about the Republican plan to actually comment on it, but when I read that the 24 million who will "lose health insurance" included 7 million who will simply choose not to buy it because the individual mandate is being cancelled, I realized we are undergoing more bullshit masquerading as "health care reform" again. Choosing not to buy something, because you are no longer being coerced into buying it, is not the same as "losing" it.

And, like the full year of horse manure than was shoveled at us in 2009, it was not about health care at all, it was about health insurance. When you cannot afford to spend $10,000 on the deductible to reach the point at which it kicks in, health insurance is not health care.

Just another issue on which the two parties differ only in the cosmetics.

Monday, March 13, 2017

United States of Panic

I am constantly astonished at the things this nation can find to consider as threats. I am, apparently, going to have either a stroke or a heart attack either today or tomorrow because we set our clocks forward one hour. The eastern half of the nation is in a state of self-paralysis because a storm is approaching that is predicted to drop a whole foot of snow. A university removed the scale from the school gym because it served as a "trigger" for people with weight problems. Apparently removing the scale was a better solution than providing a "safe space" in the gym.

Good God, we have become a nation of candy asses.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Blind to the Truth

The media and pundrity are still trumpeting outrage about Trump’s accusation “without any evidence” that the Obama administration eavesdropped on the Trump campaign. They are oblivious to their own willingness to disseminate a “dossier” produced by a discredited British former spy accusing Trump of sexual misconduct in Russia, for which they cheerfully admit there is no evidence of validity.

It never fails to astonish me the willingness of the media and punditry to step over a dollar to pick up a dime, in that the resignation of Michael Flynn was caused by an intelligence agency disclosing the content of a conversation that he had with Vladimir Putin that they knew because they had recorded it. These idiots were so excited about what Michael Flynn may or may not have said in that phone conversation that they completely ignored the glaring fact that an intelligence agency recorded it.

As if that were not sufficient evidence, all one had to do was read the New York Times on February 14th, in which they reported that, “Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.” The second paragraph begins, "American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications..."

How much evidence does one need? The Obama administration used intercepted phone calls to accuse Trump of wrongdoing, and then is outraged when Trump accuses them of intercepting his phone calls.

CBS News palmed that off as “routine monitoring of foreign nationals,” but that is wildly inaccurate. When one end of the conversation is an American citizen the eavesdropper needs a warrant. Period. If the eavesdropper is monitoring the call of a foreign national and discovers than an American is on the line it is required that monitoring cease immediately unless a warrant is in hand for that American.

So either the intelligence had a warrant for Trump campaign staffers, in which case Trump’s accusation is true, or they were intercepting calls illegally, in which case Trump’s accusation is true. The media and punditry, of course, are blind to any of this.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

A Low Bar for Accomplishment

Dean Baker has long been a promoter of Obamacare, and begins an article today (it’s a criticism of the GOP bill replacing Obamacare) with this summary of the program that he and the Democrats have lauded for years as, “The most significant legislation is several generations.”

“In the years before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) the uninsured population peaked at just over 50 million people. It fell sharply when the main provisions of the ACA took effect, falling to less than 28 million in recent quarters.”

I’m going to ignore his “just over” and “less than” modifiers because if the number of insured fell to, say, five million, I’m sure he would not refer to that as “less than 28 million.” In fact, I suspect if it fell to 27,995,584 he would not refer to it as “less than 28 million,” he would say “less than 27 million.”

So I’m just going to assume that Dean Baker knows that the number of uninsured went from 50 million to 28 million people and ask him a simple question about the “greatest piece of legislation in five decades.”

Why did it take a full year to pass a 2700 page bill that needed five years to deal with less than half of the problem?

Monday, March 06, 2017

California Awesomeness

In 2008 (yes, nine years ago) California passed an initiative, Proposition 1A, in the amount of $9.9 billion (yes, that’s “billion,” with a “b”) to build a high speed rail system which would transport people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in forty minutes. I beg your pardon, that should be two hours and forty minutes, which is almost as ridiculous.

The whole thing was pretty silly, in that even then the whole system was proposed to cost $43 billion (it is now up to $64 billion), and the initiative was dependent on the rail system being operated without any public subsidy, which no one ever claimed it could do. No public transportation system in California operates without public subsidy, and this system will be more expensive than any existing one by several orders of magnitude.

The initiative also specified that the $9.9 billion could not be spent unless sources for the rest of the funding were secured, which they have not been; that the average speed of the train be 200 mph which, since part of the currently planned route uses existing trackage, is plainly impossible; and that the time from LA to SF not exceed the two hours and forty minutes which, since the train will be sharing track with freight trains for part of its trip, is clearly not going to happen.

In short, none of the conditions spelled out in the initiative have been met, but the authority in charge of the “bullet train” has proceeded with a segment going 164 miles between Merced (pop. 81,743) and Bakersfield (pop. 363,630). Actual construction, however, consists of spending $2.9 billion for a 29 mile segment which will be completed in August of 2019.

Given that the segment, when it is completed almost three years from now, will cover only 17% of the distance between two cites with a combined population comprising 1.1% of California’s population, it’s difficult to see what spending 29% of the initiative’s funds will actually accomplish.

Not to mention that current spending does not include any actual trains, just 29 miles of track for $2.9 billion. Is that awesome, or what? Only California could do that.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Ideology Is All

Was in a discussion yesterday, which I should have known would be pointless, with a guy ranting that Trump will not close Guantanamo. He considered it utterly irrelelvant that Obama did not close it either and that, after eight years in office, he never really tried very hard to do so.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Dissonance, Revisited

No man is an island entire of itself; ... any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. John Donne

"I am involved in mankind." That's what complicates "self interest," isn't it.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Adjust As Needed

Does anyone actually read the Census Bureau’s report on economic progress, I wonder? They say, for instance, that “retail and food services sales for February, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $427.2 billion, an increase of 0.3 percent (±0.5%)* from the previous month, and 1.5 percent (±0.9%) above February 2016.” If your head didn't explode, you might conclude that retail sales are increasing, but are they really?

I think they forgot to adjust for the phases of the moon, and perhaps the adiabatic effect of the solar wind, so we’ll just have to live with those inaccuracies, but let’s parse that statement for actual meaning.

First of all, what does “an increase of 1.5 percent (±0.9%)” mean? Well, it means the increase may have been as little as 0.6% or as much as 2.4%. How informative is that, really? They are giving us information which has a 60% margin of error. Your average sports betting bookie can do better than that; much better.

And, when comparing between February of 2016 and February of 2017, how much adjusting for “seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences” do we need to do? Between February of one year and February of the next year? Really?

Finally, what, precisely, are those “price changes” for which they are not adjusting? They are, simply enough, due to something called “inflation.”

Looking at retail sales increase of 1.5 percent which is “not adjusted for price increases,” and noting that inflation in the same period was 2.1%, one might actually draw the conclusion that people are buying less and paying more money for it, and few sane people would report that as “sales are increasing” as the Census Bureau does.

How often does the government report that the budget, or taxes, or some such thing “adjusted for inflation” is stable? But inflation is almost the very definition of instability, so they are saying that “the economy, adjusted for instability of the economy, is stable.”

I’m not trying to suggest that the Census Bureau has any sort of political axe to grind with their reporting, because I don’t think that they do. But government bureaucracies do have a sort of nonpolitical bias against reporting that creates discomfort, that makes things look bad, and so they tend to shape their reporting in a manner that makes the public comfortable.

It creates an uninformed public, actually a misinformed public, which is the opposite of the purpose of the report, but...

Monday, February 27, 2017

What The Hell Was That?

Something happened in Daytona Beach yesterday, and it was televised, but it certainly was not anything even resembling a stock car race. Of forty cars which started the event, only five were not involved in at least one multi-car wreck. Interestingly, it was not one of those five which finished in the front, in part because no fewer than six cars ran out of gas in the last two laps, including three cars that were leading when their engines sputtered and quit.

I have not seen so much stupidity in one place since the last State Of The Union address, when 535 idiots were assembled in one place. There were fewer than that at Daytona Beach speedway yesterday afternoon, but they made up for it in degree of stupidity.

Drivers were deciding to go four wide on a three lane race track, “assist pushing” the car in front of them by hitting him so hard that the rear wheels were lifted off of the pavement, and trying to fit their cars into openings that were half a car length long.

A dozen crew chiefs decided after pitting with 53 laps remaining that their cars were “good to go” on fuel, despite the standard fuel window being 44-48 laps. None of them were able to explain later what they thought was going to keep the engines running for the additional 5+ laps.

Between the 500 yesterday and similar carnage in the Xfinity and Truck series events the preceding two days, NASCAR probably added a full percentage point to the GDP in car repair costs in just one weekend.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Dissonance

Politically liberal writers say that voters should vote in the best interest of themselves; to preserve Social Security and Medicare, to cut taxes, to tax the rich, etc. We owe it to ourselves, they tell us, to obtain as much as we can for ourselves by the use of our vote.

America as a nation, these same writers tell us, should act abroad in the best interest of this nation. We should take whatever actions serve us best, declare whatever war will “keep us safe,” impose sanctions on other nations whenever their actions do not serve our purpose, etc. Because our only concern in the implementation of foreign policy should be serving the interests of our own nation.

But when a business acts in its own interest, they regard that as evil.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Important Innovation

We cannot yet send people to Mars, but we can put Welsh's Grape Jelly in a squeeze bottle! The opening is even a slot so the the jelly comes out in nice neat a ribbon. Awesome! You do have to be sure you are getting the jelly, though, because a peanut butter and grape jam sandwich sucks.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Now Climate Change Means Floods

I do not argue against the point being made that the planet is gaining in heat content, nor that it is in part being caused by human activity. I am, however, getting tired of the hyperbolic predictions as to what that means for the future; predictions which are almost certainly wrong and are made primarily for political reasons.

I remember not too many years ago when it was predicted that when the population of Earth reached seven billion there would be mass starvation and world wars over the availability of food and water resources. That population level has been met and exceeded and, while the US is fomenting considerable violence in the Middle East, the world is seeing less war than has been the case in several centuries, and where starvation exists it does so for localized economic and war-related reasons.

For almost twenty years we have been being told that the deepening drought in California was almost certainly permanent as a result of global warming, and now we are being told that the current year's pattern of frequent and heavy rain may become the norm in California, rather than drought, due to "atmospheric rivers" which are caused by global warming.

Again, I do not doubt that the planet is warming and that it is a problem, but I have some sympathy for "climate deniers" given that the predictions for the effects of the issue tend to be hyperbolic and contradictory.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Confused Movement

The growing movement which oddly calls itself “The Resistance” seems more and more confusing to me, even in that they are calling themselves by that name. What is bizarre, however, is the increasing clamor for impeachment of the newly-elected President.

First, “resistance” is what one does against a totalitarian government. In a democracy, those on the losing side of an election are called “the minority” and remain part of governance, in the legislature and the electorate.

When Obama won and Democrats took control of the legislature, conservatives vowed to prevent the implementation of a liberal agenda. I did not regard that as a worthy goal, really, but I respected then, and I respect even more so today, that they carried out that goal by working as part of government. They were the “obstructionist minority” in the legislature, and the voters worked to raise votes to get more members of their party elected.

Now, liberals, being on the losing side of the election, are voicing not the goal to remove the winner of the election at the end of his first term by the electoral process, nor to work within government to prevent him from implementing his agenda, but to discredit and remove him from office by strong arm tactics immediately.

What are they thinking? If they succeeded we would have to quit pretending that we are a democracy. No nation in which the losing side can discredit and remove the winner of an election can call itself a democracy.

They seem to have the idea that they can advocate a democracy in which only their side is permitted to win, but an election with only one permissible outcome is the kind of thing that they do in, for instance, Syria.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Not Exactly James Bond Types

A great many phrase come to mind for describing the people of San Diego, lots of them very complimentary, but “stout hearted” is not one of them.

I was in the grocery store yesterday, which was quite crowded, and two employees were discussing the reason for the press of business. “They’re getting ahead of the storm,” said one to the other, and I had to laugh, because he was undoubtedly correct.

In most parts of the country, “getting ahead of the storm” means stocking up in anticipation of a hurricane, or perhaps five feet of snow. In San Diego it means hunkering down due to a prediction for 1-2” of rain. Actually, you can be driving down the freeway in San Diego on a clear, sunshiney day, throw a glass of water out the window, and cause a five car pileup.

Yes, I was in the store. I was making spaghetti sauce for dinner and needed some fresh mushrooms.