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.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Abuse of Power

From the Washington Post, in an article regarding the resignation of National Security Advisor Flynn, “…Trump tried to shift attention from damaging questions about contact with Russia by Flynn and others close to the President.”

So not only do we not need evidence of wrongdoing to bring down a public person, we no longer need a direct accusation either; merely questioning the actions of that person will do.

We have not needed evidence, proof, of wrongdoing for some years. Accusations have sufficed; accusations for which no evidence has been offered and for which no evidence has been asked. The accusation is merely repeated with sufficient frequency that it becomes accepted as truth.

The German Propaganda Ministry perfected this method of turning lies into truth in the 1930’s. Do not argue; do not offer evidence; do not discuss logically; merely keep repeating the lie.

Now, with this phrase “damaging questions,” we no longer even need to make accusations, we merely need to ask questions in order to bring down a public person.

I no longer need to accuse, say, a pastor of being a closet homosexual in order to get him fired from his pulpit. I could be sued for making such an accusation, or I could be required to prove my case. I now merely need to ask if he is a closet homosexual and the damage is done. No one can demand that I provide evidence, because I merely asked a question.

If I repeat that “damaging question” frequently enough the pastor, who in reality is totally heterosexual and has never been even slightly affectionate with another male person, will become unacceptable to his parish and will lose his job.

Such is the power of the press, and its use in this manner is an abuse of power.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Silliness Abounds

If I were to write a compendium of stupid comments I have read it would weigh several hundred pounds. Hell, such a compendium rendered on microfilm would probably weigh several hundred pounds. Some of the comments would probably be mine, made when somebody pissed me off, but most of them would be from people who think they are smart and that they are giving highly intelligent opinion or advice.

Case in point; “So, the Resistance are doing something effective, and important: They are showing up to town halls and holding their congress members feet to the fire. This is what the Tea Party did, and it works.”

He is referring to crowds coming to “town hall” meetings and screaming continuously so that no one can speak, which is not political activism, but is a bunch of children throwing a collective tantrum. That seems to be about as close as today’s voting public can come to political awareness, but it is not “what the Tea Party did” and it most certainly is not going to solve anything.

What the Tea Party did was have the courage of their convictions, something that "progressives" (who used to have the courage to call themselves "liberals") seem to lack these days. I don’t particularly admire the convictions, to be sure, but I do admire the manner in which the held on to them with great courage and stamina.

If a Republican office holder did not live up to the standards of the party they "primaried" him and threw him out of office. If they had to lose an election in order to do that, then they were willing to do that in order to get the message to remaining Republicans. "Live up to the principles of the party or we will throw you out." Because of them there is a unified, powerful Republican party which blocked a Democratic-controlled government and now controls both houses of Congress and occupies the White House.

Progressives (who used to be "liberals" but no longer have the courage to call themselves that) are so afraid of losing an election that they will not challenge an incumbent in the primary, no matter how often or flagrantly that incumbent votes in violation of Democratic party principles. We will not take a chance of running a challenger in the general because if we do a Republican might beat us out.

We might go to town hall meetings, screaming and yelling like out of control two-year-olds, but we will not vote our legislators out of office. We know what we are against, but none of us know what we are for.

How’s that working out for us? Republicans control both houses of Congress and occupy the White House because half of our Democrats vote against party principles and repeatedly get reelected. Unlike Tea Party Republicans, "progressives" (who used to have the courage to call themselves "liberals") do not require our elected representatives to actually represent us.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Massive Choke

I knew when Atlanta was still leading by 16 points that they had choked and were going to throw the game. In the fourth quarter, the defensive secondary was eight yards off of the line of scrimmage, they were rushing Brady with nothing but four exhausted linemen, and they were doing that even in the shadow of their own goal posts.

Brady had scored a couple of touchdowns and Atlanta became panic stricken. Convinced that he is, indeed, invulnerable and can walk on water, they were shitting in their pants and running for their lives.

New England scored 31 unanswered points in barely over one quarter against a team of frightened children hiding under their beds.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Brain Damage?

There is much angst about concussions in the NFL, but I’m seeing some evidence that perhaps we should be looking a what might be causing brain damage in NASCAR. From a Q&A with Danica Patrick this week, whose team is switching from Chevrolet to Ford;

Q. Have you done anything different to prepare for this season?

A. I don’t think there’s a whole lot to do different. I’ve been more proactive with what it’s going to take to do better, so sitting down with (crew chief) Billy (Scott), I didn’t feel like we really ended up where we wanted to be last year. We felt like we would be better, so I asked the question, ‘What are we going to do different? Because if we’re going to do the same thing, we can only expect the same results. So what can we change that’s going to change that?’

I say all the time that if you want something you’ve never had before, you’re going to have to do something you’ve never done. I think ultimately the most important thing overall is that everybody shows up to work not to (just) work, but to work great and be great. What can we do different? There are some answers and there are some that you don’t have answers for because if you knew the exact answer to be better, you would have done it already.

Shorter version, “There isn’t anything you can do different,” followed by, “we didn’t wind up where we wanted to be last year.” Since she finished 24th in the standings, I would hope not. Then, having been asked what she did different, she tells us that she asked the team what they were going to do different, having just told us there wasn’t anything that could be done different.

It goes downhill from there and ends with the little gem that, “if you knew the exact answer to be better, you would have done it already,” which is just fucking brilliant.

Read the whole thing, because the rest of her answers are equally entertaining and equally uninformative. The writer doesn’t ask her why last year’s sponsor failed to pay the promised sponsorship money, leading to the team’s current lawsuit, but I have an idea that it runs along the line of “Your car was never on television except when it crashed, so we didn’t get our money’s worth.”

Her car was, of course, on television each time the leader passed it to put her another lap down; but that, too, is not the kind of coverage a sponsor really craves.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Getting It Wrong

A couple of nights ago CBS Evening News ran a segment which included a bit about an attack on a Saudi ship by “Iranian-backed rebels” and suggested that it was possible that they thought they were actually attacking an American ship.

The claim of Iranian backing is spurious, since support from Iran for the rebels has never been anything more than minimal, and has consisted entirely of food and medical supplies. The idea that they intended to strike an American ship is even further into fantasyland, since there was no American ship within 500 miles at the time, and there is not a scintilla of evidence to support that claim which was made up out of whole cloth.

Similarly, they ran a piece that told us that the Army Corps of Engineers might be ordered to issue a permit for the final segment of the Dakota pipeline, which they said would go under a reservoir that supplies drinking water for the local tribe.

Actually, the Corps would be ordered to reinstate the permit, which had been issued before construction on the pipeline was begun and after public hearings were held, and then withdrawn by the Obama administration for popularity reasons. The pipeline goes nowhere near the reservation or its drinking water supply. The segment in question crosses under the Missouri River, and the crossing is eight miles downstream from where drinking water is taken for local supply.

The first amendment to our constitution is based on the need for “a well informed public.” It is not serving that purpose.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Yes!


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Cracking Me Up Today

Some 200 protestors are camped in front of Dianne Feinstein’s house, complaining that the California Democratic Senator has “fallen in line with the president's positions and cabinet nominees 100 percent of the time,” and criticizing her for not answering her phone. The organization FiveThirtyEight calculates that she has a pro-Trump score higher than some Republicans.

It sort of cracks me up because she proves my suggestion that in this state you could run a dead jackass for office and it would win as long as you labeled it a Democrat.

There is actually nothing new about her voting record; her pro-Bush score was as high as is her pro-Trump score, and she won the 2012 primary election with 49% of the vote. Her nearest challenger, the Republican, got 12% of the vote and nobody else was above single digits.

But the voters blame her, of course, for supporting Trump, not themselves for reelecting her after she supported Bush. They probably didn’t know she supported Bush, they only knew that she has “Democrat” after her name on the ballot. She is not actually a Democrat, and never has been.

California has an open primary for everything except President, and the net result in the 2016 election was that there were two Democratic females on the ballot for the US Senate seat formerly held by Barbara Boxer, another Democratic female. Perhaps I should have made my saying that, “you could run a dead female jackass and…”

I suspect that Bruce is going to say that in 2012 we did run a dead female jackass and that it did win.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

New Rules

I thought politics was stupid. Then NASCAR announced its new rules for the upcoming year. They are awesome.

Football has a halftime period where talking heads can bore the audience, and for commercials, which aren’t seen because the audience is in the bathroom and/or in the kitchen getting more beer and snacks ready. NASCAR, in its quest to outdo “stick and ball sports,” is going to have no fewer than two halftimes in each race.

After changing the points system to reflect “one point per position” because the old graduated point system was too complicated and people watching could not figure it out, the new system includes “championship points” and “playoff points,” some of which are awarded at the end of the first of three halfs, some of which are awarded at the end of the second of three halfs, and some of which are awarded at the end of the race.

Note, however, that only ten drivers get points at the end of the first half and the end of the second half, while everyone gets points at the end of the race.

Both types of points count toward getting a driver into what used to be called “The Chase” at the end of then season but is now called “The Playoffs,” after several years of management insisting vigorously that “The Chase” was not to be referred to by sportscasters as “The Playoffs.”

Now it is “The Playoffs” and should not be referred to as “The Chase,” but the format and eliminations process is precisely the same as it was when it was called “The Chase.” What, precisely, was accomplished by changing its name is unclear.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Okay, Maybe Second Rate

I am not among those who think that the loss of the Chargers rendered San Diego a second rate city, but maybe this little treasure does.

In the San Diego Union Tribune "Dining and Drinking" section we read that, "Westfield UTC is emerging as San Diego’s next 'It' dining destination."

Really? What kind of city adopts a shopping mall as its smart, most popular, "place to be seen" dining location? San Diego: put on your tuxedo and your designer gown and head to the shopping mall for a fine dining experience.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Some Moral Compass

Some fifty Democrats have made a major production out of announcing that they will not attend the Trump inauguration. Turns out most of them were not invited, as Trump wanted the affair to be held less for the “elites” and “more for common people.” It may have been just a bit tacky of Trump and company not to invite these Democrats, but given that fact, their grand gesture lacks a certain degree of substance.

“If you’re not going to invite me to your party then I’ll show you a thing or two. I won’t go to your party. So there. Pffffbht.”

Much of the Democratic newly found moral compass lacks substance, given that their outrage is against behavior in which they themselves were engaged just a year a few months ago.

When, during the campaign, it was demanded of Donald Trump that he avow that he would accept the result of the election regardless of its outcome and he declined to do so, he was loudly and vigorously castigated by Hillary Clinton and her associates, and was the target of veiled accusations of treason. He was, you may recall, assumed to be the loser of the election.

Now it is the Democrats who are openly throwing into question the legitimacy of the election based on the popular vote, Russian hacking, Trump’s treatment of women, and actions of the FBI; none of which have any actual legal basis whatever.

Women are marching against him because of the way he treats women, notwithstanding that his opponent received fewer votes from women than Obama did in either of his two elections. So they didn’t bother to vote against him, but they will march against him.

Democrats are outraged that Trump is not getting rid of the businesses which he owns. They are outraged because the Trump children will be raking in cash for those businesses from nations and companies who stand to gain from presidential policies.

Democrats were not outraged by a gigantic charitable foundation run by the spouse of the Secretary of State raking in cash from nations and companies who stood to gain from national policies and did not seem to be unhappy with that continuing after Clinton was elected to the White House. Interestingly, now that the Clintons are no longer in a position of power, that foundation is laying off most of its staff since the "donations" have dried up.

So apparently Democrats think that it’s okay for husbands to collect bribes in behalf of the president (and Secretary of State), it’s just not okay for children to do so.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t like Trump. I didn’t vote for him and don’t like a lot of what he stands for. But this effort by the political left wing to delegitimize the election and the office of President of the United States is shameful.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Fundamental Error

I can’t get upset about the Chargers leaving San Diego because I have not really been a fan for quite a few years. It’s not that they have been losing games, I can live with that, it’s that they have been playing crappy football.

Football is about precision, execution and imposing your will on your opponent, and the Chargers have not played that type of game since the Bobby Ross era, when they had the likes of Stan Humphries, Natrone Means, Lorenzo Neal and Ladanian Tomlinson. In those days they lined up and did what they wanted to do.

Under Turner and McCoy the Chargers do whatever the opponent allows them to do, and I just have never been able to get excited about that kind of football. Actually, I don’t even consider it to be football at all. I wanted to throw up every time the head coach was asked why the team lost a game and he started talking about what the other team did. Championship football teams do not let the opponent dictate the game.

“They didn’t do what we expected them to do,” he says, which boils down to, “They didn’t let us do what we wanted to do.” Of course they didn’t let you do what you wanted to do, you idiot. If they are going to let you do what you want to do, why are they even on the field at all? Their whole purpose in being on the field is to prevent you from doing what you want to do. Sheesh.

Given that they have ownership that has permitted that kind of field leadership for more than a decade, I do not expect it to change any time soon, so I am shedding no tears for the loss of the Chargers.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Day of Infamy

I’m discussing with my wife that perhaps we should consider moving from San Diego, given that this city is fated to become a failing empty shell, a mere shadow of what it once was. Bridges will likely start collapsing, tall buildings falling down, and the economy deteriorating to the level of a Tiajuana suburb.

Well, that’s the projections of San Diego sports writers, who may be a bit overwrought by the announcement that the Chargers are moving to LA.

A group of fans gathered at the Chargers complex (the national media mistakenly identified it as the stadium) to discard and burn their Chargers gear and hurl insults at the owner, Dean Spanos.

In a nice little bit of irony, one such fan was breaking and tearing up several pieces of gear, cursing mightily and wearing… Wait for it… He was wearing a $250 leather jacket with a huge Chargers lightening bolt logo on the back.

Another guy was shirtless, having burned his Chargers jersey, and was screaming that Dean Spanos should perform an act physiologically impossible for human beings, but was still wearing his Chargers hat.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Pyrrhic Victory

Democrats should, of course, actually be celebrating because the worst thing that can happen to a political party is to win an election. It puts them into a position in which they will demonstrate to voters and to the world that they are woefully incapable of governing.

We have been through this many times. Democrats win control and accomplish essentially nothing that they promised to do. Having no accomplishments on which to campaign, they use the "we're feckless but the other party is evil" approach to stay in power, only to have the voters say that Republicans weren't all that evil last time and getting something done is better than getting nothing done and throw them out.

Republicans get control and get things done, but they get all the wrong things done. They try to convince voters that those things are actually good ideas, but voters decide that maybe doing nothing is better than doing stupid things and put the Democrats back in office. Wait five minutes, rinse and repeat.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wilder Fantasy

According to the New York Times, Obama, Congress, and Trump himself knew last fall that Russia had dirt on Trump which could be used to derail his election and/or used to blackmail him after he became president.

It’s not petty stuff. It includes, according to the Times, “sex videos involving prostitutes with Mr. Trump in a 2013 visit to a Moscow hotel,” and memos quoting “an unidentified Russian source” to the effect that “the hacking and leaking of Democratic emails was carried out with the full knowledge and support of TRUMP and senior members of his campaign team.”

“One of the memos claims,” the Times tells us, “that Mr. Cohen (a Trump adviser) went to Prague in August or September to meet with Kremlin representatives and to talk about Russian hacking of Democrats,” which is interesting. You may recall that intelligence officials invented a Prague meeting between a 9/11 planner and an Iraq official during the Iraq war buildup. It was later proven to be fiction, and Mr. Cohen has provided his passport which shows that he has never been to Prague in his life.

“If some of the unproven claims in the memos are merely titillating,” we are advised by the Times, “others would amount to extremely serious, potentially treasonous acts.” If, that is, “unproven claims” could ever possibly be considered as treason.

A Russian spokesman said that the whole kerfuffle, “isn’t consistent with reality and is nothing but an absolute fantasy,” which I’d say is a reasonable assessment of the situation.

The FBI had this material as early as June and released none of it because none of it could be verified. (Which should surprise no one.) None of it can be verified now either, which begs the question that, if nothing could be released due to lack of verification earlier, why is this being released now?

No one is answering that question, for the simple reason that no one is asking it.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Offering Peace

There was an episode of Chicago Med the other day in which two professional cage fighters were brought in who had beaten each other into bloody pulps. They and their managers were shouting threats and insults and there was risk of mayhem – it was all very dramatic. When all was said and done, one of the fighters was patched up and discharged and the other had sustained a brain hemorrhage and was laying on life support and being declared beyond recovery.

The Muslim family, parents and brother, of the fallen fighter were with him, praying together, when the other fighter returned. It turned out he wanted to know if the guy was okay and was devastated to find out he was not. He was breaking down and in tears, saying that he was sorry and saying tearfully “I don’t know what to do.”

The brother was angry and making threats and the father came out of the room and gently told him to stop. He held out his hand to the fighter and said, “Come, will you pray with us?” The two of them walked slowly back into the room and were standing side by side at the bedside, looking together down at the man on life support.

It was fiction, yes, but very powerful. I am always profoundly moved when one person reaches out to another with an offer of forgiveness and reconciliation; an act which brings peace to mind and spirit. Life offers no finer moment.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Who Do You Believe?

A couple of Facebook polls which should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt, but which are food for thought nonetheless. I know where my vote would have been. It has been many years since it became my policy to believe precisely nothing which my government or the domestic media tells me.

John Harwood: Who do you believe America?
84,115 votes
83% Wikileaks
17% US Intel officials

Lou Dobbs: Who do you believe regarding Russian hacking?
17,899 votes
6% President Obama
94% Julian Assange

Did Russia hack the election? Sure, and Jessica Lynch was rescued in the midst of a raging gun battle after she herself had been gravely injured and at the point of death, bravely fighting off with her trusty M-14 the ravening hordes of Iraqis who were attacking her. And we have been fighting in Afghanistan for fifteen years to “deny them space in which to plan their attacks.” And, as the King of Siam says, “Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.”

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Nice Comeback

I don't much like either Penn State or USC, two elitist schools with snobbish student bodies, but I like good football so I watched the Rose Bowl last night, including the second half. Glad I did.

In case you missed it, USC was up six at the half, but Penn State scored three touchdowns in the first four minutes of the second half. Actually, they did it in three plays from scrimmage; a 79-yard run, a 72-yard pass, and a 3-yard run following an interception. USC tied the score with one minute remaining in the game, and then intercepted the ball and ran it back to within field goal range; kicking the winning field goal as time expired.

Interestingly, USC dropped an interception on the preceding play, and Penn State threw the exact same pass, to the same receiver, running the same route, immediately after. The defender jumped the route again and did not drop the interception a second time. That was weird. Who called that play?

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Hysteria Accelerates

The New York Times had an article, behind a pay wall, which headlined that the government had now “revealed the details” of the Russian hacking which caused Hillary Clinton to lose the election, but the details it revealed were all qualified with phrases such as “believed to be” and “likely connected to.”

Based on that we expelled 35 Russian diplomats and their families and expected that Russia would do likewise. Several papers actually reported that Russia had done likewise, in fact, before Russia revealed that it is governed by adults.

Then we get much hyperventilating about the Russians hacking a Vermont power company, along with a great deal of “I told you so” rhetoric about the vulnerability of our power systems to Russian cyberwarfare. Because Vermont is such a critical state to our economy. Why bother disabling New York, when you can do so much more economic damage to the nation by damaging Vermont?

Except that the “hacking” consisted of one piece of malware in a laptop which was not connected to the power company’s network, and was not used and had never been used to control the company’s power distribution system. It was, to boot, an obsolete version of a commercially available hacker’s program which could be bought by anyone pretty much anywhere, and thus was in no way attributable to the Russians.

It’s embarrassing. Why does anyone pay attention to anything American any more? We have become buffoons.

Update: Oh yes, and we put Ohio State in the FBS playoffs.